“A Lie Will Take You Far, But It Won’t Bring You Home”

This one line in Fred Craddock’s sermon over 30 years ago continues to surface as wisdom for me.  Lies are useful for short-term gain, but eventually the life gained because of a lie falls apart when the truth is discovered.  Lies are destructive because they are not based in reality (perhaps in one person’s or group’s perception of realty). Even though we know this, we lie anyway to get out of a jam, to save face, or because we think what we are saying isn’t important (little white lies).  Most of us lie everyday when we say “fine” when asked how we are.  It is socially acceptable, more comfortable and who really cares anyway (we think to ourselves).  Yet, it does matter.  Lies take us farther and farther away from our own truth that gets neglected, buried and finally out of touch, even to ourselves. Once we are out of touch with the foundation of our life, we make it up as we go along — skimming on the surface of things, relationships and events, moving from one thing to the next.  Making money, buying new technology, addictions to our phones and social media all keep us on the surface and out of touch with the foundation of life where values determine meaning and purpose. Continue reading

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Christmas Time Already: Where’s the Excitement?

When I first began my ministry in 1969, the Christmas story was a literal story about the wonder and miracle of God’s love, the divine coming to us in human form that we might experience the gift of God’s grace welcoming us into his family. God showing us the way home so we would not be lost.  We had our pageants and our decorations.  There were concerts, gifts and excitement.  Then as scholarly exploration of biblical texts became common knowledge, we came to understand that the Christmas story was really several stories and none of them necessarily factually accurate.  The word “myth” was heard more; meaning the story was perhaps not factually true but was presenting an eternal truth in a human story.

That seemed to save the day and as a minister I searched for ways to highlight the eternal truths of God’s love and what better way than in the birth of baby.  Continue reading

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Amazing Grace in an Age of Entitlement

Two weeks ago I started thinking about the parable/story of the wise and foolish bridesmaids (Mathew 25:1-13) which was the basis of a sermon on November 12. The minister commented that it was a difficult passage – one you must live with to get what Jesus was saying. It is not obvious and it is challenging. The minister wrestled with how a loving God could close a door to anyone and why people chosen to be bridesmaids would not share their lamp oil with the less fortunate who were running out of oil. I have been a preacher for 35 years and a minister for 49, and here I am once again wrestling with this scripture for the past two weeks.

The story is not about sharing; it is about being prepared. Being prepared for what? Jesus introduces the story as being about being prepared to enter the Kingdom of God. What does he mean by “Kingdom of God”? This is where evolutionary thinking kicks in for me. This reading comes at the end of Jesus’ ministry and the church places it on the cusp of the season of Advent when we begin again to think about celebrating the entry of Jesus into our lives. I think Jesus is talking about the Kingdom of God as life blessed by peace, hope, joy, and love – four important themes in Jesus’ teaching which the church has chosen for the four weeks of advent. An evolutionary perspective recognizes that scripture is about how we live in a complex matrix of life, gifts and opportunities that enable us to grow and evolve. Evolutionary theology does not see Jesus as the one who swoops in at the last minute and makes everything okay. Rather, Jesus is a partner in creation who works with us to make an uncertain future a blessing rather than a disaster. The truth we do not want to believe is that this depends on us, not Jesus. And that means if we are not prepared (don’t have enough oil for the task) when we are called to take the bridegroom to the party, we will lose the opportunity and be shut out. We will miss our opportunity to be part of creation where we experience peace, hope, joy and love. No one can give me their oil; I have to have my own source and I have to have some in reserve for when it is needed. Continue reading

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What Has Love Got to Do With It?

Fortunately, like never before in history, this generation has at its disposal new and wonderful evidence from science, confirming the presence and power of what many of us would call a Very Insistent Love at the heart of all creation. Richard Rohr, Center for Action and Contemplation daily blog, 10/22/17, https://cac.org/sign-up/

My ministry has been all about love. God is love. The great commandment to love God, neighbour, and self is a central teaching of Christianity. Vince raised a significant question: Is there a place for a personal, interventionist God in evolutionary thinking? I suddenly realized that I hadn’t mentioned love when talking about the foundation of the universe.

I have on my shelf 29 books about love. Recent books! What is going on here? What is going on here is my continuing quest to understand love as the dynamic, creative power of the universe that is also the motivating force of my personal life. Steve McIntosh, in his book, Evolution’s Purpose, calls it the evolutionary impulse. I want to not only know more about this force, I want to live love and understand more about why I don’t.

In his October 24, 2017 CAC blog, Richard Rohr says, “Anybody who has paid any attention to their inner life or read any history books surely recognizes that life and love are always cumulative, diffusive, and expanding. Perhaps it is this change that we fear. For some reason, we seem to think that admitting such love dynamism, and in fact cooperating with it (see Romans 8:28) is going to compromise our eternal, unchanging notion of God. It’s just the opposite, I think. If our God is both incarnate and implanted, both Christ and Holy Spirit, then an unfolding inner dynamism in all creation is not only certain, but also moving in a positive direction with a divine goal that is always set before us.” I cite this blog because it represents an evolutionary perspective on the trinity (God as infinite, intimate and inner) and love being the directing force of evolution.

Ken Wilber, in his EnlightenNext article, issue 47, p 48, says more vehemently, “There is no way in hell that the universe went from atoms to Shakespeare out of random stabs. This is an extraordinarily driven process.”

Physical science disciplines do not use the word love. Brian Swimm says scientists began learning about the physical universe to discover more about how God creates, and have ended up actually studying the processes that gave birth to the universe. I believe science is talking about the power of love when it says there is an intimate connection between all things in the universe. This connective energy draws us together, holds us together, and guides our interactions in such a way that new life emerges. Emergence, not survival of the fittest, is the goal of evolution. The universe is held together by gravitational interaction. In my opinion, a fancy word for love.

In EnlightenNext, issue 47, Swimm makes three points: 1) The universe is not a place, it is a story about an irreversible sequence of emergent events. 2) Love or ‘homeostasis’ is the way the universe holds its new creation together. 3) Things don’t just come and go, they build on each other and new possibilities emerge.

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Building Blocks of Evolutionary Christianity

After my first post last April, several recipients let me know there was some difficulty with the system that allowed people to respond.  When you arrive at the home page, if you click on the blog title or go to “Recent Posts” in the right hand column and click the desired post you will be taken to the actual blog page and once there you will be able to leave a comment or click to follow the blog.

Then summer arrived and passed into fall and I have been stalled.  I realized that this was going to be more complicated than just posting what I was thinking.  I decided that I needed to show how my life and my thinking are rooted in an Evolutionary Christianity and give some background on what the perspective of Evolutionary Christianity is.

The job I took on was beginning to feel very daunting and I was unsure where to start.  This was a place that felt very familiar to me.  I had been here several times in my personal and vocational life.  In my ministry when I was faced with a decision that could change the course of my life, my strategy was to try to figure it all out before I moved ahead.  My decision to come to Canada to serve a Moravian Church in Calgary, my decision to give up my U.S. Citizenship and become a Canadian citizen, my decision to move from the Moravian Church to the United Church of Canada and, last but not least, my decision to begin a community ministry called Spiritual Directions were a just a few of these moments.   Each time I spent time in prayer and reflection to determine if this really was a “call” for me. But, even when I did believe it was a call I would still spend time trying to figure out all the details until finally I got the message:  “Don’t try to figure it all out, just take the next step.  If you believe this new direction is really a call, just say yes and begin”.  The decision for me is often about trust and moving ahead in faith.

So…. with a new burst of energy and commitment I begin again!

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A Short Reflection on How I Got Here

On August 15, 1943, two years before the end of World War II, I was born into the beginning of an extended time of exceptional opportunity, growth, change, affluence, world leadership and awakening to many social injustices in the United States. Another gift to me was my family’s participation in the Moravian Church which provided a context where I learned about the love of God and the importance of a community where social connections and personal and spiritual growth were encouraged.  I credit the ethos of the Moravian church, with its emphasis on education, music and community development with giving me a solid foundation for my life.  I sometimes say I drifted into ministry in my early years, but I also believe I was called into ministry. I graduated from Moravian College and finally from Moravian Theological Seminary in 1969.

A second influence on my young self was my love of science and science fiction. I was an avid science fiction reader as a teen, and loved speculating about space travel, possible worlds, alien races, and the interaction of humans with the universe.   At age 26 when the first moon landing happened I had just graduated from Moravian Theological Seminary and was also newly married.

In seminary I was introduced to process theology which gave me a good foundation for loving the journey more than the destination.  Process Theology built on my undergraduate philosophy degree which had grounded me in existentialism and phenomenology, both of which focused on the sacredness of the “now” moment.

I also found exciting expressions/explorations of life in the avant-garde theatre of Samuel Beckett (Waiting for Godot), Eugene Ionesco (The Bald Soprano, Rhinoceros and Other Plays), the beatnik writings of Jack Kerouac (On the Road) and the poetry of Lawrence Ferlinghetti and Allen Ginsberg.

Finally, it was in the social unrest of the Viet Nam War and the Civil Rights Movement where I found my social conscience. This sparked in me a recognition that change and unrest is at the centre of life.  My desire for Truth, what is real and what is possible, would be a continuing exploration throughout my life.

In my ministry I began with a Journey Theology that morphed into a Liberation Theology and has landed in an Evolutionary Theology.  It’s not that a new perspective replaced the former one.  For me, the next step always incorporated and expanded my previous understanding of God at work in the world.

The discipline of science developed exponentially in knowledge and influence in my lifetime, and became the major influence in defining our understanding of life in the twentieth century. The church struggled to adjust to the challenges posed especially by physics and biology to its own world view and held science at arm’s length, seeing its findings as a threat to the Christian faith.  Theologians struggled to find ways of accommodating scientific findings with the Gospel message.  But that was just a necessary stage preparing us to enter the paradigm shift presently taking place.  This shift is enabling us to see how science and religion can inform each other to establish a new basis for our understanding of the reality/world we live in.  I am very excited by the possibilities that the union of these disciplines will open up to us as a human species. I realize this is what some fear.  It is what I cherish.

I retired in June 2015 after 30 years of active pastoral ministry and 16 years of teaching and providing spiritual direction.  Yet my mind has not retired and my life long seeking for Truth continues. I am a firm believer in the value of community to help us find The Way, The Truth and The Life.  For me I seldom find the whole Truth on my own.  I grab a tail if it, I get a glimpse, a paragraph here and there that grounds itself in my experience and begins a transformation in me and the way I live.

I have procrastinated long enough and am finally committing to this blog as a way of sharing my thoughts and receiving feedback.  What Was I Thinking — Reflections of an Evolutionary Christian Pilgrim will share thoughts from my reading, conversations, moments of contemplation and my desire to live faithfully in this changing world. My blog will not necessarily be about religion; often it will be about my attempts to express my faith in some action, explore some new understanding or just share what I am discovering on this wonder-full journey I am still on after all these years.

I am excited to share my musings and my explorations of how faith informs my life and I hope you will join me on my journey and provide companionship and feedback for a lively conversation.

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