It’s Monday April 30

Harvey Cox, in his book The Future of Faith, posits that we have entered into the Age of the Spirit, an era in history when the church will come alive with its “rediscovery of the sacred in the immanent, the spiritual within the secular. More people seem to recognize that it is our everyday world, not some other one, that, in the words of the poet Gerard Manley Hopkins, ‘is charged with the grandeur of God.'”

If so, what difference does that make? Does it change the way you/I see the world, engage the other, and/or care for our own lives? How do we see the grandeur of God in the ordinary, messy lives we lead?

At the very least, we refocus the lens through which we see our ordinary, messy lives–friends and strangers and even enemies become co-travelers on this twisted journey of life, failures become a pathway to deeper trust in God’s love, celebrations become avenues to glimpse God’s joy, simple pleasures become God moments. We won’t expend any more spiritual energy on the interminable quest to find God. We won’t be driven mad by the never ceasing question, “Am I living in the will of God?”

We will live and, in the very act of living, God will live in us. God’s presence and love will become as close as the breath we take, the songs we sing, the fears we dread, the hopes we crave. Laughter and play will be holy connectors. The tracks of our tears will become God’s etching of love written on our faces. The everyday world will be “charged with the grandeur of God.”

It’s Monday. Our everyday world “is charged with the grandeur of God.” What will you see today that will remind you it is so? Who will you be for others to make it so? Peace. Kai

It’s Monday April 23

In the past weeks of Lent and Easter, I’ve been reminded that the God revealed in Jesus was not what people expected or what they were searching for. As I prepared for last week’s sermon, my mind wandered to that climactic scene from the Wizard of Oz when Dorothy and her band of questors approach the great and powerful Wizard of Oz only to find out as the curtain was pulled back that he’s a normal guy cranking out some cool pryotechnics.

I couldn’t help but think that when the resurrected Jesus showed his scarred hands and feet to his followers the curtain was pulled back on the nature of God. What they discovered was this:
-Jesus was not a God they expected but a God they needed.
-Jesus was not a God they were searching for but a God who would find them, even in times of pain and doubt and fear.
-Jesus was not the great and powerful God who would do everything for them if they were worthy and passed the test, but a loving and sacrificial God who proved his love by giving them all he had.

The resurrection pulls back the curtain on the true nature of God announcing that the pathway through suffering or doubt or fear can be redemptive, can enlarge our capacity to experience and express compassion even when hurting, experience and express love even when disregarded, experience and express hope even through loss and fear.

The resurrection pulls back the curtain on our lives, inviting us to mirror that same sacrificial, open, vulnerable life. Can we be a community that gives up blame or hatred as a way to keep people at a distance, that risks tearing down the false protection of our facades built on wealth or position or our supposed moral goodness or shiny good Christian sheen, that finds courage in compassion, hope in humility, vision for our lives in the vulnerability of love?

It’s Monday. The vision for our lives in Jesus is accessed through the vulnerability of love. How will you offer yourself in love for someone else today? Peace. Kai

It’s Monday April 16

“Doubt is not the opposite of faith. It is an integral part of faith.” Paul Tillich, one of the towering theologians of the 20th Century, helps us define the breadth of the journey of faith. It is not a journey narrowed down to what we can know or see or experience. It is an expansive journey of the soul, encompassing doubt and certainty, helplessness and hopefulness, decisive action and decided inaction.

I would suggest that the Christian community’s capacity to embrace doubt and uncertainty and mystery will be directly proportional to its ability to connect with those who tire of worn out cliches and dusty doctrine, but who long for a community limber enough to handle the spiritual gymnastics spinning in their minds and their penetrating questions of life and faith.

This past weekend I was the guest speaker at a local church. At the end of my sermon on Doubting Thomas (John 20), I invited the gathered community to write one of their doubts on an index card. They then handed the cards to me and to close my sermon we created our community statement of doubt. Fascinating. “I doubt there will ever be world peace.” “I doubt that Jesus was born of a virgin.” “I doubt that God really hears my prayers and that those prayers make a difference.” “I doubt that I am worthy of being loved by this God.” “I doubt that Jesus will continue to put up with my doubts.” And the doubts went on and on and on…

Christian communities are known for their statements of belief. As I read each card, the community together breathed more deeply. They knew they were not the only ones struggling with core questions and doubts about their journey of faith. In that commonality, they found strength.

Philip Yancey used this image to describe doubt: “Doubt is the skeleton in the closet of faith, and I know no better way to treat a skeleton than to bring it into the open and expose if for what it is; not something to hide or fear, but a hard structure on which living tissue may grow.”

It’s Monday. Find time this week to make your own statement of doubt. If you are bold enough, share that with a friend. Maybe you will discover in the commonality of doubt, a new strength. Peace. Kai

It’s Monday April 9

With all the potential, the power, the new energy for life that comes through the resurrection of Jesus, why would anyone hesitate from stepping in to that new reality?

Because the old reality is this:  Most of us would rather remain in a known, even if painful, present then move toward an unknown, even if hopeful, future.

We’ve adjusted to the present. We know how to live in its pain and messiness.  We know it will take work to move to the unknown future.

The resurrection story of Jesus reminds us that God has done the first and primary piece of work.  When God raised Jesus from the dead, the final barriers between God and humanity were removed.

The barrier between death and life gives way.
The barrier between the sins of our past and a hope-filled future is torn down.
The barrier between what we say to ourselves, “Nothing will ever change!” and what God says to us, “I can make all things new!” crumbles.  

Friends: The barrier has been removed.  We are free.  Free to fail and fall!  Freed to love and lose! Freed to live!  

It’s Monday.  Don’t be afraid!  Peace.  Kai 

Holy Week Thursday

Way of Desperation

What we hope and what we live are often markedly different.

They beat him, mocked him and handed him over to be crucified.

How can this be?

When God created this world it was good, teeming with life possibilities, pulsing with energy and ripe with hope.

How can this be?

As he drags his cross through the streets of Jerusalem, even Jesus seems trapped in the way of desperation. Along the way there were women crying desperate cries. He turns to them in pity and says, “Do not weep for me, weep for yourselves and weep for your children.”

If this is what the world has come to, what good is doing good? Why hope for hope? What is there to live for in life?

Innocence destroyed. Beauty defiled. Love denied.

The way of desperation.

It’s a vicious cycle this way of desperation. We want to hope but life lurches toward despair. We want to trust but our hearts are broken. We want to love but our self-protective souls repel the gift.

Yet, the ancient wisdom teaches that light often emerges from the darkest moment. The way of desperation can suck us into a vortex of despair or it can pierce our souls, opening our eyes to a power outside our own, a source of life that extends from the eternal, a hope so insistent, it will not be denied.

“Father, into your hands, I commend my spirit…” were his words.

In times of trouble, we too can cry to God, call on this power to be with us, and along with Jesus….wait….

Holy Week Wednesday

Deaf to the Way

What we listen to and what we hear are often markedly different.

They had listened to Jesus’ teaching about the kingdom of God but apparently hadn’t heard.

His was a kingdom not ruled by power but measured in love;
a kingdom not led through coercion but served in compassion;
a kingdom whose inhabitants would not be threatened with violence but treated with dignity.

“Are you the king of the Jews?” Pilate, the Roman Governor, asked.

“You have said so.” Jesus replied.

With that, they had heard enough. “He stirs up his people with his teaching.” They insisted. With each subsequent accusation their voices rose.

“What further testimony do we need?”
“Do not release this man!”
“Release the murderer, Barabbas!”

Until finally their voices crescendoed to a resounding, calamitous verdict, “Crucify. Crucify. Crucify!”

Then nothing but a deafening silence.

I don’t know if there was an actual silence or if the deafening silence simply reverberated in the hearts of the accusers. You wonder if, in that silence, the words began to echo through the chambers of their hearts, “Have you not seen?” “Have you not heard?” “My thoughts are not your thoughts.” “My ways are not your ways.” “Let those who have ears, hear.”

“The Son of man will be betrayed and will be accused and will be crucified and will rise!”

The way of Jesus does not avoid or deny struggle but faces it down with a resonant hopefulness that fears can be diminished, loss can be redeemed, and life can be renewed.

Will you listen? Can you hear?

Holy Week Tuesday

The Way of Denial

What we say and what we do are often markedly different.

Peter. Peter. Peter. Is there any better archetype for all the ways that our grandest intentions are eclipsed by our sorriest inaction.

Listen to his words of intention, “If everyone else falls away I will stay.” “Lord, I am willing to go with you to prison and to death.”

Watch his sorry inaction–When Jesus was arrested and dragged off to the farcical trial before Pilate and the Chief Priests, Peter and the rest of the disciples followed at a comfortable distance. A servant noticed him and said, “This man was with Jesus. I’m convinced of it.” But Peter denies knowing Jesus. “Woman, I don’t know what you are taking about.” A second time, a servant notices Peter commenting on his connection with Jesus. For a second time, Peter denies it. A third time. Same interaction. Same response.

Peter. Peter. Peter. Three times he has the opportunity to express his loyalty. Three times he denies his friendship. Is there any better archetype for when our grandest intentions are eclipsed by our sorriest inaction?

What we say and what we do are often markedly different.

Did you notice I said, “We?” It’s easy to cast aspersions at Peter, to project on to him what we think, we hope we would have done but the evidence is clear, we often choose the way of denial.

We deny what is going on in our lives in order to create peace in a relationship. We choose to live on the surface of life rather than deal with the pain or loneliness or failure that grinds us up within. We deny the pervasive call of Jesus to walk with the poor and the outcast as we pull up to comfortable homes, drop the garage door behind us, and shut out the suffering of the world.

Though we choose the way of denial, what cannot be denied this day is this; even knowing our propensity to live on the surface, to paint glossy pictures over the stained canvas of our lives, to turn away when we are beckoned to draw close, Jesus loved his own who were in the world, loving them to the end–the disciples, you, and me.

What cannot be denied is that Jesus offered his life for those more concerned with their own. What cannot be denied is that Jesus extended his heart of love for those whose hearts have been trampled and twisted by life.

What cannot be denied is that Jesus chose to walk with us even when we choose to walk away.

It’s Monday April 2

During the upcoming days of Holy Week I will be posting the four mini-reflections I prepared for our Palm Sunday service. The first is: The Way of Disappointment

What we want and what we need are often markedly different.

The expectations were soaring as they entered Jerusalem. A new king. A new era. The oppressive powers of Rome would be overthrown. Along with that, those closest to Jesus must have imagined their place in this new kingdom. New positions. New power. New status.

Within days, the mood of the triumphal ride would dissolve in bitter disappointment. There was no revolution, no overthrow of Caesar, no seats of honor. In a last ditch effort, as Jesus was arrested, his disciples drew their swords–combat ready. This was their time.

But Jesus would have none of it. As he was led away, the disappointment, coupled with fear, coupled with deep sadness, was palpable. What now? What next?

The way of disappointment.

How often do we find ourselves in similar places? What we expect is not what we get in our jobs, our relationships, our lives and disappointment settles into our spirits, casting a shadow of disillusionment on our lives. At its worst, the way of disappointment festers in our souls reinforcing the fatalistic notion that life works against us. There is nothing to be done but endure and survive.

At its best, the way of disappointment can birth a larger life. When disappointments shake our foundations they force us to re-examine our lives; their directions, the assumptions, the patterns of our living. They point out where we have erred; they reveal cracks in our relationships that need mending; and they open us up to the possibility of a new start.

What will the way of disappointment be for you–a pathway to disillusionment or a road paved with new possibility?
Peace. Kai