This film was sent to my by a follower of the blog who thought it might be of interest to others who follow this blog. It is an amazing exploration of the way we experience our surroundings. Splendid!!!
Herald of the Divine Feminine, reformer of the church and green prophet! September 17th is the feast day of the Christian mystic Hildegard von Bingen, a woman of great vision, a woman centuries ahead of her time. During her 81 years Hildegard’s talents as an artist, musician, poet, healer and theologian allowed her to produce a wealth of resources for the church which ought not to be ignored. And yet the Roman Catholic Church only got around to officially canonizing this giant of the church this past year.
In 2009, German filmmaker Margarethe von Trotta wrote and directed the movie “Vision”. The DVD version is available from Amazon and I highly recommend it!!!
Matthew Fox’s book “Hildegard of Bingen a Saint for Our Times, Unleashing Her Power in the 21st Century” provides an excellent resource for those who are working to change religious institutions today. You can listen to an interview of Matthew Fox about Hildegard here. Fox describes Hildegard as a Trojan horse whose teachings he hopes will shake up the vatican.
At Holy Cross we have developed an Evening Prayer Service inspired by the work of Hildegard. The worship bulletin and an audio recording of the service are linked below. Enjoy the video of contralto Karen Clark who preforms Hildegard’s antiphon “O Virtus Sapientie”
Evening Prayer Service Bulletin which is to be printed double-sided
Evening Prayer Audio - the silences are intentional. Enjoy!
The Gospel reading for this coming Sunday (Pentecost 15A, Proper 20A, Ordinary 25A) offers preachers a splendid opportunity to address economic disparity; an issue which Jesus of Nazareth was passionate about. Back in 2011, I had the privilege of spending a week at Chautauqua when Amy-Jill Levine was the theologian in residence. Each afternoon Amy-Jill addressed the parables of Jesus from her perspective as a New Testament scholar who is also a practicing Jew. The material Amy-Jill covered has found its way into her latest book. Released just this month. “short stories by jesus: The Enigmatic Parables of a Controversial Rabbi” is an extraordinary resource, which I am in the process of gobbling up with the kind of relish that fills me with all sorts of ideas for the work that needs to be done by those of us who profess to follow the teachings of the Rabbi Jesus. For those of you planning to preach on Jesus’ parable about the workers in the vineyard, I recommend purchasing Amy-Jill’s new book (it is available electronically so there’s still time) and carefully reading Chapter 7: “The Laborers in the Vineyard”! Below you will find a link to my notes for an interactive sermon I delivered based upon Amy-Jill’s Chautauqua lecture, “Management and Non-Union Workers”.
For those of you interested in the radical teachings of Jesus, stories about jesus is a must-read! John Shelby Spong insists that Levine’s new book provides “a series of stunning new insights into our religious heritage!” I couldn’t agree more!
In my sermon yesterday, I recalled Carl Reiner and Mel Brooks’ comedy routine about the 2000 Year-old Man. This morning a blog follower sent me the link to Rabbi Chava Bahle’s TED talk in which she too recalls the same comedy routine. What a delight to discover such a splendid spiritual paradigm shifter!!! Sometimes those of us involved in a particular religious tradition fail to raise our heads and look around to the splendid work being done in other religious traditions. Rabbi Bahle speaks of “Deep Ecumenism: honouring our own traditions while comfortably being inspired by the truths others’ as well” and insists that “this game-changing is the sacred technology that will change every single one of our institutions.”
This the Second Sunday of Creation is Land Sunday
the readings can be found here
Listen to the sermon below or click here
“We are the first species on this planet that can choose not to become extinct. Of course we haven’t made that decision yet.”
For those of us following the lectionary readings for The Season of Creation, this Sunday is “Land Sunday.” Matthew Fox’s challenge for to us to “wake up” provides much inspiration to develop worship that shakes us from our sleep and empowers us to work together to develop harmonious relationships with creation that will foster healing of the Earth.
At Holy Cross, we are currently celebrating The Season of Creation. As we ponder Christianity’s share of the responsibility for the abuse of the Earth, it is important to remember that we have a role to play in the protection of the planet. Evolutionary Christian Michael Dowd (Thank God for Evolution) insists that Christians need to remember our call to be a blessing to humanity. In this video, recorded Aug 25, 2014, Dowd insists that theology must include ecology and challenges us to move forward in ways that foster right-relationship with all of Creation.
This week the world will mark the thirteenth anniversary of 911. Much has happened since that day that changed our world. Sadly, much has stayed the same. This Sunday the Gospel reading for those congregations following the Revised Standard Lectionary comes from Matthew 18:21-35 and is all about forgiveness. Looking back on the sermons that I have preached on this particular text, I discovered that on the first anniversary of 911 the same reading came around to challenge preachers and their listeners. Reading that old sermon, I was struck by how very little we have learned over the years. My theology has changed considerably over the years and so the way in which I speak about the work of the Divine in the world has also change. But, replace some the names like Sadam Husain, Taliban, and El Queada with ISIS or ISEL, or Hamas, or Assad, or dare I say, Putin, and the world’s willingness to use violence seems almost inevitable. What has not changed for those of us who seek to follow the teachings of Jesus of Nazareth is the challenge to change our ways and seek peace. So, I post this old sermon here, in the hope that some of the echoes of our past might enlighten our present with a desire to work for peace.
I seriously considered quitting my job this week. It’s been a tough week and I’ve gotta tell you, that by the time Friday rolled around, I felt like handing in my notice. I was sick and tired of my boss’s holy than thou attitude and I didn’t want to work for Jesus any more. You see all week long I’ve had this gospel lesson rolling around in my head. This is a lousy week to try and write a sermon on mercy and forgiveness. Images of towers crumbling, family members weeping and American politicians calling for an escalation of the war against terrorism, aren’t exactly conducive to thoughts about mercy and forgiveness. On any other week, I could write a sermon proclaiming the goodness of God’s grace and reminding you how much we owe God. On any other week, I could come up with a story about the colossal debt we owe our God and how dramatically God has wiped the slate clean. On any other week, I could write a sermon urging you to look with compassion and mercy on those who are in your debt. On any other week, I could proclaim the good news of God’s mercy and point to the many ways that we have sinned and count up the many times God has forgiven us and urge you to be just as forgiving to those who have sinned against you. On any other week, I could do my job. But this week Jesus’ words about forgiving not once, not twice, not three times, not even seven times but forgiving those who have sinned against us seventy-seven times is more than I can bare. Continue reading
I am indebted to John Philip Newell’s new book “The Rebirthing of God: Christianity’s Struggle for New Beginnings” for inspiring this sermon. The Season of Creation is a relatively new addition to the Church calender and the first and Gospel readings are those prescribed for Forest Sunday: Genesis 2:4b-23 and John 3:1-16. The contemporary reading is from John Philip Newell. The Scripture reading were taken from ‘the inclusive bible: The First Egalitarian Translation” which opens a new way of understanding both the Genesis story and the Gospel According to John simply by using more inclusive literal translations of the Hebrew and Greek. You can find all three readings here
Listen to the sermon here or click on this link
Charlie Chaplin’s speech at the end of “The Great Dictator” rings so true! Produced in 1940 the film features the silent-film comedian delivers a speech that speaks volumes about fascism, violence, freedom and democracy. However, the quote from the Gospel according to Matthew is often over-looked. That “the kingdom of God is within you” is indeed a revelation which we all too often forget. I wonder what life in the world would be like if we learned to live as if we actually believed that within us lies the power to usher in the “basileia ton Theou” lies within each of us. Might we be better able to live into our full humanity if we realized this reality? basileia = feminine plural for sovereignty – what if we lived our lives as if this were true? What if our faith was about living into our full humanity? What if we were about the creating the kin-dom of God? What might we be capable of becoming?
“The words we use should empower the lives we live.” so says Ilia Delio one of the world’s brilliant theologians who is forging a way forward in the world we live in. With that in mind, Delio reminds us that the word catholicity can be used to define a dynamic principle of attraction or ‘whole-making’ as the cosmos moves toward greater complexity. If you are unfamiliar with the work of Ilia Delio, as I was until recently, you can find a brief introduction here. Following an exciting Saturday spent with Ilia Delio this spring, I spent some time this summer revisiting Delio’s book, “The Unbearable Wholeness of Being: God, Evolution, and the Power of Love” which provides a window into Delio’s brilliant quantum theological leap into the 21st century!!!
In this lecture, recorded at St. Jerome’s University, May 2014, Delio discusses the meaning of Jesus in light of evolution and the relationship between catholicity and Christogenesis through the work of Teilhard de Chardin.
Krista Tippett’s TED talk from 2010 provides an “important linguistic resurrection” of the word compassion. Tippett sees compassion as kindness, curiosity, empathy, forgiveness and reconciliation, the simple act of presence, a willingness to see beauty in the other, and “for the religious compassion also brings us into the territory of ‘mystery’ encouraging us to see not just beauty but perhaps also to look for the face of God in the moment of suffering, in the face of a stranger, in the face of the vibrant religious other.”
In his book “Meeting Jesus AGAIN for the First Time”, New Testament scholar Marcus Borg writes about the Hebrew word for compassion ‘rakham’ – “The Hebrew word for ‘compassion’ whose singular form means ‘womb’ is often used of God in the Old Testament. It is translated as ‘merciful’ in the characterization of God as ‘gracious and merciful.’ It is present in that quite wonderful expression from the King James Bible the ‘tender mercies’ of God. It is found
in a passage in Jeremiah that has been translated as follows:
“Thus says Yahweh:
In Ephraim (Israel) my dear son? my darling child?
For the more I speak of him,
the more I do remember him.
Therefore my womb trembles for him;
I will truly show motherly-compassion upon him.
“Thus the Hebrew Bible speaks frequently of God as compassionate, with resonances of ‘womb’ close at hand.
“And so Jesus’ statement ‘Be compassionate as God is compassionate’ is rooted in the Jewish tradition. As an image for the central quality of God, it is striking, To say that God is compassionate is to say that God is ‘like a womb,’ is ‘womblike,’ or, to coin a word that captures the flavor of the original Hebrew, ‘wombish.’ What does it suggest to say that God is like a womb? Metaphoric and evocative, the phrase and its associative image provocatively suggest a number of connotations. Like a womb, God is the one who gives birth to us — the mother who gives birth to us. As a mother loves the children of her womb and feels for the children of her womb, so God loves us and feels for us, for all of her children. In its sense of ‘like a womb,’ compassionate has nuances of giving life, nourishing, caring, perhaps embracing and encompassing. For Jesus, this is what God is like.
“And, to complete the imitatio dei, to ‘be compassionate as God is compassionate’ is to be like a womb as God is like a womb. It is to feel as God feels and to act as God acts: in a life-giving and nourishing way. ‘To be compassionate’ is what is meant in the New Testament by the somewhat more abstract command ‘to love.’ According to Jesus, compassion is to be the central quality of a life faithful to God the compassionate one.”
Tippett’s storytelling helps us to connect with the divine image which exists within our flawed humanity. She insists that the flaws we see in compassionate people liberates us from our modern obsession with perfection and gives us the courage to be compassionate. Tippett paraphrases Albert Einstein to remind us that, “the future of humanity needs this technology as much as it needs all the others that have now connected us and set before us the terrifying and wondrous possibility of actually becoming one human race.”
Among progressive-christians the word ‘panentheism” – literally “all in god” is used to express the notion that, all is in god and god is in all. One way of understanding panentheisim is to expand on Acts 17:28 “In God we live and move and have our being” with a blessing I often use when I lead worship: “God dwells in, with, through, and beyond us.” To imagine the Divine Womb-Love in which we live and move and have our being dwelling in, with, through, and beyond us provides a compelling way of living into our Divine/Human compassionate-selves. As humanity evolves, may it evolve in ways that embody Divine compassion!
I am currently enjoying Matthew Fox’s new book, Meister Eckhart: A Mystic-Warrior for Our Times in which Fox puts Eckhart in conversation with an engaging collection of mystic-wariors. So, it is not surprising that in this short video, I hear echoes of Eckhart.
Summer Sundays are laid back at Holy Cross and so we engaged in a dialogue sermon. The Gospel reading from (Matthew 14:21-28) about Jesus’ encounter with the Canaanite woman begged the question inspired by Marcus Borg, “Why did the author of the Gospel According to Matthew write this story the way he did and what can we learn from it?”
Our readings also included:
Hebrew Scriptures: Isaiah 56:1, 6-8
Contemporary Reading: from Dorothee Soelle Quoted from Matthew Fox’s book “Christian Mystics”, New World Library, 2011
“If Jesus of Nazareth was the poor man from Galilee who was tortured to death, then Christ is that which cannot be destroyed, which came into the world with him and lives through us in him. When I say Christ, I always think also of Francis of Assisi and Hildegard of Bingen and Martin Luther King, Jr. and of Ita Ford, the American nun who was murdered in El Salvador – as well as all resistance fighters who are sitting in prison today. Christ is a name which for me expresses solidarity, hence suffering with, struggling with. Christ is the mysterious power which was in Jesus and which continues on and sometimes makes us into “fools in Christ,” who without hope of success and without any objective, share life with others.”
Listen to the dialogue sermon here:
As news of wars and rumours of war penetrate our consciousness, it is so very tempting to give in to the cynicism of our age. While our hearts grieve for our broken world, let us remember that while we cannot control the actions of others, we can control how we react to the actions of others. Let us not fall into temptation. Let us live in hope. Let us pause in the gentleness of this summer morning to turn our being toward the dream of peace. Shalom, Salam, Santi, Pax, Udo, Santi, Axsti, Salmu, Sith, Paix, Peace….
Two videos which present John Philip Newell’s interpretation of the Celtic prayer for Deep Peace
Recently, I have found myself cornered on several occasions by individuals who ask, somewhat accusingly, how and why I continue consider myself to be a Christian if I do not believe in Hell. On these occasions, I have assured my inquisitors that as someone who attempts to follow Jesus, I do indeed believe in “Hell” even if I do not believe in “hell“. The hell that I believe in is a condition here on earth. The Hell that I suspect my inquisitors wish me to affirm does not exist except in the corners of our imaginations. Nor is belief this mythical place called Hell a prerequisite of the faith. Christianity is not about being saved from eternal damnation to the fiery pits of Hell. Christianity is about following the teachings of Jesus with regard to peace through justice in order to create Heaven right here, right now.
Several years ago we at Holy Cross Lutheran began a speaker series entitled ReThinking Christianity and were privileged to host Quakers Philip Gulley and James Mulholland who co-authored “If God Is Love” and “If Grace Is True.” Phil has since gone on to write “If the Church Were Christian” and “The Evolution of Faith.” In addition to his theological works, Phil is a master story-teller whose Harmony series together with Porch Tales stories have cause some to dub him the Quaker Garrison Keillor. Phil has received two Emmy Awards for his Indiana PBS program.
My own ministry has been enhanced by Phil’s work and so it was a happy and timely coincidence that brought a video into my inbox which I had forgotten all about. Phil’s story about Heaven & Hell followed by an interview in which Phil shares his conviction that “Hell is killing us!” say it all so much better than I can. Phil’s gentle manner reveals a way forward for those who wish to leave Hell behind and move on toward building heaven on Earth. Phil’s latest publication “Living the Quaker Way: Timeless Wisdom for a Better Life Today” provides a window into spiritual practices to nourish those who seek to live in peace in a world where so many have chosen to perpetuate Hell on Earth. The book is an essential read for progressives who seek to embody a way of being that will contribute to creating peace. Enjoy!!!