Jesus ain’t no super-hero!

On this the Second Sunday of the Season of Creation, we celebrate Humanity. In Mark 7: 24-37, the anonymous gospel storyteller that we call Mark reveals that Jesus ain’t no super-hero! Jesus is a flesh and blood, down to earth, fallible, short-tempered, and sometimes narrow-minded human being, very much like the rest of us.

Listen to the audio only here

The anonymous gospel storyteller that we call Mark, provides us with the shortest of the four gospels — just 16 brief chapters. But don’t let that fool you. The writer of this account of the life and times of Jesus of Nazareth packs more action into his short gospel than any of the racy novels, spy thrillers, mystery novels or tell all biographies that you can find today on Amazon. Today’s reading occurs barely half way through our anonymous storyteller’s account of the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus and already Jesus has: been baptized in the river Jordan and been tempted in the wilderness by the evilest of villains, Satan himself.  Jesus has gathered together a motley crew of disciples, and he has cast out demons, cured lepers, healed the sick, the lame, and the blind. Jesus has preached to the multitudes, appointed apostles, and he has even been restrained from preaching by his own family because they feared that Jesus had gone out of his mind. Jesus has turned away his own mother and brothers in favor of teaching the crowds of people who gather to hear what this itinerate preacher has to say. Jesus has taught the crowds in parables, calmed the stormy sea and if that wasn’t enough he brought a dead girl back to life only to be rejected and scorned in his hometown of Nazareth. Jesus has had to face the death and decapitation of his cousin and fellow evangelist John the Baptist. He has somehow managed to feed five thousand people with just five loaves and two measly fish. To top it all off, Jesus, this walking, talking, healing, miracle working, super-hero has managed to walk on water.

In just six brief chapters, the anonymous gospel storyteller we call Mark has painted the picture of a mythical super-hero. A man of the people who is capable of amazing feats of daring do.  Not even Superman, Superwoman, Spider Man, Wonder-woman, Bat Man, Cat-woman, James Bond or Lara Croft could match the heroic deeds of the anonymous storyteller’s amazing Jesus. Our storyteller’s Jesus is a super hero’s, super hero.

In many ways this picture of Jesus keeps our mind’s eye far away from understanding just who this itinerant preacher, who somehow managed to change the world, really was. According to our anonymous storyteller, Jesus really is some kind super-natural, super-human being. Jesus is a hero beyond all other heroes, whose abilities are beyond the bounds of the natural order of things.  A hero who stands head and shoulders above all the rest. A super-hero whose abilities, sensibilities, wisdom, knowledge and kindness are beyond those of us who are but mere mortals. And if this was all there was to our storyteller’s Jesus, then there really wouldn’t be much of a story here. You see as long as we see Jesus as SUPER – super hero, super natural or super human, then following Jesus is no more demanding than following your favorite super hero in a comic strip. The exploits of these heroes may be interesting, intriguing and maybe even enlightening, but each and every one of us knows that we can’t do what they do. We may be able to follow their exploits and applaud their heroism, but we cannot be like them, any more than we can do what they do. They are after all super heroes; heroes whose abilities are beyond the average mortal. Indeed, I am sure that many of us follow Jesus in much the same way as we follow the exploits of the other heroes we have set for ourselves. We admire Jesus, we trust Jesus, we may even wish we could be more like Jesus, and we are even willing to listen to some of the things that Jesus said. But when it comes to following Jesus, we often let ourselves off the hook, because after all look at what happened to Jesus. They nailed him in the end and if it weren’t for intervention from God on high, Jesus would never have escaped the clutches of death.

Fortunately for us, there is more to our anonymous storyteller’s gospel, than there is to the story of the average comic-strip super hero. You see unlike the average super hero, Jesus is all too human. In today’s story, Jesus is a flesh and blood, down to earth, fallible, short-tempered, and sometimes narrow-minded human being, very much like the rest of us. In this story Jesus’ humanity is revealed.

Jesus has just finished teaching and feeding a huge crowd of five thousand people. After dismissing the crowd, he and a few of his followers climb aboard a small boat and head off to the other side of the sea. Jesus goes ashore alone and retreats to a mountaintop to pray. A storm picks up and Jesus walks across the water, and calms both his followers’ fears and the wind itself. When they get ashore, Jesus is quickly recognized by the waiting multitudes.  Continue reading

Jesus the Christ? – BRUNCHtalks 8

Jesus is not some sort of cosmic bargain with a demanding, jealous, elsewhere god, sacrificing himself so that we can live happily ever after! Jesus of Nazareth was fully human. The Christ is the experiece of Jesus his followers encountered after his death. The Cosmic Christ is neither human nor divine, but rather a gateway into the MYSTERY’s presence among us. Our BRUNCHtalks continue to explore what it means to be Progressive in approach: Christ-like in action. 

You can find the all the slides from the presentation (including the ones that were skipped in the interests time) for this BRUNCHtalk here

Audio only click here

Jesus MATTERS – BRUNCHtalks 5

Audio only click here  

Moving beyond the sacrificial interpretation of the life, teachings, death, and resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth to explore a progressive way of following Jesus.  Jesus’ way of being provides hope for 21st century christian communities who embrace the LOVE we meet in the stories about Jesus that have been handed down to us. Can christian communities provide a space where people can gather together to learn how to love? Our BRUNCHtalks continue to explore what it means to be “Progressive in Approach: Christ-Like in action!”

 

Eternal NOW! – BRUNCHtalks 4

Can a first century understanding of Hell and Heaven free Christianity from its obsession with the next life and our cultural nonsense about heaven and hell? Exploring a progressive approach to the teachings of Jesus of Nazareth opens us to a Way of being in the world that is eternal now. Our BRUNCHtalks continue to explore what it means to be “Progressive in Approach: Christ-Like in action!”

I Am Not a Christian! I Aspire to Be a Christian! – BRUNCHtalks 3

In our third BRUNCHtalks, we continue to explore what it means to be “Progressive in Approach: Christ-like in action!” Focusing upon a progressive approach to Christianity, we look to the Way of Jesus to reveal ways of being Christian in the 21st century.

BRUNCHtalks2 – Progressive in Approach

The second in our summer series of BRUNCHtalks explores what it means to be “Progressive in Approach.” We are still experimenting with the format. The video has been edited to include a portion of the event. Several of the video’s we watched during the event are included in the video along with keynote slides.  BRUNCHtalks will continue at Holy Cross throughout the summer – Sundays @ 9:30am. 

Whenever we try to articulate what God IS, language fails us. For the most part, the institutional church has defined God with words and expected that members of the institution will confess loyalty to those words. Many of the words, with which the institution has traditionally described God, craft an image of God as a supernatural being up there or out there who is responsible for creation and from time to time interferes in the workings of creation. As we continue to learn more and more about the magnitude of creation, both in time and space, our traditional words about God seem even more puny.  While some respond to our ever-expanding knowledge about creation by attempting to make our notions of God fit into the tight little containers that were crafted by our ancestors, some are seeking new ways to speak of the CREATOR OF ALL THAT IS, WAS OR EVER SHALL BE. How might a progressive approach to religion enable us to expand our images of the Divine MYSTERY? 

 

Wake Up Jeezus! Wake Up! – Mark 4:35-41

The raging storms are all around us!The tumultuous winds are raging, churning up the waters and tossing us about in traitorous seas. Our small boats are tossed to and fro as massive waves heave us left and right. The roaring winds create upheavals, which leave us cowering in fear, trembling as we struggle to meet each wave that carries with it the potential to destroy the few planks of wood that have been hewn together to carry us upon the changing sea which holds both the promise of sustenance and the threat of oblivion within the darkness of its depths. With each crash upon the hull our fear raises, and the ferocity of the storms intensify. Frightened, clinging to life as we are tossed from one danger to the next, we cry out into the storm, convinced that only a power more intense, bigger, stronger, massive, beyond our abilities to even imagine can save us from being swamped in our small boats.  We know that left to our own devices without the meager security offered by our small boats we will be overcome by the waves and drown in the very sea that we must rely upon to sustain us.

The raging storms are all around us. Racism, poverty, disease, and violence; four winds that howl so ferociously that all we can hear is the sound of people’s fears as we see the very real possibility that the bottom might just fall out of the small craft we have fashioned to navigate the troubled waters that lie ahead. Racism, poverty, disease, and violence; four winds that drive us ever closer to wrecking our small boats hastily designed without thought to the perils which threaten to consume us as the monsters of the deep surface all around us. The weather forecast looks bleak as one storm after another rolls our way and we are so very tired. Tired of the winds of racism, which continue to blow despite our efforts to quell their intensity.

We have seen the power of racism that over and over again rises up in our midst. Some of us have learned to live in the almost silent breezes generated by our fear of the other. We have figured out mechanisms to quell the intensity of racism’s loathsome impact. We built lifeboats to carry us beyond the pain of the hatred that wafts in and around us, blown about by racism’s destructive currents. We know that there aren’t enough lifeboats to save us all so we jettison lives and turn away as others drown. We’ve grown accustomed to systems that allow us to deny their suffering as they flail about, trusting our lifeboats to protect us. Different seas have different others, but the lifeboats are crafted from the same materials. As racist breezes churn up the waters, poverty, disease and violence continue to howl and all the while, we are tossed upon the waves trusting that sleeping in the back of our lifeboat lies a power who if roused will protect us, save us, carry us safely to better shores.

Today, many of us are feeling more than just a little seasick. We thought we’d managed to quell the racism that once again howls in our midst. It’s a beautiful summer morning and we were looking forward to calm waters so that we can relax and breathe deeply in the warmth of our surroundings. But the winds of racism and violence have joined forces and blown the pain of children separated from their parents, lost and along languishing in detention centers, coupled with the knowledge that so many children continue to flee for their lives as wars continue to rage in far too many places. Even the imagining the pain, the fear and the dangers, threatens the stability of our lifeboats. We recognize the power of racism and violence to stir up the waters and so we comfort ourselves with the thought that these destructive winds are blowing in the south as if we here in the north are immune to the dangers that are blowing in the wind. We point to our American cousins as if they alone are the only ones in danger of sinking with their lifeboats weighed down by the presence of a raging orange fool whose tweet-storms causes new phrases to be added to our Orwellian lexicon: “tender age shelters”.             Continue reading

Do You See What I See?

baby in a tree

Do you see the baby?

Some of us have followed the star, we have journeyed to Bethlehem and we have seen the ONE who comes into the world as a child. Now what? Do we see the needs of the child? Are we ready to roll up our sleeves and be about the work of ushering in the Reign of Justice that this child, any child needs in order to live in peace? I wonder? 

I still hear the echoes of Rachel’s voice weeping unconsolable in Ramah; weeping for the lost children of Newtown and every town where violence, greed, madness or neglect robs the child of those things that belong to children: playful laughter, safe homes, warmth, nourishment, learning, embraces, peace….a future. 

Mystic, poet, philosopher, and theologian Howard Thurman’s poem “The Work of Christmas” comes to me as a challenge for the days, months and year ahead:

When the song of the angels is stilled,
When the star in the sky is gone,
When the kings and princes are home,
When the shepherds are back with their flock,
The work of Christmas begins:

To find the lost,
To heal the broken,
To feed the hungry,
To release the prisoner,
To rebuild the nations,
To bring peace among brothers,
To make music in the heart.

The Herods of this world have had their way for far too long. Let the slaughter of innocents end. We have seen the child and we know the wonders of a star-lit peace-filled night. So, let the work of Christmas begin with all of us seeking justice and making peace so that children everywhere can grow in LOVE. Shalom!

Four Ways of Thinking About God – Peter Rollins

Being – Hyper-Being, Ground of Being, Event

Drawing on John Caputo’s book “The Folly of God,” Peter Rollins articulates four ways of thinking about God. As our adult education class explores relationship to the Divine in a world beyond the creeds of our ancestors, these ways of thinking about God provided us with lenses to see beyond what is all too often a theological darkness. To view more of Pete’s facebook live videos click here or check out his website here

Do You See What I See on the the Fifth Day of Christmas?

baby in a tree

     Do you see the baby?

Some of us have followed the star, we have journeyed to Bethlehem and we have seen the ONE who comes into the world as a child. Now what? Do we see the needs of the child? Are we ready to roll up our sleeves and be about the work of ushering in the Reign of Justice that this child, any child needs in order to live in peace? I wonder? 

I still hear the echoes of Rachel’s voice weeping unconsolable in Ramah; weeping for the lost children of Syria and every place where violence, greed, madness or neglect robs the child of those things that belong to children: playful laughter, safe homes, warmth, nourishment, learning, embraces, peace….a future. 

Mystic, poet, philosopher, and theologian Howard Thurman’s poem “The Work of Christmas” comes to me as a challenge for the days, months and year ahead:

When the song of the angels is stilled,
When the star in the sky is gone,
When the kings and princes are home,
When the shepherds are back with their flock,
The work of Christmas begins:

To find the lost,
To heal the broken,
To feed the hungry,
To release the prisoner,
To rebuild the nations,
To bring peace among brothers,
To make music in the heart.

The Herods of this world have had their way for far too long. Let the slaughter of innocents end. We have seen the child and we know the wonders of a star-lit peace-filled night. So, let the work of Christmas begin with all of us seeking justice and making peace so that children everywhere can grow in LOVE. Shalom!

Do You See What I See?

baby in a tree

Do you see the baby?

Some of us have followed the star, we have journeyed to Bethlehem and we have seen the ONE who comes into the world as a child. Now what? Do we see the needs of the child? Are we ready to roll up our sleeves and be about the work of ushering in the Reign of Justice that this child, any child needs in order to live in peace? I wonder? 

I still hear the echoes of Rachel’s voice weeping unconsolable in Ramah; weeping for the lost children of every town where violence, greed, madness or neglect robs the child of those things that belong to children: playful laughter, safe homes, warmth, nourishment, learning, embraces, peace….a future. 

Mystic, poet, philosopher, and theologian Howard Thurman’s poem “The Work of Christmas” comes to me as a challenge for the days, months and year ahead:

When the song of the angels is stilled,
When the star in the sky is gone,
When the kings and princes are home,
When the shepherds are back with their flock,
The work of Christmas begins:

To find the lost,
To heal the broken,
To feed the hungry,
To release the prisoner,
To rebuild the nations,
To bring peace among brothers,
To make music in the heart.

The Herods of this world have had their way for far too long. Let the slaughter of innocents end. We have seen the child and we know the wonders of a star-lit peace-filled night. So, let the work of Christmas begin with all of us seeking justice and making peace so that children everywhere can grow in LOVE. Shalom!

Hell Is Killing Us! – Philip Gulley

imagineRecently, 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!!!

 

 

Faithfulness to the Opportunities and Talents We Have Been Given: Parker Palmer

Over the years, I have learn so much from Parker Palmer. In this video Palmer warns of the perils of using effectiveness as our only measure and insists that by asking ourselves the question: “Am I being faithful to the opportunities and talents we have been given?” allows us to see beyond our obsession with numbers, results and immediate effects so that we can be about the work of love, justice, and peace.

[vimeo 35028736 w=600&h=338]

Atonement? – John Shelby Spong

Jack speaking at Holy Cross

Jack speaking at Holy Cross

Bishop John Shelby Spong’s weekly column continues to provide so very much wisdom. Today Jack responded to a reader’s question about “atonement” and the nature of God. Jack is succinct, insightful, wise and inspirational in his response. If you don’t subscribe to Jack’s weekly column, you can find the details here

Question:

God is defined as an Almighty being. An Almighty being does not require atonement (for “sins”). Therefore if God requires atonement as the Bible says, he is imperfect and not Almighty. Does this make sense? In other words, philosophically, the need for atonement indicates a lack of something, which detracts from the perfection which God should have. I would appreciate your thoughts.    

 Answer:   Dear Raymond,

I don’t think that elementary equations in logic are the way to do theology. So let me start my answer by looking at your givens. “God is defined as an Almighty being.” By whom and on what authority? The traditional idea of God present at the heart of Christianity certainly tends to express this, but is it accurate? Can God ever be defined by human beings? Are the limits of the human brain able to be transcended sufficiently so that the fullness and mystery of God can be embraced and articulated? I do not think so.

I consider the popular definition of God as “a being,” who lives in a realm that is external to this world and who is equipped with supernatural power, to be not only inadequate but idolatrous. That is the meaning of theism. If theism as the definition of God becomes inadequate, then the only alternative is atheism. If, however, theism is an inadequate or even inaccurate attempt to define God, then atheism is simply a conviction that the theistic definition, not God, but the theistic definition of God, is not a proper way to understand the holy. In that sense I am certainly not a theist, but I am not an atheist either. The fact that I reject the theistic definition of God does not mean that I reject the reality of the God experience.

Your second given assumes that atonement is the experience of bringing God and human life into a state of oneness, and that somehow this is the goal of religion in general and Christianity in particular. I think atonement theology is bankrupt in that it is built upon a definition of human life as sinful and fallen and then it proceeds to portray God as a rescuer and the savior of the fallen, sinful life.

When I look at the origins of human life, I do not see an original perfection broken by original sin and the subsequent need for divine intervention to save the sinner. I see rather evolving life that went from single cells to complex self-conscious human beings. If there was no original perfection, there was no fall from perfection and therefore no need for a savior and the whole system collapses.

I see God as a presence and a power that leads to expanded life, expanded love and expanded being, and even the experience of an expanded consciousness. Atonement is not the word to characterize this understanding of either God or life. So, rather than worrying about whether God can be understood in terms of atonement, I would prefer to remove atonement from the Christian vocabulary altogether. I hope these brief comments will serve to open up new possibilities in your theological thinking.

My best, John Shelby Spong

Do You See What I See?

baby in a tree

Do you see the baby?

Some of us have followed the star, we have journeyed to Bethlehem and we have seen the ONE who comes into the world as a child. Now what? Do we see the needs of the child? Are we ready to roll up our sleeves and be about the work of ushering in the Reign of Justice that this child, any child needs in order to live in peace? I wonder? 

I still hear the echoes of Rachel’s voice weeping unconsolable in Ramah; weeping for the lost children of Newtown and every town where violence, greed, madness or neglect robs the child of those things that belong to children: playful laughter, safe homes, warmth, nourishment, learning, embraces, peace….a future. 

Mystic, poet, philosopher, and theologian Howard Thurman’s poem “The Work of Christmas” comes to me as a challenge for the days, months and year ahead:

When the song of the angels is stilled,
When the star in the sky is gone,
When the kings and princes are home,
When the shepherds are back with their flock,
The work of Christmas begins:

To find the lost,
To heal the broken,
To feed the hungry,
To release the prisoner,
To rebuild the nations,
To bring peace among brothers,
To make music in the heart.

The Herods of this world have had their way for far too long. Let the slaughter of innocents end. We have seen the child and we know the wonders of a star-lit peace-filled night. So, let the work of Christmas begin with all of us seeking justice and making peace so that children everywhere can grow in LOVE. Shalom!

Escaping Our Survival Mentality: John Shelby Spong

jack spong

Bishop Spong interviewed in his home on August 17, 2013

Jack speaks about his new book The Fourth Gospel: Tales of a Jewish Mystic Listen to the extended interview here

PAINTING the STARS: Science, Religion and an Evolving Faith

LIVING THE QUESTIONS: PAINTING the STARS:
SCIENCE, RELIGION AND AN EVOLVING FAITH

Begins at Holy Cross in Newmarket on Sunday September 29 at 9:30am

painting the stars flyer

God: Supernatural Theism or Panentheism?

Marcus borgWhenever we try to articulate what God IS, language fails us. For the most part, the institutional church has defined God with words and expected that members of the institution will confess loyalty to those words. Many of the words, with which the institution has traditionally described God, craft an image of God as a supernatural being up there or out there who is responsible for creation and from time to time interferes in the workings of creation. As we continue to learn more and more about the magnitude of creation, both in time and space, our traditional words about God seem ever more puny. While some respond to our ever-expanding knowledge about creation by attempting to make our notions of God fit into the tight little containers that were crafted by our ancestors, some are seeking new ways to speak of the CREATOR OF ALL THAT IS, WAS OR EVER SHALL BE. Often our attempts are as clumsy and as limited as the attempts of our ancestors. But sometimes, sometimes the likes of Tillich breathes new life into the notions of our ancestors and Paul’s description of our God as  “the one in whom we live and move and have our being” becomes for us, as Tillich imagines, “the Ground of our Being”.  

So, with a spirit of discovery and wonder, I encourage you to listen to Marcusfish in water Borg’s attempt  to describe our God. Borg’s efforts take us beyond the Ground of our Being toward a panentheistic understanding of God in all things and all things in God.  Please note: panentheism is not pantheism – pantheism means God is in everything – so God can be worshipped by worshipping nature because God is in nature. Panentheism means everything is in God and God is in everything – so – God breathes in, with, through, and beyond us, and we intern are in God – everything is in God but God is more than the sum of everything. A panentheistic view of God does not preclude thinking of God as personal – but it does understand that God is more than personal. 

While I don’t agree with everything Borg says in this video, it is a wonderful place to begin to think about expanding our way of speaking of the Divine. As long as we remember that our language will always fail to capture the wonders of our God.

Do You See What I See?

baby in a tree

Do you see the baby?

Some of us have followed the star, we have journeyed to Bethlehem and we have seen the ONE who comes into the world as a child. Now what? Do we see the needs of the child? Are we ready to roll up our sleeves and be about the work of ushering in the Reign of Justice that this child, any child needs in order to live in peace? I wonder? 

I still hear the echoes of Rachel’s voice weeping unconsolable in Ramah; weeping for the lost children of Newtown and every town where violence, greed, madness or neglect robs the child of those things that belong to children: playful laughter, safe homes, warmth, nourishment, learning, embraces, peace….a future. 

Mystic, poet, philosopher, and theologian Howard Thurman’s poem “The Work of Christmas” comes to me as a challenge for the days, months and year ahead:

When the song of the angels is stilled,
When the star in the sky is gone,
When the kings and princes are home,
When the shepherds are back with their flock,
The work of Christmas begins:

To find the lost,
To heal the broken,
To feed the hungry,
To release the prisoner,
To rebuild the nations,
To bring peace among brothers,
To make music in the heart.

The Herods of this world have had their way for far too long. Let the slaughter of innocents end. We have seen the child and we know the wonders of a star-lit peace-filled night. So, let the work of Christmas begin with all of us seeking justice and making peace so that children everywhere can grow in LOVE. Shalom!