Missing the point ...

I always know I am missing the point of the Christian faith when I start to think that religious actions are the point.

Did I go to church?

Did I pray?

Did I engage in a Bible study?

Did I avoid sin?

Did I serve at the soup kitchen?

I stumbled across this thought in my journal the other day and I am uncertain if it is mine or someone else's. No matter the source, it is powerful:

"Thinking the Christian faith is about religious acts, rather than seeing those religious acts as a means to an end, is a grave error.

The only end worth its weight - in a Christian sense - is love.

If our religious acts do not lead us to becoming more radically loving people they are worth nothing."

Christ followers have always missed the point when we think the means are the end; when we act as if our religious actions are the purpose for which we exist.

I do not know how many more ways Jesus could have tried to explain this danger to his constantly confused disciples while they - like us - kept trying to make the means the end.

When we forget that love is the only point we tend toward arguments about doctrine, discussions about rules and boundaries, about who should be excluded and how we should best exclude them.

Too much of my faith is an exercise in missing the point.

I wonder if that is because missing the point is far and away easier than loving people.

And that seems to have been Jesus' main point.

 

 

Why?

Why?

Why is the Old Testament filled with God's constant command for God's people to care for the orphan, the widow, the alien?

Why did the prophet Micah state that God has shown humankind what is good - Acting justly, loving mercy, and walking humbly with God?

Why did the prophet Isaiah state that God wants a religious fast that looks like loosing the chains of injustice, untying the cords of the yoke, setting the oppressed free, sharing our food with the hungry, providing shelter for the wanderer and clothing the naked?

Why did the prophet Amos cry out - Away with the noise and pomp and circumstance of your festivals and worship services! But let justice roll on like a river, and righteousness like a never-failing stream?

Why did Jesus say - Whatever you have done to the least of these, it is as if you have done it to me?

Why did Jesus say - Anyone can love those who love them! But I tell you to love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you?

Why did Jesus say - The greatest among you will be the one who serves?

Why did Jesus say - It is by this one thing that people can know you are my followers, if you love each other?

Why did the apostle Paul say - Because you are God's chosen people, clothe yourselves with things like compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.

Why?

And why, oh why are followers of Jesus allowing the American political system to pull us off course so badly right now?

Why?

 

Continue ...

A poem for the New Year, by Maya Angelou ...

Continue

My wish for you is that you continue

Continue

To be who and how you are 

to astonish a mean world

with your acts of kindness

Continue

To allow humor to lighten the burden

of your tender heart

Continue

In a society dark with cruelty

to let the people hear the grandeur

of God in the peals of your laughter

Continue

To let your eloquence

elevate the people to heights

they had only imagined

Continue

To remind the people that

each is as good as the other

And that no one is beneath 

Nor above you

Continue

To remember your own young years

and look with favor upon the lost

and the least and the lonely

Continue

To put the mantle of your protection

around the bodies of

the young and defenseless

Continue

To take the hand of the despised

And diseased and walk proudly with them

in the high street

Some might see you and

Be encouraged to do likewise

Continue

To plant a public kiss of concern

on the cheek of the sick

and the aged and infirm

And count that as

Natural action to be expected

Continue

To let gratitude be the pillow

upon which you kneel to

say your nightly prayer

And let faith be the bridge

you build to overcome evil

and welcome good

Continue

To ignore no vision

which comes to enlarge your range

and increase your spirit

Continue

To dare to love deeply

and risk everything

for the good thing

Continue

To float

happily in the sea of infinite substance

which set aside riches for you

before you had a name

Continue

And by doing so

you and your work

will be able to continue

Eternally.

 

Amen, and amen, Maya ...

Happy 2020!

 

Just don't tiptoe ...

Just don't tiptoe ...

All around you, people will be tiptoeing through life, just to arrive at death safely.

But dear children, do not tiptoe.

Run, hop, skip, or dance,

just don't tiptoe.

(Shane Claiborne, b. 1975)

Protect us from the violent ...

A few words from King David, the Psalmist ...

the author of Psalm 140

(Any minor alterations, mine.)

"Deliver us, O Lord, from evildoers;

protect us from those who are violent,

who plan evil things in their minds

and stir up wars continually.

They make their tongue sharp as a snake's,

and under their lips is the venom of vipers.

Guard us, O Lord, from the hands of the wicked;

protect us from the violent

who have planned our downfall ...

Do not grant, O Lord, the desires of the wicked;

do not further their evil plot ...

Let the evil of their lips overwhelm them!

I know that the Lord maintains the cause of the needy,

and executes justice for the poor.

Surely the righteous shall give thanks to your name;

the upright shall live in your presence."

Amen, King David. Amen. 

May it be so.

Some questions ...

 

Some questions I've been asking myself lately:

1. Do American Christians know what has happened throughout history to the church when it makes "marriage vows" with the State?  (Think Constantine ...)

2. If followers of Jesus aren't going to care for the poor, be a voice for the voiceless and watch out for the concerns of the marginalized in our society, are we abdicating one of our primary responsibilities?           (Think Matthew 25 ...)

3. Where in the Scriptures does it ever say that Christians should devote ANY of our time fighting for our own rights?

4. If the most radical call to love Jesus ever made was his call to love our enemies, what should that look like in today's society? When are we going to have that conversation?

5. If we who live in the richest, most militarily powerful nation in the world forget that the New Testament was written to a people who were under oppression by an occupying, wealthy, military powerhouse, how might we be reading it wrong?

As I ponder these questions and how I am living my own life, I often find myself whispering: "Lord, have mercy on me ... a sinner."

You?

Ashamed, ashamed ...

A Mary Oliver poem for today ...

The Morning Paper

Read one newspaper daily (the morning edition is the best for by evening you know that you at least have lived through another day)

and let the disasters,

the unbelievable

yet approved decisions,

soak in.

I don't need to name the countries,

ours among them.

What keeps us from falling down,

our faces to the ground,

ashamed,

ashamed?

Remember the story ...

I read this Christian "call to worship" today ...

and wept a little with sadness for our world,

but hope for what the church could be and do if we turned back to the simple, radical message of Jesus.

In a culture built on 'us and them,' where we are all right and they are all wrong, we gather in the humility of our shared humanity, as flawed but fellow image-bearers of our Creator.

In a culture that objectifies and uses women, we gather once again to celebrate the image of God powerfully reflected in women, and humbly learn from their wisdom and strength.

In a culture built on competition and constant comparisons, we seek to get swept up in God's Kingdom of equality and dignity for all.

In a culture trying to conquer the world with bravado and brute force, we choose to trust Jesus Christ when he said that the meek will inherit the earth.

Our world offers us a Story based on greed, lies, injustice, power and exploitation, and we reject this Story in the name of Christ.

 Oh if our churches could remember the Story of Jesus ... a story of hope, grace, joy, compassion, healing, hilarious generosity and goodness.

If ever there was a time when the world needed the church to remember the true Story of Jesus, this is it.

This. Is. It.

Holy on the ordinary streets ...

"It is ingrained in us that we have to do exceptional things for God - but we do not.

We have to be exceptional in the ordinary things of life,

and holy on the ordinary streets,

among ordinary people -

and this is not learned in five minutes."

(Oswald Chambers)