Tag Archives: Jesus

What is Scripture Inspiring in You?

All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, so that everyone who belongs to God may be proficient, equipped for every good work.  – 2 Tim. 3:16-17

I stand with this ancient letter penned by Paul or a devoted follower.    (Let us note that in the author’s day, our final collection of the canon — what’s in and what’s out — HAD NOT BEEN DETERMINED YET. It is very likely his use of the term Scripture refers widely to the writings of the faithful he knew, perhaps including “scriptures” lost to us or later rejected.)  Big topic. Different post.

As a Christian, it is with the heart and eyes of Jesus Christ that I seek to understand and be inspired by the lessons of Scripture.  And, I count in that the wise teachings of the ages and the contributions of many of God’s seeking children beyond the Jewish and Christian traditions.

All Scripture is inspired and USEFUL… for the ultimate goal of being proficient and equipped for every good work.  This seems a richer, deeper commitment to make than to a simplistic literalistic obedience.  In fact, the authors of Scripture certainly did NOT have in mind the approach to literal dispensational reading that many American Protestants have been steeped in, as it actually did not exist as a package until the 1800s.  If the Divine goal is shaping us for good works in the tradition of Jesus, then I must be as willing to  wrestle, grieve and argue with the “inspired” texts of the ages as I am willing to submit to their wisdom.  And then there are questions of transmission and translation. Big topics. Different post.

We are not called to a robotic faith or to pass along the prejudices and partial understandings of past.  We are called to wrestle, to pray, and to discern what really represents the HEART of the Creator today. It is clear that the Holy Spirit has worked within and outside of tradition to enlarge our perspective on true holiness and justice.  On gender equality, abolition of slavery, rejection of genocide, creation of civil pluralistic societies we have had to say “No” to some historical belief or circumstance pictured in Scripture, for the sake of living out more consistently a deeper principle of God’s will.

Today, many of the loudest voices professing Christian biblical principles are those whose image of God and God’s will is consistent with the violence, enmity and cultural superiority depicted in the Scriptures.   Others side with the voices of the prophets of justice, inclusion and an expanding sense of peoplehood because we find in those texts the same wisdom which animated Jesus.

The Holy Spirit which advances his work in and through us is at ever at work revealing our thoughts, our prejudices, and our idolatries.  One way to receive the full inspiration of Scripture is to simply acknowledge and confess it for what it is: a partial collection of the glorious activities of God and God’s people, and an honest representation of the sins, hopes and evolution of various ways of human relating to God.  It IS inspired and certainly profitable for our spiritual development to understand it and evaluate it through the lens of Good News.

If we are to grow up into a mature faith, we must remember that Jesus calls us friends, not servants.  With him, we must fulfill our destinies in this hour, and like him we must work out the core of our faith and obligations in the face of tradition’s shortcomings.

“By their fruit, ye shall know them” says Jesus.  (This has been an absolutely central principle in my faith journey and my support of LGBT people of faith through spiritual coaching and classes.)  Perhaps we could say that inspiration is REALLY happening when our lives look like his, and that Scriptural attachments which do NOT produce such an ever-maturing fruit are not inspired by God.

What is Scripture inspiring in you?

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To Love Our Neighbors as Ourselves

Here’s a real golden nugget, I think, from Emanuel Swedenborg’True Christianity:

We read that we are to love the Lord God above all things, and our neighbors as ourselves (Luke 10:27).  To love our neighbor as ourselves means not despising our neighbors in comparison with ourselves.  It means treating them justly and not judging them wrongfully.  The law of goodwill pronounced and given by the Lord himself is this:  

“Whatever you want people to do for you, do likewise for them.  This is the Law and the Prophets.” (Matthew 7:12; Luke 6:31,32)

This is how people who love heaven love their neighbor.  People who love the world, however, love their neighbor on a worldly basis for a worldly benefit.  People who love themselves love their neighbor in a selfish way for a selfish benefit.

Wow!  Think about the entrenched ugliness of our unresolved pain and violence in this world.  Is it not much about comparing and competing, treating folks unjustly or allowing injustice, and judging wrongfully?

I am really savoring this collection of Emanuel Swedenborg’s writings, including the parts of it that are a bit strange metaphysically.  I love to learn about innovative ideas and experiences others have had (or thought they had), and to ponder what it might reveal about God’s reality.  One does not have to be hopelessly relativist to be committed to appreciating at face value the potential gift that others are bringing.  To listen and to understand does not mean to give over all discriminating faculties!  (Unfortunately, the sort of fundamentalism and evangelicalism that formed my early life would indeed have us fearfully separate ourselves from such encounters, rather than seek in them the practice of neighborly love and intellectual humility).

I especially love to read things outside the mainstream of acceptance (or, shall I say invisible histories/herstories and even “heresy”).  It is a spiritual practice — studying the breadth and spirit of experience, testimony and communal ethics that have been born amid human grappling with the presence and expectations of God.  And, striving to encounter these things with the heart, not just the endlessly dissecting intellectual impulse.  Swedenborg called these  “sense-oriented” and I associate them with negative Ego grasping which other traditions name as our snare.

My coaching clients and students see this loving neighbors and self thing is the heart of the matter.  So, in fact did Jesus.  Swedenborg has some truly innovative ways of picturing and teaching this.  Tomorrow’s post will be especially interesting for those working on the spiritual projects of forgiveness and biblical self-care.

Maybe a Lenten practice that would be good Christian contribution to public discourse this election season:

To not despise our neighbor in comparison with ourselves.

To treat others justly.

To not judge wrongfully.

To do unto others as we’d like done unto us…

“The Law of Goodwill.”

 

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A House Built on a Rock

“Everyone then who hears these words of mine and acts on them will be like a wise man who built his house on rock. The rain fell, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on rock. And everyone who hears these words of mine and does not act on them will be like a foolish man who built his house on sand.The rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell—and great was its fall!” — Matthew 7:24-27

This passage has held and nourished many returns – my returns to study — over the years.    It’s so simple really.  To hear and act upon the words of Jesus.  Jesus (not church or government or culture).  The words he’s just shared (the Sermon on the Mount, not later pronouncements of Tradition).

 

To hear.

What is it to hear?

To hear and perceive the Good News in them.

To hear and feel Gospel-style judgment (not condemnation) in them.

To hear and know more of God because of them.

To hear the Truth in silence beneath our hapless and self-centered words.

To hear the pain of this world, as He did.

 

To act.

What is it to act on them?

All of these are to act on them, in the manner Jesus himself acted upon Word:

To submit to their wisdom in hope,  obedience and simplicity.

To chew them with earnestness, as a sweet scroll, turning food into life and into waste as well.

To wrestle with them as Jacob, settling for nothing less than blessing.

To resist their use as weapons, as lifeless tools in the hands of prejudice or legalism.

To take upon — as a yoke — an inner meaning which is Life and Spirit.

To embody them as Word-made-flesh, unafraid of our place in the family of things.*

 

Jesus cried out with lament on another day,  “If only you knew the ways that make for peace!”   Today, He stills beckons us to the blessing of the universal and nonviolent compassionate spirit of the Sermon on the Mount.   When we embrace such a life with our whole being, we must dissolve Ego’s opposition and the backlash of those who themselves are threatened by such grace.  But it is truly the way to the life of resilience and witness that is pictured by the  house on the rock.  It is the life of freedom from judgments, vengeance and prejudice.  It is the life that lasts.

 

Where do you see examples of the steadfast in your life, of the weathering of failure and finitude?

Where do you see the crushing impact of despair, discrimination, or disappointments?

What fresh word of life is for you this day?

 

*I am invoking Mary Oliver’s poem Wild Geese here.  Check out Panhala for the full text and lots more great poems.

 

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Excel When You Must, But Do Not Excel the World

“Do not seek too much fame, but do not seek obscurity.
Be proud, but do not remind the world of your deeds.
Excel when you must, but do not excel the world.
Many heroes are not yet born,
Many have already died;
To be alive to hear this song is a victory.”

— A West African Song

Thirteen years ago, a blessed brother traveler read this aloud in a public setting and dedicated the gift of this poem to me.  It was a time of difficult transition, and his great heart saw and felt my great need for new Grounding.   Another precious friend framed a beautiful version and gave it to me upon my ordination that year.  It has provided a kind of measuring stick, mantra, and mirror-question many times since.

The Course in Miracles teaches about the danger of special attachments and special relationships.  In my coaching and teaching, I often draw upon my own journey of recovery from workaholism (in which illusions and attachments to excellence abound).  I have often found capacity to let go of outward achievements wherein lay temptation to “excel the world” or “remind the world of my deeds.”  I faith, I am pressing on for a different prize: “to be alive to hear this song” and to be Christ’s presence in it.

Today, I draw upon this Life Text as I honor my grandmother, Elizabeth Schrock, who died Monday.   She embodied victory in her Christian life as she lived out humility and perseverance while receiving no great outward honor.  She is not famous, yet she is a hero. My hero.  And her life is a model of victory.

I am grateful for so many lessons along life’s path, and for the example of Jesus Christ through whom we see “the express image of God.”  Thank you so very much, Grandma Schrock, for the gift of your life.

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‘Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master.’ — from a parable of Jesus in Matthew 25:23.

 

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Jesus and Living Well

I believe that Jesus lived well on this earth, and that he lives today so that we might live well.  He enjoyed the wonder of trust in God’s care, and encourages us to a faith that does likewise.  He shared his life freely… anchored in Divine love and for the sake of healing and justice.  He calls us to choose, likewise, to face down the fears which would tempt us to settle for less – including false securities, habits of judgment, and complacencies about this world’s suffering and oppression.  I believe that forgiveness is the way of such salvation.

 Christ’s life — then and now — calls us to intention, discernment and generous, sacrificial love.  For trust, wisdom and strength to do so, we may always draw deeper from the springs of the Living Well – God’s unconditional love.  As we draw from this eternal source, our lives are freed from fear and shame and we are transformed into agents of grace, creativity and fearless truth-telling.  Nourished by this source, we come to celebrate and care for our whole lives.  We come to dwell in our bodies, minds, spirits, relationships, and world with an awareness of the beautiful presence of the Holy.

 Following Christ calls me to a radically open life.  As Christ’s disciple, I follow the Way of Truth and Life that embraces the dignity and potential of all people. Christ’s disciples carry the mandate to be agents of reconciliation in the world, and are enabled to transform personal sin and social suffering with radical grace and forgiveness.

I follow the path his followers have set before me, which calls us to create and nourish experiences of empowering love and reconciliation wherever two or three are gathered. I study the Scriptures which he did, as well all the stories of faith revealed through his power since Pentecost.  I learn from people of other faiths about the great capacity of God to draw others to lives of grace and wisdom.

 I take up Christ’s energy, an energy which enables truth and love to embrace.  When these embrace, we can create enduring justice.  When we set our intentions for such lives, we are empowered by his Spirit for freedom, bold action and abundant life for one and all.  We know, too, the gifts of rest, surrender and trust in the One who is able to do exceedingly, abundantly above all that we can ask or think.

 The Power of Belief

 All beliefs influence our feelings and our actions, and the range of choices we feel we have in this life.  Beliefs that foster shame, judgment, limitation, victimhood and conflict literally block our life energy, our spirit.  Jesus announced is that there need not be such condemnation, and that repentance is Good News.  We can release these burdens, trust in the Gospel, and live out our full potential for peaceful, creative, and abundant lives. The Good News is that when we stop protecting our own egos, we are radically available for the sincere service of others.  By losing our lives, we find them.

 What is the effect of your beliefs on your present?  On your future?  Are they limiting or nourishing your capacity for living well?

I’d be honored to support you on this sacred journey!

 

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