Posts Tagged ‘Jesus’

The Throw Down

November 14, 2016

It takes a long time to construct our institutions. It takes a long time to construct those things we hold as sacred. It takes a long time to construct those things we hold close to our hearts and souls. It takes a lifetime to construct how, what, where, we believe, and encounter one another and God. It takes a lifetime to construct our passion and journey discovering what we believe God wants for our faith and our life. It takes a lifetime.

Depending on what scholar one reads, the temple of Jesus’ day took somewhere between a few years and 46 years to construct. It takes a long time to construct those things that feel sacred in our lives and faith. 46 years in Jesus’ day was a lifetime.

Construction work today is hard work, whether is talking literally or metaphorically. Construction work was literally a whole lot more difficult in Jesus day, and certainly as hard metaphorically.

The journey of construction is difficult work. Whether we are talking literally constructing a physical thing, temple, church, house, office, etc., or whether we are talking about constructing our life and faith. In my own experience, regarding our life and faith journey, it takes building and tearing down, questions and supposed answers, second guessing, doubts, grief, tears, laughter, celebrations, heartache, and struggle.

And when one thinks they know, according to authors such as Richard Kearney in “Anatheism, Returning to God after God” and John Caputo in “What Would Jesus Deconstruct?” once we think we have the faith, the journey, God figured out, it is time to deconstruct those images, admit we can know virtually nothing about God and begin all over again our quest to understand.

It is heart breaking to believe in an ideal, to trust the sacredness of our hopes and dreams, it is devastating to trust, know, believe to the very core of who we are; what we know of the Kindom of God, what the peaceable Kindom is supposed to look like, what justice, kindness, and humility ought to be about, to know in our very heart of hearts what the common good for all should be, and have it destroyed, attacked, and torn asunder.

That is what many heard when Jesus suggested “not one stone will be left upon the other; all will be thrown down.” It had taken years, decades, lifetimes to build and he is suggesting it was all for naught. At the time this was written the temple was already gone. It was already devastated, destroyed, not one stone was left upon another, which I have no doubt influenced the writing of this text. It had to, what one of us could experience such a devastating event and it not effect and influence everything we do?

So here I am, and we need to talk, and listen, and be together. First, I am not going to presume nor critique how any of we in our community of CHUM voted in the recent election. Not only would that be inappropriate and unethical for me, but illegal in this setting and context.

I am a political junky, I suppose not to the extent of many, but I have long loved to read about, see, study, and watch the political process unfold. It is an interesting place to be as a clergy person who is staunchly committed to the separation of church and state. I often find myself dancing with that line between my own personal opinion and political passion and my role as pastor and religious leader in the church I serve and the broader world. But, for the most part I think I do well the dance along that line staying true to our founders and their passion for a freedom of and from religious privilege in our government, while honoring the diverse expression of religious and non-religious belief and practice in our country. And while I believe this, there are some things we need to talk about this morning.

There are those in our world, in our country, in our community, and here in our church who are grieving. I want to say, it is okay, grief is fine, normal, and important, and I nor anyone here or outside these walls has the right to diminish your grief in the aftermath of hopes unrealized and dreams shattered. No One. Tears, anger, confusion, bargaining, are all part of the grieving process, and those of us who are grieving need to take as long as we need to in order to process what we are going through. I am here for you, whatever your grief looks like, on whatever side of the political and ideological aisle you find yourself on. You are not alone!

As for the politics of our day, I have colleagues and friends who tell me the discussion of politics has no place in the church, or at the Thanksgiving table either. If by that they mean partisan, political party politics in the church, I wholeheartedly agree! We are not going to talk about Republican, Democrat, Independent, Green Party, Libertarian, etc., it is not going to happen.  But if by that we mean politics in any sense of the word, I disagree. Jesus was deeply political, a fierce critic of the oppressive political structures in his day in the church and in the government. I have had to really struggle with what I wanted to say this morning, dancing that line of separation of church and state.

I have been wrestling and dancing in the tension between gentle pastoral care and prophetic anger and passion. I thought I was firmly in place in my gentle preparation for today, until I continued following the news and media. While I will not talk partisan party politics I will be an active, loud, committed, and unrelenting voice against the politics of fear regardless of who is using it.

I attended a peaceful protest and gathering Friday evening. I was present and supportive of all who were there. Not so much because of the outcome of the election. My presence and support at this protest rally was in love and support of those who have been targeted and harassed by what has been unleashed by the campaign; women harassed by strangers on the street, fear and slurs directed at persons of other religions, livelihoods and marriages threatened and increased bigotry toward those LGBTQ persons. This protest rally was not about sour grapes or being “crybabies” because a candidate lost. This protest rally was about REAL emboldened and blatant harassment, hatred, and bigotry in our country and our communities as a result of the campaign rhetoric and hate directed at certain groups of God’s children. I will not be silent nor will I stand by and passively listen to others condemn persons who are being targeted and harassed. Please think before you speak! If you disagree and want to talk about it I am here. If you are threatened and afraid and need a safe person and place to talk, I am here.

Yes, when I encounter these things I too get angry, but our anger in and of itself will do us, me, no good, we need to find ways to channel it and my channel will be do all I can to make justice happen! I will Love as God Loves! I will to the best of my ability be the very reflection of God’s love and justice in the world!

My grief and struggle over the last few days, over the last year, is not about political ideology, though that is the context in which it was often born. What has broken my heart is borne out of my faith in God and my role as pastor as I witness the fear and pain that has been instilled because of the vitriol language, hatred, and bigotry that seems to have raised its ugly head in so many ways.

I am profoundly aware I need to temper my words so as to not assume I know or have experienced the kind of fear and hate many are feeling today because I do not and have not. I am white, male, and straight, and as such, I carry a certain amount of privilege. My responsibility is to listen and stand with those who have come to trust me enough to be vulnerable.

When I listen with those who have been the victims of sexual assault and we feel that recent comments made, objectifying women, have fueled and normalized that kind of talk and abuse, and it brings all of that experience back for them, my heart is heavy. And I say… Enough!

When I listen with those who are lesbian, gay, trans-gender, and bi-sexual who fear for their livelihood and their marriage and family because their rights have been promised to be reversed, my heart is heavy.
I say… Enough!

When I listen with immigrants and parents who are of a different color and national origin who had to comfort their children the morning after the election because their children feared they would be sent away, my heart is heavy.
I say… Enough!

When listen with those who are disabled fear they will be mocked and chided even more than they have been in the past, my heart is heavy. When I listen with persons of color victims of racism, still rampant in our society and culture, who are made to feel less than simply because of the color of their skin, my heart is heavy.
I say… Enough!

When I sit in the Mosque and pray with my Muslim friends, brothers, and sisters and listen to their stories. Stories of hate filled language, suspicious looks, vandalism against their place of worship, and fear of their neighbors, my heart is heavy.
I say… Enough!

It’s time to listen to ourselves. It is time to listen to one another. We need to listen not to diminish, not to critique, not to try and fix the others anger or grief, not even to respond. We need to listen, really listen to one another, to understand what all of us are going through.

We all process and deal with grief and anger, heartache and fear differently. I would encourage you to not cast it off too soon. Don’t just smooth it over for smoothing over sake. Sit with it for as long as you need, abide with it for as long as you need, breathe it in and breathe it out. When you are ready we will gather together. We will gather to figure out how, what, when, we want to do something. We will gather to find hope, find support for our grief, tears for our tears, and love for our Fears.

It is already happening, I have had numerous persons reach out to me over the last few days with questions, “What do I do?” “Where do I turn?” “How can I help?”

We will gather here to do the work of compassion and hope. I here at College Hill we do discuss politics. But never a politic that divides, always a politic that unites and brings us all, ALL together. And not only politics but unity. There will be those who will call us to come together and unify. This is good, but not unity for unity’s sake. Never a unity that denies compassion and justice.

We may need unity…
But never unity at the expense of humanity.

We may need unity …
But never unity with a system that governs by fear.

We may need unity…
But never unity with rights for just a few.

We may need unity…
But never unity with oppression and hate.

We may need unity…
But never a unity with a politic of intimidation and privilege.

Because…

In the church, here at College Hill,

Here we believe in the politics of hope not intimidation.

Here we believe in the politics of compassion on bigotry.

Here we believe in the politics of inclusion not exclusion.

Here we believe in the politics of the rights and humanity of ALL not just a few.

Here we believe in the politics that we are all children of the divine regardless of the religion or lack thereof we practice or not, not the politics of who is in and who is out.

Here we believe in the politics of the human race not racism.

Here we believe in the politics of welcome not locked doors.

Here we believe in the politics of justice for all not just the few.

Here we believe in the politics of kindness not threat.

Here we believe in the politics of humility not arrogance.

Here we believe in the politics of Love not fear!

We will be gathering a group together in the next week and a half. A group to brainstorm, support, and figure out what to do. We need to do something to support those in our midst who know the real fear of threat to their families, livelihoods, and lives AND especially those beyond these walls who are living in fear and uncertainty. It is not enough to stand idly by with only words of support and comfort. We have to put actions behind our words, ALL of us. It doesn’t have to be anything huge, though I have some pretty grand ideas for a few things. We need to start small, knock on a neighbor’s door and tell them you care. Take a plate of cookies to the Mosque, or The Center downtown, offer you support, your solidarity, your presence, and your love. We will rise, and we will rise together for Justice, Kindness, Humility, and Love.      This. IS. SO. Amen.

 

These are lyrics to a song written by Joe Crookston sung following this sermon and communion together here at College Hill UMC.

My father, he could use a little mercy now. The fruits of his labor, falling right slowly on the ground. His work is almost over, won’t be long he won’t be around, and I love my father, he could use some mercy now.

My brother, he could use a little mercy now. He’s a stranger to freedom, shackled to his fears and his doubts. The pain that he lives in, is almost more than living will allow. And I love my brother, he could use some mercy now.

My church and my country, they could use a little mercy now. As they sink into a poison pit, it’s going to take forever to climb out. And they carry the weight of the faithful, as they follow them down. And I love my church and country, and they could use some mercy now.

Yeah, I love my church and country, they could use some mercy now.

Yeah, we all, we could use a little mercy now. We may not deserve it, we need it anyhow. We hang in the balance between hell and hallowed ground. Every single one of us, could use some mercy now. Yeah, we all, could use some mercy now.

 

Of Jesus and Guns

February 4, 2013

I have not specifically spoken to the issue because I know what a sensitive topic it is. I have written and spoken to the issue of violence and what I see as an addiction to some degree of our culture and society and what that says about particular aspects of our faith. I have not spoken of guns in particular not only because it is a sensitive topic but because it is so very political, not that I have been shy about wandering into the political realm, but as a clergy feel it is important to speak of politics in the context of the faith and how I see the two at play.

I woke up with this on my mind and want to take a few moments to ponder the issue. Let me say first I am not against guns. Though I have never understood the appeal of owning a semi-automatic or fully automatic high ammunition capacity military type weapon, I grew up around guns and had many joy filled hours shooting and hunting. My dad and I spent many hours of father and son bonding time hunting and shooting together. I hunted with friends and family and enjoyed the sport of it; mostly with my shotgun hunting pheasants and quail or an occasional rabbit. I enjoyed shooting skeet with my dad and my brother-in-law and the boys. Every now and then dad would get out his little 22 pistol and we would do some target practice or my brother’s 22 single shot rifle.

Somewhere along the way I lost my love of hunting, while it doesn’t have anything to do with guns themselves, it was primarily due to two things. One I have never really enjoyed wild game as a meal, mostly I ate it because I was the one who hunted it and brought it home. That and my ever growing love of nature I have learned I find much more pleasure in seeing the beauty of a pheasant, or listening to a covey of quail take off in flight, or seeing a whitetail deer leap over a fence and simply taking it in as opposed to shooting it.

What does trouble me about the current conversation is the increasing connection I see folks make between guns and the Christian faith. The other day I saw a bumper sticker here in the city, “What Every Home in America Should Have” with the picture of a gun laying on a Bible. I remember saying out loud as I drove behind the person, “Really?” I don’t have a problem with folks having a fire arm in their home if it is properly and safely secured. I certainly do not have an issue with people having Bibles in their homes, more should, I would guess. But to somehow link the two that they would be harmonious and supportive of one another seems rather odd to me at best. Another incident was while searching for images of Jesus on Google for a sermon I was doing I ran across an image of Jesus sitting on a rock holding a military style weapon, I have no words.

We as a people of faith proclaim Jesus as “Prince of Peace,” citing his message of Love God, love neighbor, and love yourselves. We remember his charge to love our enemies and his rebuke of one who was with him that night to, “Put your sword back into its place; for all who take the sword will perish by the sword,” and then we promote an image with a gun in his hands. What’s wrong with this picture?

Do I believe we need better control of the high capacity round automatic weapons? Yes. Do I believe we need better background checks and mental health accessibility for those who wish to purchase guns? Yes. Do I believe more access to guns and more guns on the street and in our homes and schools and government buildings will make us safer? No. I believe we need to find ways to make this a more safe and sane country and world. I know there are those who disagree with me and I pray we as a country can have a civil, fruitful and productive conversation about how to achieve better and safer methods of gun ownership. Such is my civil opinion and my politic if you will, it is where I am as a citizen of our great country.

But please, don’t put a gun in the hands of Jesus and the disciples in order to try and make the case for gun laws and the second amendment. I do not believe violence is ever the answer especially when talking about our faith and following the teachings and Way of Jesus. The threat of more violence in response to violence only begets more violence and fear. It is not the Way of truth, life, or love. I continue to pray for the day when swords are beaten into plowshares and spears and made into pruning hooks. I continue to pray for the day when peace will be the rule of the day and we will learn violence and war no more. I continue to pray for a world that is safe and compassionate for us all and especially for our children.

It is one of the many ways I seek to be mindful of the Spirit and one another here at the Hill, where you are one of the community. Here where there is always an open door, a safe space, a warm welcome, and a place at the table. Not Your Ordinary Church. Until next week, God bless, and know you are never alone.

Rev. Kent H. Little, Senior Pastor

 

A Reconciling Congregation

Patience

August 30, 2011

Like dog like master I suppose, or maybe it is more like master like dog, anyway Simeon is not a very patient being, nor do I tend to be. For Simeon it does not seem to matter whether it is something to eat, somewhere to go, somewhere to be scratched, or time to go outside, he is pretty impatient. If we wait too long he begins he low “growly” sound, I think he sounds a bit like Scooby Doo from the cartoon when he does. He seems to be telling us something and I suspect it has something to do with wanting us to “Hurry Up!”

When I am impatient whether it has to do with traffic and other drivers, going somewhere, getting something done, waiting, or some other thing I know I can get rather “growly” myself. I am working on it though, especially mindful of it this past week.

There is a Buddhist Center just a few blocks from where we live and I have often pondered the notion of stopping in to introduce myself and to learn more about their path and way. This past week I put together a new sermon series for the fall. I thought it would be neat to do a series based on the Eight Fold Path of Buddhism and the Teachings and Parables of Jesus. That idea and subsequent reflection led me to the Center down the street and I have enrolled in their fall Thursday evening classes.

One of the things the Teacher shared with us that first night was the practice of patience. Notice I did say “practice.” She told us to not just meditate and reflect on patience but look for ways to practice patience, i.e. take the longest line at the grocery store, let one extra person in when in traffic, let a family go ahead of you the next time you are waiting for a seat at the restaurant, just to name a few.

Yesterday I had such an opportunity, oh, it began as my normal frustrated and impatient self but I was brought back to the teaching I had heard last Thursday. Simeon and I were on our walk and he of course often has to do one of his “jobs” while we are out. I pulled one of the little bags I carry out of my pocket and stepped into the grass to do my part and just as I leaned over I noticed I stepped in it. Not Simeon’s “it” mind you, some other dog’s “it.” I was not happy!

But then I said to myself, “Wait, why let this upset my journey?” So once I had cleaned up after Simeon I pulled the other bag from my pocket, always have a spare, and picked up the other mess too, cleaned off my shoe and away we went.

A perhaps long story to simply say and acknowledge the sense of peace and grace that washed over me as Simeon and I continued on our journey. It was a simple act of patience that led to peace and gratitude for the ability to be on the journey at all. I am not convinced Simeon learned much from the experience and I suspect he will continue to be the loveable impatient companion he is, but hopefully, for me, I will be able to continue to develop and grow in my own mindfulness of patience and grace as I walk in the Way.

Our new sermon series, “Crossroads of Faith and Practice; The Teachings of Buddha and Jesus, the Eight Fold Path and the Parables,” will begin this coming Sunday at College Hill. Along the Way we will consider lessons in, “Words that Matter, Forgiveness, Sin, Mindfulness, Works, Effort, and Prayer,” if you are in the area I hope you can join us for one or all of the series.

It is one of the many ways we seek to be faithful to the Spirit and one another here at the Hill, where you are one of the family. Here where there is always an open door, a safe space, a warm welcome, and a place at the table.
Until next week, God bless, and know you are never alone.

Peering Through the Window

August 15, 2011

Arrived home from the church the other evening at about dusk, the shadowy light I suppose mostly revealed a person without defining identity. As I walked up the steps of the front porch I heard Simeon barking. He was just inside the front door looking through the window barking, at ME! Unlocking the door I stepped in the house as Simeon backed away with one more half-hearted bark and then the familiar tail wag, jump, spin, and greeting he gives each time we come home after a long day. “Hey,” I said, “What are you doing barking at ME; knucklehead,” I said with a scratch of his ears and a rub of the head.

It is comforting to know he keeps a watch of the house and is protective when people wander onto our porch with a response that might be translated as “Who are you?” It is an appropriate question not just for safety and life in general, but also for our journey of faith. We have just been through a series of Sunday’s here at CHUM asking questions of our faith and understandings of God and the world through an intentional Progressive Christian lens. In that context I thought it might be important to take a look at Jesus through that same lens.

Here at CHUM we have a long and storied tradition of not only taking our identity as Christian Progressives seriously but also holding in respect and seriousness an endeavoring to understand the stories and writings of other faith traditions and our brothers and sisters of the Muslim, Jewish, Hindu, Buddhist, etc. traditions and our place among them.

As I continue to ponder a new theme of sermons to begin in the fall I thought it might be helpful to look at Jesus and how one understands who he was, what he was about, and what we can know and what we do not know. So for the next couple of Sundays we will be looking at the historical Jesus and the Christ of faith through a markedly Progressive Christian lens, perhaps if you will, asking the question, “Who are you?”

It is good to know when I come upon the front porch of our house, or my life, there is someone peering through the window filled with questions and greeting, Simeon does that well for me. I hope you will join us as we peer through this lens we have established as we continue to live in and with the questions of faith and life.

It is one of the many ways we seek to be faithful to the Spirit and one another here at the Hill, where you are one of the family. Here where there is always an open door, a safe space, a warm welcome, and a place at the table.
Until next week, God bless, and know you are never alone.

Out of Bounds

August 8, 2011

I remember the day well and sometimes I have to wonder if Simeon remembers it too when I get upset and speak a little harsh and he hangs his head and walks away, whether I am actually talking to him, my computer, or the television.
It happened when he was just a pup and we kept him in the back utility room of the house where we lived. He was your normal curious pup wanting to know what was what and why it was. In the back room on the counter I kept the coffee pot so as to not potentially harm the new countertop in the kitchen. I had made coffee and left the grounds in the basket and about half a pot that morning. I came home from work that day found the coffee maker on the floor, the pot broken, coffee and coffee grounds spread from one end of the room to another. I was, well, I was pretty upset.

I took Simeon over to the mess and said “No!” I then took his from paws and placed them on the countertop and said once again, “NO!!!” I pointed at his bed and said in a rather firm voice, “Go lay down!” Well, he did go to his bed with tail between his legs and head bowed low and proceeded to, well, relieve himself on his blanket. It was just a sad, pathetic, sorrowful looking event. I confess, I felt pretty bad when all was said and done.

Have you ever said something and wished you could have taken it back, or done something that in hindsight was not the “best you” in a given situation. I would suspect that many if not all of us have been in those situations; found ourselves “out of bounds,” if you will. I don’t think Jesus was even immune to the idea. I was reading a passage in the scriptures just the other day and his encounter with a woman from a different culture and found what he said to her a little out of bounds.
The next couple of weeks here at CHUM we will be looking at the historical Jesus and the Christ of faith and discovering more of who he was and how he has encouraged us to follow the Way of compassion, grace, welcome, and love even if it causes us to move beyond the boundaries of life and faith as we have always known it.

I am a little more careful now how I speak to my friend Simeon and work daily on my responses to those around me so as to not find myself “out of bounds.” I pray this week you find your words graced in kindness and working toward justice.

It is one of the many ways we seek to be faithful to the Spirit and one another here at the Hill, where you are one of the family. Here where there is always an open door, a safe space, a warm welcome, and a place at the table.
Until next week, God bless, and know you are never alone.