Opinion - 26 April 2017
2 hours ago
The ordered universe science reveals is only what you'd expect if it was made by an orderly God. However, the two disciplines are different. He [Polkinghorne] calls them "intellectual cousins".The title, though, is what intrigued me. None of them seemed to answer the question. Nor did the equation in the picture divide by God-- God seems to be the result. In trying to answer it myself, I posit that if God is infinite then the answer to the question is unknowable. Unless of course, science is a very large number itself, then the answer could be zero. This whole thing taxes my brain, which today doesn't need taxing. I'll content myself with believing that God is both unknowable and the source of our searching.
"You can not solve a problem from the same level of consciousness that created it." Albert Einstein.
"Conflict can not be resolved at the same domain as it occurs. We must go closer to the Source of Life to find places of commonality upon which we build community.
While many church arguments appear to occur in the domain of environment, such as deciding on the shape of worship; or the domain of skills and abilities, such as deciding on who can or cannot be ordained. These conflicts can only be resolved by discovering commonality in the domains closer to the Source. Where there is fundamental disagreement over the purpose of the church, no resolution will be possible to conflicts occurring in the other domains. At these times it is probably best for people to sit in silence with each other until they can hear each other’s heart beat and together listen to the heartbeat of the Source of Life.
Don’t try lighting a fire under people to motivate them. All you’ll get is burnt butts. Rather, find the fire that is within them and fan it."I've been having a hard time finding the fire here, at least during this long winter season. The summer folk come and there is lots of energy, and a lot gets done then, but maybe it's not just the bear who hibernate. Some more good words from Rob:
"Resistance occurs when we initiate change outside the person or groups' perceptual reality.Good and useful concepts. I'm trying to create a positive urgency to help them through the change. The Search Committee is working faithfully and well together and the congregation knows this, but I think some people are hoping that things will just go back to same ole, same ole when the new priest comes so they can stay in their comfort zone.
Resistance occurs when some part of the system has not agreed to participate in the change.
Resistance occurs when a client perceives that the change will result in a loss of something of value that will not be outweighed by the apparent benefit."
On Feb. 13, Maine made the national news in a positive way. The Oxford School Department needed to reduce its budget by $400,000 in order to keep things up and running. After slashing everything they could, they still came up with a figure equal to seven positions that would have to be cut. Rather than seeing their friends unemployed, everyone volunteered to work one day a week without pay.I enjoy reading the religion section of the Bangor Daily News. I don't always agree with what is there, but it is frequently uplifting. One of the nice things about living in a state with a small population is that people genuinely care for their neighbors. Our local food panty is sponsored by all four churches in town and when a local person is in need the town rallies behind that person. Ms. Norris ends her article with:
This is nothing new. Several years ago, a small company of six employees in the town of Robinhood was faced with a slowdown in business. The most recently hired would have to be laid off if they were to remain open, but they all decided to donate a day’s pay a week so that person could remain on the work force. Eventually business picked up and everyone was back on full salary.
Shame on us if we sit back with folded hands and say, “It’s not my fault; I didn’t vote for them.” Rather our hands should be folded in prayer, as per 1st Timothy 2:1-2: “First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all men, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life, godly and respectful in every way.”Amen.
Let’s pray it forward!
One of the dangers of simplistic, black and white thinking is to assume that some human behaviors are righteous while others are not. A more comprehensive view of humanity would suggest that all human behaviors, character, and personality needs to be redeemed or transformed. For example, even our capacity to love, needs to be redeemed from self interest and liberated from all the fear-based conditions we place on who and how we will love. Until we are as liberal with God's love as Jesus was then our ability to love needs ongoing transformation. As we explore the nature of compassion we will see that all the faces of compassion need to be transformed so that we don't offer a simplistic and inappropriate response to the multitude of human conditions we encounter.It's been a long and hard winter and I needed to be reminded of that paragraph. I so often find myself guilty of limiting myself and falling back into the trap of finding solutions to problems rather than embracing the mystery and my supply of love gets depleted. But things are getting better. My change of mood must mean that spring is just around the corner. It has taken three winters in Maine to remind myself why March is the cruelest month even though TS Eliot claims it is April. Christina Rosetti has this poem about the months of the year:
January cold and desolate;March winds are appropriate since it is VERY windy here. We're even thinking of putting in a windmill to generate most of the power for the church. I keep reminding myself that it's just weather. I do miss the more even clime of California, though. I think a trip away is in the offing soon.
February dripping wet;
March wind ranges;
Birds sing in tune
To flowers of May,
And sunny June
Brings longest day;
In scorched July
The storm-clouds fly,
August bears corn,
In rough October
Earth must disrobe her;
Stars fall and shoot
In keen November;
And night is long
And cold is strong
In bleak December.
- - - Christina Giorgina Rossetti "The Months"
The desert is a dangerous place. People do not go into the desert unless they have to. There is no water there, and without water we die. There is no food there. Without food we die. When the wind blows, it changes the shape of the desert. People get lost. Some never come back. In the daytime the sun is so hot that people must wear lots of clothes to protect themselves from the sun and the blowing sand. The sand stings when it hits your skin. The sun scorches you by day. At night it is cold. You need many clothes to keep you warm. The desert is a dangerous place. People only go there if they had to.
The people of God went through the water into freedom. They were free, and Miriam led the dancing!. Now the people are free, they can go anywhere they want to go and do anything they want to do. Where will they go now? What is the best way?
God loved the People so much that God showed them the Ten Best Ways to Live. Sometimes these are called the Ten Commandments. As the people traveled across the desert, they followed fire by night and smoke by day. They began to complain. Some even wanted to go back to Egypt. There was not enough food. There was not enough water. God helped Moses find food and water. Finally they came to the great mountain.
The People came close to the mountain, but they were afraid to touch it. Mount Sinai was covered with fire and smoke. Moses was the only one who had the courage to climb up into the fire and smoke to meet God.
When Moses was on top of the mountain, he came so close to God, and God came so close to him, that he knew what God wanted him to do. God wanted him to write the Ten Best Ways to Live on stones and bring them down the mountain to the People. God gave the Ten Commandments to Moses. Moses gave them to the People and they gave them to us.
They are about how to love God.; how to love people; and how God loves us.
So how can we love God:
There’s another way of looking at loving God, loving people and God loving us. It has to do with worship. In the Alban Institure book “Imagining Church: Seeing Hope in a World of Change”, Gary and Kim Shockley view worship as having three dimensions: from us to God, from God to us and from us to us.
The next commandment is about how God loves us. Because God rested on the seventh day, God wants us to do something similar. So God tells us to
- Don’t serve other gods
- Make no idols to worship
- Be serious when you say my name
And the last of the ways are how to love people:
- Keep the Sabbath holy
These are all hard. God did not say that these are the “ten easy things to do.” They are the Ten Best Ways to Live. They are hard, perhaps even impossible, but we are supposed to try.
- Honor your mother and father
- Don’t kill
- Don’t break your marriage
- Don’t steal
- Don’t lie
- Don’t even want what others have.
The wonderful thing for me about going backpacking is that I have time to think or not think; to enjoy God’s creation in the splendor of mountains and wildflowers and lakes and mosquitoes and gnats and lightning and rain and sunshine and wind. There is the pleasure of sitting around a fire and taking the time to learn more about the people I’m with and to laugh at our different ways of doing things, especially preparing dinner. The Wind River Range, like all of the mountains in Wyoming, are spectacular and I felt privileged to celebrate the Eucharist with six other Episcopalians.
I brought with me a book called “Ornament of the World” by Maria Rosa Menocal. The subtitle is “How Muslims, Jews, and Christians Created a “Culture of Tolerance in Medieval Spain.” I have only a couple more chapters to go. It’s not an easy read, but it is wonderfully written. What the author does is show us how Christianity, Judaism, and Islam flourished side by side, not only tolerating each other, but borrowing language and art and architecture from each other. And, what to me was more important, in spite of their unyielding differences, these three religions in medieval Spain believed that their differences could be productive as well as positive. It doesn't mean that everyone there believed that. There were individuals and groups who neither understood, nor agreed with this culture of tolerance. There were people who couldn’t (or wouldn't) live along side those who believed differently. There was always tension between those who had a particularly fundamentalist interpretation of the Bible or Islam and those who were able to take what was good from the various cultures around them.
I’m sure many of you are wondering why I’m going on about a book, when it seems to some that the Episcopal Church has lost its way and to others that it is moving forward with the times, and to others it’s a bit puzzling or confusing, but things have always worked themselves out before in God’s good time. The confirmation of Gene Robinson of New Hampshire as the first openly gay man to be elected a bishop in the Episcopal Church has, of course, made headlines all over the place. The vote in favor was approximately 2 to 1 in both the house of deputies and the house of Bishops. Of course this is will have an impact throughout the church. The ratio of 2 to 1 is far from unanimous. I know that some people will leave our church, and I know that some people will be too embarrassed to discuss the issue and want to hide for a while. Some people are angry, some overjoyed and some just confused or worried. We’ve been talking about change here and this is serious change. Most parishes will adapt, but I think that the parishes that will adapt the best are those who take the long view. In my time as an Episcopalian I’ve seen the Prayer Book and Hymnal change, and every Sunday communion become the norm. I’ve seen women finally be allowed to serve at the altar, to be on Vestries and become Wardens and to vote at Convention and to become priests and bishops. So what is so different about this change?
Let me share with you an e-mail on the subject. The Rev. Ann Fontaine from Lander, who was one of the Wyoming delegates, wrote about the vote in the House of Deputies. “ The vote was held in the context of prayer—prayer before the discussion, after the discussion and following the vote. There was a lot of silence in the room during the prayers—the huge hall was packed with observers and press plus the near 1000 deputies. Wyoming sits near the press area so you may have seen us, especially as Canon Robinson sits with New Hampshire on the other side of us with the bodyguard that has accompanied him (and the presiding bishop) at all times at this convention. The ugliness of hate has encouraged a few to make threats against them and the Episcopal Church—the building has had a large police force and security presence all week and especially yesterday. The demonstrations of hate have been astounding to see—the Deputies pass through a gauntlet of shouting, angry people saying the most obscene things and holding up signs with crude drawings and hateful words. At noon we had relief in the form of a demonstration of hope and love. I had not realized what an impact the other was having on me until I experience the opposite. Although I have seen it all before (not quite at this magnitude, however) and am doing my best to ignore it—the impact on one is physical as well as emotional.”
We have been reading from the Gospel of John these past few weeks. Today we hear that Jesus says he will never drive away anyone who comes to him. He also tells us he is the living bread, the bread that is his flesh that he has given for the world. We are the body of Christ. It is a broken body, but it is still one body. The reason I break the host in two in the Eucharist is partly a symbol of our brokenness, yet we all partake of the one bread.
So what do we do with our brokenness? If we can acknowledge that all of us are broken and none of us has all the answers then like the Christians and Muslims and Jews of Medieval Spain, we can stay together and grow and flourish in spite of our different interpretations of Scripture and our different understanding of human sexuality.
Very few of us take all of Scripture literally and even the most theologically liberal among us take some of it literally. The part of the New Testament I take most literally is when Jesus tells us to visit the prisoner, feed the hungry, clothe the naked, take care of widows and orphans and when Jesus says he came to save all of the world. My Jesus is inclusive of all people. I tend to gloss over the parts of scripture where Jesus is more exclusive, like when he restricts his ministry to the Jews. Some of you may have scriptural objections to homosexuality, yet not to divorce and remarriage, or to having jobs that require you to work on Sunday, or not to eating pork, or not to allowing women to come to church with our heads uncovered We all bring our biases to the table. Some of them are conscious and some unconscious.
I would guess that most of you have had very limited contact with homosexuals and in a small town this is to be expected. Many gays move to large cities because of the anonymity it brings. Many marry and have children to try and fit in to our culture. Suicide among gay teens is very high. Being different in any way is hard. Yes there are some people who are gay who can put aside their desire for a same sex relationship, but not all. If it is true, and I believe it is, that some people are born gay, their sexuality, like ours is a gift from God. But it is hard for us to understand people whose orientation is radically different from ourselves and we label them as bad, or sinful. It is hard to live side by side with someone whose basic beliefs are so completely different from our own. But it can be done. The Christians and Jews and Muslims of Spain did it for a number of centuries. It’s hard to hold our own beliefs and to allow others to hold theirs and to remain in dialog, but if we can manage to do it, not only will God’s truth eventually be shown, but something creative and wholesome and life giving will come from this.