Thursday, March 31, 2016

Peace and fear

Yesterday, I wrote about peace - how peace is dependent not on the absence of conflict, but also on the presence of wholeness, and not just our wholeness, but the wholeness of the relationships within our community and with God.

Peace isn't not just a state, but also a process.

There is much talk in the current political races about security. Fear. Terrorism. This has created a fear of the Muslim community that is part of our greater community in the United States.

If you consider what shalom - peace - means, it is not the absence of conflict between two groups. It is the presence of wholeness between us.

I'm not suggesting that we ignore terrorism, or that we do not take appropriate steps toward security; however, I do believe that some politicians are using fear to manipulate our relationships with those among us who are different than we are, whoever we are. Politicians paint Muslims as terrorists, when that is as accurate as saying Christians are hate-filled white supremacists.

Remember, peace is completeness.  Peace depends on the welfare of those around us. Peace means we reach out and change the world around us; we do not give into fear. We live as Christ has told us to live. We love each other.

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Wednesday, March 30, 2016


What is peace?  How do you define it?

I was thinking about peace after worshiping at B'nai Sholom - and what the definition of Shalom is.
My research tells me the following:

  1. We sometimes want to define it as the absence of conflict. This definition might arise from the Latin word, pax, which has that definition.  Shalom is different. It relates more to the idea of completeness. Wholeness.
  2. Shalom is a now, but it also relates to a verb. The meaning is best understood not as a state of being, but as a movement toward peace. We can understand it best when we think about it as something we do - a process.
I like this quote from Cornelius Planting's book, Not the Way It's Supposed to be: A Breviary of Sin:
The webbing together of God, humans, and all creation in justice, fulfillment, and delight is what the Hebrew prophets call shalom.  We call it peace, but it means far more than mere peace of mind or a cease-fire between enemies.  In the Bible, shalom means universal flourishing, wholeness and delight - a rich state of affairs in which natural needs are satisfied and natural gifts fruitfully employed, a state of affairs that inspires joyful wonder as its Creator and Savior opens doors and welcomes the creatures in whom he delights.  Shalom, in other words, is the way things ought to be.
The face that we aren't fighting with someone doesn't mean peace.  The idea that we are calm and tranquil doesn't mean we are at peace. When those around you are not in need, when you are whole and complete, when your community - all of it - is whole and complete, when your relationship with God is whole and complete, then we are the way we ought to be. We have arrived at peace.


Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Worship in a Synagogue

In December of last year, there was a fire in the Sanctuary of our church.  Luckily, the fire was detected quickly and extinguished, but it did cause some damage to one side of the church.

The damage was limited enough that we can still use the building (not the Sanctuary), but construction started the Monday before Easter to repair the worship space.

As with most church, our attendance increases on Easter, so the alternative spaces we've been using in the building weren't going to be large enough.  The decision was made to accept the offer from B'nai Sholom Synagogue to meet in their facility on Easter Sunday.

It is a beautiful space, and it was worship inhabited by God. A few comments:

  1. This is hospitality, when a congregation of another faith, one that doesn't believe in the resurrection of Jesus, offers to house your worship celebration.  It is radical, and it is what the God both congregations worship tells us we should do.
  2. This is evidence that "church" has nothing to do with the building.  The "church" is wherever the people are gathered.  I hope we learn that.
  3. I hope this is a door to greater community between us and the B'nai Sholom congregation.  
Over 80 years ago, our church had a fire that destroyed everything except the outer shell of the building.  The congregation then met for 2 years at the Synagogue, so this Easter, there was a sense of home in a different place.  The church is the people.

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Thursday, March 24, 2016

Loving human praise

Yesterday I wrote about how we can pass by an opportunity for service because we are hoping that someone else will pick up the towel and serve instead.

Read this passage from John 12:
Isaiah said these things because he saw Jesus' glory; he spoke about Jesus.  Even so many leaders believed in him, but they wouldn't acknowledge their faith because they feared that the Pharisees would expel them from the synagogue.  They believed, but they loved human praise more than God's glory.  (John 12: 41-43)
I understand how frightening it would be to contemplate expulsion from the community with which you identify yourself.  I'm not trivializing their reactions.

For us, though, do you think that sometimes we fail to speak about Jesus, or proclaim God's presence because we are afraid of what others might think? We fear not being liked, or being ridiculed for our faith, or just not garnering praise.  Do we fail to shine forth as beacons of light because we are worried about another person's opinion of us?


Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Passing the basin

In our Bible study, we're reading the book John: The Gospel of Light by Adam Hamilton.  This morning, I am reading chapter 4 in which Hamilton discusses the Final Discourse.

Hamilton is good at creating pictures in my mind with his words.  I can visualize the scene he sets.  This morning I'm thinking (as let by Hamilton) about the Last Supper, especially the moments when the disciples entered the room.  He tells us that there would probably have been a basin and pitcher by the door so that those who entered could wash their feet. Why didn't they?

He suggests that they had been with Jesus long enough to know that if they stopped to wash their own feet, the action of a servant would have been to wash everyone's feet.  Perhaps none of them wanted to do that, so they ignored the basin.

Do we do that?  Do we know what following Christ means - that it means service and humility?  That it means washing one another's feet, but instead, we pass the opportunity by, hoping someone else will do it instead?

Jesus showed them the way by picking up the towel himself.  There are those in my life who do the same - who pick up the towel, when I walk by it.  I see Christ in them, and yet a I fail to demonstrate Christ to others, hoping someone else will do it.

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