Koinonia Lunch This Sunday


fork_love_koinonia

This Sunday after worship we begin our third Sunday of the month luncheons. Bring something if you like but most of all, bring yourself. The only purpose is food and fellowship.  And that is what this New Testament word–koinonia–means:  fellowship.  That is friendship in Christ, folks and it is a beautiful thing. Especially over some lemon chicken prepared by hour hostess, Sheba Greene!

The sermon title this Sunday is: Remembering Jesus, The Jews, And Those Who Killed Them.  The sordid history of Christian anti-Jewish rhetoric and destruction must be countered and a good first step toward that is to critically engage problematic scriptures in the New Testament that have been used to promote such evil.  This past Wednesday, Pastor Bledsoe participated in Days of Remembrance at the Holocaust Museum (as he has done for years), reading the names of victims.  This coming Tuesday, he will speak to a ninth grade religious studies class at Temple Micah on why he is a Christian. The promotion of mutual understanding and respect between Christians and Jews is deeply cherished by Pastor Bledsoe.  We invite you to worship with us on Sunday at 10 a.m.


President_Lincoln_Alexander-Gardner

Lincoln Has Been Murdered and the idea of Covenant along with him


One hundred and fifty years ago, April 14th, President Abraham Lincoln was assassinated at Fords Theater.  A perverse act by a brassy patriot took his life and sought to destroy what Confederate armies could not.  One of the ways we could honor his life this week is to read again his Gettysburg Address.  It is, as you know, a very short speech.  In our time and in our culture of sound bytes, tweets and myriad screeds of hatred promulgated by politicians who seem to have little sense of a common destiny built upon shared goals, we would be served well by reading it.

The sad truth is, when the 1% control so much from wealth to media, a concept like of the people, by the people, for the people is endangered. The Congress is about to ratify a budget on the backs of the poor, the elderly, the disadvantaged and they do it in the name of patriotism, of course.  We are not so much called together with appeals to our better angels but we are called apart with appeals to what is small and fearful in us.

One of the things that stuns me is how those who claim Christ, claim to be his followers and wave the flag of family are so passionately committed to policies that harm families and their fellow citizens.  I’m not talking politics here as much as simple bible theology.  Persons who claim the bible as their foundational starting point for a politics of destruction should not be given license to use the sacred for the dismantling of safety nets for the least among us, for their misogynist bullying and their rhetoric of war and more war.  Here’s a word to consider:  covenant.  What Lincoln understood and died for was a covenantal comprehension of citizenship that defies the ideologies pouring forth from the president-want-to-be underlings populating the media stage at this moment.  If the bands of citizenship link us all in a common destiny then the “visions” offered us today are paltry and emaciated by comparison.  Listen to President Lincoln and you’ll quickly see what I mean:

…It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us…

Oh, that a Battle Hymn of the Republic might rise up out of the People and we would find out way out of a country governed by a congress that cannot govern and a citizenry seemingly incapable of asking what they might do for their country, to cite another visionary president shot down and taken from us.  In the mean time, let us enter the sacred precincts of our holy places and learn the art of covenantal life and mutual aspirations undergirded by mutual responsibilities.  ~ See you Sunday.


Hoosier Logic or, Religion in the Service of Bigotry


DC marriage

I have performed marriage ceremonies blessing and legally marrying Gay couples some six times since the District of Columbia passed its marriage equality legislation in 2009.  What a blessing this has been in my ministry and the life of my church!  Maybe the couples whom I have married are exceptional, East Coast individuals of remarkable intelligence who would never walk into a bakery and ask a baker to give them permission to marry, but I think they are unlikely to be the only ones. I imagine there are plenty of Indiana residents who are Gay who likewise are bright, intelligent and confident who also would not equate ordering a wedding cake with a request that the baker, the cashier or the owner of the business give them their blessing or permission.   Heck, we would just like a cake.  Please.  You sell cakes, sell us one. 

Can anyone imagine for a moment a straight couple going into a car garage and asking for tires only to be told that , well, hey, listen, we don’t believe you two should be married so we can’t sell you tires.  Pressed to explain why, the mechanic would then say something like, it goes against my conscience to sell you a tire or to serve you.  This is what passes for Hoosier logic today. And the State, in an effort to cover this embarrassing bigotry, throws a sheet of religion over it and parades it down the street.

No, I don’t think so.  Few of us are buying it. And one reason we are not buying it is that bigotry pretty much smells the same no matter what religious ornament you hang on it.  A klansman who stitches a cross on his robe is made no more a Christian than a person who stitches an alligator on their shirt is an alligator.  Indiana has not only rushed to defend bigotry but its use of religion to defend bigotry is  very nearly blasphemous.

So here is what needs to happen, of course, in Indiana (and Arkansas and elsewhere):  read that first amendment. You may as well read the constitution while you’re at it, but just take a look at that first amendment and grasp this essential truth:  the government is not obligated to perpetuate or establish your religious belief system.  What the government is obligated to do is establish and protect each citizen’s right to the pursuit of life, liberty and happiness.  You don’t get to deny equal treatment under the law to fellow citizens when you are selling cakes, pizzas, flowers, tires or providing medical care.

In 1520 a reformer by the name of Martin Luther wrote about marriage in a portion of his treatise, The Babylonian Captivity.  In it Luther rejected marriage as a sacrament.  That is, he understood the Church to bless marriage but he believed marriage to be primarily a civil matter that should be extended to anyone, whether a member of the Christian church or not.  I certainly realize that ministers have various opinions about marriage equality.  But those who claim that somehow the sanctity of marriage is violated by extending its protections to persons of minority sexual orientation are mistaken.  Luther wrote in that treatise, “Why should another’s holiness disturb my liberty? why should another’s zeal take me captive? Let whoever will, be a saint and a zealot, and to his heart’s content; only let him not bring harm upon another, and let him not rob me of my liberty!”  I can say it no better.


Pinging The Lost Item


findfoneOccasionally I misplace things. Like my phone.  Fortunately I have a tablet that allows me to “find my phone”–this works of course only if I haven’t misplaced my tablet.  But one day this week I had my tablet and sent out a “ping” to find my phone.  Mind you, I ended up finding the phone in the area of the house I had just hunted in but somehow I could not “see” it. And that is actually a full discussion for another day on our perception and how it is we do not see what is obvious.  Along that line of thought (so I am going to chase this rabbit for just a moment), the philosopher David Bentley Hart writes in his book, The Experience of God: Being, Consciousness, Bliss, “…atheism may really be only a failure to see something very obvious…”

So I sent out the ping and heard it faintly piercing the water of my misperception. I kept walking until I moved to a place where the pinging got louder and then, louder and finally, I found my phone where I had left it.

Is it too far fetched to say we are lost?  Dante wrote of this in his first canto of Inferno.  ”Midway upon the journey of our life/I found myself within a forest dark/for the straightforward pathway had been lost.”  Have you ever been in a car with someone (like a father or brother or boyfriend–males generally have this issue of pride that refuses to ask for directions) and wondered why the driver, obviously lost, didn’t just stop and ask someone for directions?  Of course this seems a dated reference given the GPS technology most of us carry around in our phones but this only begs the question–why are we so lost when we have satellites and technology that will lock our coordinates into place?

Scripture, hymns, ritual, poets, art–these are ancient technology for pinging the lost item and in this case, the lost soul.  Don’t be afraid to ask.  Do not be shamed by admitting you’re lost.  It’s a big and complicated world.  It is easy to become lost.  The first step to being found is accepting that one is lost.  Ping the lost item.  There is a sound like a bell ringing, calling to you.  I think if you enter through the sanctuary doors this Sunday, you may in fact hear it loudly.  Ah, to be found!  ~See you Sunday.

 


Worship As Sacred Journey


William_Blake_Jerusalem

The mystical painter and poet, William Blake,  wrote these words in his poem entitled, “Jerusalem.”

I GIVE you

the end of a golden string;

  Only wind it into a ball,

It will lead you in at Heaven’s gate,

  Built in Jerusalem’s  wall.…

A brief verse, but filled with clues about a life of spirit.!  The life of spirit is inaugurated often by someone giving us something.  In this case, Blake is offering a golden string.  Perhaps someone—a professor, a teacher, a pastor, an artist or parent—gave you a question to answer or an answer to question that led you to search.  In my life, my sacred journey began when, as a child just about five years old, my mother told me there is a God.  I remember that.  It planted a seed in my mind and my heart. And I have been winding her golden string handed to me ever since…

The string is golden.  Can you  detect the irony in this?  String is so ordinary, such a mundane and coarse thing.  It is, in a word, cheap.  But Blake is offering a golden string.  Gold is valuable, of course.  What is ordinary or common has, in his poem, taken on enormous value and importance.  This has the aroma of Jesus’ parables.  A man finds a treasure in a field and sells all he owns in order to buy the field.  Leaven is small but it leavens an entire loaf.  A mustard seed of faith can move a mountain.  But too often we judge our spiritual lives by our society’s standards.  Big is better, more is best, the right brand name is preferable and so forth.  This is one reason, I suggest, that people flock to preachers and churches that push those buttons of prosperity and wealth.  But Blake understands in a profound way what the bible knows:  a life of spirit begins when the common or ordinary takes on the gold of a spiritual journey.  The woman at the well offered a cup of water to a man she didn’t know.  He offered her the water of life that would quench her soul.

In Baptist life and thought, faith comes by hearing the Word of God. In other words we are given the Word, twined together like string and dipped into gold.  Wind them into a ball and they “will lead you in at Heaven’s gate.”

Worship is a gate.  It is an opening, a threshold, a passage-way.  From what to what?  From the world of the mundane to the kingdom of the holy.  From the huts of our wilderness wandering into the Temple of Being.  Wind the ball, begin your sacred journey.