Saturday, July 28, 2012

Yes We Did

Having gone to YouTube to watch Rowan Atkinson's wonderful performance at the opening ceremony of the Olympics, I stayed and browsed through some of my favorites, e.g., The Spanish Inquisition. Among my favorites was a music video, Yes We Can, featuring a 2008 campaign speech by candidate Obama and singing by some of his supporters. The video got me thinking about the accomplishments of the past three and a half years. 

Yes we did: 

  •  End don't ask don't tell 
  • Help save two of the big three auto companies
  • Preserve the jobs of teachers, fire fighters, police officers
  • Move towards health care for all
  • Support movement towards democracy in North African nations
  • Create protections for ourselves and our neighbors in our dealings with financial institutions

  • That's not too shabby.

    Yes we did!

    Tuesday, July 24, 2012

    Lord I Lift Your Name on High

    I was watching a video of a group of high school students singing this song and thought I heard a change in the words. Instead of "from the grave to the sky" I thought I heard "from the grave to the world." it was probably my imagination, but what I thought I heard got me thinking about this fairly popular song.

    First I think "to the world" is better theology than "to the sky." Although the newer testament witnesses to Jesus' ascension, the story does not end there. The disciples of Jesus were sent into the world to be the Body of Christ sharing in God's mission of transforming the whole creation.

    Second I thought about another phrase in the song, "our debt to pay." I do not subscribe to the substitutionary theory of the atonement, but I do believe that Jesus paid a debt, i.e., Jesus responded to God's love in the way that we ought to - "to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with our God." (Micah 6:8) What we owe God, the One who created us, and loves us, is precisely what Jesus offered to his Father. That debt he paid perfectly, but that does not let us off the hook. As communities of disciples we are called to accept the challenge laid before us by the prophet Micah and to offer "our souls and bodies, to be a reasonable, holy, and living sacrifice" to God. We are called to share in the missio Dei, Christ's work of reconciling the world to God.

    Saturday, July 21, 2012

    He Had Compassion For Them

    These words from the Gospel for this Sunday are not only about how Jesus sees the world, but about how we ought to see the world. God invites us to suffer with those who suffer, just as Jesus suffered with those he encountered in his ministry. And like Jesus our suffering with ought to move us to action, not only to bring healing and comfort to those who suffer, but also to work to remove the causes of suffering whenever we can. The move from caring to advocacy is often a difficult one for us. Sometimes the causes of suffering are hard to define. At other times there are political forces that make our efforts seem futile.

    We often need courage to move out of our comfort zones and speak truth to those in power. Several years ago a friend of mine was engaged in a campaign to rid her neighborhood of abandoned buildings, some of which had become drug houses. She and others from her Roman Catholic parish had arranged to meet with a housing court judge in his chambers to discuss one particular house. They asked the judge to order the immediate demolition of the house. When he told them that he did not have the authority to do that, my friend said, "Your honor, that response is unacceptable." A short time later, in open court, the judge ordered the demolition of the building.

    How are we to show compassion in the wake of the killings and woundings in Aurora? I think we need to get out of our comfort zones and demand what our employees in Washington - the President and the Congress - have been unwilling to give us, sensible gun control laws.

    Wednesday, July 18, 2012

    Theology Matters

    Theology has a bad name in certain quarters. Clergy and laity alike often think of theologians as ivory tower academics with little or no experience of or commitment to the Church. That is unfortunate because theology matters. Although how we think about God is not as important as our faith in God, our willingness to trust God, it does matter. Over the nearly forty years as a person in holy orders, I have a met a number of people who think of God as a stern judge waiting to squash them if they were to step out of line. Thinking about God in that way tended to make them fearful and rule bound, unwilling, to use Luther's phrase, to risk sinning boldly. It also tended to make them judgmental of others, bolstering their own fragile sense of self-worth with the idea that, as bad as they were, there were others, even in their own circle of friends and acquaintances, who were much worse sinners.

    We need a revival of theological thinking in the Church, not just in theological schools, but in our congregations. Given how shamefully we have treated the environment and how uneasy many of us are about our own creatureliness, we need to rethink our understanding of the doctrine of creation and of our responsibility as stewards. We need to rethink our understanding of the Atonement, saving it, if you will, from presenting a picture of an angry Father demanding the death of his loving Son. And we need to rethink our understanding of the Church itself, leaving behind both a life boat understanding of it and all of the trappings of establishment and seeing it again, or for the first time, as a community of disciples sharing God's love with the world.

    Theology matters, perhaps now more than ever as the Church comes to grips with the end of Christianity's de factoestablishment in North America. We need to learn, perhaps from our Jewish neighbors, what it means to live as diaspora communities of faith, embracing our new minority status as a gift that frees us to engage more freely and fully in God's mission in the world.