Sunday, March 20, 2011

Lenten Reading Day 9--Waiting

Henri Nouwen writes:

"Jesus does not fulfill his vocation in action only but also in passion. . . Passion is a kind of waiting – waiting for what other people are going to do. . . That is the great drama of Jesus’ passion: he had to wait upon how people were going to respond.  How would they come?  To betray him or to follow him?  In a way, his agony is not simply the agaony of approaching death.  It is also the agony of having to wait.

All action ends in passion because the response to our action is out of our hands.  That is the mystery of work, the mystery of love, the mystery of friendship, the mystery of community – they always involve waiting.  And that is the mystery of Jesus’ love.  God reveals himself in Jesus as the one who waits for our response."

Henri Nouwen, "From Action to Passion," from A Spirituality of Writing in The Weavings Reader ed. by John Mogabgab.  Copyright 1993 by the Upper room, as reprinted in Bread and Wine: Readings for Lent and Easter, copyright 2003 the Plough Publishing House. 

Lenten Reading Day 7--Misfits at Table Together

 I had cataract surgery this week, so that put me behind posting bits from my Lenten reading.  I'll try to catch up in the coming days. This one was from Thursday and it's by Lillian Daniels from the book we're using for a Lenten study this year, The Jesus Diaries: Who is Jesus to Me?
"It was Jesus who gathered so many sinning misfits together at the table that I can picture myself belonging there too. And its that same welcoming Jesus that makes me long to share a table with Jews, Muslims and Buddhists as a foretaste of a heavenly banquet where there will be room for us all."

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Lenten Reading Day 3--when God was an atheist

Today's bit that stood out to me in my reading for Lent comes from G.K. Chesterton:

"In that terrific tale of the Passion there is a distinct emotional suggestion that the author of all things (in some unintelligible way) went not only through agony, but through doubt.  It is written, 'Thou shalt not tempt the Lord thy God.'  No; but the Lord thy God may tempt himself. . . When the world shook and the sun was wiped out of heaven, it was not at the crucifixion, but at the cry from the cross; the cry which confessed that God was forsaken of God. . . let the atheists themselves choose a god.  They will find only one divinity who ever uttered their isolation; only one religion in which God seemed for an instant to be an atheist."

From G.K. Chesterton, "God the Rebel," from Orthodoxy.  New York: Dodd, Mead and Company, 1908, as reprinted in Bread and Wine: Readings for Lent and Easter.  Farmington, PA: Plough Publishing House, 2003.

Friday, March 11, 2011

The Best Criticism of Rep. King's Hearings on Islam and Terrorism

While serving a church on Long Island, I came to know a number of the leaders at the Islamic Center of Long Island through interfaith events they sponsored.  I found them to be thoughtful, hospitable, open-minded, peaceful and dedicated to building bridges to people of other faiths in a spirit of graciousness.  The Muslims I came to know were loyal Americans who were grateful to be in a country where they could practice their faith in freedom and safety.  At that time, I also came to know Rep. Peter King who routinely attacked Muslims following 9-11, including members of the Islamic Center of Long Island, and painted Muslims in simplistically broad and dangerously xenophobic ways.

So, I was not surprised but still saddened to hear that King, now the chairperson of the Homeland Security committee, has begun conducting hearings regarding the radicalization of American Muslims in a manner that also paints with far too broad a brush and is dangerously xenophobic.

There's been a lot of criticism of King and his hearings from a number of sources, including Christian clergy and leaders, but the best by far I've read is by Melissa Rogers in the Washington Post today.  Rogers is the daughter of one of my seminary professors and she is by far one of the leading experts on church/state issues and the First Amendment's treatment of religion.  I strongly encourage all thoughtful people to read it.

Lenten Reading Day 2--Following or Admiring?

One of my Lenten goals is to read some particularly "Lent-y" stuff and I'll share it here and elsewhere.  Today, it's Soren Kierkegaard:
"Christ consistently used the expression 'follower.' He never asks for admirers, worshippers, or adherents.  No, he calls disciples. . . It is not adherents of a teaching but followers of a life Christ is looking for. . . to admire Christ is the false invention of a later age. . . No, there is absolutely nothing to admire in Jesus, unless you want to admire poverty, misery, and contempt.
What then, is the difference between an admirer and a follower?  A follower is or strives to be what he admires.  An admirer, however, keeps himself personally detached.  He fails to see that what is admired involves a claim upon him. . . 
The admirer never makes any true sacrifices. He always plays it safe."
Soren Kierkegaard: "Followers Not Admirers," from Provocations: Spiritual Writings of Kierkegaard,, compiled and edited by Charles E. Moore.  Farmington, PA: Plough Publishing House, 1999, as reprinted in Bread and Wine: Readings for Lent and Easter.  Farmington, PA: Plough Publishing House, 2003.  

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Lenten Reading Day 1--Truth-Telling

From my Lenten reading today by Barbara Brown Taylor: "I remember being at a retreat once where the leader asked us to think of someone who represented Christ in our lives. When it came time to share our answers, one woman stood up and said, "I had to think hard about that one. I kept thinking. Who is it who told me the truth about myself so clearly that I wanted to kill him for it?"
From Barbara Brown Taylor, "Truth to Tell," from "The Perfect Mirror," copyright 1998 Christian Century Foundation.  Reprinted in Bread and Wine: Readings for Lent and Easter, copyright 2003, The Plough Publishing House.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Chase's Mailbag (Dialogue Column 3.8.11)

(This piece was originally written for The Dialogue, the weekly newsletter of the church where I serve, First Christian Church, Disciples of Christ of St. Joseph, MO.)

On Saturday, February 19, an article ran in the St. Joseph News-Press telling of a baptism service held at our church and Zion United Church of Christ.  Of the nine people baptized, most of them were gay or lesbian.  The article told about FCC’s and Zion’s openness to all people, as well as, our decisions as congregations to welcome lesbian and gay people as they are, in contrast to the “welcome” most churches offer which considers being homosexual to be a sin and expects a gay or lesbian person to become heterosexual.  I’m quite proud of the article, just as I am proud of First Christian and Zion for being courageous enough to live out God’s life-giving grace to all people.
            Although it did get a mention in the daily display of anonymous ignorance and intolerance published in our city newspaper as “It’s Your Call,” the article didn’t provoke much of a negative reaction.  On the contrary, I heard all week long from people in the community who attend other churches that do not welcome LGBT people.   They praised the article as well as FCC and Zion.  (I could only wonder if they said anything at all to their own ministers and priests about the practices of their own churches which are either silent on the issue or outright hostile towards gay and lesbian people.)  I was surprised at how small of a negative ripple the article made. 
My faith in the judgmental types in our community was restored, somewhat, by a letter I received about a week later.  Here is an excerpt (note—the grammatical mistakes are those of the letter’s author not mine):
 In Saturdays February 19, 2011 issue of St. Joseph News-Press there was an article about your church receiving homosexuals.  I understand you are baptizing these individuals.  Now as I understand the Holy Bible this is good if they are acknowledging this is a sin, then repenting and giving up their ungodly lifestyle.  However, as I understood the news article, you are saying after baptism they may continue their sinful life style.  Yes or No.  If Yes, I would like to know what Holy Bible you are using. 
The letter goes on to mention some Bible verses and to declare what the Bible says.  I’ll give the author credit for not making anti-gay slurs or engaging in name-calling.  He sticks to the question of biblical interpretation.   Although his interpretation is one I disagree with vehemently, he at least deserves credit for being more polite in expressing his intolerance than most people are these days.
            The letter’s author invites me to respond, but I doubt I will.  I learned long ago not to waste my time debating the Bible with someone who really doesn’t want to engage in dialogue but instead just wants to let me know how wrong I am.  If I were to write back, however, I might note that the modern understanding of sexual orientation (a person being born with a sexual attraction to a gender the same as or different from one’s own) is a modern idea, just like other modern ideas such as women should have rights as individuals rather than being treated as property and owning another human being as a slave is immoral (all are relatively recent conceptions that came long after the biblical writings were produced), so we shouldn’t be surprised the authors of biblical writings considered sexual activity between people of the same gender to be sinful.  I could mention in my reply the many difficulties in translation of the original Greek words usually translated as “homosexual” in English Bibles.  I could also point out examples in the New Testament of the early church choosing to include people who would have been excluded on the basis of the scriptures they knew from the Hebrew Bible and ask if that provides any model for Christians’ interpretation of scripture today?  But, if I did write back, I would probably not say any of these things.
            If I did write this person back, I wouldn’t expect to change his point of view.  I would thank him for sharing his unsolicited opinion with me, and I would correct him and note that the folks baptized were members of Zion; we just shared our baptistery with them.   (Although I would love for First Christian to baptize that many people, no matter what sexual orientation they have.)  Also, I would let him know that should any of his children, family members or loved ones turn out to be gay or lesbian—or for that matter should any of his loved ones end up holding a view of God, scripture, politics, science, or whatever that is different from his own—please let them know that they would be welcome at First Christian Church of St. Joseph, because it doesn’t sound like they would be welcome at his church.
Grace and Peace,