Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Speaking Christian: Heaven, According to Marcus Borg

As we come to the end of our "Speaking Christian" series today, one final quote from Marcus Borg's book of the same title, this one from his chapter on the word "heaven":

So, is there an afterlife, and if so, what will it be like? I don’t have a clue. But I am confident that the one who has buoyed us up in life will also buoy us up through death. We die into God. What more that means, I do not know. But that is all I need to know.

What would you define or describe as "all you need to know?" Is Borg's conclusion enough for you? Leave your comments below.

And join us for our final Soup-Salad-Supper at 6:30pm tonight to talk about how considering these words has impacted your life over the course of this month--and will do so into the future!

Monday, September 29, 2014

Speaking Christian: Heaven, According to Kathleen Norris

For your Monday, here's a thought on what, perhaps, heaven is really like, from the great Kathleen Norris' book Amazing Grace:

"My favorite definition of heaven comes from a Benedictine sister, who told me that as her mother lay dying in a hospital bed she had ventured to reassure her by saying, "In heaven, everyone we love is there." The older woman had replied, "No, in heaven I will love everyone who is there.""

Take a minute to reflect on the difference between these sentences. What would it look like to live this definition of heaven now? Respond in the comments section below.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Speaking Christian: Heaven

For our last week in our "Speaking Christian" series, we will be focusing on the word "heaven." Read our stories for this week, Exodus 16 and Matthew 20:1-15, and pay attention to where and how the word "heaven" shows up in each of those stories.

Then, I would ask you to consider this question: what do you think heaven looks like? I leave that question super broad, that you might answer it any way you feel led. Below is a collage of images I found when I googled "What does heaven look like"--very interesting. I am honestly not sure if any of these are the image of what I would hope for for life intimately together under the reign of God! How do you respond to these images?

Then below the collage, I am posting two cartoons that relate to what our stories for this week seem to indicate that heaven looks like. How do they challenge you?

See you Sunday!

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Speaking Christian: Peace, according to Dr. Martin Luther King

For our final quote about this week's word--"peace"--it seemed right to turn to one of my peace heroes, Dr.Martin Luther King, Jr. Read these words from his Nobel Peace Prize acceptance speech in 1964. What do we, as a nation and a world, still have to learn about peace from his words and the way those involved in the Civil Rights Movement went about seeking that deeper peace that is the presence of justice?

The word that symbolizes the spirit and the outward form of our encounter is nonviolence, and it is doubtless that factor which made it seem appropriate to award a peace prize to one identified with struggle. Broadly speaking, nonviolence in the civil rights struggle has meant not relying on arms and weapons of struggle. It has meant noncooperation with customs and laws which are institutional aspects of a regime of discrimination and enslavement. It has meant direct participation of masses in protest, rather than reliance on indirect methods which frequently do not involve masses in action at all.

Nonviolence has also meant that my people in the agonizing struggles of recent years have taken suffering upon themselves instead of inflicting it on others. It has meant, as I said, that we are no longer afraid and cowed. But in some substantial degree it has meant that we do not want to instill fear in others or into the society of which we are a part. The movement does not seek to liberate Negroes at the expense of the humiliation and enslavement of whites. It seeks no victory over anyone. It seeks to liberate American society and to share in the self-liberation of all the people.

Violence as a way of achieving racial justice is both impractical and immoral. I am not unmindful of the fact that violence often brings about momentary results. Nations have frequently won their independence in battle. But in spite of temporary victories, violence never brings permanent peace. It solves no social problem: it merely creates new and more complicated ones. Violence is impractical because it is a descending spiral ending in destruction for all. It is immoral because it seeks to humiliate the opponent rather than win his understanding: it seeks to annihilate rather than convert. Violence is immoral because it thrives on hatred rather than love. It destroys community and makes brotherhood impossible. It leaves society in monologue rather than dialogue. Violence ends up defeating itself. It creates bitterness in the survivors and brutality in the destroyers.

The nonviolent resisters can summarize their message in the following simple terms: we will take direct action against injustice despite the failure of governmental and other official agencies to act first. We will not obey unjust laws or submit to unjust practices. We will do this peacefully, openly, cheerfully because our aim is to persuade. We adopt the means of nonviolence because our end is a community at peace with itself. We will try to persuade with our words, but if our words fail, we will try to persuade with our acts. We will always be willing to talk and seek fair compromise, but we are ready to suffer when necessary and even risk our lives to become witnesses to truth as we see it.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Speaking Christian: Peace, according to Borg

As we prepare to come together for our Soup and Supper engagement with Marcus Borg's book Speaking Christian this evening, reflect on these words of Borg's about the full, radical meaning of peace. How does this speak to our wider needs for peace today? What do you see causing "unnecessary human misery" in our world today? Perhaps these are the places where peace is most deeply needed.

Like many images of salvation, peace has both a personal and political meaning. The personal meaning is peace of mind and, slightly extended, peace with those with whom one is in intimate contact— family, neighbors, associates. But peace in the Bible is also about the end of violence and the cessation of war. Along with economic injustice as institutionalized poverty and destitution, institutionalized violence was the other plague that caused the greatest amount of unnecessary human misery in the world of the Bible. There was the violence that the ruling elite used to keep the population in line. There was the violence of wars, which were most often started by the ruling elite against foreign elites for the sake of gaining their land and wealth. For the most part, ordinary people (90 percent of the population) had no stake in wars, even as they were often ruined by them by higher taxation; conscription; pillage of domestic animals; ruining of crops, resulting in famine; confiscation of land by an invader; and being slaughtered while fighting or as civilian victims of an invading army. Thus it is not surprising that the second primary political meaning of salvation in the Bible is peace and nonviolence. Not just personal peace of mind and nonviolence in our personal relationships, but peace as the end of war.

Monday, September 22, 2014

Speaking Christian: Peace, according to Daniel Simundson

Good Monday morning! Thanks to all who participated yesterday in our International Day of Peace worship at Broadneck. As you continue to consider the word "Peace" this week, consider these reflections and questions from biblical scholar Daniel Simundson, as he was reflecting on Micah 4:1-4 (which formed our Call to Worship yesterday). What are your responses to the questions he asks? Share them in the comments section!

What is the relationship between realistic, earthly, achievable hopes and those that stretch our imagination beyond what humans have ever been able to accomplish? Is world peace possible? The dust hardly settled on the end of the cold war before the United States and other nations were off fighting in some remote corner of the world that we hardly knew existed. Hostility and greed seem to exist as long as human beings live on the planet. Those who work to bring peace and security into this world, whether at the level of families, neighborhoods, or nations, have good reason to be discouraged and even to abandon their efforts. Are we to continue to work for goals that we know are not possible through purely human effort? Is Micah 4 a call to action, a reminder of our task and responsibility? Or is it something for which we can only wait patiently until God takes steps that are possible only for God? Or is it in some way a combination of both doing and waiting? (Simudson, "Micah." New Interpreter's Bible Vol 7).

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Speaking Christian: Peace

Though "Peace" is not one of the words addressed by a full chapter of our book that is giving us our topic for this month--Speaking Christian--it is a key word in the story of scripture, and will be our word for this Sunday as we reflect with  many scripture passages, including Micah 4:1-4 and Luke 19:37-44.

I chose "peace" for this Sunday because September 21 around the world is "International Day of Peace," as declared by the United Nations. Since 1981, it has been recognized as a day set aside to focus on things of peace and to seek to root ourselves more deeply in peaceful relationships. Since 2001, it has also been a day that calls for a cease-fire, for a laying down of arms so that, for a day, people in places torn by violence may have the opportunity to live without fear.

I hope you'll be with us on Sunday as we consider together the things that make for peace through our own International Peace Day celebration. When you walk into the sanctuary, you will see that things look different--Peace Stations around the room will be part of our worship time, inviting us into reflection on God's shalom as a fullness of peace with God, self, others, and creation itself.

Take some time in advance of Sunday to read through a newspaper or a news site with an eye to peace--where do you see signs of peace? Where do you see a need for peace? Bring these celebrations and concerns with you to worship on Sunday. I hope and pray you will be with us for this very special and important time.