Monday, September 28, 2015

WMTRBW Week 5: In Over Our Heads

As we spend time with texts from Genesis 4-9 this week (read them here) and consider how we deal
with the things that have gone awry in God's creation--and how God chooses to deal with these things, I was struck by the words of Thomas Merton that Pope Francis quoted in his speech to Congress last Thursday:

I came into the world. Free by nature, in the image of God, I was nevertheless the prisoner of my own violence and my own selfishness, in the image of the world into which I was born. That world was the picture of Hell, full of men like myself, loving God, and yet hating him; born to love him, living instead in fear of hopeless self-contradictory hungers.

So often, we act like we are indeed prisoners of our own violence and our own selfishness, that we are controlled by the image of the world. But we do, indeed, have a choice--our biblical stories this week show us this. God presents Cain with this choice--what will he do with his resentment and anger? God faces this choice for God's self--what will God do with God's disappointment with the world, with the disaster God's good creation has become? Cain's impulse is to violence and destruction; and initially, God follows this same road. Ultimately, though, God charts another way--the way of peace, of a bow of war laid to rest in the clouds as a sign of covenant, of God's commitment to stick with creation no matter what and find methods of redemption that don't involve violence.

Where do you see us acting like prisoners of our own violence and selfishness today? How could we begin, in ways big and small, to choose and chart the other way God chose and charted for us--the way of redemption and peace? As you read chapter 5 from We Make the Road by Walking this week, consider these questions and leave your comments below.

Monday, September 21, 2015

WMTRBW Week 4: The Drama of Desire

Some quotes and ideas that stood out to me from this week's chapter in We Make the Road by Walking, and from reading the primary texts of Genesis 3:1-13 and Philippians 2:3-11:

  • "We humans have consistently chosen the wrong tree" (p. 15)--why do we keep living the same destructive patterns over and over again when such better, life-giving choices are available to us? This baffles me even as I watch myself do it again and again, sometimes in big ways but far more often in an accumulating pile of small ways that, though unnoticed choices at the time, make a huge difference.
  • "[Jesus'] constant invitation—“ Follow me”— could also be expressed as “Imitate me.”" (p. 18) To me "Imitate me" sounds so much more active than "follow me." We can follow someone passively, just watching and listening and trailing along behind. But imitation engages our whole body, mind and spirit--it means a transformation of all that we are. I think this is such a better--yet more terrifying--word to describe what being a disciple of Jesus is all about. What if we thought not just of following Jesus' ways, but imitating them?

  • These are the two ideas that most captured me out of this week's reading. What captured you? Share your thoughts below, and sign up to be part of one of our learning circles starting soon where we can discuss these ideas? If you haven't done so yet, fill out a pink sheet at church telling us the best times for you to meet with others for a meal and conversation.

    Monday, September 14, 2015

    WMTRBW Week 3: A World of Meaning

    As I read this week's scripture passages (especially John 1:1-18) and chapter three, "A World of Meaning," from We Make the Road by Walking, I was most intrigued by this idea of the fact that we all live our lives by a sort of logic, whether we recognize it or not. McLaren named four different logics that he sees as the most common options:

    1. The Logic of Rivalry or Competition: Life is a battle, and only the strongest survive. Those around us are our competitors who we had better beat out if we're going to get anywhere. Do whatever you have to do to get ahead and make it.

    2. The Logic of Compliance: Some people hold all the power, and the rest of us are just cogs in this wheel. Keep your head down, know your place, don't take too many risks, don't rock the boat and you'll make it just fine.

    3. The Logic of the Machine: Actions cause reactions, and everything proceeds by set patterns. Get to know the machine so you can get the most out of it, but in the end there's no deeper meaning behind it all--just figure out how to play the system and make your way through.

    4. The Logic of the Logos (that is, Jesus--the Word made Flesh): Sure, sometimes life functions like a competition, or by a rule-abiding system, or like a machine; but there's something much deeper beneath it all that gives life its true shape and meaning. That is the deeper creativity, aliveness, healing, compassion, and grace we see in the life of Jesus, which has been giving life to the world from the beginning.

    What logic are you most inclined to live by? Which do you see most of the world abiding by?

    Personally, I can't think of a time that I've lived by logic of the machine, though I'm sure there's been a time. But I can certainly remember reactive moments or seasons of life where I've lived by the logics of rivalry and compliance, as if this is what life is all about. Can you think of stories or instances where you have lived by these different logics, and what the impacts would be? How would our world function differently if we lived by the logic of option 4?

    I'd love to hear your thoughts and comments on this chapter--let's get a conversation started in the comments section below!

    Monday, September 7, 2015

    WMTRBW Week 2: Being Human

    Yesterday in worship we talked about labor--how Genesis 2:4-25 (read it!) gives us a glimpse into God as laborer and into the sort of labor to which we are called as human beings. I love the quote from this week's chapter of We Make the Road by Walking, "Being Human," that was on the front of the bulletin yesterday, seen in the picture at right. It gets me thinking, on this Labor Day--how are we being alive and being human in the work which we perform in this world? How are we joining in God's creative, healing work?

    Consider some of these questions to help you reflect on whatever work you do:
    • What work (either paid or unpaid) is part of your human labor?
    • Where do you find this work to be life-giving? Where do you feel creative and alive in your work? How can you do more of these things?
    • Where do you feel isolated, or like your work is “not good”? What kind of help might you need for your work to feel more connected to God, others or creation as a whole?
    Jot down some responses on a sheet of paper, or post them in the comments section below. Let's continue to consider, as our chapter this week challenges us (read it!), how we can use our hands for good in this world (the children's question at the end of the chapter is particularly good: What is something kind and creative you can do with your hands? What is something mean or harmful you can do with your hands? How can the same hands do both kind and mean things?).

    Read the scriptures, read the chapter, and let's talk about it in person and here on the blog!