God of endless grace,
for one more chance
to get things right.
One more chance
to tell you “I love you”
and hear you whisper,
“I love you, too.”
One more chance
to seek forgiveness
from people I’ve wronged,
and from myself
the worst bully I’ve ever encountered
Thank you for one more chance
to defeat the bullies in my mind,
and in our world,
merely by recognizing
the love we need.
I call you Holy
and thank you
for one more chance
to fully surrender my life
Thank you for one more chance,
one more day,
one more week,
one more month,
one more year,
one more life,
one more resurrection.
Thank you for making me new,
over and over
and over again.
Thank you for the gift of patience
as I learn to follow
in the footsteps of our teacher,
Jesus, the anointed one,
who shows us your intimate, everlasting love.
In the name of love
and the manner of Jesus
I will practice giving
And with every day
of this new life,
I will thank you, Lord.
for one more chance
to get things right.
This article first appeared in Intersect on April 4, 2016. I’ve revisited and updated some thoughts for today’s article.
Seeking Golden Threads
I’ve always found it useful to look for common threads weaving throughout the world’s religions. The intersection of ideas creates wisdom. At the very least, religious commonalities reveal that in our quest to understand our place in the universe, we quite often come to the same conclusions. One such common thread is “The Golden Rule.” Every religion, theistic or not, includes some variation of “do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” Check out the chart below (click for a larger version):
If most religious systems agree that we should be good and fair to each other, why then do we so often attempt to annihilate each other in the name of our religions?
I have two theories about that.
First, many of the wars fought for “religious” reasons were (and are today) political wars. On the ancient world stage, most of the states were theocracies in name or manner. Emperors and kings were seen to be, if not gods themselves, then a god’s chosen representative on Earth. Early interpretations of how Jesus was also God continued this misguided and dangerous tradition of Holy Monarchy. The idea is still too pervasive in contemporary Christianity for many of us. With the advent of hereditary monarchies, rulers consulted religious leaders—Cardinals and Popes, for example, before making any decisions. Often, monarchs were simply puppets of the dominant religious system and its leaders, who used the ill-conceived notion of “saving souls” as a façade for colonial expansion.
Second, there is a tendency within all religions to resist syncretism—the blending of different belief systems and traditions, sometimes in an attempt at inclusiveness. Many faithful people see any theological adjustment as a dilution of the “purity” of their religion. The truth is, however, that no religion is “pure.” People don’t live in a vacuum. The idea that religion (or any human system for that matter) won’t be influenced by other religions, science, archaeology, history, biology, pop culture, education, reason, etc., is naïve. Religions don’t just suddenly appear in human consciousness. Humans create religious institutions in response to their surroundings, most often in a quest to answer questions such as Who am I? Why am I here? What happens after I die? Is there a God, and if so, what is God’s nature? If there is a God, why is the world so horrific?
It takes a long time for a religion to evolve to the point where acceptance of different, sometimes contrary, ideas is possible. The Golden Rule stagnates as a statement of faith for believers, not applicable to the institution. Religious institutions get nervous when their ideas are challenged (Moses challenges the Egyptians, Jesus challenges his fellow Jews, Martin Luther challenges his fellow Catholics, etc.).
Practicing the concept of “do unto others” means we listen, with respect, to those who think differently. Contrarian ideas don’t necessarily have to be integrated into the religion itself, but the sign of a healthy, vibrant, living religion is one that is willing to reexamine its positions on a multitude of sacred and secular topics. Often.
For us to grow as people of faith, as human beings sharing an increasingly small space with limited resources, we must relentlessly self-reflect. We must measure what we believe against what others believe and never cease learning about each other and the workings of the universe. We must continue to grow spiritually, intellectually, politically, socially, emotionally, and physically, even as our religions fail us and noisily fight their way into irrelevancy as we are filled with surprising answers to our questions by a renewed sense of relationship with the mysterious all-being of all realities, God.
We must realize, especially as we head to the resurrection symbolism of Easter, that the birth of something new, wonderful, love-filled and miraculous, requires the death of our old habits, thoughts, ideas, and prejudices. To live the golden rule, we must think and act differently and demand the same of all our institutions—religious and secular.
Meditation: Share your peace with me, that I might share peace with others, my God of Wisdom and Love.
God of endless wonder and surprise,
fill us with your joy!
Excite our senses
with the sights, sounds, tastes,
and calming touch of your presence.
We need to experience you,
our Lord of resistance.
How else can we overcome
the blathering bullies
to an all-too-eager
crowd of lost souls?
Without you, where is hope?
how can we the people,
lost souls all,
lead each other to your light?
So we plead to be with you,
only with you,
our love, our light,
our song of life.
We give thanks for you,
our Holy, Loving God
and hold you near,
today and forever.
Hold us near, too,
as we traverse
the slippery and obstacle-strewn
path to a higher level of being;
a greater sense of Universal Consciousness
pervading all things.
This higher state of being
reveals enemies as friends
and turns strangers into family.
Help us journey together,
leaving no person behind.
Unite all people
in love and understanding
through the clarity of mind,
body and soul
that comes from realizing
our Oneness with you.
Wake us up!
We need to experience you because
without you, where is hope?
For the past few weeks, we’ve been talking about The Book of Psalms. This Sunday, as part of our new conversational style of worship, everyone was asked to think about a subject (something like tremendous joy or unbearable anguish; an aspect of God’s nature; thanksgiving to or frustration with God, or whatever else came to mind) and write one sentence summarizing their idea. We then wrote one response/exclamation to our initial thought, creating the first couple lines of a Psalm.
We don’t have pews or aisles of chairs in our sanctuary. We sit around tables of six or seven people who then assembled their thoughts together on a single page, in any order that struck them. It is surprising how effectively these separate pieces of poetry formed a Psalm.
I’ve assembled everyone’s work into the following single Psalm. Thanks to everyone at The Current for your constant willingness to try new things, for your participation, and for your inspiration.
I don’t understand why there’s so much dissension in the world.
We must try to have more togetherness,
to understand each other better
and hope it works out.
The Holy, Infinite One is immanent today!
Let us be glad!
1,000 homeless children in Naples. Why?
80,000 children lost in India.
How should/could I respond?
I accept my life,
filled with ups and downs,
is a wondrous journey.
How will I possibly learn how to accept this
without the love of God?
God is the creator of abundant life!
I hope so.
Handle me with care;
will I always be lost?
Am I on the right path?
Love should taste like honeysuckle and joy,
not like toothpaste and obligation.
Stop confusing self-satisfying love
with real love.
Stop thinking love
is a ticket to Heaven
or a social necessity.
It’s not possible to do enough
during our short lives here
to deem us worthy of
the incredible blessings we receive.
It’s our responsibility as human beings
to come as close as we can.
God, I feel your presence
in the waves of the ocean as they roll in.
The waves roll in
and take away my anguish and problems.
The Lord is my strength.
I can do it!
God is my foundation.
I need You to guide me!
God, I believe you guide my life
and I just wonder,
why am I here today?
My faith allows you to lead me!
You are my support;
You carry me in all I do.
I’m always searching for ways
to know You better.
You are always there for me;
I know You have the answers.
Praise be to God,
my hope and my salvation.
Thank You for loving me.
Why is there no happiness in the world?
I pray for peace and well-being,
I sometimes lose sight of You
in my daily struggles.
I will try to focus
more clearly on You.
I love what makes me an “untouchable.”
It is what makes me who I am
and there will only ever be
one of me.
There is an amazing life ahead
with the help of God.
God is in all things
and in me.
We praise your Holy name
and give thanks for Jesus,
whose human suffering
teaches us to endure.
We thank Jesus
for his gift to us all,
I thank God
that I have You to talk to
This allows me to be
totally open and free,
since there is no need to hide.
Your unconditional love
is always present everywhere.
our hearts and minds to you
for healing and wholeness.
Shoot a prayer.
Expect a response.
It seems as though the world,
rewards the most ruthless among us.
Sometimes it feels like
suffering and death
are all around me.
I depend on
my Spirit connection
to get me through my journey.
What is healing?
Sometimes, death is the healing.
The meek shall inherit the Earth.
I am concerned that
there are so many people
who won’t help others.
I will swim upstream
against this trend!
Why does life
become so unfair and horrific
for some people?
It is simply the way
of a human-inhabited world.
In the end,
all will become air and peaceful
Why is everyone getting cancer?
We are given hard times
to better understand life.
Hard times have a ripple effect.
Thank You, God,
for guiding me
when life is pulling me
many different directions.
When negativity has increased
in my life,
God guides me to decisions
I’ve never made before.
I am thankful
that I don’t understand everything.
Life is challenging
and exciting and rewarding.
Give me patience
to deal with my present situation.
I must trust God
to be with me
and see it through!
Living in the Godstream
Throughout Lent, we’ve been talking about seeing through the darkness. We’ve been discussing the idea that we only see a piece of reality; that we’re trapped in a cocoon that causes us to see the world through a hazy, silky veil, and that by refocusing our minds and lives on God we will begin to see our existence more deeply, more profoundly, more selflessly.
The veil is created by our human need to achieve things; to control things. We’ve convinced ourselves that this Newtonian world, where every action has an opposite reaction, is the true nature of existence. We have conditioned ourselves to believe in opposition. One need only look at this week’s headlines to understand how detrimental this attitude of constant opposition is.
Lent is a season to remember to let go. Let go of our control. Let go of our worries, our anxieties. Let go of the things we think are true and make way for new ideas—more holistic ideas that help us see through the veil, into a truth beyond simply reacting to opposition. The Lenten journey invites us to clear all that stuff out, and The Book of Psalms is an excellent companion for that journey.
The Psalms are more than just the hymnal or prayer book of ancient Israelite and Judean worship. They are the preserved, poetic prayers of people of faith who struggled, just like us, to remain God-centered when responding to life’s challenges. The Psalms are soul songs to God, and they are intended to be used as more than a prayer book—they are meant to be lived.
As such, there is a common theme that weaves through the entire collection. Sometimes explicitly, more often as a gentle brushstroke, every Psalm is about the key to human happiness. And the key to human happiness is to be God-centered; to let go of our need to control; to stop reacting in opposition to things and start acting as a God-centered human being.
The foundation for this idea is established right from the first Psalm where the poet writes that the truly happy person “love’s the Lord’s instruction” and recites that instruction “day and night.”
It is not an exaggeration to say that the Book of Psalms was scripture to the ancient Jewish people. Yes, it is part of the Torah. But it also had a life of its own as an important, perhaps indispensable, holy book. Archaeologists have discovered references to Psalms in writings from all over the ancient Jewish world and fragments of The Psalms in digs from houses and businesses. The Psalms were an easy-to-carry reference guide for the human being who wanted real happiness and knew to seek it through a more intimate and personal relationship with God.
For the regular folk—the carpenters, stonemasons, farmers, seamstresses, nurses and tax collectors—people like you and I just looking for a little happiness—Psalms is our book. We know The Psalms because we live its contents every day. We understand the struggle to stay connected to God when all we see around us is death and devastation.
The world of the Psalmists was also filled with war and poverty, ignorance and xenophobia. So, they found power, hope, and comfort by turning to God for guidance and reassurance. And perhaps that’s what the Psalms reveal more than anything else: when all hope is lost, when we feel like we can no longer fight the powers trying to destroy us, when we’re on the brink of completely giving up, all we have to do is turn our hearts toward God and say, “I pray to you, Lord. I beg for mercy. I tell you all of my worries and my troubles, and whenever I feel low, you are there to guide me” (That’s from Psalm 142, by the way).
I think the Psalms indicate that finding happiness in God requires us to let go of control. Letting go doesn’t mean we’re helpless. It’s an admission that this human struggle is difficult, perhaps impossible, without a lot of love and patience. Personally, I run out of love and patience all the time. So did Moses, so did Jesus, so did every single one of the Prophets. Yet, we must let go of everything to make any progress as individuals, much less as a species.
We cannot control the world. This past weekend, for example, the Food Angels came in to prep for the pantry only to discover most of the breakers in the building had blown. All the freezers shut off and all our meat thawed. All the meat we had for hundreds of people was now worthless. Some massive power surge had hit the plaza and tripped nearly all the circuit breakers in our church. There’s nothing you can do about that. Do we curse God because of that? Sure, if it makes us feel better, but we know a power surge and our unfortunate loss is not God’s doing any more than our winning the lottery. God doesn’t bless some people and curse others. That’s an extremely misguided view of God, one the Psalms help us move beyond.
In the Psalms we see people begging and pleading with God for help. For example, from Psalm 119: “You are merciful, Lord! Please do the right thing and save my life.” This line comes after the poet has explained to God how faithful to the Law—God’s instructions, he has been. Still, this person is persecuted, and there is no hope in sight.
So what does the author of Psalm 119 do? Finally, the poet lets it all out to God. All the pain, all the disappointment—including disappointment in God—all the confusion about how following God’s instructions could still lead to a life of persecution, it’s all let out. And that release is the key to God’s power. It’s not the expectation that God will react to our prayers or our situation—that’s our human concept of action and reaction. It’s simply the release of all our anguish, all our suffering, all our hopelessness into the Universal Fountain of Light and Truth that sets us free.
Perhaps God doesn’t react to our suffering as much as God absorbs and dissipates it.
The Psalms reveal the power of letting go without expectation of any sort of reaction on God’s part. It’s the power of release that’s the key, not the expectation of supernatural intervention. The Psalms help us remember that even while we praise and worship what we think is the inherent goodness of God, we have no control over nature, and God is not making it rain or snow, or causing the planet to overheat.
God is not reactionary, and as beings reflecting God’s image, we shouldn’t be reactionary either.
We can pray to God for better weather or more money or a better station in life, but sometimes, shit just happens, and we either fall into despair and give up or we throw it all out into the universe and let God soothe our souls.
For me, it’s easier to let things go to God if I stop thinking of God as the bearded man on a rocket chair in the sky pulling all the strings. Instead, as modern, post-Newtonian science is implying, I think of God as the energetic, creative, loving, current of reality.
We exist because we are formed from the energy of God. God is the flow of all being, the flow that creates reality, and like a mighty river carving out canyons, God just flows along, taking us for the ride. It is the Godstream. There is no reaction there, only constant and consistent progress.
The Godstream is like a river. We can either gently ride along with the current, or try to swim against it. The Psalmists idea about “following the Lord’s instruction” gets to the heart of this matter. Today we might say something like “go with the flow.” I would say, “step into the Godstream.” Following God’s instruction is not about taking The Bible literally. It’s about going with the flow.
When I was in high school in Louisiana a bunch of us used to drive from Moss Bluff north a bit to hang out on the Ouiska Chitto river. The riverbanks were dotted with makeshift campgrounds and cabins. We’d take inner tubes, rope to tie the tubes together in a long train, and beer. We’d just sort of hang out in the river all day, lounging in the inner tubes, lazily floating downstream with the current. We didn’t need to be anywhere; we didn’t have to accomplish anything. We just let the river gently carry us at its own pace, wherever it wanted to take us. And in those blissful moments on the river, we were completely carefree.
We were in the Godstream.
This is the Psalmists view of God, too, if we read the Psalms with spiritual, rather than literal, eyes. God is the great universal river carrying us along for the ride with the current. We can relax in the current and see where the journey takes us, remaining open to surprise twists and turns, or we can steer the tube in the direction we want to go and fight upstream every step of the way until we, and our lives, are completely exhausted, and we’re still no further along the river than when we started.
Happiness comes from moving with the current. If we want to go with the flow, if we want to live God’s instructions, if we want to be living Psalms rather than just people misinterpreting the words of our ancestors, the first step is to let go of everything we think we need to control and enjoy the ride in our inner tubes down the Godstream.
To paraphrase Psalm 62: Trust God, my friends, and always tell God each one of your concerns. God is our place of safety. We humans are only a breath; none of us are truly great. All of us together weigh less than a puff of air. Don’t trust in violence or depend on dishonesty or rely on great wealth. Relax in God.
Meditation: Keep me centered in the flow of love.
God of graceful brilliance,
adjust my eyes
that I might better see you.
Adjust my mind
that I might better understand you.
Adjust my hearing
that I might better listen for you.
Adjust my voice
that I might only speak
encouraging words of comfort.
Adjust my frequency
that I might always tune into your loving energy.
I know I too often get caught up
in the ways of the world.
I pretend I don’t have time for you.
I ignore you when you’re near
and beg for your presence
when you’re far away.
I forget that
you are never far away,
it’s just that I haven’t bothered to
pay you any attention.
So, from now on,
I promise to pay attention.
I won’t take you for granted.
I will acknowledge that
you are my life force,
you are my loving being,
you are my miraculous beginning,
my consciousness-expanding middle,
and my glorious end.
Thank you, Lord,
for walking with me,
for being patient with me,
for nurturing me,
and for pushing me ever forward,
even when I do my best
to swim against your loving current.
In your many names and images, I pray. Amen.
Infinite and infinitely loving God,
we turn our hearts, minds, and souls to you,
and beg you
to remove the veils
that prevent us from
seeing the world,
and each other,
through your eyes.
Remove the veil of fear,
which causes us to build walls
instead of bridges;
which makes us tremble
behind enclaves of excuses
instead of creatively coexisting.
Remove the veil of hatred,
which starts arguments
that turn into feuds
that become world wars,
we cannot see,
as did Jesus,
beyond the things that divide us
to the divinity that
is the core of every human being.
Remove the veil of envy,
which causes us to hate
rather than love
which keeps us in
a constant state of desire
for material things;
and prevents us from
ultimate fulfillment through
a more profound relationship
Remove the veil of greed,
which causes us
to take advantage of others
and creates the misguided idea
that it’s every person for themselves,
when the truth
beyond the veil is that
we’re all in this together.
God, who is always making things new,
remove these veils and
grant us new vision,
so we see each other as brother and sister,
divinely connected souls of love
living and working together
in harmonic resonance with you,
the melody of the Universe.
We pray for courage and strength
as we do the hard work
of seeing beyond the many veils
keeping us from wholeness,
unity and peace.
Remind us we are not alone in this task.
Remind us that you,
our loving Creator,
our eternal Sustainer,
are always with us,
encouraging and supporting
us on our journey,
by igniting and fueling
the light of Christ
living within us all.
May it be so.
The Dirty Cross
A few weeks ago, as we were trying to keep the sanctuary straight through all this construction mess, we were moving the cross from the information table to the coffee table.
When we went to move it, we noticed it was pretty scarred. Someone said, “This cross really needs cleaning!” I almost agreed out of rote, until I looked at the cross, and for some reason, it just struck me as appropriately dirty. You know?
Our cross is silver, so it’s now all tarnished and fingerprinted. We’ve been in the middle of remodeling our new space for about a year. During that time, we’ve had to move the altar, the band, the chairs, slide projectors and sound equipment nearly every week.
To be honest, over the course of remodeling we’ve neglected our cross a bit.
I hadn’t thought about the cross in such a long time, that seeing it now, all messed up, kind of bloodied, gave it a meaning I’d never considered before: The Cross is supposed to be dirty.
Now, I’ve struggled to identify with the cross. For most of my spiritual journey, I’ve seen it as a repugnant symbol of the worst aspects of our inhumanity to each other. I thought it detracted from Jesus’ message of love and service. To me, Christians focused too much on Jesus’ death and not enough on the resurrection. Furthermore, the cross is and always has been a symbol of the ancient Roman Empire, then the “holy” Roman Empire. Considering that the Empire has done Christianity no favors—in fact, it was Roman thought that polluted Jesus’ original message, I admit I have purposefully neglected the cross as a symbol of my fellowship with Jesus.
But, as it is with anything you chew on for years, I think I am finally starting to understand what all the fuss is about. At least, I’m finding a way for the cross to be powerfully symbolic without it having to be about God dying on the cross to save our souls from an eternity in Hell.
Let me be clear about this. In my way of thinking (and the thinking of other modern theologians) Jesus did not die on the cross in some sort of cosmic murder-suicide pact with God, as a ransom for all human sin. This is Paul’s interpretation, and it became the standard interpretation in a world ruled by the oppressive, cruel, and often debauched Roman Empire.
Now, I know some of you are hearing Paul’s voice in your heads. “Jesus died to sin once for all” (Romans 6). It’s the idea that Jesus was a ransom to God for our errant human ways.
While this has become “creedal” for many Christian sects, the truth is that atonement was simply how early followers of Jesus reconciled the death of their Messiah in the most ignominious way: on the Roman instrument of torture reserved for traitors. The cross. Early Jewish-Christians felt that Jesus’ death must have had cosmic significance because they couldn’t otherwise comprehend how the Messiah could be killed in such a demeaning manner.
Paul carried this idea even further by creating a systematic view of Jesus’ death that’s come to be known as substitutionary atonement.
For Paul, Jesus’ death isn’t just a cosmic event, it’s the cosmic event—an “out with the old, bad world, in with the new, Christ-like world,” and he expected this major change—this major change in human nature, during his lifetime.
But the truth is that Jesus died for treason—that’s the official charge recorded in The Bible. Jesus died for treason caused by his willingness to go to the cross in service to God. It is this dedicated, single-minded service to his vision of a world of peace, love and mutual human respect that leaves the cross a bloody mess.
Jesus doesn’t pay a high price for our redemption. He pays a high price for speaking out against injustice and being completely loyal to his vision of a just and forgiving God—a God of unconditional, absolute love.
The cross is supposed to be dirty.
How do we reconcile Jesus’ teaching of a God of grace and love with Paul’s idea that God demanded a human sacrifice? If we’re honest, we can’t. We cannot reconcile those diametrically opposed ideas. So, me, I’ll go with Jesus’ view of God, rather than Paul’s theories about the meaning of Jesus’ death.
This freedom from Paul’s theology—appropriate for his era but inappropriate for ours—allows us to rethink the meaning of the cross not as an act God committed through Jesus “once for all,” but instead as an act Jesus once committed as an example for all.
No, the cross is not where a petty God demands the death of “his only begotten son,” it’s where humanity intersects with divinity.
The cross is where human being and God consciousness become one. The cross is where Christ is in Jesus is in us, inseparable, a single, unified entity of love.
The cross is the place where God meets us as we are, all our faults, all our sins—absolutely our sins, and then, without judgment, washes it all away. Washes all our human suffering, our faults, our mistakes and missteps all onto that cross. This is why the cross is supposed to be dirty.
Jesus taught about a God of forgiveness. There’s no indication in any spiritual text I’ve ever seen that there is a limit on how often we can be forgiven. Nor have I ever seen anything that indicates God, even after Jesus, doesn’t expect us to mess up—frequently.
We are invited to visit the cross often and lay bare our souls because the cross is supposed to be dirty.
Whether, like Paul, we believe there was a cosmic event at Jesus’ crucifixion, or we interpret the cross more spiritually as the place we leave all our guilt, regret and sorrow—our sin—to God’s unconditional, forgiving, grace, then the cross is supposed to be dirty.
That’s still a fairly traditional interpretation of the cross. Jesus died to atone for our sins. I don’t take that literally, of course, but I certainly understand and appreciate the idea that we, like Jesus, should bare our souls to God.
We also need to atone—become at one with God, and what better place to do that than at that special meeting place where God Consciousness and human being intersect—the cross?
The Cross is where human and Divine meet as one.
Ever think about the cross that way? As a crossroads? The place where the divine Christ and the human Jesus intersect to change the world, to turn everything we think of as worldly power on its head?
How many times have we found ourselves at a crossroads, too afraid to lay bare our souls to God? To leave it all on the cross, to dirty it all up? How often have we obsessively polished our crosses because we’re afraid to mess them up? Well, stop it. The cross is supposed to be dirty.
Jesus bares his soul on the cross. He gives it all to God in an anguished plea for forgiveness. He asks God’s forgiveness for himself and, importantly, for his tormentors.
Jesus dirties it up real good because the cross is supposed to be dirty.
If we are to carry on as Jesus did, if we are to carry the cross—the intersection of God Consciousness and human being, then we are tasked to live with the same forgiving, self-sacrificing love of Jesus—even for those—especially for those—who would crucify us.
The cross—the dirty cross, shows we must be intentional about our relationship with God. We need to lay bare our souls often, and let God resurrect us, just like Jesus, ready for another day of simply being our best human selves.
Perhaps this is what is ultimately meant by the idea of “taking up the cross.”
We typically interpret that phrase to mean we are supposed to help someone with the “burden” of their cross. What if the cross is not a burden, but a blessing?
While we always want to serve those in need, I think Jesus also makes it clear that before we can help someone with their dirty cross, we need to get our own cleaned up first. Then we are to get it dirty again and release ourselves to God (atone) for cleansing, over and over and over again because, well, because we’re not Jesus. We’re not going to get it right the first time. We need that crossroads, and we need to visit it often, to release everything we’re carrying around to God.
We’re still working on knowing God as intimately as Jesus. And that’s okay. That’s what the cross is for—a place for us to meet our divine selves and get spiritually cleansed.
I don’t think this is as difficult to accomplish as we’ve been led to believe. James makes it pretty clear how we might go about leaving our dirt on the cross (James 1.19-21, NIV):
My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires. Therefore, get rid of all moral filth and the evil that is so prevalent and humbly accept the word planted in you, which can save you.
Pretty straight-ahead. Be patient, be kind, keep cool. When we find that difficult to do, then James suggests we “get rid of all moral filth.” I love that term, “moral filth.” I can picture it all over the cross.
James says to get rid of our “moral filth” by not merely listening to the words of Jesus, but by doing what Jesus says.
And Jesus tells us to go to the cross with 100% trust that it is not the end of life. Instead, it’s the beginning of an entirely new life. A new way of being. Being at one with God.
Jesus tells us to lay all our fear on that cross. He tells us to go to the cross, to dirty it up with all our pain and suffering, and to leave it there, where God intersects and inspires us to be better, to achieve greater, to change the world one person at a time not by worshipping a crucifix or worshipping at the feet of Jesus, but by being Jesus in the world.
By taking up his cross.
By carrying on his tradition of peaceful resistance against an empire of fear and loathing.
And most importantly, Jesus tells us to visit our own cross, often, so we can lay bare our souls to our God who has already forgiven us, who cherishes the person covered in dirt and filth, who promises to meet us every time we visit the cross, and who transforms us into the light of hope in a world encrusted in darkness.
So, go ahead. Lay bare your soul to God. Meet God at that intersection, that crossroads, and remember: The cross is supposed to be dirty.
Meditation: I am meeting God at the crossroads today.
Fair Food Follow-Up
During our 9am Wired Word discussion yesterday, it was mentioned that a list of vendors supporting the Coalition of Immokalee Workers (CIW) Fair Food Program initiatives would be useful. One of the ways we can help is by supporting vendors who have agreed to pay an extra penny per pound of produce. Perhaps more importantly, these vendors are also subject to oversight from a third-party workers’ rights organization.
The Fair Food program is a perfect example of The Sum of Small—the tremendous change that occurs one penny, one person at a time.
Here’s the Fair Food web page that lists partners:
This page has a great slideshow about the implementation of the program:
Ahold Delhaize is one of the largest food retail groups in the world. They are working with other food retailers to create a new, “sustainable retail” model that stocks shelves with locally-sourced goods rather than shipping product all over the country.
Their commitment to the CIW and their Fair Food Program is available in this PDF:
Yesterday, we also discussed the Publix response to the Fair Food Program and their contention that this is a labor dispute. Since Publix negotiates with thousands of vendors, they feel joining the Fair Food Program would set a dangerous and expensive precedent for them. Some of us saw the logic in this; many felt it a poor excuse.
Both the Fair Food partners link and Ahold PDF show that one of the ways vendors are supporting the program is by only purchasing from recognized, participating growers in good standing. To me, this indicates Publix could help by just agreeing to purchase from FFP Certified vendors. But hey, that’s just me.
Thank you all for a terrific two weeks of debate and discussion. I’m feeling more hopeful and better about my own small role in trying to make the world more loving and peaceful. I hope you are, too.
Meditation: God, grant me patience.
God of mystery and majesty,
as you give voice to
the bittersweet melodies
of the bluebird on the window sill
and the haunting,
ancient songs of
the blue whale in the ocean depths,
I pray you also
give me voice.
Speak love through me.
Calm the anger that
bubbles uncontrollably within me
caused by a world
full of lies, half-truths, intentional misleading,
violence, and hatred of others
we are too dim-witted to understand
too blind to see
as reflections of you.
Give us strength
in a world that is
unbearable to watch,
but to which we must witness
your unconditional love.
the current situation
has filled us with negativity.
and the other prophets of old,
we find ourselves lashing out,
warnings falling on deaf ears
as we overturn the tables in the temple
out of sheer frustration.
We pray, dear Lord,
that you transform
our negative energy
into positive action.
Make us instruments of your peace,
a mouthpiece for justice,
our entire being
a finely-tuned love song to you,
our souls singing
a glorious song composed by you,
a song that warms
even the coldest of hearts.
We pray today
not only for changes in our souls,
but also for your presence
in the lives of those we love dearly
and those struggling around the world
due to disease, violence,
natural disaster, oppression,
and slavery of all kinds.
In these days
when all seems
dark and hopeless,
remind us that Christ
is still alive in the world.
Pour the Christ Spirit on us,
and encouraging us.
Show us that
in these darkest moments,
there is still a light of love,
and remind us that
we are that light.
We call ourselves Christians—
followers of Jesus the Christ.
As you anointed him with
the ability to be and see
we beg you,
Eternal Holy One,
anoint us as well,
and we will do our best
to change the world
by first allowing you to change us.
We pray these things
in the name of
the limitless energy of love
we call Jesus Christ.