Month: October 2015

 

Intersect 10-14-15

Sharing The Temple Mount
The Temple Mount in Jerusalem was originally the site of the First and Second Temples mentioned in the Bible. The Mount is now home to the Dome of the Rock, a magnificent Islamic Mosque. Unfortunately, the interior of the Mosque is as off-limits to non-Muslims as the original Holy of Holies was to non-Jews (and even Jews who were not of the Priesthood). It’s unfortunate because, in my opinion, no house of worship should be off limits to anyone looking for a place to connect with God. No matter what we call ourselves, if we are seeking a moment with God and are called to Temple, Mosque, Church or Synagogue, we should be allowed inside. In fact, we should be warmly invited to share in the presence of Universal Love.
 
Instead, we set up gatekeepers and use them in the very wrong sense of the word. A gatekeeper isn’t supposed to keep people out. A gatekeeper is supposed to shepherd people inside. We misunderstand the word in our modern era because too many of us live in gated communities and think the guy sitting in the little house at the gate is supposed to prevent people from coming to visit. But think about it: when you drive up to a gatehouse, what happens? The guy gives you a pass.
 
That’s a shepherd, not a gatekeeper, and that’s an appropriate use of the job title. Would that our houses of worship treated people the same.
 
Historically, though, we have always kept people out of our places of worship. It’s crazy! During the two Temple periods (the first was around 960-586 BCE and the second from 538 BCE-70 CE), people were allowed to gather only in the courtyards of the Temples. Regular folks weren’t allowed into the deepest spaces, which were considered “too holy” for the unwashed masses (it’s also a pretty handy control mechanism for a Priestly ruling class). This tradition has continued during the Muslim era, with people allowed into the courtyard of the Dome of the Rock, but few non-Muslims allowed inside. I have heard from some Muslim friends that it’s difficult for anyone to get inside, no matter their religion. Sometimes Muslims are even required to recite Al Fatiha (the first chapter of the Qur’an) and a rakah’ah (a unit of prayer). We shouldn’t be surprised when we see similarities in the religions. After all, the three Abrahamic religions (Judaism, Christianity and Islam) have more in common than not. What’s unfortunate is that the similarities we see are too often about exclusion rather than inclusion.
 
We focus entirely too much on our perceived differences. We all have five senses (but seem to lack common sense), we all walk on two legs. We are all born from mothers and fathers; we all grow old and die; we all love, and we all bleed. We are a single species, yet we seem to define ourselves more based on skin color, gender identity, hair length, neighborhood, type of car, style of house, language, eating habits—it’s ludicrous how many ways we find to divide ourselves, and how few we find to unify. Ludicrous and devastatingly sad.
 
I suppose there is a certain amount of fear in trusting strangers because we all remember the story of the Trojan Horse. At some point, though, we need to get over our fear of others and stop killing each other because I’m right-handed, and you’re left-handed. It really is that simple. Analysts and politicians want to make the world complex, but it needn’t be. All people need love and safety. Those don’t come from stockpiling food and weapons. Love and safety only arrive when we put down our weapons, unlock our gates, and welcome everyone into our temples without exception.
 
Meditation: Make me a shepherd of Universal Love.

Intersect 10-13-15

Tear Down the Walls!
Walls. We all run into them now and then. Perhaps we’ve even built one or two. Sometimes, when we’re running low on creative fuel, we might say we’ve “hit a brick wall.” If we’re being forced into an uncomfortable situation, we might feel like we “have our backs against a wall.” For protection, we hide behind walls, and when we see injustice in the world, we strive to tear them down. We face physical and psychological walls often throughout our lives.

As we journey with God on a spiritual path to a closer relationship with God we hit many, many walls. Others erect walls that block our spiritual journey for a variety of reasons: belief in God is passé; religion is just another corporation trying to control you; spiritual experiences are tricks of the mind. As seekers of relationship with God, we are bombarded with ideas designed to make us think twice about being a person of faith, a sojourner toward spiritual wholeness.

Jumping the hurdles of the outside world is only half the battle. A large part of any spiritual journey is clearing our internal selves of fear, uncertainty and doubt (FUD). The FUD factor prevents us from doing a good many things—especially believing in a Universal Power. FUD is the most effective wall humans have ever built. It’s used in our political campaigns, in ads trying to sell us medicines we don’t need, and even in religions. Organized religion might, in fact, be the system that first created FUD. After all, for thousands of years many organized religions have told us that we are worthless and damned unless we follow the prescription to salvation only they possess.

It’s brilliant, really: create a disease and then claim to have the only cure. Naturally, this cure is locked away in a secret vault—a vault that they will only open when we do what they want, say what they want, believe what they want, or pay them enough money. Fortunately, the walls of that castle are being stormed by people like Richard Rohr, Bishop John Spong, Marcus Borg, Joan Chittister, Karen Armstrong and others, through whom God is showing a deeper truth: There are no walls between us and God. This was, beyond a doubt, Jesus’ message, too.

The only real wall blocking our spiritual path is simply fear of the unknown. When God taps us on the shoulder, our first instinct is to deny it. We either write the event off as a trick of our imaginations, or we think, “Why would God choose me for anything?” We think this, in spite of the fact that nearly every story in the Bible is about regular, ordinary people called to do extraordinary things by God. Samuel, Joshua, David, Rahab—they all had to overcome their FUD and begin trusting that God was working through them, that they were worthy. Even Jesus has moments of doubt. That should make us feel a little better when we do, too.

We’re all worthy of God’s love. While we’re working to tear down the social walls of injustice, bigotry, racism, economic warfare and hatred, the first wall we need to obliterate is the one that prevents us from feeling God’s love. It’s knowing we are loved that gives us the strength to fight the systemic evils of this world. The wall that prevents us from feeling that intense Universal Love? God’s already at work ripping it apart, one brick of fear, uncertainty, and doubt at a time.

Meditation: I am not afraid to be worthy.

Intersect 10-12-15

Monday Meditation
Thank you, purchase
Great Eternal Presence, cialis
for blessing us with awareness
of a deeper reality, cheap
beyond the shallow noise
of this artificially sweetened world.

Holy God of all creation,
feel our natural love for you,
as we feel your love
permeate the very fabric
of our being.
Help us experience
the intimate nearness
of you.
Impel us to know
that you are
the very cells in our bodies;
the atoms in our cells;
the electrons orbiting
around the nucleus.
You are our nucleus,
Holy and Infinite God,
and we are your atoms.
Charge us with positive energy.

[pause to meditate]

Sense our trust in you.
Every day
we sing,
think,
write,
dance,
laugh and cry
because we are so overwhelmed
by your intense,
loving energy.

You well up within us,
and when we are fully aware
of your presence within,
you burst forth
like a ray of light,
revealing a word
of incredible beauty,
and a people
of deep compassion.
Make us beautiful, Loving God.
Make us compassionate, Holy Source.

[pause to meditate]

You break us from
the hypnotic spell
of a world that tells us
we are worthless.
Your presence reminds us
we are worthy,
we are whole.

We find completeness
in your love
by loving each other
without exception.
Help us show our love for you,
our Holy God,
by making us more loving
toward each other.

Recreate us
in the image of Christ,
so we are better able
to grant forgiveness
to others, and ourselves.
Make us in the image
you created us to be,
by making us imagers of the Christ
that dwells within us all.

[pause to meditate]

Heal us from our spiritual withdrawal.
Heal us, Lord.
Soothe our souls,
rest our bodies,
calm our thoughts.
Help us center in your presence.

Your goodness fills our hearts,
your mercy compels us to act mercifully,
your compassion moves us
to care about our world.

We pray in your many names,
and strive to live—
and live in—
the example of
Holy Oneness exemplified by
Jesus Christ.
Amen.

Intersect 10-5-15

Monday Meditation
God of infinite love and grace, prescription
we come to you
ever thankful
for your abundance of love, look
for this place of worship, clinic
and for this time of prayer.

[pause for meditation]

We appreciate
that our faith
binds us to each other,
and to all which is holy.
We realize
that the holiness
we experience
in and from you
is most powerfully reflected,
when we see
and experience
holiness in each other
(and realize there is no other).
You bind us together,
loving emanations of
your one, great Spirit.

[pause for meditation]

And yet we confess that
there are some people to whom
we do not feel bound.
There are times when we build walls
instead of opening doors.
We turn a deaf ear to those in pain
or in need of our counsel,
because we are too busy
to open the doors of our hearts.
Sometimes, when we listen,
we listen poorly.
We talk when we should be silent,
and we are mute
when we should use our voices
to destroy the walls
of apathy,
reluctance,
hatred,
and fear.

[pause for meditation]

Make us in your image, Holy One:
a positive force in this world;
a healing presence
for those we know
and those we have yet to encounter;
those who are ill or homebound;
those who mourn with a sorrow
too deep for words.

[pause for meditation and to hold friends, family, and strangers in God’s embrace]

We pray for
People around the world
attempting to bring light and love
into this reality
we have filled
with strife and tension.
May the world come to know
the peace of mind, body, and spirit
that only comes from
loving something
greater than ourselves:
You,
our Holy and Eternal
Source of all Being.
Amen.

[pause for meditation and the still, small voice of God to permeate your being]