Anyone who withholds kindness from a friend forsakes the fear of the Almighty.

Author: Tisha Anderson

Food for Thought: Harsh Reality, March 13, 2019

Food for Thought: Harsh Reality, March 13, 2019

Notes composed and discussion facilitated by Pastor Bryan Hackett.

Our mid-week services are designed for open discussion among a group of people with diverse philosophies and beliefs. These are the notes from those meetings, and reflect the desire to explore thought within and outside the Christian tradition. They do not represent official doctrine, but a willingness to explore our shared humanity. As such, they are somewhat incomplete without the experience of actual discussions. We post them here for the sake of those who would like to have them but cannot always make it out to a mid-week service.

Harsh Reality

PART I:          The Problem 

A few weeks back we talked about living in “right relationship” with reality, which I put forward as being in loving relationship with what is real.

My basis for this comes essentially from two branches of one thing I consider truth:

  1.  God IS love—and arguably, then, in a proper sense, love is God, Or, if the word “God” is an issue for you—love is Higher Power  Furthermore, if higher power is not some outside force, but more akin to “the interconnectedness of all things”, then the core nature of all things is love, and everything belongs.
  2. God, Higher Power, or reality is known not by thought, but through love

Thought cannot comprehend God. And so, I prefer to abandon all I can know, choosing rather to love him whom I cannot know. Though we cannot know him we can love him. The Cloud of Unknowing

Whoever loves is born of god and knows god—The Bible

A valid objection-or perhaps just an observation- came to me in a couple forms: Reality is NOT loving, and often harsh and brutal. A “Disney love” approach is a denial of the facts. (LEGO movie—‘Everything is awesome!’)

The wind, yet again, knocks that point home today!

Questions:

 What do we DO with harsh reality?

What does harsh reality say about what I outlined above? (having a loving relationship with reality)

We DO see examples of comfortable people (and Christians) living in denial of harsh reality because they are insulated from it, don’t we?!

PART II: Further thoughts and proposed solutions.

Avoiding the pitfall of denial: Acceptance 

            IF we begin with bold acceptance of reality as it is, can we get to loving relationship without denial?

What might that look like?

My example: How can I be in loving relationship with something like Hurricane Katrina? And could I do so if I lived in its path, and not just from here in the safe zone? (mere 75MPH winds!)

I think I can be in loving, accepting relationship with an ecosystem that makes thriving life possible, but also produces life-threatening hurricanes from time to time!

This becomes very personal when I consider the fact that I live in loving acceptance of a body that makes possible this miracle of life but comes with the absolute contingency of death.

Personifying hurricanes—we give them names. This is basic personification and doesn’t require us to “believe in” an actual entity called Katrina. Why do we do such things? 

Does this way of “accepting” even a hurricane (which I do not yet fully understand in terms of the goodness of it all) say anything about loving god or higher power?

 People who are examples of love without denial

Jesus—“Father, please forgive them, they know not what they do.”  —This, to me, is the clearest example of love in the face of harsh reality!

Desmond Tutu, Mother Teresa, Nelson Mandela

The prophets: Their “love” is full of lamentation, anguish, even righteous anger.

Love is stronger than death.

It is not a weak thing that is good for a lot of situations but needs to be discarded in favor of some of the “tougher” emotions in more brutal situations.

I Corinthians 13

If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal.  If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing.  If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing. 

 Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.  It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.  Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.  It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

  Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away.  For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when completeness comes, what is in part disappears.  When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me.  For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.

  And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.

The Slow Work of God, Sunday, March 10, 2019

The Slow Work of God, Sunday, March 10, 2019

Pastor Bryan had this Sunday off.  We were very grateful to Ben Hoch for sharing with us today!

The Slow Work of God

by Ben Hoch

“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven…Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth…” – The Beatitudes (Matthew 5)

“…the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice.” – Martin Luther King Jr.

We live in a world of instant gratification; we set goals and try to achieve them as quickly as possible; and time is perceived as limited. Productivity and efficiency, with the goal of achieving “success,” are highly valued. More so, we fear failure and when something bad happens, we wish it would just go away as quick as possible. We tend to want a quick fix for everything. But one can ask, is this approach to living how we are called by God to truly live? (If you prefer not to use the word “God” then “the life-giving ground of being that flows through all things,” higher power,” or “Universe” are other options.) Achieving goals through productivity, efficient and quick fixes works for many daily tasks, but do not necessarily help for experiences such as love, suffering, failure, and death, let alone understanding our place in the Universe. Certainly, there are times when our experience of God is quick to transform us akin to Paul’s conversion on the road to Damascus; but quite often to serve God and to come to embrace the world as it is with an open heart we must be patient with ourselves, others and the world around us.

Teilhard de Chardin, a French Jesuit priest and scientist living in the first half of the 20th century, described how creation is an evolutionary process unfolding over deep time. When we realize this then the nature of Christian (and non-Christian) life is to orient ourselves in the ongoing work of creation, to place ourselves in the midst of the evolutionary process and to participate in the triune flow of hope, faith and love as it drives the unfolding realm of God on Earth and in the Universe. He offers a prayer to us entitled Trust in the Slow Work of God.  Above all, trust in the slow work of God. We are quite naturally impatient in everything, to reach the end without delay. We should like to skip the intermediate stages. We are impatient of being on the way to something unknown, something new.

And yet it is the law of all progress that it is made by passing through some stages of instability, and that it may take a very long time.

And so I think it is with you, your ideas mature gradually, let them grow, let them shape themselves, without undue haste. Don’t try to force them on, as though you could be today what time (that is to say, grace and circumstances acting on your own good will) will make of you tomorrow.  Only God could say what this new spirit gradually forming within you will be. Give our Lord the benefit of believing that his hand is leading you, and accept the anxiety of feeling yourself in suspense and incomplete.

Historically, we can look back and see that over time the moral universe has been expanding much like the physical universe, or as described by Dr. King, the moral universe has been bending toward justice. There has been movement away from tribal (us against them) mentality towards inclusive worldviews where people are accepted for being human, not for the color of their skin, religion, sexual orientation, physical abilities or being different in other ways. Indeed, after many thousands of years of human evolution Dr. King came forth into this world to teach us that through nonviolence, oppressed peoples and their oppressors would both be set free from the social, political, psychological and spiritual tyranny of dualistic (us against them) oppressive systems; and that we must not aim to defeat or humiliate our adversaries and enemies, but to win their friendship and understanding. This is the slow work of God.

Our desire to understand our place in the Universe resulted in the emergence of the scientific method some 2 million years after our human ancestors began to roam the Earth. This has brought about massive advancements in technology alleviating suffering from illness and extending our lifespan. Indeed, more recently science has moved beyond its own mechanistic and reductionist viewpoints to discover that self-organization and creativity are part of the very nature of the universe. Order and chaos, matter and spirit are in some way one in the same. The Universe is in fact life-giving akin to what is espoused in the creation stories of the world’s religions. Science has revealed more of the slow work of God to us.

Our personal lives unfold over time in such a way that when we look back we could never have planned for things to occur as they have. I could not have imagined that my childhood experiences in church would begin to open my heart and lead me to a life-long interest in comparative religion and interfaith relations intertwined with science, medicine, art and music; and that these early experiences would lead me to pursue studies in anthropology and religion in college; and that these studies in turn would actually lead me to leave the church for over 20 years; and that I would then return to the church after my understanding of who I thought I was fell apart; and now today I stand here before you speaking about the slow work of God. Nor could I have ever known that I would bear witness to the healing presence of animals rushing back into Michelle’s life after the simple touch of a carriage horse’s mane while she accompanied me on a work related trip in a far off country; a healing presence that during childhood helped her survive an abusive home environment and find love, but that had been absent for much of her adult life as she pursued “success” as many of us do; a healing presence that today continues to help her heal from childhood wounds. I stand before you as a witness to the slow work of God in my own life and the lives of those around me.

This community, WoodsEnd, has supported the life journeys of many persons and families in their endeavor to live a wholesome life, to follow Christ. Over time these lives have indeed transformed the world in many and varied ways. Even with change and loss WoodsEnd continues to be a space for members of the local community to come find a spiritual home and live in communion with one another regardless of where they come from or are going. The future of WoodsEnd is unbounded, and I pray it is showered with God’s grace, able to evolve into something new as God calls us forth to live into the fruition of our sincere attempt to follow Jesus, to realize the full potential of our humanity. This is the slow work of God in community.

But with all of this said, as Teilhard de Chardin articulated in prayer, we are incomplete. As much as we desire to transform the world it seems like the progression of humanity towards wholeness unfolds as three steps forward followed by two steps backward, and sometimes four steps backwards. Tribal and nationalistic worldviews are as evident as ever. Justice is not fully realized throughout society. Our scientific endeavors have resulted in the creation of nuclear weapons with the capacity to wipe ourselves from the face of this planet, and technology allows us to ravage our earth at will. We continue to have pain and suffering in our personal lives and in community, and struggle to make sense of it all. But as Dr. King pointed out to us, we are gravely mistaken to think that Christianity (or any religion or spiritual practice) protects us from the pain and agony of mortal existence. We are not to fear our incompleteness, our mortality, our failings and vulnerability because these are an inevitable part of life, part of the essence of being human, and as such, also part of the slow work of God. Dr. King held the conviction that our suffering, in whatever form it takes, can be transformed into a creative force that can heal the world, rather than be a source of bitterness. But we need to be willing to orient ourselves in the world in such a way that will allow this to happen to us (as it’s not something we achieve) and not fall into despair. Though our hope for fulfillment of the Kingdom of Heaven on Earth may stretch across thousands of years or more, this is not a reason for passivity. We are to take an active contemplative stance in the world, here and now. We are to be a full participant in the unfolding of creation.

We can take a stance and participate in the slow work of God by listening to our heart and our inner experience of God as we have come to know God, by seeing how our life fits into the universal story articulated in scripture and other texts, through participating in a faith community, and discerning where the Spirit is taking us. This requires that we have some time and space to be with ourselves, with each other, and our experiences of God through prayer, forms of meditation, reading and sitting with sacred texts (Lectio Divina), and other acts of prayer such as music, art, poetry, literature and service to one’s community.  We are to find a space where the anxiety of our mind, the expectations of ourselves and others, and what we call “stress” can be washed away by the waters of grace.

Within the Christian Tradition the Beatitudes offer us one way to help orient ourselves in the world and stand as part of the slow work of God. “Blessed are the poor in spirit…” – our faith and religious convictions cannot serve as a means of putting ourselves above others, thereby creating hierarchies of worthiness. Through our vulnerability we can find the preciousness of ourselves and others. “Blessed are the merciful…” – we can receive mercy only when we are able to give mercy to others. Through mercy we come to realize we are brother and sister to one another. These are a  couple of Jesus’blessings that resonate with me. I invite you to take a few minutes each day to sit and read the Beatitudes and see which ones speak to you, think about them, pray on them, see what they may mean for your life and the world you inhabit, allow them to slowly work on you and see how they may lead you to act in the world.

I pray that we as individuals and the WoodsEnd community over time are blessed by a new spirit forming within, and we come to accept the anxiety of simultaneously feeling incomplete. May we all have faith and find our way of being in the work such that we fully participate in the slow work of God.  Amen.

 

Food for Thought: Life Together, Wednesday, March 12, 2019

Food for Thought: Life Together, Wednesday, March 12, 2019

Discussion facilitated by Pastor Bryan Hackett.

Our mid-week services are designed for open discussion among a group of people with diverse philosophies and beliefs. These are the notes from those meetings, and reflect the desire to explore thought within and outside the Christian tradition. They do not represent official doctrine, but a willingness to explore our shared humanity. As such, they are somewhat incomplete without the experience of actual discussions. We post them here for the sake of those who would like to have them but cannot always make it out to a mid-week service.

Life Together

Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God.

Behold, how good and pleasant it is when brothers dwell in unity! 

Loving relationship with reality:  It was pointed out to me by a couple people that reality is NOT kind and gentle often, but harsh and unrelenting. Point taken.

If we are talking about love of “one another” (and we are tonight), we need to talk about loving real people and not just a dream of community.

Bonhoeffer makes this point more than once in his little book Life Together:  ‘Those who love their dream of a Christian community more than the Christian community itself become destroyers of that Christian community even though their personal intentions may be ever so honest, earnest, and sacrificial.’  God hates this wishful dreaming because it makes the dreamer proud and pretentious. Those who dream of this idealized community demand that it be fulfilled by God, by others, and by themselves. They enter the community of Christians with their demands, set up their own law, and judge one another and even God accordingly.’ 

“The Christian, however, must bear the burden of a brother. He must suffer and endure the brother. It is only when he is a burden that another person is really a brother and not merely an object to be manipulated. The burden of men was so heavy for God Himself that He had to endure the Cross. God verily bore the burden of men in the body of Jesus Christ.”

It may be that Christians, notwithstanding corporate worship, common prayer, and all their fellowship in service, may still be left to their loneliness. The final break-through to fellowship does not occur, because, though they have fellowship with one another as believers and as devout people, they do not have fellowship as the undevout, as sinners. The pious fellowship permits no one to be a sinner. So everybody must conceal his sin from himself and from the fellowship. We dare not be sinners. Many Christians are unthinkably horrified when a real sinner is suddenly discovered among the righteous. So we remain alone with our sin, living in lies and hypocrisy. The fact is that we are sinners!”

These are just ideas—one man’s thoughts for the sake of stirring discussion. Thoughts? 

General Discussion topic:  We at woodsEnd have a unique opportunity to decide what kind of community we’d like to be. What does community look like? Warts and all? What kind of things can we do for each other?

Idea just beginning: What if each of us just thought of two or three things that we need done around the house that we would allow people to help with? Then make a list and pick some projects as a group?

  • If everyone did it, nobody would need to feel sheepish about asking.
  • We would have to just see what gets attention and be unoffendable about what gets done and what doesn’t.

What does community mean to you? 

Other Bonhoeffer excerpts

 Listening   “There is a kind of listening with half an ear that presumes already to know what the other person has to say. It is an impatient, inattentive listening, that despises the brother and is only waiting for a chance to speak and thus get rid of the other person. Christians have forgotten that the ministry of listening has been committed to them by Him who is Himself the great listener and whose work they should share. We should listen with the ears of God that we may speak the Word of God.” 

Thankfulness– “If we do not give thanks daily for the Christian fellowship in which we have been placed, even where there is no great experience, no discoverable riches, but much weakness, small faith, and difficulty; if on the contrary, we only keep complaining to God that everything is so paltry and petty, so far from what we expected, then we hinder God from letting our fellowship grow according to the measure and riches which are there for us all in Jesus Christ.”

 Interruption-“We must be ready to allow ourselves to be interrupted by God. God will be constantly crossing our paths and canceling our plans by sending us people with claims and petitions.”

Loving the people, not the dream (again)  “The person who loves their dream of community will destroy community, but the person who loves those around them will create community.”

Sinfulness “If my sinfulness appears to me to be in any way smaller or less detestable in comparison with the sins of others, I am still not recognizing my sinfulness at all. … How can I possibly serve another person in unfeigned humility if I seriously regard his sinfulness as worse than my own?” 

Experiencing opposition and discomfort “Jesus Christ lived in the midst of his enemies. At the end all his disciples deserted him. On the Cross he was utterly alone, surrounded by evildoers and mockers. For this cause he had come, to bring peace to the enemies of God. So the Christian, too, belongs not in the seclusion of a cloistered life but in the thick of foes. There is his commission, his work. ‘The kingdom is to be in the midst of your enemies. And he who will not suffer this does not want to be of the Kingdom of Christ; he wants to be among friends, to sit among roses and lilies, not with the bad people but the devout people.”

Honorable Mentions: Right Relationship with Reality, March 2, 2019

Honorable Mentions: Right Relationship with Reality, March 2, 2019

Sermon delivered by Pastor Bryan Hackett.

What are Honorable Mentions?  They are the quotes, book references, videos, etc that may have been brought up during Sunday’s sermon and are posted here in case somebody would like to check them out.  Please remember that all references occurred within the context of the sermon.

Prayer:  “My Lord God, I have no idea where I am going. I do not see the road ahead of me. I cannot know for certain where it will end. Nor do I really know myself, and the fact that I think that I am following your will does not mean that I am actually doing so. But I believe that the desire to please you does in fact please you. And I hope I have that desire in all that I am doing. I hope that I will never do anything apart from that desire. And I know that if I do this you will lead me by the right road though I may know nothing about it. Therefore will I trust you always though I may seem to be lost and in the shadow of death. I will not fear, for you are ever with me, and you will never leave me to face my perils alone.”Thomas Merton, Thoughts in Solitude

Bible References:  1 John 4:7-8; Psalm 145:16-17; Book of Joel, chapter 2; Romans 8:18-21

Quotes:

Loving is a way of knowing, and for loving to know, it must personify. Personifying is thus a way of
knowing, especially knowing what is invisible, hidden in the heart.”–James Hillman

“In this perspective personifying is not a lesser, primitive mode of apprehending but a finer one. It presents in psychological theory the attempt to integrate heart into method and to return abstract thoughts and dead matter to their human shapes.” — Thomas Moore, in his book about James Hillman.

“Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love.”–John, the mystic disciple of Jesus.

“Finally I am coming to the conclusion that my highest ambition is to be what I already am. That I will never fulfill my obligation to surpass myself unless I first accept myself, and if I accept myself fully in the right way, I will already have surpassed myself.”– Thomas Merton

I am a human being. Nothing human can be alien to me. ”  Maya Angelou, quoting the Roman playwright, Terrence.

Food for Thought: Reality, February 27, 2019

Food for Thought: Reality, February 27, 2019

Discussion facilitated by Pastor Bryan Hackett.

Our mid-week services are designed for open discussion among a group of people with diverse philosophies and beliefs. These are the notes from those meetings, and reflect the desire to explore thought within and outside the Christian tradition. They do not represent official doctrine, but a willingness to explore our shared humanity. As such, they are somewhat incomplete without the experience of actual discussions. We post them here for the sake of those who would like to have them but cannot always make it out to a mid-week service.

Here is a link to the video we watched on Wednesday as the fuel for our discussions.Preview YouTube video Reality reconciles science and religion: Michael Dowd at TEDxGrandRapids

 

Food for Thought: Judgment, What to Do? February 20, 2019

Food for Thought: Judgment, What to Do? February 20, 2019

Discussion facilitated by Pastor Bryan Hackett.

Our mid-week services are designed for open discussion among a group of people with diverse philosophies and beliefs. These are the notes from those meetings, and reflect the desire to explore thought within and outside the Christian tradition. They do not represent official doctrine, but a willingness to explore our shared humanity. As such, they are somewhat incomplete without the experience of actual discussions. We post them here for the sake of those who would like to have them but cannot always make it out to a mid-week service.

Judgment. What to do?

“Judge not, that you be not judged.    For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and with the measure you use it will be measured to you.    Why do you see the speck that is in your brother's eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye?    Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when there is the log in your own eye?    You hypocrite! First take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.”  -Jesus of Nazareth

This is evidence of the righteous judgment of God, that you may be considered worthy of the kingdom of God, for which you are also suffering— since indeed God considers it just to repay with affliction those who afflict you, and to grant relief to you who are afflicted as well as to us, when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven with his mighty angels in flaming fire, inflicting vengeance on those who do not know God and on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus.” -Paul the Apostle

The issue of judgment for me is a clear example of truth in tension.

Judge not, or judge with righteous judgment? Sometimes this is “solved” by calling one judgment and the other discernment, but it can seem an exercise in semantics to me. (And self-righteous people go merrily on their way doing exactly what Jesus said not to do but calling it discernment!)

BEFORE I GO ANY FURTHER, let’s get some thoughts going on the issue. What do you think about this judgment?—in human terms, in terms of God, etc.

Navigating the tension with Jesus’s principle: This is really an application of the Golden Rule, with a more solid assurance that it WILL be done to you the way that you do it!

How would you fare if your life was measured according to the standard you apply to others? (It helps to think of the standard you apply to somebody you do not like!)

Why do we see the speck in others’ eyes but miss the log in our own? (I think it is a universal part of the human condition, but you may disagree.)

We “can’t see what we can’t see”.—cognitive blind spots are researched and documented psychological reality.

BUT, I often CAN see yours! Which naturally leads to judgment! (How can that person NOT see this about herself?!)

A crisis is made by men, who enter into the crisis with their own prejudices, propensities, and predispositions. A crisis is the sum of intuition and blind spots, a blend of facts noted and facts ignored.” ― Michael Crichton, The Andromeda Strain

Righteous Judgment: I think that our aversion to judgment is that we see so much un-righteous judgment as we
navigate life.

Therefore the law is powerless, And justice never goes forth. For the wicked surround the righteous; Therefore perverse judgment proceeds. Habakkuk 1:4

Non-judgment sounds like a good solution—and, according to Jesus, IS the way to live! Judge not, lest ye be judged.

But, what about the motif in Scripture of judgment being good?

In those days and at that time I will cause to grow up to David a Branch of righteousness; He shall execute judgment and righteousness in the earth. –Jeremiah, prophesying the Messiah.

However, we also have THIS…Jeremiah’s complaint about God’s judgment:

Righteous are You, O Lord, when I plead with You;
Yet let me talk with You about Your judgments.
Why does the way of the wicked prosper?
Why are those happy who deal so treacherously?
You have planted them, yes, they have taken root;
They grow, yes, they bear fruit.
You are near in their mouth
But far from their mind.

It doesn’t LOOK like your judgment is very righteous, Lord!

Look and see how often bad and dominating people get away with it—the bullies of the earth
seem to live the best lives!

Here I am with my conscience tormenting me! They, on the other hand, seem perfectly happy!

Honorable Mentions: I Affirm. February 17, 2019

Honorable Mentions: I Affirm. February 17, 2019

Sermon delivered by Pastor Bryan Hackett.

What are Honorable Mentions?  They are the quotes, book references, videos, etc that may have been brought up during Sunday’s sermon and are posted here in case somebody would like to check them out.  Please remember that all references occurred within the context of the sermon.

Bible references:  Luke 23:42-43; John 5:39-40

Books:  God at War by Greg Boyd (link to the book on Amazon, wE does not profit if you choose to purchase the book, https://www.amazon.com/God-War-Bible-Spiritual-Conflict/dp/0830818855/ref=sr_1_1?keywords=god+at+war&qid=1550854882&s=gateway&sr=8-1).

Readings:  “Seeing Christ Everywhere” by Richard Rohr:  https://cac.org/seeing-christ-everywhere-2019-02-13

Bryan’s Affirmation:  “I believe the Christ is far more universal than our doctrines have allowed, just as Jesus the man was far larger then the doctrines of the Pharisees allowed. All my hope is in the great Christ mystery, which I do not yet understand as I should, nor as I shall. And it is a hope for all things. As Julian of Norwich said over 600 years ago, ‘All will be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of things shall be well.’ I have no inclination to prove or disprove doctrine here [on FB] though. It is a very cold and impersonal place to do so.

Songs:  Johnny Cash, theWanderer https://youtu.be/ACjRCagd0sU  

Food for Thought: Don’t Cling, February 13, 2019

Food for Thought: Don’t Cling, February 13, 2019

Discussion facilitated by Pastor Bryan Hackett.

Our mid-week services are designed for open discussion among a group of people with diverse philosophies and beliefs. These are the notes from those meetings, and reflect the desire to explore thought within and outside the Christian tradition. They do not represent official doctrine, but a willingness to explore our shared humanity. As such, they are somewhat incomplete without the experience of actual discussions. We post them here for the sake of those who would like to have them but cannot always make it out to a mid-week service.

Don’t Cling. Gently Release.

 Now when she had said this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, and did not know that it was Jesus.  Jesus said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you seeking?”  She, supposing Him to be the gardener, said to Him, “Sir, if You have carried Him away, tell me where You have laid Him, and I will take Him away.”  

 Jesus said to her, “Mary!”

She turned and said to Him, “Rabboni!” (which is to say, Teacher).

 Jesus said to her, “Do not cling to Me, for I have not yet ascended to My Father; but go to My brethren and say to them, ‘I am ascending to My Father and your Father, and to My God and your God.”  John 20:14-17 

“You can only lose what you cling to.”-Buddha

 Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men.  And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.  Philippians 2:6-8

 “Let go of anger. Let go of pride. When you are bound by nothing, you go beyond sorrow.”—also Buddha

  Have this mind among yourselves—what mind?

The non-grasping, non-clinging mind.

The self-emptying mind, the letting go mind. The “taking the lower place” mind.

Clinging:

When we cling, why do we do it? What does it do for us?    Are you willing to share an example of clinging or grasping from your own experience?

Self-Emptying:  I have talked about this as a very “Christ-centered” practice. Do you see any value in it? Do you have any objections to it?    How do you “self-empty”, if you do? In general? In specific circumstances?

Taking the lower place:  We read a parable on Sunday about taking the lower place at a wedding feast and then being invited to a better spot. I also indicated that I believe this lesson is for life in general and not just dinner parties.  What does it look like to take the lower place in real-life situations? In your inner thoughts? Again, is this valuable or helpful?

 Letting Go:    What does this look like?

Honorable Mentions: Empty, February 10, 2019

Honorable Mentions: Empty, February 10, 2019

Sermon delivered by Pastor Bryan Hackett.

What are Honorable Mentions?  They are the quotes, book references, videos, etc that may have been brought up during Sunday’s sermon and are posted here in case somebody would like to check them out.  Please remember that all references occurred within the context of the sermon.

Bible References:  Mark 14: 7-11; Philippians 2:6-8.

Books: Mere Christianity, by C.S. Lewis.

Links: “Jesus, Wisdom Teacher: The Path of Descent” by Cynthia Bourgeault. https://cac.org/the-path-of-descent-2019-01-18/

Jesus and the Cross, meditations by Richard Rohr. This link goes to the weekly summary which contains links for the individual daily meditations. https://cac.org/jesus-and-the-cross-weekly-summary-2019-02-09/

Seize the day cartoon: https://www.leunig.com.au/works/recent-cartoons/820-we-were-wrong

We were wrong w
Food for Thought: Self-Emptying, February 6, 2019

Food for Thought: Self-Emptying, February 6, 2019

Our mid-week services are designed for open discussion among a group of people with diverse philosophies and beliefs. These are the notes from those meetings, and reflect the desire to explore thought within and outside the Christian tradition. They do not represent official doctrine, but a willingness to explore our shared humanity. As such, they are somewhat incomplete without the experience of actual discussions. We post them here for the sake of those who would like to have them but cannot always make it out to a mid-week service.

Self-Emptying

 Discussion led and facilitated by Pastor Bryan Hackett.

First, a question from last week…Does anyone want to share how you personally “accept” misfortune and disgrace? Or, so I don’t put you in a box, if not acceptance, what do you do with misfortune and/or disgrace?

Have you heard this prayer? Or at least the beginning of it?

God, grant me the serenity
to accept the things I cannot change,
the courage to change the things I can,
and the wisdom to know the difference.
Living one day at a time,
enjoying one moment at a time;
accepting hardship as a pathway to peace;
taking, as Jesus did,
this sinful world as it is,
not as I would have it;
trusting that You will make all things right
if I surrender to Your will;
so that I may be reasonably happy in this life
and supremely happy with You forever in the next.

Amen. — Reinhold Niebuhr

Serenity:          the state of being calm, peaceful, and untroubled

Is serenity a good name for acceptance perhaps? Does it illuminate the reality that although it may look passive on the outside, the inner man is standing strong?

“The path of descent is the path of transformation”

Emptying—Kenosis:

 Something in us recognizes the spiritual bankruptcy of a person who is “full of himself”. Isn’t it interesting that we say it that way?!

Jesus lived the example of self-emptying…

Cynthia Borgeault article: The Path of Descent

Some fun words:

Metanoia–“going into the larger mind.” (does this require a smaller ego? A descent?)

Praxis” means the path, the actual practice you follow to bring about the result that you’re yearning for.

 Kenosis: In Greek, the verb kenosein means “to let go,” or “to empty oneself,” and this is the word Paul chooses to describe “the mind of Christ.”

 Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. –Jesus of Nazareth

He goes on to talk about hating rather than loving the life of this world, which has been a stumbling block for many, if not all who have tried to follow him.

Some have called the Path of Descent “dying before you die”. What does it mean to die to self? Does “accepting misfortune and/or disgrace as your own self” (Tao Te Ching) aid in the process?

Is this what Paul meant by being “crucified with Christ”, yet living on with a new kind of life?

 

John the Baptist

Now a discussion arose between some of John’s disciples and a Jew over purification.  And they came to John and said to him, “Rabbi, he who was with you across the Jordan, to whom you bore witness—look, he is baptizing, and all are going to him.”  John answered, “A person cannot receive even one thing unless it is given him from heaven.  You yourselves bear me witness, that I said, ‘I am not the Christ, but I have been sent before him.’  The one who has the bride is the bridegroom. The friend of the bridegroom, who stands and hears him, rejoices greatly at the bridegroom’s voice. Therefore this joy of mine is now complete.  He must increase, but I must decrease.”

 

There is a context here to consider—John’s disciples are noting that everyone is leaving THEIR movement and going to the Jesus movement.

John has no grasping hold on his “ministry” and can rejoice in what God is doing next, even though his part is done.

“He must increase, but I must decrease.”—I (Bryan) have always understood this as a rule of thumb for effectively following him. 

That is, the “Christ in me” (true self?) needs to increase, while the false self goes through a process of dying.

Self-emptying.