I hope we can all continue to sizzle!

Things are rarely or never quite what they seem are they?

It is a quandary of life…Rev. Colleen has identified it several times as a paradox…

Peter says to Jesus….you are the Messiah…the Holy One of God….

Jesus says..Yes!  You are right!

And the Holy one must suffer and die and be raised….

No wonder Peter took Jesus to the side and started scolding him…..

Messiah…Holy One of God…..and suffering and death…..those two are seemingly incongruent

Let’s face it, we all love peace, harmony, joy, smooth sailing, calm water,

And I believe the human spirit needs periods of such calm as well…

It is I believe reminiscent of the need for Sabbath rest…..to stop…to rest…to relax…to calm and center ones self….

I think Jesus understood and understands that….

Why?  Because….living the Spiritual Life….living our best self forward in the world…is alot of work…and it involves suffering, many little deaths and many little resurrections as well.

For many years….i was of the ilk that suffering had no place in the Spiritual Life….and while I still believe that many pious cliches like….”suffering for Christ”  and the like are often just that….cliche’s for not wanting to really deal with suffering at it’s deepest level….

I have also come to see that suffering is an integral part of the Spiritual Life….don’t get me wrong…I will always wish it wasn’t…but I have come to see that it is!

I believe every experience of suffering, of hurt, of pain, of temptation, of struggle and of strife….hold a lesson or lessons for us.

Lessons of holiness….

Some of those lessons are big and life changing….and others are small steps in the Spiritual life….

Like Kathy and I had the opportunity to join what like some 168000 other folks on Labor Day to manuever the few small acres affectionally known as the Great Minnesota Get Together!

We were standing in line, waiting to get our annual french fry cup so we could pig out on lard drenched potatoes to maintain our healthy diet….

The woman in front of us started to fan herself with a small statefair coupon book.  As the small army of people around us were doing the same and waiting for their own lard drenched slices of heaven….I noticed in her fanning a small yellow ticket fall from the booklet and on to the ground….a few seconds later another and then another…

For a split second…as I bent down and picked up those ride tickets I thought…well wouldn’t it be nice to take Kathy on the swings or the Ye Old River ride…and we wouldn’t have to buy many more….

But then, I believe because of practicing the Spiritual Life…I said…excuse me Maam, but these came flying out of your book as you were fanning yourself.  She said thank you and put them back in the book and started fanning herself again…

You see there was not even alot of appreciation…or anything of the sort….but I do believe that small, seemingly inconsequential act contributed to the holiness of the world.  I believe it brought the reign of God, just one step closer.

You see I think that holiness and the Spiritual life are alot like the green log that I put on the fire at the cabin not so long ago.

The embers were hot…the fire dying down…I put the log on and it began to smoke….then it began to bubble stuff out of the ends of the log….it took forever and the heat was intense….the outside bark started to char just a little bit, and the sizzling out of the ends of the log really increased…finally…after quite a bit of time, a lot of pops, and a ton of little sizzling….the log just burst into flame….

I thought to myself….that is a perfect metaphor of the Spiritaul Life….it takes a lot of heat (suffering, angst, pain) and a long time of living with those things, before we finally are so transformed, so purified…that we burst forth with holiness.

Every sizzle is important….every pop is essential…because if we just stick with the heat of the suffering….we will burst forth with love.  Holiness takes time….

I hope we can all continue to sizzle!

I hope our community is a safe place to question everything!

22nd Sunday Ordinary Time

I do not know what your lived experiences are….but I do know mine and lets see if they might jell with each other.

When I was growing up…I was encouraged to question, to explore, to look at new things and do things at least in almost every area of my life, except…..religion!

My Church was not a place that I felt I could question much of anything…..

In fact I remember having grown up in a small rural town in Neb.  being taught by very well intentioned and loving volunteers….some where around 3rd or 4th grade…going through the Baltimore Catechism I was given an assignment one week….to write out may answers to the questions for the chapter that had been assigned.

Did you catch the nuance….to write out the ANSWERS…..there as maybe some of you recall were questions in black and white, numbered and bolded…and what followed was the answer and explanation.

It was as if someone had magically asked all the questions that were to be asked……

But the inquisitive mind of this 3rd grader did not quite agree…..you see I believed there were questions that were not asked that were generated by the answers that were supposedly given.

So for my assignment I wrote out the answers and I wrote out an additional question for each answer.

Needless to say, as we were going around our huge group of 6 at CCD on Weds night and  we were invited to share our answers….I shared mine along with the questions I had regarding the answers.

I remember clearly, my volunteer CCD teacher..she was a family friend, a very kind lady, who looked at me all red and flustered and told me I was to go home and talk to my Mom.

3rd Grade and I got kicked out of CCD!

This Gospel reminds me of many things like that, growing up…Church was not a place to question anything……

I hope and pray that is not our experience of Church at all……I hope and pray that as a community we are known as a place in which every question, every thought, every insight has a safe place to land.

I do not beleive that Jesus was telling the Sadduces or the Pharisees that the law or traditions of the elders was wrong….I do believe Jesus was saying to them and to us….its ok to question….its ok to wrestle with God.  Why because our God is so much bigger than any one law or any one tradition.

The other day at prison, I was confronted with this question:

Do you believe there is an ultimate truth?

Followed by the person proclaiming his deeply held Christian position and how any one else who didn’t profess it in the same way was certainly not assured of eternal life.

I took that experience to prayer over this past week…..

My friends…the older I get and the longer I live…the more I am convinced that there is indeed ultimate truth….

And I believe as firmly and as devoutly that my understanding of that truth might just not be the sum total of it!

Maybe as life confronts us in the week ahead and we run headlong into something we may have always thought was the only way to believe, or understand it…we can take a step back and ask ourselves if there is another facet of our amazing God that we just did not see.

Faith is like a diamond…..it shines differently with every turn….

Are we human beings having a spiritual experience….or are we spiritual beings having a human experience?

20th Sunday Ordinary Time—16 AUG 15

So here is a question I would like for you to consider and ponder for just a bit now, but maybe deeper and further in the coming week.

What do you believe….are we human beings having a spiritual experience….or are we spiritual beings having a human experience?

Hold that question in your heart for a few minutes…..

I was struck particularly by this line of the Gospel today….

The one who feeds on me will have life because of me….

I do not believe that Jesus meant literally to eat his flesh and drink his blood….cannabalism in both the world of Jesus and I would venture to say even more so today….is quite repulsive….

So then what what Jesus driving at?  What point….what truth beyond his words was he trying to make….

I wonder if it wasn’t more an attempt for him to get folks to think…and ultimately to act….in a way that was congruent with their truest self.

We have heard it from a scientific perspective….we are what we eat….I believe that is true of our spiritual reality as well….we are what we consume…

So I went to the Bureau of Labor and Statistics and I quieried….How does an average american spend their day?

In 2014, for which their is the most current data….we report that on the average….we spend 8 minutes a day engaged in “Religious or Spiritual activities” during the week……….out of the 29 categories for which the statistical data is gathered….this one is the lowest recorded.

Now let’s go back to the question I posed at the beginning….are we human beings having a spiritual experience or spiritual beings having a human experience?

I believe we are the later…and I believe that the likelihood is that most of us can hardly switch up much of what we do…we can tweak it, but probably not drastically.

So what we may want to look at changing is how we look at our reality?  And in doing so we could then use that reality to engage in our truest self…exactly what Jesus was trying to invite those who heard his words were being invited to do.

So…let’s imagine….

What if answering emails became for us a spiritual experience.  What if with every click of the send button was accompanied by a prayer for the person we just sent?

What if we looked at the person in front of us on the highway when we are stuck in traffic and we simply said…God…I hope that your blessing will be with them today.

What if when we were stirring the hamburger on the stove as we made spaghetti we took a few seconds to say…thank you God for all the farmers who made this whole meal possible.

What if when we were putting gas into the car we simply said…Wow I have so much to be thankful for….

Then maybe the statistic of being engaged in “spiritual activites” would blow away any other statistic.

And maybe we would be doing exactly what Jesus was trying to shockingly get his hearers to understand.

We are what we eat…what consumes our mind?

I have a sign in my office…that simply says:

Change the way you look at things and the things you look at Change…

Just think…every day, every moment, every experience could be an opportunity for touching our truest self…

That I believe my friends might just be what Jesus meant by the “bread of life!”

We are enough…just keep living into it!

18th Sunday Ordinary Time—2 AUG 15

When the crowd saw that neither Jesus nor the disciples were there, they got into a boat and came to Capernaum looking for Jesus…..

Do you remember or have you ever experienced

either learning or teaching

someone to do a back float in the water?

Usually it begins with the person or youngster

lying back and relaxing…arching their back..

water just at their nose…ears muffled….

but with a parent or friend gently supporting them

as they learn to float and hold it on their own.

There comes a point at which

teasingly the trusting hand is ever so gently slipped away,

giving the child or friend the opportunity

to see that they have everything they need

in themselves if only they will trust it.

Inevitably, the one learning suddenly realizes that the hand of safety is no longer holding them up

and that it is sink or swim time….even though they may have been floating on their own for quite some time.

It usually results in dire panic and a nose or mouth full of water and some spurts and slpashes…

accompanied by something like…why did you let go?!!!!!

I wonder if that experience isn’t a great metaphor for holiness.

Remember Rev. Corein last week inviting us to spend this week just resting in the fact that we are enough…

holy enough…

good enough…

blest enough…

loved enough…

that God revels in us,

if for no other reason than the simple fact that we are created in the image and likeness of God.

We are, as we say at Baptism…God’s work of Art!

See we have to remember about this Gospel, is what just happened….it was the feeding of the 5000….the loaves and fishes….

You see I think that in many ways,

this story points out for us all a fundamental phenomenon of the Spiritual Life….

that phenomenon is the contagiousness of holiness!

If you happen to be here last weekend…it was absolutely a beautiful thing to witness…As Rev. Corein and I stood in back at the begining of Mass….and Steve got up to do the greeting….folks were just a buzz with one another…..the Holy Spirit was flowing and floating and whirling in this space….just like those gathered on the hillside….

There they were reclined on the grassy hillside..the baskets were being passed…stories being told, people catching up, sharing what they had brought, talking with friends and family and neighbors…..being supported by the love that comes from being in relationship with each other and consequently in relationship with God….it wasn’t until they started searching for Jesus who had simply invited them into their own holiness…. then they began to panic….they ran off searching…why did you go?

Jesus said to them and I believe to us….

All that is required of you in faith….

is that you believe…..

you don’t have to understand it all….

you don’t have to have studied theology and have advanced degrees, or write books or do anything….

all you have to do is believe.

Belief is a transformational experience….

if you doubt or question that…

just think back to learning to float in the water….

once a person learns to believe that they have it in themselves…

they float!

When we let go of all our preconceived notions about who God is or how God operates in our lives or the lives of others or our world….

when we just ‘Let Go and Let God”

then our transformation begins….

trust begins to build..

sometimes we float and sometimes we doubt and flounder about in in the amazing mystery of God…

until we get to tired enough and we relax once again into the arms of God and again we simply float in the great mystery we call God.

My friends….

I don’t have all the answers…

in fact I probably have fewer answers than almost any religious leader I know….

but I do have this….

if we only will allow ourselves to Let Go and Let God….

I can assure you of this….we will float!

This week….

as the storms of life and work and family and friends sends wave after wave of discord or dissent flooding us…

I am going to invite you to practice just resting in hands of God…just Let Go and Let God….

I’d love to know how you find it to be for you?

As my friend said…why not shoot for the stars and if you miss what the heck you might just hit the moon!

Just–Let go and Let God….

God has graced us all with everything we need….

“Come away by yourselves to a deserted place and rest a while.”

16th Sunday Ordinary Time:  19 JUL 15

“Come away by yourselves to a deserted place and rest a while.”

Sometimes I think for many, our answer to this beautiful invitation of Christ would be to say something like….sounds great, but like right let’s get real.

There is a billboard on the way north out of the the cities….it says…Amazing…your text messages weren’t returned and emails weren’t answered and the world did not end!….

Pew Research Center:

Average 42 text messages a day

Average 110 emails sent/recieved per day

Average 3 email accounts/per person

Average daily commute 53.5 minutes/day

Average 1600 advertisements of some sort

Average 162 minutes per day on mobile devices

I think we could safely say we can see why no wonder it is such a struggle to discern and decipher the voice of God.

Lets go back to the Gospel….because I think we might have missed something……or at least assumed something….

Many times this Gospel has been used to push people into doing and giving more and more time, energy and effort to doing the work of being a Christian…ie Ministry…..

But the best Scripture Scholars will remind us to pay attention to what is not said, almost as much as to what is said!

Most of us would conclude from this story that the Disciples and Jesus did not get away to the deserted place…..but the Scripture does not say that…our minds say that…

I would conjecture that they did indeed get away and rest.  Otherwise Jesus would not have had the energy to step off the boat on the other side and immediately begin to engage in the work again.

I do not know how, and I do not know where…it could have been an island….remember the Sea of Galilee is an average 8 mi wide…or it could have been a cove they found, to just rest and relax and rejuvenate for a bit.  What is important is not the where, or what or how…what is important is that they did.

So the question becomes for us…how do we?

I don’t have magic answers….I have a few things that I have found work occasionally for me.

Silence is hard to find….so I find that I now am just a bit over the average daily commute—so I found that if I shut my cell phone off and the radio off….if nothing else when I get to work…I am just a little less stressed…and I actually am able to spend some time connecting with God.

I have found that a break, in which I remove myself from my environment totally….like getting up and walking….down the hall, out to the car…outside anywhere….is another way I can come away and rest a while….in fact for me….I now find it nearly an absolute necessity…

It is a busy world….it is a busy life….the challenge is to live it with intention, impact and grace.

To find the answers to the questions both Rev. Colleen and I proposed over the past few weeks takes time, if we are to answer them deeply.

The Spiritual life, unlike most of our world and lived experience, is not an instant experience.

We would like it to be, but deep faith is born out of time, patience, discipline, adaptation and commitment.

Maybe we need a smartphone app that sends us a text message or an email every day that says…..Hey this is God…can we hang out for a bit today?

14th Sunday Ordinary Time: 5 JUL 15: If you can dream it…you can live it!

14th Sunday Ordinary Time:  5 JUL 15

NLT Romans 8:

35 Can anything ever separate us from Christ’s love? Does it mean Christ no longer loves us if we have trouble or calamity, or are persecuted, or hungry, or destitute, or in danger, or threatened with death?   37 No, despite all these things, overwhelming victory is ours through Christ, who loved us.

38 And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons,[b] neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love. 39 No power in the sky above or in the earth below—indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord.

I am more and more convinced, that the only thing that can separate us, is ourselves.

Jesus couldn’t work transformation in the lives of so many who heard his message in his hometown, because folks just couldn’t allow themselves to risk opening their lives to Christ’s amazing and transforming message of hope.

I believe that is what we refer to as the Meta-Narrative of the Spiritual life!

Even when we are convinced of this powerful message, we wax and wane, we move in and out of living in that stream of transformational love.

The tapes of our upbringing, or of our lived experiences, or of the lies we have been told about ourselves over and over again, they seem to have a way of repairing their endless loops even after we go to all the work to break them.

We often stop the prophetic voices of our own lives and the lives of those around us because the tapes kick in….over and over again…don’t they…..

Tapes like: I am too old….I am too young….I am too wounded…I am not as holy as that person….or I could never….or the kicker…I am too sinful..too weak…too unworthy…

I call them the “TOO TAPES”

And they are extremely challenging to discard…..

Yet I believe that may be one of the greatest challenges and tasks of the Spiritual Life…..to really believe what St. Paul so eloquently described in Romans 8…nothing….absolutely nothing can separate us from the love of God….

The most powerful motivation I have experienced in life comes not from answers to the big questions of life; it comes from powerful questions…that encourage us to dream, to vision, to live into the great invitation of Christ…

So here are a few questions AND one powerful statement from one of the prophets in my own life and maybe you might find them useful in yours and on your journey as well.

This week how about giving ourselves a little bit of time to ask ourselves these four questions:

  • What truly brings you joy?
  • What fulfills you?
  • What challenges are you willing to embrace to achieve those dreams?
  • What do you need to let go of or stop doing in order to pursue that dream?

My friends that same prophet in my life said this to me and I believe she would want me to share it with you as well

…If you can dream it…you can live it!

Why?  Because nothing…absolutely nothing can separate us from the love of God…

As the sign above my office door in prison says:

Dream big dreams and pray big prayers!  Amen!

12th Sunday Ordinary Time: 21 JUN 15: Over 100 Billion Galaxies!

12th Sunday Ordinary Time:  21 JUN 15

First, may I extend to each and every father, each and every person who has nurtured faith, life and hope into or onto the lives of others, a most blest and happy Fathers Day.

Sometimes the Gospel has a way of putting life in proper perspective if you will.

I don’t know about you, but I do know that nearly every time I read a Gospel story and Jesus says…..hey….lets go do this….or…hey lets go here….I just want to scream….don’t do it!  Tell Christ you have a better idea….because it most likely doesn’t end up the way you or I have planned.

Story after story…one would think that the disciples would wise up after a while and say to Jesus….how about we go do something different than what you are suggesting…because your suggestions often end up to be really challenging….

This story is no exception…Jesus in all his brilliance

…..say its night time….what do you say we take this old fishing boat and row ourselves over to the other side of Lake Mille Lacs….oh sure…great idea there Jesus….lets just do that….duhhhhh.

The Sea of Galilee, also KinneretLake of Gennesaret, or Lake Tiberias  is the largest freshwater lake in Israel, and it is approximately 13 mi long, and 8.1 mi wide. The lake has a maximum depth of approximately 141 feet.

Lake Mille Lacs is about 9 mi long, about 8-10mi wide and an average depth of 28-41ft.

So in many ways….it is very close to the same, and I can tell you there is probably not one fisher person in this entire state that would say….oh yeah…lets get a row boat and paddle ourselves to the other side of the lake tonight!

I think if I was one of the disciples I might have said…..hey Jesus…how about NOT….lets wait until morning like most sane people would do!

Anyway, that is not the point, but it does make for some good light hearted consideration.  It kind of helps us to put some historical perspective on what can often be remote or ambiguous.

But then lets try this perspective…..have you ever had the opportunity to lay out on a blanket under the stars out in the country away from any light pollution….and gaze up at the massive Milky Way galaxy and it spreads its light across the night sky?

It’s an amazing experience….and this is but one galaxy in the infinite mass of space….there are scientists believe over 100 billion observable galaxies in the universe!

Let’s face it, this little tiny planet of earth is hardly even a fly speck in the face of God’s creation, and we as people aren’t even the tip of a pin spot.

So do we really believe that God could possibly care?  Here is the Good News my friends…yes God does!  God cares so much, that we believe God became one of us, in Christ.  God became one of us, so that we could know that there is nothing, no human experience that God does not understand.  Even death….but all the readings from our Scriptures this weekend remind us to keep our lives in perspective.

If you think the thought of 100 billion galaxies is mind boggling, try understanding how vastly enormous God is that God would choose to become one with the people of the fly speck in the Milky Way….

It is a beautiful reminder that Christ gave to the disciples and to us…Why are you terrified…Do you not have faith?

I sent my beloved to be one with you….do you not believe that I am with you always?

Yes I am with you….in the joys and in the sorrows….in the dreams and in the dredges….I am with you in the ecstasy and in the agonies of life.

Christ didn’t come to take us out of this world or out of the experience of being human; Christ came so that we would know we never walk through that experience alone.

You see my friends….it is precisely why we gather each and every week around a table….bless and break bread, bless and share a cup…to remind ourselves and each other that we will never be alone.  We have each other, and we have a God who loved us so much that God chose to become one with us.

And here is the real kicker….that faith is not only God’s gift, it is our decision as well.  We….you and I can decide we are going to add to that gift…to help it grow in the lives of others, or we can become dynamically apathetic and dissipate God’s dynamism.

I hope that when God looks over all those billions of Galaxies and sees this one little fly speck, I hope and pray that God’s response is something like….wow….look at that….see how they love one another?  That is just why I created them!

I honestly believe…..if God could say anything to each and everyone of us tonight, it would very well be something like this….

Thank you….for being a light in the darkness, for being hope in the sorrow, and thank you for being you!