Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Shall We Dance?

Shall We Dance?
Psalm 30; John 21:1-19

Some years ago, I found myself in a new relationship. After dating for awhile, this beautiful woman agreed to become my wife. I was so happy, I could dance. Except, I really couldn’t dance. So, in anticipation of our wedding day and the reception, and the traditional “first dance,” we signed up for a special deal at a dance studio. We were going to learn how to dance. With the introductory special, the teachers took us through the steps for the fox trot, and then there was waltz, west coast swing, mambo, samba, chacha, rumba. By this time, I was more confused than confident. When the introductory sessions ended, they sat down with us to offer a package to learn more. For another $2K we could become proficient dancers. We weren’t preparing to audition for Dancing with the Stars! If you attended our wedding and reception you may not remember the first dance. We were too busy enjoying our guests.

Deanna is a woman about my age. She was living in New York City for a time. Deanna enjoyed getting around on the subways, but also she enjoyed the sights and sounds of the subway stations. One day there were two blues bands that were a bit closer than usual. They got into a competition of sorts, playing back and forth, point-counterpoint, call and response. A crowd had gathered to enjoy the the moment. In the group was one particular woman. She was dressed with layers that were more than what the weather might indicate. Her colors were varied and mis-matched. She had all the appearance of a person who lived day to day without the comfort and security of a traditional home.

What caught Deanna’s attention, though, was when this woman began spontaneously moving to the music. Her first movements were followed by more, and then she stepped into an open area and began to dance, dancing to the music that filled the tunnel. Deanna handed her bags to her companion and stepped into the open space. She approached the woman and simply said, “May I join you?” The woman invited her in, and together, the two swayed and stepped and danced. For a few moments the two were lost in the joy and abandon of sharing the dance. What struck me, when I first heard her tell her story was that she approached the woman without judgement, without prejudice. She did not try to teach her how to dance properly, but joined her in the dancing that brought her a moment of joy. Deanna was simply joining her in her dance of life where joy and grace abounds.

There is something about the image of dancing: not so much as a precise form of art but as engaging in life with joy and abandon.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Not Doctrine but Compassion


The movement of Christ followers was once called The Way, in some circles. My impression is that these were folks who had known Jesus, had seen his life, been touched by his ministry and sought to follow in his way of love, compassion, justice, inclusiveness, and peace. Then the group grew large enough that it became more established and became “The Church.” People and leaders quickly began posturing and defining. The posturing is for influence and control ("church politics"); and the defining was to determine what are the acceptable and not acceptable beliefs and tenets of faith (doctrine). Once the Church became established as the official religion by a government, it was like giving a shot of steroids to an athlete. Now the battles for control of the organization and control of people’s thoughts and beliefs took on more urgency. Lines were drawn. Some people were declared to be “In” and others were “Out.” Some doctrines were declared "wrong" or heretical. Those people, no matter how they might have tried to be faithful to their understanding of Jesus, were ostracized or, worse, tortured and killed. And all "in the name of Christ." 

So, IF your doctrine is to help YOU understand what you believe so that you can follow the WAY of CHRIST more faithfully, the way of COMPASSION, of “Love your neighbor,” and “love your enemy,” and “do unto the least of these” . . . then I would honor and celebrate what you believe, even if it is different from what I might believe. But IF your doctrine is to define you as RIGHT and others as WRONG, if it identifies you as SAVED while others are DAMNED, if it creates a wall that separates you from “heretics” or “infidels,” . . .  well, please know that I will gladly stand on the side of the heretics, and will continue to seek to live (imperfectly, perhaps) in a compassionate, Christ-like manner and will love you in so far as you will allow me to.

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Things That Come In Threes

Things That Come In Threes
Isiaah 6:1-8; John 3:1-17

Today is Trinity Sunday. We love the stories that are told and retold over the course of the church year: Christmas, Easter, Pentecost, the parables of Jesus, the stories in Acts about the Apostles and the church. And then we have Trinity Sunday. This is the one Sunday that focuses on a doctrine of the church. When preachers choose to preach a Trinity Sunday sermon, they generally take on the impossible task of explaining something that is beyond explanation. I’ve done it, more than once - sometimes with reasonably good response; other times putting a congregation to sleep with theological mumbo-jumbo. So, today, I am NOT going to attempt explaining what we mean by the Trinity. But I do hope to play with the idea of Trinity so that you might experience something of the mystery of God.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Out of Darkness

Easter Sunrise Message – 2012
John 20:1-10; Psalm 116:1-9,23-26; Isaiah 25:6-9; John 20:11-18

On Saturday, two weeks before Easter, I began working on my message for the Sunrise Service. I was reviewing the scripture readings for the day and pulling together a liturgy and bulletin information to share with other worship leaders. And in the middle of my reflections I got a disturbing phone call. It was a call to let me know about the death of Rachel, a beautiful young woman whose life was full of promise. My focus on the celebration of Easter was interrupted by the terrible reality of the darkness of life. My thoughts, my prayers, my heart turned to Rachel's family and the pain and grief that they were experiencing, even as I was preparing for celebrating good news.