Something Weird Happened!
Part of my morning routine is reading several online newspapers: the Austin American Statesman, Houston Chronicle, and Corpus Christi Caller Times. Most of the news seems to be a regurgitation of previous news stories. For a change of pace, I decided I would look at the Episcopal News Service to see if there was something interesting to read about. There were stories about Diocesan politics from Springfield, Illinois and court battles in South Carolina. It was a mirror of these other newspapers. As I scanned the articles, I saw a small teaser at the bottom of the page — “Third Season of ‘The Way of Love’ podcast continues with guest Richard Rohr”. Looking at the various podcast topics on the Episcopal Church website, I began to reflect on the last few months.
Beginning on July 6, 2020 I will begin blogging for forty days (excluding Sundays). Each day you will be invited to read prayers “In the Morning”, “In the Evening” and Daily Scripture. At the same time, you will be invited to listen to a variety of Podcasts periodically.
August 20, 2020 – Forty-First Day
I pray that, according to the riches of his glory, he may grant that you may be strengthened in your inner being with power through his Spirit, and that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith, as you are being rooted and grounded in love. I pray that you may have the power to comprehend, with all the saints, what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, so that you may be filled with all the fullness of God. Now to him who by the power at work within us is able to accomplish abundantly far more than all we can ask or imagine, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen. Ephesians 3:16-21
A note about this blog: This is the last day of this “40” day journey. I’m going to take a break for a couple of weeks and then I will begin a different series. I’ll let you know when we’re going to start again. Thank you for your prayers and support. In the meantime, I encourage you to use the Daily Meditation from Forward Day by Day.
In seminary, we took a class known as Moral Theology. Moral Theology focuses on the development of moral principles and norms and their application to human actions in general and particular situations in the light of Christian revelation.
My professor spent a considerable amount of time talking about “core beliefs” and all other beliefs.
He defined "core beliefs" as the beliefs that are essential to our faith. He believed that each Christian should have two or three beliefs that are their core beliefs and the rest should be “ordinary” beliefs. For example, one of my core beliefs is that Jesus is Lord. If my church were to claim that Jesus was a good guy but not Lord, I would be forced to find a different place to worship because my core belief did not match the core belief of my church. I believe that women should be allowed to be priests, but it is not one of my core beliefs. If my Church decided that women shouldn’t be ordained to the priesthood, this shouldn’t result in me leaving the Church. I should remain and participate in a dialogue about this issue.
My professor’s lament was that people have grouped a large number of ordinary beliefs on this “core belief” level, and as a result, many debates become “life or death” and people leave church rather than accepting a variety of beliefs.
The Episcopal Church has long been praised for its embrace of via media which is a Latin phrase translated as "middle way" or the "way between two extremes." The via media came into religious usage when Anglicans began to refer to the Church of England as a middle way between the extremes of Roman Catholicism and Puritanism.
Via media is often misunderstood in a negative way to mean compromise or unwillingness to take a firm position. However, for Aristotle and those Anglicans who have used it, the term refers to the "golden mean" which is recognized as a more adequate expression of truth between the weaknesses of extreme positions. (from "An Episcopal Dictionary of the Church, A User Friendly Reference for Episcopalians")
It seems to me that Richard Rohr (today’s podcast) is lamenting the loss of via media in the world and the infinite number of beliefs now elevated to be core beliefs.
Rohr expresses his frustration with the thought that we have lost sight of the real teachings of Jesus. As Richard Rohr theorized “Are we all pretending to follow Jesus?
Rohr and Bishop Curry both talk about the need to begin living the Word, to embrace the Sermon on the Mount, and ultimately to remember that it is all about Love. Christmas – the birth of Jesus – is the celebration of the incarnation of LOVE. It has always been about LOVE. Not sentimental LOVE but selfless Christian love of one another (Agape Love).
Rohr thinks that we may be trying to put God in a box rather than allowing ourselves to see the Holy Trinity in all things. During my first week of seminary, my Old Testament professor began the study of Genesis by saying “The Book of Genesis does not begin with the words ‘In the beginning’. The Book of Genesis begins like this ‘… in the beginning’.” She said that the ellipsis was crucial because before the “beginning” God has always been. Before the “beginning” Jesus has always been. Before the beginning, the Spirit has always been. The Holy Trinity is in everything from before the beginning and will always be in everything. Everything was created by God and everything is sacred. We can’t toss aside anyone because they may disagree with us. We cannot maliciously destroy something or kill something because it pleases us. God is in all things.
During this pandemic, I have binged watched a few shows. There are a lot of Alaskan wilderness shows. I’ve enjoyed watching them and experiencing some of the customs and cultures revealed. One thing that was striking to me was the respect for the beasts of nature and the customs associated with killing game animals. There is almost always a blessing for an animal when it is killed. In one instance the animal’s head was positioned to face the rising sun and a few strands of grass were placed in its mouth to serve as a reminder that all creatures live, die, and become nutrients for life to renew itself again. Everything is created by God and God is in everything.
Jesus is not all about me. Jesus is about us – ALL of us whether or not we are all Christians. (Hymnal #529: In Christ there is no East or West, in Him no South or North, but one great fellowship of love throughout the whole wide earth.)
We were all created by God and we are all sacred.
I worry for my children that the material world is evolving into a winner-take-all, spare-no-prisoners mentality. That world cannot sustain itself. We end up in a revolving cycle of winners and losers and retribution. In the end, we all lose. We are saved not because we won the race or earned a certain number of “salvation points.” We are saved “not because of anything we have done but because of God’s purpose and grace. This grace was given us in Christ Jesus before the beginning of time, but it has now been revealed through the appearing of our Savior, Christ Jesus, who has destroyed death and has brought life and immortality to light through the gospel.” 2 Timothy 1:9b-10
So, after those ramblings, I pray that we can find a middle way again based upon the teachings of Christ where our “ordinary” beliefs are not obstacles to loving our neighbor but ways in which to learn about one another. I pray that we can live in a world where we use the Sermon on the Mount as a roadmap for our spiritual journeys. I pray that agape love is considered a virtue rather than a weakness.
Notes of Items Referenced in Richard Rohr’s Podcast:
Richard Rohr’s favorite book: The Perfect Joy of Saint Francis by Felix Timmermans
Enneagram: Saint Barnabas’ Wisdom School has presented teachings on the Enneagram. Enneagrams focus on the patterns that define our lives, determining what we pay attention to, moment by moment. Enneagrams help us shift our focus from personality-based patterns of emotion, thought, and behavior to the Soul gifts we already possess, but may have forgotten. The Enneagram is an invitation to release the personality masks we present to the world — often unconsciously. When we let go of the masks, our Soul’s qualities have room to express their beauty, bringing kindness and compassion to ourselves and others.
A Note about the Way of Love:
There is one more podcast on the Way of Love. It is an interview with Ruby Sales. Ruby was the child that Jonathan Daniels stood in front of to prevent her from being shot during racial strife in the South in the 1960s. Jonathan Daniels was an Episcopal seminarian killed while working in the civil rights movement in Hayneville, near Selma, Alabama. Daniels and three companions were arrested and imprisoned on Aug. 14, 1965, for joining a picket line. They were unexpectedly released six days later. They walked to a small store. As Ruby Sales, a sixteen-year-old African American woman, approached the entrance of the store, a deputy sheriff appeared with a shotgun and cursed her. Daniels pulled her to one side and was killed by a single blast from the shotgun. His life and witness are commemorated in the Episcopal calendar of the church year on Aug. 14. I would encourage you to listen to the podcast.
August 20, 2020 – Fortieth Day
What then are we to say about these things? If God is for us, who is against us? He who did not withhold his own Son, but gave him up for all of us, will he not with him also give us everything else? Who will bring any charge against God's elect? It is God who justifies. Who is to condemn? It is Christ Jesus, who died, yes, who was raised, who is at the right hand of God, who indeed intercedes for us. Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will hardship, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? As it is written, "For your sake we are being killed all day long; we are accounted as sheep to be slaughtered." No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. Romans 8:31-39
Today is day 40 of our blog! It has been a wonderful journey with you but we are going to add one additional day. On day 41 we will have our final day of prayers, blog, and Richard Rohr’s podcast.
These 40 plus days have been a fun experience of being prayerful and reflective. I’m not quite sure where God is ultimately leading me but I can sense a new peacefulness as a result of this process.
One of the things that Shane Claiborne spoke about two days ago was a community Good Friday service where they read the stations of the cross in his neighborhood. After the service, families who had someone die because of gun violence were given the opportunity to speak. Shane said it was as if “The tears of the moms 2000 years ago met the tears of our moms. The passion of Jesus met the passion of our neighborhood and the suffering here.” A woman whose 19-year-old son had recently been killed said “God knows what it feels like to lose your boy.”
Throughout the trials and tribulations of life, there are often times that we feel alone. By praying each day – having a conversation with God – we are constantly reminded that we are not alone. Our faith is strengthened to know that God is very much with us and those we love.
I am often comforted by the knowledge that God is the first to cry during times of tragedy. God rejoices with us when we have been lost but then are found. And, God is with us during the ordinariness of our day.
I am attaching a copy of a song performed by Fran McKendree called “God was There” (the link is just above this blog entry). I think it is a beautiful reminder of God’s unending love of God’s imperfect people.