Friday, July 29, 2011

Redeemer Devotions - July 29, 2011

Adventures... in Hope - Redeemer Devotions 

Mount Shoop notes that there are two collective wounds of our dis-embodied faith: the wound of intellectualization and the wound of fear. Again today we will listen to her thought about the first - intellectualization.

It is perilous to keep our faith above the neck. In psychoanalysis, "intellectualization" is a defense mechanism that protects us from stress, anxiety, and discomfort associated with confronting painful problems or fears.
In mainline religion this intellectualization is a collective defense against an embodied surrender to the mysterious and idolsyncratic nature of religious experience. It keeps us from acknowledging and expressing embodied pain, confusion, delight, and ambiguity. These are the marks of how we are created, yet we awkwardly conceal ourselves from such disclosures in church. The habituated nature of this collective defense has entrenched our dis-embodied dis-ease. We instead tend to reason our way through divine mystery with theology, through human pain with theodicy, through religious experience with orderly liturgy, and through diversity with mission statements about inclusion. This arsenal of intellectualization leaves us feeling cut off, denied, and blocked from embodied expression by our holy habits of operation.


Sounds like we are quite good at keeping the 'sacred' at arms length. Not too close that we would be pull into it and not too far away that we could not talk about it - from a safe distance. What we miss is the balance. We must let ourselves move into the ambiguity of the holy and yet we also have the responsibility to make sure we are not being pulled into a holy mess that is not at all reflective of the God of all hopefulness. So there is a need to be able to discern spirits. And yet, we do not do that from a distance. We must be close up and walking into the middle of all the life that disturbs us and makes us quake. It is there that we cannot just comment or try to put things in order. Rather, the Spirit makes us experience the fullness of the mess that is life that is holy, sacred, utterly human.


Connection: Recently a woman said that she was afraid that she might start to cry when she came to worship - the words of the hymns are powerful - the music stirs her - the variety of people inspire her. Mix all of that together, and there is a good chance there will be tears.  Well, then let there be tears. Let there be a humanity present that is overwhelmed by the sacred and aware of the brokenness and pain and joy that is in all of our lives.


When we are broken and in need of healing, O God, you invite us to come to you and rest. In prayer we have your ear and we begin to hear what it is to let go and allow some space in which we are open to another voice than our own. In your voice - silent and constant - comes life that even cuts through our great powers we think we have. Again, there is only thanks. Amen.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Redeemer Devotions - July 28, 2011

Adventures... in Hope - Redeemer Devotions 

Mount Shoop notes that there are two collective wounds of our dis-embodied faith: the wound of intellectualization and the wound of fear. For a while, we will listen to her thought about the first - intellectualization.

She begins with a scene in a hospital where the woman she is with does not really want her to pray with her - but, pastor, if you need to do it all right. She continues:
For Sarah prayer was an irrational thing that pastors did in hospitals, far from any kind of connective tissue of the Body of Christ. He strong commitment to justice was her spiritual calling card; prayer was meaningless in a world where rational thinking informs doing. Sarah put her faith into action. Hers was a faith embodied on the ethical layer of her being and doing. And, to be sure, all the work of great saints like Sarah is embodied and deeply important to how the Body of Christ is alive in the world. But her dismissal of prayer trivialized how her faith could be transformative in her life, not to mention the lives of those for whom she could be in prayer. Prayer was intellectually embarrassing and pragmatically useless to her religious sensitivity. Sarah's faith had integrity, but the mysterious power of prayer made no sense in her well-ordered system.
Our fear of prayer or our disassociation with prayer is part of the dis-ease that comes when we allow our intellect to rule and to be the only way we move forward. The dis-ease is one in which we lose our ability to dream - to imagine - to let ourselves wander out into a place and time that is beyond our ability to control and manage. Just this week in a meeting about life within our congregation, someone used the expression dis-ease to give me a picture of myself. My dis-ease was one part a need to be in control - one part trying to be the problem-solver - one part a lack of imagination. Damn - I thought I was good at faithful imagination. But then again, under the pull of fear and uncertainty fear can easily infect me and one of the aspect of the dis-ease is a journey into my problem-solving intellectualization. A place that bring very little new life - just the same old same old. Damn.


Connection:  When I do let myself pray and when others pray there is no magic - but there sure is connection and the grand reminder of my limits and what is available to all of us from our God who is always saying 'rest in me alone.'


When we are broken and in need of healing, O God, you invite us to come to you and rest. In prayer we have your ear and we begin to hear what it is to let go and allow some space in which we are open to another voice than our own. In your voice - silent and constant - comes life that even cuts through our great powers we think we have. Again, there is only thanks. Amen.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Redeemer Devotions - July 27, 2011

Adventures... in Hope - Redeemer Devotions 

Today continue in this new section in "Let the Bones Dance" called 'Triage for the Church.'

When we habituate a need for certainty and/or conformity this Body is informed by fear of otherness and avoidance of ourselves. Can we have vibrant, robust, zestful churches when we are comfortable with homogeneity? Can we embody God's redemptive promise if we still live in fear? Can we imagine that God empowers us to embody contradictions? Just as a laboring woman rides waves of delight and devastation, self-assertion and surrender, so too can the church collectively give birth to new life. WE cannot do this, however, without embracing the support and wisdom of God's diverse kingdom. And we cannot do it out of fear. We can listen, respond, create, and nourish this new embodied life when we attend to our wounds, resist triviality, and surrender to the divine imagination that sees who we can be.


Too often fear is named as that which shuts down the body of Christ. It also shuts down all that is - life itself. Even when fear is used to 'get something done' or 'get people to act' - we are living as dead ones who are unable and unwilling to embrace the creative imagination of our God that frees and liberates and heals. It doesn't have to be much fear - just a sliver - just a 'but' - just a hesitation before one announces good news. Within that hesitation - people see and hear and feel the power of fear and before the Spirit is able to lift us up, we run away. The life we are given by our God - the life we see in Jesus - moves us out of the boat - has us walk where we have always been told we cannot walk. And yet, when the church is 'vibrant, robust and zestful' fear has no place to rest until it gives up its power and allows for something other to come to life in its place. Not an easy adventure - but quite necessary.


Connection:  What would be be like as people who are encouraged to walk through our fear into a life rich with the presence of the Spirit of God.?


When we are broken and in need of healing, O God, you calm our fears and inspire us to see the holy presence of a people who are made in your image for the welfare of the world. We give you thanks. Amen.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Redeemer Devotions - July 26, 2011

Adventures... in Hope - Redeemer Devotions 

Today we enter a new section in "Let the Bones Dance" called 'Triage for the Church.'

Sacred communities cannot rest in triviality; their very nature is to flourish in the infinite resources of proximity to God. Church is gathered for a sacred purpose: to cultivate conditions that enable our lives to be tangled up more and more with God. Sacred communities can be bold in this divine gift of purpose. And sacred communities can find humility in our constant need to interrogate just how robustly we embody this purpose. Sacred communities embody feeling and its mode of operation with the same impulse toward zest that our particular bodies do. Our bodies hold the wounds inflicted by triviality. So does the Body of Christ. When we cut off layers of our relationship with God in order to protect the ways we have always done things, we hare this Body. When we deny our deep connections to everything that is, this Body suffers from ruptures of relationality. The Body of Christ is diminished when feeling is thwarted.


Once again there is at least one great line in the above quote. Church is gathered for a sacred purpose: to cultivate conditions that enable our lives to be tangled up more and more with God. Being so tangled up with God means we are more and more tangled up with others. To be tangled up means we are taking the time to see what is going on and how we will come out on the other side of the entanglement. Maybe, as we are more and more tangled with God our lives take on more and more of the character of our God because we have come so close and have to deal with who this God is and who we become when we claim that we are God's beloved. When we are superficial and we are consumed by the trivial our lives - our wounds are never exposed and shared. We then - whither for lack of a depth of community that is like that good soil image in the parable. We must not fear questions that bring us to the brink of what is unknown and uncertain. For there, in that wrestling and being tangled up with God, we come away with a bit more of what the character of God's beloved is to be.


Connection:  Lives tangled up more and more with God is not walk through life with language that we can use to give people the image that we are walking with God. Rather it may be that as our lives are tangled up - we are more likely to feel free to rest and watch and step forward into new life.


When we are broken and in need of healing, O God, you enter into our brokenness and we are never alone. In your presence comes the deep healing that builds the Beloved Community. Amen.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Redeemer Devotions - July 25, 2011

Adventures... in Hope - Redeemer Devotions 

More from "Sacred Wounds" in "Let the Bones Dance."

Sacred ground is created not where God is revealed as untouchable, but where God becomes touchable. The sacred is filled up with this purpose. In sacred communities we come close to God. We are touched by God. We are empowered to embody God in the way we live as bodies and as Christ's Body. This proximity to God comes with a distinct character: sacred spaces invite us into a divinely inspired way of being together and of being human. Fear and avoidance in sacred communities keeps us from the depths of God's redemptive promises for us. What if telling the truth really does set us free? What if living a lie really does afflict us?


Unfortunately fear and avoidance is the mode of operation within many communities that claim to be sacred. Fear becomes the glue that seems to hold such communities together. And yet, it is outside of the controlling nature of fear that we really become able to experience our God just in the place where God intends to be revealed - those with whom we live and those who may seem to be enemies. We need not fear our humanity. It is the gift given to us. It is as one human that God touches us through Jesus. This is both the Jesus of the past and the Body of Christ, Jesus, today - God with us as us. Yes, there will be and there are expressions of our lives that fall way short of the creative and loving body given to us by our God, but we continue to move back into the community to see God more and more clearly in those outside of us and even among us when we are a people who confess to how we fall short of being those who are infinitely beloved.  


Connection:  Maybe if we were able and willing to see within the ordinary - the sacred - we would begin to see the reconciling nature of the one we call the Christ, of God and it would be a power available to all.


Here we see ourselves in you, O God of New Life.  Each day is filled with the sacred for nothing is outside the bounds of your blessed Reign. It is here and now that we give you thanks for the life that we are entering and the promise that comes within this day.  Amen.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Redeemer Devotions - July 22, 2011

Adventures... in Hope - Redeemer Devotions 

AMore from "Sacred Wounds" in "Let the Bones Dance."

God seeks closer relationship with humanity. This yearning for relationship not only shines a light on the one who reveals God's nature to us; it shines on us, on our human nature, that we might see ourselves more clearly in relationship to God.
This intimacy with God often may not feel like a cool breeze or a toasty campfire. This interdependence is awe-inspiring, confusing, even terrifying. Like the disciples who witness Jesus' transfiguration, we are not sure what to say or do. We grope for the sacred. The most bone-chilling layer of this entanglement with Divinity may just be that God's revelations tell who we are too. Jesus shows us who we are with utter clarity. He bears the sins of the world; he shines a light on our humanity. He shows us our shadows, our best face, and the divine capacity in each of us.


A light that shines on us that we might see ourselves more clearly in relationship with God - what a wonderful image. The light shines that we will see what it already - we are grasped and beloved of God. This is not just me - it is also you - it is also the you that I stand to be with.  Andy yet, in this light of God we are able to see the relationship God has with all of us - All Beloved. All of life is a sacred journey in relationship with God and one another. What I also like about Mount Shoop's comment here is that we are seen holistically. As she notes - our shadows, our best face, and the divine capacity in each of us. Usually we do not want to see our own shadows - just those of people we want to be in the shadow and separate from us. But our God pulls us out into the open and through Jesus, we are reconciled with each other and the God who claims the whole bunch of us.
Connection:  Still the most difficult part of this journey as God's Beloved - to love the other no matter who it is and how hard it is to step up and re-vision life.


Here we see ourselves in you, O God of New Life.  Continue to inspire us that you love will be the power of life that move us into this day.  Amen.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Redeemer Devotions - July 21, 2011

Adventures... in Hope - Redeemer Devotions 

More from "Sacred Wounds" and the life that unfolds in a congregation as we continue the process of being in-formed.

Our spiritual instincts may be dulled when embodied feeling is not encouraged to stretch in our religious sensitivities. Our habits can obscure the sacred quality of the unconventional. Being in-formed by dissonant experiences and practices may not be aesthetically pleasing to many. The experience can feel like an untuned piano sounds to an ear accustomed to a finely tuned instrument. Institutional bodywork takes time to settle into us to feel our way into God's unpredictable movements among us.  


We all have to make adjustments. There are ways in which we walk and live and love and worship. To have to enter into something that is not as we would prefer to have it - well, it can be hard. No one wants to sit through me trying to work my way through a cello piece for the first time - not even me. But later - even with some of the awful sounds I can produce as I go through a so-called simple piece - even my cats begin to not fear coming close. Within the community of the faithful, we are invited to be patient and listen and hold hands and pray for one another as we experience that which is not what we would prefer not to experience or at least, not yet. Community does take time to unfold and grow and mature. Like wine - I suppose.    


Connection:  We may not always have life the way we want it. That is when we learn to grow and become more than what we are.


Here we see ourselves in you, O God of New Life.  Even among those who are so different from us there is your face and your love. And yet, we need you to inspire us to look again and gracefully walk with others.   Amen.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Redeemer Devotions - July 20, 2011

Adventures... in Hope - Redeemer Devotions 

More from "Sacred Wounds" in Let the Bones Dance by Marcia W. Mount Shoop.

As we deepen our embodied understanding, we ask questions with a more finely tuned ear for the sacred and the profane. How does the church embody it sacred character? Are we fulfilling a sacred purpose in what happens in church? What is sacred about our spaces, practices, and expressions of church? Opening ourselves up to new practices, new music, and new movement can feel like a desecration, an abomination of what is sacred. I have heard in numerous churches the sentiment that the sanctuary is "desecrated" when people clap or when we use a different kind of music in worship. Our attempts to recognize the sacred in our midst and in our modes of church is dangerous work in a disembodied faith.


The new or the 'out of the ordinary' has a way of stopping folks in their tracks. It is as though we cannot go there because that is not how it has been among us up until now. And yet, as we begin to see how wonderful we can be as a diverse people within one body, we will see how important it is to hear and see and take part in praise and thanksgiving that may be outside of our usual practice. No doubt, some will not go along with these kinds of 'changes' to the pattern we know. Then again, some will find themselves blessed in seeing and hearing the Good News wrapped up in the midst of a new texture of an experience.


Connection:  What seems to be most wonderful about experiencing something new in worship is the simple fact that we begin to see beyond ourselves and how this love of God grabs hold of others and the response to that love differs - and yet it is all focused on God's action.


Here we see ourselves in you, O God of New Life.  Even when we enter into strange environments you are available and pull us more closely to one another.  Amen.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Redeemer Devotions - July 19, 2011

Adventures... in Hope - Redeemer Devotions 

More from "Sacred Wounds" in Let the Bones Dance by Marcia W. Mount Shoop.

The profane violates, abuses, or vulgarizes with intense irreverence for the purpose for which something has been set apart. To profane is to do violence through an utter disregard for the very nature of that which is sacred. Often the word is used, however, to label those who are rejected or marginalized. This word, "profane," has been used to degrade and diminish everyone from lepers and prostitutes to women who speak in church and those who love people of their same gender. A more accurate example of the profane is when a bomb goes off in the middle of a mosque in Iraq or Pakistan during a time of prayer for Muslims. This act desecrates with a profanity that we can all recognize as a violation of the sacred intention of that space.


Many thoughts were flying through my mind during the reading of this piece. Some would involve more space and time than is available here. Ask me sometime. Could it be that some of the 'work' of religious organizations can be considered quite profane. That is, it takes what has been considered sacred and uses that position in a way that oppresses and violates and disregards the least among us. You might think I'm beginning to write about clergy abuse within the church (priests/pastors taking advantage of minors). But no - instead, my thoughts wander to the many ways the church and other faiths completely disregard certain people. Another way is through the operation of the religious institution that have squeezed life from the people in order to build an empire of sorts - that can be anything from the grand structure of the Roman church to the temples built for the egos of some very wealthy pastors of very big self-promoting churches. There is much to discuss here.< /div>


Connection:  What is sacred in your eyes? What calls you toward the living Reign of God and the fullness of life there? When is that violated - why?


Here we see ourselves in you, O God of New Life.  Continue to make us a holy people who long to bless the life of those around us so that all will be held up as your beloved even when the world rejects them and us. Amen.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Redeemer Devotions - July 18, 2011

Adventures... in Hope - Redeemer Devotions 

More from "Sacred Wounds" in Let the Bones Dance by Marcia W. Mount Shoop.

This vision of sacred community founds us even as we struggle to find our own expression of it. Our time is no different than any other that acutely experiences cultural transitions. We ask ourselves: Is nothing sacred? We usually ask this question out of bewilderment when "the way things were" no longer lines up with "the way things are."  Is nothing sacred? Is there nothing that stands apart nothing that is protected from the vagaries of time? Is there nothing that can preserve treasured traditions and hallowed values?
This question has a complicated history. It has sounded off the lips of those who sought to protect systems of segregation, of those who wanted their own privileges to be untouchable, of those who wanted to be entitled to reverence because of their station in life. We can mistake the sacred quality of something for our own grasping, for our own privilege, for our own comfort. So when we hear this question in our churches, and in our cultures: "Is nothing sacred?" we need to be clear on what we are asking. Something is sacred when it is set apart for the purpose of serving and /or worshiping the Divine. It is dedicated to that purpose and therefore entitled to special regard. It is allowed to hold sacred content, and it is saved for certain kinds of activities and modes of experience that are, themselves, sacred or consecrated. This sacredness (in content and mode) is handled with care by protecting it from the profane.


This was a long piece, but the two paragraphs just had to be tied together. Too often, that which we call sacred is just as is noted here - it is what we have and want to keep just as we have it. It has nothing to do with the God of creation who calls forth peace, care of creation,  justice, mercy, and forgiveness. Instead it is all about holding on - hoarding you could say. Mount Shoop's use of the image of segregation is quite good. Whenever someone tries (even today) to break down the walls that put people out and keep other in, they are ridiculed and verbally abused. The banner reads "Is there nothing sacred anymore?"  Well, yes there is. It is the life into which we are called when we follow the God of Liberation and all Hopefulness. Sacred is the way that opens up the fullness of life within God's reigning power to all people. This could be the same way I would talk about sacredness in regard to how we live with people who are different from what I can see as 'normal' - whatever that may be. Sacredness includes and brings together within the one embrace of God's grace - all God's beloved. I have yet to hear of any people or any person that is not within that embrace.  Oh, I've heard many people make lists of people who must be outside that embrace. And yet, it is always about the embrace of the people who are trying to dictate another meaning of sacred - their own - about their own lives and wants.
Connection:  Blessed are you and holy is the way you have been called to live within the full embrace of our God alongside all who share that place with you.


Here we see ourselves in you, O God of New Life.  We give you thanks for opening up our lives to see the wide expanse of your love and the life that is before us.  Amen.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Redeemer Devotions - July 15, 2011

Adventures... in Hope - Redeemer Devotions 

More from "Sacred Wounds" in Let the Bones Dance by Marcia W. Mount Shoop.

God is trying to carve out a relationship with this group of humans so that they can live to their best potential, so they can live in a world in which life is respected (thou shall not kill), so they can trust each other (thou shall not lie or steal). God urges humanity to know how to work and how to rest and how to live with each other so that everyone's humanity is affirmed. This sacred purpose makes the Law itself sacred.


I find the ten commandments to be a beautiful and liberating gift.It is not a measure. It is not something that is used to make sure we can judge who is right or good and who is wrong and bad. It is a gift to enable us to be truly human - made in the image of God. The moment we turn the commandments into an evaluative tool against other or for us, it becomes common and is not sacred among us. Any set of rules can dictate morality. This gift reminds us of who we are. It reminds us to shine as the beloved of God. It lifts us up to see the creative brilliance that exists as our humanity unfolds in the image of God. We are not being told what we are to do. It is - in some ways - a canvas that bids us to design the gift of life that is handed to all of us in such a manner that our humanity is communal. That is what is so profound here. We are not trying to create an individual mark. This is about all of us together - the light that shines among us so that as we each shine, the whole shines all the more and God is visibly present to the world.

Connection:  You shall live boldly as the beloved of God in the shape and manner of the humanity that is ours.


Here we see ourselves in you, O God of New Life.  You continue to invite us into your realm of glory and all hopefulness and it is there that we find in ourselves what you already see in us - a beloved children. Thanks be to you, O God.  Amen.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Redeemer Devotions - July 14, 2011

Adventures... in Hope - Redeemer Devotions 

Today we will move from "Holy Habits" to "Sacred Wounds" in Let the Bones Dance by Marcia W. Mount Shoop.

God's sacred nature is poured into human life when God comes close enough to change a tribe of people in the Exodus account. God is not untouchable, but radically close, close enough to see who they could really be at their best. God seeks relationship, and the sacred is born out of this brush of humanity with the Divine. God's proximity makes Moses shine not just in his own countenance; but this glow shines a light on who humanity is and who we can be at our best: communities built on trust and respect and truth. This best-case scenario that the Law communicates is the founding vision of sacred community in our Judeo-Christian heritage.


Divine storytelling is about the worth of humanity and who we are to be. Out in the wilderness away from all the powers of the world comes a gathering of people who - with nothing going for them - are invited into the very image of God. Once again we hear about the vital place of being relational people. God in relation to us and we then in relation to God and to one another. The Law is merely a reminder of the life that is ours when all the relationships are honored and God's image shines as close by as the people all around us. It could very well be that we don't want to think of God as being so close. When God is among us, that means that our neighbors are not ones we can dismiss because they are a part of the unfolding image of God. In the meantime, we are given the responsibility of loving God as we love neighbor and loving neighbor as we love our God. This is all about life - now - here - each moment - and every day. We are not people  pointing off into the future and anxiously awaiting another day. Rather we are stepping off into the day as people living from day to day within the gracious embrace of God. It is here in the wilderness of our lives that we becomes aware of life lived within the realm of trust.

Connection:  Today is another day to practice - put together that image that is ours.


Here we see ourselves in you, O God of New Life.  Here we wrestle with our shortcomings and are given a vision of your image in the midst of all we do. Again we call on your power of life to sustain us and transform us.  Amen.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Redeemer Devotions - July 13, 2011

Adventures... in Hope - Redeemer Devotions 

"Holy Habits" may need to be looked at so that new habits and practices can bring the life of the body to the front.

A normative narrowing of religious experience feeds and has fed mainline Protestant practices. This narrowing had devoured much liturgical/theological space for "otherness" or nonconforming modes of religious life. Ironically this same penchant for limiting what is legitimate religious experience and expression is starting to feed on the very churches that nurtured those mentalities for so long. Mainline churches are shrinking and struggling to find our way in increasingly secular and diverse contexts. Those who yearn for religious community today are not tending toward mainline churches. The rise of nondenominational megachurches, the growing popularity of more informal worship styles, the increased embrace of contemplative practices, and new appropriations of Eastern religious sensitivities are just some traces in churches and in the broader culture of the quest for worship/practice to be more than an intellectual exercise. The biases of Western mentalities of belief and intellect leave the institutions that were formed in these orientations wondering how to adapt. We are being consumed by our own appetite for religious conformity. Churches have serious questions about who and what the church is in today's shifting religious landscape.   


I don't find this disturbing. Rather, it is a a reminder that we need to look up and look around. We do not need to change - simply to change. That is irresponsible. But we need to lift up our eyes and see the many ways that God gathers people to make up the body of Christ. We need to see where there are pieces of vitality that come in various forms and shapes and practices. Nondenominational churches may be growing by leaps and bounds - but that growth does not mean all is good. Having said that, it may mean that they have something to offer. Too quickly I think we begin to think we must jump into another way to worship - give up this and take on that. Well...let's talk and let's look and lets experience what is different and why it "works" (whatever that means). I will always say, let me listen to what is being offered - let me hear if the Good News is proclaimed and brought to life among the people. I deliberately mention the Good News, because there are plenty of ways of moving plenty of people to do plenty of things - without a bit of Good News being offered as the sustaining food for life. Something-less-than-Good-News is really, really quite attractive. So our task to enter into a journey of healing and wholeness is a holy experience that we do not need fear.

Connection:  The horizon of the church stretches farther than we can imagine. Therefore, fear not and venture into that which is not known - or home - or the way you want it. There - out there - we may find what can become a part of new life within the congregations of our lives.


Within the strangeness of all who gather in your name, O God, give us courage and patience to look for the Good News that will pull us into life eternal. Amen.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Redeemer Devotions - July 12, 2011

Adventures... in Hope - Redeemer Devotions 

Today We will jump forward in the section "Holy Habits" in pursuit of more about how we attempt to control what is considered 'holy and proper.'

Our fear and attempted erasure of otherness is not simply an external/institutional/cultural phenomenon, it is an existential experience that estranges us from "others" and from ourselves. We are collectively uncomfortable in our own skin. This reality is embodied in each of us in particular, and in our institutions and practices. Getting to the subdermal aspects of this dis-ease first begs for intentional openness to God's mystery and contradiction. Repentance and accountability, grief and anger, woundedness and survival skills take up spaces in our collective embodied experience. Communal "body" work can tell and heal the layers of our truth. This "body" work can loosen our grip on the inclinations that have formed our collective idols. These hallowed habits are embodied in how we form our worshiping communities and the role we allow for experiential dissonance in these communities.  


Interesting. As I am sitting here writing and reading my upper back on the left side is knotting up and really filled with a deep muscle pain. So, I paused and pressed in on the point that hurts the most. From that place I moved to one close by - even more tender. I then remembered that someone suggested that I get a massage from someone who does 'deep work.' In other words, press on the pain - find out where it is coming from  - follow it to the root - deal with it all. Body work like that is not without pain on top of pain. But it does involve stepping up and dealing as directly as possible with the problem/situation. I don't want to dull the pain with pain-killers without attempting to take a look at what has brought about the pain in the first place. Within the church, we must do this kind of body work. Nothing can simply be left up to the way things are - ignoring the fact that the body is made up of more than one people. The fact that the followers of Jesus are as diverse as can be and that we need that diversity and must own it in order to see ourselves become as new as the life that is promised, is vital for life together. Yes, there will be that experiential dissonance - but that is a part of the hopefulness of new life that is awaiting us all.


Connection:  So, I'm going home and I'm going to pull out this strange massaging stick that allows me to dig deep and reach every part of my back that is taking part in this stream of discomfort. One of my doctors tells me that when one part of my back acts up, I need to go out and walk - just walk. Walking is an easy way to make all the parts of the body work together. That togetherness is part of the work that heals.


Within the strangeness of all who gather in your name, O God, sustain us that we will embrace that which is antithetical to us and yet really very much a part of the whole body. Pull us into the grand arena of your gracious work. Amen.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Redeemer Devotions - July 11, 2011

Adventures... in Hope - Redeemer Devotions 

We pick up from Friday in a section Mount Shoop calls "Holy Habits."

We are also the spiritual children of religion in America, a phenomena with the same gene pool as the nation builders who conquered First Nation Americans and brought slavery to this country. The visceral reaction so many mainline Protestants have to the impending chaos of being "uncivilized" is palpable when something like clapping in church or speaking in tongues occurs in church. Civilization is ours to lose!
"This concept (of civilization) expresses the self-consciousness of the West. One could even say: the national consciousness. It sums up everything in which Western society seeks to describe what constitute its special character and what it is proud of: the level of its technology, the nature of its manners, the development its scientific knowledge or view of the world and much more."
Mainline Protestant churches are and have been tangled up with this concept of civilization for much of our history.
I never looked at our religious life quite in these terms. There is a 'pecking order' of how churches go about their worship and life. The Mainline denominations have a way of looking at less 'liturgical' and orderly forms of worship as though they are not quite right and proper. But our roots - our Methodist, Lutheran, Episcopal, Presbyterian roots - are deeply bound to an 'uncivilized' history. As she notes - we wiped out the natives in this land - we stole people from one continent only to try our hardest to turn them in to animal-like slaves. We the people of find dress and proper liturgical movement and historic hymns and fine building and allegiances with the powers of today are the ones rooted in incivility and the world of brokenness and separation.  How is it that simply clapping and call-and-response singing and spontaneous prayer is looked at as chaos. The real damaging chaos of our history is the one that is created with finely dressed and fine dining folk try to turn church into something it was never intended to be - an outpost of sacredness in the midst of a wilderness or a frontier. And yet, when we allow ourselves to step into a bit of stuff that looks like chaos, we are introduced to the creative edge of a holy experience. It may be that those moments among us will need to be planned - or else we simply give room for something else to become a new part of how we live together.


Connection:  There are so many rules - so many lines drawn like barriers - so many voices that keep speaking up so that that which is different can never be heard or seen. We as Church are better than that.


Within the strangeness of all who gather in your name, O God, move us into the grand domain of your holiness in order to show us more than what we have been willing to see.  Amen.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Redeemer Devotions - July 8, 2011

Adventures... in Hope - Redeemer Devotions 

 I apologize for missing yesterday - I took the 'day off' seriously. Referring back to Barbara - the pentecostal 'spirited' woman who came to Mount Shoop's 'contemplative' prayer time - she note this about church.

This encounter with Barbara is an icon of our situation as mainline Protestants today. We are both settled and restless in our habituated denial of body. Our disease can sometimes be disguised as modes of being church that we feel inclined to protect. We have even created idols out of our dis-embodied mode of church. Even with the room most mainline Protestant congregations have for political and theological disagreements and differences, we expect a great deal of conformity around how we dispose ourselves as church. Mainline Protestants have always preferred a decent, orderly, even mannerly way of being church. Emotional moderation, physical control, and intellectual acumen are the unspoken expectations of those who seek church in these communities. We are heirs of a long tradition of such polished behavior.
I enjoy when someone like Mount Shoop gives us a picture of church that is not all that complimentary. This is especially the case when we have a woman who carries a Ph.D. around and yet is not owned by or possessed by that 'orderly, decent, and mannerly way of being a 'church thinker.' She is taking us on a trip into church as a wider experience than we may have been willing to go. That's good. I do not think she is saying that the way of how we do church is bad or even must go. Rather, I think what she is saying is that we have room - room we often would not let ourselves see or experience. I recall seeing a very 'high' liturgical church (I think it was Roman Catholic) that was able to incorporate some really spirited variation on the theme of liturgical order. It was wonderful. Mount Shoop calls this section of the chapter Holy Habits. Sometimes we all need to look at our habits to see how we have become disconnected with how the world turns and offers new visions and new life. I think this is needed in our worship life and then - out and about in the way our worship life then shapes our life - our everyday life.


Connection:  I still find breathing - good long breathing - breath after breath deep, intentional breathing as being one way to be open to more than what I have claimed to be all that there is.


Within the strangeness of all who gather in your name, O God, help us move into the wide experience of your joy as we gather as your beloved. Amen.