Dreaming of a Harmonious Earth

May 17th, 2024 by JDVaughn No comments »

Brian McLaren shares his vision of a restored Earth where humans live equitably with the Earth, other humans, and the more-than-human world:  

This is my dream, and perhaps it is your dream, and our dream, together: that in this time of turbulence when worlds are falling apart, all of us with willing hearts can come together … together with one another, poor and rich, whatever our race or gender, wherever we live, whatever our religion or education. I dream that some of us, maybe even enough of us, will come together not only in a circle of shared humanity, but in a sphere as big as the whole Earth, to rediscover ourselves as Earth’s multi-colored multi-cultured children, members of Team Earth.  

I dream that the wisdom of Indigenous people, the wisdom of St. Francis and St. Clare and the Buddha and Jesus, the wisdom of climate scientists and ecologists and spiritual visionaries from all faiths could be welcomed into every heart. Then, we would look across this planet and see not economic resources, but our sacred relations … brother dolphin and sister humpback whale, swimming in our majestic indigo oceans, with sister gull and brother frigate bird soaring above them beneath the blue sky. We would see all land as holy land, and walk reverently in the presence of sister meadow and brother forest, feeling our kinship with brother bald eagle and sister box turtle, sister song sparrow and brother swallowtail butterfly, all our relations.  

In my dream, the reverence we feel when we enter the most beautiful cathedral we would feel equally among mountains in autumn, beside marshes in spring, surrounded by snow-covered prairies in winter, and along meandering streams in summer. In my dream, even in our cities, we would look up in wonder at the sky, and a marriage between science and spirit would allow us to marvel at the sacredness of sunlight, the wonder of wind, the refreshment of rain, the rhythm of seasons. At each meal, we would feel deep connection to the fields and orchards and rivers and farms where our food was grown, and we would feel deep connection to the farmers and farmworkers whose hands tended soil so we could eat this day with gratitude and joy.  

In my dream, our life-giving connection to each other and to the living Earth would be fundamental, central, and sacred … and everything else, from economies to governments to schools to religions … would be renegotiated to flow from that fundamental connection. In my dream, we would know God not as separate from creation, but as the living light and holy energy we encounter in and through creation: embodied, incarnated, in the current and flow of past, present, and future, known most intimately in the energy of love.  

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John Chaffee; 5 For Friday

1.
“We are not the avatars we create.  We are the light that shines through.”

  • Jim Carrey, Canadian Actor and Comedian
     
    Jim Carrey’s personal transformation from being the goofball we all loved, whose movies we all watched, into something of a philosopher-painter has been fascinating to follow.  It is clear that in more recent years he has become a student of religion, spirituality, and consciousness and it has led him to be able to make such comments as is shown here.

Curiously, I wonder if he has come into contact with Thomas Merton’s teachings on the True Self and the False Self…

Merton taught that we all develop a False Self, a version of ourselves that is not quite evil but is a shadow or a fragment of our True Self.  We put on this False persona because we believe it is the version of us that is most loveable and able to navigate the world.

In Jim’s vocabulary, it is our “avatar.”

The only solution to the False Self is the True Self.  To give up the vain pursuit of impressing one another, ourselves, and even God.  To be Truly Ourselves is the work of a lifetime and worth every effort to do sooner rather than later.

2.
“Tragedy and trauma are not guarantees for a transformational spiritual experience, but they are opportunities. They are invitations to sit in the fire and allow it to transfigure us.”

  • From Caravan of No Despair by Miribai Starr
     
    Miribai is a respected teacher of interfaith dialogue and spirituality.  I had the good fortune to meet her several years ago and found her to be a humble and warm person to be around.

On the day that she released her translation of St. John of the Cross’s famous work, The Dark Night of the Soul, she lost her daughter, Jenny, in a car accident.  The paradox/synchronicity/mystery of those two events happening on the same day is heart-ripping.

That said, she is most able to speak about tragedy and trauma and its potential transformational power.

3.
“In this world, with its modern ‘sickness unto death’, true spirituality will be the restoration of the love for life – that is to say, vitality.  The full and unreserved ‘yes’ to life, and the full and unreserved love for the living are the first experiences of God’s Spirit, which is not for nothing called the fons vitae, ‘the well of life.’
 
If we wish to resist the cynical annihilation of what is alive in the world of human beings and nature, we must first of all resist in ourselves the tendency to grow accustomed to this annihilation…
 
The spirituality of life breaks through this inward numbness, the armour of our indifference, the barriers of our insensitivity to pain.  It again breaks open ‘the well of life’ in us and among us, so that we can week again and laugh again and love again.”

  • From The Spirit of Life: A Universal Affirmation by Jurgen Moltmann
     
    This coming Sunday is Pentecost, the day upon which the Holy Spirit descended on “πασαν σαρκα/pasan sarka (all flesh).”  As a result, I found time this week to look back through my favorite book on the Holy Spirit… The Spirit of Life by Jurgen Moltmann, a former WWII POW and revolutionary theologian.

It is fair to say that Moltmann completely reframed how I understand the Holy Spirit, how it is a universal experience that transcends traditions, and how tightly interwoven it is with living life abundantly and overflowing with zest, joy, and vitality.

4.

“Joy and sorrow are this ocean 
And in their every ebb and flow 
Now the Lord a door has opened 
That all Hell could never close 
Here I’m tested and made worthy 
Tossed about but lifted up 
In the reckless raging fury 
That they call the love of God.”

  • From The Love of God by Rich Mullins
     
    I was driving in my Jeep this week and something brought up within me the phrase, “The love of God is a reckless raging fury.”

Of course, this meant I had to revisit Rich Mullins’ song that lyrically borrows from GK Chesterton.

The song itself reflects the time it was recorded, 1999, but its lyrics are timeless.

5.
“I swear to you, there are divine things more beautiful than words can tell.”

  • Walt Whitman, American Poet and Essayist
     
    Human language will never fully name reality.

Prayer and Politics

May 16th, 2024 by JDVaughn No comments »

Everything begins in mysticism and ends in politics.
—Charles Péguy, Notre Jeunesse 

Father Richard shares how a regular practice of contemplation changes how people behave in the world, even on a larger scale:   

It seems to me that a regular practice of contemplation makes it almost inevitable that our politics are going to change. The way we spend our time is going to be called into question. Our snug socioeconomic perspective will be slowly taken away from us. When we practice contemplative prayer consistently, the things that we think of as our necessary ego boundaries fall away, little by little, as unnecessary and even unhelpful. 

Whatever our calling on behalf of the world, it must proceed from a foundational “yes” to God, to life, to Reality. Our necessary “no” to injustice and all forms of un-love will actually become even more clear and urgent in the silence. Now our work has a chance of being God’s pure healing instead of our impure anger and agenda. We can feel the difference; so many works of social justice have been undone by people fighting from their small or angry selves.   

Because contemplation feels like dying and is, in fact, the experience of the death of our small self, we can only do this if Someone Else is holding us in in the process, taking away our fear. If we trust that Someone Else to do the knowing for us, we can go back to our lives of action with new vitality, but it will now be much smoother. It will be “no longer we” who act or contemplate, but the Life of the One “who lives in us” (see Galatians 2:20), now acting for and with and as us! 

Henceforth it does not even matter whether we act or contemplate, contemplate or act, because both articulations of our faith will be inside the One Flow, which is still and forever loving and healing the world. Christians would call it the very flow of life that is the Trinity. “We live and move and have our being” (Acts 17:28) inside of this one eternal life and love that never stops giving and receiving. This is how we “die by brightness and the Holy Spirit,” according to Thomas Merton. [1] 

Contemplation is no fantasy, make-believe, or daydream, but the flowering of patience and steady perseverance. When we look at the world today, we may well ask whether it can be transformed on the global level; but I believe that there is a deep relationship between the inner revolution of prayer and the transformation of social structures and social consciousness. The Book of Wisdom says, “the multitude of the wise is the salvation of the world” (6:24). Our hope is that contemplation really can change us and the society we live in by guiding our actions for compassion and justice in the world. 

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Sarah Young Jesus Calling

 It is good that you recognize your weakness. That keeps you looking to Me, your Strength. Abundant life is not necessarily health and wealth; it is living in continual dependence on Me. Instead of trying to fit this day into a preconceived mold, relax and be on the lookout for what I am doing. This mind-set will free you to enjoy Me and to find what I have planned for you to do. This is far better than trying to make things go according to your own plan.
    Don’t take yourself so seriously. Lighten up and laugh with Me. You have Me on your side, so what are you worried about? I can equip you to do absolutely anything, as long as it is My will. The more difficult your day, the more I yearn to help you. Anxiety wraps you up in yourself, trapping you in your own thoughts. When you look to Me and whisper My Name, you break free and receive My Help. Focus on Me, and you will find Peace in My Presence.

RELATED SCRIPTURE:

Philippians 4:13 (NLT)
13 For I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength.
Proverbs 17:22 (NLT)
22 A cheerful heart is good medicine,
    but a broken spirit saps a person’s strength.

A Heart Centered Revolution

May 15th, 2024 by JDVaughn No comments »

The greatest challenge of the day is: how to bring about a revolution of the heart, a revolution which has to start with each one of us? —Dorothy Day, Loaves and Fishes 

Authors LaUra Schmidt and Aimee Lewis Reau consider the impact of a heart-centered revolution made possible through our connection to one another:  

We can experience joy, love, and beauty on this planet, even as it changes around us. To do this, we have to build personal and collective resilience—an ability to find equanimity in unpredictable times and as the suffering around us increases. We do this not by avoiding the Long Dark but by facing it, moving with it…. 

Connection has the power to ground us when the world is chaotic. Connection gives our lives meaning and offers joy, even in the dark [of the unknown]. We can then invest ourselves into meaningful action—the kind that promotes relationship and regeneration. Meaningful action can be a salve for painful feelings like ecoanxiety, ecodistress, climate grief, and overwhelm because meaningful action isn’t dependent on outcomes…. We do [this work] because it’s what needs to be done. It’s generative work, and it fills us with purpose.  

It also lays the groundwork for a heart-centered revolution. In this revolution, we center relationships, connectedness, and love in times of suffering and disconnection. We open to our interconnectedness with all beings and make decisions based on compassion and insight instead of egocentric motivations. The heart-centered revolution is brought about by our inner equanimity and our love for each other, ourselves, and our planet as a whole. Instead of thoughtless and selfish actions, we reinvest ourselves with an understanding of the consequences to the larger world…. 

The calling of the heart-centered revolution is to find opportunities to cultivate a truly just and life-centered world, even if we never see it come into existence. [1]  

Rev. Dr. Jacqui Lewis writes of the solidarity necessary to transform our culture and our world: 

In order to live a moral life, a good life, an ubuntu life, we must commit to a life of love that means seeing all the things. See your neighbor suffering and do something about it.… 

Friend, you are the only one standing where you stand, seeing what you see, with your vantage point, your story. You are right there for a reason: to have, as my dear friend Ruby Sales says, “hindsight, insight, and foresight.” I want us to learn to see, with our eyes wide open, how best to be healers and transformers. I want us to really see, to fully awaken to the hot-mess times we are in and to the incredible power we have to love ourselves into wellness…. 

I want us open to revelation, not afraid of it, and open to the ways that it will provoke us to believe assiduously in how lovable we each are, and in the love between us and among us because, actually, believing is seeing. [2]  

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Sarah Young Jesus Calling

Spending time alone with Me is essential for your well-being. It is not a luxury or an option; it is a necessity. Therefore, do not feel guilty about taking time to be with Me. Remember that Satan is the accuser of believers. He delights in heaping guilt feelings upon you, especially when you are enjoying My Presence. When you feel Satan’s arrows of accusation, you are probably on the right track. Use your shield of faith to protect yourself from him. Talk with Me about what you are experiencing, and ask Me to show you the way forward. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Come near to Me, and I will come near to you.

RELATED BIBLE VERSES:

Revelation 12:10 NLT
10 Then I heard a loud voice shouting across the heavens, “It has come at last— salvation and power and the Kingdom of our God, and the authority of his Christ. For the accuser of our brothers and sisters has been thrown down to earth— the one who accuses them before our God day and night.”

Additional insight regarding Revelation 12:10: Many believe that Satan still has access to God until this time (see Job 1:7). But here, his access is forever barred (mentioned earlier in Revelation 9:1 NLT—Then the fifth angel blew his trumpet, and I saw a star that had fallen to the earth from the sky, and he was given the key to the shaft of the bottomless pit). He can no longer accuse people before God.

Ephesians 6:16 NLT
16 In addition to all of these, hold up the shield of faith to stop the fiery arrows of the devil.

James 4:7 NLT
7 So humble yourselves before God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.

Additional insight regarding James 4:7: Although God and the devil are at war, we don’t have to wait until the end to see who will win. God has already defeated Satan (Revelation 12:10-12), and when Christ returns, the devil and all he stands for will be eliminated forever (Revelation 12:10-15). Satan is here now, however, and he is trying to win us over to his evil cause. With the Holy Spirit’s power, we can resist the devil, and he will flee from us.

Love Is Stronger than Hope

May 14th, 2024 by Dave No comments »

Our great mistake is that we tie hope to outcome. —Cynthia Bourgeault 

Brian McLaren suggests a continuing source of hope not dependent on the outcome:  

If we can see a likely path to our desired outcome, we have hope; if we can see no possible path to our desired outcome, we have despair. If we are unsure whether there is a possible path or not, we keep hope alive, but it remains vulnerable to defeat if that path is closed.  

When our prime motive is love, a different logic comes into play. We find courage and confidence, not in the likelihood of a good outcome, but in our commitment to love. Love may or may not provide a way through to a solution to our predicament, but it will provide a way forward in our predicament, one step into the unknown at a time. Sustained by this fierce love (as my friend Jacqui Lewis calls it), we may persevere long enough that, to our surprise, a new way may appear where there had been no way. At that point, we will have reasons for hope again. But even if hope never returns, we will live by love through our final breath.  

To put it differently, even if we lose hope for a good outcome, we need not lose hope of being good people, as we are able: courageous, wise, kind, loving, “in defiance of all that is bad around us.” [1] …  

We feel arising within us this sustained declaration: We will live as beautifully, bravely, and kindly as we can as long as we can, no matter how ugly, scary, and mean the world becomes, even if failure and death seem inevitable. In fact, it is only in the context of failure and death that this virtue develops. That’s why Richard Rohr describes this kind of hope as “the fruit of a learned capacity to suffer wisely and generously. You come out much larger and that largeness becomes your hope.”

Hope is complicated. But … even if hope fails, something bigger can replace it, and that is love. [3]  

Choctaw elder Steven Charleston places love at the center of our hope. 

The key to stopping the environmental apocalypse is not science but love. For decades now we have been staring at the scientific reports. They have not sufficiently inspired us to change our apocalyptic reality. But where science has failed, faith can succeed. We must help humanity rediscover [Mother Earth], their loving parent, the living world that sustains them. We must help them feel her love just as we show them how that love can be returned. And it can begin by gathering people around two simple questions: Where were you in nature when you experienced a vision of such beauty that it took your breath away? And how did that make you feel? If you can answer those two questions, you are on your way to meeting the Mother you may never have known before. [4]  

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The Subtlety of Seeds
Our noisy world has abandoned the grace of subtlety. Some estimate we are assaulted by 5000 ads every day. They come at us from every direction as we move through the world. Each one shouting at us or demanding our attention. We are incessantly bombarded by so many messages that it has become increasingly unlikely for any one voice to get through. As a result, we feel the need to crank up the volume, excitement, and emotion of everything in the hope to communicate anything.

This applies to the church as well. What passes for “worship” in many places is loud enough to move one’s internal organs if not one’s spirit. And when one congregation’s gathering gets predictable, we look for something bigger and more exciting to inspire us. Likewise, rather than the simple work of loving our neighbors and serving those in need, we put our hope in the next “faith-based” blockbuster movie to reach the culture for Christ.

The problem, I suspect, is that while we prefer the spectacular, God is happy to work through the subtle. And while we think outcomes are based upon how God’s word is proclaimed, he knows the outcomes are actually determined by how his word is received.This is evident in Jesus’ parable of the soils. He said the seed sown is the “word of the kingdom” which people hear. Seeds, of course, are tiny, nearly invisible things. There is nothing attention-grabbing about seeds. If we were in charge of determining how the word of God is spread, we’d prefer fireworks, synchronized music, and a laser light show—something spectacular that is likely to produce equally spectacular outcomes.

But the point of Jesus’ story is precisely the opposite. The outcome is not dependent upon the seed, nor the technique employed by the sower to throw it. Instead, it’s all about the soil that receives it. We want to believe that the effectiveness of Christ’s ministry resides in our strategies or spectacular gifts, but Jesus knows there is a far deeper mystery at work. One that is hidden from our sight and far beyond our control. Therefore, the Lord is quite content for his word to go forth in subtle, unspectacular ways even if we are not.

DAILY SCRIPTURE
MATTHEW 13:1-9 
MATTHEW 13:18-23 
1 KINGS 19:11-13


WEEKLY PRAYER. From Clement of Alexandria (150 – 215)

Be kind to your little children, Lord. Be a gentle teacher, patient with our weakness and stupidity. And give us the strength and discernment to do what you tell us, and so grow in your likeness.May we all live in the peace that comes from you. May we journey toward your city, sailing through the waters of sin untouched by the waves, borne serenely along by the Holy Spirit. Night and day may we give you praise and thanks, because you have shown us that all things belong to you, and all blessings are gifts from you. To you, the essence of wisdom, the foundation of truth, be glory for evermore.Amen.

May 13th, 2024 by Dave No comments »

Dancing with Doom

The earth was entrusted to us in order that it be mother for us, capable of giving to each one what is necessary to live.…The earth is generous and holds nothing back from those who safeguard it. The earth, which is mother of all, asks for respect, not violence.
—Pope Francis, Our Mother Earth

In his new book 
Life After Doom, CAC Dean of Faculty Brian McLaren names the anxiety many feel when acknowledging the suffering of the Earth: 

You woke up again this morning with that familiar un-peaceful, uneasy, unwanted feeling. You wonder what to do about it. You suspect that if you pay attention to it, it will unleash some inner turmoil….  

It’s anxiety that we feel, yes, and a tender, sweet, piercing sadness, not just for ourselves, but also for everyone and everything everywhere, all at once.…  

We feel this doom because we are awake, at least partially awake.… 

The open secret of doom finds us everywhere. Trees tremble as they tell us about it, weeping. Water whispers it to us. Birds and insects testify about it through the heartbreaking silence that speaks of their absence. Forgotten forests, bulldozed into shiny new housing developments, haunt us like ghosts. Even though politicians try to distract us with their daily gush of hot air, the scorching winds of a destabilized climate breathe the chilling truth down our necks.…  

Here’s one thing I’ve learned already: when you dance with doom, doom changes you. 

Yes, it can change you for the worse…. But the dance can also change you for the better, leaving you more humble and honest, more thoughtful and creative, more compassionate and courageous … wiser, kinder, deeper, stronger … more connected, more resilient, more free, more human, more alive. [1]  

Reflecting on the apocalyptic literature of the Bible, Richard Rohr reminds us that there is a purpose to naming what can feel like the end of times:   

Apocalyptic means to pull back the veil, to reveal the underbelly of reality. It’s meant to shock. Apocalypse is for the sake of birth, not death. In Mark 13, Jesus says “Stay awake” four times in the last paragraph (Mark 13:32–37). In other words, “Learn the lesson that this has to teach you.” It points to everything that we take for granted and says, “Don’t take anything for granted.” An apocalyptic event flips our imagination and reframes reality in a radical way. 

We would have done history a great favor if we would have understood apocalyptic literature. It’s not meant to strike fear in us as much as a radical rearrangement. It’s not the end of the world. It’s the end of worlds—our worlds that we have created. 

Our best response is to end our fight with reality-as-it-is. We will benefit from anything that approaches a welcoming prayer—diving into the change positively, preemptively, saying, “Come, what is; teach me your good lessons.” Saying yes to “What is” ironically sets us up for “What if?” 

Welcoming Reality

Brian McLaren offers the phrase “welcome to reality” as a helpful acknowledgment of the devastation and uncertainty that the increasing climate crisis brings:   

Our global civilization as currently structured is unstable and unsustainable. Ecologically, our civilization sucks out too many of the Earth’s resources for the Earth to replenish, and it pumps out too much waste for the Earth to detoxify. Economically, our civilization’s financial systems are complex, interconnected, fragile, and deeply dependent on continual economic growth. Without continual economic growth, financial systems will stumble toward collapse. But with economic growth, we intensify and hasten ecological collapse. In addition, our global economic systems distribute more and more money and power to those who already have it, creating a small network of elites who live in luxury and share great political power, while billions live in or near poverty with little political power…. As we face increasing ecological and economic instability, social unrest and conflict will also increase.… [1] 

Welcome to reality.  

That simple phrase … helps me slow down for a few moments and acknowledge that we do know some things with high levels of confidence. (For example, we know carbon dioxide and methane in the atmosphere trap heat; we know water melts at 32 degrees Fahrenheit or 0 degrees Celsius; we know several different ways to produce electricity.) But about other things, we have much less certainty. 

When I say “welcome to reality,” I am saying, “Welcome, self, to reality, both what I know and what I don’t know.” And I am also saying, “Welcome, reality, whatever you are, both known and unknown, into my awareness.”  

To hold both knowing and unknowing in a delicate, dynamic, and highly creative tension … that is one of the primary skills we will need if we want to live with courage and wisdom in an unstable climate, whatever scenario unfolds.  

We need to face what we know. And we need to face what we don’t know. Only what is faced can be changed. That is why I say, and I hope you will join me, welcome to reality. [2] 

Father Richard describes how contemplation helps us meet and welcome reality:  

Contemplation is meeting as much reality as we can handle in its most simple and immediate form, without filters, judgments, and commentaries. Contemplation allows us to recognize and relativize our own compulsive mental grids—our practiced ways of judging, critiquing, and computing everything—as well as blocking what we don’t want to see.  

This is what we’re trying to do when we practice contemplative prayer, which is why people addicted to their own mind and opinions will find contemplation most difficult, if not impossible. No wonder it is so rare and, in fact, “the narrow road that few walk on” (Matthew 7:14). 

When our judgmental grid and all its commentaries are placed aside, God finally has a chance to get through to us, because our narcissism and pettiness are at last out of the way. Then Truth stands revealed! [3]  

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Farms and Factories
Jesus’ parables often used agricultural themes for an obvious reason—he lived in a pre-industrial society. A mechanized vision of the world would not emerge until after the Enlightenment still over 1600 years away. Nonetheless, once immersed in his stories about seeds, and harvests, and sowers it becomes apparent that his use of such metaphors was more than cultural. Many of these stories emphasize a quality inherent to both agriculture and God’s kingdom—mystery.

We live in a time when faith, along with nearly everything else, has become industrialized. We expect there to be a proven formula or process that will produce the outcomes we desire, and when the outcomes do not meet our expectations it is our responsibility to tweak the system that produced them. This is why so many ministries operate as factories seeking to make disciples like widgets on an assembly line. It’s also why we approach God like a natural force to be studied, mastered, and controlled rather than as a person with whom we relate.

Mystery has been driven out of religion and replaced by mechanics.Jesus’ stories about the kingdom of God, however, not only allow space for mystery, they emphasize it as an inescapable reality. The growth of God’s kingdom is not like marketing a new Frappuccino or launching a tech start-up, no matter what the latest celebrity pastor on the conference circuit may say. It is more like the invisible germination of a seed deep under the soil; a tiny force that, through no effort by the farmer, grows into an immense tree. Jesus’ stories are designed to humble human agency, not systematize it.It is worth remembering that all of the essential doctrines of Christianity are immeasurable, sometimes paradoxical, mysteries. Has anyone yet grasped the eternal union of one God as three persons? Who has delineated the nature of Jesus as both fully God and fully man? After two millennia we still argue about the interplay of human will and divine sovereignty, and fellowships are bonded or broken over our feeble attempts to explain what exactly happened, or did not happen, on that old rugged cross. If salvation, humanity, and God himself are enveloped by impenetrable mystery, why do we assume faith and ministry—which stand at the intersection of all three—can be engaged with certainty and control?As we begin to explore Jesus’ parables about the kingdom, we must release our desire for certainty and open ourselves to the wonder and mystery of the God who is beyond our comprehension.

DAILY SCRIPTURE

MARK 4:26-29 
1 CORINTHIANS 3:5-9 
ISAIAH 55:6-11 


WEEKLY PRAYER
From Clement of Alexandria (150 – 215)

Be kind to your little children, Lord. Be a gentle teacher, patient with our weakness and stupidity. And give us the strength and discernment to do what you tell us, and so grow in your likeness.May we all live in the peace that comes from you. May we journey toward your city, sailing through the waters of sin untouched by the waves, borne serenely along by the Holy Spirit. Night and day may we give you praise and thanks, because you have shown us that all things belong to you, and all blessings are gifts from you. To you, the essence of wisdom, the foundation of truth, be glory for evermore.Amen.

Love is Home

May 10th, 2024 by JDVaughn No comments »

Felicia Murrell acknowledges that our first homes are not always safe:  

In the 1978 movie The Wiz, the iconic Diana Ross sings, “When I think of home, I think of a place where there’s love overflowing.” [1]    

What rises in your body when you think of home? Is home synonymous with love and affection? Is home a place you long to return to?  

For some, home is terror, a place to flee with no desire to return or revisit. This is important to name and acknowledge because too many are aimlessly wandering, feeling insignificant—unseen, unknown.  

When home is not a place of comfort, and there is no sense of knowing or nurture, it leaves the body in flight-or-fight mode. We see this in Dorothy’s companions, the scarecrow and the cowardly lion. One runs to isolation, invisibility, and separation, choosing to hide. The other blusters to cover a lack of courage … with a body that remains on full alert, suspicious and defensive. Whether self-protecting or hiding, one thing is true: Neither posture offers the soul any type of rest. Neither is home.  

Often, when we think of home, we think only of an external place, out there, a fixed place—the place where we live and grow, create fond memories, establish familial bonds; the place we leave when we come of age and where we return when things are hard.    

The evolution of Dorothy’s journey on the yellow brick road expands home beyond the narrow confines of a fixed place to a vast inward sea. “I’ve learned,” she says, “that we must look inside our hearts to find a world full of love … like home.” [2]    

For Murrell, home offers unconditional love.  

Love is home.  

Home is both an external dwelling and an internal abode. Home is the place where we belong, our place of acceptance and welcome. There, in this shame and judgment-free embryonic cocoon of love, we practice unconditional acceptance; we learn to relate to ourselves and the world around us.  

And home is a soft place for the body to land, a safe place for the soul to fully disrobe. Home is the place where our failures don’t kill, our sins can’t crush, and even when we are at our worst, we’re safe. Home is a place where we are free to take our deepest, fullest, least encumbered breath.  

At home, there’s no need to guess whether we’re in or out, welcomed or not. Home always prepares a place with us in mind.     

How are you preparing a home of unconditional acceptance for yourself? How do you welcome your body, make room for your mind? In what ways are you engaging your soul with intentionality? How are you reclaiming the safety of home for yourself?  

Home,” says Glinda the Good, is a place we all must find, child. It’s not just a place where you eat or sleep. Home is knowing. Knowing your mind, knowing your heart, knowing your courage. If we know ourselves, we’re always home, anywhere.” [3]  

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5 for Friday John Chaffee

1.
Never confuse the person, formed in the image of God, with the evil that is in him, because evil is but a chance misfortune, illness, a devilish reverie.  But the very essence of the person is the image of God, and this remains in him despite every disfigurement.”

  • St. John of Kronstadt, Russian Orthodox Priest
     
    One of the aspects of conventional Christianity that fell apart for me was the idea that to be human is intrinsically evil, that at our most foundational level, we are distorted, broken, and/or corrupt.

There are many reasons why someone would hold to that thought, and I am fairly certain it is an opinion based upon a later theological concept that requires it, or else it would fall apart… the idea that Jesus came only to fix everything.

The Early Church, however, believed that the Incarnation would have happened even if evil/sin didn’t enter the world.

Why?

Because the Incarnation is first and foremost about relationship, belonging, and community, human beings were created in God’s image. Therefore, the Incarnation is much like a parent wanting to spend time with their children who are in their “image.”

The deepest truth and reality is not that we are unwell, the deepest truth and reality is that we are loved.

2.
“God is at the same moment the most judicious and the least judgmental person in the cosmos.”

  • From The Wonderstanding of Father Simeon
     
    This is just a thought that has passed through my mind over the last 7 days.  I flesh it further out in the book linked above.

3.
“In my early professional years, I was asking the question: How can I treat, cure, or change this person? Now I would phrase the question in this way: How can I provide a relationship which this person may use for his own personal growth?”

  • Carl R. Rogers, American Psychologist
     
    For YEARS, I have loved the figures of Rafiki, Yoda, Gandalf, Mr. Miyagi, Mr. John Keating, Master Oogway, and others.  The archetype of a mentor is something that I can’t help but think we are losing or at least do not appreciate in the West.

We love our scholars and specialists, but we deep down want mentors.

Carl Rogers’ writings are causing me to expand my understanding of the role of a mentor.  A mentor does not only offer wisdom, they also offer a relationship that fosters and allows the mentee to finally do the necessary self-work to grow into their next phase of life.

All we can ever be is a loving and hospitable environment for those around us to grow.

I cannot say that I achieve this with regularity but at least it is a conscious goal of mine.

4.
“Even in a world that is being shipwrecked, remain brave and strong.”

  • Hildegard of Bingen, German Nun, Composer, and Writer
     
    Despair is the easy way out.  It is the antithesis of Hope.

Hope is stronger than Despair, it’s just that Despair has a better PR department.

5.
“When Moses went up on the mountain, the cloud covered it, and the glory of the Lord settled on Mount Sinai.  For six days the cloud covered the mountain, and on the seventh day the Lord called to Moses from within the cloud.  To the Israelites the glory of the Lord looked like a consuming fire on top of the mountain.
 
Then Moses entered the cloud as he went on up the mountain.”

  • Exodus 24:15-18
     
    At the end of the day, we cannot send another person as a proxy to go and investigate God for us.  At some point, we must be willing to make the courageous decision to step into the potentially dangerous unknown and seek to experience the Divine on the Divine’s terms away from the crowds.

I wonder how many spiritual leaders we have in the world who love to be on the mountaintop, in full view of the community who look up to them but never actually leave the adoration of the community to venture into God alone.

All this reminds me of Karl Rahner’s quote, “The Christian of the future will be a mystic or they will not exist at all.”

The Departure and the Return

May 9th, 2024 by JDVaughn No comments »

Richard Rohr names some obstacles that keep us from our true spiritual home: 

We are created with an inner drive and necessity that sends all of us looking for our True Self, our true home, whether we know it or not. This journey is a spiral and never a straight line. There is a God-size hole in all of us, waiting to be filled. God creates the very dissatisfaction that only grace and finally divine love can satisfy.  

We dare not try to fill our souls and minds with numbing addictions, diversionary tactics, or mindless distractions. The disguise of evil is much more superficiality and willful ignorance than the usually listed “hot sins.” God hides, and is found, precisely in the depths of everything, even and maybe especially in the deep fathoming of our fallings and failures. Sin is to stay on the surface of even holy things, like the Bible, sacraments, or church. 

If we go to the depths of anything, we’ll begin to knock upon something substantial, “real,” and with a timeless quality. We’ll move from the starter kit of “belief” to an actual inner knowing. This is most especially true if we have ever (1) loved deeply, (2) accompanied someone through the mystery of dying, or (3) stood in genuine life-changing awe before mystery, time, or beauty. This “something real” is what all the world religions were pointing to when they spoke of heaven, home, nirvana, bliss, or enlightenment. They were not wrong at all; their only mistake was that they pushed it off into the next world. If heaven is later, it is because it is first of all now.  

These experiences of homecoming and depth become the pledge, guarantee, hint, and promise of an eternal something. Once we touch upon the Real, there is an inner insistence that the Real, if it is the Real, has to be forever. We could call it wishful thinking, but this insistence has been a constant intuition since the beginnings of humanity. Jesus made it into a promise, as when he tells the Samaritan woman that the spring within her “will well up unto eternal life” (John 4:14). In other words, heaven/union/love/home now emerge from within us, much more than from a mere belief system or any belonging system, which largely remain on the outside of the self.  

Like Odysseus, we leave from Ithaca and we come back to Ithaca, but now it is fully home because all is included and nothing wasted or hated: even the dark parts are used in our favor. All is forgiven. What else could homecoming be?  

Poet C. P. Cavafy (1863–1933) expressed this understanding most beautifully in his famous poem “Ithaca”:  

Ithaca has now given you the beautiful voyage.  
Without her, you would never have taken the road. 
With the great wisdom you have gained on your voyage,  
with so much of your own experience now,  
you must finally know what Ithaca really means. [1]  

__________________________________________________________

Sarah Young Jesus Calling

I am leading you, step by step, through your life. Hold My hand in trusting dependence, letting Me guide you through this day. Your future looks uncertain and flimsy–even precarious. That is how it should be. Secret things belong to the Lord, and future things are secret things. When you try to figure out the future, you are grasping at things that are Mine. This, like all forms of worry, is an act of rebellion: doubting My promises to care for you.
    Whenever you find yourself worrying about the future, repent and return to Me. I will show you the next step forward, and the one after that, and the one after that. Relax and enjoy the journey in My Presence, trusting Me to open up the way before you as you go. 

RELATED SCRIPTURE: 

Deuteronomy 29:29 NLT

29 “The Lord our God has secrets known to no one. We are not accountable for them, but we and our children are accountable forever for all that he has revealed to us, so that we may obey all the terms of these instructions.

Psalm 32:8 NLT

8 The Lord says, “I will guide you along the best pathway for your life.

    I will advise you and watch over you.

A Constant Longing

May 8th, 2024 by Dave No comments »

In the foreword to the new edition of Falling Upward, researcher Brené Brown shares her sense of spiritual homesickness.  

The word “homesick” often conjures up images of a child’s fleeting sadness or their temporary yearning for home and family. In today’s culture, the emotion is often dismissed … [as] a fuzzy overnight-camp feeling, not a fierce emotional experience that is key to the human experience and central to our hardwired need for a sense of place and belonging…. I am drawn to exploring the contours of homesickness to better understand why I can’t shake this unyielding longing for a home that exists only inside me.  

Brown shares her regular longing for the home of her own soul:  

Spiritual homesickness has been a constant in my life. It was not an everyday experience, but a predictable and always reoccurring desperation to find a sense of sacredness within me, not outside of me: my soul, my home, God in me. It was homesickness for a place that exists only inside me.  

Through my thirties and forties, I would occasionally succumb to the yearning, drop everything, and run as fast as I could to visit the home within me. The door to my internal spiritual home would be one simple experience, one encounter with a thin place—maybe sitting in my car listening to Loretta Lynn sing “How Great Thou Art,” or an afternoon swim with God in Lake Travis, or one night praying the Daily Examen. But then, after that visit, I would leave and go back to my first-half-of-life world. I’d describe this first-half-of-life spirituality as the ebb and flow of [the Greek words] nostos and alga, homecoming and pain.  

Over the past two years, I’ve found that I’m more spiritually homesick than not. Spiritual homesickness has become an almost daily dulling grief. It’s not depression or exhaustion. It’s an uncomfortable knowing that I’m coming to the end of one thing and the beginning of the next. I’m leaving and arriving. There’s fear, but there’s also joyful anticipation.  

Today, when I return home to the place in me where God dwells, I’m no longer interested in making it a quick visit so I can run back to the world of “what other people think” and “what I can get done.” Today, I can barely be dragged out of the house. I’m drawn to different conversations and deeper connections. I want this sacred space to be my home, not somewhere I visit to buttress my “real life” that’s on the outside of my connection with God. I’m starting to wonder if my alga, my pain, is fueled by my separation from God and from my True Self.… 

Leaving the first half of life is scary. Most of us have the first-half-of-life hustle down. The thing is, I’m just never, ever homesick for the first half of my life when I walk away from it…. Maybe I’m not homesick for the first half of life because it’s really never been my true home.  

Unseen Patterns of Obedience
I have an inexplicable affinity for British television shows. If you haven’t tried them, I recommend Sherlock, The Great British Baking Show, and Downton AbbeyDownton followed the visible and invisible lives of an aristocratic English manor in the early twentieth century. The upstairs inhabitants lived in a serene environment of luxury, stiff collars, and afternoon tea. Like an elegant swan, however, all of the frantic work happened below the surface. The manor’s downstairs was filled with the constant commotion of servants, cooks, butlers, footmen, and chambermaids. Without their endless work, the upstairs’ illusion of effortlessness would not be possible.

Downton Abbey is not unlike Jesus’ parable about houses and foundations at the end of the Sermon on the Mount. He emphasizes that it is the unseen, buried part of the house that determines its strength. The house can endure storms and floods because of its foundation, not because of its glamorous qualities above the surface.

Recent studies say that increasing numbers of Christians, particularly young adults, are falling away from the faith. I wonder if part of the problem is a church culture in America that’s more focused on building impressive houses rather than strong foundations? Life upstairs is easy and often fun. This is the life of exciting church events and activities. It’s thousands gathered for a concert or the dynamic preaching of a gifted speaker.

Life downstairs is much more difficult and rarely praised. It’s the life of prayer, solitude, confession, and discipline; it’s where the house is truly maintained.To persevere in the Christian life we must be willing to spend time in the servants’ quarters and cellars and there establish the unseen, and uncelebrated, patterns of obedience. Perhaps the house of American Christianity is falling because we’ve put all of our energy into building what is visible, rather than into what is invisible. 

DAILY SCRIPTURE
MATTHEW 7:24-27 
JEREMIAH 17:7-8 
EPHESIANS 3:14-19


WEEKLY PRAYERFrom Charles Kingsley (1819 – 1875

)Lift up our hearts, O Christ, above the false shows of things, above laziness and fear, above selfishness and covetousness, above whim and fashion, up to the everlasting Truth that you are; that we may live joyfully and freely, in the faith that you are our King and Savior, our Example and our Judge, and that, so long as we are loyal to you, all will ultimately be well.
Amen.

May 7th, 2024 by Dave No comments »

Dear CO Few guys

A phrase I used a lot back when I first started teaching contemplation was the idea associated with Albert Einstein that no problem can be solved by the same consciousness that created it. It is so brilliant! It makes the case for contemplation almost better than anything.  

I don’t believe I’m overstating it when I say that only the contemplative mind can help bring forward the new consciousness needed to awaken a more loving, just, and sustainable world. We need a practice that touches our unconscious conditioning where all our wounds and defense mechanisms lie. That’s the only way we can be changed at any significant or lasting level.

Because we’ve got to be honest — the dualistic, calculating, and judging mind is almost exclusively the way most of us Western people think. This gives us false superiority, false security, and false righteousness. Is it any wonder why our culture, politics, and religion are in the state that they are in?  

Nevertheless, I still have hope. I always will. More and more people are discovering contemplation as a way of being, reconciling, and bridge-building guided by their inner experience of God. We’re not throwing out our rational mind, but rather we’re adding nondual, contemplative consciousness. When we have both, we’re able to see more deeply, wisely, and justly. This creates humble people, loving people, and patient people.

Thank you for being one of these people and for caring deeply about this work. The Center for Action and Contemplation (CAC) is not funded by any large institution or foundation but by people like you who give freely and joyfully to support it. Through your support, we can help more people become contemplative instruments of love and transformation in this suffering world.  

Twice per year, we pause and ask for your financial support. If you have been impacted by the CAC’s programs, including our Daily Meditations, please consider donating. We appreciate every gift, regardless of the amount.

Please read the letter below from CAC’s Executive Director, Michael Poffenberger, about the important opportunities ahead. Tomorrow, the Daily Meditations return to explore the spiritual journey of homecoming. 

Peace and Every Good,

Richard Rohr, OFM 

Dear CO Few guys

When you look at the state of the world, it is clear that business as usual will not cut it. As a global community, we are facing a complex set of interrelated challenges. We need to approach these challenges from a different mind (contemplation) to find a way forward that recognizes all life as sacred, precious, and connected.  

At the Center for Action and Contemplation (CAC), we aim to serve as a catalyzing force for change of consciousness inside Christianity and each of our communities. By working towards our vision of transformed people helping to transform our world, we are part of a movement that seeks to recover Jesus’ focus on nondual thinking, simplicity of lifestyle, nonviolence, love of creation and the healing of our beautiful and suffering world. Over the next few years, our work at CAC will focus on sustaining and growing this impact for future generations. Excitingly, this is already in motion, thanks to the support and generosity of people like you.  

We pause the Daily Meditations, twice per year, and invite your financial support. If you are able to support the work of the CAC, please consider making a one-time donation or recurring monthly gift.

We specifically appreciate those of you who have chosen to give to CAC every month to support this work. Your consistent support provides the confidence, resources, and stability needed to invest significantly in expanding our team, technology, faculty, and ability to offer more programs “in the gift” so that money is never the barrier to access for any sincere student.  

If you are able, I would like to invite you to consider joining the Bonaventure Circle of Support, CAC’s growing community of monthly givers, making Christian contemplative wisdom more accessible to a new generation of spiritual seekers. With your ongoing support, more people will experience the transformative power of the contemplative path and discover their belovedness in God—many for the very first time.

As we navigate the incredible challenges and opportunities of the next few years, our highest aim is to honor and share the best parts of the Christian tradition and the traditions of others so that this contemplative wisdom might serve the flourishing of humanity, all beings, and all of creation. 

We thank you for your partnership and support in this mission and journey.   

In loving gratitude, 

Michael Poffenberger 
Executive Director 
Center for Action and Contemplation

===========================

The Peril of People Pleasers
Jesus ends his Sermon on the Mount with one of the best-known parables in Scripture. He contrasts a wise man who built his house upon the rock with a foolish man who built his on the sand. It is a simple image easily understood even by children. Perhaps that is why it is so frequently found in Sunday school songs and vacation Bible school programs.Although the story is well known, its meaning is not. In my experience, most Christians who know about the wise and the foolish builder completely misunderstand Jesus’ intent for the parable. This is likely the result of well-intentioned but misguided teaching we received as children. I recall being told in Sunday school that the man who built his house upon the rock was a metaphor for Christians, and the foolish man represented non-Christians. The story was used as an evangelistic warning. Those who reject Jesus, we were told, are heading for destruction just like the man whose house fell when the storm came.

A closer examination of the parable and its context, however, reveals something different.The parable is about two houses that appear to be identical; the only difference exists below the surface where no one can see. Jesus is not comparing Christians and non-Christians; he is contrasting two kinds of professing Christians—the genuine and the false. Above the surface, they appear the same. As John Stott said, “Both read the Bible, go to church, listen to sermons and buy Christian literature. The reason you often cannot tell the difference between them is that the deep foundations of their lives are hidden from view.”The parable warns us that the most important thing about us, what defines our life and our destiny, is hidden from the view of others. It cannot be seen or praised by those around us, and it goes far deeper than labels or affiliations.

Therefore, if we live for the affirmation of others or feel content that we are accepted by the right group we are unlikely to give much attention to our foundations. In other words, if we care most about what others can see we will neglect what only God can see. That error, Jesus warns, will put us in great peril. He says it is the secret, hidden reality upon which we construct our identity that matters most. The world celebrates the grandeur of the house, but the Lord alone knows the quality of its foundation.

DAILY SCRIPTURE

MATTHEW 7:24-27 
MATTHEW 6:2-6 
GALATIANS 1:10


WEEKLY PRAYERFrom Charles Kingsley (1819 – 1875)

Lift up our hearts, O Christ, above the false shows of things, above laziness and fear, above selfishness and covetousness, above whim and fashion, up to the everlasting Truth that you are; that we may live joyfully and freely, in the faith that you are our King and Savior, our Example and our Judge, and that, so long as we are loyal to you, all will ultimately be well.
Amen.

May 6th, 2024 by Dave No comments »

Happy Birthday, Dave! 

We wish you joy and peace on this day and every day in your new year. Thank you for being part of our Center for Action and Contemplation family. Know you’re foundationally chosen and beloved, woven into the fabric of a benevolent universe.

Peace and Every Good,

Center for Action and Contemplation

Holy Homesickness

Letting go into God is coming home to our true selves.
—Ilia Delio, Oneing, Fall 2023 

Richard Rohr considers how the spiritual journey of “homecoming” requires holding the tension between the past and future:  

The archetypal idea of ‘‘home’’ points in two directions at once. It points backward toward an original hint and taste for union, starting in our mother’s body. We all came from some kind of home—at times, bad ones—that always plants the foundational seed of a possible and ideal paradise. It also points forward, urging us toward the realization that this hint and taste of union might actually be true. It guides us like an inner compass or a homing device. In Homer’s Odyssey, it’s the same home, the island Ithaca, that is both the beginning and the end of the journey. Carl Jung offered this concise, momentous insight: “Life, so-called, is a short episode between two great mysteries, which yet are one.” [1]  

Somehow, the end is in the beginning, and the beginning points toward the end. We are told that even children with sad or abusive childhoods still long for ‘‘home’’ or ‘‘mother’’ in some idealized form and still yearn to return to it somehow, maybe just to do it right this time. What is going on there? I believe the One Great Mystery is revealed at the beginning and forever beckons us forward toward its full realization. Most of us cannot let go of this implanted promise. Some would call this homing device their soul, some would call it the indwelling Holy Spirit, and some might just call it nostalgia or dreamtime. All I know is that it will not be ignored. It calls us both backward and forward, to our foundation and our future, at the same time. It also feels like grace from within us and, at the same time, beyond us. The soul lives in such eternally deep time. Wouldn’t it make sense that God would plant in us a desire for what God already wants to give us? I am sure of it.  

To understand better, let’s look at the telling word homesick. This usually connotes something sad or nostalgic, an emptiness that looks either backward or forward for satisfaction. I am going to use it in an entirely different way. I want to propose that we are both sent and drawn by the same force, which is precisely what Christians mean when they say the Cosmic Christ is both alpha and omega. We are both driven and called forward by a kind of deep homesickness, it seems. There is an inherent and desirous dissatisfaction that both sends and draws us forward, and it comes from our original and radical union with God. What appears to be past and future is in fact the same home, the same call, and the same God, for whom ‘‘a thousand years are like a single day’’ (Psalm 90:4) and a single day like a thousand years. 

God Is Bringing Us Home

We shall not cease from exploration / And the end of all our exploring / Will be to arrive where we started / And know the place for the first time.
—T. S. Eliot, Four Quartets 

In the Everything Belongs podcast, Father Richard speaks about the spiritual path that winds both away from and toward one’s true home:  

The first going out from home we can say is the creation of the ego. While this is a necessary creating, it is also the creating of a separation. It’s taking myself as central. We probably need to do that, at least until we reach middle age. But then we need to allow what we’ve created to be uncreated. Maybe I was a great basketball player, but that’s gone now. Or maybe I was good-looking, but that’s gone now.  (Hi JD)

When we can say “yes” to that uncreation and still be happy, we’ve done our work. My True Self is in God and not in what I’ve created. My self-created self gave me a nice trail to walk on, and something to do each day, but it isn’t really me. It might be my career or my vocation; yet as good as it is, it isn’t my True Self.  

In the metaphor of life as a journey, I think it’s finally about coming back home to where we started. As I approach death, I’m thinking about that a lot, because I think the best way to describe what’s coming next is not “I’m dying,” but “I’m finally going home.” I don’t know what it’s like yet, but in my older age I can really trust that it is home. I don’t know where that trust comes from or even what home is like, but I know I’m not going to someplace new. I’m going to all the places I’ve known deeply. They’re pointing me to the big deep, the Big Real. I do think homecoming is what it’s all about. [1]  

Father Richard continues to reflect upon finding his home in God in this season of his life:  

Well first, I have to say, I don’t fully know how to live there. I’m used to living for 80 years out of building an education, a persona, a reputation, a career. When we’ve worked at those things for so long, on a very real level we don’t know how to live without them. But thank God, they’re taken away from us. God slows us down, I think necessarily, or we won’t fall into the True Self.  

My understanding of the second half of life is mostly homesickness for the True Self. I want to learn to be who God really created me to be. And I think all God wants me to be is who I really am. [2]  

Do You Think Jesus Was Serious?
Years ago I taught a class about the Sermon on the Mount. On the first day, we read the entire sermon (Matthew 5-7), which contains many of Jesus’ most familiar teachings including his counter-intuitive calls to not worry, not retaliate, and to love your enemies. I asked the class, “Do you think Jesus was serious? Does he actually expect us to live this way?” I was surprised to discover most of the adults in the class did not take the Sermon on the Mount seriously despite being committed Christians. They had accepted a popular interpretation that says Jesus’ ethical teachings are impossibly high standards and he didn’t intend for his followers to obey them. Instead, Jesus’ commands should help us recognize our moral imperfections and therefore our need for God’s grace.

While this interpretation of the Sermon on the Mount fits neatly within certain theological systems, it fails for three reasons. First, the Apostles appeared to take the sermon seriously. Matthew said that the disciples who heard Jesus’ sermon were “astonished” because Jesus taught with authority, and many of the commands in the sermon are repeated in later parts of the New Testament written by Paul, Peter, James, and John. For example, the command to love one’s enemy is reiterated by Paul in Romans 12 without any hint of insincerity.

Second, Jesus lived out the commands in the Sermon on the Mount and calls us to copy his example. Throughout the gospels we find Jesus doing the very counter-intuitive things he spoke about in the sermon. Most notably, he loved and forgave his enemies. He also commands us to love one another as he has loved us (John 13:34). None of this makes sense if the sermon was merely a long-winded way for Jesus to make a theological point and he didn’t intend for us to actually practice it.

Third, Jesus concluded the Sermon on the Mount with a parable about the terrible consequences of not taking his commands seriously. “Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock…” To be clear, the rock in the parable is not intended to represent God, or Jesus, or proper doctrine. The rock is the security that comes from hearing and obeying Jesus’ words. The person who builds his house on the rock is the one who takes his commands in the Sermon on the Mount seriously and does them, not simply the person who goes to church, affirms the right doctrines, or who displays a Christian identity. The rock is not identifying yourself with Jesus but actually obeying him.

Taken together these three points make it abundantly clear that we are to practice and obey the radical teachings we find in the Sermon on the Mount. If you find yourself in a Christian community that tries to minimize, dismiss, or limit the seriousness of Jesus’ commands, that ministry may appear popular and impressive but beneath the surface its foundations are sand.

DAILY SCRIPTURE
MATTHEW 7:24-27 
JOHN 14:23-24 
MATTHEW 21:28-32


WEEKLY PRAYER
From Charles Kingsley (1819 – 1875)

Lift up our hearts, O Christ, above the false shows of things, above laziness and fear, above selfishness and covetousness, above whim and fashion, up to the everlasting Truth that you are; that we may live joyfully and freely, in the faith that you are our King and Savior, our Example and our Judge, and that, so long as we are loyal to you, all will ultimately be well.
Amen.