Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ category

Faith as Participation 

December 8th, 2022

Richard reminds us that believing “in” Jesus really means participating in the faith of Jesus:

Many scholars over the years have pointed out that what is usually translated in Paul’s letters as “faith in Christ” would be more accurately translated as “the faith of Christ.” It’s more than a change of prepositions. It means we are all participating in the faith journey that Jesus has already walked. We are forever carried inside of the “Corporate Personality” that Christ always is for Paul (check out 1 Corinthians 12:12–31 for starters). That’s a very different understanding of faith than most Christians consider.

Most Christians think having faith means “to believe in Jesus.” But “to share in the faith of Jesus” is a much richer concept. It is not so much an invitation as it is a cosmic declaration about the very shape of reality. By myself, I don’t know how to have faith in God, but once we know that Jesus is the corporate stand-in for everybody, we know we have already been taken on the ride through death and back to life. All we can do now is make what is objectively true fully conscious in ourselves. We are all participating in Jesus’ faith walk with varying degrees of resistance and consent.

Father Richard reminds us that having faith is not something that we have to do on our own:

Remember, it’s God in us that loves God. We on our own don’t really know how to love God. It’s Christ in us that recognizes Christ. It’s the Holy Spirit, whose temple we are (see 1 Corinthians 3:16), that responds to the Holy Spirit. Like recognizes like. That’s why all true cognition is really recognition (“re-cognition” or knowing something again). Only insofar as we have surrendered to Christ and allowed the Christ in us to come to fullness can we love Christ.

“Faith” is not an affirmation of a creed, an intellectual acceptance of God, or believing certain doctrines to be true or orthodox (although those things might well be good). Yet many Christians have whittled faith down to that. Such faith does not usually change our heart or our lifestyle. I’m convinced that much modern atheism is a result of such a heady and ineffective definition of faith. We defined faith intellectually, so people came up with intellectual arguments against it and then said, “I don’t believe in God.”

Both Jesus’ and Paul’s notion of faith is much better translated as foundational confidence or trust that God cares about what is happening right now. This is clearly the quality that Jesus fully represents and then praises in other people.

God refuses to be known intellectually. God can only be loved and known in the act of love; God can only be experienced in communion. This is why Jesus “commands” us to move toward love and fully abide there. Love is like a living organism, an active force-field upon which we can rely, from which we can draw, and we can allow to pass through us.


Sarah Young

Your needs and My riches are the perfectly fit. I carefully crafted your longings and feelings of incompleteness to point to Me.

Do not try to bury these feelings; take note and surrender, connect and live out of that. Come to Me in all your neediness and find completeness in Me.

Philippians 4:19 “But my God shall supply all your need, according to his riches in glory, by Christ Iesus.”

Colossians 2:2-3 My goal is that they may be encouraged in heart and united in love, so that they may have the full riches of complete understanding, in order that they may know the mystery of God, namely, Christ,

Psalm 84:11-12 For the Lord God is a sun and shield; he bestows favor and honor. No good thing does the Lord withhold

December 7th, 2022

Holy Bewilderment

Author Debie Thomas finds a worthy model of “holy bewilderment” in the faith of Mary, revealed at the Annunciation (Luke 1:26–38):

The second line I appreciate in the Annunciation story describes Mary’s confusion: “But she was much perplexed.”. . .

It is not that the Annunciation leads her out of doubt and into faith; it is that her encounter with the angel leads her out of certainty and into holy bewilderment. Out of familiar spiritual territory and into a lifetime of pondering, wondering, questioning, and wrestling. She was much perplexed. Or, as she puts it to Gabriel: “How can this be?”

Like Mary, I was raised with a fairly precise and comprehensive picture of who God is and how God operates in the world. If anyone had asked me to describe God when I was fifteen, twenty, or thirty years old, I would have rattled off a list of divine attributes as readily as a kindergartner recites the alphabet: “God is omnipotent, omniscient, and omnipresent. God is Three and God is One. God is holy, perfect, loving, righteous, merciful, just, and sovereign.”. . .

What an interesting shock reality has been. Who knew that my life with God would actually be one long goodbye? That to know God is to unknow God?  To shed my neat conceptions of the divine like so many old snakeskins and emerge into the world bare, vulnerable, and new, again and again?

This, of course, is what Mary has to do in the aftermath of Gabriel’s announcement. She has to consent to evolve. To wonder. To stretch. She has to learn that faith and doubt are not opposites—that beyond all the easy platitudes and pieties of religion, we serve a God who dwells in mystery. If we agree to embark on a journey with this God, we will face periods of bewilderment.

But this frightens us, so we compartmentalize our spiritual lives, trying to hold our relationships with God at a sanitized remove from our actual circumstances. We don’t realize that such efforts leave us with a faith that’s rigid, inflexible, and stale. In his wise and beautiful memoir, My Bright Abyss, poet Christian Wiman writes,

Life is not an error, even when it is. That is to say, whatever faith you emerge with at the end of your life is going to be not simply affected by that life but intimately dependent upon it, for faith in God is, in the deepest sense, faith in life—which means that even the staunchest life of faith is a life of great change. It follows that if you believe at fifty what you believed at fifteen, then you have not lived—or have denied the reality of your life. [1]

In other words, it’s when our inherited beliefs collide with the messy circumstances of our lives that we go from a two-dimensional faith to one that is vibrant and textured.

December 4th, 2022

This Advent season, Father Richard writes of how we grow in faith by letting go of our need for certainty:

The major heresy of the Western churches is that they have largely turned the very meaning of faith into its exact opposite. True faith involves not knowing and even not needing to know, but we made faith demanding to know and insisting that we do know! The original sin, brilliantly described, warned us against this temptation at the very beginning.

We hear our story of humanity’s original sin in Genesis 2. But this sin, as we’ve called it, really doesn’t look like a sin at all. In fact, wanting knowledge feels like virtue. Haven’t you ever wondered about that? “You may indeed eat of all of the trees in the garden, but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you are not to eat” (Genesis 2:16–17). Why would that be a sin? It sounds like a good thing!

In seminary, we called it moral theology. We ate bushels from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, trying to decide who was good and who was bad. On other levels, our knowledge unfortunately refined and even created the very judgmental mind that Jesus strictly warned us against (see Matthew 7:1–2).

When we lead off with our judgments, love will seldom happen. Religion is almost always corrupted when the mind, which needs to make moral judgments about everything, is the master instead of the servant.

Some would think that is the whole meaning of Christianity: to be able to decide who’s going to heaven and who isn’t, who is holy and who is unholy. This is much more a search for control than it is a search for truth, love, or God. It has to do with ego, which needs to pigeonhole everything to give itself that sense of “I know” and “I am in control.”

I guess God knew that religion would take this direction. So, God said, “Don’t do it. Don’t eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.” God is trying to keep us from a lust for certitude, an undue need for explanation, resolution, and answers. Frankly, these things make biblical faith impossible.

It seems that God is asking humanity to live inside of a cosmic humility. In that holding pattern, instead of insisting on dividing reality into the good and the bad, we bear the ambiguity, the inconsistencies, and the brokenness of all things. It is our ultimate act of solidarity with humanity and with the world.

When we are allowed to name certain individuals as “bad,” persecution, scapegoating, and violence almost always follow. When we too easily presume that we are one of the “good” people, we largely live in illusion and prejudice. I say this as a religious person, but religion has been the justification of much of the violence in human history. God wanted to undercut that very violence at the beginning.

An Evolving Faith

Pastor and author Molly Baskette describes how Jesus lived from a place of growth and inclusion instead of certainty and scapegoating, and calls us to do the same:

All claims to the contrary, Jesus did not preach from a place of rigid binaries and judgments but from a place of continual becoming. He befriended outcasts and lived on the margins of society while staying in relationship with wealthy and powerful people, some of whom became patrons and disciples. He lived in a patriarchal society, but let women correct him and expand his understanding of his mission. Innocent of the trumped-up charges, he allowed himself to be murdered by state violence to expose the injustice of that violence. He asked us to love our enemies, and to bless those who curse us [Luke 6:27–28]. He warned that those who lived by the sword would die by it [Matthew 26:52].

The churches I’ve served strive to follow Jesus in this “third way”: neither returning evil for evil nor caving in to it. Our God does not hate all the same people we do, nor does our God particularly want us to be rich or admired. Our faith, frail as it is sometimes, is also flexible. It is self-correcting as we have profound encounters with people who are different from us and are exposed to new experiences and ideas. If we are willing to be humble, we can continuously root out our own biases, the weeds of white supremacy that are deeply seeded into the soil of our culture, religion, and country.

Staying in the liminal place of holy uncertainty is deeply uncomfortable. But certainty in the life of faith doesn’t serve us well. At some point, the idea or theology or God-image we have adopted may become provably false. Then we’ll have to decide to double down on it or abandon it, which may feel like abandoning God or faith altogether, and leave us entirely unmoored. [1]

For Father Richard, evolutionary thinking and faith are inherently linked: 

Evolutionary thinking is, for me, the very core concept of faith, where we trust that God alone steers this mysterious universe, where there is clearly much hidden from us and much still before us—and where “eye has not seen, and ear has not heard, and the human heart has not conceived, what God has prepared for those who love God” (1 Corinthians 2:9).

Evolutionary thinking is contemplative thinking. It leaves the full field of the future in God’s hands and agrees to humbly hold the present with what it only tentatively knows for sure. Evolutionary thinking agrees to knowing and not knowing simultaneously. It sends us on a trajectory, where the ride is itself the destination, and the goal is never clearly in sight. To stay on the ride, to trust the trajectory, to know it is moving, and moving somewhere always better, is just another way to describe faith. We are all in evolution all the time, it seems to me. [2]

Returning to Our Roots

December 2nd, 2022

During The Future of Christianity online summit, Father Richard spoke about discovering wisdom for Christianity’s future through the inspiration of those who led courageous lives in Christianity’s past:

One of the things that the Second Vatican Council (1962–1965) taught us in the religious orders, and this was certainly from the Holy Spirit, is that we were each to go back to our founders and say, “What did Catherine McAuley found the Sisters of Mercy for? What did Francis form the Franciscans for? What did Ignatius do with the Jesuits?”. . . 

So as much as we experienced a renewal in scripture [in Vatican II, asking] “What did Jesus really teach?,” we were simultaneously doing the same thing—in our case with Francis of Assisi. We’re an alternative orthodoxy. We’re quite eager to remain in the Catholic or universal church, but some of the things it does are not very universal, not very Catholic at all! And that has shaken us to our foundations. So it did for me, too. We were founded by a prophet, Francis, who wasn’t the usual pious saint, but he didn’t accuse the system of being inferior. He just went out and did it better. That’s still one of our CAC principles: “The best criticism of the bad is the practice of the better.”

I was in Rome a couple of months ago, as some of you know, to visit the Holy Father [Pope Francis]. We took a little side trip to the church of Saint John Lateran; that’s where the pope lived in the thirteenth century. St. Peter’s wasn’t built yet. Out in the courtyard, there’s this marvelous, rather large set of statues, and it’s Francis in the thirteenth century approaching this top-heavy Roman church. He’s smiling, and his hand is raised in blessing, but it’s also raised in confrontation. That’s the history we’ve all been dealing with. How do we return to our sources, and discover that almost all our sources were critical of [their current] Roman Catholicism? . . .

It was such good news! That all the legalism and ritualism I had been taught really weren’t Franciscan at all. For example, I know you, even at the Center, call me “Father Richard,” but Francis didn’t want us to be fathers. He rejected any title of domination over another person. We were all to be called brothers, in Latin fratres, or friars in English. So we were friars, not monks. Our job was not to be priests, but to live among the people as brothers. Wouldn’t you know it, as soon as Francis dies, they’re laying hands on us, and we’re getting happily ordained as priests. Even when I was ordained in 1970, I didn’t fully know that history. I’m not saying those people weren’t sincere. Many of them are holier than I am. But it wasn’t Franciscanism.


Sarah Young

I have loved you with an everlasting love, since before you were born…..and beyond the grave. Be still in my presence, surrender, connect and feel the certainty of My loving presence.

Devote time to developing your friendship with Me and live out of that.

Jeremiah 3 1:3
“If a man divorces his wife and she leaves him to marry another, can he ever return to her? Would not such a land be completely defiled? But you have played the harlot with many lovers–and you would return to Me?”

Lamentations 3:22-26
It is of the Lord’s mercies that we are not consumed, because his compassions fail not. 23 They are new every morning: great is thy faithfulness.

November 30th, 2022

The Prophetic Future

Episcopal priest Nontombi Naomi Tutu finds a vision for the future of Christianity in the wisdom of the Hebrew prophet Amos.

When God calls Amos from his fairly stable life, Amos realizes that he is called to be in conflict with the prevailing wisdom and power structure of his day. Yet, he knows that he is called not simply to upbraid the people of Israel but to remind them who their God is and who they are called to be. . . . This is a people who have pledged themselves and their descendants to be in a covenantal relationship with God. The covenant is not about feast days or offering sacrifices to God; it is about how they are to live as a people in the world. They are meant to model a new way of being in community and to show that worshipping God is about every aspect of their lives.

Worship of God is . . . all about how we treat our neighbor, how we deal with the less fortunate, what we do to or for the widow and orphan, and how we treat the stranger in our midst. Amos tries . . . to make it clear to God’s people that the God who created and loves them, expects that their belief in God will challenge them to live lives that mirror God’s love. . . .

It is harder to see this Amos Christianity in the world, but I know it is there and I believe this is actually the more dominant story of Christianity. It is more hidden because it is not flashy or seeking attention. . . . I have seen it in the small parish of St. Thomas, Kagiso, South Africa. When we visited some years ago, the rector at the time, Xolani Dlwati, told us, “We do not do outreach. Everything we do is worship.” This congregation, comprised of predominantly poor families, fed lunch to children in the neighborhood school; bought school books, shoes, and uniforms for children in the community; stood as guardians for families of child-headed households; and made sure that those dying from AIDS had their homes cleaned, were eating healthy food, and knew they were loved. There was no fancy church sanctuary, no glamorous life for the rector, just worship of God that showed, through their caring, what Christianity is all about. . . .

Our faith has never been about those who are most popular and those who preach prosperity. It has been about the communities faithfully modeling a way of being in the world, of being in relationship with each other and with the prisoner and the hungry. It has been about voices reminding us that living God’s love looks like our daily experiences. It has been about Amos, standing up to the establishment in the name of God and in the name of justice. So, I believe that the future of Christianity is indeed its past and present. It is Amos. It is us.

November 29th, 2022

The Living Church

CAC teacher Rev. Dr. Barbara Holmes finds hope in the innovative, Spirit-empowered resilience of the Black church in the United States. In CAC’s recent webcast, The Future of Christianity, she reflected:  

The contemplative movement—which is now finding roots in BIPOC [1] congregations and African-American traditional denominations—is growing, and I’m watching more and more people turn away from an entertainment-focused worship style and leaning more toward a growth that is internal rather than external. One of the reasons that the Black church has focused so much on music and exhortation is because in order to survive or to remain Christian, we had to look beyond the tenets of Christianity to the mystical. We had to be able to transcend, and the transcendence comes when you are singing a song that reaches a place that words can’t.

I was in church last Sunday, and we go to a very tiny little church on purpose, because I’m always looking for places where there’s a breakthrough of the presence of the Divine. I’m not so interested in articulate sermons. And they started singing a song “God Did It Suddenly”—this is before the preacher even took the pulpit—but suddenly there was this moment where everything changed: “God changed the way I walk, the way I talk, changed my attitude, and God did it suddenly.” It’s that understanding—that God can enter in, no matter how devious the Christian tenets have become with regard to race, and suddenly change everything, can change the hearts of your enemies, can make you strong enough to be able to stand, can give you power and can give you strength.

The other thing that made us stay Christian, I think, is that we read the Bible differently, thank God. We saw Jesus walking on water and acting like a shaman. We know shamans. We saw the walls of Jericho fall from walking. And we knew that this God that allowed us to be transported in chains from Africa was the God who could also free us. So we weren’t listening to what they told us Christianity was; we had an understanding of Christianity rooted in our own African understandings.

In Holmes’s experience, leadership and ministry didn’t come from official ordination, but from the movement of the Holy Spirit among the people:

You always knew who had the gifts, ’cause they couldn’t fake it. If in their presence folks got healed, that was a healer. If they could walk up to you and tell you what your life had been and what was going to happen tomorrow, that was a discerner. And so there are all these gifted people around but they didn’t have any power within church structures, which made people like me realize that the real power was not in the structure of the church, but in the living church. The gifted prophets in our midst.

November 28th, 2022

Courage to Ask the Question

In a recent webcast, CAC faculty joined together to discuss the future of Christianity. Brian McLaren opened the conversation: 

Our question that brings us together today is the question of the future of Christianity. This is a question that I have lived with really my whole adult life. I sensed it was part of my calling or vocation to live with and wrestle with this question.

And I think we should realize there are some people who would find it dangerous that we are even asking this question, because to raise the question of the future of Christianity suggests that the future might be different than the past or the present. And there are a lot of people who are very, very invested in making sure the future is exactly the same as the past or the present. And I think the question is also dangerous within each of us, depending on how we answer it. If we were to look at some positive trends and say, “Oh, the future of Christianity is bright! The future of Christianity is wonderful,” there’s a certain way that that kind of positive and even wishful thinking could then give us, inside of the privacy of our own minds, permission to say, “Everything’s going to be fine. I can return to my previously scheduled apathy and complacency.”

There’s another way of answering the question that says, “The future of Christianity is [bleak] and terrible and hopeless.” And we could succumb to a kind of despair or a cynicism that would allow us to say, “Nothing I can do about it. It will be what it will be. It’s out of my hands.” And that would allow us to return to our previously scheduled apathy and complacency.

But there’s another way of asking this question and engaging it with an open heart, an open imagination, an open mind. And that’s a way that leads to a sense of empowerment for us to be open to the ways that the future of Christianity could be influenced by what we know our story begins with: one person impacting twelve people who impacted several hundred more [and so on].

McLaren finds hope for Christianity’s future in viewing its past as an ever-evolving movement: 

For centuries, Christianity has presented itself as an “organized religion”—a change-averse institution . . . that protects and promotes a timeless system of beliefs that were handed down fully formed in the past. Yet Christianity’s actual history is a story of change and adaptation. We Christians have repeatedly adapted our message, methods, and mission to the contours of our time. What might happen if we understand the core Christian ethos as creative, constructive, and forward-leaning—as an “organizing religion” that challenges all institutions (including its own) to learn, grow, and mature toward a deepening, enduring vision of reconciliation with God, self, neighbor, enemy, and creation? [1]

In the End, a New Beginning

Even if our traditional religious architecture crumbles—physically or conceptually—even then God can raise something beautiful from the rubble.
—Brian McLaren, The Great Spiritual Migration

In this talk on the church’s future, Richard Rohr encourages trust in the mystery of faith: 

It is no accident that the liturgy has the creed at its core, a statement of faith that repeats: I believe, I believe, I believe. Regardless of what it is, we must find our real belief system. What are we passionate and enthusiastic about? What are we filled with God about? Being reactionary against what’s wrong might excite people, but it does not convert anybody, does not transform anybody, and does not draw the soul. We all know what’s wrong, we all know what should be changed, but more change, no matter how progressive, will not bring about soul transformation in and of itself. Our call to change is now obviously much deeper.

Our faith also offers us a foundational belief that life is a succession of dyings and risings. At the center of the Eucharist, we proclaim, “Christ has died, Christ is risen, and Christ will come again.” [1] That is the saving pattern! It is not mystery of faithit is the mystery of faith. It will never change. But Western people, trained in the philosophy of progress and problem-solving, don’t really believe that anymore. We much more believe that we can overcome the paschal mystery. That we can create a family, a parish, a church, an institution, a country that will not have to go through the dying of things.

It’s not true! It’s not true that everything’s getting better and better. That fallacy is being taken away from us. But we can return to the pattern of our faith and the pattern of reality: that things die and things resurrect and both are good teachers. Christ must be recognized and welcomed in both places—in the dying of things, and in the ecstasy and the loveliness of things.

The way down always teaches us. We need times where the soul is broken and we need some place we can go and weep and mourn. But we must have healthy people there who don’t let us sink into that negativity as a way of life. As people of the church, we are called to be agents of transformation who witness and accompany change with the wisdom of the soul.

Jesus never told us to put our trust in the larger institutions of culture or even the church. That doesn’t mean they are bad or that we should abandon them, but we must recognize that they are also subject to the paschal mystery, the dying and the rising of all things. And I think we must be honest that we’re at the downside of the curve. All the indices suggest that we are at the end of the dominance of the United States, Western civilization, and even of Christianity. The question for us becomes: What will we do about it?

November 22nd, 2022

Gratitude and Generosity 

Lakota author and activist Doug Good Feather is committed to sharing Indigenous wisdom and practices with nonnative audiences as a way to help and to heal humanity. He writes that no matter what our circumstances, gratitude is available to us:  

Each and every morning offers us a chance to start anew, fresh, and to begin again. Each morning when we wake—should we choose to listen—is a message from the Creator to remember the privilege we were given of waking up. It’s a reminder to get up and prepare our self, to honor our self, to go out into the world, to connect with Mother Earth and the hearts of other beings, to inspire and encourage those who cross our paths, and most importantly, to enjoy life.  

Good Feather highlights the Indigenous virtues of gratitude and generosity:

Gratitude and generosity are similar virtues, but they differ in that gratitude is an internal characteristic and generosity is our external expression of our sense of gratitude. Basically, gratitude is how we feel, and generosity is how we express that feeling out in the world. . . .

When we engage with the world from a place of gratitude, it’s the difference between trying to make something happen and allowing something to happen. The defining difference between effort and effortlessness is the virtue of gratitude. We see the quotes and memes from the sages and gurus that talk about gratitude. But why is gratitude such a core concept of joy, contentment, and well-being in our life? The ancestors tell us there are two primary reasons. The first is that a person cannot exist in a place of fear and true gratitude at the same time. The second is that gratitude is the doorway to divine intuition, which allows us to be guided by our connection with the Creator.

Gratitude moves stagnant energy when we’re feeling stuck in life. The simple act of practicing gratitude disrupts negative thoughts and changes our mindset to see the world in a positive way. Not only are we more attractive to others when we live in gratitude, but the most ordinary things can become extraordinary, creating a fuller, more beautiful expression of our life.

You’ve probably heard the old saying, “Things don’t happen to us, they happen for us.” Gratitude is the foundation of that adage. It means that our mindset has to be that the universe is generally conspiring and working in our favor. Frequently, when something that we perceive as “bad” happens to us, we let it affect us in a highly negative way. But if we interact with the world from a place of gratitude, when something happens that others may perceive as “bad,” we just see that experience as “interesting.” We are curious about why something happens the way it does, and in expressing that curiosity, we’re actively seeking the part of the experience that we’re grateful for.

November 21st, 2022

An Attitude of Gratitude 

Father Richard Rohr reminds us that when we receive everything as a gift, we can live gratefully, allowing the energies of life and love to flow through us to the benefit of the whole.

In Philippians 4:6–7, Paul sums up an entire theology of prayer practice in very concise form: “Pray with gratitude, and the peace of Christ, which is bigger than knowledge or understanding [that is, making distinctions—Richard], will guard both your mind and your heart in Christ Jesus.” Only a pre-existent attitude of gratitude, a deliberate choice of love over fear, a desire to be positive instead of negative, will allow us to live in the spacious place Paul describes as “the peace of Christ.” 

It is important that we ask, seek, and knock to keep ourselves in right relationship with Life Itself. Life is a gift, totally given to us without cost, every day of it, and every part of it. A daily and chosen attitude of gratitude will keep our hands open to expect that life, allow that life, and receive that life at ever-deeper levels of satisfaction—but never to think we deserve it. Those who live with such open and humble hands receive life’s “gifts, full measure, pressed down, shaken together, and running over into their lap” (Luke 6:38). In my experience, if we are not radically grateful every day, resentment always takes over. Moreover, to ask for “our daily bread” is to recognize that it is already being given. Not to ask is to take our own efforts, needs, and goals—and our selves—far too seriously. Consider if that is not true in your own life. 

All the truly great persons I have ever met are characterized by what I would call radical humility and gratitude. They are deeply convinced that they are drawing from another source; they are instruments. Their genius is not their own; it is borrowed. We are moons, not suns, except in our ability to pass on the light. Our life is not our own; yet, at some level, enlightened people know that their life has been given to them as a sacred trust. They live in gratitude and confidence, and they try to let the flow continue through them. They know that “love is repaid by love alone,” as both St. Francis of Assisi and St. Thérèse of Lisieux have said. 

In the end, it is not our own doing, or grace would not be grace. It is God’s gift, not a reward for work well done. It is nothing for us to be boastful about. We are God’s work of art, created in Christ Jesus. All we can do is be what God’s Spirit makes us to be, and be thankful to God for the riches God has bestowed on us. Humility, gratitude, and loving service to others are probably the most appropriate responses we can make. 

Sharing God’s Grace 

For author and historian Diana Butler Bass, gratitude begins with awareness of God’s grace:

The words “gratitude” and “grace” come from the same root word, gratia in Latin. . . . “Grace” is a theological word, one with profound spiritual meaning. Grace means “unmerited favor.” When I think of grace, I particularly like the image of God tossing gifts around—a sort of indiscriminate giver of sustenance, joy, love, and pleasure. Grace—gifts given without being earned and with no expectation of return—is, as the old hymn says, amazing. Because you can neither earn nor pay back the gift, your heart fills with gratitude. And the power of that emotion transforms the way you see the world and experience life. Grace begets gratitude, which, in turn, widens our hearts toward greater goodness and love.

Bass explores the liberating nature of gratitude:

Together grace and gratitude form a different moral “equation.” The standard model of gratitude is a closed cycle of gift and return bound by social obligation and indebtedness, whereby a “benefactor,” a superior of some sort (someone wealthier, more powerful), provides a benefit for another, a “beneficiary,” a person in a state of need or trouble. In the closed cycle, the beneficiary is dependent on the benefactor in a way that feels demeaning or signals indebtedness. . . . Few want to be on the receiving end of an unequal transaction. . . .

If we change a closed system to an open one, banishing transaction and substituting grace, the picture of gratitude shifts. In the closed cycle of debt and duty, the roles of benefactor and beneficiary are static, and gifts are commodities of exchange, based in transaction and control. . . . But in an open cycle of gratitude, gifts are not commodities. Gifts are the nature of the universe itself, given by God or the natural order. Grace reminds us that every good thing is a gift—that somehow the rising of the sun and being alive are indiscriminate daily offerings to us—and then we understand that all benefactors are also beneficiaries and all beneficiaries can be benefactors. All that we have was gifted to all of us. There would be no benefactors if they were not first the recipients of grace. In other words, gifts come before givers. We do not really give gifts. We recognize gifts, we receive them, and we pass them on. We all rely on these gifts. We all share them.

This is not a fulfillment of duty or a single act of kindness, but an infinite process of awareness and responsive action. The gift structure of the universe is that of an interdependent community of nature and neighbor that extends through the ages in which we care for what was handed to us and give gifts to others as a response. This is not a closed circle of exchange; it is more like the circles that ripple across a pond when pebbles are tossed into the water.

Find the Flow

November 18th, 2022

CAC teacher Brian McLaren invites us to participate in a spiritual movement of the future instead of one that tries to return to the past:

Since between 3000 and 4000 BCE, when the first human civilizations were born, we have been part of one meta-movement [DM Team: way of thinking or dominant consciousness] we might call the old humanity or imperial humanity. . . . [But] what happens when a meta-movement runs its course? . . .

What would it mean for us if we happen to live during the decline of the old humanity, when a new humanity is in the painful, fragile process of being born? . . . What if the growth of the new movement, the new humanity, the new social creation or construction depends on the old one losing its hegemony?

As I write those words, I can’t help but feel a flood of resonances with the Hebrew Scriptures. [1] I feel echoes of Isaiah, speaking of God doing a new thing, something fresh springing forth, so that there will be good news for the poor, recovery of sight for the blind, freedom for the incarcerated and oppressed. (Oppression of the poor is one of the hallmarks of the old humanity.) I hear the prophet imagining a promised time when weapons are recycled into farm equipment because nobody studies war any more. (War is one of the hallmarks of the old humanity.) I hear Ezekiel’s oracle about a new heart, a heart of flesh that replaces the heart of stone. (The hardening of hearts in the name of self-interest and in-group interest is a hallmark of the old humanity.) I hear Amos envisioning a time when a river of justice rolls down from the heights, filling the lowest places first. (A concentration of power and wealth at the top is a hallmark of the old humanity.) I hear Micah relativizing everything in his religion except doing justice, loving kindness, and walking humbly before God. (Hoarding power, loving money, and walking in racial, religious, or national pride are hallmarks of the old humanity.) . . .

And so I imagine: in the middle of the old meta-movement of empires, domination, extraction, and exploitation, what if a long succession of prophets, including Mary, John the Baptizer, Jesus, Paul, and others, were giving us a vision for a new movement being born? . . .

Whatever this new emerging meta-movement is, it is bigger than any single religion. In fact, it is bigger than religion as a whole. It issues an invitation, perhaps even an ultimatum, to all religions, all economies, all educational and political systems, all arts and trades, all sciences and technologies, everything. It is, we might say, a spiritual movement that encompasses everything. . . . Wherever you invest your life, I hope it will be in this larger movement laboring for the birth of something new. Embrace the long view and find the deep current, the infinite flow. 


Sarah Young

Instead of trying to figure things out yourself, you can relax in My presence. Surrender and feel peaceful and complete.

I designed you to live in close communion with Me. Do not be concerned about the approval of others, surrender and trust Me to guide you always.

Philippians 4:6-7
Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to …

John 7:38
Whoever believes in me, as Scripture has said, rivers of living water will flow from within them.

Ephesians 5:18-20
Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit, speaking to one another with psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit.