Archive for April, 2021

You Can’t Go Back to “Normal”

April 30th, 2021

Apocalyptic literature is subversive literature. This is a key point in understanding John’s reasons for writing the book of Revelation in the style that he did. Author and speaker Rob Bell has helped many people understand the Bible, including the book of Revelation, in a more helpful and hopeful way: 

This letter is written in an apocalyptic, heavily symbolic way that has given people much to discuss over the years, beginning with the question: How did the first readers of this letter understand it? Because it’s written by a real pastor in a real place to a real congregation going through very real suffering. They were living at the time the letter was written under the oppressive rule of a succession of Roman Emperors who demanded they be worshipped as the “Son of God.” Christians who refused to acknowledge these Caesars as Lord were being executed, simply for being followers of Jesus.  

This kind of tribulation raised very pressing questions for these people in this church that John pastored about how God runs the world and how long God would let this injustice continue. [1]

Allan Boesak, a clergy leader in the anti-apartheid movement, understood the subversive nature of John’s book, and how it spoke to oppressed people in his own day. He describes his South African situation at the height of the struggle: 

More and more the government is requiring Christians to obey it without question. . . . Preachers of the gospel were imprisoned in unprecedented numbers. Church services were banned, and police attacked worshippers with tear gas, dogs, and guns. . . . We go to jail by the thousands. It is clear that the government has declared war on our defenseless people as heavily armed police and army troops besiege the black townships and invade our communities, schools, and homes. . . .

For people who face situations like these, the Apocalypse is an exciting, inspiring, and marvelous book. It is a book which, in our sociopolitical situation, is a constant call for conversion and change. . . . But we shall have to learn to read it differently. . . .

The clue to understanding the Apocalypse as protest literature—and at the same time the answer to the question as to why so few scholars understand it in this way—lies, I think, in Revelation 1:9: “I John, your brother, who share with you in Jesus the tribulation and the kingdom and the patient endurance [of suffering].” This is the key. Those who do not know this suffering through oppression, who do not struggle together with God’s people for the sake of the gospel, and who do not feel in their own bodies the meaning of oppression and the freedom and joy of fighting against it shall have grave difficulty understanding this letter from Patmos. . . . It is understanding the comfort and the protest, the prophetic, hopeful song of victory that the church already sings, even in the midst of suffering and fear, destruction, and death.

Stirring the Imagination, Shaking the Unconscious

April 28th, 2021

Let’s further distinguish the character of apocalyptic literature from prophetic literature in the Bible. Since the Western mind is literal and analytic, it usually misunderstood both types of literature. We viewed apocalypse as threatening and prophecy as foretelling, and our understanding of both missed the point. Prophecy came to mean predicting things and apocalypse came to mean the final destruction of things—both in the future. We projected everything forward, instead of realizing that these writings were, first of all, present descriptions of reality right now. We did the same thing with heaven and hell. In terms of the actual biblical message of transformation and enlightenment, this approach is largely useless, in my opinion, and often even harmful. They just reinforced our reward/punishment story line which keeps us at an immature level of development.

Through apocalyptic literature, the Scripture writers were finding a language and set of metaphors that would stir the power of the imagination and shake the unconscious. The Book of Apocalypse or Revelation was written almost entirely in this apocalyptic style, with archetypal symbols of good and evil such as the Heavenly Woman, the Lamb of God, the Mighty Warrior, and the Red Dragon. The genre we are familiar with that comes closest to what Revelation does is science fiction—but please don’t think I’m dismissing the divinely inspired character of the book. The well-known Bible translator Eugene Peterson (1932–2018) understood the symbolic power of the Book of Revelation:

I read [John’s] Revelation not to get more information but to revive my imagination. “The imagination is our way into the divine Imagination, permitting us to see wholly—as whole and holy—what we perceive as scattered, as order what we perceive as random.” [1] St. John uses words the way poets do, recombining them in fresh ways so that old truth is freshly perceived. He takes truth that has been eroded to platitude by careless usage and sets it in motion before us in an “animated and impassioned dance of ideas.” [2] . . . Familiarity dulls my perceptions. Hurry scatters my attention. Ambition fogs my intelligence. Selfishness restricts my range. Anxiety robs me of appetite. Envy distracts me from what is good and blessed right before me. And then . . . St. John’s apocalyptic vision brings me to my senses, body and soul. [3]

To change people’s consciousness, we have to find a way to reach their unconscious. That’s where our hearts and our real agendas lie, where our mother wounds, father wounds, and cultural wounds reside. The unconscious is where it all lies stored, and this determines a great deal of what we pay attention to and what we ignore. While it took modern therapy and psychology for us to recognize how true this was, through apocalyptic literature, the Scripture writers were already there. We can’t get to the unconscious logically, literally, or mechanically. We have to fall into it, I’m sorry to say, and usually by suffering, paradox and the effective use of symbols. Until our certitudes and our own little self-written success stories begin to fall apart, we usually won’t touch upon any form of deeper wisdom.

April 28
MORNING AS YOU LOOK into the day that stretches out before you, you see many choice-points along the way. The myriad possibilities these choices present can confuse you. Draw your mind back to the threshold of this day, where I stand beside you, lovingly preparing you for what is ahead. You must make your choices one at a time since each is contingent upon the decision that precedes it. Instead of trying to create a mental map of your path through this day, focus on My loving Presence with you. I will equip you as you go so that you can handle whatever comes your way. Trust Me to supply what you need when you need it.


Because of the LORD’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. I say to myself, “The LORD is my portion; therefore I will wait for him.” The LORD is good …

9 In their hearts humans plan their course, but the Lord establishes their steps.

Oh, taste and see that the Lord is good; Blessed is the man who trusts in Him! 9 Oh, fear the Lord, you His saints!

Young, Sarah. Jesus Calling Morning and Evening Devotional (Jesus Calling®) (p. 244). Thomas Nelson. Kindle Edition.

Letter From Richard

April 27th, 2021

Dear Dave & JD

I believe my first real spiritual experience happened when I was probably five years old. I was alone in the living room of our home in Kansas and only the Christmas tree was lit. I had the sense that the world was good, I was good, and I was part of the good world—and I just wanted to stay there. It was like being taken to another world—the real world, the world as it’s meant to be, where the foundation is love and God is in everything.

I remember feeling very special, very chosen, very beloved, and it was my secret. The rest of my family didn’t know what I was knowing—see how my ego was already getting involved? Like the Apostle Paul, I now believe that chosenness is for the sake of letting everybody else know they are chosen, too.

My hope for our near future lies in those who are waking up to this Divine DNA that was there from the start—especially amid the painful experiences of life. We must all move through the universal pattern of Order, Disorder, and Reorder, and we must do it again and again and again.

By choosing a life of simplicity, service, generosity, and even powerlessness, we can move forward trusting both Love and Mystery. We don’t need to be perfectly certain before taking the next step.

Our job is to be who we say we are and who God says we are—carriers of the divine image. “My deepest me is God,” as St. Catherine of Genoa said. I can only imagine how differently our lives, families, and nations would look if we trusted the foundational promise of Christian incarnation. When you can see Christ in all things (including yourself!), you will see and live differently.

I’ve spent my life trying to remind people of their inherent belovedness, and I pray that our work at the Center for Action and Contemplation (CAC) has played a role in helping you to see, feel, and experience the hope of your own chosenness in God.

Twice per year, we pause the Daily Meditations to ask for your support. If you have been impacted by the CAC’s programs (including these Daily Meditations) and are financially able, please consider donating.

Your support is what enables this work of sharing the transformative wisdom of the Christian contemplative tradition with people all over the world. Thank you for being part of this community. I hope our work has been helpful in your life this year and we are so grateful for your partnership in making it possible.

Please take a moment to read our Executive Director Michael’s note below. Tomorrow the Daily Meditations will continue exploring the challenging theme of Apocalyptic Hope.

In the words of Teilhard… “Christ ever greater,”

Fr. Richard Rohr, O.F.M.

Dear Friends,

All of us at the Center for Action and Contemplation (CAC) are honored and grateful to be a part of this incredible community—especially given this past year.

Like many of you, we had no idea how much the challenges of 2020 would force us to change or adapt. Thanks to your support, the CAC has been able to continue the work of reminding more and more people of their inherent belovedness. And, if the tremendous volume of emails and letters we’ve received is any indication, there continues to be a great appreciation and growing need for this to continue to expand. Here is one example from last month:

I want to let you know that the daily meditations and podcasts helped me tremendously to live through the pandemic, the political uncertainties and many other difficulties. Words cannot describe how important they are to me during these times. It calmed me down in my panics, fears and hopelessness. It kept me from sinking to the bottom. It has been ‘the’ one and only place that helps me to see God clearly and feel his love dearly. 

Thank you, and God bless you.

I’m grateful for the opportunity to pass along this message of thanks, because it isn’t just for Father Richard or the CAC, but for each of you as well. Your generous contributions are what allow this work to reach people—all over the world!

The CAC’s programs and resources are designed to help deepen prayer practice and strengthen compassionate engagement. Whether you’re reading the Daily Meditations, listening to a podcast, or working through an online course—everything the CAC offers is in service to awakening Love in you and in the world.

Thank you for being part of this community and one of the partners that makes it possible. The CAC is not funded by any denomination, endowment, or even large foundation; we are supported by thousands of small donations from people like you. We deeply appreciate any support you are able to provide.

Please consider making a one-time donation or a recurring gift to support the future of this work. If you are able, please consider making your donation a monthly one. Monthly support helps create the stability the CAC needs to share this message in new and increasingly accessible ways.

In gratitude for an online donation of any size, we will send you a free digital version of our new edition of ONEING with the important theme of Trauma.

I am so thankful for your partnership with us on the journey, and I hope we all can continue to help those who need a reminder of their chosenness and beloved identity in God to find it.

Peace and Every Good,

Michael Poffenberger, CAC Executive Director

Michael Poffenberger
Executive Director, Center for Action and Contemplation

This Is an Apocalypse

In April of last year, I was invited by the Call to Unite [1] to share my thoughts about what we might learn from the COVID-19 pandemic. I knew it might be a risk, but I felt a strong urge to speak about the much-misunderstood meaning of biblical apocalypse. Here is a portion of that conversation:

What apocalyptic means is to pull back the veil, to reveal the underbelly of reality. It uses hyperbolic images, stars falling from the sky, the moon turning to blood. The closest thing would be contemporary science fiction, where suddenly you’re placed in an utterly different world, where what you used to call “normal” doesn’t apply anymore. That perfectly describes this COVID-19 event.

So hear this word rightly—it is meant to shock: this is an apocalypse, hap­pening to us in our lifetime, that’s leaving us utterly out of control. We’re grasping to retake control, by things like refusing to wear masks and defying boundaries at potential superspreader events. But I think we now know in a new way that we can’t totally take control.

There is a giveaway in all of the apocalyptic sections of the three Synoptic Gospels. In Matthew 24:8, hidden there in the middle of the wars and earthquakes it says, “All this is only the beginning of the birth pangs.” Apocalypse is for the sake of birth not death. Yet most of us have heard this reading as a threat. Apparently, it’s not. Anything that upsets our normalcy is a threat to the ego but in the Big Picture, it really isn’t. In Luke 21, Jesus says right in the middle of the catastrophic description: “Your endurance will win you your souls.” Falling apart is for the sake of renewal, not punishment. Again, such a telling line. 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 reframes reality in a radical way by flipping our imagination.

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. In the book of Revelation (also called the Apocalypse, or Revelation to John), John is trying to describe what it feels like when everything falls apart. It’s not a threat. It’s an invitation to depth. It’s what it takes to wake people up to the real, to the lasting, to what matters. It presents the serious reader with a great “What if?”

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?” Otherwise, we get trapped in the negative past.

A Time of Unveiling

I believe this past year has been an apocalyptic time, though not necessarily in the way we might think. When the CAC staff first started speaking with me in the fall of 2020 about potential themes for the 2021 Daily Meditations, we were about seven months into the COVID-19 pandemic. Social distancing and staying home were the norm. The presidential campaign, with all its ugly rhetoric, was in full swing. Only half-joking, I suggested “apocalypse” as a theme! But the Daily Meditations editorial team took my idea seriously and transformed it into something broader, deeper, and much more accessible. We called this year’s theme “A Time of Unveiling.” For many of us, the word “apocalypse” conjures thoughts of the rapture, fear, a vengeful God, and violent and exclusive religion. It is an overwhelming judgment on Western Christianity that it is drawn to such beliefs. But despite its misuse, I’m convinced the biblical meaning of apocalypse is a helpful and ultimately hopeful framework.

A quick etymology of the word will help: kaluptein is the Greek word for “to cover” and apo means “un,” so apokaluptein means to uncover or unveil. While we primarily use the word “apocalypse” to mean to destroy or threaten, in its original context, apocalypse simply meant to reveal something new. The key is that in order to reveal something new, we have to get the old out of the way.

I begin my book Eager to Love with these poetic words from Neale Donald Walsch that put this quite nicely.

Yearning for a new way will not produce it. Only ending the old way can do that. You cannot hold onto the old all the while declaring that you want something new. The old will defy the new; the old will deny the new; the old will decry the new. There is only one way to bring in the new. You must make room for it. [1]

That’s what apocalyptic literature does. It helps us make room for something new by clearing out the old—old ideas, old stories, old ways of thinking—especially if we’ve become overly attached to them. The goal of apocalyptic language, as used in the Jewish and Christian Scriptures, is to shake people out of their reliance on conventional wisdom and undercut where we all operate on cruise control.

The most common mistake is to confuse apocalyptic literature with prophetic literature.  They serve very different functions. Apocalyptic writing deconstructs the “taken-for-granted world” by presenting a completely different universe, similar to what a good novel or even a science fiction movie does for us. As the Buddhist heart sutra says it, “Gone, gone, utterly gone, all has passed over to the other side.” It makes room for the reconstruction of a new vision of peace and justice, which is the job of the prophets. Yes, prophets do plenty of deconstruction too, but it is always to make room inside the mind and soul for vision, expansion, hope, and a future inhabited by God and not by fear.

The Work That Reconnects

April 23rd, 2021

A few years ago, some members of our CAC community and I were blessed to be able to spend a week at Ghost Ranch with Joanna Macy. Joanna is a brilliant Buddhist teacher, a systems thinker, deep ecologist, and activist for peace, justice, and a healthy environment, and she led us in what she calls the Work That Reconnects. Joanna (now in her 90s) is a true elder, a woman who has dedicated her life to what she and others call The Great Turning from an Industrial Growth Society to a Life-Sustaining Society. She sees us in the middle of The Great Unraveling, what I might call an “unveiling,” which “draws attention to the disasters that Business As Usual has caused and continues to create.” [1] Ecologist Stephan Harding writes:

The Work That Reconnects is conceptualized as a spiral that maps the journey to Gaian consciousness [or deep connection with the living Earth] in four stages. The first is gratitude, in which we experience our love for life. Next is honoring our pain, in which we learn how to suffer the pain of the world with others and with the world itself. Then, in seeing with new eyes, we experience our connection with life in all its forms through all the ages. Finally, in the last stage we go forth into action in the world as open human beings, aware of our mutual belonging in the web of life, learning through feedback in our social and ecological domains. [2]

Richard here: In their book Coming Back to Life, Joanna Macy and Molly Young Brown describe powerful experiential practices that take groups through each stage. I can vouch for their effectiveness! By the end of the week at Ghost Ranch many of us had made discoveries similar to those described here:

What then can we expect to take with us, as we go forth into the world and our individual lives?

  • A heightened awareness of the suffering and dangers besetting our world with a greater respect for our capacity to face them without dodging, denying or numbing out
  • An upsurge of energy as we unblock feedback loops by accepting our pain for the world, reframing it as compassion
  • A wider sense of identity as a unique and integral part of the living body of Earth
  • A growing appreciation for community—with each other, with our brother-sister species, with our ancestors and future generations. We feel supported by them as well as accountable to them
  • A stronger motivation to join with others in service to life; confidence in the power of our solidarity
  • A fresh sense of the diversity of our gifts and of the many interdependent roles to be played in the Great Turning
  • Hence, gratitude for who we are as individuals, with all our personal strengths and limitations—even our wounds—and for our desire to be of use
  • Commitment to goals extending beyond our individual lifetime; liberation from dependence on immediate, measurable results
  • Gladness in being alive now, in this epochal moment on Earth; a sense of the privilege of taking part in the Great Turning [3]  
  • __________________________________________
  • Sarah Young……………………….

KEEP YOUR EYES ON ME, not only for direction but also for empowerment. I never lead you to do something without equipping you for the task. That is why it’s so important to seek My will in everything you do. There are many burned-out Christians who think more is always better, who deem it unspiritual to say no. In order to know My will, you must spend time with Me—enjoying My Presence. This is not an onerous task but a delightful privilege. I will show you the path of Life; in My Presence is fullness of Joy; at My right hand there are pleasures forevermore. PSALM 141:8; ISAIAH 48:17;

Psalm 141:88But my eyes are fixed on you, Sovereign LORD; in you I take refuge-do not give me over to death.

Isaiah 48:17 “Thus saith the LORD, thy Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel; I am the LORD thy God which teacheth thee to profit, which leadeth thee by the way that thou shouldest go.” King James Version (KJV)

Psalm 16:11 You will show me the path of life; In Your presence is fullness of joy; At Your right hand are pleasures forevermore. Read verse in New King James Version

Young, Sarah. Jesus Calling Morning and Evening Devotional (Jesus Calling®) (p. 234). Thomas Nelson. Kindle Edition.

One Life, One Breath

April 22nd, 2021

On this Earth Day, Sherri Mitchell, a Native American attorney and sacred activist for environmental protection and human rights shares two particular terms which offer us some much-needed Indigenous wisdom and compassion.

N’dilnabamuk—“all my relations.” Many people have heard Native people say “all my relations” after speaking or offering prayers. But what does it really mean? All societies organize around some sort of core principle. The core principle for Wabanaki societies is relationship. Our story begins with an understanding that we are related to all beings within creation. The two legged, the four legged, the winged, the beings that crawl and slide along the ground, the plants, the trees, and the living Earth are all our relatives. Everything is interconnected and interdependent; the well-being of the whole determines the well-being of any individual part. We recognize that connection in our prayers, and the understanding that the whole is shifted by every action of each individual. There is one life, one breath that we all breathe. Therefore, when we take any action out in the world, even when we pray for ourselves, we impact all life. This belief forms the foundational understanding [that] weaves through all of our other values. It’s the thread that ties them all together. . . .

Kciye—“Harmony with the natural world”—this teaches us that it is not enough to know that we are part of one living system. We must also take active steps to live in harmony with the rest of creation. This means that we cannot adopt attitudes or beliefs that place us above the natural world. We cannot see ourselves as having dominion over the land, the water, or the animals. We can’t even see ourselves as being stewards of the Earth. We are only keepers of a way of life that is in harmony with the Earth. Every day, we must act in ways that acknowledge that we are part of one living system, a unified whole.

This understanding is very different than the belief that human beings are chosen above all others. That view creates countless distortions that not only elevate [humanity] inappropriately, but also diminish the rest of creation. The world is one unified system. It cannot be separated into fragmented, saleable parts. The Eurocentric view of property ownership requires us to see the land as being disconnected from us. This view separates us from the source of life. The Indigenous view recognizes the land as kin [as did my spiritual father, St. Francis], as part of the lineage of life that we are all connected to. Thus, we have an obligation to care for the land in the same way that we would care for our human relatives. . . .

The only way for us to regain our balance within creation is to once again find our balance with the natural world. Kciye is just a word, but it’s a word that reminds us of our deeper connections and our deeper obligations to life.

Richard’s Prayer

April 21st, 2021

Grieving the Trees

April 20th, 2021

Love and grief go hand in hand. Sometimes it is the deep grief we feel during loss that awakens us to the depth and sincerity of our love. As we witness the many ways the earth has been exploited and damaged beyond repair (particularly in our lifetimes), we must grieve and commit to show our love through conscious action. The Rev. Dr. Margaret Bullitt-Jonas expresses her grief through prayer:

In times like these, our prayer may need to be expressive and embodied, visceral and vocal. How else can we pray with our immense anger and grief? How else can we pray about ecocide, about the death that humanity is unleashing upon Mother Earth and upon ourselves? How else can we break through our inertia and despair, so that we don’t shut down and go numb? . . . .

I’ve taken to praying outdoors. I go outside, feel the good earth beneath my feet and the wind on my face, and I sing to the trees—to oak and beech, hemlock and pines. Making up the words and music as I go along, I sing my grief to the trees that are going down, and my grief for so much more—for what we have lost and are losing, and for what we are likely to lose. I sing my outrage about these beautiful old trees being cut to the roots, their bodies chipped to bits and hauled away to sell. I sing my fury about the predicament we’re in as a species. I sing my protest of the political and corporate powers-that-be that drive forward relentlessly with business as usual, razing forests, drilling for more oil and fracked gas, digging for more coal, expanding pipeline construction, and opening up public lands and waters to endless exploitation, as if Earth were their private business and they were conducting a liquidation sale. I sing out my shame to the trees, my repentance and apology for the part I have played in Earth’s destruction and for the part my ancestors played when they stole land and chopped down the original forests of the Native peoples who lived here. I sing my praise for the beauty of trees and my resolve not to let a day go by that I don’t celebrate the precious living world of which we are so blessedly a part. I’m not finished until I sing my determination to renew action for trees and for all of God’s Creation. . . .

So our prayer may be noisy and expressive, or it may be very quiet. It may be the kind of prayer that depends on listening in stillness and silence with complete attention: listening to the crickets as they pulse at night, listening to the rain as it falls, listening to our breath as we breathe God in and breathe God out, listening to the inner voice of love that is always sounding in our heart. A discipline of contemplative prayer or meditation can set us free from the frantic churn of thoughts and feelings and enable our spirit to rest and roam in a vaster, wilder space.

God as Friendship

April 16th, 2021

As I was preparing for The Shape of God conference on the Trinity in 2004, I discovered the teachings of Richard of St. Victor (1110–1173), a medieval philosopher and theologian. For years, people had been telling me, “Richard, read Richard!” So I finally did, and he gave me the powerful insight that the Trinity can be summed up as mutual friendship between three. Absolute Friendship! I really believe this is something we might be able to hold on to in our spiritual lives.

In essence, he said, for God to be good, God can be one (but we always have doubts about a lone monarch). For God to be loving, God has to be two, because love is always a relationship of giving and receiving. The real breakthrough comes when Richard of St. Victor says that for God to be joy-filled and happy, God has to be three. [1] Delight comes, he says, from two together enjoying and rejoicing in the same thing at the same time. It is like new parents loving their new child that they cannot stop admiring. The love then flows in an eternal circle instead of back and forth between two. Each of the three takes their part in revving the engine of desire and delight.

His theology places friendship right at the heart of God! Denis Edwards, another theologian I appreciate, describes the theology of Richard of St. Victor in this way:

Richard [of St. Victor] sees the self-transcending love of friendship as the high point of human life and argues that such friendship must be found in God. . . . Real friendship is love which goes from the self to the other. . . . Richard’s insight into friendship leads him to suggest that real love does not remain with the two but wants to share love with another. For full love we look for one who can share our love for the beloved. Richard sees the friendship in the Trinity as ecstatically breaking out beyond the two to include a third. . . . There is no sense in which this common [third] friend is loved any less than the other two. In the love of the divine Persons, Richard sees supreme love flowing equally in all directions. [2]

When I read Richard of St. Victor, it reminded me of a dilemma I faced when I first started becoming rather well-known. (Forgive me if that sounds arrogant!) There were a lot of people who wanted to get close to me and be my friend. I asked myself, how do I allow all these would-be friends? I realized that the people I really loved with great abandon and freedom were not just people who loved me, but people who also loved what I loved.

Optimally, both parents fall in love with the challenge and joy that is their baby. The child that they’re in love with holds the couple together in a kind of ecstatic and willing-to-serve excitement. Love is no effort then; it flows in each new moment between the One who agrees to start the Flow, the Second who receives and reciprocates the Flow, and the Third who becomes the beneficiary and the Flow Itself. And they are constantly changing places! Think about that for a few hours. You will not want to live anywhere else.

Making New Friends

April 15th, 2021

I’ve known CAC faculty member Brian McLaren for many years; and I deeply admire his gift for making friends through his genuine curiosity, compassion, and unconditional presence to others. In this passage, he encourages us to build relationships outside our comfortable social and religious groups. 

Christian mission begins with friendship—not utilitarian friendship, the religious version of network marketing—but genuine friendship, friendship that translates love for neighbors in general into knowing, appreciating, liking, and enjoying this or that neighbor in particular. . . .

Many new friends have come into my life . . . Jews, Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists, New Agers, and others—including lots of atheists and agnostics, too. One of the most dramatic of those friendships began in the aftermath of 9/11/2001. Like a lot of churches, our little congregation held a prayer service. While praying, I felt a voice speaking, as it were, in my chest: Your Muslim neighbors are in danger of reprisals. You must try to protect them. The next morning, I wrote and made copies of a letter extending, belatedly, friendship toward Muslim communities in my area, and offering solidarity and help if simmering anti-Muslim sentiments should be translated into action. I drove to the three mosques nearby—I had never visited them before—and tried to deliver my letter in person. . . .

[At the third mosque,] I clumsily introduced myself [to the imam] as the pastor from down the street . . . I then handed him my letter, which he opened and read as I stood there awkwardly. I remember the imam, a man short in stature, slowly looking down at the letter in the bright September sun, then up into my face, then down, then up, and each time he looked up, his eyes were more moist. Suddenly, he threw his arms around me—a perfect stranger. . . . I still remember the feeling of his head pressed against my chest, squeezing me as if I were his long-lost brother. . . .

My host welcomed me not with hostility or even suspicion, but with the open heart of a friend. And so that day a friendship began between an Evangelical pastor named Brian and a Muslim imam we’ll call Ahmad. . . .

It’s one thing to say you love humanity in general, whatever their religion; it’s quite another to learn to love this or that specific neighbor with his or her specific religion. So, do you have a Sikh neighbor, a Hindu coworker, a Muslim business associate, a Buddhist member of your PTA, a New Age second cousin? Invite them into companionship over a cup of tea or coffee. Ask them questions. Display unexpected interest in them, their traditions, their beliefs, and their stories. Learn why they left what they left, why they stay where they stay, why they love what they love. Enter their world, and welcome them into your world, without judgment. If they reciprocate, welcome their reciprocation; if not, welcome their nonreciprocation. Experience conviviality. Join the conspiracy of plotting for the common good together.

A Friendship with Jesus

April 14th, 2021

No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. You are my friends if you do what I command you. (John 15:13–14)

When we treat Jesus as a friend, it’s easy to focus on how the relationship benefits us and relieves our burdens, but Professor Dana L. Robert reminds us that there is more to friendship with Jesus than the blessings we receive. Knowing Jesus as a friend is a source of strength that impacts all our relationships in community and society. She writes:

Knowing Jesus is a relationship so intimate that he carries his followers’ burdens. He brings them joy. He walks beside them. In short, Jesus befriends those who follow him. And friendship with Jesus builds Christian community across cultural, social, and ethnic divisions. . . .

In 1993, the Reverend Dr. Margaret Moshoeshoe Montjane was an Anglican chaplain at the huge Baragwanath Hospital in the South African township of Soweto. She was a former student of mine, and I was scheduled to go visit her. Then on April 10, a right-wing nationalist murdered the head of the South African Communist Party, Chris Hani, in his driveway. Immediately riots broke out throughout the country, especially in Soweto. South Africa was a powder keg, and Nelson Mandela could barely keep the lid on. Angry young men surged into Baragwanath Hospital with their injured comrades. Margaret used all her authority to avert rioting in the hospital, ordering the rioters to sit down and treat the hospital with respect. When we spoke on the phone before my scheduled visit, I asked her how she was managing. She answered, “Without Jesus, I couldn’t get through the day.”. . . [Her friendship with Jesus helped her support the community through crisis.]

In most cultures, the idea of friendship is a powerful statement of relational identity. In Batak culture in Indonesia, for example, it is said that the loss of a friend is worse than the loss of one’s mother. Traditional Russian culture assumes it is better to have many friends than much money. In Confucian tradition, friendship is one of the basic relationships that undergirds society. For American Christians, being friends with Jesus tends to be personal. . . . Jesus is my friend. He carries my burdens.

But a cross-cultural perspective on Jesus as friend says a lot about the meaning of community. For friendship always goes both ways. It requires mutuality. It involves give and take. . . . Since Jesus is holding hands with the world, so to speak, then intimacy with Jesus extends far beyond personal needs. To befriend Jesus means carrying in fellowship the responsibilities of friendship that he carried. . . .

In the context of worldwide community, being friends with Jesus is hard work. For when followers of Jesus walk beside him, he leads them in directions they would rather not go, into neighborhoods they would rather avoid, and to meet other friends of his they might not normally know. As the Scriptures and history show, to be a friend of Jesus means loving others just as he does.


HEAVEN IS both present and future. As you walk along your life-path holding My hand, you are already in touch with the essence of heaven: nearness to Me. You can also find many hints of heaven along your pathway because the earth is radiantly alive with My Presence. Shimmering sunshine awakens your heart, gently reminding you of My brilliant Light. Birds and flowers, trees and skies evoke praises to My holy Name. Keep your eyes and ears fully open as you journey with Me. At the end of your life-path is an entrance to heaven. Only I know when you will reach that destination, but I am preparing you for it each step of the way. The absolute certainty of your heavenly home gives you Peace and Joy to help you along your journey. You know that you will reach your home in My perfect timing: not one moment too soon or too late. Let the hope of heaven encourage you as you walk along the path of Life with Me.

1 CORINTHIANS 15:20–23;
For since death came through a human being, the resurrection of the dead came also through a human being. For just as in Adam all die, so too in Christ shall all be brought to life, but each one in proper order: Christ the first fruits; then, at his coming, those who belong to Christ.


We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure. It enters the inner sanctuary behind the curtain. 

Young, Sarah. Jesus Calling Morning and Evening Devotional (Jesus Calling®) (p. 216). Thomas Nelson. Kindle Edition.