Musings on the Kingdom (Lenora Rand)

This Blog post is a repost from Red Letter Christians written by Lenora Rand.

Lenora’s blog, Spiritual Suckitude, is about figuring out how to do justice, love mercy and walk humbly with God, while working in corporate America and trying to get the laundry done. She is also co-founder of The Plural Guild. Check out her earthy, soulful writing and enjoy this short piece below.

“Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.”  (Matthew 18:3)

Lenora writes:

“I used to have a sort of idealized Disney-version of kids in my head. Then I had some. And I noticed that in their natural state, before us adults manage to fully “civilize” them, kids are crazy with questions, needy and rambunctious, don’t easily take “No” for an answer, feel everything deeply, hate unfairness and aren’t ashamed to yell about it, and basically live every second of every day until they pass out in blessed exhaustion. And if we’re like them, Jesus says, that’s how we enter the Kingdom of Heaven.  That is actually heaven.”

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Re:Incarnation

I am called to be a little re-Incarnation
of the Messiah:
someone who,
in the Spirit,
goes about doing good;
who is known for living
and proclaiming this
disturbing,
all consuming, all inclusive Love
(of God);
someone who
practices compassion,
lives prayer,
seeks justice,
is mercy.
Someone who, like Jesus, loves…
all…
regardless of
anything.

(Inspired by Isaiah 58; 61.  Luke 4.18.  Matthew 11.1-4; 25.  Acts 10.34-38. Galatians 5.14)

“Where’s the Proof?” (Kayla McClurg)

Advent Reading for December 15, 2013 ~ Matthew 11:2-11

Sermon by Kayla McClurg, Church of the Saviour, Washington, DC

In prison a person has time to ponder things. My friends who have spent time there say it isn’t surprising that people meet Jesus in prison simply because there is so much time, mindless miles of time, to be still and think. The wise ones use that time to ponder the depths of their lives and to ask questions and invite new answers. John has been put in prison. The authorities have tried to stifle him, but his disciples remain faithful and John remains their teacher. From his cell they carry a key question John has been pondering about Jesus: “Are you the one, or should we be waiting for another?”

Curiously, Jesus doesn’t say. He simply says, “Go and tell John what you hear and see.” Look at the evidence, and come to your own conclusions. The evidence is this: the blind see, the lame walk, lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the poor are standing on the shores of a new life, welcoming a boatload of good news. Is this the proof you were expecting from “the one who is to come,” or another?

You know the question, if you were arrested for following Jesus, would there be enough evidence to convict you? Or would you get off scot free, innocent of having disturbed anyone with the good news? Would you be found guilty of living a converted life, of giving away freely what you have received? Could anyone accuse you of radical expressions of solidarity with the poor? Would the powers tremble at the ripples of your generosity?

John has been arrested for stirring up mercy and healing, for proclaiming another way, for inspiring people to submit to a higher-than-human authority. His imprisonment is meant to intimidate him and his followers—and especially to intimidate Jesus. The powers always resort to such foolishness. In reality, such a response does nothing but add fuel to the fire of the movement. Jesus and a growing band of disciples pick up where John left off. The mantle has been passed, and the momentum builds. The proof is at hand.

By: (Season and Scripture: ,

“Drugged into Submission” (Robert Farrar Capon)

This quote below by Robert Farrar Capon is quite appropoe, and we can allow the word “preacher” to speak for all followers of Jesus.  Stirring the pot…

“I think good preachers should be like bad kids. They ought to be naughty enough to tiptoe up on dozing congregations, steal their bottles of religion pills…and flush them all down the drain.

The Church, by and large, has drugged itself into thinking that proper human behavior is the key to its relationship with God.

What preachers need to do is force it to go cold turkey with nothing but the word of the cross-and then be brave enough to stick around while [the congregation] goes through the inevitable withdrawal symptoms. But preachers can’t be that naughty or brave unless they’re free from their own need for the dope of acceptance. And they won’t be free of their need until they can trust the God who has already accepted them…in Jesus. Ergo, the absolute indispensability of trust in Jesus’ passion. Unless the faith of preachers is in that alone – and not in any other person, ecclesiastical institution, theological system, moral prescription, or master recipe for human loveliness – they will be of very little use in the pulpit.”

Robert Farrar Capon, The Foolishness of Preaching

“A Church OF all People (Sam Wells)

What if discipleship meant individually and corporately letting one’s life be transformed into a parable of faith, a poem of hope, a [song] of love that exchanges the world’s habits of scarcity for the kingdom’s assumptions of abundance?

What if piety meant leaving aside the things the world offers a tantalizing shortage of and embracing the things God gives in plenty?

And the moment that starts to sound too ambitious is the very moment of renewal, because that’s when the church for the first time perhaps ever realises it doesn’t have the luxury of prejudice, it doesn’t get to include just one kind of person, it really and truly needs everyone who is willing to part of this great adventure, and is at last surrounded by all the kinds of people who thronged round Jesus and the church should have regarded as its best friends all along.

Rev. Sam Wells, Vicar, St Martin-in-the-Fields, London, UK.

Found at The Church of the Advocate website: http://theadvocatechurch.org/

“The Depths” (N. Gordon Cosby)

If men and women today began by the thousands experiencing the depths of Jesus…in a transforming way, there would simply be no place for their expression of experience to fit into present-day straitjackets of Christianity.

Protestant or Catholic, neither one is structured to contain a mass of devoted people who long for spiritual depth.

We are structured towards infancy.

N. Gordon Cosby

N. Gordon Cosby

On a sad and glorious note: the Rev. Gordon Cosby, a prophetic voice for church renewal and one of the co-founding ministers of The Church of the Saviour in 1947, died on Wednesday, March 20, at the age of 95.  Gordon was a spiritual father and mentor to me and to thousands of other seekers, people like me who hungered to taste of God’s radical love in action.  After hearing a sermon of his almost 25 years ago, the Spirit moved me and I sold all my possessions, packed my bags and left suburban Philadelphia to live in and work with Samaritan Inns – one of the many Missions that God created through The Church of the Saviour. A public memorial service will be held on Saturday, April 6, at Foundry United Methodist Church in Washington, DC. A Story on Gordon Cosby.

“Thank God for your life and witness and now you are free at last and Home with your God, my brother…”

Walking Across the Snow

“Looking for God in prayer is like looking for a path in a field of untrodden snow.  Walk across the snow and there is your path.”

Thomas Merton

I love this quote by Thomas Merton, a truthful man if ever there was one.  Although a monk in one of the strictest Orders in the Catholic Church, he lived his life in gentle yet transparent  honesty.  Known mostly for his deep writings on faith and social justice, Merton was above all a man of prayer.  And yet he penned the above quote.  I venture to reason that this quote was written by Merton for himself.  He ‘walked across the snow’ faithfully, seeking God in all ways and in all things.

I’m pondering this quote and sharing it because of my own life of prayer these days.  I pray a great deal.  I say that not to brag but more as a confession since I have no where else to turn most days except to God, for the things surrounding my life seem larger than it.  So, I pray often because otherwise I’m a sloppy example of flesh and blood, prone more towards my addictions than my healing.  Prayer for me is a pathway to deeper intimacy with God, with myself, and with the world I have been called to serve in love.  Without prayer I am like fruit that has fallen from the tree while still believing it is growing and connected to its Source.  Without prayer, I am pure illusion.

There is a “lostness” to these days, as the light of day gives way more quickly to the shuddering embrace of darkness, my prayer life is following the ‘natural rhythm’ of winter.  When I say ‘lost’ I do not mean in my entire life, but in the sense that this part of the journey is “rubber meets the road” time, a time when the giddiness of the pink cloud has burst and I must show up.  But I am reminded that just showing up is indeed half the battle.

So I show up.  I set aside time to be in contemplation with my God, to listen to the still, small Voice above the din and noise within my head and heart.  I show up knowing, regardless of what I am feeling, God is there as a Present Reality and not just some  far away entity.  Much like the well known prayer of Merton’s posted a few days ago, I do not know the path I am called to take in certainty, yet I feel the tug of the Spirit leading me down paths I sometimes fear to travel (even if they are for the Best).  At times, I sense I am traveling alone.  But I have learned that God’s  presence is a promise not an emotion and I have tasted God’s love as deeply in his Absence as I have in his Presence.

I sense I am being led to a place that will open up for me a life I have only ever dreamed, but fear still persist as does confusion.  And not the confusion of choices made in or by my own stupidity, rather choices made in the hands of Divine Providence, choices that may alienate me from some while ingratiating me to others.  Regardless, the truth is choices must be made and they must be done so by (and in) faith: faith in God; faith in knowing that if I ask for Wisdom, it is promised; faith in knowing I must walk across the snow in order to see the path God is laying out for me; faith in knowing that I am traveling with One who will never leave or forsake me.

In making these choices I am seeking obedience to God and his will – a will that is more tender than stern, more compassionate that perfectionist, more about trust than certainty.  The word for obedience in Latin is “obidere” meaning “to listen.”  I love that definition because it ties into my coming before God in prayer to know him, to know what he is asking of me, and in order to do that I must be still and listen to his voice of love.

So on this cold afternoon, I am reminded again that the path I am seeking is made along the Way.  The path God is leading me on is not always so clearly laid, yet I am promised the faithfulness of God’s warming Presence in the chill of the unknown.  I am reminded too that prayer is a loving communique filled with hope – the hope of Jesus being born anew in me and in the world.  And my prayers, much like this hope, do not come in strength or unfailing assurance, but rather in fragility, vulnerability, and in weakness.

However, God’s love comes in the chilled, biting wind chaffing my cheeks as I stare out into the gorgeous wintry openness.  And as the feel of snow rises in the air, and the chill numbs my fingers, I am reminded once again that the path may not be certain, but God’s tender love and presence is.