Thursday, December 20, 2012

Biblical Abuse

This is one of my more recent poems. It probably is not great poetry, simply a poetic attempt to express something inside of me. My intent is not to offend, but to protest the sloppy and condescending use of the word biblical. This powerful adjective is frequently used to modify a perspective in a way that says, "My view is 'biblical' and, therefore, represents God's side over against any other perspective." The problem is that EVERY interpretation of the Bible is just that, an INTERPRETATION. There is no such thing as THE biblical view of anything (my view included). Everything is interpreted.


I’m beginning to hate the word biblical
When it is used as an adjective
To justify shallow dogma.
biblical lifestyle
biblical counseling
biblical marriage
biblical dating
biblical weight loss
biblical womanhood
biblical manhood
biblical illusions, all.

I hate the word biblical.
It isn’t the Bible that I hate.
I love her stories, myths, parables, and legends
That disclose the messiness of human life
And seek to understand
God’s involvement in the mess.

But I hate the word biblical
Presumptuously describing
What “should” be
When we all know that the “should”
Is falsely absolutized
Constructed of
Self-righteous illusion

Friday, October 26, 2012

A Dignity Observed by Mark Waters

She stands with statuesque dignity
On a tired, tired day,
A day preceded by too many days of back bus
A day exhausted by countless days of weary

Finger prints try to steal her
Prints inked-black on paper cards.
Her identity will not be flattened
            Into parchment solitude.

Her solitude is not isolated,
            But in solidarity
With all who have been pushed
To the back of the bus or to a shame-filled
In the shadows of the Heart.

Keep your seat,
            Let the Heart-shadows be drenched in
Keep your seat, centered in the dignity of your own beautiful
That light-filled place that is

Then stand!
Stand with statuesque
In the Identity that cannot be inked-black on paper cards.                        
Stand with dignity
In the light-filled center of your own
            True Heart! 

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Blessed By Diversity in India

Will we be remembered for what we create or for what we destroy? McMurry Assistant Chaplain Tim Palmer captured my imagination with this question during a McMurry University mission trip to India. At the time he raised the question, we were touring the Ellora Caves near Aurangabad, in the state of Maharashtra, India. These are not naturally occurring caves. Over a period of centuries, Hindu, Jain, and Buddhist artisans painstakingly carved full size temples into the side of a mountain. Later, many of the statues in the caves were defaced by Mogul warriors who feared idolatry.

Religion at its worst identifies itself through an enemy, through what it hates or destroys. I’m not singling out a particular religion. Few major religions can claim innocence. There are groups of people in virtually every religion that find their identity in opposing others, sometimes violently, sometimes simply with a holier-than-thou silence. I realize as I write this article—or as you read it—that if we are primarily thinking of those “other” religions that define themselves through opposition to an enemy, then we’ve missed the point. We have to look at ourselves first.

A major dimension of human development, of course, is self-definition through opposition, thus the “terrible twos” and adolescence. Destructive problems arise, however, when biological adults continue to define their religious identity at a “terrible two” or adolescent level. I’m not ignoring the fact that there are major problems in the world that we must resist. There is much in the world that is hurtful, violent, and destructive that we need to resist, nonviolently. But there is a huge difference between resisting that which is destructive, on the one hand, and, on the other hand, constructing our religious identity through what we oppose or hate. Mission trips and study abroad opportunities can teach us to identify ourselves through what we love rather than through what we oppose or hate.

In his newest book, Why Did Jesus, Moses, the Buddha, and Mohammed Cross the Road?: Christian Identity in a Multi-Faith World, Brian McLaren invites us to a creative rather than a destructive way of dealing with religious difference. He answers the question posed in the title this way: to get to the “other.”  They crossed the road to get to the “other.” He asserts, I think accurately, that if Jesus, Moses, the Buddha, and Mohammed met on the road, they would learn to get along with each other much better than many of their followers have. And they would lead us to encounters where we would discover each other as God’s children rather than as enemies.

McMurry in Motion initiatives to India and elsewhere help us to experience the reality that all God’s children are just that, God’s children. All are sisters and brothers. While in India, we discovered sisters and brothers of diverse faith backgrounds at St. John English School, at New Beginnings Children's Home, among a group of people with leprosy, and in the diversity of Indian culture. The Rev. John Dongerdive, and all the leaders of Life Light Ministries (the umbrella ministry for St. John and New Beginnings), exhibit genuine faith while, simultaneously, working in loving relationship with people of other faiths. 

Students, and all of us who participate in McMurry study abroad and mission initiatives, have the golden opportunity to learn to work together with the religious and cultural “other” to create a better world. If “mission” is essentially about sharing God’s love, then surely loving and finding community with the religious “other” is central to our mission. More, it is a means of taking responsibility for creating peace in the world. Will we be remembered for what we create or for what we destroy?

Thursday, August 23, 2012


The following poem, Finding Rumi’s Field, alludes to this poem by Rumi:

Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing,
there is a field. I'll meet you there.

When the soul lies down in that grass,
the world is too full to talk about.
Ideas, language, even the phrase "each other" doesn't make any sense.
~Mevlana Jelaluddin Rumi - 13th century

Finding Rumi’s Field

Tell me O Wise One,
Who dwells in the watery depths
Of inky-blue fog,
Where is now?
When is here?

Take my hand,
Lead me there,
That I may dwell in the
Wisdom of eternity.

I have strayed into the future,
I have collapsed into the past,
I have lived in the land of nowhere,
Show me the way home.

O Wise One,
Who is always now,
Who is always here,
I created a future where you were not.
I wandered into a past without Wisdom.

Rumi told me of Your dwelling place
In the imagination of my dreams,
Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing there is a field.
I’ll meet you there.
Take my hand,
Lead me home.

Then the Wise One
Took my hand.
The clasp of the hand
Itself is home,
Is here
Is now.

For in the clasp of the hand
We met in Rumi’s field.
We entered a space that, indeed, we never left
Except in the straying search of future and past.
We entered that space once lost in the watery depths
Of inky-blue fog.
And there,
Is a green pasture flooded with Light.
A pasture, a field, from which I strayed,
And the fog was no more.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

New Poems: "Piety's Curse Dissolved" and "Words, Words, Words"

I hope to post soon about a recent trip to India. In the meantime, I'm simply posting two poems that I composed yesterday. I'm tempted to write brief explanations of each poem, but that would defeat the purpose of poetry. The poems need to speak for themselves.

Piety’s Curse Dissolved

The moon lit the sky
With a mysterious hue
As I walked among the
Dreams of my life.

The hue brought mystic clarity,
Allowing me to see
Beyond the heart clinching night
Of piety’s curse.

Piety’s curse,
Heavy dogma,
The millstone noose
Around the neck of the soul.

They claim to know God’s “word,”
yet “abomination”
Oozes from their pious attitude
Cloaked in syrup-feigning-love.

Oozing syrup,

I wanted to die with Christ and live,
But his pious followers murdered me
Before the denouement
of sacrificial love.

Now, this night, the moon’s hue
On an otherwise dark evening
Reminds me that love can
Live and sacrifice still, free of piety.

Wordless books on
Heartless shelves,
The bible-dogma of ancient days,
Dissolved in the moon’s light. Freedom.

Words, Words, Words

Too many words,
Public prayers
Overwhelm me with flighty activity
That bypass, ignore, the still small Voice.

The first mark of genuine prayer
Is Silence
Before Mystery.
But words get in the way.

Too many words,
God, word word word, God // God, word word word, God // God, word word word, God.
Father-God… // Father-God… // Father-God.
Uhm we just…Father-God…// Uhm we just… Father-God… //Uhm we just… Father-God.
Shut up! God doesn’t have to keep hearing Her name!

Shut up, Shut up, Shut up!!!
Too many words.
Shut up!
And leave room for God.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Tell Me Your Story: Narrative Ethics and Peacemaking

Tell me your story. Stories carry within them the shape of life, the landscape of living. I can disagree with your logic, your theology, your political views, or any number of your opinions, but I cannot disagree with your story. It is, after all, your story. Stories are bridges of human understanding.

The use of story as a bridge for human understanding is the essence of the relatively new field of narrative ethics. Examples include interreligious relationships (Laurie L. Patton), biomedical ethics (Howard Brody, et. al.), LGBT advocacy (e.g. Reconciling Ministries in the United Methodist Church), Liberation Theology and civil rights (biblical stories of liberation, especially the Exodus), certain aspects of feminist ethics of care (Carol Gilligan, et. al.) and literature as a source of moral direction (Martha Nussbaum).

Unfortunately, I recall too many times in my life that I’ve argued theology or politics when the values of reconciliation would have been better served if I had simply said, “Tell me your story.” I’ve responded to questions about my theological perspective with didactic content and logic, leading to argument, when I could have deepened relationship by simply responding with, “Let me tell you my story….”

Stories invite us into a narrative journey with another person rather than confronting us with a combative argument that calls for a staunch “yes or no … I’m with you or against you.” Biomedical ethicist Howard Brody describes the magnetic attraction of story with the beautiful term co-human presence. Co-human presence doesn’t mean that we experience exactly how another person feels; it means that we enter a narrative field with the “other” and are thereby joined in a common journey. Stories, indeed, are bridges of human understanding.

I concluded a recent poem (see the 5/27/12 post of this blog) with the following words:

Tell me your story, I said,
In the innocence of
A child at bedtime.
And the tale that
Emerged on the lips
Of the suffering
Told the story
That created the world

Stories, as Hans-Georg Gadamer reminded us, create worlds. They also help to create peace among people of different worlds. The next time I’m tempted to argue, I think I will respond with a genuine, “Tell me your story.”

Grace, peace, and love,

Friday, June 15, 2012

U.S. Nuns, the Vatican, and Emerging Christianity

Ongoing tension between the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith and U.S. nuns (the Leadership Conference of Women Religious) has captured my attention. Refer to the following article for a summary of the controversy:

The manner in which the Vatican is censuring these nuns exposes—at least in part— the nature of the divide in many denominations. Divisions in Protestant denominations and Roman Catholicism appear to be along the lines of institutional maintenance vs. spiritual renewal, entrenched power vs. shared power and, in some cases, dictatorship vs. servant leadership.


Institutional protectionism, it seems to me, is a major factor driving large segments of the population to identify as “spiritual but not religious” (See Diana Butler Bass, Christianity After Religion: The End of Church and the Birth of a New Spiritual Awakening). Who wants to be identified with, let alone controlled by, institutional maintenance, entrenched hierarchy, and dictatorship?


I’m not picking on the Roman Catholic Church as such. In fact, I have the highest respect for many aspects of the Catholic Church, especially the historic concern for equality and social justice represented by the nuns. The Vatican’s contention with U.S. nuns is just one example of a dynamic I see in most Christian denominations. I find it hard to name any denomination, especially in Mainline Protestantism, that isn’t struggling with similar divisions (especially United Methodists, Episcopalians, and Presbyterians). These divisions, as Bass implies in the aforementioned book, are largely about institutional protectionism vs. openness to change. Granted, institutional protectionism plays out differently in different denominations. Hierarchical powers, for instance, may seek progressive change (e.g. many of the Bishops in the United Methodist Church and in the Episcopal Church as well as some in the Roman Catholic Church). In other words, hierarchical power may or may not be the primary source of entrenchment. Nonetheless, every denomination has its share of unhealthy protectionism, regardless of the source. As Reinhold Niebuhr reminded us in Moral Man and Immoral Society (1932), institutions, even those comprised of mostly good people, tend to corrupt themselves through their own pride and self-maintenance.

This tendency can be particularly destructive in the institutional church which, by the very nature of its calling, should be free to change under the leadership of the Spirit. Entrenched institutions lack the flexibility to follow the Spirit that, like the wind, “blows where it chooses” (John 3:8). Indeed, with the emergence of what retired Harvard theologian Harvey Cox calls the “age of the Spirit,” denominations that don’t “get the memo” about the freedom of the Spirit will, I suspect, continue a slow and painful death. (See Harvey Cox, The Future of Faith.)


Although I’m devoted to the church, I increasingly find myself identifying with those who say, “I’m spiritual but not religious.” To the extent that “religion” means living-out our spirituality in community, with the mutual responsibility and accountability that genuine community requires, I am religious. But, to the extent that religion means maintaining an institution at all costs, I have to go with the “spiritual but not religious” folks. The “old white man at the top of a pyramid” and the “winner take all and write history” way of being church is going the way of the dinosaur. The head of the church said, “For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will find it” (Matthew 16:25). In this light, the message for the institutional church may be the words of Jesus filtered through the proclamation of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, “When Christ calls an institution, he bids it come and die.” 

Friday, June 1, 2012

The Essential Question of Religious Pluralism

Today’s blog simply raises a question. Do you believe that Brahman, Dharmakaya, God, God-Beyond-God, Allah, and other religious formulations of ultimate reality represent the same referent? Stated in another way the question could be, Is there warrant for affirming that the same referent is represented by different religious concepts such as Brahman, Dharmakaya, God, God-Beyond-God, or Allah?

If you wish to respond to the question without having your thinking polluted by my thoughts, skip reading the rest of the blog and go straight to the comments section. Some of my thoughts on the question are below.

For readers with a background or interest in religious studies, I should point out that I recognize the conceptual difficulties with the question. I understand, for example, the philosophical and methodological differences between Aldus Huxley, Frithjof Schuon, and Huston Smith over-against George Lindbeck, Stephen Prothero, and Mark Heim. I am well aware of the dangers of seeking “similarity-in-difference” or “identity-in-difference” across the chasm separating “cultural-linguistic systems” (part of the David Tracy—George Lindbeck debate). I find value in opposing perspectives like Schuon’s Transcendent Unity of Religions contrasted with Prothero’s God is Not One.

Granted (consistent with Prothero) it is shallow, ill-informed, and sloppy to say that “all religions are really saying the same thing.”  Religions say vastly different things in many areas and exhibit very different ways of thinking about ultimate reality. I fully realize that the concept of Brahman is different from a theistic notion of a Triune God, both of which are different than the radically monotheistic conception of Allah, all of which are surely different from the nontheistic Dharmakaya. I know that Atman and Anatman raise crucial questions about all of these concepts.

Simultaneously, it seems that many who reject some version of the Perennial Philosophy are comparing apples and oranges when they jump from the very real conceptual and pragmatic differences among religions to such conclusions as (a) each religion is talking about a different god/referent or (b) there is no way of knowing if different religions are talking of the same reality because translation across cultural-linguistic systems is impossible or (c) any talk of “similarity-in-difference” or “identity-in-difference” is simply an ill-informed pluralism that collapses one religion into another. Although conclusions a, b, and c represent possibilities—anyone, holding any perspective on the subject, can engage in sloppy theological thinking—they are not the only plausible conclusions.  Huston Smith, for example, recognizes the very real differences among religions on the exoteric level while positing (admittedly a faith stance) that they point toward the same referent on an esoteric level. Could it be that these “fingers pointing at the moon” are actually pointing at the “same moon”? Wouldn’t one expect conceptual and linguistic differences when people of different cultural-linguistic systems seek to describe the ineffable? It is no surprise that there are differences among “effable” formulations, developed in different religions, of an ineffable reality. In other words, different ways of describing an ultimate reality encountered in an ineffable experience do not necessarily mean that the ultimate reality itself is different.

Once again, I recognize the philosophical and theological difficulties with the question and issues that I’ve raised. The difficulty is part of what allures me. What are your thoughts? 

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Purple Songs Can Fly

I was working on a poem last week, gradually developing the words of an almost-poem that erupted in my mind one day. The poem is about the stories that reside in each of our hearts, stories that narrate our lives.

On Thursday morning, I received an email from my friend Anita Kruse, founder and executive director of Purple Songs Can Fly: 

Purple Songs Can Fly is devoted to children being treated for cancer and blood disorders at Texas Children's Cancer and Hematology Centers. In this program, which is the first of its kind, Anita and other professional composers help children to write and record their own songs. Each child receives a professional CD recording of the original composition.

Anita’s email contained a Bus 52 video describing the profound mission Purple Songs Can Fly. In the video, Tony “Jesus” Alvarez, a young patient at the Texas Children’s Cancer Center, describes his experience writing and recording his own songs. He says, I recorded some songs, and now I’m just recording basically my life.

Jesus’ words intermingled with the poem I was writing. Here is the result:

Behind every brow
Is a never-ending story
Weaving tales of
Within every heart
Are Trail-worn stories
Seeking a place that is

I recorded some songs
Said the smiling child
Whose purple songs
Now fly.
I recorded some songs,
And now I’m just recording
My life.

Stories wander home
To dwell in the hearts
That lived them
Where they
Narrate plots of life
Where they
Grieve or celebrate
The everyday pathos
Of meaning

Stories wander home
To be sung
To be formed
In musical ecstasy
So they can express
Joy and sorrow
So the life story
Will fly,
Will soar in purple hues,
The colorful rainbow
Of song.

Tell me your story, I said,
In the innocence of
A child at bedtime.
And the tale that
Emerged on the lips
Of the suffering
Told the story
That created the world

Monday, May 21, 2012

Re-membering to Breathe

According to some faith traditions, the essential human problem is forgetfulness. We forget who we are. We forget Whose we are. Healing and wholeness come through remembering or, more literally, re-membering. All the broken pieces of life, all the members, are brought back together. They are remembered or recollected.

Interestingly, remembering is a present experience, not past nostalgia. Allowing the anxious mind to rest by focusing on the breath is one route to remembering. We remember now or not at all. Re-membering is a non-dual awakening to the wholeness and fullness of life. The following poem arose within me through an experience of remembering:

Re-membering to Breathe

Sometimes I forget
That life is beautiful
That red flowers blossom in spring
And the diaper clad child
Plays joyfully after naptime

Sometimes I forget
About rivers flowing effortlessly
So I push the river in fear that it will not flow
Sometimes I forget

Sometimes I forget
That love brought us into being,
That we live and move and have our being
In a love that
Will not let go

Sometimes I forget
To breathe
But breathing continues
Even in the forgetfulness
Of my broken heart

Sometimes I forget
To breathe
Until reminded by a friend
One breath at a time
To re-member life, to re-member wholeness

Now I remember
I remember to re-collect
The colored broken glass
So that joyous light, shining through,
May awaken my memory of beauty, so

I remember
That life is beautiful
That red flowers blossom in spring
And the diaper clad child
Plays joyfully after naptime

I remember that rivers
Flow effortlessly
Without needing my push
To make them flow
I remember

I remember because
Sometimes I forget
And in the beauty that is life
Forgetting allows gracious friends
To remind me to re-member

*The idea of not needing "to push the river" is from Father Richard Rohr.

Friday, May 11, 2012

My Rose Colored Glasses: A Fresh Look at Millennials

Millennials, in my experience, frequently rise above the critiques they are receiving in the media and in pessimistic interpretations of their values (see, for example, Christian Smith’s Souls in Transition: the Religious and Spiritual Lives of Emerging Adults). They are often viewed as morally relativistic, unwilling to make commitments, and socially disconnected. While these critiques have some validity, they represent a one dimensional stereotype that needs to be examined further. These young people, born between 1980 and 1999,* have much to teach older generations. What can they teach us? My response to this question is admittedly limited. This is a blog, not a dissertation. I offer the following reflections on this question out of my experience working with college students and as an observer of the contemporary religious landscape. Let’s look at two broad areas, moral relativism and social engagement.

Moral Relativism
Eric Hoffer was a longshoreman with little formal education who became one of the great American philosophers of the 20th century. In his most famous book, The True Believer (1951), he argued that the basic distinction between genuine commitment and fanaticism is uncertainty. Fanatics are certain. They know all the right answers. Certainty is dangerous.

Millennials, generally speaking, seem to be reacting against the dangerous certainty of previous generations, especially in religion and politics. For example, in American Grace: How Religion Divides and Unites Us, authors Robert Putnam and David Campbell note that young people are increasingly rejecting religious affiliation BECAUSE of the perception that being Christian means identifying with the Republican party. Some are now claiming that the religious right won the battle and lost a generation. This generation’s rejection of religion is not a rejection of God or spirituality. Overall, they are spiritual (i.e. in surveys they are willing to describe themselves as “spiritual” and affirm belief in God, but shy away from the term “religious”). But, they reject the dogma of connecting religion with specific political issues, or any dogmatic certainty for that matter. They tend, for instance,  to be “conservative” on abortion and “liberal” on sexual orientation. They recognize the importance of discernment and reject easy answers.

Their questioning and discerning process may appear to be moral relativism due to an unwillingness to give quick answers to complex questions combined, in some cases, with not-yet-developed critical thinking skills. My observation is that this stance is not pure relativism; rather, it is an authentic developmental process of seeking honest answers rather than parroting a previous generation’s certainties. This “thoughtful relativism” tends to mature over time and eventually includes some absolute values such as love, justice, and a divine grounding for life.

What can my generation learn? We can understand that an unwillingness to parrot certainty is not the same as moral relativism and is often morally preferable. Face it, the moral certainty of the 1950’s, combined with soaring church attendance, often included racism, patriarchy, heterosexism, and manifest-destiny-nationalism among the people packing the pews. Pew-packing and Christ-following are not necessarily equivalent.

If an older generation wants young people to express their spirituality in the context of institutional religion, then we are going to have to let go of dogma, easy answers, and political polarization while embracing diversity, discernment, dialogue, and uncertainty. Discerning and following the Spirit’s leadership will have to trump institutional maintenance. Millennials, I believe, can support strong, growing congregations, but they will do so for the sake of mission, not institutional maintenance. If our focus is institutional maintenance, then we will lose the very institutions we want to maintain.

Social Engagement
In a helpful article entitled, “Millennials are the New Evangelicals,” Duke Divinity School student Erin Lane writes,

If institutional leaders are waiting for us to grow-up, have children and offer our static allegiance, they will miss out on the feverish energy we’re offering now to those who will take us seriously.

The takeaway here is if you give us your attention -- which requires that you really listen to, learn from and lead us -- then we will give you our commitment.

Lane’s perspective reminds me of Diana Butler Bass’s insight that the paradigm of church membership has shifted from “believing, behaving, belonging” to “belonging, behaving, believing.” She describes this reversal in her most recent book, Christianity After Religion: The End of Church and the Birth of a New Spiritual Awakening. I can’t do justice to her book in one paragraph, but here is an essential insight. The old paradigm for religious affiliation was to believe the “right” things, behave in the “right” way, and then belong. Of course we know, sociologically, that believing and behaving are largely constructed in a social context, in belonging. One could argue that believing, behaving, and belonging are really circular rather than linear. Nevertheless, her point is well taken. The old-school institutional expectation follows the believe, behave, belong pattern.

This approach completely misses Millennials. Bass’s argument, consistent with Lane’s quote mentioned above, is that engaging this generation begins with community, with belonging. Then, in community, we can engage Christian tradition along with the contemporary situation to form, reform, and revise beliefs and behaviors. (In fairness to Bass, note that the emphasis on revisionist theology is mine, not necessarily hers.)

What can my generation learn? The problem is not that Millennials are unwilling to be engaged socially, politically, or religiously. The problem is that our institutions are set up with a believe, behave, belong expectation that is ill-equipped to reach young people whose essential approach to life is the reverse, belong, behave, believe. We have to invite Millennials first to belong, to be part of community, to have a role in creating community and becoming stake-holders in beliefs and behaviors.  This approach is in contrast to expecting them to accept beliefs and behaviors because we said so, the tired line of tired parents who know nothing better to say.  

This post is long enough. I’m interested in your feedback. I’m going to work with a colleague to develop a more academic, research grounded version of some of the ideas here. I do not claim to have covered all the bases, just offered some ideas for dialogue. Please share your thoughts.

*The parameters of the Millennial generation vary in the literature. Generally, Millennials are those born between 1980 and 1999. 

Friday, April 27, 2012

When Children Die of Hunger, Heaven Can’t Wait

Rethinking Heaven dons the cover of the April 16 edition of Time magazine.  Jon Meacham’s article, entitled Heaven Can’t Wait: Why Rethinking the Hereafter Could Make the World a Better Place, draws upon a diverse range of religious thinkers. His sources include scholars like Christopher Morse of New York’s Union Theological Seminary, Cleophus LaRue of Princeton Theological Seminary, and Anglican bishop and biblical scholar N.T. Wright.

Meacham also cites pastors like John Blanchard who serves the 4000-member Rock Church International in Virginia Beach. Blanchard says, Heaven isn’t just a place you go—heaven is how you live your life. What’s trending is a younger generation, teens, college-aged, who are motivated by causes—people who are motivated by heaven are also people motivated to make a positive difference in the world. Meacham continues, Heaven thus becomes for now the reality one creates in the service of the poor, the sick, the enslaved, the oppressed.

The model prayer provides a summary statement of the message emphasized in the article, Thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven. An afterlife is not denied or minimized, just re-framed in light of the transforming work that we are called to do here and now. Heaven here and now is the hidden dimension, sacred space, or thin place in our ordinary, everyday lives. This hidden dimension reveals that the love and resources that everyone needs are abundantly available, but co-creating the Commonwealth of God requires us to do God’s will on earth as in heaven, one drop in the ocean at a time.

As I write, McMurry University students, along with some faculty and staff, are spending a week in World Village, a tent and shanty city on the grounds of the university, to raise awareness about conditions in Haiti and India. A mission team will travel to each country this summer to build homes and work with orphaned children. These students, along with many others in their generation, inspire me. Their Christian vision is focused more on joining God in the work of co-creating heaven here, disclosing the Commonwealth of God in our midst, than on life after death. 

God’s gift of life now—along with the stewardship of creation and its resources—is not eclipsed by the promise of a future life, whatever shape that life may take. The gift of life is just as sacred as a current gift—an on-earth-as-in-heaven gift—as it is when understood as a future promise. Why minimize God’s good gift now in favor of God’s gift in the future, as our tradition so often has done? It is the same gift!    

A new day is emerging in the church’s mission and in theological reflection when a Union Theological Seminary professor, an evangelical mega-church pastor, and college students call us to Jesus’ vision of a changed reality here and now

Grace! Costly grace! Amen!

This post is dedicated to the students living in World Village this week.