What do we believe?

26239592_10155246868145878_2431172210964655127_nThe word creed comes from Old English, and has traces to other languages; all point to what someone believes. Some meanings speak to where one “places one’s heart,” others to “trust.” In Sanskrit it means “to have faithfulness.” On this day when we honor the memory of Dr. Martin Luther King, and while we reveal ourselves to one another as a nation, I am struck more by how we are one, not by how we are divided.

Yesterday I posted an image of a Black Virgin with a Swahili phrase. Soon after, I began to think about a translation of the Nicene Creed that has long stayed upon my heart, the Masai creed. I first heard about it when I was listening to an On Being podcast about Jaroslav Pelikan many years ago.

We are all the same and yet we are all different. It is in how we bring those differences together and weave ourselves into the fabric of God’s world that carries us forth.

Can we honor Dr. King’s memory by finding beauty in the differences and joy in the similarities? Or at least by finding some respect and/or mutuality? What do we believe, that we are stronger together, moved by justice, mercy, unity, and love? Or that we are better served by hate and division, insult and cruelty?

What do we believe? With that, I leave you with the Masai Creed to pray with and ponder. What does it bring forth in you? What does this tell you about belief? And with that, what does our silence say if we do not live deeply and act in the light of our beliefs?

We believe in the one High God, who out of love created the beautiful world and everything good in it. He created man and wanted man to be happy in the world. God loves the world and every nation and tribe on the earth. We have known this High God in the darkness, and now we know him in the light. God promised in the book of his word, the Bible, that he would save the world and all nations and tribes.

We believe that God made good his promise by sending his son, Jesus Christ, a man in the flesh, a Jew by tribe, born poor in a little village, who left his home and was always on safari doing good, curing people by the power of God, teaching about God and man, showing that the meaning of religion is love. He was rejected by his people, tortured and nailed hands and feet to a cross, and died. He was buried in the grave, but the hyenas did not touch him, and on the third day, he rose from that grave. He ascended to the skies. He is the Lord.

We believe that all our sins are forgiven through him. All who have faith in him must be sorry for their sins, be baptized in the Holy Spirit of God, live the rules of love, and share the bread together in love, to announce the good news to others until Jesus comes again. We are waiting for him. He is alive. He lives. This we believe. Amen.

Advertisements

Believe

c63d87b84b0f6d444b27419971cceb5f“They should make a postage stamp with him on it,” one guy told us at his wake. “I owe him everything,” said another. “He believed in me. He changed my life.” This is from a column in the December 4, 2015 issue of Commonweal magazine, entitled “Keeping the Books, Owen McGowan, RIP” by regular contributor Jo McGowan. These are words that were said about her father Owen, who died in August, and they reveal a moving tribute to a great man. I was particularly struck by the sentence, “He believed in me. He changed my life.” It reminded me of Jesus, the one we await this and every Advent.

Not long after reading the column, I opened an email from a friend who does the work of the saints – she teaches at an inner city elementary school. The email contained a link to a video that I present in this link. By the way, I can only share the link, I can’t get the video to embed. It will give you a pop up saying that if you are not signed into your TWC account, you can only view a limited number of videos; just click watch video and it will bring you to the site.) In any case, if you did not or could not watch the video, the story is about an after school mentoring program at the school where my friend works. My friend is Christine Hannan, and she is in the video. The program pairs adults with kids for five years, helping them to learn how to read. The story blew me away. Five years is a long time for a person to give, but imagine what that may yield! Not only does the child have help with reading, but the child also forms a powerful and consistent bond with an adult who is focused on them. In the end, I was reminded of the power of what happens when people believe in us.

If there was any doubt of God’s belief in humanity, the incarnation of Christ, born as a vulnerable infant in challenging circumstances should have clarified the obvious. However, many still struggle – whether they don’t believe that God believes in them, and in daily life, that no one believes in them.

In Advent we are called to this quiet waiting, and every year it can become more challenging. For example, consider this:

Two things immediately spring to mind, well – immediately after I shake the creepy Orwellian doom feeling out of myself. One is that our capacity as humans for waiting is at this point grows ever more culturally eliminated. The second is that it is no wonder so few people believe in God. Why bother when if you are in a position to have all the economic wherewithal to access the mighty drone wonder, who needs to pray? Pfffft! Jesus may be shoved aside by the brilliance of Jeff Bezos and his never ending desire to reinvent the world. That is not always a bad thing… but, just think about how his ingenuity can steal our attention from others – and from God. People worry about our president making himself into some all powerful king? No worries there, Bezos seems to move forth with that with almost no scrutiny. But I digress! I am not here to pick on a rich and powerful man who can fulfill your every dream. He can spur on the economy and fulfill your dreams very well –  long as you can pay, that is.

Anyway, my point being – if we can have our material goods delivered by drone, who needs to pray, when one can simply pay? Why wait, when immediacy is a click or two away? And why bother waiting for God who will soon appear as a baby, when due to your frustration boils over not being able to afford the goods or the cost of the drone flight? There are many barriers to God in the material world, but the material world is where we are, as we watch and wait for the very incarnation who wishes to join us here. Jesus comes into the world, illuminating the darkness. He does not to eliminate our every problem or pain, but he is here be one with us in it.

Whether or not you believe in God, God believes in you. Whether or not you believe in Jesus, Jesus believes in you. The act of believing, having faith and hope in another is a vital step on the pilgrimage of Advent, as well as the pilgrimage of life. With faith and hope in Christ Jesus in his one of his least powerful looking forms, as a child, we see a new light that guides us on new paths. We must find ways to twin waiting and belief, fueled always by the One who believes in us, and who in great mercy – waits for us, as we wait for him.

As we go forth today, maybe we can bring a little light into the darkness by doing what we learned about Owen McGowan doing in the first paragraph – believing in someone. Today, may we come to know more deeply, that someone believes in us.

 

I believe in the Holy Spirit… and other annoyances

kendell_geers_what_do_you_believe_in_01_full“I believe in the Holy Spirit…” The words are right there in the Nicene Creed:

I believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the giver of life,
who proceeds from the Father and the Son,
who with the Father and the Son is adored and glorified,
who has spoken through the prophets.

If you are Catholic, you are saying these words at mass on a regular basis. You may read them off of a page, you may mumble along, you may say nothing at all.

So what do you believe?

I’m kind of stuck on that last bit – “who has spoken through the prophets.”  Prophets – they are so annoying, aren’t they?

0506_news_Ollila_Seamann_KHIf you immediately want to say “No! They’re great!” that might be because you, if you are like me, feel that way about your prophets. You know the ones, the ones that you like. By extension, if they are challenging to those “other” people, but comforting to you, I might suggest this…

Listen to those prophets.

639ef11062a9013019e7001dd8b71c47Even when you want to bop them in the head.

Trust me when I tell you that I want to listen to “my” prophets. And I do listen to them, and I am comforted by them, as well. The hard part is, and I am not so good about this, is listening to the “prophets” who completely annoy me.

Those prophets are the one that challenge you at every turn. They say things that you vehemently disagree with, things that you believe turn the meaning of Church on its head. Those prophets are comforting someone else. And to those folks I say, listen to the prophets that annoy you.

You see, the Holy Spirit speaks through the prophets. God afflicts the comfortable and comforts the afflicted. Here’s the rub, if you ask me, we are all comfortable and we are all afflicted.

The very moment that we start to rest on the idea that “we,” whoever we means to you, are God’s special ones, we are in trouble. The idea, especially if we have been paying attention to John’s Gospel in these recent weeks, is that “all might be one.”

Um yeah – that means… all. How annoying is that?!

Read these words from Corinthians, from the possible mass readings for this weekend, and see what you think and feel:

Brothers and sisters:
No one can say, “Jesus is Lord,” except by the Holy Spirit.

There are different kinds of spiritual gifts but the same Spirit;
there are different forms of service but the same Lord;
there are different workings but the same God
who produces all of them in everyone.
To each individual the manifestation of the Spirit
is given for some benefit.

As a body is one though it has many parts,
and all the parts of the body, though many, are one body,
so also Christ.
For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body,
whether Jews or Greeks, slaves or free persons,
and we were all given to drink of one Spirit.

Now, if there was ever a ragtag group of people struggling to believe, obey and be as one, it was those Corinthians. Yet, here we see St. Paul reminding them that… all may be One.

How different are we? And why should I expect you to be like me? And why would you expect me to be like you?

I don’t know about you, but I know that I am often surprised when someone that I “like” expresses an opinion that is not my own. What-the-what, I think; how could they actually say that? Think that? Believe that?

Can we be as St. Paul indicates, many people with One Spirit?

Quite often those people are my prophets, the ones that I need to listen to. Not necessarily to take what they are saying and make it my own, but rather to open my heart and my mind, to try to understand what God is saying.

943156_363544423745321_1675203907_nI like to think about how the image of the Holy Spirit as dove is so pervasive and so beloved. Did you see the image above, earlier in the week? I thought “oh, how wonderful!” and saved the photo. But what happens when that bird flies off and defacates on your head? What about THAT Holy Spirit? Don’t think that is not the same Holy Spirit… it is. Like with a prophet, annoyance is part of the package.

Prophets are generally reviled in their own time, so if you like someone who feels prophetic to you, I simply ask you to balance it out by finding someone who feels completely annoying, and who stands in contradistinction to “your prophet.”

The Holy Spirit lives in those spaces, challenging, annoying, and persistently getting in the way of the great “I,” as opposed to the very great, “I AM,” which is God. If nothing else, getting up close and personal to the most annoying “prophet” you can find, may help you to know and understand what you do believe. It is not just about changing our mind, it is about how we are transformed by God.

Oh yes, I truly do believe in the Holy Spirit and am annoyed by Her on a persistently regular schedule.

Go find someone who annoys you, near or far. And when you do, experience that flame that wants to flicker upon your head, like that of the Apostles on Pentecost. That flame will shape us all, so that we may be One.

How annoying!