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.

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Ending. Beginning.

79e1dcd771692a79c9919a6cc035829eWell, tomorrow is Friday, January 20, 2017 and we all know what that means… The past eight years have been far from perfect. In fact if I could sit down with President Barack Obama, there are many frustrations that I would share with him. Having said that, I would say that overall, I mourn the end of his days in the Oval Office.

After the prior eight years, he seemed a dream in many ways. An African-American, young, hopeful, inspired to do grassroots change, socially progressive, and so much more, he inspired so many of us. Yet, the reality of governing versus campaigning set in, and some of the dreams evaporated. Add to that, many made him a hero, and nothing good comes of that. The hero-making, idolizing is what turned me off early on during the campaigning, so I was very late to hop on the Obama for President train.

For good or ill, Continue reading

Dreams, action, and justice

03de7a07ac1437954fb6ed41b144e18dThere is not much that I feel like I can say right now. It has been a tough week, although I did have a birthday and I continue to ponder my Camino. Finding words to write about that is difficult, but on the other hand, maybe more important than ever now!

In any case, this song has been on my mind since Tuesday night, so I put it here to begin the week. Nothing is over really, in fact Continue reading

Is now a good time?

Credit: Bob Makoff - The New Yorker

Credit: Bob Makoff – The New Yorker

Is now a good time?” If asked this, some of us might feel our inner resistance rising up like an emotional tsunami, ready to wipe out the coastline of possibility. At this time of year it is not unusual for me to have my mouth poised to say no to all sorts of things. That is why the New Yorker cartoon that you see is a perennial favorite of mine, because never always seems to be an option. Except for when it’s not.

But now is the time – right? No time like the present! It is a new day, a new week, a new month, a new year… Ugh, I feel the earthquake that precipitates the aforementioned tsunami, I can see the wall of water about to wash over me. Except, it exists only in my mind, and for once, I have to Continue reading

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.

 

An invitation

act-in-faith-not-fear(This reflection is on the readings for the day before Advent begins, the very last day of the liturgical year, and appears in Give Us This Day. Please see the end of the post for further details.)

Our world seems to run on the fuel of fear. Simply watching or reading the news can fill our tanks with enough anxiety-provoking material to keep us running for days. Work and family concerns, fretfulness over jobs and money, disquiet about health, and apprehension over other things can turn us into nervous wrecks. Constant worry is exhausting, and that exhaustion typically leads to more angst.

Jesus offers a clear warning that might be easy for anxious people to miss. Do we think we’re off the hook because we are not out “carousing” or getting drunk? Not so fast. It seems that the “anxieties of daily life” are on the watch list as well, and that is a net likely to catch many.

It could be easy to take Jesus’ words Continue reading

Accepting What Is #whynot

whynotOn January 1 I posted about new year’s resolutions and my general lack of them. Rather than making a list, I thought about reframing the idea of things that I could do with the question, #whynot?

So what does that have to do with accepting what is? Well, on the Tuesday night before Thanksgiving, I was walking the dog. It was dark, but that is often the case. That night, while I was busy “kravitzing” (i.e. being nosy, like Gladys Kravitz) by looking at a neighbor’s house, I neglected to notice the depression made by a sewer grate. My foot went down, I lost my balance, and BOOM. I must have Continue reading