Posts Tagged ‘fire’

The maelstrom roiling our days is filling many of us with grief, anger, bewilderment, fear and mistrust because of the lies told to us by a president and administration many did not vote to elect, by the COVID-19 pandemic sweeping over the world without regard for age or ethnicity or status and decimating health and economies in its wake, by the possible unraveling of a democracy promising justice and freedom that is being turned upside down by the very women and men elected to sustain it and us, by the destruction of the rule of law and the celebration of hate, racism, and cult of ignorance.

Yet, into this maelstrom walks the psalmist singing Psalm 31 with a lament we all could sing and a declaration of God’s presence and power to be a refuge and strong fortress in this storm because it is God who is in control of life and God will act to transform our current maelstrom because God has done so before.

This is a lament that if read in full  calls us to God’s reality with the confident line “My times are in your hands,” expressing the truth that wherever we are, whatever is happening in our lives God still holds our lives in God’s hands. The same God that created a world of interdependent relationships where the key to sustainability is mutuality and dependence. We are not self-created individuals, rather we are creatures birthed into a community that is itself only a portion of the entire creation community. Thus, we need to be humble in understanding that being self-focused and narcissistic is counter to the God reality teaching us to be outwardly focused on the people and the world around us, since their well-being depends on us as  much as our well-being depends upon the other people and, indeed, on all creation.

This hope also reminds us that because our times are in God’s hands we can lift up to God our petitions, our grief, our shame, our pain and we will be heard and somehow and in some way God will hear and will act to change our situation. This is indeed a call to vocalize our grief and our despair and realize God all ready knows our secrets and love us and hold us still, loving us to new life. This God reality maybe harder to hold onto because we often fail to see God acting to change our situation because, I suspect, we are too self-focused and to afraid to spend time discerning the opportunities for new life God places before us like the picture of process theology wherein God is continually offering us paths to follow and our response is sometimes to take them and to sometimes, unknowingly perhaps, to reject them in favor of something that looks good to us because we are viewing life through the misconceptions of culture and experience, rather than living through the authenticity of our selves as God’s creations, whose times are in God’s hands. The lament encourages us to re-orient our lives toward God and our authentic selves, so we might find that we belong to God and we belong to ourselves and do not need to fit-into the narrow confines of a culture or experience seeking to define us by their false standards and ways of being human in a vast creation we did not create.

Joining the psalmist is calling us to re-orient our lives is the writer of 1 Peter 2:11 and following asserting Christ is the cornerstone of our lives because it is Christ that is placed in our lives and around which the church is built and nurtured into being the people God has claimed us and named us to be. We are the people who have received God’s mercy. We are God’s people because of God’s mighty acts with God’s people and in Christ we come to know the most decisive act of God to draw all people into the community of God’s people. We are transformed by God’s mercy and grace and we taste and see this goodness in the Eucharist where we are fed by Christ and become the living stones of God’s house and we respond with gratitude and humility, empowered to go out to be witnesses of God’s mercy and peace and inviting the folks we meet to “come, taste and see the goodness of God.”

For 1 Peter it is about being a community created and built by God through Christ, and not about being individuals with our personal savior. This is the antidote to the American Christian’s misunderstanding of Christianity as a personal and private faith. Christians are part of God’s people-a community created by God into living stones of a living building-not majestic cathedrals or large steeple church facilities. It is not the building that makes us a Christian community, it is the people gathered to celebrate the thanksgiving of communion, where  we taste and see that God is good-is complete-is perfect-is the one providing the material food for the celebration that transforms us into being a people given mercy and claimed as God’s people. This is the same transformation that the Hebrews went through in the Exodus, the same transformation Abraham and Sarah experienced, the same transformation Jacob went through, the same transformation of the Exiles. A transformation made possible by God’s love which is patient, calling, acting to gather into the tent those outside the tent, so they might also be the living stones giving witness through their living the grace God has poured over them and through their living God’s way of gathering all people into the spiritual house of God, so together they might be a royal priesthood giving thanks for God’s mercy through acts of kindness and love which witness to Christ’s own acts of kindness and love.

There is no sense that we need to be effective or build great church facilities in 1 Peter because none of that matters and exemplifies our faithfulness to God. What is most important is to live the reality that Christ is the cornerstone of our lives,  that once we were no people, but now we are God’s people, once we had not received mercy, but now we have received mercy and this the reason we exist, this is our “why” to live and thrive.  Most importantly, we need to remember that all of this was God’s doing-not our doing.

May the Creator of Life dwell with you. May the Word of Life dwell with you. May the Fire of Life dwell with you. May the Triune God of Life dwell with you.

May the Sustainer of Life dwell within you. May the Peace of Life dwell within you. May the Breath of Life dwell within you. May the Triune God of Life dwell within you.

Today and every day.



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                Whenever I read the account of Pentecost in Acts of the Apostles different images are awakened within my imagination. Sometimes it is the shaking house where they are worshiping reminding me of the California church in rural Sonoma County where I experienced God shaking me at five years old to wonder about life and what happens after life. Sometimes it is the apostles streaming into the streets speaking in all of the languages of the people gathered in Jerusalem reminding me both of the elementary classrooms of Berkeley I attended with children representing the whole of the community including the blind and the deaf and those walking in wheelchairs and the great diversity of peoples throughout the world and the great living diversity of creation, interrelated in a connectivity we are just beginning to comprehend in all of their degrees of separation that is simply another word for the pathways of being connected to other lives throughout space, throughout time. Sometimes it is the jeering crowd misunderstanding what God was doing in their midst and immediately moving toward judging as drunk those who were streaming from a house with a great gust of God’s wind propelling them outward reminding me how easily we speak before thinking, how easily we judge others in ways that demean, disrespect, destroy, declare as unworthy other persons, how easily we dismiss what we do not understand, how easily we fail to stop and wonder and ponder about what is happening because we strive for certainty even if it is certainty based on the foundation of ignorance, limited perspective, fear and how easily we label others, so we won’t have to face our own limitations of understanding and comprehending, our own fears and our own ignorance like my high school guidance counselor and teacher who told me I’d never amount to anything.

              Yet, as I ponder the day of Pentecost it is God’s fire of passion circling over the apostles driving them to act, to witness, to meet their neighbors where they were in the city street I am considering today. How do we experience God’s fire of passion driving us out of our houses of prayer and our homes to meet people where they are? How is God’s fire of passion driving us out of our comfort zones to speak loudly in the public square, to take the risk of likely being judged by the voices of ignorance, fear, and limited perspective. How are we experiencing God’s fire of passion moving us out beyond ourselves to ignite change within our communities, change for health, for well being, for abundance for all, for wholeness and completeness, for shalom?  But, then I wonder if we are experiencing God’s fire of passion at all as we settle for what is doable without much effort, what is practical, what is possible in the cynical world of limiting actions by those considered well meaning, but misinformed about reality. Are we even expecting or hoping for God’s fire of passion to encircle us, to fill us, to move us outward or do we simply want the illusion of passion, the contentment of attending to the symptoms of injustice without really accomplishing health, well being, wholeness, without accomplishing shalom?

           These Pentecost questions are calling me, invading my imagination, driving me to seek answers and I hope they do the same for others on this year’s day of Pentecost and throughout the season of Pentecost, the season of God’s fire of passion.

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