Jesus and Karma


When I was a kid we called it, ‘what goes around, comes around.’  These days they call it ‘Karma’ – the idea that your kindness or unkindness will find a way back to you. But a far more ancient idea is that which Jesus put forward when he said, ‘Whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.’

Sure, it sounds rather cryptic – like a lot of stuff he talked about – but the idea is the same: those things that we bind up here on earth – like anger, unforgiveness, suffering, discrimination, injustice, and sickness – those will be bound, powerless, even absent in our eternities.

On the flip side, those things we let loose here on earth, like love, compassion, peacefulness, kindness, forgiveness, joy, patience, and goodness – those will populate our eternities and we will enjoy them forever.

Friends, this is our one shot at falling in love with doing good - serving people, creating value, solving problems, building important relationships, and doing work that really matters.

If heaven is what you make it, then let’s make it one worth going to.

It Starts with a Twinkle


It starts with a twinkle.

A perk. A pause. An aha.

We sense certain realities we can’t prove – that have to do with the good, the beautiful, and doing the next right thing.

It’s God. And we know it.

God’s presence, as miniscule as it often seems, is poised to become much larger than we will ever be able to perceive. It is like a tiny seed that grows into a huge bush, a pinch of yeast that turns a sack of flour into bread, a small pearl that’s worth more than the whole back forty.

Your job and my job is to embrace the twinkle of God in ways that will make it grow, develop, and mature. And grow it will, into the work, the relationship, the career, that delights our hearts – and God’s.

So let’s ask these questions: What’s twinkling in your life? What’s that perk, pause, and aha that has been on your heart? How do we nurture it? How do we give it more of us?

God isn’t known for being brash and bossy, but unassuming and unpretentious. It starts with a twinkle.

What Is Heaven?



Ever wonder what heaven's like?

I think it's a place where all the resistance is gone.  What I mean by resistance is everything that gets in the way of doing the good and the right, enjoying the beautiful, helping, forgiving, and having compassion. It's a place of everlasting health - free of suffering, violence, and pain. And it's clear that this place is not that place.

In Sunday's gospel Jesus talks about this. He uses a story about a farmer who plants seeds of wheat and an enemy that sneaks in and covers the field with seeds that produce weeds. Later, when the servants alert the farmer and offer to weed the fields, the farmer tells them to wait for the harvest. That's when all those pesky weeds will be separated from the valuable wheat.

So here we are in the middle. Trying to grow, flourish, and do the next right thing while we're surrounded by all these weeds. Take heart, says Jesus, it won't last forever. One day the resistance will all be gone.

Until then, use that resistance to affirm the validity of your work. Bask in the joy of every right thing you're doing, for it is a slice of heaven.  And take heart, what you're doing has eternal significance.

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Reading
Reinvention - Josh Linkner
We Make the Road by Walking - Brian McLaren
Learning to Dream Again - Samuel Wells

You Are Awesome


You’ve been brave this week. You did something new. You didn’t know if it would pay off but you tried it anyway. You might do it again. You might not. But you stepped out, danced on the wire, confronted fear; you were courageous.

You forgave someone this week. Ya, they were wrong. You had every right to hit back, withhold, pout, and let the stale tension of unresolved hurt simmer. But you didn’t. You swallowed, resolved, and pulled that pot off the stove before it boiled. It was tough, but you did it.

You took the risk to love this week. You opened up. You know you can’t love unless you’re vulnerable yourself. And you did. It may have paid off, it may have blown up, but you risked, and that has its own reward.

You made somebody’s day this week. Maybe on purpose, maybe not. But you brightened a moment, an hour, a day. Ya, it was a hassle. You thought about them when you’ve got plenty on your own plate. You spent what you had. You powered through. You brought it home.

My dear ones, you are soldiers in the service of joy. You are messengers of shining hope. You create, step out, you take on, you show up.

And I am proud. I can’t wait to see what you, and Christ in you, is up to next. 
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Reading
Fail - JR Briggs
Learning to Dream Again - Samuel Wells
We Make the Road by Walking- Brian McLaren

Fast, Easy, Guaranteed


Watch out for ‘fast, easy, and guaranteed.’

Think of fast food, cartoons, and bank CDs.

They instantly satiate hunger, keep kids occupied, and offer you a better interest rate than your savings account. But that meal won’t be memorable, the kids will still crave your attention, and you will make a rather measly return on your investment.

Instead, consider the slow, difficult, and risky. These are indicators of real value. Nothing we have done that is memorable, significant, or of great worth was void of at least one if not all three. Ultimately, these are forms of resistance, and resistance is a validator.

In Sunday’s Gospel Jesus addresses a crowd that’s been pushing the ‘easy button’ for a very long time. Jesus is trying to point out that the fast, easy, and guaranteed just don’t deliver. And the irony is that the slow, difficult, and risky not only pay off – but following Jesus is actually an easier journey than the one they’re on.

What’s the ‘fast, easy, and guaranteed’ trap you’re in?  What’s the ‘slow, difficult, and risky’ that you need to congratulate yourself for undertaking?


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The Road to Reinvention – Lindner
Fail – Briggs
We Make the Road by Walking  McLaren

Welcome


Someone or something tapped you on the shoulder this week.

Perhaps you heard a voice, read a word, or got a glimpse of something really memorable.

And in that experience something otherworldly was communicated. It may have brought you peace. It may have brought you rage. It may have brought you an ‘aha.’  But it awakened you. And as pleasant or painful as it was, it made a lingering impression. Can you name it?

And what are you doing about it? Was it so grand you can’t get it out of your head? Was it so subtle you’ve nearly forgotten it? Was it so troubling you won’t revisit it?

We know God is speaking. We know it comes in countless forms. And we know the spiritual life is about welcoming it. How are we doing so?

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Reading
Learning to Dream Again- Samuel Wells
Alexander Hamilton - Ron Chernow

Killing Jesus - Bill O'Reilly

Is Jesus Out to Disrupt Your Life?


In the tech world, the word ‘disruption’ is used a lot – and often times inaccurately because it is kind of hip these days to say your business is disrupting something.

In his book, The Innovator’s Dilemma, Harvard professor Clay Christensen defines disruption this way, ‘A disruptive product addresses a market that previously couldn’t be served by the incumbent because it would be unprofitable given the incumbent’s business model.’ So Coursera’s massive, open, online classes are disrupting higher education because a traditional university wasn’t built to make money that way, while Tesla’s electric cars are not disruptive because GM or Ford are already making electric vehicles.

Reading this Sunday’s Gospel it’s tempting to say Jesus is out to disrupt. What else do we make of sayings like this: “Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth; I have not come to bring peace, but a sword?”

However, it may be more productive to see Jesus less as a disrupter and more of a reformer who was actually out to point us back toward what we already know, show us how we are missing it, and tell us how we might move forward.

When Jesus talks about loving God more than a person (even if it’s your mom) he’s simply echoing the first commandment. When he says that only those people who take up the cross and follow him are worthy of him, he’s harkening back to the Israel’s radical commitment to, ‘love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind, and body.’ In other words, the only way Jesus can be seen as a disrupter is if our lives are so far removed from these convictions that this kind of dedication totally rocks our worlds.

And I don’t think it does. If you’re like me, your prayers often contain the sentiment, ‘Take me Lord, take this situation, take these people around me, and may your will be done.’ I think what Jesus is looking for is a people who will remember who they are and realize that the call to stay rooted in God is our challenge - which is actually quite sacrificial and counter to much of our instinct and environment.

The questions this brings up, then, have to do with how much you and I are giving ourselves to God. Are we generous to those in need? Are we attentive to those who inconvenience us? Are we looking out for the concerns of others before ourselves? This will be more disruptive to some people and not so much to others. My prayer is that we would increasingly find ourselves in the latter category.


Reading:
Learning to Dream – Samuel Wells
Shaping the Prayer of the People – Wells/Kocher

If You Meet George Herbert on the Road, Kill Him – Lewis-Anthony

A Reason to Party


The streets and storefronts of Hailey, Idaho are getting ready for a celebration.  Ever since the release of Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl from his Taliban captors in Afghanistan, his hometown has been dressing up for his imminent return. The posters, balloons, and ribbons tell the world that Bowe is loved, his life is significant, and he is not alone as he faces the tough journey ahead.

This is just what people do for those who may be feeling unloved, insignificant, and lonely.  And this is what God does.

This Sunday is Pentecost. It’s God’s, and the Church’s, festive commemoration of Our Lord’s grand statement that we are loved, significant, and do not walk alone. The choreographed pageantry is intentionally designed to communicate, in majestic style, the breadth and depth of God’s care for us. We wear red, sing songs, and baptize babies not simply to commemorate the historic event of tongues of fire coming upon the heads of the disciples  – but to remind ourselves of some incredibly important truths.

After all, if you’re like me, when was the last time you felt insignificant? Or wondered, ‘What’s the point?’ or ‘Who really cares?’  These are not only the most pervasive, but perhaps the most debilitating thoughts you and I can entertain. God knows this. God knows how fragile and capricious we are. God knows how insecure and fearful we can get. And this is why we’ve got this grand celebration on the calendar. This is why you and I are being asked to start looking at our lives, and at our relationship with God, as substantive, important, and significant. Pentecost asks us to look up at God, then over at God – who is no longer simply a presence in the sky to be awed, but now a companion and leader walking beside us, right here, right now.

What’s it gonna take for you and me to get God down off the pedestal and start cultivating a deeper, more personal relationship? To level with God? To understand that God really is here, walking with us, and in every circumstance giving guidance, comfort, and praise? God is no longer far away. God is right here, loving and walking with us. There are few better reasons to party.

Reading
Drops like Stars – Rob Bell
Preaching in an Age of Distraction – J. Ellsworth Kalas

If You Meet George Herbert on the Road, Kill Him – Justin Lewis-Anthony

Ascension Day: They Finally Got It


Years ago I took horse-riding lessons.

And what a sight that was.  Not so much a 6’4” man on a rather small, ‘starter’ horse (no, my feet did not drag…) – but the fact that when the horse went down, I went up, and when the horse went up, I went down.  I had discovered that saddle soreness was a real-life malady. This meant I did not always look forward to my lessons.

It took me a while to learn how to ride with the horse, to ‘post,’ and when I finally got it, I got it. I began to enjoy being on the horse, going on trail rides, and a brand new world opened to me.

Ascension Day is Thursday. It’s 40 days after Jesus rose from the dead and 10 days before Pentecost. What’s significant about Ascension Day is that this is the day the disciples finally ‘got it.’ Luke’s Gospel tells us after Jesus ascended, the disciples no longer went into hiding and stopped shunning their allegiance, but returned to Jerusalem ‘with great joy’ as they set off on the work that was ahead of them. It’s as if they had finally accepted themselves for who they were and what they were called to do.

Ascension Day is literally a liberation day – one in which fear is dropped, hope is seized, and the work we’re called to do gets full attention. In the wake of Isla Vista, and the Ukraine, generational poverty and municipal bankruptcy, you and I know there is much work to do.


So our challenge is to look to Ascension Day as a liberation day for us as well because God is also calling us to release our fears, look to Jesus, and get busy with the work we’re called to do.  So what fears do we need to release? What work are we being called to do? How can Jesus’ trust, in leaving us in charge of things, be best curated? What brand new world awaits our liberation?

Agents of Comfort


Years ago my dear grandmother died.

We had a very special relationship. It included cooking, traveling, and learning French together. When she died it was as if a limb had been removed from me.  I was sad and empty.

Those around me sensed this. And they responded with phone calls, cards, visits, even a few small gifts. And I felt better. They had comforted me.  Mind you, my grandmother was still dead – the situation had not changed.  But now I felt stronger. I had been strengthened– and I could move on.

In this Sunday’s gospel Jesus talks about the Holy Spirit in terms like this.

Here we learn the Holy Spirit’s job is to comfort – or to provide strength that’s needed in times of distress so that we might be able to go on. I think we can all point to periods in our lives when this was the case.  I think God wants us to know that the hand of comfort, be it through friends, family, or a peacefulness in our hearts, is the Spirit at work.

For those of us going through distress this is important to know. For those of us who are not, it is a reminder that our job as agents of the Spirit, is to comfort others.  We may come to church seeking comfort, but we may also come to be reminded of our roles as comforters.

And so we ask ourselves: to whom are you and I being called to come alongside?  Who near us is suffering, hurting, and needs comfort?  And what does that ‘comfort’ look like?  How are we being asked to be agents of the Spirit, by being agents of comfort?