Friday, June 29, 2012

Free America

The sun setting behind a furled flag is a warm reminder of our freedom.
I suppose it's anybody's guess which weekend to celebrate the 4th of July this year, so I guess I will celebrate this weekend leading up to the 4th.
A long time ago when Poland was still under Communist rule, a young couple somehow got out and came to our coutry, and to the community where I was pastor.  I found out that they were coming to church the following Sunday so I called some Polish friends to find out how to say in Polish "Welcome to the United States!"  My friends told me that people in Poland called our country "Free America," not the United States.   In a country where religion was suppressed, the United States stood as a model of freedom of religion.
We are proud of our freedom and happy to be a sign of hope to the many people of the world who still do not enjoy the freedom we have.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Generation Gap Revisited

This year mountain laurel showed up in places where I had never noticed it before.  It has already faded.
I want to include here some further observations about Rohr's Falling Upward.  Like other models of growth, Rohr's model says that you must go through one to get to the other.  It is essential to do the tasks of the 1st half of life well, in order to do the tasks of the 2nd half.
It is also true of other growth theories that those at the lower levels do not understand those at a higher level.  To someone in the 1st half of life, the thinking of someone in the 2nd half of life doesn't make a bit of sense.  A pastor said that his associate thinks the pastor is way out of line.
Those in the 2nd half of life, like those on a higher level of development in other growth theories, are able to undertand those in the 1st half of life because they have been there and done those tasks with absolute surety that that's the way things must be done.  That helps me in understanding some of the young who seem so inflexible.
Along the same lines, Rohr says that most institutions are 1st half of life, concerned with boundaries and membership and rules.  It is in the nature of most institutions. And sometimes those who make it to the leadership of institutions are still in the 1st half of life.  I hope that insight can help me to be more patient when institutions aren't what I think they should be.
To those in 2nd half Rohr observes, "You learn to positively ignore and withdraw your energy from evil or stupid things rather than fight them directly."

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Falling Upward

Richard Rohr calls his book Falling Upward because he says it takes a fall, a failure, a crisis of some kind, to move us from the 1st half of life thinking to the 2nd half of life thinking.  He says that the fall usually happens to us.  We don't choose or pursue it.
When we face love, death, suffering, subtlety, sin, mystery, the agenda of our 1st half of life shows itself to be insufficient or even falls apart.  We begin to question things that we thought were certain.  We are not longer threatened by the fact that we are not perfect. 
Some people don't make the move from 1st to 2nd because they don't let anything negative about themselves get through to them.  The very rich don't want to admit failure.  The very religious don't want to face any imperfection in themselves.
It was very clear to me that the psychological problems I finally faced in my late thirties and the therapy that enabled me to deal with them was the fall that helped me to move out of my solid foundation of the 1st half and risk building the house of the 2nd half of life where everything is freer and more joyful.  My falling down became my falling upward.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Two Halves of Life

Sunrise on the ocean where I made my annual retreat last week with some friends.
We used Richard Rohr's Falling Upward, an excellent book that I read on winter vacation and then studied for the retreat.  I want to summarize in a few entries what I got out of it.
Rohr quotes Karl Jung, the great psychiatrist, who said "What is a normal goal to a young person becomes a neurotic hindrance in old age."  Maybe some examples first of the different attitudes and practices of the two halves of life. 
Our attitude toward law is different.  In the 1st half we think that obedience to the law is always necessary.  In the 2nd half we see the importance of law, but it is "no longer our guiding star.  It has been wrong and cruel too many times."
In the 1st half we are more exclusive about who belongs to our group, our club, our church.  In the 2nd half we are more inclusive; we stress likenesses rather than differences. 
In the 1st half God is clear and definite.  In the 2nd half God is Mystery, yet more intimate. 
In the 1st half things are black and white.  In the 2nd half there's a lot more gray.
We agreed with Rohr that Jesus was very much a 2nd half of life person, stressing the importance of law yet disobeying it and including all kinds of people in his company.

Friday, June 8, 2012

Christ's Blood

The old feast was called "Corpus Christi" (Body of Christ) and the emphasis was on adoring Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament.  About 40 years ago the name was changed to "The Body and Blood of Christ" and the emphasis was changed to offering ourselves with Jesus in the Sacrifice of the Mass.  We were encouraged to take communion under the form of wine as well as bread.  Every third year, as this year, the readings focus on the Blood of Christ.
It's not something Catholics think about a lot.  Many still do not receive communion from the cup.  Blood is vividly featured in  the first reading from Exodus 24:3-8.  Moses takes half the blood from sacrificed bulls and splashes it on the altar, the symbol of God.  The other half he sprinkles on the people, saying "This is the blood of the covenant that the Lord has made with you."  The blood unites the people with God.
In the Gospel at the Last Supper Jesus says, "This is my blood of the covenant which will be poured out for many."  Jesus doesn't splash his blood on us to unite us to him externally.  He gives us his blood to drink so that we are united to him internally and carried with him to his Father in his great sacrifice.
"By Christ's Blood we were redeemed, our sins forgiven through extravagant love." (Ephesians 1:7)
Last evening the sun was setting in the west, it was raining where I took the picture, and in the east it was thunder and lightning.

Monday, June 4, 2012

Whirling Love

My prayer life becomes more and more Trinitarian since I retired.  I realize that nothing I can think or say completely captures the Mystery of the Most Holy Trinity, but here is one of the ways to think about the Trinity that I have found helpful.  In the First Letter of John 4:8, he says "God is love."  So I give God the name "Love."
It is Love who is the source of all that is.  It is Love who freed the Hebrews from slavery in Egypt and Love who brought them back from exile in Babylon.
It is Love who took on human flesh and lived among us.  It is Love who died and rose to save us from sin and death.
It is Love who remains among us and within us making us more loving.  It is Love who draws us into a future full of hope.
One Love creating and saving and living within us, in a kind of divine square dance, with the partners circling each other, each pair cycling around other pairs, and the whole floor whirling, Love drawing me into the dance, every human being, all creation, circling and whirling in Love, and each one of us reaching out to draw others into the dance.

Friday, June 1, 2012

God Beyond All Names

The chapter on the Most Holy Trinity in Elizabeth Johnson's profound book, Quest for the Living God,
is a treasure trove of ways to think about the Trinity.  We never take literally anything we say about God.  The title of the hymn gets it right: "God Beyond All Names."
We know God from the way God has acted in history, taking on human flesh to save us and remaining with us in Spirit.  The real, living God is the God whom Israel knows as creator and deliverer, the same God whom Chritians know as Savior in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus, and the same God whom we know now within us and within our world.
This one God is a lasting embrace of love, always loving me and saving me, always reaching out through me to love and serve others.  These are mere words I use to try to get some grasp of what will always be Mystery beyond words.