Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Altering the Evermore

To follow is part of a talk I gave to an inter-spiritual community on transforming the future through small acts of love, touching on an explanation of Christology.

Altering the Evermore:
Transforming a future we will never see in ways we cannot imagine

Sometimes it seems we exist in a void. The world is so immense nothing we do seems to matter. The amazing thing is that sometimes the slightest actions we take can transform someone’s life in a way we never could have imagined. We impact the future in dramatic ways simply by living with a vision and purpose, and trusting in those who will carry on. This evening I will share uplifting stories of ordinary but transformative people and we will discuss how to live meaningful, authentic lives, both as individuals and as a community, in order to create a future that is more loving, more just and more compassionate.  

Image result for pink begoniaOn our altar tonight is a plant, a begonia to be specific. I had hoped it would magically bloom overnight, but no luck. When it blooms it is bright pink. This plant started as a little clipping in a glass jar, given to me by my friend Sarah when I left Dallas to come to Colorado. She is a clergy in the United Church of Christ, and before she moved to Dallas, she was in Illinois serving a church there. When she left Illinois, a member of her congregation gave her a glass jar with a few begonia clippings in it. She explained the clippings were from the plant that was planted by her aunt, many generations removed. The begonia had been planted about 1885. For 125 years, clippings were given to community members who were leaving, a symbol that when you leave, you take a piece of the place with you.  

The woman who planted that first begonia could not have known how the plant would spread around the world, how small clippings of it could be such an amazing symbol of friendship and interconnectedness. The year she planted it, the Statue of Liberty arrived in NY. For as long as that has been symbolic of this nation, this plant has been spreading through acts of friendship. Such a simple act, planting and clipping, provided a means to communicate and relate across boundaries of time and space. Receiving clippings from it meant the world to me. 

So often it is the little things we do that have a profound effect on the lives of others and the future. As a Christian clergy, one of the most sacred acts I lead is dipping a piece of bread into a cup of juice.

Several days a week I join a United Methodist group in serving sack lunches and communion to the homeless and hungry in the city park. We don’t force communion on anyone, but simply have it available. As United Methodists, we believe it is God’s table, not our table, and all are welcome. There are no statements of faith, no stipulations or regulations put upon the United Methodist communion table when it is lived out to its truest sense. The words we say are “take this as a reminder of God’s blessings in your life”. No broken body or blood language, just blessings.

So on Tuesday, a man in his 30’s came for lunch and we offered him communion. He said,” I can’t, I’m not baptized. I was raised that you can’t take communion if you are not baptized.” Someone nudged the clergy in charge that day and said, “um, man, you can do that”. The pastor jumped up and said, “I can. Hey man, do you want to be baptized?” The guy froze. For all the times he had obviously been turned away from the communion table for not being baptized, it was pretty clear no one had actually offered to baptize him. The pastor talked to him for a few minutes, and then took a bottle of water, and baptized the guy. And then he walked up to the communion table for the first time and took part in a ritual that was started over 2,000 years ago by a man having dinner with his friends.

Now, by being baptized, this young man was not any more blessed by God than he was before, he was not any more protected, or loved. But something magical happened. He felt more loved, he felt more blessed, he felt more accepted by the community of faith. Because of a bottle of water and a piece of bread dipped in juice. Simple, everyday things changing the way someone feels about themselves and their relationship with the divine.  

There are many views of Jesus. The official terminology is Christology. If you believe that Jesus was the literal son of God who worked miracles and ascended into heaven then you have a high Christology. If you believe Jesus was a super cool guy who modeled abundant love and justice, then you have a low Christology. 

But Jesus really didn’t care what anyone believed, Jesus cared what people did. Jesus never asked if someone adhered to the Nicene Creed or the Apostles Creed, because all that was developed hundreds of years after his death.  Jesus cared what you did. Jesus knew that little actions: feeding the hungry, visiting the sick, loving the unloved, were the things that changed the world. One person at a time.  

Not everyone jumps on the Jesus train, which is fine. Everyone needs to find their own path, the spirituality that connects with their soul. Of all the philosophers and the prophets and the theologians, most agree on a few basic concepts. We are all interconnected. When one suffers, all suffer. We should do all we can to alleviate the suffering of others. We should love one another, feed one another, protect the innocent and welcome the marginalized. We don’t have to do this in the name of anyone, or to convert anyone, but out of love for our fellow humans.

As we enter our time of meditation, perhaps you want to use this as a time to reflect on the people in your life whose actions, large or small, had a dramatic impact on your life. Maybe there were teachers who guided you down path you may not have seen for yourself.  Maybe there was a neighbor who showed you great kindness and gave you a sense of value the propelled you through a difficult time. Maybe this is a time to contemplate the simple ways in which you can change someone’s life. A neighbor you can be in relationship with, a stranger you can hand a sandwich to. Who are you thankful for, and who will be thankful for you?

Image result for shells into bellsAs we enter into and eventually leave our time of meditation, I will be ringing this bell. This bell is another object of a future transformed in unimaginable ways. This bell started its life as a landmine in Cambodia during the reign of the Khmer Rogue. As Cambodia began to rebuild following freedom from this tyranny, someone had the idea to take the metals that once devastated the region, employ the people in foundries, melt the metal and turn it into a symbol of peace, selling it around the world to raise money for the villages. The program is called Shells Into Bells. Do you think the government officials who ordered this landmine to be made and used against innocent people ever could have imagined it would be used as a bell to signify a time of meditation in an inter-spiritual church in Colorado?

*Meditation Time*

As we gently come out of this meditation time, what were you reflecting on? It’s difficult to meditate while leading a meditation because practical thoughts of time and noises keep popping up, but as I was sitting here, I began to think about the evening sunlight streaming through these amazing stained glass windows. The same sun has streamed through these same windows for over one hundred years, but for all that consistency there has been so much change. I thought about what the people a hundred years ago would think of us? Honestly, they would be horrified! If nothing else, they would be horrified that there is a woman up here being called Pastor and showing some ankle!

*Time of Sharing*

As we leave this sacred place, remember that as much as you have been blessed through the people in your stories, you are a great blessing to others. Live every day with the intention to share love and be in relationship so that in 50 years, people will be sitting here, in the evening sunlight, sharing stories of the ways you all blessed their lives. If we live with recognition of our interconnectedness, not just with the now, but with the past and the future, we truly can make dramatic strides towards a more just, more loving and more compassionate world.

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