Posts Tagged faith

Morning Worship: Jones Offers Five Pillars For Christian Practice

by MARY LEE TALBOT on JUNE 27, 2017  : The Chautauqua Daily

“In our challenge to recover and reinvent the human, in living with radical individuality and radical communion, we have to face anger and resentment as people reject the idea of shared humanity. That makes telling stories very important,” the Very Rev. Alan Jones said at the 9:15 a.m. Tuesday morning worship service. As Garrison Keillor said, “There are no answers, just stories.”

His sermon title was “Telling Stories: The Invention of God! And the Invention of Humanity!” The Scripture reading was John 3:1-8, the story of Jesus’ encounter with Nicodemus.

Trying to live in the Spirit, to float where the Spirit wills is hard, Jones said, because we are stuck with ourselves. He reminded the congregation that the good news is “life’s not about you. There is another story going on — that God is madly in love with us.” That knowledge doesn’t take away the pain, but it puts the pain in context.

Our identity politics means we have a small view of ourselves. Jones cited a book written in the 1920s whose author said Jesus was the greatest salesman, a business organizer who welded 12 inefficient men into an effective machine. But the author forgot that part of Jesus’ job description was “must get crucified.”

Are humans more than our desire for economic growth?

“What is our raison d’être? There is more to life than the promise of material wealth,” Jones said.  “Society is held together by force or moral order, by the police or respect and common law.”

That is why religion is important; it puts the sacred at the center of life.

“To say God is dead means we are dead and society has no center,” Jones said. “In the West we spend a long time looking at our mortality. We want a long, lively life and a quick painless death.”

The reality is that death is rarely quick or painless. Even though the average life span worldwide has increased from 32 years to 70 years in four generations, in the Western world, most people will endure a slow, progressive deterioration preceded by pointless treatment. By 2040, Jones said 40 percent of the population will die alone in nursing homes.

“Life is a school and Chautauqua is a school for training the inventive imagination,” he said. “The marks of educated people are large sympathies, intelligence and the magnificence of soul.”

He noted that of the Five Pillars of Islam, one is about belief and four are about the practice of the faith. The first, faith, is what Muslims believe: there is one God and Muhammad is his prophet. The other four are about practice, he said: prayer, charity, fasting or participating in Ramadan, and the Hajj to Mecca.

The weakness of Christian creeds is that they contain no practices, Jones said. He suggested five possible pillars for Christians. The first is telling the truth, about reality and about who we are. The second is courtesy, a way of speaking that recognizes that what we say and how we say it matters.

“We have to pluralize, apologize and ecologize how we talk to one another or we will die,” he said.

The third pillar is a sense of the sacred. Jones shared a story from an essay by Salman Rushdie, who grew up kissing the books or chapatis that he dropped as a way of apologizing for his clumsiness.

“The act was a reminder that there is food for the body and food for the soul,” he said.

The fourth pillar is the recognition that what we tell are stories, not objective facts.

“Storytelling binds people together,” Jones said. “The lesser truth of our ethnic identity gives way to knowing there is one human heart.”

The last pillar is to treat everyone as a neighbor.

“This is discipleship,” he said. “We have to travel light and be subversive to help our neighbor.”

Jones said many people have to cope with being “W.E.I.R.D.” — Western, educated, industrialized, rich and demonic.

“As this is the time for reinvention, we have a need for self-restraint and civil discourse,” he said. “Because many of us are W.E.I.R.D., we can render other people invisible.”

As a college chaplain said, hell is filling up a resume with wonderful accomplishments to justify your existence.

The world pays a heavy price for the absence of soul. Relief comes in knowing that there is another story, larger than our own drama, he said.

“Don’t sell yourself short,” Jones said. “The way we are in the world can make a difference; we need to hold hands and reinvent the world together.”

The Rev. George Wirth presided. The Rev. Kent Groff, an ordained Presbyterian minister and the founder of Oasis Ministries in Pennsylvania, a writer and poet, conference speaker, and spiritual guide living in Denver, read the Scripture. Joseph Musser, piano, and George Wolfe, soprano saxophone, performed David Stern’s “The Inner Call” as the prelude. The Motet Choir sang “Set me as a seal upon your heart” by David N. Childs. Jared Jacobsen, organist and coordinator of worship and sacred music, directed the choir. The Samuel M. and Mary E. Hazlett Memorial Fund and the J. Everett Hall Memorial Chaplaincy support this week’s services.

 

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Pulling On My Genes – The Daily Cup

Pulling On My Genes
By Anonymous on Oct 04, 2016 09:26 pm

In our Epistle lesson this past Sunday, the Second Letter from Paul to Timothy, the writer commended Timothy for a faith “that lived first in your grandmother Lois and your mother Eunice and now, I am sure, lives in you.” So I’ve been reflecting on my own faith-genes.

My father was of uber-German heritage, and the Bachschmids were Lutheran as far back as I can see. His grandfather’s people came from a small Bavarian town in a region that was almost entirely Roman Catholic. I’ve often wondered how they happened to be so different from the rest of the region. When Rich and I walked through that town several years ago, we just happened on a sign, “Martin-Luther-Platz.” My people! Unfortunately, the church was not open to explore and learn more. But my father, one of 11 children in a family that knew hardship, had an unshakeable, generous, bold faith with deep roots. His unconditional love for me—often sorely tested—was my lesson in how God loves us.

My Hoosier mother was raised in the Disciples of Christ church but joined a Lutheran choir where she met my dad. They both became pillars of this D.C. church. I thought all families prayed and sang and worshipped as much as ours; I didn’t appreciate this blessing until much later. Mom always seemed to have someone under her wing who needed mending. In her final days, as she was dying, one of her last sentences was “I belong to the Church of Good Housekeeping.” While I laughed at the time, I’ve come to see that her life centered on the value of tending, loving and nourishing the faith of her family and her community. She was a good housekeeper, indeed.

My brother, my only sibling, carries the determined faith of our parents. In his mid-sixties, Ed started seminary studies and is now a vocational deacon in the Diocese of Virginia, serving his parish and two senior living facilities. He waited his whole life to finally fulfill his calling. He has never been happier. And it’s not surprising that I married a man from another church-pillar family that included several clergymen. It’s humbling that I have so much to live up to.

So why do I tell you this? I believe it is important to feed our faith memories, to remind ourselves of the shoulders on which we stand. I’m hoping that you might do this, too. And it’s not just our family of origin whose beliefs, passions and even doubts feed us. For me, it’s also my church family. I draw on the witness of Mary and Sam, on Carol, Stan and Linda. And many more. I cannot imagine what I might offer others if all I had to give was me.

We are, each of us, a mini-communion of saints. We have the faith of all who went before us beating in our veins, in our heart. Listen to it, giving us strength and courage. Times are difficult, but we are not alone.

“I give thanks to my God for every remembrance of you.”Phillipians 1.

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Friends and Family Give Life to Living

“I don’t complain about what I can no longer do. I am thankful that I got to do them at all. I have enjoyed so many blessings.” This was my conversation with my friend Dr. Monty Knight on our way to lunch with our lunch buddies. He has blessed my life in so many ways. This is what friends do. They are there when you need a friend to remind you of what you believe.

Several years ago, my son Michael, downloaded a group of my favorite hymns. He gave me the collection, “The Gospel According to Dad.” What a gift. I can play it while I am at my computer and be reminded of what has been given to me. Faith passed down through the generations grows stronger as the years mount up. It is amazing that my son knows me so well. He chose the selections.

When the telephone rings just after 9 a.m. every morning, I know without looking that it is my daughter, Suzanne, just checking in to see how my morning is going or to reassure herself that I made it through the night. By the same token my friend, Gene, will call about 9:15 in the evening. My sister checks in on a regular basis.

When my friends Bob and Rose Boston were on their way to Mt. Pisgah to celebrate their wedding anniversary, he called to let me know that they were passing the signs to Woodruff, my home town. He said that they have a big sign posted, “Home of Mitch.” Preachers can tell some mighty whoppers.

I can count on my friend, Joyce, to call to tell me about an unusual word or a great quote she has found. She and I share a great love of quotations. I look forward to her uplifting conversation. Every Christmas my friend Sally will send me the big print edition of, Daily Guideposts Devotionals. What a treasure.

If I miss being in church, I know that Clyde will call to tell me how much I was missed. His calls almost make it worth missing an occasional Sunday.

From time to time just when I need it Carol, my wife, will tap me on the shoulder and say, “You’ll be alright, Mitch or she’ll sing, “You are My Sunshine.”

I pray that you have some of these folks in your life. These are the angels that we are promised. They bring joy and thanksgiving to the heart.

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Encourage One Another – Week Two – FBC – Say Something Nice Day

Scripture Focus: “Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing.” — 1 Thessalonians 5:11 (NIV)

My friend has been unable to have full use of his right arm since having open heart surgery a few months ago. On the way back from lunch he said to me, “I can complain about all the things I can’t do with my right arm or I can be grateful for all the things I can do with my left arm. I choose to be thankful.” Wow! These words came from a man who has just lost his only daughter to a rare lung disease. His faith and courage under such circumstances gave me courage to walk back into my own house where my wonderful wife is plagued with Alzheimer’s disease. Carol taught in the public schools for twenty-eight years. She holds a Master’s degree plus thirty more graduate hours. She is the only person I have known who received more money on a grant request than she asked for. Five years ago she helped me edit my book, Christian Civility in an Uncivil World. She loved singing in the Sanctuary Choir. When our faith grows weak we can lean into the faith of someone’s whose faith is stronger. Peter Gomes said it best in his sermon for Christmas Day, “The House of Bread,” “The miracle of Christmas is that God cared enough to send the very best and that he continues to do so in the gifts now given to us in one another.” God has blessed me with friends whose faith helps me strengthen my own.

Prayer Focus: Dear God, thank you for all the wonderful people you have sent into my life. You have blessed me beyond measure. Amen

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