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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The Lord’s Prayer or the Our Father Prayer

Matthew 6:9-13 (KJV)

After this manner therefore pray ye: Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name.

10 Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven.

11 Give us this day our daily bread.

12 And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.

13 And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil: For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever. Amen.

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Thank You Is Not Enough for These Mind Benders

For the last several months I have kept the focus of this blog on Christian Civility, Christian Communication and Christian Ethics. I have asked so many thought provoking men and women whom I respect to help me. The John A. Hamrick Lectures which enriched our lives so deeply are no more. Carol and I have been unable to attend The Chautauqua Institution in New York State in the past couple of years where we have been so inspired by the speakers; therefore, I decided to create my own Chautauqua and to share it. How blessed I am that these people are a part of my life.

How could I have had a better start than with renowned Bible scholar and theologian Glenn Hinson? Glenn lectured at the Hamrick Lectureship. He was followed by a young dynamic Children’s Minister, Emory Hiott. Emory represents the future of the church. Next came my long term friend and mentor, Dr. Monty Knight. Rev. Dr. John Johnson, a friend from Furman University days and an Episcopal priest rounded out the first month.

August started with Thomas Crowl, a retired Judge, and author of, In His Service, a book of devotionals. Rev. Maria Swearengin, was the assistant chaplain at Furman University.  She is now a pastor at Calvary Baptist Church in Washington, DC. Rev. Dr. Molly, Marshall, president of Central Baptist Seminary, and Rev. George Rossi followed through. George is a counselor at the Medical University of South Carolina. Dr. Marshall spoke twice at the Hamrick Lectures.

Rev Stephanie McLeskey is the chaplain at Mars Hill University. Sarah Pinson is active in food health in the Charleston area and is an active member of Circular Congregation Church. Dr. Douglas Hunter at the time was the Director of the Whitfield Christian Life Center at Charleston Southern University.  Robert Darden is a professor of Journalism, Public Relations and New Media at Baylor University. Penn State University Press published his two volume history of protest songs and spirituals, Nothing but Love in God’s Waters. Rev. Paul Stouffer is a retired missionary and was a classmate at Mars Hill University.

Linda Wertheimer is the author of, Faith Ed. It is an absolutely splendid work. Kris Wood is the organizer for the Christian Writer’s Conferences at Green Lake, Wisconsin, Dr. Bill Leonard is a global speaker and professor at Wake Forest University Divinity School. Bill also spoke at the Hamrick Lectures and at the Lenten Lectures at Mepkin Abbey. Fredrick Schmidt is a professor at Garrett Evangelical Theological Seminary.

Rev. Matt Sapp is the pastor of Heritage Fellowship Baptist Church in Canton, Georgia and a frequent contributor to www.ethicsdaily.com. Rev. Brian Skar is the pastor of Immanuel Baptist Church in Minot, North Dakota. We met at the Green Lake Christian Writer’s Conference. Rev. Dr. Linda Bridges is part of the Spotlight International Education Group and a former faculty member at Wake Forest University Divinity School. She and I first met at the Chautauqua Institution. Rev. Deborah Meister is the former Rector at St. Alban’s Episcopal Church in Washington, DC. Rev. Julia Rusling is a priest associate at St. Patrick’s Episcopal Church in Dunwoody, GA.

Dr. Mark Labberton is the president of Fuller Evangelical Theological Seminary and Dr. Richard Mauw is President Emeritus. Dr. Mauw contributed a chapter to my book, Christian Civility in an Uncivil World. His book, Uncommon Decency, is a masterpiece. If you have not read it, go out and get it. While you are at it get his book, Praying at Burger King.

RChristina Embree is director of children and family ministries at Nicholasville United Methodist Church near Lexington, Kentucky. She is a wife, mother and writer. Dr. Eric Barreta is a professor at Princeton Theological Seminary.

Rev. Dr. Shawnethea Monroe is the minister at Plymouth Church, United Church of Christ in Shaker Heights, Ohio. She has two posts back to back. My friend, Rev. George Rossi, is also back with an excellent discussion of physical, mental and spiritual health. Retired Judge Thomas Crowl is back to help us start the New Year.

What a tremendous blessing this has been. These contributions Merritt reading again and again. Thank you all.

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Where Spirituality and Illness Meet: The Middle Ground – Rev. George Rossi*

Some people need to become more human.  Some people need to become more spiritual.

Wholeness is found in the middle ground.  It’s the place where the coastal sea water from the Atlantic Ocean meets the black soil of the South Carolina coast.  It’s a rich and fertile place where marsh grass thrives, shrimp populate the grassy reeds, and redfish troll the high tides for dinner. The meeting and convergence of water and land is much like the meeting of the physical and the spiritual.  It’s the place where one has to merge with the other and something magical and something important becomes reality.

As a minister my growing edge is on the “becoming more human” side of the equation.  Just recently I read an excellent tweet from Twitter that was trying to “normalize” (eliminate shame) the fact that humans become physically ill, experience terrible disease processes, and eventually face difficult medical challenges.  For some that happens very early in life as a neonatal baby, and for others in their 20’s, and the much more fortunate, those in their the 50’s and 60’s when one has to carry more daily medications in his or her briefcase just to take care of themselves one more day.  Here’s the point of the tweet I mention and my point now:  Having illness is “normal” because it is reality and we have to find ways to talk about it more and to recognize our humanness, our fragile bodies that depend on equilibrium and homeostasis.  Yet, sometimes we are anything from feeling even-keeled or living in a good equilibrium.  A recent prescribed dose of antibiotics confirmed my disequilibrium as my stomach rumbled and tried to cope with the antibiotics.

Honoring our imperfect bodies is a way to honor our deep connection with God.  It means looking to God for grace so that one can “gracefully age.”  Sometimes prayers and reading and reflection can help one “accept one’s humanity which does eventually include illness.”

I encourage you and me to find fellow strugglers who are able and want to live in the middle.  In my case, the goal is to accept my humanity, find true physical and spiritual wellness, and to live a balanced life.  Illness can send that balance out of orbit with one abnormal lab result for sure.    I think we need more ministers, more medical professionals, more people who can help others and themselves to “normalize” the experience of illness and give people space and time to make sense of it.  I venture that healing will happen as people balance medical challenges with an alive faith and in that find health and meaning and purpose for living.

GeorgeM Rossi* at 1:28 AM George is a counselor at the Medical University of South Carolina.

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