God has place this wonderful creation in our hands. As U2 sings, "It's a beautiful day, don't let it slip away." We have this one life to live on this beautiful planet so enjoy these reflections on God, faith, life, and music. "After the flood all of the colors came out. It's a beautiful day."

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

The Crumbling Church


Dzibilchaltun Mayan Ruins, Yucatan Mexico

How do you talk about the church that is crumbling, falling down in the world, no longer what it used to be?  This is one of the issues facing the writer of the Gospel of Mark.  In Mark 13, Jesus says in his last sermon: As he came out of the temple, one of his disciples said to him, ‘Look, Teacher, what large stones and what large buildings!’ Then Jesus asked him, ‘Do you see these great buildings? Not one stone will be left here upon another; all will be thrown down.’  The church, the temple is in crisis.

The layers of the pyramid at Dzibilchaltun
I was touring the Dzibilchaltun - Mayan ruins in Yucatan Mexico.  This is a wetland area where trees are small, vegetation runs riot and snakes are abundant.  In these northern wetlands an archeologist uncovered ruins.  As they dug below the layers of vegetation they found a life of a people, a civilization that has scattered into new locations.  This site used to be an economic, political, and religious center of the Mayan people and now it is crumbling.  In these pyramids and structures which were aligned with the stars, you don’t discover buried tombs or treasure at the center, you discover pyramids all the way down.  The layers tell how life was for the people, whether good or bad.  In good times, the stone walls are thick and solid and held together well.  In the lean years, the time of famine, war or natural disaster, the walls aren’t as thick, the binding materials are sometimes nonexistent, and the stones crumble easily.  And then the building stopped.  There were no more layers.
The Catholic Ruins Dzibilchantun
At this site there is a visible sign of why the building stopped.  In the midst of the ruins is a crumbling Catholic church.  There in the center is a structure, also falling down, of what changed and transformed this Mayan people.  The conquistadors came through and said your beliefs, practices and culture need to change.  We need your gold and resources, your labor and even your beliefs.  They demanded that the Mayan give up their Gods and worship the Christian God.  Yet even there, a place where the oppressors ruled, the church was transformed.  The conquerors came to bring the truth, to subdue the people.  Yet they were now as crumbled as the older ruins. 
The Catholic Ruins Dzibilchantun
As our guide talked about this site, he shared how at home with his wife they speak a version of Mayan/Spanish.  He shared that even today as the people practice Catholicism; they still have Mayan traditions that were incorporated into their life of faith.  I wish I could remember what he said those traditions were.  But what struck me was how this tour was reflecting what we had been talking about in my continuing education.  We had been discussing how Mark was written in a time when the temple had been destroyed.  For Mark, the religion that he had known was disappearing and being rewritten.  Mark was trying to speak to the lost children of Israel about a new way of relating to God.  For Mark, the gospel is about transformation.  On hearing the story, will you turn to God and believe the Good News?  Will you hear of this Messiah and allow him to enter your life and transform it? 
The spring at Dzibilchantun
So the temple is crumbling again.  More than 50% of the people in any given community do not attend church.  They may be spiritual but not religious. They may be agnostic believing in something, but not sure what.  They may love what they have heard about Jesus and hate what they have heard about the church.  And the churches themselves are in decline.  Numbers are shrinking, buildings are crumbling. 
Is the church willing to take a leap of faith to write a new word?  Will the church share the Gospel in a new way in which both the churched and their unchurched neighbors are transformed and neither is the same?
Gulf of Mexico
What does it mean to speak a new word in a new world?  Will we allow those outside the church help us to transform the church?  Will we allow ourselves to experience the return to Galilee we are called to in Mark’s resurrection story?  “Do not be alarmed; you are looking for Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified.  He has been raised; he is not here… go and tell the disciples and Peter that he is going ahead of you to Galilee; there you will see him, just as he told you” (Mark 16:6-7).  To Galilee where people are healed, fed, freed.  Where even the deaf can hear and the blind can see.  Where those who are lost can find others who are lost.
Come Jesus as you go before us, may we catch a glimpse of Your Kingdom.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Overflowing Words


Overflow XI, 2008, Jaume Plensa, NOMA

When I was in New Orleans a couple of weeks ago, I visited the Besthoff Sculpture Garden located in City Park.  One of my favorite pieces is of a person hugging his knees.  He is made up entirely of letters that flow down and away from the sitting body.  The statue is translucent and solid at the same time.  The statue is Overflow XI, 2008 by Jaume Plensa, Spanish.  I love the flow of letters and the way light and air move through the sitting body.  When I first saw this being a pastor I said, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” 

But as I have watched this image appear on my scrolling photos gadget, I stop every time.  There is something about the work that moves me.  I think because words have always been an important part of my identity.  I like expressing my thoughts and feelings through words, so the image of a person made up of letters that stream off them appeals to me.  The words and letters, through their flow, help to show the body and at the same time going beyond the body to the world. 

Plensa in speaking of his works has expressed  “his belief that our life experiences leave indelible yet invisible marks on us which can be read by those who know us best.'' (Yorkshire Sculpture Park).  He added during an interview last year: “letters and words became my materials now… the association of the letters like body cells can create words in more complex organisms; and the words between them can form a text that, gathered with others, can write a culture.”(NOMA, Educators Guide).  Plensa has allowed the letters, the words to give shape and form to thought and figure.    I like how the letters flow off of us.  The letters give shape and form, and those who know us can read these words. 

Today the scripture that spoke to me while looking at this work was Psalm 19

1 The heavens are telling the glory of God; and the firmament proclaims his handiwork. 2 Day to day pours forth speech, and night to night declares knowledge. 3 There is no speech, nor are there words; their voice is not heard; 4 yet their voice goes out through all the earth, and their words to the end of the world. …The law of the Lord is perfect, reviving the soul; the decrees of the Lord are sure, making wise the simple; 8 the precepts of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart; the commandment of the Lord is clear, enlightening the eyes; 9 the fear of the Lord is pure, enduring forever; the ordinances of the Lord are true and righteous altogether. … 14 Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable to you, O Lord, my rock and my redeemer.

The words we speak and help form our being whether expressed or not shape both ourselves and our communal life.  The words I find in scripture I hope overflow into my life, impacting how I interact with people and how I interact with the world.  The words are life giving, mostly.  They help me in whatever mood to move beyond myself and into the Kingdom, by reviving my soul, expressing my pain and sorrow, and offer hope.

May the words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart be acceptable to you. 

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Be Opened



Dzibilchaltun - Mayan ruins in Yucatan Mexico

Mark 7:31-37
31 Then he returned from the region of Tyre, and went by way of Sidon towards the Sea of Galilee, in the region of the Decapolis. 32 They brought to him a deaf man who had an impediment in his speech; and they begged him to lay his hand on him. 33 He took him aside in private, away from the crowd, and put his fingers into his ears, and he spat and touched his tongue. 34 Then looking up to heaven, he sighed and said to him, "Ephphatha," that is, "Be opened." 35 And immediately his ears were opened, his tongue was released, and he spoke plainly. 36 Then Jesus ordered them to tell no one; but the more he ordered them, the more zealously they proclaimed it. 37 They were astounded beyond measure, saying, "He has done everything well; he even makes the deaf to hear and the mute to speak."

Where are you closed?
Be Opened.

Dzibilchaltun - Mayan ruins in Yucatan Mexico

Has there been too much bad news, too many bad stories, have you stopped hearing?
Be Opened.
Is your child ill, hungry, hurting, are you longing for just a moment of hope, a time of wholeness.
Be Opened.  
Do you wonder if it really matters what you say to God, to the preacher?  Could it possibly make any difference?
Be Opened. 
Have you taken into yourself things you know can harm you …

Be Opened.
Jesus touches you … sighs deep in his soul…  and says …
Be Opened.

Dzibilchaltun - Mayan ruins in Yucatan Mexico

Be Opened
Be Opened
Be Opened








Be Opened