Saturday, November 29, 2014

Keeping Christ Out of Christmas

I'm all in favor of keeping Christ out of Christmas.

I mean, why muddy the waters of consumerism with anything that might give people pause in their mad rush on Black Friday, which lasts, of course, for the next month. Christ is certainly no good for the economy - after all, things like restraint, kindness, generosity, compassion, mercy, are hardly the engines of Wall Street. So, let's keep Christ out of Christmas. And besides, it's a giant waste of time that makes some feel good about their "Christian witness" when, in fact, it's nothing but a "mountain out of a mole hill."

Rather, let's keep Christ in our hearts and minds, as much as we can ... in our thoughts and decisions about:
civil rights,
marriage equality,
police violence,
the raging fear that permeates our air waves,
the condemning of the poor so popular these days,
health-care for all ...
to name just a few places where Christ is needed.

And, heck, who can remove Christ anyway from CHRIST-mas? Of all of the silly places for some to make a fuss, this is it. Christmas and God and Christ and the Holy Spirit can take care of themselves just fine. They don't need us prancing and dancing around as if were the saviors of all things good and godly.

All of this "Christ in Christmas" nonsense reminds me of something Jesus said to the supercilious - "You're doing just fine straining gnats out of your water, but you've managed to swallow a camel in the process" (Matthew 23.24).

If one's spiritual line in the sand is the right and privilege to say, "Merry Christmas" instead of Happy Holidays, well, go for it. But pay attention, please to where Christ is missing, I mean really missing, in our world and life. And with some humility, and a good dose of kindness, be less concerned about "Christmas" and a whole more concerned about the really big things where pain and sorrow prevail.

Rather than fussing about nothing, and it really is nothing, let's tackle the real stuff ... in the toughest and hardest and roughest places of life, where folks suffer and children die like flies, where girls are enslaved and women beaten, where men are humiliated by their poverty, where family life is torn apart by lack of opportunity, places where wealth has run amok and power gone mad for profit and privilege ...

If we're content to let Christ be absent from all of these places, shouting "Merry Christmas" and "He's the reason for the season" only makes a mockery of Christ and reveals the shallowness of our faith.

Let's keep Christ outta Christmas and then be sure that he's brought into all the realms of life where hope and healing are so desperately needed. Then, and only then, can our witness to Christ make sense and carry some legitimacy - the legitimacy of kindness, mercy and peace.

And that might just be the greatest Christmas Gift we Christians give to the world! And with that gift given, again and again, no one will mind if someone says "Merry Christmas," and Christians, having given the real gift of Christ to the world, will be inclined to simply say, with humility and gentleness, "Happy Holidays."

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

I Am One with the World

I am one with the world.
And the world is one with me.
That's what it means, I think.
To be human.
Created in the image of God.
Who created the world.
The whole of it.
All of it.
To be a good and redemptive place.
Where everything can thrive.
Where generation is the rule.
Where the new emerges.
Where the unexpected happens.

A world always waiting.
For something.
Because the world yearns.
It's built into us.
To stretch.
Look high and look low.

I am one with the world.
In its eternal nature.
"World without end."
And in its limits.
It's finitude.
The boundaries of time.
When the Big Bang.
Is finished.
Or something like that.

I am created.
I didn't invent myself.
I didn't choose to be here.
I was thrust here.
(I like that imagery).
Of birth.
Of labor.
Pain and sweat.
Tears and agony.
Pop - and here I am.

And for a season.
Which, always seems strange to me.
When I think about it.
A season.
Of love.
Trial and tribulation.
Friends and family.
Good things.
Sad things.
Terrible things.
And glorious.

I am one with the world.
In its beauty.
In its sorrow.

I am its beauty.
So are you.
I am its sorrow.
And you are, too.

Saint and sinner.
Some would say.

Life and death.
Good and evil.
High and low.
Grand and ugly.
Generous and stingy.
Loving and hateful.
Giving and taking.
Concerned and care-less.

I am all these things.
And you are, too.

And so it goes.

I am one with the world.
And the world is one with me.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Poverty and Wealth Are Not Virtues

Poverty isn't virtue ... it's just poverty.

Nor is wealth a virtue ... it's just wealth.

Both replicate one another.

Both are very much by chance ... though these days,

The wealthy like to believe it's by their own hand.

And, hence, poverty's a fault,

A failing.

Of the poor.


That we've made wealth a virtue.

Poverty a vice.

Poor choices and a lack of drive.

So, take away from the poor.

All the more.

And reward the wealthy.

All the more.


For the disappearance of reality from all of this.

The failure of the wealthy to appreciate the

Chanciness of their position.

And the refusal to look with a kindly eye

On the poor.

Slandering the poor.

While congratulating themselves.

As if wealth were a virtue.

To be rewarded.

And poverty a vice.

To be punished.

Monday, November 10, 2014

Relationship with a Spider

Okay, I admit it.

I've had a relationship with a spider.

For the last four or five weeks.

Behind our sink, there it was - a spider and its webbing.

What might have ended badly for the critter took a different turn.

After my visit to the Spider House at the Natural History Museum in Los Angeles.

There, I learned:

Spiders consume pests; treat 'em well.
They never stray from their web once it's built.
They're masters at the task.

They fed the spiders, the large ones, live crickets.
Held them in a tweezers, and popped 'em into the webs.

So, I thought, ants!

We have ants.
Maybe a few.
Sometimes a hoard.

So, I started catching ants.
Put 'em on a piece of paper and flicked them
with my finger,
into the web.

Or on the counter just below it - webbing there, too.
The ant would flail around.
But no success.


The spider drops, grabs the ant, hauls it up and wraps it.
Tight and clean.
For later in the day, I suppose.

Does the spider know?
When I turn the light on in the morning.
It may not yet be out.
But as soon as the light is on.
S/he's out.
For breakfast?

Haven't had any ants for the last few days.
Until I found a few this morning.
Got 'em!
Flicked 'em!
All wrapped up.
By my spider friend.

My family is with me on this.
I told 'em: "The Spider doesn't leave its web."
They ask: "Have you fed your spider today?"

The world has fewer ants right now.
As a result.
Don't think the world minds one bit.
And a happy spider.
And that makes a difference.
At least to me.

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Galileans Killed by Pilate's Soldiers and Tower of Siloam

Luke 13.1-5

The international headlines of the day inevitably tell the tale of death ... a suicide bomber, a missile, a battle, and ten, twenty, a hundred die - day after day, report followed by report ... the constant warfare of nations, tribes, groups, seeking territory, identity, safety, dominance - whatever it is that we humans seek in war.

I was reminded of this in one of the lections of the day: Luke 13.1-5 - At that very time there were some present who told him about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices. He asked them, "Do you think that because these Galileans suffered in this way they were worse sinners than all other Galileans? No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all perish as they did. Or those eighteen who were killed when the tower of Siloam fell on them - do you think that they were worse offenders than all the others living in Jerusalem? No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all perish just as they did."

Brooklyn Museum - The Tower of Siloam (Le tour de Siloƫ) - James Tisso

The two incidents cited by Jesus are related to war - the Galileans, for reasons not offered (the audience likely knew the story) were confronted by Pilate's soldiers, and it ended badly for them. No doubt, their religious activities were connected to, or even a cover for, some some activity offensive to Rome.

The Tower of Siloam was a defensive structure to protect a Jerusalem water supply. How it fell, during construction perhaps, remains unclear. Then, or now, what's more important than water?

In both cases, we're dealing with warfare - Galileans confronted by Pilates' soldiers in some kind of a "firefight," and the 18 killed when a defensive tower collapsed.

Jesus wants to make clear that these victims were not the worst of the bunch, suffering, then, for some well-deserved punishment. Jesus turns it around on the audience and suggests that everyone there, involved in the militarism of the day - either supporters of Rome or those agitating against it, were in danger of a similar fate.

When I hear the daily news of the world, I breathe a sigh of relief. Yet I wonder what Jesus might say to us here in the States - the arms dealer of the world, with military bases stretching across the globe.

Our instinct is to look at the victims and satisfy ourselves with the conclusion - "they got what was coming to them." The very thinking Jesus challenges, with the warning, that even those who think they're safe behind the walls of military might will see the day of death.

Happy thoughts?

Not at all, but such is the Gospel sometimes, such is Jesus!