Piece of the Puzzle

random musings on whatever…

Tag: bible

Jumping in the Water

What are we supposed to do with Biblical miracle stories? You know, those stories that bend our imagination just a little too far. Perhaps, like the story of Jesus walking on water (Matthew 14:22-33), they even defy the laws of physics. Sometimes we want to explain them away, saying “Oh, I bet I know what really happened…” Or sometimes we get caught up on insisting in their literal veracity as if God’s very existence depended on us believing something that contradicts all scientific evidence. Both of these approaches are a distraction from a third important option, which is just living with the mystery.

Miracle stories are similar to parables and Buddhist Koans. They’re a riddle or puzzle that try to help us unravel greater truths about the world and ourselves. If we change the story to make it seem more plausible or if we insist upon its historicity, we immediately run the risk of missing out on its meaning. Sometimes we need to embrace the mystery. Parables, miracle stories, and buddhist koans aren’t meant to be logical and literal but are meant to be understood by the spirit, by intuition. That is, by the heart rather than the head.

For example, one meaning or truth I find in the story of Jesus walking on water, where Peter also tries to walk on water and fails, comes in the form of a question: are we so filled with fear that we can’t trust in our power to do amazing things? I admire Peter in this story. He saw Jesus doing this amazing and scary thing and after asking for and receiving a little encouragement, Peter actually had the courage to step out of the boat. He too began to do this amazing thing until he noticed the wind and the waves and was filled with fear and began to sink. Peter failed but he had had the courage to try. I admire that. As much as I’d like to be the confident and together Jesus in this story, I’d wouldn’t mind being courageous but fearful Peter first because too often I’m like the other disciples who huddle in the boat just watching what’s happening.

Of course, this is not about walking on water. It’s about the many challenges we face in this life that force us to ask are we so filled with fear that we can’t trust in our power to do amazing things? Do we have the courage to jump in the water like Peter? Perhaps one thing we can do in the face of our challenges is what Jesus did: take time to pray, meditate, and connect with the Divine, reminding ourselves of the blessings and love that do exist in this world even if they so often get lost in the horrific headlines. But that’s not enough. We also have to act, to work for a loving, peaceful world. So, after renewing our Spirit, how do we find the courage to step boldly out into the water? Ultimately, we have to trust in the power of God that resides within us.

If we fail, if we are overcome with our fear and start to sink like Peter, we need to remember that Jesus is here, walking with us. We can call out like Peter did, “Save me,” and know that God is here with us ready to catch us, to get us back in the boat where we can begin again. What might we accomplish if we trust in our power through God that we can do what seems impossible? We might actually solve some of our problems like poverty and racism. We might just create a peaceful loving world! Don’t be afraid to get wet, jump in the water!

(I originally wrote this short reflection for my church’s newsletter. It was inspired by my sermon from Sunday, August 13, 2017. The church’s website is http://www.phoenixchurch.org)

“Out of the Ashes” is Here!

I’m excited to announce that my book, “Out of the Ashes: Constructive Theology for Those Burned Out on Christianity,” is finally at the printers. Please check it out! It can be pre-ordered at a discounted price through Monday, August 14, at the publisher’s website (see below).

Who might be interested, you ask?

* Progressive Christians
* Anyone who is interested in their spirituality but who is put off or disillusioned by traditional Christian doctrine
* Anyone who was raised as a Christian but isn’t sure what they believe any more
* Anyone who thinks fundamentalism represents all Christians (it doesn’t – despite the impression the media gives us)

By looking at Christian beliefs and the Christian way of life in new ways, the book seeks to help readers open themselves to some of the alternatives to the fundamentalist and often oppressive Christianity that is too often assumed to represent all followers of Christ.

I’ve set up a web page with more information about the book as well as ordering links at http://www.pieceofthepuzzle.net/outoftheashes/. I’ll add additional links and ways to order as they are available.

Queer Theology

The “anarchistreverend” blog, in the post http://anarchistreverend.com/2011/07/synchroblog/, asked people to blog about queer theology today, August 10, 2011. I think it will have a list of all of those who responded by blogging. My friend Cindi, who blogs at http://cindik.com/, has echoed the call several times, which finally inspired me to add a few words to the cause.

The original proposal stated: “On that day I want people to blog about what queer theology means to them. I want you to share your story of how reading the Bible queerly has changed your life. I want you to talk about how your sexuality or your gender identity has brought you deeper into relationship with God.”

And further clarified: “This synchroblog is NOT ABOUT apologetics. This isn’t about taking on the clobber passages or explaining why it’s okay to be queer. It’s time to move past those conversations. […] This day will give a hint of the beautiful stories that can be shared; of the amazing ways that queer folks read and delve into the Scriptures.”

Since I’ve waited until the last possible moment to think about this, my thoughts aren’t as well thought out as I would like… but I’ll give it a shot.

As a gay pastor of a small church composed of mostly LGBT people, the relationship of Christianity and queerness is very much of personal interest to me. First of all, I would echo the anarchistreverend’s sentiment that “it’s time to move past [apologetic] conversations.” Although I don’t mind giving my take on the “clobber” passages or why one can be queer and Christian to those who are genuinely struggling with those questions, I have no interest whatsoever in arguing about it with those who are determined to adhere to homophobic views. Queer people are loved children of God and our inherent, God-given worthiness is not up for debate. Period. End of Question.

But what does being queer and Christian mean to my life? For one, if I had not come to terms with being gay, I probably would never have come back to the church or Christianity. After many years, having left the church behind for reasons that had nothing to do with the question of queerness, I came back to church as a safe place to meet other gay people. In the process, I discovered “progressive” Christianity and re-found my love of the church and God. This has led me on a weird and wonderful journey to ministry.

But does being gay / queer enhance my spiritual journey? One way in which it does is that being a queer Christian forces me to question the status quo. To think for myself. I cannot just accept whatever traditional doctrine that I’m told I’m supposed to believe. Too many church teachings have historically been about maintaining the church’s power over people’s lives and not about helping them find God’s love. To buy into those doctrines would be self-damaging and irresponsible. The way many churches treat queer people is a good example of this at work.

This questioning and challenging is a gift that queer people give to the church. Being queer is to be on the margins of what is “acceptable.” Queerness makes people question and challenge boundaries, especially as to whether our boundaries are really God-given or established by fearful, power-pursuing humans. Marriage is a good example. Queerness challenges the status quo. It challenges the very definition of and reasons for marriage.

But, our questioning as queer people should also go beyond pushing the boundaries outward to include more people. We should question the very structure of the boundaries. Sticking with marriage, we might question whether being included in this institution is even the best thing. Perhaps we instead need new understandings of committed human relationships. In one way, I’m surprised that conservative Christians are against gay marriage. If conservatives wanted control over gay people and how they are allowed to act and present themselves then the best way to do that would be to bring them within the walls of their moral codes. I think it is wonderful when a new state approves gay marriage, but is to be within those walls really what is best? I’m not saying I disapprove of marriage… I think it is exciting when two people are in love and make a commitment to each other. But there are lots of side issues (such as church vs. state marriage) and this is not really meant to be a blog entry on marriage.

And there are plenty of other issues that come to mind… sexual ethics, open relationships, pornography, bdsm, family dynamics, the nature of love… Being queer should challenge us to try to think through those issues and not just accept the stereotypical, traditional Christian responses. And all of this questioning and searching the Bible, our hearts, and our fellow spiritual journeyers for answers should bring us closer to God in a more genuine, heartfelt relationship. Because that’s what queer people have to do, forge our own path of relationships – with each other and with God.

Related to this questioning, being a gay Christian has led me to think of Christ as queer… Jesus was always challenging the status quo, making people think. If you’re interested in the idea of a queer Christ, I’ll offer a sermon I preached a couple of years ago for further reflection. Listen to it at http://www.phoenixchurch.org/sermons/032909_ka_1corinth12_12-21_26.mp3 or read the pdf file attached to this blog entry.

Okay, that’s it as a last minute reflection on what being queer and Christian means to me… at least what it means to me today anyway 🙂 I’m still questioning… and hope I always will be.

referenced sermon in pdf format:  Recognizing Ourselves in Christ

And God Created…

Here’s a cute story…  I don’t know the original source, but I found it here: http://www.frtommylane.com/stories/humility/man_dog_cat.htm

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It is reported that the following edition of Genesis Chapter 2 was discovered in the Dead Sea Scrolls.

And Adam said, “God, when I was in the garden, you walked with me everyday. Now I do not see you anymore. I am lonesome here and it is difficult for me to remember how much you love me. “

And God said, “No problem! I will create a companion for you that will be with you forever and who will be a reflection of my love for you, so that you will know I love you, even when you cannot see me. Regardless of how selfish and childish and unlovable you may be, this new companion will accept you as you are and will love you as I do, in spite of yourself.”

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