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Living Our Faith in All Circumstances

Wherever we are on our journey with Christianity, Brian McLaren invites us to return to the instructions given by the Hebrew prophet Micah: “O human being, this is what God desires for you. That you do justice. That you love kindness. That you walk humbly in the presence of your God” (Micah 6:8). Brian writes:

Micah turns a religious question into a human question.

Christians very much like to call Jesus the Son of God. Jesus much preferred to call himself the Son of Man (or son of humanity). There are many layers of meaning to the term. But the simplest and most obvious is this: a son of humanity is a human being. If you want to put a finer point on it, son of means the essence of or perhaps a new generation of. Jesus is saying that he represents the essence of humanity, a new generation of humanity, a new kind of human being. In this light, his constant invitation, follow me, means imitate me and join me on my journey toward a new way of being human. . . .

In that light, whatever you choose to call yourself, Christian or not, I hope you will aspire to be a humble human being . . . religiously. . .

I hope you will desire to be a kind human being, because . . . that person you call your enemy . . . that person is part of your family, part of your species, part of your story, part of your kind. . . .

And in addition to being a humble and kind human being, I hope you will aspire to being a just human being. Don’t seek power over others to control or exploit them or harm them. Instead, use whatever power that comes your way for the common good, so that all people everywhere can share equal justice and equal dignity. Seek justice. Love justice. Do justice. Be a just human being . . . religiously.

When I say religiously, I mean intentionally, seeking out practices that promote justice, kindness, and humility. And I mean collaboratively, joining or building communities or networks that promote those practices. And I mean reverently, knowing how precious this heartbeat and this breath really are, and feeling every moment how much danger and opportunity are held in these human hands. Religiously, as I’m using the term, means with a sense of the sacredness of everything and a commitment to re-consecrate everything.

In the midst of uncertainty for what the future of Christianity holds, Brian invites us to continue what he calls “our spiritual quest”:

To become the most just, kind, and humble version of ourselves that we possibly can, day by day . . . to practice a faith that expresses itself in love . . . to lean with others into a new humanity, a new generation or new kind of humanity, open to every good resource that can help us, explicitly Christian or not.

Reference:
Brian D. McLaren, Do I Stay Christian? A Guide for the Doubters, the Disappointed, and the Disillusioned (New York: St. Martin’s Essentials, 2022), 217, 218, 219, 220.

Explore Further. . .

Image credit: Chaokun Wang, 墙 wall (detail), 2020, photograph, China, Creative Commons. Yoichi R. Okamoto, Munich’s Large and Beautiful Fussgangerzone (detail), 1973, photograph, Munich, Public Domain. Chaokun Wang, 树 tree (detail), 2019, photograph, Qufu, Creative Commons. Jenna Keiper & Leslye Colvin, 2022, triptych art, United States. Click here to enlarge the image.

This week’s images appear in a form inspired by early Christian/Catholic triptych art: a threefold form that tells a unified story. 

Image inspiration: Sometimes the wall cracks or the tree dies. We ponder and question what we profess to believe. It’s a healthy practice that undergirds a maturing faith.

Story from Our Community:

I was raised evangelical. I married a very legalistic evangelical. I became more and more self-righteous, convinced my politics and church were the only true way. Then I had a moral failure and I was the one being judged, being cut off. I spiraled into addiction. I cut God out completely. I hit bottom and started attending a 12-step group. I couldn’t go back to that church culture, but I wanted someone to make sense of what I was struggling with, enter Richard. I want my belief in Christ to make me a vessel of what he represented, not the ego-centric person I was. Thank you CAC, you are making a way in the desert.
—Kait S.

Share your own story with us.

Prayer for our community:

God, Lord of all creation, lover of life and of everything, please help us to love in our very small way what You love infinitely and everywhere. We thank You that we can offer just this one prayer and that will be more than enough,  because in reality every thing and every one is connected, and nothing stands alone. To pray for one part is really to pray for the whole, and so we do. Help us each day to stand for love, for healing, for the good, for the diverse unity of the Body of Christ and all creation, because we know this is what You desire: as Jesus prayed, that all may be one. We offer our prayer together with all the holy names of God, we offer our prayer together with Christ, our Lord, Amen.

Listen to the prayer.

 

Staying Out Loud

Over the decades Brian McLaren has had many conversations with faithful Christians who are also disillusioned by church and religion. After one evening spent in the company of two Roman Catholic sisters who have stayed in service to the church for over fifty years, McLaren reflects:

“There are more than two options,” I thought. “I don’t have to choose between staying Christian compliantly or leaving Christianity defiantly. I can stay defiantly, like Sr. Ann and Sr. Jean [not their real names]. I can intentionally, consciously, resolutely refuse to leave . . . and with equal intention and resolution, I can refuse to comply with the status quo. I can occupy Christianity with a different way of being Christian.”

When I say stay defiantly, I don’t mean ungraciously. Srs. Ann and Jean radiate such gentleness and inner calm that accusations of being ungracious simply don’t stick. No, with firm yet gracious defiance, they will keep speaking their truths and will continue doing so from the inside as long as they can.

McLaren finds encouragement to remain a committed Christian in Jesus’ own decision to stay and wrestle with his Jewish faith even as he was rejected:

I can no longer put a naïve trust in the structures of the Christian religion, seeing and knowing what I see and know now. But instead of rejecting my religious community, I remain paradoxically present to it, neither minimizing its faults nor hating it for its faults. . . .

Jesus, of course, counted this cost. He stayed out loud. And it’s worth noting where his staying led him. Not to winning. Not to success. It led him to the utter defeat and humiliation of the cross.

Was he a fool to keep faith through his dying breath, to translate his feeling of forsakenness into a prayer? Was he a fool to think that the legacy of the prophets, the legacy of his cousin John, and the legacy of his mother, Mary, were worth staying for, to save that legacy from corruption by the religious gatekeepers of his day?

Was he a fool to stay in the fray with the religious company men of his day, naming their corruption and toxicity with carefully chosen words like “whitewashed sepulchers” and “brood of vipers” [Matthew 23:27, 33]? Would he have been wiser to leave quietly for India and become Hindu, or to go quietly to China and become Buddhist instead of challenging the status quo of his own religion?

Was he a fool to think that the tiny handful of people who got only a tiny sliver of his message and saw some faint glimmer of what he saw could outlive him and do greater things than he had done?

Are you willing to be that kind of fool? Am I?

Today, at least, inspired by the example of Sr. Jean and Sr. Ann, I am.

Reference:
Brian D. McLaren, Do I Stay Christian? A Guide for the Doubters, the Disappointed, and the Disillusioned (New York: St. Martin’s Essentials, 2022), 94, 96.

Explore Further. . .

Image credit: Chaokun Wang, 墙 wall (detail), 2020, photograph, China, Creative Commons. Yoichi R. Okamoto, Munich’s Large and Beautiful Fussgangerzone (detail), 1973, photograph, Munich, Public Domain. Chaokun Wang, 树 tree (detail), 2019, photograph, Qufu, Creative Commons. Jenna Keiper & Leslye Colvin, 2022, triptych art, United States. Click here to enlarge the image.

This week’s images appear in a form inspired by early Christian/Catholic triptych art: a threefold form that tells a unified story. 

Image inspiration: Sometimes the wall cracks or the tree dies. We ponder and question what we profess to believe. It’s a healthy practice that undergirds a maturing faith.

Story from Our Community:

For a long time I’ve been aware of a larger God than my upbringing allowed. My early faith was restricted to those who professed Jesus Christ as their personal savior; if not you went to hell. But for years I’ve loved the bigger God and even told a friend that I looked forward to going to hell where the people I most liked were. Along with an expanded sense of God, and the recent pandemic, I’ve given up the idea of boundaries between countries and ownership of land, of our Mother Earth.
—Karen M.

Share your own story with us.

Prayer for our community:

God, Lord of all creation, lover of life and of everything, please help us to love in our very small way what You love infinitely and everywhere. We thank You that we can offer just this one prayer and that will be more than enough,  because in reality every thing and every one is connected, and nothing stands alone. To pray for one part is really to pray for the whole, and so we do. Help us each day to stand for love, for healing, for the good, for the diverse unity of the Body of Christ and all creation, because we know this is what You desire: as Jesus prayed, that all may be one. We offer our prayer together with all the holy names of God, we offer our prayer together with Christ, our Lord, Amen.

Listen to the prayer.

 

Christianity’s Violence Problem

CAC teacher Brian McLaren has long asked questions out loud that many have often asked only to themselves. In his new book Do I Stay Christian?, Brian outlines compelling reasons both to leave and stay within Christianity. Today we share his critique of Christianity’s complicity with violence. Such truth-telling can be difficult to read. We invite you to practice the contemplative stance of “holding the tension of opposites”:

Echoing its founder’s nonviolence, the Christian faith initially grew as a nonviolent spiritual movement of counter-imperial values. It promoted love, not war. Its primal creed elevated solidarity, not oppression and exclusion [see Galatians 3:26–28]. . . . The early Christians elevated the equality of friendship rather than the supremacy of hierarchy (John 15:15; 3 John 14, 15).

This commitment to nonviolence rapidly eroded in the early fourth century when the emperor Constantine declared Christianity the religion of the empire. This led to an acceptance of violence and domination against the empire’s enemies, but also perceived “enemies” from within:

What the empire wanted to do, the church generally blessed. . . . This cozy relationship with empire continued long after the Roman Empire had fully collapsed. The church supported the empire’s many reincarnations in French, German, Spanish, Portuguese, Dutch, British, Russian, German, and American imperial ventures. Each empire could count on the mainstream Christian church to bless its successes, pardon its failures, and pacify and unify its masses.

A community with a history of violence to Jews . . . does not sound like a safe place for non-Christians. But as a chaplain to empire, Christianity was not a particularly safe place for Christians either—at least not those who chose to differ from the authorities of the church or state. Choosing to differ, in fact, was the root meaning of the word heresy. . . .

Historians generally agree: while the records are unreliable and incomplete, at least tens of thousands of suspected nonconformists were prosecuted by church courts between 1180 and 1450; many thousands were tortured; over a thousand were executed by church authorities. . . . In a seventy-year period starting in 1560, 80,000 women were tried as witches and 40,000 were killed. . . .

Today, abuse of Christians by Christians tends to be more emotional and spiritual than physical. But shunning and disowning (forms of relational banishment), public shaming and character assassination, private humiliations, church trials of nonconformists, blacklisting, and other forms of Christian-on-Christian cruelty continue, and more and more traumatized people are coming forward with their stories. . . .

To state the obvious: Jesus never tortured or killed or ruined the life of anyone, but the same cannot be said for the religion that claims to follow him.

Knowing what I now know, if I were not already a Christian, I would hesitate in becoming one, at least until the religion in all its major forms offers a fearless, searching, public moral accounting for its past crimes . . . first, against Jews, and also against its own nonconformist members. 

Reference:
Brian D. McLaren, Do I Stay Christian? A Guide for the Doubters, the Disappointed, and the Disillusioned (New York: St. Martin’s Essentials, 2022), 22–23, 24, 25, 28.

Explore Further. . .

Image credit: Chaokun Wang, 墙 wall (detail), 2020, photograph, China, Creative Commons. Yoichi R. Okamoto, Munich’s Large and Beautiful Fussgangerzone (detail), 1973, photograph, Munich, Public Domain. Chaokun Wang, 树 tree (detail), 2019, photograph, Qufu, Creative Commons. Jenna Keiper & Leslye Colvin, 2022, triptych art, United States. Click here to enlarge the image.

This week’s images appear in a form inspired by early Christian/Catholic triptych art: a threefold form that tells a unified story. 

Image inspiration: Sometimes the wall cracks or the tree dies. We ponder and question what we profess to believe. It’s a healthy practice that undergirds a maturing faith.

Story from Our Community:

As a young adult, I’ve shifted away from ideology and moved into free thought and expansiveness, while grounded in perennial truth. As contemplatives, we’re told to live on uncertainty, but I know that my transformation affects the lives of those around me positively. Here, I can hold my traditional Catholic upbringing and be a person of the modern-day, living amidst its many contradictions.
—Patrick S.

Share your own story with us.

Prayer for our community:

God, Lord of all creation, lover of life and of everything, please help us to love in our very small way what You love infinitely and everywhere. We thank You that we can offer just this one prayer and that will be more than enough,  because in reality every thing and every one is connected, and nothing stands alone. To pray for one part is really to pray for the whole, and so we do. Help us each day to stand for love, for healing, for the good, for the diverse unity of the Body of Christ and all creation, because we know this is what You desire: as Jesus prayed, that all may be one. We offer our prayer together with all the holy names of God, we offer our prayer together with Christ, our Lord, Amen.

Listen to the prayer.

 

An Uprising for Justice

Theologian and Episcopal priest Kelly Brown Douglas compares the Risen Jesus’ instruction to his disciples to meet him in Galilee (Mark 16:6–8) and our own encounter with the risen Christ when we stand against injustice. 

In asking his disciples to meet him in Galilee, Jesus was indeed calling them to imagine something different for the world. Jesus was asking them to imagine a world where life, not death, is centered. . . . The Resurrected Jesus resurrected his disciples by inviting them away from the despair of death that was the cross into the hope of new life that was the resurrection. A community that had given up on the possibilities for life, that had lost faith in the gospel that Jesus preached, was called back into life-giving ministry. This is what the invitation to Galilee was all about.

When I remembered this Galilean invitation, as I stood in my own existential despair of crucifying Black deaths, it was as if I was being invited to Galilee to meet the resurrected Jesus. . . .

Douglas participated in a protest in support of Black lives and was filled with unexpected joy and what she calls “resurrecting hope”:

As I stood there in what seemed like a sea of people, my [spontaneous] laughter was nothing less than a signal of transcendence pointing me to the resurrecting hope that had disrupted the seeming futility of crucifying Black death. . . .

Standing in that small space of Black Lives Matter Plaza in front of the White House was the most motley and diverse crew of God’s sacred creation that I had seen come together in protest. They reflected an “otherwise way of being in the world.” They were Black, white, brown, Asian and non-Asian, Latinx and non-Latinx, queer and non-queer, trans and non-trans, bi-gendered and non-bi-gendered. They were also young and old and everything in between. . . . People were there advocating, each in their own way, for a world that looked more like God’s just future: a future where all people were living in the peace that was justice. They were embodying that very future. [1]

CAC teacher Brian McLaren envisions much the same in a world saturated by the Risen Christ’s presence:

Resurrection has begun. We are part of something rare, something precious, something utterly revolutionary.

It feels like an uprising. An uprising of hope, not hate. An uprising armed with love, not weapons. An uprising that shouts a joyful promise of life and peace, not angry threats of hostility and death. It’s an uprising of outstretched hands, not clenched fists. It’s the “someday” we have always dreamed of, emerging in the present, rising up among us and within us. It’s so different from what we expected—so much better. This is what it means to be alive, truly alive. This is what it means to be en route, walking the road to a new and better day. Let’s tell the others: the Lord is risen! [2]

References:
[1] Kelly Brown Douglas, Resurrection Hope: A Future Where Black Lives Matter (Maryknoll, NY: Orbis Books, 2021), 188, 190, 192, 195.

[2] Brian D. McLaren, We Make the Road by Walking (New York: Jericho Books, 2014), 170.

Explore Further. . .

Image credit: Suzanne Szasz, Window Box at 69th Street (detail), 1973, photograph, New York, public domain, National Archives. Jenna Keiper, Icon at the Center for Action and Contemplation (detail), 2021, photograph, New Mexico, used with permission. Suzanne Szasz, At High Rock Park on Staten Island (detail), 1973, photograph, New York, public domain, National Archives. Jenna Keiper & Leslye Colvin, 2022, triptych art, United States.

This week’s images appear in a form inspired by early Christian/Catholic triptych art: a threefold form that tells a unified story. 

Image inspiration: We are invited to fully experience resurrection wherever we are. Can you sense it? See it? Smell it? Touch it? It’s all around.

Story from Our Community:

Grief transformed my life when my 57-year-old husband died of cancer. Every loss of my life was revived and amplified, from the death of a little sister the day she was born to my divorce. In the depth of loss and sadness, I become very quiet and still. There! What is that spark, that light, a lifeline of love that lets me know I am alive, and life is good? Others see it too, and others find the words that don’t stop the flow. Grace. God. Resurrection. Christ. Love.
—Karen B.

Share your own story with us.

Prayer for our community:

God, Lord of all creation, lover of life and of everything, please help us to love in our very small way what You love infinitely and everywhere. We thank You that we can offer just this one prayer and that will be more than enough,  because in reality every thing and every one is connected, and nothing stands alone. To pray for one part is really to pray for the whole, and so we do. Help us each day to stand for love, for healing, for the good, for the diverse unity of the Body of Christ and all creation, because we know this is what You desire: as Jesus prayed, that all may be one. We offer our prayer together with all the holy names of God, we offer our prayer together with Christ, our Lord, Amen.

Listen to the prayer.

 

An Opportunity for Transformation

Author and CAC teacher Brian McLaren has spent decades thinking about change in the church and why so many resist it. Here he summarizes what often happens to our religious institutions once they lose their original purpose:

The pattern is predictable. Founders are typically generous, visionary, bold, and creative, but the religions that ostensibly carry on their work often become the opposite: constricted, change-averse, nostalgic, fearful, obsessed with boundary maintenance, turf battles, and money. Instead of greeting the world with open arms as their founders did, their successors stand guard with clenched fists. Instead of empowering others as their founders did, they hoard power. Instead of defying tradition and unleashing moral imagination as their founders did, they impose tradition and refuse to think outside the lines. A religion that cuts itself off from the example of its founder while still bearing the founder’s name often becomes little more than a chaplaincy for other ideologies, offering its services to the highest bidder. No wonder so many religious folks today wear down, burn out, and opt out.

And no wonder more and more of us who are Christians by birth, by choice, or both find ourselves shaking our heads and asking, “What happened to Christianity? What happened to Jesus and his beautiful message?” [1]

Minister, entrepreneur, and author Cameron Trimble sees the decline of church structures as an opportunity to ask questions that matter, to rediscover and renew our faith:

What is church really about? I’ve always understood the church as being a community with a shared story in our scriptures, which binds us together. Church is about weaving relationships together so that life for all of us is more deeply rooted in Love. Today, I would offer that the church also offers a platform to work together to build a world that acts and advocates for the common good of all of us. We are warriors, lovers, peacemakers, protectors, prophets, thinkers, and dreamers who gather together to celebrate our heritage as children of God. At the same time, we are fearlessly willing to stand up and stand in for those our culture might oppress. When we live consciously aware of our power to shape our world for good, we live lives of meaning. We are our own most fully human and fully sacred expressions. We are whole. . . .

We have an opportunity in this moment of our great transformation. We can approach this time as survivors, desperately clinging to our structures and ways of being. Or, we can see ourselves as pioneers, setting out in the face of the unknown to discover new ways to live faith-filled lives. The inevitable decline of our structures gives us the chance to let go of what might hold us back from that adventure. Nothing today will be the same ten years from now. Why not architect the kind of faith movement we want to see twenty-to-fifty years from now? What do we have to lose? [2]

References:
[1] Brian D. McLaren, The Great Spiritual Migration: How the World’s Largest Religion Is Seeking a Better Way to Be Christian (New York: Convergent, 2016), 5–6.

[2] Cameron Trimble, Piloting Church: Helping Your Congregation Take Flight (St. Louis, MO: Chalice Press, 2019), 132.

Explore Further. . .

Image credit: Jenna Keiper, Untitled Church I (detail), 2020, photograph, New Mexico, used with permission. Toni Frissell, Minnie Burden, barefoot, riding a horse (detail), 1964, photograph, Library of Congress, public domain. Jenna Keiper, Untitled Window (detail), 2020, photograph, New Mexico, used with permission. Jenna Keiper and Leslye Colvin, 2022, triptych art, United States.

This week’s images appear in a form inspired by early Christian/Catholic triptych art: a threefold form that tells a unified story. 

Image inspiration: The left and right photos are of stone monuments: solid and unmoving. Between them the fresh energy and movement of a horse and rider breathe life into this trio of images. How can we stay connected to the energetic, movement origins of our religions?

Story from Our Community:

A relative was recently diagnosed with aggressive cancer. It is inoperable and terminal. This person’s faith and love allow him to be vulnerable enough to share this with family and friends. A pattern of communication is set up in a way we can support him, learn from him, and practice vulnerability in all our lives. What a sacred gift.
—Barb F.

Share your own story with us.

Prayer for our community:

God, Lord of all creation, lover of life and of everything, please help us to love in our very small way what You love infinitely and everywhere. We thank You that we can offer just this one prayer and that will be more than enough,  because in reality every thing and every one is connected, and nothing stands alone. To pray for one part is really to pray for the whole, and so we do. Help us each day to stand for love, for healing, for the good, for the diverse unity of the Body of Christ and all creation, because we know this is what You desire: as Jesus prayed, that all may be one. We offer our prayer together with all the holy names of God, we offer our prayer together with Christ, our Lord, Amen.

Listen to the prayer.

 

Each a God-Carrier

The late Bishop Desmond Tutu understood our interdependence with each other as part of what it means to live in the image of God:

God has created us, upholding us in being from moment to moment, providing us with our very existence. . . . Despite everything that conspires to deny this truth, each one of us is of immense worth, of infinite value because God loved us. That is why [God] created us. Thus our value is intrinsic to who we are. It comes with the package of being human. It depends neither on extrinsic attributes such as ethnicity and skin color nor on our achievement, however that may be computed. Our worth stems from the fact that we exist only because of the divine love. . . . [Richard: As Bishop Tutu told me when I met him, “We are only the light bulbs, Richard, and our job is just to remain screwed in!”]

We are each a God-carrier, a tabernacle of the Holy Spirit, indwelt by God the holy and most blessed Trinity.

To treat one such as less than this is not just wrong. . . . It is veritably blasphemous and sacrilegious. It is as if we were to spit in the face of God. Consequently injustice, racism, exploitation, oppression are to be opposed not as a political task but as a response to a religious, a spiritual imperative. Not to oppose these manifestations of evil would be tantamount to disobeying God.

God has created us for interdependence as God has created us in God’s image—the image of a divine fellowship of the holy and blessed Trinity. . . God has created us to be different in order that we can realize our need of one another. There is an African idiom: “A person is a person through other persons.” I learn how to be human through association with other human beings. . . .  [1]

Like Desmond Tutu, CAC teacher Brian McLaren sees the Trinity as offering a healing vision of the world, in which we create holy community that overturns categories of “us” and “them”:

This Trinitarian vision of God helps us imagine a relational universe of one-anotherness, community-in-unity, unity-in-community, being-in-interbeing, where benevolence toward the other is at home, and hostility toward the other is foreign, invasive, out of place. . . .

God-with-God in community leads us to envision God-with-us in community. And that vision in turn dares us to imagine God-with-them in community. And that expansive vision invites us higher still: to envision God-with-us-and-with-them in community. This approach to the Trinity need not be a litmus test used to legitimize us and delegitimize them. Instead, it can be a gift, offered to others like a poem, not an ultimatum—given not to require assent-leading-to-acceptance or dissent-leading-to-condemnation, but rather to inspire us to reverence otherliness as a theological attribute. At that moment, Trinitarianism becomes not only a healing doctrine but a healing practice. [2]

References:
[1] Desmond M. Tutu, “My Credo,” in Living Philosophies: The Reflections of Some Eminent Men and Women of Our Time, ed. Clifton Fadiman (New York: Doubleday, 1990), 234, 235. Note: Minor changes made to incorporate inclusive language.

[2] Brian D. McLaren, Why Did Jesus, Moses, the Buddha, and Mohammed Cross the Road? Christian Identity in a Multi-Faith World (New York: Jericho Books, 2012), 130, 131–132.

Explore Further. . .

Image credit: Barbara Holmes, Untitled 24 (detail), 2021, photograph, United States, used with permission. Warren K. Leffler, View of the huge crowd, 1963 (detail), photograph, public domain. Warren K. Leffler, Demonstrators sit, 1963 (detail), photograph, public domain. Jenna Keiper and Leslye Colvin, 2021, triptych art, United States.

The creative team at CAC sent a single-use camera to core teacher Dr. Barbara Holmes as part of an exploration into contemplative photography. Her photos are featured here together with historical images in a form inspired by early Christian/Catholic triptych art: a threefold form that tells a unified story. 

Image inspiration: Humanity is One although we are as diverse as flowers in a field. There is power in many different individuals coming together for one purpose—the March on Washington reminds us that together we have the capacity to be a transformative body and force for change.

Story from Our Community:

As an artist, painter, and maker, meditation helps me realize that my own work seems best when I create with love and awe for Oneness. I feel any talent I have is a gift from God and to create is my own way of praying.
—Suzy K.

Share your own story with us.

Prayer for our community:

God, Lord of all creation, lover of life and of everything, please help us to love in our very small way what You love infinitely and everywhere. We thank You that we can offer just this one prayer and that will be more than enough,  because in reality every thing and every one is connected, and nothing stands alone. To pray for one part is really to pray for the whole, and so we do. Help us each day to stand for love, for healing, for the good, for the diverse unity of the Body of Christ and all creation, because we know this is what You desire: as Jesus prayed, that all may be one. We offer our prayer together with all the holy names of God, we offer our prayer together with Christ, our Lord, Amen.

Listen to the prayer.

 

Revelation through Relationship

Using the book of Job as an example, CAC teacher Brian McLaren suggests that God’s revelation through the Bible comes from the ongoing dialogue and relationship the Bible inspires between God and ourselves. He teaches: 

Revelation occurs not in the words and statements of individuals, but in the conversation among individuals and God. . . .  

Revelation accumulates in the relationships, interactions, and interplay between statements. . . . 

To say that the Word (the message, meaning, or revelation) of God is in the biblical text, then, does not mean that you can extract verses or statements from the text at will and call them “God’s words.” It means that if we enter the text together and feel the flow of its arguments, get stuck in its points of tension, and struggle with its unfolding plot in all its twists and turns, God’s revelation can happen to us. We can reach the point that Job and company did at the end of the book, where, after a lot of conflicted human talk and a conspicuously long divine silence, we finally hear God’s voice. . . . 

As we listen and enter into the conversation ourselves, could it be that God’s Word, God’s speaking, God’s self-revealing happens to us, sneaks up, surprises and ambushes us, transforms us, and disarms us—rather than arms us with “truths” to use like weapons to savage other human beings? Could it be that God’s Word intends not to give us easy answers and shortcuts to confidence and authority, but rather to reduce us, again and again, to the posture of wonder, humility, rebuke, and smallness in the face of the unknown? . . .   

If we want the Bible to be a constitution, it isn’t enough. It isn’t at all. Nor is it enough as a road map for successful living, as a set of blueprints for building a life, institution, or nation, or as an “owner’s manual” . . . . But as the portable library of an ongoing conversation about and with the living God, and as an entrée into that conversation so that we actually encounter and experience the living God—for that the Bible is more than enough. . . .  

I hope [this approach] will try to put us in the text—in the conversation, in the story, in the current and flow, in the predicament, in the Spirit, in the community of people who keep bumping into the living God in the midst of their experiences of loving God, betraying God, losing God, and being found again by God. In this way, by placing us in the text, I hope this approach can help us enter and abide in the presence, love, and reverence of the living God all the days of our lives and in God’s mission as humble, wholehearted servants [Richard: and friends, I might add] day by day and moment by moment. Even now.  

References:
Brian D. McLaren, A New Kind of Christianity: Ten Questions That Are Transforming the Faith (New York: HarperOne, 2010), 89–90, 91, 93, 96–97.  

Explore Further. . .

Image Credit: Barbara Holmes, Untitled 17 & 20 (detail), 2021, photograph, United States, used with permission. Warren K. Leffler, Civil rights march on Washington, D.C., 1963 (detail), Photograph, public domain. Jenna Keiper and Leslye Colvin, 2021, triptych art, United States.

The creative team at CAC sent a single-use camera to core teacher Dr. Barbara Holmes as part of an exploration into contemplative photography. Her photos are featured here together with historical images in a form inspired by early Christian/Catholic triptych art: a threefold form that tells a unified story. 

Image Inspiration: The Bible reveals the ongoing work of liberation by God and God’s people. It is a bridge to our understanding of God moving through the ordinariness of time and space. Just like this river: symbolizing the continuing story of the struggle for justice as it flows around and through this freedom fighter of the 1960s.

Story from Our Community:

As a society, we have forgotten justice for those in need. In the Bible, Jesus taught that the greatest commandment is to love God with all our hearts and the second is to love our neighbor as ourselves. By letting our neighbor live in poverty and without nourishment is not love. In Galatians, Paul says, “They only asked us to remember the poor—the very thing I also was eager to do.” Sometimes, I think that we remember the poor, but that is all. 
—Russell C. 

Share your own story with us.

Prayer for our community:

God, Lord of all creation, lover of life and of everything, please help us to love in our very small way what You love infinitely and everywhere. We thank You that we can offer just this one prayer and that will be more than enough,  because in reality every thing and every one is connected, and nothing stands alone. To pray for one part is really to pray for the whole, and so we do. Help us each day to stand for love, for healing, for the good, for the diverse unity of the Body of Christ and all creation, because we know this is what You desire: as Jesus prayed, that all may be one. We offer our prayer together with all the holy names of God, we offer our prayer together with Christ, our Lord, Amen.

Listen to the prayer.

 

Fellowship for All

Brian McLaren invites readers to imagine that they are among the disciples in John’s Gospel, gathering together in Jerusalem after Jesus’ death:

We were afraid that first Sunday night, just three days after Jesus died. Really afraid. We were afraid to go outside in case someone might recognize us as Jesus’ friends and notify the authorities. . . .

So there we remained, tense, jumpy, simmering with anxiety. What happened Friday had been ugly, and we didn’t want it to happen to the rest of us. Every sound startled us. Suddenly, we all felt something, a presence, familiar yet . . . impossible. How could Jesus be among us? . . .

And from that night, we learned something essential about what this uprising is going to be about.

[This uprising of the gospel] isn’t just for brave people, but for scared folks like us who are willing to become brave. It isn’t just for believers, but for doubting folks like Thomas who want to believe in spite of their skepticism. It isn’t just for good people, but for normal, flawed people like you and me and Thomas and Peter.

And I should add that it isn’t just for men, either. It’s no secret that men in our culture often treat women as inferior. Even on resurrection morning, when Mary Magdalene breathlessly claimed that the Lord was risen, the men among us didn’t offer her much in the way of respect. There were all sorts of ignorant comments about “the way women are.” Now we realize the Lord was telling us something by bypassing all of the male disciples and appearing first to a woman. As we look back, we realize he’s been treating women with more respect than the rest of us have right from the start.

We have a term for what we began to experience that night: fellowship. Fellowship is a kind of belonging that isn’t based on status, achievement, or gender, but instead is based on a deep belief that everyone matters, everyone is welcome, and everyone is loved, no conditions, no exceptions. It’s not the kind of belonging you find at the top of the ladder among those who think they are the best, but at the bottom among all the rest, with all the other failures and losers who have either climbed the ladder and fallen, or never gotten up enough gumption to climb in the first place.

Whatever else this uprising will become, from that night we’ve known it is an uprising of fellowship, a community where anyone who wants to be part of us will be welcome. Jesus showed us his scars, and we’re starting to realize we don’t have to hide ours.

So fellowship is for scarred people, and for scared people, and for people who want to believe but aren’t sure what or how to believe. When we come together just as we are, we begin to rise again, to believe again, to hope again, to live again.

Reference:

Brian D. McLaren, We Make the Road by Walking: A Year-Long Quest for Spiritual Formation, Reorientation, and Activation (New York: Jericho Books, 2014), 173, 174–175.

Explore Further. . .

Image Credit: Brian McLaren, Untitled 10-12 (detail), 2021, photograph, United States. Jenna Keiper and Leslye Colvin, 2021, triptych art, United States.

The creative team at CAC sent a single-use camera to Brian McLaren as part of an exploration into contemplative photography. His photos are featured here in a form inspired by early Christian/Catholic triptych art: a threefold form that tells a unified story. 

Image Inspiration: The two outside photos in this triptych can appear spare, bare, or apart. The photo in the middle brings together a collection of unique items supported by the table. What happens when we are intentional about connection, or together-ing, rather than other-ing?

Story from Our Community:

Deep political polarization in my 38-year marriage left me untethered, broken, and lonely. We were a microcosm of our country’s division. . . One evening, we threw a “Hail Mary” deciding to put our relationship above all else, and we slowly began the messy process of healing and reconciliation. During the darkest days of my life, these daily meditations have brought me the light, clarity, and courage I needed to take care of myself. They also opened my heart enough to find the humility and compassion I needed to do my part in healing our marriage. I discovered that I, too, was guilty of “othering.” I finally feel like I’m emerging from a chrysalis to a more joyful life of love and connection.
—Julie C.

Share your own story with us.

Prayer for our community:

God, Lord of all creation, lover of life and of everything, please help us to love in our very small way what You love infinitely and everywhere. We thank You that we can offer just this one prayer and that will be more than enough,  because in reality every thing and every one is connected, and nothing stands alone. To pray for one part is really to pray for the whole, and so we do. Help us each day to stand for love, for healing, for the good, for the diverse unity of the Body of Christ and all creation, because we know this is what You desire: as Jesus prayed, that all may be one. We offer our prayer together with all the holy names of God, we offer our prayer together with Christ, our Lord, Amen.

Listen to the prayer.

 

A Revelation of Heaven on Earth

We return today to CAC teacher Brian McLaren, who illustrates how one of the Bible’s most challenging books—Revelation—can be a source of wisdom and hope for us today:

There’s a beautiful visionary scene at the end of the Book of Revelation that is as relevant today as it was in the first century. It doesn’t picture us being evacuated from Earth to heaven as many assume. It pictures a New Jerusalem descending from heaven to Earth [see Revelation, chapter 21]. This new city doesn’t need a temple because God’s presence is felt everywhere. It doesn’t need sun or moon because the light of Christ illuminates it from within. Its gates are never shut, and it welcomes people from around the world to receive the treasures it offers and bring the treasures they can offer. From the center of the city, from God’s own throne, a river flows—a river of life or aliveness. Along its banks grows the Tree of Life. All of this, of course, evokes the original creation story and echoes God’s own words in Revelation: “Behold! I’m making all things new!”

Rather than giving its original readers and hearers a coded blueprint of the future, Revelation gave them visionary insight into their present situation. It told them that the story of God’s work in history has never been about escaping Earth and going up to heaven. It has always been about God descending to dwell among us. . . . God wasn’t a distant, terrifying monster waiting for vengeance at the end of the universe. God was descending among us here and now, making the tree of true aliveness available for all. [1]

Earlier in the year, Richard shared the shocking hopefulness of the Bible’s apocalyptic literature:

God puts us in a world of passing things where everything changes and nothing remains the same. The only thing that doesn’t change is change itself. It’s a hard lesson to learn. It helps us appreciate that everything is a gift. We didn’t create it. We don’t deserve it. It will not last, but while we breathe it in, we can enjoy it, and know that it is another moment of God, another moment of life. People who take this moment seriously take every moment seriously, and those are the people who are ready for heaven. [2]

Brian offers this final encouragement:

What was true for Revelation’s original audience is true for us today. Whatever madman is in power, whatever chaos is breaking out, whatever danger threatens, the river of life is flowing now. The Tree of Life is bearing fruit now. True aliveness is available now. That’s why Revelation ends with the sound of a single word echoing through the universe. That word is not Wait! Nor is it Not Yet! or Someday! It is a word of invitation, welcome, reception, hospitality, and possibility. It is a word not of ending, but of new beginning. That one word is Come! The Spirit says it to us. We echo it back. Together with the Spirit, we say it to everyone who is willing. Come! [3]

References:
[1] Brian D. McLaren, We Make the Road by Walking: A Year-Long Quest for Spiritual Formation, Reorientation, and Activation (Jericho Books: 2015), 256–257.

[2] Adapted from Richard Rohr, “The End of Worlds,” homily, November 15, 2015.

[3] McLaren, 257.

Story from Our Community:
I began a journey of being present after both my parents passed in the fall of 2020. As part of my practice, I began taking simple thankfulness walks. A friend introduced me to Richard Rohr’s writings, which I started using as prompts for my walks. It has truly been an unveiling experience and had helped me to process my grief in a way that had brought growth. —Jeanne R.

Learn more about the Daily Meditations editorial team.

Image credit: Nicholas Kramer, Untitled (detail), 2021, photograph, Seattle. Used with permission.
Image inspiration: Here, in these bare rose sepals, is the pattern of life: the budding of spring, the bloom of summer, the wilting of autumn, the barrenness of winter. In accepting this process, we unveil and make room for new life, new growth, new blooms.

Leaning into Harmony

CAC teacher Brian McLaren is convinced that something beautiful lies “unveiled” on the other side of complexity and perplexity. He writes about the harmony that arises after struggling with and accepting doubt as a part of our faith journey.

This coming-into-union, this encounter-without-judgment, this knowing-without-control goes from me to you to us and beyond, to plants and animals and all of the created world. We come to hear the “same music,” the sound of the genuine [1], flowing through everything, every thing, every thing.

And this, I propose, is the core of spiritual experience shared by all or nearly all religions. It is the pearl of great price and the great treasure buried in the field, to use Jesus’ terminology [see Matthew 13:44–45]. Unfortunately, that treasure is often made inaccessible to insiders and outsiders alike because the gatekeepers of our traditions have never themselves explored the field and are unaware of its greatest treasure, or else they have experienced it but forgotten it, so now they neglect it. Some of them even built razor-wire fences around the part of the field where it is hidden, and they distract us with lesser things that are of more use or interest to them: beliefs, rules, policies, controversies, budgets, programs, activities, rituals, offerings, inquisitions.

The good news, however, is that this treasure is not the wholly owned subsidiary of any religious entity. The gatekeepers do not have an exclusive license to distribute it. The good news is that this . . . spirituality is available to everyone, like wind, rain, and sun, because it is, in my Christian vocabulary, the presence of grace and the creative current of the Holy Spirit that flows like a song through all of creation.

It is here. Available. At hand. Within reach. Right now. If those of us who have found this treasure in our religious traditions can begin to sing it, speak it, pray it, celebrate it, and live it out loud, perhaps together we can lean into Harmony as a civilization. Perhaps we can sing the song of Harmony in genuine harmony as a multi-faith visionary choir.

Right now, much work waits to be done. In politics, we’ve been studying war for centuries. We must now study how to create the conditions for deep and lasting peace. In many sectors of religion, we’ve been obsessed for centuries with escaping this day-to-day life on earth for an afterlife in heaven (or an experience of personal bliss). We must now cherish life on earth and engage with it by focusing our best energies on learning to love neighbor, self, earth, and God, who is Love. In education, for centuries we’ve been focused on basic morality, technology, and critical thinking. Now we must learn how to teach our children not just to know right from wrong, and not just to be able to make a living, and not just to be able to think critically, but also to live well with ourselves, one another, and the earth, discovering and cherishing the “sound of the genuine” in all things.

References:
[1] Howard Thurman, “The Sound of the Genuine,” Baccalaureate Address, Spelman College, May 4, 1980.

Brian D. McLaren, Faith After Doubt: Why Your Beliefs Stopped Working and What to Do about It (St. Martin’s Essentials: 2021), 200–201.

Story from Our Community:
I began a journey of being present after both my parents passed in the fall of 2020. As part of my practice, I began taking simple thankfulness walks. A friend introduced me to Richard Rohr’s writings, which I started using as prompts for my walks. It has truly been an unveiling experience and had helped me to process my grief in a way that had brought growth. —Jeanne R.

Learn more about the Daily Meditations editorial team.

Image credit: Nicholas Kramer, Untitled (detail), 2021, photograph, Seattle. Used with permission.
Image inspiration: Here, in these bare rose sepals, is the pattern of life: the budding of spring, the bloom of summer, the wilting of autumn, the barrenness of winter. In accepting this process, we unveil and make room for new life, new growth, new blooms.
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In a world of fault lines and fractures, how do we expand our sense of self to include love, healing, and forgiveness—not just for ourselves or those like us, but for all? This monthly email features wisdom and stories from the emerging Christian contemplative movement. Join spiritual seekers from around the world and discover your place in the Great Story Line connecting us all in the One Great Life. Conspirare. Breathe with us.