Are these the “end times”?

It seems like periodically we go through a cycle of major concern about the “end times”. They’re identified differently, but generally the focus is on the world as we know it ending somehow–either with a bang or (courtesy of T.S. Eliot) with a whimper. And every time the end is predicted–and people begin to go into a frenzy of concern and panic–somehow we make it through…and the world continues.

The current “end of the world” that I’ve been hearing about is for 2012. The current reason (I think) is that the Mayan calendar ends then…so somehow, so will our world.

I don’t really know. And because I don’t have any way of knowing what the end time is (either of the world or of my own life), I plan on continuing to live as I would. There’s a story I read or heard sometime that had to do with the question being asked, “If you knew the world would end tomorrow, what would you do today?” And the answer I remember is “I would plant a tree.” A sign of hope.

But what if the world as we know it does end in 2012? Wouldn’t that be wonderful? We would no longer live in ways that separate people from each other. We would no longer take this wonderful earth for granted. We would be willing to share so that all might have enough to meet their needs. We would work together to solve problems rather than barricading ourselves into our own little kingdoms. Children would no longer die from preventable diseases…and would not cry from hunger. We would delight in our diversity rather than fearing it. We would recognize that each of us knows a part of the whole–and that it’s only by working together that we can see more clearly.

It’s not just a dream. Not really.

We can end the world as we know it…and we don’t have to wait until 2012. We can start today–living the new life. We can (as Mahatma Gandhi said) be the change we want to see in the world.

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Exhaustion

As I mentioned in the previous post, I’m exhausted! Both physically and mentally.

The physical exhaustion comes from the amount of organ playing I did at our World Conference last week. It’s a busy, busy week…we take care of the legislative activities and actions that need to be done for the world church. But more than that, there are also a number of worship activities as well–every night except Wednesday as well as in the morning and sometimes in the middle of the day. There is also music needed for some of the legislative sessions as well.

Because of circumstances beyond our control, a friend of mine (who is the principal organist for our denomination) and I ended up doing the bulk of the playing. I had a color-coded chart, indicating what each of us was supposed to be playing each day–as well as the rare times that we were able to use one of our staff organists. There was a lot of yellow (her color) and orange (my color) on the chart. I found myself sometimes wondering, “Okay, what day is this? Where am I supposed to be? and when?”

A couple of days I ended up playing 3-4 services…

I knew I’d be tired once Conference was over and the adrenaline rush that kept me going faded. It’s happened before. But I keep forgetting just how exhausted I get! It’s an exhilerating week–but once I crash, I crash hard. I’ve tried going into work for a few hours a couple of days this week, especially since I’m going to be out for some minor surgery next week. But I would just sit there and look at the piles of stuff I needed to deal with.

So I finally decided that it would be wiser to just stay home and rest. That’s a really hard decision for me, since I don’t like to be forced to stop! But my body was telling me it was time–and if I didn’t pay attention, it would do more to make me stop! And I didn’t want to go there.

There’s also been some emotional exhaustion. There were some significant spiritual experiences last week that have transformed our lives–and I’m still coming to grips with that.

So…

I’m resting…gaining strength for the journey ahead. And knowing that there’s nothing wrong with being exhausted–but I need to learn (again!) to listen to my body in order to travel the path we’re being called to travel.

Reasoning together – part 2

Our Conference is over. It’s been quite a week!

I’m exhausted from playing the organ a lot…but that’s another story.

We had some potentially divisive issues to deal with–about 26 resolutions dealing in one way or another with issues of sexuality and ordination and marriage. The resolutions came from many different parts of the church-and did not all take the same position. How were we going to deal with them?

The last time we had contentious issues, we did not deal with them well. There were personal attacks, harsh rhetoric, and a major split in the church.

This time…it was different.

There were definitely differing opinions / perspectives / understandings. But even as they were being shared, there was a spirit of peace and reconciliation. Even those who disagreed with decisions that were made expressed appreciation for the process. I did not hear any personal attacks. I did hear passionate concerns–but even in the midst of those, I heard care for each other.

The decisions that were made will not have gone far enough for some…and will have gone too far for others. And there are still lots of questions as to how they will all play out.

But during this week, there was a strong sense that each cared for the welfare of others…and I am so thankful!

Reasoning together…

My denomination’s World Conference begins officially this Saturday. It’s held every three years and is a major worship and legislative gathering–kind of like a big family reunion.

Some years the discussions go pretty smoothly. Some disagreements, sure…but nothing major.

Other years, though, it’s been far more challenging–when we’ve had to deal with issues that are so significant theologically that there doesn’t appear to be any room for compromise. The last one that was like that was back in 1984, when we approved a document that allowed us to begin ordaining women to ministerial offices. That split the church–and it took us many years to recover.

This year could be as significant as then. There are resolutions that have come from many places where we have members, dealing with issues of sexuality–specifically homosexuality and its compatibility with ministerial responsibilities…and whether our ministers can have the freedom to share in the sacrament of marriage for same-sex couples in those areas where it is legal.

There are strong feelings on both sides–as there are in the larger world. And I know this issue also has the capability to split our church.

But I hope that doesn’t happen. I hope and pray that we can find ways to truly hear each other–to hear stories…concerns…pains…fears. I hope and pray that we can be willing to listen for God’s voice in the midst of all this…that we can have wisdom–and courage–to follow where we sense God calling us.

Reasoning together doesn’t happen if we’re not willing to be vulnerable with each other. But when–IF–we are willing to take that risk, then we give God the opportunity to help us find new pathways.

May it be so this week.

Easter

The traditional Easter greeting is…

Christ is risen!
He is risen indeed!

Something happened 2000 years ago on the day we now celebrate as Easter. I don’t know what specifically, because I wasn’t there…but something happened that made a significant impact on the lives of those who followed Jesus. It changed them from fearful, hiding men and women, afraid of what both the Romans and the Jewish religious leaders might do to them…to people who could march–singing hymns of praise!–into the arenas where they knew they would be put to death under horrible circumstances.

I can’t imagine my life and my outlook being changed that dramatically…not without an incredible experience of some type. I believe that however we may choose to understand it, the phrase “the living Christ” refers to something (and someone) who totally changed the understanding of those who were his followers–and who continues to impact people today.

May you be blessed with peace and hope this Easter!