Speaking a new language

I’ve sometimes wondered what would happen if everything we knew was wiped out and we had to start from the very beginning in creating a new language…

What concepts would we value? I think of the Eskimos who have multiple words for snow, since it is so important to their lives.

What about us? What’s important to our lives?

I’d like to think that we’d spend time creating words that talk about relationships–relationships between individuals…with the earth…with our Creator. I’d like to think that the arts would be important. I’d like to think that we would value love–and find ways to differentiate love of food from love of child…parent…spouse. I’d like to think that little of our time would be spent in words of violence…but much in focusing on ways of valuing the diversity each one brings to the community. And I’d hope that community would be an important value.

In many ways–because I am a follower of Jesus–I am called to speak a new language. I John 3:17-18 challenges me this way:

Now, suppose a person has enough to live on and notices another believer in need. How can God’s love be in that person if he doesn’t bother to help the other believer?  Dear children, we must show love through actions that are sincere, not through empty words. (God’s Word Translation)

If we are rich and see others in need, yet close our hearts against them, how can we claim that we love God? My children, our love should not be just words and talk; it must be true love, which shows itself in action. (Good News Translation)

Creating a new language isn’t a matter of just making up new words. It isn’t even a matter of creating a complete grammar. It’s knowing the history that is the background of the language…the culture…the values….

And so…what values does our language show? Are they the ones we really want? If not, how can we create a new language?

I think we must! I’m not sure which always comes first–the creation of the language or the living out of the beliefs that will create the language. But I believe that we must both create and live the language of love in order for all to survive and thrive.

Letting God’s Spirit Work…

Letting God’s spirit work….

That sounds pretty simple and straightforward, but in my faith tradition, we’re struggling to understand just what it means. And I know we’re not the only ones.

What happens when we’re satisfied with the status quo? What happens when some feel God calling us one direction…and others feel that that direction is in direct contradiction to God’s word?

My faith tradition is currently struggling with basically issues of equality. Can we…should we…ordain to ministry members of the GLBT community who are in long-term monogamous committed relationships? And can we…should we…allow the sacrament of marriage for same-sex relationships?

I know what my response is and what I want my church leaders to do. Yet there are others whom I love who feel exactly the opposite.

Last Sunday the leader of our church spoke to the church as a whole (through face-to-face worship that was also webcast). One of the key questions he raised was this:

What is the Holy Spirit doing today to continue to shape us as true community in Christ? I am referring to the sacred community in which “There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus” (Galatians 3:28b (NRSV).

I wish the answer were clear and simple. But it’s not. Or maybe it is–and we’re making it far more difficult than it needs to be.

Maybe the way to let God’s spirit work among us is to be willing to let go of those things that we are convinced we know–and to be willing to acknowledge just how much we don’t know.

Maybe the way is to put ourselves in the place of the questioner who came to Jesus, convinced that he was righteous because he knew (and had been keeping) all the laws that his understanding said were the path to God. But he wanted to know just which one of them was the most important. The Message puts it this way:

Jesus said, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your passion and prayer and intelligence.’ This is the most important, the first on any list. But there is a second to set alongside it: ‘Love others as well as you love yourself.’ These two commands are pegs; everything in God’s Law and the Prophets hangs from them.”

Maybe…just maybe…living the law of love and letting God’s spirit work within us are the same thing.

The Power of Small Things

Because I have MS, I need to take a nap everyday–and so part of my office furniture is a small love seat that I curl up on.

Today as I curled up, I saw a small bear that has been sitting on the back of the love seat for a couple of years–long enough that I had really forgotten about it.

LC Bear (Elsie) came to my office anonymously during a time of great personal difficulty. Some decisions had been made that affected my job responsibilities, and I was not handling the situation well. My concerns were valid ones, but because of the hurt, I lashed out in ways that did not allow those concerns to be heard appropriately. I was struggling with whether there was a place for me in my workplace and in my church, since they were interconnected.

I remember coming back to my office one day and finding Elsie Bear sitting in my chair. There was a tag attached to her arm–a personal tag–and it said:

LC Bear #39 comes to remind you that You are in God’s loving care. Jesus knows your concerns at this very moment and he holds you close to Him. He cares deeply for you and he is mindful of the sacrifices you make to be his disciple in this time & place. Relax in his arms & let him be your guide.

I still have no idea who sent the bear my way, so I’ve never been able to say “thank you.” At that time I so desperately needed to know that someone cared…that someone understood what I was going through–and LC Bear, a small white bear with pink hearts on it, gave me that message and let me begin the long journey toward healing.

Healing on Maundy Thursday

Since I work at the headquarters of my faith denomination, there are many opportunities for worship to be integrated into our work experience. This year we had the opportunity to share in Lent activities during the 40 days…and we shared in a variety of ways–worship, scripture study, praxis (putting into practice), music.

Last year I had really enjoyed the journey. This year it often seemed more onerous. I didn’t have to go most of the time (except the times I was playing–or the week I was helping to coordinate), but it somehow seemed wrong to miss…even though it did at times make me feel more stressed rather than less.

And then came Maundy Thursday. This was to be our final experience–one in which we would have the opportunity of having our hands washed. As we went through the preliminary parts of the service, I found myself wondering when it would be over. Then the presider read the scripture about Jesus washing the disciples’ feet, and as she did so, she asked us to think about how we connected with the scripture. I found myself wondering how Judas felt at that time…how he felt inside when Jesus took his feet in that most intimate experience of servanthood…and how Jesus felt when he took Judas’s feet.

We were then invited to come to one of three stations to have our hands washed while a hymn was being sung for us. As I listened to the two women singing with the guitar accompaniment, the words began to really touch me.

Return to God with all your heart, the source of grace and mercy;
Come seek the tender faithfulness of God

Now the time of grace has come, the day of salvation;
Come and learn now the way of our God. (Refrain)

I will take your heart of stone and place a heart within you,
A heart of compassion and love. (Refrain)

If you break the chains of oppression,
If you set the pris’ner free;
If you share your bread with the hungry,
Give protection to the lost;
Give shelter to the homeless,
Clothe the naked in your midst,
Then your light shall break forth like the dawn. (Refrain)

I had earlier semi-decided that I was not going to take part in the hand washing–not because I had anything against it, but I was going to be presiding at a similar service that night…and I just didn’t really feel like doing it twice! However, the song challenged me. Not just the song–but I sensed God challenging me as well.

Two of the stations had friends of mine prepared to wash hands. The third station had an individual with whom I got off to a very rocky start in our relationship. We had butted heads significantly, and at one point I didn’t want to have anything to do with him unless I absolutely had to. The relationship had improved–but of the three stations, that was definitely not the one I was going to…but I sensed God telling me that that was exactly the one I needed to go to, if I was going to take part in this portion of the service.

I waited. So did God.

The song kept calling, and I found myself on my feet…walking toward that station. I think both of us were surprised when I stood before him. He poured water over my hands–and then, he took hold of my hands to dry them. I wish I could find the words to express the power of that experience. I can’t.

All I can say is that I experienced both receiving and giving God’s grace–and feeling a change to a heart of compassion and love for this individual who had not been the person I would have chosen to go to.

God–the source of grace and mercy–truly brought a gift of healing on this Maundy Thursday.

Circle of Life

Recently I posted about how my mother is slipping away bit by bit. However, we are also celebrating the start of another new life!

Our first great-grandchild has just arrived on the scene–a little boy. He came to a family waiting anxiously for him and excited about his arrival.

This Sunday we will all be getting together for a visit…and on the agenda are picture-taking sessions. We have already told my mother that she is taking a road-trip (it will be about 45 minutes away)…that she is to wear something comfortable but pretty–and we plan on taking some 5-generation pictures.

Five generations!

It’s been a while since we’ve had that many generations still alive in my family–in fact, it’s been since I was a teenager. So this will be something special.

As we are celebrating this birth, I am reminded (again) of the song from The Lion King that precipitated the title of this post: