Archive for the ‘Connection’ Category

Creating Proximity

Friday, June 5th, 2020

The beauty of the bigger table is that it creates proximity in the way Jesus did. It destroys distance between people, and distance — whether real or imagined — is the enemy of relationship. This chasm allows us to otherize people with little accountability to their reality. It enables us to hold onto the belief that the crudely drawn caricatures we fashion for those we disagree with are at all accurate, allowing us to craft a clearly defined us-vs.-them narrative and place them opposite us. This simple narrative can’t accommodate people’s individual stories, as this is too labor intensive and time consuming. Instead it lumps those stories together into the closest-fitting generalization (a political party, a religious tradition, a people-group stereotype) and operates with that as truth. But these containers are simply never adequate. Our labels are never large enough for unique image bearers of God, and unless we become relentless in really straining to see individual people, we will always default to this easy, lazy shorthand, and we will always shortchange the beauty within them. We’ll also be satisfied viewing them from this safe distance of our self-righteousness and shouting through bullhorns or shaking tambourines.

— John Pavlovitz, A Bigger Table, p. 120-121

Photo: Great Falls National Park, June 14, 2016

Following Jesus’ Model

Sunday, May 24th, 2020

We have in Jesus the greatest model of compassion and kindness ever to walk the planet, and that needs to count for something. It needs to influence how we as followers of Christ interact with people we disagree with, or we end up simply being clanging cymbals, a loud, loveless noise in the ears of those around us, and feeling justified in doing so. We need to figure out how to live without the bullhorn and to find that quiet place of civility that Jesus finds so many times with so many different people. The idea of universal family or kinship is at the core of the Christian faith too, of all people made in the image of God, all creations of the same Creator, all equally flawed, all equally worthy of compassion. Our story is that every person is the neighbor we are called to love as ourselves.

— John Pavlovitz, A Bigger Table, p. 120

Photo: South Riding, Virginia, May 23, 2020

Connection, not Separation

Friday, May 15th, 2020

Jesus seemed to want connection with those around him, not separation. He touched human bodies deemed unclean as if they were themselves holy: dead little girls, lepers, menstruating women. People of his day were disgusted that Jesus’ disciples would eat with unwashed hands, and they tried to shame him for it. But he responded, “It is not what enters the mouth that makes one unclean but what comes out of it that defiles.” He was loyal to the law, just not at the expense of the people.

Jesus kept violating boundaries of decency to get to the people on the other side of that boundary, those who’d been wounded by it, those who were separated from the others: the motherless, the sex workers, the victims, and the victimizers. He cared about real holiness, the connection of things human and divine, the unity of sinners, the coming together of that which was formerly set apart.

— Nadia Bolz-Weber, Shameless, p. 26-27

Photo: Rhododendron Park, Bremen, Germany, May 16, 2004

Exclusion Excluded

Thursday, April 9th, 2020

The truly one, holy, catholic and undivided church has not existed for a thousand years now, with many tragic results. We are ready to reclaim it again, but this time around we must concentrate on including — as Jesus clearly did — instead of excluding — which he never did. The only people that Jesus seemed to exclude were precisely those who refused to know they were ordinary sinners like everyone else. The only thing he excluded was exclusion itself. Do check me out on that, and you might see that I am correct.

— Richard Rohr, The Universal Christ, p. 34

Photo: Hemlock Overlook Regional Park, Virginia, April 6, 2020

Astonish the World

Friday, March 6th, 2020

Now, we can be astonished at the authority of Jesus, who calls us to love our enemies. Or we can just love our enemies and so astonish the world as to jostle it from its regular course.

— Gregory Boyle, Barking to the Choir, p. 194

His Kind of Eyes

Tuesday, November 26th, 2019

Have you ever noticed that the expression “the light of the world” is used to describe the Christ (John 8:12), but that Jesus also applies the same phrase to us? (Matthew 5:14, “You are the light of the world.”) Few preachers ever pointed that out to me.

Apparently, light is less something you see directly, and more something by which you see all other things. In other words, we have faith in Christ so we can have the faith of Christ. That is the goal. Christ and Jesus seem quite happy to serve as conduits, rather than provable conclusions. (If the latter was the case, the Incarnation would have happened after the invention of the camera and the video recorder!) We need to look at Jesus until we can look out at the world with his kind of eyes. The world no longer trusts Christians who “love Jesus” but do not seem to love anything else.

–Richard Rohr, The Universal Christ, p. 31-32

Photo: South Riding, Virginia, November 23, 2019

Empathy

Monday, September 16th, 2019

Empathy says: You and I are made of the same lovely, heartbroken, and screwed-up stuff. You are not an object to me right now. (Maybe I’m not, either! Let me get back to you on this.) Empathy, a moment’s compassion, seeing that everyone has equal value, even people who have behaved badly, is as magnetic a force as gratitude. It draws people to us, thus giving us the capacity to practice receiving love, the scariest thing of all, and to experience the curiosity of a child.

— Anne Lamott, Almost Everything, p. 174

Photo:  Cascade in France, September 29, 1997

Compassion

Monday, September 9th, 2019

Compassion isn’t a gift or talent – it’s the natural result of paying attention and realizing the infinite opportunities to connect with others.

— Sharon Salzberg, Real Love, p. 293

Photo:  Eibsee, Germany, July 17, 2000

Community and Kinship

Friday, September 6th, 2019

If we choose to stand in the right place, God, through us, creates a community of resistance without our even realizing it. To embrace the strategy of Jesus is to be engaged in what Dean Brackley calls “downward mobility.” Our locating ourselves with those who have been endlessly excluded becomes an act of visible protest. For no amount of our screaming at the people in charge to change things can change them. The margins don’t get erased by simply insisting that the powers-that-be erase them. The trickle-down theory doesn’t really work here. The powers bent on waging war against the poor and the young and the “other” will only be moved to kinship when they observe it. Only when we can see a community where the outcast is valued and appreciated will we abandon the values that seek to exclude.

— Gregory Boyle, Tattoos on the Heart, p. 177-178

Photo: Gilbert’s Corner Regional Park, Virginia, August 31, 2019

Solidarity with Slaves

Tuesday, August 13th, 2019

You actually abolish slavery by accompanying the slave. We don’t strategize our way out of slavery, we solidarize, if you will, our way toward its demise. We stand in solidarity with the slave, and by so doing, we diminish slavery’s ability to stand. By casting our lot with the gang member, we hasten the demise of demonizing. All Jesus asks is, “Where are you standing?” And after chilling defeat and soul-numbing failure, He asks again, “Are you still standing there?”

Can we stay faithful and persistent in our fidelity even when things seem not to succeed? I suppose Jesus could have chosen a strategy that worked better (evidence-based outcomes) — that didn’t end in the Cross — but he couldn’t find a strategy more soaked with fidelity than the one he embraced.

— Gregory Boyle, Tattoos on the Heart, p. 173

Photo: Staffa Island, Scotland, July 13, 2003