Saturday, May 18, 2013

The Man in the Glass

In my journey through mid-life transition, much of my spirituality has been to focus on integrity. I desperately yearn for my inner values and core spirit to be more fully integrated with what I present to others in the world. In this place of crossroads, the question becomes one of what I value for the second half of my life.

Finding joy in simply being who I am and singing the song of my heart, not in more achieving and accomplishing and getting somewhere, is what life is all about. What a fascinating movement of the soul.

I recently went to a luncheon and heard the following poem read, and it touched me in a deep place. It's from some 80 years ago but it is about being the man I'm called to be. I share it with you today.

It is called "The Man in the Glass" by Peter Dale Wimbrow, Jr.

When you get what you want in your struggle for self
And the world makes you king for a day
Just go to the mirror and look at yourself
And see what that man has to say.

For it isn’t your father, or mother, or wife
Whose judgment upon you must pass
The fellow whose verdict counts most in your life
Is the one staring back from the glass.

He’s the fellow to please – never mind all the rest
For he’s with you, clear to the end
And you’ve passed your most difficult, dangerous test
If the man in the glass is your friend.

You may fool the whole world down the pathway of years
And get pats on the back as you pass
But your final reward will be heartache and tears
If you’ve cheated the man in the glass.

Monday, May 13, 2013

Prayer for Unity in the Body of Christ

Yesterday in worship, I shared with a heavy heart about the upcoming protest that has been announced for this Saturday by the Westboro Baptist Church from Topeka, Kansas on the campus of the University of Alabama. Today, I ask for your fervent prayers for unity in the body of Christ.

Please take some time, perhaps on Saturday in particular, for prayer. In the spirit of Christian love, we need to pray for those who bring discord to the Church, rather than participating in a spirit of disunity by being spiteful in return.

On Saturday, Tuscaloosa will witness a great expression of disunity, of spiritual arrogance and fractured Christianity, of hatred disguised as Christian love. The protest will be right there on campus. Most have heard of this church’s activities. They are known for inflammatory protests, for picketing funerals, military events, and places of tragedy with signs as offensive as “God hates fags” and “Thank God for dead soldiers”. They have said that they plan to do this in Tuscaloosa to "remind them of the wrath of God that visited them two years ago," when six Alabama students and 47 other people were killed. The church claims God is punishing America for our sin.

I appreciate the response of the mayor of Tuscaloosa, acknowledging their right to protest peacefully, but adding that "Personally, I have a different take. The God I saw after April 27 was a God of love, compassion and generosity." That is my point of view as well.

Events like this remind me there is so much brokenness in body of Christ. Sometimes we are NOT one as Jesus prayed for us to be one. If you need it as you pray, information is available on their website which is, sadly, named "" There they espouse their beliefs, which include this statement openly directed at those of us in Methodist tradition:

Even though the Arminian lies that "God loves everyone" and "Jesus died for everyone" are being taught from nearly every pulpit in this generation, this hasn't always been the case. If you are in a church that supposedly believes the Bible, and you are hearing these lies, then your church doesn't teach what the Bible teaches.

When I consider groups in Church history that have been divisive, my heart leads me back to Jesus' prayer in John chapter 17. His prayer for all of who would follow him is that we are one, just as he and the Father were one. For Jesus, this is not a criticism of those who have disagreement. Rather, it is an invitation for all his followers to participate in the life of the Trinity and the communion of love.

Unity is not just a local yearning for churches, who in the spirit of Christ need to find ways to value each other and hear each other's voices in openness of communication and respect. Unity is a macro-church need.

Let us begin by praying for, not just criticizing, the people who will be picketing on Saturday. We may never really know what pain and hurt has led them to this place of condemnation. This Sunday, on the day of Pentecost, let us get in touch with the fire of the Holy Spirit that brought miraculous unity in the beginnings of the church. Let us pray for that fire to burn brightly in our hearts.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Stained Glass Spirituality

Since the very beginnings of the Christian church, artistry has evolved to tell the story and celebrate the faith. Second only to the preached word (but more prominently in history than reading text), it has been one of the central ways the faith has been transmuted from one generation to the next.

This past Sunday night, I thoroughly enjoyed my congregation's "Celebration of the Stained Glass Windows." In the book that we have recently published, there are meditations and scriptures on the various stained glass windows and symbols that bless our worship space.

It has occurred to me that many of the symbols in the rose windows appeared very early in Christian history. For the first 300 years of Christian practice, there was no opportunity for large public worship gatherings because of rampant persecution. In the days of the catacombs, ancient burial grounds where Christians gathered in secret to worship, many of these secret symbols began to appear. The fish (ichthus in Greek) is the most well known of these ancient secret symbols. So Christian artistry thus began.

And we have continued that tradition in many of our sanctuaries. Most Christians in history could not read the Bible (because it was either inaccessible to them, or it was not translated into their spoken language, or because they were not educated at all). Yet all Christians in history have seen the symbols that are most dear to our faith. They tie us together as the body of Christ in ways that cross over cultures and generations.

Reclaiming art as part of central mission of the church will be a key to the future, because people are becoming less text oriented and more image based. We process information through hypertext and video clip and fast images in advertising. As an "auditory artist" (musician), it blesses me to think about how reclaiming the arts will energize and reinvigorate God's church in the future.

Wherever you live and worship, I invite you to spend some quiet time in your worship space. No matter what style of worship your church practices, most likely there are important symbols there, even the furniture itself, that speaks a theology and spirituality.

At Saint Mark, the rose windows reflect the great mystery of Trinity with the most ancient symbols of faith. The nativity window, second in prominence only to the rose windows, reflects the other great mystery of faith, the incarnation and the mingling of the divine and human in the person of Christ. The Old Testament characters in the windows - David, Moses, Isaiah, and Abraham - prefigure Christ and give us a sound theology of his person. The stories of Jesus that surround us root us in the teachings, miracles, and radical hospitality of our Savior. The unique guardian angel watching over precious children as they walk over the bridge reminds us how important it is at Saint Mark to pass the joy of the gospel from one generation to the next.

This is our spirituality. This is our life.