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More or Less Church

Joanna Depue "DJ/Deacon J" writes original songs and liturgies, does daily Farm office work and records Barbara's eMos on The Geranium Farm. A singer and dog trainer she utilizes healing touch in her private massage practice. PLEASE share YOUR original ideas for worship, special liturgies, prayers, songs, sermons and noteworthy blogs right here.
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Saturday, May 12, 2012

The Only Truth You'll Ever Know That ISN'T Too Good to Be True

God Loves Us

"God does not give up on anyone, for God loved us from all eternity. God loves us now and God will always love us, all of us good and bad, forever and ever. His love will not let us go, for God's love for us, all of us, good and bad, is unchanging, is unchangeable. Someone has said there is nothing I can do to make God love me more, for God loves me perfectly already. And wonderfully, there is nothing I can do to make God love me less. God loves me as I am to help me become all that I have it in me to become, and when I realize the deep love God has for me, I will strive for love's sake to do what pleases my Lover."

from No Future Without Forgiveness Desmond Tutu

Friday, May 11, 2012

Friday Focus: Need A Hug?

As the Father has loved me, so I have loved you; abide in my love. If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father's commandments and abide in his love. I have said these things to you so that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be complete. "This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. No one has greater love than this, to lay down one's life for one's friends. You are my friends if you do what I command you.  I do not call you servants any longer, because the servant does not know what the master is doing; but I have called you friends, because I have made known to you everything that I have heard from my Father. You did not choose me but I chose you. And I appointed you to go and bear fruit, fruit that will last, so that the Father will give you whatever you ask him in my name. I am giving you these commands so that you may love one another. John 15: 9 - 17

Wow! Read the Bible from cover to cover and you won’t find more love packed into so few lines anywhere else. In eight verses, love is mentioned nine times. If the New Testament is a love letter from God, then this passage is a great big hug from Jesus. Love is the essence of Jesus. As the gospel tells us, he gets it from the Father. And he gives it to us in overflowing abundance. It is ours for the taking and the sharing. We are links in a reciprocal chain of love … bound to each other and to the Father through the saving grace of the Redeemer.

But don’t let all this love stuff confuse you. There is nothing mushy or sentimental about the love of Christ. It is literally a matter of life and death. Jesus gave his life for us. He expects us to reciprocate – not as a transactional exchange, but as an affirmation of our inseparable union with the will of the Father, the love of the Son and the inspiration of the Holy Spirit.

The life we give to Jesus is our timid, self-centered, mortal one. The life he gives us back is a joyful, blessed, immortal one. Not a bad deal. If only we were bright enough to take it and to keep it. But we are so easily diverted. Our devotion becomes distraction. We are fickle and lack focus. Yet Jesus loves us as we are. He is constant when we are confused. He cuts right through the silly trivia we have made our life’s priorities. Our feelings come and go. His love for us does not.

Fortunately, we are made in God’s image. He is not made in ours. C.S. Lewis makes the point that: “He is not proud. He will have us even though we have shown that we prefer everything else to him, and come to him because there is ‘nothing better’ to be had.”  Christ’s love may be our last resort, but it is always our best resort.

Fully aware of our failings, Jesus pays each of us the ultimate compliment. Our God calls us “friends.” He invites imitation of his love. He dissects and explains that love … its origins, its purposes, its ends and our unique place in his plan. As the old spiritual says: “What a friend we have in Jesus.”

We are strongly charged to pass on and share the love of Christ. Love your neighbor is not a suggestion. It is a bedrock commandment. In Romans 13, St. Paul tells us: He who loves his neighbor has fulfilled the law. As such, love supersedes the “shall not’s” Moses took down from Mt. Sinai.

But for all its lyrical beauty, in the starkest terms, this gospel contains Christianity’s essential challenge: that you love one another as I have loved you. Orders don’t get any taller than that.  Yet every step of the way, Jesus will be there to guide and comfort us. The further we get into prayer and scripture, the further we get into imitation of Christ, the more we’ll feel his arms around us in a hug that tells us: You are loved. You are protected. You are mine. Everything will be OK.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Thought, Reconciliation and Much, Much More

I've been a Facebook friend of Mike Kinman for 3 years now.  The Very Rev. Michael Kinman is Dean of Christ Church Cathedral in St. Louis, MO.  He always writes and preaches thoughtfully and with conviction.  Reprinted here is the latest entry on his blog ' Come Together'.  For this blog entry and some of his other writings, go to:  Thank you, Mike for letting us re-post your excellent piece.

Letter to the Editor on "marriage equality" -- What and Why

Dear editor,

As a Christian and a U.S. citizen, I stand against the passage of Amendment One in North Carolina and in support of our President in his support of so-called "marriage equality."

Different faiths view marriage differently, but marriage is first and foremost a covenant of faith and has been for millennia. Marriage is not for the state to define. The state's job is to define what legal arrangements people can enter into and give equal access to them. As a citizen, I find Amendment One to be legislative over-reaching. As a Christian, I find it presumptuous and offensive.

For Christians, marriage is about a joining together in Christ, a sign of Christ's love to a broken world. Jesus spoke regularly about the quality of love to which we were called and not at all about the gender of the people involved. As a Christian, I believe particularly in an age where commitments are too often treated as suggestions, two people who are willing to stand before God and in the midst of their community and pledge to love one another as Christ has loved us until they are parted by death should be embraced, celebrated, and supported ... not rebuffed.

The Very Rev. Michael D. Kinman
Dean, Christ Church Cathedral

Tonight, I sent the preceding letter to the editors of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch and the St. Louis American - whether it will ever see the light of day beyond this blogpost is any one's guess. but I wanted to share it with you all and let you in on my process of deciding to write it.

Chapter is prayerfully wrestling with what the role of Christ Church Cathedral should be in political and social action. I am continually wrestling with a related but separate question ... the role of the Dean. And so, as I watched the statements of support of marriage equality pour in following the passage of Amendment One in North Carolina and President Obama's statement today, I wrestled with whether I should add my voice to the throng.

I was hesitant for several reasons:

*Because I believe the Church runs off the rails when we substitute a goal of being politically and socially relevant for our call to "restore all people to unity with God and each other in Christ."(BCP, p. 855)

*Because it should go without saying that particularly in an age where commitments are treated as suggestions, two people who are willing to stand before God and in the midst of their community and pledge to love one another as Christ has loved us until they are parted by death should be embraced and celebrated, not rebuffed.

*Because it is not my experience that letters to the editor foster prayerful, learned, concerned dialogue ... something that is in short supply. Instead, it would likely elicit congratulations from people agree with me and vitriol from those who disagree with me.

Obviously, I overcame that hesitation, but I want to share with you why.

*This is about reconciling all people to God and each other in Christ. I said before that I would only be making statements "as the Dean of Christ Church Cathedral" if I believe there is a Gospel imperative at stake. It is clear to me that there is. Marriage is about a joining together in Christ. It is "a sign of Christ's love to this sinful and broken world." We need to be clear both the invitation and the support for incarnating that love is available to all.

And also ... we do need to defend our turf. As I said in the letter, marriage equality as a legal issue is a case of the state sticking its nose where it doesn't belong. We have enough work to do on marriage ourselves without the government muddying the waters.

*It should go without saying ... but of course nothing goes without saying. And particularly because many who are promoting things like Amendment One are using the name of Jesus and the language of our faith in their arguments, it is up to those of us who believe differently to say so clearly.

Neither of these things address my third hesitation, so let me just say I truly want to be in prayerful, learned, respectful dialogue with people who feel differently. So if you feel differently out of fear, I want to help assure you that God's love is deep and broad and not scarce at all and you need not fear at all. If you feel differently out of honest faith, I want to listen together for God's wisdom that is beyond our own ... and maybe together find a way to be reconciled to one another in Christ and move forward together.

I have been blessed to have been mentored by two deeply faithful people -- Philip Turner and Ken Semon -- who believe differently from me in this area, and that is proof enough to me that people of deep faith who love Jesus can disagree and not have it be about hate or homophobia.

And as we prayerfully wrestle with our role as a Cathedral, it is my hope that Christ Church Cathedral can be a place where everyone knows they are welcome at the table and in the conversation. Where the rule of the community is prayerful, learned, respectful dialogue that seeks to dive into the mystery of God's wisdom and not just amplify our own. Where even if we decide we need to take a stand and proclaim what we believe to be Gospel truth ... that we take that stand with all humility, realizing that we follow one who found power not on a throne but on the cross.

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