Tuesday, May 26, 2009

To Boldly Go Where No One Has Gone Before ...

This past week, our family watched three episodes of the newest Star Trek series with Captain Jonathan Archer played by Scott Bakula. I've been slow to accept this new series, but I think I have finally embraced it as I've done all the other updated versions along the way. I’ve been a quiet Trekkie since I was 10 years old. I loved everything about the show. The characters were unforgettable: Captain Kirk, Spock, Bones, Scotty, Sulu, Chekov, Uhura and the rest. And the themes were inspiring for me as well.

When Star Trek first appeared in 1966, I doubt even Gene Roddenberry ever imagined what the show would become. It touched on so many of the prejudices that have existed in our culture and nation and pushed us further into the wonder of its mission, “to boldly go where no one has gone before.”

"For the profit of travel: in the first place, you get rid of a few prejudices .... The prejudiced against color finds several hundred millions of people of all shades of color, and all degrees of intellect, rank, and social worth, generals, judges, priests, and kings, and learns to give up his foolish prejudice." ~ Herman Melville (1819–1891), Traveling.

Star Trek pointed toward a united planet that worked for the good of all and took that intention outward. As a result, I have loved the developing series through all these years, and I think I am better for it! So many prejudices and small-minded ideas were challenged by the continuing journey "to boldly go where no one has gone before"--not just into outer space, but into the space that exists between all of us!

My homily on May 17th utilized the Star Trek theme and the new movie to make the point that God's love thrusts us ever outward! It's a Star Trek sized vision--cosmic!

Acts 10:44-48 (The Message)

"No sooner were these words out of Peter's mouth than the Holy Spirit came on the listeners. The believing Jews who had come with Peter couldn't believe it, couldn't believe that the gift of the Holy Spirit was poured out on "outsider" non-Jews, but there it was ... Then Peter said, "Do I hear any objections to baptizing these friends with water? They've received the Holy Spirit exactly as we did."

The Spirit of God "poured out on the outsider" ... God "going where no one has gone before." Inclusive, global, cosmic ...

Bad religion too often seems to promote a God who is small--angry, jealous, needy, exclusive, concerned about trivial things, loving only those who "believe the right thing" or "belong to the right group." We wind up with the infeasible idea of a God who is smaller than us [not global, much less cosmic] and less loving than many of us. Bad religion often presents a divine love that is stingy and conditional; and yet, demands from us a generous and unconditional love. No wonder, many Christians settle for a system where they only love those who love them back (Jesus said, even the pagans know how to do this).

We have been told by this earth-bound, parochial religion that God doesn't love homosexuals, God doesn't exist in mosques and synagogues, and God isn't concerned by the carnage of our justifiable wars and ravaging of our planet. It's a religion that excuses itself from compassion and grace because "they" are "evil." And it easily justifies capital punishment, torture, pre-emptive wars, opulent living, and arrogant judgmentalism. We have become the small god we worshiped. A god who is not cosmic, not going boldly anywhere.

May the vision of the true gospel and Star Trek inspire us to something more--to boldly go into the space that separates us all from one another!

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Mosaic in December

Happy Thanksgiving Mosaic! We are moving through the season of gratitude and into the season of giving. I can find a lot of spiritual gravitas in the calendar placement of these two holidays, can you? I bet so, when we contemplate the product of gratitude ... Of course, we all know that giving brings us into alignment with God. Focusing our attention and hearts outward is the thrust of the life giving energy of the Spirit. I hope you are finding it.

I appreciate Lynda for taking lead in Sunday's gathering. Fred gets credit for urging me to participate in the guy's fishing retreat (Fred, Miles, Richard Y'Barra, me, and three other men from San Marcos). This guy's group has been meeting for several years and has generously included me as a "tag along." I don't often get to attend the meetings, but sure appreciated the chance to come out and play. We'll have to tell you about the blue whale we caught ...

As you know, Mosaic steps up its community presence in the month of December, as well as, helps to raise funds for those less fortunate. It's the logic of a Christological church crossing the month of the year that commemorates the greatest gift to Creation. God gives of Himself. We follow His lead. Each Sunday in December we will be following the Advent Calendar and lighting the Advent Wreath to "prepare Him room" in our hearts. As is our custom, we will culminate the Season with a Candlelight Service on Christmas Eve. I hope you can make each gathering.

Some notables for December include the following: We will be Ringing the Bells for Salvation Army on four separate 12-hour days. Be sure to bring your can goods each Sunday morning, since, we will be collecting food for the Christian Cupboard throughout the month. Also, the children will be getting involved by collecting food in their neighborhoods by the wagon load! We will also take our customary Holiday Stroll through the nursing homes Caroling and loving along the way with a Wassail and Dessert fellowship afterwards. Our Friday night movie, The Nativity Story, will be hosted by our children to raise money for Heifer International, our Christmas offering (they will be serving Taco Soup--mmm, mmm, good!). I hope you'll make plans to join us for all these wonderful opportunities! Please return e-mail me to sign up for Salvation Army. I need a flurry of bell ringers starting the first weekend in December!

Thanks for your gift of presence!

Happy HOLY days!

Pastor Jim

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Faith Seeking Understanding

Here's some more thoughts from one of our fellow sojourner's. Barry is a highly analytical and thoughtful type (retired Nuclear Engineer). It's interesting to me how God showed up for him. I actually took this from an e-mail that he sent to my friend Gordon Atkinson (a.k.a.--"Real Live Preacher").


I am a friend and parishioner of Jim Taylor’s, and I followed a link in his email announcing your visit tomorrow – and I read your “Preacher’s Story” with great interest. Although our histories are very different, we have moved to the same place – the “spiritual journey.” I don’t know if you still doubt the existence of God, but I thought you might be interested in how I became convinced of God’s existence.

I once spontaneously did something for another person, that is, I committed a true act of totally altruistic charity. The immediate result was a wonderful feeling that welled up in my heart, a feeling of pure joy. It was not like the way your heart swells up and your eyes tear up at the end of a tear-jerker movie – this was a million times more intense than anything I have ever felt. In discussing this with a Christian friend, he suggested that I had experienced God’s grace. There is more to this story and how my life has changed, but for now, let me make one point. This experience convinced me that God exists. No other explanation is possible. It was not psychological or mental, it was physical. I am a very rational person with an engineering degree, high IQ, very skeptical – In fact, my gift is what I call “critical analysis.” The existence of God, for me, is certain. It is not just a belief, it is something I KNOW.

However, the question now is: “What is the nature of God?” Clearly, the God who allows bad things to happen to good people (like Jenny) does not actively interfere in the realities of the world. It (God – I prefer a genderless pronoun) does, however act through people. This restriction on Its’ power is contrary to everything we have been taught about It. I’ll state the obvious: The God you pictured truly does not exist. God truly does exist, but not as we all had pictured it.

Our task is now to discern the nature of God. “God is love” is a pretty good start, for a working hypothesis. We can, in the same way, identify what we think god probably is not. For example, God would not encourage us to hate others for any reason, not to be kind to others, etc, etc. By the way, if you look at what Jesus said and did, he was pretty consistent with the above. (obviously, a lot more could be said here) Bottom line – the existence of a God, which was the model for Jesus, is not irrational at all. I’m looking forward to meeting you!

Love in Christ, Barry

Monday, January 21, 2008

Rainbow Connections by Irma Rodriguez

(We're never alone on our journey; so, it makes sense that others would have stories to tell. Here's a recent contribution from a gal in our Mosaic family.)
I have always been a seeker. Always trying to look for answers. Trying to find answers to the problems of humanity, trying to find the meaning of life, trying to find God. Trying to connect to something bigger than myself. This song from Kermit the Frog seems to sum it up for me.


Why are there so many
Songs about rainbows
And what's on the other side?
Rainbow's are visions.
They're only illusions,
And rainbows have nothing to hide.
So we've been told and some chose to
Believe it,
But I know they're wrong. Wait and see.
Someday we'll find it,
The Rainbow Connection,
The lovers, the dreamers and me.
Who said that every wish
Would be heard and answered
When wished on the morning star?
Somebody thought of that
And someone believed it
And look what it's done so far.
What's so amazing
That keeps us star gazing?
What so we think we might see?
Someday we'll find it
That Rainbow Connection
The lovers the dreamers and me.
Have you been half asleep
And have you heard voices?
I've heard them calling my name.
Are these the sweet sounds that called
The young sailors?
I think they're one and the same.
I've heard it too many times to ignore it
There's something that I'm supposed to be.
Someday we'll find it
The Rainbow Connection,
The lovers, the dreamers and me.

I was born a Catholic and began my search. I learned about the God who created heaven and earth and my mind grabbed onto that image of God (and His blessed mother, Mary) and held it tightly like a closed fist. I thought if I just held on to my faith, I would find the connection and find peace. But, I did not. So, I left the Catholic church and opened my hand and my mind and I began my search again.

As a teenager, I learned that Jesus saves and caught a new glimpse of God and I knew this was it, so I held on as tightly as I could. Satan tried to shake my faith, and challenged my fundamental beliefs, but I was strong. I knew if I just held on long enough, I would feel the connection and feel the joy. But in the end, I did not. So I reluctantly opened my hand. And I thought, maybe there was nothing to find.

But I kept looking and this time, I was not going to close my hand until I was sure I caught the image of the true God. I read books about philosophy, other world religions, books about the meaning of life. I looked around the world to try and understand humanity and what we all are really doing here. I tried to really listen to the voice of God and the voice of man.
And then I heard.

I mean, I realized I had been hearing all along, but had not recognized. I heard it from everywhere. I heard it from music, books, philosophers, world leaders, from Jesus, Budda, Ghandi, Martin Luther King Jr., from babies, grandmas, friends, neighbors, from trees, sunsets, puppies, from the ocean, stars and the rainbow.

And what did I hear?

I heard faith, peace, joy, hope, forgiveness, mercy, longsuffering, kindness and love. Most of all I heard love. God is love and God is everywhere and God is everything,
God is you and God is me. And my hand will stay open forever catching different glimpses of God coming from all the inner universe of minds to the outer regions of the universe and beyond.


Saturday, December 8, 2007

Speak Up & They Will Listen!

It seems that we really can make a difference! Tens of thousands of petitions, thousands of phone calls, and dozens of petition deliveries from ONE members have motivated the presidential candidates of 2008 to answer important questions regarding their plans to end extreme poverty and global disease.

You can visit the On the Record site which features each of the candidates' personal video responses and short summaries of their plans on:

♦ Reversing the spread of HIV/AIDS and tuberculosis
♦ Eradicating malaria
♦ Improving child and maternal health
♦ Achieving universal primary education
♦ Cutting in half the number of people without clean water or enough food

We've been asking the presidential candidates to pay attention to the plight of the voiceless millions struggling to break the cycle of poverty and to put these issues in the middle of the debate over America's role in the world.

For the first time ever, the entire presidential field is debating these issues and coming up with plans that recognize the challenge and the opportunity we have to build a better future for the world's most vulnerable people. The result is a huge victory for the millions of people around the world living in extreme poverty.

This focus on fighting extreme poverty and global disease couldn't come at a more critical time. We're only weeks away from the Iowa caucuses and the candidates know that 2.4 million ONE members are comparing their plans and looking for leadership, as we make up our minds on who to support in 2008.

Through On the Record, we have the chance to make a more informed choice than ever before. This year, we'll go into the primary season with more knowledge and more confidence that extreme poverty and global disease will be central to the 2008 election.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Presidential Accountability

Don't you think we should hold our Presidential candidates accountable for what they intend to do about Global Poverty? ONE members are stepping up our game by launching a petition urging all the presidential candidates to go "On The Record" by submitting, in writing and on video to ONE, their plans on the following five issues:

* Eradicating malaria;

* Improving child and maternal health;

* Reversing the spread of HIV/AIDS and tuberculosis;

* Achieving universal primary education; and

* Providing access to food and clean water for all.

ONE will then build an online tool so that everyone can compare the candidates' answers before heading out to vote in the primaries. Please sign ONE's "On The Record" petition and encourage your friends and family to sign on as well. http://www.one.org/ontherecord

I've just signed the petition myself. I want to ask the 2008 presidential candidates to go on the record and tell us exactly where they stand on fighting extreme poverty and global disease.
You can take action on this important cause too by visiting http://www.one.org/ontherecord.

As a member of ONE, we need to ask our presidential candidates to go on the record on where they stand on fighting extreme poverty and global disease that affect the one billion people around the world.

Let's make alleviating suffering and tackling the root causes of global poverty a defining issue for the next President of the United States. We want to know their plans to reverse the spread of HIV/AIDS and tuberculosis, eradicate malaria, improve child and maternal health, achieve universal primary education, and provide access to clean water and food, as well as a personal message about how they plan to lead on the fight to make poverty history.

We are only one year away from Election Day 2008. The time to go on the record on extreme poverty and global disease is now!

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Finding God in Un/Likely/Likely Places

I hiked Pike's Peak this summer. This pic was taken near the summit. It looks like you're on the moon or something!
I have a friend who WAS a Pastor of a church. He found out one day that his wife was no longer committed to him (she was having an "emotional" affair with another staff member). He was completely caught off-guard and devastated. He was willing to try to work things out, but she was not ...

My friend informed his deacons that his wife was leaving him. Four days later, they fired him ... In one week, he lost his wife, continuous presence with his kids, his home, and his job. He reached out for support from his denomination, but didn't get much. Who wants a divorced pastor, who is currently single? He felt like "damaged goods." He wound up selling insurance, which seemed to me, a waste of his gifts.

My friend learned a lot over the next two years about church, about God, and about himself. I learned a few things as well. I had him come speak to our church not long ago. When I asked him to come and share with us what he's learned/learning, he indicated that he was not sure what he had to offer because his "relationship" with God was still fractured, but that he thought it would be helpful to him to talk through it. I thought I'd post an edited letter to him here and offer these thoughts to highlight the travesty of placebo churches that are full of unhealed wounds and the hope of healing that God offers to all of us in authentically spiritual and redemptive communities.
The Letter:
Hey Bro.,

I'm looking forward to you being here as well. Somehow, I think it will be good both ways. I keep thinking how UN-Christian so many Christians are and how you got a huge dose of that. I want Mosaic to hear from you because I believe you'll somehow be able to bring to the table the difference between a "Jesus Person" (identifying with Him) and a "Churched/Religious/Modern Pharisee/Fundamentalist" (not like Christ at all).

I can only imagine how intense and wholistic the effect of your experiences have been and are currently. I am hoping for redemption to have its way. I just don't know what that's going to look like in your life. I do believe, that whatever form redemption takes, it will be good.

I want my Spirituality to be real and honest. How can it be honest if I leave out the messiness? I know that most of what I've experienced in my life and ministry has not really been as much spiritual as it has been religious. I'm seeking though ...

We (Mosaic) are different as a community of faith because of you and your experiences. (Note: we had been fairly intimate with my friend through the whole process. Our church welcomed him redemptively; and we experience redemption ourselves!). You are my friend and have affected me by your experiences. I, in turn, have taken much of that interaction between you and me to Mosaic. They have begun to wrestle with the incongruity between the church and Jesus Christ. I am expectant that you will further the dialogue with your presence and with you're thinking on the subject.

I'm still expecting to gleen from your journey. Where have you been finding God along the way? I imagine it hasn't been in church or in the Bible like most people tend to think. But I bet He's showing up somewhere. That's what I want to believe--that He's everywhere, all the time, somehow engaging us. If we believe that, I think we'll be less judgmental of people who do spirituality different than us and we'll look for God in ways that we usually don't (in a breeze, in a person's smile, in an icecream cone, in a kindness, in a beautiful thought …) and we'll find Him and we'll find redemption.

(I pointed out in the next paragraph that redemption was breaking into his life even though he was unsure of the nature of his relationship with God--so much of his paradigm had been shattered by his wounding and the grieving was not over yet.) Perhaps, it's redemptive that you've found love again (new relationships). You've found community (an emerging church had made room for him to be a part of their church just as he was--angry, confused about God, unsettled about everything. They didn't include him as a janitor for their church, but as a leader!). You still have a friend like me in the church, but not of it (Ha! That's funny!). You've found other work that you enjoy. You've probably found a deeper place in God than before. I know it's more honest! I believe this is redemptive!!

I'm sure whatever you talk about with Mosaic, it will bring up who God really is, who we really are, and God's invitation to include Him in our messy lives. Not so He can simply fix us (much of it can't be fixed), but so He can be with us, and so we can be with each other, and so we can move toward redemption.

I am resisting writing what I know you already know. So, I'll stop, finally! I admit, "I runnith over with the mouth" most of the time.

Your friendship is important to me. Hope your day is good (redemptive). I love you. Jim

One Last Thought

Churches have positioned, for way too long, people who "appear" to have it all together as models of redemption for us. If these people ever had real problems (drug addictions, alcohol problems, infidelity, cheating on their taxes, marital struggles, divorce, children "gone wild" …), those problems were in the past and have NOW been overcome! Glory Hallelujah! Let's all sing and serve ice cream!

Why don't we learn from this poor excuse for redemption. Real redemption is on-going, never completed, always yearning for more. Real redemption takes place in the darkness, in the shadows of our lives where we need it most. We cry out to God in the middle of life; and for the most part, in the middle looks like when we wake up in the morning--before the shower, the makeup, the pressed clothes, and the plastic smiles. Redemption goes on underneath all of that. Can the Church of Jesus Christ be in the middle of life? The messy middle? I believe so! I hope so!

If the Church goes here, we will find God already there. And finally, we will understand that we always find God in the most un-likely places where redemption is needed and it is there that it will take place! That's Gospel!