Sermon: April 24, 2016 – “God In Us: The Mystical Experience, Part 3”

“God In Us: The Mystical Experience, Part 3”

Text: Psalm 90: 1-4

Lord, you have been our dwelling place
in all generations.
Before the mountains were brought forth,
or ever you had formed the earth and the world,
from everlasting to everlasting you are God.

You turn us back to dust,
and say, “Turn back, you mortals.”
For a thousand years in your sight
are like yesterday when it is past,
or like a watch in the night.

I think this particular text is interesting because it speaks to the timelessness of God. We can find evidence in our history that even the most ancient cultures believed in and in some sense worshiped a God – and most often it was a creator God. So with that perspective in mind, the Psalmist here reminds us that our lives are just a flash in the pan, a tiny blip in the stream of history-as the text says, a thousand years for God is like yesterday. God supersedes any understanding we have of time; there are times when I personally wonder if time actually exists in the spiritual or the God realm; what value would it have and what would it be used for? But those are topics for another day…

Today we are continuing our investigation of mystical experiences and hopefully beginning to draw some conclusions about how they manifest and what part we can play in that manifestation. I believe that a full recognition of the ancient qualities of God and our connection to that history help us in preparing to have a mystical experience. If we can begin to focus our minds on the thought that God has always been and will always be, then the search for God perhaps becomes a bit easier; in other words God isn’t going anywhere.One place for me that speak clearly of the timelessness of God is a slot canyon in northern Arizona called Lower Antelope Canyon. As you hike through this canyon, you can virtually experience the flash floods which formed the canyon. You can look at a sandstone formation that resembles a wave or flowing water and simply ask the question; how many waves does it take before a rock begins to look like the wave? The answer is quite a few, over a long period of time. But this is just one of the feelings or emotions I experience when I hike through and photograph Lower Antelope Canyon, one of many. The feelings and emotions come so thickly that at times it is overwhelming. In lieu of the flood of water which formed the canyon, the flood of visual perception and luminance fill your being. In a way, I feel suspended in time, but still participating in the formation, or at least witness to the formation of the canyon. Once again, the experience is hard to explain; it is ineffable, to use the language of Marcus Borg.

LowerAntelope

After my first visit to Lower Antelope Canyon I was so loaded up with positive energy that it stayed with me for days, maybe even a week after our visit. I found this to be an interesting phenomenon, it almost felt like I had visited one of those all you can eat buffets and when you leave you’re not hungry for the next meal; sometimes the next couple of meals. It has taken me a few years to make sense of the experience, but I think I’m getting closer to a spiritual understanding, even if it is just for me; it may or may not make sense to you… more about that a little later on.

Because the experience stayed with for a couple of days, I felt like I had to somehow get what I was feeling into a tangible thing. I knew I had pictures, but that didn’t seem adequate; when that happens to me, often I write. Sometimes they are commentaries, sometimes poetry, sometimes just random thoughts, but writing for me helps me sort out the feelings, the emotions and the significance of the experience.

So I wrote a poem. I call it “The Canyon Called To Me” and several years after it was written, I took some of the photos and some appropriate background music and created a brief video. I’m going to share that video with you now.

While you hold that experience in your minds and hopefully better understand the magnitude of what the encounter meant to me, I want to tell you about another significant event that impacted me in the opposite way. This was also several years ago, I believe in 2009, Heidi and I were visiting Amsterdam and we toured Anne Frank’s house.

To put it mildly, there is a lot to read and absorb during this particular tour. Not only is the history and the horror of the holocaust pretty much in your face the whole time, but so is the innocence and positive disposition of Anne Frank herself.

As is the case with most homes in Amsterdam, Anne Frank’s house is taller than it is wide. Real estate is at a premium, so they build up, rather than out. So when you tour the house, there are a number of steps to deal with. In my current condition trying to recover from knee surgery the number of steps may pose a bit of a challenge; but in 2009, I was a little younger and my knee was much better and steps were not a big deal for me. So I found it odd that through the course of the tour I found myself physically getting weaker and weaker and actually had a bit of trouble with the steps-even going down-by the end of the tour. I now believe this had a lot more to do with what I will call negative spiritual energy than it did with my physical condition.

There is quite a bit of research out there that is beginning to coalesce around the idea that thoughts and emotions are also electro-magnetic impulses. This can be proven by a number of different devices where they can actually measure and monitor the electric impact of a thought or an emotion on the brain. They can measure the electric stimuli that energize certain areas of the brain when a person thinks about certain things. This can also be observed in the brain itself, through MRI type imaging, they can actually see the brain “light up” in different areas. This is not really new research or a brand new discovery; they have had a basic understanding of how the brain sort of works for a while now.

What is a little newer is the idea that some of those electro-magnetic impulses actually proceed through the body and enter the space around the body. These little bits of energy remain in the space for a time long after the original thought or emotion that produced them has come and gone. Some research indicates that as long as a year later the electrical presence of thought energy can still be detected in places where the thoughts or emotions were very strong.

What I am suggesting here is that if you are sensitive to that residual energy, it can impact your physical system as well as your spiritual system. That is why, I believe, that I felt strong and energized and completely filled when visiting Lower Antelope Canyon. Not only was the experience itself feeding me, but the residual energy left from others was also positive and uplifting in nature and had the same affect on me. The experience was enhanced by the very energy of the place that supplemented the actual experience of being there.

On the flip side of that same coin, Anne Frank’s house is full of less than positive energy. As people tour and read and grieve, those electro-magnetic impulses gather in that space and can impact you on several levels. This is what I experienced just as many other people report similar experiences at special places all over the world. To have an experience is one thing, but to develop an understanding of that experience in a spiritual sense is something even more profound. It is profound because it speaks to our humanness, our Divine connection to one another and our Divine connection to all that is and ultimately our Divine connection to God.

Now here is where it gets interesting; even though we are all human and all basically function in the same way, not all have the same level of experience. Some are not impacted at all; they have no sense at all of any energy in a space, positive or negative. Some are more impacted than others; I seem to be in the group that is impacted more than most. Impacted to the point where days later I am still floating high from a positive encounter with positive energy. I was also impacted to the point of becoming physically weak and having a certain amount of difficulty finishing a tour because of the encounter with the abundance of negative energy. How can I explain this? I’m not sure I can explain it completely but I can give you a metaphor that might help you visualize or better understand what I’m alluding to.

Imagine going into a space with someone who is not familiar with modern technology, perhaps a time traveler from several hundred years ago. You enter this space with this person from the 17th or 18th century and try to explain that the room is actually full of radio broadcasts, television broadcasts, cell phone signals, short wave radio waves, walkie-talkie signals, police band radio waves and all the other stuff that is floating around in that space. I’m pretty certain they would look at you like you had lost your mind. If you can’t see it, it doesn’t really exist, right?

So then you plug in a TV into an outlet and tell them this device, when plugged in, has the ability to receive the signals and make them into pictures we can see and words we can hear. Again, they may look at you as though you have totally lost your grip on reality. But then you turn on the TV and they can witness it for themselves. The invisible electro-magnetic impulses of the TV signal are visible when the TV is plugged in and open or turned on.

I’m thinking we are not so different. If we tune in to the spiritual realm, we are more likely to receive the signals of that residual energy we encounter. If we don’t “plug-in” or in other words practice our awareness of the spiritual side of who we are, that energy will go largely unnoticed and our life experiences will be dulled.

Being sensitive to energy I believe is a learned skill and one that can be developed and enhanced with practice. I also believe that energy and spirit are one in the same; so when we become sensitive to energy, we become sensitive to spirit. When we become sensitive to spirit, our connection to all that is becomes enhanced and we grow closer to God.

I also believe this is the way it has always been; and the timelessness of God as spoken of by the Psalmist in the text where we began points us to this reality. The energy of God’s spirit, the energy of those who have connected with God, and all the saints who have preceded us, all that energy is still available for us. We just need to plug in and receive.

And that, as they say, is food for thought. Go in peace and go with God.

Amen.

 

 

 

 

 

Sermon: April 17, 2016 – “God In Us: The Mystical Experience-Part 2”

“God In Us: The Mystical Experience-Part 2”

Text: Psalm 139: 1-12 –The Inescapable God

O Lord, you have searched me and known me.
You know when I sit down and when I rise up;
you discern my thoughts from far away.
You search out my path and my lying down,
and are acquainted with all my ways.
Even before a word is on my tongue,
O Lord, you know it completely.
You hem me in, behind and before,
and lay your hand upon me.
Such knowledge is too wonderful for me;
it is so high that I cannot attain it.

Where can I go from your spirit?
Or where can I flee from your presence?
If I ascend to heaven, you are there;
if I make my bed in Sheol, you are there.
If I take the wings of the morning
and settle at the farthest limits of the sea,
10 even there your hand shall lead me,
and your right hand shall hold me fast.
11 If I say, “Surely the darkness shall cover me,
and the light around me become night,”
12 even the darkness is not dark to you;
the night is as bright as the day,
for darkness is as light to you.

It was my birthday-I’m thinking this was about 25 years ago, maybe a little more, but I know it was my birthday, which means it happened in August. It was a year when my birthday fell on a Saturday and I didn’t have to go to work, which also meant that I could plan the day and do what I wanted to do, since, after all, it was my birthday. So that is what I decided to do.

We were living in Colorado at the time and had been to 11-mile canyon on several occasions for picnics and wiener roasts and that sort of thing. The boys loved to go a climb around on the rocks and hike up through the forest and look back down at the canyon. It is kind of a special place. I had noticed each time that we entered the area that this canyon wall along the river faced east. Normally, when we arrived at the canyon, we were there for an evening meal in the summer and this face of the canyon wall was always in the shadows and I always sort of wondered what it might look like with the sun on it.

Even in the shadows the canyon wall was spectacular. It has an overall rose color with various hues of rust and orange and even green present from the different types of lichen growing on the rocks, so I could only imagine what it might look like illuminated in the early morning yellow light of a sunrise. So I decided that was something I wanted to do that Saturday morning for my birthday-I was going to go to 11-mile canyon before sunrise and set up my camera and wait for the light to hit the canyon wall. For me, this is entertainment at its finest-funny, no one wanted to come with me.

So I rose around 4AM and gathered my gear and headed for 11-mile canyon. The minute I stepped outside I was a little surprised at the coolness of the morning; we had been having very warm days and comfortable nights, but this morning seemed almost cold. I’m thinking to myself that might be OK, because sometimes when water is warmer than the air around it you can see some steam or mist rise from the water and that can be fun as well. With my 4×5 field camera and all the assorted peripheral equipment required loaded into the car, I headed out.

On the way to 11-mile canyon I had to pass through a small town called Divide. You might wonder about the name of this little settlement and if you are thinking it might be named Divide because it is located on a continental divide, you would be correct. In other words, from where I began, I had to climb a few thousand feet to get to Divide, and then on the other side of the divide, the weather was different. It was cloudy and foggy and then it began to snow. Remember, this is August-fairly early August, because my birthday is on the 11th, and it is snowing. Thankfully the snow wasn’t sticking on the road, but some of the trees were already beginning to get loaded up with the big thick wet flakes that I could see when the car lights would shine on them. I thought about turning around; it was just another couple of miles to the turn-off for the canyon and this weather didn’t seem very cooperative for taking pictures. But I had come this far and knew Colorado weather changed frequently, so I pressed on. It was still snowing when I turned into the canyon entrance, but not heavily and I headed up the gravel road to find my spot and wait for the sunrise.

It takes a while to get set up when you are shooting with the kind of camera I was using at the time. I wasn’t taking snapshots, I was using a 4×5 field camera, which uses sheet film and the image is focused upside down and backwards on ground glass at the back of the camera-in other words it is a bit of a project to get ready to take a photograph. I remember setting up in the dark with the help of a flashlight and then getting back in the car to warm up and have a little coffee from the thermos I had brought with me. So now I waited for what I hoped would be a sunrise.

It started to get light after a time and I could see the clouds and the fog were still lingering around and I began to think this was a wasted effort. The sun is going to be obscured and will not light up the canyon wall as I had hoped. Oh, well, it wouldn’t be the first time things didn’t exactly work out for me, but I still had coffee and it was warming up a bit, so I hung around anyway. At least it was peaceful.11millemorning

In another 30 minutes it began to clear off. The fog lifted and the clouds all moved on and I could actually see the hint of blue sky just beyond the canyon wall. Maybe things will be OK I thought to myself. I got out of the car and began to take light readings with my light meter and began my calculations as to exposure for the scene that was beginning to unfold. By now it was quite light and I could work without the flashlight. It was still a little foggy, but then I realized all the fog present was coming off the water and the sky above was clear.

As the sun rose just enough the canyon wall started to glow. The fog coming off the river turned white and the sky was blue. I began to take pictures. Usually, the exposure times were 30 or 40 seconds for each shot and I think I probably took 12 or 15 different exposures. I know I used all the film I had with me. With my film supply exhausted there wasn’t anything left to do but watch, so that is what I did.

I was a little anxious taking all the pictures, because it got better. The entire canyon glowed and light bounced around within the canyon walls like a pin ball. I was overwhelmed with the sheer awe and amazement of the breaking dawn and morning miracle I was witnessing. As I began to become more aware of what was happening, I remember thinking to myself that all this would happen whether I was here to witness it or not. How many times and in how many places does God’s creation put on a show that happens in complete obscurity, which no one sees? But there I was, in the middle of nowhere, all alone in 11-mile canyon and God was with me. The presence of the Divine was thicker than the fog; the connection I felt to the rocks and the river and the canyon wall was personal; the gratitude that welled up within me for having had the opportunity to experience what was happening almost made me weak. I’m not sure how long I lingered; time suddenly had no meaning; my mind was empty of any thought or anxiety, totally absorbed with the unfolding of the show at hand.

Eventually a random thought passed through my head; something like I wonder how long I have been out here. I wonder if the donut shop in Divide has anything left because I was out of coffee and a little hungry. I packed up the photo gear and headed home.

As I had mentioned that was over 25 years ago. As I tell you about the experience today, it seems like last week. I still experience the raw edge of emotion when I think about it. There are times when my eyes tear up a little and I find it hard to speak. I was changed in the canyon that morning, I can’t say exactly how, but I was changed. Whatever it was, it is still with me and still real to me.

Last week I mentioned some of the things which Marcus Borg identified in his book, “Convictions” that were elements of his mystical experiences. Many of those things were present in this one as well. For example, the luminance and special lighting, the knowing and assurance that God is real, the ineffable nature of the entire experience are all consistent with my experience as well.

Yet there is a difference and I think it is an important distinction. I went out that morning intent on seeking something wonderful. I thought it might just be a wonderful photograph, but it turned into something much more-but I still went seeking the experience. I believe there are elements in the discipline of photography which helps put me in the path of Divine mystical experiences. I can identify them, and replicate them and I will be sharing them with you over time. I believe each of us can experience the same level of connection that I experienced if we can find a way to practice the elements which I think prepare the way for a mystical encounter with the Divine.

Next week we will look at another experience, perhaps even more profound than this one and then over the weeks to come, I will be stitching together a road map for you to follow which may assist you in the quest of mystical experiences for yourself.

God is as close as our breath and yet as far reaching as the most distant horizon. The inescapable God is present with us, surrounds us and follows us where ever we go. With enough practice and by paying attention to the right things, I believe we can lift God from obscurity and bring the Divine into our present consciousness, even if just for a moment. But when that moment takes place, it is magical and mystical and will change you forever.

Go in peace, Amen.

 

 

 

Sermon: April 10, 2016 – “God in Us; The Mystical Experience, Pt 1”

 “God In Us; The Mystical Experience” – Part One  

Text: Acts 17: 27-28

27 so that they would search for God and perhaps grope for him and find him—though indeed he is not far from each one of us. 28 For ‘In him we live and move and have our being’; as even some of your own poets have said, ‘For we too are his offspring.’

One of the things I said last week which may have gone by unnoticed was that I often listen to or expose myself to other points of view on purpose. I feel this helps me understand a different perspective or even can lead to other forms of understanding and new ideas. Not everything you find in an environment that is contrary to what you believe is of value, but often there is something of value that you can take with you.

For example, about 40 years ago, I was quite familiar with the ministry of Oral Roberts. Even 40 years ago I knew I didn’t believe or accept much of what was taught by Oral Roberts, but there were a couple of good ideas, at least I thought they were good ideas, which have stuck with me through the years. One idea that I think is valid is that we as human beings can be thought of as having three primary areas of being that we need to pay attention to. We are comprised of a physical body, an intellectual mind, and a spiritual sense. One thing that Oral Roberts spoke often about is the importance of addressing all three areas of our being, the body, mind and spirit. I think this is a valid understanding of who we are as human beings. Another item from the Oral Roberts camp is something you may have heard before, but I think it may have originated with him, although you can never be certain of these things. That item is the saying or mantra; “Expect A Miracle”. Now, bear in mind that my interpretation of what that might mean for me today is very different than what it might have meant for Oral Roberts 40 years ago, but the concept is a valid one. I think we should expect miracles in our lives; and when we expect them and watch for them, they happen. They don’t have to be huge miracles, but once we become aware of them, and comfortable with the idea of calling them miracles, they come around with considerable frequency.

I wanted to bring these two points forward as we begin to speak of a mystical experience. For some of you that have been involved in our book study, this may sound a little familiar because Marcus Borg devotes an entire chapter to mysticism in his book that we are studying. In the book, Borg describes several times when he has personally felt as if he has encountered God in what he describes as a mystical experience. These encounters are so intense and so emotionally moving that they validate for the author the primary existence of God. In other words, because of the power of the mystical experience, Borg knows that God is real. In Borg’s experience, the mystical experiences are few and often separated by years if not decades. In the book, if I remember correctly, he describes only three events that span his entire lifetime.

As is often the case with a mystical experience, they can be hard to describe. A word that Borg uses to define the experience is “ineffable” – which basically means beyond description. It reminds me of one of my favorite quotes from Dr. Albert Schweitzer in his book “The Quest for the Historical Jesus” where he describes Jesus as that ineffable mystery that comes to us. Borg also describes the events as often involving luminosity, or special lighting in a natural sense. He talks about the color of the light and the radiance of the light, this kind of thing seems to be common in many mystical experiences. A third element which Borg brings out is that a mystical experience is often linked with a profound sense of knowing; an assurance that what you are seeing and experiencing is Divine in nature and is very real. A fourth common element of the mystical experience for Borg is that they are passive in nature. By this he means that the experiences just show up and the person receives them and there isn’t anything you can do to create them.

Of all the description concerning a mystical experience that Borg offers in his book, I would have to say that I agree with most of it, with the exception of this last part. I don’t believe the mystical experience is nearly as elusive as Borg makes it out to be and I also think that with practice, you can encounter the Divine in a mystical experience with a fair amount of regularity. I believe this to be true for a number of reasons.

One of those reasons stems from personal experiences I have had that are very similar to what Borg has described in his book. What makes my experiences different from what Borg describes is that I in many cases sought out the experience or at the very least, created the environment for the experience to happen. This is where I want to get back to the opening comments I made about Oral Roberts and the two items from him that are still with me today.

First the idea that we as humans are comprised of three major areas of function; the body, the mind and the spirit. Any athlete will tell you that you can train your body and it gets better. You can lose weight, you can get stronger, and you can improve your physical stamina and overall general health. You train your body through your diet and through exercise. When you pay attention to what goes into your body as food and you pay attention to using your muscles and move a little, generally your health improves.

Secondly, if you ask any teacher, they will tell you that it is certainly possible to train your mind. You can learn math or science, you can learn to read and you can learn to speak your native language and some can even learn a foreign language. Some of us have special gifts to train our minds in medicine or economics or philosophy or psychology, but certainly the training of the mind is an accepted aspect of who we are as human beings.

So I have a rather obvious question; if we are comprised of three distinct aspects of being, that is our body, mind and spirit-and it is possible to train the body and train the mind, why should it not be possible to train the spirit? I think it is. We can train the spirit, but it is a discipline not practiced a lot here in the US and not practiced a lot in Christianity as a whole. But it is practiced, and we can do it as well.

I believe we can increase our level of mystical experiences by simply training our minds and creating environments which are conducive to such experiences. This is where the second item from Oral Roberts comes into play, and that is the saying or the mantra of “Expect A Miracle”. You see, that is one way of training your mind, watching for and expecting the Divine in your everyday experience. When we begin to do that, we begin to notice and observe things we may not have noticed before. As Dr. Wayne Dyer liked to say, “When you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change”.

I have decided that the concept of the mystical experience is something worth pursuing and something that each of us should have the opportunity to participate in. I often try to create an environment in the worship service where you may encounter the Divine, even if just for a brief few seconds. It may be a chill that runs down your spine, or a feeling of intense joy, or it may just be that feeling of knowing or peace that Borg describes.

But we can do more and I am hopeful I can help you in that pursuit. So over the next few weeks, and I’m not certain how long this will last, I intend to share with you my own personal mystical experiences. I will tell you to the best of my ability what happened, how it happened and what lasting impact the experience has had on my life. So this is could be considered part one of a multi-part sermon series on the mystical experiences of God.

Next week I will begin to share some mystical encounters from my personal life and what you can do to possibly have them in your life as well. So stay tuned as we continue the journey of God in us, the mystical experience.

Go in peace, Amen.

 

 

Sermon: April 3, 2016 – “This World is Our Home”

This World is Our Home

Text: Ephesians 2: 13-15, 17, 19

But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. 14 For he is our peace; in his flesh he has made both groups into one and has broken down the dividing wall, that is, the hostility between us. 15 He has abolished the law with its commandments and ordinances, that he might create in himself one new humanity in place of the two, thus making peace. 17 So he came and proclaimed peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near; 19 So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are citizens with the saints and also members of the household of God.

This is a remarkable text. The level of inclusiveness that is present in these words is off the charts. The apostle Paul, I believe, is making it clear that the entire world needs to be at peace with God. For Paul, the entire world consisted of just two groups, the Jews and the Gentiles, so he speaks about the two groups coming together to form one new humanity and making peace. He claims that those who were far off have come near and he even says that Jesus has abolished the law and the commandments to make it easier to achieve peace. Paul also states that the dividing wall that once separated the groups, or the hostility that separated the groups, has been broken down; all in the name of peace. Paul goes on to say that people who once were considered strangers and aliens are now citizens of the household of God. This new understanding welcomes everyone.

It is interesting to me we don’t hear this message very often; it is a powerful message and one that needs to be spoken, and yet the majority of preachers seem to leave it alone. I wonder why that is? I wonder why it is so scary to be inclusive. Is it really easier to just pretend that the others don’t exist?

Yes, actually, I think that is what is going on; and not just with inclusiveness, but with a host of other theological issues. I am suspicious that a new theology has gripped many of the nation’s preachers and it is dangerous and it is counterproductive.

Let me see if I can explain. One of the things which I do periodically is that I listen to or read information from alternative perspectives. I feel like this is a good idea because it helps keep me balanced and sometimes it helps me understand a different perspective or a different view. The other night I was doing that very thing as I listened to a TV evangelist talk about the recent bombing in Brussels. I don’t know what channel I had surfed to and I don’t know the name of the evangelist; but the message he was repeating at first was horrifying and I wanted to throw something at the TV. But then I began to take what I was hearing and apply it to a host of other theological questions I have had for some time and I had a moment of enlightenment. It didn’t make me like the message any better, but I had a new understanding of what might be happening. I think I have identified a new theology that has many thousands of unsuspecting followers. I call it Ostrich Theology.

Back to my TV evangelist for a moment.-as he spoke about the recent terrorist attacks and bombings he kept repeating how horrible the world was. Then he would follow-up that statement by saying that we are not of this world and how comforting that is. He gained great comfort from this idea that he was not of this world that somehow he was above the world, not involved in the world and what happened in the world was of no consequence, because he belonged to Jesus.

When I first heard it, I was stunned. Of course we are of the world-I wanted to yell it back at the TV-what do you mean you are not of the world? This world is our home. This world is where we are to live out the mission and the ministry of the Jesus we follow. How can we not be of this world? And how is that comforting?

But he kept on. He quoted scripture about being in the world but not of the world. He talked about a new heaven and a new earth as referenced in Revelation. He spoke about the return of Jesus and how all this chaos is hastening the return of Jesus and the coming apocalypse and how that may actually be a good thing. Take comfort in the chaos because you are not of this world and one day you will be snatched up in the rapture and that day is approaching fast. Take comfort that you are not of this world.

Suddenly a whole bunch of other things I have been wondering about fell into place for me. Ostrich Theology lets you say one thing and do another. It isn’t exactly denial; it is more like an alternative universe. When you have been the victim of Ostrich Theology your entire perspective of what is really important shifts and you are no longer responsible for the chaos in the world. You are powerless to change anything and even if you could, that would hinder the eventual return of Jesus, and who would want to do that?

I mentioned that a lot of things began to make sense to me. Let me explain what I’m talking about when I say that. I have been observant over the last several decades that often those who claim to be the most devout Christians often support political candidates that support policy that seems to me to be blatantly unchristian. I have wondered to myself how they reconcile these positions. For example, we are clearly called to be good stewards of the earth; at least I think we are. Yet, most of the current political candidates and those already in power that are heavily supported by evangelical Christians seem to think that climate change isn’t a real issue; some even think the whole thing is a hoax. Ostrich Theology helps me make sense of that.

Many of the political candidates and those already in power advocate for the elimination of many of our social safety net programs. They are critical of food stamps and Medicaid, they seem to believe that government programs designed to help people do nothing but make them lazy and encourage them to use drugs. When I read the New Testament and study the life example of Jesus, there is nothing more important that providing for the poor and feeding the hungry and taking care of the sick. These are absolute pillars of the ministry and mission of Jesus, at least as I read it they are. Yet the Christian right seems to support these policies in mass. I have often wondered why that would be the case, but I’m thinking Ostrich Theology may have something to do with it.

I mentioned taking care of the sick as being something that was central to the mission and ministry of Jesus. Yet health care for everyone in this country seems to be an impossible goal and the progress that has been made some want to repeal. Once again, it seems to me, just through observation, that many who oppose the idea that this country should care for the sick and less fortunate are supported by those who claim to be the most devout Christians among us. How can that be? We might find an answer in Ostrich Theology.

I want to return to the text I opened with and the level of inclusiveness that Paul advocates for this new religion that is catching fire. Contrast the ideas presented by Paul with those presented by current leaders and political contenders about immigration, or vilifying a particular religion or race or group of people. Paul speaks of the walls that once divided us as having been broken down by the love and peace of Jesus, and yet we hear that others want to build new walls. Am I reading the same Gospel that others are? What is going on?

Let me be clear. Ostrich Theology is a process where you convince yourself that you are not of this world. You convince yourself that what happens in the world doesn’t really matter. You convince yourself that your salvation and ticket into heaven is more important than the health and welfare of your neighbor. You put your head in the sand and pretend it will all go away once Jesus comes back.

I have news for you. This world is our home. This is the only planet we have. The health and welfare of your neighbor matters. And to truly follow Jesus requires us to be in this world, setting an example of love, compassion and inclusiveness for the rest of the world to see. This world is our home and all people matter. Ostrich Theology is dangerous and I think a little out of control.

Jesus was a tolerant person, and I believe we also are called to tolerance. But when Jesus encountered oppression and trickery and cheating and stealing at the hands on those in power at the temple, he became intolerant. It is up to us when we decide which example of Jesus we are going to follow, but for me, I am edging ever closer to reaching the point where it is time to start flipping over the tables of Ostrich Theology.

And that is food for thought. Amen.