Back to the Garden

“Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing  
and rightdoing there is a field.
I’ll meet you there.
When the soul lies down in that grass
the world is too full to talk about.” 
― Rumi

 

Have you ever been so filled with awe, so delighted to drink in life, so embraced by light and love that words failed to capture the moment?

This is the field of which Rumi speaks: the field of at-one-ness, gratitude, delight, peace, understanding.  This is the field out of which all things are created.  This is the realm of God — grace incarnate, enlightenment.  Most of the time we seem to just stumble upon glimpses of it when we least expect it.

It is so palpable, yet so elusive.  If we were honest with ourselves, it is what we long for but can’t quite figure out how to get.  Joni Mitchell sings about it this way, “We are stardust. We are golden and we have to get ourselves back to the garden.”

But how do we do that?

Rumi gives us a hint — it is beyond our rational grasp of figuring out the right way.  It is beyond theology and politics, gender and race.  It is beyond all of our pre-conceived notions and consumer wish lists.  It is beyond best intentions and plans.

Jesus talked a lot about this in terms of the Kingdom of God.  And it seems like many of his stories and images pointed to one counterintuitive act — trusting enough to let go, so that we might fall into the arms of Love.

When I think about starting a movement of house churches in Portland I can quickly go to “ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing.”  My strategic brain gets engaged and before you know it I have masterminded a whole new way of being church all by myself.

Thank God there is an equally compelling voice, my spiritual self, that repeats the trust mantra.  “Trust in me.  Trust in the unfolding.  Simply invite your friends to play in the field of possibilities. Gather together and listen deeply to wisdom and the way will be revealed.”

So when I find myself micromanaging my plan, I remind myself of the field — a playful place of discovery and delight where I just have to show up and be present.  I am hoping others will want to meet me in this field as we practice listening together.  We could begin by listening to our stories and the stories of Jesus. And then we could extend our listening practice to our communities that long to be restored.

What is the preferred future that we long to be a part of?
How can we help to make that a reality?

I do trust in that unfolding, and I know that when my soul lies down in that grass the world is too full to talk about. And so it begins…

Exiled but not Lost

“As a faith community, we need a whole new mind to see that the way we develop young people’s faith — the way we have been teaching them to engage the world as disciples of Christ — is inadequate for the issues, concerns and sensibilities of the world we ask them to change for God.”        — Dave Kinnaman, You Lost Me

 

Last week I went to the “You Lost Me” Barna Group event in Portland, Oregon and learned some interesting statistics.

Did you know that 3 out of 10 young adults are leaving the church but not their faith?

Kinnaman breaks this statistic further down into two groups, Nomads and Exiles.  Nomads have dropped out of church and have no interest in returning.  Exiles are culturally engaged reformers who want the church to change its priorities to be what Jesus intended it to be.   They want to find a way to follow Jesus that connects with the world in which they live.  In essence, they want their faith to make a difference in their lives and the communities of which they are apart.

Even though I am no longer a young adult I realize that I am an Exile and I know many other adults who would describe themselves that way too.  According to the Barna Group 80% of  Americans say they are Christian and 69% go on to say that they have made a personal commitment to Jesus Christ.  Yet, less than 20% of Americans attend church on a regular basis.

I can remember when I was in seminary in the late 80’s attending church and wondering to myself, “Is this all there is?  Is this what it means to be a Christian?” I think that is when I began to drop out of church.  At the time I thought that there was something wrong with me and I told myself to just go to church until it becomes meaningful. Don’t get me wrong, there have been moments of deep meaning and I have loved being a pastor. I am in awe of what faith communities can be and do.  But even before I had words or the imagination to express it, I longed to create a new way of making my faith relevant. I longed to reach others who had already left the church. I longed to help sacralize the world.

As I look back, I am grateful for this painfully good journey because I realize now that I have been able to walk in two worlds — the traditional church and the exiled nomads.  I now know that I have a unique gift to share — being a priest to an exiled community.  I use the word “priest” because I understand that role as a bridge builder, a person who helps people to wake up to the sacrament of life and the beauty of love incarnate.

In my role as a coach to new church start pastors I am increasingly hearing others who have had similar experiences of exile. And they, too, are feeling called to create a new thing in a new way.  A new movement is underway.  I can feel it and see it.  It is a marvel to behold and it is sweeping across the country.

At the root of this longing are questions that can help us to create that new future. Some of these include the following:

  • If you could create a new way to be shaped and formed in the ways of love and peace what would that look like?
  • What are the values and practices that would be important to you?
  • Who would you like to join you on this journey?
  • How could “we” make a difference?

So for now these are the questions that I carry with me, and I am always surprised and delighted when they seem to come up naturally in conversations.  I’d love to hear your responses as well!

A New Movement!

“The present moment finds our society attempting to negotiate the most difficult, but at the same time the most exciting transition the human race has faced to date. It is not merely a transition to a new level of existence but the start of a new ‘movement’ in the symphony of human history.”  — Dr. Clare Graves  
       IMG_1927

What profound words from Dr. Clare Graves who proposed over 50 years ago a groundbreaking “Value Systems” theory of human development that describes how humans are able, when things get bad enough, to adapt to their situation by creating greater complexities of thinking to handle new problems.

Spiral Dynamics, as it is known today, is an intriguing way to view the results of our most recent national election and the ramifications for the mainline church. In particular, the similarities of the Republican Party and the increasing irrelevancy of the church.

The Republican Party has now *lost* the “popular vote” in the past five out of six presidential elections. During this same time period the mainline church has experienced rapid decline; yet the number of people who say that they are “spiritual but not religious” continues to increase particularly among the under 30 crowd.

The political pundits have done a marvelous job at directing our attention to the changing demographics of our country. No longer could the evangelicals or conservative white voters garner enough votes for the Republicans to make a difference in the outcome of this election. Whereas the Obama campaign built a grass roots coalition of Latinos, women, liberals and young adults. As Tom Brokaw said, the outcome of this election came down to the difference between a traditional and post modern campaign approach.

Karl Rove recently said that the reason that Mitt Romney lost this election had nothing to do with the changing demographics of the electorate but rather the negative campaign tactics of the Democrats. This argument is not unlike many mainline church leaders who blame the demise of the church on the insistence of atonement theology and strident judgmental attitudes propagated by evangelicals.

Just as I have listened these past several days to comments indicating the Republicans’ inability to understand that they need to change in order to be relevant, so too, I hear mainline church leaders assuaging their grief and anxiety over their growing irrelevancy by reacting to matters of ultimate inconsequence rather than helping people to awaken to the realm of God in our midst.

In the 10th chapter of the Gospel of Luke, Jesus instructs his disciples to seek welcome in communities in which they were the stranger. And he says,”Take nothing with you.” In other words, “Leave your baggage behind.” Interesting that this was a deal breaker for Jesus.

So if we took Jesus’ words to heart and left our baggage behind, what could we learn about this “start of a new ‘movement’ in the symphony of human history”?

According to Spiral Dynamics, more of us in the U.S. are moving into a new value system, a Vmeme, that is currently reflected in our voting patterns. Don Beck writes in his book “Spiral Dynamics: Mastering Values, Leadership and Change,” “A meme code is a bio-psycho-social-spiritual DNA- type script, a blueprint that spreads throughout a culture, and plays out in all areas of cultural expression, forming survival codes, myths of origin, artistic forms, lifestyles, and senses of community.”

We find this new post-modern meme code armed with the pluralistic ideals of multiculturalism, egalitarianism, and inclusiveness. Sounds almost Biblical doesn’t it? But at the same time, it is this combination of zealous eclecticism, flattened hierarchy, and broken metaphysics that make us feel like we are swimming in an inconsequential ecclesiastical soup. And that is scary to anyone who is counting on pension and benefits!

However, Spiral Dynamics postulates that our spirituality is capable of growing and maturing right alongside every other facet of human development, including our cognition, our values, and our aesthetics. It is entirely possible, therefore, to be a rational Christian, following the universal teachings of Christ but without having to insist Christianity is the only exclusive path to God, and without having to literally believe in the pre-rational myths of virgin births, parting seas, and satanic fruit. At the same time, it is entirely possible to be a post-modern Christian calling into question the pit-falls of the ego-boosting ‘path of least resistance’ spiritual grazing of new-age consumers.

— Which leads me back to scripture…Luke 10 to be exact.
Once we trust enough to leave our baggage behind, Jesus tells us to seek people and places that will welcome us. He says in a nutshell, “Listen to their stories, eat with them, laugh with them, weep with them. Be a healing balm in the midst of their brokenness. And then before you go, tell them that together you witnessed the unfolding of God’s realm right before your very eyes.”

Now that is what I call the start of a new movement in the symphony of human history! Shall we begin?