What’s in a name?

We tend to be very particular when choosing names for our children and our pets.  My mother named me “Kaye” so that no one could ever turn it into a horrible nickname.  Well, that worked because you can’t do a darn thing with Kaye.  Instead the boys in grade school did awful things with my last name (which I won’t print) and called me “four eyes”.  Just a few years ago, I thought Daisy Mae was a wonderful name for our cute little yellow lab puppy.  Only later did our vet inform me that most dogs named Daisy seem to be a bit ditzy and don’t listen well.  Sigh… at least she’s really loving!

Anyway, we put the same amount of effort into the name for this “church” – Sacred Journeys Spiritual Community.  For starters, there is a reason for the “s” on the end of Journey.  We believe wholeheartedly that each person has their own relationship with the Divine and their own spiritual journey to travel.  We understand that each one is sacred, holy, beautiful, oftentimes challenging, but always worthy of respect. There are many ways to know and understand God, not just one. There are many, many experiences of God’s love, grace and presence in our lives. We are not THE Sacred Journey.  We want to honor ALL of the Sacred Journeys in our midst.

We opted to call ourselves a Spiritual Community as a way of setting ourselves apart and proclaiming our desire to be different from”church” as many of us had experienced it.  Having had numerous negative encounters with organized religion, we considered being “unorganized religion” or “undenominational” and finally just settled on being a “spiritual community”.  We hope that “spiritual” will emphasize the experiential nature of religion instead of the dogmatic, political side.  And we hope that our newly founded “community” will grow to be just that – a “Community”.  No, we’re not a cult.  Certainly you’d be giving me all your money if that were the case, and I don’t appear to be getting rich off this endeavor.  Commuity suggests that we will know one another, care for one another, learn, grow, work, dream and serve with one another.  We will welcome newcomers into the community with open arms and we will support each other in our differences and our diversity.  Perhaps most importantly, we will each have a vested interest in the growth and vitality of Sacred Journeys Spiritual Community.

There are many things about us that remain similar to “church”.  We say prayers, we sing songs, we read scripture, we have a sermon, we have potlucks, Sunday School and outreach ministries (coming soon, I’m sure).  The difference is the underlying theology and philosophy.  Come, give us a try, and bring a friend.  Weekly services start Sunday, September 11 at 10 a.m. at Roma Lodge here in Racine, Wisconsin.

No middle of the road theology

I just can’t do it. I can’t do middle of the road theology. Sure, it would make some folks more comfortable if my viewpoints were at least a little more traditional.  Maybe I could reach a broader audience if my understanding of religion were perhaps a tad more conservative.  But I just can’t do it.  Why? You may ask.  Because for 18 years I’ve been studying and following and preaching about Jesus who was NEVER middle of the road!

Jesus never tried to please as many people as possible.  Jesus was a radical and what he preached was radical – radical love, radical hospitality, and radical inclusiveness.  Sure, he was killed for it, but he never wavered from his convictions. He didn’t try to be politically correct so as to maintain a job.  He didn’t apologize for behaving outside of the traditions – speaking to women, healing on the Sabbath, touching the “unclean”, turning over the tables of the money changers in the temple. He didn’t play nice with people just because they invited him to dinner. Nope, no middle of the road, mamby pamby, lukewarm God for Jesus.

Instead, Jesus challenged his contemporaries to examine their laws and traditions to see if they were in line with the unconditional love of God.  Our words and actions should ideally reflect that unconditional love, or we’re out of step with God. Remember, unconditional means WITHOUT CONDITION (I really think some people just don’t get this).  There are no “if…then” statements with God’s love. Nor are there “anyone but…” statements with God’s love.  I told you, it was radical.  That’s how we know it is of God… certainly we humans are rarely that good.  It doesn’t mean we stop trying, but as my first pastor once told me, “there’s only one Jesus, and you ain’t him.”

So, come what may, I’m going to do my best to stand with the radical Jesus that I know and love. Nope, no middle of the road for me.

I’m not a heretic

A long time ago I used to feel like there was only one right way of being Christian, and I knew I wasn’t fitting into the mold too well. Slowly I came to realize that there is more than one way to be Christian, and certainly more than one way to worship as a Christian.  I suppose there are people who might be inclined to argue that point with me, but I’m certainly not alone in my thinking.

Theologian Marcus Borg, in his book “The Heart of Christianity” talks about the paradigm shift that is happening in North America.  He calls this the shift from the “earlier” way of being Christian to the “emerging” way. Neither can claim the title of the “Only Way” or the “Right Way” or the “True Tradition” as both are simply different ways of seeing the Christian tradition.  The critical difference between the two involves the concept of Biblical authority.  Borg states, “For the earlier way of being Christian, the Bible is seen as the revealed will of God, as “God’s truth,” and thus as absolute and unchangeable.” For them the Bible is infallible and inerrant and should be taken as the literal word of God. The emerging paradigm does not ascribe to Biblical literalism. Consequently, the two paradigms see specific issues, such as the ordination of women, sexual orientation and Christian exclusivism (is there only one true religion and path to salvation),  from vastly different viewpoints.

Needless to say, I found myself on the “emerging” path without even knowing it and I was overjoyed when I found that there were many others out there who understood God and the Bible in similar ways.  I wasn’t a complete heretic.  I couldn’t be burned at the stake.  I didn’t have to stop being a pastor.  I just had a different voice to offer and a new perspective to share.  Some have embraced my thoughts and theology over the years, while others have been decidedly uncomfortable, and still others have been downright angry. It’s easier for me to accept those who don’t understand what I’ve been preaching and teaching when I remember that I didn’t just make all this up in my head. Thinking, questioning and historical context and metaphorical theology are taught in our seminaries.  Some pastors are just afraid to share it for fear that the “earlier” way folks will string them up on the flagpole outside the church.  And it is probably a legitimate fear.  Thankfully it is a fear I do not have at Sacred Journeys.  Thankfully the Sacred Journeys Board is a group of open-minded, curious, thinking, challenging, searching adults who share the “emerging” paradigm with me and are energized by the spiritual journey. I am immensely grateful to be the spiritual leader in a place I can be me.

Ch-ch-ch-ch-changes…

“…turn and face the strain… ch-ch-changes…”  Name that song!  I’m sure I’ve just completely dated myself, still it’s the tune going though my head today as I contemplate the inevitablity of change.  Wanted, unwanted, chosen, forced, longed for, hoped for, accepted, denied… change. There is no avoiding it, except by dying and I wouldn’t recommend that as a terribly viable option.

I like to think of myself as a fairly flexible person, capable of rolling with the proverbial punches. However, upon closer introspection, I see that there have been times in my life where I have dug in my heels, fingernails, toenails and elbows and hung onto the past in a desperate attempt to thwart the antagonist, Change. It didn’t work. Change ocurred despite my clinging, grovelling and whining.  To Change’s credit, I grudgingly admit that when I have applied myself to the challenge and let the Spirit in to help, things eventually turned out, I found myself blessed and able to be a blessing. Plus, I have learned and grown.

Once when struggling with whether to leave a job or not, a very wise woman once gave me three questions which helped me to better analyze my situation and move forward with the letting go and changing that I needed to do. Over the years I have shared these questions with a number of people and share them today with you. The questions are, one, is there anything I can do to change the situation?  Two, is there anything more I need to learn in this situation?  Third, what is it doing to my soul?  Perhaps someday you will find yourself in a situation where answering these questions will help you as they did me. 

In the meantime, we turn and face the changes, trusting as best we can that God is with us in the midst of it all.

Peace,  Kaye

God is still speaking

There are many things about religion which boggle my mind.  Among my top five is the concept that after the Bible God stopped speaking.  Surely that is what the fundamentalists (who believe that the Bible is the literal word of God) must believe.  And surely that must be what all those who believe Christianity is the only “right” religion must think.  In their minds, God must have stopped speaking.

Now, I suppose I could be wrong about my logical assessment of the situation.  But, if God continues to speak, that opens up a whole world of possibilities I posit would be fairly uncomfortable to those with more legalistic, conservative, fundamentalist viewpoints.  Afterall, if God is still speaking, who is controlling what God says?  Who is controlling who God speaks to or through?  Who is making sure that God only promotes one religion and one way of doing things? Who is making sure that God judges the “right” people?  Certainly, it is much easier (for some) if God simply stopped speaking long ago.

Personally, my brain can’t grasp the concept of God not speaking anymore.  The God I know is a living, moving, interactive force of love in this world.  That force has no boundaries. The Divine has unlimited ways and means of reaching and transforming people.  I believe that God has continued to speak throughout history wherever love, peace, compassion and justice have been sought. I also believe that God still speaks in an infinite number of ways.  God speaks through nature and creation.  God speaks through our children and our dying.  God speaks through theologians and spiritual leaders.  God speaks through contemporary authors, poets, musicians and artists.  God speaks through other faith traditions.  And, as crazy as it sounds, God can even speak through you and me when we allow ourselves to be intimately connected to that unbounded love.

Because I believe so strongly that God continues to speak, I’ve decided to incorporate other sacred and secular readings into our Sunday morning worship experiences.  Of course there will always be a reading from the Bible, but the wonderful stories, advice, guidance and wisdom of scripture can be informed and illuminated by the wisdom and knowledge of others. There is so much good stuff out there that can broaden our minds and our understanding of God.  It’s an exciting adveture we’re on. I’m looking forward to trying this out in worship and in my sermons and I hope you’ll join me!