Christ, the Light of the World

May you experience the presence of Christ, the Light of the World, everywhere, in everyone, so that hope will abound in your life and the world you live in. There is no corner of the planet where Christ is not. And may you share the light of Christ that is within you with everyone you meet, wherever you are, everyday.

Wilfredo Juan Baez

Monday, June 15, 2015

A Modest Proposal

As I look at our churches – aging, white, mono-cultural and polarized around societal issues, I have to ask the question; “Where is the will?  We, as a denomination, have cherry-picked from the Bible about our mission: We say that our mission is to “Make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.  As a conference we say it is to “Be love to our neighbors.”   Our primary emphasis in doing this is b y creating new churches or rehabilitating new ones.  There is nothing wrong with these mission statements, except that e don’t know what they mean, either in their terms; disciples, transformation, world, love and neighbor, even Christian and Church.  Plus, they are not everything that the scripture says about what the mission of the church is.

For example:  Heal the sick.  We’ve gotten that down to clergy and congregational team visits, praying and occasional sparsely populated healing services.  The Methodists used to build hospitals.  What if the United Methodist Church was to provide free health insurance and health care the cost of access to would be a tithe?  The cost of tithing might make financial sense under those circumstances.

Teach God’s Word.  Pass the biblical story, Hebrew and New Testaments to the younger generations.  The Methodists used to build schools.  Rather than lament about the state and cost of education in the United States, provide free education at United Methodist nursery, primary, secondary and higher education, access to which would be the cost of membership; the tithe.

Feed the hungry.  Rather than provide food cupboards and soup kitchens, teach people how to feed themselves, forming self-sustaining business such as food coops and restaurants that double as job training sites. 

Provide for the elderly. Build senior housing with in independent, supportive living and skilled nursing components in association with higher educational programs and senior day program sites, the costs of which would be the tithe.

People might want to belong to a Church like this and understand where their tithe is going to.  It might encourage other denominations to do so as well.  Attending our schools, having their health provided for, having supports as they age and having access to food and job training by being members, they might want to learn more about Christianity and United Methodism they might want to participate in living out this Methodist Way of being an living an transforming the world.  Other denominations might go the same way lest they lose members and potential converts to us.   Public health, education, social welfare and other agencies might have to renew themselves or maybe could down size reducing taxes. in the process as the Church steps up to minister to the needs of the world. 

Building churches, whether they be in traditionally shaped buildings, cafes or homes isn’t going to spread the way of life called Christian, which is after all making the best possible human beings and societies.  It is going to be by incarnating God’s Word, the Word of God, Mind that was in Christ Jesus being made flesh in us, manifesting on account of not what we merely believe but by how we really live.  There might be cost to this beyond the tithe, but the cost of all this things can at least be greatly reduced.

This is what I believe our next General Conference and our annual conferences should be dealing with.

Monday, June 8, 2015

Posting After a Long While

It's been a while since I have posted.  My world has been turned upside down.  What I thought was a pastoral appointment made in heaven turned out to be one from hell.  All reasons aside, a strong portion of the church's core leadership and I did not connect.  We barely made it out of six months.  That's pretty unusual.  I've been left to discern not only my next step, but who I am.  I have focused too much on my role and succeeding in my role as a pastor.  I've doing that for a while.  I've wanted to accomplish a lot but I haven't been on the same page of some of the church's I've been with.  Our needs have diverged.  I've considered chaplaincy, pastoral counseling, diversity and inclusion work and I have come to a place where I need to simplify, much like Henry Nouwen did.  It is not so important what I am as it is who I am and what I bring to the particular people I am with.  A now I have an opportunity; a small parish with whom I will journey as I establish a practice of spiritual direction, pastoral counseling and retreat  and workshop leadership in whatever way God will have me to that.   The big problems of the world, it's cities, it's violence, it's poverty, it's racism . . . I will remain concerned, but that is other people's work for now.  It's not the work of a pastor living in the Adirondack mountains with it's mountains, lakes and streams.  I need to find my balance for now and focus on the inner life and spiritual development.  Don't get me wrong.  I will not be quiet about the pervasive racism towards African Americans and Hispanics and blatant disregard of the dignity and rights of GLBT people within our denomination and in our annual conference.  But God is calling me to take care of me, by being me, sharing me, being with others, listening to them, being part of their lives as pastor, teacher, mentor, coach and friend.

The Spiritual work of today is not Christian, Buddhist, Hindu, Islamic, Jewish, Sikh, Indigenous, Agnostic, Humanist, Baha'i etc . . . The spiritual work is spiritual.  We all connect at a spiritual level.  We are all who we are  and God is present with us, whether we know God in Theistic or Non-theistic terms.   There is a great spiritual work to do that begins with seeing each other as human beings, who are essentially spiritual beings who are seeking to grow spiritually, to connect with our deeper nature and the deeper nature of others.  The fruit of the spirit are essentially the same whatever our traditions are.  We all value love, peace, justice, generosity, kindness, forgiveness, truth, spiritual existential knowledge,  Whatever our path is, we need to be faithful to it and know that others ware walking their paths as faithfully as thy can.  These values go beyond dogma to Truth, to knowing God, to knowing Self, to Being and sharing together in that Being in true community.  This is what we mean by Kingdom of God.  I prefer Beloved Community of all Beings.  This is our communal call as human beings.  Can we live in love together, in peace together, not in compromise but in Being.  Let us be still for a while, silent and appreciate ourselves in this very moment, doing nothing, just being, breathing, being aware of everything within us and around us, at peace.

La paz, peace to you, from the One true One and all the Holy one's past and present.

Will Baez; Svetambar