Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Blogging Towards Palm Sunday, April 1st

What is power?  We live in a season in which several people in our country are scrambling to become the President – the most powerful man (or woman) in the world.  What makes power?  A super PAC? An Ivy League degree?; Money?; a particular zip code?; military power?; connections?; luck?   We are in a confused age in which greatness, power, authority, fame, are aspired to – and yet often times responsibility to those over whom power is given, is shrugged off.  Look at our schools.  Look at what is happening in Syria.  Look at the major themes of the box-office smash movie of the past week “The Hunger Games.”  In an age and culture in which the squeaky wheel gets the oil, the loudest complainer gets ahead; the message of Jesus is counter-cultural, pointing to a parallel way of being in, but not of, this world.

The greatly influential German philosopher and poet Friedrich Nietzsche (1844-1900) best frames the way that our world today envisions and defines power. He wrote of the will to power, believing to be the main driving force in man (and he meant man as he was an open misogynist).  Achievement, ambition, the striving to reach the highest possible position in life; these are all manifestations of the will to power.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Blogging Towards Sunday March 18th   

 What is faith?  It’s a common question today in our culture in which many indentify themselves as spiritual but not religious.  Is faith about an institution?; or is it about the God at the center of it all?  Can you still doubt and have faith?  Can you lose your faith when you struggle with the difficulty of believing?  Today’s scripture passage wrestles with those questions in the context of a story about the remarkable faith of a father who radically loves his sick son, coming to Jesus for help.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Blogging Towards Sunday, March 4th    


This past week our neighbors were robbed.  An occurrence that’s all too common in our city of Oakland.  I was most likely home, being dropped off by the car repair shop shuttle.  Odds are that I scared off the robbers, who left without the TV that they’d unplugged from the wall, while I chummed it up with the driver.  It’s not all that uncommon, as I’ve said; but I’d just spent the 20 minutes in the shuttle ride talking with another passenger, who lives in a less “edgy” and that’s not urbanite for “cool”, area of town than I do.  Her concerns were all about burglaries, violent crimes, with the fear of living in the city.  She saw true – but only part of what is.

Oaklanders seem to take pride in the grit.  Isn’t that why Oaklandish is so successful?  If you live in a dirty, tough town, it’s better to take pride in surviving it than to be paralyzed by shame for staying there.  For many of us, the city, and maybe Oakland in particular, is one of the last places to come to mind (if it comes to mind at all) when we think about where we encounter God in our lives or find spiritual renewal.  Instead, our minds wander to more peaceful and serene settings outside the hurried and complex life of the city: the mountains, the desert, parks, the ocean beach-side, silent retreat houses in the redwood forests of the North Bay. 

Thursday, March 01, 2012

Blogging Towards Sunday, March 4th    

Spiritual sight is something that most of us are looking for.  It’s not primarily the capacity to know all things that we long for, but more for perspective, balance and direction.  I’ve spent years praying for sudden illumination, the sort of explosive religious experience that comes to mind when you think of Paul on the way to Damascus, Moses in front of the burning bush, or Esther in her journey to queenship. 

We live among a few spiritual giants: Mother Teresa, MLK Jr., Desmond Tutu, Billy Graham, the Dalai Lama, other yogis. We have our own lists which differ with specifics, but have the same focus.  I’ve been around people who had an authority that you could feel.  It was as if the air was different around them, the space changed, their perspective stretching out to impact me, to invite me to deeper vision, wiser words, radical humility and action.  But how do you achieve that?  You can’t buy it in the dollar bin at Target. Nor can you order it from the Great Speakers’ Series.