Grace from Gary

grace ɡrās/noun
  1. 1.
    simple elegance or refinement of movement.

The 4th Mindfulness Training

posted Jan 30, 2018, 7:41 AM by Penny Skildum   [ updated Jan 30, 2018, 8:14 AM ]

An Open Letter to the Citizens of the United States About
Loving Speech and Deep Listening
Dear fellow citizens,
I would like to share with you the 4th Mindfulness Training, “Loving Speech and Deep Listening1”.
Aware of the suffering caused by unmindful speech and the inability to listen to others, I am committed to cultivating loving speech and compassionate listening in order to relieve suffering and to promote reconciliation and peace in myself and among other people, ethnic and religious groups, and nations. Knowing that words can create happiness or suffering, I am committed to speaking truthfully using words that inspire confidence, joy, and hope. When anger is manifesting in me, I am determined not to speak. I will practice mindful breathing and walking in order to recognize and to look deeply into my anger. I know that the roots of anger can be found in my wrong perceptions and lack of understanding of the suffering in myself and in the other person. I will speak and listen in a way that can help myself and the other person to transform suffering and see the way out of difficult situations. I am determined not to spread news that I do not know to be certain and not to utter words that can cause division or discord. I will practice Right Diligence to nourish my capacity for understanding, love, joy, and inclusiveness, and gradually transform anger, violence, and fear that lie deep in my consciousness.

“Mindfulness” is a trend in personal growth and professional development. There has been a lot of research done on its benefits and many business and school districts around the United States are using mindfulness to help their employees and students focus. Mindfulness is a meditation technique that can be used by almost anyone, almost anyplace.

One of the leading spiritual leaders of the world, Zen Buddhist Master Thich Nhat Hanh has developed 5 mindfulness trainings to support and strengthen, deepen and broaden mindfulness meditation. When Martin Luther King nominated Thich Nhat Hanh for the Nobel Peace prize in 1967 he called him “An Apostle of peace and nonviolence2.” Learning the techniques and practicing mindfulness meditation have great benefits but embracing the five trainings are the transforming aspects of mindfulness.

This is what Thich Nhat Hanh says about the Five Mindfulness Trainings:
The Five Mindfulness Trainings are one of the most concrete ways to practice mindfulness. They are nonsectarian, and their nature is universal. They are true practices of compassion and understanding. All spiritual traditions have their equivalent to the Five Mindfulness Trainings.

The first training is to protect life, to decrease violence in ones-self, in the family and in society. The second training is to practice social justice, generosity, not stealing and not exploiting other living beings. The third is the practice of responsible sexual behavior in order to protect individuals, couples, families and children. The fourth is the practice of deep listening and loving speech to restore communication and reconcile. The fifth is about mindful consumption, to help us not bring toxins and poisons into our body or mind.

All five mindfulness practices are transforming, but it seems the fourth mindfulness practice has significant relevance for us today. It seems we have forgotten how to talk to each other let alone how to listen to one another, and it is causing much suffering in our nation.

I think it could help us with personal and social self-awareness: “I know that the roots of anger can be found in my wrong perceptions and lack of understanding of the suffering in myself and in the other person.” It may help us and news corporations present information in a way that is more discerning: “I am determined not to spread news that I do not know to be certain and not to utter words that can cause division or discord.” These seem to be fundamental aspects to good citizenship in a civil society.

Don’t forget, we’re in this together, after all. It would be good to figure out solutions that bring us together. It can start with a determination to speak lovingly to one another and listen deeply to each other.



1https://plumvillage.org/mindfulness-practice/the-5-mindfulness-trainings
2https://charterforcompassion.org/practicing-peace/thich-nhat-hanh-and-martin-luther-king

The Mixed Nuts Metaphor

posted Jan 15, 2018, 8:51 PM by Penny Skildum

During the year 2002, U.S. companies sold $783 million of mixed nuts incorporating four or more varieties, mostly in canned form, representing hundreds of millions of pounds. [1]

Walk into any store that sells mixed nuts, pick up the can, and hold it in your hands. You are holding in your hands an example of the changing, strained, strange, and anxiety producing times we are living in. Fifty years ago, you could not have found a can of mixed nuts in any store in the United States. Many of the items you can go into a store and pick up today were not around fifty years ago. We put a can of mixed nuts into our grocery chart without a second thought and we don’t realize how much the world has changed so we can enjoy them at home. At the store last week, I picked up a can and turned it around to read the ingredients. This is what I read: “Contains products from: Brazil, India, Ivory Coast, Mexico, Nigeria, Turkey, U.S.A., Vietnam.” Amazing! I stood still in the snack aisle pondering the impact of a complex world that brought this can of mixed nuts into my hands. This is the Mixed Nuts Metaphor.

The bowl of mixed nuts that may have been on your dining room table during the holidays is a concrete connection to geographical areas all around the world. The Mixed Nuts Metaphor reminds us that our planet is connected geographically in ways we have never been before. Indeed, a storm in Brazil or India or Ivory Coast or anywhere else on this planet visits me in my home in ways I cannot comprehend. We MUST realize we live globally connected, unless we are willing to give up our mixed nuts .  .  .  and cell phones and computers and pacemakers and TVs and .  .  .  well.  .  .  artificial intelligence.  .  . and . . . well.  .  .   most of the things that are part of all our lives. The Mixed Nuts Metaphor also reminds me that communities of people whose heritage connect them, and me, to Brazil, India, Ivory Coast, Mexico, Nigeria, Turkey, and Vietnam probably live within ten miles of my home address. These citizens live in every state of this Republic we share. Not only are we geographically globally connected, we are relationally connected as citizens of the United States with people from all around the world.

Everything is changing and profoundly affecting each of us as individuals, as citizens of Minnesota, the United States and the planet, that is the reality behind the Mixed Nuts Metaphor. Everything we see and touch, every second we are alive, every inch that we exist in and every second of our lives we are globally connected; from the mixed nuts we eat to the climate change we are experiencing.


The Mixed Nuts Metaphor is meant to be a playful way to make a very important point. We are living in a time of transition that the world has experienced in at least two thousand years! You may agree or disagree that this is true, but the transition is not casual, and it will not pass away or end anytime soon; from a historical standpoint it is just beginning. We are living in a great emergence of something brand new, and as Christians of whatever stripe, we are watching the formation of a new presentation and perspective of faith. We are on the edge of a birth and early life a new type of Christianity. Open a can of mixed nuts and enjoy the time we are living in.  
1 U.S. Census Bureau (December 2004). "Roasted Nuts and Peanut Butter Manufacturing: 2002"

A Musical Overture of Peace

posted Dec 1, 2017, 5:02 PM by Penny Skildum

Glory to God living in the highest heaven and
on earth peace in humans living with divine good will. Luke 2:14

Translated by Gary Walpole

 
I often imagine a lot of singing and dancing going on during the Christmas Story in the Gospel of Luke.

An angel comes and sings a duet with Zachariah, the father of John the Baptist, while they dance in the brightly lit Temple. Once Zachariah’s wife Elizabeth learns of her pregnancy she sings a moody melody about disgrace being taken away while sitting in seclusion under a full moon.

The same angel comes to a young, unmarried Mary singing about becoming pregnant and dancing a tango which Mary is hesitant to join, resisting God’s favor as much as possible until she finally and reluctantly is bound to the invitation.

Finally, the two pregnant women meet and sing an upbeat rock tune while the two, yet unborn, babies dance with joy in the womb.

Each scene of the Christmas Story in Luke evokes the possibility of singing and dancing. Indeed, many scenes have been composed into music.

The central scene of the Christmas Story is the birth of Jesus; with an angelic birth announcement being sung by a choir of angles to shepherds living in the fields, keeping watch over their sheep:
Glory to God living in the highest heaven and 
on earth peace in humans living with divine good will.
The Christmas Story in Luke is the Overture to the rest of the gospel. An overture is the instrumental music which draws on themes that are to come within the musical or in this case the Gospel of Luke.

For fun you can check out the overture of Jesus Christ Superstar by clicking on the link below and see if you recognize any of the music:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VHJHf-0hVZA

The Christmas Story serves as an overture because it is the tale of a single human being living with divine good will to bring peace on earth.

Then, follows an amazing story.

Jesus’ life becomes one of divine good will lived out to bring peace on earth. Peace does not come magically, easily, or without effort.  Peace is not solely of God’s doing. Peace comes when human beings are filled with divine good will.

With Jesus’ life as an example, peace comes when we make common cause with others as Jesus did with his disciples. It comes by offering food and healing and justice. It comes when power is used for the benefit of others.

Peace comes when we can hear Jesus say to us in the Sermon on the Mount: there are ways that reconcile and that keep covenant, ways of letting our words be truthful, ways of being peacemakers and loving our enemies, ways to invest in being governed by grace and restoring justice.

Peace comes by losing a sense of self and a willingness to center ourselves with divine good will. Peace comes only when we think peace on earth is the most important thing to live for.

We see peace when Gandhi led a Salt March in India and when Martin Luther King Jr. says with a loud voice, “I have a dream!” It comes when Jesus loves the enemies and oppressors of his people even as they put him to death.

It is the Christmas Story for our day, a time when we are filled with divine good will that brings peace on earth.

Usefulness

posted Nov 27, 2017, 4:05 PM by Sue Fried

by Pastor Gary Walpole

“There is within all of us an intimate connection between the will to survive and the need to feel useful to something or someone beyond myself.”

Barbara Kingsolver-- Small Wonder

 

Why do we work? You would think such a question would have a simple answer. Yet there are hundreds of different reasons given by thousands of different people. To put bread on the table. To do something I really enjoy. To make a name for myself. To maintain a certain standard of living.  To achieve financial security.

Why do you work? At home, outside the home, as a volunteer, for pay, for play, at raising children, at loving? It’s all work. Life itself is work.

The first thing each one of us did may be the hardest and most wonderful work we have ever done; as newborns all covered with slime, with great effort, we drew our first breath to jump start our sticky pair of lungs; then there is the wailing for connection to the blurry sights we see through our newly opened eyes. It doesn’t get any easier after that, but it can remain as wonderful. This first inhale/exhale, blurry eyed moment pretty much sets the rhythm for life, wherein needing and giving are of one piece.

 

Work is not something we do five days a week for forty hours, if that is even possible these days. We work twenty-four/seven/three hundred and sixty-five days a year for all our lives. Work is the rhythm of life.

Work is more than what we do, it is remembering every effort of our lives can be useful, meaningful and wonderful when it serves a common good. Good work is inherently useful. In all the areas of life that we work, usefulness is like a touchstone without which all the other reasons for working tend to grow void of wonder and meaning. If we grow old without having given ourselves to others and something more important than ourselves in an intentionally useful way, then we will have succeeded in deftly pulling a treasure chest up a great hill only to open the lid to discover that it holds a collection of fool’s gold.

There was an Italian, born in the twelfth century, into a family that was eager to endow him with a life of ease and irrelevance, he walked away from that chest of fool’s gold he was expected to tote up the great hill and devote his life to being useful. He saw himself as the hands of God working in the world. He lived his life seeking to make himself useful to others. Francis died in 1226, within two years he was canonized by Pope Gregory IX. We know him now as Saint Francis and you may know the prayer that was written centuries later that bears his name.

Lord, make me an instrument of Thy peace; where there is hatred, let me sow love; where there is injury, pardon; where there is doubt, faith; where there is despair, hope; where there is darkness, light; and where there is sadness, joy. O Divine Master, Grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled as to console; To be understood as to understand; To be loved as to love.

Why do we work? This may be a useful perspective and a meaningful beginning to the good work we are, and you are doing.

Burned: The Power of Awe

posted Oct 1, 2017, 6:11 PM by Penny Skildum

Then one of the angel-seraphs flew to me with a live coal taken with tongs from the altar. Touching my mouth with the coal, the angel said,
“Look. This coal has touched your lips. Gone your guilt, your sins wiped out.” (Isaiah 6:6-7)

One experience of awe.

How can we describe a moment of awe that is beyond description?

Around 2,750 years ago a priest of the God of Israel had a powerful experience of awe in the Jerusalem Temple.

That experience is described in the sixth chapter of the book in the Hebrew and Christian sacred writings that is named after him, Isaiah.

It is a story of Isaiah in the presence of the sacred or divine. It was both humbling and affirming, where the foundation of the Temple shook and was filled with smoke. An experience where Isaiah says, “Woe is me! I am lost, for I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips; yet my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts!” Then a fictional, sacred creature called a seraph flew to him holding a live coal from God’s altar and touched his lips saying, “Now that this has touched your lips, your guilt has departed and your sin is blotted out.” Isaiah’s response, when the God of Israel asks, ““Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?” Isaiah’s affirming response, “Here am I; send me!”

This is probably not Isaiah’s literal experience of awe and wonder, it is a creative and imaginative effort to put into words what is at its core indescribable. It does not mean that Isaiah made up a non-existent experience of the holy or sacred, it is an expression that is deeply human; moments of wonder when we feel the presence of something vast that transcends the understanding of ourselves and the world.

I think the story of Isaiah gets it right, we all have experiences of fiery awe that burned themselves onto our lips yet we cannot put into words; they transform our souls and transcend our concrete reality into something beyond ourselves.

 

What are the results of experiencing awe.

But what is even more wonderful is how awe impact our lives.

In May of 2015 a study was published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology that tried to measure the impact of awe on an individual. The study used a series of experiments to examine different aspects of awe. Some of the experiments measured how predisposed someone was to experiencing awe; others were designed to elicit awe, a neutral state, or another reaction, such as pride or amusement. In the final experiment, the researchers induced awe by placing participants in a forest of towering eucalyptus trees.

After the initial experiments, the participants engaged in an activity designed to measure what psychologists call "prosocial" behaviors or tendencies. Prosocial behavior is described as "positive, helpful, and intended to promote social acceptance and friendship." In every experiment, awe was strongly associated with prosocial behaviors. In a press release the lead of the study, Paul Piff talks about the impact of awe on those who participated in the study and on individuals in general.

“Our investigation indicates that awe, although often fleeting and hard to describe, serves a vital social function. By diminishing the emphasis on the individual self, awe may encourage people to forgo strict self-interest to improve the welfare of others. When experiencing awe, you may not, egocentrically speaking, feel like you're at the center of the world anymore. By shifting attention toward larger entities and diminishing the emphasis on the individual self, we reasoned that awe would trigger tendencies to engage in prosocial behaviors that may be costly for you but that benefit and help others.

Across all these different elicitors of awe, we found the same sorts of effects—people felt smaller, less self-important, and behaved in a more prosocial fashion. Might awe cause people to become more invested in the greater good, giving more to charity, volunteering to help others, or doing more to lessen their impact on the environment? Our research would suggest that the answer is yes.”

Indeed, it seems awe promotes one of the most important prosocial characteristics advocated by the Hebrew prophets and Jesus, loving-kindness.

 

How do you experience awe?

Piff and colleagues summed up their findings on the importance of awe in their report saying:

Awe arises in evanescent experiences. Looking up at the starry expanse of the night sky. Gazing out across the blue vastness of the ocean. Feeling amazed at the birth and development of a child. Protesting at a political rally or watching a favorite sports team live. Many of the experiences people cherish most are triggers of the emotion we focused on here—awe.

Our investigation indicates that awe, although often fleeting and hard to describe, serves a vital social function. By diminishing the emphasis on the individual self, awe may encourage people to forego strict self-interest to improve the welfare of others. Future research should build on these initial findings to further uncover the ways in which awe shifts people away from being the center of their own individual worlds, toward a focus on the broader social context and their place within it.

Matthew Fox, a present day religious leader and thinker describes awe as an “awareness of wonder everywhere.” Wonder is open to all of us and has been experience by all of us somehow and at many times. It is our ability to be aware of wonder that opens us to awe. Awe is an everyday reality and it is wonderful just to take a few seconds or minutes to pause, allow myself to experience it and immerse myself in a sense of loving-kindness.

Northern Irish singer/songwriter Van Morrison's song, Sense of Wonder, seems to sum up the essence of awe. The link below will take you to a video of the song with images put together by an individual envisioning “myself walking along a forest path and remembering various events in my life, both big and small.”  Wonderful, I hope you have time to listen to it.

 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P5vkZPOdKOI

When the Bathroom Is Crucial

posted Sep 5, 2017, 7:44 PM by Melissa Navratil

by Pastor Gary Walpole

“Courage, it’s me. Don’t be afraid.” Matthew 14:27

The hotel door opened and the two young teens made a b-line toward the bathroom. A family of four had just finished a long, hot day at Disneyland which included drinking a lot of water. Once in the bathroom they quickly started to argue about who would use the bathroom first.

“You got this?” the mother said. “Yes,” dad replied. She walked out of the hotel room and headed toward the public bathrooms.

Upon the close of the hotel room door dad said, “You two figure it out. Here’s the rule, no hitting or kicking.” He went over to the tv remote control and turned on ESPN. A few minutes later mom returned, “Your turn, how are they doing?”

“It seems they’re still debating who will go first,” he said as he got up and walked out the door. Mom went over to the laptop on the table and started reading their hometown newsletter.
A few minutes later dad came back through the door. “How goes the bathroom battle?” “Still no peace treaty in sight,” mom smiled.

Finally, the two young teens came out of the bathroom each slamming down on a different bed with a loud huff.

“You two relieved?” dad asked.

“NO!” came two simultaneous shouts.

Without looking up from the laptop mom asked, “So how long do you think you were in the bathroom?” “Too long!” came one reply. “Forever!” came the other. Dad looked at his watch. “Twenty-five minutes,” dad said into angry filled air.

“Don’t you two need to go,” one of the teens said. “Already did,” mom and dad said together. “No way,” the two teens shouted together. “Yes way,” mom and dad said together as they burst out laughing. “There’s a bathroom right down the hall,” dad said, “fifty some people could have used the bathroom in the time it took you two to use ours.”

The next day, upon returning from Disneyland the family was hit by the air conditioning as they walked through the glass, electric doors of the hotel entrance. “Race you to the bathroom,” one teen said to the other, taking off for the public restroom. The other faked running and then turned to the parents, “Don’t worry, I got this. There are plenty of toilets in that restroom.”

Sometimes conversations are more crucial than others.

Crucial conversations are discussions “between two or more people when 1) stakes are high, 2) options vary and 3) emotions run strong.1” We all engage in such conversations. Here are a couple things to be mindful of before and during such conversations.

1) Crucial conversations are not about what we think but about how we feel. Often, we start a conversation with what we think, not realizing how we feel or how the person we are talking with feels. Effective conversations begin with the heart, not the head. A crucial conversation is successful only when there is openness to compassion between all those participating. We cannot have a crucial conversation with someone we do not care for or respect.

2) A crucial conversation depends on developing and drawing on a shared pool of meaning. A crucial conversation means truly understanding what values, principals and life experiences shared and which are not. A crucial conversation cannot happen until there is a common sense of safety, for all involved, to draw upon. This happens as we remind each other of what we have in common, of what makes this an important conversation to have. The purpose of a crucial conversation is not to change someone’s mind, it is to develop a shared pool of meaning that allows feeling to bubble to the surface. “A shared pool of meaning is the birth of synergy.2

3) Seek first to understand and then be understood. A crucial conversation often has long pauses with feedback to make sure everyone is understanding each other. In crucial conversations, some of our deepest fears come to the fore, often unknown and unstated. With compassion and safety room is made to realize our own fears and work through them. In crucial conversation’s it is important to allow our deepest fears to become conscious so we can understand how they affect our relationship’s. Being mindfully of our own feelings is the beginning of allowing others to acknowledge their feelings.

Like many conversations, crucial conversations are often ongoing, with needs for long pauses and breaks. Some are lifelong conversations, at least the most important are.

Once we understand the depth of our own feelings, and provide an emotionally safe place for conversation; become caring, willing, vulnerable and open to honestly understand the depth of our own fragility as well as others we can have any type of conversation. Like Jesus we can honestly say, “Courage, it’s me. Don’t be afraid.”
 
1This comes from the bestselling book crucial conversations: Tools for Talking when Stakes are High, 2012 by Kerry Patterson, Joseph Grenny, Ron McMillan and Al Switzler.
2ibid, pg. 25

Grace from Gary

posted Aug 17, 2017, 8:40 PM by Gary Walpole

Dear Participants and Friends of the Peace Community of Faith,

Many of us are struggling with the experience of the blatant racism demonstrated in Charlottesville, VA this past weekend and the number of statements that have come from President Trump that do not vehemently condemn such expressions of racism and white nationalism.

Not far from the statue of Robert E. Lee in Charlottesville, VA there is a slave block where thousands of black men, women, and children were sold into slavery. We should not forget that racism runs deep in the cultural DNA of the United States. With each generation, racism becomes less influential but it has not gone away. It is still a significant cultural dynamic for a small minority of white citizens of the United States. It remains a subtle current that pulls at each of us.

A few words of hope.

If you are disturbed with many of the stories you have heard this week showing support or trying to downplay the wrongness of the white nationalist movement in the United States – you’re in good company!

If you have shared how disturbed you are about what white nationalists instigated in Charlottesville with someone you care about – you are not carrying the burden alone!

If you have shared how disturbed you are about what white nationalists instigated in Charlottesville through social media or in conversations – you are part of the solution!

If you have thought of asking what policies your work, social organization, local school or city have regarding racism – you are impacting your local community. If these community institutions have no policies rejecting racism and you advocate for such a policy – you are making a difference close to home.

Don’t forget you are not alone.

Remember there are hundreds of vigils for peace and healing throughout the United States which you can be part of in person or in spirit.

Remember the most liked tweet that has ever been shared was a Nelson Mandela quote tweeted after the Charlottesville violence by former President Barack Obama: “No one is born hating another person because of the color of his skin or his background or his religion. People must learn to hate, and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love. For love comes more naturally to the human heart than its opposite."

There is a story in the Gospel of Matthew of a disciple of Jesus who steps out of the safety of a boat into a wind torn waves (Matthew 14:22-33). This seems like an appropriate metaphor for us today. We are living in a time of wind torn waves. In the story, the disciple discovers, that alone we sink into waves. It is when we reach out to support each other that the power of God’s love transforms the world.

Although sometimes we think we do, no one ever stands alone.

Grace from Gary

Evolving Faith: Religion and Science in the Information Age

posted Jul 31, 2017, 8:02 PM by Sue Fried

by Pastor Gary Walpole

"When I have a terrible need of—dare I say, ‘religion’? - then I go outside at night and paint the stars.” 
          --Vincent Van Gogh
“It's the end of the world as we know it, and I feel fine.”
          --R.E.M “It’s the End of the World as We Know It”

What Christianity has done to form Western Civilization, science is doing today to form a new global culture and civilization.

Over 2,000 years ago, during a time of many religions around the Mediterranean basin, a reform movement within the Jewish religion was started by a Galilean from the village of Nazareth named Jesus. Within 500 years this Jewish reform movement had become the dominant religion in Northern Africa and all of Europe, Christianity. Within another 1,000 years Christianity had become the dominant religion of the dominant culture in the world, Western Civilization.


If we define religion as “an organized system of beliefs, ceremonies, and rules used to worship a god or a group of gods”1 there are now four large world religions: Islam, Judaism, Buddhism, and Hinduism; all of them with significant cultural influence where they are in the majority, but none have obtained the same cultural and social dominance as Christianity.

What Christianity has done to form Western Civilization, and other world religions have done to form civilizations they have influenced, science is doing today to form a new global culture and civilization. With the addition of the Information Age2 pace of this movement toward a global culture and civilization is significantly increasing. What used to take centuries is now taking less than a decade, what used to take decades is now taking years, what used to take months is now taking hours, what used to happen in days is now taking minutes, what used to happen in hours is now taking seconds.

With the coming of the Information Age the pace of change has become astronomical. My five-year-old nephew knows more about the workings of the human body, the physical dynamics of the world, as well as the age and size of the universe than my grandparents could have ever known. He will grow up in an era which will see the end of religion as we know it and he’ll be fine. While he will be infused with all that is scientific at a pace that will only increase in the Information Age he will still experience wonder and awe that call him to go outside of himself and “paint the stars.” This will remain true for all human-beings.

The key concept to understanding this new perspective of religion within the context of a new global culture and civilization is the scientific theory of evolution. Can we begin to explore an evolving God? An evolving Christ? Can sociocultural evolution3 help us understand the Bible, and all religious sacred writing, more effectively as sacred story relevant today?

We live in an awe-filled, wonderful time to be a people of faith. “In (an evolutionary) Christ, there is a new creation: everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new!” (2 Corinthians 5:17, italicized phrase added for your reflection.)
 
1 http://learnersdictionary.com/definition/religion
2 The Information Age is a period beginning about 1975 and characterized by the gathering and almost instantaneous transmission of vast amounts of information and by the rise of information-based industries. (http://www.dictionary.com/browse/information-age)
3Sociocultural evolution is the process of change and development in human societies that results from cumulative change in their stores of cultural information. (http://encyclopedia2.thefreedictionary.com/sociocultural+evolution)

Against Indifference

posted Apr 29, 2017, 3:07 PM by Gary Walpole

The Judicial Council, the supreme court of the United Methodist Church, ruled Friday, April 28. 2017 that the first openly elected lesbian Bishop, Karen Oliveto, is in violation of church law barring the ordination of “self-avowed practicing homosexuals.” But rather than removing her from her office of Bishop or invalidating her ordination credentials they referred the case back the Western Jurisdiction who unanimously consecrated her to be a Bishop. This is an administrative geological area of the United States made up of Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, Oregon, Utah, Washington, and Wyoming. Her consecration was immediately challenged by the South-Central Jurisdiction made up of the states of Arkansas, Kansas, Louisiana, Missouri, Nebraska, New Mexico, Oklahoma, and Texas.

This is just the latest in an intensifying conflict about the inclusion of LGBTQ with the United Methodist Church.

During this Easter Season, I have been reflecting on a quote by writer, Nobel Laureate and Holocaust survivor Elie Wiesel, “The opposite of love is not hate, it's indifference. The opposite of art is not ugliness, it's indifference. The opposite of faith is not heresy, it's indifference. And the opposite of life is not death, it's indifference.”

The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines indifferent as “marked with impartiality: unbiased.” The Cambridge Dictionary defines indifferent as “the quality of not caring or being uninterested in something or someone.”

The United Methodist Judicial Council followed the letter of the United Methodist law and in doing so is trying to remain unbiased, indifferent. Resurrection screams as loudly as possible, “the time for indifference has past.” It is time for the United Methodist Church to proclaim that the Gospel of Jesus Christ and Resurrection are for all of God’s children!

Once again, the United Methodist Church has found a way put up a road block of injustice against people within the LGBTQ (LGBTQ stands for - lesbian, gay, bi-sexual, transgendered, queer) community.

In a United States that is quickly realizing a person’s sexual orientation is a gift, the United Methodist Church has found a way to deny “God’s work of justice, reconciliation, and healing” to transform the world. A world that is infused people of faith from the LGBTQ community; gifted LGBTQ people participating in our United Methodist Churches and even serving as ordained leaders and a bishop within the United Methodist Church.

If you wish to read more about the Judicial Council’s ruling and articles from the Denver Post and Washington Post, or New York times you can click the links below;

http://www.umc.org/decisions/71953

http://www.denverpost.com/2017/04/28/gay-bishop-karen-oliveto-methodist-church/

https://www.nytimes.com/2017/04/28/us/methodist-high-court-rejects-first-gay-bishops-consecration.html

https://www.washingtonpost.com/national/religion/methodist-court-ruling-a-blow-for-openly-lesbian-bishop/2017/04/28/d76509e4-2c74-11e7-9081-f5405f56d3e4_story.html?utm_term=.67a8e3573a61

Faith on Earth: Looking for the Galilean

posted Mar 31, 2017, 8:36 AM by Sue Fried

“It is the right time to turn toward the sovereign authority of God.” Mark 1:15a
          -Translated by Gary Walpole

First Affirmation: Jesus is a Galilean Jewish person of faith.

While we move into the 22nd Century, exploring the life of the historical Jesus has begun to play an important role in understanding what it means to “place our faith in God through Jesus Christ.” As many of the traditional titles for Jesus lose their power they are being replaced by insights about his life. As we journey toward Easter at Peace Community of Faith I have offered a new way of understanding Jesus the Christ.

One of the most important and respected Christian thinkers of the 21st century in the United States is Richard R. Niebuhr. He considers the structure of human faith, the association between interpersonal faith and faith in God, and faith in everyday living in his book Faith on Earth: An Inquiry into the Structure of Human Faith. For Richard Niebuhr faith is a combination of trust, confidence, commitment and loyalty in a common cause. How does this apply to Jesus?

Our first step in looking for the Galilean is acknowledging Jesus is a person of faith, not an abstract person but one living in the ancient Roman province of Galilee as a Jew who is confident, committed and loyal to God’s sovereign authority.

The core phrase that expresses who Jesus is and everything that Jesus says and does is the “Kingdom of God,” which I have translated as the “sovereign authority of God.” His life is an effort to live this out in all his being.

I place my faith in God through Jesus Christ because I see Jesus as the One who shows me how to live by faith and the One who shows me what the faithfulness of God may look like.

Using the tools of Modern Biblical Interpretation, we can explore the life of Jesus in canonical Gospels as a Galilean Jew who walked the trails of Galilee living out his faith in the sovereign authority of God, how his faith affected others and eventually it got him arrested, tried and executed as an opponent of the Imperial Roman Rule in Israel.

But before all of this he asks himself, “who is speaking and acting on behalf of God?” His answer draws him to a person clothed in camel’s hair, eating locust and honey, by the Jordan River leading a baptism movement. A man named John.

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