How to Pray for Peace When You Don’t Know What Peace Is

There’s a lot of stuff going on in the world, and when that stuff is happening far away, or in another country, it becomes very easy to follow the standard prayer for things that are bad but don’t really effect me:

I ask your prayers for peace; for goodwill among nations;
and for the well-being of all people.
Pray for justice and peace.

What if the stuff comes close to home? What if it’s violence or bad feelings or any kind of upset that is so close to your soul that you can feel it? You can smell it?

The best answer is: you can’t.

You can’t pray for peace then because the words don’t come as easy. You’re thinking that if I won’t give God a shopping list of things to fix any other time, how can I do it now.

Look inside yourself and find the peace.

Peace image

One of the prayers that even some non-praying people are familiar with is the St. Francis Prayer. Attributed to St. Francis but we don’t know for sure. The prayer gives a long list of “if this is happening then make me behave in this manner. It’s long enough that folks sort of wander off in thought about midway through. Look at the first line of the prayer:

LORD, make me an instrument of your peace.

In that single line is your answer. If you don’t know how to stop any of the stuff that’s going on outside your door, then ask that – going forward – you have the inspiration to stand above the stuff. Pray that God’s peace show through in your own life and actions.

Repeat as necessary. It’s a wonderful beginning to meditation, thinking to yourself, “Lord, make me an instrument of your peace.”

Look inside yourself and be the peace.

A fire cannot burn if there is no fuel. Stand firm and discover the ways that you will become that instrument of Peace that the world needs in just that second. It may be small and trivial at the time. It may be unnoticed by others and maybe even yourself. With practice and time, discernment and prayer, you will become that instrument.

God’s Peace be within you and around you.
May you always seek that which is good, and right.
May angels surround you, and hold you upright with
God’s Peace.

Keep the faith!

 - Amen

 

 

 

 

 

 

Get on the boat or we will leave you on the dock – How The Church Will Survive Lame-brained politics, part 2

(part 2 of 2)

The solution to all this political over-taking of the Christian church is quite easy. It will – with time – be weeded out as not particularly useful to the core beliefs of the faith.  At its root, Christian belief have nothing to do with who gets elected to office, which law gets voted in/out, peoples’ healthcare choices, and on and on. Some of these flag-waving Christians have lost sight of the quite exact teaching in the three synoptic gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke – they all look the same, thus synoptic) that Christ mentioned that the believers must work alongside what was going on with the Roman authority. Just as those believers would not let Rome take over their group (and make it some sort of state religion,) Jesus expected the believers to show the same deference to the authority. Today’s flag waving Christians who now want to make over the country in their likeness have forgotten the story in Matthew in which Jesus makes the famous pronouncement:

“Give unto Caesar that which is Caesar’s, and give unto God that which is God’s.

Oops.

A continual debate between the flag wavers and others is whether the Bible is the complete, literal, inerrant word of God, or whether it’s more like a user’s manual for the faith. “The Bible says…” “the Bible says …” “the Bible says ….” Christians do not worship the Bible, and to use that as the literal (and inerrant) rule of life in every thing and every action is a slippery slope that leads to idolatry. Yes – if a person’s belief is based 100% on what the Bible says and nothing else – missing things like prayer, contemplation, and study – is the book not being treated the same as the Golden Calf in the book of Exodus?
Me? I am going to stick with the example of the American Episcopal Church on this matter (somewhere in the middle, of course) and say that (in my personal spiritual  practice,) the Bible contains all that is necessary for salvation. Beyond that, it is up to each seeker to find their own means to salvation within the book.
Those loud-screaming folks will all eventually run out of steam and as I said earlier will implode on themselves by hating themselves out of business. Once it gets to the point of having no one left to hate, what is the use in having hateful beliefs? They burn out and/or become ugly little sects that nobody cares about because of their negativity. The Real Christians we leave them to their own devices, because no word, no example, no prayer will ever sway them from their un-Christian beiefs, and on the other side of the coin, they will never convince us that their way is the right way.
The Christian equivalent of “Can’t we all just get along?”
Unfortunately the answer is no, we can’t all get along. People will continue to kill and be killed for their religious beliefs. Politicians will continue to push an agenda of trying to match the Constitution to the Bible. So the question is: where are you and how do you believe? Maybe the thought has never come to you which could be pretty good, if you err on the way of doing it the right way.
The “ship” of Christian religion will go on, without you or not – you are not singularly special to the core of the Christian faith, Your presence within that faith is important. Someone much be present to pass it along to next generations, as those next generations need to use it. It might not be in a 4-walled church house. It might not be in home churches.  It might not be with drums and guitars and the loud crashing cymbals we sing about in the psalms. But still, it will go on.
(This part is directed at the Christian folk reading this, so I’m not writing this in a way to be zealous to non-believers….) Where will you be when this ship that we call the Christian faith sets sail? Will you be on board, ready to take off for whatever is new and exciting, for what is fulfilling and gives your soul rest? Or will you be still standing on the dock as the ship sails away, grumbling and complaining about who marries whom, at what time in life does a person get baptized, and whose denominational beliefs are the right ones and the wrong ones?
That ship sails whether you “get on board” - as the old song says – or you stand and wave it good-bye.
Writing through the above it reminds me of one of my favorite spiritual hymns, “Old Ship of Zion” which speaks directly to this question. I also think of one that expresses the sentiment that – not matter what tomfoolery hits our church – that very present Church goes on. The “real Christian Church” will keep going, even if it needs a little spring cleaning now and then.
The Bible has its own suggestions on how to keep discipline in the church. In the early days of formation of the Church, Paul was writing letters dealing with the constant squabbling between the Jewish and Gentile believers, each (of course) thinking their was way the “right” way. Also in those synoptic gospels (see above) Matthew writes about discipline and how to reproach a “sinner” in the church. Or, in Southern speak, what to do when it’s time to take somebody in church out to the woodshed.
This bluegrass song made famous by Lester Flatt and Earl Scruggs is the easy to understand version of that lesson. And it’s fun to sing because you get funny examples of how to de-sin the church. The song is “Let the Church Roll On” and it explicitly states that no matter how bad we the communion are, our singular behavior will not stop the ongoing (loving) mission of the Christian Church.
(A note about the last verse of the song which sounds a little sexist, singing about women in the church wearing makeup: This song was originally created by people who hold the belief that women should not wear makeup, and not cut their hair. There’s not a lot of those folks around today that I have seen in real life, I grew up around the folks of that belief Back then, it was how they chose to live, and no skin off my back,  because they had some great songs in their church! The slant on makeup expressed in the song is part of their belief and the members of that church agree to itas part of being in that communion. Don’t hear that verse as anti-woman but a variation on anti-sin, according to the song writers’ beliefs. I have included alternate lyrics at the end that omits that verse.)
Lester Flatt and Earl Scruggs and the Foggy Mountain Boys
Let the Church Roll On

Let the Church Roll On

 - a contemporary arrangement of the lyrics -
There's a sinner in the church, (Oh my Lord)
 And he won't do right, (Oh my Lord)
 Oh what'cha gonna do (Get him down on his knees)
 And let the church roll on
Let the church roll on, (Oh my Lord)
 Let the church roll on, (Oh my Lord)
 Let the church roll on (Oh my Lord)
 Let the church roll on
There's a deacon in the church, (Oh my Lord)
 And he won't do right, (Oh my Lord)
 Oh what'cha gonna do (Take his name off the roll)
 And let the church roll on
There's a preacher in the church, (Oh my Lord)
 And he won't do right, (Oh my Lord)
 Oh what'cha gonna do (Kick him out, kick him out)
 And let the church roll on
There's a drunkard in the church, (Oh my Lord)
 And he won't do right, (Oh my Lord)
 Oh what'cha gonna do (Take his liquor, throw it out)
 And let the church roll on
 Lyrics from the ToneWay Project: http://toneway.com/songs/let-the-church-roll-on#ixzz3AgAVFbwM
Keep the faith!

Lookin’ For Love – How The Church Will Survive Lame-brained politics, part 1

beliefs do not make you a better personWestern Christian churches in general have become too political. That is a good place to start. Some of them (not naming names or denominations here) have turned the sacred table of welcome into their own bully pulpit. They speak things to their congregants that go against all the positive teachings of any legitimate sacred text. And the sad part is that these fools tend to speak the loudest, and get the most attention in the media.

 

If you’re a real Christian, it’s embarrassing.

People who are not religious – and some who are flamingly not religious – point to these vapid talking heads and say “See! There! I told you!” about how a (Christian) spiritual belief is some sort of fantastic illusion, filled with fairy tales and hate and us vs. them. I will not argue the point: if spiritual folks don’t believe like I do then hooray for them. I will still stand for the things I believe in, and continue to act (I hope) as a nice person expressing love toward others. I do this in my own practice as my example – and my expectation – of a heavenly kingdom all around us.

And here I stop going into theological detail; this is not a debate.

What about the painful and embarrassing political stuff that gives “good, decent, church-going people” a bad rap? What to do? The answer is very simple:

The church will go on.

It might not look what “the church” that we visualize now. Christian community began in the catacombs and meeting in secret in folks’ houses. It’s had to go underground to exist in spite of ponderous political regimes. It’s been changed around and burnt out and bombed, and yet it somehow continues.

The same now.

The Church, as serious practicing folks of Western Christian religion know it, will outlive the sputum of hatred coming from some – but not all – pulpits today. Hate can only take you so far: like a fire, once the hatred eliminates everything that’s around it, there’s simply nothing left to hate, and the fire burns itself out.

Love goes on forever because it is a giving-out, and not a taking-away.

Side note: I’m not a huge fan of the Southern Baptists because of some of their beliefs particularly around not being a fully-welcoming church who will take in any soul off the street, allow them in, and feed them the refreshment of scripture.

(My apologies here to the Association of Welcoming and Affirming Baptists who are the bright-shining exception.)

My mother sent me this video as an example of how good a group of people can be without preaching and proselytizing. A story of about how a group of so-called Christians can stand-up, show-up, and show their beliefs at work in the help of others. The “ministry” here is in the doing, and not in the preaching and arguing.

The North Carolina Baptist Men – wheels on the ground:

This is the face of a faith that will long outlast the political bullies.
On the other side of the country, in the Episcopal diocese of Los Angeles a volunteer group across many churches in the area use this easy to formulate project that is not based on going out and “saving the heathen.” Instead it is a means to get up, show up, and display their beliefs (and faith) through action. Laundry Love happens in many locations around the country, organized by many different groups. You won’t see any preaching or converting. You will see “what needs to get done here and now?” action.

Showing some Love in Huntington Beach, CA

These two examples are what the real Christians out there want to see: our faith (and personal beliefs) in action in our communities, all for the benefit of others. Any group that wishes to use the term Christian can not put down down and ridicule and exclude, while at the same time feel as if they are “building up the kingdom of Heaven.” 

They’re tearing it down.

The real Christians simply love. There’s many different flavors and variations of that, but the point of it all is to pay forward that greatest of all love to others.

Keep the faith!
- Amen