Monthly Archives: November 2014

Gratitude/Advent

On this Eve of Thanksgiving I’m grateful to be surrounded by love, and grateful for the opportunity to journey with you all through the seasons of life.

Thanksgiving weekend has become the major get together for my side of the family and we will be heading out to Bellefontaine tomorrow and arriving back to Columbus for Sunday worship.

Speaking of which…we are entering the season of Advent.  When the planning group got together we settled on a single word to guide us through the season: Disruption.  It shows up in the texts in different ways, which lead to the ultimate disruption of Christ’s birth and all the ways Christ is continually born when we take a similar posture as Mary, a willingness to bear Christ in our bodies as an offering to the world.

The first week of Advent focuses on what is often called the “Second Coming,” or what I like to think of as the “Continual Coming” of Christ, a present and future reality.  A poem that the planning group discussed is William Butler Yeats startling and somewhat enigmatic “The Second Coming.”  Written in the wake of World War I, it speaks into the heart of a world reeling with violence.  It ends with a question mark, and challenges us to ponder the contrast between the meekness of the Christ child and whatever beast it is that might be slouching toward Bethlehem.  It’s good poem to revisit about this time every year as the apocalyptic texts of Advent 1 come our way and we ponder that this season is not merely looking back at an ancient event, but calls for an awakening of consciousness to Divine Presence in the present and the yet-to-be.

The Second Coming

BY WILLIAM BUTLER YEATS

Turning and turning in the widening gyre

The falcon cannot hear the falconer;

Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;

Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,

The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere

The ceremony of innocence is drowned;

The best lack all conviction, while the worst

Are full of passionate intensity.

Surely some revelation is at hand;

Surely the Second Coming is at hand.

The Second Coming! Hardly are those words out

When a vast image out of Spiritus Mundi

Troubles my sight: somewhere in sands of the desert

A shape with lion body and the head of a man,

A gaze blank and pitiless as the sun,

Is moving its slow thighs, while all about it

Reel shadows of the indignant desert birds.

The darkness drops again; but now I know

That twenty centuries of stony sleep

Were vexed to nightmare by a rocking cradle,

And what rough beast, its hour come round at last,

Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?

No fear in love

Greetings from Bluffton, Ohio.  This week I am the speaker for Spiritual Life Week at Bluffton University which also comes with the perk of getting to hang out with various students, faculty, and staff.  The theme for the week, which we chose way back in the summer, is “No fear in love,” that delightful short phrase drawn from 1 John 4 which says, “There is no fear in love, but perfect loves drives out fear.”  This was one of our Twelve Scriptures passages and it felt like one that had a lot more depth to explore.  Much more than just occasional emotions, fear and love are like two different operating systems, the program behind all the other programs through which everything gets filtered.  I spoke at student worship Sunday evening, forum yesterday, and will have a final presentation at chapel tomorrow.

Some observations while on campus:

+ Students love their smart phones.  Wow.  Lots of texting and surfing going on everywhere you look.

+ TED talks are really popular.  I don’t know how many times a reference to a TED talk has come up in the last few days.  Lots.  The professor of the social justice/social change class I sat in on used the last 20 minutes to feature a TED talk about Barefoot College in India – pretty much like having a world renowned guest speaker.  Tonight I’ll be on a panel discussing Brene Brown’s wonderful TED talk The Power of Vulnerability.

+ It’s cold.

One more random thing: I bought a bike! to replace the stolen-while-writing-a-sermon-about-the-sermon-on-the-mount bike.  A bike shop in town had a bike that fit perfectly with a seat that was scarlet and gray.  Looked like it belonged in Columbus.  Now I hope it fits in the Civic.

Please know that I carry you in my heart while I am here and that it is a joy to represent you.  A number of your names have come up in conversations with folks here who know you.  And it is a gift to have the time to spend some unhurried days with college students talking about fear and love.

1491

I just completed reading (listening to, audio-book) 1491: New Revelations of the Americas Before Columbus by Charles C. Mann (thanks for the loan Phil H).  One of the best things this book does is to question, and more often dismantle, commonly held myths about the Americas and the people who lived here before European contact.  Mann utilizes both the latest archeological and genetic findings, along with the earliest European accounts of contact with Indian peoples.  Although the details continue to be up for debate, there is an emerging scholarly consensus that the pre-1492 Americas of our text books and cultural myths, and the Americas as they actually were before European contact are two very different places.  Here are a few things I learned:

– I had known that disease was a significant killer of American Indians, but had not realized the extent to which it decimated whole populations and civilizations.  Because Europeans had long lived side by side with domesticated pigs and cows, they had exchanged microbes with and developed immunities to the more deadly diseases these animals can carry.  When these people and animals were brought into contact with a people who had never been exposed to them before, the results were devastating, some areas possibly losing up to 95% of their populations.  Early European arrivals on the New England seaboard observed that the shores were lined with villages and that it was too dense for white settlement.  By the time the Mayflower landed, over 100 years after first contact, the same villages were vacant.  In South America the massive Incan Empire perhaps lost 50% of its population to disease before Pizarro and his troops landed and subjugated the reeling population.

– I hadn’t realized that the Ice Age Bering Strait migration is no longer the dominant theory of the introduction of humans into the Americas.  Archeological and genetic evidence points to settlements as old as 40,000 years, groups perhaps arriving from Siberia in boats.

– One of the most powerful myths is that of the foraging Indian living lightly in the wilderness.  But evidence repeatedly shows that different Indian cultures actively managed and sometimes massively altered their landscapes to better suit their needs.  Indian agriculture has provided over half of today’s global food supply (corn, potatoes, tomatoes, beans, and peppers were all domesticated in the Americas).  Many Indian civilizations, beyond just the Maya, Aztec, and Incas, were urban and cosmopolitan.  Many of the prairies were regularly burned to maintain it as a pasture for grazing animals.  Many nut trees in the eastern forest (chestnut, hickory, oak, beech) were most likely planted as a form of perennial gardening.  Maybe most surprising is that the Amazon forest – that massive stretch sometimes considered as the epitome of pristine wilderness – could instead very likely be the world’s largest abandoned orchard.

Although the timing wasn’t intentional, this does happen to coincide with the approach of Thanksgiving when some of these myths are at their strongest – and when we call to mind what we are grateful for.

+ This history is difficult stuff.  I have no idea what to do with some of it except be in mourning.

+ It’s good to have our myths challenged, especially when it makes us more humble.

+ As one who is drawn to ‘wilderness,’ I hear a message that humans, and other animals for that matter, always live in a dynamic relationship with our environment and the question is not whether or not we will have an impact, but what kind of impact we will have.

+ I’m grateful to be alive, and to have the responsibility to live well.