Friday, December 21, 2007
Sunday, December 2, 2007
Assuming 2007 appproved budget: $235,154
2008 proposed budget: $241,905 (includes additional $500 in line 404)
Percent increase: 2.9%
(FYI: 2006 approved budget: $228, 327 which makes the % increase in 2007 : 3.0%
Saturday, November 17, 2007
Dear Fellow CUCC Members and Friends,
At the congregational meeting on 2 December 2007, the congregation will be asked to endorse the signing of a letter of re-commitment to the support of RICH Park Apartments.
The facts to consider in this decision are these:
- CUCC is one of five Raleigh churches that established the Raleigh Inter-Church Housing Corporation (RICH) to create and implement the RICH Park Apartments forty years ago and contributed $500 to that effort;
- RICH Park was one of many similar non-profit developments in the nation that received financial support from the federal department of housing and urban development (HUD);
- In July 2008 HUD will terminate the program under which RICH Park and many other non-profit low income housing projects received financial support;
- Also in July 2008 RICH Park will have the obligation to pay the mortgage that HUD holds on the property. To make this payment, RICH Park will take out a new mortgage and pay it off with rental income from the apartments;
- The RICH Park Board of Directors, the property management company retained by the board, and an ad-hoc committee of the board have provided a fifteen year financial projection. The projection concludes that RICH Park will experience its financial future securely in the black by following its tradition of prudent management and conservative assumptions;
- The RICH Park property is currently valued at $5 million, which assures the five churches of the project’s viability and mortgage companies that RICH Park is a worthwhile investment from their perspective;
- Four of the five churches have signed on to continue this important ministry;
- CUCC Council has voted to join the other four churches;
- The RICH Park Board does not view the letter of re-commitment as a contract. It instead sees it as an endorsement of the “leap of faith” which the five churches originally entered into to provide housing for low income people. Any of the five churches can pull out of the agreement at any time, but none has done so for forty years. A copy of the Letter of Re-commitment follows on a separate page.
John J. Little, Moderator
Tuesday, November 13, 2007
Thursday, November 8, 2007
Thursday, October 25, 2007
Wednesday, October 24, 2007
Sunday, October 21, 2007
Thursday, September 27, 2007
Monday, September 24, 2007
Oct. 7 Journey and Friends in worship for World Communion Sunday; everybody collect donations for Walk for Hope after worship
Oct. 14 Journey and Friends Walk for Hope
Oct. 21 Journey and Friends work with Suzette to prepare the Pilgrim House Open House
Sunday, October 21
after 10:30 am worship.
The Youth Group will host the grand unveiling of the Youth Room.
Come for snacks and conversation (and to find out why JK is painting sideways). The youth will be stationed at the 3 shallow, wide-tread steps to help anyone who needs a hand.
The Youth invite anyone from CUCC to schedule a time of private retreat or a group meeting in this comfortable and cozy space. We're calling it "The Youth Room," but it is available whenever it isn't full of youth!
Friday, September 14, 2007
Teens and adults will choose from a smorgasbord of videos, briefings, book discussions, and happenings. Children will play their way through "green justice" activities; a nursery will be provided for the under-3 set.
If you can, bring locally grown food to the potluck, because the biggest contribution we can make to slowing climate change is by driving fewer vehicles miles. Tell us where your food came from.
Dozens of helpers are needed for small tasks; call Jane Smith to volunteer.
Wednesday, September 12, 2007
I just served my first week bagging food at the UM food pantry . Here is what I learned. Remember, I’m new on the job so an experienced volunteer could tell you the mistakes I made! I hope I did my trainers proud.
First, a digression… Who can get a food bag?
People in need of food, medical care, and other assistance call ahead to make an appointment for an interview. The interview space is a large, sunlit area off of a lovely garden; there are a playroom for small children and many comfortable chairs for the adults. A staff person or volunteer interviews the person, keeping careful record of the many documents the person brings to verify his or her information. The record keeping is required so that Urban Ministries can pass along resources provided through a variety of government programs and private grants. On my two visits so far I have been impressed with the attitude of the interviewers: respectful, smiling, exuding a genuine pleasure to meet the person and a desire to help with whatever the person needs.
The interviewer might offer food, medical care, or advice on which other agencies might have the resources the person needs. There are English and Spanish-speaking interviewers and health care workers. The Open Door Clinic (located in on the second floor) becomes the person’s family doctor; ODC isn’t an urgent care center or emergency room, it follows patients just as in a private practice. A person can receive a food bag (enough food for two weeks) once every three months; there are too many people in need and not enough resources to go around. Money for utilities, etc., is rarely given; there simply isn’t much available.
Now, back to the story of your food bag.
When a person is approved to receive a food bag, the interviewer types into the computer the name, number of adults & children, dietary restrictions, and government food okay. Back in the food pantry, this information appears on our computer and a food bagger (that would be me!) springs into action filling a shopping cart with food!
Your food bag is a Basic Bag. To this is added an array of government food, fresh bread, fresh fruit & vegetables, meat, and miscellaneous stuff donated through food drives and by local stores. So a "food bag" is really a shopping cart. Here is what I packed for a family with 4 adults and 2 children:
from the freezer: 3 packs of turkey cutlets, pack of hotdogs, pack of lunch meat, 2 packs of ground beef, bag of corn on the cob, giant bag french fries
from the fridge: 6 yogurts, 1 pound margarine, 2 bags of mixed greens, 4 individual juices, 1 small watermelon, handful of coffee half&half cups
from the government: 2 each of 5 lb bag rice, pack powdered milk, large can each grapefruit and apple juices, small can spaghetti, can corn
from miscellaneous: salt, sugar, package of napkins, box of corn muffin mix, 6 breakfast bars, 2 min-packs cookies, 1 giant box Corn Flakes, 6 sodas, 4 packets of chips, 1 sliced loaf and 1 artisanal loaf bread, 1 large can tuna, bag sweet potatoes
The shopping cart was FULL!
I kept wishing I could call out to waiting room with questions. Would you rather have the apple pie or the chocolate cream roll? Have you been hungry for hush puppies? Do you like hearty beef soup or do you yearn for a bowl of chicken noodle? The right food can be such a comfort in times of stress.
After speeding through my choices, I click the computer screen: "order completed." Within minutes the person arrives at the back door to load a car with food.
Your Basic Bag makes a difference. It is the nutritional core and, when the shelves are empty, the bulk of what gets distributed.
Sunday, September 9, 2007
Friends help Jane with 100,000 for Peace Ministry Moment during worship
Wednesday, August 29, 2007
Thanks to CUCC for supporting this exciting growth in the youth program.
Part-time Youth Minister
This person should be theologically grounded in a progressive Christianity that welcomes diversity of thought and cultural heritage, is tolerant of differences, is Open and Affirming, and works to practice Just Peace.
- This is a part time position. We anticipate an average of 10 hours per week.
- Formal seminary training is not a requirement, though theological sophistication is expected (…Inclusive language and an inclusive theology from a Christian perspective.).
- This person should view Christian youth education as a significant part of their personal mission, enjoy working with people, communicate well, have demonstrated ability to relate very well with middle school and high school youth, be organized and self-motivated.
- Compensation is negotiable.
- This position will be subject to a six-month probationary period and an Annual Performance Review.
- The person in this position will attend meetings of the Youth Religious Education (YRE) Committee and, on occasion, the monthly Church Council meetings.
- The Pastor of CUCC will supervise the Youth Ministries position.
Extended time off to be coordinated with the Pastor.
- Starting date negotiable. We ambitiously hope to have someone in place in November 2007.
Community United Church of Christ has a long history of community involvement, courage in controversy, deep concern for humanity, leadership in public issues, spiritual depth and joy, and warmth and friendship for the newcomer and stranger. In each generation, we seek to follow Jesus’ prayer "that they may all be one." Our youth programming is presently run by volunteers and has grown to the point that a paid coordinator is needed for further development. We seek a person to coordinate, supervise and minister to the aspects of church life that involve youth, from 6th through 12th grade, and their families, raising up the next generation of spiritually growing justice people through educational programs, worship experiences, music, and fellowship activities.
This person will be responsible for the Youth Programming at CUCC:
- Working closely with the Youth Religious Education (YRE) Committee toward the general development of youth programming to be offered in Sunday morning church school, weekly youth group, and other appropriate times.
- Leading weekly youth group events with rotating emphasis on fun activities and short term service projects such as Food Bank, Stop Hunger Now, etc. as well as interaction with other groups in the CUCC family. Lead or participate in other youth events as appropriate (ASP, etc.).
- Building a relationship with each of the youth and their families through routine personal contact.
- Recruiting, training, coordinating and supporting enough volunteers to adequately staff the youth program.
- Accompanying youth on mission trips.
- Representing the youth in the planning of church-wide programs and advocating for their inclusion when needed.
- Assisting with, in coordination with the Pastor and Caring Committee, pastoral care of youth and families during times of special needs (transitions, crises, etc.).
- Facilitating the youth budget (as managed by the Church and the YRE Committee) to provide adequate supplies for youth activities. This includes ordering, organizing and distributing supplies as needed and planning for fundraising for major mission trips.
- Working with other CUCC staff and volunteers on the transition of older children to youth programs, including through multigenerational programming.
Resumes will be collected until the position is filled.
Email resumes preferred. Send resumes to both
The Rev. Steve Halsted (pastor @communityucc.org) and Pam Thompson (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Or mail to Community United Church of Christ, 814 Dixie Trail, Raleigh, NC 27607.
Monday, August 27, 2007
Sunday, September 9 Pilgrim House Workday. Start with worship at Taize' at 9:00. Stop for the Welcome Back Sunday potluck after worship. Dress to paint! Bring a brush if you have one.
Adults who enjoy painting are needed to help the youth September 9, after Taize' to noon. Call Jane Smith.
Sunday, August 26, 2007
Wednesday, August 8, 2007
Monday, August 6, 2007
I may have found out what is wrong with my artificial knee, and found out a lot that is not wrong with it. It is in great shape mechanically. The artificial joint is solidly in place and shows no signs of wear or deterioration. The bones are strong. There is no infection nor inflammation. So why, you may ask does it hurt periodically? Well, my orthopedic surgeon isn't positive either, but thinks it may be peripheral neuropathy as a side effect from the chemo. It's funny that just knowing that the knee joint is fine despite the pain causes it to hurt less. He has suggested that I take Neurontin to see if that helps with the nerve pain- so far it just makes me sleep like death and get weary earlier in the day, even though I only take one pill at night. I can tell you I will NOT be taking it during the day! I probably will discontinue it since not only does it make me wayyyyy too sleepy, it also doesn't help the pain! I'll give it another week to see for sure.
I feel good otherwise. My hair has the consistency of a poodle. Little ringlets that currently lie flat against my head (mostly) but they are just itching to sproingggg forth. It's fun, and so different from fine, straight, limp hair. I have learned why I have always had problems with my hair styles... it grows from my cowlick around my head, clockwise. So the hair on the left side grows forward, and the hair on the right heads toward the back. My hairdresser has a challenge ahead of her!
Work goes well. I was very excited yesterday when the State budget was passed and included some bills that will greatly benefit foster teens and young adults- one continues Medicaid coverage for kids who age out of care until they are 21. The other provides tuition, fees, books and a room and board allowance to NC public universities or community colleges for youth who age out of foster care at 18 AND youth who were adopted after age 12. There are some other budget provisions that will also impact foster youth, such as the EARN program which will allow low income youth to get community college credit while still in high school. I am facing some large writing assignments developing policy, writing an RFP, and developing administrative letters that explain all this to the county DSS's. I'm also back on the road training, catching up with folks who have not had LINKS-specific training. I don't say this to complain- I really enjoy training, getting to meet the folks I normally only talk to by phone or email; I will take great joy helping the new laws become implemented on time; and it is a pleasant challenge to have the responsibility to write an RFP.
Chorus starts back up August 14, and I am looking forward to it. We did sing July 4 at the Festival for the Eno, which was really fun. Our next concerts are in late October, so we will be getting right to work.
One of the LINKS liaisons bought a t-shirt for me that says "fight like a girl" with the pink ribbon logo. Most of the proceeds from sales of the shirts go to Komen Foundation. They are REALLY cute and I have since ordered 9 more. They come in a periwinkle blue, dark lime, and chocolate brown. If you want to know more, get in touch with Tricia at Tricia.Nielsen@MecklenburgCountyNC.gov
I hope she doesn't kill me for that! ;-)
Much love to all of you- I think of you often! You have taught me a lot about supporting someone through this illness- and I already have a friend from church and a coworker who have been diagnosed recently- We really do need to stop this disease!! Joan McAllister
Sunday, August 5, 2007
Tuesday, July 31, 2007
Sunday, July 22, 2007
Friday, July 20, 2007
Thursday, July 19, 2007
I've known many a pro choice mother who by the 5th month or so had bonded so strongly to her baby that nothing in the world would convince her that baby wasn't already part of the family. In one case the mother was wrestling with troublesome medical reports that the fetus may have some abnormalities, and I recall the mother concluding "handicaps can be dealt with" and letting nature take its course (and having a healthy baby).
When a mother has made this decision, bonded with the baby, and already considers it a member of the family, where is the "justice" in a law that says, "Sorry, society has decided otherwise because it doesn't fit in with the political strategies of the pro choice crowd?"
The lines in the abortion standoff were firmly drawn long ago. Those on both sides have persistently looked for ways to chip away at the armor of those on the other side. Here's one place where the pro choice side is caught trying to defend a position that is indefensible. Do we have the courage to cross the line and live up to our claim of being a "justice" congregation? If not, where does that leave us?
Monday, July 16, 2007
Saturday, July 14, 2007
In past sessions, we have seen how Jesus is a master of the art of metanoia, going into the larger mind, or, in other words, a radical change of consciousness that sustains unlimited love. The parable of the vineyard in Matthew 20 can be seen as a litmus test on where you are on in terms of this consciousness, binary operating system or non-dual thinking. In essence, Jesus is holding up a mirror. How do you understand the story?
How do you shift your consciousness? What is the path? What is the way? This session concerns praxis—the practice, the things you do that bring about the metanoia consciousness.
Not all wisdom paths have the same methodology. Jesus is typical of the wisdom tradition in terms of the center or goal but the way he gets there is very different from other traditions’ paths. Jesus’ path was radical in his time and still is today. One of the problems with modern Western Christianity is that we have not seen how different Jesus’ path is from all others.
Paul used the word kenosis, Greek for self-emptying, to describe the path, in Philippians 2:9-16. “Have in yourself the same mind as Christ.” Everything Jesus did, he did by self-emptying. In whatever life circumstance, Jesus responded with this same motion, descending. It is counter-intuitive to our cultural understanding of spiritual seeking: the way to God is generally an ascent, upwards. Think of Jacob’s ladder. Ascent mysticism was very much current in the time of Jesus, such as in the Essene community. Perhaps this powerful image of spirituality is built into the archetypal make up of our mind.
Ascent requires energy. Most wisdom traditions focus on the collection, concentration, or conservation of life energy, for example, chi, prana. This concentration of energy is at the basis of most asceticism in the service of inner transformation. Containing, strengthening strategies of fasting, meditation, etc., work. Self-mastery sustains contact with higher frequencies of the divine life. Powerful path to the center of being. The more ancient path of inner transformation.
But there is another route to the center: giving being away freely, extravagantly. This is Jesus’ way. It is revolutionary in Jesus’ time and ours.
Modern stories and dramas illustrate this path. “The Gift of the Magi” by O. Henry describes how the free squandering of possessions makes manifest what love looks like. “Babette’s Feast,” a movie based on a story by Isak Dinesen, is another example of how extravagant generosity mirrors what God’s love is like.
The goal of ascent mysticism is union; the kenotic path’s goal is self-disclosure. It shows what God is like. Mystical theologians say that this is how the world was created. Karl Broner: God was prodigal in creating the world.
This poem of Rumi describes best the path of kenosis:
Love is recklessness, not reason.
Reason seeks a profit.
Love comes on strong, consuming herself, unabashed.
Yet in the midst of suffering, love proceeds on like a millstone,
hard surfaced and straightforward.
Having died to self-interest, she risks everything and asks nothing.
Love gambles away every gift God bestows.
Jesus’ idea of dying to self does not mean self-denial; instead it is this extravagant giving away of self. John the Baptist’s followers were shocked by Jesus’ behavior. He hung out with the questionable people and lived in a most un-ascetic way. He kept breaking out the box of the law and bothered the Pharisees. He affronted even his disciples by his free-wheeling generosity. Think of the story of the woman with the alabaster jar who anointed his feet with oil. What the Laborers in the Vineyard and the Prodigal Son stories have in common is this extravagant, unreasonable generosity. (It frightens people.) Recall the story of the five loaves and fishes. Jesus had been in search of some peace and quiet before he was called to both teach and feed; responding to that call became his prayer. He faced his death with anguish, again characteristic of the kenotic path. But finally he came to the point of trusting his spirit to God.
Jesus may not have been the first or the only teacher of the kenotic path but it was revolutionary in his time and place. The first time that anything of this teaching had been seen in Jesus’ time and world. Even his disciples could not stay with it. They’d catch it and lose it. Paul struggles to hang onto it. Jesus’ followers keep going back to more familiar models.
One group of people really got it. A wisdom school developed in Capedocia in the 4th century. Gregory of Nyssa and Basil of Caesarea created an image of the trinity in which the father poured himself into the son; the son poured himself into the spirit; the spirit poured herself into the father. They used the word kenosis to describe these mutual outpourings. The trinity is an icon of this self emptying that goes around in a wheel. They called the wheel parachoresis, or “the dance around.” This is how God moves, how God shows what love is like. The constant dance around of emptying is like a water wheel, generating love manifest.
What are the implications for living the Jesus path? Self-emptying may look like a pointless sacrifice. But the trinity assures us that no act of kenosis is ever isolated. All kenosis is connected to parachoresis, the ultimate act of self-transcendence and connects us to God manifested. Divine love is endless and infinite and will always come to us, if we don’t cling. As we practice it in our lives through acts of kindness and compassion, something is born out of self-emptying—what God looks like mirrored in our deepest and most real face.
This poem, left by the body of a dead child in Ravensbruck concentration camp, shows us the mystery of kenosis:
Remember not only the men and women
Of good will, but also those of ill will.
But do not remember all the suffering they inflicted on us;
Remember the fruits we have bought, thanks to
This suffering—our comradeship,
Our loyalty, our humility, our courage,
Our generosity, the greatness of heart
Which has grown out of all this, and when
They come to judgment let all the fruits
Which we have borne be their forgiveness.
Thursday, July 12, 2007
Tuesday, July 10, 2007
Human rights as the center of foreign policy
I am a believer in human rights as a pillar of good foreign policy. This is not to say I am a pacifist. Just as standing up to a bully may require violence, so does aggressively defending human beings from the brutality of dictatorships. When a murderer gets into power, I believe that doing nothing is actively protecting their power.
Here are examples of major human rights violations in this century. What is the Christian thing to do when faced with them? How do we act knowing we are our brother’s keeper?
1915-1918 Armenia 1930s Russia
1940s Germany , late 1970s Cambodia 1994 Rwanda 1990s Bosnia under Saddam Hussein 1980s-90s Iraq
- Sudan 2000s
In each case, brutal regimes acted in outrageous ways to murder many people. In some cases, the desire for peace caused muddled action or inaction. In other cases, military action was taken to end genocide. Non violent social action is not an effective weapon against these evils. I criticized president Clinton for not acting in
Military action to get Saddam Hussein was good
I have no doubt that had the Americans not invaded
I have heard people say that if we avoided the current war, the Iraqi people would not suffer and die in the numbers they are now. To this I reply - what if we had taken out Saddam before the Iran-Iraq war? How many hundreds of thousands of lives would we have saved if we had taken a stand against brutal dictatorship and prevented that war?
I also believe it is probable that Saddam, had he stayed in power, would have started another war with his neighbors. Regimes like his don't stay peaceful long. How many lives have we saved by preventing Saddam’s next war?
And - most importantly - how many lives might we save if would-be dictators think twice about their actions knowing that the world may intervene in defense of human rights?
The action to remove Saddam was a good step in defense of human rights.
Why I don’t support the president
Of course it is obvious that human rights is not the center of the current president’s foreign policy. One need only point out the lack of accountability for the Abu Ghraib atrocities to see this as fact.
I am in the awkward position of agreeing that Saddam should have been taken out, but not supporting the policies of this president who ordered the invasion. (I am joined by people such as reporter Tom Friedman in this awkward position.) I believe the president lied to me about the WMD evidence. I believe he lied to me about the connection between
I am not writing to defend a liar. I am writing because I believe our troops should not leave
We should remain in
How can military force be a moral defense of human rights?
Using violence in defense of human rights is the great moral hazard of my argument. I understand this and don't shy away from it. It is a very high risk and is fraught with peril.
However, one can frame the question more in terms of standing up to injustice. Non-violence is a key tool to use. But it is not the only tool available. When standing up to vicious dictatorships, violence will happen regardless. The only question is what we are willing to do about it.
Are we the world's policemen?
If we are to intervene militarily as I suggest, are we going to get involved in every terrible conflict in the world? No, that is just not possible. But because we cannot do everything does not mean we should do nothing. Because we will certainly make mistakes and misunderstand doesn't mean we should not try. We are our brother’s keeper and I support our continued military presence in Iraq.
Monday, July 9, 2007
Steve & I have just arrived here following a wonderful week camping in Acadia National Park. The weather was delightfully cool - a lovely change from the heat of NC in July! We were with old friends and did a lot of fabulous hikes, took a sailboat ride, and spent one day biking on the carriage road system that crisscrosses the lovely scenery of this glorious place. Birding was excellent here as well and Steve was especially excited by the spottings of a pair of immature Bard owls, a pair of loons, and an immature eagle.
Prior to leaving for Acadia, Steve spent several days at the Synod in Hartford and was quite inspired by the experience. He especially liked listening to Bill Moyer speak, as well as Barack Obama. He also got to spend a day there with his former mentor, Pastor Win Nelson, and his wife and was very grateful to have the time to do that.
We will be here on the Cape now for the next two weeks. While we are here we will be visiting with some folks from our former church in Albuquerque who will also be here for a few days. That will be a nice treat and we'll get to catch up on the happenings in the southwest.
We hold our church family at CUCC in our thoughts and prayers during this time when we are away from you.
Marcy & Steve
Saturday, July 7, 2007
Encountering the Wisdom Jesus by Cynthia Bourgeault
Session 4: The Path of Metanoia
What does repentance mean? Bourgeault posits that it means “to move beyond the mind” to see the world from a perspective of wholeness, instead of the conventional “reality” of separation, difference, and selfishness (AKA the binary operating system). In fact, the heart of the message of Jesus concerns getting into the larger, unitive mind. How do we do it? What is it all about? What does it look like? In this session, we experience the familiar teachings of Jesus through the lens of Wisdom teachings about inner transformation.
The Beatitudes. These are the most densely packed teachings of Jesus. They are nine little sayings that summarize his teaching in a nutshell. Bourgeault presents a Wisdom interpretation of the first seven Beatitudes.
Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven. From a Wisdom perspective, this means, “blessed are those with an inner attitude of receptivity to the spirit, for they are capable of receiving wisdom.” This point is illustrated by a Zen story about the student who wants to be accepted by a master teacher. As the student describes all his learning and accomplishment, the master pours tea into a cup. He continues pouring even as the cup overflows. Eventually the student notices, giving the master the opportunity to make the point that the student’s cup is overflowing, how can I possibly teach you?
Remember that teaching of Thomas Merton—“at the center of our being is a point of pure nothingness.” Only through the gate of emptiness can we enter the higher non-egoic mind.
Blessed are they that mourn for they shall be comforted. Here Jesus is talking about vulnerability and flow. Mourning is a state of open heartedness to the deeper meanings in life. When we are in that state, something can comfort us. Again, a state of inner emptiness must exist before transformation of consciousness can happen.
Blessed are the meek for they shall inherit the earth. According to Bourgeault, a better translation for “meek” is “gentle,” or even better, “gentled, domesticated.” In other words, only when we have tamed the aggressiveness of our human nature (that is the binary operating system), can we inherit the earth and live abundantly.
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness for they shall be satisfied. A Wisdom interpretation of this beatitude turns on the meaning of righteousness: not virtue but a state of being in the presence of God. It refers to a hunger for being centered in and connected to God. And as you yearn, you will be filled. When you can feel the hunger, it shall be filled. The most valuable thing we have is our yearning for God; the yearning itself connects us to God.
Blessed are the merciful for they shall obtain mercy. As we step into the flow of compassion, we enter transformed consciousness. Indeed, unitive consciousness thinks thru compassion (mercy).
Blessed are those whose heart is pure for they shall see God. Again, purity of heart is not necessarily virtuousness in a moral sense. In wisdom teaching, purity means singleness. The pure heart is not divided. It wants one thing only. When the heart becomes whole, you see God—that is, you see with the eyes of the unitive consciousness. (How we make the heart whole is the subject of next teaching session.)
Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called the Children of God. When our hearts are gentled we become peacemakers. We no longer separate people into “us” and “them.” We see with singleness and compassion.
The Beatitudes, then, call us to a radical transformation of consciousness: openness to a poverty of experience and willingness to domesticate the violence in our hearts. They are akin to the Dalai Lama’s teaching of making lovingkindness the heart and soul of your being.
Parables as Wisdom teachings. Parables are like Zen koans, stories that intend to turn the mind upside down and push us into new ways of thinking about things. John Dominic Crossen and Brandon Scott are two contemporary Biblical scholars who realized that the parables are subversive stories.
The Good Samaritan sounds like the story of a do-gooder. The subversive nature of this story may be missed because of the loss of the cultural context. The beaten man was a Jew, one of the chosen people; the helper was a Samaritan, one of a despised group of people. Jesus is upsetting the apple cart: do you really know who is righteous and who is not righteous? The story is a challenge to the part of us that is quick to judge; to see ourselves are meritorious.
The Prodigal Son story is even more radical. The older son is upset by his father’s compassion for the prodigal son; he has been “righteous” all along. The point of the parable is that the binary operation system is always stuck in judgment; insists on keeping score. The story challenges the basic structures and assumptions about ourselves that keeps the binary operating system in place. Sit with the story to see yourself in all three persons in the story—use it as a tool for self-transformation.
Nicodemus, (John 2:23-3:15). The Pharisee Nicodemus is split: he sees something in Jesus that intrigues him but he doesn’t want to risk his position in society, so he goes to see Jesus by night. When he asks about the signs that Jesus performs, Jesus tells him he must be born again. It seems like a crazy response to his questions! This common thread in the parables—the element of subversiveness—is meant to destabilize the mind. To Bourgeault, Jesus’ teachings are meant to lead one around the linear brain and its egoic programs to enter the new consciousness.
The Hard Sayings of Jesus. These are found in the later chapters of Matthew and Luke. They are the teachings that can’t be shoe horned into our conventional understanding of who Jesus was.
In Matthew 25:1-13, Jesus tells the story of the Wise and Foolish Virgins, or bridesmaids waiting for the bridegroom. Five have remembered oil for their lamps but the other five have forgotten it. Those with the oil refuse to share with the others. What does it mean? Doesn’t Jesus teach us to share? From a wisdom perspective, Jesus is teaching about inner transformation. The five with the oil cannot give it away; oil is symbolic of something that has to be forged in a person. It cannot be given; it cannot be taken. You cannot become conscious unconsciously. You have to do it for yourself.
In Luke 14:25-33, Jesus tells his followers that they cannot be disciples without turning their backs on their family. We have to be wise and calculating. You cannot be sentimentally identified with any conventional value, including family values. Otherwise, you will not be free to accept the new consciousness. Bourgeault calls these sophiological teachings in a soteriological gospel—they stand out like a sore thumb.
The Gospel of Thomas (found at Nag Hammadi) supports the wisdom understanding of Jesus. Initially scholars threw it out as inauthentic and decided it was gnostic. But it was discovered to be quite old, as older than those in the canon. It is profoundly in the sophiological tradition. It is without narrative, a collection of Jesus’ sayings only.
There are 114 Sayings in the Gospel of Thomas, some of which overlap with what is in the canon. These teachings are in the wisdom tradition calling for personal transformation of consciousness. Bourgeault likes Lynn Bauman’s version of the Gospel of Thomas which includes commentary on the sayings.
#69: Blessed are all those persecuted right into the depths of the heart, for in the heart will they come to know their true father and source. Blessed are the hungry ones, their inner longings will be satisfied.
#70: When you give birth to that which is within yourself, what you bring forth will save you. If you possess nothing within, that absence will kill you.
#97: The father’s realm is like a woman carrying a jarful of meal. While she is walking on a path some distance from her home, the handle of her jar breaks and the meal spills out behind her on the road. She is unaware of the problem for she has noticed nothing. When she reaches her home and opens the door, she puts the jar down and suddenly she discovers it is empty.
These may be unsettling, troubling teachings but also are profoundly hopeful in the sense that our heart does know them on its deepest level. The path of transformation is considered more in the next teaching session, “Kenosis, the Path of Self-Emptying Love.”
Thursday, June 28, 2007
Session Three: The Kingdom of Heaven is Within You
What did Jesus actually teach? How often do you consider the teachings as a whole? Over familiarity with Jesus in our culture may get in the way of appreciating Jesus’ teaching. One Texas theologian remembers Sunday School teaching: Jesus is nice and he wants us to be nice too.
Bourgeault recommends the book: Putting on the Mind of Christ: The Inner Work of Christian Spirituality, Jim Marion (Charlottesville, Va.: Hampton Roads, 2000). Title is direct quote from St. Paul. The tendency to relate to Jesus through belief is characteristic of Western Christianity. But it was not necessarily the emphasis of the early church. Moreover, relating to Jesus through beliefs is not necessarily the only way for us today. The central challenge that Jesus offered was finding a new way of seeing the world and in “right practice.”
How do we put on the mind of Christ? Marion notices that Jesus repeatedly describes his teaching as the “kingdom of heaven.” It is a foundational idea. What is the kingdom of heaven? Biblical scholars have debated it for centuries. Not where you go when you die. Jesus says the kingdom of heaven is at hand; it is within you. Not later, but “lighter.”
The kingdom is not an earthly, political utopia, either. Jesus specifically denied it in his day. He said the kingdom of heaven is not of this world.
Marion suggests that the kingdom of heaven is a code word for a state of consciousness, a new way of looking at the world with non-dual, or unitive, consciousness. Earmarks of non-dual consciousness are no separation between God and humans, or between humans and humans. All is one. Two core teachings.
Jesus describes a complete mutual indwelling: God in us, we are in God, we are in each other. I am the vine, you are the branches (The Gospel of John). Mutual abiding: whole and part live together in mutual, loving reciprocity.
No separation between human and human: Love your neighbor as yourself. We often hear it wrong. Not “as much as.” “As” means “the same.” Your neighbor is you. No competition between people who are in a sense “one.”
Jim Marion uses language pioneered by philosopher Ken Wilber: human beings live on a continuum of consciousness.
Jesus as a master of non-dual consciousness, calling people to that transformed consciousness. Kingdom of heaven is what you see when you see from that unitive consciousness and life lived from that consciousness.
Computer metaphors help us understand what this all means. We come into existence with a certain operating system but have the opportunity to “upgrade.” Our original operating system is a binary operating system. Built into the structure of our brain. Ability to stand outside ourselves with a self-reflective consciousness. Subject/object oriented. We experience ourselves as persons with distinct attributes, not like the other. We experience others as outside ourselves. We think in terms of discriminating differences between objects and people. We experience ourselves as distinct, unique persons, different from every other person. We experience others as outside ourselves. We think in dualities, good versus bad, up versus down, etc.
Each one of us is at the hub at the center of this perception of dualism. But it is a mirage, an illusion, per most wisdom traditions. There is no ego, separate from everything else. The perception of separation is a function of the binary operating system.
Jesus suggests that you can upgrade your operating system. Most people get stuck in the binary operating system. But we have the capacity to upgrade, it is also programmed, in latency, into us: the non-dual, unitive system. Bourgeault likes to call it the operating system of the heart. (In contrast, the binary system operates thru the brain.) Not separating, does not make distinctions.
Transformation of the mind means upgrading to heart awareness. Heart is not necessarily the emotional center. Heart is an organ of inner alignment, perception of the world as well as of the spirit. Heart picks up reality in a more profound way than does the brain.
Sufi teacher Kabir Helminski (Living Presence: A Sufi Guide to Mindfulness and the Essential Self, New York: Tarcher/Putnam, 1992):
"We have subtle subconscious faculties we are not using. In addition to the limited analytic intellect is a vast realm of mind that includes psychic and extrasensory abilities; intuition; wisdom; a sense of unity; aesthetic, qualitative, and creative capabilities; and image-forming and symbolic capacities. Though these faculties are many, we give them a single name with some justification because they are operating best when they are in concert. They comprise a mind, moreover, in spontaneous connection to the cosmic mind. This total mind we call 'heart.'”
The heart is an instrument that can pick of signals from all sorts of sources. Heart is super-rational; picks up all kinds of information. Wisdom traditions see the heart as an organ of spiritual alignment, like a GPS (God-Positioning System). Allows us to go beyond the obvious and to pick up on things unseen as well as what can be perceived by the senses.
Heart is not based on separation. It perceives by means of harmony. Heart awareness is “upgrade of the operating system.” Sees from a perspective of non-duality. No separation between God and Human; no separation between human and human. A whole new way of seeing and being.
A new way of seeing the teachings of Jesus and possibilities for the followers of Jesus. Metanoia, Greek word that “repentance” translates: Going into the larger mind, the “butterfly” mind. She attributes this insight to Marcus Borg.
Jesus calls us to see with the mind of the heart.
Centering prayer is an exercise in repentance, of going into the larger mind. Jesus is the master of repentance, that what allows us to go into the larger mind.
This transformation is illustrated by the parable in Matthew 20, the laborers in the vineyard, one of the hardest parables to understand. You cannot understand the parable if you hear it with binary mind; the owner seems to act unfairly. You must shift your operating system to a more unitive consciousness to see that the owner is acting out of a place of abundance; there is enough for everyone. It represents a whole new way of seeing.
A hint of what Jesus is up to; he is trying to “fry our mental sockets,” to show us a whole new way of being. Until this mind shift has taken place, it is impossible to live the gospel. Jesus was probably the first in the Near East to model this non-dual teaching. We live with hypocrisy and burnout because of the gap between our beliefs and the teaching of Jesus. Very few people have been able to live in the heart consciousness.
Jesus does give us a path and future sessions discuss this path.
Next session: The Path of Metanoia, looking at the Beatitudes, the parable of the Good Samaritan, and the hard sayings of Jesus.
Sunday, June 24, 2007
Debate: Do you keep the crosses and add to them OR does each youth group decorate the half wall in a new way?
Thursday, June 21, 2007
Wednesday, June 20, 2007
Notes on Encountering the Wisdom Jesus
Audio Course by Cynthia Bourgeault
Session One: Jesus as a recognition event (June 10)
Our task is meeting Jesus through insight, not hindsight. This series presents a new take on Jesus, as Wisdom master.
What do we believe about Jesus? In Western Christianity, we tend to focus on who he was, what he did. For example, from the Nicene Creed:
We believe in one Lord, Jesus Christ, the only Son of God, eternally begotten of the Father, God from God, Light from Light, true God from true God, begotten, not made, of one Being with the Father.
Through him all things were made. For us and for our salvation he came down from heaven: by the power of the Holy Spirit he became incarnate from the Virgin Mary, and was made man.
For our sake he was crucified under Pontius Pilate; he suffered death and was buried. On the third day he rose again in accordance with the Scriptures; he ascended into heaven and is seated at the right hand of the Father.
He will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead, and his kingdom will have no end.
Bourgeault points out that we live the Christian life with hindsight—we know how the story comes out. This is the primary way in which we approach Jesus, that is, through what we believe about him.
However, all this knowing about Jesus gets in the way of living our Christianity. It gives us a false sense of security that we would recognize Jesus if he were to appear before us. Moreover, hindsight prevents us from finding and using the key tool to find and live the path and to connect with this person Jesus.
We may have a window of opportunity. Mainstream Christianity is breaking down. It is marked by conflict and polarity.
Recent scholarly discoveries give us new information about gospels.
Paradigm shift: What is it that we mean by Christianity? Who is this master in whom we profess belief?
Jesus as a Wisdom teacher. Wisdom is an ancient tradition, not limited to one particular religious expression but at the headwaters of all the great sacred paths. One of the greatest losses in our Christian West has been the loss of memory about our own Wisdom heritage. Wisdom is concerned with the art and science of the transformation of the whole human being from our animal instincts and egocentricity into loving and compassion.
GK Chesterton: Christianity is not a failure, it has just not been tried yet.
Brief bio of Cynthia Bourgeault, Episcopal priest, writer, retreat leader. One of the first 100 women ordained in the Episcopal Church. She calls herself a Contemplative—spiritual practice of meditation, silent prayer, lectio divina. It is through practice that she has come to learn what she knows. She is a student of the wisdom tradition across other cultures and religions.
Through this work she has come to see Jesus as teacher of the path of inner transformation. Emphasis on paying attention to what he taught. How we can walk the path.
She is a seeker. Most important thing she had to learn was not what to seek but how to seek. Raised as Christian Science but educated in Quaker schools. This nurture pit mental discipline against the experience of the presence of God in silence. Quakerism did not give instruction: silence assumed to be natural. Could not reconcile the two streams of knowing. Crisis came in the death of a family friend when she was age 12. Experienced a consolation—realized that something in her KNEW and recognized the voice of truth when she heard it.
Problem with living the story in hindsight—dulls the knowing.
Imagine you are there by the Sea of Galilee. How do you know who Jesus is? He looks like anybody else. You are thrust onto your own naked knowing. What in you recognizes Jesus, if indeed you are able?
Fr. Bruno Barnhart, monk, mentor to Cynthia, prior of Camaldolese monastery in Big Sur, California. (Second Simplicity: The Inner Shape of Christianity. Mahwah, NJ: Paulist Press, 1999.) Key piece is recognition energy—the Gospels are based on it. One person after another encounters and recognizes Jesus: John 1 narrative of the awakening of meeting Jesus. The blind man on the road to Jerico, father of the paralytic boy, centurion with sick servant. We feel the breakthrough of light, the wave front of wonder. Who is this person? Who do you say I am? What in you recognizes?
Would it make any difference for you if Jesus did not rise from the dead? For the first disciples, they did not know the outcome of crucifixion and resurrection. What caused them to say yes to Jesus?
The story of the Samaritan woman at the well (John 4). It is an odd story: Jews did not normally speak to Samaritans. Notice the mutual boldness—Jesus sees something in her; she challenges him in return. She “catches” it, she follows him—there is a heart to heart connection and inner seeing. Mutual recognition that empowers each other to greater disclosure of the truth. First time in the Gospel that Jesus reveals himself to another. She finds knowing in her heart, belief grows in nature of the heart connection between the two of them.
Jesus as a mirror of her true self.
People who left Jesus learned about him through what others said about him; those who remained encountered Jesus through the heart. Luminosity of true being—in each one of us; our paraclete, our guide; built into us when we were born.
Thomas Merton, “A Member of the Human Race.”
At the center of our being is a point of nothingness which is untouched by sin and by illusion, a point of pure truth, a point or spark which belongs entirely to God, which is never at our disposal, from which God disposes of our lives, which is inaccessible to the fantasies of our own mind or the brutalities of our own will. This little point of nothingness and of absolute poverty is the pure glory of God in us. It is so to speak His name written in us, as our poverty, as our indigence, as our dependence, as our sonship. It is like a pure diamond, blazing with the invisible light of heaven. It is in everybody, and if we could see it we would see these billions of points of light coming together in the face and blaze of a sun that would make all the darkness and cruelty of life vanish completely. I have no program for this seeing. It is only given. But the gate of Heaven is everywhere.
Beginning point of the seeking journey is in the mutual recognition of the point of pure truth in each one of us. It keeps us safe. You may have found it in yourself.
She will recommend Lectio Divina as a way of seeking; it is a practice of reading scripture in a way that lets the truth enter your heart.
Purpose to reframe old teachings, challenge you to think about them in new ways, ponder, grow in depth, meet the risen Jesus in a deeper place within yourself. Also, to open some fresh space to allow your real imaginations and faith questions to breathe.
Gospel of Thomas:
Those who seek should not stop seeking until they find. When they find, the will be disturbed. When they are disturbed, they will marvel, and will reign over all. (The Gospel of Thomas, 2.)
“If you are searching you must not stop until you find. When you find, however, you will become troubled. Your confusion will give way to wonder. In wonder you will reign overall things. Your sovereignty will be your rest.”
Seek with full heart and trust in the goodness of the path, what we find will be real gold.
Session Two: Jesus in Context. (June 17)
Setting the stage: Jesus was a Near Eastern event and its influence radiated in all directions—taken west by Paul, to Turkey, Rome and the rest of Europe; but also to Africa and, from there, up to France and the Celtic lands; east, to Persia, India and even China; and, very significantly, to what are now the Islamic lands. Therefore, there are several streams of Jesus teachings, each with its own flavor.
Even as recently as 50 years ago, we enjoyed a much simpler picture of Jesus. We thought of what is in the Bible as orthodox. But remember, the Bible was not always with us. Canonical format in 4th century. What was in was orthodox; what was not, non-orthodox. We did not think about other kinds of Christianities: Syriac, Nestorians, Orthodox. We called these traditions Gnostic—we have been trained to think of it as non-orthodox.
What we thought of as orthodox was seen through a western filter—really Roman. This view tends to confuse unity with uniformity. In this course, we start the journey by realizing that we have filters that skew and distort knowledge about Wisdom Jesus.
Orthodox means “right praise”, not “right doctrine.” Early Christians saw that we’d never all believe the same thing. What holds us together is worshiping together. In the West we have lost the inner tolerance of early Christianity. We need to get back to this place in our thinking about Jesus.
In the past 50 years, new materials that have forced us to reevaluate. 4 streams of new knowledge:
First, we have the discovery of new primary materials, particularly the Nag Hammadi codex—collection of new texts used as sacred scriptures in the early Christian church (first 5 centuries) found at the end of WWII in a field in Egypt. Smuggled out of Egypt and assessed—determined to have been buried in the 5th century by a monks when there was a shift in what was viewed as canonical. They are gospels and gospel fragments, in particular, the Gospel of Thomas—radically new take on Jesus.
Second, there are the Syriac studies. Scholars have scraped below the surface of texts and practices in Syrian churches, to find living memories and oral traditions of Christianity before Islam, particularly the rite of baptism. Preserved memory of Jesus and Christian practices, very different from Western tradition. In the West Jesus is seen as a rescuer; in the Eastern church, Jesus is seen as the life giver. Ihedia-the one who came to initiate people into light.
Third, finding of Qumran scrolls. Not Christian practice. Mystical Judaic practices, particularly Essenes. Jesus was a Jew. These mystical practices were background for his development. What he taught was in the apocalyptic teachings of this stream.
Finally, recovery of Christianity’s contemplative tradition. Simple ways of recapturing practices of centering prayer, Christian meditation. Thomas Keating. Dom John Main, Benedictine scholar. 200,000 Christians meditating. Fastest way to put us in contact with inner knowing of the heart. Turns off the mind with its 20/20 hindsight. Contact with stream of knowing in the heart, experience the wisdom master. Opens up a different way of knowing—epinoia (vs dianoia) We are learning the process again. Helps us to take advantage of the new sources on Jesus event.
What emerges from this different picture?
Soteriology—savior—Western Christianity: Jesus died for our sins, rescued us. Largely the spin put on the Jesus event by Paul. Paul’s story—worried about something in his being that was imperfect. Had a conversion experience on the road to Damascus—picked up, saved into joy and a new beginning. What he took out to the West, Turkey and Rome. Increased as it worked thru filters of St. Augustine—emphasis on keeping meticulously to a particular path. Amplified thru the medieval church, Calvinism. Emphasis on original sin; people are evil.
Sophiology—Christianity of the East—Wisdom teaching. Jesus as a master of consciousness. The unified one—I hediah—Jesus came to teach a path to becoming Enlightened Ones. Emphasis on the path, how Jesus was like us, we can do what he did. As I am, you can become. Ideas that come back to us from other traditions.
What is said about him in the West—not the primary thing in the rest of Christianity. Instead how he can help us become like him.
Near Eastern Context—master of wisdom is a recognized category. In immediate Judaic tradition, priests and prophets. A third category, the moshel, the one who taught the ancient Wisdom practice.
Other traditions, transformation of the human being. We are victims of a tragic case of mistaken identity. Small self vs the larger self—the butterfly inside our caterpillar. To become the butterfly we must recognize that we are something else. We need practices to aid in our transformation. Jesus was a wisdom teacher.
How do we know he was a wisdom teacher? He taught in parables, meshal. A wisdom genre. Parable is not a wise saying. It is like a koan. A story that works with your mind to push you from a small understanding to something bigger. Not a priest, nor a prophet. How the human can die, lose the little life to find bigger one, live abundantly. A recognized tradition in the near Eastern world. A person walking as friend and brother who taught people to recognize wisdom from the center of their being.
Sufism is the closest analogue to what Jesus did and taught.
The Cosmopolitan Jesus
Jesus was not an uneducated hick. (To think that he was strengthens the Western case that Jesus came directly from God). He was sophisticated and culturally interactive.
Galilee was not Jerusalem. Galilee was on the Silk Road, viaduct of human culture, connecting East and West.
Jesus was exposed to a variety of ideas, the cutting edge of teachings from China, and elsewhere.
According to scripture Jesus could read (Luke 4:16). He probably spoke several languages, Aramaic, Hebrew, Greek, and Latin. He certainly received some religious training or apprenticeship, perhaps Essene—Jewish ascetic, mystical sect. John the Baptist may have been Essene. Jesus may have been exposed to it.
He was a master of wisdom, not just a teacher. Look at his teachings. He used familiar teachings and added a new twist to them, to push things further.
Example in Luke 6:27-38—Love your enemies and do good to them.
Ask and it will be given, seek and you will find---familiar teaching. In Thomas 2, seeking and finding is the beginning. When you find, your boxes will be broken (paradigm shift) resolve when you give way to wonder. You will begin to grasp mastery and that only will bring you to rest.
His teaching was more powerful than that of other teachers. Not proverbs for daily living. Program for transformation of the human consciousness.