Monday, May 23, 2011

Judgment Day

Dear Urban Abbey members and friends:

When I read Steve Garnaas-Holmes mediation below, it literally brought tears to my eyes. I don’t fancy myself as particularly emotional, but the words and picture of our God that Steve crafted were overpowering. The reminder that God loves us SO MUCH that we are not judged, but accepted as we are [warts and all]…and loved is very powerful.

The thought that Good Friday was our Judgment Day is one that I had not considered before. I am sinful, but I am God’s…in fact God sent God’s Son to suffer horribly and assure me that I am loved…for always. God’s judgment is to be merciful and all-loving to us. Through that never ending love, God continues to call each of us into a deeper relationship with God. When we fall or fail to live up to that love, God invites us to not give up, but, with the reassurance of God’s love, to pick ourselves up and continue to work at being the person God is calling each of us to be.

My task is to never forget that love, to never give up on God…God certainly will never give up on me (or you)!

Shalom, George
Dearly Beloved,

Grace and Peace to you.

You've heard about the nut that's predicting Judgment Day this Saturday. (He seems pretty smug that he's going to Pass.) Well, he's right. He's delusional and his biblical scholarship is whacked. “About that day and hour no one knows, neither the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father” (Mt. 24.36). But he's right. This Saturday, May 21, is Judgment Day.

In fact every day is. God's judgment is not the Finals in which God eventually reveals the Judge's Scores that have been kept secret up until then. God's judgment is simply God's truth about us. That truth includes who we really are, and the nature of what we've done. It isn't some worldly grading of good versus bad culminating in a thumbs-up-or-down, heaven-or-hell Elimination Round. Because God's truth about us is not separate from God's love for us, we are not separate from God. So God's judgment is that we are beloved, forgiven and precious. Screwed up, to be sure, but God's anyway, and not just begrudgingly. God doesn’t just tolerate us. God actually loves us. And God's love for us outweighs every other characteristic about us, including our sinfulness.

Technically, Judgment day isn't this Saturday; it was Good Friday. That was the day God issued God's Judgment: You are sinful, and saved. Case dismissed. So we don't have to wait until Some Day to stand before God: we live before God every moment, and every moment God reveals the truth about us: “Oh, you are sinful, all right. You are worse than you think. But you are mine, and I love you.”

Jesus said, “I do not judge anyone who hears my words and does not keep them, for I came not to judge the world, but to save the world.” (Jn. 12.47). He said, “This is judgment, that light has come into the world” (Jn. 3.19). And he also said, “And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate, to be with you forever” (Jn. 14.16). He talks about this “Advocate” in John 14, 15 and 16. The word in Greek, paraklete, means a defense attorney. God is not our judge; God is our defense attorney! It is the world that judges, that pretends to be able to separate out our good from our bad, and add it all up to one final Score. But the Spirit is our defense attorney, our advocate, the one who knows who we really are. God knows the various unseen forces that twist and distort us so that we are so susceptible to evil, so that we do evil when we think we're doing good, so that we can't see. And God sees the selfishness even in our piety. But God does not judge that by sorting it all out and labeling it. God judges us by subjecting us to mercy, loving us, and opening to us the possibility of being re-created.

Yep, Saturday is Judgment Day. But I'm not worried: so is Sunday.

Deep Blessings,
Pastor Steve
Steve Garnaas-Holmes
Unfolding Light

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Are We Being Called To Change?

(A Blog entry for our Urban Abbey blog, submitted by Anne Omelianowich)

Last Saturday, at the quarterly chapter meeting of The Urban Abbey, we prepared ourselves to select a new member of our leadership counsel. In doing so, we used a selection from Joan Chittister’s new book, Monasteries of The Heart. It challenged us to explore and support the gifts of each in conscious and committed ways.

‘Leaders’, Joan tells us, ‘must be an example to the community of its best self; open, loving, hospitable; committed to study of the Word; kind and understanding of the struggles we all face. The leader must point out all that is good and holy more by example than by words and must value the Gospel beyond public approval. The leader must be committed to the needs and growth of the community and even-handed in their love for the members. The leader must encourage us to be: a sign of the world to come, a bringer of peace, a haven for the homeless, the heart of the temple on the streets of the city, a light in the dark to those who seek peace and human community.’

As we meditated on these directives and shared our thinking in small ‘Listening Groups’, many came to realize that we honestly do not know all of our members in this way. There was a response of yearning to know all in the same way, to the same degree and within this vision. Many agreed that for the most part, those that we do know this well we have come to know within our Listening Groups over a period of time. Those that we have not had that shared experience with are those we know far less well.

We have asked the question in recent chapters concerning the reassignment of members within the Listening Groups, and it has met with resistance. The resistance came from very good reasons largely centered on the Benedictine rule of stability; but for the first time, in a long time, there seems to be a collective listening that hears that now is time for this change.

Another bit from the Monasteries of The Heart says that ‘the self-centered community carves out no new directions, risks no new questions, that might disturb the sleepy apathy that comes to anyone over time.’ With this bit of caution, I would ask us all to listen and consider if, at our next chapter meeting in September, it is the time to change our Listening Groups so that we might come to know, understand and appreciate one another more fully, enabling us to share and discover each other’s unique gifts. If we did know one another this well, what might we become as a community?

Faithfully, Anne Omelianowich