New Life After Loss (John 21:1-12)

This is a portion of the message that I gave on resurrection Sunday, April 5, 2015

We have been reflecting on the theme of transformation this year, because as the elders spent time praying for the coming year, we knew God was inviting into deeper transformations as a community.

A lot has been said, and there is plenty more to say about our theme, but today is the day that the church worldwide stops and remembers that the kind of transformation we are talking about – both spiritually and societally – has resurrection as a necessary part of the process.

With every loss and every death there is always the possibility of new life. Continue reading New Life After Loss (John 21:1-12)

Memory of Love: Practicing Pregnant Absence

You are witnesses of these things. And see, I am sending upon you what my Father promised; so stay here in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high.”

Then he led them out as far as Bethany, and, lifting up his hands, he blessed them. While he was blessing them, he withdrew from them and was carried up into heaven. And they worshiped him, and returned to Jerusalem with great joy; and they were continually in the temple blessing God.” (Luke 24:48–53 NRSV)

The Interplay between Presence and Absence

Why should Jesus leave at all? Why have all these appearances at the end of John preparing his disciples for his departure, or this scene of Jesus being mysteriously whisked away in what is classically called the ascension?

I think it’s because his leaving was just as important as his coming.

Jesus knew that if he didn’t leave right there would be no way to sustain the movement that he began. He knew that until he left, his disciples would just remain students; In his leaving they would become the teachers.

In the Gospel of John Jesus said:

“Nevertheless I tell you the truth: it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Advocate will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you. (John 16:7)

But this is perspective, that it absence is as good as presence is a hard one to swallow in our day and age isn’t?

Availability and Unavailability

Our culture highly values presence. There are apps that you can use to log-in to stores, parks, and other locations you visit. There are plenty of ways to show photos from the places you travel and share them in ways that others feel like they are present with you on the trip. There are apps that measure your online presence and impact. And there is even an app called “presence” which monitors motion in your home while you are a way.

Could it be that presence is held almost to the point of idolatry? We prize availability far more than unavailability. Continue reading Memory of Love: Practicing Pregnant Absence

Peter’s Unfinished Love (John 21:15-23)

When they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon son of John, do you love me more than these?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Feed my lambs.”

(John 21:15 NRSV)

This week, as I was thinking about the sermon, I asked my kids if they had anything they thought I should preach about.

This is taking my discernment to a whole new level.

I don’t think they knew exactly what I was asking at first so we talked for a little bit until they finally settled on an idea: Inspector Gadget.

That’s right. They wanted me to preach a message on inspector gadget. One of my absolute favorite childhood cartoons and now that Netflix has recreated the show, it’s theirs too.

The appeal of gadget for me growing up was, well, all his gadgets. I would get my mom to buy my pants that had pockets everywhere, and I would keep trinkets in them. She’d call them my inspector gadget pants. That may be why I like to wear vests now. More pockets for more gear. Continue reading Peter’s Unfinished Love (John 21:15-23)

What Makes for a Good Remix?


What makes for a good remix? This is a question that comes up a lot when I present on themes related to my book, “A Convergent Model of Renewal: Remixing the Quaker Tradition in a Participatory Culture.” When we talk about how tradition can be revitalized and “remixed” within new cultures people ask how do we know that it is still a part of the same tradition?

Here are some basic thoughts on it.

  1. The original piece of art, sample, text, etc. is recognizable. The connection or reference to what the remix is drawing on is accessible those within that particular community.

  2. There is genuinely something new about the remix. It is clear that it is original in some way. And this originality often leverages the past, while shedding new light or a new perspective on the old in a truly innovative way.

  3. It works. Everything fits together in a new seamless production. There is a big difference between Lee Major in the “Six Million Dollar Man” and Frankenstein. The keys match, the beats line up. Whatever contradictions may have previously existed they are resolved within the new piece of art.

  4. It is participatory: it moves people on the dance floor. Another way to say this is that it is affirmed, as well as created, through a consensus process within the community that is directly affected by the remix. The community is invested in the outcome of what is created.

  5. It remains open to more remixes and modifications. It would be both tragic and ironic if a remix became proprietary, dogmatic and restricted under copyright. What is created through an open-ended process must seek to affirm further developments, remixes and new ways of sampling.

Download this sketchnote as a .pdf


Detachment by Anthony de Mello

DETACHMENT by Anthony de Mello

“The only way to change is by changing your understanding. But what does it mean to understand? How do we go about it? Consider how we’re enslaved by various attachments; we’re striving to rearrange the world so that we can keep these attachments, because the world is a constant threat to them. I fear that a friend may stop loving me; he or she may turn to somebody else. I have to keep making myself attractive because I have to get this other person. Somebody brainwashed me into thinking I need his or her love. But I really don’t. I don’t need anybody’s love; I just need to get in touch with reality. I need to break out of this prison of mine, this programming, this conditioning, these false beliefs, these fantasies; I need to break out into reality. Reality is lovely; it is an absolute delight. Eternal life is now. We’re surrounded by it, like the fish in the ocean, but we have no notion about it at all. We’re too distracted with this attachment. Temporarily, the world rearranges itself to suit our attachment, so we say, “Yeah, great! My team won!” But hang on; it’ll change; you’ll be depressed tomorrow. Why do we keep doing this?

Do this little exercise for a few minutes: Think of something or someone you are attached to; in other words, something or someone without which or without whom you think you are not going to be happy. It could be your job, your career, your profession, your friend, your money, whatever. And say to this object or person, “I really do not need you to be happy. I’m only deluding myself in the belief that without you I will not be happy. But I really don’t need you for my happiness; I can be happy without you. You are not my happiness, you are not my joy.” If your attachment is a person, he or she is not going to be very happy to hear you say this, but go ahead anyway. You can say it in the secrecy of your heart. In any case, you’ll, be making contact with the truth; you’ll be smashing through a fantasy. Happiness is a state of nonillusion, of dropping the illusion.”

“…I was afraid to say this, but I talked to God, and I told Him that I don’t need Him. My initial reaction was “This is so contrary to everything that I’ve been brought up with”. Now, some people want to make an exception of their attachment to God. They say, “If God is the God that I think He ought to be. He’s not going to like it when I give up my attachment to Him”! All right, if you think that unless you get God you’re not going to be happy, then this “God” you’re thinking of has nothing to do with the real God. You’re thinking of a dream state; you’re thinking of your concept. Sometimes you have to get rid of “God” in order to find God. Lots of mystics tell us that.”

Source: Detachment and Anthony de Mello – Paul Myers Pictures

Are You Still Here? Thoughts on Leave-Taking

After telling a friend of mine that my family and I would be leaving the NW in a few months for a job change, she offered solid wisdom I have hung onto:

“Do your best to pay attention to everything that is happening around, the emotions, the reactions, the people who reach out, those who back away, etc. You will learn more about yourself, and your ministry, and those you’ve been working with now more than ever.”

So I took this advice and put on my learning cap once again and have been paying attention as much as I can. I want to share three observations I am learning from during this practice of leaving-taking:

First, announcing a departure often comes as a shock. The decision for me to accept the job at Guilford came as a shock because many people didn’t know I was interviewing there. Not knowing this makes the decision appear somewhat rash or quickly made. It wasn’t but I can see why it appeared that way at first. Continue reading Are You Still Here? Thoughts on Leave-Taking