The mission of Squamish United Church is "To be an inclusive community serving God's world." As a church together we seek to love God and neighbour with all our heart, soul and mind. We hope this blog enriches you on your journey of life.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Why I'm Joining the Occupation - Brian McLaren

A Colleague sent me this article by Brian McLaren. I have found him to be a wise teacher in my life journey so I am sharing it with you now.

I'm in, and would encourage others to join the occupation. Not as a representative of your church or denomination, but as a human being, who is there to contribute and to learn.

By Brian McLaren, October 19, 2011

I never would have chosen the name "Occupy" to brand a movement. "The 99 Percent Movement" works a lot better for me. But I'm glad I didn't get to choose, because I notice the term "occupy" is kind of growing on me.

What I don't like about it: it sounds aggressive, like the (to me) ugly and unacceptable language of "taking back the country." For a movement to avoid violent actions, it needs to avoid violent rhetoric as well, as Jesus made clear in the Sermon on the Mount. And deeper than rhetoric, it needs to be careful with the narratives it taps into. A case in point: "taking back" (to me) walks the line of a revenge narrative, implying that the country used to be "ours" and "they" took it away. That scenario is problematic for a number of reasons, so I'd rather steer clear of that kind of thinking—and language—entirely.

A term like "occupy," then, must not be employed unadvisedly or lightly. Its strength must be tempered and its potential downsides managed. And so far, that seems to be happening (here in the U.S., at least).

I was thinking about all this last Saturday while I was participating in the local occupation. About 300 of us walked down the sidewalk on both sides of our little town's main street (we wouldn't all fit on one side). Occasionally some chanting broke out, but for most of the time, we marched in silence; I would use words like reverent and pregnant to describe it. (One observer described it as "charged with secret extremity and transcendence.")

As we walked along, I kept thinking about Jesus' use of the term "kingdom of God." I've been fascinated by the term for a while now, devoting a whole book to it in 2006 (and then revisiting it in a 2008 release). Like "occupy," kingdom of God was a dangerous term for a nonviolent movement. It borrowed the language of the Roman empire whose pax was maintained by slavery, militarism, public torture, and frequent executions (i.e., crucifixion). It was overtly provocative—bursting out of the private sphere of spirituality into the public world of kings, lords, and laws. It threw down a gauntlet before the powers that be, challenging their legitimacy with a higher authority.

If I had been around, I would have counseled Jesus' against using the term.

Once again, I'm glad I wasn't consulted. It's rather obvious now that Jesus knew what he was doing. "The occupation of God has begun" might inspire the same fear and hope among people today as "the Kingdom of God is at hand" inspired in the first century.

The term "occupy" is winning me over because it puts an ironic spin on one of our most questionable national habits—occupying other nations: occupying Iraq, occupying Afghanistan, supporting Israel in occupying Palestine. Like kingdom of God, it turns that familiar language on its head.

The term "occupy" is also winning me over because it's about presence, making our presence known and felt in public spaces. These public spaces—from economic markets to political processes—have been colonized by powerful corporate elites (the 1 percent, or maybe the 10 percent), elites driven not by an ethical vision but by the relentless demand to maximize shareholder return. The 99 percent are realizing how destructive this colonization of public spaces has become, and by simply coming back—by re-inhabiting public spaces—we are demonstrating that we see what's happening and we are not going to tacitly comply with its continuing.

After our local occupation last Saturday, a smaller group of us stayed around to hold an informal planning meeting. It was a good process . . . and reminded me of how different grassroots democracy looks when compared to public politics. Demonizing and vilifying the person you're sitting next to—it won't play. Neither will dominating and filibustering or attempting a "live" impromptu version of political attack ads. Learning to differ firmly and graciously, acknowledging the concerns of an alternate viewpoint, searching for common ground, asking for clarification rather than assuming the worst possible interpretation, agreeing to seek greater understanding through honest private conversation after the public gathering . . . these are among the skills and virtues needed to make grassroots democracy work. They are seldom demonstrated or even valued among our political elites. Could that tell us something about why the Occupy movement is needed?

Nobody knows how the movement will play out. Lots of folks will wait on the sidelines and maybe dip their toes in later on. But I'm in, and I would encourage others to join the occupation. I'd especially encourage Christian leaders to do so . . . not as a representative of your church or denomination, but as a human being . . . not to co-opt or control, but to contribute and to learn. As someone who's had a lot of control (more than I realized) for a lot of years, I'm finding it a wonderful gift to simply be a participant, one voice among many, learning and listening and learning some more.

Brian D. McLaren is an author, speaker, activist, and public theologian. A former college English teacher and pastor, he is an ecumenical global networker among innovative Christian leaders. Among McLaren's more prominent writings are A New Kind of Christian (2001), A Generous Orthodoxy (2006), Everything Must Change (2009), and A New Kind of Christianity (2010). His lastest book, Naked Spirituality, offers "simple, doable, and durable" practices to help people deepen their life with God.

McLaren's column, "Naked Theology," is published every Tuesday on the Progressive Christian portal. Subscribe via email or RSS.

The Season of Vulnerability

You may have begun to discover that the seasons of the year always speak to me. Autumn is one of my favourites because it speaks so clearly of the transitions of life and death and rebirth.

the season of vulnerability,
when the great arms of oak
stretch their summer leaves to the wild October winds.

all that has been life adn green
is stripped from strong trees,
and the tall, wide branches seem to be deathly wounded.

across the lawns in layers
lie the near-dead leaves;
onto the forest floors they fall as if to say: "all is lost."

this is the season of vulnerability
when trees open wide to wounding,
when all the summer security is given away to another season.

wiser are the trees than humans
who clutch small arms round self,
shielding their fragile hearts and stifling future springtimes.

Joyce Rupp (Fresh Bread pg. 128)

In a time where all of us are working in some sort of transitional ministry we are encouraged to look to the lessons of this season and pray that we may become wise like the trees and let go of what needs to die. Celebrating life like the trees celebrating the end of the lifespan of the leaves -bursting forth in an array of colours offering up a 'death-dance' to the ground. Rather than shielding our fragile hearts and boxing in the way our lives are to go and therefore stifling future springtimes.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Thursday, October 6, 2011

A Prayer for Autumn Days

A Prayer for Autumn Days

God of the seasons, there is a time for everything;
there is a time for dying and a time for rising.
We need courage to enter into the transformation process.

God of autumn, the trees are saying goodbye to their green,
letting go of what has been.
We, too, have our moments of surrender, with all their insecurity and risk.
Help us to let go when we need to do so.

God of fallen leaves lying in colored patterns on the ground,
our lives have their own patterns.
As we see the patterns of our own growth,
may we learn from them.

God of misty days and harvest moon nights,
there is always the dimension of mystery and wonder in our lives.
We always need to recognize your power-filled presence.
May we gain strength from this.

God of harvest wagons and fields of ripened grain,
many gifts of growth lie within the season of our surrender.
We must wait for harvest in faith and hope.
Grant us patience when we do not see the blessings.

God of geese going south for another season,
your wisdom enables us to know what needs to be left behind and what needs
to be carried into the future.
We yearn for insight and vision.

God of flowers touched with frost and windows wearing,
white designs,
may your love keep our herts from growing,
cold in the empty seasons.

God of life, you believe in us,
you enrich us, you entrust us with
the freedom to choose life.
For all this, we are grateful.

Joyce Rupp (May I have this dance)