Ekklesia

Ekklesia

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Today is Monday, May 25, 2020. This is Sunday’s sermon. Yes, it is Monday. This really isn’t a sermon, since I have no congregation. Church has been virtual or fake or non-existent since we have been attacked by our governments. So I guess it doesn’t really matter if I preach a fake sermon to a fake congregation on the wrong day.

But if it were Sunday, May 24th, 2020, it would be Ascension Sunday, the Sunday to acknowledge the Prophet Jesus (peace be upon him) and his return to heaven. Next week, May 31st, 2020 is Pentecost, when we hear the story of the arrival of the Holy Spirit.

Here are the lectionary readings for May 24th. First, a reading from a translation of the Qur’an. This is from The Message of the Qur’an: Translated and Explained by Muhammad Asad. This is the promise of comfort to those suffering misfortune and hardship.

Qur’an 2:199-200 (The Message of the Qur’an: Translated and Explained by Muhammad Asad)
Do you think that you could enter paradise without having suffered like those [believers] who passed away before you? Misfortune and hardship befell them, and so shaken were they that the apostle, and the believers with him, would exclaim, “When will God’s succor come?”

O, verily, God’s succor is [always] near!

The first lectionary reading is from Acts. This is the story of Jesus’s (pbuh) ascension to heaven.

Acts 1:6-14
6 So when they had come together, they asked him, ‘Lord, is this the time when you will restore the kingdom to Israel?’ 7He replied, ‘It is not for you to know the times or periods that the Father has set by his own authority. 8But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.’ 9When he had said this, as they were watching, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight. 10While he was going and they were gazing up towards heaven, suddenly two men in white robes stood by them. 11They said, ‘Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking up towards heaven? This Jesus, who has been taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven.’

12 Then they returned to Jerusalem from the mount called Olivet, which is near Jerusalem, a sabbath day’s journey away. 13When they had entered the city, they went to the room upstairs where they were staying, Peter, and John, and James, and Andrew, Philip and Thomas, Bartholomew and Matthew, James son of Alphaeus, and Simon the Zealot, and Judas son of James. 14All these were constantly devoting themselves to prayer, together with certain women, including Mary the mother of Jesus, as well as his brothers.

The second lectionary text is from First Peter. This reading is most relevant to our current experience, in my opinion. Listen.

1 Peter 4:12-14; 5:6-11
12 Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal that is taking place among you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. 13But rejoice in so far as you are sharing Christ’s sufferings, so that you may also be glad and shout for joy when his glory is revealed. 14If you are reviled for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the spirit of glory, which is the Spirit of God, is resting on you.

6 Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, so that he may exalt you in due time. 7Cast all your anxiety on him, because he cares for you. 8Discipline yourselves; keep alert. Like a roaring lion your adversary the devil prowls around, looking for someone to devour. 9Resist him, steadfast in your faith, for you know that your brothers and sisters throughout the world are undergoing the same kinds of suffering. 10And after you have suffered for a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, support, strengthen, and establish you. 11To him be the power for ever and ever. Amen.

And finally, the gospel text is from John’s gospel. This is the prayer of Jesus (pbuh) for those who have been given to him.

John 17:1-11
17After Jesus had spoken these words, he looked up to heaven and said, ‘Father, the hour has come; glorify your Son so that the Son may glorify you, 2since you have given him authority over all people, to give eternal life to all whom you have given him. 3And this is eternal life, that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent. 4I glorified you on earth by finishing the work that you gave me to do. 5So now, Father, glorify me in your own presence with the glory that I had in your presence before the world existed.

6 ‘I have made your name known to those whom you gave me from the world. They were yours, and you gave them to me, and they have kept your word. 7Now they know that everything you have given me is from you; 8for the words that you gave to me I have given to them, and they have received them and know in truth that I came from you; and they have believed that you sent me. 9I am asking on their behalf; I am not asking on behalf of the world, but on behalf of those whom you gave me, because they are yours. 10All mine are yours, and yours are mine; and I have been glorified in them. 11And now I am no longer in the world, but they are in the world, and I am coming to you. Holy Father, protect them in your name that you have given me, so that they may be one, as we are one.

I am going to add one more reading. This is saying 18 from the Gospel of Thomas, sayings of Jesus discovered in Nag Hammadi, Egypt in the 1945, 1600 years after they were buried there.

Gospel of Thomas 18
The disciples said to Jesus: Tell us how our end will be. Jesus said: Since you have discovered the beginning, why do you seek the end? For where the beginning is, there will the end be. Blessed is he who shall stand at the beginning (in the beginning), and he shall know the end, and shall not taste death.

I am a Presbyterian Church (USA) pastor. I have been one for 27 years. I am not currently serving a church. I resigned my last call in November 2019 over difference of vision, direction, and understanding of the Gospel. Then the apocalypse hit and all churches shut themselves down, except for a notable few. I mention with gratitude Liberty Fellowship Church in Kalispell, Montana, with Pastor Chuck Baldwin. They did not cave in to the Beast and continued to worship in body. Do check out my interview with Pastor Chuck Baldwin on Progressive Spirit. He and I agree that COVID is a PSYOP. It is not about a virus. It is about control.

Before I talk more about that, I do wish to put this out there. I am looking for a call to serve a church. I wrote this today on my Facebook page.

“I am ready to be called to a church as a pastor. No virtual church. Physical gathering. Singing. Laying on of hands to heal. Communion. Preaching. Intercessory prayer. I realize that we have been so psychologically and spiritually damaged by these misanthropic commands: “social distancing” walking in rows, wearing masks, suspecting everyone of being diseased, that we will have to teach people how to touch again. This is truly diabolical. Time to rise up and be the church again.”

If there are people in the Portland, Oregon area looking for a church, a real church, a flesh and blood gathering, with a real pastor, also flesh and blood, then let me know. I will bring spiritual insights from a variety of places, but it will be centered on the search for what is true and actions that are good. Truth and Goodness. This is from the Presbyterian Form of Government. F-3.0104. This was written in the 18th century:

“Truth and Goodness
That truth is in order to goodness, and the great touchstone of truth, its tendency to promote holiness, according to our Savior’s rule, “By their fruits ye shall know them.” And that no opinion can either be more pernicious or more absurd than that which brings truth and falsehood upon a level, and represents it as of no consequence what a man’s opinions are. On the contrary, we are persuaded that there is an inseparable connection between faith and practice, truth and duty. Otherwise it would be of no consequence either to discover truth or to embrace it. (F-3.0104)

Truth matters. It matters what is actually true. It matters to know what is really going on, what is happening. What is true. One could say, “I don’t care what is true. I am just going to hide in my little world.” Or one could say, “It doesn’t matter what is true. I can do what is good anyway.”

Both of those statements go against the spirit of Truth and Goodness. If you don’t know the truth about what is happening, whatever good you try to do will be misinformed. What you think is good could be actually bad.

You need to know the truth. There is no excuse for not knowing the truth.

People can say to me, “You’re crazy! You’re a conspiracy theorist!”

So. Maybe I am. Calling me names does not excuse you from searching the truth. If you think you can blame your laziness on me, that isn’t going to help you. It isn’t about me. I may be crazy. I may be dead soon. Still truth is at your door waiting for you to open the door. It will be there regardless of your fear, regardless of your indecision, regardless of the messenger.

I am looking to serve a church based on the principles of Truth and Goodness. In this church we will meet physically. There will be some music. We will touch. We will be close. We will pray. We will lay on hands and invoke the power of the healing spirit to enter our bodies and our minds. We will break bread together. We will learn from the Bible, from the Qur’an, and from other ancient and holy texts. We will hear from spiritual leaders, past and present. Pretty much what I have always done for my 27 years. I will be there for pastoral needs and celebrations, a friend to lean upon, a pastor to comfort during times of grief. Those times will be coming. As it says in 1 Peter:

“12 Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal that is taking place among you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. 13But rejoice in so far as you are sharing Christ’s sufferings, so that you may also be glad and shout for joy when his glory is revealed. 14If you are reviled for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the spirit of glory, which is the Spirit of God, is resting on you.”

This Church will embody the joy of sharing Christ’s sufferings. Let me say that again.

This Church will embody the joy of sharing Christ’s sufferings.

You can’t get more spiritual than that. We need each other, physically. We need to be here for each other. We need to share Christ’s sufferings. Satan has ripped us apart. Satan, the adversary, the devil, the roaring lion has done this. The serpent. COVID is not about a virus. It is the fiery ordeal brought upon us by Satan and promoted through the media.

We resist by being the church. This virus is a lie. It is deception. It is a PSYOP. It is fake. Real people die. More will die. They will not die from a natural virus. They will die because they were murdered by the transnational agencies and personalities that have engineered this PSYOP.

This is an attack. That is the truth as I see it. If it is true that we are under attack, then we should respond with goodness that is inseparably connected to this truth. Otherwise we are responding as those who are attacking us want us to respond. If we are under attack, we need to find out who is doing it and how and defend ourselves. That is what the church needs to be. We need to equip ourselves, and help each other defend against these attacks.

We are being stripped of our humanity. We are giving up our rights. We are being de-programmed and re-programmed. We are being de-programmed to deny our basic humanity and its needs and being re-programmed to become robots. What do you think all of this is about? Six feet apart, walking up and down rows, following arrows, treated as if we are five years old, denied being able to work, to worship, to congregate, to fellowship, to protest, to go to the beach of all things!

Last week I drove to Montana. Signs flashing throughout the state read: “Non-essential out of state visitors must observe a mandatory 14-day quarantine.” Yeah, well I am essential. We are all essential. No one is non-essential. That humiliating designation, that division of people between essential and non-essential is part of the attack. This is an attack on our very humanity with the excuse, the false flag, of a virus.

I am not sick.
You are not sick.
We are not diseased.
We are not contagious.
We are being deceived.
Let us breathe.

According to the statistics, about 100,000 Americans have supposedly died of COVID. 300,000 worldwide. Think about that for a second. Why of all the deaths globally, that a third are Americans? Americans make up about four to five percent of the world’s population. Why does COVID kill Americans more than any other? Think about it. This is not an attack from another nation. This is an attack on Americans by transnational entities and personalities. Destroy America, the rich, free country, and you destroy the world.

I wrote this:

T.S. Eliot’s last stanza of his 98 stanza poem, “Hollow Men” may be the most quoted of all of Eliot’s poetry, says Wikipedia.

This is the way the world ends
This is the way the world ends
This is the way the world ends
Not with a bang but a whimper.

That is how I feel about our end, the end of humanity, which will happen before this decade ends unless there is a literal, supernatural intervention. That is how I see it. They have destroyed us with fakery and deception.

Humanity put on its mask, isolated, distanced, and decided that its basic rights and freedoms were selfish and gave them up. Humanity denied everything that had at one time defined it, because they believed a lie, a lie so well-crafted that they believed they were doing the right thing by doing what was against their very nature, what humans have done as long as they have been around. Humanity gave up its own power of healing that it had known since humanity began, allowing the clever powers to take it and tell humanity what was best for it.

We allowed ourselves to be tricked. In Genesis, it was a trick by the serpent that started it all.

The serpents who run this game are watching, waiting, for their impeccable plan to run its course. No need to fire a shot. No need for tanks or martial law. No need for a bang. We submit with a whimper, perhaps not even that. The whimper won’t come until it is far too late. Perhaps we will never whimper because we may never know that we were ever deceived. Maybe that will be a mercy.

Facebook told me my last sermon went against its community standards and prevented it from being shown to my followers. This is war. Are you feeling it, yet? What do they have to do to you? What do you have to suffer before you understand this is an attack on you?

You won’t get answers from the television. Stop watching it. It is bad for your health. The constant 24/7 messaging is literally a PSYOP. When we fly over countries that we bomb, we send leaflets first telling them a bunch of lies in order to weaken their spirits. That is what the 24/7 media is. All channels. Radio. TV. News. Hollywood movies. TV shows. Netflix. And of course, advertising. All of it. It is the enemy’s propaganda. It is deception. They are lying to you about a virus that exists in mythology.

Those numbers I mentioned about 100,000 deaths in the U.S. They are exaggerated to say the least. Probably all fake. Even if 100,000 died of something, it is what happens now and then. People die. 40,000 die on American highways every year. 30,000 die from suicide every year. How many die from heart disease or alcoholism?

Even if the numbers were accurate of 100,000 dead Americans due to COVID, it would never justify destroying the society and through all of these nonsensical measures! Now with 34 million unemployed because of the lockdown, how many are going to die now? It is just beginning.

The narrative is fake. Think about it. This isn’t real. What is real is what you see and experience. No one is dropping dead of a virus around you. People are losing their jobs and their livelihoods. That is real. As much as you want me to be wrong, I would like to be wrong, too, it doesn’t matter. Because what’s real is what’s real. It is happening. This is the Apocalypse. This is an attack from the wealthiest .0001 % upon all of humanity. They control perception.

The numbers are exaggerated by the way. Doctors are paid to write COVID on death certificates regardless of what killed them. There is no real test for this. So the diagnosis is simply made up when people say that have symptoms. Hospitals are empty. Nursing staff are being laid off. This is not real.

I am assuming if you are still listening to me, you hopefully are aware that this isn’t right.

This is a spiritual attack. This is a controlled demolition of the economy. This is the making of a new world order that is engineered by the billionaires who control the wealth of this planet. We are being enslaved. This has been planned for decades if not generations.

So what do we do? I am a pastor.

So we need to deal with the spirituality of this.

We need to get our churches back and not give them up again. This goes for mosques, temples, synagogues and other places of worship. Since most religious people are Christian in the United States, the church is the primary place to resist. We need to open up churches whether or not we have “state approval” to do so. This is spiritual war.

This is the “fiery ordeal” that is talked about in First Peter. We are the persecuted church. We are also the world’s defense. We defend by being human and by discerning what God is saying to us.

Spirituality conquers deception in a few important ways.

First: Do Not Fear.

Fear is not from God. Fear is from the Deceiver. These Serpents feed off of our fear. There is nothing to fear. They can kill us. That’s it. They can kill the body, not the soul. We will die anyway at some point. Let us die for Christ. Let us die for Allah. Let us die because it is better to die than be a slave. Banish fear from your life. When you feel afraid, find your Bible. Find your Qur’an. Pray. Breathe. Breathe in and out.

“I am not afraid. God is near.”

From the Qur’an:

Do you think that you could enter paradise without having suffered like those [believers] who passed away before you? Misfortune and hardship befell them, and so shaken were they that the apostle, and the believers with him, would exclaim, “When will God’s succor come?”

O, verily, God’s succor is [always] near!

From the Psalm 46:

God is our refuge and strength,
a very present help in trouble.
Therefore we will not fear, though the earth should change,
though the mountains shake in the heart of the sea;
though its waters roar and foam,
though the mountains tremble with its tumult.

Feeling afraid? Pray it. Doesn’t seem to work? Pray it again. Pray away the fear.

Second: Stay away from the media.

It is programming designed to mess you up. Know that. It is enemy propaganda. Purify yourself from it. It is everywhere. Social media is controlled by the enemy, too. All of it belongs to the enemy. All media. Don’t spend too much time on the screens. We have to use it, but it belongs to the enemy. Know that. Be careful. Don’t spend so much time in it that you get burned. Don’t listen to the smooth-talking celebrities or politicians, no matter how much you like them. They are tools of the enemy. This is all deception. Rule of thumb that I mentioned last week. Anyone who is unable to be truthful about 9/11 cannot be trusted. They either haven’t done the research or they are lying about it or they are so deceived that they are worthless.

Three: Instead, spend your time researching what is real.

Here are some names to search through Duck Duck Go on your Brave browser. There are more than this list. There are people out there searching for what is true and reporting it to you. These are a few that I know.

Kevin Barrett, Spiro Skouras, David Icke, James Corbett, Vanessa Beeley, Mark Taliano, Chuck Baldwin, Annie Bukacek, Helen Buyniski.

This is not an exhaustive list. They are people I know.

Watch their videos. Read their articles. I post a lot of stuff on my Facebook page from different sources. I will do so until it is deleted and until I am deleted.

We are being erased. However, the truth is rising. We need truth warriors.

Don’t believe everything. Discern for yourself. Be strong.

Four: Know who your friends are and who the enemy is.

This is war. Be careful. Know who your friends are. They are few. Know who the enemy is. Most people are computer programs. The government presses ENTER and people stand in line, put on a mask, and snitch on their neighbors. They work for the enemy. The enemy is the one who imposed this lockdown. Remember, we did not ask for this. We did not discuss this. This was imposed upon us.

Five: Know that you have a purpose.

It is no accident that you are here now. It is no accident that you are hearing this or watching it or reading it. This is the apocalypse. You are alive in the midst of it. You need to be strong. You need to be a warrior.

Six: Take risks. Take the risks you can to live like a human being. I cannot tell you what to do. You will have to figure that out. But meeting with a community can help.

Again,

1) Do Not Fear.
2) Stay Away from the Media.
3) Research What is Real.
4) Know Your Friends and Your Enemy.
5) Know You Have a Purpose.
6) Take Risks

You didn’t sign up for this. I get it. This got dumped on us.

The best I see it is that you and I are Eternal Consciousness having a particular experience. When we identify so closely with the experience that we cannot free ourselves from our emotions, we need to remember who we are spiritually. We need to meditate, pray, journal, exercise, do whatever it takes to realize that we have a body but we are not our body. We have emotions but we are not our emotions. We have thoughts but we are not our thoughts. We can step back from them and realize that reality. We are from above. We are part of the eternal. We are of God. One day we shall return. We will ascend like Jesus (pbuh).

One of the practices that has been taken from us, perhaps the most important practice, is to gather physically and share our experience. We have to take that back. Get together physically, with people you love, and be human. Touch. Hug. Embrace. Pray. Weep. Laugh.

That is the church, the Greek word is ekklesia, the physical gathering of people.

Let us be that again. Now.

Amen.

WATCH (please subscribe to my channel. FB banned Brighteon).

LISTEN

Truth Jihad: A Conversation with Kevin Barrett

Listen Here.

In March 2018 I had a live interview scheduled with Dr. Kevin Barrett on my monthly show, “The Beloved Community” on KBOO. Through a smear campaign led by Rose City Antifa complete with name-calling, character assassination, and a deluge of tweets and phone calls, the station staff and management were pressured to stop the interview and actually ban Kevin Barrett from being on the air. (Staff and management claim they were not pressured.) I appealed the decision but my appeal was never addressed. Dr. Barrett never had an opportunity to defend himself. Volunteers or the membership never had an opportunity to review this process.

On December 13th, 2019 I broadcast a pre-recorded show that included audio from the last sermon I gave to my church, an interview with Dr. David Ray Griffin and a speech Dr. Kevin Barrett delivered at a KBOO-sponsored event at Portland State in February 2018 about US-Saudi relations. Staff, in response to phone calls, stopped the broadcast in the midst of Dr. Barrett’s speech and played Christmas music! In protest to this personal disrespect and censorship, I decided to take a sabbatical from my volunteer duties and support of KBOO and move my show to a platform that respects the spirit of the First Amendment. You can read my story here.

Over Christmas, Dr. Barrett interviewed me for his radio show, Truth Jihad, and gave me permission and encouragement to rebroadcast that interview on my program.

PODCAST

John Shuck on Kevin Barrett’s Truth Jihad Radio

Censored Presbyterian Minister and Radio Host John Shuck on Why He’s Leaving KBOO-Portland and His Church

December 25, 2019 Kevin Barrett

John Shuck: When they won’t let you tell the truth, it’s time to leave

Listen HERE

Presbyterian minister John Shuck is leaving his KBOO-Portland radio show “Beloved Community” and his church position. Apparently neither the radio station nor the church can handle the truth about 9/11 and related topics. John recently wrote me:

Dear Dr. Barrett,

A number of changes have happened to me. I am no longer pastor at my church. I was judged too radical opposing wars and their lies and saying too many good things about Islam.  Now I am done with KBOO too. Here is my last show that includes audio from you.

https://progressivespirit.net/2019/12/13/holding-to-your-truth/

I dedicated the show to you and to Dr. Griffin, two people who have for me modeled the spirit of sacrifice for truth that I saw in Jesus and Hussain. The audio I included of you was the speech you gave at the conference in Feb 2018 about the US and Saudi empires. I never broadcast it before.

Anyway in the middle of the broadcast this past Friday morning, while you were speaking, the station staff stopped it and played Christmas music! Naughty of me to play anything by the banned Kevin Barrett.  So after 20 months of the station’s inability to treat either of us like human beings, I decided it was a good time to go.

I want you to know how important you have been to me on a personal level. You model human decency in the time when the inhumane are in power.  Thank you.

https://shuckandjive.blogspot.com/2019/12/sabbatical-from-kboo.html

All the Best,

John Shuck

Progressive Spirit/Beloved Community Podcast

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Shuck and Jive Blog

shuckjohna@gmail.com

John Shuck’s church was vandalized with Antifa-style graffiti. Earlier, Portland Antifa had pressured KBOO radio to prevent John from interviewing me.

A Free Mind, Love, and Good Tunes


I thought I would post a sermon. Here is the audio. Sermon starts at 9:12.

I think our descendants will regard David Ray Griffin as the most important theologian of the early 21st century. Any theologian who tells the truth about the stuff that really matters gets my ear regarding religion. Damn if he isn’t good at that, too.

My mind is changing again.

Last week in her interview of me, Pam Gross, asked me about a number of things, and one topic we mentioned but didn’t elaborate upon was my view on God. I don’t like to talk about myself, as if I am the topic, but these questions arise about what the minister believes. I always try to deflect these questions. Who cares what I believe? It is my business. The question for you is what do you believe? Churches have a tendency to make the minister the “designated believer.” If the minister has his or her beliefs right, then everything is OK. If not, then things are not OK.

So when I first came to Southminster, the Friendly Atheist blog published an essay I wrote and titled it, “I’m a Presbyterian Minister Who Doesn’t Believe in God,” many people thought, “That can’t be OK.” Those who read past the title saw within the article itself that I wrote I didn’t believe in a supernatural God. You should spell that word Gawd G-A-W-D.

G-A-W-D was coined by David Ray Griffin in his book, God Exists But Gawd Does Not: From Evil to New Atheism to Fine Tuning. (review by Kevin Barrett). GAWD is the supernatural being that is the subject of most religious creeds. GAWD created the world from nothing, intervenes in the natural order of things, rewards and punishes, and so forth. This is the GAWD that I wrote is the product of myth-making.

I don’t find the existence of GAWD to be particularly persuasive. I think the new atheists like Dan Dennett and Richard Dawkins are right to poke holes in that Gawd. But does that mean that God G-O-D doesn’t exist at all? And what is at stake here either way?

When I first went to seminary, as part of the requirements for admission, I had to write an essay about my beliefs and questions. I wrote in the essay something along the lines of, “Is the universe meaningful?” Is the universe (and are humans) the products of randomness and natural law alone? The things that humans value, love, wisdom, good tunes, are they only things we care about or does the universe itself care about those things, too?

Martin Luther King said a number of times in his sermons and speeches a phrase that is often attributed to him but goes back earlier. The phrase is, “The arc of the moral universe is long but it bends toward justice.” Unitarian minister, Theodore Parker, should be credited with that thought, though. In 1853 he said this in a sermon, titled “Of Justice and The Conscience:”

Look at the facts of the world. You see a continual and progressive triumph of the right. I do not pretend to understand the moral universe, the arc is a long one, my eye reaches but little ways. I cannot calculate the curve and complete the figure by the experience of sight; I can divine it by conscience. But from what I see I am sure it bends towards justice.

This question has been with me throughout my entire ministry, and I have never let it go. Are Parker and King right? Does the arc of the moral universe bend toward justice or is that just something humans like to think?

So, in seminary, I was introduced to the post-modernists. I still don’t know what the word, post-modern, means, but for my purpose here, this is how I used it. It meant that all of these things that humans care about such as love and justice and even God, didn’t arrive until humans arrived. The universe is like a bus. It stops and starts. Picks people up. Drops people off. The bus has no intelligence, no concern for the lives of the people it carries. The love and justice that the humans on the bus exhibit is the result of human interaction. They care about love and justice. The bus doesn’t. I wrote a poem about it, “Riding the Bus with Jesus.” Jesus is the human interaction, not the bus. “Indifference is the law of the universe,” I wrote.

I would call this my post-modern phase. Language about God, about meaning, love, justice, is a human construct. It is an attempt at making meaning of an essentially meaningless universe. All the attempts to insert GAWD into this universe really have not been persuasive to me. The thing is, I talk about that. For many people, that is not OK. I on the other hand, think it is OK. Not only OK, but I think important and necessary for a free mind.

Our minds are not free if they don’t take us where our doubts take us. They are not free if we allow others to set the boundaries of what we can and cannot explore. We should search for what we think is true even if doing so challenges conventional wisdom.

I defend the way I think and the things I believe or do not believe because I come about them honestly and we all should have the freedom and encouragement to do the same. Hearing the views and the thoughts of those that are different from ours, challenging to us, can only make us wiser. That is how we learn. That is how we grow. That is what I do in my ministry. I don’t think being a minister is about rigidly sticking to a set of creedal statements about GAWD. I think being a minister is about challenging those statements and creating new statements that reflect the actual journey we are taking.

All that said, I find myself changing again. Moving not back to the GAWD of creed but answering affirmatively, even if tentatively the question, “Is there a GOD of meaning within the universe itself?” Yes. Is the love Paul writes about in I Corinthians 13 only a human expression, a human invention, or does it reflect something within the fabric of the universe itself? I am leaning toward the latter.

The only thing I really care about is the world my granddaughter, Pippa, will inherit. What are we leaving? What are we doing about it now? I personally find those questions to be very hard, discouraging, even despairing. I don’t back away from the via negativa, to use Matthew Fox’s phrase for the dark path. I don’t shy away from looking at the trajectories we are on in regards to our future. I don’t back away from the truths about ourselves and about our nation that are hard to take. I don’t think church is about hiding from that.

However, it is hard for me to muster up enough hope to be an honorable ancestor by myself. It isn’t enough, I am coming to realize, to have love and justice and God be human constructs in an otherwise meaningless, indifferent universe. I need to know that the universe in some sense cares that we do this well. The universe is somehow cheering us on. Love, morality, truth, goodness are not quirks of human evolution, but built within the fabric of the universe itself. I am starting possibly to embrace that again. I am changing. Perhaps I can embrace what Martin Luther King, Jr. and Theodore Parker said that “the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.”

These changes that I experience in my reflections on GAWD and GOD do not come from a vacuum, from me sitting on a rock thinking day and night. They come from my life experience and my interactions. They come from a delight in observing the stars to learning about evolution to witnessing disease and death, and grief, and violence, and forgiveness and none of these are abstractions; they are flesh and blood experiences of life. They come from losing my son. They come from having a granddaughter. They come from lies, war and stupidity. They come from courageous peacemakers. They come from learning about species extinction. They come from learning about the vastness and the creativity of life.

These thoughts, beliefs, hopes, dreams, ideas are ours. We all have them. We should never have to be made to feel guilty or wrong or bad for having whatever thoughts we have about life and about God. We have earned them. We need to be able to go to whatever place we need to go even if it is a walk through the valley of the shadow of death. Even if it is a long journey of doubt. Sometimes we need to go there. Sometimes we need to go through it to glimpse a light on the other end.

What I am trying to say this morning is don’t settle for a sound bite. Don’t settle for an evaluation of someone based on a sentence or phrase or label. We are all far more complicated than that. We don’t stay the same. It is OK to change. We don’t have to make others believe or not believe like we do. Instead, I prefer to give people space to make their own honest discoveries.

This is what I think Paul was talking about in this beautiful passage from I Corinthians about love. This translation is due in large part to Art Dewey, who has the ear of a poet.

love takes its time
makes itself good and useful
love doesn’t envy
it doesn’t boast
it doesn’t bluster

it doesn’t make a scene
it doesn’t look after its own interests
it doesn’t throw fits
it doesn’t dwell on the negative
it takes no pleasure in injustice
but is delighted by the truth

love upholds everything
trusts in everything
hopes for everything
endures everything

love never falls way

That Love, I am coming to trust now, is the very fabric of the universe. Love is pulling, enticing, encouraging all of us to become more alive than we were yesterday, and as Love upholds, trusts, and endures, Love pulls us to be even more alive tomorrow.

Amen.