Opinions expressed here are my own and do not represent the views of the congregation I joyfully serve. But my congregation loves me!

Monday, November 30, 2009

World AIDS Day 2009: Universal Access and Human Rights

The theme for World AIDS Day 2009 is Universal Access and Human Rights. Check it:

The theme for World AIDS Day 2009 is 'Universal Access and Human Rights'. Global leaders have pledged to work towards universal access to HIV and AIDS treatment, prevention and care, recognising these as fundamental human rights. Valuable progress has been made in increasing access to HIV and AIDS services, yet greater commitment is needed around the world if the goal of universal access is to be achieved. Millions of people continue to be infected with HIV every year. In low- and middle-income countries, less than half of those in need of antiretroviral therapy are receiving it, and too many do not have access to adequate care services.

The protection of human rights is fundamental to combating the global HIV and AIDS epidemic. Violations against human rights fuel the spread of HIV, putting marginalised groups, such as injecting drug users and sex workers, at a higher risk of HIV infection. By promoting individual human rights, new infections can be prevented and people who have HIV can live free from discrimination.

World AIDS Day provides an opportunity for all of us - individuals, communities and political leaders - to take action and ensure that human rights are protected and global targets for HIV/AIDS prevention, treatment and care are met.





Here is what is happening locally. This is from LGBTieS' (ETSU's Gay-Straight Alliance) President, Evan Baker:

"Well, it is finally here! World AIDS Day 2009. Please offer your support in any way possible. Events start with free Candy AND Condoms in the Culp Center tomorrow from 11am-1pm. There will also be a bake-sale fundraiser, with proceeds going to the HIV Network.

Also, tomorrow night is the Candlelight, Prayer, and Reflection Service, from 7 pm to 8:30 pm, at Munsey Memorial United Methodist Church, 201 East Market Street, Johnson City, TN 37605 (down the hill past the Johnson City Public Library, over both sets of railroad tracks). Please come out in remembrance of those no longer with us because of this disease, and also in support of those still fighting the fight. There will be a reception to follow.

Wednesday there will be free HIV testing in the Culp Center, from 11am-3pm. This is open to anyone interested in getting tested, so feel free to pass the word along. At 6pm, there will be a film showing of “A Closer Walk,” which is also free, and open to anyone. If you are interested in attending the film showing, or any other of the events, feel free to bring non-perishable food items, which will go to Ryan White recipients."

World AIDS Day Service


I have been asked to speak at the World AIDS Day Candlelight, Prayer, and Reflection Service tomorrow night. Information is below. Everyone is welcome.


It is an honor to speak. It is a responsibility as well.

If you were speaking what would you say?
Or what do you hope will be said?



World AIDS Day
December 1, 2009

Candlelight, Prayer, &
Reflection Service

Tuesday, December 1, 2009
7 pm to 8:30 pm

Munsey Memorial United Methodist Church
201 East Market Street
Johnson City, TN 37605
Phone: 423-461-8070

Sponsored by:
HIV Network, Inc.
HOPE for Tennessee
ETSU Center of Excellence
NE TN Minority Resource Network
Washington County Health Council
NE TN Regional Health Office, Ryan White Program

Here is more information about the events surrounding World AIDS Day at ETSU.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Alternative Giving Season

I want to thank folks all over the Tri-Cities who purchased gifts through our Ten Thousand Villages Sale. $5,700 (I think that is a record) was raised for two-thirds world artisans. Christmas shopping you can feel good about!

We kicked off Alternative Giving Season today. Rather than contribute to the consumerist nightmare, folks are invited to honor friends and family by giving a gift in their name to a cause that honors Earth, sustainability, and social justice.

Our Alternative Giving page has a list of the causes we are encouraging folks to support this year and how to do it!

Alternative giving is a form of gift-giving that has a symbolic value to the recipient and benefits a meaningful cause at the same time. Alternative gifts are a creative way to honor your friends and family with eco-friendly, ethically-sourced gifts while making a difference in lives, promoting peace and justice and helping to heal our earth.
By the way, check out Southern Beale's commentary about Alternative Giving!

Expecting: A Sermon

Expecting
John Shuck

First Presbyterian Church
Elizabethton, Tennessee

November 29th, 2009
First Sunday of Advent

Jeremiah 33:14-16
Luke 21:25-36

Metaphors

I'm a riddle in nine syllables,
An elephant, a ponderous house,
A melon strolling on two tendrils.
O red fruit, ivory, fine timbers!
This loaf's big with its yeasty rising.
Money's new-minted in this fat purse.
I'm a means, a stage, a cow in calf.
I've eaten a bag of green apples,
Boarded the train there's no getting off.
--Sylvia Plath


Twice in three Sundays we are faced with the apocalyptic Jesus. I would normally skip over this ancient superstition, but since I am following the lectionary, here we are. As I spent time talking about the apocalyptic two weeks ago, I will refer you to that sermon, Embracing Change. It was based on Mark 13. Luke 21 is a rewrite of Mark 13.

Here is my short version explanation of this text in Mark and its parallels in Matthew and Luke:

This refers to an historical event that is long gone, the destruction of the temple and the burning of Jerusalem that happened in 66-70 CE. The gospel authors writing during (or in Luke’s case) after the event put on the lips of Jesus who lived 40 years before this event a prediction of this event.

If you have interest in this period of time, pick up a copy of Josephus, The Wars of the Jews.

The gospel authors, Mark, Matthew, and Luke all use a combination of apocalyptic imagery and possibly reports of actual events and put it all on the lips of Jesus as if he is predicting it all.

Why would they do that?

By having Jesus predict his own death and his resurrection and having him predict the major political event of the millennium, the destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple by the Romans, it provided a sense of hope.
All the stuff that we have been through and are going through is part of the divine scheme, so we shouldn’t get too freaked out about it.
John Hagee, Pat Robertson, the Left Behind authors and all the wild and woolly rapture predictors are misreading the Bible. That is no surprise. Throughout history folks have been poring through the Bible in search of clues to predict “the end.” In times of crisis, both real and perceived, apocalyptic types take center stage and rile up the masses. It is an old trick.

I wonder if there is a psychology behind all of this. I am just playing armchair psychologist but I wonder if it has to do with anxiety on two levels.

1) Anxiety about no end to the universe. It will go on without me.
2) Anxiety about my end. The universe will go on without me.

Wouldn’t it be nice if a divine being, the creator of all, tied up all the loose ends by ending the universe and creating a new one in which each of us (at least the good people) lives forever in it? It would solve the problem of the universe not ending when it should, and of us ending when we shouldn’t.

Hope in that scenario is hope in an endless existence that the creator will provide. I can live through any temporary setback, inconvenience, or hardship, because one day I am going to cross the Jordan and rest on Canaan’s shore.

That is pretty much the theology of Christianity for these past 2000 years.

We would have been fine with that if it hadn’t been for those meddlers, Galileo and Darwin. Galileo uprooted the heavens putting Earth where heaven is supposed to be and heaven where Earth is supposed to be. Darwin uprooted humanity making us closer to the orangutans than to the angels.

Ever since, science has taken us at warp speed away from our superstitious past.

The problem is that science isn’t so helpful in the hope department. A member of our congregation recently told the adult forum that while Richard Dawkins is a fun read, on the death bed he is not a warm fuzzy.

So while we are content, in fact demanding, of what science has given us, it seems we have yet to find meaning and hope in its world.

We have tapped into Earth’s crust and from its oily nectar created a world that neither Jesus nor the Gospel writers could have ever imagined.

The dark side of that is that we use Earth. We call what we use resources. Thus we have reduced ourselves, us wise humans, homo sapiens, created in the image of God, to consumers of resources. That is a demotion. It is not fitting to who we are as human beings nor is it fitting to our responsibility to and to our relationship to Earth and its living beings.

Not only that, but we homo sapiens--wise humans--are making the most unwise decisions. We are not living as though we (that is the human race) are going to be here for a while. We are living as though this Earth is going to be destroyed as part of a divine plan and we are going to be magically transported to a new one.

We are living as though John Hagee, Pat Robertson, and the rapture wackos have won the day. We have handed meaning-making over to them. Their meaning is this:
“Use it up. Let’s get this apocalyptic ball rolling. The sooner the place gets devastated, the sooner the saints get into heaven.”
Even most of my mainline colleagues still think--as far as I can tell--that hope is about getting into heaven when we die. We have not discovered and articulated clearly a theology or a philosophy of hope that centers on Earth as both home and destiny.

Maybe we already are on Canaan’s shore.

Maybe our work should be how to make Canaan a little more heavenly or at least a little less hellish.

Or if we can’t do that, maybe we can hope for peace of mind that accepts our limits.

Maybe we should just admit with Carly Simon that “these are the good old days.”

The Christian season of Advent is rich with metaphor. Its posture is one of waiting. It is the invitation to take a breath or several and wait. Not do. That freaks me out because I want to do.

At our house we do this cruel thing to the animals. We have three dogs now. Every now and then I say, “Treat!” And they get all excited. I get out the bag of treats and they get more excited. Then I go into the living room with the treats and say, “Sit.” They sit. Then I put the treats in front of them, one in front of each. I say, “Wait. Wait.” They look at the treat or they look at me. Finally, I say, “Take it!” The treats are gone.

I don’t know why I do that. Probably some kind of need for power and control I have that I take out on my hapless dogs.

The posture of Advent is waiting. Marvelously agonizing it is. The whole buildup. My daughter told me just recently how much she loved Advent and having the Advent candles be lit in church, one at a time. It helped her as a child to know how many candles were left to light until Christmas.

The waiting is an expectant waiting. One of the symbols of Advent is pregnancy, particularly Mary pregnant with the Christ.

I really like this kind of old fashioned way of putting it: “She’s expecting.” It sounds more mysterious and proper than “She’s pregnant” or “She’s got a bun in the oven.”

She’s expecting. She’s waiting with anticipation. This waiting includes preparation. The waiting cannot be rushed. It won’t happen before its time.

Life is changed for us when we are expecting. We anticipate big changes, a new way of living. We use this time of pregnancy to prepare for a new way of living, for the changes that this new life, literally, this new baby, will bring. Those changes have already begun. We are already starting to live as if this new reality has begun.

Advent waiting is living now as though what is promised is already here. We wait with expectation.

We are also very alert and very present to the present.

It is a time of dreaming what our child will be like and a little anxious worrying if we will be good parents or not, or if we are really ready or not.

(The answers are:
1. the child will be both like you and unlike you;
2. yes you will be fine parents; and
3. no you are not nor will you ever be ready).

A woman expecting, pregnant with possibility, is an image for Advent.

Medieval mystic, Meister Eckhart said:
"What does God do all day long? He gives birth. From the beginning of eternity God lies on a maternity bed giving birth to the All. God is creating this whole universe, full and entire, in this present moment."
Or we can flip it around. If God is pregnant with the world it is also true as Angela of Foligno said:
"The world is pregnant with God."
And to flip it again, to quote Eckhart once more:
"We are all meant to be mothers of God, for God is always needing to be born."
That is the creativity. That is our salvation. To use the ancient words of Luke:
“Your redemption is drawing near.”
Luke wrote his gospel to provide encouragement and comfort. In Luke’s three-tiered universe, redemption was the Son of Man returning on a cloud.

Perhaps for us our redemption is to give birth to the Cosmic Christ. We are to give birth to wisdom, to creativity, to life.

In either case, whichever the metaphor, hope is that the Divine Mystery is close. As anxious as we are about what is happening around us, we are invited to stand up and raise our heads,

--to be human beings.

The way of letting go, the via negativa is letting go of the quick fix. We want to fix things. We want a better world right now. Waiting is a path that asks something of us first. It is a path that says we have some things to learn first.

Wendell Berry is a good poet for Advent.

I will give him the last word:

HOW TO BE A POET
(to remind myself)

1.
Make a place to sit down.
Sit down. Be quiet.
You must depend upon
affection, reading, knowledge,
skill-more of each
than you have-inspiration,
work, growing older, patience,
for patience joins time
to eternity. Any readers
who like your work,
doubt their judgment.

2.
Breathe with unconditional breath
the unconditioned air.
Shun electric wire.
Communicate slowly. Live
a three-dimensioned life;
stay away from screens.
Stay away from anything
that obscures the place it is in.
There are no unsacred places;
there are only sacred places
and desecrated places.

3.
Accept what comes from silence.
Make the best you can of it.
Of the little words that come
out of the silence, like prayers
prayed back to the one who prays,
make a poem that does not disturb
the silence from which it came.

Amen.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

How To Be (An Advent) Poet

Tomorrow begins the season of Advent.

Wendell Berry is an Advent poet.


HOW TO BE A POET
(to remind myself)

1.
Make a place to sit down.
Sit down. Be quiet.
You must depend upon
affection, reading, knowledge,
skill-more of each
than you have-inspiration,
work, growing older, patience,
for patience joins time
to eternity. Any readers
who like your work,
doubt their judgment.

2.
Breathe with unconditional breath
the unconditioned air.
Shun electric wire.
Communicate slowly. Live
a three-dimensioned life;
stay away from screens.
Stay away from anything
that obscures the place it is in.
There are no unsacred places;
there are only sacred places
and desecrated places.

3.
Accept what comes from silence.
Make the best you can of it.
Of the little words that come
out of the silence, like prayers
prayed back to the one who prays,
make a poem that does not disturb
the silence from which it came.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Downhill to Christmas!



Tomorrow is Black Friday. It is time to get to the Wal-Mart at 5 a.m. and get that George Foreman Indoor/Outdoor Grill in the name of the Baby Jeebus before the next sorry bastard gets it.

But you better go prepared. Remember what happened last year.

An employee at Wal-Mart was killed yesterday when "out-of-control" shoppers broke down the doors at a sale at the discount giant's store in Long Island, New York.

Other workers were trampled as they tried to rescue the man and at least four other people, including a woman who was eight months pregnant, were taken to hospitals for observation or minor injuries following the incident.

Customers shouted angrily and kept shopping when store officials said they were closing because of the death, police and witnesses said.
I'm thinking you are all going to be wanting to take advantage of this Christmas cheer.

So make it a safe shopping day (at least for you) and get your Field Armor Stalker Exoskeleton on before you go!

(Also helpful for intimidating store clerks who won't say "Merry Christmas!")

Good times!

Gratitude Dance (Do It!)

About time to dance off that meal. Do it. It will make you feel a lot better. The Gratitude Dance:

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Detroit Presbytery Sends Equality Overture to GA

It is fun having a blog. I get press releases. Oooh. This is a good one. It's from More Light Presbyterians. Check it:
Detroit, MI — Tonight the Presbytery of Detroit, a regional governing body of the Presbyterian Church (USA) once again voted for equality and justice for the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered (LGBT) members of the 2.5-million member Protestant denomination.

In a vote of 67 to 54, the Presbytery of Detroit voted to send an overture to the denomination’s General Assembly that removes barriers to the ordination of LGBT members as elders, deacons, or ministers. If the General Assembly votes to approve this amendment during its meeting July 3 to July 10, 2010 — as it approved a similar amendment at its biannual meeting two years ago — it will then be sent to the 173 presbyteries for approval.

“This is an exciting and hopeful time to be a Presbyterian. We are seeing many Presbyterians who had previously opposed ordination equality now recognizing that we are all in this together, regardless of sexual orientation or other human differences. We are all part of the body of Christ. We are deeply grateful that Presbytery of Detroit once again stands on the side of justice and equality for all members of our denomination and is leading the way for our denomination to follow,” said Vikki Dearing, co-Moderator of the national board of More Light Presbyterians, a national organization working for spiritual, ordination and marriage equality for LGBT people and their families in the Presbyterian Church (USA).

The overture was originally proposed by the Session of Northside Presbyterian Church in Ann Arbor, MI on April 25, 2009, the day that the previous attempt to ratify such an amendment failed by a razor thin margin. “We are seeing something today akin to what happened in our denomination in the 1950s with the ordination of women,” said Brian Spolarich, Elder and Clerk of the Session, the governing body of the congregation. “It took over a decade of organizing, and multiple votes for our denomination to get it right, but in the end we recognized the Holy Spirit leading us to draw the circle of leadership more broadly, not more narrowly. I have faith that we will eventually get this one right, too.”

About Northside Presbyterian Church:

Located in Ann Arbor, Michigan, Northside Presbyterian Church is a small, dynamic congregation of of the Presbyterian Church (USA). Established in 1959 as an outreach to the University of Michigan's North Campus, today we now attract a diverse membership from all over Southeastern Michigan. We are one of nearly 90 churches comprising the Presbytery of Detroit. In our denomination, the Presbyterian Church(USA), Northside Presbyterian Church takes its stand as a More Light congregation. We affirm Christ's inclusive love for all and justice among all, celebrating the Spirit's marvelous gift of diversity. We invite everyone -- regardless of gender identity, sexual orientation, race, ethnicity, socioeconomic status, or other worldly condition -- to fully join us in worship, leadership, and community. Web site: northsidepres.org

About More Light Presbyterians:

Following the risen Christ and seeking to make the Church a true community of hospitality, the mission of More Light Presbyterians is to work for the full ordination, spiritual and marriage equality of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people of faith in the life, ministry, and witness of the PCUSA. Web site: www.mlp.org
Our own beloved, Alan Kiste, sent me the release. Alan is on session at Northside Presbyterian and helped to draft the resolution! Thanks, Alan. He reminds us that there are only 221 shopping days until the next GA.

Finish the Job, Pardner

I like him. He uses complete sentences. He doesn't embarrass us. But I am afraid the POTUS is going to eat these words one day:


Signaling he's decided on new troop levels for the Afghanistan war, President Barack Obama said Tuesday he intends to "finish the job" on his watch and destroy terrorist networks in the region.



That sounds eerily like "mission accomplished."


"'Finish the job' in Afghanistan" are five words that don't make sense together. It is like trying to keep a straight face when you live in Liberal, Kansas. The Soviets thought they were going to finish the job, too.

"Destroying terrorist networks" is what we might call a long term project. Terrorists are not destroyed. They are created. That is why we call them terrorists. They never give up. If you leave one alive, he will kill you.

Finishing the job in Afghanistan would be what then, nuking the place and killing all life forms?

I am suspicious.

Cheney said we would be fighting terrorists for 20-30 years. That's about right as that is how long it will take for the oil to run out.

Fighting terrorists is the euphemism we use for resource wars. One could argue that anyone who threatens our 20 million barrel a day habit is a terrorist.

Afghanistan and Iraq are the bread slices for an Iran sandwich. Iran has some nice black sauce under the desert. In a few years when Americans start feeling the pinch because of a downslide in worldwide oil production, we will realize why we are in Iraq and Afghanistan. You can be sure the job won't be finished.

Rather than tell us the truth about our energy needs and courageously offering a plan to transition to a new reality, Obama is following where Cheney led: a multi-decade, worldwide war for the remaining fossil fuels.

We are in for a rough ride.

Transition Culture

Got 16 minutes?

Check out this video. It is a presentation by Rob Hopkins at a TED conference. He talks about appreciating what cheap oil has done for us, and rather than clinging to it, letting it go so we can transition to a post-carbon future.

It is hopeful as he points out the creativity of transition communities all around the world. He is founder of the transition movement. Bookmark his website and check back often.

Rob Hopkins reminds us that the oil our world depends on is steadily running out. He proposes a unique solution to this problem -- the Transition response, where we prepare ourselves for life without oil and sacrifice our luxuries to build systems and communities that are completely independent of fossil fuels.

Monday, November 23, 2009

The Don Quixote Declaration


The busybodies are tripping over themselves to endorse the latest "declaration." Ostentatiously called the Manhattan Declaration, it is yet another attempt by the superstitious right wing to fight at windmills. Fundamentalists of various sects including a few Presbyterian notables such as Carmen "The Millstone" Fowler of the LayMAN have endorsed it.

What are they endorsing? What is this courageous Satan-smiting witness to the glory of the Triune God? What are those things that Jesus talked about most and cared about most? What are the key challenges we are facing in our nation and around our world?

I think you know.

These faithful heroes who "care about the future of the Christian witness in the public discourse of our nation"

are standing firm, bearing the standard, cupping the grail of holiness, and bravely waving their lances at the gravest threat we have yet to address...


...Gays getting marriage licenses.

Oh, and uppity women who insist on making their own informed decisions regarding their own reproduction.

And they call what they are doing protecting religious freedom.

OK.

This should keep them busy for a few weeks. Then it will go the same way all their other self-important declarations have gone (remember the Confessing Church Movement, anyone?)

Meanwhile other actual challenges to our nation's welfare like healthcare, the increasing gap between the wealthy and the poor, militarism, and energy and ecology, are still there.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

The Army of the Lord

Blame Bill:

A man was in front of me coming out of church one day, and the preacher was standing at the door as he always is to shake hands.

He grabbed the man by the hand and pulled him aside.

The Pastor said to him, "You need to join the Army of the Lord!"

The man replied, "I'm already in the Army of the Lord, Pastor."

Pastor questioned, "How come I don't see you except at Christmas and Easter?"

He whispered back, "I'm in the secret service."

Not Of This World: A Sermon

Not Of This World
John Shuck

First Presbyterian Church
Elizabethton, Tennessee

November 22nd, 2009
Cosmic Christ Sunday

Daniel 7:9-10, 13-14
John 18:33-37
The Great Turning

If I were the king of the world
Tell you what I'd do
I'd throw away the cars and the bars and the war
Make sweet love to you
Sing it now...
--Hoyt Axton

Today is the final Sunday in the church year. Next Sunday is the beginning of the new church year. Next Sunday will be the First Sunday of Advent. Advent means coming. Advent anticipates the birth of Christ. I think of the birth of Christ or Christmas as symbolizing the Divinity within all of creation. Words for Christmas are birth, creativity, incarnation, the light in the darkness. Advent is a season that proclaims this light is coming and coming soon! The axe is at the root of the tree. It is a season pregnant with promise.

That is how we begin the year. We begin that story next week, in the dark. It is in the darkness, in the via negativa, that the light of creativity will shine.

Christmas is not about the birth of Jesus, the historical person. No one knows anything about that. Christians adopted December 25th for the birth of Christ. At the Winter solstice when in the northern hemisphere the days are short and the nights are long, Christ is born. It is all properly mythological. We aren’t celebrating the birth of an historical person as much as the birth of Christ consciousness. The Cosmic Christ born in us.

I am getting ahead of myself. I’ll talk more about that during Advent and Christmas.

Today is the last Sunday of the year. This is the end of the story. This is the climax, the conclusion, the happy ending. Of course the end doesn’t mean there is nothing left to say. We start again. On this final Sunday of the church year, Christians proclaim that Christ is King.

Let’s mix it up. Christ is Queen. Christ the Goddess is King and Queen.
We have to shake all that sexism out of us.

Today is a day to honor the royalty. Today is a
via positiva day in the midst of a via negativa season. It is Cosmic Christ Sunday!

What is Christ the King? What or who is this Cosmic Christ? Perhaps what we should ask is, what does the Cosmic Christ do? The Cosmic Christ inspires us to treat one another like royalty. That is who we are. So none of that, “I’m such a miserable sinner,” stuff. Each of us is a royal being. We honor the Cosmic Christ in each of us.

The Cosmic Christ is known by many names.

I should say a few words about that. When we hear Christ the King we might hear male-dominated Christian extremism.
Our religion is right and yours is wrong. Our god is macho king and yours isn’t.
Let’s put that to rest.

As I see it, to say Christ is King or Jesus is Lord is an ancient Christian way of honoring the highest good, the sweetest song, and the beauty of the universe. It is a way of aligning my own life with the highest values I know and of those I don’t know. I give my life to justice, love, peace, hope, joy, mystery, life, and good tunes. To say Christ is King or Jesus is Lord is to say I want the blessedness of creation to live in me and I open myself to that.

While my default name, my home name for the Royalty of the Universe is Christ or the Cosmic Christ, and that the traditions surrounding Jesus point to and give content to that, I honor other names. Krishna, Buddha, Allah, Great Spirit, and on and on and on are other ways and names for the Mystery in which we all live and move and have our being.

In other words, if the religious symbol, the Cosmic Christ, meant my religion alone is true, then I wouldn’t use the symbol. I don’t think that is what it means.

There is a higher consciousness at work in the universe than my individual ego. I call that consciousness the Christ consciousness or the Cosmic Christ. It is a symbol that is rich with stories, narratives, hymns, practices, liturgy, and art. This symbol points me to a higher level of awareness. The Cosmic Christ invites me to become more aware, more conscious, to embody the higher values, to become a human being.

I want to experience a little bit more than I do normally that mystical union we call love. I want to love creation, my neighbor, and myself a little bit more. So Cosmic Christ can you help out on that score? That is what it means, as I see it, to confess Jesus is Lord. It expresses the desire to be more loving and Christ-like and to let go of my need to control how that will come about.

In the Gospel reading for today, Jesus is before Pilate and he says:
‘My kingdom is not from this world. If my kingdom were from this world, my followers would be fighting to keep me from being handed over to the Jews. But as it is, my kingdom is not from here.’
What does this mean?

Does it mean Jesus’ kingdom is in heaven on some other plane of existence as opposed to the world of trees, forests, oceans, animals, and people? Is he speaking of a spiritual disembodied world that we only get to after we die?

I heard a sermon the other day in which the minister said that we are only in the presence of God after we are dead. In this view the real world is the world that exists when we are free of these physical husks that entrap us.

I am agnostic about that.

I don’t think that is what the author of the Gospel of John is talking about here. In the Gospel of John, the word world appears 78 times. In Greek the word translated world is kosmos. Depending on the context it can mean different things. It can mean the physical existence of Earth. Mostly it means what we might translate as “system.”

More precisely, the Domination System. This is the embodiment of the values of the powers, seen and unseen, conscious and unconscious, that run things. Here is how Walter Wink defines it in his important book, The Human Being:
Domination System: a world-encompassing system characterized by unjust economic relations, oppressive political relations, patriarchal gender relations, prejudiced racial or ethnic relations, hierarchical power relations, and the use of violence in order to maintain them; in short, “civilization.” P. 270
Let’s try this sentence from the Gospel of John and change world to civilization.
‘My kingdom is not from this civilization. If my kingdom were from this civilization, my followers would be fighting to keep me from being handed over to the Jews. But as it is, my kingdom is not from here.’
Now it actually makes more sense. This isn’t a question of a physical earth vs. a spiritual heaven, this is about a contest of values on Earth. It is about how we will live and by what values will we live. Here is how the passage continues, again substituting civilization for world:
Pilate asked him, ‘So you are a king?’ Jesus answered, ‘You say that I am a king. For this I was born, and for this I came into the civilization, to testify to the truth. Everyone who belongs to the truth listens to my voice.’
John’s Jesus is the Cosmic Christ who has come to tell the truth about our civilization which from John’s perspective isn’t going so well. How do we know it isn’t going so well? Well, it killed Jesus. And he was a good guy. It is unjust, violent, oppressive, and unsustainable.

The Gospel of John has nothing to do with other heavenly realms. It had to do with changing the world--changing the system—changing the civilization--to make it more just. Here is how Walter Wink puts it:
The Gospel of John does not disclose heavenly secrets. For John, the gospel reveals “this world” (kosmos) as the Domination System. The gospel inaugurates an alternate reality, the Reign of God. John likes to call it “eternal life”—life in a new dimension, which begins the moment one encounters the son of the man. To “believe in the Human Being” is to affirm that this new reality that Jesus incarnates and reveals is from God. To “believe” is to join the struggle against the authorities and powers that seek to extinguish this new revelation. P. 203
To say Jesus is Lord,
to say Christ is King,
to worship the king O glorious above,

is to “join the struggle against the authorities and powers” that deny our humanity.

For John, civilization or world is not a bad thing. It is not a hopeless thing. It is not a thing that is to be destroyed or abandoned. It is to be transformed. Listen to this familiar passage with new ears.
‘For God so loved civilization that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life.

‘Indeed, God did not send the Son into civilization to condemn civilization, but in order that civilization might be saved through him.’
Let’s try it again with new eyes for the familiar words believe and eternal life.
For God so loved civilization that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who affirms and joins the struggle on behalf of the new reality Jesus incarnates may not perish but may have life in a new dimension.
It is a bit wordy and not as poetic as the King James, but we get a very different sense of what is being said. Jesus came to transform our Earthly lives, not provide escape from them.

We might think of civilization as the human project. It is a good thing. I know some have said that the world would be better without human beings. I disagree. We are inheritors of a theology that says human beings are totally depraved. Again, I disagree.

Human beings are the consciousness of the universe. We are the eyes, ears, the thought, the Word, to use a metaphor from John’s Gospel. The universe becomes conscious of itself through us. Civilization is the unique gift that human beings bring to the universe. It is the way we participate with one another and with Earth.

But it is also broken. Unjust, oppressive, violent, and unsustainable.
  • When 1 percent of humanity controls 40 percent of the wealth that is unjust.
  • When we use the gifts of Earth in such a way that our descendants will be paying for our debts, we are not living sustainably. We are not living justly.
  • When we uphold these economic disparities by having standing armies all over the globe, we are not living as human beings.
We cannot survive long like that. We will perish.

John’s Jesus is the archetypal human being. The one who testifies to the truth. This is why he tells Pilate:
My kingdom is not of this civilization. If it were my people would be coming down on you violently, just like you are doing to me. But that isn’t the way I roll. The kingdom I am testifying to is non-violent. It doesn’t need violence because it is just. It is about harmony and peace.
My interpretation of Jesus is that he as the Cosmic Christ symbolizes the consciousness and the conscience of humanity. We are human beings for crying out loud, not consumers, not slaves, not products, not market demos, not mercenaries, not statistics, not abusers of Earth and of one another, not exploiters, not exploited.

We are the consciousness, the Word of God, the Royalty of the Universe, the blessing of creation. So be it. Why settle for less?

For the record I am in favor of civilization continuing. Returning to hunter/gatherer status and eating nuts and berries may sound romantic, but it is not likely to work for six billion people.

If there is a message for people of conscience, for which the Cosmic Christ is a symbol, it is to be a transforming presence. For the human project--that is for civilization--to continue, it will necessarily become sustainable which is another word for just.

What is exciting is that creativity is exploding all over. There is no more exciting time to be alive than now. Frightening? Absolutely.

In the midst of all of this, we might ask what can I do?

I suggest two things:

The first is to discover your passion. Discover your vocation. Spend some time and energy doing that which gives you joy.

Frederick Buechner defined vocation as the place where our deep joy and the world's deep hunger meet.

I receive emails everyday from groups of people, some organized some semi-organized, right here in the Tri-Cities who are following their passion. Whether it is healthcare reform, creation care, cooperation between religions, building bike trails, working to stop sexual violence, you name it, creativity is exploding. Do your joy.

The second thing is to trust. To honor the Cosmic Christ is to trust that something in the universe is larger than I and in control where I am not. It is trust that the creativity of the universe is beyond our consciousness.

It is a trust in the goodness and creativity that is unseen. We see only the tip of an iceberg. 90 percent is under the water. 90 percent of our awareness is unconscious. Even as we cannot see we trust that we will find what we need when we need it.

We live our joy and we trust and in so doing we become human.

That is all that is required.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

The Great Turning




I am going to use this piece tonight for our United Religions Initiative Interfaith Thanksgiving Dinner.




I found this a few years ago on
Joanna Macy's website.

It is written by Christine Fry:


THE GREAT TURNING

You've asked me to tell you of the Great Turning
Of how we saved the world from disaster.
The answer is both simple and complex.
We turned.

For hundreds of years we had turned away
as life on earth grew more precarious

We turned away from the homeless men on the streets,
the stench from the river,

The children orphaned in Iraq,
the mothers dying of AIDS in Africa


We turned away because that was what we had been taught.
To turn away, from our pain, from the hurt in another's eyes,
From the drunken father, from the friend betrayed.

Always we were told, in actions louder than words,
to turn away, turn away.

And so we became a lonely people caught up in a world
Moving too quickly, too mindlessly toward its own demise.

Until it seemed as if there was no safe space to turn.
No place, inside or out, that did not remind us of fear or terror,
despair and loss, anger and grief.

Yet, on one of those days, someone did turn.

Turned to face the pain.
Turned to face the stranger.
Turned to look at the smouldering world
and the hatred seething in too many eyes.
Turned to face himself, herself.

And then another turned.
And another. And another.
And as they wept, they took each other's hands.

Until whole groups of people were turning.
Young and old, gay and straight.
People of all colours, all nations, all religions.
Turning not only to the pain and hurt
but to beauty, gratitude and love.

Turning to one another with forgiveness
and a longing for peace in their hearts.


At first, the turning made people dizzy, even silly.
There were people standing to the side,
gawking, criticizing, trying to knock the turners down.
But the people turning kept getting up,
kept helping one another to their feet.

Their laughter and kindness brought others
into the turning circle

Until even the nay-sayers began to smile and sway.

As the people turned, they began to spin
Reweaving the web of life, mending the shocking tears,
Knitting it back together with the colours of the earth,
Sewing on tiny mirrors so the beauty of each person,
each creature, each plant, each life
Might be seen and respected.

And as the people turned,
as they spun like the earth through the universe,

The web wrapped around them like a soft baby blanket
Making it clear all were loved, nothing separate.

As this love reached into every crack and crevice,
the people began to wake and wonder,
To breath and give thanks,
To celebrate together.

And so the world was saved,
but only as long as you, too, sweet one, remember to turn.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Power of Two

Exciting news this week is that a Presbyterian minister got married.
Laurie A. McNeill, pastor of Central Church in Montclair, N.J., informed her session on Oct. 13 and also mailed a letter to members of her congregation that day, and was married on Cape Cod on Oct. 17, her grandmother’s birthday.
And she told the good news to her presbytery:
On Nov. 14, McNeill stood during the announcements time of a meeting of Newark Presbytery and informed her colleagues in ministry that she had recently married. “Rejoice with me, for I have found a companion with whom to share my life!”
The happy couple met a couple of years ago:
About two years ago, McNeill met Lisa Gollihue, a trial attorney, through an online dating service. Much to her surprise, because McNeill had been skeptical about such things, “it really was love at the beginning. There was a powerful connection that was just ridiculous.”
Wait. Huh? What was that? Laurie married Lisa?
McNeill said she told the session that she was getting married “and there will be no groom at the wedding. There was sort of this look — `You are gay. You are gay!’ ”
Cheese and crackers! What did her session do?
Later during that meeting, she said, the session voted unanimously to support McNeill in her decision and to affirm her ministry at Central Church.
How about that!
McNeill and Gollihue were married on Oct. 17 at Christ Church Cathedral in Harwich Port, Mass., on Cape Cod. Earlier, they had approached the governing board of that congregation and asked for permission to marry there, which the vestry did grant.
What will the busybodies say?
In marrying someone of the same gender, “you’re doing something that’s in direct violation of the constitution of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), which you took a vow to uphold,” Leggett said. And marriage vows are “serious vows. Those vows are contradictory. I don’t know where that leaves her.”
Ho hum. They are so predictable. They will probably try to cause a stink.
As for McNeill, she is not sure what will come next.

What she does know is that, at age 49, she has married for the first time, and is thrilled.
All of us at Shuck and Jive are thrilled for you! Congratulations Laurie and Lisa!

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Men As Allies to Address Sexual Violence

It was good to see this in today's East Tennessean (ETSU's student newspaper):
ETSU's Men As Allies program was launched this year as part of the Counseling Center's OASIS programming. Men As Allies is part of a series of programs for both men and women on campus to address rape, sexual violence and relationship violence and to promote healthy sexuality.

The program encourages males to take ownership of sexual violence against women as a men's issue.

"It is a men's issue because 95 percent of sexual violence is conducted by men," explained Rebecca Alexander, OASIS program coordinator of the ETSU Counseling Center. "Men are in relationships with women who are either in danger of rape, sexual violence or relationship violence, or they are in relationships with women who have experienced it."
She goes on to say
"Although men are responsible for 95 percent of sexual and relationship violence and rape, only one quarter of all men are actually committing this violence," she said. "That means 75 percent of men out there are choosing to be safe and responsible."

Students who complete Men As Allies training can sign a Pledge to Ending Relationship Violence. The pledge states that the signee acknowledges relationship violence as a problem and is committed to action over passivity. Men As Allies workshops are offered to classrooms, residence halls, fraternities and athletic groups. To schedule a workshop, students can contact Alexander at 423-439-4841 or
alexanrl [at] etsu [dot] edu. (read more)
This is a great idea.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

IPMN is Doing Its Job

The Israel/Palestine Mission Network (IPMN) of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) has recently posted a video on its blog. The six minute film tells the side of Israel's history from the perspective of the Palestinian people.

IPMN was established by the 2004 General Assembly of the PCUSA. This is from their web page:

Established by action of the 2004 General Assembly, the Israel/Palestine Mission Network encourages congregations and presbytery mission committees, task groups and other entities toward specific mission goals that will create currents of wider and deeper involvement with Israel/Palestine. We seek to demonstrate solidarity, educate about the facts on the ground, and change the conditions that erode the humanity of both Israelis and Palestinians, especially those who are living in Jerusalem, the West Bank, and Gaza. This network works in close cooperation with ecumenical partners and with the Office for the Middle East, the Presbyterian Peacemaking Program, the Presbyterian Washington Office, the Presbyterian UN Office and with other appropriate entities of the General Assembly and General Assembly Council.

The Israel/Palestine Mission Network is an opportunity for Presbyterians throughout the country and at all levels of the church to coordinate ongoing efforts and discover new ones. Ultimately, we aim to support our church partners in Palestine to:
  • Strengthen Christian social institutions
  • Create jobs and promote economic development
  • Maintain schools and hospitals
  • Enable affordable and safe housing for Palestine
We unite our efforts through this Network, praying for the Holy Spirit's bold guidance in our work for peace and justice. Please continue to view our web site, learn more about our activities, and how you might get involved.
They do important work.

Their work is not without controversy. Viola Larson has spent a few blog posts criticizing the film and advocating its removal from the IPMN's website.

Providing criticism is a good thing. We should engage in it. There are legitimate criticisms of this film. There are legitimate grievances voiced in this film as well.

Ms. Larson is not satisfied with voicing her opinion. She wants censorship. She has decided what everyone should be able to watch and not to watch. She has been busily writing emails trying to get traction for her cause.

I decided to post the film here. I appreciate the IPMN allowing this voice to be heard. Controversy is a sign that the IPMN is doing its job. One of the statements in our most recent confession reads:

In a broken and fearful world
the Spirit gives us courage
to pray without ceasing,
to witness among all peoples to Christ as Lord and Savior,
to unmask idolatries in Church and culture,
to hear the voices of peoples long silenced,
and to work with others for justice, freedom, and peace.
This is what was posted on the youtube page regarding this video:
I am Israel. Written by Hashem Said on Feb.25.2002 . Video made by Jihane Al Quds on Sept.4.2009. Hashem Said is an officer in the UW Palestinian student group Hayaat.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Embracing Change: A Sermon

Embracing Change
John Shuck

First Presbyterian Church
Elizabethton, Tennessee

November 15th, 2009

Daniel 12:1-3
Mark 13:1-8

Was Jesus apocalyptic?

That is one of the questions bantered about between scholars in the historical Jesus debate.

The debate is whether or not Jesus believed that the end of human history was coming and that God would bring it with supernatural fury.

The task of the debate is how to interpret Mark 13 and other passages in the gospels that look apocalyptic. Scholars call Mark 13 “the little apocalypse.”

Before you tune out on me by thinking this is just another exercise in speculation over archaic texts, I am going to suggest that this exercise is contemporary. How we see Jesus reflects how we see ourselves.

We need to define what we mean by apocalypse.

Apocalypse means literally revelation. The last book in the Bible is called “The Revelation to John” or “The Apocalypse to John.” The meaning of that is that some guy named John received a revelation or an apocalypse from heaven. Apocalypse is special divine insight.

In popular parlance, apocalypse means a violent or a cataclysmic future. This is a future that tends to be fixed, predicted, even fated. The most popular expression in Christian extremism is found in the Left Behind novels. This is pulp fiction for the Christian extremist crowd. It reflects religious escapism. The basic plot is this: God is going to wipe out the world. Get on the Jesus train so you can get raptured before he trashes the place.

This view is as common as dirt. We see it in Christian extremist TV preachers. We see it in Muslim extremists. We see it also in the New Age Mayan calendar predictions, (ie. 2012), Nostradamus predictions and so forth. The packages may be different but the product is the same.

This is the product: There is a plan and a timetable that has been supernaturally decided and revealed to those who have special insight.

1) The view is pessimistic. Humanity or even life on Earth is not going to make it.
2) It is escapist. Only the true believers will escape and live forever in some other realm.
3) And it shirks responsibility. There is no reason to address the problems of Earth or contemplate its future because the “Supernatural” will fix it.

That is common definition and the one I am going to use for apocalyptic.

As you can tell by my tone, I don’t believe it. I think it is a dangerous and destructive view. Unfortunately, it is a popular view. As humanity faces more challenges and changes, we might expect apocalypticism to become more popular.

Was Jesus apocalyptic?

From reading Mark 13, it certainly seems like it. Listen to his language:

“Wars…earthquakes…famines…the end is still to come…the sun will be darkened…the stars will be falling from heaven…they will see the son of man coming in the clouds…heaven and earth will pass away…keep awake!”

What was he talking about? Was he talking about the end of the world? Was he talking about a local political event? Was he wrong? Was he exaggerating? Was he strange? Was he a product of his time? Was it really Jesus?

Here is how I learned it in seminary. Mark was written sometime during the Jewish-Roman War in 66-70 CE. The temple was destroyed and Jerusalem was burned. The western wall of the temple stands today. It is called the wailing wall. It has never been rebuilt. On the site of the temple is a Muslim mosque called the Dome of the Rock. For the Jews it was the end of their world.

First century historian, Josephus, recounted the horrors of this time in his work The War of the Jews. Many of the things we find predicted in Mark 13, Josephus described in his account of events including false messiahs, war, hunger, fleeing to the mountains, etc.

The view I learned in seminary and embraced is that Mark 13 was a creation by the author of Mark. The historical person of Jesus never said any of this. It was a creation by the gospel author. That would also be the view of liberal scholars such as Marcus Borg, Dominic Crossan, and other Fellows of the Jesus Seminar.

In their picture, the historical Jesus was a wisdom sage and poet. He was a critic of Empire but the kingdom would come not dramatically by supernatural intervention or apocalypse but by gradual moral improvement. “The kingdom of God is within you,” Jesus is reported to have said. The kingdom of God is like a seed that grows and produces fruit. He was against Herod’s and the Roman Empire’s economic policies, was critical of the temple, got on the wrong side of the authorities, and was executed as a troublemaker. His vision lived on in his disciples. They were mystically connected with him through this mystery they described as resurrection.

However, the other view is that yes Jesus was apocalyptic. This view is also held by liberal scholars such as Bart Ehrman, Paula Frederickson, and James Tabor among others. They follow in the tradition of the great historical Jesus scholar, Albert Schweitzer. He wrote his book, The Quest of the Historical Jesus in 1906. It provided a critique of 19th century liberals who thought Jesus was a prophet of moral progress. See how things come around again and again.

Schweitzer’s view was that Jesus felt the end was near and that God was about to do some big thing and that he was part of this big thing. He went to Jerusalem thinking he was going to start things in motion. He succeeded in getting himself killed. For Schweitzer, Jesus’ story is a tragic story. He was a product of his time. We, however, said Schweitzer don’t live in that time. This is how Schweitzer put it:
That Jesus expected the final consummation to be realized supernaturally whereas we can understand it only in terms of the result of moral effort, is merely the result of the change in fundamental thought-forms. … All that is required is that we think of realizing the kingdom by moral effort with the same passion as that with which he expected it to be realized by divine intervention, and that we know among ourselves that we must be prepared to sacrifice everything for it. P. 484
Schweitzer’s apocalyptic Jesus was not the Jesus of Christian orthodoxy and certainly not Christian fundamentalism. Jesus was mistaken, but his passion for the kingdom is to be admired and emulated.

After writing this book he went on to study medicine. He received the Nobel prize for his humanitarian work. His philosophy of a “reverence for life” was embodied in his life of service, particularly the hospital he started in Africa.

My views of Jesus are starting to change. I think that Mark 13 isn’t completely separate from the historical Jesus. I think he did have the destruction of the temple on the horizon of his vision. He could see events shaping up for a clash of civilizations between the Jewish people and Rome. He likely used vivid metaphorical language of the prophets to describe what he saw. I think he used the language and thought forms of his time. He probably did think in terms of divine intervention like the Hebrew prophets before him.

I don’t want to strip away the rough edges away from Jesus. I don’t want to tame him to where he fits in my world view. I will let him be a first century God-infused prophet with a passion for justice.

Our world view has changed a great deal since the time of Jesus. He obviously couldn’t have envisioned the universe we see today or the depth of time of natural history. Apocalypticism is nonsensical for us today.

That said, I do think that Jesus can be an important figure. I do like what Schweitzer says about the mystical relationship between ourselves and Jesus. He wrote:
Our relationship to Jesus is ultimately of a mystical kind….We can achieve a relation to such a personality only when we become united with him in the knowledge of a shared aspiration, when we feel that our will is clarified, enriched and enlivened by his will and when we rediscover ourselves through him. P. 486
How we face our future and our present is a matter of will. Do we have the will as individuals and as a country and as a human race to face reality and act appropriately?

In our text today, we find the disciples behaving like yokels visiting the big city.
One of the disciples looked up at the temple and said, “Teacher, what large stones and what large buildings!” Then Jesus asked him, “Do you see these great buildings? Not one stone will be left here upon another; all will be thrown down.”
I think this saying did go back to Jesus. He saw what was coming. He had the will to face reality and to name it. It wasn’t a magical, superstitious prediction. It wasn’t fatalism. It was a realistic assessment of the conflict that was brewing between Rome and Jerusalem. It was an invitation to his disciples to wake up. I think the author of Mark embellished much of the 13th chapter of Mark, although I am not sure how much. But I think Jesus did see an end of an era, an end of an age, an end of a world.

Most importantly, he was telling his disciples that the end of this era was not the end of everything. In fact, it was a new beginning. This end while painful and destructive was the beginning of something new. Whether it was Jesus or Mark, they blur, nevertheless, it was encouragement to hope in the most frightening time.

The prophets of today are like Jesus in that they are speaking to the yokel within us who says, “Look at my new cell phone! Isn’t our technology incredible?” The prophets are saying in return: “There will come a time when our technology is going to crumble.” Whatever the medium, these prophets are showing us through film, music, fiction, non-fiction, and so forth that we are not living sustainably with our planet and that this age, this era, this world is coming to an end.

In a sense, this song from the musical group, The Talking Heads, is a modern version of Mark 13. Here are the lyrics of the song, “Nothing but Flowers:”

Here we stand
Like an Adam and an Eve
Waterfalls
The Garden of Eden
Two fools in love
So beautiful and strong
The birds in the trees
Are smiling upon them
From the age of the dinosaurs
Cars have run on gasoline
Where, where have they gone?
Now, it's nothing but flowers

There was a factory
Now there are mountains and rivers

We caught a rattlesnake
Now we got something for dinner

There was a shopping mall
Now it's all covered with flowers

If this is paradise
I wish I had a lawnmower

Years ago
I was an angry young man
I'd pretend
That I was a billboard
Standing tall
By the side of the road
I fell in love
With a beautiful highway
This used to be real estate
Now it's only fields and trees
Where, where is the town
Now, it's nothing but flowers
The highways and cars
Were sacrificed for agriculture
I thought that we'd start over
But I guess I was wrong

Once there were parking lots
Now it's a peaceful oasis

This was a Pizza Hut
Now it's all covered with daisies

I miss the honky tonks,
Dairy Queens, and 7-Elevens

And as things fell apart
Nobody paid much attention

I dream of cherry pies,
Candy bars, and chocolate chip cookies

We used to microwave
Now we just eat nuts and berries

This was a discount store,
Now it's turned into a cornfield

Don't leave me stranded here
I can't get used to this lifestyle

Modern day prophets are also telling us about hope. What is hope?

Hope is not escapism. Nor is hope denial.

Believing in superstition is not hope.
Denying reality is not hope.

Hope is a matter of character. It is a belief, a conviction, a confidence that we have what it takes to deal with whatever comes when it comes.

Margaret Atwood, author of The Year of the Flood, which is of the genre speculative fiction, was asked this question in an interview:
I just finished the book "The Year of the Flood." I thought it was amazing and left me feeling hopeful and hopeless about the human race at the same time. How do you have hope? What do you find hopeful about human beings?
She answered:
I think hope is part of the human toolkit, like music. It comes with, for the simple reason that those who did not have it - in the deep past - are not our ancestors.
Dianne Dumanoski, the author of The End of the Long Summer: Why We Must Remake Our Civilization to Survive a Volatile Earth, a book we are going to read next for our Thursday reading group, concludes her book with a chapter entitled “Honest Hope.”

She says that blind hope kills. “I fear blind hope as much as despair,” she writes. She says we must avoid a despair on one hand that says “it’s too late” or a sunny optimism that says “we’ll figure out something, because science always does.” Then she writes about real hope:
I discovered that one finds strength when one has to and simply endures what seemed beforehand terrifying and impossible….Such moments of great trial are not only the worst of times, but for many they can also be the very best, because one often experiences life at its most precious, intense, and meaningful.

….Looking ahead, it is natural to focus on the dangers, but those who will be making their way in this uncertain future will also have unusual opportunities, although these may not be of the kind that one would have chosen wittingly. In the struggle to continue the human journey, they may live lies enlarged by a shared sense of great purpose, leavened by imagination, and enriched by the creativity that survival has always required. P. 252.
Was Jesus apocalyptic? No. Not in the sense that we use that word. Jesus was realistic and hopeful. That is why we still tell his story. He showed us—and in that mystical sense that Schweitzer speaks of, when our wills our enriched and clarified by his will—Jesus still shows us how to do the most important thing human beings have ever done or have ever had to do.

He shows us how to embrace change.

We can do that.