If one sins against you

Dearly Beloved,
Grace and Peace to you.
         
         
If another member of the church sins against you, go and point out the fault when the two of you are alone. If the member listens to you, you have regained that one. But if you are not listened to, take one or two others along with you, so that every word may be confirmed by the evidence of two or three witnesses. If the member refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if the offender refuses to listen even to the church, let such a one be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector.
         —Matthew 18. 15-17

We often twist this into a way to cause hurt instead of healing. Don’t take this as an excuse to tell others what they ought to do or think. It’s about standing for who you are, expressing what you feel and asking for what you need, without re-shaping your truth to please others.

But it’s not about getting your way: it’s about maintaining relationships. It’s an invitation to talk to people instead of talking about them, to be direct and honest. To do this we have to listen rather than arguing, and be gentle rather than being coercive. We have to let our compassion for the other be greater than our pain, and concern for the relationship be greater than concern about what others think of us. We have to trust that love transforms all discomfort, all disappointment, all offense. We have to trust that we’re going to be OK even if we tell the truth. We have to be willing to be loving rather than being right.

Bringing others in might tempt us to create triangles—to get third parties stuck in the middle of our conflicts. But the others are witnesses to keep us honest, not go-betweens to do our dirty work, or accomplices to help us gang up. They can help us see what we can’t, and say what we haven’t, and hear what we won’t.

Jesus’ asks us to honestly face the pain in our lives, stay in relationship, be loving, and invite people into healthy ways of relating.

But when it fails, and someone insists on being an idiot and a jerk, Jesus gives us permission to shun them. Right?

Well… how did Jesus treat Gentiles and tax collectors?

Go then, and do the same.

         
         
Deep Blessings,
Pastor Steve

__________________
Copyright © Steve Garnaas-Holmes
Unfolding Light
www.unfoldinglight.net

Real freedom

Dearly Beloved,
Grace and Peace to you.
         
         

Forgive us our debts, as we have forgiven those in debt to us.

         —Mathew 6.12

Owe no one anything, except to love one another; for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law.

         —Romans 13.8

Love is the greatest power God has given you.
In loving you become your deepest self.
The deepest freedom is the freedom
to unleash that love upon the world,
to give the deepest gift in yourself.

True freedom is the freedom to love everyone
regardless of what society (or your instinct) says they deserve,
regardless of how they treat you,
regardless of what they seem to ask for.

The best freedom is to be free
of whatever keeps you from loving perfectly.

God has unlocked all the gates.
The hardest part of life
is walking out of the prison.

         
         
Deep Blessings,
Pastor Steve

__________________
Copyright © Steve Garnaas-Holmes
Unfolding Light
www.unfoldinglight.net

Acts of God

Dearly Beloved,
Grace and Peace to you.
         
         
The hurricane we just had is what insurance companies and other atheists, oddly enough, would call an act of God. No doubt some TV preacher or other atheist will soon pronounce Hurricane Irene as God’s punishment against somebody or other for something or other. And I think, Really? Is God’s aim that bad? I mean, it came on Sunday morning! We only had 16 in worship. Some churches cancelled services. This is God’s idea of punishment? And what of the good Bible-believing churches that were destroyed? If this is how God punishes, is this also how God rewards? If one person is really good, do they take the whole neighborhood with them to heaven?

The storm was pretty tame by the time it hit here in Massachusetts, but there was some damage. A tree fell across our neighbor’s driveway. Was that an act of God or was God just careless? Does God just not sweat the details? It may have been punishment, but I thought it was kind of fun to go out with an ax and cut it up so they could get out. What if God’s punishment is terrible for some and not so bad for others? What if hell turns out to be kind of an interesting place?

But, OK, lets play along. Let’s suppose that this storm was an act of God. And it “meant” something. When did God stop acting? Isn’t today’s good weather also an act of God? Must be. What some godless people think is just a natural occurrence, we know is actually the hand of God. And God is trying to communicate to us in it. The leaves on trees, they’re acts of God. So is birdsong, and the way ducks get funnier the faster they waddle. That’s definitely an act of God.

Children, and beauty of all sorts, and surprises, these are acts of God. The fact that ice floats, that the atmosphere has just enough nitrogen, that we kept evolving and didn’t stay lemurs. That trees clean the air and bugs clean the earth, and algae feed us all, that water falls and and heat rises so that everything gets watered and scrubbed and air conditioned.

Breathing—now there’s an act of God. Nerve impulses and cellular energy exchange—amazing acts of God. Your heart beat—every single one of them, each is an act of God. What if you let go and stand back and get your ego out of the way so that every word that comes out of your mouth is an act of God? Why not?

Let’s face it. You are an act of God. Whether you see it or not, God means something in you. Do your best to see that whatever God is trying to communicate through you is clear, and that by whatever you do and say, people experience grace. Who knows? Even atheists might find themselves peculiarly blessed, and a little curious about that.

         
         
Deep Blessings,
Pastor Steve

__________________
Copyright © Steve Garnaas-Holmes
Unfolding Light
www.unfoldinglight.net

I AM

Dearly Beloved,
Grace and Peace to you.
         
         
Deep in the wilderness and then beyond, God appeared to Moses in a bush radiant with presence. God said, “I will send you to Pharaoh to bring my people out of Egypt.” Moses said, “Who am I, that I should do this?” and God said, “I will be there for you.”

“If I come to the Israelites and say to them, ‘The God of your ancestors has sent me to you,’ and they ask me, ‘What is his name?’ what shall I say to them?” And there was silence, a long, deep silence. Moses knew that knowing someone’s name gave you power over them—a “handle” to give you a grip on them. But there was only silence.

Moses stood in the silence, on that holy ground, and wondered. What is this silence? Who is this God? And the silence said a hundred thousand million things, which were only one thing.

Ayeh ahser ayeh.

I am I who am.

I am the One Who Is.

I do not have a name; I just AM.

I am an “I.”

I am Being itself.

I am the Being who makes all things be.

I be. I be who I be. I will be. I will be who I am.

I will be there for you.

I am the Present One.

And all his days, Moses knew God as the Presence who was there for him; and always on Moses’ lips was his one prayer: “You Are.”
         

         
         
Deep Blessings,
Pastor Steve

__________________
Copyright © Steve Garnaas-Holmes
Unfolding Light
www.unfoldinglight.net

A prayer for compassion

Dearly Beloved,
Grace and Peace to you.
         
         A prayer for compassion (based on Romans 12)

Our response to the violence in the world, and to the the terrorist attacks of ten years ago, begins in prayer. We worship a God who sees the suffering of the oppressed and comes to set them free, and calls us to join in this great work. We follow Jesus, who calls us to take up our cross and be gentle in the face of violence and fear. Therefore we pray:

God of love, by your mercy we present our whole lives to you as a living sacrifice, seeking not to be conformed to this world but to be transformed by the renewal of our mindfulness, so that we may discern what is your delight, what is good and life-giving and whole.

Therefore let our love be genuine. May we turn from what is evil, and hold fast to what is good; may we love one another with mutual affection and outdo one another in honoring others. May we not lag in zeal, but be ardent in spirit, serving you. By your grace may we rejoice in hope, be patient in suffering, and persevere in prayer. Help us by your Spirit to contribute to the needs of the saints and extend hospitality to strangers.

We bless those who persecute us; we bless and do not curse them. We rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep. We desire to live in harmony with one another; we seek not to be above others but to associate with the lowly, not claiming to be wiser than we are. We will not repay anyone evil for evil, but take thought for what is noble in the sight of all. By your grace, we will live peaceably with all. We take no part in vengeance: if our enemies are hungry, we will feed them; if they are thirsty, we will give them something to drink. We will not be overcome by evil, but by your grace we shall overcome evil with good.

This is our spiritual worship, and our faith. For this we give you thanks, and we ask your blessing. Amen.

         
         
Deep Blessings,
Pastor Steve

__________________
Copyright © Steve Garnaas-Holmes
Unfolding Light
www.unfoldinglight.net

I have seen… I have heard… I have come

Dearly Beloved,
Grace and Peace to you.
         
         
Then the Lord said, “I have seen the misery of my people who are in Egypt; I have heard their cry on account of their taskmasters. Indeed, I know their sufferings, and I have come down to deliver them from the Egyptians, and to bring them up out of that land to a good and broad land, a land flowing with milk and honey.”

         —Exodus 3. 7-8

Today, in the wilderness you wander,
         in the slave quarters you inhabit,
         in each task and every moment,

you are accompanied,
         not merely observed from afar,

by One who sees you,
and hears your silent cries,

who sees what oppresses you,
         sees through the illusions that confine you,

who knows your suffering,
         who shares your experience,
         who lives in your flesh,

who comes to set you free
         to bring you out of what diminishes your life,
         out of your old self,

into a broad and fertile place,
         a new life.

All this, today.
         And again tomorrow.

         
         
Deep Blessings,
Pastor Steve

__________________
Copyright © Steve Garnaas-Holmes
Unfolding Light
www.unfoldinglight.net

Take up your cross

Dearly Beloved,
Grace and Peace to you.
         
         
         If you want to become my followers,
         deny yourselves
         and take up your cross
         and follow me.”

                  —Matthew 16.24

The aunt who annoys you is not your “cross to bear.”
The cross is not an annoyance,
nor something thrust upon you.
It is your free, willing and unresentful choice
to be gentle,
to be nonviolent for the sake of justice,
to be vulnerable for the sake of healing,
to open yourself to other people’s suffering,
to enter into the shame of the world
with the enormous grace of God.

To take up your cross
is to enter into God’s fierce longing
for healing and justice,
even at your own loss,
confident that being wrapped in God’s love,
even amidst the suffering of the world,
is heaven.

To take up your cross is to trust
that God alone is our security and our power,
that grace is absolute and death is relative,
that the world can get along without us
but not without our love,
that forgiveness is more powerful than force,
that love is stronger than fear,
more lasting than death,
more real than anything else.

To take up your cross is not to go alone,
but to follow the Humble One,
the Trusting One, the Gentle One,
the one who already bears your cross,
your sin, your suffering, your death,
who wants to bear your light,
your blessing, your soul, in love.

To take up your cross is to die with Christ
and to rise with Christ
into a new life that can’t be killed,
in which you can suffer but not be hurt
and die but not be dead,
in which you are truly alive,
because it is no longer you but God living in you—
wholly present and infinitely loving,
and deeply joyful.
         
         
Deep Blessings,
Pastor Steve

__________________
Copyright © Steve Garnaas-Holmes
Unfolding Light
www.unfoldinglight.net

Burning bushes

Dearly Beloved,
Grace and Peace to you.
         
         
Moses was keeping the flock of his father-in-law Jethro, the priest of Midian; he led his flock beyond the wilderness, and came to Horeb, the mountain of God. There the angel of the Lord appeared to him in a flame of fire out of a bush; he looked, and the bush was blazing, yet it was not consumed. Then Moses said, “I must turn aside and look at this great sight, and see why the bush is not burned up.”
         — Exodus 3.1-3

How many bushes are aflame about us
and we do not see?
A human heart opening before us,
a child with expectant eyes,
a fleeting thought of joy rising
beyond the wilderness of our minds,
the look in the eyes of the mother
of the starving child, pleading with us
to enter this life we share,
the clump of grass cemented in, undaunted,
the angel appears in a flame of fire
in the old guy on the bus
whose life is afire with God
though he does not know it.

Maybe God walks through our lives with matches.
Or maybe in reaching out for us
the Glorious One brushes up against things
and they catch fire.
Or maybe
everything in this world comes from God
and is an entrance to God
and shines with God
and sometimes we notice.

It’s not just show, mere impressiveness.
It’s a question, an invitation, a reaching out.

How odd that we seek God’s attention, yet
never suspect Someone seeking ours,
even now, as we ramble
across the mountain of God
without wonder
leaving behind us bushes intact
and a wake of smoke.

To avoid being lost, regard lightly
where you think you must go.
Repeat these directions in the wilderness:
“I must turn aside and look.”
Keep the eyes of your heart open,
and it will seem that, even in the dark,
things light up.

         
         
Deep Blessings,
Pastor Steve

__________________
Copyright © Steve Garnaas-Holmes
Unfolding Light
www.unfoldinglight.net

A living sacrifice

Dearly Beloved,
Grace and Peace to you.
         
         
I appeal to you therefore, brothers and sisters, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds, so that you may discern what is the will of God—what is good and acceptable and perfect.
         — Romans 12. 1-2

God of mercy, source of love,
I give you myself today.

My desires, my treasures, I lay before you,
until they are transformed
into your desires, the yearnings of life,
the energy of blessing that is you,
that is within me.

The desires of the world,
and its expectation that I conform,
I renounce,
that I may be transformed
into the body of your love.

May all I do today
by a living sacrifice,
a gift to you of who I am,
consumed and changed in the fire of your grace.

God of mercy, source of love,
each moment
I lay myself on the altar of the world.
Take me.

         
         
Deep Blessings,
Pastor Steve

__________________
Copyright © Steve Garnaas-Holmes
Unfolding Light
www.unfoldinglight.net

Riches

Dearly Beloved,
Grace and Peace to you.

         
         
         

Love, you are not elsewhere.
Soul, you are God’s.
Indwelling joy, you Are.

         •

This moment is my wealth.
Coming to awareness is my inheritance.
Being present, I am rich beyond measure.

         •

May I not forget to walk around this palace,
not be shy to feel at home among its wonders,
not be mean and forget to invite my friends.

         
         

Deep Blessings,
Pastor Steve

______________________
Copyright © Steve Garnaas-Holmes
Unfolding Light
www.unfoldinglight.net