If you know that God's love embraces all persons equally, no matter their gender, race, or sexual identity...
If you understand that faith is a matter of mind as well as heart, and that taking the Bible seriously means it cannot always be taken literally...
If, for you, diversity, tolerance, and inclusion are strengths to be taught...
If you believe that Christ calls us to be nothing less than global citizens, that the social expression of love is justice and that spiritual concerns are inseparable from a commitment to the natural world...
If you have wished for a more open and embracing community of faith to nurture your spirit and raise your children, and haven't yet found a place of belonging...
... then please know that Kairos-Milwaukie United Church of Christ is the place for you.
“We are constantly being enticed toward the religion of self above all else. It is a hollow one and it will not satisfy forever. God calls is to revel in the knowledge of God’s love, and then to rejoice in spreading that love... God’s commandments are not given to us to make us acceptable to God. We are already accepted. They are give to make us rooted and grounded in love.”
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The Bible, at points, is fairly dramatic about reminding us that we are faced with life-altering choices. One of those occurs when Joshua addresses the people after they have entered “The Promised Land,” when he is facing his own death. “Now therefore revere the LORD, and serve him in sincerity and in faithfulness;” he says, “put away the gods that your ancestors served beyond the River and in Egypt, and serve the LORD. Now if you are unwilling to serve the LORD, choose this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your ancestors served in the region beyond the River or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you are living; but as for me and my household, we will serve the LORD.” (Joshua 24:14-15) Moses has earlier put it even more strongly. “This day I call the heavens and the earth as witnesses against you that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Now choose life, so that you and your children may live (Deuteronomy 30:19)
I’ve been reading a rather strange science fiction (or perhaps more appropriately, fantasy) book, American Gods by Neil Gaiman. Neil Gaiman moved to American in 1992---“ . . . America: this strange, huge place that I knew I didn’t understand. But I wanted to understand it. More than that, I wanted to describe it . . . I wanted to write a book that included all the parts of America that obsessed and delighted me, which tended to be the bits that never showed up in the films and television shows.” The book won a number of awards. “Some people complained that the book was not American enough; others that it was too American; . . . that I had failed to understand that the true religion of American was sports . . .” After ten years has passed, he notes that, still, “the Gods are waiting.”
I must make clear that I don’t recommend you all run out and buy this book. It is not what you’re likely to expect and it definitely not for everyone---probably not even for me. The epigraph, however, ties in with what I have to say this week. It is a quote (not fictional) from the late Richard Dorson, an American folklorist, author, professor, and director of the Folklore Institute at Indiana University: “One question that has always intrigued me is what happens to demonic beings when immigrants move from their homelands. Irish-Americans remember their fairies, Norwegian-Americans the nisser, Greek-Americans the vrykolaka, but only in relations to events remembered in the Old Country. When I once asked why such demons are not seen in America, my informants giggled confusedly and said ‘They’re scared to pass the ocean, it’s too far,’ pointing out that Christ and the apostles never came to America.”
We often speak of faith as a journey, which is about right: it’s not a place we stop and stay for good, but it is always moving us along. Sometimes we carry baggage on that journey — a lot of it. Sometimes we travel light.
As little children we are carried along that journey by our families and close communities. And if we have been lucky the baggage that was packed for us included compassion and gratitude, kindness and openness to the world, spiritual resilience and a deep reservoir of confidence in the unending love of God. But even the most well packed baggage needs to be examined and repacked as we get older and begin to make decisions for ourselves.
This fall we will offer the middle and high school students of Kairos-Milwaukie an opportunity to begin that process of exploring the traditions, texts and worship that they have inherited. We’ll talk about the development of Christianity and all its myriad forms and we’ll visit some other churches. We’ll also visit other faith communities as an introduction to the many paths that people travel in the journey toward God. And we will explore the UCC and the unique ways our denomination and congregation seek to follow in the way of Jesus.
There will be retreats and service opportunities along the way, and time for silliness and fun, because joy is part of the spiritual journey too.
At the end of the year, we will celebrate all of the participants during worship and those who choose to may publicly affirm the promises that were made for them when they were baptized as infants or young children.
And for all of the adults among us who are feeling a little like they don’t totally understand or perhaps agree with the spiritual baggage they are currently carrying: welcome to “Theology Distilled,” a small group for seekers -- no matter where you are on the journey of faith. We’ll gather at the Muddy Rudder in Sellwood on the third Tuesday of each month. I’ve got a stack of books to consider, and a list of questions we may want to dig into together, but we’ll let the shape of the group unfold as we journey together.
May the rest of your summer days be blessed with just the right combination of adventure and rest.