Monday, July 27, 2009

Love is an Action Word

Luke 10:25-37
25Just then a lawyer stood up to test Jesus. “Teacher,” he said, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?” 26He said to him, “What is written in the law? What do you read there?” 27He answered, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind; and your neighbor as yourself.” 28And he said to him, “You have given the right answer; do this, and you will live.” 29But wanting to justify himself, he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?”

30Jesus replied, “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell into the hands of robbers, who stripped him, beat him, and went away, leaving him half dead. 31Now by chance a priest was going down that road; and when he saw him, he passed by on the other side. 32So likewise a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. 33But a Samaritan while traveling came near him; and when he saw him, he was moved with pity. 34He went to him and bandaged his wounds, having poured oil and wine on them. Then he put him on his own animal, brought him to an inn, and took care of him. 35The next day he took out two denarii, gave them to the innkeeper, and said, ‘Take care of him; and when I come back, I will repay you whatever more you spend.’ 36Which of these three, do you think, was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of the robbers?” 37He said, “The one who showed him mercy.” Jesus said to him, “Go and do likewise.”

Every time I read this story I struggle with trying to figure out a way to make it clear just how impossible this scenario would seem to the people listening to Jesus. In our world, the enemy is different for each generation. For the Jews, the Samaritans have been the enemy for hundreds of years. They were a despised minority whose land lay in between two Jewish nations, Galilee and Judah. They were relatives who didn’t worship right, who didn’t come to the temple, who had scriptures that were not exactly the same. As far as the Jews were concerned, Samaritans were untouchable, unclean – like lepers only without the possibility of ever healing. And the Samaritans knew how much the Jews despised them. After a priest and a Levite went by, the idea that a Samaritan would stop to help was just impossible. It would be like . . . well, that’s where I started. Not being able to come up with an adequate comparison. Maybe an undocumented Mexican coming to the aid of one of the Minute Men guarding the border? Or a black helping a member of the Aryan nation? But then for the story to have the same effect, it would have to be told to an audience of Minute Men, or members of the Aryan nation . We just really can’t quite get it the same way Jesus’ audience would have heard it.

Once again I found the study questions in the Green Bible provocative. One of those questions pointed out “Those listening to Jesus would have considered the Samaritans the scum of the earth. Yet the Samaritan is the one who lived out God’s commandment to show love and mercy. What does this suggest about power and justice?”

In terms of justice and power, the point of the story is not so much that a stranger helped a stranger, or even that an enemy helped an enemy, but that a member of a much hated minority helped a member of the group that oppressed. As in so many of the stories Jesus tells, the person with the least status and power is behaving in a way that makes him superior to those who out rank him in the eyes of the world. The Samaritan helps the Jew. The poor widow gives her last coin to the temple. In each of these stories, the last is first. In each of these cases, we see the way it is in God’s kingdom – exactly the opposite of the way it is in the world we’re used to inhabiting.

The justice we see in the actions of the Good Samaritan is like a homeless man finding and returning a fat wallet and refusing a reward. We’re surprised, first that he didn’t steal anything, then that he refused the reward. This surprises us nearly as much as Jesus’ audience would have been surprised at the Samaritan helping the man on the road. I mean, each one of us would certainly return the wallet and take no reward for doing what is right. But for a homeless guy to do this is so surprising it makes the news! No one expects justice to be done by the lowly. But here it is clearly the despised Samaritan, who worships wrongly and reads the wrong scriptures and rejects the Law, who acts with love and practices justice.

In a recent article on the internet, Pastor Mary Jo Bradshaw of North Long Beach Christian Church challenged the church to show love for a group we often think of as “the least.” The entire article is going to be included in our newsletter this month. But I want to share with you today part of what she said. “In cities and suburbs and rural areas all across the world, "street gangs" are a concern. We're losing our kids, and we feel helpless to do something about it. The thing to remember, though, is that they aren't just "our" kids; they're God's kids. And God weeps at every senseless death, every ruined life, every fractured family. Locking them up isn't helping. "Three Strikes" isn't helping. Fear surely isn't helping. We have to love them back into the arms of God, and love is verb. Love is action. Love is something we have to do.”

The Green Bible asks two more questions. First, how do we see Jesus’ response to the lawyer in terms of the interconnectedness of all life? And, how do we show mercy to the ‘enemy’ of the environment and humanity?

You have to understand that Jesus was asking the lawyer for no less than a complete change of heart. “Lawyer” meant someone who was expert in the laws of Moses, the laws that governed the life of every Jew and the nations of Judah and Galilee. He was asking the lawyer to do something as difficult as when he asked that other young man to give up all his wealth. He was asking the lawyer to put aside all the history he’d learned about other people, all the specific laws that governed his interactions with non-Jews, and live by those two commandments that are the basis for all the other laws.

I think what Mary Jo says is really relevant here “We have to remember that the kids in street gangs are not just “our” kids, they’re God’s kids.” The lawyer was a Jew, but now had to look at the Samaritan as one of God’s children, plain and simple. As the neighbor, whom he was required to love. And once he could see the despised hereditary enemy as his neighbor, as his equal in God’s eyes, it wouldn’t be as much of a step to see all kinds of people as equal. No matter what their perceived place in society, the lawyer, if he is truly to “go and do likewise” will reach out with love and justice to every person he encounters. He will help the oppressor, the Roman soldier, as readily as a poor Jewish widow. He would begin to act with love without discriminating between persons. He would become a neighbor to all persons regardless of religion, station or nation. He would become a neighbor to all persons regardless of how they had treated him in the past, regardless of any history they might have together personally or because of their political, social or religious differences.

So how does this relate to Creation Care as Justice? In this story, loving the neighbor is demonstrated by helping someone who has been injured by robbers. The Samaritan didn’t waste time chasing down the robbers or looking for soldiers to catch and punish them. The attack was old news. The important thing, the critical thing, was to save the one who had been injured. To clean up his wounds, and bandage him and make sure he had someone to care for him until he was back on his feet.

So we show mercy to those who have damaged the world – which would include most of us, I suppose. I doubt any of us are completely sinless when it comes to damaging our ecosystems. We probably haven’t personally cut down a rainforest or a filled in a swamp, but we each have a responsibility for the condition our planet is in right now. I have been guilty of wanting to blame the big corporations and the world bank for a lot of eco-damage around the world. But rather than looking for someone to blame or passing laws with which to punish the perpetrators, we can act with mercy. We will show mercy by doing love in its most difficult form – we will forgive, as God forgives us. We will stop worrying about the old news, the damage that’s already done, and move forward.

We simply concentrate on cleaning up the damage, healing the earth so we can actively love the neighbor. On digging wells where they are needed so people can water their crops. On developing and using more eco-friendly ways of producing power and food and everything else that we depend on. I’m not saying that everyone needs to go totally green and organic and all that. Simply that, if we are to love our neighbor, and do justice as the Samaritan did, then we will treat all the earth and its creatures with love, as God intended us to do from the beginning.

To do this, we’ll have to change our entire outlook on living, as the lawyer in this story would have to. We’ll have to change our perception of who the neighbor is, and learn how to act in love in every circumstance. We will have to open our hearts to the enemy, and to new ways of caring for each other, that we might do as God requires us to do and love our neighbor as our ourselves.

I want to share with you a note I received in an email this morning that speaks so well to today’s passage. (This note will also be in our newsletter but you get to hear it first.)

Dear Church,

Away with acceptance and toleration! You probably think I've popped a cork by saying this. But someone must.

Sorry, no popped cork just basic Christianity. Jesus never told his followers or church to be acceptable or tolerant of other perspectives, beliefs or ideas -- even ideas that are in contention with his. He never said to argue or defend God's truth whatever the cost may be.

No, Jesus said that if you are my follower then love your enemy, do good to those who persecute you, love your neighbor and, if there are other teachers teaching different truths, let them be.

Somewhere along the way we went wrong when we swallowed the idea hook, line, and sinker, that to be acceptable and tolerant of others is enough. We have congratulated ourselves for our bigness and broadmindedness while completely missing the mark.

To accept others or to be tolerant of others has never been the point of Jesus' teachings. He said, people of faith -- love! He said, church -- love! Away with acceptance and toleration. In with love, God's love, for everyone.

As powerful in the 21st century as it was in the 1st, such love will transform, unify, and give direction for the church today. If you want something that is not just a temporary fix, if you want something with ultimacy, it doesn't get any better than this. Let none of us settle for anything less than Jesus and God's love for all!

Ron Degges, President DHM

So let’s ask God to create in us a new heart, that we might teach the world to love.

* Copied with permission from the blog “Jacobs Well Christian Church”, a “virtual church“ started by Pastor Mary Jo Bradshaw of North Long Beach Christian Church.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

My First Book Review

I wrote my very first ever book review last week. I'd never written a book review or even really thought about writing one when suddenly I was asked to review two different books by the same author, who happens to be a friend of mine. One was a Bible Commentary that I've owned for a couple of years or so but haven't gotten around to reading all the way through yet. The other was the author's first attempt at fiction. The request to review the commentary came from the author, while the request to review the novel came from wants reviews to be quite short and to not give away the plot. Hmm. How does one do this? Perhaps I should first have read some book reviews to remind myself what they are supposed to do. Do people care how much of the info about the hero and his romantic interest seems to be autobiographical? Or that some of the words may be a tad bit larger than usually show up in a New York Times bestseller? I don't know any of these things. However, I gamely set myself to writing in the small space provided by about a book I found surprisingly good.

Mind you, I wasn't surprised because I'm not sure about my friend's writing skill. He is a really good writer. It's just that it's always a little scary to read anything written by a friend. You hope you're not going to have to give any kind of backpedaling left handed compliments if the author should ask the dreaded "How did you like it?" and you didn't. I try not to ask my friends what they think about my writing, hard as it is to refrain. I'm pretty sure they don't notice me dancing around carefully not asking their opinion.

Now that I have written one book review, which I suspect won't convince anyone to buy the book, perhaps I'll finish reading that other book and write another one. Or perhaps I'll write about the first book in a way that will actually interest people in reading the novel. But maybe first I'll read some reviews so I know what I should be doing. You know what they say, "When in doubt, follow directions."

Freed to Love

2 Corinthians 5:14-21 14For the love of Christ urges us on, because we are convinced that one has died for all; therefore all have died. 15And he died for all, so that those who live might live no longer for themselves, but for him who died and was raised for them.
16From now on, therefore, we regard no one from a human point of view; even though we once knew Christ from a human point of view, we know him no longer in that way. 17So if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation: everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new! 18All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation; 19that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting the message of reconciliation to us. 20So we are ambassadors for Christ, since God is making his appeal through us; we entreat you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. 21For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.

The Green Bible has a study guide that I’ve been using in this sermon series “Creation Care as Justice.” This week I enjoyed the questions in that study guide enough that I wanted to share them with you.

What assumptions do you make that hold you back from acts of justice and mercy?
We could probably start with assumptions about people being valued differently. We know that some corporations seem to believe people are valued lower than profits. We’ve heard stories, for example, about people who die when insurance companies won’t approve treatment because it isn’t cost effective. And about corporate officers who lay off thousands of employees to cut costs while they receive large bonuses. We know about people being valued as less than because of their station in life. Maybe we’ve watched a TV cop shows where a particularly insensitive patrol officer is chastised for characterizing a crime against a prostitute or drug addict or gang member as NHI, no humans involved. We may have seen that poor neighborhoods are the last to get any kind of repairs or city services. All of these assumptions about the relative values of humans can and does get in the way of justice.

How can the idea that we are all part of God’s creation help overcome those assumptions?
According to Paul, as followers of Christ we no longer regard anyone from a human point of view. Now we look at others as God does, loving one another as Christ commanded us to do. In Christ, our prejudices against each other fall away. And perhaps not just our prejudices about people.

Bill Cosby is a very funny fellow, right. Long before he did the voices for the Fat Albert cartoon shows, or starred in any of several TV series, that line was the title of the first of a young stand-up comedian’s record albums, released in 1963. I loved his comedy and I got all of his records. I could recite long bits of his routines, and I still use Cosby-isms sometimes. There’s one routine that has been coming to mind this week, and I don’t quite remember the whole thing, but it had something to do with his girlfriend getting upset when he didn’t swerve to miss a cat in the road and he responded “What? You want me to wreck a $2,500 car for a 25c cat?” (Remember, back then the average cost of a new car was $2,600.) In the 1960s I thought that was really funny. Today, the idea that a car is more valuable than a living creature . . . not as funny as it used to be. I keep remembering that God told us to take care of the earth and everything on it.

Albert Schweitzer is known as one of the great philanthropists of the 20th century. His philosophy was called Reverence for Life and believed all God’s creatures should be equally valued, human and non-human alike. He let ants eat at his dinner table and hand fed his pet pelican Parcival with fish caught especially for that purpose. He treated all who came to his hospital no matter who they were or how much they could pay. He believed that all were equally worthy of care. Like most European men of his time, he held invalid assumptions about the capabilities of women and persons of color which kept him from believing they could be his equals, from true reconciliation. Still his philosophy, his Reverence for Life, has helped many embrace the knowledge that humans are only part of God’s creation and that we are responsible for all of the world.

How might caring for creation be seen as an act of love for our fellow human beings?
Ronald L. Farmer, Dean of the All Faiths Chapel at Chapman University, recently published his first novel, Awakening. An important part of the story is the main character’s first hand education about factory farms. He has inherited the family farm in Oklahoma and travels there from Claremont to decide what to do with the property. He discovers that many of the farms and homesteads around his family’s farm have been purchased by a giant corporation, where everything needed to raise a pig from conception to market is supplied. The big farms have meant an increase in employment, more shopping centers, housing and construction. It all sounds ok until he begins to learn what that means for the pigs and for the people of the community.

I’ve raised pigs and I don’t have any problem eating pork – or at least, I didn’t before I read this book. In my experience, pigs are smart and friendly and clean and live well in community with each other. Mother pigs love their babies. Pig farmers care about their pigs and work to make sure they live in a healthy environment. Healthy pig, healthy people eating that pig.

But the life cycle of the factory pig, as Farmer describes it so graphically, is such that I am seriously considering shopping for non-factory pork. Breeding sows are kept in tiny cages, are kept constantly pregnant or nursing, and the babies are weaned much earlier than nature intends. Once baby pigs are weaned they are kept in overcrowded cages standing on wire mesh above their own waste for their entire lives, which are sadly very short. They are fed hormones and antibiotics to help them grow big enough to butcher faster – which is really unhealthy for people. The work is so nasty that turnover is very high, illness and accident accounting for much of it. Factory housing is set up on a “company store” basis and wages are kept so low the workers can’t get ahead or move away. The stench that comes from the farms fills the air for miles and miles around the farms, and the tanks of pig waste that are being processed for fertilizer leak, within ‘acceptable’ parameters, into the ground water, also not healthy for humans. There’s much more in the novel, and in the back of the novel are recommended source materials if you want to study this more.

This goes way beyond swerving to miss a cat, or hand feeding a pelican. I don’t have any doubt at all but that caring for this part of creation, the pigs and cattle and chickens raised for our consumption on these factory farms, is certainly an act of love for humanity. For the workers who work in horrible conditions for little pay and no medical care. For the people living nearby whose air and water are being polluted. For the people who eat the meat saturated with growth hormones and other chemicals. Once again we see a situation where profit is considered to be more important than people, and much more important than animals or the environment.

Mind you, I don’t reject profit or capitalism. I do reject the notion that profit is more important than humans or animals or the state of our environment.

How does this tie into the ministry of reconciliation?
17So if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation: everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new! 18All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation; 19that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting the message of reconciliation to us.

One of our greatest trespasses against God has been our disregard for the earth and the creatures sharing it with us. The very first job God gave us was to care for the earth, to be stewards of creation. In Christ, in this new creation, God entrusts the message of reconciliation to us. Even after all we have done, or allowed through our inaction to be done, even then, God doesn’t count our past against us, but reconciles us to him through Christ. Having been forgiven we now must go out and continue the work of carrying the message to reconcile all in the world to each other and to God. As the earth and all its creatures are healed, so too will the people be healed. As the people of the earth are reconciled to each other and to God, they will also be reconciled to all the creatures of the earth.

The call of all Christians is to love one another. Christ frees us from our prejudices and the tendency to see the worst in others, so that we can care for each other as God cares for us. I believe there is good in everyone, that there is a God-spark in everyone, because in creating us God breathed the Spirit of life into us. I believe all people are capable of change, and that even the most hardened sinner, even the most unloving of all God’s children, can be loved until he or she learns how to love. Let us go out from this place today to carry the message of reconciliation, so that all persons might know each other as beloved children of God. Let us go out asking God to help us accept each other, as Christ accepted us.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

The water of charity

Isaiah 58: 9-12
9Then you shall call, and the Lord will answer; you shall cry for help, and he will say, Here I am. If you remove the yoke from among you, the pointing of the finger, the speaking of evil, 10if you offer your food to the hungry and satisfy the needs of the afflicted, then your light shall rise in the darkness and your gloom be like the noonday.

11The Lord will guide you continually, and satisfy your needs in parched places, and make your bones strong; and you shall be like a watered garden, like a spring of water, whose waters never fail. 12Your ancient ruins shall be rebuilt; you shall raise up the foundations of many generations; you shall be called the repairer of the breach, the restorer of streets to live in.

It’s the summer for general church assemblies and conferences. The United Methodists, Presbyterians, Lutherans, Episcopalians and United Church of Christ, just to name a few, have already gathered in solemn assembly to discuss the giant issues of our time. I’ve been following the news from various conferences just to see if there are any real surprises. Not so much. As usual a lot of us are talking about a lot of the same things. How to grow our churches in income and membership. How to handle issues of sexuality. What to recommend to the federal government about health care and care for the earth. The biggest news has been how news has gotten out. Some folks were sending out messages on Twitter, Facebook and their blogs continuously throughout the events, so anyone who was interested could know what was going on as it happened. This has been very cool, as it has meant I didn’t have to wait for the magazines to come out a couple of weeks after each event to know what happened. You may be sure that Disciples, including me, will be doing the same things during our Assembly a few weeks from now. But aside from that, no really new news. But there were a couple of very significant statements made just this week.

Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori surprised everyone at the Episcopalian General Convention in Anaheim when rather than speaking to the issues of gay bishops and other matters of sexuality she talked about individual salvation. “She . . . names the sin of rampant individualism as the cause of most of the world’s problems, from environmental disasters to economic meltdown.” 1

When God spoke to Israel through Isaiah and the other prophets, God spoke to Israel as a people, not as individuals. He spoke in particular to the leaders, who represented the people and whose decisions about national policy were binding upon the people. Jesus too rarely spoke to just one person saying “this is what you must do” but to groups. And even when he did seem to address himself to one person it was easy to see that the instructions were meant for all to follow. Like Isaiah and the other prophets, it was the leadership who bore the brunt of his wrath for not putting God and the wellbeing of God’s people ahead of rules and traditions and greed and lust for power.

Anyone who was greedy, who pointed fingers blaming others for their mistakes, who spoke evil of any who opposed them should of course seek to change their behavior in order to be as God wants us to be. But leaders who behaved in this way led all the people into slavery – metaphorically, slavery to sin, and literally, slavery in Babylon. Leaders who behaved unjustly and without mercy brought evil upon the whole of the nation, not just upon themselves.

We know this to be true. In the eyes of some, the German people are still living in the shadow of evil events perpetrated by their national leaders a lifetime ago. There are many today who blame all Americans for the decisions of our leaders, even though according to polls the majority of Americans disagree with some of those decisions. The actions of the leaders always reflect upon the people. The people are blessed or punished depending upon the actions of the leaders. When the leaders of Israel behaved justly, caring for the poor and keeping the greed of the wealthy and powerful in check, the people also prospered. And when they didn’t, the people suffered. This had been seen again and again in the history of the people of Israel. And yet – here they were again, doing all the things the prophets and judges had told them not to do.

We understand these words as individuals, of course We have to, really. It’s kind of hard to take direction of this kind as a group. Remove the yoke. Stop pointing fingers and speaking evil. Offer your food to the hungry. Satisfy the needs of the afflicted. Individually, we do what we can. We support agencies who do what they can with what they are given. We offer our money to Church World Service so that people who’ve lived without may enjoy fresh water, and our labor to Habitat for Humanity so families with little hope may have a home. We rarely speak the word “Charity” these days even though that is what we’re engaged in. I’m not sure why.

Pope Benedict XVI released a statement this week that focuses in part on charity. He said “Charity is love received and given. It is grace. . . Charity goes beyond justice, because to love is to give, to offer what is “mine” to the other; but it never lacks justice, which prompts us to give the other what is “his”, what is due to him by reason of his being or his acting. I cannot “give” what is mine to the other, without first giving him what pertains to him in justice. . . [regarding the common good he said] To love someone is to desire that person's good and to take effective steps to secure it. … To desire the common good and strive towards it is a requirement of justice and charity.. . The more we strive to secure a common good corresponding to the real needs of our neighbours, the more effectively we love them.”

The Pope went to on to say that charity is required of all Christians, but also that the first responsibility of all governments is to care for its people in this way. To feed the hungry and satisfy the needs of the afflicted. To care for the earth on which their nation is placed. It shouldn’t be any surprise that the leader of the largest Christian church should agree with Jesus and the prophets and hold the leaders of the world responsible to care for their land in every way. For Jesus said “34I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. 35By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.’ (John 13:34-35)

And if you do these things, Isaiah says, , then your light shall rise in the darkness and your gloom be like the noonday. 11The Lord will guide you continually, and satisfy your needs in parched places, and make your bones strong; and you shall be like a watered garden, like a spring of water, whose waters never fail. 12Your ancient ruins shall be rebuilt; you shall raise up the foundations of many generations; you shall be called the repairer of the breach, the restorer of streets to live in.

What does all this charity talk have to do with caring for creation? That is the sermon series, after all, “Creation Care as Justice.” There was a little piece in Pope Benedict’s encyclical that I read as meaning when we give to another, we are not giving something that belongs to us, but rather sharing with him something that God intended for all of us to have. I keep going back in my mind to Genesis where Adam and Eve are told to care for all the earth and its creatures. When we help Church World Service dig a new well so people in an African village can more easily raise crops, we are helping bring life back into earth that has been parched. When we buy seeds or baby chicks through the Heifer Project for a family in South America, we are helping them be self sustaining so they may continue to live on and care for the land where they live. And of course, when any part of the earth is restored to health, that’s good for all the earth.

Even more, moving out of self, ceasing to put ourselves first, becoming aware of ourselves not as individuals but as part of something much bigger than we are, we more fully become part of the body of Christ. When we realize that who we are and what we are is no more or less than one small and critically important piece of the body, then our own desires stop being as important as making sure the entire body is well. Isaiah tells us, and Jesus tells us, that when we act in these ways – feeding the hungry, caring for the afflicted, loving the neighbor – then our light will shine. And everyone will know us by the love that we have for each other, and for all the creatures of the earth.

So let’s do what Isaiah said and Jesus taught us. Let’s listen to Bishop Jefferts Shori and Pope Benedict. Remove the yoke of sin, of being unloving and selfish and self centered. Stop blaming others for the ills of the world. And give of ourselves that water might flow in the desert, and the land everywhere become green and life filled once more. Let us offer ourselves to God, so that everything we are and everything we have might be dedicated to the care of all creation.

1( Candace Chellew Hodge)


Wednesday, July 08, 2009

Is all that social media chatter TMI?

Have you seen the TV commercial about search overload? You know, the one where someone mentions a word and everyone in the vicinity goes into free association mode, babbling everything they have ever heard or read that relates even vaguely to that word. The implication is that the currently available search engines are too general in scope to be really helpful and that everyone should immediately sign up for whatever the newest thing is.

I can kind of relate to that commercial because sometimes it feels like I am constantly inundated with TMI (too much information). On Facebook and Twitter I follow the moment by moment activities of hundreds of my closest friends. Much of that info is kind of random, in the "I don't know what to cook for dinner" category. Some of it is really specific, replies to some specific event that I don't know anything about and thus confuses me. Some is in response to important local and national and global events. There are blogs posted, links added, photos shared, and celebrations lifted up. There is also great pain posted - words and images of tragic personal loss. Just this morning I learned that one friend's cancer returned and another has lost a nephew.

Meanwhile I am writing. I'm writing about what's going on with me and responding to what's going on with my friends. I'm writing newsletter articles and website updates and sermons and notes to parishioners. I'm trying to remember to post blog entries, and trying to figure out if I can maybe find one place to post an entry that will automatically update everyplace. I feel overwhelmed and sometimes I wonder if all this information is really serving anyone.

But y'know, I find that I really don't mind hearing the minutia of people's lives because in between all the "what should I have for dinner" and "I just bought a new pair of red shoes" posts are writings that tell me what is happening in the depths of the soul. Cries of pain and shouts of joy. Commentary that helps me see another perspective. Opinions from people I never would have heard, because my group of friends overlaps with your group of friends which overlaps with someone else's group of friends, and I see all those comments from people I'd have never "met" otherwise.

I have learned over time that I see God most clearly in other peoples' eyes and lives. The more people I connect with and learn about, the more I learn about God. The more I participate in relationship with other people, the more I participate in my relationship with God because God lives within each of us.

Is all that social media chatter TMI? I think not. I think it helps bring me closer to you and him and her and God. And that can only be a good thing.