Sunday, December 28, 2014

1001 Worshipping Communities: yoga & and the good news of Jesus Christ

Several days ago the Sacramento Bee published an article on the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)’s 1001 Worshiping Communities by focusing on the Presbytery of Sacramento’s share of the communities. The article, “New Worship lets the spirit move them in novel ways,” by Anita Creamer, looked in particular at A yoga class at Esparto’s Countryside Community Church, WordHouse pastored by Rev. Jeff, Richards, (they meet in various locations in downtown Sacramento,) and Eventide Community, under the leadership of Jeanie Shaw, whose members participate in relieve work in various places in the world.

These are not the only members of the P.C. (U.S.A)’s 1001 Worshiping Communities in the Sacramento Presbytery. With this posting I want to add some information to what I have already written about the 1001 Worshiping Communities, and then comment on a worshipping community that is based simply on a blessing and a yoga class.

First, some good news! Earlier I had written about a 1001 Worshipping Community that was named, “Kindred Spirit Retreats.”[1] That was simply a web site and Facebook page with information about retreats and seminars for gay men. It was not a Christian organization and some of the pictures were raunchy as were some of the connections. Whether the owners of the retreat site chose to leave or the leaders of the 1001 Worshipping Communities decided it was not an appropriate “worshipping community” I do not know, but it is gone. I am thankful.

Next I want to mention that there are some of the new communities formed to minister to ethnic communities. And many of these are centered in the Lord Jesus Christ. They are not only interested in helping the needy in a material manner but in proclaiming the gospel. That is another blessing to bring rejoicing.

And then there is the worshipping community meeting in the Esparto church. The yoga class is led by Candice Schaer who is both a masseuse and a yoga teacher. On her web site she states that she not only has a BS in plant Science from the University of Davis, but has also been trained by the Body Mind College in San Digeo, which has closed, and by Donna Eden’s Energy Medicine Institute in Ashland, Oregon.

Doing some reading at the Energy Medicine site one finds constant New Age and Eastern terminology. It is mostly about so called energy flows in the body and uses such eastern terms as chakras and occultic terms like auras. In one paper about the different energies an aura is explained this way:

“Your aura is a multi-layered shell of energy that emanates from your body and interacts with the energies of your environment. It is itself a protective atmosphere that surrounds you, filtering out many of the energies you encounter and drawing in others that you need. Like a space suit, your aura protects you from harmful energies. Like a radio antenna, it brings in energies with which it resonates. The aura is a conduit, a two-way antenna that brings in energy from the environment to your chakras and that sends energy from your chakras outward. When you feel happy, attractive, and spirited, your aura may fill an entire room.”

Needless to say this is not the kind of training that helps one introduce another to Jesus Christ. And while Creamer does not describe the “blessing” that is said with the children or the adults there are several yoga blessings that have nothing in particular to do with the biblical Lord.

The whole idea that somehow these classes minus the word of God will help to form a Christian worshipping community are more than troubling. Classical yoga arose out of Hinduism and is very religious; a more western version has been shaped by the New Age Movement. Sometimes yoga minus its religious implications is simply used for exercise, but a teacher trained in Eastern and New Age methods can only lead others to a vague spiritual awareness not to the Savior who shed his blood for the sinner.

Good works, special classes, simple friendship, long talks in a home or even a pub, are all bonuses in leading someone to Jesus. But the Bible is very clear that without faithful proclamation of the good news whether in sermon, teaching or friendly discussion, the work of birthing new believers and growing disciples will not be done.

[1] See Kindred Spirits Retreats-1001 Worshiping Community- " have mercy on some" 

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Christmas memories

Christmases, for me, a long line of memories. There are the long ago shadowy ones so ancient that all I remember is my old doll with new clothes made out of the stuffing from the living room chair and a small can of talcum powder that would find its way to every corner of the house. And the Christmas that Dad’s back and ribs were so broken, he could hardly walk.

“Don’t go to work this Sunday,” my mother had said. “Something bad will happen on that tractor.” “Nah,” Dad said, “We just had it fixed.”

But that Sunday, at Happy Holme Dairy, a hay bale fell from the top of a huge stack and hit the tractor and my Dad. Even the steering wheel was broken. 

Happy Holme Dairy
But there were dolls under the Christmas tree and candy, oranges, apples and nuts.

With the five thousand dollars, given to compensate for a broken body we bought the old 80 acre farm in Northern Missouri.  Christmases there were unforgettable. Snow, always snow then. A ride in the wagon across the icy creek to cut a Christmas tree. Colored construction paper chains and silver shimmering paper to guild the tree. A sled and a nurse’s kit!

And then a move to the little town of Pattonsburg. I ruined the Christmas play one year. The measles came to town via me! The chiropractor who came to our house because I had a fever said it was just my back. (The doctor was out of town.) But finally, someone decided I had the measles.  I just wasn’t breaking out. And I still remember the ongoing cups of whiskey, honey and tea, to make me break out. My head still spins when I remember.

God broke through in a lot of those Christmases. Country school was full of Christmas. Stories, carols and the radio program, Back to the Bible; we listened as faithfully as we listened to the Long Ranger and Red Skelton. Sitting watching the snow blow across the road our world opened to the gospel.

My Mom, Maxine Attebery Trotter
But it was back to California, watching my Dad’s body grow worse and my Mom start down a long road that would take her home. God was in that mix and although the Christmases were hard there was a light for me that had not been there before. Jesus was entering my world in a real way, not just as a babe in the manger, but as a Savior who died on the cross.

I worked away from home, some of the time as a live in housekeeper, but there was the day mom called me home because she thought she was having a heart attack. She wasn’t, but she gave me my present before Christmas a beautiful gold bracelet. And because there wasn’t a lot of money I bought a small Christmas tree and we had Christmas. I was fifteen, and I came back home and stayed there until the next summer. And that was the year, in the spring, that Jesus entered my life. Funny how God plans all of those details.

Jesus was always there, He is present, and He is coming again. He is the great gift of Christmas.


Tuesday, December 9, 2014

The CIA Torture Report: Our need to turn away from evil Update

I am totally unsettled and ashamed of what members of the CIA have done to other’s who are created in the image of God. Back during the time of the Soviet Union I remember reading stories of Christian prisoners who were tortured in some of the same ways, standing for days in one spot without sleep, being put into cold rooms and having cold water thrown over them. To use a phrase of C.S. Lewis’ are we becoming monsters that one would only meet in a nightmare? It is confession time for the Church and the United States government.

There are several good articles, written by Christians, deploring the CIA’s use of torture.  

Rev. Joe Carter has written, “7 Things Christians Should Know About Torture.” It is on the Canon & Culture site of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist site. The article gives definitions about torture and information about what the United States has adhered to in the past.

A good Catholic writer, Leah Libresco, on her blog, Unequally Yoked, writes, Torture Report Details Wounds to Prisoners and Guards. This is an important posting because not only do we see the great hurt to the prisoners we read of those who objected and how badly their souls were hurt. For instance Libresco writes:

“The victims of the abuses we’ve committed aren’t limited to the people who were tortured, though they are certainly the most grave examples.  There has been violence done to every person asked to carry out illegal and immoral orders, from the Navy nurse who refused to carry out force-feeding to the CIA interrogators who, according to the report, cried when asked to administer waterboarding and asked to be transferred.”

Another Catholic, Father Dwight Longenecker has written, The Terrorism of Torture, where he compares torturers to terrorist. Longenecker writes:

“The victims of both the terrorist and the torturer does not know truth anymore. He has lost all bearings. He does not know trust or hope. Truth has been destroyed and all is awash in a sea of uncertainty, fear, confusion and pain.

By condoning torture, therefore, we are condoning terrorism. We are saying that any means is appropriate to achieve the ends.”

I have written many times of Dietrich Bonhoeffer and his confession of sin for the church. It is found in his Ethics. I do not believe I have quoted this part until now:

“The Church confesses that she has witnessed the lawless application of brutal force, the physical and spiritual suffering of countless innocent people [and there were, according to the report some prisoners that were innocent], oppression, hatred and murder [and some died under torture], and that she has not raised her voice on behalf of the victims and has not found ways to hasten to their aid.”

Update: Here is an excellent article on Breakpoint Commentaries by Eric Metaxas "The Torture Report" For some reason I can only get this to go to the comments. Just scroll up.

Here is Senator John McCain on the release of the CIA torture report:

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

The glass is breaking again ...

Earlier I wrote that a friend, every time she posts a story about the anti-Semitism raging in the world, in Europe, Britain and the Middle East, writes it is 1938 again. It is Kristallnacht.

In just the last few months the news stories about attacks on Jews have been overpowering. The bloody slaughter of four Rabbis in a Synagogue in Jerusalem, the pictures are unbearable. In Paris, the home invasion and rape of the wife because they “are Jews.” The stabbing of two Jews in a shop in Mishor Adumim east of Jerusalem. The killing of a baby girl as a terrorist plowed his car into a group of people waiting at a light rail station in East Jerusalem.

The New York Times, in September featured an article, “Europe’s Anti-Semitism Comes Out of the Shadows.” One of the details is about an attempt to burn a synagogue in Wuppertal, Germany, and as one Jewish man quoted in the article stated, “For Jews in Germany, especially for us, this has very, very deep meaning,” and “Synagogues are burning again in Germany in the night.”

This is what Kristallnacht in 1938 was about. The burning of Jewish businesses and synagogues. The killing of Jewish people.

And anti-Semitism is also festering in the United States. Both the far left and the far right are adding to this dark time. The Israel and Palestine conflict is simply an excuse for some to continue with their hate of the Jews.
Recently in Berkeley California the BDS (Boycott, Divestment Sanctions) caucus of UAW 2865 “the union for 13,000 University of California graduate student workers,” met to discuss voting on a resolution for the union to boycott Israel.  The words of the participants are very revealing. The leadership of my denomination, the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) should take note because this is what BDS is really about:

Notice several lies told at this meeting. That the Zionists made deals with the Nazis and by doing so sacrificed the lives of all the Jews killed in the Holocaust. And there is the implication that Jews in the United States are controlling what the Palestinians can or cannot do. The references to hate are because a Jewish Latino, a part of the union, stood up and shared their feelings about the aggressive and anti-Semitic language used in the meeting.   
The video of the full meeting can be seen here: