India's farms are industrializing and monoculturing so the Saturday organic farmers' market in Pune is part of reclaiming relationship with and knowledge of traditional, wholesome foods.
Full of gratitude and love from hearty congregational forum and worship with Stone Church yesterday.
Full of humbling thanksgiving for our IG-rescue buds Marion and Rick who put their anniversary dinner on hold to
We got to NYC at 3:15 this morning and didn't want to spend the whole day at JFK so walked in the cold to Times Square and Central Park. I'm full of peace to be with Phillip, my most patient and dear companion.
I'm full of relief that after 6 trains (should've been less but a line was...you know...delayed) we are at the airport and got rearranged to sit together on this double-decker plane.
I'm full of admiration for the kind TSA employee who complimented all the edible gifts we're bringing as he wiped them down for explosives residue: Standing Stone coffee, jellybeans, graham crackers, maple marshmallows, dark chocolate bars and starbursts.
I'm full of excitement to see Deshmukhs, Bokares and Khares!
I'm fully eager to smell India again!
Really - I miss the smell of India (and it is better than the stranger I'm sitting next to all the way to Beijing.) Hmm, Phillip has allergies, maybe this is time to be grateful for that and get him to switch seats?
Last two pages below, listen to the whole sermon at: http://www.huntingdonstonechurch.org/sermons/hunger-september-24-2017
There is no mistake, no sin or flaw, not the worst act you can think of, that makes us or anyone unworthy of love or food or shelter.
The parable Jesus tells of this hungry son gets used to teach repentance, but the character doesn’t sound very repentant. In fact, biblical scholar Amy-Jill Levine argues that his “lack of remorse is [found in] his line, “I have sinned against heaven and before you.” Biblically literate listeners would hear an echo of the empty words Pharaoh mouths…to stop the plagues.” We read in Exodus “Pharaoh hurriedly summoned Moses and Aaron and said, ‘I have sinned against the Lord your God, and against you.’” (Exod. 10:16). Levine says the people listening to Jesus tell this story would’ve known from this familiar phrase that “The prodigal is no more repentant, has had no more change of heart, than Egypt’s ruler.”
And still, the hungry son will eat his fill. We will never be so flawed that we are unworthy of food or love or shelter.
We can invite ourselves and each other to another way of being, again and again, we can do it quietly, we can make referrals, we can give gift cards rather than cash. We can donate to organizations rather than individuals. We can give spare change or big bucks or sandwiches or hot chocolate or advice or prayer. We can choose tough love, high expectations and mutual accountability. But even tough love must come on a full stomach.
“If you love me,” Jesus told Peter, “feed my sheep.” Three times he said it. Three times Peter would deny Jesus, in his fear, three times Peter would hide from the truth. Three times, Jesus told Peter, love me by feeding others, by filling bellies, by leaning right into the need.
Not just when the hungry person looks like us, looks receptive to charity, looks like they’ll really appreciate the food and know how to pull themselves up by their bootstraps. Not just when we can easily stare into this person’s hungry, thirsty, aching face. “But Lord, if we had known it was you hungry, we would’ve fed you, if we had known it was you thirsty, we would’ve brought you a drink! If we had known you were in prison, of course we would have visited you!”
We know what Jesus says, “anytime you care for the least of these, you care for me.”
Read most of it below, listen to the whole sermon at: http://www.huntingdonstonechurch.org/sermons/kneeling-october-1-2017
...Peter is shocked as Jesus kneels to wash his feet, Peter doesn’t understand what Jesus is up to, but he surrenders to the water. Can you relate? Not sure what it all means, uncomfortable, and still we show up for the basin, we surrender to the water, warm on our ankles. We marvel at the hands that caress our soles. We twinge when someone kneels at our feet. We, too, kneel.
Other than love feast, when do we kneel? We kneel with humility to recognize the greatness in another person. We kneel with humility as we propose marriage. We kneel with humility when we ask for forgiveness. We kneel with humility to pray.
At least that’s what I’ve seen in movies – we don’t have kings or lords to kneel in front of these days, but it makes for great TV, a posture of submission, defenseless, offering one’s head to the king knowing he could draw his sword! And I’ve never seen someone kneel to ask forgiveness in real life either, but maybe some of you have? Maybe you kneel in humility to pray, not usually at Stone, but you would be welcome to – if you can find a way to do it in those pews. Perhaps kneeling in submission and humility is a habit we’ve lost, and is metaphorical more often than literal for most of us.
We do kneel with power as we teach a child to tie her shoes. We kneel with power when we help an aging parent out of the car. We kneel with power when we leash our dog for a walk. We kneel with power when we plant seeds and participate in new life.
And of course there is humility in trusting the genius of seed, soil and sun. There is power in asking for forgiveness. There is humility in journeying with the very young and very old, giving to the vulnerable what they cannot give to themselves. How often do humility and power live intertwined? Feetwashing is a visceral act of both power and humility.
The mainstream western world fails to notice this nuance, seeing the powerful and the humble as two groups living far apart from each other. Jesus tells us that “the first shall be last and the last shall be first” and “blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.” Jesus raises the “last,” the meek, women, slaves – yet Jesus reminds us that servants are not greater than their masters. Jesus tells Peter, the rock upon which he will build his church, “if you love me, feed my sheep.” What could be more humble than sheep?....
Mary is at Jesus’ feet in both of the stories recorded of their encounters. She sits at his feet in Luke 10 to listen to his teachings, and here in John 12 she sits at his feet to anoint and bathe them, and dry them with her hair. Mary uses tradition to break tradition. It was appropriate for her to be at Jesus’ feet and to wash them in hospitality as his inferior. But Mary sits at Jesus’ feet to listen to his teachings. She leaves the kitchen to sit at Jesus’ feet in a roomful of men.
Mary comes to Jesus’ feet again to anoint them. As a woman clearly ahead of her time, she might have refused to participate in this ceremony of subordination. Rather, Mary, knowing that she has a precious gift to offer, transforms the ritual itself. Mary brings new meaning to feetwashing – she reclaims this space at a man’s feet in service to equality. When Mary anoints Jesus’ feet, she demonstrates that she is a true disciple, listening better to Jesus than the 12 men who follow him from town to town. Mary, unlike the disciples, acknowledges Jesus’ impending death and anoints him as one soon to be buried.
Mary listens when Jesus predicts his death, and she knows something about death. Mary waited for Jesus to come while she watched her own brother die. She faced death when she prepared Lazarus’ body for burial. When Mary kneels at Jesus’ feet her own heart has been broken by death. Mary does not flinch, but faces Jesus’ own death with compassion. She makes a place for his grief and pain.
Did anyone see my sermon title and wonder if you’d hear about football this morning? Kneeling is in the scripture for today – I didn’t pick this Philippians passage because I wanted to preach on taking a knee. Look at the back of your bulletin, at the bottom. This scripture was chosen for today long before Colin Kaepernick first kneeled during the national anthem. So here we are.
Most of us have a strong reaction, positive or negative, to football players kneeling during the national anthem. The president’s comments last week muddied the waters for a lot of people who initially didn’t like it. One of the gifts Kaepernick has given many young people is the chance to talk about power and responsibility, risk and protest. Even before Trump’s threats against NFL players, young football players on college, high school and even pee wee teams talked about taking a knee, what the symbolism might mean to them, the encounters they’ve had with police. Football teams are more integrated between black and white people than most parts of our society, so I imagine empathy growing through conversations that might never have happened anywhere else because race and racism are two of the hardest things to talk about in the US.
That’s my prayer. Some of that teambuilding and empathy growing has happened on Juniata’s football team, which includes sons of police officers and sons of families in Baltimore and Philadelphia that experience police brutality. I asked Stone member and football coach Tim Launtz about how all this taking a knee has gone for his team. His first priority is to support and respect his players, including any witness they choose. Tim also hopes his team is a nurturing environment for players to have open discussion even about these emotional, complex topics. That may be the greatest good we can pray for now, that open discussion, trust and wisdom be nurtured through our words and actions.
Because only time will tell what taking a knee will mean. When a crowd of men, many dressed as Mohawk Indians, poured tea over the sides of three ships in Boston Harbor, the British government declared it an “intolerable act” and many colonists (future Americans) argued about whether or not the merchants should be paid for the tea, whether the action was too violent. One historian says the Boston Tea Party or “destruction of the tea” as it was known at the time, didn’t make into mainstream accounts of the American Revolution for decades because it embarrassed the historians. If someone asked me about the American Revolution I’d probably start with the tea, with no taxation without representation!
Have you ever watched a flock of crows leave a tree, suddenly, altogether, responding to some alarm or desire that sends them all straight up in the air and then, like a wave, they rush away, and then swirling together as the most talented dance troupe, until you see them come to rest as one in a nearby tree?
Virginia Woolf watched rooks out her window, and noticed that they looked like “a vast net with thousands of black knots in it, cast up into the air; which, after a few moments sank slowly down upon the trees until every twig seemed to have a knot at the end of it. Then, suddenly, the net would be thrown into the air again in a wider circle this time, with the utmost clamour and vociferation, as though to be thrown into the air and settle slowly down upon the tree tops were a tremendously exciting experience.”
Virginia Woolf captures with impish eloquence a scene that has captivated most of us, when we’re blessed and astounded to be walking under or driving past the tree from which hundreds of birds suddenly emerge. Bird flocks have the coolest names: a flutter of sparrows, or a murmuration of starlings, or a chime of wrens, or a squabble of gulls. We give bird flocks these evocative names because their collective identity is as important as their individual identity. Birds in groups need their own names. What Virginia Woolf saw was one vast net with thousands of black knots in it – one net, not thousands of birds.
We see the same group behavior in a school of fish, or more specifically, a fleet of bass, a battery of barracudas, and a company of angel fish. A school of fish moves as one creature, swirling around coral, darting away from a shark, diving into dinner.
Colonies of ants and swarms of bees are so skilled at collective identity and group consciousness that they give us hope for our own societies. Social scientists study ants and bees looking for tips that we humans can use to give our own families and cities and countries more harmony and shared vision.
One: The Psalmist sings:
All: Vindicate me, O Lord,
for I have walked in my integrity,
and I have trusted in the Lord without wavering.
One: Perhaps some of us can claim to trust in the Lord without wavering, but most of us walking the path of trust do occasionally stumble, or lose our way
All: Here we come to find our balance, to check the map, and to step back onto the path of trust
One: Here we gather to seek out the path of integrity
All: Here we step together into change, in our church, in our towns, in our country, in our world
One: We walk together, throughout all change, we are walking together, and we are walking with God
All: For your steadfast love is before our eyes, Holy One
and we walk in faithfulness to you. Amen.
In Pastor Christy’s last month here, some of you asked me, “How are you feeling about this transition?” If you’re new to Stone you may have heard by now that after 18 years of stable, loving leadership, Pastor Christy retired last Sunday. So last month when some of you asked how I was doing with solo pastoring Stone Church in this time of transition, I realized that I felt curious, intrigued about how we would turn this corner. I felt committed to facilitating a hearty and healthy goodbye. Consciously I wasn’t feeling anxious or worried. But I had a few nightmares in August. In each of these nightmares I would arrive at church on a Sunday morning and many things were going wrong. Usually I was late, sometimes I didn’t have church-appropriate clothes to wear, sometimes I couldn’t find my sermon. And in each of these nightmares I would come into the sanctuary and it didn’t look the same, it was usually bigger, like a huge old theatre with balconies. And the people were different. The people reading scripture or speaking were people I’d never met.
I had this sort of nightmare three or four times in August, usually on a Saturday night, so when I woke up it actually was Sunday morning. And I’d come here, and happily greet this familiar sanctuary. And as you walked in I’d be grateful that we are not strangers, even though we are a changing church.
As Discovery Team listened and discerned and developed our vision/mission, Stone Church continued a process of transformation. “Be transformed by the renewing of your minds, so that you may discern what is the will of God” wrote Paul to the church in Rome.
Stone Church seeks a renewing of our minds, discerning God’s call, through Vital Ministry Journey, the strategic planning that was part of the building renovations, the discernment that produced our welcoming statement. There are many more examples of when Stone Church has been intentional about learning and listening – who are we and who is God calling us to be? You have asked, and you will ask it again!
We are a changing church, because church is changing in general, throughout our country and world. We are a changing church because we’re in pastoral transition. We are a changing church because each of you change personally, and because the people who gather as Stone Church are a different group of people each time.
And throughout all this change we celebrate the vision/mission, our current way of discerning God’s call for Stone Church, and we are all invited into a renewing of our minds throughout this fall as we hear a variety of voices preach on the themes of our vision and mission. In September we focus on the roots – spiritual nourishment. October we’ll focus on equipping, empowering and growing in community. In November we’ll focus on bearing fruit as we continue the work of Jesus.
How does our vision live? Like a tree, with well nourished roots, with a strong trunk and branches, and with abundant fruit to share with all, to continue the cycle of life.
(Aug 20) Just a snippet...you can listen at http://www.huntingdonstonechurch.org/sermons/prepare-august-20-2017
Today’s three passages – Isaiah speaking on God’s behalf, Zachariah and Elizabeth and baby John the Baptist, and then this parable of the tax collector and Pharisee – all three of these passages talk about salvation. We don’t use the word salvation often here. We talk about salvation with words like healing, reconciliation, forgiveness, wholeness. These are accurate words to speak of salvation, and they don’t bring the baggage that salvation has for so many people who have been hit over the head with cruel church teachings.
But with all three passages offering rich ways to understand salvation, I’m going to use the word and hope we can hear it fresh this morning. Reading these three scriptures, I learn two things about salvation: it is ongoing, never finished. And it is always personal and communal at the same time.
Isaiah says that God’s salvation is coming, that soon the people will be delivered. But this is from the third section of the long book of Isaiah, the people are returning from exile, the previous 55 chapters of Isaiah are all about God delivering and saving the people by returning them to their ancestral home.
Now they’re back, and still Isaiah is preaching about God’s salvation and deliverance on its way? Didn’t we just get that, the people wonder? Salvation is never finished.
A simplistic faith might say that when Jordan, Landon and Nina were baptized two weeks ago they were saved, once and done. But just like getting married or deciding to have children, choosing a life of faith gets one climatic moment, but we choose each and every day to be a partner, to be a parent, to follow Jesus.
The exiles come home, they are delivered, they are saved, and still Isaiah prophesies that God’s deliverance and salvation are coming, because this relationship we have with God is not once and done, it lives each and every day as we choose justice, as we widen our welcome, as we share the good news. As the Jews come home from exile they are called to widen their understanding of who God’s people are. Isaiah calls them to prepare for even more salvation.
And many years later Zechariah gets a visit from an angel, proclaiming that he will have a son, John, who will prepare the people for Jesus’ presence on earth. Eventually Zechariah rejoices in the part his son will play in Jesus’ ministry, but at first he’s simply freaked out. So freaked out that he doesn’t speak until his son John is born. Once he gets his voice back, Zechariah proclaims Jesus’ birth and the blessings he will bring “giving knowledge of salvation by the forgiveness of sins. By the tender mercy of our God, the dawn from on high will break upon us, to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace.”
Only a few verses after Zechariah’s pronouncement, the shepherds also proclaim Jesus’ birth. “An angel of the Lord stands before them, and the glory of the Lord shines around them.” They go to Bethlehem and meet Jesus, and then, “they make known what had been told them about this child, and all who hear it are amazed.”
Zechariah, a priest, and the shepherds are unlikely partners. Priests are revered within the Jewish social and religious world of 1st century Palestine, while shepherds are the dregs of society. Priests are pure, shepherds are impure. You look to priests for answers. You try not to make eye contact with shepherds; they’re smelly, dirty, unpredictable.
But in Luke’s gospel the priest’s and the shepherds’ stories of ecstatic, divine encounter live side-by-side. The birth of Jesus--the dawn of a new era—is proclaimed in a juxtaposition befitting the nature of the salvation Jesus brings.
The gospel writer tells stories throughout Luke that show listeners and readers that our expectations of who is worthy and wise must be inverted. Throughout Luke we find that Jesus’ way brings together the people who don’t belong.
 Luke 1:77-79
Exodus 16, Isaiah 55:1-5, Matthew 14:13-21
Give us this day our daily bread.
Our scriptures today promise
free bread, and
Brothers and sisters pray and holy manna will be showered all around!
given with joy,
a gift that cannot be hoarded or
Give us this day our daily bread.
Come, without money and without price.
Eat what is good
Give us this day our free bread.
Jesus said, “Give them something to eat!”
But five loaves and two fish for five thousand families?
And all ate and all were filled; and they took up what was left over of the broken pieces, twelve baskets full.
Give us this day our miracle bread.
These stories, manna in the wilderness, Isaiah’s call to come home, and the feeding of the multitudes, these are familiar, favorite stories about the faithful being fed.
The message could simply be, turn to God for what you need and you will receive it.
Okay – time for the hymn?
Of course it’s not that simple! You know, these stories are so familiar that I didn’t read them carefully at first. It’s easy to focus on the nourishment of daily bread, free bread, miracle bread. To dwell in the rich taste and texture of all these blessings.
Sounds like other promises Jesus makes: "my yoke is easy, my burden is light." "I came that you might have life, and have it abundantly!"
Give us this day our daily bread.
Give us this day our free bread.
Give us this day our miracle bread.
Give us an easy yoke,
a light burden,
an abundant life!
Jesus also says, “Take up your cross and follow me.”
And “those who lose their lives will gain them.”
Three hundred years ago baptism in the Church of the Brethren was like taking up your cross to follow Jesus.
Adult baptism was a confrontation to the church, the law of the land. Early Brethren went to prison, risking their lives to practice adult baptism.
We can say they were simply following Jesus' example – he was 30 when John baptized him in the Jordan River. As Brethren we've always tried to do what Jesus did.
And that's true!
But adult baptism isn't only a simple people's plainspoken way to do what Jesus did.
The early Brethren knew that baptizing one another in this unorthodox, unapproved way was a confrontation of state religion that used violence to control people.
Brethren and their cousins, Mennonites and Quakers, chose new ways to practice their religion to set themselves apart from the state religions that killed in God's name.
"Take up your cross and follow me," says Jesus, and the early Brethren did that – because crucifixion was the Roman Empire's execution for political rebels.
By baptizing each other, early Brethren were rebelling, in the manner of Jesus.
We have abundant stories today: God promises daily manna, given with joy, a gift that cannot be hoarded or stored or secured.
"Everyone who thirsts, come to the waters; and you that have no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without price.”
Thousands gathered for healing and preaching on a hillside, and no one had enough to eat, but through sharing, all ate, and all were full.
Daily bread, free bread, miracle bread.
These are stories of abundance, of easy yokes and light burdens....at least they end that way.
But each of these stories begin with suffering.
The Israelites wander in the wilderness after escaping slavery when they eat daily manna.
The Jews are in exile, each generation wondering how to hold on to their customs while the foreign land becomes their home when Isaiah calls them to their ancestral home for free bread.
John the Baptist is murdered and Jesus is trying to find a quiet place to pray when all these people follow him, hungry for healing and stories and miracle bread.
We sing of the thirsty, the weary, the hungry, the aching.
Today a teenage girl is leaving her village to find paying work in the city where she knows no one and will be abused.
Today a father is saying goodbye to his children so he can go to a foreign country for work, to send money back to his family.
You may have met people whose hunger, thirst, weariness, pain is overwhelming as you visit prisoners, work in social services, travel to Guatemala, visit the sick. We've all felt thirst and hunger, weariness and pain.
But most of us are hungry or thirsty when we’re too rushed to pack a lunch, not because our own government or ruling elite are hoarding food, putting us in slavery, taking our crops.
We’ve lived with some of that, and it’s time to pay attention to how God breaks into oppression, as our own country becomes more dangerous.
When state power and violent empires and foreign occupation are manipulating culture, infecting religion, and abusing people, that's when the joyful gifts of daily bread comes – a gift we cannot secure but can only enjoy.
When state power and violent empires and foreign occupation are manipulating culture, infecting religion, and abusing people, that's when the prophet calls us home, to our center, to return to the place we are fed without money and without price.
When state power and violent empires and foreign occupation are manipulating culture, infecting religion, and abusing people, that's when we find we have more than we need, by trusting each other we eat our fill and have 5 baskets of miracle bread and twelve baskets of fish leftover.
When state power and violent empires and foreign occupation are manipulating culture, infecting religion, and abusing people, that's when courage comes – the courage of illegal baptisms and sharing sacred scriptures in catacombs, and risking our lives for Faith that cultivates peace and justice, not greed or war.
Jordan, Landon and Nina, you will not be arrested today! We still practice adult baptism because Jesus did it this way, We still practice adult baptism because we believe faith is about discipleship, not a freeway to heaven. You've made one choice – to be baptized – and it sets you on a path full of infinite choices.
We will surround you as a great cloud of witnesses. We will recall our own baptisms, if we can remember. The early Brethren who starved in prison after baptism are part of your great cloud of witness. Their courage is here.
How will you use the courage you inherit today?
These stories of abundance each begin with suffering. God demonstrates love for us by throwing us a feast, of daily bread, free bread, miracle bread. We're having a potluck feast today to celebrate our new members Cheryl, Jordan, Landon and Nina. We learned this from God.
Your baptism is no longer a ritual of risk, it is a ritual of rejoicing, and it sets you on a path of so many more choices.
We pray that you will be nourished on stories of daily bread, given and eaten with joy, never hoarded or controlled.
We pray that you will be nourished on stories of free bread, given and eaten in our true home, where we are known and beloved and find ourselves again.
We pray that you will be nourished on stories of miracle bread, in communities that bake trust into every loaf and share so fully with each other that leftovers pile up!
Who can we find to help us eat all this food?
All who are hungry, come! All who thirst, come to the water!
Romans 8:26-28, 38-39
Paul writes to the church in Rome about paradox. These followers of Jesus argue with one another, struggle with their culture, and wrestle with Empire. And Paul tells them all things work together for good?!
The church in Rome suffers, and Paul tells them nothing – neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God. Paradox – something that doesn’t seem like it could be true, but points to deeper wisdom.
As we often sing, “There’s a song in every silence, there’s a dawn in every darkness…In our end is our beginning, in our time infinity, in our doubt there is believing…”
Paradox focuses our attention.
Like the artwork of Escher, these hands drawing each other. When you see this, does your mind spin? From hmm, to wait, that couldn’t happen, to hmmm, I wonder what that could mean. Its mystery invites us to step closer.
Depending on the translation of Romans 8 you’re reading, those “sighs too deep for words” can be translated as “groanings.” The Greek word is stenagmois, and it shows up in Stephen’s speech in the book of Acts. He’s reflecting on the Israelites suffering in slavery in Egypt, and how God heard their “groans” and rescued them.[i]
These groans move God to compassion, the same sighs and groans the Holy Spirit makes, comforting us, advocating for us in our suffering. On our dark nights of the soul when we cannot find words to express our prayers, we simply groan. When have you suffered like that?
But these are sunny, luscious dog days of summer – we’re harvesting zesty cherry tomatoes, we’re out at the lake, we’re going to baseball games! In the lectionary we come to a desert of shadow.
So what’s the blessing of desert and shadow in our sunny summer? As I’ve simmered in this text and these images, the blessing that keeps rising up is focus. The focus of paradox. We can focus on shadow on a sunny day – we can’t even see a shadow on a cloudy day.
Or the opposite – look at this beam of light. We can focus right in on this beam of light in a shadowy slot canyon. We see light most clearly when we're in darkness. We see a shadow only when we're in the sun.
It’s like yin and yang.
Yin and yang is a Chinese exploration of paradox. Unity and duality at the same time. Each is opposite, but they become whole together. The image is based on light moving across mountains and valleys, the white space is what the sun lights up, the black space is shadow, and as the earth spins, the shadows move. The dance of light and shadow inspired the yin yang symbol.
I see the yin in that picture – a canyon of shadow with one point of light. I see the yang in the scripture text, a dark night of the soul in the middle of sunny summer.
Romans 6:1b-8 (from June 25)
We live in exciting times, when science and religion are asking the same questions,
pondering the same puzzles,
and often finding complementary answers.
Our culture usually assumes science and religion are adversaries:
6-day creation vs. evolution, for example,
or scientific exploration of cloning vs. religious concerns about the sanctity of life.
But on the curious cutting edges of both religion and science we find the mysteries
of how energy and matter are related,
how memories are stored in our genes,
how healing happens for those struggling with chemical or mental illness.
Paul’s letter to the church in Rome evokes the mysteries of renewal and re-creation.
Science finds new creation in cycles of death and life, as compost buries death and makes new life, as ants and worms and forest fires eat up what is old and create conditions for life to become new.
In Christianity we see new creation within one person, within one lifetime.
In our faith we seek redemption, we long to be made new.
New life comes in cycles of life and death for communities of faith, like compost or forest fires.
But usually when we talk about finding the new life in Christ Paul writes about we mean as individuals.
Where does science find this personal new life?
We live in the age of the brain – we’re suddenly learning an incredible amount about how our brains work.
For many years we believed that our personalities, abilities and intelligence were determined by our genes, and influenced by our upbringing. The nature vs. nurture debate asked if who we are is a function of our genes or our environment.
Of course the answer is always some combination of both, with the balance shifting over decades. Either way, for adults our hand has already been dealt.
Now neuroscience has added a third possibility which gives us freedom for new life.
Our brains adapt and change not just as children, not just as young adults, but up until the very end of our lives.
Neuroscientists now have scientific evidence of what people of faith have long believed.
it is never too late to find new life.
We always have a choice to change.
Whether finding new life in Christ or some other way, neuroscientists now can see how much power we have to create our future, regardless of our genes or upbringing or who we have been in the past.
Redemption, new life, being born again. Neuroplasticity.
We are divinely designed to be adaptable, like plastic, to fit all kinds of molds.
Our Creator made our brains so complex and also so flexible that we can learn whatever language or culture we’re born into.
And we can radically shift our worldview at any time in our lives. We are never too old to learn new tricks, neuroscience now can demonstrate, by identifying neuroplasticity. Of course we might not have the motivation or resources to learn new tricks, but we have the literal capacity because our divinely designed neurons can form new connections, compensate for injury and disease, move cognitive processes from one lobe of our brain to another, optimize mental processes and adjust activities in response to new situations or changes in environment.
Like the Moken people who live off the coast of Burma and Thailand. They live on the water and eat from the water.
The Moken have twice the underwater vision as the rest of us, but their eyes aren’t biologically different, they simply constrict their pupils and see twice as well underwater.
Any of our brains could learn to do this if we lived on water.
London taxi drivers have the largest hippocampi of any studied group of people on earth. The hippocampus holds spatial representation, and London taxi drivers have so many spatial images stored in their brains that their hippocampi literally grow. Again – any of our brains could do this, because our brains are plastic, agile, adaptable.
Underwater vision and huge hippocampi are impressive, but don’t have much to do with finding new life in Christ or re-creation. So I have another example for you – Nelson Mandela. Mandela lived amidst some of the worst racism our world has ever seen, in South Africa where he and other black people were considered the lowest level of human, had no civil rights or economic opportunities, and were imprisoned for trying to live with dignity.
Segregation was the law of the land and black and white people interacted only in specific settings in which black people were always the servants and white people always made the rules. So both individual people’s brains and the cultural brains of the country were filled with segregation and inequality.
Visions of racial harmony or even simple friendship across racial lines were not in anyone’s mind.