Category Archives: Faith

Ecumenical Good Friday service celebrates the Easter mystery

By Tracy Simmons
SpokaneFAVS.com

Tenebrae "herse" (candelabrum)/Wikipedia

On Friday evening, the sanctuary at Our Lady of Lourdes Cathedral will slowly get darker and darker, symbolizing the crucifixion of Jesus and the suspense of his resurrection.

It’s the second year the church has hosted the Ecumenical Tenebrae Prayer Service, which will be celebrated by five of Spokane’s Christian leaders.

“It darkens as Christ moves further and further away from us,” said the Rev. Jeff Lewis, parochial vicar of the cathedral, adding that only a single candle will remain at the end of the service, signifying the unconquerable light of Christ.

The Tenebrae service is a long-time tradition at Our Lady of Lourdes, but in an effort to be more inclusive Bishop Blase Cupich, of the Catholic Diocese of Spokane, changed it last year to be an ecumenical service.

About 150 people attended the 2011 program.

This year the service will be led by the Rev. Sheryl Kinder Pyle, transitional executive presbyter of the Presbytery of the Inland Northwest, Bishop James E. Waggoner, Episcopal bishop of the Diocese of Spokane, Bishop Martin Wells, of the  Evangelical Lutheran Church of Eastern Washington – Idaho, the Rev. Dale Cockrum, the inland district superintendent of the Pacific Northwest Conference United Methodist Church, and Cupich.

Kinder Pyle will deliver the sermon and the other faith leaders will read the accompanying scriptures and Good Friday texts. The Cathedral singers will lead the congregation in traditional chants and songs.

“One of the ways we can really celebrate our commonalities is through these kinds of things,” Lewis said. “It’s really a very subtle, but very unique and prayerful opportunity to reflect upon the Paschal mystery of the death and resurrection of Christ.”

The service will begin at 7 p.m.

Also on Good Friday, at noon, the cathedral will celebrate the Lord’s Passion with the veneration of the cross.

VIEWPOINTS: What’s your favorite scripture and why?

By Tracy Simmons
SpokaneFAVS.com

Last year the most popular scripture on Biblegateway.com was Jeremiah 29:11, “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” 

We asked our panelists what their favorite passage was.

VIEWPOINTS: What’s your favorite scripture and why?

Dr. Rob Snyder

Matthew 25:31-46. This is one of my favorite scriptural passages in the New Testament. For me the message is very direct and clear. The kingdom of God is not about what you think, what you believe, but the kingdom of God is how do you treat one another. I am not sure why the goats always get the short end of the stick, poor goats.

Those who think they are religious and righteous are the ones who are missing the boat, so to speak. “When you did not do it to the one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.” For me, this passage calls one to practice mindfulness. It calls one to “walk their talk” to be authentic and to truly, fully, completely love all people. And not just the good people, not just one’s friends, or not just the one’s you like. But to love the transient person who asks for a handout on the street. To love the alcoholic who is so addicted they are caught in one of the most insidious traps. To love the person whom you politically disagree with vehemently, is the call of the kingdom of God.

It is easy to say you love all people, but what do your actions say. What are the passing thoughts in ones’ mind? Are we aware of our every thought? This passage also speaks to me of the amazing aspect of the divinity living within each person. “When you did not do it to the least of these, you did not do it to me.” Now, personally I do not believe in hell, and I believe in God’s most merciful and compassion nature. I believe the “eternal fire” is a metaphor representing not being in the presence of the divine. If there is a hell, it is of our own making. When Jesus proclaimed the Good News it was not about a new religion or a new faith. The Good News is very simple; The Kingdom of God is here now. Thus, we are not to wait until we are perfect, or wait until we are in heaven, or wait for anything to start treating every person as a unique and wonderful creation of the divine.

Rob Snyder

Diane Kipp

Like many of you, I’m sure, I have quite a few favorite scriptures; possibly some of my favorites are also yours. I Googled John 3:16 and was not completely surprised to learn, at least according to Wikipedia, that it is “one of the most widely quoted verses from the Christian Bible and has been called the most famous Bible verse. It has also been called the ‘Gospel in a nutshell.’ ”

Another of my favorites might be less familiar to some of you; it is from The Book of Mormon.  Ether 12:27 says, “And if men come unto me I will show unto them their weakness. I give unto men weakness that they may be humble; and my grace is sufficient for all men that humble themselves before me; for if they humble themselves before me, and have faith in me, then will I make weak things become strong unto them.”  It gives me great comfort to know that my (many) weaknesses are part of God’s plan and can be made to serve his purposes. It is amazing to think any area where I am weak could potentially become one of my strengths (me, patient? me, brave? me, a morning person?).

My theoretical belief in this scripture is complete but my personal belief is still developing. Over my 58 years, I have indeed  been made aware of my weaknesses (I have four children, so that’s a given) and that has humbled me substantially, though not completely; I’m also still working on the faith/grace aspect. I haven’t become a scriptorian (yet!) and my self-control is often AWOL, but I don’t gossip like I did at 20 and I learned to drive in Barcelona (OK, that one’s not exactly a spiritual strength, but trying in any area helps us improve in others, right?) So I still have hope that eventually I will see this wonderful scripture fulfilled in myself.

Diane Kipp

Pastor Eric Blauer

Romans 11:36. This verse is my life verse because it always grounds me in the truth of God’s sovereignty. This chaotic world gives plenty of reasons to doubt God’s goodness and power.

This passage helps me keep an eternal perspective on what and who this life of mine is all about, especially on the days when I’m struggling to understand what’s going on.

It’s like a small compass that helps me stay on course and navigate this path of life.

Eric Blauer

Lace Williams-Tinajero

Paul’s definition of love in 1 Corinthians 13:4–13 is famously used in weddings and etched on Christian decor. The more crucial section, the first three verses, are often skipped. These verses are my favorite because they always shift troubling religious conversations.

If I speak in the tongues of mortals and of angels, but do not have love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give away all my possessions, and if I hand over my body so that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing. (1 Corinthians 13:1–3, NRSV).

Some family friends attend a Christian church in Northern Idaho where the pastor teaches that Jews are outsiders to God’s new covenant in Jesus and are unsaved. Over the years, it has been harder to be around this couple. They have acquired a condemning attitude towards people who believe differently and a zeal to sway others to their way of thinking. My parents have been distressed and confused over it. Then one day our conversation turned to Paul’s words in 1 Corinthians 13:1–3. A silence filled the space. In that moment I saw in their eyes compassion instead of condemnation, wonder in place of knowledge, love not anger, and being human together rather than being right.

Lace Williams-Tinajero


Palm Sunday, as I have experienced it, seems anemic

By Blogger Daryl Geffken

Daryl Geffken

As I figure it, Palm Sunday was the greatest day Jesus’ disciples experienced.

This day laid claim of their expectations that they were following the sudden king of Jerusalem, Judah, Israel, and the heavens and the earth. Finally, no more wondering what he meant when he was teaching those parables, no more wondering when the day of his kingdom would be announced, no more walking around the whole of the country.

Wikipedia photo

This was a time for sitting on either side of the enthroned King. This was a time for celebration. Even the people were fully on board. No small cutsie parade of kids walking vaguely down the aisle of a sanctuary, this was a full-blown, 1945 end-of-world-war-two-ticker-tape festivity, with people laying down their clothing and huge palm leaves so that the son of God wouldn’t have to humble himself by touching the dirt with his feet (I’m curious: what if instead of the parade of palms we so typically enjoy was replaced with all us adults throwing our jackets and such on the ground and having it trampled by a donkey?  Or shouting “hail to the king” so loudly it broke city ordinance and officials had to come break up the party?).

For the people, their liberator had arrived: for today and forever. And Jesus agreed. This was a day that made it all worth it. In my history, there is nothing that compares to what this day meant to its participants. It’s better than a national championship, any form of graduation, the wrap party after the final show, and even my wedding reception. I would have loved to join this celebration. I wish I could have been there.

The night we betray Jesus

By Contributor Eric Blauer

Pastor Eric Blauer

The Easter Holy Week is almost here and it’s often forgotten that one of the central themes of the Gospel story is our betrayal of Jesus.

Many Christians memorialize the last days of Jesus by practicing foot washing, celebrating the Eucharist and spending time singing hymns and praying together as a church community. Woven into all those moments of Jesus’s passion were narratives of human abandonment.
Jesus washed the feet of disciples who would betray, deny and desert him.
Jesus shared the bread and wine with the disciples who were about to betray, deny and desert him.
Yet, he washed and fed.

Photo from biblical-art.com

Many churches begin communion times by reciting 1 Corinthians 11:23, “For I received from the Lord what I also passed on to you: The Lord Jesus, on the night he was betrayed.”

This passage offers us a deep and sacred place of human experience with the divine — the dark night.
Every person’s spiritual journey is made up of dark and light. It’s in the night time where Jesus dines and serves us, with the full knowledge of the blackness of our kisses and curses.
We can resist and reject this revelation like Peter did in his self-righteous moment at the last supper. We often offer up our grandiose narratives of personal fidelity. We are too dishonest about the brief span of our saintliness that is quickly drowned out with the mornings rooster cries.
We sing the songs of Sunday’s worship with the same mouths that kiss him amidst Monday’s mob of unbelievers.
We eat and drink at the table of our heart with angels and devils and yet are quick to recount the falleness of others — who doubt, desert and deny.
The holy night of betrayal is a path of confession for us all, a washing in the water of our own waywardness. A dip of bread in the wine of our own devilish possessions. A dark moment when we recognize our own adultery as we pass the holy kiss.
This Easter week, let’s take time reflecting in the mirror of the Passion and don’t forget what we have seen when the celebrations are all over.

Dalai Lama wins Templeton Prize for work on science, religion

Chris Herlinger

Photo of the Dalai Lama by Tracy Simmons

The Dalai Lama is best known for his commitment to Tibetan autonomy from China and his message of spirituality, nonviolence and peace that has made him a best-selling author and a speaker who can pack entire arenas.

But somewhat under the radar screen, the Tibetan Buddhist leader and Nobel Prize laureate has also had an abiding interest in the intersection of science and religion.

That interest won Tenzin Gyatso, the 14th Dalai Lama, the 2012 Templeton Prize on Thursday (March 29), a $1.7 million award that is often described as the most prestigious award in religion.

The Dalai Lama is the highest-profile winner of an award that in recent years had been given to physicists and theologians not well known to the general public, but earlier had been given to the likes of evangelist Billy Graham and the late Mother Teresa.

“With an increasing reliance on technological advances to solve the world’s problems, humanity also seeks the reassurance that only a spiritual quest can answer,” said John M. Templeton, Jr., the president and chairman of the Pennsylvania-based John Templeton Foundation and the son of Sir John Templeton, who founded the prize in 1972.

“The Dalai Lama offers a universal voice of compassion underpinned by a love and respect for spiritually relevant scientific research that centers on every single human being.”

For his part, the Dalai Lama, in a video statement released during a live webcast announcing the prize, struck a modest note. He said he was nothing more than “a simple Buddhist monk,” despite the 2012 Templeton or his 1989 Nobel Peace Prize.

The Templeton honor, he said, was “another sign of recognition about my little service to humanity, mainly, nonviolence and unity around different religious traditions.”

The Templeton Foundation noted that the Dalai Lama has long had an interest in a variety of scientific subjects, including astrophysics, behavioral science, neurobiology and quantum mechanics.

As one example, the Dalai Lama helped initiate a “Science for Monks” program, based at Buddhist monasteries in India. The program hosts Indian and Western scientists who wish to explore possible connections and overlaps between science and Tibetan Buddhist traditions.

In turn, the program also provides education in scientific inquiry to monks interested in biology, chemistry, cosmology, mathematics, physics and quantum mechanics.

In its announcement, the foundation noted “the rigorous commitment of Buddhists to meditative investment and reflection similarly follows the strict rules of investigation, proof and evidence required of science.”

But the Dalai Lama also has been involved in many academic conferences on science and religion. Some of these have resulted in best-selling books like “The Art of Happiness,” “The Universe in a Single Atom,” and “The Dalai Lama at MIT.”

Aside from the “Science for Monks” program, the foundation noted that the Dalai Lama co-founded the Colorado-based Mind & Life Institute in 1987, dedicated to “collaborative research” between science and Buddhism.

Among other things, the institute hosts conferences focusing on contemplative science, consciousness and death, and destructive and healing emotions.

Another institution formed with the Dalai Lama’s collaboration is Stanford University’s Center for Compassion and Altruism Research and Education.

In his recommendation to the awards committee, Richard Davidson of the University of Wisconsin-Madison, wrote: “More than any other living human being, His Holiness the Dalai Lama has served humanity to catalyze the advancement of ‘spiritual progress’ and to help us all to cultivate a better understanding of the spiritual dimensions of human experience.”

The Templeton Prize — the world’s largest annual monetary award given to a single individual — will be presented to the Dalai Lama at a May 14 ceremony at St. Paul’s Cathedral in London.

The Dalai Lama becomes the second Templeton Prize laureate who has also won the Nobel Peace Prize. Mother Teresa won the first Templeton, in 1973. Six years later, she received the Nobel Peace Prize.

When are your Holy Week services?

By Tracy Simmons
SpokaneFAVS.com

Flickr photo by katybate

Many Christians will walk out of church on Sunday with a palm leaf folded into a small cross. The palm is a reminder of John 12:12-23, when a crowd used them to welcome Jesus to Jerusalem.

Later, many in that crowd urged for his execution.

Palm Sunday marks the beginning of Holy Week, which is the week leading to Easter.

Holy Week includes Maundy Thursday, when Christians remember Jesus’ last supper. And on Friday, Good Friday, Christians will reflect upon his crucifixion.

Many churches will hold Easter vigils on Saturday night (Holy Saturday) where the Easter, or Paschal, candle is lit.

Holy Week will conclude on Easter Sunday, April 8.

SpokaneFAVS will publish local Holy Week listings very soon. If you’d like your church included email services times to Tracy.Simmons@religionnews.com.

Fearing the Lord

By Contributor Ernesto Tinajero

Ernesto Tinajero

The townspeople came to joke that they could set their clocks by the professor’s afternoon walk. Immanuel Kant was so regular with his walks he became as predictable as the spring flowers in Königsberg. His philosophical work, on the  hand, dropped onto Western thought with a mushroom cloud of destruction, blowing the older strains of scholastic thought in its wake. He dismantled the earlier rational proofs of God, replacing them with another, the moral one. God exists because the universe needs a moral structure. Western thought and theology would never stroll with the same predictability after Kant.

The fictional character, Ivan Karamazov in Fyodor Dostoyevsky’s “The Brothers Karamazov” makes the Kantian case that if there is no God, then there is no immorality and no virtue. Ever since Kant, that has been the argument that we need God to make us behave. God becomes our cop. God as cop presents problems. That it is not an image used in Christianity before Kant. After Kant, it has become standard for faiths to argue God was a cop.

The preferred image in the Bible, both in the Tanak (The Old Testament) and the New Testament was that of a loving parent. It is important in any discussion of fear and love of keeping in mind these two metaphors of God, God as cop and God as loving parent.

If you view God as a loving parent, then fear does not diminish love. When we do something that know is wrong like hurting another, then we fear God for what God will think of us. We understand we failed God, but we keep believing God still cares and wants the best for us. Like Jesus’ abba, papa, we somehow feel we let God and ourself down. The fear is as much about facing our own shame and ourselves as it is facing God. We fear God because we fear the truth of ourselves. Jesus then offers a way for reconciliation with God — the way of love and grace. We fear God, but it does not diminish our love of God. In a very real way it is rooted in God’s love and our own fear in facing the coldness of own actions.

The impersonal God as cop is different. Fear is very much not wanting to face the cold punishment of a God that only cares about the rules and you breaking them. God will leave you alone if you follow the rules. The fear of God is now about being caught, and who can love an impersonal God?

The question  of fear and love of God reveals our image of God. Yet fear and love are themselves a large universe onto themselves. Humans are programmed to fear. In reality we can not love God without fear being involved as well as love. Encountering the living God means facing the a mirror. Love reflects as well as fear. Such an encounter cannot take place with a God that is nothing more that a cop. God is the loving parent, the one Jesus called papa.

This week SpokaneFAVS panelists wrestled with this question. Read “Viewpoints: Does the fear of a higher power interfere with loving that higher power?”

 

Is it enough to confront evil with prayer?

By Blogger Dr. Karin Heller

Bonjour Dr. Heller,

I’ve been reflecting on our last lecture about overcoming evil in the world. This has prompted a new question I’m hoping you will answer for me. 

I realize there was evil back in biblical times, but I truly believe it is far worse today and so much more destructive — morally, spiritually, as well as literally with all the military advances. In your lecture you said Trinitarian life is the answer to whatever evil is generated by the world and prayer is an important part. I know perseverance through prayer is possible for me, but I am unsure what the expectations are beyond that, for me, and the congregation of Christians as a whole. If we persevere through prayer as Jesus did, is that enough; is there more we should be doing now? You said to confront evil and not to run away, but some of the evil in this world is very overwhelming and frightening. I am worried that prayer is not enough. In addition, and to be perfectly honest, I fear what will happen when I am confronted by evil. Please share your thoughts. Is prayer really enough, or am I missing something? 

Thank you so much,I truly value your insights and wisdom! 

Kind Regards,

Kirsten

Dear Kirsten,

Dr. Karin Heller

Thank you for your insightful question. If you look up your class notes your should see o I gave at least three ways to confront evil. You only retained prayer. It’s funny you don’t remember the other two. One can’t just confront evil with prayer. One has to add service and the ‘right meal’ taken within a fellowship. When evil is at work we also have to continue the service to which God called us. This reminds me of a Catholic priest who, on Sept. 11 entered one of the twin towers to assist the dying there. He did not simply pray outside of the tower for the dying. He continued to act as a priest just as the fire fighters continued to act as firefighters. Yes, evil was around them, but they went ahead with their missions. The mission preserves us from focusing all the time on evil and fear of that evil which has paralyzing effects. This, of course, means we have to figure out first what our mission is!

Then, in the face of evil, we desperately need to share in the Lord’s Supper, or Eucharist, in communion with all of the Lord’s faithful. That’s why I spent so much time in class on the Lord’s Supper. When you get into a deeper understanding of the Lord’s Supper you’ll be better equipped to resist evil and to endure. Every meal allows us to endure, to overcome loss of energy, psychological weakness, depression and so forth. There are meals and the memories of certain meals that stimulate us and allow us to endure. This can be a special meal with a particular friend, or with your kids, or after graduation, or on your birthday or on a vacation. Certain meals (or the memories of these meals) I took with friends in France during summer always help me to keep on going during my fall or spring semester! The Eucharist is doing this also in a special way because it’s during this meal that the Lord himself is the host and makes us share in his body and blood, the only thing capable of defeating whatever evil power!

– Karin

Dr. Karin Heller is a professor on the theology faculty at Whitworth University. Her blog, Table Talk with Dr. Karin Heller, features her responses to questions that students have asked her over the years.  Check back each week to see new posts, and if you have a question leave it in the comment section below.

Recounting The Life of the Buddha

By Tracy Simmons
SpokaneFAVS.com

Statue of Siddhartha Buddha/Fotopedia Photo

More than 2,500 years ago an Indian prince, Siddhartha, abandoned his privileged life in order to understand how to overcome suffering. Eventually, he became the Buddha, “the Fully Awakened One,” attaining peace through transforming his own mind. He spent the next 45 years teaching others how to do it too.

Next month, on Sharing the Dharma Day, the Sravasti Abbey community will examine the lessons Americans can glean from the Buddha’s life story.

According to a press release, the Buddha’s teachings (the Dharma) explain how to live ethically and avoid harming others, how to develop love and compassion and how to cultivate wisdom that understands the nature of reality. Learning and living these teachings — and sharing them with others — is the purpose of Sravasti Abbey, a Buddhist monastery near Newport.

One Sunday a month the abbey opens its doors to people of all faiths and backgrounds who would like to know more about the Buddha’s teachings and to share in community fellowship.

Topics for each month’s Sharing the Dharma Day are drawn from the books of its founder and abbess, Ven. Thubten Chodron. Topics for 2012 are based on “Buddhism for Beginners.”

According to the abbey, Sharing the Dharma Day includes a guided meditation and Dharma talk, vegetarian potluck lunch and facilitated discussion.

Sharing the Dharma Day is from 9:45 a.m to 3 p.m. on April 15.

The full Sharing the Dharma Day program is available here.

The Bible is a love story, not a rule book

By Contributor Pastor Steve Hart

Pastor Steve Hart

In starting and leading a new church, one of the bigger challenges has been helping people to understand the Bible.

Most people have the misconception that the Bible is a kind of “rulebook” full of moral commands and fables with a moral point, all about telling Christians how to live. Christians seem to get this idea from their preachers, sermon after sermon hearing, “Here is what the Bible says. Do this and God will bless you!”

Outsiders to the Christian faith seem to have gotten this idea from Christians themselves, who see Christians trying to be the “morality police,” making sure everyone knows all God’s rules (and making sure that everyone knows that Christians always keep those rules).

The tragic result of this way of reading the Bible is that Christians are joyless and judgmental, while those outside the faith — those who, incidentally, were most attracted to Jesus in his day — want nothing to do with Christians and their rulebook!

I’ve had to clarify, over and over, that the Bible is neither a rulebook nor a collection of moral fables. The Bible is primarily a story, a beautiful, heartbreaking and redemptive story. The Bible is a love story, telling the story of the creator and his epic pursuit of his prized but wayward creation: humanity. Fully three-fourths of the Bible is narrative and dialogue, and when there are “rules” they only make sense in the context of the story itself.

Flickr Photo

Before we can dismiss the Bible, we’ve got to actually listen to the story and engage it, as it is. One doesn’t watch “Lord of the Rings” and dismiss it because elves don’t exist. Rather, we read (or watch) the story, stepping into the world the story describes, engaging with the characters and joyfully allowing ourselves to get caught up in the winding narrative. We find ourselves cheering for Bilbo and crew, even though we know it is just a story. All great stories do this to us, and we don’t for a minute dismiss the story simply because it isn’t true. In fact, we often find by the end of a great story that we actually wish it were true, wishing that our lives carried such significance, that we were the kind of pure, noble and courageous people we found in the story, and that somehow, in the end, everything really might be made right again.

Over the next couple of weeks, I’m going to lay out this love story, trying to retell the Bible’s story in just a few posts. As we’ve done this in our church, we’ve seen a new (or renewed) desire to engage with the story of the Bible.  Suddenly there is reason to tune in and find out what will happen. And whether or not you believe the story or not – that it is the true story of the world — you might just find yourself wishing it were.