Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Christmas Elevator Message

Im just about to go into our Christmas Eve gathering. Its come together really well and im quite excited about it. Because im leaving on Christmas Day for two weeks vacation in Sydney, I wanted to post this tonight.

I offer my love and gratitude to all. Have a wonderful Christmas and New Year and I look forward to more fun and heresy when I return mid January......

Christmas Elevator Message

I set myself the challenge of giving a Christmas “elevator talk” this evening. That is, I want to say something meaningful in the time it would take to ride an elevator, let’s say up and down the CN Tower in Toronto. It’s a glass elevator with amazing, panoramic views, so my hope is that this elevator talk might offer you a broader and clearer view of the Christmas story and its relevance in today’s world.

Our gathering tonight features the Sanctuary Choir singing Vivaldi’s Gloria. Huge appreciation to them for all the hard work that went into that. It was a new experience for many of us, including the staff. What’s the difference between the C3 staff and yoghurt? Yoghurt has culture. Except of course Jackie Fisher. Jackie came to the staff a few months back and said she wanted to consider the Gloria for Christmas Eve. Most of us looked at her dumbfounded. The only Gloria we knew was Van Morrison’s rock classic. G L O R I A, bout five feet four from her head to the ground, Gloria……

She said it wasn’t Van Morrison. It was a Cantata. From that moment forward it became affectionately known as the Vivaldi Frittata.

Lack of sophistication aside, Jackie had me intrigued. What relevance does Vivaldi Gloria have for Christmas? I did some research. I loved what I found, and I’m excited to share it with you. Take a long look out the glass elevator of your imagination and be prepared to be inspired.

Vivaldi struggled with health and poverty throughout his life. He had a dubious love life, frowned on by the church of his day. He died a pauper and was buried in an unmarked grave. And yet he was a wonderful human being with a progressive heart and a prodigious musical talent. Vivaldi spent most of his life working in an orphanage in Venice. (Ospedale della Pieta) Abandoned children were passed through a hole in the orphanage wall. The boys were taught trades. The girls got married, became nuns or were taught music. Vivaldi trained the most talented of the girls. His all women’s choirs are believed to have been some of the best in the world. They performed behind metal grilles high above the audience, so that noble men would not be distracted. Instead the angelic voices would take them to heavenly places.

You get the picture. Vivaldi is now one of the most famous composers of all time, known to have inspired Bach. But he spent his life receiving orphans through a hole in a wall and passing on his musical gift.

Doesn’t that sound a little like the Christmas story? The story of Jesus, that has inspired millions of people over thousands of years, began in a backwater inn. A frightened family trapped in poverty, condemned for immorality, fled for their lives.

Doesn’t it sound a little like the story of the world today? People trapped in cycles of recession and anxiety, searching for meaning.

Does it sound at all like your life? Trapped in cycles of self loathing and fear.

Take heart- Vivaldi’s story is every person’s story. The Christmas story is your story. Look out the glass elevator of your imagination.

The message is clear. In the spirit of Vivaldi’s Gloria, let me offer it to you in Latin. Things sounds so much grander in Latin. I saw a great bumper sticker. In Latin it said, “Sona si Latine loqueris” which translates as ‘Honk if you speak Latin”. My Christmas message in Latin. “omnia vincit amor”…..Love Conquers All!

The anxiety of your life. Love conquers all.
The despair and uncertainty. Love conquers all.
Children abandoned and futures unsure. Love conquers all.
The Christmas story of hope against all odds. Love conquers all.
Your story of courage in the face of crisis. Love conquers all.

So now we are almost done with our elevator tour of Toronto. Your vision is broader and clearer. The Christmas story comes into clearer focus. You have your Christmas miracle. The wonder of Christmas is your best humanity offered as a gift to the world. “omnia vincit amor”…..Love Conquers All!

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Christmas; the Birth of Genius

My greatest hope at Christmas time is to offer relevance and wonder. When you no longer read the Christmas story as literal history, it opens up amazing opportunity for both. The story becomes every person's story, and mirrors the wonder of human courage (and genius).

There are lots of ways to approach the Christmas story to achieve relevance and wonder. Here are a sample.

You can read it as a story of survival against all odds....

You can read it as a pagan celebration of earth's cycles...

You can read it as the birth of the Christ in every person (the third Jesus)

Or you can read it as the celebration of every birth, and every birthday. This was a new idea for me, and grew out of the Roman idea that each person is born with a designated guardian spirit, known in Latin as Genius, or for a women Juno. It seemed to relate well to the story of Elizabeth and Mary meeting.

"The Christmas story is every person’s story. It is your story. It is the story of life meeting life, and genius being born. Your life is radiant in its genius. You are both mother and child, both the bearer of genius, and the genius itself. You stand at the edge of the great mystery, so near your genius, mirroring life back to itself. Your genius is a naked, winged child, ready to soar. Will you let it soar?"

Read, listen to, or watch the whole sermon here. Let me know what relevance and wonder the Christmas story has for you?

Monday, December 22, 2008

Can Rick Warren Give a Spirit Driven Invocation?

On a tiny peninsula in Washington, inside a domed temple, there is an awesome statue of Thomas Jefferson. He is on a high pedestal, standing calm and tall in a long coat with a gaze that seems fixed somewhere far beyond “today”. Some of Jefferson's most famous words are set in the great stone panels that surround the statue. They are Jefferson’s words of freedom, gifts to future vistors. These words have expanded the vision and compassion of generations of freedom-loving people across the globe.

Jefferson believed that church and state should remain separate. He never, however, imagined that spirit and state could ever be separate. To remove spirit from state is to divorce wisdom, imagination and compassion from a nation’s vision. Without spirit, a nation will die a colorless death.

Much has been said about the selection of Rick Warren, Purpose Driven Pastor, to do the Inauguration Invocation. The progressive world is divided between those who support his selection on the grounds of bridge building, and those who think his selection is an offense to the LGBT community. It feels pointless to add my opinion to those already offered. Too much has been said about a decision that is already made.

Warren will give the invocation. His judgment, as well as the judgment of Obama, will be tested by the spirit in which he offers his words. He would do well to visit Jefferson’s Memorial before writing his invocation. If he catches the spirit of the founding fathers, his prayer will be part of the healing.

Let’s face it. In a few short sentences, Warren can’t possibly say what all parties want him to say. But he can catch the spirit of the occasion. Obama is banking on Warren catching this spirit.

All sides will have to give a little ground to Warren. For my part, I will have to accept that he will probably invoke a more defined, personal God than I care to relate to. Evangelicals will have to accept that he probably won’t take the opportunity to push any family values agenda.

He can’t say everything, but if he catches the spirit of Jefferson, he can say something that unites people. This is a great opportunity for Warren, and because I believe in the power of spirit, I believe Warren can still catch it. He can say something that affirms all people, especially those who have been marginalized by a government that brought religion too close and moved spirit too far away.

Warren has said some ignorant and hateful things about sexuality. Now is his chance to transcend his religious perspective in the interest of healing. If he catches the spirit of Thomas Jefferson, he will weep in wonder at the miracle of human diversity. His invocation will follow suit.

Warren can invoke a God so generous and wondrous that people fall to their knees, imagining the possibilities. He need not put too much definition on the God he invokes, lest he divide the nation further. He can touch the human longing for healing that is so strong at this point in history. He can point us all to our power and purpose that we are the ones we have been waiting for. We elected Obama. Obama takes responsibility for his appointments and decisions. We all create our future.

When Einstein said these words, I can only imagine he was gazing at something like The Jefferson Memorial-

“The most beautiful thing we can experience is the mysterious. It is the source of all true art and all science. He to whom this emotion is a stranger, who can no longer pause to wonder and stand rapt in awe, is as good as dead: his eyes are closed.”

I wonder if Warren can help the nation to stand rapt in awe with his words. Obama has done it often enough. The whole inauguration will be an event of such wonder, and transformation. I’m prepared to give Warren a chance. Are you? I expect him to catch the spirit of mysterious connectedness; that our destiny is one, and that we are the ones we’ve been waiting for.