Category Archives: Uncategorized

May 12, 2013

A Dream of a Happy Mother’s Day For All

julia_ward_howe_2An 1870 Mother’s Day Proclamation by Julia Ward Howe, author of the famous Battle Hymn of the Republic, in response to the carnage she witnessed during the American Civil War. Happy Mother’s Day, y’all!

                                                                          Pastor Brian

Arise, then, women of this day! Arise all women who have hearts,
whether our baptism be that of water or of fears!

Say firmly: “We will not have great questions decided by
irrelevant agencies. Our husbands shall not come to us, reeking
with carnage, for caresses and applause. Our sons shall not be
taken from us to unlearn all that we have been able to teach
them of charity, mercy and patience.

We women of one country will be too tender of those of another
country to allow our sons to be trained to injure theirs. From
the bosom of the devastated earth a voice goes up with our own.
It says “Disarm, Disarm! The sword of murder is not the balance
of justice.”

Blood does not wipe our dishonor nor violence indicate possession.
As men have often forsaken the plow and the anvil at the summons
of war, let women now leave all that may be left of home for a
great and earnest day of counsel. Let them meet first, as women,
to bewail and commemorate the dead.

Let them then solemnly take counsel with each other as to the
means whereby the great human family can live in peace, each
bearing after their own time the sacred impress, not of Caesar,
but of God.

In the name of womanhood and of humanity, I earnestly ask that a
general congress of women without limit of nationality may be
appointed and held at some place deemed most convenient and at
the earliest period consistent with its objects, to promote the
alliance of the different nationalities, the amicable settlement
of international questions, the great and general interests of
peace.

May 2, 2013

We’re All in This Thing Together

A friend of mine from far off places wrote me this week to tell me that she’s recently found a church, she reads this blog (Woohoo!), and she’s wrestling with something she’d like some thoughtful reflection on. Essentially my friend was wrestling with why folk choose to follow God and whether that decision should be an altruistic one or if, at its core, it is always a selfish decision.

What a great question! Seriously, it hits on many of the things we wrestle with as people of faith and as folk considering whether or not to begin a journey of faith. First off it touches on the question that Rob and I have been asking since we began in Phoenix: “in the midst of all of the amazing work that is occurring in the downtown area and beyond, what value do we add to the lives of the people we’re seeking to serve?” Second, it touches on the issue of hypocrisy, a critique often leveled at the church these days, by putting our claims of altruism up against the view that we really do what we do in order to reinforce our own worldview and make ourselves feel better. In this sense my friend’s questions feels very relevant to City Square’s work in downtown Phoenix particularly and to the work of the Church in the world today generally.

In order to reflect on this question in a meaningful way I need to explain my cosmology, why and how creation functions the way it does. I believe that God created us to be loved by God and to reflect that love back to God, out to each other, and onto all of creation, thus connecting us to God’s infinite work in the world. I believe that at some point we began to think of ourselves more individualistically, not a bad thing in and of itself except that apart from God’s infinite work in the world we feel small, insignificant, vulnerable, fearful, etc. We built walls to protect ourselves, literally and figuratively, disconnecting ourselves from God, each other, creation, and subsequently our purpose, eventually looking for new ways to feel powerful and important. Finally, I believe that God’s work in Christ was to become human, inextricably reconnecting us to our creator, and that our work in Christ is remembering how to allow ourselves to be loved so that we in turn might remember how to love God, love each other, and love creation as part of God’s infinite work in the world.

Okay, so back to my friend’s question. My reflection on whether or not our work as Christians in the world is altruistic or selfish is that I believe it to be both. On the one hand, what could be more selfish than seeking our own purpose in life, remembering how to be loved, and reconnecting with infinite life and power?

But instead of the pop-culture love that’s all about emotions and butterflies in the tummy, substitute the kind of love that says, “we’re all in this thing together,” and, “I can no longer ‘win’ if it means you lose,” and suddenly everything changes. Imagine eternal life not as the continuation of me in perpetuity but as a connection to something beyond myself and the whole paradigm shifts. Sure, love still benefits me, but it also forces me to think beyond myself. Power and eternity still give me comfort, but it’s a comfort that rests in others rather than comfort from the struggles of others.

I believe when Christ followers really find the heart of the Good News it is simultaneously the most selfish and the most selfless work they can ever be about, because it can’t really be Good News unless, at it’s root, it’s Good News for everyone. Now don’t get me wrong, that means much harder work than merely finding a path that makes me feel good about me or, better yet, makes me feel okay regardless of how I live in relationship to God, others, and creation, but the payoff is much bigger as well. In the end, I believe it’s the only payoff that will ever make us feel truly fulfilled. After all, it’s what we were created for in the first place.

So friend (and other friends who are walking this path with us, virtually or in-person), thanks for asking good questions. Thanks for engaging in the process of growth, both your own, and ours collectively. Thanks for reading the blog (Woohoo!). Most of all, thanks for engaging in a process of becoming who you were created to be, because the closer you get to self-realization, the more you help the rest of us get there, and I’ll take all the help I can get.

I’m selfish that way.

December 29, 2012

Finding Financial Peace

One of the great disservices Christianity has done itself over they years is to convince the world (and perhaps ourselves) that our primary purpose is to be right, to prove others wrong, and to coerce others into becoming like us.The truth of the matter is that the heart of Christianity is far less coercive and far more compelling than most folk, including Christians, give it credit for.

One of the most compelling messages I find in the Judeo-Christian tradition is the message of liberation. This is perhaps the overriding narrative of the Hebrew Bible, epitomized in the story of Moses leading God’s people out of bondage in Egypt and delivering them to a land of prosperity and potential.

The Christian testament is often understood as shifting foci from earthly liberation to a spiritual liberation from sin and/or eternal judgement, but the truth is, Jesus cares about earthly bodies. While he didn’t lead an army to drive out the occupying forces of Rome as many had hoped he would, Jesus healed the sick, fed the hungry, and distribute money to the poor. In essence, a significant portion of Jesus’ earthly ministry was dedicated to the liberation of folk from disease and poverty, and he regularly taught his followers to care for lepers, orphans, foreigners, and widows who would otherwise be bound by institutional oppression that would keep them from fully participating in their communities.

Today City Square is working in partnership with community members in Downtown Phoenix to discern what liberation is necessary in our communities. While that discernment is an ongoing process, one thing we’ve heard again and again are stories of folk being bound by debt and/or an inability to get a handle on their personal finances. Mortgages, student loans, credit card debt, bills, and an overall inability to get caught up/get ahead financially are all issues that hang over our community and keep folk from living into their full potential.

If this sounds like you I hope you’ll consider joining us at 6:30pm at Burton Barr Library on Tuesdays starting in January for Financial Peace University*, a class that helped my wife and I begin to get a hold of our own finances and which might be able to do the same for you and your partner, spouse, or family.

This class isn’t about getting you to believe anything different, except maybe that you don’t always have to live with the stress that finances can cause in your life. The cost of materials for the class is $100 which goes entirely to the folk who create the curriculum. City Square isn’t making a dime off of these classes. For us, it’s all about liberation from the things that bind us. You can sign up for the class here or contact me for more information at [email protected]

Regardless of the journey you’re on, if financial peace is a part of it, we hope you’ll consider joining us for this class.

Be well y’all.
Brian

*personally, I don’t believe that the financial liberation offered by Jesus and that offered by Financial Peace University are one in the same. While Jesus offered an entirely new way of thinking about economic and social structures, FPU offers sound advice for how to live in the current US economic system by controlling your money rather than allowing it to control you. For further conversation on the economics of Christ let’s grab coffee!

December 25, 2012

Merry Christmas!

Luke 2:8-14
Then an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, ‘Do not be afraid; for see—I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people: to you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign for you: you will find a child wrapped in bands of cloth and lying in a manger.’ And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host, praising God and saying, ‘Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace among those whom he favors!’

Merry Christmas from all of us at City Square Church! We wish you love, hope, joy and peace during this season. Thank you for your continued prayers and support, we can’t wait to see what God will do with this ministry, in the new year!

Peace and Blessings,

Pastors Rob and Brian