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Something to Think About

Pastor Edgar's thoughts from our quarterly newsletters

January - June 2024
Building a Truly Inclusive Church

Aside from the obvious, there are studies that indicate that there are more often subtle forces and
biases at work that keep our churches more homogenous and often unintentionally more exclusive than
we claim that we want. Sometimes it is the style of worship, the type of music, or the length of the
sermon. Other times it may be the nature of the welcome a church extends. It may be that the greatest
influence on homogeneity is the subtle or not so subtle forces that attempts to mold the stranger into
our mold. It is one thing to welcome a visitor into our place of worship. It is quite another to create a
place that welcomes the stranger into “full partnering”, where we are willing to share ideas, decision
making, risks, and adapting to the needs and tastes of others in our common life. And yet this seems to
be what the Jesus of the gospels is encouraging us to do.

Most of us would probably find it in our hearts “to allow” those who we might consider “heathens”,
“sinners” and misfits” to join us in a community of faith. We might not only find it acceptable to invite
them to join us, but we might also invite them to participate in activities of our community. We might
do these things and more while we wait for “them” to change. Building a truly inclusive church requires
another step. Here we are inviting all sorts of different people to join us as “full partners” in the
common life of our faith communities without assuming they become like us or even try and act like us.
In a sense we are being challenged to “affirm those who might be different from ourselves just the way
they are.”

Some Christians, who claim to welcome all people expect their new members eventually to look and
think like themselves. They assume that doubters and skeptics will become believers, that gays and
lesbians will become straight or at least celibate, that everyone will appear to be cheerful, and that
people in the church will adopt the same manners and develop similar tastes.

Progressive Christians take a different approach. From our reading of the Jesus stories, we concluded
that the Jesus path challenges us to welcome all people without imposing on them the necessity of
changing their attitudes, their culture, their understanding of their faith, or their sexual orientations. To
take the position a step farther, we would also suggest that the established members of a church should
always be alert to the possibility that they are the ones who must do the changing. They must be ready
to adapt themselves to the people they hope to welcome.

Shalom to all!

Pastor Edgar

*Adapted from “Progressive Christianity”

October 2023
Sources of Truth

Let me begin this selection from ProgessiveChristianity.Org with the following statement that is one of
the principles of progressive Christianity. “…the teachings of Jesus provide but one of many ways to
experience the Sacredness and Oneness of life, and that we can draw from diverse sources of wisdom
in our spiritual journey.”

A few years ago there was a popular bumper sticker that said, “God is too big for one religion.” As
appropriate as this statement may seem to progressive Christians today, this idea has not been a
traditional part of Christian teaching over the centuries. It is often argued that there is biblical
foundation for the idea that Christianity is the only way that one can have a relationship with God or
experience salvation. In the New Testament, this is not as clear as the church may have suggested over
the centuries.

It is true that the author of John’s gospel does place the following words in Jesus’ mouth, “I am the way,
and the truth and the life. No one comes to the father except through me.” (John 14:6). It is important
to remember, however, that these words were written for a religious sect that was a persecuted
minority cult, struggling for survival in the first century. Those same words, written with a specific
purpose, would have had a very different feel for the first century Christians than they do today in
contemporary times.

However, since the fourth century and the advent of “Christendom” these words and other quotations
from the book of John have been used by the church and the state as a source of power and control
through their exclusive nature. The church became the exclusive broker for tickets to heaven through a
belief in “substitutionary atonement.”

Today with our awareness of black holes, post quantum physics, multiple dimensions, multiple and
expanding universes, it is impossible to believe that any one religion could have the whole picture or the
correct understanding of the Infinite Mystery let alone have an exclusive path to the Phenomenon. To
suggest anything else would be at best arrogant. More importantly many Christians today find that
learning about other religions and even encompassing some practices from these traditions has
enhanced their understanding of their own religion, has augmented their personal religious experiences
and deepened their faith.

We find a certain comfort in believing that “our” way is the only way. This is a natural part of any cultic
religious experience. Far greater is required, however, to seek and trust that which you accept as
infinite, beyond your comprehension and subject to change. Today. this just may be the challenge of an
educated and thinking Christian-to retain a faith “in face of the mystery”.

Source: Progressive Christianity

July - September 2023
Who is God?

As we seek to explore some of the basic precepts of Christianity, a good place to start is our understanding of God.  Much of the information I will be sharing comes from sources provided by Progressive Christianity.  I certainly embrace the value of freedom in terms of how we come to understand and work through our faith.  Therefore, my intent is not to get all us to march lock step to one particular view of scripture or theology.  Instead what I like to do is share with you ideas that might introduce to a new view, affirm what you already believe or lead you to further embrace what you already accept as truth.  We were all born with the gift of free choice and I most definitely do not wish to compromise that gift.

In their study guide, Progressive Christianity states the following,

“…the exact history of the word God is unknown.  We do know that the word God is a relatively new European invention, which was never used in any ancient Judaeo-Christian scripture manuscripts that were written in Hebrew, Aramaic, Greek or Latin.  According to the best efforts of linguists and researchers, the root of the present word God may have come from the Sanskrit word hu which means to call upon, invoke, implore.  Some scholars have posited that the actual word may have entered our language through the Germanic roots that gave us the word “good.”

Wherever this word came from modern societies have made assumptions and, based on that name have added a lot of baggage, about its meaning today.  In more modern times, this human concept has taken on anthropomorphic qualities, so long after most educated humans realized that there was no persona in the heavens causing fires, floods, epidemics and earthquakes, far too many people still embrace this concept.  Leaving millions in a constant state of yearning for “God’s” approval or forgiveness as they might a distant father figure. 

Progressive Christians are more interested in learning how to experience the “Presence” than trying to name or define it.  Although our experiences are always personal, we often find commonalities In these experiences that cannot be denied.  Our words and images of “God” are only pointers to a mystery beyond our comprehension.  The risk of describing God anything other than incomprehensible is that we end up approaching a form of idolatry since we are “creating our own God.”

This does not mean that we do not have the ability to experience this Infinite Mystery and even share our experience with others.  It also means that we can observe and learn from the experience of others.  Progressive Christians are therefore more interested in learning how to experience the Presence than we are in about naming or defining it.”


Shalom to all!

Pastor Edgar

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