Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Marriage Mutuality

I'm in the midst of writing an adult Bible study book on Ephesians, Philippians and Colossians. Right now, I'm working on Ephesians 5:21-33. This passage includes these words, "Wives, be subject to your husbands as your are to the Lord. For the husband is head of the wife just as Christ is the head of the church..."

Unfortunately, these words have been taken out of their context to "prove" that women should be submissive to men in marriage and to argue for male superiority in marital relationships.

Yet, nothing could be further from the truth if the entire passage is read. The passage begins, "Be subject to one another out of reverence for Christ," and continues, "Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her...husbands should love their wives as they do their own bodies."

What is being presented here is mutuality in marriage. No member of the marriage partnership is superior to the other. Each is being called to treat the other with respect, dignity and self-giving love.

Granted, these words are put in the terms of a patriarchal society of the first century. That makes it even more amazing that marriage is seen in term of mutuality instead of male dominance.

Passages like the one cited above show why it is so critical to not take biblical verses, sentences or ideas out of their larger context. Doing this is called "proof texting" and is a way of getting the Bible to support a position already taken. You can literally make the Bible say nearly anything you want by this method. That's why we need to allow it to speak its own truth.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Christmas Blues

As a pastor, I've become increasingly aware that the Christmas season isn't a time of joy for everyone. Cries of "Merry Christmas" or "Happy Holidays" and upbeat carols can't always overcome feelings of sadness, isolation or grieving. This is especially true if we have suffered the loss of a loved one around Christmas time.

The cultural myth we labor under is that "everyone else is having a great time at Christmas." This can heighten feelings of sadness and isolation. Yet, for many, Christmas is a stressful time of shopping and card sending deadlines. Holiday gatherings with family members can be difficult and challenging. W.H. Auden admitted in his poem, For the Time Being: A Christmas Oratorio, to "Having tried, quiet unsuccessfully, to love all of my relatives..."

Also, there are those who feel depressed during the darker and colder months of winter. Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is a documented psychological disorder. That's why most "Blue Christmas" services take place on the Winter solstice, the longest night of the year.

So tonight, I'm participating in a Blue Christmas service. This is a service of solace and comfort for those who find the Christmas season difficult or depressing because they are grieving for a loss or feel alone and isolated. This service acknowledges that Christmas can be a difficult time and offers hope to the disconsolate and grieving.

For those of us who are having a merry Christmas, let's not forgot those who aren't. Christmas can be a time of reaching out to those who need a word of comfort and solace.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Sacred Drumming

Last night I experienced the spiritual practice of drumming for the first time. What an amazing experience it was! The context for the drumming was a Wednesday evening Advent service at the church where I serve as interim pastor.

Our drumming leader, Jenifer, has been practicing spiritual drumming for 20 years. She explained how drumming can focus our thoughts and prayers in a rhythmic way. Drumming can be a form of meditation where the beating of drums shuts out all distractions.

In preparation for our drum circle we heard excerpts from a reading by Layne Redmond: "Handheld drums are among the oldest known musical instruments... The rituals of the earliest known religions evolved around the beat of the drum... It remained a powerful tool for communal bonding and individual transformation..."

Jenifer started playing her drum in a heartbeat-type rhythm and the rest of us joined in. After a few minutes I was lost in the beating of the drums as they blended together in a kind of melody and harmony at the same time. We played for a little over 10 minutes and it felt like just a few seconds had passed.

It's good to be open to new spiritual practices and I'm so glad I was able to experience sacred drumming. Life has its own hidden rhythms and drumming is a way of connected with those rhythms deep within our souls. When we are able to connect with these, we are more able to follow the drumbeat of God's spirit.