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Because We’re Human

Khleber150x150I don't think much about the concept of sin anymore, so I was intrigued when Father Gary Wilde brought it up in his column in this space last week. What made the timing particularly odd was that the topic had come up at a gathering a couple of days before in my own congregation.

As a minister, I am blessed to sit with a number of people in a number of groups as they explore theological, philosophical, and life questions together. Since ours is a creedless faith tradition requiring no particular statement of religious belief, it is not unusual to have a diversity of opinions, impressions, and ways of thinking represented in any of our gatherings.

At a recent evening meeting at church, one of our groups began talking about the concept of sin, and it quickly became obvious that there were many viewpoints around our small circle. Some people seemed to resonate easily with a definition of sin as something like stepping off the path or doing something that hurts someone else unnecessarily or acting in a way that you know in your heart isn’t right. It’s easy for those of us who have sometimes fallen short of the mark to think of that sort of behavior as sin.

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Seek and Ye Shall Find

Khleber150x150As I travel around Venice these days, I meet a lot of very nice, very religious people, folks who seem thoroughly committed to their way of speaking and thinking and believing and behaving. Of course, I also meet a lot of very nice secular individuals as well, people who give no thought to religion or to matters of the spirit but are equally committed to their own ways of belief or unbelief or whatever they’d call it. I don’t know whether the religious outnumber the secular or vice versa – I simply haven’t bothered to count.

Besides the religious and the non-religious, I meet a lot of other people in my travels as well, people you might call seekers, folks who are still searching and still studying and still open to finding the right path for themselves. Often, like the traditionally religious, these people have their own way of speaking and thinking, believing and behaving. And often, like the purely secular, they are also open to unbelief if that’s where the quest takes them.

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Happy Easter

When I was a child, Easter was meant the end of winter and the beginning of spring. It meant roses in bloom and trees in bud and soft new grass blowing in gentle breezes. At the little church I grew up in, it also meant sunrise services, sometimes performed in cemeteries, that were full of words I didn't understand, concepts I couldn't comprehend, and images I found just plain scary.

When we gathered in those cemeteries as the sun peeked over the far horizon, I heard my preacher talk about resurrection and say that he couldn't wait for bodies to be flying out of those graves. He told me that this is what Easter meant: that Jesus walking out of his own tomb meant we would all do the same.

As a small child, I found it rather more horrifying than comforting.

As I grew up, my experience of death was different than my preacher had told me it would be. The things I saw that had died - the dead squirrel on the street in front of my house, the dead bird lying next to my back porch, the dead snake I was excited to find in the schoolyard - it was pretty clear to me that all those things were dead and I could not imagine any of them coming back to life. Even my great-grandfather, at his funeral in a small-town church, did not appear destined to ever rise up out of his casket.

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