Sunday, August 28, 2016

"Living Water and Cracked Cisterns: Finding the Good News in a (Mostly) Bad News Text”

Sermon by Rev. Caela Simmons Wood
First Congregational UCC, Manhattan, KS
August 28, 2016
Sermon Text - Jeremiah 2: 4-13

Something akin to magic happens first thing every morning in my house. Not long after waking, I walk over to a sink. I pull a lever and running water flows into my home. The water is clean, safe to drink, and 100% necessary for sustaining my life as a human being.

Of course, this isn’t the case everywhere. We know there are places where people do not have access to running water. Or they do and the water is not safe. I was thinking of these places two weeks ago when we had a boil order for about 48 hours.

I dutifully boiled water for our family and put it into clean jars in our refrigerator (more magic: a device that keeps food cool and preserves it so it’s safe to eat). Water boiled, I went about preparing a meal. Everything was going okay until I realized I needed to rinse my knife. And I had to really stop and think about how to do that safely since I wasn’t supposed to use the tap water. That’s when I really stopped and thought, “Gosh. Safe running water in my home is such a miracle. Something I take for granted every day. Something that generations of people have lived without….and something that far too many people STILL live without.” A daily miracle right here under my own roof.

When the boil order ended, I was awfully thankful. About as thankful as I had been a couple of weeks before that when my son brought me a hose with water spewing out of it. We had been out in the hot sun for about three hours, repainting an old play structure in our back yard. Covered in paint, sweat, dirt - I didn't want to go back inside to get a glass of water but I was parched. Maitland brought over the hose so we could start rinsing our brushes a bit and when I saw that hose with water just gushing out of it, I took a big gulp.

How long has it been since you’ve taken a long, cold drink of water from a hose? I'm embarrassed to admit it had been years for me. But my entire childhood came rushing back in an instant. The difficulty of drinking fast-spraying water without hurting your face or getting water in your eyes. The slightly sweet-metallic taste. And the sense that the water is never ending. Like you could just keep drinking forever and ever and ever and it would never run out.

A couple of weeks before that, I was in a similarly parched situation. We were on a family trip to Chicago and had spent the afternoon at the Field Museum. As we trekked back the mile or so to our bus stop to ride to our home-away-from-home, Ogden and I were both very thirsty. Sun beating down, hot pavement shining up. I was kicking myself for leaving our water bottles back at the apartment. And then suddenly - like a miracle, like an oasis in a dry land - I saw them. A man and a woman, sitting on a cooler in the middle of the sidewalk. A cooler that was, presumably, filled with ICE. They were playing makeshift drums and singing a song about how they were selling the best water in the world and I believed them. I think the water was $2, which seemed like a bargain to me, since I gladly would have paid much more in my condition.

Water is one of those things that we often take for granted. But when we need it - really NEED it - we suddenly become aware of just how critical it is.

The people of the ancient near east would have been much more aware of water. After all, the lived in a primarily agricultural society. So just like Kansas farmers, they thought about water daily. Not only did they need it to bathe and cook, but they needed it to fall from the sky. A drought meant no crops. No crops meant no food. No food could mean starvation. It’s fair to say that they thought about water a lot.

Anathea Portier-Young, professor of Old Testament at Duke Divinity, says this about water, “Living water rains, runs, flows, and swirls. It washes away impurity, transports nutrients, constitutes leaf and stem, blood and bone. Where water flows, life abounds. Where water stagnates, disease takes hold. Where there is no water, life cannot even begin.” (SOURCE)

She goes on to explain that in ancient Israel there were many technological innovations that allowed for geographical expansion. Of of them, the cistern, is mentioned at the tail end of today’s passage from Jeremiah.

Jeremiah, the poor guy. Called to “pluck up and pull down, to destroy and to overthrow, to build and to plant.” He protested this job description saying, “Sorry, God, but I can’t. I'm just a kid.” But God was insistent and Jeremiah became one of the most prolific prophets in the Hebrew Scriptures. He is often called the Weeping Prophet because his life was so miserable. God may have called him to build and to plant, but he seems to have spent more of his time preaching about destruction and despair. The early chapters of Jeremiah are not particularly uplifting. He did the very hard world of scolding God’s beloved people in an attempt to help them see the error of their ways, turn to new life, and restore their relationship with God.

In today’s text Jeremiah makes this accusation on God’s behalf: “[the people] have forsaken me, the fountain of living water, and dug out cisterns for themselves, cracked cisterns that can hold no water.”

Cracked cisterns that hold no water. Cisterns were a technological innovation that allowed people in ancient Israel to live in new places, places that received less rainfall in the dry months. They hewed out these bell-shaped cisterns in the bedrock, directing water into these containers with dug-out channels. Extra water during the rainy season enabled them to store water for the drier months. The small opening at the top kept debris from contaminating the water and Portier-Young says some of them even had filtration systems. But all the filtration in the world won’t help you out much if your cisterns have cracks in the bottom. The water will just run right out.

God says, through Jeremiah, that the people have committed two evils: they have neglected to turn to God, their source, the One who is living water.  Flowing water. Water that never runs out.

And since they don't have the running, flowing, eternal spring God provides they've turned to other sources (in this particular case, gods from other nations) to fill up their cups. But the cisterns that look so solid on the outside are flawed. The gods they worship cannot truly sustain them.

It’s a gloom and doom kind of passage. And we 21st century folks might be tempted to pat ourselves on the back saying, “Well, here’s a troubling little story about idolatry from a long-ago, far-away land. Good thing we don't worship Ba’al anymore.” Of course, to do that would be to fail to remember that we still have our other gods. They just go by different names: money, fame, power, fear, violence. Mine are different than yours. Yours are different than mine. But we all have things that compete for our allegiance. Things that whisper to us, “Trust me. Believe in me. I will take care of you. I will make you happy. I will keep you safe. I will make you feel loved.”

When we turn to those things again and again we run into the same problem the people of Jeremiah’s day faced. So busy building and filling up their cisterns, they didn't notice the cisterns themselves were flawed, cracked, unable to do what they were being asked to do.

(Jeremiah and I are speaking metaphorically, of course. I don't think there’s actually anything wrong with cisterns. They seem like a magnificent and necessary innovation.)

Jeremiah wanted people to notice, though, that the main thing is this: the cisterns aren't needed. Because the people have a reliable, unending source of fresh water, running water, living water right there in front of their faces. God. The one they called Yahweh.

In the midst of all the gloom and doom of this mostly-bad-news passage there’s a nugget of glimmering, shining good news: God is living water.

God is the font that springs eternal.

God is a fire hydrant cracked open and spraying hot children on a city street on a blistering hot day.

God is a bubbling spring of fresh water in the midst of a long hike when your hydration pack has run out.

God is the miracle of a hose, brought to you by a child in your backyard.

God is the delight of a hot shower when your muscles are aching from your work.

God is the joy of discovering two strangers sitting on top of a cooler, playing makeshift drums and singing a song about how their bottles of water are the best in the world.

And God is the underpaid government employee or nonprofit worker who loses sleep, working overtime to fix the water in Flint and other places where access to water is limited.

God is working constantly, deliberately, not only to freely give the gift of her own self to the world, but is also working to mend the broken cisterns in our world. God is tirelessly, relentlessly working to repair systems that impair. God weeps when prescription drugs that people need to live become unaffordable because of the greed of a few. God is angered when people are driven from their homelands only to find they have no other place to rest their heads. Surely God is shaking his head a bit as the government punishes protesters in North Dakota by hauling away their only source of water as they stand in 90 degree temps. (SOURCE)

God, the One who is named Living Water, is scheming and dreaming to find ways to heal all the broken systems in our midst - to bring justice and healing to all.

God is dripping, flowing, gushing, swirling, pouring out on the whole world.

God is living water. Even now.

Thanks be to God.

Sunday, August 21, 2016

"A Tale of Two Leaders"

Sermon by Rev. Caela Simmons Wood
First Congregational UCC, Manhattan, KS
August 21, 2016
Sermon Text - Luke 13:10-17

Not asking for a show of hands, but here’s a question: have you ever had a bad boss?

A bad boss can ruin the best job,right? We can have a job that we really love in an organization we like with people we enjoy working with….but then if we end up with a supervisor who is really hard to work with….well, it can kind of ruin the whole thing.

Of course, a good boss can have a similar effect. Okay, this part is audience participation. Who has had a good boss? You can raise your hands.

A good boss can make the most boring, monotonous, pointless, difficult job somehow manageable. A really excellent boss can impact organizational culture. Good leaders can affirm gifts and talents, encouraging us to excel at things we didn't even know we could do. A good boss is a gift.

Leaders matter. And leaders aren’t just bosses, of course. Leaders are everywhere. Earlier today we blessed teachers and recognized that teaching happens everywhere….at kitchen tables and in classrooms; on grassy lawns and in cubicles. Some are paid to teach and some receive no monetary compensation. Leadership is the same way.

We all look to leaders each and every day….we see famous people we want to emulate. We look to those in our workplace or network of friends and family to shine a light and show us the type of people we would like to be.

Earlier this week I sat with some of the rest of you in the City Commission meeting room as we wrapped up almost a year of organizing with the Flint Hills Human Rights Project to bring about real and lasting change in our community. You know, it sometimes feels like real, tangible victories are few and far between. We really need to celebrate them when they happen.

Tuesday night was a huge victory. Our city became the third in Kansas to make it illegal to discriminate on the basis of gender identity and sexual orientation. Yes, there are some exemptions. No, the ordinance isn’t perfect. But if you had told me a year ago that it would pass unanimously? I would have laughed.

Thanks to the real leadership of some of our City Commissioners, it passed unanimously. One of the things that several of the commissioners said over the past year was that we know we can’t legislate people’s beliefs. We can’t make it illegal for people to dislike one another. But we can make it clear that the City of Manhattan is a place that values diversity and desires for all its citizens to feel welcomed and affirmed. And that’s what we’ve done.

Of course, the City Commissioners aren't the only leaders who have been working hard. The board of the Flint Hills Human Rights Project has been tireless. Wow. All of these folks are doing this on their own time. None of them are being paid. They all have day jobs and families and other commitments...and yet, somehow, have made this work a priority. I can't even begin to tell you how many hours upon hours the leaders from FHHRP have spent in meetings….with each other, with commissioners and city staff, with other key shareholders. They have been relentless and smart. Some of them are here this morning. And they deserve a round of applause. (Insert giant applause, general whooping and hollering and a standing ovation here.)

Leaders matter. Good leadership can move us forward. Bad leadership can send us spiraling downward. You don't have to look any further than the daily news cycle right now to see what can happen when a leader who preaches hate, intolerance, and fear gets a bully pulpit. It brings out the worst in people. We need good leaders to bring out the best in us.

In today’s gospel lesson from Luke, we have a tale of two leaders. The setting is a synagogue, where Jesus was teaching to some folks who had gathered to listen. It was the sabbath day. A woman showed up. She was bent over, unable to stand upright. Jesus noticed her in the crowd and pronounced her “set free.” Then he laid hands on her and she immediately stood upright for the first time in 18 years.

I always feel the need, which preaching on these miraculous healing stories to say that I have found healing to be a bit more nuanced in my own life. I mean, the number of people I know who have begged Jesus to have some kind of ailment taken away….only to feel like they’ve received no response. It doesn’t seem to be as simple as just asking and receiving, does it? But then I have to hold that side-by-side with reports that Jesus was known as a healer. And I think of the people I know who have absolutely experienced healing after prayer. And I remember that healing doesn’t always necessarily mean you are freed from an ailment or pain or a disease. Sometimes the ailment wins and you are still freed in other ways.

The author of Luke tells us that Jesus sets this woman free from her ailment and she is amazed and begins jumping around, praising God. But there is another leader present, too. The leader of the synagogue. And he’s not jumping around. Instead, he criticizes Jesus, saying, “There are six days on which work ought to be done; come on those days and be cured, and not on the sabbath day."

Every week that I preach on the gospel, I read the work of D. Mark Davis online because he breaks down the Greek in helpful ways. This week, he translated the words of the synagogue’s leader and said the following as commentary: “don't you just want to smack this guy?” (Source)

I mean, no. We’re not condoning violence here, of course. But I would like to pull the guy aside and maybe ask him some pointed questions. Which is exactly what Jesus does.

How do you get this obsessed with the trees that you fail to see the forest entirely? Yes, keeping Sabbath is important, but the spirit of the law is more important than the letter of the law. God has given the Sabbath to us as a gift - a gift that frees us, one day each week, to experience time differently and to really focus on what truly matters. Anyone who is keeping Sabbath in that way would certainly come to the same conclusion as Jesus: if a person is in front of you and they need your help and you can help them, you help them. Even if it’s the Sabbath. Perhaps especially if it’s the Sabbath.

Here we have two types of leaders: one who leads by compassion; has a big, open heart; isn't afraid to break the rules in the name of love; and who is willing to risk his own reputation and doesn't shy away from conflict because he knows sometimes you've got to take risks if you're going to love loudly.

And then we’ve got another leader who, frankly, seems to be a bit miffed that he’s being upstaged on his home turf. He knows the rules, yes, and he doesn't shy away from conflict. But he's using the rules and his well-honed knowledge of them to tear others down, not build them up.

Please note that I’m not pitting Jesus against the Jewish authorities or making this into a Christianity vs. Judaism thing. Jesus was Jewish. He was a Jewish leader. First-century Judaism was diverse, just like 21st century Judaism. There were differing opinions about how to interpret the law. Jesus interpreted the law here in a very Jewish way. He was choosing the larger story of love and compassion over the details and technicalities. And this is completely consistent with Judaism as he and many others understood it.

In this story, Jesus provides a very real and relatable image of what a good leader looks like. The good news for us, as people living in the 21st century with no shortage of leaders to choose from - good, bad, and in-between - the good news for us is that we always have Jesus as a potential role-model. Even though we don't get to hang out with him in his walking-around-skin, we have these stories and we continue to hear the voice of our Stillspeaking God from our holy text and from our experiences in the world. Jesus is still a leader, even now. And in a world where leaders clamor for our attention and loyalty, Jesus is always there, showing us the better path.

My friend and colleague, the Rev. Justin Jamis, inadvertently wrote part of my sermon earlier this week. Some of you know Justin. He’s preached here before and is the campus pastor for K-State Wesley. Well, on Thursday, Justin said this on Facebook:
Today I am trying something new. Instead of the old "I think I can" motto. My motto will be "I know God is..." 

No more, "I think I can be more loving." Instead I will say, "I know God is love, therefore God grant me your love to share with all." 

I know God is joy. I know God is patience. I know God is compassion. I know God is kind. "So today God grant us your Spirit, which transforms us into people capable of your love, joy, patience, compassion and kindness. And when our capacity for containing your Spirit, is to small, expand in us. Fill us, every crack and crevice,  with your grace, that we might be the people you intend for us to be, not by our efforts, but wholly through your work in us. Amen"

And that’s just it. When we know who God is we are called into a different way of living. We are freed for new life.

We see Jesus’s leadership and we know that a different way is possible. Yes, we still turn on the TV and shake our heads in disappointment at some of the models for leadership that exist in our world today. But we also look around us and see everyday leaders like the folks from the Flint Hills Human Rights Project, or our teachers, or our parents, or our friends, or the people that sit next to us at church….we see them and we see the way of Jesus in them and we give thanks.

We give thanks for leadership that is grounded in love and compassion. Leadership that is bold enough to walk right into controversy for the sake of justice. Leadership that forsakes self-interest for the common good. Leadership that watches out carefully for those who are ignored and oppressed. Leadership that painstakingly reaches out in hope and love again and again  and again.

This is the type of leadership that we bear witness to as followers of Jesus. This is what we are called to emulate in the world around us. Good leaders, bad leaders, and everything in between….they’ll keep coming our way. And we, we who lead in so many different places, we will keep showing up day after day. Sometimes we will get it right and often we will get it wrong.

And no matter what, Jesus is still there. Leading us. Encouraging us to try again. Thanks be to God.

NOTE: A big thank you to Karoline Lewis, whose piece at The Working Preacher this week helped me find my approach this week. She has great things to say about this passage and leadership. You should check it out. 






Sunday, August 7, 2016

"Faith is..."

Sermon by Rev. Caela Simmons Wood
First Congregational UCC, Manhattan, KS
August 7, 2016
Sermon Text - Hebrews 11:1-3, 8-16

When I was a little girl, I adored the Scholastic Book Club flyer that I received at school each month. One year - I must have been about eight years old - I opened up my book club flyer to find this awesome packet of activities for the Winter Olympics. There was a booklet with information about the different sports, feature pieces on the athletes, information about all the countries that would be competing. And, best of all, a sticker chart so I could watch the Olympics on the TV and keep track of all the medals as they added up. I was in nerd heaven.

As a child, the Olympics felt like they were all about dreams and hope and the best of humanity. For one shining moment every four years, the world came together around one flame and cheered for the best of the best. We admired the beauty of the human body and spirit. We heard stories of bravery, perseverance, sacrifice. We learned about other nations, traveled to far off places, and were encouraged to dream our own dreams about what might be possible.

Of course, the Olympics have always been fraught with controversy. They aren't as peaceful and dreamlike as I thought when I was a child. And the Olympics the Rio are no exception. Problems with the displacement of people who live in poverty, financial corruption, environmental concerns, drugging  and cheating by athletes...it's all there. It turns out the Olympics really are a microcosm of what it means to be humans….and that means the good and the bad.

And, yet, in the midst of all the icky parts of the Olympics, individual stories of courage, compassion, strength, beauty, resilience still reach out to our hearts….and encourage us to dream. This past week, one particular story caught my eye. Maybe you heard it, too. For the first time, there is a special team of refugees, sponsored by the IOC. Ten athletes from around the globe who have been displaced from their home countries were chosen to compete together as a team. One of the athletes is 18 year old Yusra Mardini, a swimmer originally from Syria. (1)

Two years ago, Yusra and her sister made the perilous journey from Syria to Germany. One one leg of the journey, from Turkey to Greece, the overcrowded boat they were on started to take one water. Yusra and her sister, both swimmers, jumped out of the boat and proceeded to push it through choppy waters for hours, eventually steering the boat’s 20 passengers to dry land. Yusra said that when she was swimming in the frigid Aegean Sea she really thought she might die in the water - an irony for a confident swimmer, she thought - but what kept her going and distracted her from the fatal nature of the task at hand was a little boy on the boat. The youngest passenger, who was six years old, kept looking to her for reassurance, she said. So she kept treading water and making funny faces at the little boy to ease his fears.

The image of this young woman, only 16 years old, relentlessly pushing and straining to bear the weight of 18 other humans is almost unbelievably heroic. And yet, it's real. This is the strength of the human spirit, which has the capacity to look outside itself to and act in unbelievably courageous ways.

Of course, from another angle, you could say that the human spirit is also to blame for the very predicament Yusra was in. The seemingly never-ending war in her home country was what drove her to the uncertainty of the ocean. Her home was bombed. Her training center was bombed. Her friends were killed. Whatever it is within us that causes us to lash out at our kindred in violence and hate was on full display in Syria and she was left with no choice but to flee.

We humans are a complicated bunch. Capable of so much goodness...and capable of so much evil.

In our own country, it feels as if we are a bit at sea these days. The presidential election….watching it unfold continues to feel like a terrible nightmare. The things that are being said are just surreal. I continue to pray - daily - that we as human beings can get in touch with the God-given-goodness within each of us and can learn to choose love over fear. But some days I have to just pray for myself - that I can somehow manage to hold on to my own faith in humanity in the midst of all the ugliness.

It feels a bit like treading water in the middle of a very cold sea. Uncertain where the shoreline is and whether we will all make it to the other side or not. It’s not a great feeling.

Into this midst of this time of uncertainty, we hear the ancient words of scripture from the author of the book of Hebrews. It is a love song to faith and it begins like this: “Now faith is the assurance of things open for, the conviction of things not seen.”

For many years, I thought of faith primarily as being about what I believe. So I thought that I was a person of Christian faith because my belief system lined up with the belief system taught by the Church. I thought that this particular verse in Hebrews was about suspending doubt and choosing to believe, in an unthinking, unquestioning way in the doctrines of the Church as I understood them. I thought I needed to believe without seeing, without understanding.

But at some point, that became untenable for me. Luckily, I stumbled into churches where people taught me that wasn't the only way to understand the concept of “faith.”

I've said it before and I'll say it again, without the work of Marcus Borg, I probably wouldn't have stayed Christian. He helped me understand Christianity in new ways and gave words and structure to what I was pondering in my heart when I was lost at sea a bit in terms of my own understanding of God.

In The Heart of Christianity, Borg devotes a whole chapter to “faith.” He says faith has been understood in at least four ways throughout the course of Christianity. First, there is faith as belief. Like what we were talking about a moment ago. (2)

But Borg points out that faith is more than belief. He names three other ways Christians have understood faith over the centuries. The second way is faith as trust, “a radical trust in God.” Borg says “faith as trust is like floating in a deep ocean.” Kierkegaard came up with this metaphor back in the 19th century. Faith is like floating in 70,000 fathoms of water. “If you struggle, if you tense up and thrash about, you will eventually sink. But if you relax and trust, you will float.” Borg says, “It’s like Matthew’s story of Peter walking on the water with Jesus - when he began to be afraid, he began to sink.”

It's also like 16 year old Yusra and her sister out there in the sea. If they had focused too much on the terror at hand, it might have overtaken them. But they put their trust in - I don't know what - their bodies? Their God? The face of a six year old boy? Yusra said that she knew she might die when she decided to make the journey, but she also knew she was likely to die if she continued to stay in Syria. So she just floated and kept swimming. And, she was one of the lucky ones, she made it through.

I think it’s important to name that not everyone is so lucky. We all know that so very many have had the same courage, strength, stamina, trust that Yusra had...but they still perished. I don't think that trusting in God means that our lives will always be protected. I think what it means is perhaps best understood when we pair faith-as-trust with the third understanding of faith that Borg names.

Faith can be belief and it can be trust. It can also be fidelity, faithfulness. It is “loyalty, allegiance, the commitment of the self at the deepest level.” It's not just about our own commitment to God but about a radical and unshakable sense that God is fully committed to us. Faith as fidelity is about naming, as the Apostle Paul did, that “nothing can separate us from the love of God” and that “whether we live or whether we die, we belong to the Lord.”

Faith as fidelity is knowing, even when you’re in the midst of the frigid sea and you’re not sure if you’re going to live or die, that you are never alone. God goes with us through every storm, every ocean, every terror. God’s devotion to us can not be shattered. Whether we live or die, we belong to God. We live and move and have our being in the one whose name is Love. And there is nothing that can ever separate us from that Love.

Borg’s fourth way of understanding faith is faith as vision, as a way of seeing the world. Richard Niebuhr taught that there were essentially three ways of seeing the whole - first, “seeing reality as hostile or threatening;” second, seeing all of reality as basically indifferent and neutral; and third, seeing reality as essentially “life-giving and nourishing.”

Now I'll be the first to admit, when I'm at sea and languishing in despair….When I'm watching people on a screen scream hateful things at immigrants, women, LGBTQ people, people of color….I have a hard time in those moments seeing the world as life-giving and nourishing. I really do. This does not come easily to me.

Borg says this way of seeing the world, this faith-as-seeing is a little like Jesus reminding us that God sends rain on both the just and the unjust. Even those people who scream hateful things and seem to me to be the embodiment of evil are somehow loved by God. I don't understand it, but I experience it as true.

And right before Jesus reminds us about the rain falling on the righteous and the unrighteous, do you know what else he says? He says, “You have heard that it was said; ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.”

But, dang it, Jesus, I don't want to! And I'm not sure if I can. How can I pray for people who are so far off track? So filled with hate? So abhorrent to me?

Of course, how can I not pray for them? What else is there to do but love them? (While simultaneously calling them out on their unacceptable behavior and working to change systems that allow them to exercise their power over those who are the most vulnerable, of course).

This is why I need faith. This is why the author of Hebrews penned a love letter to faith. Because we need faith if we are to survive while lost in the midst of a cold, unforgiving sea.

In the face of where we are right now as a society, it is all too tempting to shake our heads and say, “The world these days, it is a mess.” It is all too tempting to be swept along by the rising tide of anxiety.

But our faith both promises more and calls us to do more. Our faith - our beliefs, our trust in God, our sense of God’s faithfulness to us and our faithfulness to God - and the vision of a world that can be better, that can be more filled with grace and goodness of love….that faith holds us tight when we fear we might sink. That faith buoys us along when the waters of anxiety threaten to consume us.

That faith compels us to know, at our deepest level of being, that we are beloved. Period. That we are made for love. Period. And that our greatest task in the face of hatred is to love.

May it be so.

Footnotes:
(1) I read several articles and watched several videos about Yusra Mardini. Some were from the New York Times and the BBC. I compiled this version of her story from using those sources.
(2) All the quotations about faith in this portion of the sermon are from The Heart of Christianity by Marcus Borg.