Note from Pastor Gregory (7/5/2017)

In my second year of seminary at Claremont School of Theology I remember being asked by a friend to take some potential students out for coffee to chat about a few of the differences between CST and Fuller Seminary (an Evangelical school not far from Claremont). I remember one of the guys squirming a bit when I told them about the transformative power of inter-religious and multi-faith education. My experiences (not just books and lectures) at CST taught me a lot about pluralist theologies and religious diversity. My professors were right when they told me I didn’t need a theology of pluralism to be a nice person to people of other faiths. I had a lot of opinions and ideas about other religions but I didn’t really know anyone who was of a different tradition.

“But the Bible says Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life! I could never go to CST if they affirm that kind of theology!” Yelled one of the guys squirming at every mention of Islam or Jainism. I replied with a little biblical history, some hermeneutical alternatives, and a confidence that Jesus is the way, truth, and life! I also made clear that the ways in which one interprets these texts must be contextual to the first century and not our current location in history.

It was common for people of old to both worship the gods of their historical context; for Jews this meant the God of Israel whose people turned a relationship into a religion of classed based exploitation and self-righteous exclusivity. The people were also required to worship the sitting Emperor; the rally cry in Jesus’ day was, “Caesar is Lord!”

For Jesus to tell a bunch of marginalized Jewish folk to follow his way, his truths about the world, and his lifestyle was an affront to both elitist religiosity and political insanity. Jesus’ words become more about living in healthy relations with one another than excluding other faith traditions.

This week we are looking to Matthew 11:25-29 where Jesus calls his disciples saying, “Follow me!” Jesus invites the marginalized peoples of his day to follow him in creating a Beloved Community where all people are welcome and loved.

Jesus invites us into a Way of life, not merely a prayer to repeat at an altar call but a way of “living and moving and having our being” with God. Jesus invites us to partner with God in the transformation of the world by denying religious exclusivism and rejecting Caesar’s Lordship.

Join us this Sunday to sing, celebrate, and honor our God through our embodied faithfulness to Jesus’ Way and Life.

Much love,
Pastor Gregory

How Can We Turn Information into Transformation?

Gregory StevensEach month in this section of the Spire, I will be asking, “How can we turn information into transformation?” In searching for a response to this question, I won’t be highlighting our wonderfully long straight-white-male tradition. Rather I’d like us to look to the margins of our own tradition and to the rich variety of other spiritual traditions. I hope this diversity in spiritualties, theologies, and practices help illuminate the Christ within your own heart. For this first practice, let’s look to the Interreligious Center for Compassionate Living at the Claremont School of Theology and their guided meditation for multi-faith engagement.

Anchor yourself in whatever way you have found most helpful. Perhaps with attention to your breathing or some other physical experience; or allowing yourself to dwell interiorly with a Sacred Presence or in a sacred place; or immersing yourself in music, sacred words, or memories.

Ask yourself: What seemed least…freeing…inviting…gracious…loving…in my day?”

  • Let your mind wander across the day and settle on what it will.

 Ask yourself: What seemed most…freeing…inviting…gracious…loving…in my day?”

  • Let your mind wander across the day and settle on what it will.

 Ask yourself: What grace or gift is offered to me through considering these questions?

  • Note to yourself what emerges in response.

 Ask yourself: What invitation is there for me in all of this?

  • Note to yourself what emerges in response.

 Offer a prayer in response to what has come to you in this time or express your response in some other way, a way that seems appropriate for you.  

Gregory Stevens