March 17, 2017
by Dr. R. Scott
1 Comment

My. Creative. Friends. (And Why I’m So Proud of Them!)

I’m in Seattle today, having just enjoyed the premier of a new musical last night titled A Proper Place. It is a marvelous new play. I loved the music. The humor. The poignancy. The plot. I hope it’s hugely successful! It’s partly Gilligan’s Island and partly Downton Abby. But I’m here because my friend, Curtis Rhodes, and a great friend of First Church, wrote the music with is writing partner Leslie Becker. Curtis is one of the finest people I’ve ever known in my life, and I count him as a dear friend, but as much as anything I admire his creative capacity.

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On Saturday I’ll head over to a book signing at Children Book World in Los Angles to support my friend David Mellon. David is an amazing artist, but for the past few years he put down his brush and picked up a pen, and he has written a wonderful young adult novel titled Silent. It’s a book rich in symbolism, imagery and an intriguing plot that will keep you turning the pages. I’ve known David nearly 30 years now, and he and his wife Judith have become especially important to me in recent days. But like Curtis, I admire his boundless creativity.

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I love all my friends, but I especially love those who pursue their creativity genius. Artists deepen the human experience. They make the world better for all of us. They open our hearts and minds a little wider. And so if you know an artist, Take a Breath this week and give them a little support. We are desperate for the gifts they bring us. (And since I’m doing commercials today, join me Sunday morning at 11 for my Lenten Sermon series . . . “The Art of Jesus.”)

March 2, 2017
by Dr. R. Scott
0 comments

What is Progressive Christianity? / The Art of Jesus.

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This coming Sunday, March 5, I’ll begin teaching a six week Sunday Forum Series titled — What is Progressive Christianity. We’ll meet every Sunday morning at 9.30 AM, and I think you’ll find it provocative and insightful. We’ll meet in the Shatto Chapel of First Congregational Church of Los Angeles. Additionally, we’ll be videoing each of the sessions and we’ll make them available as the series unfolds. Also beginning this Sunday at 11.00 AM, I’ll do a Lenten sermon series titled The Art of Jesus. I’ve selected some amazing works of art that focus on the dying and rising of Jesus. I think you’ll find the sermons contemplative and engaging. If you haven’t been in church for a while — like since Christmas! — then consider this your personal invitation to come back home. It’s going to be a meaningful season of seeking and searching as we prepare of the celebration of Easter. And speaking of Easter, this year on Easter Sunday, April 16, we’ll have two identical services at First Church — 9.00 AM and 11.00 AM. Make plans now to be with us that Sunday. Take a Breath today, and then do yourself a favor by being with us each Sunday during this sacred season of Lent. Blessings.

February 28, 2017
by Dr. R. Scott
1 Comment

Tomorrow. Ashes.

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Tomorrow I will offer the imposition of ashes at First Congregational Church of Los Angeles. I will sit in the chapel from 7 am to 9 am, waiting and willing to offer anyone who enters Shatto Chapel the gift of this ancient ritual. And then tomorrow night I will lead a short service at 7 pm in the chapel, again offering the imposition of ashes.

I will mark ashes upon the forehead of anyone who is willing to bear upon his or her body the sign of the cross. Ashes of mortality and grief and hope.

I will also wear ashes. I will wear ashes, because I know my body will return to the earth and my spirit to God. I will wear ashes because an unrelenting decrepitude courses through my body each day. I will wear ashes in solidarity with Jesus who suffered and died and rose again. I will wear ashes over all the heartache I have caused to the world, to myself and God.

I will ask God for forgiveness. I will resolve again to forgive those who have hurt me. And most of all, I will try to feel within my heart the suffering of others, not in a superficial-martyr kind of way, but in a way that is real and genuine. I will feel the suffering of immigrants in our country. I will feel within my body those who have been broken by life.

Today is Fat Tuesday. I went to Fred’s 62 with my friend David Farrar, and had a breakfast burrito with chili sauce. It was delicious. Tomorrow I will lean into a different way of being. Listening. Loving. Forgiving. I ask you to join me in Taking a Breath tonight. And tomorrow . . . join me in trying to begin again. And again. And again.

February 27, 2017
by Dr. R. Scott
1 Comment

Seriously? The Wrong Movie?

HOLLYWOOD, CA - FEBRUARY 26: Director Barry Jenkins and the cast and crew of 'Moonlight' accept the Best Picture award onstage during the 89th Annual Academy Awards at Hollywood & Highland Center on February 26, 2017 in Hollywood, California. (Photo by Kevin Winter/Getty Images)

They announced the wrong winner for Best Picture last night at the Academy Awards. La La Land did not win, as was announced on Sunday night, but Moonlight was the Best Picture winner! (And you thought Steve Harvey announcing the wrong winner of the Miss Universe pageant was bad!)

The winning film is neither here nor there with me. But what I find interesting the morning after is the notion of what we do with mistakes. Either ones we have made or that someone else has made. Mistakes happen all the time.

The options, of course, are many. We can move toward denial or blame or hurt. We can simmer in anger. We can entertain fantasies of revenge or carry a grudge until the day we die.

What makes mistakes so complicated is that it’s one thing for a person to make a mistake and it hurts us; it’s another thing when a string of mistakes becomes a pattern that is toxic and we have to protect ourselves from it. Mistakes are also difficult because we feel embarrassed, remorseful to be sure, but embarrassed, because we want others to think better of us.

What do you do with mistakes?

It’s a little trite on a Monday morning to suggest it, but perhaps it’s worth contemplating that mistakes just happen. Someone put the wrong card into the envelope and Oscar chaos ensued! It was a mistake. No one was injured. No one died. No one was trying to hurt anyone. A mistake was made. That was Sunday. Today is Monday. It’s time to start living again.

Take a Breath . . . Is there a mistake you have made that you need to let go of so you can embrace a new day? Has someone around you made a mistake, but you’ve let it bother you long enough? Is there a mistake that still lingers in your system as resentment or shame or remorse? Every now and then you have to say: Enough is enough! It’s time to start living. La La Land did not win. Moonlight did. And the great world keeps spinning.

 

 

February 21, 2017
by Dr. R. Scott
1 Comment

Black. History.

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There’s so much about Black History Month that can feel artificial. Every February it comes around. It comes around and then passes. However, if you really want to celebrate Black History Month, consider reading one of the following books or watching one of these films . . .

Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates. It’s a poignant, personal telling of a young black man’s experience. This book won the National Book Award last year. It’s a beautiful book. I loved it. If you’ve not read it, I highly recommend it.

The Light of the World by Elizabeth Alexander. Ms. Alexander is a marvelous poet, but this is her autobiographical reflection on a marriage, the death of her husband, and what it means to find meaning as an African American woman. Terrific book!

Tears We Cannot Stop: A Sermon to White America by Michael Eric Dyson. I just finished reading Dyson’s book. It was searing, stunning and powerful. It helped me understand race in America as much as any book I’ve read. Get it! Read it!

And if you don’t want to read a book, consider watching the following . . .

13th directed by the talented Ava DuVernay. (We’re showing this film at First Congregational Church of Los Angeles on February 23, 7:00 pm).

I Am Not Your Negro directed by Raoul Peck features the brilliant, insightful thinking of the late Jame Baldwin. This is an important film.

If you’re interested in something a little lighter, go see Hidden Figures. It doesn’t capture the gritty reality of the Civil Rights Movement, but it tells an important (and inspiring) story.

Fences starring Denzel Washington and Viola Davis is a fascinating, dialogue driven drama. The performance by the entire cast is wonderful. It’s heavy but worth it.

Moonlight is the little movie that could. Although small in budget, it packs a huge wallop of social and racial awareness. Might just win an Oscar this Sunday.

Here’s a suggestion: Take a Breath today. If you want to honor Black History Month, then do something really radical like appreciating black culture. It’s still February. It’s not too late. It’s never too late.

 

 

 

February 16, 2017
by Dr. R. Scott
4 Comments

Bible. As. Haiku.

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The Bible as Haiku (1)

The sun begins to shine.

Large dark clouds gather in our hearts.

The sun keeps shining.

The Bible as Haiku (2)

Paradise is lost.

We never stop looking for it.

Paradise finds us.

The Bible as Haiku (3)

We have lost our way.

Something keeps looking for us.

We wake up at home.

The Bible as Haiku (4)

Leaving our Eden.

We find the garden within.

God is not out there.

The Bible as Haiku (5)

Early morning rain.

Each drop is the universe.

So that’s how it works.

 

 

 

 

 

February 15, 2017
by Dr. R. Scott
2 Comments

It’s. Just. A. Poem. (But Maybe You’ve Been There)

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Broken Down

My car is broken down outside Needles, California.

I wish I could write a poem. A good poem about my broken down car. The kind of poem that would live inside you like an avocado seed – securely happy in a sea of warm green flesh. But I can’t write poems anymore. I never could, really.

Or a maybe I could write a movie script. Not even a whole movie. Just a scene about a broken down car in Needles, California. Two people talking. Finally breaking through everything that separates them. A lingering close up in front of the car. But I’ve never written a movie scene, and besides, people spend years writing scripts, so it must be more complicated than what it appears.

Or maybe I could write a song. Something ironic and full of ambiguous feeling. But I don’t know how to write songs either. If I could write a song it would be mysterious. Something like: I begin each day swimming in your eyes / asking only for a brief respite upon your shore. I begin each day swimming in your eyes/ looking for forgiveness and nothing more. But like I said, I don’t write songs. So that is that.

My car is broken down outside Needles, California.

I am waiting on a tow truck. I am waiting for you.

 

 

February 2, 2017
by Dr. R. Scott
5 Comments

A Survivalist Guide for Living with the Trump Presidency

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I’m not sure I’ve ever seen nerves more frayed than what they are right now in America. President Trump’s aggressive agenda is creating anxiety across the country. Almost everyone I meet is feeling the stress. We’re in a perpetual state of pastoral crisis. As a clergy person, my job is not to wring my hands in despair; it’s to offer hope and a spiritual pathway forward. I’ve been thinking about what I need to survive the next four years . . . I share it with you . . .

Survival Rule Number One: I’m going to refuse to live with pessimism about my life for the next four years. There is still so much goodness in the world, and not only goodness, but beauty and truth and joy. I’m not going to allow anyone in the Oval Office (Democrat or Republican) to wreck that for me, and nor should you. Life is a gift, and one way we save the world is by enjoying the world.

Survival Rule Number Two: I’m going to keep standing up for human dignity, love and respect. I’m not going to be shrill about it. I’m not going to be the guy to shout the loudest. I’m simply going to keep reminding myself and others that the essence of my faith is love for God and love for neighbor, and love means respect, justice and fairness. We cannot stop standing up for one another. And we especially cannot stop standing up for those who cannot stand at all.

Survival Rule Number Three: I don’t have the capacity to save the world. I can, however, reach out to friends and family with goodness and compassion. I can make the world a better place in ways that are real and personal. Besides, we only save the world one person, one human gesture at a time. Jesus once defined faith as giving someone a cup of cold water. This is something I can do. It’s something you can do too In this challenging time, treating one another with a little extra gentleness is an essential thing.

Survival Rule Number Four: I’m going to move closer to my friends and my community of faith in the upcoming days, and we’re going to talk about what we need to talk about in order to get through these seismic changes happening in America. We need one another right now. We need to talk (and vent) and remind one another that we are not alone. We need to listen to one another. We need something more than another Breaking News report on television. News is fine; but we need community to help us absorb it and process it.

Survival Rule Number Five: As the country seems to become more and more shallow, I’m going to move more deeply into my humanity with greater attention and feeling. I’m going to start a love affair with poetry again. I’m going to read more books. I’m going to take more time with the arts. I’m going to pay attention to my feelings, dreams and intuitions. I’m going to spend more time in the temple of my soul, not as a way of escaping reality, but as a way of finding a deeper sense of it.

Survival Rule Number Six: I want to follow the path of wisdom that suggests — being here now / being present with what is / sitting with the true reality — is always a way of insight. Escapism doesn’t work. Activism is critically important, to be sure, but something must be added to it. We have to discover the philosopher’s stone. America is where it is, and historians will eventually sort out how we got here, but to be present with the reality of our times is not a defeatist concession, but a courageous embrace of life.

Survival Rule Number Seven: I’m going to pray / meditate / send good thoughts toward the President. This is not easy, but it’s the right thing to do. When we pray for someone who sees the world differently from us, or in the words of Jesus, when we “pray for our enemies,” the world is mysteriously changed. And the world changes because we change. Maybe some of us are not ready for that today. Fine. But I think it’s part of the spiritual survivalist package that we need. Besides, when we pray for the “other,” we’re acknowledging that we too need guidance, and that kind of humility is essential.

Friends, I invite you to Take a Breath. We’re in a strange time right now in America. A stressful time. A disconcerting time. But it’s a time perfect for the resources of the heart. Let’s survive it together one breath at at time.

January 21, 2017
by Dr. R. Scott
2 Comments

Trilogue.

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Bringing people together goes to the heart of faith. The word religion literally means to “bind back together.” Tomorrow morning I will host a conversation of faith titled: “Thoughts for the New President.” My guests will include Rabbi Steven Leder and Imam Jihad Turk. From our respective faith traditions, we’ll discuss what we think is important for President Trump to know and do at the beginning of his new administration. I think the conversation will be exciting, thoughtful and most of all interesting. If you’re in Los Angeles tomorrow, join me for what I think will be a historic conversation at First Church.

January 20, 2017
by Dr. R. Scott
5 Comments

President. Trump.

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Dear President Trump:

I am a person of faith, lived imperfectly to be sure, but as a person of faith there are things I believe . . .

I believe it’s important to affirm that all people are children of God, and regardless of ethnicity, religion, gender-identity, or sexual orientation, each person deserves love and respect. It is unacceptable (and un-American) to demonize groups of people, and that is especially true coming from the person sitting in the Oval Office. The level of discourse coming from the White House needs to be aspirational. If America has a president who talks and acts like a bully, then we will learn to bully one another. I hope you will govern differently than how you campaigned.

I believe it’s important to affirm that the environment reflects the goodness of God, and that we are called to care for the environment as we care for our own bodies. Mother Earth is in trouble. The challenge of climate change is real. You can’t make America great again if the planet is falling apart. (And if the rising seas begin to swallow up your properties around the world.) For people of faith, caring for the planet has emerged as the spiritual / ethical challenge that God is calling us to embrace.

I believe it’s important to affirm that the world needs diplomatic wisdom. We live in a perilous time. We cannot be naive. I know that. Yet, it’s important to understand that diplomacy is not the same as making a business deal. Making deals has served you well in your business life, but America isn’t merely a business. We’re a diverse nation living in a complex world. My fear is that, without some degree of humility, international relations will quickly deteriorate. The human family is desperate for good will and compassion and thoughtful understanding.

Mr. President — Many of us are Taking a Breath today. We love our country. We love our neighbors around the world. We love this fragile planet upon which we live and work and play. I hope you will Take a Breath too. You are the President of the United States of America. Today, all around the world and in many different languages, people of faith are saying a prayer for you and our country. I’m saying a prayer for you today, too.

Sincerely,

Rev. Dr. R. Scott Colglazier