“We build on foundations we did not lay.
We warm ourselves at fires we did not light.
We sit in the shade of trees we did not plant.
We drink from wells we did not dig.
We profit from persons we did not know.
We are ever bound in community."

Rev. Peter Raible (paraphrased from Deuteronomy 6:10-12)

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Mapping a Life, or "What Values Orient You in the World?"

(Note: for the full context of this post, you might want to check out this earlier post. Thanks!)

This past Sunday, this song was our reading for the day, our "sacred text:"

That line,“How could it come to this? I really want to know about this…” just grabs me.

That’s my heart’s question.        

I really want to know, how can it be that 1 in 7 children in Minnesota live in poverty and go to bed hungry? How can it be that their life is shaped by that devastating reality? These are children just like our son. Just like your children. And perhaps they are your children. How has it come to this?

Imagine having to choose between paying your utilities bill or buying groceries? Maybe you don’t have to imagine…maybe that’s your life. How has it come to be that across this country, there are 46 million people living below the poverty line? That’s a family of four making less than $22,000 a year. These are our brothers and sisters, uncles, grandparents, friends, our neighbors – it’s us.

How has it come to this? 

How has our moral compass gotten so twisted? Our political system so shaped by moneyed interests? Our politicians posturing and playing games, as people suffer? Can’t we do better?

I really want to know about this.

I trust I’m not alone with these question.

Maybe on a personal level you’re asking, ”How did it come to this?” Maybe there’s a deep sense of unhappiness about your life, or marriage, or something else. Or perhaps you’re longing for more purpose and meaning in your life. Perhaps you’re thinking, “How could it come to this? This sure isn’t what I imagined my life would be like.”
Or maybe, like me, you’re thinking about the country and the world. Maybe you’re wondering, how did we get into these wars in Iraq and Afghanistan again? Tell me about the $3 billion we spend a week in these wars; what that money might do in North Minneapolis or New Orleans or anywhere else…what that money might do for our children?

Maybe you’re thinking, “Tell me how we decided it was ok to trash the planet, to mine, pollute, exploit it? When did profit become more important than people and our planet?"

If our eyes and hearts are truly open to what is happening around us, surely a part of us must be asking: “How could it come to this?”
The good news is that this is not a new question. It seems to me that sacred scriptures all deal with some variation on this question, and the simple answer to "how could it come to this?" is that we’ve been using the wrong map to guide our lives and decisions.

We’ve been using the “popular culture” or “consumer culture” map instead of the spirit map, the faith map, Love’s map, God’s map – call it what you will.  

In popular consumer culture map, the core values we are given to guide our lives are these:

and greed.

(We’ll be unpacking these values in the next four weeks in our Sunday worship…and looking at “spirit map” alternatives to these popular culture values, which are: hospitality, love, compassion, forgiveness, and gratitude.)

The trouble, of course, is that these "consumer culture" values lead us to ask the wrong kinds of questions. As the Rev. Jim Wallis says, “Television, magazines, and our whole popular culture, in ad after ad, have asked us, “What’s the fastest way to make money? What do you need to buy next that will make you truly happy? What is wrong with you, and how could you change that?" What do you need to be afraid of? These questions do not speak to the deep yearnings of the human heart, nor do they help us become better people.  

But that’s the map we’re living in, right now, in what I would call an “apocalyptic moment.” Yes, an “Apocalyptic movement!” (The root of the word “apocalypse” means to unveil or reveal what has been hidden. And we are living in an apocalyptic time right now because what is being revealed is the popular consumer culture map – with exclusivity, fear, ego-gratification, guilt, and greed as its core values - that has lead us astray.

And I believe that our brothers and sisters in this growing “Occupy” movement are essentially saying, “As a country – we’ve been living and operating from the wrong map, and it’s not working. We need a new map.” 

That’s what this Occupy Movement is about. It’s not dirty hippies lounging around – it’s people of faith, families, students, and so many others, who are saying, "It’s time to use a different map with a different set of values and principles." 

And they’re bearing witness to that.
And for the next four weeks at First Universalist, we’ll be exploring the Spirit Map and how we might live more fully in that map. 

To be continued in another post...this one is plenty long!

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