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Experiencing Gravity

Looking back over the years, I have memories of special moments that I can only call “spiritual” – such as hearing the glorious choral voices of a Christmas Vespers when I was 15, or being in a choir singing Mendelssohn’s Elijah when I was in my 60s, or joining with Jean in the liturgy of our wedding ceremony 23 years ago when I was 70. All of these happened in a church. But there were other special moments of wonder and awe or just joy of being alive that I now recognize were also spiritual. Walking in the woods with other boys kicking up leaves in the fall,  or seeing the silent splendor of a sunset, or trudging through the snow of a New England blizzard, or biking with Jean along the Moldau River in the Czech Republic.  At these times, I was probably not thinking specifically of God. These were just wonderful experiences of living.

But there was one experience at Mount Hermon School in Massachusetts in the summer of 1941 when I was 16. I didn’t think of it as spiritual. It was a direct personal experience with the Earth itself. I had a summer job in the Registrar’s office, and one evening several of us were lying on the grass of the rolling lawns of that beautiful 1,300-acre campus along the Connecticut River, looking up at a sky full of stars. I was lying on my back with my arms and legs all stretched out – just lying there. And slowly I became aware of the force of gravity holding all of me against the Earth. The sense of lying “down” had disappeared.  I was against this great big sphere slowly turning, and I was glued against it looking out at the stars. For the first time, I really felt gravity as a force on my entire body. I was an actual part of Nature. I literally belonged.

I have now come to understand the creativity that we see in the entire Universe as an expression of the divine, for which I still use the word God – but more as a verb than a noun. Within this divine creativity all the galaxies and stars and even the planet Earth, including all its life, is sacred. That means that God is even a part of you and me. Mystics have recognized this for many years. Meister Eckert, 14th century Christian mystic, wrote, “My ME is God,” God is in me! There is a oneness with all of life, with all other living things, with all of Nature and with the Earth itself.

So I was experiencing that oneness with God’s Universe that starry evening so long ago. I can say that it was gravity that was pressing me against the grass.  Or I can describe it as feeling God holding me against the Earth.

Loren Bullock
August 10, 2018


Humpty Dumpty sat on a wall.
Humpty Dumpty had a great fall.
All the King’s horses and all the King’s men
Couldn’t put Humpty together again.

But there is no egg! Yet “everybody knows” that Humpty is an egg. This is an example of what “everybody knows” as not necessarily being so. The poem was first printed in 1810, and Lewis Carroll wrote Alice in Wonderland in 1865, including illustrations that for the first time showed Humpty as a huge egg sitting on a wall – fixing an image forever in subsequent imaginations.

But the story of Humpty Dumpty is earlier. In the 15th Century in England, Humpty Dumpty was a common “nickname” to describe someone who was extremely large, resulting in many stories identifying who or what Humpty really was. The most plausible one is that in the English Civil War in the 1640s, Humpty Dumpty was the name of a large Royalist cannon atop the church tower in Colchester.   In the siege of the town, the upper portion of the tower was destroyed by cannon fire from the Parlementarian attackers, and the large Humpty Dumpty came crashing down.  The Royalists (“all the King’s men”) were unable to restore it to use and soon surrendered the town.


Another example  of what “everybody knows” or perhaps assumes, this time from the Bible, tells of Saul’s name being changed to Paul after his conversion experience on the road to Damascus. But the Bible never says that, and the explanation is much simpler. Saul is his name in Hebrew. Paul is his name in Greek (Paulos) or Latin (Paulus). In Acts, Saul is his name used in Palestine contexts, and Paul is used in Gentile contexts. And the Letters of Paul were written in Greek.

So just a caution. What “everybody knows” doesn’t make it true.

Loren Bullock
April 16, 2018


An Easter Sermon by Rev Dawn Hutchings, April 16, 2018 (from her blog

John chapter 10 causes me to remember Mrs Tanner, my grade ten english teacher. I can still see her handwriting all over my carefully crafted compositions. Red ink everywhere as she constantly admonished me not to mix my metaphors. Clearly the writer of the Gospel of John never had the benefit of Mrs. Tanner’s guidance, or he would not have dared to record Jesus words the way he does in his long and rambling I AM passages.

Before we even get to chapter 10, we read that Jesus says: “I AM the bread of life.” and “I AM the light of the world.” In chapter 10, we read, Jesus says, “I AM the gate,” “I AM the Good Shepherd.” Later we will read, that Jesus says, “I AM the Resurrection”, “I AM life.” “I AM the true vine.” “I AM the way.” “I AM in God.” “I AM in you.”

But in the tenth chapter the writer of the Gospel of John goes all out and has Jesus using not just a metaphor but a mixed metaphor. For in chapter 10, we read that Jesus declared: “I AM the Gate. The gate through which the sheep must pass.” and then mixes it up by saying, “I AM the Good Shepherd.”

Which is it? Gate or Shepherd, come on, I know you’re Jesus but I’m trying to understand how Jesus, who is after all, the lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world is both the Gate and the Shepherd.

I wonder if Mrs. Tanner ever took her red pen to the Gospel According to John? If she did, the letters MMX would have appeared all over this Gospel. MMX = mixed metaphor wrong! Looking back, I know that Mrs Tanner was just trying to help us to be more careful about our ideas. But today I would have to ask both Mrs Tanner and the anonymous-gospel-storyteller that we call John, “What’s a meta for?”

The word metaphor comes from two ancient Greek words: meta means beyond, phor comes from a verb that means to carry. A metaphor is a figure of speech that carries you beyond the actual meaning of the words. A mixed metaphor is a figure of speech that that includes a mixture of images.

English teachers don’t like mixed metaphors. It has taken me years to understand why. You see, you have to have great skill to get away with using a mixed metaphor. The average person simply sounds foolish when they mix their metaphors. So, you might well ask, “Is the anonymous-gospel-storyteller we call John skilled enough to use a mixed metaphor?

Well in the words of the writer we call John, let me say, “’Truly I tell you,’ this is no ordinary writer of metaphors.” This storyteller’s words carry us way beyond words to the Great I AM. I AM, the very name of God. YAHWEH, the name revealed by Moses in the stories that were handed down for generations: I AM, WHO I AM. The writer we call John carries us beyond the WORD; the WORD that is Jesus the Christ, beyond the WORD to God’s very self. Now that’s what a meta is for!

The problem is the writer we call John was a little too clever for his own good. Sure, his second century audience would have understood his skillful use of metaphor. But down through the centuries the Christian church has mixed his metaphors to such a degree, that we don’t have much of a clue who Jesus was, let alone the great I AM to whom both Jesus and the writer we call John are trying to carry us.

We can’t seem to get the metaphor of Jesus as the Lamb of God out of our heads. In fact into every one of the great I AM metaphors we mix a little dab of the blood of the lamb and before you know it Jesus is the way and the truth and the life and unless you believe that Jesus blood was shed for you, you won’t ever be able to understand that you are washed by the blood of the lamb and you will never ever be able to pass through the gate, because Jesus is the only way. MMX, MMX, MMX!

It’s not the writer we call John who mixed the metaphors up, it is the Christian Church. Somewhere along the way, the religious authorities forgot what a metaphor is for. Instead of letting the words carry them beyond the literal meaning to the Great I AM, they slaughtered the lamb of God and killed the Word so that the wonders of the God who refuses to be pinned down by a name, the God who insists that YAHWEH is my name and will be for all generations. YAHWEH the inexpressible name that can be translated as I AM, or I AM WHO AM, or I AM WHO I AM or I WILL BE WHO I WILL BE. The Great I AM.

That our ancestors should choose to give to the god they believed to be the creator the verb “to be” as God’s own name, suggests that we might want to take their metaphor seriously. Talk about a word that carries you beyond the meaning of the word: YAHWEH – I AM WHO AM. The writer of the Gospel According to John, and no doubt Jesus himself, is the wisest of the wise when it comes to the use of metaphor. Too bad the church can’t seem to play in the big leagues. Too bad we have to reduce the beauty of the great I AM sayings down to one simple figure of speech. We are so hung up on Jesus as the Lamb of God that we can’t seem to see Jesus in any other way. So we read a snippet of the gospel and we hear Jesus talking about a shepherd and we are carried away with thoughts of God as the great big shepherd. So, we slap Psalm 23, right there just in case the folks in the pew don’t make the connection themselves. Before you know it, we’ve mixed the metaphor up and added a lamb, because we remember that other metaphor about the lost sheep, and then try as we might we just can’t help being carried away to the lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.

Now we have a shepherd who does either one of two things. This shepherd either lets the lamb be sacrificed, or this shepherd does the sacrificing. If you’re not confused yet, then I’m not doing my job correctly because what I wanted to do is point out the dangers of not appreciating the art of metaphor.

The writer we call John was a master craftsman, skillfully weaving together the images of YAHWEH that his Jewish listeners would have understood in a heartbeat. They knew their own Scriptures and the images of Jesus as the Good Shepherd would have carried them beyond the sheep in the field to the words of the Prophet of Ezekiel who echoed the promises of YAHWEH to the people of Israel. They would have heard YAHWEH instruct the prophet to speak out against the religious authorities, the shepherds who had lead the people into dangerous territory and allowed the flock to be scattered and lost.

They would have heard YAHWEH promising to send a proper shepherd, a good shepherd, who would gather the flocks, tend their wounds and restore them to good pastures. And they would have known that this Jesus was such a shepherd. And they would have rejoiced to have such a shepherd in their midst. And they would have understood perfectly why the religious authorities accused Jesus of being possessed. For surely the religious authorities were the shepherds who had lead the sheep into dangerous territory.  [In Ezek 34:1-31, the promised shepherd was David.]

After Jesus died the horrible death that he died, his followers struggled to understand what had happened and why it happened and they looked to their own Sacred Scriptures to try to make sense of it all. There were competing theories about why it happened and what it all meant. That Jesus was the Good Shepherd who laid down his life for the sheep was one theory. That Jesus was the Lamb who was sacrificed to atone for the sins of the world was a later theory. Two competing metaphors that we all too often mix together and end up with at best an impotent God who stands by while and innocent lamb is slaughtered or at worse a vengeful God who demands a blood sacrifice. These are not metaphors that ought to be mixed.

It is better to live with the mystery of divinity in our midst than it is to claim to have bottled divinity for easy consumption. When we bottle divinity and sell it like snake oil we do tremendous harm. We need to learn to dance among the metaphors that carried our ancestors beyond the literal words so that they could begin to relate to our God WHO WILL BE WHO GOD WILL BE, I AM, WHO I AM.

YAHWEH is more than capable of being both shepherd and lamb. We only need to remember that these metaphors operate independently of one another and God is not the shepherd who let the lamb die, nor is God the shepherd that demanded a sacrifice. The beauty of a metaphor is that it doesn’t always carry you to the same place. Metaphors have a multitude of destinations. Each of us must have the courage to go beyond the literal word and explore the places that the word takes us. If we must mix metaphors, we must take care to remember who it is who carries us beyond the beyond and beyond that also.

Let the MYSTERY we call GOD, live and breathe in you. Let abundant life flourish around you! Enjoy the dance! Rejoice in MYSTERY beyond all knowing: YAHWEH, the ONE Who Will Be, Who God Will Be!

Loren Bullock
April 17, 2018

Rev Dawn Hutchings is Pastor at Holy Lutheran Church, a small progressive Christian community just north of the town of Newmarket, Ontario. Her blog, includes many of her sermons.

Is God a Person? (again)

Within days of writing my essay with this title, published in their weekly email this essay by Lauren Van Ham. It articulates beautifully her answer to the same question,” Is God a Person?”

“In my theology, ‘Yes, and . . .’

“The universe began its intricate, gigantic, and truly awesome expansion 13.7 billion years ago. Humans arrived on the scene a mere 5 million years ago. Therefore, God is and has been many things, including humanity. Everything that exists now, or has existed in this span of time, originated within that first spark of Divinity. Each being I encounter is a manifestation of God – my neighbor across the street, the rows of earth teeming with vegetables, the flight attendant, the feral cats living near the bike path, the sea lions sunning themselves outside the aquarium, and on and on. All life forms hold particular intelligences and dimensions. Humans carry will and the ability to reason. Spiritual disciplines help us to both appreciate our abilities, as well as to take responsibility for the power and privilege they grant.

“To reduce God to only being a person seems woefully short-sighted. God is life, and life perpetually pulsates around us, whether or not we sit in witness to each inhale and exhale. And then, God is in the negative spaces, too: the night sky following sunset, the patches of canvas that haven’t received paint, and the nano-second of “no-thingness” before one cell descends, becoming a root, and the other ascends, becoming a shoot. Perhaps, before anything else, God is possibility. Within possibility there can be creativity and there can be destruction. As carriers of God, we have been given the humbling task of discernment; of moving through the world not simply as entitled takers, but as deep listeners, responding wisely and with love to the needs and shifts of life’s unfolding.

“So, yes, God is a person, manifesting as possibility in every human everywhere, and God is so, so much more.”      (Lauren Van Ham)

Loren Bullock
February 8, 2018

Lauren Van Ham, ordained as an interfaith chaplain, is a graduate of Carnegie Mellon and The Chaplaincy Institute in Berkeley, California  She tends a private spiritual directions practice and serves as Dean of The Chaplaincy Institute.

Is God a Person?

I am a person. I identify myself as a unique live human being. I am ME. That is what being a person means to me. I recognize that others around me are also persons. Each of us has his or her own individual personality. It’s what makes us different from each other. We have many words describing our different personality traits and characteristics. People in earlier civilizations, trying to understand the world around them, very naturally used those same personality traits to describe the world as they observed it. For example, for Greeks, nature was composed of a pantheon of gods, each with personality traits of humans. The early Hebrews described their God with words such as patient, loving, angry, jealous – words of a person. Even the Christian concept of the Trinity speaks of one God in three persons.

But God is so much more than a person. Words can be pointers to meanings beyond literal meanings of the words. That’s the beauty of metaphor in language. That’s the power of stories. That’s the truth in poetry. And the Bible is full of stories and poetry about God that we should not take literally as history or biography. Its metaphors and stories all point to a God that is beyond personhood and beyond space and time.

Marcus Borg in his book, The Heart of Christianity, writes, “I cannot myself think of God as personal in the sense of being a personable being, even though I am comfortable with using personal language to refer to God. . . [There are three ways that personal language has meaning.] (1) Whatever God is ultimately like, our relationship to God is personable, engaging us as persons at our deepest and most passionate level. (2) God has more the quality of presence than a non-personal “energy” or “force.” This is reflected in the centrality of of the notion of covenant in our intrinsically relational model of reality. (3) God “speaks to us” – not with aural or oral revelation or divine dictation. But sometimes dramatically in visions, less dramatically in dreams, in internal “proddings” or “leadings,” through people, and through devotional practices and scripture of our tradition. We sometimes have a sense of being addressed. . . . The Christian life is about a relationship with God that transforms us into more compassionate human beings.”

This is beautifully and metaphorically expressed in the following prayer by Dag Hammerskjold (1905-1961), Swedish diplomat and author, the second Secretary General of the United Nations.

You who are over us
You who are one of us
You who are
Give us pure hearts that we may see you
Humble hearts that we may hear you
Hearts of love that we may serve you
Hearts of faith that we may live in you


Loren Bullock
February 4, 2018

Why Are We Here?

We’ve learned a lot about how we got here. The last several hundred years have seen a tremendous increase in our knowledge of the constant creation going on in the universe together with the evolution of life on Earth. But the question persists. Why? That seems to be a human question. We humans have evolved with an amazing brain that provides us with a sense of self awareness, a recognition of the ME. And along with that is the development of imagination that has created language and art and the question, Why? In the long history of the development of humans, a consistent answer from all the cultures seems to include a sense of sacredness, a sense of something other, of something more to what we observe and think about and experience.

For our western culture the sacred has been pictured as a supernatural entity but with human characteristics such as compassion, justice, and love. How else can we but use our human words and pictures to describe what is beyond words. But for a large number of modern Christians, God is no longer “up there” or “out there” just beyond the dome of the sky. In the December 17 Newsletter of, Kent Weaver succinctly describes the newer thinking.

“The divine is understood as a creative and sustaining dynamic that is present in every aspect of the universe. The notion of Emmanuel, God with us, is profound with us [as Christians.] It means that the presence of the sacred can be found in every human being. But such an understanding leads to an existential challenge. How does one enter into and celebrate communion with an ultimate presence that is so abstractly understood? Ah, that’s the tricky part.

“Perhaps the practical answer is that it can only be experienced within relationship, activity, and community. Perhaps the divine is to be encountered in interacting with creation. Thrusting oneself into the world, the environment, the lives of other people – and helping others in their quest into living and being – becoming, not withdrawing. Perhaps there are times when contemplation and meditation are necessary for renewal, re-centering , and re-commitment. But they are not to be the center or focus of existence. Despite our existential experience of fundamental isolation, life is not ultimately an individual pursuit.”

We humans are an integral part of all of life. We belong to the entire universe. We encounter the sacred in new ways now with our new knowledge revealed to us over recent years. Such encounters continue to be filled with wonder and awe.  For each of us, as the author of John has Jesus say, “know that I am in my Father, and I in you, and you in me”. (John 14:20). Why are we here?  To experience God not only within me, but through me and beyond me, in community, in relationships to people, to society, and to the Earth itself.

Loren Bullock
December 21, 2017

Reality and Me

The Cosmos or Universe with its evolving and ever changing galaxies and stars and even life on this Planet Earth has been gradually and increasingly discovered by us humans, especially in the last several hundred years as a totally interrelated whole that we call Reality. It’s all around us. We are embedded in it. We are particular human beings evolved to this moment of time and place. Each of us has a capability of awareness of self, of a unique identity, and an awareness of the “me” within. For me. I also experience something “more” than the observed reality, and that to me is God.  For me, God is that reality. but also transcends reality. The entire Universe is sacred.  Reality is that part of God that we can see, that is gradually being revealed to us humans.  God being in that Reality means that God is also within me and has been all my life.

The stories in the Bible and in the sacred books of other religions are the record of God’s revelation of Reality to all of us humans. And there have been special humans throughout history with special gifts of understanding and feelings and closeness to God who have in themselves revealed God to us. For those us as Christians, Jesus Christ is the one who shows us how to be fully human.  The disciples described it as the resurrected Jesus who entered their lives, transforming them, and it is the resurrected Jesus who enters our lives today to be God’s living and transforming presence.  Those words are not words of explanation.  They are part of what I can only call a  “wonder-full” mystery.

We humans have also evolved only recently, and we still have many of the strong protective instincts of our animal ancestors within us. But we as humans have also evolved with a frontal cortex in our brain that provides us with awareness of ourselves and others together with feelings of compassion, justice, and love, plus giving us the capability of choice in controlling our animal instincts. But our world situation today shows us that we have yet to evolve very far from those animal instincts.

That is our challenge as humans: to let that presence of God within us speak to us, through us, and beyond us. We are the ones to care for others over our self-centeredness. We are the ones to care for the Earth over our greediness. We are the ones to recognize that we are all dependent on one another, and we are the ones to see that we are a part of all of life, and that we are an integral part of the entire Universe!

As a species, homo sapiens, we now know that God in Reality is telling us that we must change our ways of interacting with each other and with all the other life around us, or of how we are treating the Earth and our environment that is the very source of our being. We can no longer ignore our polluting of the oceans and of the atmosphere, nor ignore our destruction of the rain forests that are the source of the oxygen so essential in the air we breath, nor ignore the rapid consumption of resources from the earth itself. This has become a moral question. Each of us must accept our role in reality. It is only through us that God can speak. Will we listen and act? The alternative may well be the extinction of our species!

Loren Bullock
December, 7, 2017


Privilege is a word that reflects being set apart, of being special, or as a birthright, particularly when applied to royalty. But it is also applied to men and women of especial accomplishment. We give medals and honors for those accomplishments, often with carefully stated accompanying privileges. Privilege usually implies favor and respect. But historically, privilege has been for the few, not for the masses.

Yet I feel especially privileged in my own life. Not for wealth or possessions or status. For to me it is a privilege to be alive. A gift to be an active participant in life at this moment of space/time in this evolving universe that is constantly being revealed to us. With all its mystery, it is a privilege to be a part of something grand. Moreover, I was born to parents who provided me with the example of love for each other as well as for me and my older brother that is not available to way too many newborns in this world. So I was “born to privilege,” as the old-fashioned phrase states it. No, I neither merit nor claim this privilege. It has been a precious gift.

And at the center of this privilege is my experience of love, first with my Mother and my Father within a family, then within my 43-year marriage to Polly and our three children – made even more meaningful with four grandchildren. After the death of Polly, was the delightful discovery of love and my marriage with Jean with her then two high school age children, and now with two more grandchildren.  That’s already been 22 more years!  What a special privilege it is to be a part of a loving family. In the broader sense is also the love in the friendships with so many other individuals and families. There has been an increasing sense of awe for all of life, for all of nature. This feeling of awe and mystery and love is my experience of God within me. And that’s a privilege. The privilege of sharing this love is what life is all about.

Isn’t this what Paul meant when he wrote , “Faith, hope, and love abide, these three, and the greatest of these is love”? [2 Corinthians 13:13 ]

Loren Bullock
Novemer 24, 2017
Written the day after Thanksgiving Day, 2017

Shrove Tuesday

Why is the Tuesday before Ash Wednesday called “Shrove Tuesday” or “Mardi Gras?” The Shrove Tuesday name goes back at least 1,000 years when the church required that in the week before Lent everyone must go and confess their sins and receive forgiveness. This pronouncement of absolution by the priest was known as “shriving.” In one of the early Rules, it was stated, “In the week immediately before Lent everyone shall go to his confessor and confess his deeds and the confessor shall so shrive him.” The Tuesday before Ash Wednesday was the last day for this ritual of shriving, so became known as Shrove Tuesday.

Since Lent was also a time of abstinence, Shrove Tuesday was also the last day to indulge yourself and use up the foods that weren’t allowed, foods such as meat and fish, fats, eggs, and milky foods. This would include pancakes. So that no food was wasted, families would have a feast on the shriving Tuesday and eat up all the foods that wouldn’t last the forty days of Lent without spoiling. Eating up the fats gave rise to the name, Fat Tuesday, which in French, is Mardi Gras.

Pancake races are thought to have begun in 1445. The story is that a woman lost track of the time on Shrove Tuesday and was busy cooking pancakes in her kitchen. Suddenly she heard the church bell ringing the call to confession. So she raced out of her house and ran all the way to church, still holding her frying pan and wearing her apron. One of the most famous pancake races today is held in Olney, Buckinghamshire, England over a 415-yard course. Rules are strict. Contestants must toss their pancake at both the start and finish as well as wear an apron and scarf. The race is followed by a church service. Since 1950, Olney has competed with Liberal, Kansas, which holds an identical race. After the 2000 race, Liberal was leading with 26 wins to Olney’s 24.

Loren Bullock
February 10, 2005

Source: bbc web site

Experiencing God

For me a significant understanding in my life was the slow recognition of the “ME” within my consciousness as God.   That is my direct experience of God as an intrinsic part of my being.  As I live and move as a human being,  I can only respond with awe and thanksgiving and praise – at the glory of a sunset sky, or watching ocean waves breaking on a beach, or the holding of a newborn baby, or listening to the sounds of a Bach fugue, or feeling the touch of a loved one, singing a Brian Wren hymn in church, biking along the Moldau River, or attending the graduation exercises of my grandchildren.

I no longer think of God as a distant being somewhere beyond the sky who created the universe some billions of years ago and now watches and intervenes periodically. To me, God is that continuous creativity that we now know as happening throughout the universe. God is in the life that is all around me on this planet Earth. I am an individual participant in this evolving universe at this moment and place in space-time! I am an integral part of something grand! Within me, within each of us, there is this spark of consciousness that is ME.  Meister Eckert, a tenth century mystic, described it as, “My me is God.” The writer of the Gospel of John has Jesus say, “I am in my Father, and you in me and I in you.” [John 14:20]

This means that God lives and moves in each of us, but also means that God lives and moves through, and beyond us. This directs our attention beyond ourselves, to the relationships to all those around us, even to all life around us, to our environment, and to our relationship to the Earth itself. We are not alone. We are a community with God. This makes all the difference in how I am to live my life.

My religion is not about my earning a place is some future heaven. It is not so much about what I believe, but about how I behave. Freeman Dyson, noted physicist and devoted Christian, said, “Sharing the food is to me more important than arguing about beliefs. Jesus according to the Gospels thought so too.”

Loren Bullock
November 15, 2017