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The Christmas stories recognize that God was in Jesus.

The Resurrection stories recognize that after Jesus death, the God that was in Jesus was also in the disciples, and is also in each of us – including even me.

The stories were written in an attempt to explain what that means. And ever since, we have continued to try to explain what is essentially beyond explanation except by experience – using not only stories, but also poetry and music and art and architecture, as well as worship.

For me, this is summed up by the author of John’s Gospel who has Jesus say, “Know that I am in my Father and I in you and you in me.” (John 14:20)

Loren Bullock
August 23, 2015

God is a Verb – Not a Noun

We humans have all along attempted to describe or explain God with words. Yet God is beyond description beyond explanation, beyond words. Words come from our own human experience and we apply to God those words that reflect the highest and best attributes that we have experienced as humans. Words like justice and compassion and love. It is interesting that in our stories we also use words that are parts of our own human bodies and behavior. We speak of God’s hands and face and voice. We speak of his anger. We speak of his love. We describe God in the beginning as the creator of the Earth and of all living things. Even though we know that they are inadequate, these human words are all we have.

But our current understanding of the universe is that it’s no longer something that was created some time ago for us humans to dominate and use. We now know that the process of creation that started 13.8 billion years ago is a process of continuing evolution, a process of constant creation, of birth and death of stars and galaxies, of evolution of life. And at this moment of the evolutionary process, we find ourselves as the present living inheritors of a mind boggling list of ancestors who lived and died in their time. These include dinosaurs and fish of eons past, all the way back to the early one-celled forms of life. So we are related to ALL of life. Even chimpanzees, bees, whales, cucumbers, oak trees, and amoebas, to name just a few. Even the atoms within us were all created by the death of past stars as they exploded. We humans are quite literally the stuff of stars.

So to describe this constantly changing universe of ours as a process of constant creation, we need to think of God in a much more active role than as a being who set it all in motion 13.8 billion years ago and is now watching it happen and intervening at times. Instead we can now say that God is in the creativity itself. Or that the creativity is in all ways pointing us to God. Or that the Reality that we observe as a constantly changing universe is pointing us to God. But we are still using human words, and God is always more than these words.

So we fall back on those nouns that we experience as humans and apply to God: creativity, reality, or more personal words like compassion, justice, and love as our descriptors of God. But LOVE IS ALSO A VERB – a verb that can include all that creativity and evolution with its birth and death as well as all the relationships in all of life.

God is love – a verb!  And recalling my 8th Grade grammar class, it is an active verb in the present tense, applying to the entire universe. And when we speak of that spark of God within each of us – that love of God within us – love becomes an imperative verb – a command to each one of us!  Jesus gave us the example of what that means. That command becomes, “Wash More Feet.” That’s when God becomes real.

God is a verb!

Loren Bullock
April 19, 2015

[Note: This statement that God is a Verb is not original with me.  I first read it in the writings of Bishop John Shelby Spong, where it resonated with my thinking. As Bishop Spong suggests, all our human words about God, our liturgies, our creeds, our hymns and doctrines are all pointing to God.  In our religions, however, they are commonly accepted as defining God, even becoming synonyms for God.  When this happens, the words themselves then become idols.]


The Stories of the Bible Today

The Bible is a story book. Its stories are primarily Jewish stories that tell truths about us in our relation to each other and to God. Even the early stories in the New Testament reflect the Jewishness of the early Christians. Some of the stories are history, some are biography, some are poems, some are wise sayings, some are mystical writings. They are stories written in another time and culture, using language that reflects the understanding of the universe of that time. So to read those stories today, we must try to hear them in the contexts of that time. And that’s not easy, for we have so much new knowledge of the world and of us as living human beings.

We no longer – as those old stories do – picture a three-tiered world with the gods above the dome of the sky, with a lower world just below, and with animals and us on the earth in between. Our creation story is now a 13.8 billion year story of the evolution of the universe and of life and of our awareness as human beings that each one of us is a current expression of that evolution. We are a part of something grand!

Since the purpose of most of the Bible stories is to illustrate, to teach, to celebrate, to lament, to worship, they often are stories within stories. They use metaphors and symbols to express the larger meanings, and while these metaphors were understood in the Jewish culture of that time, they are often difficult for us to understand in our culture. And as Christianity grew apart from its Jewish roots, the Jewish metaphors and symbols became lost, and the stories became read as literal happenings.

But within the last two hundred years or so, scholars and theologians have rediscovered the metaphoric and symbolic meaning of the stories giving us new understanding of the meaning of the Christ story. Two books were significant in introducing this “liberal Christianity” to the public: Albert Schweitzer’s The Quest for the Historical Jesus (1906), and Bishop John A. T. Robinson’s Honest to God (1963). Harry Emerson Fosdick (1878-1969), a Baptist minister, and Ralph Sockman (1889-1970), a Methodist minister, were both noted “liberal” preachers in New York City. I heard both of them preach. Paul Tillich (1886-1965) a German Lutheran theologian who emigrated to the U.S. in 1933, first to Union Theological Seminary and later to Harvard, is considered the most influential theologian of the twentieth century.

There have been numerous initiatives to introduce this modern thinking into the institutional churches The exciting one was from Pope John XXIII (1958-63) and his Second Vatican Council with its brief attempt to move beyond the rigid dogma of the Roman Catholic Church. But it was stopped in its tracks when Pope John died, and eminent Catholic theologians such as Hans Kung, Edward Schillebeeckx, Charles Curran, and Matthew Fox were removed from teaching posts and silenced. The same thing happened in the Protestant churches in the same period. Bishop Robinson was marginalized in England, Bishop James Pike was harassed in California, and Lloyd Geering in New Zeeland was tried for heresy – all by the leadership within their own denominational institutions.

Now in the 21st Century, we are witnessing a new recognition of who we are in our relationships with others. Some of today’s well-known scholars and writers expressing this newer theology are Marcus Borg, Matthew Fox, John Shelby Spong, John Dominick Crossan, Michael Dowd, and Brian Swimme, to name only a few. In their many books, they have articulated for me my own growing understanding of God and of us as human beings in this wondrous universe.

But so far most of the change has been happening in the public arena, in the political institutions, with legal recognition of rights of all people and with civil rights and non-discriminatory legislation especially relating to race, and gender. Most mainline Protestant churches are struggling to address these issues, but within most congregations there continue to be members who hold to their older beliefs and feel threatened by the newer ones. So change comes slowly at the top levels of the denominational organizations. With one exception: the United Church of Christ whose churches operate without the strong denominational organization of the others.  Within many of their independent churches, their preaching and their educational programs fully embrace what is becoming referred to as Progressive Christianity.  I think we are seeing the beginning of a new reformation taking place within Christianity. We are seeing a return to the original expression of the Christian message in the context of our current knowledge of the universe. But we are not there yet.  That is the challenge for the Christian churches in the 21st Century.

For me this has been has been a gradual development in my own thinking – a “slowly dawning recognition” – from the time I was growing up in a Methodist parsonage and attending Sunday School and church every week. I am still learning and experiencing the sacred in new ways. For me I now see the entire evolving universe as sacred. And all of life, including even me, is an active participant in that constant creativity.

But those old stories are still full of truth as to who we are as human beings in relationship to each other and to the world around us. They are our Christian heritage. As Bishop Spong reminds us, reading them with Jewish eyes gives even deeper meaning to them today.

Loren Bullock
April 28, 2015

Note: The web site, has a weekly Newsletter (free) with many articles and even worship and meditation materials that are helpful to me. In addition they are the publisher of Bishop Spong’s weekly commentary that I continue to find so meaningful. His website is

Life is a Miracle

I see life as a miracle. All of life – trees, flowers, bees, lions, people – and all related one to another. A miracle. A gift. A gift to be treasured, to be enjoyed, to be awed by, but also to be used – not selfishly but generously – a gift to be given away, not hoarded and kept to oneself. Life has meaning only in relationship to other life. What a precious gift! A miracle!

The early Hebrews used the word miracle to describe any action of God in their lives. We now usually use the word to describe something outside of natural law – a supernatural happening. I prefer to use the word in the old Hebrew sense when I say that life is a miracle. I see God in all of life – in its development and evolution, in its order amidst complexity, in its beauty, and in the relationships that I experience. So yes, life is a miracle. And it is in the life all about me and in the relationships and love of those around me that I find and experience God.

Loren Bullock
November 10, 2006

Loving Our Neighbor

Our evolution as humans has given us the same instinct for survival that is in all life. It is part of our animal heritage. A result of that instinct for survival is the related instinct for safety in numbers – the tribal instinct., All this gradual development over millennia has been the result of the slow process of DNA mutations But evolution has also given us humans a sense of self-awareness that is the source of our imagination that allows us to create images of the past and of the future as well as to create language. This amazing ability to communicate – to tell stories, to draw pictures, and to think abstractly – seems to set us apart as humans to such a huge degree from the rest of animal life. As a result we are teachable, we can learn and change even within a lifetime – without waiting for the slow process of DNA mutation to effect change.

It is this sense of self-awareness that allows us first to recognize an identity of oneself. A baby is instinctively self-centered. But how quickly the human baby can grow in awareness of others, and in a mature human to an awareness of the self that is in others – even the development of an empathy for others. At first that awareness of others and that feeling of empathy is within the tribe. For we are social beings, we need one another to grow. And on some level we understand that it is in our human nature to try to help, even if it involves risk or sacrifice. All this was within the tribe at first. Today we can be a part of multiple “tribes” – our comfort groups. Our family, our neighborhood, our church, our work environment, our political party, our nation. But as we grow more fully human, we can recognize and empathize with those outside our “tribe”, with those who are different, those who think or act differently, or are of a different color.

Is not this what Jesus was all about. That we can move beyond our animal instincts, to become more fully human. To strive to reach our full human potential , to become more inclusive, to recognize that we are all more that just being human, that love and justice and compassion are the attributes of God that are also within us.

But we must choose. Both as individuals and as nations or as religious groups or political parties, we can act on our animal instincts and ignore the potential that is within to be “more.” Isn’t that what war and terrorism is about? We see too much of that in the world. We are one tribe. Everyone is our neighbor.

But Jesus makes it even more personal.

We are all familiar with Jesus’ call to “Love your neighbor as yourself.” [Mark 12:31]  We can read that as, “Love your neighbor as much as yourself.” Perhaps it suggests that I must first love myself before I can love my neighbor. But to me, it’s not about the quantity or the timing. What it is saying is to love your neighbor as yourself – totally, as if your neighbor were you. In other words, my neighbor is me! I am my neighbor.

We are all one.

In Christ there is no east or west,
To him no south or north,
But one great fellowship of love
throughout the whole wide earth.

Loren Bullock
April 10, 2015

Whom Would You Choose to Have Dinner With?

If you could choose to have a meal or even a coffee time or a glass of wine with anyone of your choice in all of history, who would it be? Whom would you like to have a conversation with, to ask questions of, to share experiences with? Yes, anyone! Who would be your choice? I suggest that this might be an interesting question to ask the next time you are in a group of interested friends. Or just take a moment to write down your own choices right now.

One choice for me would be my father. Not just to be able to say how grateful I am for the loving home of my growing up and for the gift of my life. But I have so many questions to ask? What was it like to leave home in England at 21 to come to America? What were your hopes and dreams? What was it like to meet my mother in Oregon? Tell me about being a minister experiencing the depression of the 1930s. What were your greatest satisfactions, disappointments? So many questions about our family and his feelings about life.

But I think the one person I would be most fascinated to meet would be James, Jesus’ brother. We know that Jesus grew up in a family of brothers and sisters. We also know that James became an important leader of the Jewish group in Jerusalem that were the first to experience the God presence after the death of his brother – that is known as Jesus’ resurrection. What was that transforming experience like? Tell me about Peter. Tell me about Jesus ministry as we call it, with followers we know as Disciples. Who were they and how many? How did the meals together become what we now know as the Eucharist? What was it like growing up with your brother? Tell me about your father and mother. May I take a selfie?

These are fun “what ifs.” What’s more important is that my own father is still a very real part of me. His presence is within me and always will be. And so too is Jesus presence within me, that God presence that was in Jesus so fully that those first Christians could only describe it as seeing God and Jesus as one.

Loren Bullock
January 29, 2015


by Julia Morris

The year goes around and season faithfully follows season.
The boughs that bend to breaking in the winter wind
will fill with sap once more
and burst into young fresh green.
They bend low a second time in summer
with full leaf and blossom
and then autumn will glow red and fiery
until each dying leaf makes a scarlet carpet
to soften the footsteps of winter once again.
So life and death are part of the unending rhythm
of creation, renewal and love.

As we give thanks to God in Christ
for the beginning of life so
we trust in God for the end of life. Amen

from, Newsletter of January 10, 2015.

This poem was suggested as a prayer at a funeral, reminding us that birth and death are an integral part of all life. As I read it, I see a beautiful image of life that ties each of us – even a leaf – to the awesome mystery of our ever changing and evolving universe with its galaxies and stars, its molecules and atoms, mountains and oceans, trees and flowers, fish and elephants – and even me. I see God.

Loren Bullock
January 13, 2015

Merry Christmas 2014

Bishop John Shelby Spong has written a Christmas message to the readers of his weekly internet column (, and he closed it with these words that I share with each of you on this Christmas Day 2014. It expresses the deepest of my wishes for those I love as well as for my church that is so much of part of me.

Bishop Spong writes:
. . . . “ On this Christmas day I send my wishes that you will find the sacred in the midst of the secular, the holy in the midst of the mundane and God in the presence of human love for that is what both Christianity and individual Christians call the “Incarnation.”

“Fear not. God is.

“Because I believe that this is so, the call of Christ to us this Christmas season and our mission as God’s church is not to make people more religious, but to free them to live more fully, to love more wastefully and to find the courage to dare to be the deepest fullest self that they can be. That is the vision that caused our ancestors in faith to postulate that on the night when Jesus was born a star shone in the East and angelic choruses’ sang to hillside shepherds more than 2000 years ago.”

I add my own wishes with the traditional words for this day, MERRY CHRISTMAS!

Loren Bullock
December 25, 2014


Biological evolution tells the amazing story of how life on Earth has evolved from the first cells four billion years ago to the incredible diversity that includes you and me as specific examples of a human specie that developed only 200 million years ago. But the larger story is the continuous evolution of the universe over the past 13.7 billion years, in which biological evolution is only a part. The larger story is a relatively recent discovery gradually revealing itself over the past several hundred years as humans carefully observed and reasoned , and “connected the dots” to form our current understanding of Reality. It’s an amazing story indeed.

Perhaps the most surprising discovery has been that the universe is forever and everywhere changing. There is constant change and transformation within atoms, within our bodies, within the earth itself, within the stars and the galaxies. Until recently we talked about the “fixed stars.” We felt the solid earth beneath our feet and watched the sun and stars circle us once a day and wondered. Now we know that the earth is circling the sun, itself a star, and that stars are still being created within swirling galaxies which are themselves evolving within an expanding universe! The universe started evolving 13.7 billion years ago. Within minutes the first nuclei were forming. Within the first half million years, the first atoms of hydrogen, helium, and lithium were formng. Soon (a half billion years) the first massive stars began to emerge. And so on. Constant creation and transformations taking place, a process that is is still going on. Evolution is not something that just happened in the past. It’s happening right now.

Today on this planet Earth all life around us, including you and me, is at an evolved moment in time within the entire universe. That’s mind-boggling! That means that each one of us is a participant in this cosmic evolution. And with the evolution of our human self-consciousness and imagination, we of all species only recently have been able to look back, to comprehend, to picture much of that development. Although human beings are a tiny fraction of that universe, we are nevertheless an integral part of it, so one might say that as we look back in time, “we are the universe looking back upon itself.” [Michael Dowd, Thank God for Evolution]

This story of Cosmic Evolution is our current Creation Story. It has its parallels in the ancient Genesis creation stories as told in the words and concepts of three thousand years ago. We have filled in the ancient stories with new knowledge of recent years, but the underlying truths have not changed. The Adam and Eve story recognized that humans have capacity for evil within themselves, and explained it as humankind being created originally as perfect, but then choosing to be imperfect, thereby inheriting our capacity for evil. Now we know that through evolution we have inherited animal instincts for survival that still kick in whenever we are threatened. But our human brains have also evolved with advanced frontal lobes which can control those animal instincts . The frontal lobes are the primary source of our compassion, our sense of justice, of love. We are evolving to be more than animals. And although we are very early in our evolutionary time scale, there are already examples of humans who have lived more fully human lives, Mother Theresa and Nelson Mandela being recent public figures.

The universe around us is real, and we are a part of that reality. We are a living part of a grand and glorious story that has been unfolding for 13.8 billion years. Awesome!

[See also my earlier blog “Connections” as listed in the July 2012 Archive]

Loren Bullock
November 19. 2014


With our new Creation Story of the 13.7 billion year cosmic evolution that includes the 4 billion year evolution of life on Earth that includes each one of us, one thing is constant. Throughout the universe birth followed by death is and has been an integral part of what is happening. The “fixed” stars are anything but fixed. We now know that stars are born, and they die, often violently during which the larger molecules are created. Ancient star explosions are the source of the molecules in our own human bodies. Death is an essential part of the creativity that is inherent in the evolution of the universe which includes the evolution of the life here on earth.

Each human being alive now is the result of a gradual development of ancestor hominids one by one over the past four billion years. They lived and died that we might live at this moment. And their long development is built into our DNA. So, yes, we’re distant cousins of monkeys. But we’re also very distant cousins of zucchini and oak trees and eventually of the initial one-celled pieces of life that somehow developed some four billion years ago. That’s our biological heritage. Awesome indeed!

And what if there had been no death? For one, there probably wouldn’t be enough food or space to sustain all of us. But more basic, all of life has always been interrelated, including being a part of a total food chain in which one is often part of another’s food for sustenance. We humans eat other life all the time: lettuce and peanuts and apples and chicken and beef – often callously instead of thankfully or even reverently. In fact, “most animals hatched or born have always been destined to become food well before they had a chance to mature and reproduce.” [Dowd, p. 94] Death seems to be built into the basic process of evolution, something that Darwin himself recognized. Scientists have even learned that “programmed cell death” is essential in the early development of chicken egg embryos as well as in our elder years for the health of the body and for the prevention of cancer. For all aspects of life, death is a companion of birth.

But over the years, many Christians have taken the Adam & Eve story in the Bible literally, treating death as a punishment for Adam’s disobedience (“ because you were dust, you will go back to dust.” Gen 3:19) As punishment, death has become something to fear and dread. But understanding death as an integral part of evolution includes us as part of God’s creative process. This in no way diminishes the grief we feel when a loved one dies. In fact, it can protect us from becoming angry or despairing. No, there is something profoundly right about death.

For humans there is an added factor. Out of the evolved human capacity of self-awareness has come the awareness that each of us will die, a source of our uniquely human feelings of insecurity. Moreover, with our evolved brain, we humans have been able to comprehend much of the 13.7 billion years of the past. Each one of us is an integral part of that story . There is a oneness of each one of us with the totality of the universe. Think of how profound that statement is. The universe a part of me, and I am a part of the universe. Oneness!

This is not a new realization.

Zhang Zai (1020-1077), a neo Confucian philosopher wrote, “Heaven is my father and Earth is my mother and even such a small creature such as I finds an intimate place in their midst. Therefore that which extends throughout the universe I consider as my nature. All people are my brothers and sisters, and all things are my companions” [Swimme , “Journey of the Universe”, p. 89]

A 14th Century German mystic, Meister Eckhart wrote, “God’s being is my being and is the being of all beings. My ME is God. . . . Between a person and God there is no distinction. They are one. . . . The same eye with which I look at God is the eye with which God looks at me.” [Spong, “Eternal Life”, p. 158]

Cosmic evolution including the evolution of life on earth gives us a new understanding of God and of our relationships to the universe and to each other. God is in all the creation that is all around us, and each one of us is a part of that. No longer is God the distant creator who started things eons ago. God is the source of life flowing through the universe, a presence to be experienced by living up to the fullness of our potential as humans, by controlling our animal instincts that are still a part of us as evolved beings. We know that there is more than just eating and surviving. As Spong describes it, “We must have the courage to grasp and even to be what we most deeply are. God then becomes a verb, not a noun.” [Spong in his weekly web essay, Oct. 17, 2012]

We must “live not frightened by death, but rather called by the reality of death to go into our humanity so deeply and so passionately that even death is transcended.” “Jesus the man, the fully human one, had not been able to loose his spirit until he died. It was only when that Jesus spirit entered the disciples that the world was turned upside down. . . . If the truly human, which was experienced in Jesus, is the content of what we mean by the word ‘divine’ and is met not beyond life but at the heart of life, then the pathway into the divine is to become human, and the pathway into eternity is to accept death as natural and to go so deeply into life that all limits are transcended and both timelessness and God are entered.” [Spong, “Eternal Life”, pp. 185, 184]

Loren Bullock
October 27, 2014

Michael Dowd, “Thank God for Evolution”, Viking 2008
John Shelby Spong, “Eternal Life: A New Vision”, Harper One 2009
Brian Swimme, “Journey of the Universe”, Yale University Press 2011