Entropy and New Life


The root word is the Greek trope – meaning “to turn” – you can apotrope, to turn away – you can entrope – to turn around. Entrope can also mean to shame someone, or to reverence another. So what is the thought connection between turning around, shaming, and reverence? My guess is this: To “turn around” is to turn from one orientation toward another. If it is also turning toward shame, this would be a degradation of ego. What is required of reverence but a degredation of focus on ego – a turning away from self and toward that which (or the one who) is the object of reverence. To put it together then, when we reverence God, we are turning away from focus on self-preservation, self-glorification, self-centeredness. This is a form of shame, not in the modern pejorative sense of feeling that one is of no worth or value, but in the relative sense of humility before something or someone. When we consider the massive expanse of the cosmos, and the intricacy of the subatomic structures, and everything in between, we are shamed – i.e. humbled.

How does this connect with our modern understanding of entropy as a steady eroding of complexity toward annihilation? I think that we are so focused on the self, on the ego, on “self-esteem”, that when we consider that the world does not revolve around us, this feels like a degradation of self.The child who is accustomed to being the center of all family energy, love and attention then goes to school and realizes that he is just one of 18 who also want to be the center of attention. This is experienced as a loss of self (though a false self). It is experienced as degradation. “If I am not the center of everything, then nothing has any meaning. If the world does not revolve around me, then who and what am I? I am nothing.” This painful experience is nonetheless vitally important for progress toward maturity. It is also essential in our journey toward spiritual maturity and life in God. We can not love God with all our heart, mind, soul and strength when our own sense of self stands in that place. And yes, this experience is painful for many. It involves grief, fear, anxiety.

The good news is that on the otherside of this liminal space, this no man’s land where we are adrift, on the other side is God. Throughout our lives we experience a series of little deaths with each letting go of what we thought, how we saw the world and our place in it. This journey of life is entirely liminal, from birth to death we are in between two incomprehensible mysteries (from whence we come and whither we go), while we stand in the midst of a third that is partially visible and comprehensible. We can choose (and are taught) to be anxious about all of this uncertainty. Someone has decided that uncertainty is bad and certainty is good. Unfortunately, this is untrue. Certainty does not even exist – it is an illusion, a hologram, a mirage. The sooner we let go, or the more we are progressively able to let go of small bits of this falsehood, the more we move into a place of peace and contentment and rest, a place of faith, grace, blessedness. Paul says that we are to be “transformed by the renewing of [our] minds.” (Romans 12:2)

The Psalmist speaks of this cycle of life, all of which is in God’s hands:

24 O Lord, how manifold are your works! In wisdom you have made them all; the earth is full of your creatures. 25 Yonder is the sea, great and wide, creeping things innumerable are there, living things both small and great. 26 There go the ships, and Leviathan that you formed to sport in it. 27 These all look to you to give them their food in due season; 28 when you give to them, they gather it up; when you open your hand, they are filled with good things. 29 When you hide your face, they are dismayed; when you take away their breath, they die and return to their dust. 30 When you send forth your spirit, they are created; and you renew the face of the ground. (Ps 104)

I think it would be a mistake to conclude (though perhaps the psalmist did) that God orders and orchestrates the causes and moments of decay and entropy – as though God decided who would die in a hurricane, which child would get cancer, etc. If everything is ordered in this way, then it is not entropy at all, but simply everything going according to plan. Suffice it to say for now that I believe this belief, while comforting to some because it suggest “at least someone is in control,” is contrary to the broad witness of the bible. Rather I think God has so ordered creation, “programmed in” a design, a series of options and possibilities that then play out in their own way. Grace and Mercy are manifest in that God is present in the midst of all of this, calling us forward into life and a faith that new life comes out of decay.

I happened upon three signs this morning that actually prompted me to board this train of thought.

A cricket carcass, being consumed by ants.


A rat carcass, being consumed by mold spores.

What these graphic images clearly show is that death is not a finality – the very experience of entropy provides the energy for new life to be born, grow, and progress, ultimately also to decay. We see this so clearly with plant material, leaves, grass clippings, carrot tops and lettuce cores what we cast into a mulch pile and next year spread on our gardens. Yet somehow we have convinced ourselves taht as human beings we should be above and outside of this natural system.

What A sign left by the intersection of Mockingbird and Hwy 75.

I do not yet know what it means that this third image was with the other two. I actually saw it yesterday evening and almost picked it up – it felt sacred and holy somehow, as though retrieving it, honoring it, were a form of prayer for the person who had discarded it. I left it, and saw it again this morning, but folded over so I had to adjust it with my foot in order to read it. Only then did I see the rat, and the cricket, and the message began to clarify. These three are related somehow. The cricket and the rat tell us something about the sign, about the life of the person who wrote it, and about all of us. Does it say that we thrive on the decay of  others – that my existence is at the expense of another. Possibly. Does it say that human decay is not so unlike that of all creation? Perhaps. Does it say, “Well, that’s nature, so don’t bother trying to resist it or help them?” No, for all living things resist the very entropy that is a part of their nature.

Some things it does say: God is in the midst of it. Death is not the final word. New life comes after loss. We do not cease to exist, but rather are transformed into something new. And the Christian faith proclaims that this process of transformation is something that can begin in this life, and that embracing our entropy, giving thanks for it, is the path to life.

Those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will save it. (Luke 9:24). If you are wanting to know how to live this way, I would love to journey together with you.


Becoming Church –Building on the foundation

Sermon Notes for 06102012 – Zechariah 8:1-23

Luke 6: 46 “Why do you call me “Lord, Lord,’ and do not do what I tell you? 47 I will show you what someone is like who comes to me, hears my words, and acts on them. 48 That one is like a man building a house, who dug deeply and laid the foundation on rock; when a flood arose, the river burst against that house but could not shake it, because it had been well built.

Hebrews 5: You need milk, not solid food; 13 for everyone who lives on milk, being still an infant, is unskilled in the word of righteousness. 14 But solid food is for the mature, for those whose faculties have been trained by practice to distinguish good from evil. 6: 1 Therefore let us go on toward perfection, leaving behind the basic teaching about Christ, and not laying again the foundation: repentance from dead works and faith toward God, 2 instruction about baptisms, laying on of hands, resurrection of the dead, and eternal judgment.

Jesus says that coming to him, hearing him, and obeying him is how we lay a foundation.

    These we might call the basic teaching of Christ.

There is also according to the author of Hebrews another kind of foundation

    Basic teaching about Christ

I would suggest we think of these not as two different foundations, but as the slab and reinforcing, the wall and the footer, the pier and beam, of the foundation. One is the basic foundation, while the other strengthens, supports and reinforces.

  • A footing without a perimeter wall is not a foundation, it’s just rock buried under ground.
  • A perimeter wall without a footing can support a building, but not well, and not through all the changes that the building and its environment will experience.
  • The better the reinforcing, the better the foundation can do its job, which is to support the building in good times and in bad.

The writers of Luke, Hebrews and Zechariah are clear that the foundation is based in a way of understanding and relating to God, and living that relationship out in the world. All three authors describe essentially the same kind of life.

And they also seem clear that building on that foundation is in part about continuing to return to those founding principles.

Around here, most house foundations are slab on grade, with a perimeter wall and active reinforcement. Even some of those have problems. Certainly many older foundations that are simply a slab, without perimeter wall or reinforcement will get severe cracks because of shifting soils. We can water the foundation and try to minimize the shifting, but ultimately we can not prevent it. So if the foundation gets problems, then we have to call in another kind of expert, one who repairs the foundation – providing it the kind of support it lacked from the beginning.

That is an interesting process, and one which some of you have experienced firsthand at your own homes. As I understand it, the problem often shows itself first in clear but small ways – doors stick, sheetrock separates at corners, perhaps a tile floor cracks. Next there may be a crack in the brick exterior wall. Finally a water or gas leak in or under the foundation will reveal itself. By then the problem is often extensive.

So at some point along this path you realize there is a problem. But not many of us in this room are qualified to fully diagnose such things, much less have the knowledge or skill to repair them, so we call in a professional – someone trained in foundation work. This person will run some tests, make some recommendations and give a bid for the work. Once you return to consciousness and get up off the floor, then you have a conversation about the fact that there really isn’t a choice. And the good news is that once this work is done, if the preventive maintenance is continued from that point on, there should not be any more difficulty of this kind.

So this foundation work entails providing a new support structure for the existing foundation, one that goes deep enough that shifting soils will not impact it.

When applied to the church, what this suggests is that:

  1. Problems don’t develop overnight.
  2. The sooner you catch an issue, the easier it is to address
  3. Doing more work up front saves time, effort, head and heart ache later
  4. Weak foundations can be repaired
  5. A strong foundation supports the structure and shelter for a vital and vibrant life

One other critical point arises from these passages – the blessings of a life lived in a house built on a firm foundation. For Luke, the foundation story is a means to understand the beatitudes. Blessed are… Blessed are… Blessed are…

And the woes. Woe to you… Woe to you… Woe to you…

Zechariah paints such a beautiful picture of life in God’s community – it’s a foretaste of the kingdom of God, a foreshadowing of Jesus’ kingdom parables, and a rehearsal for that life foretold by the Hebrew Prophets and by John’s Revelation – A blessed community where God dwells in the midst of God’s people. A place where God’s people live in an abundance that meets every need, for themselves, and for the nations who are drawn to experience God’s bounty. This is who the church is called to be. It is who we are. Yes, life in community as God’s church is difficult. The Way of Jesus is impossible for us on our own – to love our enemies, and call brother and sister those with whom we so strongly disagree on things that to us seem critically important. And yet that is exactly what God asks of us. It is exactly that toward which God calls and empowers us. It is why we are new creatures in Christ. Among the greatest joys in life are those to be found in the church when broken people are made whole, when the dead in spirit find new life, when the obsessed, oppressed, and possessed find freedom and release. When the addict gets clean, when the self-hater discovers self-love, when the narcissist discovers God’s love, when the shamed and guilt-ridden experience forgiveness, when the self-righteous discover grace, when sinners receive mercy, when the lame walk, the blind see, the deaf hear, the mute speak, when the widow and orphan find a home, when the hungry and thirsty are satisfied, when those who walk in darkness see light.

We are the Body of Christ, the blessed continuation of the incarnation of the one anointed to bring Good News. Church, we are Good News, because we are God’s instruments, God’s vessels, God’s holy Temple. Let us live the truth that scripture proclaims over us, that we are blessed to be a blessing.

Dream Discovery Process Update from 06052012

The group met Tuesday to make progress on the “Member Care” conversation. This grows out of the “Internal Needs” area of our diagram. At present, we are working on strengthening our response to internal needs, not because we are turning inward, but because we are aware that we cannot “love our neighbors as ourselves” unless we love ourselves, and self-love means self-care. If the Body of Christ is not internally healthy, then we have little to offer others. If we fail to “love one another as I have loved you,” then how can the world trust our words about God’s love for them?

The discussion included:

  1. How do people get connected to the congregation (New folks, or those who have been here a while but are [or are feeling] disconnected/neglected)?
    1. We need to know people enough to know what they can and desire to do
    2. We need to invite people to participate
    3. Some of us need to be willing to initiate contact through phone calls and other connections. We recognize that not everyone is comfortable with this aspect.
    4. People need to be empowered to take responsibility for their own involvement
  1. How will we care for the folks who are currently participating in the
    1. Coordination of meals in time of need – illness, bereavement, life crisis.
    2. Calling the congregation with time critical news – clarify what rises to the level of ‘time critical news’ and who needs what kind of contact – phone, email, text
    3. Prayer ministry expansion – begin the conversation and then spin it off to those who wish to develop it further
    4. Updates on participants so those providing/coordinating care have awareness of needs – this will involve coordination with clergy and elders
    5. Reaching out to people drifting away – again, how will we become aware of this? How frequently will this conversation happen and who will participate. Then, what are the follow-up options – who will contact and how


WHO:     The Member Care committee – currently composed of TF (Chair), CK, KR & SS – and whoever they invite.

WHAT:     will meet to discuss and develop a plan for each of these items. They are encouraged to then share that plan with the elders and clergy for input and to see how they and others may be invited to participate in these plans.

WHEN:        Before July 10th

FOLLOWUP:    Will provide an update in two weeks (6/19) to fgccdreamdiscoveryprocess@yahoogroups.com

Ink blots

Much of the reading I have been doing for school relates to how we see things. In particular, I just finished Presence.

Think about the wonder with which children view the world. Everything seems new. Their imagination is active and allows them to “see” beyond what is visible. They easily paint fanciful worlds filled with magical creatures, and have no sense that those things are less real than what the adults around them perceive.

This got me thinking about ink blots – you know, the kind used by psychiatrists. Now I don’t actually know for what the shrink is looking and listening. Let’s suppose though that we were to make use of those ink blots for our own purposes – not simply to determine how one sees now, but to discover new ways of seeing. What if we used ink blots to stretch our imaginations and learn to see (or remember how?) beyond the obviously visible

What if we learned again to look at our world with the eyes of our imagination, what one author has called “the eyes of your heart.”  How might we see the world differently?

What if in each moment we engaged part of our brain and say, “OK, I know what this looks like, but what else could it be?” What new things might we discover? What relationship conflicts might be loosened by our curiosity replacing certainty? How might we learn to appreciate the world, the people around us, and even our own inner voice more by saying, “Huh. That’s different.” and squinting the eye, or tilting the head to the side, seeking another perspective. We might just discover whole new layers of beauty and meaning.

Slide 2