Friday, May 30, 2008

I Pledge Allegiance V

Matt 6:33
But seek first [God's] kingdom and [God's] righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.
Matt 6:9-10
'Our Father in heaven,
hallowed by your name,
your Kingdom come,
your will be done
on earth as it is in heaven.

When we say the Lord's prayer we probably are not aware of the politics involved. 'Your kingdom come, Your will be done...' is a very dangerous political statement for Jesus to be making. What Jesus is claiming is the ultimate authority of God as ruler, over Herod, over High Priest, even over Caesar. the purpose of this section of the Lord's prayer is meant to remind us of where our ultimate allegiance lies, with God as sovereign over all other leaders. And the line, 'Your will be done...' gives us guidance in traversing the complicated waters of our own current political allegiances. When our own nation's policies and actions are in accord with the Kingdom, it deserves and has earned our support. When that is not true, when God's will is not done, our allegiance lies with God first and God alone. I'm not talking about armed resistance or the overthrow of democracy. Jesus was against that very idea. I am however suggesting that when our beloved country's priorities are not in keeping with God's that we continue to value the things God values and abstain from action in the name of the nation, which violate the values and ethics of God's Kingdom. One of the reasons that JEsus was crucified was that as much as he loved his nation and his people Israel, he spoke openly and honestly about the ways that Israel' leadership (the Herodians and Temple priests) fell short of God's kingdom. I believe that it was not only his allegiance to the Kingdom of God, but allegiance to what Israel was intended to be and had the potential to become that he held it's leadership to the higher standard of the Kingdom of God. Does our own nation deserve less of a standard than the Kingdom of God?

I Pledge Allegiance IV

Luke 9:59-62
He said to another man, 'Follow me,'
But the man replied, 'Lord, first let me go and bury my father.'
Jesus said to him, 'Let the dead bury their own dead, but you go and proclaim the kingdom of God.'
Still another said, ' I will follow you Lord; but first let me go back and say good-bye to my family.'
Jesus replied, 'No oone who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God.'

Once again we are faced with some shocking and unpleasant words by Jesus. While it may be difficult to leave behind one's 'sins' to follow Jesus, we know that to be necessary and in the end, to our own good. It may be difficult to rearrange our priorities (like money) but in the end we know that the benefits will outweigh the costs. But here, Jesus is asking us (it seems) to leave behind the truly best things in life...
the temptation that I face as I sit to write about this, is to explain it away by saying, 'Jesus certainly didn't intend for us to leave behind wives or husbands or career or children. Two things comes to mind. First, this is exactly what the early church proclaimed that Jesus did, leaving the presence of God the Creator. 'Thou didst leave thy throne and thy Kingly crown when thou camest to earth for me. ' We sing this song at Advent and despite its antiquated language we get the point, Jesus gave up life with the Heavenly 'Father' that we might have life. Second, and this is not an attempt to explain away, but to clarify, Jesus' challenge isn't about breaking up families for the sake of having them broken. Jesus came to create family and community, because that is what Rome was tearing apart. And the acts of devotion Jesus is urging isn't meant as penance for past wrongs or to 'earn' good credit from God for our own individual good fortune or future. In these situations, pledging allegiance to God's kingdom is really just self -serving. Instead, Jesus is challenging us to not only think highly of the Kingdom,but to put our allegiance into action regardless of how others might react. I think for instance of churches that open their doors offering sanctuary to undocumented workers, or who start soup kitchens for the homeless who are often mentally ill or chemically dependent. To leave behind the comfortable and stable lives that we live for the risky and unknown community that is the Kingdom of god, that is what this passage urges us toward... this is the allegiance Jesus asks of us... all to the Kingdom over the personal kingdom we feel comfortable with now.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

I Pledge Allegiance III

Luke 6:20-21
Looking at his disciples, he said:
Blessed are you who are poor,
for yours is the kingdom of God.
Blessed are you who hunger now,
for you will be satisfied.
Blessed are you who weep now,
for you will laugh.

In Jesus' day one did not hope to 'get ahead' in the world through educatio, experience or the resume that one could build. that is how we get jobs, establish a career and 'move up the ladder.' In Jesus' day one could only get ahead through creating a relationship with (pledging allegiance too) someone of higher social standing. They, in turn, probably had pledged themselves to another person even higher. Through this vast and intricate web of allegiances, one could get ahead. (if you are curious about this I recommend Richard Horsley's 'Jesus and Empire,' Warren Carter's 'Matthew and Empire,' and William Herzog's 'Parables as Subversive Speech.') It is this system of relationships and allegiances that the disciples were familiar with and perhaps even expected the Kingdom of God to work like... they would pledge allegiance to Jesus and through this relationship gain power, status and wealth. In this passage of Luke Jesus is explaining who he and God owe their allegiance to, the poor, the hungry and the traumatized. In Jesus' day one would not create an allegiance with someone of lower status unless they could provide something of value. The poor, the hungry and the traumatized could offer nothing to anyone. Therefore, they were forgotten, valueless, in essence they did not exist. to these, Jesus pledged his allegiance. Despite the fact that they could offer him no support in moving up the ladder, Jesus pledging his life to them and through him, God is pledging that some allegiance.
In Matt 25 is a very well known passage where Jesus describes the poor, the hungry and the traumatized, and then welcomes people into the Kingdom, who have served him faithfully. When asked when and where they saw and served Jesus, he replies, 'As you did for the least of these, you did for me.' Our allegiance to the Kingdom is practiced in our allegiance to the least of least.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Allegiance to God's Kingdom II

Matt 6:24
No one can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to one and despise the other. you cannot serve both God and Money.

Of course we don't 'love' money do we? I don't believe that many of us think of money in terms of 'love.' 'Money can't buy happiness' we say, and I believe sincerely. the story is told of a preacher who, after the collection was taken, tossed out some of the one dollar bills and the fives too, dismissively and said, the Kingdom of God needs tens and twenties not ones and fives. It make me bristle just to type this story. I can't imagine having the audacity to say it. I CAN imagine how I would feel if I heard it said to me, and I wouldn't like it. But it is an interesting case study. I say that I don't love money, until I have to rearrange some of my own spending habits for the sake of my church or one of its ministries. I do want the love and support of God's Kingdom as present in the church, but am I willing to cut back on dinners out, DD coffee, or that recliner that I've always wanted, in order to offer more support to the Kingdom of God and through it, those in greater need than I?
'Love of money' is a subtle thing, that we don't realize we have succumbed to until we are asked to give up some of our own goods that money provides. Please notice that in writing this reflection, I used the personal pronoun 'I' most often. This reflection is as much a challenge to me as it is to you. I am not claiming to be the perfect example of pledging my allegiance to the Kingdom with finance. But the claim that Jesus makes is clear. It is my hope that together we can encourage and support each other in this financial pledge of allegiance and not leave our faithfullness in the realm of spirit and mind only.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Allegiance to God's Kingdom continued

I put together reflections or devotions for further reflections.
Here is today's. they will continue throughout the week.

Matt 10:37-38
'Anyone who loved his father and mother more than me is not worthy of me; anyone who loves his son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me; and anyone who does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me.'

Matt 12: 48-50
'He replied to him, 'who is my mother, and who are my brothers" Pointing to his disciples, he said, 'Here are my mother and my brothers. For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven in my brother and sister and mother.'

It is painful and shocking to hear Jesus say that anyone is not worthy of him. It goes against our dearest held beliefs in a God of ove and in Jesus our friend and brother, who loved all and accepted even the most despised. We (that is clergy) have not been clear enough with our congregations about the delicate balance of a relationship with God through Christ. In saying, Come to me ALL you who are weary and heavy leaden...' Jesus is going against the assumption common to his day taht only the purest (often understood, the wealthiest, most powerful, with the highest social standing) were worthy of God's kingdom. In saying 'ALL' Jesus is redifining who is welcome in the kingdom. It is not and will not be a place for just the 'beautiful people' but is open to all. but then we stop there. The Kingdom is open to all... but that is not all that Jesus said. The 'gatekeeper' of the Kingdom (that is Jesus) isnot looking for wealth or status, true... but he is looking for something. We have hoped that everyone who is 'good' gets 'in'. But Jesus has a higher standard than that... taking up a cross and doing the will of my Father... Those who are welcome in the kingdom and those who hope to be a part of God's Kingdom are those who in their lifetime make the Kingdom and its values their highest priority. Their allegiance is to the Kingdom of God and to that alone.
It is not any easier for me to write this than it is for you to read I am sure. This 'taking up a cross' faith cannot be private, but must be public. It cannot simply be comforting, but must be challenging. It is not only meant for me, but must reach out in service and love to others. It will not always (often rarely) fit easily into the life I alread have and feel comfortable with. It will rearrange my priorities and it will challenge our allegiances.

God Bless

Sunday, May 25, 2008

I Pledge Allegiane; Jesus and the Question of Taxation

Luke 20:20-29
This is pretty much how I remember this sunday's sermon. I didn't have a script or an outline, I find them prohibitive.

In the days and weeks after the United States entered WWII, California passed legislation that send Japanese-American's to internment camps. One woman found this policy to violate her allegiance to the Kingdom of God and its value of love for neighbor and the foreigner in our midst. She wrote to various government officials and even the President to no avail.
What do we do when there is a clash between our allegiances? When the nation that we pledge allegiance to creates and upholds policies and actions that violate our allegiance to the Kingdom of God?

When the 'spies' representatives of the Temple Priesthood and scribes, ask Jesus, 'Is it lawful for us to pay taxes to Caesar, they are asking him where his allegiance lies, with Rome or with Israel? There is no good way for Jesus to answer this question. If he replies 'No, it is not lawful' he is upholding Torah, for the coin violates the first two commandments. The people who follow him would expect this and be pleased. the Zealots and similar elements present in the political landscape, who urged armed insurrection against Rome, would have thought Jesus to be one of them. And Pilate would not have been pleased. But, if he answered 'Yes, pay the taxes,' He would have lost all credibility with the people and been exposed by the Priests and Scribes, as unfit to teach the law. Say, No and pledge your allegiance to a violent element within Israel. Say Yes and pledge your allegiance to Rome.

Jesus replies to the question with a question of his own. 'Whose image is on the coin?' I believe that Jesus is responding not only to the temple tax, but to Roman taxation in general. In this system a tax was paid simply for living. A person paid a tax to Rome just for existing, which was Rome's way of reminding Israel that they belonged to Rome, they lived or died at the whim of their Roman lords. Whose image is on the coin reminds us and I think reminded those listening, of Genesis, where we are said to be created in the image of God. Rome may claim ownership of us, Jesus is subtly suggesting, but we know whose we are. We are God's people and not Caesars. Jesus cannot opening speak of such things. Herzog has explained clearly that Jesus is using one of the weapons of the oppressed, which is a veiled or hidden subversion. its sounds innocent, but communicates to those who know how to listen a message that subverts the oppressor.

On the denarius, were we to look at one, we would see the image of Caesar with laurel leaf crown, a symbol of divinity. Along with the laurel crown, and I am paraphrasing an exact translation, were the words 'Son of the Divine Caesar.' It was a claim to be god, one of the gods... An image of a man claiming to be god. a violation of the first two commandments.

Give to Caesar the things that are Caesar's and to God the things that are God's. This phrase is a part of popular culture and you will still hear people make reference to it. But when they do it often in defeat. 'Time to render unto Caesar' is to do something that one does not want to do but must. And in the church that I was raised, Jesus was simply saying, ' pay taxes to Caesar, but give God your heart, as if Jesus were responding to a political and ethical questions, with personal piety.

What is not God's. Ps 24 says; 'the earth is the Lord's and all that dwells in it,' and I wonder if those listening did not pick up on that cue. Jesus is in effect trumping the claim of Caesar with the claim of God, but in such a way as to not raise the ire of Pilate and the Legions.

In short, Jesus does not answer the political question of this day with any of the prescribed and assumed political philosophies or schools available. he will not pledge allegiance to ROme, nor will he pledge allegiance to a nationalism that is willing to use violence. His politics is of the Kingdom and will not fit into any other categories.

Which is the challenge of Jesus, today. When Jesus teaches about power, economics, health care, poverty, it will not fit into Democrat or Republican speak or Liberal or Conservative language. Jesus speaks a different language from a different perspective, that of the Kingdom.
And Jesus taught that this would be our ultimate allegiance. 'Who is my mother and my brother? He who does the will of my Father.' Ultimate allegiance to the Kingdom of God. If we seek to learn the ethics and politics of Jesus, we will going into new territory that does not fit into the paradigms that we now hear on CNN or Fox News.

The other night I turned on Carriers, a documentary on PBS about life aboard an air-craft carrier. In the opening one of the military women serving explained the reason for her service. 'For God and Country' she said. 'Which surprises people who don't think I'm very religious.'
My friends, 'For God and Country,' is never a tennable ethical guide for a Christian. It too simply equates the will of the state, the will of a President or a People, with the will of God. If 'for God and Country is our allegiance,' it assumes that those two things, God and the US, are always in harmony. God then becomes a tool for condoning every action, every policy, that we undertake as a nation. God and Nation become one, and our ultimate authority then is... Nation.

But we have pledged our Allegiance to the Kingdom of God. We do that every Sunday when we pray 'Thy Kingdom Come, Thy Will be Done.' That is what Jesus expected of his disciples, 'Seek first the kingdom and its righteousness...' he said.

so what did the woman do when presented with a clash of allegiances? She created the Kingdom and held her allegiance as best she could. She bought her japanese neighbors properties for a dollar each. She kept them and held them until her neighbors could return , so that they would be able to return to their homes. Thy Kingdom Come, that was her pledge of allegiance, and she not only prayed it, but participated in creating its reality, for a moment, a frightening moment in time. May we all have that same courage

God Bless you all

(that is pretty much what I said. I will soon have the source of the story that opened and closed the sermon. Much of the exegetical information came from William Herzog and John Howard Yoder, as well as Hauerwas on Matthews version of this story, and some NT Wright thrown in for good measure.)

Saturday, May 24, 2008

More Thoughts on Memorial Day Worship

I am still drafting my sermon for this sunday. I am preaching a series on Jesus. I wanted to preach some sermons on the work of Jesus in life and not through death and resurrection. The idea came as I browsed Brian McClaren's website. I haven't read his book 'the Secret Message of Jesus,' but the chapter titles really got me thinking.

this weeks sermon is a brief overview of the politics of Jesus. I am looking at Yoder, Herzog Hanson, and Wright to get a general overview. I am preaching the now famous phrase 'Render unto Caesar that which is Caesar's and unto God that which is God's'

It has occured to me as I study that the politics of Jesus included both criticism of the Roman Empire and an unwillingness to be aligned with Jewish Nationalism. Instead, Jesus preached the Kingdom of God. It has made me think of all the times that I bought into Democratic or Liberal language to think about an issue or debate a topic, when in reality, I should be niether Liberal or Conservative, but simply and radically Christian.

But this leaves Memorial Day celebrations in a difficult place in my own mind. Memorial Day is a celebration of the many who have given their lives in defence of this country and democracy, and that deserves recognition. But there are certainly conflicts that the US has engaged in that were more about expanding empire than defending democracy. While the soldiers have given themselves faithfully and of good will, their leaders failed to send them to battle for their intended purpose, defence of democracy. How then to proceed? How to honor the soldiers without sanctifying violence and war that is an affront to God?

Is honoring of combatant a part of worship?

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Hauerwas on Memorial Day

The boys and I played outside with their remote-control cars until it started to look like rain. They are watching a movie and I started doing some research for next weeks sermon. I ran across this brief interview with Stanley Hauerwas;

Stanley Hauerwas is a unique theologian and ethicist of the methodist persuasion. I do not pretend to be an expert on his writing or theology although i find his strict adherance to pacifism challenging and interesting. This interview is brief and I warn you that it is challenging. He states that WWII, the war that many refer to when trying to defend 'just' war theory, in fact was not a just war. You will notice some people's responses to the right of the page and they ask an interesting question; what was the alternative to war with Hitlter's Germany?
This little interview also resonates with the latest political spar between Bush and Obama; with Bush suggesting that anyone who would engage Iran in dialogue is repeating the 'mistakes' make by Europe with Hitler in the 30's.
See what you think.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Memorial Day

yesterday I had an interesting conversation with a friend, who is also a pastor, about celebrating Memorial Day in church. We both have theological concerns about such practices, yet want to be pastorally sensitive and to avoid having that debate be 'the hill we die on,' so to speak.

interestingly enough there is a dialogue on another blog I frequent regarding the correct relationship between the Christian and the governing authorities. The most popular proof-text that some like to use comes from Romans 13 in which Paul encourages the church to submit to the governing authorities because they have authority as a gift of God. In the best sense of this passage I think this is why so many want to celebrate Memorial Day in church, out of a sense of gratitude for the many freedoms that we enjoy in this nation and a sense of appreciation for those who have put their lives on the line to defend that freedom. This I understand.


Apart from Romans 13, the Bible is very sceptical of Governmental Authority. In 1 Sam 8, Samuel and God have a discussion about Israel's request for a King. Neither God nor Samuel are in favor of the idea. Why? Because the King will abuse his authority and oppress the people economically. The Prophets by-in-large, but not totally, are very critical of the governing authorities, their own and others. They often criticize their own leaders for oppressing their people or being willfully and pitifully ignorant of their poverty. Earlier in the Hebrew Bible there are the epic struggles between Elijah and King Ahab. In the New Testament we find a similar vein of scepticism and criticism of power. Mary's Magnificat is ladel with political overtones. The Lord's prayer can and should be read and recited with politics in mind; 'Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done...' the assertion that true power resides in God and true loyalty belongs to God, not Caesar, not Herod. Paul's use of Savior and Lord in the epistles is a direct use of Caesar's own language refering to self. Caesar is not Savior and Lord, Paul is saying, only Jesus...
I could go on and on.

This isn't to say that as Christians we criticize the government just for the sake of being critical. We are not called to be rebellious or violent. But we are called to be prophetic. We are called to participate in the creation of the Kingdom. When the governing authorities do not act in according with our Kingdom values, it is our duty to speak and sometimes act (non-violently).

This is the concern I have about Memorial Day services. While many well-intentioned members want to offer thanks and praise to God for our freedomes, I am concerned that this also serves to suggest that everything that the US does is blessed by God and approved of by God. Our country has a long history of enacting policies that are well outside the realm of the Kingdom, slavery, the treatment of Native Americans, the internment of Japanese Americans, and that is a short list. the current war in Iraq is a grave concern for me theologically. While I pray for the safety of those serving and appreciate their willingness to serve, I do feel that our leaders have put them in harms way for no good reason. they have been taken advantage of.

These are difficult waters to navigate. I do not want a Memorial Day celebration in church to support the simplistic Romans 13 theology that many have; submit to all authority. I do not want to support a theology, even more frightening that we saw during the Civil War in which both sides claimed God's blessing and no churches bothered to ask if the war was just or the carrying out of the war was as just, fair and humane as possible. And I do not want us to loose sight of the fact that we pray, as i said before, Thy Kingdom Come. Church, in the end is about God's Kingdom, not our own...

At this point the best I can do is offer prayers of thanks for those who serve and have served, as well a prayers of lament for our mistakes and repentance for our wrongs. I don't know if this is good enough, but it is the best I can do. When we have to sing a patriotic hymn (which I find difficult) I at least must then have a hymn that speaks of peace and justice and the whole family of God throughout the world.

that is what I have come up with

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Groundhog Day

Have you seen this creature? Could you identify it with a screaming four-year-old on your hip? Would you wait to examine it for details at it growled, hissed and charged at you? Sunday night my family celebrated groundhogs day a bit late when my youngest son was attacked and scratched by the little varmint. After I rescued my son the beast proceeded to chase me about the backyard.
Sheepishly, I called Burrillville's finest and they very graciously sent two, count 'em two officers to the scene of the violence. Burrillvilles police force is either very supportive of their community sending two officers to a groundhog scratching incident, or, very bored. I found them to be very understanding and supportive as they didn't giggle at all when i told them that the little bastard chased me, causing me to scream like a school-girl. The cowardly rodent had disappeared before the two kind officers arrived.
Not much of this whole scene was really that amusing. When the accosted son asked if it was a girl or a boy that scratched him, I got a humorous image of me lifting the alleged groundhog up by the tail staring at its hind end to discern its gender. My son needed to go to Hasbro in Providence for the beginning of the rabies vaccination course. What was however a bit amusing was the fact that no one seemed to believe that we saw a ground hog. The doctor at the hospital wanted to know if I was SURE that it was a groundhog. The State health department even called to see if I was SURE that it was a groundhog. I replied that it was smaller than a beaver, bigger than a chipmunk and therefore, my educated guess was.... groundhog or woodchuck, same animal. Friends wanted to know why I didn't know for certain that it was a groundhog since I am from Aroostook County Maine, the most rural of rural places in all of that grand state. I replied, I can identify Moose and Potatoes, (I still prefer a good ol' Russet to the fancy red, yellow and blue things that pass as potatoes around here. I have seen black-bears upon occassion, deer regularly and a Moose walked down main street once, but I'm not that familiar with this odd little beast.
Yes, my son had to get shots, three. to be precise, two, but one was of such a volume that they needed to stick him twice to get all the vaccine in, so I count that as three. And he has four more to go. DEM has not shown up to handle the monster in the backyard and the boys want me to beat its brains in with a bat. I'm not so sure. He seemed a nasty little bugger, and I'm not much of a hunter.
We did get popscicles at the ER and I guess that has to count for something.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Jimmy Carter

I have always been intrigued by Jimmy Carter. He is the first president that I can remember. More than that is his unswerving devotion to creating peace and to his faith. I just watched 'Jimmy Carter; Man from Plains'. I highly recommend it. From touching moments where he describes his daily practice of reading the Bible with his wife before bed, to highlights of interviews about his controversial book 'Palestine; Peace not Apartheid' the criticism of Alan Dershowitz and others, and his blessing before a church cook-out we are treated to a portrait of a man devout and yet humble. I was most impressed with his courage in speaking the truth as he sees it despite the fact that the response by many is name-calling and ridicule. throughout the documentary he is called communist, plagiarist and most hurtful I would assume, anti-semitic. I simply see someone trying to live out their faith in a very complicated world. I highly recommend this film. It is refreshing to see a former politician who is unafraid to take a stand.

Friday, May 09, 2008

Let God Decide?

just got back from my morning walk. its a new thing I'm trying, exercise. I sat to drink my morning coffee and put on the today show. Not much news, so I read the NY Times and the Christian Science Monitor. The Today Show had a little piece on a family in Arkansas that had 17, count-em, 17 children. While on the show they announced that they were expecting 18. When asked if it 'just happened' or if they 'planned it' they responded that they just 'let God decide.'

Which reminded me of an interesting discussion at a recent retreat I attended. The leader of the retreat referenced God's command to Joshua to destroy every man, woman, child and animal of Jericho. He then said, 'Is that the God we know and believe in? A God who would order genocide and destruction?' He answered his own question with, 'No, that's not God, God didn't say that.' An interesting debate ensued at dinner that night, a very friendly debate by the way. No yelling or name calling. Some felt that his view of the Bible was too 'low.' They felt that when the Bible either literally says, 'Thus says the Lord,' or at least suggests or assumes that God said it, it must be so. To debate that God did or did not actually say it was to open the Bible to too much doubt. If we do not accept the authority of all of scripture, is to open the possibility that the scripture would not be viewed as the innerant word of God and therefore, meaningless. If the bible says God said it, God said it, and I must submit to that regardless of what I think personally.
i understand that position. If we say, 'God didn't really command the slaughter of the Canaanites,' whats to say we don't then move on to say that 'Jesus didn't really teach against adultery.' I understand that position, but i don't agree. To say, "I'll let God decide," sounds to me like intellectual laziness. I can't or won't struggle with morals or ethics, I'll jus interpret the bible literally and go from there. I won't have to doubt, I won't have to wrestle, I won't deal with some of the contradictions. For instance, early in Genesis God commands that we not murder. then commands that Joshua committ wholesale murder in the book of Joshua. Don't we need to struggle with that contradiction? Which one do we take literally, the command to do no harm or the command to do harm to those who threaten? Is there middle ground? We cannot truly ever say, I'll let God decide, because the Bible presents many views of God. Jesus preaches against divorce, but one of the post-exilic prophets commands divorce.
Which do we take literally?

In my opinion, the Bible was not inspired by God to free us from thinking critically or struggling with difficult issues. It was inspired to guide us in the consideration. We need to understand as best we can the culture, history and societal forces that were the conduits to God's inspiration to understand the command. Why was Jesus preaching against divorce? What was the context of the text? Why was the propher preaching for divorce? This is not an exact science, I'll admit. It is much easier to just say, 'I'll let God decide' and then pick whatever verse backs up our own opinion. But then we have still fallen back to the danger that some think comes when we think critically even of the Bible. Instead of the Bible shaping us, we have shaped the Bible in our own image and likeness. It is in the struggle, the questions themselves, that we come to know and love God and one another. Oversimplified answers just allow us to go along with our own opinion and never be challenged by the beautifully diverse dialogue that the word of God truly is.

Thursday, May 08, 2008

The Lord's Supper and the Global Food Crisis

A strange thing happened this past sunday morning. I didn't like my sermon very much. I was using the lectionary gospel, John 17. I am sure that there is much there that is important theologically and spiritually vital, but I really have a tough time preaching John in general. So I'm up earlier than usual trying to salvage this thing loosely defined as a sermon when I decide to check out 'Religion and Ethics News Weekly,

There was a report on the growing global food crisis. I was shocked and horrified by this report.
If you would like to view it, go to

Children in Haiti eating mud cookies because that was the only thing parents could provide for them. And it occured to me that this was communion sunday at our church. I would explain before the breaking of the bread that this is the 'feast of the kingdom' open to all, a symbol of not only the spiritual care of Christ for the individual, but a metaphor of the totality of grace and salvation, mind, body and spirit, which Christ left for the world through the church and the Holy Spirit. We would eat the bread and share the cup and go home to a sunday meal. And children in Haite (and many other places), would take the eucharist made of mud.

this I had to speak of in my sermon. I read from Luke where the disciples eyes could only see the risen Christ in the breaking of bread and wondered with the congregation if this could be more than a symbol of the Lord's Supper? Could this also mean that the hungry could only experience the presence of the Kingdom of God in Jesus after their empty stomachs were filled? Could we celebrate Pentecost next Sunday and the perichoresis, the indwelling of God the Creator, Jesus the Redeemer and the Holy Spirit our sustainer knowing that across the world children in Haiti new more of destruction than creation, more of slavery to hunger than redemption from it, more of being drained than sustained? I couldn't share the bread and cup with my family, God's people, without at least lamenting this inequality and lifting up the irony of our celebration of a feast that so many have not yet experienced.

I know the further irony is that this has been going on all along. The food crisis has worsened, but children go hungry and contract disease due to malnutrition all the time. Now I realize it. I feel a little late to the dance. And I have no clear sense of what a solution might be, at least what role I might play or Berean, my church, might play.

In her book 'Life Abundant' Sallie McFague asserts that Liberation Theology in North America would be liberating ourselves from a consumer culture and society that dominates the world and allows me to get cheap T-shirts, fruit, furniture, etc, while others, especially those in the Southern Hemisphere, live in poverty.

I believe in this indwelling presence of God and that it unites me with the starving and the diseased. I accept that my consumer lifestyle contributes to the powers and principalities that oppress these people.

what to do next is the question for me and for Berean.

Thursday, May 01, 2008

bloglobal warming

it has been almost a year since I sat down to offer a posting. Partially this long hiatus is because no one was reading it anyway. Also I stopped writing blogs because i have a problem with all the talking going on. Twenty-four hour news networks, CNN, FOX, MSNBC all filled with 'journalists' you love to share their perspective on anything from Rev. Jeremiah Wright to American Idol. And then there are blogs. I look at some occassionally and usually am disappointed. I just browsed a blog from 'The Nation.'
Its about Rev. Wright specifically but is generally about the interplay of politics and religion. And it exemplifies why i stopped blogging. All those words with nothing worth saying, and this from the person I presume gets paid a salary to offer meaningful commentary. She obviously had no understanding of theology, Christianity and the broad range of beliefs, experiences and behaviors of the millions of people who follow Christ. She had no understanding of the African-American Christian experience (neither do i frankly, but then again, I'm smart enough to know when i don't know something and should therefore keep still) Then go on to read how bloggers respond to the original article and its just more words saying nothing. There is no nuance, no real insight, no subtance of thought. All that 'hot air' getting trapped in the blogosphere. bloglobal warming. have you noticed that whether on the Television or in the blogosphere, there is no interchange of ideas. No one stops to listen to anothers point of view. There is no sharing, no learning, no true exchange. Just arguing and insulting, oversimplification of complex issues and oversimplification of answers to these complex problems. So i stopped blogging because I didn't wan't to contribute to the ongoing bloglobal warming. A bit like getting a bike and not driving the car.

The problem is, we don't like silence. I don't anyway. and when there is only one voice to listen too, we tend, over time, to accept it as truth because we haven't heard any other perspectives. Despite what the writer and bloggers at the Nation think, this is what church is for. The one place in the nation where we do not articulate our values, emotions, and concepts in bumper stickers. Last weeks lectionary Reading from John 14 has us listening to Jesus say, ' I am in the Father and you are in me and I am in you.' This is Trinitarian Language, Perichoresis... which is the greek for a concept that is most easily related as 'indwelling.' You don't get 'indwelling' a real intimate sharing much anymore. Talking heads on TV don't ever get to that level of dialogue where they are sharing intimately their perspectives. The blogosphere doesn't provide it. Politicians seem unable to do it... open up and be honest, offering themselves and accepting others.

So, I'm trying again. this blog thing I mean.
i'm not computer savvy so i won't have lots of fancy graphics for you.
I don't like most of what I see in the blogosphere so I won't be connecting you to lots of other bloggers. ( This isn't to suggest I am the only blogger worth noting, just that I don't think there is much out there at all)
And we'll try to achieve a little perichoresis together. I'll risk opening up and sharing and you (if there is ever a you out there for me) will accept and then offer yourself and I'll accept and we'll see what happens.

oh, if you want some interesting things to read, go to: