Wednesday, October 31, 2007
As I sit at home this morning, after taking a week of vacation time (not doing the honey do list that Nancy has for me . . .) I wanted to take a few minutes and ponder how my life is different following the Renewal Leave.
First, I don’t think I take myself as seriously anymore. And that is a good thing. I can be so anal about things at times, but I think that I have gotten a lot better. For me, one example of that was the finance campaign that just concluded at the church. I really stayed on the outside and tried to help from there. Often I am writing the letters, etc, but I really did nothing other than help identify the theme that would be used. Even in my preaching during the campaign, I let the speakers deal with the money issues, and I tried to stick with the commitment issues. Big change for me.
On the flip side of that is that I am much less cautious about what I say. I preached about a month ago on the issue of Christianity being the "exclusive way to God." I suggested, and said quite clearly that I did not believe that Jesus said the words in John 14:6 (I am the way . . .no one comes to the father except through me.) I also invited anyone who had questions about it to come and talk with me. Well, the result was predictable. 2 people came and talked with me, One of those two left the church )but they had been on their way out for some time and I just provided them with a convenient excuse. The sad part is, they took two other couples with them who haven’t been willing to talk. I hope and pray that they find what they are looking for.
While speaking my mind is important, I know that I have to temper it with the audience that I am talking to. (Jeez – it is comments like that they make me feel like a shaman!) And that is what I hate about being in ministry. Too many people do not listen — they only hear what they are looking for (myself included!)
The second lesson, is to take better care of myself. I try to be much more intentional about taking days off, and saying NO to some things. Still a work in progress, however.
A third lesson is to enjoy the things that bring me pleasure, and that I am good at. I love teaching, (and I think that I am pretty good at it) and I have decided to make that a priority in my ministry. There are too many things that I am not good at, and that aren’t real important that I do that I can delegate to others. And I know that I delegate a lot more today than I did a year ago.
Finally, I have come to realize that I don’t have it all figured out — and that is OK. My hunch is anyone who says that they do, are full of baloney! I am a fellow traveler on this journey of life, enjoying the love of God and family and friends. And that is really the fourth lesson — RELATIONSHIPS is what life is all about. And I have come to learn, that I cannot have a relationship with God (or Jesus) without being in a relationship with others. And that is the greatest gift in life!
Thanks Lilly and thanks Ridge Church — what a blessing the Renewal Leave was. And YES, I will apply again when I am eligible, and regardless of whether I get another grant, I will take a Renewal leave again!
Monday, October 29, 2007
WHAT IS MISSIONAL?Where I differ with Kimball is what that looks like in the 21st century. Parts 2 and 3 drove me crazy. I would live to sit down with Dan and really here his thoughts. His explanation of how the church is a bride and not a boy's club was a cop out. His understanding of of the church being homophobic is right on --- his solution was ridiculous. But the two "issues" that he addressed that were downright stupid was his understanding of the church being the only way, and his understanding of scripture. His diagram on pages 173 - 175 show no real understanding of other religious traditions. And his attempt to try and pretend that he really isn't a fundamentalist just shows how crazy the church can become.
Throughout this book, you will see the term missional. To be missional is more than just to evangelize. Here are some ways of thinking of this term as the underlying philosophy of this book:
- Being missional means that the church sees itself as being missionaries, rather than having a mission department, and that we see ourselves as missionaries right where we live.
- Being missional means that we see ourselves as representatives of Jesus "sent" into our communities, and that the church aligns everything it does with the missio dei (mission of God.)
- Being missional means we see the church not as a place we go only on Sunday, but as something we are throughout the week.
- Being missional means that we understand that we don't "bring Jesus" to people but that we realize that Jesus is active in culture and we join him in what he is doing.
- Being missional means we are very much in the world and engaged in culture but we are not conforming to the world.
- Being missional means we serve our communities, and that we build relationships with the people in them, rather than seeing them as evangelistic targets.
- Being missional means being all the more dependent on Jesus and the Spirit through prayer, the Scriptures, and each other in community.
The story revolves around the "third secret" from the children who saw the visions of the virgin Mary at Fatima for 6 consecutive months on the 13day of each month. The first two "secrets" were revealed right away --- the first was a vision of hell:
Our Lady showed us a great sea of fire which seemed to be under the earth. Plunged in this fire were demons and souls in human form, like transparent burning embers, all blackened or burnished bronze, floating about in the conflagration, now raised into the air by the flames that issued from within themselves together with great clouds of smoke, now falling back on every side like sparks in a huge fire, without weight or equilibrium, and amid shrieks and groans of pain and despair, which horrified us and made us tremble with fear. The demons could be distinguished by their terrifying and repulsive likeness to frightful and unknown animals, all black and transparent. This vision lasted but an instant. How can we ever be grateful enough to our kind heavenly Mother, who had already prepared us by promising, in the first Apparition, to take us to heaven. Otherwise, I think we would have died of fear and terror.
You have seen hell where the souls of poor sinners go. To save them, God wishes to establish in the world devotion to my Immaculate Heart. If what I say to you is done, many souls will be saved and there will be peace. The war is going to end: but if people do not cease offending God, a worse one will break out during the Pontificate of Pius XI. When you see a night illumined by an unknown light, know that this is the great sign given you by God that he is about to punish the world for its crimes, by means of war, famine, and persecutions of the Church and of the Holy Father. To prevent this, I shall come to ask for the consecration of Russia to my Immaculate Heart, and the Communion of reparation on the First Saturdays. If my requests are heeded, Russia will be converted, and there will be peace; if not, she will spread her errors throughout the world, causing wars and persecutions of the church. The good will be martyred; the Holy Father will have much to suffer; various nations will be annihilated. In the end, my Immaculate Heart will triumph. The Holy Father will consecrate Russia to me, and she shall be converted, and a period of peace will be granted to the world.
The mystery is fun and intense, however, I have to admit that the secret was a little far fetched. I could believe that part of it might have been true, but it went too far. The weird thing is, as I read, I was convinced that I had read this before, or at least that I have read another book with a similar plot.
If you are looking for a fun religious mystery -- this is a great book for you!
Tuesday, October 23, 2007
Survey respondents were asked if they thought a specific story in the Bible was “literally true, meaning it happened exactly as described in the Bible” or whether they thought the story was "meant to illustrate a principle but is not to be taken literally." Six renowned Bible stories were then offered to adults for their consideration.The six stories they asked about were: the crucifixion and resurrection, Moses parting the Red Sea, Peter walking on the water, God creating the universe in six days, Daniel in the lion's den, and David killing Goliath.
The results were predictable. A majority of people responded that they believed the stories were literally true.
But that creates some interesting follow-up questions. What if the Barna Group had asked them what takes place in those stories that they "literally" believe in. Since even the biblical record is not consistent in almost all of those stories --- how would they answer. Would they answer with the biblical version of the crossing of the "red" or is it "reed" sea, or would they give us Cecil B. DeMille's version?
Who would find Jesus at the tomb? Which version would they pick. And which creation story would they follow --- Genesis 1 or Genesis 2.
The sad reality is --- Many people say they believe in the Bible literally, but they have never read it --- or if they have it has only been devotionally, but not critically.
Maybe that is why Barna reached the conclusion that he did:
But Barna also noted a significant disconnect between faith and practice. "While the level of literal acceptance of these Bible stories is nothing short of astonishing given our cultural context, the widespread embrace of these accounts raises questions about the unmistakable gap between belief and behavior. On the one hand we have tens of millions of people who view these narratives as reflections of the reality, the authority and the involvement of God in our lives. On the other hand, a majority of those same people harbor a stubborn indifference toward God and His desire to have intimacy with them. In fact, a minority of the people who believe these stories to be true consistently apply the principles imbedded in these stories within their own lives. It seems that millions of Americans believe the Bible content is true, but are not willing to translate those stories into action. Sadly, for many people, the Bible has become a respected but impersonal religious history lesson that stays removed from their life."Maybe it is time that we quit saying we believe and really start figuring out what we believe, and what the bible really teaches.
Just a thought. But unfortunately I know the truth --- for many people it is easier to ignore the questions, or if they are good and pious, they just accept the party line and don't think for themselves.
Monday, October 22, 2007
Yesterday we got a new dog. I Shih Tzu puppy that we have named Ezekiel. We are going to call him Zeke. He is 5 or 6 pounds right now, but should get up to about 1o or 12. He slept with Lindsey (on her bed) and this morning he is with me while everyone is off to school.
Wednesday, October 17, 2007
Whatever it was, that was me this morning. I was fed up to my eyebrows --- I had enough of "the church" to last a lifetime, and wasn't sure that I wanted any more. Becoming a plumber was sounding pretty good, since we often did much the same kind of work (you will have to use your imagination.)
And then I got the nicest card. I am still not sure why, but it sure came at a good time. Thanks Sarah, your act of kindness went a long way for me today.
Tuesday, October 16, 2007
In his latest blog, Feiler is directing his readers to an interview of Karen Armstrong that was in Islamica Magazine. Karen Armstrong, former Catholic Nun, is the author of some of the most thought provoking books on the monotheistic religions ever written. A History of God, and Jerusalem: One City, Three Faiths are wonderful books. Her autobiographical The Spiral Staircase is especially revealing. I would recommend them all, and I look forward to digging into her newest book The Bible: A Biography.
The interview of Karen Armstrong looks at the issues that separate Christianity/Judaism from Islam --- East from West. If you want some insights into the divide, this interview will be a great help.
At the same time it is very humbling, because she puts much of the blame for the rise of Islamic fundamentalism squarely on the shoulders of the west. (I personally think that she is right on in her assessment.)
If you would like to read Feiler's blog: http://blog.beliefnet.com/feilerfaster/
Or for the Armstrong interview: http://www.islamicamagazine.com/Issue-20/Divisions-in-our-world-are-not-the-result-of-religion.html
Spong is like most of us, much better at de-constructing the theology of the past (which does not work for me), but he has always left me short. O.K., what do I replace it with.
FINALLY, Bishop Spong has written his most important work. It is not one for the faint of heart (or afraid of the quest) for he spends the first 2/3rds of the book destroying traditional Christianity. He acknowledges in the preface that many who are tied to traditional Christianity will see this work as negative. As he puts it: "New truth always offends the security systems that have operated in the world of yesterday."
I found in the book — freedom — freedom to truly experience God through Jesus.
For me, the notion of a theistic God (a God who is "up there", listening and interjecting into daily life) doesn’t work. I have outlined that position many times before, but to put it simply, I cannot any longer believe in a God who acts on a whim to save some from disaster and neglect others from another disaster. A God who can be coerced through prayer is not a God to me.
So what is the role and function, what is the purpose of God? Spong spends the last part of his book creating a theology that erupts from the work of Tillich and his understanding of God as "the ground of all being." He also brings to the front Matthew Fox’s works, particularly "Original Blessing."
He concludes his book with a poem, written for him, based on a sermon that he had preached in 1974. The poem CHRISTPOWER is powerful indeed.
Is Christianity dying as Spong argues? That is a difficult question to answer, but if it is to become more rigid, more narrow, more legalistic as the right would have it become — I want nothing to do with it. Instead I embrace the love that Jesus showed and shared.
The call of the God experienced in Christ is simply a call to be all that each of us is — a call to offer, through the being of our humanity, the gift of God to all people by building a world in which everyone can live more fully, love more wastefully and have the courage to be all that they can be. That is how we live out the presence of God. God is about living, about loving and about being. The call of Jesus is thus not a call to be religious. It is not a call to escape life’s traumas, to find security, to possess peach of mind. All those things are invitations to a life-contracting idolatry. The call of God through Jesus is a call to be fully human, to embrace insecurity without building protective fences, o accept the absence of peace of mind as a requirement of humanity. It is to see that God is the experience of life, love and being who is met at the edges of an expanded humanity.
Monday, October 15, 2007
Sunday, October 07, 2007
Thursday, October 04, 2007
Because the truth is, sometimes I run too far ahead of others, and assume that you are reading and learning in the same way I am — or for that matter that you even care about some of the stuff that I am exploring. So I need your help — when I run too fast or far ahead — tell me to slow down!
I shared last night at Bible 101, that my goal is to help you develop a faith that has integrity — a faith that you live with your mind and heart. Not a faith that is blindly obedient — not a faith that says it assents to belief in one thing, but does not live it out. A faith that seeks to truly follow the example of Jesus Christ. And I know that you don’t develop that kind of faith overnight. It takes work, it takes struggle, it takes honesty. I hope that you will join a Bible Study or small group so that you can grow in your faith journey. You can’t do it in one hour a week!
Monday, October 01, 2007
The book that I recently finished is The Emerging Christian Way. It is a collection of articles and stories by persons who are engaged in helping to bring transformation to Christianity. Many of the authors were from the Church of Canada, which I found intreging. Five of the 15 authors really challenged me. The articles by Matthew Fox, Marcus Borg, Bruce Sanguin, Anne Squire and Bill Phipps really hit home.
When I began the book, I thought that it might be a great introduction to Progressive Christianity, but the quality of the articles very so much that I don't think that is true. If you are just beginning your journey in Progressive Christianity, I would hold off on this book, or just read the articles I suggested above ---> if however, you are well on your way to seeing Jesus in a new way, this book might further you on your journey. There are better books, that are more consistent in their approach that would be of more value to many. Books such as: What if Grace Were True, anything by Marcus Borg, or selected books by Bishop Spong.
I am trying to focus in on some stuff that I need to get done, but the quiet is overwhelming. Strange, sometimes I long for peace and quiet --- and can't get it; now that I have it --- I don't want it!
ONE YEAR AGO.
Last year on October 1st I was taking it easy in Israel because it was Yom Kippur, the most holy day in the Jewish calendar. Today is the day that the people are reconciled with God. It was a strange day to be in Israel, but I am glad I had the opportunity.
It is funny how I am drawn to that crazy place. I am not sure what it is about Israel that keeps drawing me back --- every time that I go, I think that it will be my last one. This trip that I am taking in December will probably be the last one that I lead for 3 or 4 years (I think I have said that before) but the opportunity to travel will get increasingly difficult in the coming years and 2010 is Oberammergau, which I will probably organize a trip to. But to be honest, I really have no interest in seeing the Passion Play. Too much violence has come out of that production.