Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Caution in “Moving On”

In my Mission in a Global Context class today we were talking about cultural and philosophical paradigm shifts that have existed throughout the past 2 millennia. I began to wonder why the "postmodern" paradigm that is coming out of the previous 500 years of modernist thinking has been so critical of the past. One student spoke of wanting to "move on" from the paradigm of his parents' conservative evangelical world. I wanted to respond in the moment but didn't, so instead I wrote some words to capture my thoughts.

"I wonder what it looks like to 'move on'. Can we 'move on' without criticizing the previous paradigm? I worry about that with us at Mars Hill [Graduate School]. We say we want to hear people's stories and engage with others in dialogue, but we are so critical, cynical, and mocking of things like fundamentalism and conservative evangelicalism that we probably destroy any possibility of discussion and growth. We simply become neo-fundamentalists."

Monday, January 26, 2009

So Sweet...

A friend pointed me to this video today. The dancing is so sweet. The first dancer is a bit vulgar but just wait for the kid in orange. He will blow you away!

Thursday, January 22, 2009

A Beautiful Metaphor of Trinity

For my Theology II class we are reading a book called "Pneumatology", which is literally "the word about the Spirit". The book was highlighting the view of the Spirit of a few influential thinkers in Christian history, one of them being Catherine of Siena. I loved this imagery surrounding the Trinity.

"As a vidid poet, she [Catherine of Siena] employed unusually rich imagery. One of the most striking speaks of the Father as the table, the Son as the food, and the Holy Spirit as the servant, offering enlightenment and charity for souls and blazing desires for the church's reform."

This waiter carries to me [God the Father] their tender loving desires, and carries back to them the reward for their labors, the sweetness of my charity for their enjoyment and nourishment. So you see, I am their table, my Son is their food, and the Holy Spirit, who proceeds from the Father and from the Son, waits on them.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

What is "Weight"?

I'm fairly new to the urban environment and have never been exposed to the drug culture, but I'm pretty sure I was just offered the chance to buy drugs on my walk from the school to the bus stop. A shady looking fellow casually said the following words to me as I walked by: "I've got about 10 pounds of weight in my coat. I've gotta lighten my load."

Now maybe I'm just reading into that statement and stereotyping this man, but I really don't think so. I'm just not sure what else that phrase might mean. What do you think?

Monday, January 19, 2009

A Proud Day for MLK

I'm sure my feelings echo much of the American population's today, but I'm overwhelmed with the historical, social, and theological significance of today and tomorrow. I cannot help but be caught up with excitement over the connection between the celebration of Martin Luther King, Jr. Day (exactly 40 years following his tragic assassination) and the inauguration of America's first African American president, Barack Obama.

I'm sure if MLK were alive today he would easily say that Tuesday is of far more importance than Monday. Here we are, a mere generation removed from the Civil Rights Movement, taking a bold step into the future. A bold step away from bigotry and racism. A bold step toward peace and justice for all. We anxiously await Tuesday, knowing full-well that we stand on the precipice of a monumental moment in human history.

I understand that America, and the world, still has far to travel down the road of racial harmony, but I stand today (and tomorrow) in celebration of the people who have gone before us, standing strong in the fullness of the gospel of Christ, a message of peace, freedom, and equality for all. I stand in celebration of those who have lost respect, sacrificed worldly reward, and ultimately given their lives for the sake of freedom and justice. You are not forgotten. You did not suffer in vain.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Save Us & Save Us Again

I've been thinking lately, with the help of Rob Bell & Pete Rollins, about the need for each of us who call ourselves 'Christians' to constantly be saved, to continually be evangelized. The strong evangelical background I was raised in (that I am extremely grateful for) has a tendency to emphasize being "saved" once and for all but can often neglect the way Jesus desires to continually save us from all sorts of things.

Now before you condemn me to the stake (I can almost hear the gasp from my 'eternal security, once-and-for-all salvation' roots), the issue at hand is the meaning of salvation. Much of the Christian world has limited its understanding of salvation to being 'saved from the fires of hell' and 'bound for the gates of heaven'. While I don't disagree with either one of these premises, I don't think this is a wholistic view of salvation. Salvation is what Jesus speaks of in John 10:10 when he says that he came to bring "life to the full". Eternal life is just as much, if not more, about experiencing the Kingdom of God here on earth as it is about 'getting into heaven'. Perhaps you could say that the Christian life is less about you getting into heaven and more about heaven getting into you.

With this in mind, I desire for any church I lead someday to be a community of humility, as we honestly seek God's salvation in all parts of our lives, daily asking Jesus to save us over and over again. Pete Rollins, an Irish theologian and leader of the "church" (not sure he would use that word) Ikon, shares a story in "How (Not) to Speak of God" that illustrates this well. Enjoy!

"Recently a well-respected church leader attended one of our gatherings in order to witness first hand what took place. Afterwards he leaned over to someone at the bar and said, 'This has been interesting, but is it Christian?'

When I heard this I was genuinely amazed that someone with his insight and wisdom could have expresed such uncertainty. Is this community Christian? Surely the answer was obvious...of course not.

If Christianity is about expressing a service to Christ, if it means radiating divine love in a broken world or sacrificing oneself selflessly in response to the needs of the other, then this community is nothing more than a fragile group of people struggling to become Christian. This sacred/secret place represents the place within which we openly acknowledge that we are the ones who need to be evangelized. Here we acknowledge our brokenness, frailty and heresy."

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Finally...Thank God!

I was at the Elliott Bay Book Co. downtown today and saw a theological resource that I'm not sure how any preacher could live without. Thankfully someone has finally cleared up the Apostle John's words for everyone to enjoy.

*BTW...I hope you are reading the sarcasm into this post, because it is definitely meant to be there. I'll lay it on thicker next time!

My Thoughts on Mission

I just began my second trimester at Mars Hill Graduate School today and already had an assignment due prior to even receiving the syllabus. The assignment was for my class "Mission in a Global Context", and we had the task of of writing out "My Understanding of Matthew 28:16-20" (aka The Great Commission). I thought I let you read my thoughts, as maybe this will help you see the ways in which I have changed in the previous few years, and especially the previous trimester in seminary. Enjoy!

My Understanding of Matthew 28:16-20

The Great Commission has very little to do with mission trips. I just thought I would get that out of the way in the beginning so it is not hanging over these words and thoughts, but I really do believe that statement. Our American, colonial nature of missions has badly missed the mark of the original goal of being “sent out”, and I pray that this generation would begin to redeem God’s high calling of missional living.

Churches in America have transitioned to being programmed, activity-driven institutions and have even turned the foundational challenge of Jesus into a series of activities we perform once a year in the inner city or the Native American reservation. We have become people who distance ourselves from real need through the expenditure of our money. We have become people who do not even know the very people Jesus spent time with and came to save.

The challenge of the church must be one of movement from charity to compassion, from service to servanthood. God is not calling God’s people to a life of writing checks to worthy organizations, but rather to a life of ‘suffering with’ the outcast and marginalized of this world. The greatest tragedy in the church is not that people do not care for the poor, but that they do not know the poor. The church must transition from its way of mission-based activities to lives of ultimate service and sacrifice on behalf of the world, a daily dying to oneself and taking up the cross of Christ.

I would suspect that this new way of being missional probably will not look like “going on mission trips”. While mission trips do often expose the attendee to new cultures and introduce justice issues to their consciousness, they have many drawbacks as well. These short-term experiences lull us into thinking that ‘mission’ happens 10 days a year and the other 355 are all simply building toward this grand endeavor. This pattern of living seems to be far different than the way of life spoken of by the early disciples, a daily denial of self and care for the other. With this in mind, it would seem that the way of Christ might look more like adopting an African child whose family has been ravaged by AIDS, than serving at the local soup kitchen once a year. Perhaps the way of Christ looks more like selling your possessions to unite your heart with the poor, than ringing a Salvation Army bell for an afternoon during the holiday season.

The way of Christ has come to be seen as an easy road that, at most, will cost you 10% of your paycheck, when following Christ is meant to cost us everything. I pray that God’s people will rise up and take hold of the full life that only comes through the giving up of life for others.

More Fact Than Fiction...Unfortunately

HT: Naked Pastor

Monday, January 12, 2009

Too Good Not To Share

HT: Naked Pastor

It's Not Just Him...But Really? Still?

One thing in our American culture that deeply disturbs me is how quickly we create an "other", an enemy. We do this as a defense mechanism, a way of instilling safety and security, but in actuality it usually does the opposite. Hate does not bring peace. Violence begets violence. The entire course of human history offers evidence of this simple truth, yet we persist in our "eye for an eye" punitive justice system and hope that it will result in a "better" world. In the words of Derek Webb, trying to teach peace through violence is like teaching "purity by way of fornication". It just doesn't make sense.

Please don't read this paragraph as a slam on President Bush (because every man, woman, & child in America operates under this same broken system), but much of his presidency, including his final speech, has been laced with the "myth of redemptive violence" and a continual practice of creating an "other". It started with the "Axis of Evil" and has concluded with these words of advice to Obama in a speech today: "There's still an enemy out there that would like to inflict damage on Americans". I agree that there is evil in the world, but to categorize an entire people-group and country as evil because of the actions of a radical terrorist organization doesn't seem to be the solution. I guess I'm not sure how bombing "the enemy" will make them any less of an enemy or any less violent and more peaceful.

I wonder what our world would look like if we, for once, attempted to teach peace through peace, non-violence through disarmament. I wonder what our world would look like if we spent the $12 billion a month we spend in Iraq on peaceful endeavors around the globe. I guess its worth a shot in a my mind because we've tried the eye-for-an-eye warrior mentality for thousands of years with no success. It's tough to kill someone when they are feeding your children, giving your village clean drinking water, protecting you from malaria, and insuring your wife doesn't die in childbirth.

Friday, January 9, 2009

Two Articles...Different Opinions

I was browsing 2 different CNN.com articles about technology and found myself impressed with technology after the first but saddened by technology after the second. The first article was about President Obama's desire to keep his Blackberry in order to stay connected with the people from his past who have helped shape his life and get him to the place he is today. I applaud his efforts to keep in touch with "regular" people and hope that he can fulfill this goal. Leadership, and especially, I'm sure, as Commander-in-Chief, can be a long, lonely road and it is so important to have people outside your everday world with which to consult or simply shoot the proverbial breeze. I hope that our leader has people he can share life with that will allow him to be rejuvinated, refreshed, and ready to tackle the issues facing our nation.

The second article spoke of new technologies in the automotive world. Some new vehicles are now coming equipped with built-in dashboard computers, complete with a keyboard and wireless internet. These vehicles are being promoted for construction workers so they have a more mobile office. AT&T is also releasing a new technology where people can get 22 satellite tv channels in their vehicle at all times, supposedly for tailgaters at the game or parents entertaining their children. That Ain't Right!

When only 8% of the world even owns a vehicle, I simply cannot see the justification for cars with that much junk. I DO believe that portable DVD players are God's gift to parents on long road trips with their kids, but there comes a point when enough is enough. At what point will we realize that our consumerism and affluence have become a sickness and need to be cured before they ravage our souls?

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Could It Be?

(Please note that I might be the biggest Rob Bell fanatic in the world, so this simply in fun!)

Theology of Educated Ignorance

Everything spiritual in my life has suddenly become difficult to explain. Concepts I once debated for hours are now muddled in faulty vocabulary. This has primarily come to light recently as I visited with family and friends over the Christmas holiday and they asked me questions about my seminary experience. I'm never quite sure how to respond to questions about my school and how it has shaped my faith. It is confusing for me to be unable to explain the things I am learning and how I am growing, but I am trying to embrace this confusion.

I'm beginning to call this confusion the "Theology of Educated Ignorance." I'm realizing that as I learn to speak about and for God, the truth is that no language can ever really capture who God is. All language will fall far short of illuminating the truth of the God of the universe. This should not cause us to stop trying to speak on behalf of God, but we must humbly realize that, as Peter Rollins speaks of, any discourse on God will be exactly that...a 'dis-course'. Speaking of God will naturally take us 'off the course' of who God is because our brains are incapable of truly seeing God's face, hearing God's voice, and understanding God's mind. No wonder the Hebrew people asked Moses to cover his face upon return from Sinai. No wonder Moses only glances at the back of God as God passes by. An encounter with God is far more than we are capable of enduring. Proper theology embraces the ambivalence between knowing God, but all the more knowing that there is knowledge we cannot know, a theology of educated ignorance.

Peter Rollins speaks of this idea, in "How (Not) to Speak of God", when he speaks of all Christians needing to be 'a/theists'. Of course we are 'theists' insomuch as we believe in and worship God, but we are 'atheists' in humbly admitting that every breath we utter about God falls short of capturing who God is. This is a refreshing thought for me personally because it removes the pressure of needing an answer for every theological question. There is so much I will never know and this ignorance in no way lessens my faith, but actually strengthens it through doubt, question, mystery, and wonder.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Happy New Year!

Hey everyone! Happy New Year! Just wanted to quickly write to say I'm not dead. Mandy and I had a great week with her family in North Dakota and are now half way through our time in Montana with my family. My sister, her husband, and my neice get to town tomorrow so I am stoked to see them. We are heading back to Seattle on Monday. I can't wait to more consistently be online and continue our dialog in the blogosphere. Grace and peace.