Monday, February 22, 2010

Life in the Two Kingdoms

"A person has to be thoroughly disgusted with the way things are to find the motivation to set out on the Christian way. As long as we think the next election might eliminate crime and establish justice or another scientific breakthrough might save the environment or another pay raise might push us over the edge of anxiety to a life of tranquility, we are not likely to risk the arduous uncertainties of the life of faith. A person has to get fed up with the ways of the world before he, before she, acquires an appetite for the world of grace."
~Eugene Peterson

I must admit that I found myself caught up in the hype of the Obama presidential campaign...and I knew better. Now don't get me wrong, I still believe he was the best candidate for the job. I still believe that people like him can begin to right some of the wrongs of this country and world, can move our nation toward justice and equity for all. I still believe that people like Bono and Jeffrey Sachs can move us toward the elimination of global poverty. I still believe that governments and institutions can, and should, be instruments for good in this world. I just can't buy into the hype, though, the empty promises inherent in any kingdom of the world.

I put my trust, rather, in the kingdom of God. I trust that the upside-down way of life that Jesus put on display for the world will ultimately transform this world. I have seen enough to know that by giving up all that I have, I will have so much more, and so will everyone else. I have seen enough to know that loving my enemies and praying for those who persecute me will always result in less bloodshed than a life of seeking revenge and redemption through violence. I have seen enough to know that the way of Jesus Christ is the best possible way of living and that I would give my life to this dangerous, compelling existence any day over an allegiance to even the best possible kingdom of the world. I choose the world of grace.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

A New Read

I have just embarked on a new book and already find myself needing to stop and blog about its importance. We were tasked (for a class) with reading and reporting on a spiritual classic. For some reason, however, we were allowed to read Eugene Peterson (I would think the author would at least need to cease breathing before they can be a 'classic'...but I digress). I have always heard great things about Peterson's book "A Long Obedience in the Same Direction," so I have cracked its cover this evening. So far it is amazing. I am sure I will be blogging about it and including quotes for the next few weeks, so I hope you can enjoy it with me. Here's one quote to get us started:
It is not difficult in such a world to get a person interested in the message of the gospel; it is terrifically difficult to sustain the interest...Religion in our time has been captured by the tourist mindset. Religion is understood as a visit to an attractive site to be made when we have adequate leisure.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

The Art of Existence

Rob Bell used this quote from Abraham Joshua Heschel tonight at the Seattle leg of his Drops Like Stars Tour. I thought it was SO meaningful as I think about what sort of life I want to be living. The last three sentences blew my mind. Enjoy!
I would say to young people a number of things, and I have only one minute. I would say let them remember that there is a meaning beyond absurdity. Let them be sure that every little deed counts, that every word has power, and that we can do, everyone, our share to redeem the world, in spite of all absurdities, and all the frustrations, and all the disappointment. And above all, remember that the meaning of life is to build life as if it were a work of art. You're not a machine. When you're young, start working on this great work of art called your own existence.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Who's Welcome at the Table?

The follow is a post I wrote for my seminary's blog. I am one of the new editors of the site so I will be writing for them as well as on here. You can visit the MHGS blog HERE.


In our culture, we have learned to operate under a paradigm of boundaries. Some people are IN and some people are OUT. We are quick to create rules and regulations about who belongs in Christian fellowship and who does not, about who is saved and who is not. Of course these are unwritten, unspoken rules, but they exist nonetheless. Everyone who is part of the ‘in-group’ knows well who does not belong within the community, who is not invited to the table of communion. Most often, our words will ring strong with inclusive language, yet all can sense the unsaid ‘boundaries of belonging.’

I am reminded of my time as a youth pastor. We used a myriad of inclusive language, strongly emphasizing that everyone belonged and all should feel welcomed in our group, but everyone could sense this was not true. We had one student who was a self-described ‘Goth,’ and it was clear early on in my ministry that this student did not feel welcomed in our ‘normal,’ straight-laced meetings. As much as my words spoke of inclusiveness, our attitudes of exclusivity were clearly seen in this student’s quick departure from our community. He was not welcomed to the table.

We create these divisions out of a spirit of necessity. When you operate within a ‘some are in, some are out’ system, in order to be ‘in,’ some must be ‘out.’ In order to prove our own belonging within the community of faith and the realm of salvation, we must operate within a system where some people are not invited into the life of faith. This way of thinking has nothing to do with the Kingdom of God. The Kingdom of God is a place where everyone is welcome at the banquet table, where none are excluded from the table of fellowship. Throughout the gospels Jesus is constantly telling stories where the people who would never be invited into fellowship are the very people who are the honored guests. Jesus continually challenges the assumed ‘boundaries of belonging’ within his own culture, asking his followers to be boundary-less people, welcoming all to the table of communion. I wonder what it would look like for individual Christians and communities of faith to be places where everyone is welcomed, where no one is excluded. Would it be possible to address the unwritten, unspoken rules of our communities in an effort to allow everyone access to the Kingdom? I pray we will have this boldness.

HT: Experience MHGS