Taken on the ATL trip

a picture is worth a thousand words...found this in a pub in Decatur

a picture is worth a thousand words...found this in a pub in Decatur

Mission and Movement

I’ve been reading through the Gospels again and was struck, once more, by the last verses in the 1st chapter of John.  It’s such a wonderful and symbolic picture of discipleship for me.

The lamb of God is identified by John the Baptist as being present in the world, the Father has inaugurated His son’s ministry by declaring that He is pleased with Jesus (isn’t that interesting that all of Jesus’ distinct mission and ministry flows from a place of the Father being well pleased in His Son…it begins there, but Jesus doesn’t just camp out basking in that presence, He then follows, obeys, and is directed by the King)…and then two young disciples of John get REALLY curious about Jesus…they go as far as to trail after him and then go further by asking him where He is staying.  I take that to be an amazing moment. It’s like, for the first time in human history (and the History of God) in many ways, folks want to be around God and to know what He’s about…Jesus does an interesting thing…it’s a profound statement, “Come and see”.

My feeling about that statement is that it is so invitational…come and see what I’m about…come and take part in the activities I am doing…come and participate in the Mission that I’m engaged with…or not…
Jesus walkingThere’s a risk there.  There’s a moment, just like in every moment that Jesus initiates with would be disciples, where they are able to choose to be about other things besides the Way of living he proposes…Some folks went back to lives of sin, some folks went back to ordinary lives of subsistence and “being”, and some went back to worshipful lives of observing God…but only a few (we are told) did as these two men did that day…followed in the footsteps of the Rabbi and were caught up in his dust. The truth is that Jesus always makes the offer, but he never chases them down.  He lays out the decision to join him in his mission but he never conscripts or drafts…simply invites…

Being an evangelical seems to extend beyond agreeing with some theological tenets, in many ways it reminds me of Catholics who never practice but always identify themselves as Catholic…it’s a bias they’re never able to shake…it’s their culture…it’s in them…and I wonder how much it is just IN many of us.  It simple effects us regardless of how far we’ve distanced ourselves from the dogmas it holds.

One aspect of evangelicalism is this idea of “come to us”.  It demands of sinners and it demands of God, “bring them to us”.  Having shaken the extreme notion of needing to convert every person I see, I can’t help but think that we still fall into the notion of “this is my life…God comes to me and brings me His will…”  It’s a safe place to be, that’s for certain.  It’s wonderfully comforting. And maybe that’s what is needed for many folks. Safety.  Their lives are too convoluted and confusing as it is…why add un-security in spirituality?

But of course…there’s always a risk isn’t there?

And though all are called, a few will choose to take the invitation of a lonely Rabbi who has no place to lay His head…they will venture out with him as he has compassion on the multitudes, touches the lepers, eats with sinners, and spends the majority of his time with the spiritually AND SOCIALLY ill.  They will actually lose their own lives…materially, socially, and spiritually in order to take on His radical new Way of living.  “Come and see…”

“The starting point for mission is a missional God who is active in the world.  God invites us and beckons us to join his mission.  So in this sense, we join in with what God is doing rather than ‘taking God with us’…God is already working in the world.  Our role is to discover where and then to stand alongside God.  Many evangelicals believe they are taking God to the world and into their daily lives…I do not like the dualsim associated with that kind of theology.  God leads and we follow as we can.  We find that God is planting and we water it…I don’t take God in with me but find God where he is and then join him.”

Transient Presence

One of the most gripping things in Rob Bell’s book Velvet Elvis were the thoughts that revolved around our knowledge of God…and more importantly our lack of knowledge. He talked about Moses wanting to pin down God by knowing His Name (an Eastern concept and superstition that suggests if you know the secret name of something then you can know it fully…think of Simon the magician who goes around using the NAME of Jesus to perform magic…the Name is the Reality)….so Moses asks for a Name that will define and ultimately articulate who God is, hedge Him in, and give a human being a set definition for God’s reality…what does God do…He gives Moses the most unlimited, unconstrictive, nebulous Name ever…and the one that actually encompasses all and everything…I AM…absolutely everything…

Then Moses does it again…He gets tired of not seeing God, of not being able to identify God like the surrounding heathens–who can all demandingly look at and touch their deities. He asks to see God. But God won’t let him…God refuses to be identified again…instead He says, “Moses, you can see my back”…and that’s what happens. Moses is sheltered in the rock and looks upon God’s passing and sees His…backside…but Bell points out that the ancient Rabbi’s translated that passage as meaning something different than God’s rear end…they thought of it as Moses could only see where God had JUST BEEN. In other words…Moses didn’t know where God was right now, nor where He was going next, but only where He had just been.

How beautiful. How Transient. How utterly free.

A God who is unwilling to be defined. Who refuses to be categorized. Who tells us “I am…” but doesn’t finish the sentence. A God who let’s us see Him…but only in accordance with previous and perishable. A God who constantly leaves us guessing.

Is that my God? Am I constantly surprised? Do I even want to be?

Or do I, like we all do, want assuredness…constance…safety…security…stability…

I AM what I will be…

And while we may not like thinking of a God who changes, evolves, and emerges…maybe that’s exactly what He’s doing and has always done…maybe that’s why He refuses to hedge himself in with our puny defining characteristics…maybe that’s why His Story is so peculiar…

I want a God who conveniently fits all my preconceptions…or at least fits SOMEONE’S conceptions…Definable Jesus.

Not our God…the One who is absolutely free…

Crucify my sedate images to the fixed permanence of your cross…leave it there…dead and buried…then rise again in my imagination, walk forward, then ascend upward…God…be free to MOVE again in me!

does context matter (and denying the humanity of Jesus)

I was over checking out Tall Skinny Kiwi and came upon the latest discussion…it happened to be about context (interesting considering some of my more recent posts too)…apparently there are those who doubt the importance or significance of this in terms of living into God’s mission.

Ton’s of interesting comments there–go over and check it out…

Here’s my comment:

I can’t help but wonder if the same crowd that denies context also has a hard time holding the tension of Jesus being fully God AND fully human.  Certainly there’s the liberal scholarship (like Chilton and Crossan) crowd who would deny the deity of Christ…but the evangelical fundamentalist world seems to go to the opposite extreme and denies the humanity of Jesus.  This really isn’t a new thought I know…but…God in Christ is the ultimate contextualist.  I mean, isn’t the hymn in Phil. about “emptying himself…taking the form…” and then the proclamation in Hebrews “…becoming in all ways like us…”, all about incarnate contextualization?  His humanity is then all about coming to a specific time, a specific place, with a specific way of dress, way of life, cultural understanding…it begins with God.  This isn’t the missionary method of Paul–it’s the Missionary method of God. So…there’s that…

And the thing is that other folks have commented on this as well with their lives.
I think of CT Studd and the Cambridge 7 who went to China.  They were mocked by the other “white” missionaries for adopting Chinese customs and apparel–but in the end have been recognized as the  inspired approach.

Unfortunately the examples don’t go on and on positively…there is a much greater history in the West of refusing to adopt and adapt.  We have refused to “imitate Paul as he imitated Christ”.  We fail (generally speaking) to take seriously the humanity of Jesus and because of it will always imagine our teacher, savior, Lord, and friend as a “disembodied floating head” (thanks Mike) without touch or smell or vision or…well…completely unrelatable to me and you…and maybe that’s what we want out of our God…someone who’s NOT like me…Because if he was–well–then I’d have to get more comfortable with my own skin…eek–that’s a terrifying thought.

Introducing…

…after many blue screens and depressing freeze ups…it was time…

And so I’m going Mac…I’m told that I will never return.  I get it tomorrow.

mmmm…I’ve joined the world of emergence–no Nicean creed necessary–just a mac.

The Macbook

Pain

CS Lewis said that music is the melody of the infinite and the closest experience of the other realm to which we may aspire. It makes sense…Paul gives direction for a group of people on how to have a meeting–out of 5 suggestions, 3 are musical…on and on…the very center of Scripture is almost entirely song–the Psalms…and so too in my life right now. Song is making it all bearable. When I can’t find my own words or my own anthem for living I’m taking stock in those of others; they are my melody, they are singing my song. So…I hope that explains the new proliferation of musical or lyrical reference in my posts–thanks guys.

Here’s one from “Enter the Worship Circle“, an amazing collective of musicians and poets screaming out for divine intervention, lamenting injustice and lack of beauty, and declaring that this is the day of the Lord’s righting of wrongs…challenging, torn up, bent out of shape, broken, restorative, beautiful…majestic…that’s what these songs are for me.

This one called pain is desperately personal–may it be to you too.

My life so far has been touched by your grace but there’s still things that shake me

I grow nearly faint when I see all the pain, there’s times I wish I wasn’t so tender.

There’s AIDS in the world and cancer in my friends and I’m sick now cause I’m scared

There’re people on the street too cold to feel their feet; I’m shaking inside cause they hurt

Our kids just don’t know to live in your Love is all that we need to be saved

It is simple enough, is it just like they say? Can we call on your Name to get help?

When I hear your Voice I won’t harden my heart, I don’t want to turn away from You!

And it’s just around the corner when every knee will bow and freedom will come

And it’s just round the corner when you come in the clouds and PAIN WILL BE NO MORE!! PAIN WILL BE NO MORE!!!!

Pain

Lord? Really?

Admittedly, I don’t know much about what “Rev Wright” said…I don’t have the full context.  And I’m not really going to try to guess it’s implications on the campaign of a certain someone.  But I can’t help wonder if my African American brother, pastoring a black church in Chicago, simply saw through what we Euro-Centric Christians often fail to: the defunctness of the American Dream.  The American dream is not now nor has it ever been inclusive–except in the fact that misery (or in this case luxury) loves company.  It is not redemptive. It is not the hope of the world.  Folks around the world do not hate America because we “dare to dream” of a better tomorrow–they loathe this empire because it dares impose it’s dreams onto the rest of humanity.  The American Dream is NOT GOD’S GOOD DREAM!  Competition–eye for eye–getting ahead at any cost and turning a profit at any price–looking good/image is everything–needing the next and the newest–THESE ARE NOT KINGDOM DREAM’S!!!

And so someone (read: the oppressed and powerless) dared critique that, and low and behold he got handed a national microphone and everyone is listening to back logs of what was exactly said.  The political pundits are advising distance and encouraging disgust in reaction to the message of anti-empire.  I read Dick Morris‘ open letter of advice to Obama, this line stood out:  “He needs, again and again, to reject what Wright says and emphasize his belief in America and the validity and morality of the American Dream.”

…Because…because…because…that–America and the American Dream/the American Way–that is our religion.  Not Christianity.  Not Christ.  Not a little revolutionary rabbi from Nazareth.  The juggarnaut of empire and excess, of oppression and exploitation, of complacency and self satisfaction towards God and fellow man, that is the faith of our fathers.  But check out what God has to say about his good dream and the people that match it:

Isaiah 58: 6-9“This is the kind of holy day I’m after:
to break the chains of injustice,
get rid of exploitation in the workplace,
free the oppressed,
cancel debts.
What I’m interested in seeing you do is:
sharing your food with the hungry,
inviting the homeless poor into your homes,
putting clothes on the shivering ill-clad,
being available to your own families.
Do this and the lights will turn on,
and your lives will turn around at once.
Your righteousness will pave your way.
The God of glory will secure your passage.
Then when you pray, God will answer.
You’ll call out for help and I’ll say, ‘Here I am.’
 9-12“If you get rid of unfair practices,
quit blaming victims,
quit gossiping about other people’s sins,
If you are generous with the hungry
and start giving yourselves to the down-and-out,
Your lives will begin to glow in the darkness,
your shadowed lives will be bathed in sunlight.
I will always show you where to go.
I’ll give you a full life in the emptiest of places—
firm muscles, strong bones.
You’ll be like a well-watered garden,
a gurgling spring that never runs dry.
You’ll use the old rubble of past lives to build anew,
rebuild the foundations from out of your past.
You’ll be known as those who can fix anything,
restore old ruins, rebuild and renovate,
make the community livable again.”
This is hardly the bill of sale most of us pledged our allegiance to as children.  Having pledged away our allegiance, who is our Lord–really?
I pray that we followers in the way of Jesus live into a new reality–which is really just God’s good dream from eternity past for eternity future and being worked out today.
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