An Experiment observed

Cool post about the level of self hate and self divorce that goes into our fetish with constant technology and inability to quite ourselves over at Kevin’s. Check it out

What do you think about it?

I wonder what taking a break from certain forms of ever present technology might do for us…

I wonder what routine days of solitude would achieve…

Is it even possible in the environment we live in?

Kids. Jobs. Marriages. School. Side jobs. Hobbies. And those are just my issues…

One interesting side note on this issue is a quick view of the gospels.  Matthew is about the kingdom…particularly Jesus as liberating King.  It begins slowly with deliberate setting of the stage. Luke takes several chapters of framing narratives to introduce us to Jesus. And arguably John takes almost an eternity before we encounter the activities of flesh and blood Jesus (“in the beginning was the word…everything was made through him”).  Interestingly, each of those gospels represents a step by step removal from the earliest communities of Jesus’ friends, with the gospel of John emerging almost 60 years after his death.  Isn’t it fascinating that each one, as it comes later in history, gradually takes longer and longer to get around to showing us the action of the simple Jewish carpenter?  Contrast that with the break neck pace of the first biography of Jesus–Mark.  It has no long intro, it sandwhiches event after event.  There is little commentary, no prolonged meditations or genealogical narratives.  It is simply the intense hypernimity of the event that was Jesus.  His presence. His force of being.  His day in and day out mission.  That’s one thing I like about Mark. It was written fast paced for busy people. People living half awake in a fake empire. People who are not monks or priests. People who are in transition. People who are persecuted and trying to get out of Dodge.  It was written for the real world and in its own thematic style introduces us to, arguably, the most natural, sensuous, earthy of all the Jesus’ we see in the gospels. 

That’s pretty incredible.  It lets me know that we can steal away and find snatches of time alone with the Divine…It helps me see that the true path to the self is the event of committing our entire person to some action or state of being.  It makes me believe again that its about simple steps towards a new way of living–not simply grandios changes that never end up happening.  It gives me a renewed hope about asking the scientific question: “If I just change this one thing…say, shut off my data plan…then how might my existence, inward, and outward–mind, body, and soul–be different?” Then trying it, if only for a month. 

So, Kev–awesome observations from a month long experiment about scratching out some time in a fast fast world!

So that’s some of my thoughts on the matter…I think we need more experiments in taking breaks from the things that become Noise in our existence–if only so we can hear the Voice which is always there.  Lord knows I do.

The Conversation is Changing

The conversation has, for me at least, changed.  

10 years ago, 5 years ago for that matter, these were questions that were circulated around, “what could happen if we had a church that ________?”  or “What if the church was a place where people just _______?”  It seemed like all of the talks that were being had dealt with the church; its composition, make up, and activities, etc…  

The end result of those conversations was a 6 year experiment in flat leadership (where everyone was perceived as functionally equal), open source (where everyone was able to contribute directionally, situationally, content wise), de-centralized (without any governing committee or person, decisions were made by consensus or not at all), communitarian and incarnational (where we attempted to BE the church rather than GO to church, living near each other to create opportunity for further exposure and relationship), organic (little structure, if any; constant reliance on the Spirit–eventually becoming synonymous with perpetual spontaneity)  and Christ centered (as opposed to “issues driven”, an entire focus on the person of God as opposed to the activities of God).

It’s interesting because today I hear many of the “hot” church planters (even Guru’s for that matter) toting these ideas around.  They, and many others we lived, are the sexy new methods.  Interestingly, for me, they are now (in some ways more than others) old hat…we lived them to their logical conclusion the ultimate extreme; we road tested them and found that some drove better than others.  

What’s funny is sitting at a restaurant or coffee shop with one of the new champions of these notions.  I’ll listen to their passionate and intense rhetoric about “following the Holy Spirit”/being spontaneous, tossing aside leadership roles in favor of function only models where everyone can be anything and everything, throwing out events and embracing incarnate organic church lifestyles…and then I yawn.  I’m bored.  Or those bizarre moments when I mention something as random as “growth” or throwing some sort of event or planning an “outreach” towards the community–only to be rebuked for my lack of Christ-centeredness (because of planning). In the end, the new guru’s are disappointed by me.  They don’t understand why I feel more comfortable in an brick and mortar institutional church (Mennonite, Episcopal, Presbyterian, Methodist, Orthodox) or not in one at all (All faith embracing spirituality discussion groups/centers for transformation and mutual support).  Either way…the questions that I was asking, that are now being asked with a great degree of mundane regularity are not the ones that interest me any longer. And I really can’t explain that.

The goodness of God, the bigness/all expansiveness/(un)knowability of the Divine, the transformation of the entire person/locality/world, the life of justice/mercy/faith/and love practiced by individuals and collectives, art and hinting about things too big for cognitive expression, discovering a new way of thinking by living the question and embodying the certainties, surviving/coping/medicating/figuring out how to hope again, letting the symbol become the real (communion IS the reality…don’t kid yourself into thinking its only a shadow)…these are the thoughts that keep on coming back to me…The other stuff…well, I get it…I just am not there any more.

Oddly, I sense that a lot of the others–the ones who began asking those same questions around the same time–find themselves in the same place.  

For them also, it would seem, the conversation is shifting.  Interesting…I wonder where it goes next–if anywhere.

The Calling Card of Jesus (& Clarifications)

Several posts later…and a slough of comments…

Was Jesus political?  Was his message, in his day–to his disciples and the earliest communities of his apprentices–one that took him and them into radical collision with the Empire of their day?  Conversely, will that same message, if taken seriously by his friends and followers today, lead us into the same head on crash?  To me those questions, and those realities, touch not only individual lives, community lives, but also the life of the polis, the City–politics..not stopping there, but God wants it all, he loses nothing.

One e-friend of this blog commented that Jesus wasn’t political.  I can’t help but wonder if that may be a convenient perspective to hold.  While we can certainly look with hindsight at his ancient friends and say they heard him wrong, they (not we) heard him as a conquering and liberating King–(how wrong they were–if they only had our perspective they could have more appropriately discerned what or WHO they were really dealing with…a liberating King, certainly, but one of the soul…not of earthly situations…silly ancient friends of Jesus…)

Another friend commented, effectively, that our only hope is to be an eternal, non-temporal, non immediate, one.  Let’s not put our trust in changing political systems.  That last statement, I most heartily agree with.  I have no desire to replace one unjust Empire with an empire of my own making or choosing.  That’s not the answer.  Neither, however, is it appropriate to develop an “escapology theology”, pining away in this life for the one to come–never addressing the real issues that concern us (and seem, according to the great bulk of the Text, to concern YHWH). 

It is time then to hear, once again, Jesus words, reimagined in our day, reincarnated for our time and from His own, it was this scandalous message that burst onto the scene in Mark 1:14-16. This is Jesus’ calling card, then and now: 

The time has come! Rethink EVERYTHING! A radically new kind of empire is available–the empire of God has arrived! Believe this good news, and defect from ALL human imperial narratives, counternarratives, dual narratives, and withdrawal narratives. Open your minds and hearts like children to see things freshly in this new way, follow me and my words, and enter into this new Way of living.

Don’t get revenge when wronged, but seek reconciliation. Don’t repay violence with violence, but seek creative and transforming non-violent alternatives. Don’t focus on external conformity to moral codes, but on internal transformation in love.  Don’t love insiders and hate or fear outsiders, but welcome outsiders into a new “us”, a new “we”, a new humanity that celebrates diversity in the context of love for all, justice for all, and mutual respect for all.  Don’t have anxiety about money or security or pleasure as the center of your life, but trust yourself to the care of the Creator.  Don’t live for wealth, but for the living God who loves all people (including your enemies).  Don’t hate your enemies or competitors, but love them and do to them NOT AS THEY HAVE DONE TO YOU–and not BEFORE THEY DO TO YOU–but as you wish they would do to you.

With these words, life in the Way of Jesus inaguarates a different way of living in the world. 

Someone else recently commented that we shouldn’t ever back down from our beliefs, this in response to my thoughts on “accomodating away” the things that may really matter.  I’m not really sure what they meant by that…To be honest, I’m not sure what I really meant by that.

The truth is I don’t care if you call yourself a Christian, go to church, believe in THE Church…those are abstract concepts that have little bearing in my life, or the lives of most of the people I know–the fact that some invest great meaning in them seems to me to be simply a distraction from actually living-a replacing of the Message with the messanger so as not to have to listen to the words that shake us and give rise to changing us. 

Whatever your reality–here’s the thing I no longer apologize for…

Jesus.

He was on to something.

The good dream of the Creator he described, with word and life, and invited friends and enemies to live into, is one that was relevant to his culture…and is still relevant AND radical for ours. 

Recently I invited a friend to join in a conversation where we, as friends of Jesus, actually take up a series of experiments dealing with living life in his Way, to actually take the words of Jesus seriously.  I loved their response…

“I’m afraid.”

Spoken like someone who truly has heard the call of the simple Jewish rabbi, the Master, inviting us into a whole new way of living–one that affects everything and leaves no system untouched, no stone unturned.

The Price Being Paid

The end of the 1960s, with the crisis of populism and the developmentalist model, brought the advent of a vigorous current of sociological thinking, which unmasked the true causes of underdevelopment. Development and underdevelopment are two sides of the same coin. All the nations of the Western world were engaged in a vast process of development; however, it was interdependent and unequal, organized in such a way that the benefits flowed to the already developed countries of the “center” and the disadvantages were meted out to the historically backward and underdeveloped wontries of the “periphery.” The poverty of Third World countries was the price to be paid for the First World to be able to enjoy the fruits of overabundance.–Leonardo Boff (A Concise History of Liberation Theology)

There’s a price some one is paying for every dollar we save. There is a cost each time we recline in our position of privilege and power.  

This isn’t meant to make us feel guilty–simply as a fact…cause and effect are real. 

However, God’s good dream calls us to live into a cycle of “right relationship”.  Jesus, in response to an honest spiritual seeker wondering how to love God better–suggested that love of God and love of neighbor were intertwined. In a sense this means that creator, creature, and creation are all of consequence to each other.  “Love your neighbor”–hardly cliche, is an admission of that balance…the things we do to others work like a cycle.  

An apprentice of Jesus is invited to live with the awareness that our lives affect and are affected by others.  The sad reality of Western development and neo-capitalism is that it has forgotten that reality.  I wonder what it might look like for humanity to remember once more. Somehow I doubt it will resonate with the culturally convenient values of the Globalized West.

Which side of love?

There’s a parable I’ve found particularly beautiful in recent days.  Pete Rollins shares it in his book “The Fidelity of Betrayal”.  

A man dies and and appears before the gates of heaven.  There is St. Peter ahead of him, welcoming him in.  The man is giddy and thrusts part of himself through the doorway into paradise.  As he does however, he turns ever so slightly and sees a great throng of people standing nearby…on the outside of heaven.  They are Buddhists, Jews, killers and crucified, Muslims, Catholics, kind or criminal, homeless, Eastern Orthodox; they are ugly or beautiful, gay, atheist, poor and rich alike…and he also saw many of his own friends.  Looking up at St. Peter he asks, “What about them?  Are they coming in too?”  Sadly St. Peter shook his head.

“No,” shrugging his shoulders, “you know how it goes…only the right people.”  The man thought about that for a minute.  He allowed a thousand faces and feelings to well up inside of him.  He considered the words of Jesus, his teacher and savior: a bastard, homeless, drunkard, heretic, traveling companion to terrorists, lover of prostitutes and priests alike, and in the end one who died as a common criminal. Knowing what he had to do, he looked up at Peter, withdrew his one foot from the threshold of heaven and said,

“Then I can’t come in either.” And he walked away, joining his friends.  As he walked away a faint smile broke out over St. Peter’s face, who whispered,

“At last…at last…”

———————–

Along the same lines, a news anchor who gets “love” more than most Christians I know.  This is called “the love speech”…and regardless of issue (though it is an important one), the words and thoughts remain the same for any friend of Jesus. Which side of line will we stand on?  Which side of the threshold will we choose?  The heart of Christianity–the core–the best of Jesus and his earliest friends, encourage, always, the choosing of the powerless, marginalized, minimized, and disaffected.  

I hope this clip is refreshing to you also.  Thanks for sharing it with me Ryan:

Love Coming Home

–a poem from George MacDonald–

LOVE’S HISTORY.

    Love, the baby, 
      Toddled out to pluck a flower; 
    One said, “No, sir;” one said, “Maybe, 
      At the evening hour!”

    Love, the boy, 
      Joined the boys and girls at play; 
    But he left them half his joy 
      Ere the close of day.

    Love, the youth, 
      Roamed the country, lightning-laden; 
    But he hurt himself, and, sooth, 
      Many a man and maiden!

    Love, the man, 
      Sought a service all about; 
    But he would not take their plan, 
      So they cast him out.

    Love, the aged, 
      Walking, bowed, the shadeless miles, 
    Bead a volume many-paged, 
      Full of tears and smiles.

    Love, the weary, 
      Tottered down the shelving road: 
    At its foot, lo, night the starry 
      Meeting him from God!

    “Love, the holy!” 
      Sang a music in her dome, 
    Sang it softly, sang it slowly, 
      “–Love is coming home!”

Experiments in Truth

More people than I can number or name entrust me with their confession of (non)faith.  Oh, it’s not exactly that they’re faithless.  Actually they tend to be far more faith filled than the religions they are shedding.  They are scared and uncertain, tired or bored, confused or distressed; they don’t readily see the final “vision”; in other words they are the epitome of those who “walk not by sight”…  And, they are done.  They are true believers who have been burned, hurt, torn apart by a thousand inconsistencies.  I love these people.  They are my people. 

Some of my friends, such as I’ve described above, project an image of not caring.  They say, in word and deed, that they don’t care about relgion, spirituality, or faith.  Ironically, they are usually those who care and have cared the most.  It is precisely because they care strongly that they are dissapointed.  We expect much out of that we idealize.  Isn’t that what causes such deep rage as we hear KKK members spout orthodox prayers and pleas towards God?  Isn’t that why its so disgusting when we here of a Catholic priest become predator?  Isn’t that why we feel so disturbed when faiths digress into violent fundamentalism sponsoring Crusades or Jihads?  We expect more.  We expect more from “the friends of God”.  And we should.

Here’s the thing…

Beauty hints at things that lie beyond the edges of our vision.  Something in us, crying out for fair play, demands justice–in ourselves and in the world around.  And, even though we find ourselves isolated and lonely, we long for relationships, for intimacy, for love.  This, truth, beauty, justice, love, is the Divine, is God.  They are not only attributes, they are the Person.  So, the very things we long for, the things are not right with the world of religion and faith, that we wish would change, are the very things that must change if they are to be real and true.  The dissapointment in the lack of those aspects is actually the outcrying for God’s Presence, and perhaps the evidence of the Presence itself. 

In other words…we aren’t alone. 

Our hunger bears witness to the existence of Bread. 

But that’s all jargon, isn’t it?

Beyond that…this is what I’m convinced of.  The person of Jesus described God in a way that is still intoxicating to me. I’m pretty sure he, and his radical way of living that he proclaimed, was on to something.  Life spent in the way of Jesus  changes things…at least I imagine it would.  It’s an experiment I wouldn’t mind testing out.  Ghandi called them “experiments in truth”.  What would life look like if… How would my relationships, the neighborhood, this area, this country, be different if I…

If I what? 

If I took Jesus seriously, if I tried the life he described. 

And then even bigger than that…what if I tried this with others?  Fellow scientists testing our hypothesis. Success or failure. Right or wrong.  Comparing notes. Taking a journey together. 

I read a book about writing recently. The author said an intruiging thing. He commented that writing isn’t something you can theorize about…it’s only something you can do.  You become a better writer by writing. You learn certain skills only by performing them.  I can’t help but think this is the nature of discipleship, of apprenticeship. 

Sadly religion, and as it’s my own faith tradion–Christianity, has detached the positional “beliefs” from the practice.  We believe in justice. We believe in mercy. We believe in love. But we practice dishonesty and greed and war.  Seperate the practice of life in the way of Jesus from Jesus and what do you get?  Dissapointment.  Detachment.  Nothing worth believing in. 

And I think that may just be the point of all this…as my friends confess their (non)faith to me, I’d love to make an invitation.  I’d like to invite them to do something counter cultural…at least it runs counter to the culture of religion most of us have grown up with…. Let’s experiment with truth.  Instead of believing into a new way of living, let’s live into a new way of believing. 

How’s that sound?

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