31 December 2004

A recent theologian commented, "One of the great scandals of Western Christianity is that it has forgotten the implications of being blessed. To be blessed, at least in the Hebrew Story, is to bless others."

While we (all of us) thank God for our continual blessings we rarely, in turn, use the blessings in order to bring goodness to those around us. A question has been haunting me recently (in light of the events in South Asia)--"what if God blessed America according to manner in which America blessed other nations?" I realize this question assumes that all of our wealth (and other supposed blessings) comes from God, a point which can and should be debated.

When I brush my teeth this week I cannot help but think of my brothers and sisters in Sri Lanka who are going to die this week because they have no water to sustain their bodies. As Mother Teresa so aptly put it, we can do no great things, only small things, one day at a time.

My conviction for 2005 is simply to attempt to be a blessing in every relationship, situation, email, letter, conversation, and setting I find myself. I resolve to quit the politics of "getting ahead" and to embrace a life of downward mobility.
It is amazing what joy surfaces when I decide and am convicted to empty myself in order to fill others.

It is one of the great mysteries of the human experience. It is one of the great mysteries in searching for the divine among us.

30 December 2004


My reaction to the devastation in South Asia is perhaps troubling. If Christians give God credit for the good that happens in the world (humanitarian efforts in Africa, improvement in literacy rates, etc.) why do we cower away when tragedy happens? If we give God credit for the good aren't we naively selective by saying the Lord absolutely has nothing to do in the times of evil?

I am not saying that God is directly responsible for all the evil that happens in the world but I am suggesting that in the Hebrew Bible (our Old Testament)the writers are perfectly comfortable with giving the Lord credit for both the success and failure. In fact, one of the great mysteries of God is that he will often fight against a people in order to fight for them (salvation). Discernment is necessary when discussing this sensitive subject, and I do not want to put God on the anvil for something he is not responsible for directly.

I am not suggesting that God caused the 80,000 deaths in South Asia, but I do think that he could have intervened just as he has intervened in the lives of so many other people (Parting of the Red Sea for instance). I am not upset with God or bitter for this--ultimately I trust that "in all things He is at work for the good of those who love him." Sometime our easy categories don't stand up in light of events in human history. People see right through the shallow claim that God caused the good, Satan caused the bad. Especially those who read their Holy Scripture.

As members of the same community (the human community) the deaths, loss, and despair of last Sunday's unfoldings should remind us that instead of looking up at the sky, we should look around and see the image of God in our fellow planet-dwellers and ask what the church is doing to serve as foreshadows to the coming day when hurricanes, hunger, and hate will bow to the Lordship of Jesus Messiah.

20 December 2004

First, go to www.freep.com to read two interesting pieces. There is a piece on the problem of infant fatality rates among whites, blacks, and other groups in the Metro Detroit Area. Second, there is a series about the cycles of violence and murder that has plagued Detroit for some fifty plus years.

The Kingdom has not fully come.


Second, I loved the film "A Series of Unfortunate Events"--I had never read the books but am hoping to now that I've been introduced to the world of Lemony Snickett (sp?).

I think "A Series of Unfortunate Events" is a welcomed antithesis to the sometimes shallow and short-sighted sermons of Disney. Misforutne, despair, and disaster are staples of the human experience. In each other, we can find meaning and hope in life beyond. There is a reason hundreds of thousands of young people are flocking to these novels. There are traces of the divine laced into the daunting journey of being human in a world full of monsters.

17 December 2004

I'm paraphrasing Kathleen Norris: "A writer whose name I have since forgotten once said that the two true religions of America are optimism and denial," (The Cloister Walk).

As one who has staked his life in the carpenter from Nazareth, I am humbled by these words during this Holiday/Christmas/Advent season.

Optimism. The belief that things are better than they really are or will turn out better than they really will. Denial. The refusal to see or admit reality/truth. Denying the larger evidence in motivation to preserve self.

The gospel has a word for these two great American religions: confession and repentance. Christians proclaims that to be in Christ is to participate in him with the shame and suffering of the cross. Christians repent (daily)for the ways in which the church has aided optimism and denial in ruling the day.

Instead of exchanging our native language for more contemporary lingo, may we honor the language of our Holy story. Sin (confession and repentance) just might be "the last best hope of the church," (B.B. Taylor).

14 December 2004

Loud Clapp

Here is an excerpt from Rodney Clapp's challenging book A Peculiar People

"Church is a way of life lived not with the expectations that Christians can, through the managerial arts of sudden heroism, make the world right. It is instead a way of life lived in the confidence that God has, in the kingdom of Christ, begun to set the world right-and that someday Christ will bring his kingdom to its fulfillment. Only then will wars cease, will the lion lie down with the lamb, will death itself die, will children frolic at the mouth of the viper's den...what we are about then might be called sanctified subversion," (Clapp, 200).


I worked with more "unique" children today (see recent post "Tucked Away Jesus") and enjoyed a little more inbreaking of divine love. My friend Karen (Asian 12 year old with Downs) constantly hugged my saying, "I love you big boy...I love you big boy." Sometimes, big boys are the ones who need to be hugged the most...even if they're 25, 55, 75 years old.

10 December 2004

Words from Fred Craddock ("Why the Cross?")

"I do not know for sure, but I think Paul had to preach the cross to say that this is not only the way the world is, this is also the way the Christian life is. The Christian life says you get involved in other people's lives, sometimes at the risk to name, reputation, fortune, money, and job. You get involved because it is your business to do so. They do you wrong on radio, on television, or any other pulpit when they say, 'If you just believe in God, everything is peaceful, serene, and beautiful, and the dying winds move your ship sailing toward the sunset in beatitude.'"

(From The Cherry Log Sermons, pg. 82)

A Prayer for The Moment

Father, in the midst of this moment, bring me near the cross. Help me to be fully aware of the many ways your grace pentrates this complacent heart. Father, as your heart breaks, help mine to also break. As your eyes tear, help my eyes to be filled with holy vision. As you long to return to Shalom, help my words and my steps be soaked with the message of your cross; that to truly live I must be willing to exist no more. For it is not I that live, but Christ alive speaking a fresh word to my weary soul.

06 December 2004

Tucked Away Jesus

Tucked away in a tiny classroom at Apollo Middle School in forgotten Antioch, TN is Mrs. Bennett's middle school special education classroom. Inside the room you will find Robert, Karen, Tierra, Andres, and Paolo. A few of them have Downs, one is paralyzed from the waist down with little motor skills remaining after a series of strokes at the tender age of five. One is deathly afraid of human contact, and yet another spends her day tearing anything in sight; she cannot talk but only tear.

We look at people who are born with a physical disease or handicap and, in an attempt to psychologize ourselves, we feel sorry for them. That's what people do when they do not intend to do anything, they feel bad about a given situation. This is the emotion we cling to when we seek to rationalize our own existence instead investing outside of oursevles.

If anything, us normal, healthy, consumer-driven, individualistic people are the ones who should be pitied. We've forgotten what it means to depend on others for life, community, and joy. We've forgotten what it is to serve without expecting something in return. We've forgotten what it means to simply be in the presence of another person, uttering no words, yet having the deepest of conversation. Is Christ among us? Yes, but in the places we only talk about going.

Jesus challenged his disciples in the strongest of fashions when he told them that they were now required to love their fellow humans as he loved them, laying down blood, sweat, tears, dreams, and hopes for the purposes of the Kingdom. It was no longer good enough to love as they loved themselves--now the stakes are raised, and the riskiest proposition is laid before us.

01 December 2004

If you've not seen the move "Ray" (a film that depicts the life of Ray Charles Robinson--one of the great musicians of the 20th Century) you need to pay the $7.50, and take a friend with you.

Ray Charles is depicted as a musical genuis (which he was) as well as a womanizer, drug addict (until the late 70's)...but more than the music success or the personal failure, "Ray" is about the life of an African-American man seeking to find redemption in whatever manner life offers.

As a young boy he witnessed the tragic accidental death of his younger brother who drowned. The loss of that pure relationship as well as the dynamic between Ray and his mother sends him on a life long journey to find meaning, worth, and transcendence.

He also battles the inherent but prevailing deuhumanizing attitudes of racism in conjuction with the death of his brother, and ensuing blindness. Still, nothing can quench the life the stirs within this young boy.

Creating music, not a church or community of faith per se, becomes salvation. With the help of his inner circle (mother, and devoted wife) he overcomes the social stigma attached to blindness and drug addiction becoming one of the true great artists in modern America.

One biblical scholar, whose name I've forgotten, suggests that biography is the "purest of all theological reflection". Ray Charles' life is one of struggle, fame, deceit, forgiveness and redemtpion. If we will simply listen long enough to the cadence of culture we might hear the desperate cry for belonging, relationship, and transformation.

And we might recognize our own peculiar journey's in light of those around us.


27 November 2004

Blessed are the Peacemakers?

I remember Jesus saying some things about "the last being first" and "the outcasts inheriting the kingdom (meek, peacemakers, and mourners)"...

This article was a gentle reminder of the strange places in which the Kingdom is breaking through in our particular culture.


I understand that defining "peacemaker" can go in drastically different directions...this particular strand needs to be rewoven into our ecclesiological fabric.

26 November 2004

Here is an interesting article from the Detroit Free Press--it is an editorial warning from an African-American writer to the lower class population of Detroit (and the metro area) concerning shopping for Christmas.

It is interesting to me because I cannot, for one second, relate to the audience the reporter is writing to. Another reminder to me that I need to be about the business of helping every member of our society--not just members of my immediate family.


22 November 2004

I've been a Pistons fan since the fourth grade. My heroes were Joe Dumars, Isaiah Thomas, John "Spider" Salley, and the microwave (Vinnie Johnson). I worked for the Detroit Pistons during undergrad as an instructor for their camps and clinics. I still have poster, t-shirts, and other things from the bad boy era.

I cheered them on the last few years (at times reverting back to my middle school days). In my office at home I have the towel, poster, newspaper clippings (which Kara stood in line to attain) and championship tee-shirt.

Having said that, I was utterly ashamed at what took place on Friday night at The Palace between the Pistons, Pacers, and spectators. First, I'm ashamed that I contribute to the religioisity of Pro Sports in our culture. One could make the argument that big sports has emerged as the new religion (stadiums as sanctuaries, athletes as deities)--I contribute to the grose reality that has become sports in America. I do not understand the chaos that ensued. I don't comprehend Artest, Wallace, O'Neal (who I was sure killed the fan who came on the court), Jackson.
I do not understand the fans. I do not understand the NBA commissioner who hugs the major beer companies in private for the money they pay to advertise, and then chastises the fans (and the results) of having the beer in the stadiums.

Everyone takes the blame in this one. No one is without guilt...except perhaps for the young boy shown on cable television holding his mother's leg, crying in horror.
I hope healing can come from this. But more than that, I hope we realize how insignificant sport really is in light of so much evil and brokenness in the world.

19 November 2004


Sometimes in our desire to be cutting edge we ignore the language of Scripture. Out of a sincere passion to be appealing we craft our language. From an hour long phone conversation last night with a dear friend whom I needed forgiveness--I experienced the words he so often reminded of, "The primary way to love God is to love people."

If there is another way to love God, I have not found it. Confession, sin, repentance...old words that, when dusted off, offer healing, powerful redemption. If our message is going to be heard amongst a chorus of competing stories, we have to be determined to begin to tell the truth--even when it doesn't bring us honor or more power.

A man lies when the truth will not accomplish what he deems most important for his own survival ("Twainism").

17 November 2004

get out of the boat...even if by accident

I was blessed in college to meet some incredible people. Mike, my roommate for three plus years, was the greatest gift of all. He was an inner city star from Detroit and I was a suburban kid (in some ways still am) who grew up in an extremely wealthy church.

Our first trip together that first year was a canoe trip on a relatively tame river--tame for me who loves white water rafting--frightening for him who doesn't even like to swim in a normal pool. I should point out that he was not alone in this fear, most of the my african american teammates were in the same proverbial boat.

About halfway down the river the water began to get rough. We were entering an area with sharp rocks and unseasonably low water, not a good combination. One of the assistant coaches at the time waved me over and encouraged me to "keep an eye on Mike. This is a first for him,and I'm not sure how comfortable he is." I agreed, proud that the coach had asked me to keep an eye on our small college's prize recruit.

A few moments later the water turned for the worse and it was all I could do to stay in my canoe. I navigated over to Mike's canoe which was now stuck between an overhang branch and a muddy bank. The water was moving surprisingly fast and he was beginning to get real anxious. "Grab on to my paddle," I said with over-confidence. As he did his momentum (and adrenaline) exceeded mine and he pulled me right out of the canoe and into freezing, rushing water.

I managed to avoid the real dangerous areas the next quarter or mile or so...going down the river on my rear end. Needless to say, I suffered a few impressive scrapes and bruises. Mike thought that was the funniest thing he'd ever seen. The white guy trying to be the hero (David Hasselhoff perhaps) and I ended up traveling up the creek without a paddle or a boat.

Something changed in our relationship after that event, as mundane as it might have been. I started to see the similarities between Mike and I, instead of the differences--and believe me there are obvious differences (Mike is a 6'7 attractive african-american phenom athlete). I guess both of us realized our humanity bonded us more than our skin color.

Many more obstacles came over the course of the next four years: questions about our faith, social injustice, manhood, etc. We learned to navigate the waters, rough or smooth, together. Mike taught me so much about the heart of Christ...a blog could never capture that experience.

I hope to spend some time next week during Thanksgiving with Mike. I love the prayer that concludes "Cold Mountain" (one of my top ten favorite movies): "For good friends, family...for all our blessings, we thank thee."

15 November 2004

An Unwanted Word

In my last blog, I discussed teaching in Metro Public Schools...I'm going to continue that discussion.

Today, I taught 6th-8th grade for young men who have severe learning or attention disorders. All of the students in the class, except one young person, were African-Americans.

During the afternoon, I was instructed to read from a Social Studies unit the students are going through. I noticed the subject was "Harriet Tubman" and I thought to myself, "wow, this will be great, I did my undergrad in history, I'll be able to really make this come alive for them."

About ten minutes into reading the simple biography of Tubman a young man rose up and said, "how could your people to do this to my people?" I'd just finished reading a section about six year old Harriet who'd been beaten severely for stealing food for her family because they were so malnourished some of them were nearly being worked to the point of literal death.

The classroom was completely silent. Instead of offering a complex historical explanation of sociological influence, norms, customs, world-views...I simply said, "I don't know Rahkim (pronounced Rah-keem)."

Another young boy spoke up after a few more minutes of silence, "People sure can be evil can't they?"

It dawned on me that I did a degree in American History from a predominantly white evangelical college. As grateful as I am for that experience, the every day experiences I encounter with people are far more crucial to the ones I learn in the labratory that is the classroom.

A good reminder for those of us who like to hide in the tower.

13 November 2004

Out From the Safe Places

It struck me this week that Nashville is indeed a unique town. I don't mean that good or bad--it is what it is. And it's not the first time I've had this thought.

I've been substitute teaching (Metro Public Schools and Lipscomb Campus School) this fall to help pay the grad school bills as I finish the M.Div. later this year. At Lipscomb Campus, the majority of the students are upper middle class white kids from families who are members of Churches of Christ. There are some students who are members of other Evangelical churches ("money is money, all denominations are accepted"), but the overwhelming majority come from Churches of Christ.

In the Metro Public School System, my experience has been the complete opposite. Most of the students are from minority homes: African-american, Hispanic, Latino, Arabic, Kurdish, Asian, etc. These students come from mostly middle to low income homes and the religious views are as diverse as the ethnicity: Islam, Hindu, various eastern religions, and some branches of the Christian faith.

There are almost two worlds that exist in Nashville (albeit different from John Edwards notion)

I wonder what the Christian influence/mission will look like in Nashville over the next twenty years in the areas that are not conventional Christian institutions (Christian churches, schools, and universities)? I wonder if the division that separates the white suburban Christians from everyone else will continue to increase or if bridge builders will emerge in an urgency to realize the vision of the Gospel in which all are united as children of God.

As wealthy white Christians, we can continue to live our lives in an attempt to preserve what we deem most important (blood families, savings, homes, honor) or we can embrace death over preservation and be adamant about living out the life of Jesus in every nook and cranny of the culture we find ourselves in.

One is safe, the other is risky business. I think Jesus spent some time teaching the religious folks of his day which one his Kingdom is about (Mt. 25). As C.S. Lewis reminds me, "though God is good, he's never been safe."

11 November 2004

Christ Among Us

In my first ever blog I mentioned Mary Morris-one of Kara's best friends and someone I've grown to love and appreciate. Mary has cancer and is in the midst of battling the chemo/radiation treatments.

Last night was our last time to see Mary for almost two months for she is returning to Morgantown, WV (where Kara grew up) to be with her family and close friends. As we were saying good bye it dawned on me how important our weekly gatherings had become (sometimes every other week). There was no plan of action when we came over, usually a call from Mary saying, "Hey, I've got way too much food--can you and Kara come over and help mom and I eat it?"

You never have to ask me that question twice. Usually we talk about politics, our conservative religious views (ok their conservative religious views) and the latest movies.

I did not realize this until last night, but we sort of formed our own dysfunctional church over the last few months. People would come over all the time to see Mary, and when they left, they always felt a sense of renewal in their faith journey. The one we were supposed to bless ended up being a blessing. The Kingdom shows up in my life in the strangest ways: people I initially failed to notice, circumstances that seemed mundane or predictable--and then, wham! The traces of God in our midst shows up so obviously even if only for a few moments.

Kara and I will miss Mary and Lois (Mary's mother) while they're gone. Not only are we losing great neighbors (they live right across the street) but we're losing Christ among us. Pray for God to fully dwell in Mary's life as she continues to wrestle with the cancer in her body.

08 November 2004

Right On the Money

My wife is the queen of delivering the right punch line.

Last night, we were reflecting on a two hour discussion our small group engaged in concerning Brian McLaren's "A New Kind of Christian". Much of the talk centered around the differences between modern faith and postmodern faith as it plays out in our faith journeys in our respective fundamentalist climate.

After listening to me reflect on the night, she turned to me (at about 1245 am) and said, "Well, here's what I think about the whole modern vs. post-modern discussion. I'm either sliding back into the world of modernity or I'm a post-postmodern. Maybe I had too good an experience. Maybe my relationship with my father was so healthy I can't relate to many people's faith experience..."

If anyone knows Kara's father, they know that the two of them have the strongest of bonds.

Kara reminded that much of my religious experience (ok a somewhat pomo word) was Christ centered and fatih affirming. I can't hide behind some of the things I tend to. Though many have had traumatic experiences barely surviving church abuse, there are stories out there of people who were introduced to a dangerously loving Jesus.

04 November 2004

The Politics of Jesus

New Testament background studies and careful reading of the Gospels reveal “honor and shame” as a central pillar in many Ancient cultures (both Greco-Roman and Jewish). Much of the teachings and actions of Jesus upset the cultural norm embedded within the before mentioned context. One holds a place of honor by grasping wealth, education, prominence and power. One does everything one can to align oneself with those who have ignoring those who have not. Shame is placed upon the poor, the uneducated, the disenfranchised, those with physical deformity, disease, or handicap. Above all other virtues, honor is the most coveted reality in the ancient world.

Jesus walks into their world announcing forgiveness of both social and individual sin. Modern Christians spend most of their time exploring individual sin, never considering the notion that Jesus spent much of his time subverting the social practices and ideals that lifted up the privileged and held down the ones who were perceived to be less than human. When Jesus walks into a room or tells a parable, he often seeks to address sin and restore the humanity of those who’ve been “dehumanized” by the ones claiming to represent the divine law. Jesus heals a woman with a blood issue, a man who has never walked, and a man stricken with leprosy -and in doing so, he validates their humanity, their imago Dei.

The words of the Hebrews writer are prophetic and priestly:

"Therefore Jesus also suffered outside the city gate in order to sanctify the people by his own blood. Let us then go outside the camp and bear the shame (abuse) he endured. For here we have no lasting city, but we are looking for the city that is to come. Through him, then, let us continually offer a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of the lips that confess his name." (Hebrews 13:12-16)

23 October 2004

World Series Meltdown

The Red Sox cannot win this World Series for several reasons:

3. They are not the better team. Though, I believe their comeback in the Yankees series is perhaps the greates sporting achievment of my lifetime to date, they will lose to the better team.

2. They don't really want to win. They get their identitiy from being the team that almost wins. What would happen if the idenity cycles they've created bursted? The equilibrium of the universe would be upset and some butterfly in Tawaiin might begin a massive onlsaught of hurricanes in the Ukraine. The Red Sox, like the Cubs and Clippers, will not win because they need to lose, they need to maintain the dramatic label of "doomed" by the baseball gods.

1. They did trade one of the top three baseball players in this history of the game and their is a consequence to pay for it, even if it happened alomst 90 years ago.

Obviously, the Lord could care less who wins (don't tell that to Notre Dame fans), but it will be a fascinating series to watch.

Having said the previous, the Bo Sox will probably win but Olympic judges reviewing Damon's 7th game, 9th innning, last at bat, homerun will cite a rules violation in the MLB player manual: rule 63542b (from 1918) which clearly states " a player shall only be allowed to wear hair longer than his wife from 1968-1974 and from 1990-1994."

Congratulations, Paul Hamm will hand the Cardinals their Championship trophy and people will remember them for something other than an Arch and Ozzie Smith backflips.


15 October 2004

Standing on the Shoulders of Others

I am taking Lee Camp's Ecclesiology Class (Church History). He's just written a book entitled, Mere Discipleship. Here is an excerpt from assignment. I hope this challenges you.

Dear Brothers and Sisters in (Some of) our Progressive Churches of Christ: (A Plea against New Legalism)

I had a professor in graduate school who summed up my faith experience when he described his own. He said, "when I was younger and in high school, I understand that salvation was avoiding hell, discipleship was keeping a certain, subjective list of moral faux pas. Heaven was really an attempt to avoid hell. Then when I went to college, I embraced the Protestant notion that salvation is about what God has done for me out of his love. I came to understand that I am justified by grace through faith. Discipleship (or works) was about responding, in gratitude, that ‘I owed a debt I could not pay’ and Jesus took stood in my place before his Father, the judge. Heaven was the thing I waited for in great anticipation. And then later in life, as I wrestled with Paul (Romans 6 to be specific) and the Gospels (The Kingdom of God in the Synoptics and eternal life in the Fourth Gospel) I learned that salvation was not just about power, but that it is also about pardon. Intellectually, I understood that I was forgiven through the blood, but I did not understand the second part of Peter’s message in Acts, that ‘I would be forgiven of my sins’ as well as ‘empowered with the gift of the Holy Spirit.’ I now believe that discipleship (or works) is also a gift of grace from God and that heaven is something I daily participate in. The Gospel doesn’t just save us from hell, or remind me that is was God’s doing, it wants us to participate in the way God intended life to be in the here and now!"

I shared that story with you, brothers and sisters, because I am concerned with a mentality that is creeping into our so-called "progressive church theology." In many ways, it is simply a new legalism that functions exactly like the old one that so many are passionate to share their stories of escape. Many of the progressive churches hang their hat on having a new belief system. But if the new belief system does not shape our community ethic, then we must question the validity of the belief system.

Let me put it like this. The Gospel has always been more concerned with right living (orthoproxy) than right thinking (orthodoxy). This is the very reason Jesus clashes in every meeting with the Religious Teachers in the Gospels. They "know the Scriptures but yet they do not know to whom the Scriptures point," Jesus-the visible expression of what God desires the Kingdom to look like and how he desires for its citizens to live.

Let me give you some examples of the way God has been teaching people since the death and resurrection of Jesus. In Romans 6, Paul tells the church that they are no longer slaves to sin, they no longer have to live in the bondage and rebellion of sin. In his letter to the Philippians, Paul explicitly declares that he wants to know "the power of the cross, the sufferings of Christ." Paul tells various churches, that if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation, the old man is dead, and that they now wear Christ! The Gospel empowers us to live differently, not just think differently.

From Camp, we learn all these things in our reading of church history so that we might live differently, not simply think differently. The Gospel doesn’t just want us to think a certain way, it wants us to live a Kingdom life: one that is intentional about embodying the life of Jesus in our day and age. One that is serious about meeting the needs of the poor in the arenas of health insurance, jobs, educational opportunities, health care, taxes-any practice that might seek to exploit the ones who have always been dehumanized in our culture. Lives that do not trust in the U.S. Government for identity, security and salvation. The Gospel wants us to create communities that tell the truth, confess sin, repent of addiction, and live in peace and humility.
The Gospel wants to reorient our allegiances so that we see ourselves as Christians, humans…and lastly, people who happen to have been born in America. The Gospel demands that we read the bible narratively: we live (to tell) the Story, we worship (seeing our lives as worship and not separating ethics from worship), we partake in the Lord’s Supper (inviting all to sit at the Lord’s table and welcoming those to share all they have) and we baptize people reminding them that now they "pledge allegiance to the Lamb; to the Kingdom of God and no other).

There is no secular world as Luther proposes in his ethic of vocation. We are representations of the Kingdom in our work, families and broader communities. To separate our religious identity from our professional identity is to misunderstand the fundamental nature of discipleship in the Gospels.

Above all, Jesus call us to be agents of redemption in this world, "kingdom lights" that go into the darkness of exploitation, racism, and warfare declaring that the shalom of God is available. The Constantine Cataract ("ends justify the means", and the Gospel won’t work in the real world) and Eusibien Philospophy (God sides with the winners, America’s Manifest Destiny) must be acknowledged as the disease which has created a host of deadly symptoms in the life of God’s Church. We are to be people who search for the Kingdom, praying that in the fullness of time, God will fully reveal it.

Brothers and Sisters, discipleship changed when Constantine made the Christian Faith the official religion of the Empire. Discipleship went from being visbible to invisible. Churches went from being communities of faith to an insitutionalized Religious Empire. Christianity went from illegal to legal, and now everyone is Christian. The Church went from being the persecuted to persecuting. The purposes of God were left to the whims of the Empire instead of the direct hand of God moving in history. The Gospel was neutered and we are still wrestling with these effects in our own time.

The worlds needs to see radical disciples who don’t spiritualize the cross but see "taking up their cross" as living in the tension of this aeon and the coming aeon, the tension between our own crucifixion’s and resurrections.

We understand that we are made right with God because of his gracious nature, but we also understanding that the Kingdom of God is breaking in and we can experience the divine by participating in His Kingdom work. If our lives utter a word that contradicts the Gospel we preach, we utter a word that does not belong to us. We must be passionate, not in what we know about the Word, but in the manner and faithfulness in which we embody the Living Word.

The Gospel seeks to touch every facet of human existence, poverty, wealth, racism, sexism, murder, hate, joy, love, envy, greed, generosity strife, corruption, truth-telling-there is nothing outside the boundaries of the good news. In America, Christianity presents itself as a set of beliefs to be adhered to (conservative and progressive alike). People are dying for a faith that is a way of life, a new way of seeing the world, and a new way of living. This is the good news uttered by the carpenter from Nazareth, the one we follow and confess "has the words of eternal life."

07 October 2004

The Possibilities of Cancer

This is my first ever blog.

I spent time yesterday evening with my friend who has stage 4 cancer. We talked about the parousia/heaven (coming of the Lord) and what eternity "will be like." I told her my struggle with the Platonic dualism that's invaded Christian thinking (body-bad, spirit-good) rendering many incapable of seeing the Genesis announcement by YHWH of Creation " made in his own image," and "very good."

We talked about heaven as a return to the Garden, the shalom (peace) in which God intended for us from the very start. We talked about God's longing to redeem all of Creation-leaving us fully in his presence and fully aware of ourselves. And we talked about how in this very moment we are only slivers of our true selves; that God sees us from every moment in the past and every moment in the future. This is who we are, our total identity.

"And then I saw a new heaven, and a new earth..." I'm grateful this morning for John's picture of Jesus in the Fourth Gospel in which Jesus' new body demonstrates our own pending ressurection (not reincartion) and the breath which brings forth new life (the Johannine Pentecost and Genesis 1 poetic description).

The Book of Isaiah declares that God will make all things new. This is hope for one whose body is ravaged with cancer and for her friend trying to make sense of the divine rumors seeping into our suffering world.