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.