20 March 2005

As we prepare to remember and reinact the passion of Jesus it strikes me how strange it might seem to many that a band of believers would suscribe to the following elements of the Christian faith.

1. That Jesus' cross now belongs to all of those who would dare to follow him.

2. To be Christian is to, in sense, denounce all other powers we've historically run to for identity and sustainment.

3. Life with the marginalized is not something the church plans--this is who the church is. Not because it is the natural response but because we take seriously the teachings and life of Jesus.

4. Our faith is not "successful"--it does not bring more wealth,power, or influence-- if it does it might not be the faith. Our faith is in a God who is moving the world to his own purposes. In fact, our faith looks quiet foolish when we get right down to it.


When I read the Gospels, this is the world I see it creating; a world radically different than the one we live in.

18 March 2005

Besides a few of my seminary teachers, Barbara Brown Taylor has challenged my faith in ways I cannot explain. Here is an excerpt from The Preaching Life I used on Sunday at Woodmont Hills. She is a poet who writes as if words still matter a great deal.

God is not through with us yet. At our worst moments, both individually and corporately, we act as if that were so. We act as if creation had all been finished a long, long time ago, and encased in glass, where we may look at it through the grime of centuries but may not touch. Nothing could be further from the truth. The Holy Spirit still moves over the face of the waters, God still breaths life into piles of dust, Jesus still shouts us from our tombs. The deep river of revelation still runs strong from the fresh headwaters of its source to its jewel-encrusted banks in the heavenly city, with power to drench our dry days along the way. (From The Preaching Life)

The Spirit still moves over the face of the waters...blowing wherever it pleases.

08 March 2005

For Those Who Have No Voice

Part of my grad school experience has been sub teaching with the Metro Public School System. This of course is about paying Lipscomb, not some kind of “ministry training experience.” Recently I taught at risk at a large, well-known high school here in downtown Nashville. Vanderbilt sends a child-therapist over every Thursday to help these at risk kid’s deal with anger, depression, and hatred. Some of them talked about their fears of all the gangs-the BP’s, KP’s, Crips, Bloods, and KKK. After a few minutes of this, the therapist got the young men and women to talk about their personal lives. One young boy, a talented artist, spoke of not ever knowing his father. His mother works three jobs to pay the bills for him and his brother. He wants to drop out of school so his mother “don’t have to work to the bone every day and night.” A young girl sat next to him. She is 17 and has a two-year old daughter. She spoke of her hatred for her father. She said she wished he would disappear from her life. Said it would be better to deal with an absent father than an abusive father. Her mother doesn’t work and makes her take care of the house, her three younger siblings, plus her own two-year old daughter. The boyfriend/father is kept in the picture because “he got money and that’s the only thing I got going for me right now.”

Next to her sits a young African American male. He is shy but intelligent. He is not confident enough to look the therapist in the eye. After a few moments of prodding, he talks about the rage he keeps inside towards his mother. Seems she no longer wanted to be around. He’s never seen a picture of his father, let alone met him. One day, a few years ago, she dropped him off at his Aunt’s house and no one has heard from her since. He asks through his tears, “Why you think my momma don’t want to be around me?” The last girl at the table speaks up after a few moments of silence. She is a talent on the basketball floor, I’m later told. Last year, her mother (her idol) was killed by a drunk driver. No father to comfort her. Just like that-her life is flipped upside down. She lives with different family members, bouncing from house to house, grinding it out day by day.

I enjoy the various theories of the Atonement. Propitiation, reconciliation, justification, liberation—all the words that we wrestle with. But I’m challenged by the notion that all theories of the cross-its meaning for the church must be relational and communal. We cannot stay in the courtroom mentality, walking around declaring, “Aren’t we fortunate to have been forgiven.” Only to return back to life as usual. The Gospel knows nothing of life as usual. The Gospel is a revolution that is supposed to turn everything upside down-all aspects of life in the here and now. Most importantly the cross must change the way we think about those we live with and amongst. If Christ speaks on our behalf, is he not relying upon us to speak for those with no voice? The ones who’ve been dealt an UNO hand at the poker table. Does the cross not demand that we get over ourselves, our way of being Christian to follow Jesus as light into every dark corner of society? If God’s mercy does not cause us to be merciful, is it really the gospel that we’ve been claiming all along?