29 April 2005


I am not going to post for awhile...I have been blown away by reading much on the Open Door Community in Atlanta, GA (see http://www.opendoorcommunity.org/)

Save the time from reading my posts (if anyone does) and the many other blogs that are out there and read what people are actually doing not simply saying.

http://www.opendoorcommunity.org/-in case you missed the link, you will be a truer disciple if you read what these disciples are up to. Though some might not agree with certian positions one would be crazy to ignore the prophetic nature of their ministry to those of us in comfortable wealthy clubs we are calling churches.

19 April 2005

Against the Powers

Charles Campbell's Word Before the Powers challenges all notions of what it means to be a Jesus follower. His conviction is that Jesus is depicted as the God ordained prophet/teacher who did everything to resist, usurp, name, and expose the "principalities and powers" of darkness. Though he is not original with this idea (none of us are by the way) his particular approach of desribing the Christian life is compelling.

In resisting the powers we are truly following Jesus and we serve as foreshadows to the full inbreaking of the Kingdom.

One section in particular really transformed me this week. In resisting the powers of darkness, even if it means marginalization and death, we beging to witness tokens of Christ's resurrection.

In my own life, these glimpses of God's Shalom have often come on the streets of Atlanta among homeless people. Several months ago, for example, I was leading worship in the front yard of the Open Door Community, a Christian community that ministers with homeless people. A group of us were standing in a circle, holding hands, praising God amid the noise of rush-hour traffic...Then, as I looked around the circle, I noticed one homeless man waiving to me and pointing to himself, indicating he wanted to do something. I was surprised when I saw him, for the man can neither hear or speak, and normally he is very reserved. But there he was, urgently waving to me, requesting to provide leadership for the worship.

I nodded to him, and he stepped into the middle of the circle. Then, after bowing his head for a few moments in silence, he began to sign a hymn for us. It was remarkable, beautiful, like a dance. And while the rest of us didn't understand all of the signs, some of them were unmistakable, like the sign for Jesus on the cross. And we all knew the Word the man proclaimed through his dance
. (pp. 123-24)

As easy as it is to name the powers at work (indiffernce, nationalism, materialism, and racism) I shudder to think of the ways in which I allow and encourage the powers and prinicipalities of darkness to ravage the ones Jesus identified with.

It is time for those of us doing theology and preaching to do theology that is concerned about the church and her witness in the world and not 3rd Century Ancient Roman bathroom construction, or depicting a God who wants to "increase our territory." Both reduce the Christian Story to a pitifall version of the Jesus on display in the Gosels and throughout the history of his church. Christ means a real and present hope for all people. Christ means change. Christ means ongoing transformation. Christ means the liberation of creation from the grip of death.
That is the music to which we all are invited to dance.

11 April 2005

My first ever blog came in the fall (I think October) about a good friend Mary Morris. Mary is the Director of Character Counts in Nashville and teaches in the Education Department at Lipscomb University.

Mary has a very dangerous form of cancer and has been battling its effects for nearly 10 months now. We are all hopeful, but we honestly have no idea what the next 2 or 3 months have in store. Yesterday, a small group of disciples gathered in a hospital holding room at Vanderbilt Hospital to praise, pray, partake of the Eucharist and listen to a short homily.

In the room: family members, two college students, the former governor of TN, many teriffic women who've made parenting an honorable vocation, several College professors and host of other people.

It is in the most Christian moments that the playing fields are leveled. Honor, power, and status mean nothing when Jesus' apprentices come together to practice authentic community. Mary spoke up and gave a stirring encouragement to us. At one point she said, "This is my family."

For me, the church is the greatest apologetic for the ressurection. Oh, I know it is also the greatest support AGAINST the ressurection as well. But in moments like the one we shared yesterday, I believe because I want to believe. You can have the ontological argument for God. You can have all of the proofs for the ressurection The Case For Christ can conjur. But me, I came to Christ and have been sustained by Him because of his dysfunctional band of brothers and sisters we call the broken body of Christ. For me, being a part of the church has been salvation through and through.

05 April 2005

A Menorah from the Pope?

I've enjoyed hearing the many anecdotes that have surfaced in regards to the life of Pope John Paul II over the last few days. Tales of his love for poetry, skiing, philosophy, and hiking. The world needs to remember that before he was the Pope, he was a man with crazy dreams about life, love, and friendship.

One story in particular came during an interview with Larry King the other night. I forget the gentleman's name, he was the Pope's official orchestra director, but he developed a unique relationship with the man. A few details are important here. One, the Pope sought this man out because he lived in the Pope's childhood town. Second, this man is Jewish.

One of the director's sons recently recieved a menorah from the 16th century as a gift from the Pope. The director said this gift was typical of the nature of their friendship. Love, acceptance, affection-some call it incarnational, some call it being Jesus. I call it true to the nature of the Gospel. Living with people in a Gospel way as opposed to convincing people that the Christian faith is the sum of its rational arguments.

One of the pastors at the church I attend noted the incarnational nature of the Pope's ministry-being among the poor, hugging them, touching, looking them in their eyes, validating their humanity, seeing them as full persons.

There is much I don't understand about highly institutionalized relgions (of which fundamentalists sometimes tend to be the worst)but I do know that God can redeem them. I think Pope John Paul II was God's activity in the life of the Church universal among the world.

01 April 2005


I spent my spring break with a group of students and one teacher (Phillip Camp) from Lipscomb in Camden, New Jersey. One of my best friends is doing his Ph.D. in Philadelphia (Westminster) and we worked with his church to somehow be good news for the six days we were there. Most people do not know this but Camden was recently voted the most dangerous city in the U.S. (U.S. News and World Report). It edged out Detroit, Houston, New York, and Los Angeles (and a few others).

Camden is actually an extension of Philadelphia--just across the river. It only has about 50,000 people. Buildings are abandoned, streets are occupied with trash. As we stood on the corner of one of the most dangerous parts of Camden I thought to myself, "This cannot be America." I've been to Trujillo, Honduras and Ocho Rios, Jamaica-but I expected poverty, despair and hunger.

Our group worked with "My Brothers Keeper"-a mission house run by a pentecostal church in which former addicts, pushers, and pimps come for food, healing, and restoration. Day by day, with prayer and community, they are made whole again. Real people with real pain. Not simply "lazy blacks/latinos" who don't want a better life. Men who've been overrun by institutional sin.

I wonder when our churches will start sending missionaries to Camden. I wonder when the churches in Korea will start sending missionaries to Detroit. Missiologists say (people who study mission contexts) that more Christians live in Asia, Latin America, Africa and Eastern Europe than in the West. This hasn't been the case for several hundred years.

I wonder when Christians will start to reclaim their identity as missionaries in a context that is hostile towards the claim of the gospel? Maybe those of us in vocational ministry (preachers, pastors, and counselors) should spend more time equipping the disciples than performing psychology; bad psychology at that.

Where the poor exist, Christ is present. Is the church spending time with Christ or with Caesar and the spoils of his empire?