29 May 2009

Endorsements for The Feast

Endorsements for THE FEAST: HOW TO SERVE JESUS IN A HUNGRY WORLD (Leafwood Publishers, 2009)

Josh Graves knows that the soul's hunger is not satisfied by right beliefs alone. People crave spirituality - and not just a wishy-washy, airy-fairy, this-and-that spirituality either. They want a robust, lifelong, dynamic, profound, and deep-rooted (or radical) spirituality that is focused, not simply on "my needs" or "my feelings," but on Jesus and his mission in our world.

Brian D. McLaren (from the Foreword)
Author of Everything Must Change

Here is a book that asks one of the most dangerous questions in the world: "What if Jesus really meant the stuff he said?" The Feast is an invitation to taste the goodness of God in Jesus, the Jesus who has been able to survive the mistakes of Christendom. And it is my prayer that all of us who feast on Christ will become what we eat -- for the world is starving for Good News that they can see and taste and feel.

Shane Claiborne
author, activist, and recovering sinner

In my ministry on a college campus I find young Christians and old who are yearning for a spirituality that demands everything and returns joy unending. Like loaves and fishes with baskets leftover, this book will fill those who hunger after God with good things. Read, and feast on the gospel of Christ.

Craig Kocher
Associate Dean of the Chapel
Duke University

In The Feast, Josh Graves explores the terribly important question of what it means to reconfigure Christianity as a way of life, instead of a mere system of beliefs. Along the way, we are reminded of many of the harsh, jagged edges of the story of which we are a part, which challenge our pre-conceived notions of what discipleship entails. But the story is not just of the cost of discipleship, but its joy too: So Josh also gives us a picture of a great feast indeed, a compelling picture of a kind of life lived in genuine liberty, and thus beauty.

Lee Camp
Author of Mere Discipleship

This book is not one more argument about "post-christendom Christianity." There is little need for that. The Feast is rather a series of meditations on following Jesus today. The results are stunning. I came away not merely convinced, but moved.

Randy Harris
Abilene Christian University

At a time when it’s clear that fewer in the West consider themselves to be Christians, it’s critical that we think carefully about the meaning of the Jesus Story. Is it possible that what others are rejecting isn’t Jesus himself – with his proclamation and embodiment of God’s reign – but caricatures of that story? That’s why The Feast is such a welcome book. Josh Graves is both a guide and a companion on this exciting journey to understand and experience afresh the meaning of Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection.

Mike Cope
Heartbeat Ministries

In The Feast, Josh Graves leads us beyond what happens when we discover Scripture. He challenges us to imagine what happens when Scripture discovers us.

Sara Barton
Rochester College

What you hold in your hand is of great relevance because it concerns the eternal. And eternal matters are always relevant. I found The Feast to be biblically-grounded, culturally-accessible, and subtly offensive to the spirit of religion within me. It's because of each of these realities that this book is so engaging. Joshua Graves writes humbly, confessionally, without an heir of condescension or condemnation - inviting us to imagine with him what it looks like for things to be on earth as they are in heaven and to prayerfully contend for it to be so.

Chris Seidman
Farmers Branch Church

The Feast: Introduction

Here's a brief introduction for my book, The Feast, coming out September 1, 2009 from Leafwood Publishers.

In 1871, the city of Chicago suffered a devastating fire. By the end of the destruction, almost two-thirds of the city proper had been destroyed. Likely a case of an urban myth run wild, early reports pointed to a poor Irish woman as the one responsible. A poor, immigrant Catholic (the perfect criminal in the political milieu of late nineteenth century Chicago), Catherine O’Leary was the first reported perpetrator. The Chicago Tribune reporter who “leaked” this information would later retract.Several theories now remain regarding the person responsible for the great fire. Yet, the most interesting element to me regarding the story is the reason the city burned down in the first place. Before Chicago became the “windy” city, it was known as the wooden city for its streets, buildings, factories, and homes were primarily made of a substance that could be destroyed in an instant. Chicago was made of wood and it would soon learn the fallacy of constructing an entire community/existence upon a fragile source.

This is a great metaphor for our cultural situation regarding Christianity and the Church. Made of wood (science= God), our western religious cities are slowly burning. Architects from all over the world are now coming to this city to a) diagnose the cause of the fire (i.e. the failures of modernity) and b) create new possibilities and paradigms within our given context.This is not to say that the “wooden city” was evil, bankrupt, or false. Rather, it is to recognize the limitations as well as the possibilities now for the future.

According to Christian scholar, Alister McGrath, almost two-thirds of all Christians lived in the West in 1900. And now, only one-third were still recognized as “Western” by 2000. In the last fifty years, Christianity shifted to the far corners of the world: China, South America, and Africa. Scholars now note there are more Anglicans in Africa, for instance, than in all of Great Britain.[1] In fact, it seems there are more Christians living in China and Africa then in the United States—a statistic unimaginable even fifty years ago.

My own religious tribe, Churches of Christ from the American Restoration Movement, has been slowly declining the last three decades in the United States. Besides two major segments of Protestant faith—Pentecostal and Independent/Community—most of Western Christianity is in the midst of a season of stagnation or severe decline.

In virtually every part of America (including the Bible Belt), Christianity is dying a slow death. Out of these ashes exists the opportunity to continue to dream about God’s activity and the potential for the story of Jesus to receive a fresh hearing.

Part autobiography, social justice manifesto, historical reflection, treatise on grace, journal from the urban/suburban world, and narrative reading of Jesus’ life—The Feast is a book seeking to bridge the world of reflection and practice. The chasm of belief and practice (a product of the Enlightenment and its quest for facts and objective truth) is evident even in many of today’s “post” modern writings. The Feast is one attempt to do reflection and practice in a harmonious dance.

[1]See Philip Jenkins outstanding trilogy on the emerging shape of global Christianity: The New Faces of Christianity: Believing the Bible in the Global South (New York: Oxford Press, 2006); The Next Christendom: The Coming of Global Christianity (New York: Oxford Press, 2007); and God’s Continent: Christianity, Islam, and Europe’s Religious Crisis (New York: Oxford Press, 2007). Also, Brian D. McLaren’s Everything Must Change: Jesus, Global Crises, and a Revolution of Hope (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 2007) is one of the more constructive blue-prints per the church’s local and global mission in our pluralistic society

28 May 2009

A Theology of Celebration

This guy knows how to celebrate . . .
I'm going to "out" myself and other ministers. Most of us don't get real excited about weddings. Funerals are a different matter (something about captive audiences). For one, there are usually complex family issues at work in weddings that are beyond the scope of any one professional (minister, counselor, etc.). Second, there's almost always a decent amount of drama leading up to the wedding (poor planning, volatile relationship, nervous groom, etc.). Third, sometimes you feel like a mascot ("Now where did I put my monkey suit?"). Fourth, you know that at least a third of the weddings you perform are likely to end in divorce (Christians get divorced at the same rate as non-Christians). I like to go 3 for 6 in softball . . . but not marriages.

Sometimes however, God sends people our way like Shaun and Jessica Hover. Shaun came to Rochester Church in the wake of a friend's tragic death (Nic Paradise). Nic was part of our family. On a Sunday, after I preached we laid hands on Nic, asking God to continue God's liberating work from addiction. Several people prayed.

Early the next morning Nic died in the bedroom of his apartment. Shaun found the body. I arrived shortly after. I've never seen someone minister to a grieving family, fiance, and friends the way Shaun did in the coming days.

Fast forward. Shaun was baptized. Spent several months doing discipleship training in Los Angeles. Served in China, Thailand, Spain, and India mentoring dozens of young adults from all over the U.S. who've come out of addiction, broken homes and identity crises.

In the midst of all that, he also managed to fall in love with a girl from Colorado (Jessica). This weekend, I'll perform their wedding. I would not miss this wedding for a Tigers seventh game in the World Series. It will be one of the highlights of my time in ministry to date. There will be lots of tears, dancing, laughter, music, and stories. Lots of dancing (did I mention that?). It will be a Jesus Wedding in every sense of the word. It reminds me that, as followers of Jesus, we need a theology of celebration. Celebration does not come naturally in white suburban culture (unless we're talking about our kids or sports ironically).

In the book, Sex God, Rob Bell describes the chuppah (pronounced hoopah) practice common to Jewish weddings. In some strands of ancient culture, a man and woman would place themselves under the chuppah, a cloth covering, which signified the covenant being instituted. Upon making the vows, the couple would then go to a nearby home to consummate the marriage (they were more concerned with living pure before God than the State of Michigan). In a moment of social awkwardness, the young couple would enter into a home to physically consummate the marriage, while everyone else waited outside (can you see Aunt Myrtle waiting anxiously?).

When the newly consummated couple emerged from the house, hopefully at least twenty minutes later, an intense celebration would take place. This was more than cake and punch on a Saturday afternoon in the church fellowship hall. This was laughing, crying, dancing, and consumption of large bottles of sparkling grape juice. A party that could last up to seven days because they had a theology of celebration that exposes our busy, over-scheduled, serious, palm-pilot driven culture.

I think the remedy for some of the depression weighing us down is a healthy dose of . . . celebration.

24 May 2009

Gone Baby Gone

Today, during the teaching time at church, Patrick made the point that one of the primary reasons life is precious is because it is temporary. "There will be a last time. A last time to hold hands with your spouse, children, grandchildren, and friends." If life was permanent, it would be altogether different. 

Kids won't always hold hands with their parents. Fall fades into Winter. Excitement morphs into ordinary. Mountain peaks become valleys. 

Two people were on my mind this morning. First, Lucas (of course). There will come a day, not to be depressing or dramatic, when Lucas and I cannot play catch, watch a movie, talk about politics, listen to good music (I'm hoping he'll like U2 as well). My grandfather grandmother held Lucas yesterday at my parents home. My parents both held Lucas. Lexi (my niece) held Lucas. My brother and sister each held Lucas. There will come a day when none of these people will hold Lucas. 

These moments are temporary. 

I sat in the home of a friend this afternoon almost four years into battling cancer. She has four kids. Beautiful kids. Smart and passionate. During the conversation in which our shepherds encouraged and blessed, we broke bread, drank of the cup, remembering Jesus who teaches us the temporary-ness of our existence. We celebrated Jesus. This Jesus had the uncanny ability to make every conversation, moment, friendship, opportunity--he made them all count. Probably because he recognized that to be human, on some level, is to live within the confines of the temporary.  I'm a follower of Jesus, in part, because he teaches us not just how to live but how to live well.   

The friend I spent time with has already buried a close friend due to cancer. She was from Hawaii, an amazing life-giving person who's smile is still remembered fondly in our church community.  

But, it doesn't last. 

One of my favorite poems is a Percy Shelley poem. It's called Mutability. Essentially, the point of the poem is that life has moments of sheer eternity. But the moments of eternity are short. Fleeting. Gone baby gone. "The flower that smiles today, tomorrow dies." 

Part of being a Christian, then, is learning to live in the God-tainted moments of our lives. Those single moments become, by the grace of God, a thousand moments.  

23 May 2009

Three Excerpts

Here are three excerpts I've been chewing on this week. The excerpts come from: Genesis, Anne Lamott's Operating Instructions and Randy Harris's (new book) God Work.

Kara and I are reading through Genesis together right now. We stumbled upon this about a week ago. In Genesis 2:18-20, the text reads, "Then the Lord God said, 'It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper as his partner.' 19So out of the ground the Lord God formed every animal of the field and every bird of the air, and brought them to the man to see what he would call them; and whatever the man called every living creature, that was its name. 20The man gave names to all cattle, and to the birds of the air, and to every animal of the field; but for the man there was not found a helper as his partner."

There are too many things that jump off the page in these few verses to unpack. But, the part that grabbed me, for the first time, was the last line in verse 20: "there was not found a helper as his partner." I tried to read the text closely. So, the question surrounds the search for the suitable partner. Did God host a try-out ala American Idol. "Right. Cheetah, you bring a lot to the table. However, we are looking for some more stability. . . . Hippo, you would be a formidable opponent to Adam. But, we don't know how Adam will feel if he's the physically inferior member of the house."

Apparently, God looked for a helpmate (some translations use this word) but could not find one appropriate. Perhaps, none of them had strengths that would match Adam's weaknesses. Perhaps none of them had weaknesses that would fit with Adam's strengths.

More on this text later.


Anne Lamott records a conversation she's sharing with a lesbian atheist friend (her description, not mine). After mocking her friend ("What do you pagan homos do at your midnight celebrations--put a of dogs in wicker baskets and push them off cliffs . . .?" )--she remembered the story she had now committed to living. "And she [Lamott's friend] looked over at my big Italian crucifix on the kitchen wall, at the thorns, at the bloody wound, the nails through his palms, and then she turned to me with a look of such amused condescension that all I could do was laugh. As soon as she left, though, I went and stared at the crucifix for a long time and breathed it in. I believe in it, and it's so nuts. . . . But I have a photograph on my wall of this ancient crucifix at a church over in Corte Madera, tall splintering wooden Christ with his arms blown off in some war, under which someone long ago, wrote, 'Jesus has no arms but ours to do his work and to show his love," and every time I read that, I always end up thinking that these are the only operating instructions I'll ever need," (161).


According to Randy, there are two kinds of Christians you should not trust: " . . . the ones who think God is doing nothing and the ones who think they know exactly what God is doing," (91).

21 May 2009

Insert Foot Into Mouth with Caution

As if any of us needed another reminder of the way in which our emotions can get us in trouble faster than a Miguel Cabrera home run leaves the ballpark--this confession from a Washington Times writer is both telling and hilarious.

Andrew Breitbart thought he'd encountered a group of college students in California protesting the war in Iraq. It's not like that kind of thing does not go on. If only he'd known what he was getting himself into.

I laughed so hard when I heard about this because a) I know how emotional people get over various political issues (myself occasionally) and b) I've been an active part of Invisible Children for four years now. I even went with some of our students to Washington D.C. to encourage President Bush to get involved in Northern Uganda.

20 May 2009


U2, the greatest band on Planet Earth (to say it mildly) is coming to America in September. I've got my tickets to one of the shows in Toronto. This is my thirtieth birthday present from KG (who celebrated 26 yesterday--happy birthday . . . you truly are the source of joy in my life). The person who got me hooked on U2, Greg Stevenson, wrote a great couple of blogs about their music. Check them out here.

If you have not seen The Soloist, I highly recommend it. Cut from the same cloth as Same Kind of Different as Me, The Soloist gets beyond stereo-type and cliche and into the complexity of friendship, mental illness (as in, who really has it), poverty, and homelessness. Warning: this film is not for the faint of heart. There are major portions of the film which chronicle life on Skid Row in downtown L.A. I was both moved and paralyzed by the raw feel to the film. It also brought me back to my experiences with Francis, Professor Jack, et al in Cass Park a few years back.


If you are interested in reading a blog written by a sold-out follower of Jesus who is willing to take risks in the city, read Doug's blog. Doug and I will be teammates this fall when we join the larger mission of the Otter Creek Church in Nashville.

19 May 2009

There's a Baby in the House

Here are the top clues indicating you might have a new baby living in your house:

There's a barely legible sign hanging on your front door that reads, "Mom, Dad, and baby sleeping . . . please come back another time."

Budget money reserved for Tigers tickets is now used on (very expensive) diapers.

Coffee is the new water.

The way you choose an acceptable shirt to wear to work changes from "what looks good?" to "which shirt does not have a drool stain on it?"

People are sleeping with one eye open.

You hear your wife say, in a sweet delicate voice, "Hey handsome," but she's not referring to you any longer.

You'd consider trading your car for an afternoon nap.

N.T. Wright is swapped for Anne Lamott's Operating Instructions.

You find yourself walking around your house at 2 a.m. with baby on your chest for twenty minutes without once ever opening your eyes.

You write a blog about your newborn son on your wife's 26th birthday (guess who came up with that?)

15 May 2009

Abba Sings

If you have not read this inspiring slant on vocation, check it out.


Aside from reading books about parenting (Anne Lamott's Operating Instructions being at the top of that list), I've been reading through Eugene Peterson's Tell it Slant. Thinking I'd read Peterson to balance all the baby/parenting stories and wisdom of the last seven days, I ran smack dab into the middle of this little nugget.

Peterson describes an experience he had while waiting to catch a flight in Germany heading to Israel. "A little boy near us, maybe four or five years old, jumped up and ran across the large room shouting , 'Abba! Abba! Abba! . . . ' and was swept up into the receiving arms of his father."

Peterson notes that this experience with 'Abba' was different than any other experience. "It was the first time I had ever heard 'Abba' in living speech. I had read the word in the Bible. I knew that in Jesus' mother tongue, Aramaic, it was the affectionate word for father, which would be common in family settings."

After listing the various biblical texts (Matt. 5-7; Rom. 8:15-16; Gal. 4:6) he realized that he'd neutered and domesticated the word. "I had encountered 'father' often enough in an academic setting around a table strewn with lexicons and exegetical studies. But I had never heard the word used in the living context of a son happily and trustingly greeting his father. I had never heard the word sing. I felt like I was back on that Galilean hillside in the company of Jesus as he prayed with his followers, in the garden with Jesus as he prayed his passion, worshiping with the Roman and Galatian Christians as they found themselves included in Jesus' prayer every time they prayed, Abba 'Our Father in heaven. . . . '" (Tell it Slant, 169-171).

Note: 1) There is a great deal of scholarly debate that I intentionally left out regarding "Abba" and its meaning in both First Century Aramaic and the confines of the New Testament writings. That's beyond the point of this post. Wright, Jeremias, Carter et al have done a superb job in dealing with this word (Abba) 2) For those of you who've had fractured relationships with your earthly father, I do not intend to feed you the evangelical bumper sticker line that "everything is okay now" because you have a "heavenly father" who looks after you. That's too simplistic for most of the pastoral counseling I've been a part of. I suggest you investigate the Psalms along with Donald Miller's To Own a Dragon.

13 May 2009


I’m a big fan of the song “You Are So Beautiful.” I like most (not all) of the versions that have been produced over the last few decades. Joe Cocker’s version is probably my favorite. There’s something deeply soulful about it. Something simple. Something beautiful.

The song fell out of favor in the Graves house a several years back. My sister, Kelly, walked down the aisle to this song in 1997 when she married her (now “ex”) husband Jory. It was the perfect song for a beautiful bride.

I was eighteen when they got married. On top of the world. Big hoop earring. Suffice to say I did not lack for confidence.

When she came down that aisle twelve years ago, I cried like Lucas did late last night. “Can’t you see? . . .you’re everything I hoped for, you’re all I need. You are so beautiful to me.”

But their marriage only lasted a few short years. It shattered into a million little pieces.

Last night, Kara and I are watching American Idol, Lucas is fast asleep and Danny Gokey busts out a hallelujah-filled version of “You Are So Beautiful.”

Context is everything.

If I’d heard that song last week, it would have brought back bitter memories surrounding my sister’s messy divorce. Broken hearts. Betrayed covenant. Fatherless little girl (my sister has a beautiful daughter named Lexi). My trip to Arkansas to stand by my sister during the divorce proceedings (my father was so upset he could not go).

But, we’ve had time as a family to heal. Kelly is now remarried to a gem, Major Ray Stemitz—a gentle man’s man if I ever met one. He’s a great husband to Kelly and an equally great father to Lexi. The wounds are still there for her but they aren’t as fresh. Actually, the wounds are now more like scars.

And Lucas is here. A new chapter for everyone.

When Gokey belted out that song last night, everything in the world, at least for a moment, felt good. Kelly’s in a healthy place in her own life. Kara’s an all-star mom. Lucas is rocking our world one dirty diaper at a time.

P.S. Kara recently wrote a great blog about the actual birth day.

11 May 2009

The Table

Our close friends, the Barton family, brought us dinner tonight: sweet tea, pot roast, green beans, fresh rolls, and banana cream pudding. They also brought another good friend, Randy Harris, in town this week, teaching a short course at Rochester College

I told Randy three things: 1) I don't have a "go away" mat on my front porch 2) If I tell him to make himself at home he cannot reply, "Great. Go home." and 3) He can't leave until he gives Lucas a blessing. 

The blessing came unexpectedly. I explained to our friends that Kara and I are settling on Lucas playing baseball (since she loves football and I love basketball). Randy smiled his classic smile and looked at Lucas, "Lucas . . . mess your daddy up. Become a concert pianist." 

Of course, he's right. I don't care what Lucas does. I care about who he becomes. I'll teach him the sentiment that's framed my life for the last several years, "Don't ask what the world needs. Instead, ask what makes you come alive, because what the world needs is people who've come alive." 

07 May 2009

My Boy

Lucas Joshua Graves
8lbs. 10 ounces 21 inches
May 7, 2009, 6:12 P.M.

06 May 2009

The Amended Birthing Plan

A few months back, I wrote my "ultimate guy birthing plan" after being inspired by our nurse at Beaumont Hospital during our first "birthing class." Here's what I wrote:

Kara and I recently started a birthing class offered at the local hospital where Baby Lucas will enter the world late April/early May. Our instructor (a really sharp and funny nurse) walked us through many important aspects of preparing for birth . . . mainly . . . you can prepare but you are never ultimately prepared.Some hospitals today allow parents to develop a birthing plan. That is, here's what the parents like to see happen in the ideal birthing situation. Call it consumer delivery with a touch of creativity.

Of course, my imagination perked up when I heard the words "ideal birthing situation." Here's what I envisioned when I heard those words.First, upon arrival to the hospital, Beethoven's Fifth will be playing quietly in the background. Upon entrance into the hospital, the famous Las Vegas announcer-guy will grab a mic (preferably a mic that drops from the ceiling) and announce to the world, "Ladies and Gentlemen . . . the hour we've been waiting for . . . let's get ready to rummmmbbbblllleee."

After that serene beginning, Kara and I will both receive robes that read Baby Daddy and Baby Momma on the back. Mine is white with blue trim. Kara's is white with green trim.As we approach the room where Lucas will enter the world, a rep from M&M's will offer me a lifetime supply of peanut M&M's for "the enduring trial I'm about to go through." I graciously accept and begin to devour a king size bag of God's favorite candy. I remind the M&M rep that Kara's the real hero in this drama.The mood needs to change so I slip an Enya CD into the CD player (my man card was pulled a long, long time ago).

Kara and I both get foot massages from a European massage champion. The lights are dimmed and we listen to scholarship offers from Duke (Coach K who has Kobe on the phone talking about how we would've gone to Duke had he not gone to the NBA right out of high school) and Roy (UNC baby) and Bill (KU's the leader at this point).

At this point, Nelson Mandela enters the room and reads to us from Letter from a Birmingham Jail. He then offers a South African blessing for Lucas's future. He ends by reading a prayer that is specifically written by Desmond Tutu. "Lucas, God has big dreams for you," are his parting words. Bono has also sent us a video message in which he sings Pride.Just then, things heat up. Kara is ready to deliver.

After thirty minutes or so, the moment has arrived. Queen is playing "We are the Champions" in the background, Stuart Scott is texting me for up-to-the-minute information. Lucas enters the world, I'm crying, Kara's crying and Lucas offers us the universal sign of stability; he gives us the peace sign.I do what any good dad would do. I ask the nurse if I can have the honor of cutting the umbilical cord. The nurse says, "Of course." With a Dwight Shcrute glimmer in my eye, I pull a large Samurai sword out and cut the umbilical cord in half, while yelling, "Freeeeeddddoooom. They can take our lives but they can never take our freeeddddoooommm."

That's the ultimate (guys) birthing plan. Of course, if you don't appreciate satire, this little piece will be lost on you. Kara's birthing plan is much more simple and realistic. Hey, a dad can dream can't he?


Now that we are on the eve of Lucas's arrival (Kara will be induced in the early morning), I think I will change my ultimate guys birthing plan to:

Kara and Lucas are healthy.
Lucas cries a lot.
I get to hold Lucas' feet in the palm of my hands.
Family and friends are present over the next few days.
I get to see my (twin) brother hold Lucas.
The Tigers beat the White Sox Thursday night while we watch from the hospital room (I could not resist).

03 May 2009

The Graves Family and Otter Creek

Today, Kara and I made public our new adventure (not to be confused with the Lucas Adventure). Beginning late summer, Kara and I will join the mission of the Otter Creek Church in Nashville, TN. This was a very difficult decision. We prayed. Cried. Discussed. Listened. Sought wisdom from mentors. Prayed some more. We feel God has called us to this new leadership role.

Leaving Rochester Church and Rochester College will not be easy. This has been a formative church. I was baptized in this church. I was married, to Kara, in this church family. Kara feels at home here; she has tremendous relationships. Both of our families live here. Yet, we believe God is working in all of this.

I will serve in the role as preaching and teaching minister. I will be the point/lead for the preaching and teaching that takes place at OC. In addition, I will be working alongside David Rubio, well-known OC youth minister, who will be transitioning to a new role. David and I will form the Otter Creek preaching/teaching team. David will also work in adult ministry. The team approach has worked well in the other churches I've been closely connected to (me and Patrick at Rochester; Rubel Shelly and John York at Woodmont Hills
). I look forward to working with the OC shepherds as well as David, Janet, Melanie, TJ, Doug, Phil, Murray, Steve, Vicki, Donna, Emma, and Becca.

The Otter Creek elders have a vision I'm excited about joining. I will write more about this in the coming months. They want to continue to be Christ' church in the community, taking risks to see more people come to see the Jesus Story as The Story.

The Rochester Church leadership team (elders and ministers) has been a rewarding team to work with. We've taken a lot of risks, doing things that most churches (in our denomination) are not willing to do for the sake of the kingdom. It's been a great joy to work alongside the elders along with Patrick, Jason, John, Chris, Dana, Karen, Sara, Kelly, Trudy, and Beth. Very few people get to wake up every day loving their vocation.

The immediate real adventure, becoming parents, should happen any day now. Just as we get the hang of that, we'll begin the journey to join the Otter Creek family for this new chapter.

01 May 2009

Slumdog Dishin' Out Theology

As I write this, I'm watching Slumdog Millionaire with Kara. Unless you've totally sworn off all things "culturally relevant" you've probably heard that Slumdog is all the rave. I know I've written about Slumdog before. However, watching this movie for second time gives me new windows to look through.

It's a film about love, hope in the midst of poverty, globalization, friendship, and family. If that's all the film covered, it would be enough.

Watching the film this time, I'm struck by the tension that exists between determinism (known in Christian circles as "pre-destination") and openness (free will). These two poles, as with most poles in modern thinking, find their way into politics, religion, sociology, philosophy, and education (among many).

Determinism is fatalistic. This pole says your future is already determined. Your next step is already written into the fabric of the universe. Christians in this camp talk about "ordering every step" . . . of "knowing every hair on one's head" . . . etc.

Openness says the future is limitless. Your fate is not determined. Your plight in life can be altered as you have the ability to imagine the world differently.

This is what Slumdog, in my opinion, is really about.

The movie doesn't buy into complete fatalism. Our choices matter a great deal. We can take on the strength of that which we overcome. We can become more. We can be better people. We can build better futures.

The movie also doesn't buy into total openness either. There is a mystery to things that cannot be explained. People reappear. Lives are spared for inexplicable reasons. Systemic patterns do what patterns do--they repeat themselves. Our particularity and specificity cannot be separated from who we are as humans.

Calvinists and Open Theists. Determinism (Hinduism) and Free Will (Islam). Fatalism and Choice. It's woven into the fabric of our life.

But maybe it's not so simple as picking between the two poles.

The further things appear to be a part, in a two-dimensional world, the closer they might actually be in a three-dimensional world (think here of the difference between a line on chalkboard and a circle in real life . . . depending upon your perspective, they can appear to be the exact same thing).

Or, in the language of Slumdog: It is written.
Maybe the answer about God's activity in the world is not "a" or "b" . . . maybe it's yes. Because humans are not science formula's. We're more like the characters in Slumdog
than we are an experiment in a chemical lab.