Monday, April 30, 2007

Design Anarchy

free preview here

Pepsi, Sex, Elevation...& Mission Trips That Are Actually Missional

"... I have seen and been a part of many mission trips that have a stated purpose of helping the people they are going to minister to. Churches raise $50,000 to visit an exotic country or flock across the border into Mexico. Team members feel good when they return home because they have served, but missionaries often report that the groups they host are loud, arrogant, culturally insensitive and often more trouble (to the missionary or national pastor) than they are worth. I wonder if the best thing that happens in Mexico over spring break is that American churches stimulate the Mexicali valley economy by buying tacos and Pepsis. Our spirit of outreach is a veil for self-absorbed religious tourism. But we feel good about ourselves when we come home."Our spirit of outreach is a veil for self-absorbed religious tourism. But we feel good about ourselves when we come home." (source: Occasio blog)

Thanks to St Tim Neuefeld for this articulating of my frequent feelings, and providing architecture by which to analyze my frustration with many a short-term mission trip. Why do I hear so few questions about such a huge potential problem with this standard curriculum of "growing up evangelical?" I know Tim's tongue was partly in cheek in that line about tacos and Pepsi; but if "the best can be said" indeed is that, in going, we support Mexican pepsi-salesmen, God (literally) help us; let's not go. Pepsi--though not inherently evil as baptism certificates--- is brand name incarnation of Western capitalism/democracy/ empire. And in addition to such unhealthy stimulating of a foreign economy; Pepsi is well-known as a stimulant in other areas as well..

"Pfizer Corp. announced today that Viagra will soon be available in liquid form and will be marketed by Pepsi as a power beverage suitable for use as a mixer " is an urban myth and joke (from a serious article here); and whether the apparent spelling of the word "sex" on Pepsi cans was intentional or not (story here, and photo at top of page); what is "on purpose" and no myth is the sexuality of Pepsi ads for a product that is a sexual stimulant.

Which brings me of course to the topic at hand: sex.

I hate to risk sexualizing everything, but I have no other language but "quickie" for what some of those mission trips default to, and no other term for "rape" for what we often offer to the culture we visit.

The first mssionaries to Latin America were colonizers; and many were womanizers. And maybe those are both the same thing.

I do know that I have been tempted to be a pimp rather than a pastor on such trips...providing and ushering my "clients" into sexualized relationships with locals; as in "Cool! You just lead somebody to Christ, be sure we keep count of converts."

But I refuse to not defuse that sexualizing before it starts.

And it starts in me; as the rabbis and Bono have reminded us, in the prayer-mindest the Chasidics call 'elavation.": being honest about my own lusts, particularly for power (a more insidious version of lust than the obvious sexual variety; though the two are related indeed:
"Mine is bigger than yours," is spoken between the lines whenever pastprs at a conference "share" worship attendance stats).

More on elevation prayer here

In our church's quest to plant (organically, of course) spiritual formation communities that are monastic and mystical; yet also missional and marketplaced; we are seeking to build into the DNA of such new entities a culturally-sensitive version of the clasic three monastic vows: poverty chastity and obedience. That doesn't necessitate that one must literally become the first (though it worked for Jesus) to live out the third. But it does demand that we embrace the middle vow in its fullness and faithfulness (recognizing that the term originally meant "purity" and not merely celibacy (yes, married misionaries can have sex(:.....).

We also hoping to be insistent in praying against the creeping koinonitis that inevitably seduces a koinonia of the Spirit. Yes, the term "seduction" is key here (it's often the pastor who seducer...see this) Such breeds the spiritual incest, and a jost of sexually trasmitted diseases.

I meant that figutatively. But more often than we like to admit, due to Pepsi and/or advertising-addiceted young people, more than one Christian college student has nade pilgimmage to a Mexican brothel while building a church during spring break.

Ask any youth pastor.

Here at home, we have used sex (read this on Video cafes, and this on swimuit issue church) to get people in the door; so we are stuck: only more sexualization and sexiness will keep them in the door.

As if we were ever called to get people in the door to start with.

No wonder weinvoke Aphrodite in the name of Jesus. Our imaginations have been tainted.

So without realizing it (uusally!!), we sexualize outreach as well. Conquest. Score. Notches on belts.

"Story provides a vison, which then transforms character, resulting in evanglism," according to evangelist Leighton Ford's intriguing equation.

I like his math.

Too bad it doesn't always add up when we try to live it out.

If the stories and visions are formed and filled by conquest, machismo, and sublimation (for rabbis, the inverse of elevation); we never realize:

"Sex is never an emergency."

That sage advice from a Jewish doctor (Jerome Levin, p. 164) specilizing in sex addiction is particularly relevant to (gulp) Protestant pastors, and unheeded explains why "spirituality is not (their) strong suit" (165)


As if that were not indicting enough:

"(I had to tell one client that) trying to get help for sexual addiction from his church was like trying to get his shoes soled at the dry cleaners." (173)


There's more.

As a board-member for a sex-addiction recovery ministry, I hear again and again how many clients are there because they tried to follow the advice of sermons: "Just pray and read your Bible. If that doesn't work, try harder."

Don't hear what i'm not saying: prayer and Bible study are not important.

But working those two steps, and trying harder approach is exactky what an addict doesm't need. Trying harder is just trying and harder.

The goal is "elevation." That only occurs in a context of honesty and hard work...and a variety of off-road disciplines.

"My own experience with recovering afficts is that two tasks seem to help them the most..", Dr. Levin says..

By now you know what the two tasks are not..

Write them down, pray about them, join an authemtic avvoiuntably group to struugle ober them before risking andy shirt or long term mission trip. To risk nothing more than a quickie, whether Pepsi-induced or not:

"(these two tasks are)...mourning losses, and getting aggressions out front." (234)

Leave it to a Jew to call us back to mourning. Another Jew, of course, also commented here: "Blessed are those who mourn; for they shall be the only ones comforted."

Most translations offer the word 'confort' here; and elsewhere where versions of the Greek word 'parakaleo' show up. Especially when we translate Jesus' name for the Holy Spirit as "The Comforter," this can be quite misleading. (Tramslation is always both "messianic and betrayal")

The term often implies not quite "comfort' as we envision: nice cozy blanky, warm fuzzies, and a promise of safety....but almost the oppposite.

The clasic illusration of the Grerk and Old English word for 'comfort' is the painting "William Comforts His Soldiers." As you can see, the means by which William the Conqueror "comforts" his soldiers a none-too-mild motivating tip of the sword aimed at their too-comfortable bottoms; kicking tje, into their calling and battle.

It may be too much of a shift to call the Holy Spirit the "Uncomforter". but often that is precisely his job.

Especially if we want to recover from our obsexxed Western mindset; and masturbatory church culture.


I need a Holy Kick in the butt. to not stare at a woman's butt.

The house of prostitution is literally across the street from our church in Hauncayo, Peyu. I was videotaping a sister from our Fresno church speaking in the Huancayo church, and I panned the camera behind me to capture the brothel window, where the male customers were within earshot of the gospel.

That's where churches need to be.

A visiting speaker once said of our Fresno church, "this is one of the few places i know where a prostitute and a businessman can sit next to each other at a church dinner":

I shot back: "Praise God..I just hope those two know each other from outreach,and not business."

But is the church's, and the Father's business... to move into authentic mission.

Sans sexual fantasy, and with Holt Spirited motivation and uncomfort; kicking us out of the box and building,...out of our sexualitis and denial of grief , and into an unsafe safe place.

John was right...commercials are sexy:

Commercials sell sex. Sex sells gods. The Spirit, though, uses sexual beings to re-present God.

And, Tim, I don't want to "feel good about myself when I get home" from a mission trip anymore. Unless I have been radically uncomforted enough to "empty myself and become nothing," knowing that the gospel I have enfleshed on the"field" has been non-commercial.

All commercialism and commercials are about sex; are sex.

Whether they feature Pepsi or not.

"Demoracy, whiskey, sexy"

Intiguingly, that triad of proposed virtues is not only the stiking antithesis to the three monastic vows; but a chilling reminder of what much of the world assumes Western civilization...and Christainity is all about.

And it's my fault.

Those are three words that were uttered by an Iraqi citizen, when asked by a New York Times reporter why he was waving at the American troops of the 101st Airmored Divison in April 2003.

That story is told in the vital book, "The Future of Freedom" by Fareed Zakaris (257).

It is also unfortunately the story of the church's default three products.

God, deliver us from seeking and selling products at all. But lest I think its instead all about charity; I close this post, Lord, in the same way Tim closes his post; quoting Bono;'s homily:

And finally, it’s not about charity after all, is it? It’s about justice.

Let me repeat that: It’s not about charity, it’s about justice.

And that’s too bad. Because you’re good at charity. Americans, like the Irish, are good at it. We like to give, and we give a lot, even those who can’t afford it.

But justice is a higher standard. Africa makes a fool of our idea of justice; it makes a farce of our idea of equality. It mocks our pieties, it doubts our concern, it questions our commitment.

Friday, April 27, 2007

I am a Strange Attractor (Baptism Certificates are Evil)

The bankruptcy of the attraction model is such a "given" that it shouldn't even have to be discussed (or dissed)'s opposite is the only "model" found in Scripture, etc...but since it's still the dominating/dominatix paradigm in many a circle..

It is only appropriately subversive that instead of completely trashing and bashing the word "attractional," we can append an attractive (: and attention getting phrase to it, to bring it up to date and into realm of relevancy.

Let's be attractors, after all.

But strange ones.

I see that hand.

Two entries from the glossary of Hirsh's "Forgotten Way":

Attractional church: "essentially, attractional church operates from the ass-umption that to bring people to Jesus we need to first bring them to church. It also decsribes the type or mode of engagement that was birthed during the Christendom period of history, where the churh was perceived as a central institution of society and therefore expected people to 'come and hear the gospel' rather than taking a 'go to them' type of mentality. Not to0 be confised with being culturally attractive "(275).

Strange attractor:"In living systems theory there exists a phenomenon called 'the strange attractor.' Essentially, strange attractors are that force,analogous to a compass, or an animal's deep instict, which orients a living system in one particular direction and provides organisms with the impetus to migrate out of their confort zone. They are found in all living
systems, including human organizations" (287)

Wow, I have not seen a better job description for us pastor-types. Put that on your business card, Scott.

I am a Strange Attractor.

Almost as good as the winking title of Hofstadter's new classic; but I am one of those too.

RELATED>> watch this strangely attractive message below by Jaeson Ma..a new name to me..It's on the bankruptcy of the attaction model...and as a bonus he even makes fun of baptismal certificates:

Lots of Sex Links


"pornography always drives technology..." (read about it)


"Left Behind" novels (in addition to being "more dangerous than "The Da Vinci Code"
and "unable to hit a bull's ass with a banjo) can be classified as "evangelical pornography" (read about it)..


the church blessed female porn

ministry fuels sexually addictive behavior (read about it)


pastors have penis-envy and are seducers


our while culture is masturbatory


church is "voyeuristic"

and many churches broadcast porn from their bell towers..

what kind of pornosexual "technology" does the evangelical movement birth?

Maybe we need more

church-sponsored "Porn and pancakes" breakfasts.


"Jesus Loves Porn Stars" Bible covers


Christian artists in kinky "Victoria's Secret" commercials

God showing up at Playboy's #1 Bar in America


maybe we need more ministries lile, the #1 Christian Porn Site


more evangelists like "Wally the Wiener"(


annual days on the church calendar like "Porn Sunday"


articles like CS Lewis' essay on masturbation


"Theology of Sex Shops" articles


Playboy Centerfolds for Jesus


Masturbands forJesus


Lap dancers for Jesus

after all:

Churchgoers want more sermons on sexual issues than pastors think they do.


Of Course Oral Sex is Biblical

God wants you to have good sex


Penguin Sex is like Christian faith..


well-meaning cheese


"Repeat Sex Offender" Study Bible

Thank God it's a joke.... so far. That Bible might be itself more potentially pornographic than the whole"Left Behind" series...

Thursday, April 26, 2007

of course God is unreasonable

"The heart has its reasons which reason knows not of." Blaise Pascal

"The law is reason free from passion."

"Reason is the natural order of truth; but imagination is the organ of meaning."
C. S. Lewis

"The idolatry of reason, of man's individual reason, must at last succumb, like the old pagan idolatries, to the divine authority of faith."
-Orestes Augustus Brownson - 1852

"maybe God is surreasonable." Jo Mahma

"the song seems to be about the inability of the intellect or
reasoning mind to understand certain basic truths about life" -
-Michael Been of The Call about:

"With or Without Reason"
Michael Been, from The Call CD, "Reconciled":

How you gonna tell your story
Are you gonna tell it rue
Either with or without reason
Love has paid the price for you
How you gonna cure this feeling
How you gonna right this wrong
Either with or without reason
The weaker do protect the strong
Listen in your hour of pain
Either in or out of season
The hunters still pursue the game
Oh," there's somebody waiting
Oh, there's somebody near
Oh, there's somebody waiting
Oh, there's somebody here
Now lately i've begun to wonder
Just who is talking when you speak
Either with or without reason
The stronger still pursue the weak
The wisest of the fools can tell you
Anything you want to hear
Either with or without reason
These are truths you hold so dear
Oh, there's somebody waiting
Oh, there's somebody near
Oh, there's somebody waiting
Oh, there's somebody here
I dedicate this inner chamber
I dedicate this harvest toil
Either with or without reason
The language of the heart takes hold
Now don't you see that love offends us
When it rises up against this waste
Either with or without reason
Evidence of sin and grace
Oh, there's somebody waiting
Oh, there's somebody near
Oh, there's somebody waiting
Oh, there's somebody here

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Does missiology precede ecclesiology?

St Len of NextReformation asked:
Do you think missiology precedes ecclesiology, or it is the other way round?

I want to quickly answer "yes."

And even though that will be my "final answer"; I can't make it quick.

The "obvious" and "right" answer that my evangelical training almost requires me to answer : ecclesiology precedes. Getting one's theology "right" will issue in "right" missiology; being precedes doing; realizing our identity is horse; "doing" anything is "cart." But yada, yada, yada...that may be too dualistic (Alan Hirsch: "Dualistic expressions of faith always result in practical polytheism"), Western and reductionary.

The "obvious" and "right" answer that my early pastors (very mission-minded) almost require me to answer: missiology precedes. Missional life is so fundamental and inextricable to our DNA that it must precede, functionally form...and judge...any ecclesiology. But yada yada yada..that may be too purpose-driven (God help me) and shame-based.

SOOO...The obvious "right" answer has to be a heathily holistic "yes." It works, warps and woofs both ways in a reciprocal, helical, "semper reformanda" relationship; so which element is prior would hinge on context.

Which of course could be the most dangerous and wrong answer of all.


I am struck by the pattern of creation..three days of forming; followed by three days of filling what has been formed. Sky formed first; only then stars to fill it. If ecclesiology is about being appropriately formed (finding an appropriate wineskin), such may have to "come first" that all that flows out of it (mission and working missiological constructs) and fills it is surrounded by the appropriate architecture and encoded in the fitting atmosphere.

But Hirsch has been abducting me back towards my preferred "missiology precedes" answer: "Outward thrust...seeds the gospel" (25)..and "Put the 'M'[missional] in the equation first,
and EC [Emerging Missional Church] will follow." (72). A haunting and daunting quote; I think I have bought it.

But I cycle/swing back: "Mission exists because worship doesn't" (John Piper). At worst, that motto could endorse "attractional" church. Can't go there. Been there. Done that. Thrown away the T-shirt with the paradigm (and the building, literally) . But what if we were honest and Hebraic in our worship life? Such organic authenticity alone would "automatically" form us to be/do "missional"... ironically and irenically, in an attractive way.

In Matthew 28's account of what we have called (probbaly unhelpfully) "The Great Commission," the command (grammatically speaking) is not at all in the "go," but in the "make disciples" (missionizing). One could even translate: "Since you are going anyway, be missional." This frees us from the evangelical idolatry of numbers and 'blood on our head if we don't" resultolotry. It allows us to rejoice at our fruitful "inutility" (as Ellul might have it).

Yet another verse in this passage has been confusingly translated.
"Some worshipped him but some doubted" is the standard spin on v.17. But it could reasonably be styled, "They all worshipped him, even though some of those worshippers also doubted as they worshipped." This implies what Bono intuitively knows: "uncertainty can be a guiding light"; and Anne Lammot effortlessly articulates:"The oposite of faith is not doubt but certainty". Go ahead and be missonal... even (always) before you have got it all figured out "ecclesio-logically",..even (gasp) Christologically..

So, again, If I had to pick an answer, it would be yes..missiology tends to precede and produce ecclesiology; philosophically, epistemologically, and practically speaking. I find quantum physics hugely helpful here; especially 'reverse causality," which accords with what Ladd has well emphasized about the Kingdom entering this age "from" the future; time working 'backwards," etc. This will be fleshed out (incarcarnated) in smaller, organic, networked and non-hierarchical (all lessons from physics again; the universe is such) ways and means...

...Meaning that counterintuitively to our modern mindset, doing can precede being; missiology can even (creatively) create ecclesiology.

I asked a friend today the question at hand. She immediately answered, "Missiology, of course. God told Moses he was being sent; before God even told Moses what his (God's) name was."

Holy smoke, she's right!

Bono nails it again (in a sermon he has preached around the world); "God may be with us in our mansions on the hill...I hope so....but God is with the poor. And God is with us, if we are with the poor."

We find our ecclesiology as we find and follow our missiological tug.

In the process, we might even find God.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

"Jesus is gone. I'd like to turn it into a studio for artists."

"Jesus is gone." she said. " I'd like to turn (the church building) into a studio for artists."

Great idea, actually. Jesus is gone; and churches are supposed to be studios for artists.

Don't misunderstand me.

Or as the Yiddish man said to the doctor, "Don't misundertake me." (Tom and Ken will catch the reference)

I am a believer in Jesus (who in addition to being "gone," is also here).

I am a believer in church.

Which is why this amazing quote (from an amazing article in the LA Times, copied at bottom of this post) about the church in Germany; and a meeting of thumbsucking (as Fr. Capon would have it, stay tuned) clerics in Wittenberg (no less), is telling and timely.

In these limimal and malleable early days of the New Reformation, Capon (and Simson, Sweet, Hirsch and Hjalmarson, among others; including ironically the Wittenburg Door magazine itself) is required reading.

Capon might suggest, upon reading the report from Germany that only when Jesus has left the building, can we get started anyway.

Starting by stopping.

In the margins.

With no model.

With no blueprint for the Next Reformation that God is birthing.

Test-drive a bit of Capon immediately below, and then read carefully the news article below it.

For some time now, we've been treated to a good deal of heavy breathing and earnest thumb sucking about the plight of the Christian religion and the problems of the institutional church. My thesis is that almost all of it is wildly off the mark. While it is true that our present dishevelment may well be one of the larger crises (or opportunities) the church has bumped into over its long career, our real difficulty is something else: we have an almost continuous track record of hitting the Christian nail squarely on the thumb. All our noisy hammering to the contrary, the problem is not that we need to get back to the truth of our religion or to get on to some better version of the ecclesiastical institution: rather, it's that we need nothing so much as to stop acting as if we're either a religion or an institution at all...

One model we have yet to the Marginal-Church Model. Of all the places where renewal can really begin, this is the most likely; there's just too much corporate baggage everywhere else. My program would be this. Whoever is in command over the dying institution at the next highest level of corporate church-the diocese, the presbytery, whatever-would take the bull by the horns and kill it: close the church, dissolve its bard, sequester its endowments, and sell off its property, putting the proceeds in escrow just in case the corpse ever rises and finds a use for them. Then the managers would explain to the remaining members of those churches that they were free to do anything they could think of (or nothing at all, if they so chose). A suggestion would be made, however, that they might think about holding a kind of wake the next Sunday, perhaps in one of their homes, or in a restaurant or bowling alley that didn't open till 1:00 p.m. And if they took that suggestion...

Well, they might sit and stare blankly at each other to begin with. But with any luck,, some free spirit (young or old) among them would break the ice with the questions they had never been able to ask-namely, "Who are we?" "Why on earth are we here?" And most importantly, "What do we think we'd actually LIKE to do?" Having no model at all to meet the upkeep on and no known shape to whip themselves into, they would for the first time be open to looking for radically new answers--honest answers that could range anywhere from "We haven't the foggiest notion, but let's get together again next Sunday and see if anything occurred an the meantime" to "We're here to be the church, I suppose-whatever that means"", to "How about for openers we just try to stick with fellowship, breaking bread, and the prayers--maybe God will take care of the rest, if He wants any."

Those answers wouldn't sound like much of a start, of course; but then, a bunch of Galileans twiddling their thumbs in Jerusalem for nine days after the Ascension didn't seem like a grand opening, either. The operative fact is that a start can occur only after stop.
(From The Astonished Heart, read more here; and lots more here)

"Jesus is gone. I'd like to turn (the church building) into a studio for artists."

Bell tolls for Germany's churches
As Catholic and Protestant congregations decline, many houses of worship are being shut or converted to other uses.
By Jeffrey Fleishman, Times Staff Writer
April 22, 2007

Has Jesus left the building?

BRIEST, GERMANY — The tombstones in the graveyard are polished, but the village church, which counted only three Sunday regulars, was cracked and water-stained when it was sold for $10,000 to an aspiring filmmaker, who hung a poster of musician Lou Reed beyond the vestibule.

The altar was stripped. Icons and pews were carted off with the steeple bell. It's hard to be precise about when things started going bad, but the church's slide began after old pastor Giebler died during the German reunification and a once secure village frayed in the whirl of newfound freedom.

"When the political change happened, there was a huge atomization," said the new owner, Juliane Beer, who as a child attended services here with her grandmother. "This village had a grocery, a post office, buses going by, but now it's all gone, kaput. A church has been on this site since the 13th century. The only thing left are memories. Six years ago, a friend of my grandmother's died in this church during Christmas Mass."

Beer looked around. Her bed is in the choir loft and there's an espresso machine where the hymnals used to be; the arched windows are clear but they rattle; cobwebs shimmy on fading whitewashed walls.

"Jesus is gone," she said. "I'd like to turn it into a studio for artists."

The village church is struggling for relevance in modern Europe. The continent is rooted in Christianity, but devotion is ebbing and church attendance has dropped steadily for years. In Germany and other nations, Protestant and Roman Catholic churches are selling properties or leasing them to other religious groups, especially in cities and villages where structures are left vacant as shrinking congregations merge.

Secular conversions

Churches have been reinvented as restaurants, coffee houses, clubs, apartments and music halls. Some have kept their frescoes and stained glass; others have been de-sanctified, yet their unmistakable facades and architecture leave an imprint of the holy on even the most capitalist of endeavors.

The churches of Europe have endured wars, plagues and much else, and although the current crisis is likely to pass, the image of the church is being significantly altered.

South of Briest, past asparagus fields and cattle, Christiane Beutel, the pastor of the Lutheran Church in the fishing village of Plaue, opened a church ledger from 1650. Written with ink and quill and held together by tape, the pages note the baptisms and deaths and the works of those whose bones have since turned to dust in the cemetery outside.

"There's a trend in Germany and people are saying they don't want to devote themselves to anything fixed, whether it be a church or a political party," Beutel said. "They just want to live their lives and have fun. I think this comes from a collective disappointment that things didn't turn out like people thought and illusions were shattered after communism fell."

Tight church budgets mean Beutel's duties are many and scattered. She and two other ministers serve five churches in the region. Her congregations in Plaue, southwest of Brandenburg city, and nearby Woltersdorf has shrunk to 600 from 800 in the last decade. This mirrored a pattern of decline in population and prosperity: Thousands of steel industry jobs were lost, Plaue closed its last school two years ago, and the town's once strong band of 30 fishing families has dwindled to four.

A recent study by Dresdner Bank predicted that in the coming years, 50% of Germany's churches may close or be turned into other uses. The nation's Roman Catholic Church is expected to stop services in 700 of its 24,500 churches by 2015. Some of them, such as St. Laurentius in Berlin, are being rented to immigrant religious denominations. The Lutheran Church has sold a number of its churches to such groups, including a Serbian Orthodox community.

Declining population

Congregations slip away with each church funeral. Germany, a nation of 82 million people, has a low fertility rate that is unable to balance its rapidly aging population; government estimates suggest the working-age population will shrink by 21 million over the next two decades.

Other pressures on churches include secularization, villages emptying as people move to find work and a state religion tax collected from all church members, which keeps thousands from joining.

Meeting this year in Wittenberg, the home of the Reformation, an organization of mainline Protestant churches predicted that by 2030 membership would drop to 17 million from 25.6 million, and that annual income from the church tax, which helps support institutions, would be halved from about $5.4 billion to $2.7 billion.

"I think it's time for more lay people to become involved and for church communities to learn they don't need a priest to come every weekend," said Beutel, whose Lutheran Church has cut its clergy in Germany by about one-third since 1990. "The church should live on in small families and groups. We know this is possible because of the Christian and Jewish diasporas over the centuries. People need to take more responsibility for their faith."

Klaus Tanner, a professor of theology at Martin Luther University in Wittenberg, said many Christians were keeping their faith but were retracting from religious institutions. This dynamic is forcing Protestant churches to reorganize, trim budgets and contemplate diversifying programs with more missionary fervor.

"There's tremendous pressure on the church," he said. "There's more competition, of course, and some churches will survive and some will not."

With 100 members, only about 12 of whom show up regularly for Sunday service, the church in Woltersdorf was an uninspiring sight when Helmut Scheer, a retired steelworker and atheist raised in the former communist east, decided to help repair it.

The church, damaged in World War II and poorly renovated in the 1970s, was recently given a new tile roof and painted the color of a peach.

Scheer and a volunteer committee comprising atheists, agnostics and Christians believe the church is as much a part of the village's architectural identity as it is a house of worship. "That unconscious connection" to the rural landscape, Scheer said, was more to do with aesthetics than with religion.

"The problem with the institutional church is the church tax," Scheer said. "People want to get around that tax, but if the church has less income it has to offer less. In the end, this church will have fewer and fewer believers and will need more unbelievers to keep it going. It's kind of ironic."

Scheer opened the church door, winced at the drop ceiling and years of neglect, and mentioned that the Nazis melted the organ pipes to make cannons during the war. He estimated that $150,000, plus the sizable donation from an instant-pudding magnate, would be needed to fix up the inside.

The renovations will shut down the church for months, "but, you know," Scheer said, "when it was closed during the earlier work we didn't hear too many complaints about not having Sunday services."

Question of survival

Over a squiggle of road and through the town of Plaue, the fishermen readied their long boats on the shore. Rope was coiled and net poles were sheared of bark and sunk into the silt.

As they worked near an old bridge, Pastor Beutel, who has an intimate understanding of history and scripture, closed the parish register and spoke of how the town lost out on the china business years ago and of the rumors that the Duchess Lily, a church benefactor connected to Kaiser Wilhelm, may have been poisoned in 1911.

"When I came here 10 years ago, my task was to organize the worship and take care of some old ladies," she said.

"But I thought step by step we need to build some new initiatives. I started a brass band and a children's choir. I'm doing other things too, so much outside of my theological training, but that's what it will take if the church is to survive."

She walked through the vestibule and toward the altar, past small statues with chipped feet and lost arms, past the pews and up wooden steps to a mural of the Passion of the Christ, which, painted centuries ago in pastels, rose to the ceiling in images that were at once vibrant and half obscured. She shifted her eyes, pointing to souls rising to heaven, to others tumbling into hell.

She went down the steps and outside to the graveyard. Beyond the trees and mausoleums, the river flowed in the distance, the same river that in a few months Beutel, in a ceremony Plaue pastors have performed for centuries, would venture onto in a boat and ask the patron saint of fishermen to bless the waters and those who work upon them.,0,3267911.s

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Who says there's nothing good on TV?

It's even a low-budget talking head (no, not the David Byrne type) show.

And oh,'s not on's on YouTube..but what's the difference?

It's "Saturdays with Mark(Lowry) and Tony (Campolo)":

Discussion:We don't want to, or need to, post the Ten Commandments in courtrooms. We don't keep them ourseves; nor do we intend to:

watch it HERE

(By the way, great articles on the Commandments:

Posting the 10 Comamdments is against the 10 Commandments!

Ellul:Christianity has absolutely nothing to do w/morality

New 10 Commandments Ruling

Modest Proposal: Vonnegut & 10 Commandments Problem

Settling for 10 Commandments?

Christians Compromise on Beliefs re: 10 Commandments

Episode: Hypocrisy can be a good thing, but not Fallwell's kind:


Plenty more episodes (string theory, tabloids, tongues, homosexuality) here
and here

Episode on Bono and the Louvre:

more on sabbath and tithing:

Friday, April 20, 2007

God as Idol, & other HIRSCHsms

"Without prophetic ministry, the evangelistic becomes shallow and God becomes an idol"

"Dangerous stories subvert us into a joourney'(20)

"It is high time for us to dethrone Constantine; as far as matters of the church go, it seens he is still emperor of our imaginnations (66)

"Dualistic expressions of faith always result in practical polytheism" (97)

"We are teetering at the edge of chaos....this is a good thing because the edge of chaos is the sweet spot where innovation takes place if handled appropriately." (248)

Buy the book, and read the blog..yesterday.

Be an Expert on Anything

Be an Expert on Anything
By Stephen Colbert

. Try something like string theory or God's will: "I speak to God. I'm sorry that you can't also." Security experts are in this category: They have security clearances, we don't. We can't question the expertise of the NSA because we are not in the NSA.

CHOOSE A SUBJECT THAT'S ACTUALLY SECRET. Dan Brown invented a secret subject for The Da Vinci Code, so now he is forever an expert on this secret subject that no one can challenge. Anybody who attacks the secret subject is, by definition, part of the cabal.

GET YOUR OWN ENTRY IN AN ENCYCLOPEDIA. In the media age, everybody was famous for 15 minutes. In the Wikipedia age, everybody can be an expert in five minutes. Special bonus: You can edit your own entry to make yourself seem even smarter.

USE THE WORD ZEITGEIST AS OFTEN AS POSSIBLE. Ideally, you want to find words that sound familiar but people don't really know their definitions: zeitgeist, bildungsroman, doppelgänger - better yet, anything Latin. But avoid paradigm. It's so 1994. If you say the word paradigm, everybody knows you're a poser.

BE SURE TO USE LOTS OF ABBREVIATIONS AND ACRONYMS. Someone who says the words operations security may be educated, but the person who uses the military abbreviation Opsec is clearly an expert. If I use the term Gitmo, that means I've actually been there. If you say, "We're going to Defcon 1," it means you probably have the launch codes. Real experts don't have time for extra syllables.

SPEAK FROM THE BALLS, NOT FROM THE DIAPHRAGM. In the expert game, you've got to have sack. That means speaking with confidence. In America, you've got to steer clear of nuance and ambivalence - and don't even contemplate doubt.

DON'T BE AFRAID TO MAKE THINGS UP. Never fear being exposed as a fraud. Experts make things up all the time. They're qualified to.

DON'T LIMIT YOURSELF TO CURRENT KNOWLEDGE. If you worry too much about being up-to-date, you miss out on vast territories of obsolete knowledge just waiting to be reclaimed. Think of leech-craft and all the lonely experts in the use of the little creatures, which are now experiencing a renaissance in health care.

GET AN HONORARY PHD. They work wonders. I have a doctorate in fine arts from Knox College in Illinois. All I did was give a speech, and now everybody has to call me Dr. Colbert.

MAKE A HABIT OF NAME-DROPPING. Say things like "I was talking to John Hockenberry yesterday for my story in Wired. Have you seen my cover?" I plan to use this issue of Wired to assert that I now know everything about wires.


-Stephen Colbert, WIRED,

U2's Tainted Love Songs to the Tainted Church..emphasis on "Last Night on Earth"

"Jesus, I love You."

Classic worship lyric.

I know; yawn yada...

Borders on the trite, as true as it is..

...which is why the devout worshipper who penned it (who writes in the liner notes that "hopefully I have expressed my faith without cheesy slogans") followed up in the next line with an abductive (non) non-sequitur :

"...but I don't understand Your wife."


Should we continue?

"....She wears such funny makeup, and she always wants to fight..."

This delightful lovetweak  (not torchsong) at the church (the bride/wife/harlot of Jesus); embedded in Brian Healey's lyric, is hilariously serious. The whole song/prayer must be read and reckoned with (here)....though I haven't heard wind of any churches besides ours utilizing it in an official gathering.
For years, it has been my favorite psalm-lament about/to the church.

But now I am asking:

Which U2 songs might part.."love songs to the church"?

Besides the...partly right....answer:

All of them.

..especially if we leave ample room in love for a bit of hate.

In typical fashion these "love songs"...sometimes depending on the era of U2's "long obedience in the same direction", or even the twist in tone laden in a single line with double entendre..may be torch songs, swan songs, all-out worship songs, love/hate songs....

..all in the same song.

Bono, also abductive, loves to wear a pair of doxes to church.

Lovers quarrels are mandatory for honest people of faith who are after the long haul and long obedience.

Tainted love, indeed.

Even though Christianity Today doesn't get it.

One of the most obvious "self-confessed" U2 songs "to the church" is "Crumbs From Your Table, " a lyric Bono has often made painfully clear is from Africa to the West/Western church.

"You ate all your friends."
Yeah, that's a lover's quarrel...
..with many within the Wife who can talk too me..
(Two of Bono's mentors, Bruce Cockburnere and Martin Luther King have relevant and articulate words for our many words).

And there's "Please," a plea with the church to "get off its knees" and quit praying (better yet, continue praying) as one moves into active engagement with the world.

There's "American Prayer," which Bono introduced at World Aids Day as being "just a message to the give sanctuary to the HIV-positive...what's the problem?"

Jesus has a problem bride.
I am sometimes a bitch.

But it was Ben's post (hat tip) which I found through Len (toque-tip) that triggered my wondering what other songs from the U2 canon/cannon were in effect tough-lovesongs to Jesus's unwieldy Wife.

I soon repented of not preaching the full gospel all these years; of not "preaching the (full) U2 catalog"....when that catalog had been shipped (sometimes C.O.D.) to the church.

Ben flat-out stated; as-if-everyone knew it...that one U2 song was a "love song to the church."

"When I read the lyrics of this song as the recipient, as a member of the Church to whom Bono is singing, it strikes a chord with me," he says about...



I had never seen it. . I remembered Bono's original inspiration for the defining line "we're one, but not the same" (a note he wrote to Dalai Lama, respectfully declining an invitation to a meeting celebrating spiritual "sameness"); the usual " gay son and his father" or "can we still be friends though divorced" spins, but "love song to the church"?

"Have you come here for forgiveness?
Have you come to raise the dead?
Have you come here to play Jesus to the lepers in your head?"

If Bono is asking the church this triad, perhaps the expected answer is "yes."

The "we get to carry each other...sisters, brothers" did always hotlink me to Sam's words to Frodo: "I can't carry (your burden) for you; but I can carry you."

That's not only "Lord of the Ring's" thesis on friendship; it's church; it's Galatians 6: 1; 10.

And note how often Bono changes the last line to "Have you come here to play Jesus?...I did."

Maybe instead of/in addition to being an admission of messianic complex; the 'I did' is a humble desire to "do the works of Jesus"; to be "Jesus with skin on"; to get up off ones knees (literally) and be a Sam carrying Frodo.

U2's close friend Guggi offers that "One," though multiplex, is fundamentally about "the breakdown of one relationship and the starting up of another one."

Re-read that quote; and ask if the new relationship might be with the same person
(church). Isn't that the means and media by which all of us accept our marriage to the church/Christ?

So spend some time with Ben's blog on "One." His thesis is worth pursuing.

I have another song in mind.

I needed to do a quick googling to see if anyone else was crazy enough to interpret this particular song as "to the church." I immediately found:

"Could this song be about the church?," (as JPrentice asked).

And Beth Maynard wondering (in response to Rudy Carrasco's question) if it could be a "stewardship song" (Help me, Beth, the original post is no longer online).

As I listened to different live versions of this song on YouTube; I also heard--for the first time-- the haunting, daunting refrain in some versions:

"Could you believe in something/Would you believe in someone?"

Of course that sounds evangelistic; but as questions to the church, they penetrate deeper.

The single version of this lovesick song includes this line; as does the official video.

Both cause me to consider the "she" in "Last Night on Earth" as  (as much as she may appear to be instead/also an addict) the very Bride of Christ: the SheChurch.

For a number of reasons, if the girl in the video is the church, theological implications abound and astound. We first meet her veritably hijacking the band's car; as they pick her up and immediately navigate a speedy U-turn (metanoia?) , Bono pleading at 2:45; "Could you believe in someone?" And watch as she assumes a fairly obvious crucifixion pose, and a subsequent death-resurrection. (maybe two of each):

U2 - Last night on Earth by Angkor
(see also 'Last Night On Earthvideo meaning?)

In the Edmonton version he confesses (or confesses on behalf of the "she")
that the last night on earth "feels like a bird flying high in the northern sky...but my feet are sometimes tied to the ground." Church!

Eventually on tour (see opening of the Sao Paulo clip), he began nightly introducing the song with a rant culminating in "I wanted to meet God, but you sold me religion.."

Of course that's addressed to the church. Who else sells their soul and kills their birthright in order to sell the seeker some useless religion?

"She's at the bus stop with the 'NEWS OF THE WORLD' and the sun/ sun, sun,here it comes" can be spun several ways. Note the following:

-"News of the World" is the name of a British tabloid. "Sun" is used all over the U2 catalog as symbol for God/Jesus ("Sun"). So she could be the informed and appropriately worldly church Karl Barth hoped for; the 'she' with "the Bible in one hand, and the newspaper in the other."

-"The Sun" is also a tabloid; so she may instead be ODing on cheep and cheesy news sources. As in one reviewer's take:

He even manages to take a detail another singer would use against her -- her love of tabloids -- and turn it into an image that quotes one of the Beatles' loveliest songs: "She's at the bus stop with the 'News of the World' and the 'Sun,' sun, here it comes." As befits an album named "Pop," U2 is both acknowledging the discontents of a disposable culture and rushing headfirst into its pleasures.
-Charles Taylor's review of "Pop" for Salon Magazine

-The Beatles reference is surely intentional. No accident it is the one Beatles song ("Here Comes The Son") that many agree is about the "Son" . It has been song in churches as such.

Speaking of cheesy; let's address what at first glance is the cheesy pun of sun/Son. One wonderful video (skip church and watch it here; 3rd video from top) even suggests that Jesus himself is tired of that corny connection..But I believe (along with no cheesy evangelical: the Mormon philospher Mark Wathrall) that "sun" representing "Son" is so clearly and consistently in Bono's mind and lexicon ("The sun is sometimes eclipsed by the Moon/ I don't see You when she walks in the room...", "Staring at the Sun..happy to go blind", "I'll be up with the Sun/I'm not coming down" to give only three examples) that we cannot not consider it a candidate here. She's at the bus stop with a tabloid and Jesus.

I ponder as well "She feels the ground is giving way; but she feels we're better off that way."

At her best, the church recognizes that the "ground" she has long trusted (modernity, koinonitis, the good-old-boys club, a "just preach Jesus; none of this liberal social action stuff") is no longer tenable..which is good news as God is desiring to re-build the church on more solid (ironic term; as this "new" solid ground will often feel more fluid, free, flexible...and "more malleble than you think," as Bono has said about history) ground: postmodern, missional, multicultural, holistic (I know, all buzzwords; forgive me)

At her worst, the church is in covenant and in bed with, and embedded with, the decidedly wrong foundations:

"If the foundations are destroyed, what will the righteous do?" (Psalm 11:3)

Maybe the righteous Wife will default to "not waiting for a savior to come...she'll be dead soon."

But could it be that "not waiting for a savior to come" is a positive pose, if one is not seeking only "pie in the sky when we die," and "so heavenly minded that we're no earthy good." If it entails interceding and activating the Kingdom and its healing and justice in the here and now; not waiting on the there-and then.

I long for the streets to have no name on earth as it is in heaven.

Charles Taylor again:

If skepticism creeps in about the state of things, so does a conviction about the necessity (and the thrill) of living in the moment. "She feels the ground is giving way," Bono sings about the young woman who's the subject of "Last Night on Earth," "but she thinks we're better off that way." ... As befits an album named "Pop," U2 is both acknowledging the discontents of a disposable culture and rushing headfirst into its pleasures.
-Charles Taylor's review of "Pop" for Salon Magazine

"Necessity and thrill of living in the moment."

Of course it would take a notoriously non-Christian magazine writer to interpret Bono's prophecy to the church. Like deCaussade and Brother Lawrence, to love mentally/sacramentally and quietly/quietistically in the present moment; yet not deny the sensual, perhaps sexual "thrill" of such a quest is to be false to biblical faith.

Or as Bono himself said about Elvis in a stunning and overlooked Rolling Stone article:

It seems a dangerous place, to have belief and longing in the same heart. It can only be at the point of desperation that mystery can have a seat at the table. This is the space where U2 has lingered in for years, drawing people to their passionate story and a longing for a different Kingdom here on earth. It is only natural that many would resource this voice to find a prophetic word for the world we live in now.

When Elvis was upset and feeling out of kilter, he would leave the big house and go down to his little gym, where there was a piano. With no one else around, his choice would always be gospel, losing and finding himself in the old spirituals. He was happiest when he was singing his way back to spiritual safety. But he didn't stay long enough. Self-loathing was waiting back up at the house, where Elvis was seen shooting at his TV screens, the Bible open beside him at St. Paul's great ode to love, Corinthians 13. Elvis clearly didn't believe God's grace was amazing enough.
(source, big thanks to Mother Beth)

"Self-loathing was waiting for," and often found in the closet of, the she/church of "Last Night on Earth." And its often fear of our sexuality that causes us to sublimate; not elevate.
Rabbi Jeffrey Cohen (Keep in mind he likely knows nothing of U2):

Prayer is not something the pray-er just is an
experience he enters into. There is no room for inhibition; singing and dancing
are essential means by which he expresses his emotional cleaving to God….but
such ardor/desire for God has to be so overwhelming that any extraneous thoughts
are excluded…If distractions are erotic in nature…and he faces up to the
predominance of the sexual urge at both conscious and subconscious levels, and
its capacity to intrude even during prayer...then he has learned to take
measures…by introducing the (ancient) doctrine of the "elevation of strange
thoughts." This is a Chasidic Jewish technique not of sublimation, but of
thought conversion, whereby the beauty or desirability of the woman is latched
upon and used not as a sexual but rather as a mental and spiritual stimulus. We
are taught to "elevate" these thoughts by substituting the beauty of God for the
physical beauty that is currently bewitching us. The praying person has learned to
immediately contrast the pale reflection of beauty that humans are endowed with,
on the one hand, and the supreme Divine source of authentic and enduring beauty,
on the other…This is not sublimation; This is elevation. (source)

Of course the rabbi was unknowingly commenting on yet another U2 song here: "Elevation."

"Elvis was happiest, " Bono proffers, " when he was singing his way back to spiritual safety. But he didn't stay long enough."

I want to stay in the song long enough; tethered to Jesus and the rest of his Bride; safe as I risk engaging the world; free to live as if this were the last night on earth.

I am, as Gavin Friday commented on the song at hand, part and parcel of the flawed, addictive "wild woman who gives you a charge of energy."
Sometimes I prefer to be "in the church but not of it."

And to come full circle to Brian Healy's song, as part of the Holy Wife, I plead:

So don't mistake my anger for bitterness and strife
Because on bended knees I'm begging you please
Jesus, talk to your wife .

So I pledge to get up off my bended knees, and do something about the problem:
the church.
That is:  me.

She is me.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

silence of friends

"In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends."

August 30, 1986

Sts. Venn, Frost, and Hirsch

Venn Diagrams from (and based on) Frost and Hirsch, "Shaping...," and Hirsch, "Forgotten Ways."

Thank God (literally) for St. (literally) Venn..

Yes, I am in each of the pictures...guess

Anti the antichrist church: Sacrifice, failure, margins, holiness

"The Jesus Way: A Conversation on the Ways that Jesus is the Way," the third voluminous volume in Peterson's "spiritual theology" series is out.

The way of Jesus (and our way as we hotlink to it), he offers, is the way of sacrifice; the way of failure; the way of margins, and the way of holiness.


Can you imagine what Jwesus might do if we actually start believing this countercultural heretical truth?

I don't have the book yet (accepting late birthday gifts, though(:....). Some quotes I have culled online, this first batch from Jim Gardner's blog:

"Jesus is an alternative to the dominant ways of the world, not a supplement to them" (2).

"The North American church at present is conspicuous for replacing the Jesus way with the American way" (5).

"We cannot pick and choose ways and means that are more to our liking. The popularized acronym WWJD ("What would Jesus do?") is not quite accurate. The question must be, "How does Jesus do it" (8)?

"The way Jesus leads and the way that I follow Jesus are symbiotic. And this symbiosis is not treated with sufficient seriousness and depth in the Christian community of North Am
"The Jesus Way: A Conversation on the Ways that Jesus is the Wayerica" (8).

"Ways and means that are removed or abstracted from Jesus and the Scriptures that give witness to him amount sooner or later to a betrayal of Jesus. In this kingdom-of-God world, the person that we follow is the primary shaping influences on the person that we become (emphasis mine), Christians follow Jesus" (15).

"...the Christian way cannot be programmed, cannot be guaranteed: faith means that we put our trust in God — and we don’t know how he will work out our salvation, only that it is our salvation that he is working out. Which frees us of anything.

The fatal thing is to reduce faith to an explanation. It is not an explanation, it is a passion. To tell the story of Abraham is to enter a narrative that throws self-help, self-certification, self-discipline — all our paltry self-hyphenations — into a junkyard of rusted-out definitions.

Faith has to do with marrying Invisible and Visible. When we engage in an act of faith we give up control, we give up sensory (sight, hearing, etc.) confirmation of reality; we give up insisting on head-knowledge as our primary means of orientation in life…. we choose no longer to operate strictly on the basis of hard-earned knowledge, glorious as it is, but over a lifetime to embrace the mystery that ‘must dazzle gradually / Or every man go blind’.

The way of Jesus is not a sequence of exceptions to the ordinary, but a way of living deeply and fully with the people here and now, in the place we find ourselves.

But the temptation is to reduce people, ourselves and others, to self-defined needs or culture-defined needs, which always, in the long run, end up being sin-defined needs — and use Jesus to do it. . . . The devil wants us to use Jesus . . . to run our families, our neighborhoods, our schools, our governments as efficiently and properly as we can, but with no love or forgiveness. Every man and woman reduced to a function.


The American way with its penchant for catchy slogans and stirring visions denegrates the local, and its programmatic ways of dealing with people eroded the personal, replacing intimacies with functions. The North American church at present is conspicuous for replacing the Jesus Way with the American way. (p.5)

It didn't take long for Christian brothers and sisters to develop consumer congregations...Given the conditions prevailing in our culture, this is the best and most effective way to develop large and prosperous congregations. Americans lead the world in showing people how to do it. There is only one thing wrong: this is not the way Jesus brings us into conformity with the life of Jesus and brings us in the way of Jesus' salvation. This is not the way in which we become less and Jesus becomes more. This is not the way our sacrificed lives become available to others in justice and service. The cultivation of consumer spirituality is the antithesis of the sacrificial "deny yourself" congregation. A consumer church is an anitchrist church. (p.6)

Monday, April 16, 2007

Coffee and Pastors Saved The World

St. Bruce: "Those who know don't have the words to tell"

Two classic Cockburn songs ready for worship services.
Yes, even with the prophetic "cuss word"..

Huge thanks to TMac-St. Strat for introducing me to the first song/psalm. I am guessing this is a song that will have a significant impact on the rest of my life
{Later note: i filmed a live version of it here}..The second song I have known for awhile, but need to spotlight it...partly because the highlighted lyrics need to be in the back of my mind (and front of my notes) as I preach...uh,live.


(Bruce Cockburn)
I've seen a high cairn kissed by holy wind
Seen a mirror pool cut by golden fins
Seen alleys where they hide the truth of cities
The mad whose blessing you must accept without pity

I've stood in airports guarded glass and chrome
Walked rifled roads and landmined loam
Seen a forest in flames right down to the road
Burned in love till I've seen my heart explode

You've been leading me
Beside strange waters

Across the concrete fields of man
Sun ray like a camera pans
Some will run and some will stand
Everything is bullshit but the open hand

You've been leading me
Beside strange waters
Streams of beautiful lights in the night
But where is my pastureland in these dark valleys?
If I loose my grip, will I take flight?

You've been leading me
Beside strange waters
Streams of beautiful lights in the night
But where is my pastureland in these dark valleys?
If I loose my grip, will I take flight?

Susan Adams Kauffman: "Strange Waters" is one of your songs that is rich in autobiographical detail. You cite the various observations you've made, places you've been. Then, as tension builds, you passionately state that "everything is bullshit but the open hand." What is this open-handedness you're referring to?

BC: I could have said open heart. It's openness, period, the willingess to share what you have and to accept what others are willing to share with you, and what God or the universe is willing to share with you, and you back. Defensiveness or defendedness can become an impediment to love, obviously. Since it's love that makes the world go 'round, defendedness keeps the world from going 'round.

-from "Fire in an Open Hand" by Susan Adams Kauffman, The Other Side magazine, November/December 1999

(Bruce Cockburn)
A fan video below, not an official Cockburn video, but you can hear the song:

From the lying mirror to the movement of stars
Everybody's looking for who they are
Those who know don't have the words to tell
And the ones with the words don't know too well

Could be the famine
Could be the

Could be the pusher
Could be the priest
Always ourselves we love the least
That's the burden of the angel/beast

Birds of paradise -- birds of prey
Here tomorrow, gone today
Cross my forehead, cross my palm
Don't cross me or I'll do you harm


We go crying, we come laughing
Never understand the time we're passing
Kill for money, die for love
Whatever was God thinking of?

(my emphasis in bold)

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

"How to Not Mess Up the Great Commisison Too Much"

Aim Lower, Think Smaller, Give Up, and Go Get a Cup of Coffee...

That's the advice on this much more counter, and counterinuitive to our usual "four point sermons" on "Reaching The World For Christ" do you want:

Saturday, April 07, 2007

'Do I love or know Jesus?”

'Do I love or know Jesus?”

I wrote that in 1990 or so; as part of my seminary homework.

Don't worry; it wasn't a huge crisis of faith.

Or was it.

The amazing profesor Don Joy, had assigned us Walter Wangerin's novel “The Orphean Passages,” and asked us to reflecton it on our journals.

I remember he circled my confession in red.

But not to dock my grade for "unbelief" ; but to say
"Wow, you really processed the novel appropriately."

Wangerin wrote of a pastor who got up to preach on Good Friday, and suddenly realized the gravity of all Jesus went through on what we call Good Friday, and thus…. couldn’t say a word. Sometimes we have to stay in Friday, even if it feels Sunday is not coming.I wrote in my journal after reading how affected the pastor was; “Do I love or know Jesus?”

In other words, had I ever parked at Good Friday long enough to know that Jesus died?

Had I ever been at a loss for words over that?

We celebrated Good Friday 2007 yesterday without Fred.

He never missed our Good Friday service.

He had a valid excuse: he was within hours of death, in a coma.

And met Jesus face to face hours after the service, today; Easter Eve.

Fred so ministered to me over the years, though he proudly bragged on me as his pastor.

But this is the guy who enrolled in YWAM at age 60!
I miss him. I need that.
"We quote Romans 8:28 too tritely and too soon," I preached last Good Friday on Psalm 22.

My seminary confession was part hyperbole; part true...maybe even in part giving the professor what he wanted to hear. I didn't really doubt the veracity of my salvation.

And I sill don't.

But perhaps I should question its tenacity and tenure.

I grieve that I don't grieve enough.

Maybe I'll read my sermon from last Good Friday here; perhaps I''ll seeof I can find that seminary journal; no doubt I'll re-read Saint Juancho's amazing Good Friday in Chile experience here..
If I don't, I may never be big, bold; named and unashamed to pray the prayer she prayed at the Good Friday service she attended:
“Please, do not let me go, ever. You are all I have, and one way or another, it has always been about You and me. All I ask is that you have mercy on me, lead me, guide me and maybe, one day, allow me to fulfill my true calling. I don’t know where life will take me from now on, but I do ask that I be, at least in the smallest bit, worthy of Your calling. I don’t want to stumble. Don’t ever let me go.”

Maybe I'll go to bed in prayer to know and love Jesus for the first time.

After all, I am a pastor now. Tomorrow is Easter. I DO have to have something to say.

Or do I?