Friday, February 29, 2008

One Bull's Ass, Four Horseman, Three Evils: Eugene Peterson

The undeniably indefatigable
and incredibly hip

(who by the way, recognizes the prophetic role of "loud farts" and was prankster enough to discover "Sex and Drugs in Church: Peterson on Why the System Can't Care")...

Eugene Peterson,

in a section of "Reversed Thunder: The Revelation of John and the Praying Imagination" ..

one of the most astounding and truly prophetic books about the Book of Revelation:
thankfully doesn't get caught up in end times chartolatry and "evangelical porongraphy"
and "couldn't hit a bull on the ass with a banjo" (Douglas Wilson's delightful line) of Left Behindism.. speaking of the horsemen of the apocalypse, radically "gets" this hugely misunderstood chapter; rightly reoriented it from framejacking, and making it hugely practical and wholly terrifying in the appropriate way (for once):

..each of these evils (war, sickness, and famine) is common, but each is also disguised so that we culturally accept its presence as something normal, even good. War is disguised as patriotism and a glorious struggle for freedom. Famine is disguised as a higher standard of living. Sickness is disguised by technology. Evil introduces by turns, conflict, greed, and deceit into social and personal existence and undoes creation, subverting its purpose and contradicting its design of redemption. These evils present such a benign appearance in their disguises that the world unthinkingly accepts them as the forces of history, to which Christ is a lovely but essentially ineffective minority protest.

War is dressed up in the Sunday best of "competition". We are trained from an early age to get what we want not in cooperation with others but in competition against them. The means are essentially violent, whether physical or psychological, weapons or propaganda..

..Famine is nature out of balance...We put millions of people to work at idiot jobs to make machines that pollute the air we breathe so that we can move rapidly from one place to another in projectiles at lethal speeds (killing and maiming other millions - more than have died in all the wars ever fought on the earth) so that we have more time to sit before outrageously priced electronic devices that flicker with forms of flesh fantasies that attempt to convince us (usually successfully) that we must have oil and wine luxuries for which we must go back to idiot jobs to make the lethal machines...

Sickness is disguised by technology....Our bodies are systematically abused so that they no linger function easily and naturally as temples of the Holy Spirit...
-"Reversed Thunder: The Revelation of John and the Praying Imagination", pp76-70

Starbuck's and Church: Closed for Reprayers?

"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."
-Robert Farrar Capon, The Astonished Heart

Whatever you think about Starbucks/St. Arbuck's...

...see for example:

...their recent bold move by Chairman Schulz to actually close all stores nationwide at 5:30 pm the other day was intriguing. Ostensibly to offer a (mandated) meeting to encourage and equip baristas towards "Perfecting the Art of Espresso"; surely also to address their recent woes (grew too fast in recent years, and who would've guessed: upcoming competition from McDonald's), what happened at this "secret" meeting?

No major leaks, but the baristas I quickly queried were jazzed. One even said, "I bet we even gained instead of lost money in the long run...we have had new customers intrigued by the idea of 'Why would a whole chain care enough to close?"

What would people think if every "branch office" of the Christian church in America "closed" for one (gasp!) Sunday morning for a mandatory meeting of employees to...

I don't want to say "quality control," or "customer satisfaction"..

How about to ask the Capon questions; and follow the Capon model:

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. As Isaiah reminded Israel, the church's strength is to sit still: all the power, all the resources, and all the hope of the defunctly marginal lie hidden in the terrifying reality of their death. Only out of that can they live. The only thing they need to guard against is the temptation to stop being dead. Alive and kicking may be nice, but it's not astonishing. DEAD AND KICKING, though, that's astonishing. That in fact, is resurrection-and its the only thing that can bring the best out in the church..

-Robert Farrar Capon, The Astonished Heart .link

This is in fact what we (are tiny branch office of the fruit tree)are doing this Sunday..

kind of...only, technically, we are "open for business"..
as we do this business.


It will be fun.

Join us.

There will be no thumbsucking allowed; but coffee and dreams will flow.

Astonish me to death.

Scare me to life.

Maybe next week we'll close to watch a movie or something..

Bono closed down U2 temporarily at the end of the 1990s, announing "We need to go away and dream it all up again."

Maybe we''ll put up a sign "closed for reprayers."

Capon concludes:
"DESIRE, however we manage it, can always explode into astonishment"

Thursday, February 28, 2008

as opposed to "stale, universal and organized"

Remember Jim Carrey in "Bruce Almighty," praying "God, just send me a sign!"
God sent several (literal) signs as Bruce drove...warning him the bridge was out.
Signs he ignored.

Signs and sermons from the Spirit are everywhere. Without going overboard and overweird
("Oh, I saw a STOP sign, must mean God is closing a door."),
I need to be more sensitive to this..see KKKKen's story here.

Everytime I catch a view of the pamphlet prominently displayed at my wife's favorite French bakery (I called it the underwear store because of the name),

I remember that church should be three things at heart and core. They are in big bold print; a sign from God:


The brochure is from TDWilley Farms, whose website reminds of of the
word from Francis Bacon:

"Natura enim non imperatur, nisi parendo."-- Sir Francis Bacon
Nature cannot be ordered about, except by obeying her.

Drafting Lessig and the Age of the Ostrich

The dedication page of Lessig's first edition (1999) of "Code" reads:


That is how it is these days with forerunning and foretelling types.

I haven't yet read the second edition of "Code," but it's called "Code v2," and (inevitably),
it is an open source "book," and (inevitably), here it is online.

Another amazing sign of the kairotic times.

From the first edition:
"We stand today just a few years before where Webster stood in 1850. We stand on the bink og being able to say, 'I speak as a citizen of the world," without the ordinary person saying, 'What a nut.'....This misfit will matter." (226) "It is the age of the ostrich. We are excited by what we cannot know. We are proud to leave things to the invisible hand. We make the hand invisible by looking the other way. But it is not a great time, culturally, to come across revolutionary technologies. We are no ore ready for this revolution than the Soviets were ready for theirs. We, like the Soviethave been caught by a revolution. But we, unlike they, have somethig to lose." (234)

No wonder there is a movement (at least on Facebook) to "Draft Lessig for Congress."

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Avril, Bono, God and the poor be with you.

I am wanting to unlearn everything I've learned about church and pastoring.

These are great days to experiment with such a task; and our church family are wonderfully
open and open source.

Sunday's message was themed around the theme of "God with us."
I was hoping there were connections in Scripture to "God with us" and
"The poor will always be with you."

But because I am learning not to overplan/produce a sermon anymore...(as if we even do "sermons"! They are more...gee, what word fits? Someone has suggested "habitats"), I didn't get the connections until I got in community.

Gee, that isn't supposed to happen; it supposed to be the one "professional" who prays and studies all week so they can deliver the ultimate answers as a monolgue/lecture...maybe with three points (power points) and a poem..

Yeah, right.

Maybe this "new" model of so-called (in both senses of the term) unwashed "laypeople" actually having something to contribute is worth pursuing! Maybe Helmut Baby was right: "the church is our pastor" (see this).

So going into the day, i had a few notes, a few Scriptures, and a few videos ready and on standby.

It is delightful and terrifying to be spiritually clueless and literally cueless about what God will say through the Spirit and Bride as the gathering emerges.

A young woman who had grown up in a churched family, but wandered, wondered and prayed aloud once:

"I don't know who You are;
but I'm with You."

I don't know how many churches have played the music video for Avril Lavigne's "I'm With You".

Probably not too many, as the refrain is:

"It's a damn cold night/
Trying to figure out this life...
I don't know who You are,
but I'm with You."


But damn, we just had to play it. It was stunning to see
how quickly our folks (Jeannie lead the way!!)caught the God-hunger in this song
("Isn't anyone trying to find me??"). Explore this song more here on our forum; and huge thanks to RevKev for turning me onto the song. Yes, I admit that I cheated by uppercasing the "Y" in the "you" in her lyrics, but that's how I hear it.

It turned out to be a great wikiday; as we collaboratively listed some scriptures that included the phrase or thought "with you".

We warmed up by collecting ways we use "with you" in everyday ways.

If I am "with" someone, it means we are an item., for example. If I say "I'm with Scott Jones" at reastaurant, it means he's paying my bill.
"I'm with you" can mean "I'm tracking with you" or "I agree with you."
Of course if a clerk or phone rep says "I'll be with you shortly," you may or may not believe it.
"I am with you in spirit," etc

Of course we noted that Jesus's very name, Immanuel, has "with you" embedded right in it.
We caught the paradoxes:

Sometimes the "with you" presence of God seems to save you from trouble (Acts 18:9-10), and sometimes save you in the trouble
(Isaiah 43:2).
Ken remembered that Mary was promised that the baby would be named "God with us," but then the very angel split (Luke 1:38)

Guess God cant live with or without you.

And yes, we did show that very U2 video at the prayer meeting before the gathering...
noting that the fluid lyrics seem at times Jesus speaking to us, sometimes us speaking to Jesus. We caught the overwhelmed Bono (having just buried his father, and playing to his hometown crowd of 80, 000) at 4:13ff moving into his spontaneous/Spiritaneous prophetic Bonglosealallia (see the comments on this post) utterance.
No wonder bassist Adam Clatyon (at the time not yet officially a Christian) said of this song:
"You don't expect to hear it on the radio...maybe in a church." (p, 66, "Into the Heart").
Well, we did it "in a church," and here it is:


We also were caught in awe of Jesus' wanting to be "with us" before sending us out into ministry (Mark :13-q4 ), let alone God dancing and singing over the sheer joy of being "with us." (Zeph 3:16-17)

But also we keynoted that being with God, and God with us, is not a passive hanging out.
The withness of God seems in part predicated that we are in motion and on mission.
The very great Commission promised the "With you" will be with us as/if we go and make disciples of all nations." Lo, indeed. (Matt 28:18-20)

But what nailed us is the connection and conjunction of

"I will always be with you".


"The poor will always be with you."

Those words (Matt 26:11) of Jesus about the poor have been used as cop out and opt out. You know, "Jesus himself said there will always be poor people, so there is no need to help them...much.
Let alone any possibility of actually ending extreme and unnecessary poverty.

Yada, yada. Yeah, and it will be a "damn cold night" in hell before that spin is proven to be what Jesus had in mind, He was actually quoting Deut. 15. The context there is the opposite:
"You need not have any poor among you... But they will always be among help them"

Wow, is the church ever adept at framejacking Jesus and hijacking Scripture.

Sparks and Shekinah flew as we began to corporately connect the dots.

Only then did I remember and quote Bono's sermon:

"God is with us if we are with the poor."

Then I had someone bring Amos 5:14 into the mix; the only Scripture with a condition on the "with-us-ness" of God. Wouldn't every believer love to know that there is apparently one thing we can do that will cause the Omnipresent ever with us Imamnuel a sense...not be with us?

"The Lord will be with you, if...

you do good and not evil," the Scripture read.

I actually didn't recall , but was guessing/hoping that the context and definition of "being good" in that passage had something to do with helping the poor. I wanted a prooftext; and because I am a recovering pastor, I pressed in fake confidence; having Scott read deeper into the passage until he found the word "poor."

Thank God it was there.
Read it and weep.

Or hear it and weep in Bono's sermon.
Video of both versions of his messages are posted below; first the National Prayer Breakfast:

"God may well be with us in our mansions on the hill. I hope so. He may well be with us as in all manner of controversial like midday and the Lord will continually guide you and satisfy your desire in scorched places. (
stuff. Maybe, maybe not. But the one thing we can all agree, all faiths and ideologies, is that God is with the vulnerable and poor."
complete manuscript)

But that was a pretty white crowd, so Bono's delivery was a bit understated.

Watch the version he preached at the NAACP, especially the last minute when we have
black-style church at its best.
God is in the slums, in the cardboard boxes where the poor play house. God is in the silence of a mother who has infected her child with a virus that will end both their lives. God is in the cries heard under the rubble of war. God is in the debris of wasted opportunity and lives, and God is with us if we are with them. 'If you remove the yoke from your midst, the pointing of the finger and speaking wickedness, and if you give yourself to the hungry and satisfy the desire of the afflicted, then your light will rise in darkness and your gloom with become
an shirt

This is true religion. True religion will not let us fall asleep in the comfort of our freedom. “Love thy neighbor” is not a piece of advice, it’s a command. And that means in the global village we’re going to have to start loving a whole lot more people, that’s what that means. That’s right. “His truth is marching on.” ..Because where you live should not decide whether you live or whether you die.

... whatever thoughts we have about God, who He is, or even if God exists, most will agree that God has a special place for the poor. The poor are where God lives. God is in the slums, in the cardboard boxes where the poor play house. God is where the opportunity is lost and lives are shattered. God is with the mother who has infected her child with a virus that will take both their lives. God is under the rubble in the cries we hear during wartime. God, my friends is with
the poor. And God is with us if we are with them.

Unless we buy the "new phyics" that Mike Roe satirizes so well in his brilliant song by that name..
that will preach!

The Lord be with you.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Dreams about dreaming keep me alive

I need to dream about dreaming more often.

Maybe even dream about dreaming about dreaming.

Besides, now that the second half of my life
qualifies me for the first half
of Joel's Pentecosted promise
("Your old men will dream dreams.
Your young men will see visions")...

...I might as well dream about dreaming a bit more.

More than once, I have woken from a

dream, and in that fleeting in-between zone, heard(?), seen (?) a phrase that I caused me to think, "Hmmm, interesting, I need to look that up when I wake up."

I have been amazed that though every time the phrase sounded silly or stupid; every time when I googled my phrase, it proved highly

significant, even prophetic.

As I blogged last year:

I recently woke up with the thought in my head "Nothing is more practical than theory, and nothing is more theoretical than practice" I woke up, and wondered had anyone ever said that before? I googled it, and it turned out to be...

Karl Marx!!..

It was also/still a word from God.

Just a few days ago, a name came to me. It was a bizarre name I had never heard before. I googled it, half-expecting to find nothing and was half-right. Until I thought to translate it into Spanish. My jaw dopped open, and I knew exactly who I was to pray for.

Yesterday I participated in the Sundy afternoon ritual that many pastors subscribe to:

a nap.

As I was in the

trainman space
(in the Matrix, this character controls the no man's land between the matrix and the real world)

Maybe awake, perhaps

asleep, likely both...

Sort of in a dream, the thought came to me:

"Dreaming is what keeps you alive....literally."

"Hmmm,interesting, I need to look that up....," I thought.

Turned out to be a pretty standard theory in neurology, psychology etc.

What is the most basic or general function that dreaming is likely to serve. Since dreaming is an activity of the brain, we must first ask what function brain activity serves? And because the most general biological purpose of living organisms is survival, this must also be the most general biological answer to the purpose of brain activity. The brain fosters survival by regulating the organism's transactions with the world and with itself. These latter transactions would perhaps be best achieved in the dream state, when sensory information from the external world is at its minimum.
-chapter 8 of Stephen LaBerge's Lucid Dreaming

By then it was time to rouse my self, touch up the bedhair, and get to a local church in time to hear Rachel Hickson preach:

To hope, perchance to dream.

She punctuated her message on hope with the unfamiliar context of Martin Luther King's most familiar line.

"I have a dream that one day every valley shall be exalted, and every hill and mountain shall be made low, the rough places will be made plain, and the crooked places will be made straight; "and the glory of the Lord shall be revealed and all flesh shall see it together.".
This is our hope, and this is the faith that I

go back to the South with.
With this faith, we will be able to hew out of the mountain of despair a stone of hope.

-Martin Luther King

(It looks like a version of that sermon is on her church website here).

Hope keeps me dreaming , dreaming keep me alive.

I hope

I dream

I pray

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Lap Dances. Flintstones, Grandpa's Bong & Crabby Communion

Just some of this month's posts on the forum:

View newest postChurch Challenged to Have Sex Every Day

View newest post THE ONE TRUE CHURCH

New posts View newest post How much of your pastor do you want to see?

New posts View newest post God blasting a worshipservice to bits: Annie Dillard

New posts View newest post From Lap Dances to Jesus

New posts View newest post Jesus '08: no miracles, no preaching and no rude behavior

New posts View newest post Obama on Jesus, salvation, Islam etc

New posts View newest post Dobson won't vote?

New posts View newest post Would the Real Emerger Please Stand Up? Part 1

New posts View newest post Mild-mannered presby rev. partners w/U2 & XXXChurch

No new posts

No new posts Taking God's Name in Vain doesn't mean saying G.D.?

No new posts L.A. Times article on the 2 Worlds of Fresno

No new posts how to take an evergreen shift

No new posts McCain's alleged affair and the press

No new posts It does sort of look like a clerical collar

No new posts water OVER the bridge...pic of church

No new posts Breasts in Church: Why Not?! (Jesus Was Breastfed)

No new posts Hal Lindsey's "There's a New Wife Coming"

No new posts Google as God: But for How Long?

No new posts eliminating television AND "church as usual"?

No new posts Headed towards the Flintstones, not the Jetsons

No new posts Is The Pastorate/Pulpit Pagan?

No new posts periodic communion with quirky personalities

No new posts WHAT IS MOST IMPORTANT INVENTION in 2000 years?

No new posts "We've heard you aren't attending church!!"

No new posts 2 St Vincents saved my life...or preaching..from suicide

No new posts Bizarre Surprising GodStuff

No new posts Crabby Communion and the Arts

No new posts "the most highly paid theologian in America"?

No new posts Insurgent Church

No new posts Driscoll "religon saves" Video on Humor

No new posts a pastor who farts just like you

No new posts Constructing by Deconstructing

No new posts Pamela Anderson's Bustline Church

No new posts No More Prayers for God to Manipulate the World

No new posts Prayer Breakfast at FilmFest With Rolling Stones

No new posts How Jazz Breaks the Heresy of White Christianity

No new posts Real Male Pastors Pee Standing Up

No new posts This Is Not Your Grandfather's Bong

No new posts

No new posts

No new posts Sexy Sadie Dies & Passes Spiritual Torch to U