Thursday, April 30, 2009

differing missional epistemologies

Len, in an important post,

The Younger Evangelicals.. and more..

tips us off to David Fitch's post:

“I suggest there are Reformed Missionals, Anabaptist Missionals, and Pragmatic Missionals. I suggest that each of these theologies tends towards a certain kind of epistemology and understanding of culture that influences how we think about missional church.”

Highly recommended. Fitch examines each lens, and concludes it is no wonder we often "talk past each other."

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

leasing my feelings

"'You've got to own you feelings,' we are told.
Well, with the present market conditions,
I choose to lease my feelings,
with an option to buy."
-Mark Leyner,"Tooth Imprints on a Corn Dog,"p. 127
(Wiki article,
Unofficial page)

Monday, April 27, 2009

"might as well have a translation whose bias I agree with."

Translation is so vulnerable...and vital.

It is almost inevitably both messianic, and betrayal (as the translator of The Message has confessed),

There is nothing wrong with admitting that they are inescapably paradox and paraphrase.

I continued to be amazed at the degree of context that The Voice translation of the Bible has been able to embed into the text.

In a way similar to Today's NIV, Perhaps it is one of the first translations that refused to be bought.

Julie Clawson, responding to a post about The Voice translation of the Bible:

"All of our translations are paraphrases with the opinions of who has the most money and power winning out. I might as well have access to a translation whose interpreters’ bias I might agree with." link

More on the Voice here.

Jesus Before Christianity

"We cannot deduce anything about Jesus
from what we think we know about God;
we must deduce everything about God
from what we do know about Jesus."

-Albert Nolan, Jesus Before Christianity (p. 165-167)

Friday, April 24, 2009

Free is the Future

FREE/"Gift Ecomomy" is the Future of Business.
Article here, video below:

listen for the sound only young people can hear

I passed the sound test; I am under 25 years old!!
..take it here

certain about uncertainty

“It is not the place but the Presence that upholds you; This is your only certainty.”
-Erwin McManus

"My Lord God, I have no idea where I am going'
Tomas Merton

Heisenberg said it first..
..Well, Paul preached it first:
"We walk by faith,
and not by sight;
so certainly this is not certainty." ( 2 Cor 5.17)

and Abraham lived it:

"By faith, Abraham left home, completely uncertain about where he was going"
Heb 11.8

SK knew it, Ellul prophesied it

Bono, of course, has sung it

Anne Lamott has nailed it: "The opposite of faith is not doubt, but certainty"
Len has a video on it..

Now it's Andy Stanley (!) 's turn

see this and this (click "Uncertain Leader")

Jim Morrison's Grave

"Jim Morrison's Grave" by Steve Taylor

Am I a pilgrim?
Or another souvenir hound?
In the city of lights I set my sights
On a king's domain.
It was a manhole
Dug over at the edge of town
And a spray can scrawl
on a cemetery wall
says "You'd better behave"

Jim Morrison's grave

It's getting cold here
And there ain't a lizard in sight
Did the end begin

When you shed your skin
In the home of the brave?
Somebody shake him
From the land of larger than life
Where the remnant warn
of a legend born
In a dead man's cave.

Jim Morrison's grave

I stay driven 'cause there's nowhere to park
I can't shut my eyes, I'm afraid of the dark
I lie awake
That stone left me chilled to the bone
Sound the alarm before it's done
Find Jim Morrison
Come away to Paris
Let him see another day
Let him fade out slowly
Only fools burn away
Let a true love show him what a heart can become
Somebody find Jim Morrison
Find Jim Morrison's Grave

I get weary, Lord I don't understand
How a seed get strangled in the heart of a man
While the music covers like an evening mist
Like a watch still ticking on a dead man's wrist

to check my soul, not the view

We have established why RevKev goes to the beach,
but why does Bono go to church?

The (pen)ultimate answer may be the same, but here are two recent answers from the man himself:

  • "I come to lowly church halls and lofty cathedrals for what purpose? I search the Scriptures to what end? To check my head? My heart? No, my soul. For me these meditations are like a plumb line dropped by a master builder — to see if the walls are straight or crooked."
-Bono, NY Times

  • “Moment of Surrender” tells the tale of a lost soul, borrowing an Alcoholics Anonymous term for the moment an addict admits helplessness. “The character in the song is a junkie, so that’s where I got it,” says Bono, who has written about heroin addiction before, most famously on “Bad” from The Unforgettable Fire. “I’ve been surrounded a lot in my personal life by addiction — in the last few years, in particular,” Bono says. “I know a lot of people — not least the bass player in the band — who has had to deal with their demons in courageous ways.” (In the Nineties — around the time he was engaged to Naomi Campbell — [bass player Adam] Clayton grappled with alcoholism, and went to AA himself.) “And maybe there’s a part of me that thinks, ‘Wow, I’m just an inch away’,” Bono continues. “There’s no doubt about the fact that I have a wild streak and I’d be very capable of setting fire to myself. So, you know, I don’t go to church for the view.” -Bono, Rolling Stone

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Radiohead on Romans 7 ("Creep") and 8 ("Lift)"

"That's very beautiful. Very resurrection."
-Sarah Masen, David Dark's wife, on walking by while Dark was listening to the outro to Radiohead's "Kid A," recounted in the amazing book, "Everyday Apocalypse," p 77

"Radiohead makes sacred music." - Bono

"Through their music, Radiohead communes with everyone who's ever been tempted to despair in a world where God seems absent" -John Murphy

OK, computer, I came kind of late to the Radiohead party.

I have had most of their catalog for several years now, having been referred to them through The Violet Burning.

Now they are inevitably part and integral parcel of my life and liturgy
(examples here and at the tags below)

Just yesterday, when Tarzan called and asked what I was doing, I told the whole truth:

"Praying with Radiohead."

"Praying for Radiohead?" he clarified.

No, but I should do that more often, too.
But I almost fear that, maybe that will turn them into a CCM act.(:

Nah, God wouldn't do that...their songs are already "very beautiful, very resurrection."

I mentioned being a relative neophyte, so Ryan T. won't laugh too long when I admit I just recently (thrift store) bought "Pablo Honey" and "Kid A".

That means I have already decided Mrs. Dark's review works for their entire canon...though many of their music is torturous and tortured ("spiritual solace from Radiohead’s music—it would make about as much as sense as finding comfort in The Brothers Karamozov")
resurrection is embedded, encrypted, and enbryonic in all that, too. I'm a messy messianic.

And I am comforted by Karamaov.
Like Jesus is.

Oh, that also means I just heard "Creep" for the first time!!
If you are one of the two reading not familiar with their huge early single that almost broke the band up way too early,
the song to me is kind of a midrash on Romans 7.

As with many/most/all Radiohead songs, it's ultimately prayer:

Even the album version where God is so f&#%-ing special," : opposed to the single's version:
"so very special."
(The promo video at that link recalls the classic Ed Sullivan appearance of The Stones' "Let's Spend the Night Together" where Jagger leered the mandated censored lyric of "Let's spend some TIME together)

Surprisingly, someone talked them into a tamer version in their earlier live gigs:

Not later ones:

When you were here before
Couldn't look you in the eye
You're just like an angel
Your skin makes me cry
You float like a feather
In a beautiful world
I wish I was special
You're so
f$#@!ing special
But I 'm a creep
I 'm a weirdo
What the hell am I doing here?
I don't belong here

I don't care if it hurts
I want to have control
I want a perfect body
I want a perfect soul
I want you to notice
When I'm not around
You're so
f$#@!ing special
I wish I was special

But I'm a creep
I'm a weirdo
What the hell am I doing here?
I don't belong here

Whatever makes you happy
Whatever you want
You're so f$#@! ing special
I wish I was special
But I'm a creep
I'm a weirdo
What the hell am I doing here?
I don't belong here
I don't belong here.

I haven't had the time to make time for "Kid A," yet. But I just found an unreleased song ("Lift") from that era, that is kind of kin to U2's "Elevation" ("lift" is a UK term for "elevator);
and cousin and commentary to Romans 8:

This is the place
sit down, you're safe now

you've been stuck in a lift
we've been trying to reach you, Thom

this is the place
it won't hurt
ever again

the smell of air conditioning
the fish are belly up
empty all your pockets
'cause it's time to come home

this is the place
remember me
I'm the face you always see

you've been stuck in a lift
in the belly of a whale
at the bottom of the ocean

the smell of air conditioning
the fish are belly up
empty all your pockets
'cause it's time to come home

the smell of air conditioning
the fish are belly up

oh, let it go
let it go

today is the first day
of the rest of your days

so lighten up, squirt

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Even though I once went shopping with Paul Newman...

submitted to Leadership Journal

Even though I once went shopping with Paul Newman, I never set out to be a pastor to household names.

I have had to ask forgiveness for being a pastor who sometimes parades and secludes himself like a rock star.

Even though I once prayed for and with Ray Bradbury, I never planned to become a spiritual advisor to famous writers.

I have had to admit the vice of acting as if my ordination papers entitled me to be treated like one.

Even though I once received actor Dack Rambo--as he was dying of AIDS--into my pastor's study; shedding tears as my heart broke with the news, I never imagined becoming spiritual advisor to movie stars.

I have had to repent for pigeonholing AIDs victims as lepers, including tossing out the glass Dack drank from that day.

I am no star. Just a pastor wishing he'd become a better one to whomever God brings across his path, and into his life and church.

Which is why a recent return to a classic Leadership Journal article-- by someone who is a household name for many of us in ministry: Gordon McDonald--somehow summoned those three encounters with the well-known from my memory banks.

More on those three intriguing stories later.

That startling wake-up and shake-up call of an article from the May 2004, "Pastorable Moments"-themed issue (Thank God for online archives at; or in my case, a stalwart refusal to toss out, or give out, any archived issues of LJ) was penned by a seasoned pastor to pastors.

If I dare to even claim to be a pastor to everyday people, let alone to pastors...or ever again to the rich and famous, I find myself needing to re-read, and re- heed, these startling pages afresh every year or so.

McDonald's piece is a fictional (but far too true) depiction of two life-changing days from a busy large-church pastor's journal and life. One convicting vignette:

In the grip of that day's schedule, Richard bumped into a woman standing at the receptionist's desk. Not recalling her name, he offered his generic, "Hey, how're you doing? Being taken care of?"

She was supposed to say, "I'm fine. Good to see you, Pastor. So appreciated the sermon last Sunday," and then allow him to move on. But she didn't.

"Pastor," she said, "I was so hoping I'd find you here. Do you have a few minutes?"

Honestly? No. The finance people were waiting to talk budget with him, and the PDA showed only 45 minutes to the next chirp. Richard ratcheted up the charm.

"You know, I'm afraid I don't. Why don't you see if my assistant can get you on the calendar for later," he said, half-knowing it wouldn't happen. The next open slot for appointments with church members was two or three weeks away. She could meet with one of the pastoral care people, he was sure.

When will people get used to the fact that senior pastors in large churches can't get into unscheduled conversations? Soon he was into budgeting, the encounter forgotten.

Three days later Richard's assistant informed him that a church member had taken his life. When he heard the name, he recalled the woman in the reception area. She was the dead man's wife.

When he saw her at the funeral parlor (his guilt induced the visit; he normally didn't attend wakes), Richard learned that she had come that Monday seeking counsel about her husband who'd been out of work for six months, was drinking, and seemed unusually withdrawn. She'd thought that, maybe, if the pastor called him, it would lift his spirit.

"He always admired you and hoped that he could one day have a talk with you. But everyone knows how busy you are," she said as they stood by the open casket.

"Everyone," I hope no one can say tome, "knows how busy you are." That indictment would be devastating to the demands that I...and only I...sometimes place on myself.

"Pastor Dave! Pastor Dave!," the excited employee of the thrift store (where I had stopped on my way home from a busy day to shamelessly feed my addiction to used books)
enthusiastically called out to me. "It is so good to see you; your sermons have changed my life!"
I had no idea who this gal was, only that she was obviously from my former church, which was far too large for me to know most attenders (I had since moved on to pioneer a new church). I was not even getting a hazy, 'Oh yeah, she sat in the 22nd pew in the second service,' but I was thrilled and humbled that the Lord had used me in her life. She still vividly remembered sermons I had almost forgotten, or written off as failures.

Every preacher needs those moments.

But here's the point and pain:

She and I both knew we had never personally met (At least I don't think so; which is central to my dilemma). But I intuitively knew that if I ventured something like an apologetic, polite, and half-true (read:"lying through my pastoral teeth"), "I'm sorry, I'm not remembering your name," she would respond with confusion; maybe even offense. Of course, her reasonable (!) argument would go, the senior pastor knows all the sheep by name; he or she is endowed with omniscience by mere virtue of their high and holy calling! I copped out with the same lame line, and switched-on charm, that Pastor Richard offered up in McDonald's article: I avoided naming her name.

I have a hard time imagining Pastor Jesus doing that.
In fact, he once claimed that a shepherd knew his sheep by name.

Big gulp.

I am certainly aware that the senior pastor of a church over a certain size simply can't do that, and there are surely ways to manage that lack of omniscience. But for me, it was a defining moment; even a decision that I did not want to pastor a church that large again. At the very least, I cut a deal to seek real relationships, so that I would never stand by a coffin in regret , as the fictitious Richard had.

In McDonald's article, a retired pastor drops by Richard's office unannounced with unsolicited words of wisdom for Richard...and us (How sneaky of Gordon McDonald):

"Richard, this isn't about large or small's about resisting the temptation to lose touch with real people with real issues. If ministry has become all about programs, you'll dry out."

Ouch and amen.

"Well, I've got to get back to work," the thrift store employee smiled, "but I just had to say thank you."

I should have; could have thanked her by name at that point. But I am sure she escaped without the revelation that though my sermons were practical, I was clueless.

I hope you're reading, whoever you are, for I have now gone back to work, and it was your sermon that changed my life. In the sovereign timing of God; by a Spiritaneous set-up, you 'randomly' ran into your former pastor, and informally and effecively pastored him. Pastorable moments, indeed.

"Jesus had to go through Samaria," John 4 notes.

Uh, no he didn't.

Not geographically he didn't, but theologically he indeed had to, if he were to keep his divinely decreed appointment with the Samaritan, and surprisingly pastorable, woman at the well.

And so it is with you and I, if we are to be shepherds truly led by the Spirit into the Samarias, thrift stores, and serendiptous pastorable places we are God-beckoned to.

Last week, I found my car almost driving itself.

No, don't call a psychiatrist or a mechanic.
That was too string a phrase, I don't want this experience to sound spooky or overly mystical, as if I was carjacked by The Almighty.

Even though I essentially was.

It just felt--in naturally supernatural way-- that I was being prompted to turn in a certain direction.

I guess I had prayed that morning to be in the right place at the right time.

Which is likely why I had (thankfully) no appointments the next hour.

Or so I thought.

It was simultaneously freaky and freeing to wonder where I was headed. I pulled into a mall I hadn't been to for months, if not years (It was in a Samaritanish neighborhood). I got out, and creatively mallwalked.... wandered and wondered prayerfully and carefully around, rather. Of course, my imagination and hopes ran wild: maybe a depressed and lost person would eagerly run up to me with "What must I do to be saved?" or a zillionaire would appear: "I've been praying about which church to give my fortune to, can you help?"

My walk was not that eventful.

As I was about to give up and head back to the car, scratching my head, I heard....... my name being called out from the food court.

It was a parishoner from my current congregation...a dear friend whose name I knew, this time. So with reckless joy and exuberant curiosity, I called hers out in return.

I knew (and you can predict) exactly what she would say next; and precisely how I would reply.

To her quizzical, "What are you doing here!?," I slyly smirked and managed something like "Well, would you believe God sent me here to see you.?"

She was not suicidal or sick, but she was eating lunch all alone, and studying for an exam, and in need of some encouragement and prayer in that clearly pastorable moment.

As promised, I'll weave back into my opening stories. For in each one, I was being taught and prepped for mall moments like that.

You'll recall the rumor that Paul Newman and I went shopping together. I confess; that statement, "Paul Newman and I went shopping together," though literally true, was a teaser. I was all by myself, walking in an open field, in between sections of an outdoor food market in my (and Paul Newman's) old stomping ground of Connecticut. Suddenly, right in my path, headed toward me, with no fanfare, Joanne Woodward, bodyguard or papparazi, was Paul Newman. As we passed, he flashed his trademark smile, and yes, I couldn't help but notice his equally-reported ice-blue eyes. We had a delightful and friendly conversation.

"Hello." I calmly offered.

"Hi there," he smiled warmly.

Paul Newman continued on his way, and I on mine.

He was very real, and inevitably smaller than life.

It was one of my first reminders that all people, no matter how larger than life onscreen or in church, are still mortals who walk on terra firma like the rest and best of us.
Upon Newman's death a few years ago, I read of how painful his cancer was, and how, despite the ever-enthusiastic personality that I encountered that day years ago, certain experiences in his past had plagued him; doubts and fears that he may have had no pastor (but me?) to cross his path, and process with.

A decade later, in my second pastorate, a leader in our body phoned me, and asked if I had time to offer the prayer at the Friends of the Library meeting that she was on the planning team for. I am sure she was half-expecting me to say no to such a trivial and token-sounding request. I might have even been about to do so, but suffice to say her casual qualifier secured my yes: "Oh, by the way, the speaker on the program that day will be the Ray Bradbury; he's a fantasy writer, I don't know if you've ever heard of him."

"Heard of him!? I grew up on his books; I've probably read them all, " I gushed.

Uh, that's not what I said...aloud, anyway.

When the day came, I was blown away with Bradbury's grace and humility, as well as his wonderful talk (a challenge to recapture the gift of imagination). But what I really remember is that during my invocation... praying of course with one eye open, to see if my hero had eyes closed (he did)... is the heartfelt amen and hearty agreement of one of the twentieth centurie's most respected writers with the prayer of blessing I prayed over him.

But when we watched him get in the back seat of his car, to be driven home, it hit me.
I had read about the great irony of Ray Bradury: This dreamer who writes of rocket flights to Mars and the fathest reaches of space and time; and had just preached to us of the limitless and fearlessness of imagination, due to having once witnessed a terrible car wreck, was emotionally unable to fly in a plane, even drive a car.

That did not make him less legitimate in my mind, but more.

And Dack Rambo? Though not the mega name Newman was, nor as well-known as Bradbury, Rambo had a recurring role on television's "Dallas, " and starred in several B-movies, such as "The Guns of Will Sonnet."

He is one of those actors where most Americans would recognize his face, if not his name.

Kind of the underside of pastors knowing faces (or pew numbers) but not names.

Dack also happened to live in our town; and to have recently come to faith in Christ, but not before receiving the death sentence of AIDS.

His house was soon shuttered by stigma in our small town.

Townsfolk, in these early days of AIDS, were fearful, and didn't question the self-imposed quarantine.

I mention that this was several years ago, not to justify what I, to my shame, did (dispose of the very glass of water I had given him in my office) in an era when confusion and misinformation reigned, but to pray in front of my readers that I have since learned my lesson:

Everybody and their mother, no matter how famous or infamous; how healthy or wealthy is hugely and only human.

Everyone on the earth, if all truth were told, harbors inarticulable pain, parallel at some point to that of Paul Newman's.

Everyone alive, whether in or out of church, is hallmarked some where in their history, by the equivalent of Ray Bradbury's car crash memory (For some, it was watching heplessly as their parents fought, recalling the nightmare of marriage, career, finances, dreams...or literal cars or planes... crash and burn.

Every soul, whether you know them by face, name (or neither) has been diagnosed with an unspeakable version of Dack's diagnosis, or been labeled with the likes of "leper," "unclean," "divorced," "you'll never amount to anything."

A nameless woman in a thrift store was a literal Godsend to me; even if I didn't even know her as member 589, pew 22. A saint in a foodcourt was sent by the Spirit to make my day as well as hers.

Pastors aren't pastors unless they encounter, and are encountered by, pastorable moments
that significantly reset the trajectory of our motives and realign the metanarrative of our ministry.

I aim now to know as many names and stories as possible, and pray to be willing to let circumstances send me circuitously into thrift stores, food markets and food courts; into sanctuaries, sanitariums and Samarias; as one widely and wildly open to the precious people I will "need to" meet.

I am renewing my covenant to read that annoying and anointed Gordon McDonald article
again and again.

And I had better also ask God and you that I do not do what I did as recently as (blush) today:

I had not yet turned the key in the ignition yet; partly as I was still gathering my books (remember my addiction) after a pilgrimage to Starbucks's (St. Arbuck's). An older, weathered man was pacing on the walkway in front of me, as he talked on his cell phone. I could not help but overhear, and piece together his spellbinding story:

He had just just finished filling out police reports, as his car had been stolen and recovered; the dangerous and wanted criminal who had stolen it had first thrashed, then crashed this man's car.

The rugged caller had just spent his last two dollars (loaned from his daughter) on gas to make the trip (in a loaner car) to the tobacco store next door to the coffee ship; his only solace at this point a cigarette. He swore (literally) to whoever was on the other end of the line that the (expletive deleted) tobacco store was not open yet, so he would have to resort to hanging out and bumming a smoke from a passerby.

At this point, as you can imagine, I was inescapably drawn into this stuff-of-the-movies story.
Yet, I said, I had neither silver nor gold to help out; not even a cigarette.

One can't make stories like this up.

Well, actually you can, and maybe he was.

But what he said next, whether he meant it sarcastically, literally, or as a futile grasp at divine (or snooping pastor passerby) intervention.

"Heck!" he shouted (Okay, he used a more colorful exclamation), in response to his conversation partner. "Tonight!?," he asked, incredulously.... I don't even know if I will be alive tonight!"

And there I was, the eavesdropping shepherd in the car, whose vocation has quite a but to do with...well, wanting all people and all nations to find glorious Hope for being alive tonight, and for eternity, did what I can often default to:


Sure, I prayed.

And I comforted myself by taking note that the crabby old guy didn't look like he really wanted to talk to anyone, let lone a man of the cloth.

But that cantankerous crankand his call to prayer jarred me into reality and realization of two facts:

-Everybody--whether celebrity or charlatan, sheep or goat; whether we know their name/fame or not-- has a story and is thus pastorable at some point in their pain.

-Pastors, of all people, desperately need God to send us real live people, whether superstar or Samaritan, action-film star or porn-film addict..,to pastor us, pray for us, prophesy to us in our (hopfully) pastorable moments. To remind us that if we are to reach people in said moments, we must let God reach, rescue, and recue us in ours.

Maybe I'll see you at the mall.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

No news

...a good followup to the David Dark post

amazing subtitled church songs

First clip:A British TV show visits a different church every week. Here they did their best at subtitles for a hymn
Second clip:
It works for contemporary songs,too.

Violet Burning talks to God..and vice versa

Like a biblical psalm where the narrator may suddenly shift from God to the prayer;
or the text may morph from us talking to God to God talking to us;
many Violet Burning lyrics/narratives weave.

Like the classic, " Gorgeous": who is calling who "gorgeous"?:

"i see so much/the distance in your eyes/you won't catch me that way,"
could actually work either way...if we're honest:

It could be accusing God of seeming distant; and/or God promising that he will never be distant even when we are.

And the live version includes with a rousing "you shine!"
Is that us speaking to God, or God to us?
I think it can be a both/and.

Then there's "I See Stars" where a similar dynamic is at work...

Who sees stars in who? Who kisses who?

The song starts with a spoken intro: One/Two/You've got yours/I've got you,"
which I take as God saying: "You have a star(Me), and so do I (you)."

And a similar twist in the live version.

Studio lyrics include the round/background vocals in parentheses:

Hold my hand in the pouring rain; I never wanna go too far,
This rain coming down is the sound of your grace,
The pain in my heart is gone,
Heaven holds my heart, and I feel it: the palm of your hand in mine.

And I never, never, I never wanted more than this,
I promise, I promise, I promise this time will be alright.
Yeah, I see stars every time we kiss.

"Hold me close, never let me go," - I love it when you talk that way,
And throw your arms all around my neck,
I love you, I love you, please stay,
Heaven holds my heart, and I feel it: the palm of your hand against mine.

And I never, never...I never wanted more than this,
You promise, you promise, I promise this time will be alright.
Yeah, I see stars every time we kiss.

Put your hands up,
Put your hands in the sky,
Yeah, I see stars every time we kiss.

Every time we kiss,
Yeah, I see stars every time we kiss.

I never, I never, I never wanted more than this,
I promise, I promise, I promise this time will be alright.
Every time we kiss,
I never, I never, I never wanted more than this, ( I see stars every time we kiss)
Yeah, I see stars every time we kiss. (I see stars every time we kiss)

But watch the live version, those lines are spliced intriguingly in the outro.

I promise this time...I see stars.
I never wanted...I see stars.

The first line remix could be the narrator renewing his relationship with Jesus.
The second line remade could be the narrator admitting that he never signed up for this romance with Jesus, but got it anyway.

One might also ask: Who is the Rock and Star?:


Buy the DVD already, tell 'em I sent ya:

maybe Colbert is real, and the circus is fake

David Dark has done it again:
...In light of the con, it’s often a pleasure to turn to The Colbert Report or The Daily Show, perhaps especially when we consider Jon Stewart’s framing of his presentation, “And now … the fake news.” It unmasks the con that is news production, news as whatever will momentarily soothe our minds, news that presumes to name itself unfake. While the paradoxical authority of satire’s unseriousness would be undermined by a claim to legitimacy (”Listen to me! I’m serious now!), it’s hard to resist the suggestion that the real news is being meaningfully broadcast through a satirical presentation; that the only popular attempt at news analysis on offer is coming at us through comedy. The fake news is the news. Picking up on this note, Bill Moyers once remarked that he wasn’t sure whether the form Stewart and his team are practicing is parody or satire. Stewart replied that what they’re actually practicing is a new form of desperation..

... I recall a televised conversation between David Letterman and PBS’s Charlie Rose. When asked to draw a comparison between what he does and what was accomplished by Johnny Carson in his years on the air, Letterman remarked that what his team delivers is essentially “circus time,” with things being lit on fire, dropped in water, and thrown off of buildings. Letterman isn’t happy with this state of affairs. It isn’t as if trying to make conversation with the last person to get voted off the island is Letterman’s preferred vocation, but an exhibition of literal nonsense appears to be what’s required. He stressed that he could never really know for sure, but playing in the big leagues in the unending competitiveness of prime time seems to allow for no pause in circus time. He wants, after all, to stay on the air.

With heartbreaking candor, he expressed a preference for the kind of television associated with Tom Snyder and Rose himself, the exhilaratingly legitimate moment of people talking to each other and other people tuning in from far away. But could he risk it and keep up with Jay Leno and The Tonight Show? Would he remain, as the saying goes, commercially viable? Not necessarily. He has to play it safe. Back to throwing stuff off of buildings—back to whatever it takes.

Before the cameras, David Letterman can’t talk to the kind of people he wants to talk to. He can’t quite facilitate the stories he’d like. His show can’t show what he wants it to show. He can’t do what he wants to do without losing access. Access to what? Power? Influence? Like everyone else, he has to guess at what the biggest chunk of viewers want and then deliver it. And what haunts him is the feeling that the guess might be wrong. Maybe the viewers want what he thinks he can’t give them. The medium, in this sense, is devastatingly limited. The competition for viewers is a race to the bottom. I’m reminded of Fred Friendly’s observation that the producers of television broadcasts are so powerfully and amply rewarded for doing the wrong things that they aren’t inclined to ask what might be, television-wise, right and good and promoting of psychological health. Success makes a failure of the medium’s content...

...It is rumored that the Spirit of the Lord is being poured out on all flesh and that all flesh shall see the salvation of God. With the word (sung or spoken) now radically possessed by the second-class citizenry, poetry and song become a witness more reliable than the “official” status quo. A new way of talking and listening is born. There are all manner of news networks abounding, and the revolutions might occasionally be televised. The cosmic plainspealk that is everywhere will often help us overcome and articulate what Pete Seeger calls “the ocean of misunderstanding between human beings.” In the ancient Near East, the New Testament’s word of life under Roman rule would be very different from what the Empire was in the habit of telling itself about itself. The subversively truthful report we call good news brings mythic realities down low...

-David Dark, © 2009 by David Dark, excerpted from The Sacredness of Questioning Everything.

full article

Monday, April 20, 2009

"White as Snow": icy baptism and holy suffering

I have always gotten a kick out of the early church's prescription for baptism:

"If you cannot baptize in cold water, warm water is acceptable as last resort,"
is the gist. (Chapter 7, Didache)

Was the cold water a prophetic act; a reminder of sacrifice, suffering, and self-death you were
signifying and signing up for?

We here in California are spoiled; we baptize in heated jacuzzis and pools, which I have to joke about almost every time, just to feel justified to officiate.

I also almost always include when baptizing some comments, and half-winking warnings, about what Jesus encountered after his baptism, and what they too might expect.
I figure that honesty is more valuable than a signed certificate. (:

"Immediately after he baptism, Jesus was lead by the Spirit into the wild-erness to be tempted by the devil for forty days."

In a wonderful post, Michael Pritzl suggests that he is

...glad (Jesus) didn't write any self help books or how to do better ministry books (perhaps He should've written a book called, '40 days of purpose' based on His own biographical account of being led into the wilderness)
but, thank God, He sent His beloved Son as a Savior and not as a writer of non-fiction "build a better ministry" books.
link, emphasis mine
The biblical connection of baptism with self-death is obvious (if underpreached),
but so should be the resurrectionness embedded in any such death. With N.T. Wright, let us consider:

"...resurrection as referring metaphorically to baptism (a dying and living with Christ), and resurrection as referring to the new life of strenuous ethical obedience, enabled by the Holy Spirit, to which the believe is committed."
"Surprised by Hope," p. 47
Death is more fun than we've made it out to be, and resurrection life more demanding and demeaning than we've dreamed.

That's baptism.

The narrator in U2's "White as Snow" (I have already commented on how NT Wright and the new U2 album are versions of the same sermon), as a dying soldier in Afghanistan, recalls his conversion and baptism, notably in the Didache-recommended cold water:

Once I knew there was a Love divine
Then came a time I thought it knew me not
Who can forgive forgiveness where forgiveness is not
Only the Lamb as white as snow

And the water, it was icy
As it washed over me
And the moon shone above me

Now that was over-obeying the "cold water" injunction.

But it's the story of every baptism.

None of us knows what we are getting into.

Not even the baptizer..I was almost swept off the step here in the Jordan as I baptized Carla in that cold running water..

As it should be.

She suffered and died of a terrible disease a few years later.

I guess that's what we sign, re-sign, and resign up for.

She was still drawing strenth and Spirit from her baptism/baptisms.
I was not worthy to baptize her, it should've been the other way around.
(Read her memorial here)

Bono himself remembers as season of U2's life when as they wrestled with the implications of their faith's commitment; "when we went into the water..and almost drowned."
(see 1:20ff below)

But the only way to go: forty days plus of joyful resurrected death, and dying daily (to quote Paul and several U2 lyrics...)

Turns out I may have had the symbolism all wrong.
It was often cool/cold water that was seen as refreshing/healing/renewing in the biblical era.
Granted, a bath in icy waters was not often prescribed, but a therapeutic time (even baptism) in cool or cold water was.

Two Scriptures we have often interpreted backwards help out here.

We have all heard that Jesus would prefer us (and the Laodocians of Rev 3) to be either hot or cold, but never so lukewarm that he wants to spew us out; "cold," of course meaning spiritually dead. Right?

Dead wrong.
Ray Van Der Laan explains here why "cold" was a good symbolism, as was hot.
Either way was good with Jesus, cold and hot are equally holy healing. Just not sickening lukewarm tap water.

Then, as we have also always heard, "The rain falls on the just and the unjust," knowing intuitively that that means "Bad things happen to good and bad people. " Right?

Way off. Rain was a blessing in ancient Israel's farmland; sun was the problem.
Follow the imagery in Scripture, it's not "In every life some rain must fall," but "in every life some sun must unfortunatetly (fortunately?) fall."

All that to say, I am all for baptizing in as cold water as possible.

I remember my baptism as if it were yesterday.

For one, our pool was cold.

For two, in God's ecomony, it was a woman, and a woman in the line of Carla, who was the "officiant". I also get a lick that she wouldn't be accepted as legit in some traditions: Gimme a break, an unordained Hispanic...woman(!!)
baptizing her pastor.

No wonder I turned out so well.

And the water, it was icy
As it washed over me
And the moon shone above me

As Beth has mentioned in a great post about listening to the song in the context of Holy Week,
that last line was sung in such a way as to reference the affirming voice of God,

"God's signature melody"

dropped in from a prior song ("Unknown Caller.")

The reasons it is occupying so much space in my mind now is, I think, the general tone of failure. We heard the Passion on Palm Sunday, ending with the total apparent failure of Jesus' entire existence, and we get to zoom in on parts of that Thursday and Friday, but mostly until Saturday night we just sit here, failed and silent. "Once I knew there was a love divine/then came a time I thought it knew me not." That's right where we are. link

That's what kills and blesses me about many U2 songs; they seem to be static yet shifting enough to always speak to right where we are.

Or aren't.

As I came up out of the waters, it was as if I heard the same words of the Father that Jesus heard:

"You are my son. I love you. I am pleased with you..."


" much so that I am initiating you into a life of holy joy and
redemptive suffering."

Remember your baptism, and be thankful:

And the water, it was icy
As it washed over me
And the moon shone above me

Now this dry ground it bears no fruit at all
Only poppies laugh under the crescent moon
The road refuses strangers
The land the seeds we sow
Where might we find the Lamb as white as snow

As boys we would go hunting in the woods
To sleep the night shooting out the stars
Now the wolves are every passing stranger
Every face we cannot know
If only a heart could be as white as snow
If only a heart could be as white as snow


And as the character lies on that parched ground in failure, alienated from his brother, alienated from his homeland, alienated from those around them whom he "cannot know," alienated from the confidence in love he had at his baptism (nicely identified for us not just with a cleansing water metaphor and a standard-issue U2 moon metaphor, but also with a sonic reprise of God's signature melody from "Unknown Caller" a couple songs back), he dies. And his dying thought is, "If only a heart could be as white as snow."

What has struck me so poignantly and opened up the song for me is the realization that we are meant to ask the natural question: is that broken wish enough? He dies with it on his lips, and then what happens? That suspended moment is very similar to the moment we hang in this week. He dies a failure... and then what happens?

sexiness of translation, McArthur the pomo poster boy?

I was prepping to teach a bit on Bible translations, and translation theory/ethos/theology...dynamic equivalence etc,
when a post from the Tall One arrived:

..Speaking of translation, and also connected with the mystery vs. relevance debate in Song of Solomon, check out Walter Benjamin's Task of the Translator here on Google Books version of the Postmodern Bible Reader. I have the big hard copy of this book at home but here you can read about dynamic equivalence in translating the Bible as a "modern" task OR the more postmodern idea of Walter B that a translator has to protect the text in order to honor it. In this understanding of translation, is John McArthur taking the postmodern approach and Mark Driscoll the modern? Thoughts?
-Tall Skinny Kiwi
The post was about preaching/blogging the spiritual/eroticism of Song of Solomon. No surprise
John McArthur accuse Mark Driscoll of "raping" the book. Follow the link to the Postmodern Bible Reader here to weigh the important, amazing question the Kiwi asked. See Tall Skinny Kiwi for links to the sex sermons in debate.

If it turns out dynamic equivalence and Driscoll are modern, and, of all saints, McArthur is the true pomo after all...

...What's next? Colson losing his crabs?

Sunday, April 19, 2009

A Pollyana sermon

I once preached in a pulpit like this.

Never again.

It almost makes one preach a sermon like this.

  • SOURCE:From Disney's "Pollyanna." It's the rev's first sermon at his new church).
  • PLUG: Found on Amy's blog:Part III: How Dare You?

Saturday, April 18, 2009

"Not all soul music comes from the church"

'Not all soul music comes from the church."
-St. Paul H., complete sermon here.

random Israel pix

Drop me an email, facebook message, or comment below if you have any interest in an Isral trip with us this year (late November) or (maybe instead) next February.

In honor of you coming with us, here are a few of my random favorite Israel photos to scare you off...
a few w/stories..

I love the story about the first one, and the
Beggar story
is here.
Yes, the fourth one encourages residents of Haifa to scoop up after their dog..

But the bus picture may have saved my life.
Suffice to say one should refrain from worshipping to The Violet Burning on headphones while walking across an early morning Jerusalem street. No one was out that early but a few rabbis.. and a bus.

Friday, April 17, 2009

"No Line"/"And There Was Light"

It should go without saying that listening to U2's "No Line" CD and reading NT Wright's "Surprised by Hope" is quite the Dovetail experience.
One is soundtrack to the other.

That's likely old hat and no news to anyone hanging out here.

But it can't go without saying that soaking up the U2 record in holy random tandem with
"And There Was Light," Lusseyman's luminous journal of sudden blindness at age eight, and Buchenwald Concentration Camp ten years later..

is amazing.

Lusseyrman on getting accustomed to blindness:

"Every Sunday, an old beggar used to play three tunes on his accordion in the courtyard of our apartment house...(this) created a thousand dimensions in space...
With sound, I never came to an end, for this was another kind of infinity."

-Lusseyrman, "And There Was Light".p.25, emphasis mone

"We are people borne of sound/The songs are in our eyes"-U2, "Breathe"

"We are people borne of sound/The songs are in our eyes"
-U2, "Breathe"

"Infinity's a great place to start"
-U2, "No Line on the Horizon"


"We suddenly heard a military band drawn up on either side of a monumental entrance. The music it made sounded like dance tunes. The inscription over the gate read KONZENTRATIONSLAGER BUCHENWALD.

I passed through this gateway going in the opposite direction fifteen months later, on April 18, 1945. But here I come to a halt. I can't say how, but it is no longer I who am conducting my life.
It is God, and I haven't always understood how he went about it...

...There is no truth about the inhuman, any more than there is truth about death; at any rate not on our side, among us mortal men. Such truth could only exist for our Lord Jesus Christ, absorbed and preserved by him in the name of his Father and ours."

As to the U2 connection here?

"At the moment of surrender..of vision over visibility...I folded to my knees...I've been in every black hole..I did not notice the passersby...Counting down till the pain would stop, anybody?

Let's paraphrase MacPhisto for the new millenium:
"Goodbye all you neo Nazi skinheads, I hope they give you a moment of surrender."

"Ours is a comic vocation."

From Ben Belitt's "Adam's Dream: A Preface to Translation":

"In the realm of epistemological discourse, poems exist in order to invite and release inexhaustible probability...But where provisionality abounds (I sound like St. Paul talking about grace!), the determinations should also abound, or remain suspended and multiple. One is merely faith-full: as faithful as one can be under circumstances which don't moralize as well as say, dogma, does. The operative word is faith, not fidelity" (38)

"'To ask with infinite interest about a reality that is not ones' own,' Kierkgaard said somewhere, ' is faith'"(53)

"Ours is a comic vocation." (96)

an occupation of a saint

"to apprehend/
the point of intersection of the timeless/
With time, is an occupation of a saint"

-TS Elliot, "The Day Salvages"

"Camus to Arcade Fire’s Sartre"?

Since Borders is selling off all their CDs,
I picked up a Cd by band I have been meaning to tackle.
Don't these reviews make you wonder what to think of Islands' "Return to The Sea"?

Stay tuned..
..if Islands aims to be a building on the metaphorical Montreal cityscape, it’ll be an abandoned church with buttresses on scale with the Arcade Fire’s, though less haunted by the ghosts of dead relatives than made alive with the sounds of drunken bands using its basement as a jam space. Camus to Arcade Fire’s Sartre, the post-apocalyptic carnivalesque of “Humans,” Elephant 6 pop of “Rough Gem” and declarative but comfortably confident style of “Swans” are facsimiles of their city brethren’s theatrical indie-zine headshots, but with moustaches and eyebrows like a V drawn on, each song wielding slightly twisted melodrama as biting as an ax with a pink ribbon tied around its handle. This isn’t the kind of thing you’ll be able to tell by flicking through the first two minutes of each song: at 4:30 of “Swans,” for example, the simple progression and steady momentum established throughout the song’s first minutes blossoms into a honeyed guitar melody...

Even though its primary songwriter is vocally aware of the omnipresence of uncertainty..
The band is winking at you, after all, but at least now they seem assured enough to let their audience in on the joke, and the experience is more revelatory and gratifying for it.

"almost as disturbingly memorable as a cuddly cartoon blood orgy. "
Pitchfork review here

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Susan Boyle

This gal is going to be famous tomorrow.

Watch here..

and then here.

And inevitably, this.

Why are we linking this on a "Christian" blog? Ask Mike Furches here.

"I Dreamed a Dream" from Les Misrables:

I dreamed a dream in time gone by
When hope was high,
And life worth living
I dreamed that love would never die
I dreamed that God would be forgiving.

Then I was young and unafraid
When dreams were made and used,
And wasted
There was no ransom to be paid
No song unsung,
No wine untasted.

But the tigers come at night
With their voices soft as thunder
As they tear your hopes apart
As they turn your dreams to shame.

And still I dream he'll come to me
And we will live our lives together
But there are dreams that cannot be
And there are storms
We cannot weather...

I had a dream my life would be
So different from this hell I'm living
So different now from what it seems
Now life has killed
The dream I dreamed.

the"unircumventable risk" of performing "Magnificent" live...and preaching

(photo by Mark Thomas)
img_0009.jpg on Twitpic
The fans are only mistaking themselves for God.

At least it's a nice twist on the usual idolatry of the rick singer doing so.

The 2:00 mark in this clip of U2 performing "Magnificent" at a promo concert in Sommerville actually caught me off guard.
As usual, Bono is lost in worship as he delivers a line as prayer:
"I was born to sing for You.."

The audience erupts in cheers, assuming he meant them.

Though technically and ultimately, there is no difference and contradiction in the two understandings.

But in so many ways it makes all the difference in the world.
("Sing and make the Lord." "Don't tickle the ears of the people." etc)

Bono continues on, oblivious, or forcing himself to be; completing the line with the usual raised arms as if to overstate who the Audience really is.

This didn't happen on Letterman( see "Watching Letterman getting convicted...again"):

Those who have been following reviews and discussion will have noted that a lot of hearers seem to be taking "I was born to sing for lift you up" as an insufferably arrogant phrase directed at U2's audience; it has come in for a lot of criticism. In light of that, it is almost funny to see, as this moment arrives in the song, the visual Bono chooses (starting at about 2:45). He begins with a standard wide-armed orans position, but immediately shifts that into an awkward-looking, aggressively vertical orans with both arms parallel all the way over his head, and just holds it. (The text is directed up, folks. Not horizontally. Up. Is this clear enough for you?)
-Beth, U2Sermons, link

Looks clear enough to me!

But this song is nothing less than the next single, for Christ's sake.
How will the pop public (in the Ethiopian chariot) interpret it that way?

The preacherman is going to have to deal with this (or not) the next two years on tour; will be fascinating to watch.

One has a hard time imagining him interrupting such a song midsteam (see "With Or Without You," Paris), and reprimanding the crowd: "Excuse me, I'm not talking to you!"
Or turning the raised hand to The Almighty into a one-finger salute to the audience (:

He may not ever even have to.

Ian Thompson, in his discussion of an older song, "Even Better Than The Real Thing,"
is helpful:

"There is no way around it. This is precisely the uncircumventable risk U2 took...some superficial listeners may have taken the song in exactly that way, and never taken it any further...For, as a song, it is also clearly addressed to a broader audience, and thereby seeks to transform this entire audience into the beloved."
-Ian Thompson, U2 and Philosophy, pp. 91-92

Beth Maynard, in her sermon, "If We Were More Like Thomas," references yet another U2 song ("Tomorrow"):

"...And as often happens to pronouns in U2 songs, that 'you' has grown more spacious since we first heard it....That 'you' is now big enough now for whatever we'll encounter when the door swings open."
(sermon included in Whitely/Maynard, eds, "Get Up Off Your Knees," p.106)

Let the door swing wide open;
preachers and artists must take the uncircumventable,
dangerous and delightful risk.

Such is what we were born for.
Magnificent times we live in.
Though the twin ditches of assuming

  • they the flock,

are The Magnificent,

are ever near,
these are the ripe and risky times we have been given.

Open the door.

Get out of the box and church.

Walk out into the street; be missional.
Sing your heart out shamelessly.
Worship God in Third Places.

Till we die, and beyond.