Saturday, April 3, 2010

Being the Resurrection

Late that evening a group of unknown disciples packed their few belongings and left for a distant shore, for they could not bear to stay another moment in the place where their Messiah had just been crucified. Weighed down with sorrow, they left that place, never to return. Instead they traveled a great distance in search of land that they could call home. After months of difficult travel, they finally happened upon an isolated area that was ideal for setting up a new community. Here they found fertile ground, clean water, and a nearby forest from which to harvest material needed to build shelter. So they settled there, founding a community far from Jerusalem, a community where they vowed to keep the memory of Christ alive and live in simplicity, love and forgiveness, just as he had taught them.
The members of this community lived in great solitude for over a hundred years, spending their days reflecting on the life of Jesus and attempting to remain faithful to his ways. And they did all this despite the overwhelming sorrow in their heart.
But their isolation was eventually broken when, early one morning, a small band of missionaries reached the settlement. These missionaries were amazed at the community they found. What was most startling to them was that these people had no knowledge of the resurrection and the ascension of Christ, for they had left Jerusalem before his return from the dead on the third day. Without hesitation, the missionaries gathered together all the community members and recounted what had occurred after the imprisonment and bloody crucifixion of their Lord.
That evening there was a great festival in the camp as people celebrated the news of the missionaries. Yet, as the night progressed, one of the missionaries noticed that the leader of the community was absent. This bothered the young man, so he set out to look for this respected elder. Eventually he found the community’s leader crouched low in a small hut on the fringe of the village, praying and weeping.
"Why are you in such sorrow?" asked the missionary in amazement. "Today is a time for great celebration." "It may indeed be a day for great celebration, but this is also a day of sorrow," replied the elder, who remained crouched on the floor. "Since the founding of this community we have followed the ways taught to us by Christ. We pursued his ways faithfully even though it cost us dearly, and we remained resolute despite the belief that death had defeated him and would one day defeat us also."
The elder slowly got to his feet and looked the missionary compassionately in the eyes. "Each day we have forsaken our very lives for him because we judged him wholly worthy of the sacrifice, wholly worthy of our being. But now, following your news, I am concerned that my children and my children’s children may follow him, not because of his radical life and supreme sacrifice, but selfishly, because his sacrifice will ensure their personal salvation and eternal life."
With this the elder turned and left the hut, making his way to the celebrations that could be heard dimly in the distance, leaving the missionary crouched on the floor.

A parable by Peter Rollins from The Orthodox Heretic. If I still lived in the Nashville area I would be attending his Insurrection Tour at the Flying Saucer this Monday, April 5th.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Not so hot!!

Our church is in the middle of a new series: Hot...or not?. Sunday's topic was 'Till death do us part'. During the offering several probing questions where on the big screen. Questions dealing with same-sex relationships, living together without being married, acceptable reasons for divorce, etc. Difficult issues that you don't hear much about in church, while they are part of life both inside and outside the church. So the stage was set, "church marketing" had done it's work, I was there and ready for some wisdom in these areas....
Why was I not surprised when these topics where not even mentioned in the sermon...?
Let me start out by saying that what the pastor did talk about was great. He talked about pursuing each other in marriage, not just before marriage, to put God first in your relationship and that that would be the best basis for a lasting marriage. Great thoughts that are not new, but everyone needs to hear every once in a while. To top it off he was funny, reasonably direct and to the point.
He told us that the preaching team and the Sunday morning services team had decided not to focus on all topics but to spend some time at a later date to go deeper on this issue. That is promising, but will probably be an inner chamber discussion with a few interested people. They obviously had decided that this potato was too hot to handle. So 'Hot...or not?' became 'too hot', and they went with what they do best: preach to the choir.
I'm not gay, don't have a son who is dealing with homosexual feelings, I don't have a daughter who is living with a man outside of marriage, I'm not thinking about ways to get out of marriage, but I was still disappointed that these issues were not addressed. Why? Because I think they should be addressed in church. I understand that these are tough issues and taking a stance on the issues, one way or the other is going to pose a problem. But opening the floor for questions is great, but then ignoring them is worse than not asking for questions in the first place.
Stop trying to be cute, and relevant, if you are not ready to actually face the issues. Sorry, not face the issues, but face the people behind the issues. These are actual people we are talking about, people we talk to, live or work with and church with every week.
Equip the church to know what our attitude should be to our neighbors at home, at work and in the pew next to us. Teach that the answer is not judgment, not acceptance or tolerance, but love.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

The Gospel

A man in the back of a tram, it wasn't clear where he was headed. He was there when I got in and when I got out. He looked like any other guy on the tram, maybe a tourist. A woman got on; at first they seemed to know each other as she walked towards him and sat down on the seat beside him. Not a word was spoken however, as he pulled something out of the bag he had around his shoulder and handed it to her. It caught my attention so I strained to see what it was he shared. It was a tract, it had the Christian fish symbol on it and some words about the history of this little fish. The woman looked at it, opened it up and surveyed its content. The man looked away. A few minutes later the woman put the tract in her purse, got up and got out of the tram. She didn't acknowledge the man, and the man didn't acknowledge her. The entire interaction lasted no more than 5 minutes. Not a word was spoken, but everyone seemed to understand what had just happened. A seed was sown.... least in my heart there was.

"How many of us have learned too late that our initial idea, that by serving the world we will bring God to others, has eclipsed the wisdom that in serving the world we find God there. " - Pete Rollins

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Saturday, August 30, 2008


The other day I had a conversation with a friend about ambiguity. The issue we were discussing was how the church can deal with ambiguity, meaning the unknown. It is my opinion that people  come to church because they want answers to their questions, to feel secure and safe and to experience community with like-minded people. That's why, in my opinion, we have so many churches. Rather than incorporating other opinions into the community, they are pushed out forming their own group with like-minded people.
In our discussion about how a church can develop into a breeding ground of all kinds of people, where everyone feels safe to express who they are, how they feel and what they think, I posed the question about my own ambiguity: how do I deal with mixed thoughts and emotions within myself. Once I figure that out, I can relate to others in the same way.
I have been thinking about that and the truth is that I am OK with not knowing. I'm OK with not knowing whether the Bible is all true, or partly fictional. I'm OK not knowing whether only Christians go to heaven or others as well, or everyone for that matter. I'm OK not knowing whether God is a man, a woman or both. There are plenty more of these issues, and it's OK. Some things I have figured out for myself, some I hopefully will someday, and some might be mysteries forever. All I know is that God is bigger than we can imagine. Our imagination, our picture of who God is, is not God, it's a picture. Jesus used many stories to explain aspects of God. These stories are not God, they are stories.
I think it's easier to worship a God I don't understand. The less I understand about who He is, the bigger he becomes. Pictures of God as a Friend, a Father, a King, or a Judge, are all aspects of who God is, but they are not God. He is who He is. Can't get much more mysterious than that.
The community of believers would be best served if we go on this journey together, finding each other rather than pushing each other away, celebrating our differences, trying to understand  rather than convince each other. Celebrating ambiguity, rather than pushing it out.

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Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Check your life at the door...

I wrote this after one particular church service where the opportunities of community were missed for the sake of program.

Check your life at the door

I walked in…

It was a place of beauty.

People loved and were loved and for an hour or so shared their lives. Their hopes, their dreams, faith and doubt…

…and Peace; Peace was the word for the day.

Parents lit a candle symbolizing Peace. Parents, whose son is fighting a war, lit a candle of peace; the irony of life.
And people stood around them, and prayed for them and for all the parents and sons and daughters fighting wars; and we prayed for Peace, Peace in their hearts, Peace on earth…

…and we sang songs of the Prince of Peace and celebrated His birth.

It was a place of beauty, people loved and were loved and shared their lives.

A man prayed, prayed for his son, soon to be baptized, he thanked God for the Peace he found and the Peace his son found and he prayed for the others. And we stood around when the son and the others shared their stories, shared their lives and for a moment we were one, and our stories intertwined. And then they were baptized and we celebrated with the sons and with the parents.

It was a place of beauty, people loved and were loved and shared their lives.

And the pastor spoke, and shared of his life, of the wars he fought, the victory and the defeat, and the Peace he found; and hearts were encouraged, legs were
strengthened, minds were put at ease…

It was a place of beauty, people loved and were loved and shared their lives.

I woke up from a deep sleep…

…I walked in…

…I checked my life at the door.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Faith for Monday

This is my attempt at starting a blog. Don't know what it's going to look like and what it's going to be about, we'll see how it develops. I have called it faith for monday because that's what has been on my mind and what I would like to explore. I have been in church all my life, but have sensed an increasing frustration with the disconnect between what happens in church on Sunday and what life looks like on Monday. I guess what I'm looking for is a faith that doesn't shy away from asking the difficult questions, without dismissing them with the 'easy' answers. A faith that is transforming lives and communities. Real people with real lives. What does that look like??