April 5, 2012

A Noon Day, Maundy Thursday Sermon

Reflection on Psalm 116

“I love the Lord BECAUSE he has heard me…”

The Church Calendar marks today as Maundy Thursday. “The day of new covenant,” when during the Passover meal, Jesus took bread and broke it, “Take and eat, this is my body. Do this in remembrance of me.” Then Jesus took a cup, possibly the Passover cup known as the “cup of salvation” and gave it to the disciples saying, “Drink from it, all of you, for this my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.”

And shortly before heading out to the Mount of Olives after the meal, they sang a hymn.

Today’s Psalm, Psalm 116, comes from the Egyptian Hallel, otherwise known as the praise songs centering on Israel’s deliverance from Egypt. Psalms 113 through 118 compose this collection, with Ps. 114 as the centerpiece as a report of the events of the Exodus. Today’s Psalm in particular, Ps. 116, recounts an individual’s deliverance from death. The delivering hand of God that brings about exodus from death on the macro, works to bring about deliverance on the micro.

And so, it is this collection of Exodus psalms that is traditionally sung at Passover. It might not have been the final hymn, but sometime during that night before the crucifixion, Jesus and his disciples probably prayed and sang Psalm 116.

And I wonder if these words haunted Jesus as he prayed in Gethsemane:

I will lift up the cup of salvation

“Father, is you are willing remove this cup…”

“Because, he has inclined his ear to me, therefore I will call on his name…”

“Why are you sleeping, get up and pray with me..”

“For you have delivered my soul from death,

my eyes from tears,

my feet from stumbling.”

“In anguish he prayed more earnestly, and his sweat became like great drops of blood falling on the ground…”

““I love the Lord BECAUSE he has heard me…”

“Judas, is it with a kiss that you are betraying me?”

““I love the Lord BECAUSE he has heard me…”

Does prayer work? How does prayer work? How should I pray so that it works?

We’ve all asked these questions.


Use of Self Help Books & the corporate mandated moments for meditation…instead of questioning the 80 work week that causes the need for breaks for meditation.

While facing execution in a Nazi concentration camp, theologian and pastor Dietrich Bonheoffer became concerned that the Christian understanding of God had been reduced to a mere psychological crutch. Bonhoeffer describes this understanding of God as the dues ex machina.

Literally translated, Deus Ex Machina means “god out of the machine,” which originally refers to a technique used by the ancient Greek playwrights to lower a person (representing a god or goddess) onto the stage of a play to interrupt the plotline.

Eventually this plot device became so overused by lazy and second rate playwrights, that unsolvable problems were solved by introducing the dues ex machina, and it became known as a clumsy plot device for interjecting an unexpected solution to the internal logic of the narrative.

Of course this plot device is common in today’s literature and tv, especially soap operas.

If you are familiar with the hit 80’s TV show, Dallas, then you probably know of one of the most famous modern day examples of dues ex machina. At the end of season 6, Patrick Duffy who played Bobby Ewing wanted to leave the show. So of course, the writers killed him off.

After his death, it became obvious from the huge drop in ratings that Bobby was one of the most popular characters on the show. After convincing Patrick Duffy to come back to the show, they ended season seven with one of the most surreal cliffhangers in TV history.

Just moments before the credits roll, we see Bobby Ewing’s widow wake up and approach the bathroom. She is shocked, as are the viewers, to find her husband standing in the shower, safe and sound.

The reason? The entire 7th season had been nothing but his wife’s dream.

The church in the West and especially those of us who consider ourselves religious often, unwittingly approach God as dues ex machina. God is merely an idea dropped clumsily into our world in order to fulfill a task. Or to put it in more modern terms, God is a vending machine, if I push the right buttons and do the right things I’ll be given what I need.

Instead of expressing a lived reality, God has merely become a solution to our problems. We broach prayer only or mostly when we are in need.

Thus, the result is a neutered God who simply justifies our beliefs and practices without questioning the status quo. A status quo that allowed the german church during the time of Bonhoeffer to be complicit in the murder of millions of Jews,

A status quo that today allows Christian churches to hide behind security, wealth, and psychological projections of who we wish God to be.

The same status quo that allows:

“A florida boy to be chased down and shot for wearing a hoodie,”

“A San Deigo Mom to be beaten to death in her own home for wearing the traditional Muslim garb, the hijab.”

The status quo that allows CEO’s to make 315% more than the average employee.”

“the USA to incarcerate more of its population than any country, and incarcerate minorities at alarmingly disproportionate rates”

A status quo that creates

“a world with more slaves than ever before.”

“where the world’s wealthiest 16% consume over 80% of the world’s resources.”

A status quo that calls for peace by means of violence, security by means of fences, and wealth by means of injustice.

As Martin Luther King taught us, "Injustice anywhere, is a threat to justice everywhere."

What we must realize is that as long as some are dehumanized in this world, all are dehumanized. Or until we are all set free to live fully, we are all held in captivity.

Does prayer work? At this point I’m not ready to answer this question, but I do know that prayer and God can be used to simply uphold our dehumanize and dehumanizing lifestyles when God becomes an empty vessel we dump all of our fears, desires, and wishes.

When we stop at letting God work to bring about new reality, or God’s kingdom as Jesus called it,

and we settle into the status quo as our home,

then God becomes merely a legitimating force,

so prayer becomes nothing more than the human psychological tendency for wish fulfillment, to help us cope with our own dehumanized lives.

What does it mean that Jesus, moments before his betrayal, trial, and murder prayed this prayer of deliverance in Ps. 116?

“I love the Lord BECAUSE he has heard me…”

Jesus bends down in the garden, brow dripping with sweat, heart pounding with anxiety and prays, “Father, if you are willing, let this cup pass from me, yet, not my will but yours be done.”

The Psalmist empowered Jesus to trust that it is not prayer that works, but rather it is God who is at work.

God is at work in the world, and to be honest, I need Jesus to help me embrace God’s will:

the will that calls into question the dehumanizing status quo of violence, security, and unchecked wealth, that calls into question my need and desire to only have a little bit of God, to approach God as my vending machine.

Alive with the hope and imagination of the Psalter, Jesus is able to give up his own needs and wants and give into God’s will, God’s work. Alive with this beautifully rich prayer from Ps. 116,

Jesus can trust that God delivers both on the micro and macro level.

So, Jesus doesn’t allow God to merely be an empty vessel for us to dump our fears and wishes into like a vending machine for our happiness.

Rather, like Bonhoeffer, Martin Luther King, and Jesus we must trust this new reality even to the point of giving up what we think we most need.

And with the Psalter and Jesus we wait for the day when “we will walk in the presence of the Lord, in the land of the living,” where none are dehumanized, oppressed, or put to death unjustly.

Until then,

“I love the Lord, …”

I love the Lord.

February 22, 2012

Lent for Everyday Life

Ash Wednesday and Lent haven't grown old, but they have lost their personal novelty. Having come from a tradition that was more perplexed than pious about people walking around with dirt of their foreheads, I came to Ash Wednesday a few years back for the first time at a retreat and have thus experienced it the last two years in my church community. But this year, while I'm excited about this season for our church life, I'm approaching Lent differently.

Maybe this perspective comes with growing in experiences and while I'm admittedly young, I'm beginning to realize that most of life with God is made up by the quotidian, everyday, common, boring stuff. And it's in the common, familiar, boring, and comforting places that God waits for us. It's also in our common, familiar, everyday routines where we grow casual, tired, and blind to how God plays in our living rooms, laughs over our experiences, graces our dinners, suffers in our pain, and plays house with us in brokenness. It's there in the boring, old parts of life God's Spirit is waiting to dance with us or just sit with us.

With the thought that God is in the boring routines of my life, this year I'm only adding a simple practice to Lent. Knowing that I have a penchant for novelty, the temptation for me is to only search for God in new and often temporary ways. It's a lot easier to find God in a stranger for some reason than the homeless man I see everyday waiting outside our church. It's easier to be hear God speak through a friend than it is to hear God speak through my wife. It's easier to worship with new music at a retreat than with familiar hymns with our church week in and week out. It's easier to find God in someone else's teenager or youth group than my own.

The reality is that God is there in our boring routines, we're just blinded by our familiarity.

So not only am I adding a simple practice, but I'm adding something I had given up since shedding my fundamentalist garb. Not only is this practice old and familiar, it is mixed with odd and uncertain feelings from a legalistic past. This year for Lent, I will be simply praying over my meals. That's it. And in this practice I hope to settle more into life as it presents itself through typical routines and find that God has been with me in all these places I've overlooked.

December 31, 2011

Books Read in 2011

At the end of the year for the last few years, I've recapped the books I've read in the past year. Mostly this is one way for me to keep track of what I've read. This may be the most fiction (I know, it's embarrassing) I've read in a year, which was one of my goals. Not only did I finish the Harry Potter series before the final movie came out I also really enjoyed the Hunger Games. I'd really love to create a youth ministry curriculum exploring empire, consumerism, and faith utilizing the Hunger Games.

This past year in theology was really a discovering and delving into process and weak theology which has been very intriguing and helpful for me. I kept putting off reading Barth's Dogmatics, one of my resolutions from last year, until I didn't read them at all. I may find a resource to read the more important and interesting parts.

Anyways here's my list of books that I finished in 2011. If you have any recommendations or comments I'd love to hear them.

1. Sustainable Youth Ministry- Mark Devries. 1/1
2. Practicing Passion: Youth & the Quest for a Passionate Church - Kenda Creasy Dean 1/6
3. Out Of Babylon - Walter Brueggemann 1/19
4. Radical: Taking Back Your Faith from the American Dream - David Platt 1/23
5. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire - J.K. Rowling 1/25
6. The Next Christians- Gabe Lyons
7. The Spirit of Life: A Universal Affirmation- Jurgen Moltmann 2/2
8. Fall to Grace- Jay Bakker 2/9
9. When Helping Hurts- Steve Corbett & Brian Fikkert 2/17
10. The Nature of Love: A Theology- Thomas Jay Oord- 3/22
11. Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince- Rowling 3/27
12. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows - Rowling 4/6
13. Velvet Elvis- Rob Bell 4/11
14. The New Christians- Tony Jones 4/12
15. Transforming Christian Theology - Phillip Clayton 4/25
16. Ishmael- Daniel Quinn 4/28
17. After You Believe: Why Christian Character Matters- NT Wright 5/15
18. One Fine Potion- The Literary Magic of Harry Potter- Greg Garrett 5/25
19. The Weakness of God: A Theology of the Event- John Caputo 5/24
20. Almost Christian: What the Faith of our Teenagers is Telling the American Church- Kenda Creasy Dean 5/25
21. Christ of the Celts: the Healing of Creation - Philip Newell 5/25
22. The Knight & The Gardener: Worldview makes worlds- Cassidy Dale 5/26
23. Welcoming Justice: God's Movement Toward Beloved community - John Perkins 5/30
24. Quantum Physics and Theology - John Polkinghorne 6/10
25. Presence Centered Youth Ministry: Guiding Students into Spiritual Formation- Mike King 6/17
26. The Teaching of the Twelve: Believing and Practicing the Primitive Christianity of The Ancient Didache Community - Tony Jones 6/22
27. Gilead. Marilynn Robinson 6/22
28. Migrations of the Holy: God, State, and the Political meaning of the church- William T. Cavanaugh 7/5
29. Cat's Cradle- Kurt Vonnegut 7/15
30. On the Mystery: Discerning God in Process- Catherine Keller 8/29
31. Invitation to the Great Experiment: Exploring the possibility that God cam be known- Thomas E. Powers 9/2
32. Christ the Key - Kathryn Tanner 10/17
33. Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell - Susanna Clarke 10/17
34. missional youth ministry: moving from gathering teenagers to scattering disciples - Brian Kirk & Jacob Thorne 10/30/11
35. Love Wins- Rob Bell 11/07/11
36. King Jesus Gospel: The Original Gospel Revisited- Scot McKinght 11/10/11
37. Difference Heaven Makes: Rehearing the Gospel as News- Christopher Morse 11/16/11
38. Disgrace: A Novel- J.M. Coetzee 11/17/11
39. Hunger Games- Suzann Collins 11/26/11
40. Catching Fire- Suzanne Collins 11/29/11
41. Mockingjay- Suzanne Collins 12/05/11
42. The Wisdom of Stability: Rooting Faith in a Mobile Culture- Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove 12/23/11
43. Exiles:Living Missionally in a Post-Christian Culture- Michael Frost 12/27/11
44. Insurrection: To Believe is Human, To Doubt is Divine- Peter Rollins 12/31/11

December 7, 2011

Advent and Zombies

What do you call it when a person dies right before they become a zombie? You know, that part right after they've breathed their last (human) breath and before they resuscitate and you have to take a pitch fork or shot gun to them. For one brief moment the (bitten or scratched) pre-zombie corpse is allowed rest, to die, and be dead. Is there a word for that moment?

Strange question for a post about Advent? We'll see.

Zombies are all the rage. If you have a Netflix account you can stream limitless hours of zombie movies and shows, many of which are made in garages but others made with esteemed actors or networks known for good writing.

If you're a Jane Austen fan you may be completely dissatisfied or (maybe) elated to know that Pride and Prejudice was given new life (pun intended) when in 2009 Seth Grahame-Smith interwove zombies into the Bennett family's story. Continuing with the Lit nerd theme, maybe you'd enjoy a zombie Haiku:

My rigor mortis
is mainly why I'm slower
and the severed foot.

Needless to say, the zombie craze is an epidemic (so punny) of vast proportions, but mostly in 1st world countries like the USA, Europe, & Japan. Why?

Like all monsters, zombies reveal our culture's deepest fears. And what do 1st world countries have to be afraid of? Do you think it's a coincidence that people often hide out in malls in zombie movies and throngs of zombies push through the glass doors to wade through merchandise to get to their prey?

On the-day-after-the-day we celebrate being thankful and content with what we have, Thanksgiving, we celebrate another holiday known as Black Friday. Of course Thanksgiving is a holiday, while Black Friday more akin to a religious experience.

Religion comes from a word that originally meant "binding" which brings to mind practices of discipline. Like all religions, a good "Black Fridayist" must have disciplines which shape people's imaginations (thus making them spiritual disciplines akin). Beginning weeks in advance as well throughout the evening of Thanksgiving (I'm thinking we should rename this day to Black Friday Eve), families spend hours reading the holy scripture: ads. Then they must expose themselves to the bitter cold elements, stand in long lines, and prioritize possessions more than people (sometimes to the point of pepper spraying or stepping on someone's face).

Of course there are other people, who turn a smug nose to those that participate in the holy feast day that pushes the market into the black. But they (me?) are no different than the shoppers. Sure one is up at the crack of dawn (or midnight) shopping while the other remains in the warmth of their bed, nevertheless they/we are the same. We are all trapped (possessed?) in this economic system of consumption. No one's more guilty then another, it's just some have the comfort of being able to afford what they want with or without Black Friday sales.

Much like a zombie stuck in a catatonic state of unquenchable hunger for flesh, we are raised by our televisions and omnipresent ad agencies to consume mindlessly with a never ending hunger for more: more stuff, more bandwidth, more entertainment, more gadgets, more cars, more houses, more decorations and lights, more of just about everything.

I'm as guilty as the person who slept outside Best Buy for 30 hours to get a deal. We all are for no one can escape the ubiquity of consumer culture.

Advent is a reminder that our hope in God's-coming-to-us isn't hope simply for the afterlife, an escape to heaven. Advent hope recognizes that in Jesus heaven is breaking into earth. In God's incarnation these two realities, heaven and earth coalesce or collide.

These two infinitely-apart spaces are being intimately intertwined. Never the same, never separate.

hand, but not in hand.

The good news of Jesus is more than "getting to heaven when we die," it's "getting heaven into us" before we die...heaven, the place where God's will is done on earth and in us. With God's reign or will or heaven breaking into our midst, the "schemas/forms' of the world are passing away" as Paul states in 1 Cor. 7:31. Passing away. Fading.

Maybe this is what that moment in zombie movies is called when one moves or passes or fades into the walking dead. But in Jesus we find the exact inverse, so that it is us who is awakening from our media induced sleep (another word used for death) into life lived in the fullness.

May we find in this Advent season our stress fading and our hunger for more passing while we ourselves become signs of heaven on earth.

April 19, 2011

Traders for or Traitors of the Kingdom, A Sermon

Here's a sermon I preached during FBC's noon day Holy Week services, reflecting on the "Parable of the Talents."

As we explore the theme this week, , “Give Me Jesus [Question Mark],” I’m reminded that we needed to be unsettled in our faith journey, in order to ask hard questions.

“Is it Jesus that I really want or do I prefer the Jesus who helps me feel self-fulfilled, the Jesus I use to make me feel good.”

And in order to unsettle us this afternoon, I want to offer up, what some may consider to be an uncommon reading of this common parable about talents. I want to explore a different interpretation that steers us directly into the heart of: “Give Me Jesus?”

Just in case you’re unfamiliar with the common interpretation of this parable, it goes something like this. Everyone has God-given talents or abilities, and what this parable teaches us is that God wants us to use our “spiritual gifts” or talent to grow his kingdom while we wait for Christ to return.

But the more I studied this parable, the more I became uncomfortable with this way of reading it. And so, I ask you to listen again as I offer up a modern reading that I hope will make the meaning plain.

He stumbled into the room, resting on the door frame in his usual drunken stupor. The Owner of the land, or Lord has he liked to be called, eyed his workers with hopeful greed and piercing hate. It had been several months since the Owner left, leaving these three day-laborers in charge of his estate.

As migrant workers with no papers, and thus no rights, these three men were no better than slaves to their Lord. They were hostages to this life now. If they’d known what kind of man he was, maybe they wouldn’t have jumped into his truck to work for him.

He is known among many of the migrant workers for his cruel spirit. On several occasions he has been known to deliver his workers to the border patrol if they anger him or try to leave.

Among the day laborers, who live in daily fear, the border patrol is commonly referred to as the dark place, or the “place of weeping and gnashing of teeth,” because it is there families are torn apart, forced from the country, forced from their wives and children.

Yet, the Owner was very wealthy and could offer work, which was hard to come by these days as families grew hungrier. So, these three men remained, unable to leave because of their own need for work, and their fear of the Owner.

Disappearing for months was a common affair for their Master. They had grown used to being left to manage the fields and estate while he lived a life they couldn’t imagine, one of luxury and extravagance. But this time was different. Before wandering off, the Owner, probably as a cruel trick, left each of the workers an inexplicably large amount of money.

To one worker, he gave five talents, to another two talents and to the third he gave one talent. One talent. These men knew, a single talent was enough to feed one of their family’s for 20 years. It represented lavish wealth, almost an entire life’s worth of work balled up into one, large piece of metal.

Familiar with their Lord’s avarice, they inferred his intent.

It was his common practice, without a blink of an eye, for the Owner to cheat people. Anyone. Everyone. His singular goal was to build his wealth, and of course that meant building on the backs of others. His practices were harsh, always reaping where he did not sow, making money off of his neighbor’s crops, and gathering where he did not scatter seed.

Uncertain what the reward would be, if there would even be a reward, these three men knew the Master would arrive expecting a plentiful return, reaping where he had not sown. It was a perfect plan, for the Master at least. Go on vacation, live it up, and come back to an even larger amount of money or talents.

With the fear of their Master’s cruelness haunting them in his absence, two of the workers fought diligently to make his money grow, allowing theirs hearts to grow cold long enough, hopefully just long enough, to make it past this malicious ordeal. They only wanted to work. Their families needed them to work. What choice did they have? And so, for week after tireless week, they scraped, stole, created false investments schemes, ponzi schemes, triangle schemes, whatever it would take to make the money grow.

But the third, who was given 20 years worth of wages instead of 40 years or 100 years like the other two, went off early one morning and found a safe place in a field and buried the talent. He was there to live and help his family live. But he knew, life could not be found in this injustice. There was simply no excuse to do his living off the backs of others, and so he buried the treacherous demand of the Master.

Holding himself up on the doorframe, the drunken Master waited perversely to hear the news of how the workers had carried out his longing for gain. When the first two told him how they’d made to make his money expand, he grew elated. No longer needing the door frame to hold himself up, he declared just how much Joy they had given him and they would both be given even more responsibility than they already had, of course, more responsibility, but not more pay.

Then he noticed the third worker, sitting in silence. He demanded to know how he made the Owner richer. The meek man rose to his feet and clearly said, “I know you reap where you do not sow. You take from the poor and live like you’re the only one that matters. You cheat, you steal, and you harvest where you don’t plant seeds. I was afraid of losing the talent due to your harshness, but I was more afraid of becoming like you because of your harshness. So, I didn’t steal or cheat, but merely hid the money.”

“Don’t you understand boy,” raged the Owner, “this is how the world works. Those that have will be given more, even in abundance. But the “have-nots,” like you, they’ll be stripped what little they do have, because they’re not even worthy of that tiny amount. You’re type don’t deserve the scraps from my table.”

With vile, the Master loaded the single, resolute worker in his truck and drove to the place of “weeping and gnashing of teeth,” sending him away from his loved ones and their only source of life and income.

Well, I’ll be the first to admit this reading of the parable isn’t very warm or fuzzy, but it is certainly more unsettling. And it needs to be unsettling, because the older, more common interpretation, for me at least, is too comfortable, too self-fulfilling. “God gives to those that help themselves.” But As Walter Wink and other Biblical scholars have noted, this way of thinking, this older interpretation, goes against the social conventions of Jesus’ time.

Jesus’ audience in the Gospel of Matthew was comprised mostly of those at the margins of society. They were familiar with the practices that profited the prosperous, as they were the victim’s of fraud, exorbitant rates with ambiguous contracts (much akin to predatory lending in our time), and sidebar taxes that allowed the collector to skim off the top.

Moreover, in first century Jewish culture, individual pursuit of wealth, especially at the cost of others members of society, was looked down upon as a violating communal and religious loyalty. Therefore, to even be able to own a single talent, much less several, was seen as anathema, a sinful cheat among Jesus’ audience. Thus, for the villain in this story to represent God, wouldn’t have made any sense to the first century listener.

Besides the common interpretation being nonsensical to its audience, another reason I think we should read this parable in this new way is that it fits with the larger picture of Jesus’ agenda. Unlike some theologians who would have us believe that God sent Jesus to earth for the sole purpose of being a divine punching bag, or the only reason Jesus was sent to earth was to die, we must remember that Jesus had an agenda, in other words, Jesus had a mission.

Sewn throughout the Garment of Matthew’s Gospel is Jesus’ mission. And this thread of mission is that Jesus is bringing about a movement of God’s justice and love here among us now through costly follower-ship.

Jesus came proclaiming the good news, “the Kingdom of God is near, repent and come join the movement.”

And the readers of Matthew knew that Jesus’ kingdom proclamation was being united with a very powerful, hebrew concept: tsedawkaw translated to greek, dikaiosune.

Dikaios and dikaiosune are the Jewish and Christian answer to the perennial human question, “what does it mean to live a full, and good, and righteous life before one dies? What does it mean to live life eternally beginning now? What does it mean to be truly human?”

If there was ever a word appropriate enough for something as mysterious and beautiful as God’s kingdom, Dikaiosune is that word.

In the greek, dikaios or dikaiosune is a word so pregnant with meaning that if it were to inhabit the heart, it would birth God’s kingdom. You see, dikaios is one of those words that’s hard to render into English because it’s so full of meaning.

Often interpreted in the New Testament as “Righteousness”, Dikaiosune means three things all at once, never mutually exclusive: justification, righteousness, and justice. In Jesus’ dikaiosune movement, we find that God is restoring our relationship with him (justification), restoring our inner selves as God’s image bearers (righteousness), and the restoring human relationships/community through equity (justice).

So we see in Jesus, that God is setting and restoring our humanity in righteousness in order that humanity can be restored to itself through justice.

In the Septuagint, the Greek Old Testament, we read in Genesis that “Abraham believed the LORD; and the LORD reckoned it to him as dikiaosune.”

In Isaiah we find that “all our dikiaosune is like filthy rags.

And in Amos, the verse forever heard in my head through the voice of Martin Luther King Jr, “But let our justice roll down as water, and dikaisune as an ever flowing stream.”

Thus, Jesus’ mission was to establish God’s dikaiosune among us now. And he expected this endeavor to be costly.

In the beatitudes Jesus declared, “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for dikaiosune for the will be filled.”

“Blessed are those who are persecuted for dikaiosune’s sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

The kingdom belongs to those who like the third servant in the parable object to unjust practices that destroy justice even to the point of being persecuted or cast from society. And certainly the persecution Jesus is talking about here isn’t when we don’t get along with go workers or when we suffer some illness, but persecution is being marginalized and force to live uncomfortably because of our faith in this Jesus way of restoration.

But of course we shouldn’t seek out suffering for suffering’s sake, but rather we should seek out life and justice for God’s sake.

In the parable directly following this one in Matt 25, we learn that God hides himself among the poor and the forgotten, those who will never make history books. Thus we must stand for dikaiosune’s sake and resist evil practices that misuse and abuse God’s very self found in the thirsty and oppressed.

This week we need to be unsettled, because the injustices born on the backs of the poor are unsettling. And what is even more unsettling is these injustices are born on the back of God’s very self.

Jesus was and is the embodiment of God’s kingdom come. To meet Jesus, means to bump into God’s Kingdom. Thus, we have to remember that the cross wasn’t God’s sadistic torturing of his Son, but it was the ultimate cost of Jesus’ mission. Jesus was crucified for bringing a new way, God’s way of life on earth, because when God’s kingdom of dikaiosune confronts the evils and injustices of our world, the world convulses and pushes it out to the margins, even to death.

But as Jesus said, “Those who find their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will find it.”

So, Dikaiosune is the unsettling vision that all might not be well with the way the world works, the way we live, the lives we exploit, the poor we neglect, the voiceless we hush, the enemies we murder, and the pain we hide our faces from.

Dikaiosune is the unsettling vision that all are created equal and deserve a chance to live while we go on living lavishly and not just beyond our own means, but the very means of the our earth.

Dikaisune is the unsettling vision that we may stand alone, and be cast aside, we may be put to death, but at the core of following Jesus is a vision for restoring the world until dikaiosune flows down as an ever flowing stream.

The answer to the perennial question for all of humanity, “what must I do to be good and live the fullest possible life now,” is found in Jesus’ Kingdom of dikaiosune and a life devoted to bringing it about no matter the cost.

So may today be about coming to Jesus in a new way, and giving up our pretenses, declaring our desire for him not because of what he can give us, whether earthly or heavenly rewards; but rather may we learn to desire Jesus in our lives for our own restoration as well as the restoration of the world. May we desire Jesus, because this dikaiosune vision is the hope of the world, and there is nothing, not even death that can conquer this Kingdom.

May we be like the third servant, knowing this is a kingdom worth being put to shame for, worth being marginalized for, and worth being persecuted for, knowing that in the end it is not death that prevails, but life everlasting.


Here these words from Jesus,

Matt. 6:25 “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? 26 Look at the birds of the air; they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they?

Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they neither toil nor spin, 29 yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not clothed like one of these. 30 But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith? 31 Therefore do not worry, saying, ‘What will we eat?’ or ‘What will we drink?’ or ‘What will we wear?

But strive first for the kingdom of God and his dikaiosune, and all these things will be given to you as well.

March 9, 2011

Lent Practice

Today is my first blog post in a long time. This is my Lent commitment, to write more. First my plan is to journal for myself 2-3 times a week. Second, I'm going to be posting here once a week. I find writing a good enterprise for myself. I can't say I love it. It takes a lot of work, especially when I know someone might read it. My brains doesn't work in such a way that I can just sit down and spew out my thoughts in order and have them make sense much less sound a bit better than elementary or grating to the learned reader. But I still enjoy the practice. I enjoy working through my thoughts, intentionally forcing myself to reflect and think through problems, and having a focused conversation.

Tonight, at a worship gathering among some of my community we'll be marked by Ashes. So I'm working on what I'll say tonight. Once that's done, I'll post that reflection. As I'm preparing my thoughts for tonight's Ash Wednesday service, I've discovered a community online talking about this season of Ash. I thought about tweeting each link, but I try my best not to utilize my social tools to annoy folks. So here's a link from Joan Chittester, a reflection on Ash Wed, one from an anglobaptist, another baptist,a reading list for Lent, thoughts from Tony Campolo, a great reflection from pastor Eugene Cho, giving up social networking, and a beautiful post from Sarah Miles.

January 1, 2011

2010 in Books, What I read last year

Though 2010 only consisted of 11 blog posts, I find posting up what I've read the past year a good practice for myself to look over what I've read, reflected upon, and found new friends among. So, in order to continue this practice, here's my "books read" list from 2010.

The Myth of Religious Violence, William Cavanuagh

In the Name of Jesus, Henry Nouwen

Christianity and Capitalism, American Style, William Connolly

Turtles all the Way Down, Gordon Atkinson RLP

Can these Bones Live? A Catholic Baptist Engagement with Ecclesiology, Hermeneutics, and Social Theory- Barry Harvey

A New Kind of Christianity, Bryan McLaren

An Unsettling God: The Heart of the Hebrew Bible, Walter Brueggemann

The Puppet and the Dwarf: The Perverse Core of Christianity, Slavoj Zizek

On Theology, John Caputo

Deep Church, Jim Belcher

Flawed Families of the Bible, the Garland's

Better Hope, A Resource for a Church Confronting Capitalism, Democracy and Postmodernity, Stanley Hauerwas

What Would Jesus Deconstruct, John Caputo

Practicing Discernment with Youtht: A Transformative Youth Ministry Approach, David White

All the Pretty Horses, Cormac McCarthy

Transforming Bible Study, Walter Wink

Moral Vision of the New Testament, Richard Hays

Introduction to the Missional Church, Alan Roxburough

For the Nations: Essays Evangelical and Public, John Howard Yoder

OMG: A Youth Ministry Handbook, Kenda Creasy Dean

Priestly Kingdom: Social Ethics as Gospel, John Howard Yoder

Outliers: the Story of Success, Malcolm Gladwell

Sun of Righteousness, Arise! God's future Humanity and the Earth, Jurgen Moltmann

Revisiting Relational Youth Ministry, Andrew Root

Signs of Emergence, Kester Brewin

On Monsters: An Unnatural History of our Worst Fears, Stephen T. Asma

The Great Giveaway: Reclaiming the Mission of the Church from Big Business, Para church Organizations, Psychotherapy, Consumer Capitalism, and other Modern Maladies, David Fitch

The Christian Imagination: Theology and the Origins of Race, Willie James Jennings

A Million Miles in a Thousand Years, Donald Miller

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone, J.K. Rowling

Death by Meeting: A Leadership Fable, Patrick Lencioni

Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, J.K. Rowling

Messy Spirituality, Mark Yaconelli

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, R.K. Rowling