Wednesday, April 30, 2008

because church belongs to Christ and not me...

I want it to be of public record that those of different skin colors and heritage are welcome here.

I want it to be known that those who suffer from any kind of addiction (whether they are recovering or not) and their families are welcome here.

I want it to be known that women and children are welcome here and that they will not be harassed or abused here.

I want it to be public record that in this church you can bring children to worship and even if they cry during the entire service, they are welcome.

I want it to be known that those who are single by choice, by divorce, or through death of a spouse are welcome here.

I want it be known that if you are promiscuous, have had an abortion, or have fathered children and taken no responsibility for them, you are welcome here.

I want it to be known that gossips, cheats, liars, and their families are welcome here.

I want it to be known that those who are disobedient to their parents and who have family problems are welcome here.

I want it to be of public record that people of various sexual orientations and members of their families are welcome here.

Let it be public knowledge that we take seriously that all are simultaneously fractured and fabulous. The young and old, the rich and poor, all who recognize that life is not merely dependent on our own effort, but given and shared with each other and God.

Let us not condemn the world, but proclaim to the broken, lonely and hurting God's gift of reconciliation and peace.

May God give us the wisdom and courage to welcome and forgive one another as Christ has shown us this nature in the way of God among us.

(adapted from a guy, chuck hazlett who put this in his congregational newsletter)

If you're saying 'no duh!' to all this, good for you. These words need to be said, even more importantly...embodied, not merely by individuals, but entire communities because in the end, it seems to me, this is the way God makes space for us...all of who we are.

Monday, April 28, 2008

easter 6: prayer of reconciliation

One: Merciful God, we begin this first day of the week to be in agreement with you. "You are precious in my sight, honored and I love you" says God. And yet, a disparity still exists between the way you see us, the way you want us to build up each other and the way we actually live in relationship to you by the way we care or don't care for others.

Many: Make me joyful and proud when I love well and give me a conscience when my actions and words deny my neighbor the life that you intend.

One: Lord Jesus, we hear words this morning about loving as you loved us. If we're honest we have to say, like the disciples before us, that we too fall short in our ways of loving. Perhaps our own loving, or lack thereof, is connected to the depths of understanding how much you could possibly love us, a fractured and fragile people, who yearn deeply to be accepted for all of who we are.

Many: Help us to live into the fullness of your grace for us. Help us to know that we are more valuable than we could ever imagine, and that we have the capacity to do, in your holy name, the most remarkable 'life-giving' work.

One: Spirit of Truth, the gift of love you pass on from Christ empowers the fullness of humanity that God created. That Christ loves us means that his intention is that we too could become fully human through the way we reflect this love, even to those we hold in contempt. Give us the wisdom and the courage to embody this love, not simply with our feelings that change like the wind, but with our words that carry the power to raise to newness of life.

Many: We give you thanks that you have trusted even us to continue your ministry of love, reconciliation and peace. Give us the strength, compassion and understanding, when loving our neighbors, to realize the power and impact our own words and actions have. Help us to choose wisely your way of love and therefore become the transforming community of God you intend us to be.

One: God intends for us to live in the fullness of life which is the product of being loved well. Hear these words, again, from the One who loves you more than anything, "I have called you by name, you are mind, you are precious in my sight, honored and I love you. Now, love as I have loved you."

Many: Thanks be to God!

Can people MAKE time for God anymore?

I am amazed at the frantic pace of people these days. The church I'm serving is filled with over-worked, stressed out, over-programmed, dysfunctionally-driven and under-attended people strangled by these social knots. I often wonder if the exasperation I feel is connected to what is coming at me (of course my own stuff too, not to minimize that) through the parish...a people who are deeply depressed, tired, disconnected and numb. And then I think, how is church life really set up? Is it set up to allow people to thrive in what God would have us receive as REAL LIFE? I suppose at some level this is the constant juggling act of life itself, the balance of work and play, rest and responsibility. But is the church helping or hindering a full life in God? No wonder people hesitate getting involved if its all about perpetually serving on some committee until Jesus returns. What in the world have we made church into?

Where is the space to be silent? Where is the space to allow God to speak to us and communally wonder together as God seeks to address us, without commentary from the expert? Is there another way for people to MAKE time for God that isn't consumed, or better yet, constipated by an institutional framework? Certainly God in God's almighty power can and does work through such institutional structures to be sure. There are even people who grow and flourish in such systems. I'm just wondering about another way that God might be wanting to connect not only to the non-confessional, but even more importantly to the confessional, who need to be jolted in new and fresh ways for listening how God is speaking and engaging in the world.

Perhaps we're losing, if not already lost in many ways, the essence for how God seeks to encounter us rather than how we, egotistically-driven or otherwise, want to engage God. What if God really wants to use difference and diversity as a lens for speaking more clearly to us for what he desires to create within and out of us? Today, how is this embraced and even practiced within the Christian faith short of elitist dialogues that happen in some aloof space far from daily living? And then, what are we to make of all of our differences denominationally? If difference again is key to the reconciling work of God, how are we in the life of church embracing this truth in such a way that we allow it to work on us? I'm not suggesting that we deny who we are, collapse our identities or differentiated expressions into some ecclesiastical homogeneity as the non-denoms do. What of allowing the differences to co-exist and allowing them to engage one another in a joint effort/effect of living out a faith in Jesus that celebrates these differences without trying to minimize them? What could it be for a community to embrace the idea that 'we shouldn't be surprised that we will come to different conclusions about the bible, faith, church and God, and that it does not disturb God as much as it does some of us'? What of a post-denominational community of God? Could this happen? And what could it look like?

What about an ancient way, a contemplative way...the monastic way.

This might be a viable option alongside the pantheon of others available. In fact I saw a glimpse of it when I recently visited the community of Taize, France last month. This monastic community prides itself on being an ecumenical community, living life together grounded in prayer seeking reconciliation and peace.

What would it look like for these denominations to come together in prayer, like the Taize community, to allow God to address all of us together in one setting? What would it look like from the stand point of a supposed 'outsider' to see people gathering who are not seeking to convert the outsider, but rather to be converted itself by the difference of each other, to learn this way of reconciliation by, with and alongside the other through prayer?

So, this is my newest, emerging (pie-in-the-sky) create an abbey, a Flagstaff abbey. I hope in the near future to invite and involve interested parties to the table for a conversation. Included are American Baptists, Episcopalians, Lutherans, Methodists and Presbyterians to start.

Well, we'll see how it all goes and what God wants to do through it all...oh yea, and in the process, through me too.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

a challenging quote:

"The safest place for ships is in the harbor,
but that's not why ships were built."

Now would this be more reflective of purpose, identity or both?

my emerging blog

It has been a long passion of mine to be an evangelist for the emerging church conversation, especially among friends and colleagues who have been seeking to understand it. I too must admit however that much of my own drive has been related to a deep ceded attempt to 'win over' those who would dismiss this approach to church as another faddish movement. Perhaps at some personal level what resonates in me is the need for reconciliation, to be in agreement with me, a yearning to be understood for who I am. And so my long attempts at explanation drive to figure out, help others perhaps, come to appreciate what I have come to appreciate in this thing. For me there is something deep and rich, highly contextualized within this whole emerging church conversation, that allows for a different expression of being church, different not better, than I have ever known. I feel that I have explored as experientially and theologically as I could have to this point, arriving at rich fountains of wisdom and knowledge for things emerging. I too wish to help to cultivate someday a community that reflects emergent values and beliefs.

This said however, I am emerging in my own 'blogosphere' right beyond perhaps what might be called 'emerging apologetics' and into a broader world of curious wonderment. So to grow into a deeper sense of freedom through curiosity and less defensive and argumentative posturing with the need to preserve or protect the emerging community from dismissal, I am having a repentant heart. My site will remain in joyful favor and celebration for things emergent but with hopes of becoming a more inclusive and playful discourse of all things created by God. A justification for a new format? No, just descriptive explanation of who I am and what I hear God calling out in me.

Cheers to all other curious and adventurous souls.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

What's the point?

after blogging and blogging for several months i just got warn out. i took on a gig at a local church here in flag helping to serve as their transitional pastor. it's been good helping to facilitate church and all, bringing some insights from missional and emerging church ideas, but still i'm left a little dull inside. god is teaching me to love people and to be patient. no wonder our dog's name is patience. what i miss however about this blogging stuff is the creativity to wonder in new ways without judgment, or at least until your readership causes you to hesitate and compromise what you're truly feeling and thinking. for instance, on sunday as i was preaching i mentioned that Jesus works beyond Lutherans and that we are Christian first. I suppose this isn't quite profound, but does shake up a few of the old entrenched ones who have been Lutheran since conception. but along a different but somewhat broader note what of the idea that God isn't Christian? I mean is that really true? Can we say that we believe in a Christian God? You see for me, I can say that I'm a follower of Jesus and that my limited understanding of God is known, seen, experienced through the lens of Jesus. But to say that God is Christian is to pit this Christian God against all other adjectival expressions of God. What is interesting for me too is that many of my friends who dismiss church, but deeply believe in God, are much more quick to relax into this concept than those who have been lifers. Is this the Pharisaical stuff coming through? Is it a foundation that is afraid of being shaken for being cast into the abyss? And so what's the point of it all really? If we aren't given the space to wonder more deeply in and around who God is why even engage in authentic relationship with God. I love Rollins understanding of all of this critical reflection as determinative and responsive to the God who holds us. My critical stuff allows me to say I do love God because God gives me the freedom to explore who God is and who God is not. Today I'm insightful and a genius and then I read my writing tomorrow and I'm way off base and naive. What's the point of it all if we aren't allowed to enter into the mystery of God by challenging our own perceptions of who God is while trusting simultaneously that what is most important is God's holding of us rather than our holding, 'theologizing', of him. until next time...