Sunday, February 22, 2009



If we are living in exponential times, and clearly with information overload, what are we to listen for and to whom as our primary source? Facebook? Twitter? As much as technology connects us, and will certainly impact us for years to come, no getting around that, I wonder if it doesn't even more deafen and distract us to A Voice, A Presence that has been and will be there through it all. So where does our attention get to go? I'm just curious...

Transfiguration Sunday: Mark 9:2-10
Six days later, Jesus took with him Peter and James and John, and led them up a high mountain apart, by themselves. And he was transfigured before them, and his clothes became dazzling white, such as no one on earth could bleach them. And there appeared to them Elijah with Moses, who were talking with Jesus. Then Peter said to Jesus, “Rabbi, it is good for us to be here; let us make three dwellings, one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.” He did not know what to say, for they were terrified. Then a cloud overshadowed them, and from the cloud there came a voice, “This is my Son, the Beloved; listen to him!” Suddenly when they looked around, they saw no one with them any more, but only Jesus. As they were coming down the mountain, he ordered them to tell no one about what they had seen, until after the Son of Man had risen from the dead. So they kept the matter to themselves, questioning what this rising from the dead could mean.


Mark 4:9 And he said, “Let anyone with ears to hear listen!”


Friday, February 20, 2009


A couple conversations I was listening to earlier today have me bustling with thoughtful imagination about the Christian meta-narrative that might best perhaps be re-framed as pneuma-narrative. While its frequently a challenge to track one's thought processes I'll try to share the dialogue that was racing through my head this day through some random sharing in hopes that I get the point across for what I'm curious about today.

I woke up early today, like 4:41 a.m. early, because I have another paper due for class on a book I hadn't before today started reading by Judith Butler Precarious Life: The Powers of Mourning and Violence. The book is a critical response to post 9/11 life and our responsibility as a nation to find ways of reflecting on our own actions in partnership to a greater global power structure rather than the framing of events through our own USAmerican eyes.

The first essay of five, "Explanation and Exoneration, or What We Can Hear," highlights what Butler calls the "rise of censorship" and "anti-intellectualism" that occurred in response to challenging and probing questions surrounding how such an events could have happened in the first place but were quickly dismissed as attempts to exonerate "those" terrorists.

Of particular interest to me in her development of this topic surrounds the notion for how the story has been told, who's doing the telling and how it serves to justify war and demonize any who stand against it. While I'm guessing not many will disagree with her critique she puts forth giving it a fair hearing, it is equally interesting to hear some of her quotes through the lens of church as the primary power reference point in place of the Bush administration. Her driving question is this: "Can we find another meaning, and another possibility, for the decentering of the first-person narrative within the global framework?" (7)

Other helpful quotes that frame her argument and at least, give this reflective church person, some curious imagination for how we are missing the point for broadening our discernment of the unfolding story of God at work in the world.

"If we are to come to understand ourselves as global actors, and acting within a historically established field, and one that has other actions in play, we will need to emerge from the narrative perspective of US unilateralism and, as it were, its defensive structures, to consider the ways in which our lives are profoundly implicated in the lives of others." (7)

"My sense is that being open to the explanations...that might help us take stock of how the world has come to take this form will involve us in a different order of responsibility. The ability to narrate ourselves not from the first person alone, but from say, the position of the third, or to receive an account delivered in the second, can actually work to expand our understandings of the forms that global power has taken." (8)

In closing her first chapter Butler suggests the solution lies in "hearing beyond what we are able to hear. And it means as well being open to narration that decenters us from our supremacy, in both its right-and left wing forms." (18)

Secondly and shortly following my reading of this first chapter I checked my twitters to find that Phyllis Tickle was lecturing at Seabury-Western Theological Seminary and that iamjoshfrank (thanks Josh, btw, nice to meet you) was twittering it (or is it tweeting it? not sure the lingo on this quite yet). One of the tweets he wrote from a comment of Phyllis was this question "how are we becoming literate in the 21st century? how does the church become literate?"

While I wasn't in attendance at this event, though I was present for The Great Emergence in Memphis, I believe I understand some context of where she is speaking from and I replied with the following comment: "perhaps literacy comes in the space we make for reading, or hearing, in new ways that allows church to b decentered." You may begin to see that Butler's thoughts on deconstructing power in allowing others to help generate a greater narrative is the back drop for my response. And so my thoughts continue...

What if literacy, as asked by Tickle, also wonders who gets to help tell and discern the story? How broad can the story be told and by whom, without and in any way, diluting the story that has been gifted to the world through the story of Jesus? Maybe we need to move away from the idea that there is a meta-narrative as a story already completed and accomplished, but one that is still being written and in need of continuing discernment. It seems to me, especially if we start probing the question of authority, i.e. sola scriptura, we need to wonder who's the authority behind the narrative?

If the location of authority is the church, then in many ways, we loose the ability to keep an open ended listening and dynamic perspective for what God is up to in the world and how God is calling us to be on board. If the church is the authority it sets up a dualistic sense for defining and defending instead of discerning. There is a massive distinction between these concepts. Don't we also acknowledge this authority to exist primarily with God, i.e. Matt. 28? So it would make sense then that the church isn't the one and only body that holds authority but perhaps is the body calling the world to discern a greater pneuma-narrative. We call others to the table to wonder with us a story larger than ourselves.

What if we aren't the primary story tellers as much as the story-reflectors, and like the incarnation, it is God's story taking hold of us and being told through us? What then? I suppose we could enter a little more freely and non-anxiously into this story as curious adventures waiting to discover how and in what way God's presence is emerging in the world. Maybe our function as church is to convene the space and open the conversation for where we are to discern (sift) through the global partnership trusting that as life unfolds God's very Spirit is what is being lived through us. It is a shift from defining to being, from epistemology to communally discerning existentiality, a shift from objective knowing to knowing "in, with and under," radical subjectivity.

Even our practices have different implications when we don't hold the narrative as belonging primarily to us rather than to the One who claims us first. Even our prayers could be understood not as our own, per se, but God's praying through us for the life of the world. Thus Paul suggests that "the Spirit intercedes for us with sighs too deep for words." And what of worship, reading Scripture, hospitality and generosity? Again perhaps the very breath of God's Spirit making its way through us for the life and common good of the world.

So here it is, some initial theological meanderings in and around how church could be engaging God's pneuma-narrative. What do you think? What are your thoughts?

Monday, February 16, 2009

don't define me, just love me DAMMIT!!!

Don't define me, love me DAMMIT!

I found these from the tweets I follow on twitter through emergent village. These are helpful frames for wondering through the emergent conversation. First is this interview video of Peter Rollins done from Calvin College, a few weeks back, when he visited and held lecture/conversations with several others. Click below to hear some classic Rollins framing on emergent Christianity as only he so amazingly can do.

Peter Rollins Explaining Emergent Churches

Secondly, a couple videos offering a thoughtful and interesting montage from several emergent voices who help provide a larger vision, beyond one voice, for what this emergent thing is up to. Notice it isn't completely about destroying what is known as the "inherited church." Rather this expression could perhaps best be described in terms Mirslav Volf refers to as "differentiated unity." Or as I so graciously say, "this frickin' thing isn't an ecclesiastical beauty contest!" Enjoy.

part 1

One of the pieces I especially appreciate is the challenge for pinning this emergent thing down. People often ask me about this too and I feel their desire for information just falls within our sound bite culture of reductionism. One of the pieces that I find particularly dangerous at this attempt to define lies in the very concept of objectification. For it is this objectifying that leads too easily to dismissive and arrogant knowall attitudes. I realize that in the best sense these questions are motivated by a curiosity (which I'm all for) for achieving some semblance of understanding so as to know the other, to learn about the other, in this case the other as a fresh expression of church known as emergent, all in order for the sake of loving and appreciating this her/him, not IT, in a new formative relationship to oneself. However, rarely if ever do I sense this is the motivation behind the questions. It is instead asked through the a functional lens of getting at the next, latest, greatest and sexy trend for "getting people" back into church.

I often feel this very question asked about emergent is an attempt to domesticate it within a previous frame pre-determined by the location from which one is coming from, i.e. Luther, Calvin, etc. (Obviously and after all how could we think otherwise?) But this comes from a closed rather than open approach to knowing and engaging. If it can't be explained or understood in a short period of time, sadly enough, it is often and frequently dismissed by those within the walls. For me, it is precisely the same trouble we have when truly describing, what was mentioned in this viedo, what it means to be Christian in general. Many have come to hold Christianity with particular definitions such that this has become the standard for identifying it and we have done so without understanding the assumptions or philosophical evolution that has brought us to the place we've arrived at. If we are really going to explain this thing known as Christianity to someone who had never heard of it many would find it difficult to explain logically. I suppose you could do it with words and images but they would just be that and not the very thing itself. In the end the very essence for being church is inherently incarnational in the sense that it must be embodied before one comes to articulate what this actually is all about.

This is the one of the great gifts of emergent as it calls people, self identified in church or not, to have to deal with people and a growing engagement in God as God seeks to be born in our curiosity and wonder and that is not reduced to mere conceptual agreements. The gift is the thing itself being engaged and being encountered (encountering), not what it describes itself to be. This is the challenge, this is the shift, this is the gift.

In our little and fledgling community people still ask, "now what are we doing again? what is this abbey thing all about?" I LOVE IT!!! How often are people in churches even asking what they are doing anymore? How often are people posing the question of why they even gather and for what purpose? If anything, this provides the very framework for a new form of engagement as church, as listening space(s), for encounter of God in fresh and new ways, through each other and God's ability to wonder into us.

part 2

Friday, February 13, 2009

The Transforming Theology Journey Begins

Today I received the book I am assigned to read from The Claremont School of Theology for the Transforming Theology project. This book, as the pic shows, is titled Mind and Emergence: From Quantum to Consciousness by Philip Clayton. I'm also linking here a brief youtube video from Philip who answers the question "How Can Theology Bring Change?"Is anyone familiar with this book or this topic? I'd love to hear your thoughts.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Tom Sine from Mustard Seed Associates will be hosting an online conversation that we all need to be paying attention to and participating in. From his new book The New Conspirators he will engage people in missional imagination for creative ways God is calling us to be the people of God given today's political and socio-economic climate. Check this out and follow it! You will NOT be disappointed.

"Cur!ous, a psalm" by nic paton

I've copied this poem verbatim from Nic Paton's blog, an emergent from Cape Town, South Africa. His personal blog is entitled Sound and Silence. After following a link posted today from Emergent Village I found this beautiful poem and, for some reason I'm drawn toward it, read it on another blog he contributes to called Emerging Africa.

Thanks Nic for the a wonderful and encouraging prayer-psalm.

Blessed are the curious
Blessed are the brave
Blessed are the questioners
For they are not afraid

It's sad to be a knowall
It's sad to be bored
To be someone smug at heart
Who has their reward

So much to unlearn
To be like a child
Filled with awe and wonder
And a heart free and wild

There's nothing too embarrasing
No question is too hard
No problem is too vexing
When you talk with God

Blessed are the curious
for they will know the truth
They will drink each day
from the fountain of youth

Ask, it shall be given,
to Him our lives we bring
Blessed are the cur!ous
knock and enter in.

"Barriers to Innovation and Change"

Check out this NASA video from youtube about corporate change and innovation. What do you think? By the way, when I first viewed this there were just over 14,000 views...mmmmmmm.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

epiphany 5 litany

ONE: For those who have not known and for those who have not heard, hear the people of God proclaim the Gospel.

MANY: Praise the Lord! How good it is to sing praises to our God; for he is gracious, and a song of praise is fitting. The Lord builds up and gathers the outcasts. He heals the brokenhearted, and binds up their wounds.

ONE: For those who have not known and for those who have not heard, hear the people of God proclaim the Gospel.

MANY: He determines the number of the stars; he gives to all of them their names. Great is our Lord, and abundant in power; his understanding is beyond measure. The Lord lifts up the downtrodden; he casts the wicked to the ground.

ONE: For those who have not known and for those who have not heard, hear the people of God proclaim the Gospel.

MANY: Sing to the Lord with thanksgiving; make melody to our God on the lyre. He covers the heavens with clouds, prepares rain for the earth, makes grass grow on the hills. He gives to the animals their food, and to the young ravens when they cry.

ONE: For those who have not known and for those who have not heard, hear the people of God proclaim the Gospel.

MANY: His delight is not in the strength of the horse, nor his pleasure in the speed of a runner; but the Lord takes pleasure in those who revere him, in those who hope in his steadfast love. Praise the Lord!

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

is the shack missional?

I just responded to a question on emergingumc I followed through an emergent village tweet. I really liked my response to the question so I'm posting it here. The Shack is a interesting read as a relates to introducing a trinitarian expression of church. I said:

"i think the shack does begin to invite some new missional imagination. primarily because "missional" for me really could be framed as "trinitarian" in that God is missional in respect to God's complete relationality in and through all of life, penetrating the darkest and deepest of human experiences ensuring God's sustaining presence in and with the world.

i've appreciated this book as an accessible entry point into this trinitarian conversation that is practically demonstrated for what God is up to in the world and how involved in life God actually is.

i was particularly drawn to God's response to Mac as he struggled to make sense of his despairing loss. God responds wishing She could take the pain away but suggesting the only way Mac would heal was through "a little bit of time, and a lot of relationship." THIS could preach!!!

where God promises to dwell with the least of these, with those in most need throughout the world, where the greatest pain and suffering exist comes good news, we are not alone, God is closer to us than we could ever possibly imagine and involved in the messiness of life.

if this isn't missional, the deep indwelling of God's presence in and through all of life, i don't know what is? Great question and wonderful wondering. thanks."

Monday, February 2, 2009

relationally connecting to what?

An interesting struggle is emerging through our community and this last week there was a heated debate, rising anxiety among some, around absolute (T)ruth. It has been a gift to have at our weekly table gathering an assortment of faith backgrounds. This gift, however, comes with its own challenges for the determining ground centering our engagement and very reason for gathering in the first place. The community reflects right and left perspectives, those embracing Jesus as Lord and Savior and those merely listening in with a lot to contribute to the conversation.

Recently Peter Rollins in his blog mentions a significant conversation that arose in a dialogue he participated in at Calvin College. He said this debate centered around "the place and nature of belief in faith." What he is really getting at is that faith is an embodied expression and beyond mere reductionary efforts propositionally framed. In fact these propositions are in no way predictors for the very embodiment they seek to describe, and in fact, are quite alienating and impersonal.

It is precisely this embodied form of faith that I have been particularly intrigued for quite a while. Equally, what does it look like to begin cultivating a community with this as its primary emphasis for being church, the people of God in Jesus through the Spirit for the life of the world?

When and as we go down the road of challenging our propositions, our subjective way for describing God, it raises significant issues for how we are engaging with one another, and quite frankly where the hell God can be found in it all. Often times it escalates into an emotional WWF tag-team match, smashing theological and biblical chairs over each others' heads only to be left with bloodied and bruised bodies. (NOW WASN'T THAT FUN?) There are NO winners and losers in this, we are all losers.

What I believe has happened is that these kinds of conversations, which are secondary discourse engagements, have been misplaced as the primary arena for our God engagement. We have substituted the primary discourse for being the people of God, allowing and reflecting God's grace, reconciliation, peace, mercy, forgiveness and hope for our thoughts about it. Our thoughts about the "it" quickly deteriorates into who can be included as well as the correct procedural requirements for participation. The consequence of which result in heated debates where what is at stake is our concern for defending God no matter who is hurt or alienated in the process.

For me, it is not the ideas of God we are relationally connecting to, although there are deep ceded and strong feelings around them and they do reference helpful convictions and claims for who God is and who God is not. It is our ability to see outside of ourselves or view with a new kind of lens for how we are embodying the very thing we seek to articulate. What is this thing? It is the Trinitarian social community of God in, through and under (absolute)ly everything that we do, say and think. This is why for me there is a great necessity around how we are listening to and discerning (sifting) with one another. It is the "creating space in me for you" reality for where God is acting on me, not just me acting to defend a particular description of God for others to adopt and agree with. I/We become the very ground we are seeking to describe. The space itself becomes the very practice field, or demonstration plot to use Craig Van Gelder's organic metaphor, for what the kingdom of God reality can be like as it breaks into the world and around which we are being caught up in its very own life.

It is this space too that is prophetic in the sense that it becomes a word of challenge pushing back on us and the world through us. We need to pay attention to this very thing in us that resists and gets defensive for this is where God is working to break forth something new and set us free for a greater capacity to love and make space for our neighbor.

So my question comes back: relationally connecting to what? The question really needs to be, relationally connecting to whom? Unfortunately we have taken God, placed God as a cadaver out on a table before us to dissect with any real certainty. God however is not the object before us to examine, but the very subject that has encompassed all of life including us, for us to discern in and around as the very reorienting point for understanding our life as in God, or in Christ as Paul suggests.

For me, in our relationships we are connecting to more than ideas, for our ideas of God will more than frequently say a hell of a lot more about ourselves than about God. Relationally we are connecting to the God being made flesh in my neighbor and in me simultaneously. Together we are discerning this God emergence. It is the community's challenge to see with new eyes and hear with new ears how God is actually acting on us through our discomfort and joy, our disagreement and hopes. Cultivating a community in this fashion is making disciples, it is the substance and kind of disciples God desires us to be, not just getting adherents who agree with us about how we have come to articulate God.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

dangers of familiarity: cultivating a listening church

"Let those who have ears to hear, listen." Mark 4:9

With all this banging around in cyberspace, blogging experts espousing their latest, greatest, sexiest and hippest interpretations for God, church, faith and life is anybody really listening...listening to a voice from God that deeply challenges us, displacing our own agendas and making space for God to break in through new and fresh expressions? It seems that too often we slip into the place of familiarity, the place of hearing the voices we want to hear, those voices that help to legitimize our own cause, those voices, that in the long term, are more like us than different from us.

I have been wondering lately around what God is doing to us when we create space for listening, and deep listening, to the other whom we most immediately dismiss and want to have nothing to do with.

The above verse finds its context in the parable of the sower. Many take as a primary interpretation that of the word, seed, taking root and the call to be good soil. What is of particular interest to me is that it is bracketed between the word "listen." For the word to make its home in good soil, a new awareness for perceiving is necessary. My question is how well am I listening, especially to the ones I want so quickly to dismiss?

The second and related piece is this: who is God using to speak to us? Consider these words from Jesus in Matthew “Truly I tell you, just as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.” (Mt. 25:45) While the context here is related to the judgment of the nations it is equally apportioned to where God shows up and through whom. I think this is where Nadia in her book, Salvation on the Small Screen? 24 Hours of Christian Television, is going. In the end, as repelled as she is to hear "those missing-the-mark-Christians" she has to face the fact that they are her brothers and sisters in Christ as well. She has learned that they have a place in God's house too and that we, as antithetical types to the conservative movement as many of us are, we can't take the same alienating posture as has been forced on us.

What I want to add to this conversation however is that it is not merely a postulate that we arrive at in our minds. It must be embodied! This notion of "making space in me for you", my definition of hospitality, is about what God is up to through the other for the life of me, for the re-orienting of my life. God is touching and speaking to me through the other, as despised, angry and saddened as I am about this "other" person that is so radically different from me and my perspectives on truth.

Today we proclaimed a text on Jesus' authority as different from the scribes. The difference is how Jesus uses knowledge of God as an instrument for liberation and connection. The man with the unclean spirit cried out "what have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth?" This cry could also be translated "what to us and you?" This fragment emphasizes the very thing that under girds Jesus authority, it is his necessary connection the One that is fractured, broken and isolated from God.

We question God's authority all the time through the words we say or don't, through the actions we convey or don't. But God's response is greater, "you matter to me, you cannot be without me, I re-value you and draw you into myself once again connecting you to a greater communal reality you're intended for."

It is my hope that I too resist the dangers of familiarity. It is my hope that I can continue to keep an open spirit to how God is speaking to me through those I want to dismiss. It is my hope that we can embody the very life we desperately seek to articulate here in the blogosphere by learning to re-value and welcome those different from ourselves, no matter their orientation or faith descriptions. Because in the end, it is this other, the "least of these", the minority voice that is God calling as a prophetic voice into us to rupture a new kingdom God reality through us for the life of the world.