Jesus was into change

July 31, 2006

Sunrise over Cemetery.  Photo by Richard BoltI was reading today’s Daily Office Gospel lesson this morning, and it occurred to me that Jesus wasn’t one to sit around and long for the past.

In fact, his activities, which got him into lots of trouble with the authorities, showed over and over again that he wanted to change the status quo.  He didn’t like the system, he didn’t like the way the religious authorities were doing things, and he wanted to change it.

Just like I wrote in my post yesterday, change isn’t easy.  In this case, what the reading from Matthew reminded me of is that people get pretty upset when you go around changing things.  Yesterday one of the things I mentioned was the burning of Jan Hus in 1415 for supporting non-Latin translation of the Bible.  That is what I thought of when reading of the torture of Jesus today in Matthew.

The high priest and Jewish council couldn’t stand the change that Jesus was proposing, so they lashed out against Jesus.  The Romans got on board and carried it one step further.  The “mob rule” completely took over and threw out all reason when sentencing Jesus Christ instead of Barrabus.

And, from a strictly historical point of view, the funny thing is that the death of the founder of Christianity did nothing to stop the movement of “The Way.”  As we know, it is one of the world’s largest religions, so the Jewish and Roman authorities failed in their attempt to stop further change by stamping it out with annihilation.

When I discuss this historical perspective with more orthodox folk, I sometimes get responses that I don’t quite understand-  feedback that has to do with somehow moving people through a preset plan in order to get to the crucifiction for all of our sins so that we can find the resurrection and grace for all of humanity.  (I guess that’s based somehow in a fear that if Caiaphus had accepted Jesus then he wouldn’t have been crucified and we wouldn’t have grace?  That’s a little too self-serving for me, and doesn’t rely enough on trust in God to work it all out somehow.) Read the rest of this entry »

Making room for change

July 30, 2006

New House.jpgAs you know by now, I just moved with my kids to Texas from California.

We got here about 2 1/2 weeks ago.  Knowing that the kids need stability in order to thrive- the stability of routine, friendships, community, and- well, just fun that I can’t provide while unpacking a house of stuff, I enrolled them in summer camp the first week we were here.

My 6 year old son also is preparing to register for school this coming week, and we’ve been discussing what to do about after-school care in the fall.  When we discussed it the first week we were here, he said he didn’t want to stay in the place where he is having summer camp (one of the options is to come back to that place for after school care).

Friday, my parents and I went to the summer camp for the “Closing Ceremonies” of the “Summer Olympics” of camp- really very creative and cute.  I got to watch him, as part of the host country of Japan, perform a martial arts dance routine to the 80s song “I think I’m turning Japanese” before they handed out all the medals for the awards.

Apparently, something has changed over these two weeks.  He overheard my mom and I discussing his placement on waiting lists at some of the other options for after-school care.  Later that evening, when nobody else was around he said to me, “Poppa, I want to stay where I am for after-school care.”

Something has shifted.  He’s gone from a place of discomfort to a place of comfort in his “camp.”

That happens with so many things when we move- or with anything that is new or changed.  At first, it seems to be strange; we don’t like it; it may even hurt.  Slowly, though, the discomfort fades.  And eventually, it becomes ingrained in our lives, if we are open to it, and we can’t picture ourselves without the “new” thing.

That is true at both the individual level and the collective level. Read the rest of this entry »

One of the things that I’ve really understood better as I’ve moved to Austin is how important it is to just keep things really low-key.

Texas is a lot different than California, and I can’t assume in any conversation that there is as much political or theological common ground with the other person as there is in California.  But the wonderful thing about Austin itself is that it is such a laid back town that it doesn’t really matter.  Even if we don’t agree on something, it’s more likely that we’d go have a Shiner Bock at the local bar and talk it over while laughing about it than becoming beligerant, going to our respective corners, and starting an advocacy group to make sure the other side doesn’t “win.”

I think that is important.  In the current culture wars, everybody is so worried about being right– about “winning”– that we forget that we’re supposed to love everybody.  We start strategizing and manipulating and twisting arguments around to get them into our favor so that we can start talking and turning the conversation into our favor. Read the rest of this entry »

ElectricityNow this has to be quick because I normally don’t blog during work hours, but this struck me as really odd.

I’m in LA this week, in my last few weeks working in the corporate world before starting seminary.  As most of you probably know, California has been suffering a tremendous heatwave the last few weeks, and electricity is a real problem.  Everyone is being asked to “Flex their power” or some other catchy slogan like that which means conserve energy.  Rolling blackouts are expected, and deaths are reported every day due to lack of power and the ensuing heat related illnesses that result.  People are asked to set their thermostats on at the least 78 degrees, and if they can stand it 80 or 82.

Now I’m sitting in my office right now, and my thermometer reads 68 degrees.  I have occassion in my job to go to several different buildings, and since I’m traveling I also have been going to different restaurants and hotels.  These very large buildings, which take a tremendous amount of power to cool, are always really cold.  I don’t know if they are 68 degrees like my office, but they are cold.

Now why is it that we are supposed to be “good citizens” at home and conserve, but somehow in the workplace or places of entertainment we are somehow exempt from conservation?  I mean, come on– people are walking around in here with sweaters on, its over 100 degrees outside, and people are dying because there isn’t enough electricity.

Does that seem odd to anybody besides me?

j

The Anglican Debate

July 26, 2006

I found this cartoon on CartoonChurch.com and I liked it:

The Anglican Debate

I’m not sure that I think that’s where we are anymore– but I hope so.  Mostly what I seem to hear is people saying come over to my side, and I’m not moving no matter how good your coffee is.

And maybe what I actually think should be happening is not moving to one side or the other but something more like staying where we are but finding the overlapping ground– something like two circles that overlap (I’m not a cartoonist, so I won’t try to draw it).

Then we could focus on that which we have in common, and agree to disagree on that which doesn’t.  I hardly believe that any two of us agree on everything– even with our own “sides.”  We’ve chosen to somehow deal with that on other issues.  We’ve got to figure how to deal with that on everything else that doesn’t fall within the overlapping area of the circles- at least in my view.

j

The Chief Commandment

July 25, 2006

’You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the greatest and first commandment. And a second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.”

What’s been on my mind the last day or two is how we are called into chiefly two categories of relationships.

The first is a relationship with God, and that is one that we must build through prayer.  I’ve heard prayer called “wasting time with God.”   I like that.  I don’t think some people get prayer.  In a book I’ve heard quoted, I think it is called The God Gene, I heard an interesting statistic (and I may be misquoting).  What I understand is that there is something like 50% of the population who are spiritual and 50% who are not.  There are also about 50% of the population who go to church and 50% who do not.  The numbers have nothing to do with each other.  In other words, the study showed that roughly 50% of churchgoing people were not spiritual at all, and roughly 50% of non-churchgoing people were spiritual.  I find that extremely interesting.  I think that spiritual practice is one of the most under-talked about subjects in the church, as it is the entire basis for this personal relationship with God.  Whether daily devotional reading, prayer, meditation, journaling, or even walking in solitude (I love to walk a labyrinth), getting in touch with your spirit; talking and listening to God is really important.

The other kind of relationship we are called into is relationship with each other (the passage above implies that we already have a healthy self-image, but I’ll ignore that for now).  Of course that means that we are patient with each other, friendly, nice, and look out for each other.  Everybody knows the story of the good Samaritan.  But how many of us look at strangers in the face when passing them on the street, smile, and say, “Good morning!”  Now if that’s too “Father Knows Best” for you, how about giving back to the community, taking care of the poor, trying not to act out in anger the next time you read something you don’t like on a blog, being compassionate towards those who disagree with you, and so on.  We’re all one big family, after all, and we’re stuck here together on this tiny planet island together, like it or not.  We might as well make the best of it!

j

I had a commenter yesterday on the increasingly lengthy comment section to my Response to Leander Harding’s piece who had misunderstood two key points of my response:

  1. God is messy; and
  2. We know more about God than Moses did

Here is a clip from my response to his post on the messiness of God:

Finally, to keep this short, you said:

“Harding’s exactly right: spiritual experience of gays and lesbians? Perfectly revelatory of God’s will.”

The short answer here is yes. But the problem is that the orthodox who are looking for a short answer are missing the point. The point is not the short answer- the point is the dialogue and exchange of stories and experiences. Not only me telling you who I am and why my spiritual experiences are valid, but you telling me the same about you. That is what binds us together as Christians. That is the “messiness” of God that you mock. I’m sorry you don’t understand it- but if you choose not to have that dialogue instead opting for a “clean and short” answer of “yes” then I am truly sorry, because we are both cheated of the experience of that dialogue when you do that.

I think that is the beginning of the messiness of God.  Rarely is it that we can answer divisive questions in the church with a simple “yes” or “no”.  That was one of the good things about the Windsor process– we were reminded over and over again that Windsor was not about an absolute standard but about being invited into a process.  The orthodox always insisted, however, that it was about a standard.  I think human nature is to lose patience and opt for a black and white answer rather than the longer relational process surrounding such hard issues because the relational processes do not necessarily result in a tangible outcome.  Unfortunately, even those who have always insisted that Windsor is about a process have recently begun shifting to judging actions to some kind of unstated “standard”, falling into this sin– because we are all sinners and do all have this tendancy.

But the need to be in the relational process, my friends, is the messiness of God.  I believe firmly that God does not so much care about the outcome as God cares about what we do to each other in the process.  Will we tear each other down in the process, or tear down walls so that we come closer together?  Will be build up fences, or build up love and collegiality?  The commandment Jesus gave was “Love your neighbor as yourself”, not “Figure out the rules no matter what even if it means you end up hating each other.”

The fact of the matter is, we will never know all the answers about who God is or what God wants.  God, by definition, is infinite- God passes all understanding.  Why then, are we so willing to forsake relationships in order to try and bound God up in our rules and definitions?  Scripture helps us to learn about God, but as we know we come out with different outcomes when using it solely to define God (see my post here for more on that). Read the rest of this entry »