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Archive for November, 2009

wordcraft for the first sunday of advent:

candles brightly shining
in a season of advent underlying
the scandal of incarnation and joy

for many years ago
in birthpangs to-and-fro
a chosen girl births life into the world

and as angels sound the praise
of the Ancient of Days
and Immanuel, God born among us, comes forth

great hope pierces the horizon
in this Child with mother lying
the scene of tranquility and rest

a future glimpse is that moment
quiet cooing of an Infant
whose Life shines out beyond time and space

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in opening his book called ‘simpler living, compassionate life’, michael schut observes that although we in “the west” have achieved more, created more, conquered more, and realized more than most others in the history of the world, yet there remains a longing within…a missing piece to our perfect puzzle.  how can this be? 

how can we have so much and still be wanting?  perhaps in our striving for seeking and attaining more things, we have lost an essential element of our lives…or perhaps obscured it.  maybe our confusion comes from how we have defined the ‘good life’ and perhaps mistakenly made that ‘the abundant life’ that Jesus so richly promised. 

if we somehow shifted away from the patterns of overconsumption, would we be left still more hollow?

would it be like what Jesus describes in luke 11, where an evil spirit is cast out of a person, but since nothing replaced it, it goes and gets a bunch more evil spirits and they come back and the man is worse off then when he started? 

william gibson, founder of cornell university’s eco-justice project, once pointed out that consumerism is itself a substitute, a most unsatisfactory – though addictive – substitute for that which makes human life meaningful and fulfilling: loving, caring relationships with one another and with God.  in short, consumerism can be seen as a substitute for life-giving community. 

consumerism is a bad substitute for, and therefore a barrier to, community.  it can keep us from community, because our goal – our identity – becomes entwined with our stuff…what we consume and accumulate for ourselves.  

recently, my friend jason coker spoke at verge l.a. 2009 about “economy and mission”, and I’d like to share his considerable thoughts on this, because we should all consider them:

 Manna in the Desert
There are several powerful economic stories in scripture, but I’d like to suggest that the defining economic narrative for the Kingdom is found in Exodus Chapter 16. It’s a familiar story. The Israelites are sojourning in the dessert, starving and desperate, and God caused food to fall from heaven. Manna in the desert. We tell this story to remember that true sustenance comes from God – including the eternal sustenance of Christ (John 6) – but something else amazing happened those forty years in the dessert, something that has direct bearing on our economic orientation as a community of faith, and we almost never discuss it in American churches because it disrupts our preferred neo-liberal economic narrative: Exodus 16:18 recounts that after the Manna fell,

“He who gathered much did not have too much, and he who gathered little did not have too little” (Ex 16:18).

What this means, bluntly, is that God’s generous daily gift created an economy of open sharing. Paul explicitly exegetes what Exodus implies, flatly stating in 2 Cor 8 that whoever gathered too much shared with those who gathered too little, thereby creating a society of genuine economic equality. Paul then confers this same economy to the early Church, saying,

“Our desire is not that others might be relieved while you are hard pressed, but that there might be equality. At the present time your plenty will supply what they need, so that in turn their plenty will supply what you need. Then there will be equality” (2 Cor 8:13-14).

God even created a mechanism for those desert-dwelling Hebrews to insure that selfish hoarding couldn’t occur: any Manna stored for more than one day (other than on Friday) quickly infested with maggots (Ex 16:19-20), thereby creating the powerful object lesson that greed invites decay into the community of God.

Questions:

  1. What narratives (biblical or secular) would you say presently define the economic orientation of U.S. Churches and Christians? Why?
  2. How can the story of Manna in the desert challenge our economic thinking?
  3. What does “equality” mean to us as Americans? How does Paul use this word differently in 2 Cor 8 than we usually mean it?

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Therefore Pilate entered again into the Praetorium, and summoned Jesus and said to Him, “Are You the King of the Jews?”  Jesus answered, “Are you saying this on your own initiative, or did others tell you about Me?”  Pilate answered, “I am not a Jew, am I? Your own nation and the chief priests delivered You to me; what have You done?”  Jesus answered, “My kingdom is not of this world. If My kingdom were of this world, then My servants would be fighting so that I would not be handed over to the Jews; but as it is, My kingdom is not of this realm.” Therefore Pilate said to Him, “So You are a king?” Jesus answered, “You say correctly that I am a king For this I have been born, and for this I have come into the world, to testify to the truth Everyone who is of the truth hears My voice.”   Pilate said to Him, “What is truth?” And when he had said this, he went out again to the Jews and said to them, “I find no guilt in Him.”

john 18:33-38

verse 34 – as He does so many times, Jesus answers a question with a question…such the provocateur!

verse 35 – the pointed question finally appears: ‘what have you done?’…i think Jesus answer to this is quite revealing…

verse 36 – Jesus seems to tackle both questions at once here (“‘re you the King of the Jews?’ and ‘what have you done?’); what has Jesus done?  He has brought a kingdom not made with human hands to the earth.  this Kingdom of Heaven is truly beyond and other, and yet tangible and real…like we are: it is in the world, but not of the world.  thus the first question is answered as well, only kings bring kingdoms, the Reign of the Servant King has come…Jesus is indeed revealed as the King.

verse 38 – veritas…quo est veritas?  ah, pilate’s (in)famous question to Jesus.  now, in the Greek, ‘truth’ is ‘alétheia’…and as i grope for some understanding of truth, i’m not sure aristotle helps with his definition: ‘to say of what is that it is, and of what is not that it is not, is true.’  i was hanging with dave nixon in cincinnati awhile ago, and he explained his understanding and delved into the linguistic thought-world behind ‘alétheia’; you see the ‘a-‘ at the beginning in the Greek is a negative prefix, which we would see evident in English words like ‘il-legal’, ‘im-moral’ or ‘il-legible’; which when tied to the Greek ‘léth’ (which means to conceal or deceive or obscure) you get literally: ‘to not obscure’ or ‘to make evident’; thus the thought behind the word is something like ‘make self-evident’; and this word ‘alétheia’ is known to occur in the classical Greek literature of the Iliad and the Odyssey in connection with verbs of ‘saying’, and is tied to its opposite: to tell a lie or to deceive. in this Greek literature, we might come to conclude, for Homer the writer who is ‘telling’ an epic adventure: Truth has to do with the reliability of what is said by one person to another.  i like that.  it takes “Truth” out of the conceptual, ethereal world and puts it in the utmost practical of life-settings: how we speak to one another.

 ++Lord Jesus, thank you for your Truth.  Holy Spirit, thank you that you guide us into truth.  O Father, we love Your Truth!  Amen.++

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fog rolling in

if i haven’t mentioned it before: fog is my favorite weather! 

it represents the Spirit and the Mystery of God and His Presence to me

…and this morning, the fog is rolling in…

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the scent of lightness

rustling leaves scuffle along this pathway
marked with a firm yet restful resolve
swirling with spirit to-and-fro

awash in this wind
i catch the scent of lightness
in an unburdening breeze

joining the blazing leaves of autumn colour
i raise my sail to catch this current
yielding in delicate surrender

a fragrant foretaste that renews this wreckage
                           YHWH my Banner – caught high overhead in the steady gusts

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“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbled or where the doer of deeds could have done better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena; whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs and comes short again and again; who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotions, and spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement; and who at worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly ; so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who knew neither victory nor defeat.”

– Teddy Roosevelt

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Glorious God,
grace sprays forth
at morning’s rise
first glimpse
an encounter
fresh mercy collides
with one
whose tears
stain his eyes

 

thank you for another shot at living
even just today
let me give what You are giving
let me reach down inside to the depths
where You have planted
the seeds of hope
let me toss them to all i meet
and bless them to be found
on good growing ground
O Lord bless them to be found
on good growing ground

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