Saturday, April 22, 2006

Earth Day 2006

Earth Day Farm 2006

Plant, weed, water nurture mulch
Pull up out of the ground
Castaway off
Look around and see
Where once-time weeds root for life

(Green and) Growing Season
also known as Ordinary Time
so growing is regular, usual and conventional?

Joshua 18:1

Then the whole congregation of the children of Israel assembled together at Shiloh, and set up the tent of meeting there; the land lay subdued before them.

But why are you called a Christian?

"Because by faith I share in Christ's anointing, and I am anointed to reign with Christ over all creation for all eternity." [somewhere in the Heidelberg Catechism]
I need to quote Walter Brueggemann again; he essentially says, "Of course the trees clap their hands! No more clear-cutting! Why wouldn't the seas (and everything in them) roar? No more pollution!"

Gather a harvest from the seeds that were sown—that we may be fed with the Bread of Life.

Doesn't the ultimate Earth Day happen every time we celebrate the Eucharist—maybe especially in an ecumenical setting? When the presider collects the ground's fruitful yield plus the sum of the labor of farmers, vintners, day laborers, truckers, grocers, bakers, sellers, weavers and potters, carpenters and contractors, too. We offer back to God the fruits of the New Creation and then God feeds us the Bread of Life! In the Christ Event, all creation has been reconciled to heaven; the Risen and Ascended One indwells all creation, and is Lord of all—this is a foretaste of the Feast to Come!

Let us Talents and Tongues Employ

Let us talents and tongues employ,
reaching out with a shout of joy:
bread is broken, the wine is poured,
Christ is spoken and seen and heard.
Jesus lives again, earth can breathe again,
pass the Word around: loaves abound!

Christ is able to make us one,
at his table he sets the tone,
teaching people to live to bless,
love in word and in deed express.
Jesus lives again, earth can breathe again,
pass the Word around: loaves abound!

Jesus calls us in, sends us out
bearing fruit in a world of doubt,
gives us love to tell, bread to share:
God, Immanuel, everywhere!
Jesus lives again, earth can breathe again,
pass the Word around: loaves abound!

© Fred Kaan 1975
earth day 2006

Friday, April 14, 2006


O my people, what have I done to you? How have I grieved you?
I freed you from slavery; I engulfed your enemies.
But you handed me over; you jeered at me.

O my people, what have I done to you? How have I grieved you?
I moved before you in the pillar of cloud.
But you lead me to Pilate.

O my people, what have I done to you? How have I grieved you?
I watched over you in the desert and fed you with my manna.
But you struck me and scourged me.

O my people, what have I done to you? How have I grieved you?
From the rock I gave you living waters of salvation.
But you gave me gall to drink; you quenched my thirst with sour wine.

O my people, what have I done to you? How have I grieved you?
I struck down kings for you.
But you struck me with a reed.

O my people, what have I done to you? How have I grieved you?
I put the scepter into your hand; I made you a royal people.
But you crowned me with thorns.

O my people, what have I done to you? How have I grieved you?
I made you great by my boundless power.
But you hanged me on the gallows of the cross.

O my people, what have I done to you? How have I grieved you?

Thursday, April 13, 2006

Yahweh, Exodus, Amos; Maundy Thursday 2006

Lining out Yahweh's universalism in chapter 7 - "Exodus in the Plural" - of Texts That Linger, Words That Explode, Walter Brueggemann cites Amos 9:7.
"Are you not like the people of Ethiopia to Me,
O children of Israel?" says the LORD.
"Did I not bring up Israel from the land of Egypt,
The Philistines from Caphtor,
And the Syrians from Kir?" [NKJV]

9:7 "Are ye not as children of the Ethiopians unto me, O children of Israel? saith the LORD. Have not I brought up Israel out of the land of Egypt? and the Philistines from Caphtor, and the Syrians from Kir?" [KJV]

9:7 Are ye not as the children of the Ethiopians unto Me, O children of Israel? saith HaShem. Have not I brought up Israel out of the land of Egypt, and the Philistines from Caphtor, and Aram from Kir? [JPS Tanakh]
Universalism, as contrasted with possible (possible? More like frequent!) particularism in the situations of both Israel and the Church. Exegeting 9:7 and Amos' entire enterprise, rather than a unique God (Yahweh) of a unique people (Israel), Brueggemann suggests the God Self-revealed as Yahweh to the people who became Israel had, has and will have parallel histories with other, foreign(!) peoples. Amos specifically mentions African and Middle-Eastern people, who can serve as symbols for other non-synagogue, non-church populations. After all, because this ever-living God without physical or any other particular genealogy creates humanity in his own image, necessarily he will relate to and liberate not just a single ethnically distinct group, but many diverse others, too. Because Yahweh-Elohim longingly, passionately reaches out (to run with another dimension of the familiar spatial imagery: down!?) to encounter individuals into personhood and community, why would Yahweh not self-reveal with a name meaningful to and expressible by non-Semitic speakers?

God's initiative... remember, Moses' people had no knowledge of the Genesis narratives about Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and their God, so they could not help but be clueless about Yahwism; in addition, raised as a Prince of Egypt, Moses had no knowledge of and therefore no way of proclaiming any other small-g god or gods to his charges. In plain language (English, this time), Yahweh is the God who answers prayer no matter what, not solely particular kinds of prayers of particular persons.

As the ultimate first responder, God always Self-reveals first; despite the people of his creation imagining they could ascend to heaven, God always descends to bring them up to heaven. In response to any cry of enslavement, addiction, desperation and pain, God declares any oppressed person, individual or people "My people!" In simple (economic again!) terms, God possesses, owns, owes, "oughts" obligates Godself to broken creation, actually to all creation, shattered or whole... God places Godself in a position of indebtedness and then more than repays those debts, (financial!) obligations.

A thread of the literally vital necessity of forgiveness (debt repayment) runs through many biblical texts, as we learn about our obligation to forgive each other and about God's all-merciful forgiving nature and attitude toward us. The Tanakh lays out the complex sacrificial requirements for appeasing heaven to gain forgiveness—or, in biblical terms, not for us to gain forgiveness but for heaven to grant it! Throughout the bible's witness, debt and sin essentially are synonymous.

Yahweh's name is Liberator; this Yahweh's activity is liberation. In the New Covenant scriptures we meet Jesus/Joshua named Savior. I love quoting WB—"this baby name Save!" Jesus of Nazareth, who excludes no one from his Welcome Table. After all, the feast could not be truly eschatological without all creation present, could it?! Leading to...

Maundy Thursday, April 13, 2006

This week every day at noon, some of us have been gathering around Word and Sacrament. The journey to the cross has felt real—starting Monday, with the palms from last Sunday's triumphal entry beginning to rot and stink, through each day's increasingly solemn music and preaching. Then finally, this evening we celebrated what for me is the year's liturgical highlight. Back in inner-city Boston, we'd sometimes sing:

I'm gonna sit at the welcome table
I'm gonna sit at the welcome table, one of these days
I'm gonna eat at the welcome table, one of these days!
I'm gonna eat at the welcome table,
I'm gonna feast on milk and honey,
I'm gonna feast on milk and honey, one of these days!

I'm going to eat at the welcome table
Oh, yes, we did! And we will again!

Graham Kendrick, Knowing You:
"To be found my Lord, in a death like yours—so to live with you and never die..."
From the Magi's story in the Birth trilogy of The Magnificent Defeat by Frederick Buechner:
"And now, friends, I will ask you a terrible question, and, God knows, I ask it of myself as well.

"Is the truth beyond all truths—beyond the stars—just this: That to live without Him is the real death; that to die with Him is the only Life?"

Sunday, April 09, 2006

Emerging Church

Emerging Church, emerging churches

Due to my lack of knowledge and even basic information about the subject, this will be a short blog about the Emerging Church Movement, together with a few slightly connected ideas and observations from my experience.

First question: from what, when or where is the Church, are these churches emerging, or springing forth? Already we're familiar with a structure, entity or (best definition) organic reality known as church, so the more-or-less known church could be the what. From when? A logical response could be the new church is being born from a when of incubation or gestation, usually quantifiable in linear time if not always in a where of geographical longitude and latitude. However, what, when and where all take their place within history's eventfulness, so having started this blog by attempting to seem smart, on to the real topic.

A lot of what I've noticed happening tangential to my immediate world but especially just a little further down the pike convinces me that we [the churches] need to begin imagining new liturgical models, which still will focus on Word and Sacrament in a fully participatory manner—full participation as audacious counterpoint to the entertainment worship that's becoming prevalent in the more politically and socially conservative fundamentalist world and even sneaking in to mainline Protestantism and Roman Catholicism. Some congregations deliberately quest to become like those other churches across the street, down the boulevard, or in geographically near, but more visibly - at times ostentatiously so - affluent areas. Although I hesitate to write "evangelical," that was the Reformer's word for Protestantism in general and evangelical remains the word for "Protestant" in non-English speaking countries. Nonetheless, my readers know what I'm trying to say! To quote Krister Stendahl, "I hope we all are evangelical!" And I trust we all speak and walk the Gospel Good News, evangelion!

Mennonite, Moravian, Brethren

January's Faith, Order, Witness guest, whose house church is loosely Mennonite-affiliated, told our group the members of the community hadn't resonated with or been able to relate to more conventional churches at least for some time—if ever. When our mainline group asked, But is it sacramental??? He replied yes: we celebrate eucharist every week and we study the Word—rather, the Word studies us! He didn't mention baptism, though I'm aware Mennonites are Anabaptists and as such, officially have a low, essentially functional (sign of grace) rather than sacramental (mighty act of God and means of grace) view of baptism, despite affirming its necessity in obedience.

Our January visitor explained that his church first receives people into membership, then teaches them, and as a gradual process they assume appropriate Christian behaviors and lifestyle. In the formal Faith Journey I compiled a couple years ago, I referred to "performing the scriptures," and that particular house church tries doing exactly that, so as individuals and as community they'll become transformed into the shape of the biblical narrative as the Word re-shapes and re-forms them. But how do you line out the history of the people of God journeying in trust from slavery into servanthood? From bondage into personhood? From individualism into covenantal community? Could it happen, can it be done, by walking that walk oneself, the arduous, sometimes surprisingly joy-filled trek from pseudo-dependence upon self to total dependence upon God and community, so it becomes our (your, my) testimony to tell? That could be an exciting and a contagious way to live!

For both children and adults, the old model for full church membership was catechesis first and then full membership; however, the non-Anabaptist (Roman and Anglo Catholic, as well as we who formally identity with the Reformation's "Right Wing" ok, Lutheran and Reformed...) churches long have assumed baptized infants and youngsters as members. On Sundays and festival days the early church allowed catechumens to remain at worship only through the liturgy of the Word—the eucharistic portion was exclusively for the baptized. These days I'm giving that some thought!

Culturally Congruent=Counter-Culturally Incongruent

A dozen or more years ago "you are what you eat" was a buzz-phrase. During those same yesteryears, writing about a meeting of the local Lutheran-Episcopal Dialogue (styled LED), rather than getting arcanely theological since I wrote the paper for intro cultural anthro or anthro of religion, I observed one of the ways to be yuppie was to eat quiche and salad accompanied by box wine, though as I recall, the AELC congregation hosting the event was German in origin and probably served good wine during the repast (I'm relatively undiscriminating and quite unknowledgeable regarding spirits), especially since Angelica of Franciscan California mission origin was their usual sacramental wine. At least the food part of the event was congruent with the current culture, though the worship and discussion sections weren't! I also stated that in every culture, food has immense symbolic meaning, and particular foods become identified with and readily recognized as belonging to certain lifestyles, and thus are capable of symbolizing those lifestyles. Early on people learn to decode what a specific configuration of food means as class, as ethnic, or as personal symbol. In each of our lives, food is an essential part of the creation and sustenance of the self-image each one of us determines both consciously and unconsciously, and that consciously and unconsciously gets read, then received or rejected by others; whether high or low, ethnic or vernacular, cuisine is major ingredient in the interaction between individual self-definition and society's definition of that person. And a causative factor in class mobility: change your diet, change your life. Here's my invitation for you to translate this entire paragraph into Christianese?

Korean Presbyterian – assume both words are adjectives rather than nouns

The blazing success of evangelization in Korea by the Presbyterian branch of the Church is well-known, but I heard about a Korean Christian telling an American Presbyterian it was wonderful Presbyterians brought the flower of the gospel to Korea, but they definitely did not need the flowerpot!

About an hour ago I heard Bruce Hornsby and the Range singing When the sun goes down on the Water Town,...or, in my case, when the sun goes down on Watertown, Massachusetts, where I lived during my last semester in seminary. When the created sun goes down on anytown, without a doubt it rises the next morning on that same town unless it's rainy and overcast, but it rises everywhere else, too, sometimes at the same chronological hour, sometimes at different hours, but every sunsets and sunrises happens on history in motion—on a venue of God's creation and redemption.

Being Christian

Philip MelanchthonOne more time:

•"The Church is the congregation of saints, in which the Gospel is rightly taught and the Sacraments are rightly administered. And to the true unity of the Church it is enough to agree concerning the doctrine of the Gospel and the administration of the Sacraments. Nor is it necessary that human traditions, that is, rites or ceremonies, instituted by men, should be everywhere alike. As Paul says: One faith, one Baptism, one God and Father of all, etc. Eph. 4, 5. 6." Philipp Melanchthon, Augsburg Confession, Article 7.

John Calvin, Holbein porterait•"Wherever we see the Word of God purely preached and heard, and the sacraments administered according to Christ's institution, there, it is not to be doubted, a church of God exists." John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion, Vol. 4, chapter 1, section 9.

Luther's Seven marks of the Church

Word, Baptism, Eucharist, Office of the Keys [confession and absolution], Office of Ministry, Worship, suffering and persecution [cross].

In plain words, works are not the primary marks of the church; the primary mark of the church is the presence of Jesus Christ, being in Christ, faithfulness in Word and Sacrament. Regarding approaches to liturgy and homiletics, Nor is it necessary that human traditions, that is, rites or ceremonies, instituted by men, should be everywhere alike. As post-modern creatures yet descendants of the industrial, post-industrial, technological and cyber-revolutions, we need to trust that works are neither the major mark of any Christian person nor of the church; but as gifts of the Spirit, to the same extent as faith is a spiritual gift, works happen in strange places and in surprising ways as historical events measurable in time and space. Living in trust as human beings rather than human doings—not doing human but rather being human!

Being American

For a couple of centuries during, taking upon oneself a vital piece of American culture meant to be mainline protestant. Parents would make sure their kids went to Sunday School; often people who'd drifted away or left church would return to church because they wanted their offspring to have a moral education. So true that for ages Americanism almost equaled Protestantism, but as immigrants moved up the alleged social ladder and became financially articulate, they became hyphenated into Italian- Irish- Polish-American, so Roman Catholic Christianity gradually became a way of being American. One of the hallmarks of the Reformation Church was biblically well-read and theologically well-educated laity—hardly the theologically and biblically close-to-illiterate folks trying to sit comfortably in the pews these days, but maybe they're trying to keep up with the assumption they grew up with that part of being American means church attendance? Word: this afternoon I noticed a song called "Springtime Jesus" in a Sunday worship bulletin. Where in the Bible can I find Springtime Jesus? Sacrament: little perceived hunger for the bread of life and the cup of salvation; too many instances of the blasphemy of rebaptism at the request of parents or significant others.

Being American 2

I mentioned "new liturgical models," so how about looking out from the church and in at secular society's new "liturgical models"? Cities of all sizes in this country and in Europe have been rediscovering neighborhood as a social setting, with the multitude of creatively revived downtown shopping centers designed to facilitate face-to-face and group interaction. Here in San Diego the Gaslamp Quarter immediately comes to mind, as does the Padre's Petco Park, whose(?) presence has been generating new and revitalized housing, with soothsaying that by 2030 I don't recall how many people will work and live downtown. Urban revivals and rebuildings have happened as reactions to decay, displacement and demolition. Referring once more to our FOW guest's house church, the kind of coming together he describes is what people seek and are finding in the cities these days: casual, routine, social interactions that build trust and grow persons as well as communities. Ironically, I write all of this from the notoriously anomic and anonymous section of Clairemont: a few blocks down the street from here some of the 9/11 terrorists could be so invisible not a single person wondered about their comings and goings or thought anything clandestine was happening right next door. This being the section of town it is, most likely no one thought at all. My condo complex feels anonymous, too, but I'm well aware (poignantly so?) I wisely (really!) grabbed this property as soon as it was available, despite hankering after City Heights and North Park. Time to quit this reflection.

Friday, April 07, 2006

...the world celebrates...

...the world celebrates the love of God in the world celebrates...

I had to post this! Many moons ago I did graphics of it for our church newsletter and for a poster in the social hall; though I don't recall whether or not it's original, it sounds like something I'd still say today.