Thursday, June 26, 2014

Resurrection City

Resurrection City: A Theology of Improvisation on Amazon by Peter Goodwin Heltzel

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free through The Speakeasy and I was not required to write a positive review; the opinions in this review are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR Part 255.

resurrection city cover"Resurrection City offers a Christian prophetic vision for justice... in "the style of improvisation players of jazz offer." After all, "...traditional theology has most often been written in the style of Western classical music." ...the style of Western classical music? Despite the Christian scriptures not originating in the contemporary western world, until recently, most theologians have originated in the contemporary western hemisphere, so how else are they going to express themselves? Yet still I appreciate "classical music" in the sentence, since jazz also is a musical genre, and in this case, comparisons can be valid.

Resurrection City moves along at the approximate pace of the biblical book of Acts, and like Acts, brings us stories of discipleship, exploitation, inclusion, injustice, healing, conflict, resolution, and resurrection from death. Like Acts, Resurrection City tells us of the eschatological reign of the Spirit that raised Jesus Christ from the dead. According to the author, Resurrection City has [at least] a double meaning: new life for the poor, heaven in the biblical book of Revelation, "an ethical goal and future destination for world Christianity." Although the book title refers to many locations and ways of being, most specifically Resurrection City is the Beloved Community that gathered and grew in Washington, D.C., beginning in spring 1968 after the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr.

Out of a thoroughly orthodox Theological (Christological, Pneumatological) perspective, author Peter Goodwin Heltzel chronicles triumphs that have occurred because of faith-filled prayer, discernment, direct, and less-than-direct action. Heltzel outlines possibilities for a more inclusive, more justice-oriented future for the entire planet. You could describe much of Resurrection City as scripturally-based instructions and encouragements of ways to "practice resurrection" until the real, enduring experience of God doing a New Thing happens in the power of the Holy Spirit. The blues are a state of mind, blues often signal it's time to start reaching for change, sometimes a case of the blues is a place to rest and reflect for a while. In Peter Heltzel's Resurrection City, blues and jazz are all of the above. Very very highly recommend!

my amazon review: improvisation into resurrection

Friday, June 13, 2014

Friday the 13th 5

Karla hosts Friday 5, right on time for Friday the 13th

SO, let’s get right on it―

1. Are you superstitious about anything?

I'm always reluctant to mention new possibilities to anyone until the deal is very close to being signed, sealed, and delivered. Some kind of anxiety that it might not happen if I speak too soon, so that sounds like a type of minor superstition.

2. Karla tells us "I’m going on vacation on Tuesday," and asks, "What are you looking forward to?"

I'll refer and defer to my answer to (1) for this one. Yes, there's almost definitely something new and exciting in my future... leavin' it hangin' at that.

3. There is a lot going on in sports right now–World Cup, Basketball finals, and much more. If your life were a sport, what would it be, and why?

I'm not a big sports fan, though I've been known to get very excited by the NBA finals, and (of course), World Series when Red Sox are playing. One of my bosses told me I loved "the thrill of the chase," and that I do, so despite my almost never acting remotely like a drama queen, I'll describe my life as a baseball game, with indeterminate length of innings and entire games, some small, subtle dramatic moments you'd need to be looking for and almost expecting even to notice, some others so large, public and spectacular you couldn't miss them. We're also talkin' totally unpredictable number of innings, too. I think the longest game I experienced live in the ballpark was 17 innings, a close parallel to the recent Times and Innings of my Own Life.

4. Hey! Remember orange push-up ice cream treats? What happened to them? What is one of your favorite summer treats? Ice cream sandwich, popsicles, frozen grapes, fruit pizza, DQ Dilly Bar, etc.?

I esp loved the orange covered vanilla ice cream on a stick—I think they called it dreamsicle where I lived; also fudgesicle, chocolate covered, and at one point and place the ice cream sandwiches were awesome because the chocolate cookie part was soft and a little chewy, like a brownie.

5. So there is this thing called “Listserve” that picks one random person per day to write an email to like a million people world-wide. It’s pretty cool. Some people make music suggestions, offer sage advice, or plug their latest interest/project. If you could write a note to a million people around the world, what would you say?

The best I can do is to counsel everyone they need to find a viable, (reasonably healthy) supportive, church or other community that will love, challenge, encourage, and hold them accountable, because without that, mere individual efforts to keep on keepin' on will not succeed. I needed to end today's play on a serious note of advice to myself.

Thursday, June 05, 2014

Theology from Exile: Luke

Legal note - "Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this product for free from The Speakeasy in hope that I would mention it on my blog, with no requirement to write a positive review. I am disclosing this in accordance with Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR. Part 255: 'Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.'"

Theology from Exile: Commentary on the Revised Common Lectionary for an Emerging Christianity on Amazon

Gaia Rising, Sea Raven's blog

Many of my remarks about Sea Raven's commentary for RCL Year A, Matthew, also apply to this book about Luke's gospel.

About Exile in the book title:
Who are the exiles from the Church of Jesus Christ today? Those who have left the interventionist God of childhood far behind, who have set down roots in a latter-day Babylon, where new understandings about who Jesus was and what Jesus said reconstruct and transform the faith. These exiles ... find salvation in the awesome nature of the cosmos, and divinity revealed in all acts of compassionate justice.... [pp. 12-13 in the digital pdf edition]

On page 19: "Postmodern, post-enlightenment people cannot reconcile a changing, developing, evolving postmodern, post-enlightenment cosmology with traditional religious belief." Oh. I didn't realize that. I'm totally cool with a 3-layered universe (but what's a firmament?). Reminding myself and my readers that the Way of Jesus is comprehensive: political; economic; social; spiritual―and translatable, transferrable to any culture, because as did everything about all lives everywhere, it began incarnate in a particular culture. As SR observes [page 46], "The organizers of Christian tradition were masters of the appropriation of local cultural myth and metaphor."

Sea Raven frames her thoughts on the RCL texts by presenting the God of the bible as nonviolent, inclusive, oriented to distributive (rather than retributive) justice, and to deliverance. Sometimes I love the author's energetic explanations because so many of hers agree with mine, but then she apparently needs to let us know she is right because her theology is on the left, and her more "fundamentalist" siblings in Christ have it mostly wrong. Not left. This is the year 2014, and I'm definitely post-enlightenment and post-modern, but I also do mystery, paradox, ambiguity, and all those less than-logical, not-intellectual, non-physical dimensions of life and divinity and humanity quite well. But then again, at one point in the text, she acknowledges the ability to live with ambiguity and irresolution is a mark of spiritual and human maturity. But in her Trinity Sunday chapter, on page 117] she has it so correct that in this postmodern world, "Somehow the concept of 'grace' (charis – 'free gift') has become anything but 'free.'"

Luke is far and away my favorite of the four canonical gospels, so I approached this book with a more open heart and mind than I did the parallel Matthew volume. Of course Sea Raven "cherry-picks" her interpretations the same way the Revised Common Lectionary "elves" (name taken from Tolkien) choose their texts. And it's important to remember this series does not pretend or aspire to be of the same scope as (for example) Anchor or Interpreter's Bibles. Although I've participated in churches of differing traditions, all have been (progressive, liberal, etc.) relatively activist types who regularly reach out to their neighbors nearby and beyond, so I don't know for sure if Sea Raven's suggestions about more fundamental / conservative / evangelical scriptural interpretation are exaggerated, facetious, or not. Or what. Unlike in her Matthew, Raven includes propers for Reformation Day / Sunday in the main body of the book; she writes about Monday through Saturday of Holy Week in Appendix Two. In both Sea Raven's Matthew and Luke, I truly appreciated being able to read through and consider micro-commentaries on the entire church year by turning a couple hundred pages. I love that she included at least three passages describing the Eucharist from creationist Matthew Fox. She includes nice baptismal and eucharistic liturgies, as well; you easily could use them as-is, though In my own tradition I'd want to expand those somewhat. The conclusion to my review of SR's Matthew also applies to her Luke: "...Theology from Exile still is a useful, insight-filled resource; it's a keeper for my library!"

my amazon review: Sea Raven on Luke