Wednesday, April 22, 2015

earth day 2015

earth day 20154Thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel, to all the exiles whom I have sent into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon: 5Build houses and live in them; plant gardens and eat what they produce. 6Take wives and have sons and daughters; take wives for your sons, and give your daughters in marriage, that they may bear sons and daughters; multiply there, and do not decrease. 7But seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the Lord on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare.

11For surely I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord, plans for your welfare and not for harm, to give you a future with hope. 12Then when you call upon me and come and pray to me, I will hear you. 13When you search for me, you will find me; if you seek me with all your heart, 14I will let you find me, says the Lord, and I will restore your fortunes and gather you from all the nations and all the places where I have driven you, says the Lord, and I will bring you back to the place from which I sent you into exile. Jeremiah 29

This is the original version of Bloom Where You Are Planted, and a perfect text for any celebration of Earth Day―maybe especially Earth Day 2015, since this is the second year of the #GreenCities initiative. Many people love to seize and claim verse 11, "I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord… to give you a future with hope." But holding onto that verse without the full context omits the condition of God's promise: obedience. As Walter Brueggemann points out in Out of Babylon, "this text urges coming to terms with the empire as the unavoidable matrix for Jewish well-being. [page 8] and "…it is Babylon that becomes (for now) a venue for shalom." [page 9] We know Jeremiah lived deeply informed by and responsive to the tradition of Deuteronomy with its demands of hospitality and care for all, of covenantal obedience—its emphasis on forgiveness, grace, and newness.

Our contemporary situation in the USA closely parallels the exiles in Babylon (faithful in Rome, Spain, Great Britain…) as accretions, outrages, attractions, and demands of empire surround and often seem to overwhelm us. Truly we cannot escape to some ideal oblivion, an unknown nowhere – remember erewhon? – and in the power of the Spirit we need to create local, covenantal life where we are—in spite of empire. And then, there's another condition: God's overwhelming response of grace when humans don't quite measure up to the standards of the commands.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

april synchroblog: stewardship trilogy

Bearing Fruit is this year's April Synchroblog topic! Is it not incredibly comforting, reassuring and freeing that we discover bearing fruit in the scriptural context of Jesus' vine and branches discourse?! I believe it is! Bearing fruit is an especially fitting theme for Earth Day; although April 22 (tomorrow, Wednesday this year) is the official, formal Earth Day date, many individuals, organizations, cities, counties, and towns celebrate with festivities on the nearest weekend. My synchroblog contribution is a trio of stewardship designs I created a while back, and re-imagined for this event.

Go and Bear Fruit—John 15:16

16You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you might go and bear fruit, and that your fruit would remain, that whatever you ask the Father in my name he may give you. 17These things I command you, that you love one another. John 15

go and bear fruit

Sow Bountifully; Reap Bountifully—2 Corinthians 9:6

6But this I say: He who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and he who sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. 7So let each one give as he purposes in his heart, not grudgingly or of necessity; for God loves a cheerful giver. 8And God is able to make all grace abound toward you, that you, always having all sufficiency in all things, may have an abundance for every good work. 9As it is written:
“He has dispersed abroad,
He has given to the poor;
His righteousness endures forever.” Psalm 112:9
10Now may he who supplies seed to the sower, and bread for food, supply and multiply the seed you have sown and increase the fruits of your righteousness, 11while you are enriched in everything for all liberality, which causes thanksgiving through us to God. 2 Corinthians 9

sow bountifully, reap bountifully

Servants and Stewards—1 Corinthians 4:1

1Consider us in this way, as servants of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God. 1 Corinthians 4

servants and stewards

Other April Synchroblog Participants:

Tuesday, April 07, 2015

Jesus Swagger: review

Jesus Swagger bookJesus Swagger: Break Free from Poser Christianity by Jarrid Wilson on Amazon.

Jesus Swagger, the website.

"Jesus swagger is a relentless, bold, and audacious way of living―one that ignores all opposition in order to live out the life that Christ has called us to live." ―definition on page 128 at the conclusion of the author's reflections on the life, death, testimony, and witness of Dietrich Bonhoeffer. Besides Bonhoeffer, Wilson writes about two other mega-superstar Christians he admires tremendously: Martin Luther King, Jr., and Mother Teresa of Kolkata. You know, those usual, typical examples the rest of us can't imagine emulating, yet Jesus Swagger the book is about ways those rest of us more ordinary followers of Jesus can impact the world, can initiate true transformations in lives around us and in our own lives.

When a person assumes Jesus Swagger, they "break free from poser Christianity." Millennial Pastor Jarrid Wilson brings us a readable, challenging book about actually doing the Word and being the Word. About being the change the world needs. What lifestyle do our actions and our appearance suggest and portray? [pages 34-35] Why would we plant ourselves anywhere we wouldn't get rich soil and proper nutrients? Too often too many of us do, but in author Jarrid's experience (and mine, as well) God tends to uproot and replant us into better surroundings. That's grace. Yet how about getting into the midst of secular culture to help transform it with your Jesus swagger style? [page 92] "...Jesus came to reclaim culture, not reject it."

This is about my story! [page 79] "When I begin to evaluate what people are actually looking for in a church setting, none times out of ten I will get a response that has to do with finding a community of people to do life with." (italics mine) Jarrid continues, "If this is the case, then I can't see why an Acts 2 model of a deepened sense of community and founded on the power of the Holy Spirit would not work."

Jesus gives not a hint of obedience to provide our best happiness here and now, but rather obedience acknowledges "...the pure, all-encompassing rightness of God's commandments, and how critical they are to the foundation of a righteous life." [page 112] Partial obedience is disobedience. [xxiv] When anyone starts rocking Jesus swagger, "The old you will slowly be transformed into a righteous individual who seeks justice, grace, and the pursuit of righteous living." I love the word slowly, because if you've been following Jesus for any length of time, most likely you get discouraged and close to despair at times, yet every one of us probably can glance back and excitedly realize how far God has brought us. [pages 99-100]

This is such a good book! Accessible to a brand-new Christian and to a seasoned one; for content, Jesus Swagger gets a solid four star rating, moving in the five star direction. However, although Wilson writes well and conveys his ideas with conviction, he uses passive voice far too many times―to the extent passive pretty much pervades the book. I'd love to see the next edition of Jesus Swagger with the same basic content edited for more dynamically expressive English.

I received a copy of this book from author, publisher, distributor, publicist, or agent with no requirement to write a positive review. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255.

my amazon review: live the word; be the word

Friday, April 03, 2015

triduum 2: friday

good friday

Today, Good Friday, I attended noonday tenebrae at Church Around the Corner. Surprisingly, the photos I took of the chancel didn't turn out well at all: exposure, etc. was fine, but composition and vantage point weren't, so I'm not posting any here or on fb. We heard the passion account from the Gospel of John; we sang and meditated upon several hymns, including:

When I survey the wondrous cross
on which the Prince of glory died,
my richest gain I count but loss,
and pour contempt on all my pride.

Were the whole realm of nature mine,
that were a present far too small.
Love so amazing, so divine,
demands my soul, my life, my all.

Isaac Watts

We left the building in silence.

Thursday, April 02, 2015

triduum 1: thursday

bread cup 2

For Maundy Thursday 2015, I attended noonday liturgy at Church Around the Corner. Evenings are the usual time of day for Maundy Thursday worship, but CAC offers noon services on both Maundy Thursday and Good Friday. Today brought memories. As associate I often got to preach on Maundy Thursday. When I returned to the east coast at the end of the last century and walked over to a nearby church for Maundy Thursday afternoon liturgy, the pastor asked if I wanted to read one of the lections…an actual invitation, instead of my offering and getting turned down! During Holy Week the three years SM served as called interim at the PCUSA I used to attend, we planned and led daily eucharist together; instead of celebrating Maundy Thursday twice, we claimed the noon time liturgy as Thursday in Holy Week. On Maundy Thursdays north minster practiced the ordinance of [semi-dramatic blog post about] foot-washing—as does Church On the Hill. Some traditions consider foot-washing a sacrament, and why not, given that the rite employs gifts of creation at Jesus' direct command?!

Early this afternoon we heard words of absolution for the first time since before Lent began. Then I received a touch of reconciliation from Pastor N. I'm not and never have been heavily into sin and guilt, but like most people, I need actions and ways to put my past into perspective, to make past events and experiences integral parts of my future rather than roadblocks in its path. I've never been seriously into sin and guilt, but I've long had an overwhelming sense of brokenness, apartness, of asunderness—Paul Tillich suggests sin and asunder may have the same root. No matter how generously one interprets it, I've lived with a real separation from purpose, from community. Sometimes from other individual people. Jesus' willing act of total reconciliation embraces all creation, all apartness, asunderness, and brokenness. Today we celebrated a simple eucharist, very different from the elaborate extended setting CAC often uses on Sundays. In that blessed, broken, given – and taken – shared bread and cup, we discover and we are the fullness of the new creation in Christ Jesus. "A foretaste of the feast to come."

But you are holy, enthroned upon the praises of Israel. Psalm 22:3