Wednesday, April 29, 2009
- Paul Loeb, "Excerpt: The Impossible Will Take a Little While," Beyond Magazine, Spring 2005, p. 12.
Monday, April 27, 2009
Here's the basic set up. It's historical fiction. The premise is that someone has discovered a set of letters exchanged among ancient noblemen in the late 1st century AD. There are at least 4 different "authors" among the various letters. One is Luke, the author of Luke and Acts, and another is Antipas, a Christian martyr in Pergamum, mentioned in the book of Revelation.
In the process of the letter writing, Antipas slowly converts from a power and prestige seeking nobleman, to a self-sacrificing, humble servant of Jesus and others. But the real value of the book is that it allows the reader to observe how Christianity was lived, interpreted, and heard among those who heard the New Testament texts for the first time.
I highly recommend this book to anyone who wants to better understand the roots of Christianity and/or the New Testament. It is fiction, but it is fiction based on deeply sound historical research.
This book gets a strong 5J's: JJJJJ.
Wednesday, April 22, 2009
For 40 years, he sat.1
For 40 years, he either crawled or was carried.
For 40 years, he needed help to get his food.
For 40 years, he needed help to get a drink of water from the well.
For 40 years, he needed help to bathe himself.
For 40 years, he needed help to go to the bathroom.
For 40 years, he watched other people do “normal” stuff of life, while he just sat.
For 40 years, he begged.
For 40 years, he was completely dependent on the generosity of others.
For 40 years, people insulted him as one who was cursed by God – punished for some unknown sins.2
For 40 years, he sat outside the temple and watched the people go in to worship.
For 40 years, he was not allowed to enter the temple because he was not “whole.”
For 40 years, he was too dirty for human touch.
For 40 years, he was just a beggar – not a person.
For 40 years, he was on the outside of social life, economic life, and religious life.
Then, three things happened that changed his life forever. ...
To continue reading this post, click here.
Tuesday, April 21, 2009
Mostly during Lent, Sarah and I read Donald Miller's Blue Like Jazz. (Thanks for the great loan Beverly!) Much like jazz music, this book has an outline, but when it comes to the details it doesn't seem like he has much of a plan. He just kind of wanders around the various topics with long, interesting, funny, touching stories, but somehow by the end of each chapter he has wrapped it all up into a very nice and thought provoking take on the topic at hand.
And all of these topics revolve around one central topic - relearning Christianity outside the traditional religious box. Miller calls this "Christian spirituality."
Miller is a great story teller, and his fresh take on lots of old topics is very enticing. Also, the book is filled with first hand stories telling in a very authentic voice his own up and down struggle to make sense of how to follow Jesus in world that has dramatically changed in the last 50 years.
I would highly recommend this book for anyone interested in faithful Christianity in our changing world. I am also seriously considering recommending the book to one of my non-Christian friends who has expressed a beginning interest in the Bible and God.
All in all, I'm torn between 4js and 5Js. Sometimes, what he presents isn't so much profound as fresh, funny and interesting, but I guess that's worth its salt too. And, I can strongly recommend the book, so I'll give it the full JJJJJ.
Wednesday, April 15, 2009
Not like the pews with names and reservations,
Not like the hair-sprayed televangelists,
Not like the nice churches who say nice things to nice people,
Here at our doors shall stand a sign: All are welcome!
Open hearts, aflame with the burning love of God,
Open, open, open, to all who come.
Keep, o normal churches,
your nice people,
your beautiful people,
your people who have their crap together and put on pretty faces.
Give us your freaks and your punks,
your hippies and granolas,
your Goths and your bikers.
Give us your homeless and your unemployed,
your job-hoppers and bed-hoppers,
your addicts and your hard drinkers.
Give us your hookers and your strippers,
your gamblers and smokers,
your dippers and your chewers.
Give us your church-haters and your liberals,
your atheists and agnostics,
your fundamentalists and your prudes.
Give us your gays and your lesbians,
your transvestites and transsexuals,
your offenders and your victims.
Give us your polluters and your tree-huggers,
your executives and lawyers,
your tax-evaders and your tax-collectors.
Give us your doubters and your name-it-and-claim-its,
your hypocrites and holier-than-thous,
your skeptics and your relativists.
Give us your seekers and your strugglers,
your lovers and haters,
your saints and your sinners.
Send us all of these, for they are like us.
We lift high the cross of Christ,
Brother of exiles, Friend of sinners.
His nail-pierced hands shout world-wide welcome
For all who long to breathe free,
For all who long to find home,
For all who didn't measure up,
For all who need a new start,
For all who want a new world.
We lift high the cross of Christ,
So that we will all be transformed together.
April 15, 2009 (author's copyright by Josh Broward)
This poem was obviously based on Emma Lazarus's famous poem, “The New Colossus,” which is inscribed on the interior of the Statue of Liberty.
Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,
With conquering limbs astride from land to land;
Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand
A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame
Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name
Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand
Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command
The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.
"Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!" cries she
With silent lips. "Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!"
My poem should not be interpreted to mean that all of the actions implied in the "send us" section are OK and morally acceptable. Rather, the interpretation should be that all of us are welcome in our brokenness to gather around the cross of Christ (the Statue of Liberty) where we will all be made free, healed, loved, and transformed. A community that welcomes like this is a means of God's healing grace for everyone concerned.
Sunday, April 12, 2009
Last week a group of KNU theology students interviewed me for a class project. One of their questions asked me to define my Philosophy of Ministry. I thought I'd share that here.
My philosophy of ministry has three core points.
1) Humility: One of my friends from seminary often says, “There is no holiness without humility.” At first I didn't really understand what he meant, but now it seems like one of the most important truths of Christianity. Humility is foundational to living like Jesus and, therefore, to being a minister. For me, humility means at least three things:
a) I can't actually lead our church. I can only help us be led by the Holy Spirit.
b) I must acknowledge my own brokenness, weakness, and sinfulness.
c) We are all equals. I must really believe in “the priesthood of all believers” (1 Peter 2:5,9). My job is not to do the work of the church; my job is to help the people do the work of the church (Ephesians 4:11-12).
2) Honesty: The favorite saying of some of my mentors is: “We cannot change or heal what we do not acknowledge.” Honesty is the first step for healing and change. As a pastor, one of my fundamental responsibilities is to speak honestly. For example:
a) Conflict must be addressed directly and personally and with humility (Matthew 5:23-24, 7:3-5, 18:15-17). Unresolved conflict is like a cancer in the church.
b) Difficulties of life and faith and church should be faced openly and honestly. It doesn't help anyone to pretend that Christianity is easy to practice or simple to believe. Life and faith are full of complexity and unresolved questions. The church is full of weakness as well as strength. Part of my job as a pastor is to speak openly and honestly about all of life – good and bad.
c) We must honestly face change the present and the future. We cannot hide in the past to make the present more comfortable. Our world is changing more quickly than ever, but the Church continues to change slowly. Part of my job as a pastor is to help us to see the changes that are happening around us and to help us make faithful changes as well.
3) Hospitality is a basic part of Christianity. Jesus and the disciples ate together and spent time in each others' homes. The also welcomed the outsiders (open sinners, the poor, the handicapped) into their table fellowship. One of the fundamental roles of the church is to open our hearts, our homes, and our churches to people who feel excluded. As a pastor, I must lead in hospitality by making our church more welcoming to nonChristians and by welcoming many different people into my home and heart.
In this book McClaren has three basic points. I'll try to summarize them briefly and then talk about the most controversial one.
1. Most of the conversation in the book is about hell. How can a good and loving God send finite creatures to enternal, conscious torment? McClaren doesn't give an outright answer. Instead, he is content to shoot down the traditional answer(s) and to suggest possible alternatives. It seems as though he advocates, overall, a position of humble agnosticism tempered by grace. Basically, we don't really know because the Bible isn't entirely clear, and in the end we have to trust in God's mercy and grace as well as in his justice.
2. As the main character embarks on this study of hell-ology, he discovers that learning and knowing happen best in community. McClaren advocates again and again the importance of a community that we "know with." In many respects the people at www.emergentnazarenes.blogspot.com serve as some of the people I "know with."
3. We are saved by grace and judged by works. Since this is (by far) his most controversial statement, let me quote a section from the voice of one of his mentoring characters:
So I'm not denying salvation by grace, no, no, not at all. It's all by grace. I'm just advocating judgment by works ...
Salvation by grace, judgement by works. There's nothing in the Bible clearer than those two realities. Of course, you have to define salvation in Jesus' way, not just modern Western Chrsitianty's [way]. ...
You thought that if you are saved, you are not judged, right? Yep, I used to think that too. I didn't realize that being judged isn't the same as being condemned and that being saved means a lot more than not being judged. For a lot of lok, salvation still means little more than escaping from the legal consequences of having original sin on your passport. For them, until you have your passport changed, which is what being saved means, you can't get through customs in heaven and you're stuck going to hell. But remember - conventional Western Christianity is the religion of the empire. It developed at a time when the church and the empire were joined at the hip, if not the heart. A lot of us didn't get too good of a deal from Imperial Christianity. [The character speaking here is a black pastor.] I guess you could say some of us have seceded from Imperial Christianity, the theology of the empire. When you secede from the theology of the empire, your understandings of salvation and judgment can change for the better. ...
Try reading through your New Testament and looking for the word judged or judgement. You'll see it as clear as day: we're judged by our works. But that's not in contradiction to being saved by grace - if you define salvation in a broader way.
This line of reasoning strikes me as intuitively true. The Bible says again that we will be judged according to the deeds we did in our bodies whether good or bad. We just read that yesterday from 2 Corinthians 5. I've had a hard time reconciling Jesus' parables which mostly imply judgment by works with Paul's discussions of being "saved by grace" and even with Paul's comments of being judged by works.
I'm still pretty sure I don't get all of this. It's hard for me as a Protestant, having grown up with the manifesto of "saved by grace through faith and not by works," to wrap my head around a different idea of salvation and judgment and works and grace. (Maybe this is part of what people refer to when they say "post-Protestant.")
However, this seems true to me, and it seems like it is a missing puzzle piece to make sense of the various pieces of the New Testament which have always seemed in tension to me. I'm still trying to figure this out, but I wanted to share with you an idea that is shaking up my theological world, possibly shaking me into a more Biblical theology. I look forward to your comments.
1. Culture Smart! Korea - by James Hoare. The subtitle is a fair summary of the book: "a quick guide to customs and etiquette." It really is quick. I read it in 1-2 days. I guess this would be a good book for someone brand new to Korea. For me, having lived here 5 years, there was only the occasional new insight (and a few things I thought weren't true). However, I also found a few healthy reminders of the Korean way of thinking and doing. Several times when I read, I thought, "Oh, yes, that's why I have trouble with Korean culture at that point. I often forget that." Also, this book has a nice but brief overview of modern Korean history which is a good review or a good introduction for newcomers. I would recommend it, but it's not profound, so 4js. jjjj.
2. Treasure Island - by Robert Louis Stevenson. This book is also not profound, but it is profoundly entertaining. It was difficult for me to stop reading even late into the night. The action never stops! The characters are well developed, and the action sequences (while not always fully credible) are entrancing. Also, the fate of the pirates in the book serves as a portrait of antinomianism (or anything goes ethics). The pirate language, swashbuckling, and the infamous Long John Silver make for a pretty cool read. I highly recommend this book for someone who wants a quick, fun read. There is a reason this is a classic! 5Js. JJJJJ.
Thursday, April 9, 2009
where I don't want to go?
How do I walk
a trial I'd rather not know?
How do I help
people hurt a good hurt?
How do I speak
broken heart to broken heart?
How do I pray
words I'd rather not say?
How do I plan
when I'd rather skip that day?
March 18, 2009
Thursday, April 2, 2009
Purple prisoners breaking free from their frames
Wee white wobblers winking and twinkling
Young yellow ladies dancing on strings
Yellow-green moles burrowing out from brown dens
Two-tone magnolias daring nature's nature
Emerald foot soldiers assembling their ranks
Posses of pink blazing like Moses' miracle bush
Fireballs of orange rising like the morning sun
Blue little bandits blinking with light
Wise white-haired prophets whiling the time
Ruby-red raindrops rising with vigor
Slender green sentries keeping life's long winter watch.