Friday, August 27, 2010

Luke 14:7-14 Humility and Hospitality

August 29, 2010
Josh Broward

Luke 14:7-14

I have found this passage really difficult this week. Sometimes, understanding a text is really easy. Sometimes, I have to dig and dig in the commentaries and on the internet and in prayer before I really get a feeling what the text says for us and to our world. Other times, like this week, after all of my research and prayer, I’m still scratching my head, standing outside the text asking questions.
Instead of forcing a message based sermon here, today I want to invite you into the questions I’ve been asking. I am honestly not sure about all of the answers, but maybe just asking the questions will give God space to work among us. Sometimes questions are better than answers - especially when I don’t have the answers to give!
What I’d like to do here is talk about a few of the things I’ve learned as I’ve studied this text. Then, as we work through the text, I’ll share some of the questions I’ve been asking.

The first thing we need to understand is what is going on with the guests. In ancient Hebrew culture, where people sit at a dinner is “a public advertisement of one’s status.”1 So, when each person enters the room, they start mentally calculating their public value compared with the other guests: “Well, I’m more important than him. Her farm is twice as big as mine. His father is a Rabbi, but I’m the host’s cousin.” There is the sub-verbal or even open measurement of each person’s status and “value” to the community. Then, people are seated like a ladder of importance, with the most important, most connected people sitting closest to the host.
That phrase “a public advertisement of status” really struck me, and it got me asking some questions. What are the “public advertisements” of our status? How do we try to show other people how important we are? ...

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Too Close for Comfort

This was originally posted on an anti-emergent site. Perhaps we can see this in two ways:
1) A humorous reminder to pursue true humility.
2) A call to think more deeply about the nature of humility amid conflicting ideas.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

How Poor Poor Is

On my recent trip to South Asia, I was reminded once again just how poor really poor is. Per local custom, I usually sat in the front of the van (as the leader of the team), so I had lots of opportunities to talk with our driver, Dipon. He earns just over $2 a day, as a full-time driver for the Church of the Nazarene.
Before anyone cries out about injustice and exploitation, you should understand something about the reality of this country. If Dipon were single, this income would place him squarely in the upper class of his country (top 20% of incomes). As it is, this income is enough to provide for his family - even allowing his wife to stay home as a house wife. Granted, Dipon shares a three bedroom apartment with his parents and his brother's family. However, a reliable job paying $2 a day is enough to provide stable housing and food supply - something half of the country lacks.
50% of the country earns less than $1 a day. Before visiting, that just seemed like a bad number. However, after putting feet on the ground in $1 a day communities, I understand with new eyes just how poor $1 a day is. And less than that, as many of our widows and orphans earn, is ... well ... even less!
$1 a day probably means no shoes, or one pair of flip flops at best.
$1 a day means no warm clothes for the winter.
$1 a day means no umbrella when it rains.
$1 a day means not enough food almost every day of your life.
$1 a day means that if you don't work that day, you don't eat that day because you have zero savings from yesterday.
$1 a day means no medicine - none.
$1 a day means you can't afford the most basic fees to send your kids to school.
$1 a day means your kids will probably fail out of school because they are so far behind to start with.
$1 a day means you will be sorely tempted to make your kids work instead of going to school.
$1 a day means no concept of birth control.
$1 a day usually means abuse for women.
$1 a day usually means early marriages for teenage girls.
$1 a day means no land and almost no legal rights.
$1 a day means dodging unsafe vehicles traveling on unsafe roads at unsafe speeds.
$1 a day means taking care of other people's goats or cows instead of owning one for yourself.
$1 a day means hopelessness.

Unless someone helps.
I am so glad to be part of a church that is helping. I am so glad to be part of a denomination that is helping. I am so glad to be able to help a little myself. $1 a day is taking on a different meaning for about 100 widows and 300 orphans. Instead of a period, it is becoming a comma. Instead of the dead end after a hard-luck life, it is becoming a bend in the road with brighter skies around the corner. Instead of a death sentence, it is becoming a starting point for a whole new story.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Mandatory Waiting Periods

One method of gun control is mandatory waiting periods - particularly for handguns. 10 states in the USA require waiting periods before a handgun can be legally purchased. The idea is that, if someone gets angry and decides to kill someone, they can't just run out and buy a gun. They have to wait a certain number of days (usually around a week) to make sure they really want the gun (and all of the implications of owning a gun). Hopefully, by then, the fires of passion and revenge will have faded for most people.
The merits and efficacy of waiting periods for handguns is debated. I, for one, see absolutely no rationale for eliminating waiting periods. However, I would like to propose another kind of waiting period.
We need mandatory waiting periods for our purchases. The larger the purchase, the longer waiting period we need. We often make our purchases with a similar run of passion as angry people buying guns. Many of the big-ticket items that wind up in our baskets or driveways would still be at the store if we had waited.
Give the passion and the consumeristic urge time to die down. Walk away from the store. Get out of the advertising zone. Ask yourself a few questions.
1) Do I really need this?
2) Why do I actually want this?
3) Can I really afford this?
4) What will this cost me? (Think in terms of maintenance, physical space, emotional space, time, etc.)
5) Will I really use this? (Really, for years to come?)
6) Is this the best price, model, and value available?
If you can't answer these questions with clarity and without that nagging conscience, then you are not ready to buy.

Let me suggest a few benchmark waiting periods:
More than $50,000 (as in a home): 6 months.
More than $5,000 (as in a car): 2 months.
More than $500 (as in a computer): 1 month.
More than $50 (as in shoes): 1 week.
Around $5 (as in that cup of coffee because you just happen to be going past a Starbucks): 5-10 minutes.

Obviously the larger purchases deserve more time and consideration. We should use the waiting period to talk to friends, comparison shop, research on the net, and (maybe even!) pray. For the smaller stuff - the price of a cup of coffee - it can still be worthwhile to take a few minutes to consider whether we really want to spend our limited resources on this.
Food for thought.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Nazarene GS's Statement on Emergent Church

The Board of General Superintendents, the highest leaders in the Church of the Nazarene have issued a beautiful and grace-filled statement on the Emergent Church. If you have received some of those scathing emails about the "ruin" of our church, or if you have heard some of the conversations about "emergent liberals" taking over, I encourage you to read this statement.

Limited Reflections on My Trip

Because of the nature of the internet and the dominant religion of the country, I am somewhat limited in what I can say here. I just spent 10 days in a South Asian Country visiting various ministry sites and churches. We also helped to build some houses in a new village for widows and orphans.
I have visited more than 20 countries, almost all in association with the Church of the Nazarene, and I have never been more impressed with the Church of the Nazarene. What we are doing there is what we should be doing everywhere.
Almost every church building is also a ministry center. Usually, they are Child Development Centers (the gathering place for children in sponsorship programs), and maybe several other things as well. The idea of using a church building only for worship services and "Christian education" is obsolete, and we in the developed world can learn a huge lesson from our utilitarian brothers and sisters in the developing world.
Furthermore, in this nation, the Church of the Nazarene is consistently serving the poorest of the poor. And there, the poorest make less than $1 a day. If you make more than $2 a day, you are squarely in the upper class! The Church of the Nazarene operates with integrity, compassion, and intelligence, and therefore enjoys support from a wide range of funding partners.
Through child sponsorship, community development programs, digging wells, building latrines, microfinance, small business support groups, environmental planning, schools, and a wide range of other creative and effective methods, the Church of the Nazarene is making a significant difference among people who are struggling simply to survive.
Our church has established a long term partnership with a Nazarene project to build a village for widows and orphans in a rural community. During our trip, we were able to dig some foundations, lay some bricks, play with kids, and interview some of the widows.
The widows' stories were heart breaking and eye opening. Many of the widows did not know their own age or how long they had been married, but they all knew the exact date and year that their husbands had died. Their lives were forever changed in that moment. Some died of "normal" diseases like heart attacks, strokes, or TB. Others died of unbelievably simple illnesses like diarrhea. When a person is already malnourished, and no medicine is available, the simplest stomach illness can be deadly. Our team was flabergasted that people still die today because of lack of Pepto Bismal.
We dreamed and prayed and talked constantly about the possibilities for the future of our partnership. I hope to write more about all of this, but for now, I want to post this brief update while the ideas and memories are still fresh.

Monday, August 9, 2010

More Reasons I Love Korea

We're leaving for South Asia tomorrow, so I've been running around getting last minute things done.
I stopped in to see the doctor to get a refill for my allergy prescriptions - without an appointment, mind you. It took 5 minutes, and my copay was 2,500 won ($2)! In the USA, it would have taken 10 times as long and cost 10 times as much.
Then, I went to the pharmacy to get my meds. When I walked in the door, all three ladies' faces lit up like I had brought them flowers.
The copay was unusually large because Allegra is not fully covered by insurance, so I had to pay a whopping 19,000 won ($15). They almost feel bad taking that much money from me, but I'm excited because it would have been 3 times that in the USA - even with insurance.
Next, I asked for some instant hand sanitizer to put in my bag for the trip. They only had large ones the size of a coke can, but I wanted something tiny. They talked among themselves for a bit. Then, one of them came out with a small clear bottle, and they pumped it full squirt by squirt for their own large bottle. No charge!
I love Korea.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Why Are There Ads Here?

I have debated the pros and cons of adding advertisement to my blog for more than a year. However, I hope to be a professional writer - earning a significant part of my income through writing. Adding ads to my blog (and supporting blogs) is a simple way to take a small step in that direction.
I hope to prevent all offensive ads through the program filters. However, that may not be possible. If you see an offensive ad, please comment here. I will do my best to prevent its appearance again.
If you take offense to having advertising here at all, I'd also like to hear your feedback in the comments section.
Thanks for your understanding.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Inspiration as an Octopus

Today, I read an article about Korean author Park Beom-Sin. His description of the forces of inspiration within him are captivating:
There lives a beast in my chest that never grows old. I call the beast 'nakji' (small octopus) because it is mysterious, reckless and provocative. Whenever I stop writing, nakji tears open my sides during the night to come out ... I keep writing novels so that I will not die from my flesh being torn by nakji, who is my literary ego with many legs, who never grows old and never dies. I write because I want to live, this world should be vivid, and most of all I still have a lot of love within me."
(Lee Se-mi, "Longing for the Unattainable: Park Beom-Sin," Korea, August 2010, 19)

This reminds me of a TED talk by Elizabeth Gilbert, the author of Eat, Pray, Love.

Could it be that Park's "nakji" and Gilbert's "genius" are actually the Holy Spirit moving us toward creativity and active expression in our world?

Stuck in the System (Luke 12:22-38)

Josh Broward
August 8, 2010

One of the hardest jobs in the world is trying to help a prostitute stop being a prostitute. A prostitute is part of a huge web of power and money and lies and relationships. Just like a spider’s web, the web of the sex trade is incredibly sticky. Once you get in, it’s hard to get out.
But how do you get in? Most prostitutes started in the business by age 14 or younger. Most often, they are from a troubled or abusive family. Frequently, they have run away from home and living on the streets. These young girls, find themselves broke and alone, without job skills or any hope of supporting themselves. They report feeling like they don’t have any other choice.
Another surprising phenomena of prostitution is that the women often “fall in love” with their pimps (the men who “sell” them to customers). These pimps shower the girls with affection and compliments and gifts, so girls who felt no love at home suddenly feel respected and cared for and valuable. Eventually, they will do anything for these men, no matter the personal cost.

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Thursday, August 5, 2010

Jesus, a Prostitute, and a Grilled Cheese Sandwich

I'm not sure when we'll use this clip, but it's great!

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Missional Church - Simple Explanation