Saturday, October 30, 2004
so i came up to the conference "cyber-cafe" (cyber: yes. cafe: no....not a dark warm beverage in sight). (There's More)
it has been a brilliant time of connecting with (old and new) friends, encountering the diversity of God's people, and being stirred by new ideas and perspectives.
more to share in the coming week but for now, here's a reflection from the first plenary session....many of the moments from that first gathering became themes for our time here.
....in the cavernous ballroom of the Hyatt-Regency we gather for the first plenary session. this echoing vault gives up it's hollow sterility to the voices of the "rainbow people of God." It is an unusual privilege to see such a diverse gathering of people - and the diversity is even diverse! Ethnicity, ideology, politics, theology, and a fantastic range in age-groups. Suits and dreads, bared feet and business shoes, stained shirts and tattoos, piercings and carefully quaffed hair.
It’s difficult to describe the meeting without appearing critical (perhaps this is a sign that even our language has been co-opted by the mythos of excellence). It was refreshingly irregular. Like a tomato from the farmers market - glorious and divine because it isn’t perfectly round, red, polished. I shed salty tears several times, moved by the raw and real people who sang/spoke. The meeting was marked with the messiness of the neighborhoods in which many of these people have chosen to live.
As Sherry and I talked about the evening we both felt inspired by all these wonderful servants and encouraged to be reminded about the breadth of God’s redemptive work in the cities of this land. it is a joy to be here and we are ready to learn.
Wednesday, October 27, 2004
Emergent Gathering in New Mexico:
Stunning landscape:: Sherry spent the first two years of her life in the dry, bright, and vast landscape of New Mexico (not far from where we stayed in Glorieta). Geoff felt like he had come home to Oz. Too beautiful for words and far too expansive for even the most wide of wide-angle lenses.
No Isaac:: we left him with Sherry’s parents and our first extended time away was a bizarre mix of liberty and ache. Mostly, we enjoyed our time as just a couple again, but couldn’t help talking of him.
Wonder-full people:: we experienced an intimacy and grace with new friends that far outstripped our brief time together. Must have had something to do with Jesus and the Kingdom that comes with honesty and hope. Shane was there and we fell in love with Will and Lisa Samson along with their delightful children – Ty, Jake, and Gwynnie.
Grace-filled food/yoga/conversation:: table fellowship punctuated our time together with yoga creating a holistic and sacred space. lots of good things to talk about and between the hugs/tears/sighs/laughter we were caught up in the fellowship of the saints.
The Gladdings:: a reunion (or sorts) with Sean and Rebecca and little Maggie. We miss them and the time together to process how our lives and vocations are unfolding in different parts of the U.S. was a great blessing.
Back in Georgia:
Bent Tree is where our parents’ mountain home is. A few days here in the midst of the Fall(ing) leaves is a great place to re-introduce ourselves to Isaac.
We’re heading down to the CCDA conference in Atlanta tonight and the various workshops/gatherings/sessions will take us through Saturday night. Home again Sunday.
Missing all of you in Lexington.
Thursday, October 21, 2004
we spoke with lisa this morning about the opportunity to do clinicals in the swaziland. she would be an immense help. She would also be in constant contact with bleeding people in various stages of decay from hiv\aids.
and grieving with geoff over norelle and her family's choice to put their bodies up for suffering in chad and sudan.
it is a beautiful thing to 'take unto our bodies the crucifixion.' it is a powerful statement in the face of so much sickness. i am proud to live amongst people who walk up to the already stained cross with the belief that their lives can make things different, better.
but those are hard things for me to say. this morning i would rather us start a kibbutz, isolate, be safe. it is too painful to watch. there are images that won't leave. and so i finish praying for us to have eyes to see not just the crucifixion, but the resurrection as well. like the prophet, to see dried and bleached bones rise with sinew and muscle and skin knit together.
Thursday, October 14, 2004
whenever we travel and meet people interested in re-imagining the church we're always mindful that we're representing communality - your hopes, questions, dreams, hard-work, and love. we are proud to tell stories of your faithfulness and the way we are encountering the Kingdom together in Lexington. Please pray for us and we look forward to sharing with you the things we learn.
"what is the church for?",
"what's the difference between mission and evangelism?"
"are being apostolic and attractional mutually exclusive?"
"how do we reframe/reimagine evangelism for a post-everything culture?"
As a community we are getting ready to retreat together and affirm our unity as a little tribe of God's people trying to move with the impulse(s) of the Missio Dei. We plan to talk about Evangelism (or the lack thereof) in/around our life together.(There's More) Hopefully we can use the next couple of weeks to talk about the issues surrounding evangelism in our context and arrive at the retreat-times set aside for discussion with ideas/stories/hopes already bubbling to the surface.
so here's a bit from me to get things going...
As i have been thinking about this question of Evangelism (especially as it fits into the framework of APEPT (Frost and Hirsch call it the DNA of the church) - apostolic, prophetic, evangelistic, pastoral, teaching - I have come across some wonderful imagery in the prophets..... Here's one from Zechariah (8:19-23)
Thus says the Lord of hosts: the fast of the fourth month, and the fast of the fifth, and the fast of the seventh, and the fast of the tenth, shall be seasons of joy and gladness, and cheerful festivals for the house of Judah: therefore love truth and peace. Thus says the Lord of hosts: Peoples shall yet come, the inhabitants of many cities; the inhabitants of one city shall go to another, saying, "Come, let us go to entreat the favour of the Lord, and to seek the Lord of hosts; I myself am going." Many peoples and strong nations shall come to seek the Lord of hosts in Jerusalem, and to entreat the favour of the Lord. Thus says the Lord of hosts: in those days ten men from nations of every language shall take
hold of a Jew, grasping his garment and saying, "Let us go with you , for we have heard that God is with you."
Notice the coming/going languge? It seems to me we will waste a lot of energy emphasising tension between these two. Jesus seemed to "go out" and "send out" but people also gathered around him and continued to gather in homes, sacred places, and public places. The next tough question for me is, "what do we say when we 'go out'?" - Accepting, of course, that we live in such a way that is itself a proclamation of the good news of the gospel.
I'd like to have ten people grab me and say they want to walk the road with us........ahhh, every missionaries fantasy :) Whatever questions we have from such a pericope, it seems that joy, gladness, cheer, and peace are part of the compelling case for the Jesus-way of living.
Tuesday, October 12, 2004
Monday, October 11, 2004
In Matthew 9:35-38 we read that "Then Jesus went to all the towns and villages, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the good news of the kingdom, and healing every disease and every sickness. When he saw the crowds, he felt compassion for them, because they were weary and worn out, like sheep without a shepherd. Then he said to his disciples, 'The harvest is abundant, but the workers are few. Therefore, pray to the Lord of the harvest to send out workers into his harvest..."
Now there are many things that strike me about this passage, but one in particular leads me back to Bono's bothering line about my own lack of compassion stemming from the holding onto hurt attitude. And the thing that really busts me in the bowels here is that Jesus is talking, at least in large part, about reaping a harvest of compassion so plentiful that there aren't enough workers to bundle it all up and get it to market! Not only that, but he's making this statement right after another tiresome and especially vicious harangue from the religious leaders of his day. A harangue that would have given him a far better reason to hide behind the hurt than I've ever found. But instead of getting tripped up by their empty self-referential ego rhetoric, Jesus seizes the opportunity to tell his disciples about a harvest that is rooted and established in compassion, in the constant striving to put one's own personal feelings to the side for the sake of moving vibrantly toward others, particularly those who are in the greatest need. And this makes me wonder if one of the biggest struggles that we face as the people of God in America is a lack of opportunities to meaningfully reap this harvest of compassion, to be involved in the lives of other people in a way that makes lasting change happen? How different would the church look if more of its witness for Christ was expressed in people making gut wrenching sacrifices for the sake of moving in compassion toward other people, especially people who are different from us and make us feel uncomfortable (the people from whom we probably have the most to learn!)?
Lastly,in an I-should-have-expected-it cosmic turn of events, I found out that the verb that is used in the above passage (and many others) for compassion, comes from the greek word splancha , which basically means the "inner" parts or "viscera" of one's body. Hence, I now know why Bono's words have always hit me right in the gut, since they literally strike at the core of what it means to have compassion. It is a grinding, often unpleasant, acid reflux producing, churning in the stomach, is compassion, and Jesus calls us to go and reap a harvest of it, which harvest he has planted and expertly cultivated by showing us how to love one another.
So, in the words of a great Steve Vai tune, may we ".....Let the might of (y)our compassion arise to bring a swift end to the flowing stream of the blood and tears....."
Tuesday, October 05, 2004
any of us who have read the book care to enter the fray?
Friday, October 01, 2004
In an utterly selfless gesture of love, Father Kolbe stepped forward to take the place of a young man who was facing a death senstence for a supposed infraction of the hopelessly cruel "camp rules." And, having willingly taken responsibility for this young man's offense, Maximillian was locked in a dreadfully small cell in the hellish subterranean darkness of the detention block basment, where he slowly starved to death (this basement is especially notorious in the history of the holocaust, because it is where the nazi's conducted their first "experiment" with the poison gas cyclon-B-they took 120 sick Polish prisoners and 600 Russian prisoners of war, sealed them in a room, and then "gassed" them). The young man whose place Father Kolbe took, went on to survive the camp and live a very long life.
The story of Father Kolbe's unbelievable love is enough to make any Christian burn with a renewed passion to follow Christ to the cross. But the way that we came to be in possession of that story, added a whole new dimension to its inspiriting power. And for me, it all began with an entry I made in my journal dated August 18, five days before we left for Europe. The following is an excerpt that sets the stage(I'm writing about my dad's sudden death and the empty house that remained afterward):
".....So, however empty those rooms may have seemed five years ago, I now know that there were indeed things there that I could hold onto and cherish, even in the midst of the cavernous echoes. Building a home is about beating back the decay of time, fending off the continous onslaught of that nihilistic impulse inside all of us, and erecting a memorial to the one thing that not even the most evil force can destroy, viz. God's desire for us to believe in the inherent goodness of life no matter what. And to believe in life no matter what, is none other than to believe that love is always and forever stronger than hate, that mercy eternally triumphs over judgement, and that the soul is ultimately incapable of being marred by anything, save the callous disregard of its life by the one who possesses it.
And these reflections lead me again to the topic of empty rooms. But they are rooms that I've not yet seen, not even in my dreams. They are the empty rooms at Auschwitz-Birkenau, which we plan to visit during our trip to Europe. We just decided yesterday to go east into Poland, and yet all of the sudden it seems to me like this is something we were meant to do. Indeed, it is something that I feel I have to do. And I can honestly say that I'm horrified at even the thought of going to a place that witnessed such unfathomable acts of human cruelty and suffering. But I know that I must go there, just like I must continue to go and visit the empty rooms of my own past. Because that is where I know I will find Jesus most powerfully, right in the middle of the place where he seems, at first glance, to be least present. He is right there in the midst of all the horror, trying to die, trying to forfeit his life for all of those seemingly God forsaken souls, and especially for those who have stirred up the fires of wrath, the fires that will ultimately consume only them. Nowhere is the inexorable centrality of his life and death more evident than in the midst of these nauseatingly dire circumstances. That is what Mother Theresa knew so well, and because of that she became a beacon of hope to people around the world, even though she lived dead in the center of nearly constant heartbreak. And that is what I've humbly known in my own fragmentary manner, at the darkest moments, on the streets of Lexington, and in the abandoned alleyways of my life. Jesus is right there in the midst of it all, trying to die so that hope might live, trying to take the lashes so that the violence might stop.........."
Much to my amazement, this journal entry turned out to be prophetic, as we were brought face to face with the story of Father Kolbe by means of a moving memorial to him at DrefaltegeitsKirche (Father, Son, & Holy Spirit Church) in Vienna, Austria. Quite astonishingly, this church was right down the street from the pension that our wonderful friends Mohammed & Omid arranged for us. As I quickly realized, Father Kolbe was the Jesus in the midst of the horror, that the Spirit had been revealing to me as I toiled through my journal entry. And the memorial to Father Kolbe was a remarkable work of art, a disconcertingly personal instance of God revealing his glory to us. But that was only the second leg of the pilgrimage, with the most painful and glorious passage remaining.
This wonderful mosaic of life, in, around, over, and under, the midst of death, was finally completed when we went to Auschwitz, walked the tortured halls and paths where so many hundreds of thousands died, and stared speechless into the tiny cell where Maximillian slowly died an agonizing death so that another human being might might live. It was the most moving example of a human being embodying the very life and death of Christ that I've ever seen. And, having also encountered many other stories of great men and women of the faith, I earnestly hope that we in the protestant tradition can come to more fully appreciate the deep, deep riches of the saints of the catholic tradition, and the incredible importance of being linked with our past heritage, though not ruled by it, or limited by its shortcomings. Maximillian willingly allowed his body to be starved to death, so that his spirit, and his body, might live a fuller and more vibrant life in Christ. I will never again hear Jesus' words in John 4 without remembering Maximillian. And may we all continue to hear them anew.......
"While this was happening, Jesus' disciples were saying to him, 'Teacher please eat something."
But Jesus told them, 'I have food that you don't know anything about."
His disciples started asking each other, 'Has someone brought him something to eat?'
Jesus said: 'My food is to do the will of the one who sent me..........