Thursday, March 28, 2013

Shunning Power, Waging Peace

A few worthwhile readings from Week 21 (Passion Week) in the Green Book:

"Peacemaking must be the primary focus of all political leaders, whether in or out of power. But the temptations to personal power are too intense to be overcome by our insistently self-centered egos. 

"Therefore, the peace must be God's peace, a peace that is freely available when we turn inwardly to Jesus. Jesus is the model of the ultimate peacemaker, always pointing to Abba as the ultimate source of peace, justice, goodness, mercy, love, and creativity. 

"In order to claim peace, we must relinquish our private agendas and let ourselves be claimed by God."
-Robert A. Jonas, Henri Nouwen: Writings Selected with an Introduction

I deeply believe this. As a Christian, as a pacifist, as a scholar, and (perhaps especially) as someone who often struggles to submit my own controlling nature to God's devastating, all-encompassing, merciful love.

"Is it possible that our world still knows better how to deal with a bandit, a murderer, an insurrectionist than it knows what to do with the Prince of Peace?...

"Is it possible that we would rather deal with raw power that rides on a stallion than with this one who comes on a donkey, with the weapons of love, patience, suffering, and peace? Given the choice, isn't it possible that we would take Barabbas, too?"
-James A. Harnish, What Will You Do with King Jesus?  

Here I identify with the disciples' words to Jesus: "This is a difficult teaching; who can accept it?" (John 6:60). It's definitely thought-provoking; even shameful. And almost certainly true.

Drinking Deeply of the Present

"Christians are claimed by a past that hopes for the future by drinking deeply of the present. They are daring persons for whom belief is etched with faithful doubts. They hold tenaciously to what has been bequeathed, yet they gamble on the new being born."
-W. Paul Jones, The Art of Spiritual Direction

This idea really resonates with me, as both a Christ-follwer and an historian. We are shaped by the past, and long for the future...but both must also inform our actions in the present!

"If wakeful Christians harbor a wish for heaven to fulfill, they wish not for an escape from reality but a deeper acquaintance with reality. When wakeful Christians lament this life, they grieve this world's trivialization of itself that obscures the more profound reality of the kingdom of God in our midst.

"Yet, more often wakeful Christians celebrate life, finding the mark of God's hand in this world and beginning their praise with the discovery of the holy here. 'Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory' (Isaiah 6:3)."
-J. Marshall Jenkins, A Wakeful Faith

I think this sort of faith-filled, wakeful awareness is what Jones means by "drinking deeply of the present." As Christians we do not merely ignore the screeching and suffering of the world around us; rather we are called to seek out and redeem the works of God in his people and in creation.


Monday, March 25, 2013

Wild Hopes and Holiness

"Do you have any wild hopes,
or tame ones for that matter?
The possibility of acorns becoming towering oaks,
or caterpillars blossoming into butterflies.
or that dawn will chase away midnight fears?

"Wild hopes!

"That all humanity will learn the dance of joy,
and all humanity might taste the win of peace,
an that our loving God will become transparent through love.

"'Recast the earth, O Lord,
and move our hearts with wild hopes.'"
-Robert F. Mornea, Resurrection to Pentecost

"Therefore, with minds that are alert and fully sober, set your hope on the grace to be brought to you when Jesus Christ is revealed at his coming. As obedient children, do not conform to the evil desires you had when you lived in ignorance.

"But just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do; for it is written: 'Be holy, because I am holy.' Since you call on a Father who judges each person’s work impartially, live out your time as foreigners here in reverent fear.

"For you know that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your ancestors, but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect.

"He was chosen before the creation of the world, but was revealed in these last times for your sake. Through him you believe in God, who raised him from the dead and glorified him, and so your faith and hope are in God." 
-1 Peter 1:13-21 (NIV)

Sunday, March 24, 2013

A Sunday Morning Meditation

Teach me not to move too quickly, Father.
Nor too slowly. 
Help me not to sleep when I should wake. 
Nor wake when I should sleep. 
Teach me when to be silent,
and when to speak.
When to act, 
and when to be still. 


Friday, March 8, 2013

Doing and Not Doing

"Action, just as silence and the word, can help us to claim and celebrate our true self. But here again we need discipline, because the world in which we live says, 'Do this, do that, go here, go there, meet him, meet her.'

"Busyness has become a sign of importance. Having much to do, many places to go, and countless people to meet gives us status and even fame. However, being busy can lead us away from our true vocation and prevent us from drinking our cup...

"It is not easy to distinguish between doing what we are called to do and doing what we want to do. Our many wants can easily distract us from our true action. True action leads us to our true vocation.

"Whether we work in an office, travel the world, write books or make films, care for the poor, offer leadership, or fulfill unspectacular tasks, the question is not 'What do I most want?' but 'What is my vocation?'

"The most prestigious position in society can be an expression of obedience to our call as well as a sign of our refusal to hear that call, and the least prestigious position, too, can be a response to our vocation as well as a way to avoid it." -Henri J. M. Nouwen, Can You Drink the Cup?

Global Christianity, Part 4

"For the Christians are distinguished from other men neither by country, nor language, nor the customs which they observe. For they neither inhabit cities of their own, nor employ a peculiar form of speech, nor lead a life which is marked out by any singularity... 

"But, inhabiting Greek as well as barbarian cities, according as the lot of each of them has determined, and following the customs of the natives in respect to clothing, food, and the rest of their ordinary conduct, they display to us their wonderful and confessedly striking method of life. 

"They dwell in their own countries, but simply as sojourners. As citizens, they share in all things with others, and yet endure all things as if foreigners. Every foreign land is to them as their native country, and every land of their birth as a land of strangers...They are in the flesh, but they do not live after the flesh.

"They pass their days on earth, but they are citizens of heaven." 
-Mathetes, Epistle to Diognetus 

Global Christianity, Part 3

As Christians, we are called to global citizenship in both the spiritual and the temporal world.

We are called to stewardship of global resources.

God did not create autonomous micro-ecosystems along modern-day political boundaries. God created a world of community, of interdependence, and of shared responsibility.

That's why the coal deposits of East Asia didn't come pre-stamped "Made in China," nor did the Great Plains of North America "Made in the USA."

God created the earth for fellowship with all of humankind, regardless of race, creed, color, orientation, or national origin.

And sometimes I wonder if for us to pretend otherwise isn't, just possibly, a little bit un-Christian.

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Global Christianity, Part 2

"In offering ourselves as fully as we can, we discover the cost of discipleship.

"For to bind our lives to Jesus Christ requires that we try to walk with him into the sorrows and suffering of the world. Being bound to Jesus Christ, we see barriers broken down and we are led to places we have never been before and to carry loads we have not even seen before.

"Having offered ourselves to Jesus Christ, we may expect to become the eyes, ears, voice, and hands of Jesus Christ in the world and in the church.

"The cost of salvation? It is completely free and without cost. The cost of discipleship? Only our lives - nothing more and nothing less." -Reuben P. Job, A Guide to Prayer for All Who Seek God

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Global Christianity, Part 1

It occurs to me that if we really wish to to change the world, we must first feed and hydrate the world. Shelter and clothe the world. Heal and love the world. Only then can we help to change it.  

The writer of the Gospel of Matthew put it like this: 

“When he finally arrives, blazing in beauty and all his angels with him, the Son of Man will take his place on his glorious throne. Then all the nations will be arranged before him and he will sort the people out, much as a shepherd sorts out sheep and goats, putting sheep to his right and goats to his left.

“Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Enter, you who are blessed by my Father! Take what’s coming to you in this kingdom. It’s been ready for you since the world’s foundation. And here’s why:

I was hungry and you fed me,
I was thirsty and you gave me a drink,
I was homeless and you gave me a room,
I was shivering and you gave me clothes,
I was sick and you stopped to visit,
I was in prison and you came to me.’ 

“Then those ‘sheep’ are going to say, ‘Master, what are you talking about? When did we ever see you hungry and feed you, thirsty and give you a drink? And when did we ever see you sick or in prison and come to you?’ Then the King will say, ‘I’m telling the solemn truth: Whenever you did one of these things to someone overlooked or ignored, that was me—you did it to me.’" 
-Matthew 25:31-40 (The Message)

Saturday, March 2, 2013

Jesus, Weddings, and The Church

Today we were honored to attend the wedding of Tiny and Sarah, two formerly homeless, ex-addict members of our faith community here in Ashton

The service was a beautiful, loving, communal affair. It was full of giggles, gracious moments, and the barely-restrained enthusiasm of a very diverse, very supportive that included toddlers, punks, little old ladies, and what appeared to be members of a biker gang. 

We joined together in singing several celebratory congregational worship songs, and when Pastor Carl pronounced the newly wedded couple, shouts of "Well done!" and "Get in, Tiny!" peppered the boisterous applause. 

It was all a bit rough around the edges. It was real. And it was very, very beautiful. :) 

As a celebration of community, redemption, and the transforming power of God's love, it all reminded me (Aaron) more than a little bit of Christ's relationship to The Church. 

Without him, we're more than just a little rough around the edges; we're lost, we wander, and we're addicted to ourselves. But in Christ, all things are made new, and we are called to celebrate and proclaim that redemption and restoration in community! 

And so...please consider this your friendly reminder that Christ's life, death, and love for us -all of us- is bigger than our sometime hypocrisies as we seek to follow him (courtesy of Derek Webb):

"I have come with one purpose, 
to capture for myself a bride.
By my life she is lovely, 
by my death she’s justified.
I have always been her husband, 
though many lovers she has known.
So with water I will wash her, 
and by my word alone.

"So when you hear the sound of the water,
you will know you’re not alone.

"'Cause I haven’t come for only you,
but for my people to pursue.
You cannot care for me with no regard for her.
If you love me, you will love the church.

"I have long pursued her,
as a harlot and a whore.
But she will feast upon me,
she will drink and thirst no more.
So when you taste my flesh and my blood,
you will know you’re not alone. 

"'Cause I haven’t come for only you,
but for my people to pursue.
You cannot care for me with no regard for her.
If you love me, you will love the church.

"There is none that can replace her,
though there are many who will try.
And though some may be her bridesmaids,
they can never be my bride."

Thanks be to God!! :)