Monday, January 22, 2007

Feeling Superior

I just ordered A Generous Orthodoxy by Brian McLaren and I expect that when I read it I will find that I agree with some of what he says and disagree with other parts. Why would it be otherwise? The only person on earth with whom I agree 100% is me! But since I don't live alone on this planet I need to find ways to get along with others. I know that some of the readers of this blog will be inclined to dismiss McLaren out of hand because he is part of the Emergent Church. Oops, there I go making mistake number one...assuming. So maybe none of you have a problem with the Emergent Church. And maybe if you do, you have something to share of value. No, wait, it's not maybe, it's definitely. Dialogue is the key and it starts in a simple belief; I (and my group) are not superior to anyone else (or anyone else's group).

What's all this have to do with McLaren? It is the topic of a really wonderful blog entry posted here. I'm moved to try even harder to be a better neighbor, how about you?

Sunday, January 14, 2007

The Power of ONE

This morning I'm preaching on Isaiah 58. I'm doing a series on chapters 58 through 62 featuring the metaphors about light. It is a powerful read if you think about America today receiving the prophet's warning.

Today we will hear the words:

Is not this the fast that I choose: to loose the bonds of injustice, to undo the thongs of the yoke, to let the oppressed go free, and to break every yoke? Is it not to share your bread with the hungry, and bring the homeless poor into your house; when you see the naked, to cover them, and not to hide yourself from your own kin?

And if we heed the message, then what?

Then your light shall break forth like the dawn, and your healing shall spring up quickly; your vindicator shall go before you, the glory of the Lord shall be your rear guard.

There is good news in "right worship" (the literal meaning of orthodox). I believe there is also hope in individual action. The promise of "your light" breaking forth is not plural in the Hebrew, the promise is that your personal light will shine. Jesus would remind us not to put it under a bushel!

I'm moved by the wisdom of the ONE Campaign. Check it out here They are putting forth a belief in the power of ONE. Here is a part of the pledge they encourage each of us to take:

We believe we can beat AIDS, starvation and extreme poverty.

We recognize ONE billion people live on less than ONE dollar a day.

We commit ourselves - one person, one voice, one vote at a time - to a make better, safer world for all.

The power of ONE is the power of ONE person who believes that all the people of the world are ONE and that together as ONE we can build a better tomorrow. In this philosophy I hear the wisdom of the theology I proclaim that we are all ONE body with many parts, living our lives to the glory of the ONE God.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Human Sacrifice

Sadly, the commander-in-chief tonight called for more blood to be spilled on Iraqi soil in what he considers the defining ideological struggle of our time. He wants to fight fire with fire. He wants an eye for an eye. There is no doubt that he is on a crusade. He knows in his gut that crusaders can never retreat for there is no option other than completely conquering the enemy in order to suppress that ideology. He feels he is valiant in preserving freedom, protecting his tribe and spreading his unquestioned ideology.

What I heard in his speech tonight is that the bloody times that lie ahead are necessary and inevitable. I heard that innocents abroad will pay the price for domestic tranquility. I heard that this Christian president trusts only the power of the sword and not the power of the word, trusts only the power of human might, not the power of an almighty God of love. He shot across the bows of Syria and Iran, surely the place where the armies will march next if they can ever extract themselves from the violent quagmire of Iraq.

Mr. Bush, as your father would say, read my lips: violence only begets violence. If you insist on surging American power throughout the world at the end of a rifle you will increase the hostility toward our people. And those who suffer and then choose vengeance will have a legitimate claim for an American pound of flesh in the ideological battle of vengeance. And that, sir, is the problem with your version of this defining ideological battle, you have chosen to oppose the ideology of terrorism using their own weapons. If you want the author of freedom to empower you, then choose freedom as your tool. Offer to the world's hurting people succor from the great storehouse of American goodwill. Offer to the world the balm of humanitarian relief. Offer to the world the one gift that you can issue with the stroke of a pen, the end of hostilities.

Am I suggesting that we cut and run? Absolutely! Warfare has no winners, everyone loses. Even tonight you told us that we won't see victories like our fathers and grandfathers saw. Let us today accept the reality that things have gone horribly wrong in this conflict and more of the same will only bring more horrible wrongness. Moloch has drunk too deeply already of the human sacrifice you have authorized. I pray there is a way to stop the tremendous mistake you have called for tonight.

Sunday, January 07, 2007

Damascus Road

President Bush has said that he intends to address his plans for the war in Iraq this coming week. It appears to be a poorly kept secret that the "new way" will involve sending 20,000 troops in what is being called a surge (meaning that it will only be temporary). Apparently some of these troops will come from those currently serving in Afghanistan, further destabilizing that volatile situation.

If all of this proves to be true it will be a sad state of affairs as the most powerful nation on the planet escalates a war in a place that has suffered greatly and poses no threat while increasing the chances of a hostile force, the Taliban, returning to power. I pray that this will not be the case.

Being a person of faith and an optimist by nature I see one glimmer of hope. Before Paul became an apostle of Christ, he was Saul, dedicated persecutor of Christ's followers. He had a sudden change, in a literal flash, on the road to Damascus. I know that George W. Bush is capable of a similar 180 degree turn because he has done that at least once in his lifetime. That critical moment for him was the time he decided that he was powerless over his addiction and turned his life around with the help of God. The thousands of American dead and the tens of thousands of Iraqi dead are victims of our nation's addiction to warfare. As Commander-in-chief, President Bush has the responsibility and authority to take the first step by admitting the mistake and making the new way in Iraq the way out of Iraq. It is a vulnerable, risky step, but a necessary one. It is also a valiant act of faith. May we all trust God enough to be our strength that we no longer need to trust in our weapons, remembering that the first step requires that we trust in a Higher Power to return us to sanity.

Saturday, January 06, 2007

Evangelical Zeal

One surprising result of engaging in dialogue in the culture wars has been my shift in how I express my passion. In the past, I would regularly enter into a debate prepared to shout down the opposition. If not that extreme, at least I would not consider the other side to have anything worth offering. There is nothing so unusual about that, since that is the predominant model of debate in society today.

But I started this blog with the express intent of trying to change that for me and hoped that it might be an example for others. This process has forced me to find ways to express my passion without putting others down. Sometimes that is not so easy. At the end of the day I want the world to know where I stand and I want to say it in a way that is persuasive. I'm not naive enough to believe that everyone will agree with everything I say, but I do hope that at least some of what I preach will influence others.

One of the recent areas of dialogue has been around the area of absolute truth. I must say that I don't like some of what attends to preaching absolute truth since it can draw clear lines that exclude and if one of those absolutes is that God is love then how does exclusion fit with that? But the passion of spreading good news of truth that is bigger than us is a gift that Evangelicals have recently given me. Granted, the message I have passion for is markedly different that the one they preach, but I'm glad to name the common ground.

On Christmas Eve I felt the urge to touch hearts and squeeze guts just a little. This was the result. It was good to share a message with zeal, something I can thank those with whom I disagree for reminding me of.