Not Nice

I was surfing around some blogs this morning, while my kids were at preschool, and I ran across Maggi Dawn’s website and blog. I was sure I had heard her name before… maybe in emerging circles of conversation, I’m not sure.  I was reading some of her entries- excellent stuff! She is a university chaplain in the UK. She’s a musician, theologian, minister, writer, teacher…. has a wonderful appreciation for the ancient (in worship and theology), but is keeping an eye on what is emerging among new generations of Christians. I have a great deal of respect for people who live in that tension thoughtfully.

Here is a great entry from her blog on the expectation that a pastor should “be nice to everyone.” I love it:

http://maggidawn.typepad.com/maggidawn/2008/04/offending-peopl.html

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The Hope of Easter

I wish my brain were not so completely fried at this moment, or I would write much more about NT Wright’s book, Surprised by Hope: Rethinking Heaven, the Resurrection, and the Mission of the Church. But the truth is, I just completed my seven-page paper and need to get some sleep before my all-day class tomorrow. This book is one that every pastor and really, every Christian, should read. We have gotten way off-track in our theological orientation toward “saving souls from hell for heaven,” rather than working alongside the Spirit to bring in the Kingdom!

I am not suggesting (nor is NT Wright) that heaven and hell do not exist, but when Jesus was raised from the dead, the Kingdom broke through on earth and it continues to break through… when Jesus returns at the end of this age, Heaven and Earth will be joined… all creation will be redeemed and made new, all things will be set right once again, our bodies will be raised and transformed (and we all will face judgment… all of us). This world is NOT headed for disaster, but for new creation!  “May God’s Kingdom come, may His Will be done on earth as it is in Heaven!”

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As I often do, a few key quotes:

“The power of the gospel lies not in the offer of a new spirituality or religious expeirence, not in the threat of hellfire (certainly not in the threat of being “left behind”), which can be removed if only the hearer checks this box, says this prayer, raises this hand, or whatever, but in the powerful announcement that God is God, that Jesus is the true Lord, that the powers of evil have been defeated, that God’s new world has begun… how can the church announce this [good news]? If it’s actively involved in seeking justice in the world, both globally and locally, and if it’s cheerfully celebrating God’s good creation and its rescue from corruption in art and music, and if, in addtion, its own internal ife gives every sign that new creation is indeed happening, generating a new type of community, then suddenly the announcement makes a lot of sense” (p. 227)

“The large-scale hope of the whole cosmos is the great drama within which our little dramas are, as it were, the play within the play.” (p. 80)     SURPRISE, it’s not all about us! (that’s me talking, not NT)

“Every act of love, every deed done in Christ and by the Spirit, every work of true creativity– doing justice, making peace, healing families, resisting temptation, seeking and winning true freedom– is an earthly event in a long history of tings that implement Jesus’ own resurrection and anticipate the final new creation and act as signposts of hope, pointing back to the first and on to the second.” (p. 295)

“When the church is seen to move straight from worship of the God we see in jesus to making a difference and effecting much-needed change in the real world; when it becomes clear that the people who feast at Jesus’ table are the ones in the forefront of work to eliminate hunger and famine; when people realize that those who pray for the Spirit to work in and through them are the poeple who seem to have extra resources of love and patience in caring for those whose lives are damaged, bruised, and shamed– then it is not only natural to speak of Jesus himself and to encourage others to worship him for themselves and find out what belonging to his family is all about but it is also natural for people, however irreligious they may think of themselves as being, to recognize that something is going on that they want to be part of.” (p. 267)

“When [God] corners us and finally takes us in his hand– we find to our astonishment that he is infinitely gentle and that his only aim is to release us from our prison, to set us free to be the people he made us to be. But when we fly out into the sunshine, how can we not then ofer the same gentle gift of freedom, of forgiveness, to those around us? That is the truth of the resurrection, turned into prayer, turned into forgiveness and remission of debts, turned into love. It is constantly surprising, constantly full of hope, constantly coming to us from God’s future tos hape us into the people through whom God can carry out his work in the world.” (p. 289)

She’s Wearing my Shoes

I was down on my hands and knees the other day, fishing around for something that was lost under the refridgerator. Suddenly, I heard Heidi saying something to Ben. She had taken his hand and was bending over, looking into his eyes as she was speaking. “Ben, I know you don’t really want to go, but it’s time for school so you need to get your shoes on now. Let’s go. Come on, honey.”  I looked up and said, “Heidi, what are you doing, why are you talking to him like that?”  To which she replied: “Look, mom, I’m wearing your shoes!”

First, let me just say, that I’m glad the first words out of her mouth, as she was pretending to be me, were NOT “Stop that! Come here now! Listen to me for once- I am your mother!!” etc., etc.  🙂   But secondly, I wonder what it is about shoes that define the person, in the eyes of children. Maybe it’s just that they are the easiest articles of clothing to find lying around. But why not my coat or my sweater? What is it about shoes that are so fascinating? Well, whatever it was that prompted her little charade, it has me pondering imitation.  Heidi longs for time with me, longs for my attention. She uses my words and tone… even my facial expressions sometimes. She constantly talks about being a mommy someday and having a daughter. Imitation comes naturally to her. It’s how she learns.

I also learn best by imitation. When I’m learning a new melody line, rather than sitting in front of pages of music, I play the song on my computer over and over again, singing and playing along– trying to get the notes, rhythm, mood, and tone of the song exactly right. I also noticed that I write in a style similar to my favorite authors (though I’m obviously not anywhere close to being as talented as they are)… I use their vocabulary, imagery, sometimes even their writing rhythm. This is not really a conscious thing, but the repetition of reading the same authors’ writings over time has imprinted their style on my brain, I think.

So here is what I am currently wondering… As a Christ-follower, how do I learn best? Currently, I spend a lot of time sitting in a classroom, talking about theology and leadership and church history (or reading textbooks and writing papers)– but do I adore my Lord so much that I strive to imitate Him? Am I learning from Him the way I learn a new song, with repetition and detailed observation– in one sense, “singing His Song” along with Him? Am I beginning to think and talk and the way He does, because I have heard His Words so many times that I don’t even realize they have become part of me?  I realize I’m probably not saying anything new here, but it hit me again when I saw my little girl wearing my shoes.

“Anyone who claims to be in Christ must walk as Jesus did.” 1 John 2:6

Solving Conflict in 3D

Recently, I have been thinking a lot about peace, violence, non-resistance, conflict solving, protecting human life and our military… and what role a commitment to follow Jesus plays in these issues.  I am not really qualified to make a definitive pronouncement on any of these issues, and I have been in enough discussions and arguments among Christians to recognize the messiness of the problems that result when 6 billion people from thousands of countries and thousands of religions live on one planet with limited resources.

I recently discovered, on facebook, a professor from my undergrad years at Eastern Mennonite University, Lisa Schirch. I took a few sociology classes with her (two, I think) and immediately connected with her style and perspective. She is well-educated, well-read, and has learned how to communicate with people from many different backgrounds and belief-systems.  I do not think she is an idealist. Rather, she is realistic about the complexity of national and international conflict. I think she is open to other points of view. However, I also think she has a deep commitment to Christ-like living and a fresh take on policy and strategy that our country needs… and it resonates with our call as Christians, our call to walk as Jesus did, to love our enemies and solve human conflict with mercy and love (not naivete, but serious grace grounded in realism and humility).

Check out her professional webiste here:  http://www.3dsecurity.org/   (make sure you find the “3D Memo to the Obama Administration”)  The first thing that strikes me about this site are the pictures at the top. Dr Schirch is walking and talking with military personnel, meeting with middle-eastern delegates.  Her work is not done in the cocoon of Christian pacifist circles. She is out there working with other experts, even working with “her enemies,” so to speak– the people in uniform carrying guns! (not actually our enemies, but I fear that sometimes we make them out to be enemies when we– Christian pacifists– talk about them) I love that her circle of influence is so wide and deep, and I have great respect for her approach to Christian peacemaking! Your thoughts?