Thursday, May 31, 2007

The "church" versus The "Church" -- Part I

Just to be clear, both in this post and others that may follow soon, I mean the "Church" as the BIG bunch of us--the believers, around the world and without denominational, or any other, line of demarcation except to believe that Jesus is Lord and Savior. I mean the "church" as a visible, local group, perhaps a denomination, a section of the whole.

I'm reading a book titled "Stories of Emergence: Moving from Absolute to Authentic." I found it on the bargain table at a religious book store--I think it cost me $1.99. I think the cover is dreary and tacky looking, and the book is printed on cheap paper. (Maybe that is more "authentic?")

I picked it up anyway, because it said "emergence" on the cover, because it was cheap, and because Dr. Earl Creps, who I link to in the sidebar, is one of the contributors. Dr. Creps is director of the Doctorate of Ministry Program and an associate professor at Assemblies of God Theological Seminary, and is known for speaking and writing about postmodernism and the "emerging church." When I heard him speak a few years ago I began to hope that the Assemblies of God (my particular "church" branch of the "Church") might change in good and appropriate ways. Before that time I did not know that anyone of note in the Assemblies was even considering the major shift happening before our eyes.

As for the book, this is not a book of theology, not a book of answers, not even a book which will tell you all about postmodernism and the direction of the church. It is simply a collection of personal stories. Some of the chapters, from a variety of authors, are dry, some are funny, some are predictable, but mostly I found myself relating--and somewhat surprised that I did. I'm so glad I picked it up.

It started me thinking, yet again, about the nature of the Church. Here is an edited and condensed bit from the introduction by Mike Yaconelli. I am posting it because I find it fascinating, and I agree with it on a deep level, and I also disagree with it, and I'm struggling to navigate my apparently disparate views in order to find my way as a believer and a pastor, and a lover of both the Church and the church in the present age of transition. I'm going to write more in a day or so, but I'd love to hear others initial reactions to what Mike has to say.

I began my walk with Jesus 49 years ago...My faith sputtered and misfired, but in all these years my view of the Church has never changed. Institutional church is another story. I have criticized, challenged, avoided, rejected, rebelled from and ranted at I have been appalled, embarrassed, depressed, angry, frustrated, and grieved...But I've never lost my love for the Church, the glorious, odd collection of unimpressive, ordinary, flawed people who make up the community of God, the body of Christ...I have continued to find life in the the unorganized...irrelevant group of believers who are corporately trying to figure out who Jesus is and what it means to follow him in everyday life...During the last 40 years people have been captivated by the Jesus movement, the Calvary Chapel movement, the megachurch movement, a variety of Pentecostal movements, the worship movement, and now the postmodern movement...The longing...has always been the same--to find a place where people can worship God, learn about Jesus, share their lives in authentic community..."

Sigh. Yeah, I hear you Mike, but I also find it intriguing that a person who loves the Church but is frustrated with the church is a pastor of one, albeit of a somewhat unique nature.

More later, after some more reading and pondering.

Friday, May 18, 2007

Fellowship and The Wizard of Oz

From Ephesians 4 (The Message)
While I'm locked up here, a prisoner for the Master, I want you to get out there and walk—better yet, run!—on the road God called you to travel. I don't want any of you sitting around on your hands. I don't want anyone strolling off, down some path that goes nowhere. And mark that you do this with humility and discipline—not in fits and starts, but steadily, pouring yourselves out for each other in acts of love, alert at noticing differences and quick at mending fences. You were all called to travel on the same road and in the same direction, so stay together, both outwardly and inwardly. You have one Master, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who rules over all, works through all, and is present in all. Everything you are and think and do is permeated with Oneness. But that doesn't mean you should all look and speak and act the same. Out of the generosity of Christ, each of us is given his own gift... apostle, prophet, evangelist, and pastor-teacher to train Christ's followers in skilled servant work, working within Christ's body, the church, until we're all moving rhythmically and easily with each other, efficient and graceful in response to God's Son, fully mature adults, fully developed within and without, fully alive like Christ.
I have always liked this passage, and I have preached from it several times.
Recently I read it in "The Message" (which I view as sort of a commentary). I was struck by how much this passage sounds like what "fellowship" really is and can be. As Dr. Platypus says, "Fellowship is more than donuts and coffee."
Within a day or so of reading the chapter, I watched the classic movie, "The Wizard of Oz" based on L. Frank Baum's wonderful book, "The Wonderful Wizard of Oz." (There was actually a whole series of Oz books, and I read most of them. The first book was by far the best.) Anyway, I watched the movie and was struck by how much it illustrates this passage. Dorothy is a leader, albeit a reluctant one, but she does what she needs to do even when she is frightened.
She collects her friends, a sad sort of crew, Scarecrow, Tin Man and Cowardly Lion as she travels the road to a glorious destination.
These four fellow travellers are on the same road together, heading in the same direction. They stuck together, usually linking arms as they sang to keep their spirits up. They faced adversity together, and in spite of weakness they did not abandon one another even when it would have been easier to do so. They even found that what seemed to be weakness was really strength.
They were quite different, which is part of what makes this move so much fun to watch. I think they must have occasionally got on each other's nerves, don't you? Nonetheless, they learned to love one another on the journey, and they supported and encouraged each other to move past their limitations.
The Wicked Witch of the West tried to stop them by a distraction of poppies--lovely to look at and delightful to smell but really full of poison. How like sin! They overcame evil because they stuck together, and they were not afraid to ask for help when they needed it.
A while back I posted a link to an article about postmodern leadership and the emerging church. Here is one little snippet: "McLaren compares Dorothy to [the typical modern pastor], and the result is completely different. Dorothy is a bit disoriented, and she gathers other needy people in the belief that all their needs can be fulfilled in a common quest. Dorothy doesn't have all the answers and can't solve all the problems, but she believes that somehow they can journey together." The article, among other things, discusses Dorothy and Frodo as leaders. If you would like to read more, here it is. It is a fascinating read, in my opinion. And comforting too.
I hope you watch the DVD and I hope you never see it the same way again. :-)

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

What Tony Said

I was a little late in learning of Jerry Falwell's death, but when I heard the news I had mixed emotions. A little relief, a little sadness, a little nostalgia, a little shame that I had felt relief...
I recall my dear dad, lifelong Baptist deacon, theological and political conservative, perplexed-and-distressed-with-me father, teacher, kind and gracious man, but always right too. No compromise. It was his way or the wrong way.
He LOVED Jerry Falwell and was very disappointed that I did not even consider attending Liberty University. ("Trust me, Daddy, I would NOT fit in there!") and I had to confess a moment of sadness. I am fairly certain that part of my father's distress that I left the Baptist fold, and that I later went to far as to think I could preach...well, I'll just say that I think my father and Jerry Falwell were very much alike. That means, that like my beloved parent, he could make me want to yell, but it wasn't all bad. Not at all. Many of the concerns he had are concerns I have too.

We watched Jerry on television quite a bit. I'd think to myself, "Man, what a pompous guy!" (I once said that out loud to my dad. Never again did I make that mistake.) And then, he would say something that would seem right. I found it confusing. More than once, in later years, I'd hear of something the Reverend Falwell said and would think, "Jerry, for crying out loud, would you please just SHUT UP! You are giving us a bad name."

Fellow RevGal poster, Deb, over at Another Unfinished Symphony expresses my thoughts. I recommend you read the whole post, but she says, among other things, "Somehow, somewhere, I pray for a gentler, honest voice on the issues he has raised. A dialog of listening, writing and accepting that people can differ in their opinions and still respect each other. Without being cocky, self-righteous or overconfident that one is always right... that would most definitely be my desire... so the learning and the listening and the heart of prayer for God's peace and right-ness starts with... ME!" (Italics mine.)

Well said, Deb. Thanks for expressing so many things that I was just beginning to form thoughts about.

As for "what Tony said," I'm talking about Tony Campolo. I love that guy, even though he is a bit more "liberal" than I am on a few issues. Tony graciously commented, in an interview I saw yesterday on PBS, that in spite of their well-publicized differences, he and Jerry basically agreed theologically. As always, Campolo was direct and articulate. He added, and I paraphrase, "It was the working out of the theology which took us in very different directions."

But do you find it a bit frightening that this should be the case? I do, and I think that is one more reason to be...well...confident and principled and perhaps even outspoken...but never to be cocky, arrogant, or rude. No name calling. No finger pointing.

Jerry, enter in to the joy of the Lord. I hope you've met my dad. And I'd sure like to hear a bit of the conversation between you and Jesus.

Friday, May 11, 2007

Potato, Puh-tah-to Friday Five

Reverend Mother says, "There are two types of people in the world, morning people and night owls. Or Red Sox fans and Yankees fans. Or boxers and briefs. Or people who divide the world into two types of people and those who don't. Let your preferences be known here. And if you're feeling verbose, defend your choices!

Ah, a nice easy Friday Five. I promise I will blog something of import one of these days. On with the questions.

1. Mac? (woo-hoo!) or PC? (boo!) Why yes, the Friday Five author reserves the right to editorialize!
I have a PC, but I do know that usually, once a Mac user, always a Mac user.

2. Pizza: Chicago style luscious hearty goodness, or New York floppy and flaccid?
I like all kinds of Pizza. Kris and Daryl know all the good pizza spots in Minneapolis! I like something maybe inbetween the two extremes. Nice thick crust, but gotta have flavor--the yeastier the better. I like Pizza Hut more than Dominoes, and I like our local "Village Pizza" place. Their crust is on the thin side, but they make up for it with yummy sauce.

3. Brownies/fudge containing nuts:
a) Good. I like the variation in texture.
b) An abomination unto the Lord. The nuts take up valuable chocolate space.
[or a response of your choosing]
Brownies with or without nuts are fine with me. The chocolate is the thing. No dry brownies, thank you. And our family has a brownie recipie that beats any plain brownie ever made, IMO. Simple but fabulous. Want the formula? Okay. Here it is. I recommend you do not use generic brands. It does make a difference, so stick with Nabisco, Nestles, etc.
Gold Rush Brownies

2 cups Graham cracker crumbs
1 6 oz package semi-sweet chocolate chips
1/2 cup coarsely chopped pecans (or walnuts, if you prefer)
1 can Eagle Brand Sweetened Condensed Milk

Mix cracker crumbs, chips and nuts, then blend in Eagle Brand milk. Spoon into greased 8 x 8
inch square pan. Bake at 350 degrees for about 40 minutes or until browned on top. Cool for 10 minutes. Turn out from pan. Cut into squares and dust with powdered (confectioners) sugar.

I always double the recipie and bake in a 9 x 13 pan.
4. Do you hang your toilet paper so that the "tail" hangs flush with the wall, or over the top of the roll like normal people do?
Over the top, of course. When one purchases TP with cute pictures or prints, is the print on the bottom side? Noo! That makes it obvious to the most casual observer that the PROPER way to hang the roll is over the top.

5. Toothpaste: Do you squeeze the tube wantonly in the middle, or squeeze from the bottom and flatten as you go just like the tube instructs?
I squeeze it wherever I feel like. Instructions? Who reads instructions? I am a rebel, you know. All my friends think I am a completely compliant, obedient, keeper-of-rules. Ha! What do they know? I'm a secret rebel. This proves it!

Bonus: Share your favorite either/or -- "Television or computer"?
Computer, computer, and computer.

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Seven Things You Don't Want to Know

His Singer from over at "His Unfinished Work" has tagged me for a meme.

Here are the rules: Each player starts with 7 random facts/habits about themselves. People who are tagged need to write on their own blog about their seven things, as well as these rules. You need to choose 7 people to get tagged and list their names. Don’t forget to leave them a comment telling them they have been tagged and to read your blog!

And so, without further ado: (drum roll)

"Seven Things You Really Didn't Want To Know About Me and Because Of That You Never Thought To Ask"

7. I have bunions. (Okay, maybe one or two of you know that.)

6. I once enticed someone else's dog to my house. I then told my mom that "this poor little lost dog followed me home" omitting that I had used a piece of meat to make this happen. In my defense, the dog was being abused. He became one of the most loving pets I ever had.

5. Today is the day I met my husband. I was just-turned seventeen. Happy May 9th, dear Ken, and thank you for sticking with me through many turns in the road. I can't imagine what nor where would I be without you. love you with my whole heart and thank God for you every day.

4. I once lit a candle at a Catholic shrine, and I did not pay for it. I just had to do it.

3. I still wonder what I'm going to be when I grow up.

2. I intend to be cremated when I "shuffle off this mortal coil."

1. I am drinking clear liquids and preparing to take a high powered nasty substance that will keep me by the bathroom. This is because I am having a colonoscopy tomorrow.


Let me many blogging buddys...I'll tag Psalmist, Iris, Nightmare jeni, Zorra, proclaiming softly and Chartreuse Ova.

I do have some serious thoughts in my head. I'll try to blog them soon.

Thursday, May 03, 2007

Confession of a Dandelion Lover

Colossians 2: 6-7
And now, just as you accepted Christ Jesus as your Lord, you must continue to follow him. Let your roots grow down into him, and let your lives be built on him. Then your faith will grow strong in the truth you were taught, and you will overflow with thankfulness.
I confess to a fondness for dandelions. I don't particularly like them all over my yard, nor on the church lawn, but nothing says spring quite like a bright green field full of cheery, yellow flowers.
A parishioner and friend from many years ago once wrote a poem about the two of us called, "The Dandelion and the Rose." I will let you guess about which was which, but I found the idea intriguing.

This morning I looked out the bedroom window to see the empty field behind our house covered in these bright flowers. I smiled. As I said, I kind of like them. Did you know they are found all over the world? I'd like to be a dandelion person, and I'd love a church full of dandelion-style people. Just weeds? No.

About Dandelions
They don't get discouraged easily.
You know this if you've tried to get rid of them.

They adapt to their conditions and keep happily thriving.
Mow them off and next time they just bloom lower to the ground and keep right on growing.

They are cheery, even though they are not glamorous.
They don't need to be in a fancy vase to function well.

Children like them.
They are the flower of choice for toddlers picking bouquets.

They may not be the best, but can serve lots of functions in a pinch.
The dandelion is very high in vitamins A and C, with more beta carotene than carrots, more potassium than broccoli or spinach, and healthy doses of iron and copper, Dandelion tea is a tonic believed to help generally strengthen the whole body. The white sap from the stems or roots can be applied directly to ease the pain of sores and bee stings. You can make a passable coffee substitute by grinding roasted roots.

They spread seeds of growth everywhere the wind blows.
We may not like this, since they are a weed, but think of the lovely little halo of seeds as a breath blows on them. What happens to us when the breath of God, the Spirit, blows?
What makes the dandelion so strong, tenacious and widespread, blooming in spite of adverse conditions? It is the taproot. The root of a dandelion can sometimes grow a foot long! Have you ever tried to pull one up once it is established? The root goes down deep into the soil.

Ephesians 3: 16-18
I pray that from his glorious, unlimited resources he will empower you with inner strength through his Spirit. Then Christ will make his home in your hearts as you trust in him. Your roots will grow down into God’s love and keep you strong. And may you have the power to understand, as all God’s people should, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep his love is.
God, May our roots go down deep into the soil of your love! Show us your heart, both for others and also for ourselves. Help us to be cheerful, useful, adaptable, lovable, and willing to do what we can where we find ourselves growing. Amen