Friday, July 31, 2009

"Holy Gardener"

Sara wrote her new song "Holy Gardener" after reading Brian's sermon on Mark 4:26-32. The song said all the things Brian wanted to say, but in a more beautiful, meaningful way. It opens up the Scripture in new ways. Poetry is always better than prose. Here is proof:

Holy Gardener
Help us to follow your call
To see weeds as flowers;
By this we're empowered
To share the harvest with all.
The fruit of your Kin-dom is caring
For those overlooked by greed.
The fruit of your Kin-dom is stillness
And away from all warring You lead

It's moving, it's growing,
It's sprouting, it's flowing,
Within us, around us,
Spring forth and astound us
With healing, with love, and with peace.
Persistent, resilient -
Your Kin-dom's so brilliant.
It's here, it's tenacious,
It's now, it's vivacious,
And all this from one tiny seed.

Holy Gardener
Still at work today
The Realm that You're planting
In us is expanding;
It takes root, blossoms, and stays.
The fruit of Your Kin-dom is healing.
Where once we were crippled by pain.
The fruit of Your Kin-dom is fairness,
And justice comes down like rain.

It's moving, it's growing,
It's sprouting, it's flowing,
Within us, around us,
Spring forth and astound us
With healing, with love, and with peace.
Persistent, resilient -
Your Kin-dom's so brilliant.
It's here, it's tenacious,
It's now, it's vivacious,
And all this from one tiny seed.

The mission may seem overwhelming:
We may not have money or fields.
But give us one handful of earth, God,
And see what one mustard seed yields.

It's moving, it's growing,
It's sprouting, it's flowing,
Within us, around us,
Spring forth and astound us
With healing, with love, and with peace.
Persistent, resilient -
Your Kin-dom's so brilliant.
It's here, it's tenacious,
It's now, it's vivacious,
And all this from one tiny seed.

Communal Eucharist Liturgy


Invitation

1: When Jesus sat at tables and enjoyed communion with tax collectors, oppressed women and men, and people at all levels of society, he proclaimed that God’s love and care knows no bounds. Through this ministry, Jesus and the disciples invited all people to experience the love, justice, and mutuality of the Kin-dom of God.

All: We proclaim again the comfort and challenge of that witness: all are welcome, worthy, and invited to share the grace of God’s table, and to taste the Bread of Life and Holy Vine.

2: In this moment we join together with the community of saints through the ages who have participated in the mission and ministry of God.

All: Tabitha, who showed solidarity with the poor.
3: Lydia, who welcomed the tired and weary.
All: Priscilla, who shared her knowledge with many.
1: Phoebe, who served as a minister in Cenchrae.
All: Mary Magdalene, who financially supported Jesus’ ministry.
2: Elsa Tamez, who strives to liberate Central Americans living in poverty.
All: Delores Williams, who strives to liberate oppressed peoples in North America.
3: Jane Goodall, who works tirelessly to protect your Creation.
All: Peggy Way, who helps humanity find the dignity in our diversity.
1: Kathy McGinnis, who seeks to extend your peace in the lives of many.

(We now welcome you to share any other members of the community of faith whom you’d like to name.)

2: We are bold to welcome all people to join with these saints to celebrate God at this table.

Communion Prayer

3: God is with you.
All: And also with you.
1: Open your hearts.
All: We open them to God.
2: Let us give thanks to God.
All: It is right to give God thanks and praise.

3: Holy One, we thank you for the gift of your beautiful Creation, our home. You are the source of all love and mercy in this relational world. And we take courage in your abiding presence through it all. If we ascend to the heights of the mountains, you are there. If we descend into the depths of the valleys, you are with us. Your care truly knows no bounds for you even feed the birds and clothe the lilies.

All: We also thank you for Jesus, your Word, who lived among us, uncovering your presence, and demonstrating your Way of love, justice, and mutuality. We know this Way through Jesus’ ministry of empowering the oppressed, giving voices to the voiceless, welcoming diversity, and including outcasts in his ministry.

1: We also know your Way through the ministry of the many women and men who followed and served with and for Jesus, from Bethlehem to the Galilee, from sea shores to mountain tops, from the cross to the streets of the world. Jesus, with these disciples, emboldened the saints through the ages to live out the reality of your Kin-dom – a place where all people have a place at the table. We are grateful for the witness and the ministries of these saints. Through their lives and relationships, and empowered by your Spirit, we find a better and more communal way to move, live, and have our being.

All: Amazingly, when we fail to follow your Way, sinning against you, our neighbors, or ourselves, you offer us forgiveness and transformation, so we may be led afresh to your Way of love, justice, and mutuality. We recognize that this involves risk, for Jesus, in proclaiming a new Kin-dom, was unjustly killed by the systems of domination of his day. This system said “no.” But through Jesus’ resurrection, you provide us with a transforming “yes.” We praise you, Resilient God, because in spite of death and suffering, you bring new life and restoration of relationships with God and others!

2: In the sharing of this bread and wine, we joyfully remember and celebrate this new life and restored relationship you continually offer.

Blessing

All: As this grain once was scattered in the fields and has come together into one bread, so we, with different needs and hopes, practice coming together as one diverse Church, for we share one bread. This is the Bread of Life!

3: The cup that we share is the fruit of the Vine. With Christ as the vine, and we as the branches, God brings forth fruits of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, and faithfulness. This is the Fruit of the Holy Vine!

All: Holy One, by your Spirit, bless this community, and the meal we share, so we may be nourished by Your unbounded love and grace in order to be Your free and joyful community. Amen.

1: Come, for all things are ready and God is in this place.

Thanksgiving

All: Gracious God, thank you for this sacred moment and meal, where we come together to celebrate your love, grace, and Kin-dom. May this food and your abiding presence nourish, strengthen, and heal us all, so we may taste and share in your Kin-dom of love, justice, and mutuality. Praise be to you, Holy and Abiding God. Amen.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Clergy Should Get Out of the (Civil) Marriage Business

Clergy are officials of the Church. They perform sacred rites such as baptism, communion, worship services, etc. They are paid by non-profit, religious organizations. They stay on the Church side of the separation of the Church and State.

Clergy are not officials of the State. Yet they act as agents of the State when they sign civil marriage licenses. So, in this one case, they stray into the State side of the separation of Church and State. In this one case, they are able to authorize a legally binding contract that gives couples over 1,000 legal rights and benefits. Some of these legal rights and benefits include the ability to file joint income tax returns, receive military benefits for spouses, maintain next-of-kin status for hospital visits and medical decisions, etc.

Marriage licenses required by the State should be separate from the religious ceremonies performed by the Church. We wouldn't want state officials acting as clergy, so clergy shouldn't act as state agents. It's best to let the State be the State - and the Church be the Church. Let their functions be different so that civil marriage is separate from religious marriage. The State should have no part in defining or facilitating religious marriage and the Church should have no part in defining or facilitating civil marriage.

Civil marriage is fundamentally different than religious marriage. Civil marriage includes a legal document that is (or should be) available for all people. It should only be authorized by civil agents in a courthouse. Clergy should not act as a civil official by signing legal documents in a place of worship. On the other hand, religious marriage is a sacred rite for people committed to a particular religion. It should only be performed by religious officials. Clergy should bless marital covenants for religious people in ways that are meaningful to their religious traditions. This separation of civil and religious marriage would help us avoid much confusion in the current debates about marriage.

The Iowa Supreme Court used wise language in their affirmation of "marriage equality" for all couples: "Civil marriage must be judged under our constitutional standards of equal protection and not under religious doctrines or the religious views of individuals." This ruling and these words help to clarify much of the misunderstanding happening in our nation right now. Iowa has made it clear that civil marriage is different than religious marriage.

And, yes, we are proud to be from Iowa!

Monday, July 27, 2009

Love, Creativity, and Adventure

"It is God's nature to love, to love without measure and without interruption. And precisely because this is God's essential nature, God must be sensitive and responsive to the creaturely world. Everything that happens in it has an effect on God. Because God's love never changes, God's experience must change. In other words, it is part of God's unchanging nature to change." - Richard Rice

"God is the great companion: a fellow sufferer who understands, absorbing the world's sins and sufferings, and who guides the world, not by violence or blind decree, but rather by love." - John Cobb

"God is the most relational and related of all beings...The power of God is to influence and to be influenced by, to persuade and be persuaded. The power of God is to suffer with and enjoy all life." Carol Christ

"When the Western world accepted Christianity, Caesar conquered; and the received text of Western theology was edited by his lawyers...The brief Galilean vision of humility flickered throughout the ages...But the deeper idolatry, of the fashioning of God in the image of the Egyptian, Persian, and Roman imperial rulers, was retained. The Church gave unto God the attributes which belonged exclusively to Caesar...There is, however, in the Galilean origin of Christianity yet another suggestion which does not fit very well with any of the three main strands of thought. It does not emphasize the ruling Caesar, or the ruthless moralist, or the unmoved mover. It dwells upon the tender elements in the world, which slowly and in quietness operate by love; and it finds purpose in the present immediacy of a kingdom not of this world. Love neither rules, nor is it unmoved; also it is a little oblivious as to morals. It does not look to the future; for it finds its own reward in the immediate present." A.N. Whitehead

"God's power is persuasive rather than coercive and dominating, it's a lure toward the best possible future rather than a threat of punishment for disobedience." - Lucinda Huffaker

"Creativity is God's gracious gift to us to shape and improvise on the creation in which we live. Faith is the art of practicing that gift...Like the twelve-bar harmonic structure of blues, God's grace structures and shapes the music of faith...God shapes the movement, sustains its life, and gives it purpose and direction." - Ann Pederson

"God's holy adventure calls us to be creative and innovative right now as we listen for divine inspiration, and then to respond by coloring outside the lines and give God something new as a result of our own personal artistry. In contrast to Rich Warren's view of God, I do not believe that God determines everything in advance but that we are invited to be God's companions in creating a future that is, to some degree, open and unfinished...God calls us to become creative companions in God's new and surprising creation." - Bruce Epperly

Some (Possibly) Surprising Statistics

The divorce rate is at 41% and dropping, not 50% and rising.

Blue states have a significantly lower divorce rate than red states.

Iceland is home to the healthiest people on earth.

Denmark is home to the happiest people on earth.

1% of the adult population of the world have a college education.

90% of e-mail is spam.

People use 100% of their brain, not 10%.

57 million cats and 52 million dogs live with U.S. families.

The way we eat has changed more dramatically in the past 50 years than in the previous 10,000 years.

The USA spends more per person on health care than any other country, yet in overall quality its care ranks 37th in the world.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Health Care in the USA: Another Perspective

"It's a myth that America has the best health care in the world. The United States is number one only in one sense, the amount we shell out for health care. We have the most expensive system in the world per capita, but we lag many developed countries on virtually every health statistic you can name; life expectancy, infant mortality, obesity, death rate from prostate cancer, heart attack recovery." - David Gregory on Meet the Press

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Organic Church Manifesto

Organic over canned. Dialogue over doctrine. Poetry over creeds. Fluidity over structure. Spirituality over programs. Practical over abstract. Inclusive over exclusive. Fun over formal. Joyfulness over sullenness. Visual over wordy. Real over flowery. Open over reclusive. People over buildings. Present over past. Doable over theoretical. Interactive over cloistered. Circles over rectangles. Pentecostal over contrived. Chairs over pews. Comprehensive over lectionary. Movement over stagnation. Contextual over universal. Passion over solemness. Invitation over coercion. Nonviolent over harmful. Loving over distant. Justice over inequity. Mutuality over hierarchy. Now over later. Swivel chairs over large pulpits. Cultural competence over cultural imperialism. Tossed salad over melting pot. Navigating ambiguity over forcing certainty. Bible discussions over Bible classes. Restorative justice over condemning judgment. Artistic expression over barren staleness. Local engagement over systemic outrage. Communal salvation over individual salvation. Facilitative leadership over dictatorial CEO-ship. Relational church over mega church. Holistic mission over limited engagement. Diverse music over singular genre. Varied liturgies over repetitive liturgies. Spiritual groups over work committees. Youth engagement over youth estrangement. Brain-storming over narrow-mindedness. Revolving power over stationary power. Dynamic verbs over static nouns. Creation-centered over Creation-excluded. Townhall meetings over monologue speeches. Modern-yet-ancient over contemporary-yet-1980s. Celebration-through-lament over suffering-through-masking. Theologian-of-all-believers over pontifications-from-on-high. Etc.

This "organic church manifesto" has radical implications for the Church. It calls for revolutionary change and deep reformation. How far do we take these ideas?
A.N. Whitehead seems to speak to this question: "[Churches] require some element of novelty to relieve their massive inheritance from a bygone system. Order is not sufficient. What is required, is something much more complex. It is order entering upon novelty; so that the masses of order does not degenerate into mere repetition; and so that the novelty is always reflected upon a background of system…The art of progress is to preserve order amid change, and to preserve change amid order.” Whitehead suggests that we need both order and change; tradition and reformation; roots and wings. Combining established tradition with revolutionary change is difficult work. It requires that we move ahead carefully, prayerfully, and collaboratively. Together we must discern the best way to move forward so can effectively and relevantly be the Church in the postmodern world.

These organic elements will all come to fruition differently in each location. It's all contextual. And it will all look different based on a community's needs, cultures, and spiritualities. Here are some examples of people who are applying these revolutionary ideas in their communities, all-the-while staying rooted in the traditions of the wider Church: Holden Village, Iona Community, Liberation Christian Church, Saint Brendan's Celtic Community, Saint Gregory's Church, Trinity UCC, Saint Sabina, House For All, Solomon's Porch, Vintage Faith, Jacob's Well, Church of the Apostles, and the Taize Community. There are also many house churches that are doing some amazing ministry. Hopefully these creative communities continue to grow and thrive!

Jackie Shaw on Postmodern Church

Jackie Shaw is the guest blogger this week for the on-going blog series called PomoChurch, which features a variety of people reflecting on the meaning of Postmodernity and its implications for the Church.

As an English major in college, the term "Post Modern" was used to describe any literature written after 1945. This is not exactly what it means in discussion circles in the church. The definition laid out for me in college always made more sense to me than what I heard in seminary. The seminary discussion was too nebulous and I could never really get a grasp of what Postmodernity meant exactly.

We live in a world in which we can turn on our tv and see mass chaos and slaughter on the news or on prime time. We have the capacity to send a bomb that will burn hundreds of thousands of people in a matter of minutes. The bomb may not kill everyone, but it will poison the ground and the water. It will leave those who remain with scars that are unimaginable. And the psychological wounds caused to those who were bombed and those who did the bombing, even if only by proxy, would have been unimaginable to Jesus and his followers.

We live in a world that has to live with the results of the Holocaust, Darfur and Rowanda. These kinds atrocities may have happened in the Pre-Modern and Modern age. People have always found reasons to kill each other. But our Pre-Modern and Modern sisters and brothers, at least in some respects, had the ability to forget. They didn’t have the technology to record images of these horrible events for generations to come. They could talk about it and tell fish tales, but we have visual evidence of how horrible humans can be to each other and to the earth itself.
Postmodernity has also allowed us the technology to offer extreme compassion and care to and for each other. We can drop food and supplies to cities destroyed by hurricanes in a matter of hours. We can build bridges to places isolated from the world so the children living there can get books and learn to read. We can name post descriptions of vehicles used to kidnap children so in theory, the whole world can come together for the sake of a missing child. We have the ability to provide care and safety to every child born in this Postmodern age. We don’t always do our best of course, but we have the ability.

The church has a stronghold in helping us do and be our best. The church can be like Jacob and wrestle with the shadows in our proverbial closets, or it can be content to throw a huge table clothe over the elephant in the room and only fixate on an event that happened in our past instead of opening our eyes to what is going on around us.

Our theology was started on the story of someone’s death, and while we can never deny Jesus’ death or make it pretty, until we can work through the trauma of his death, we can’t really move forward. We are stuck at a moment in time. Jesus’ death was significant, but if God had wanted us to only focus on that, why didn’t Herod kill Jesus right after he was born? We don’t know everything about Jesus’ life, but we know he had one, and it wasn’t particularly short for the time. He laughed, he cried, he got angry and asked questions. Why should the church and its people be any different?

Jesus also lives on in every heart that believes something in the world can be different. The church can fan the flames of life and action, rather than continue to live in the unresolved trauma of death.

Communion can be anywhere, open to anyone, not secluded to members of a certain group in a certain location with specific rules and regulations. Communion can be breakfast on the beach. It can be any ordinary meal for ordinary people eaten in ordinary ways with extraordinary hospitality and care. And Jesus is there, living on through his followers, and smiling.

Jackie Shaw is a graduate of Eden Theological Seminary. She writes healing services for abuse survivors and attempts to write non-violent communion services. These resources are avalible online at Jackie Shawn Ministries. She and her husband, Andy, live in St. Louis.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Health Care Reform: The Results Are In

Health care reform is an urgent priority. Many families have inadequate coverage and 47 million people have no health care at all. This is true even when people are working full-time. Most of these folks live in fear of getting sick or injured. Any kind of medical emergency could send an already struggling family into financial debt and distress for the rest of their lives. The reality is that about 60 percent of all bankruptcies are due to medical bills. These are real people dealing with real illnesses who have to deal with real financial burdens. And worse, some people cannot afford the treatment that they need. Around 18,000 people die unnecessarily each year because they lack health insurance. This is not acceptable. It's literally a matter of life and death. Health care should be a right for all people, not a privilege for the few.

The Gospels are filled with stories about Jesus and the disciples caring for people. They fed hungry people. They healed people's illnesses. They helped poor people. They brought comfort to hurting people. The list goes on and on. The movement they started grew into what we call the Church today. We are the modern disciples of Jesus. Our challenge is to follow Jesus' actions and words. In the end, Jesus commands us to "love our neighbors as we love ourselves" (Matthew 22:39) and to take care of the needs of "the least of these" (Matthew 25:31-46). He asks us to do these things because his ministry was centered on bringing and preaching good news to the poor (Luke 4:18). Jesus makes it clear: If the Gospel isn't good news for poor people, then it isn't the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

As Gospel-following Christians, we need to care for sick and hurting people - especially the poor. This is nothing new. It's been happening for a long time. Many hospitals, including Mayo Clinic, were founded by Christians. Many doctors and nurses, including those initially at Mayo Clinic, were active members of their church. In fact, the word "hospital" comes from the Latin word "hospitalis", which means "hospitable." Health care started out rooted in the Christian tradition of hospitality that cared for all sick and hurting people. Now we need to figure out how to ensure that hospitals are hospitable to all people - especially people who cannot afford health insurance as it exists today.

There is not a perfect health care system nor is there a God-ordained system of health insurance. But one thing is clear: the current system is broken and desperately needs fixing. Health care reform is an imperative, not an option. We need to stand together, as Democrats and Republicans, to ensure that all people receive the health care and health coverage that they need. One possibility is President Obama's proposal that we add a "public option" to all the private options of health insurance. This would provide the competition needed to ensure that the health care in the US remains among the best in the world. But this would also provide a much-needed refuge for all the people who cannot afford adequate health care. It's a win-win. The public option is one way to ensure that health care and coverage is a reality for all God's children.

We need to demand health care reform from our elected officials. This isn't a time for political games. It's a time to go deeper. And it's a time for results.

Here are a few practical actions we can take to help bring about real results:

(1) Pray

(2) Sign the Health Care Creed to support health-care for all people. Sojourners will send this petition to our national elected officials.

(3) Download and share the Sojourners' health-care discussion guide with your congregation and friends.

(4) Read perspectives from trusted organizations such as the Mayo Clinic Health Policies Center.

(5) Thank a doctor or nurse for the healing they provide.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

"Journey" - Sara

Sara's new song, "Journey," is about choosing the paths we take on the journey of life. Sometimes our choices are too few. Sometimes our choices are too many. And sometimes it's hard to choose which paths are the best to take. Many times there isn't a "right" or "wrong" path. There are just different paths that lead to different outcomes. The important thing for us to do is to choose the paths that can help us most fully enjoy the adventure of life. Thankfully, God accompanies us through the twists and turns of our journeying in order to offer us guidance along the way. The presence of God continually beckons us forward to new and unforeseen territory. This makes each path we choose a holy adventure. Humanity is blessed with an adventure-driven life.

We've been searching,
We've been hoping,
We've traveled a very long way.
We've been talking,
We've been listening,
'Bout time we start to see the light of day.

Heading down the road, wind blowing at our back -
We can choose the destination, but we gotta throw away the map.

You and I, we have the world on a string;
Feet planted on the ground, reaching out for greater things.
Here we are, what's your dream? What's your pleasure?
'Cause all we have is now, and we can choose our own adventure.

We've been waiting,
We've been wanting,
We've been there and we've done all that.
We've been trying,
We've been looking;
Only seen our own reflection looking back.

Heading down the road, wind blowing at our back -
We can choose the destination, but we gotta throw away the map.

You and I, we have the world on a string;
Feet planted on the ground, reaching out for greater things.
Here we are, what's your dream? What's your pleasure?
'Cause all we have is now, and we can choose our own adventure.

We've been thinking,
We've been watching;
Clouds have cleared and now they're gone from the sky.
Sun is rising,
Dawn is breaking,
It's time to spread our wings and learn how to fly.

Heading down the road, wind blowing at our back -
We can choose the destination, but we gotta throw away the map.

You and I, we have the world on a string;
Feet planted on the ground, reaching out for greater things.
Here we are, what's your dream? What's your pleasure?
'Cause all we have is now, and we can choose our own adventure.

You can choose your own adventure.



If you enjoyed the lyrics of this song, you may also enjoy reading Bruce Epperly's book Holy Adventure: 41 Days of Audacious Living. Here is an excerpt from the book: "God's holy adventure calls us to be creative and innovative right now as we listen for divine inspiration, and then to respond by coloring outside the lines and give God something new as a result of our own personal artistry. In contrast to Rich Warren's view of God, I do not believe that God determines everything in advance but that we are invited to be God's companions in creating a future that is, to some degree, open and unfinished...God calls us to become creative companions in God's new and surprising creation" (22). Enjoy the adventure!

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Receiving the Kingdom of God as a Child

Today we remember a father, son, brother, singer, lyricist, and humanitarian: Michael Jackson. He said the words from Luke 18:17 were very important to him: "Truly I tell you, whoever does not receive the Kingdom of God as a little child will never enter it." After not having a childhood of his own due to his singing career, Jackson tried to live like a child when we was an adult. An example of this was his Neverland Ranch, which had a zoo, amusement park, and movie theater. But Jackson didn't keep this ranch to himself. He brought joy to thousands of terminally ill children by hosting them at his ranch. He made sure that all the children laughed and played - and, if only for a moment, got to be a "normal" kid. They got to pet animals, enjoy rides, and watch movies just like anyone else. This ministry to children was an important way that Jackson was able to "receive the Kingdom of God as a child." He said this was the way he lived out his faith. Jackson also used his money to support the work of non-profit organizations. He donated hundreds of millions of dollars to many different charities all over the world. In fact, The Guinness Book of World Records calls Jackson the "Pop Star who supports the most charity organizations." Many of these charities support children. So, Jackson certainly received the Kingdom of God as a child - and helped many others to do so as well. And now Jackson's ministry - expressed through his music and charity - will continue to live on. May Jackson's legacy inspire all of us to support and care for children, near and far.



Jennifer Hudson singing Michael Jackson's song "Will You Be There?" at Jackson's memorial service in Los Angeles, CA.

Monday, July 6, 2009

"Parable of the Sower" - Octavia Butler

In Octavia Butler's book Parable of the Sower, she provides many thought-provoking, faith-evoking, and action-inspiring quotes. Here are a few that were especially meaningful to us:

"All that you touch, you change. All that you change, changes you. The only lasting truth is change. God is Change."

"God can't be resisted or stopped, but can be shaped and focused."

"God is Change, and in the end, God prevails. But God exists to be shaped. It isn't enough for us just to survive, limping along, playing business as usual while things get worse and worse."

"Why is the universe? To shape God. Why is God? To shape the universe."

"All struggles are essentially power struggles. Who will rule. Who will lead. Who will define, refine, confine, design. Who will dominate. All struggles are essentially power struggles. And most are no more intellectual than two rams knocking their heads together."

"All successful life is adaptable, opportunistic, tenacious, interconnected, and fecund. Understand this. Use it. Shape God."

"We are Earthseed. The life that perceives itself changing."

"I preached from Luke, chapter eighteen, verses one through eight: the parable of the importunate widow...A widow is so persistent in her demands for justice that she overcomes the resistance of a judge who fears neither God nor man. She wears him down. Moral: The weak can overcome the strong if the weak persist."

The essentials [of Earthseed] are to shape God with forethought, care, and work; to educate and benefit their community, their families, and themselves; and to contribute of the fulfillment of the Destiny."

"God is Infinite Potential: God is Change."

"Your teachers are all around you. All that you perceive. All that you experience. All that is given to you, or taken from you. All that you love or hate, need or fear. Will teach you - if you will learn. God is your first and last teacher."

"Respect God. Pray working. Pray learning, planning, doing. Pray creating, teaching, reaching. Pray working. Pray to focus your thoughts, still your fears, strengthen your purpose. Respect God. Shape God. Pray working."

"God is Change, and in the end, God does prevail. But we have something to say about the whens and the whys in that end."

"Create no images of God. Accept the images that God has provided. They are everywhere, in everything. God is Change. Seed to tree, tree to forest. Rain to river, river to sea. Grubs to bees, bees to swarms. From one, many; from many, one. Forever uniting, growing, dissolving - forever changing. The universe is God's self-portrait."

Uriah Kim on Postmodern Church

is the guest blogger this week for the on-going blog series called PomoChurch, which features a variety of people reflecting on the meaning of Postmodernity and its implications for the Church.

What does Postmodernity mean?I will offer a short reflection on what I think postmodern means to me. I just returned to the United States after spending a semester at a university in Seoul, South Korea; it was my first visit to Korea since I came to the United States more than thirty years ago. While there I had an opportunity to teach a course for undergraduate students. I’m sure there are some readers of this blog who will assume that all the students in my class were Koreans and I taught in Korean. But, there I was, teaching a course in English as a “foreign” faculty (since I’m an U.S. citizen I’m considered a foreigner from Koreans’ perspective); there were six Korean students and two American exchange students. Korean students learning from an American professor who looks like them yet conducts the class solely in English seems odd. What may seem even stranger is the fact that American students are learning in English from a professor who looks like a Korean and the class takes place in Korea. This scene is not as rare as one might think in the postmodern age and goes against a modernist stereotype that would have a white American professor teaching in English and Korean students with limited English learning at his feet.

Modernist categories or thoughts are rigid and demarcated, allowing national identity to define one’s language, culture, and allegiance. Postmodernity encourages crossing boundaries modernity has constructed over the last five hundred years. Postmodern celebrates and allows new possibilities and permutations of thoughts and identities. But postmodern sometimes, perhaps often, celebrates differences without acknowledging or addressing inequalities that are still in place due to or privileges afforded by modernist legacies. We need to ask, in referring to my cas
e above, why it is the case that even though English no longer belongs to those people or lands that traditionally used English, English speakers have unmerited advantages over those who speak little English even in Korea. For me to fully embrace postmodernity, it not only needs to embrace differences but address inequalities that are encoded in modernist thoughts and structures.

What does Postmodernity mean for the Church?
Postmodern in general questions central authorities and absolute truths, therefore, the Church and what it claims and stands for are contested in the postmodern age. Although postmodern does not mean post-Church or post-Christianity (that is, it is not an end to Church or Christianity), however, it does mean a time and an attitude for exploring alternative configu
rations of ecclesia are in order. There is no one normative church; instead, there are many models that are equally valuable and valid to a wide variety of constituents. Whether one is participating in a mega, cyber, steeple, or house church, there are different types of ecclesia for Christians to be involved. I say “involved” rather than “attend” because postmodern means that the Church needs to provide multiple sites of practicing faith for people with common interests or causes rather than one physical location for Christians to be members of.

Let me end with a reflection on how the Bible is being interpreted in the postmodern world. I do not think going back to pre-critical, pre-modern understanding of the Bible is the way to go. We have to accept and acknowledge much of the knowledge about the Bible and its world that has been accumulated by modern biblical scholarship. We cannot go back to those days when the Bible was at the mercy of “subjective” explications of the interpreters or served as proof-texts for the Church doctrines, but, at the same time, we cannot leave the interpretation of the Bible to the exp
erts who claim to be doing “objective” scholarship. Postmodern places a greater burden on individual Christians to discern the will of God, requiring Christians to become informed interpreters of the Bible, taking into account of personal experiences and relying on local knowledge as much as on the authority of the preacher or the scholar. We, however, would be unwise to dismiss the knowledge provided by the scholars or the inspiration by the preachers.

is professor of Hebrew Bible at Hartford Seminary. He earned a B.A. at New York University, an M.Div. at Princeton Theological Seminary, M.Th. at Emory University, and a Ph.D. from the Graduate Theological Union. Kim has published two books: Identity and Loyalty in the David Story: A Postcolonial Reading and Decolonializing Josiah: Toword a Postcolonial Reading of the Deuteronomistic History. He has also made contributions in other books, including The Peoples' Bible.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Brief History of Christianity

"Christianity began in Jerusalem as a set of relationships; moved into Greece where it became a philosophy; moved into Rome where it became a government institution; then onto Europe where it became a culture; and then to America, where it has become an enterprise." - Richard Halverson