Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Holy Week Meditation

The hope of the Resurrection Community. The art of He Qi. The music of William Elliott Whitmore. The latest video from us.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Finding a Healthy Family-Work Ballance

We have been talking about starting a family. So, we've been thinking a lot about trying to find a healthy balance between work and family. But there seems to be an unwritten rule that says people in helping professions should work 50 hours each week. We're also "supposed to" move on to bigger and better positions. It's kinda like the corporate world where people work long hours when they're young in order to climb the corporate ladder. But at what cost?

The math is interesting. Working 50 hours a week means putting in an extra day (1.25 days) each week, an extra month (1.15 months) each year, and an extra year (11.54 months) each decade. The cost of working 50 hours per week adds up quickly. And this is time away from family, friends, hobbies, housework, childcare etc.

We want it "all." But do we really want to work that much? According to recent statistics, 74% of people want to spend more time with their kids and 50% would take a pay cut in exchange for more time off. People seem to be bucking the over-working trend. We want a "new all." An "all" that includes time to be with family - and seeing kids' basketball games. In short, people want balance. Many people are finding out that productivity and job satisfaction actually increase when people have a better work-family balance in their life.

Working less is better. Yup, it's true. Leaving the office early, coming into the office late, and assertively establishing personal boundaries have all proven to increase productivity at work. It's the old 80-20 Rule. Most honest supervisors will admit that 80% of quality productivity comes from 20% of time spent at work. It's simple. We work such long hours that we need to take little breaks throughout the day. Some of the day is just wasted away. But it doesn't have to be that way. What if instead of checking Facebook for the fifth time (or fiftieth time) in a day, we just worked harder and left the office earlier? There's no reason to work over 5 days and 40 hours a week. We just need to use our time efficiently and effectively. We can all probably do the same amount of work in 40 hours that we can in 50. Working less means we have more time for family, hobbies, vacations, etc. Having time to hang out means we're happier. And happy people are more productive workers. So, be proud to work less!

Redefining success is important. We don't have to strive for the top positions in our fields. Who needs the extra stress and responsibility? Obviously, if you're anything like us, you want to be successful. But what if we define success on our own terms? Success can mean making sure that we have the time to build our kids a treehouse, see a play with our loved one, and maybe even do something fun for ourselves. Success can mean turning down promotions in order to ensure a healthy work-family balance. Success can mean downshifting our career so we don't have to work 50 hours a week. Success can mean setting and accomplishing our own goals in life.

Calendars are a moral document. That's what Jim Wallis said recently. And that seems right. Our schedules tell us what and who we value enough to schedule into our lives. Is our boss more valued than our kids? Is working that extra day a week more important than spending the day on the beach with our spouse/partner? Is working late valued more than making it to the basketball game? Those darn schedules are tricky things. A dramatic example of this is in the movie Click, where Adam Sandler plays a character that wastes his life working while ignoring his family. Thankfully he gets a second chance. And so do we. Every day. Our challenge is to make sure that our schedules match our priorities. And to make sure we're living the kind of live we want to live.

Check out the following links for more info on redefining success, working less, and playing more. Or just ignore these links and take your family to the park!

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

"Resurrection": A Song and an Experiment

We would like to recruit you to help us write our new Easter song. It's called "I Believe in the Resurrection" and it's based on a quote from Peter Rollin's post called "I Deny the Resurrection:"

"I deny the resurrection of Christ every time I do not serve at the feet of the oppressed, each day that I turn my back on the poor; I deny the resurrection of Christ when I close my ears to the cries of the downtrodden and lend my support to an unjust and corrupt system."
The chorus of the song picks up on Rollins' theme of affirming the Resurrection through action. It can be read and heard below. Now we're asking for your help in writing the verses. Feel free to share any ideas you have. A theme. A line. A rhyme. A whole verse. Or whatever else you might feel compelled to share. We want to write this song collaboratively with the online community. Please post your ideas in the comment section.

I believe in the Resurrection
And I affirm that it is real
Every time I stand my ground
For all those who've been trodden down
Every time I voice concern
For Those not able to be heard
Every time tears flood my eyes
For those who've no tears left to cry
Jesus lives in me



Thursday, March 18, 2010

Hard Times: The Gospel According to William Elliott Whitmore

William Elliott Whitmore has written a lot of great music over the years. His voice is gravely yet soulful. His style is bluesy yet earthy. His lyrics are brooding yet hopeful. Plus, he's a good old fashion Iowa-farm-boy-turned-rock-star. Seriously good stuff.

Whitmore wrote a song called "Hard Times" that explores the idea that the difficulties we face in life actually make us who we are. Instead of letting the tough times break us down, we can try to emerge from them as resilient as possible. In life we can't always choose what happens to us, but we can choose how we respond to those things. And for that reason there is always hope. The hard times we face might not be optimal, but we can choose to use those expereinces to better our lives and the lives of others. In an interview, Whitmore says: "Sometimes it takes a little difficulty to squeeze the creativity out of people. To help people reprioritize their lives. To look at things a little differently." Hard times can be defining times.

We thought the theme of Whitmore's song "Hard Times" described the hard times that Jesus faced in the wilderness (Mark 1:12; Matthew 4:1-8; Luke 4:1-13). This song could easily be playing as a soundtrack while reading this story. So, I wrote an additional verse to the song that tied in Jesus' story of hard times with the other stories of hard times in the song. Then Sara recorded this "collaboration" between Whitmore and myself. Here are the lyrics and video:

My Grandma's Grandpa
Came over across the sea
In the boiler room of a steam ship
On his way from Germany

He was running from the Kaiser
Who was putting the hammer down
And the cries of the dying men
Were such an awful sound
They were such an awful sound

Hard times
Hard times
Hard times made us

And my father was a railroad man
A mechanic, and son of the soil
His back was busted
And his hands were cut and sore
His hands were cut and sore

But he swore that hard times
Hard times
Hard times made us

You know that hard times
Hard times
Hard times made us
And I would not trade them all for anything

Uncle Sam
Well he aint no kin to me
And what we have
Is a crisis of authority
Its a crisis of authority

Hard times
Hard times
Hard times made us

You know that hard times
Hard times
Hard times made us
And I would not trade them all for anything

[Extra "Jesusy" lyrics by Brian]

My savior Jesus
Went into the wilderness
And he faced many difficulties
As he overcame his distress

And those forty long days of temptation
Were breaking his spirit down
But the Lord was with him then
Making hope out of hopelessness
Oh, making hope out of hopelessness

Lord, you know that hard times
Hard times
Hard times made us

You know that hard times
Hard times
Hard times made us
And I would not trade them all for anything

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Standing with Jim Wallis; Protesting Glenn Beck

Jim Wallis is an outstanding writer and preacher. I have read his works, listened to his sermons, and attended his events. While I don't always agree with him, I always appreciate his perspective. Wallis is a good guy and thoughtful theologian.

Sojourners, the social justice magazine that Wallis started, has been my magazine of choice since 2000. When the president of Eden told my graduating class that Christian Century was the most important magazine for pastors to read, I respectfully never took his advice. I found Sojourners (and now Generate also) to be more prophetic, engaging, fresh, etc.

Call To Renewal, the social justice organization that Wallis founded, is an ecumenical organization that works to make the world a better place for all those who are poor, hungry, thirsty, voiceless, etc. I have taken part in their letter-writing campaigns and lobbying efforts. Politicians from Barack Obama to Sam Brownback listen carefully to CTR. They are an effective group.

I have met Jim Wallis on several occasions. In fact, he preached in the chapel at Eden when I was a student there. While Wallis was in town, I was able to have a brief conversation with him about a few theological questions. In these contexts, I found him to be a friendly, compassionate, and committed person. While he's not perfect, he's certainly a solid guy.

It should be no surprise that Wallis was offended by Glenn Beck's attack on social justice. Beck said social justice was a code word for Communism and Nazism. He also called on people to leave their church and report their pastor if the word social justice was mentioned in their congregation. In reply, Wallis invited Beck into a dialogue about social justice in the teachings of Jesus and the Hebrew prophets. Click here to read Wallis' letter to Beck. Watch the video below to see Wallis interviewed on MSNBC:

Visit msnbc.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy


Wallis is not alone. Evangelicals, Catholics, Mainliners, and Mormons have all issued statements that remind Beck of the centrality of social justice in their Scriptures and traditions.

Glenn Beck has responded to Wallis on Beck's radio show. But he didn't respond to the Biblical and theological questions that Wallis offered. And he didn't offer the charitability that Wallis afforded him. Instead, Beck responded with a puerile threat:
"But just know — the hammer is coming, because little do you know, for eight weeks, we’ve been compiling information on you, your cute little organization, and all the other cute little people that are with you. And when the hammer comes, it’s going to be hammering hard and all through the night, over and over."
Instead of responding to Wallis and all the other religious leaders who are speaking out right now, Beck responds with this schoolyard-banter. It's disappointing that attacks have replaced civil dialogue. But shock jocks like Beck have been doing this for years. The problem with this style of rageful banter is that its venom seeps out and poisons the the civil discourse that is happening in our nation. And when that venom seeps into people who are already disturbed, dangerous things can happen. An example of an outcome of this rage happened in 2008, when Jim Adkisson shot four people to death at Tennessee Valley Unitarian Universalist Church because he was upset about their liberalism. Bill Moyers did an outstanding special about the dangers of shock rocks called, Rage on the Radio. While Beck is not responsible for the actions of disturbed people, he is responsible for the rage that his banter insights. And that is the reason that civil discourse is so important - especially when people like Beck have such a large stage. It would be much more helpful to our nation if Beck could present his conservative ideas in a much more civil, nuanced, and thoughtful way. Conservatives like Peggy Noonan and David Brooks do this very well. They should be models and mentors for Beck. People in the media have a great opportunity and moral responsibility to promote civil discourse over angry banter. Jim Wallis is one of many people who are trying to call Glenn Beck to account for his unhelpful banter.

I proudly stand beside Brian McLaren, Shane Claiborne, Tony Campolo, and all the other people who are with Wallis and support Sojourners and Call To Renewal. I stand with them because they stand up for justice and peace in a world that desperately needs more justice and peace. And because our Scripture and conscience compel us to work for better world for all people. Social justice isn't a code word for Communism, it's a code word for Christianity (and Judaism, Islam, Buddhism, humanism, etc.).

If you feel compelled, click here to let Glenn Beck know that you are a "social justice" Christian.

Monday, March 15, 2010

"God Is Here" - Sara Kay

"God Is Here" is a song we wrote for Lent, but it could be about any difficult time in life. It serves as a reminder that God is with us through good times and difficult times. And nothing can seperate us from the love of God (Romans 8:38-39)! God holds us in the sunshine, and even closer in the rain.


"God Is Here"

At times our lives seem broken
Destroyed beyond repair
We miss the mark so often
And can't help but feel despair

But God loves you, God hears you
God cares about your pain
God holds you in the sunshine
And even closer in the rain

See God cry your tears
Feel God hold you near
Precious child, holy child
God is here

Though we walk in shadow
And get lost in the deepest night
We know God dances in the darkness
Just as much as in the light

'Cause God loves you, God hears you
God cares about your pain
God holds you in the sunshine
Holds you closer in the rain

See God cry your tears
Feel God hold you near
Precious child, holy child
God is here

So all who thirst and hunger
Come and have your fill
I've always been beside you
Rest assured I always will

'Cause I love you, I hear you
I care about your pain
I'll hold you in the sunshine
Hold you even closer in the rain

See me cry your tears
Feel me hold you near
Precious child, holy child
I am here

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Adapting the Church for a Post-Google World

After the Theology After Google conference, Philip Clayton said: "This major conference wasn’t really about Google. In one sense, it wasn’t even about technology. At a deeper level, it was about two questions: should the church adapt to the rapidly changing world around us? And, if so, what precisely should we do?" My answer is "yes" to the first question and "it depends" to the second question.

Should the church adapt to the rapidly changing world around us?

Yes! Each age has had to adjust for its time and context. Adaptation has been a part of the Church since the Church has been the Church. Here are a few of the people who have led some of these adaptations: Jesus, Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, Paul, Lydia, Phoebe, Clement, Macrina, Irenaeus, Syncletica, Tertullian, Origen, Hildegard, First Council of Nicaea, Anselm, Abelard, Lombard, Augustine, Pelagius, Luther, Zwingli, Calvin, Council of Trent, Spener, Wesley, Schleiermacher, Hegel, Kierkegaard, Hodge, Briggs, Niagara Bible Conference, Rauschenbusch, Vatican II, Schillebeeckx, Barth, Niebuhr, Tillich, Edwards, Bultmann, Moltmann, Johnson, Ruether, Sobrino, Tamez, Cone, Grant, Pui Lan, Dube, Cobb, Keller, Wright, Borg, McLaren, Theology After Google, etc.

All of these people and groups adapted the Church’s theologies and practices in an effort to help the Church be faithful, the message be relevant, and ministry be effective. That’s not wrong or controversial. That’s practical and faithful. It demonstrates the Church’s ability to discern God’s voice and apply Scriptural wisdom to our different and changing contexts. So the Church is going to be expressed and embodied differently in each congregation as adaptations are made along the way. These adaptations are what the Church has always done as we seek to faithfully live out the Gospel of Jesus Christ in each new age and location. As we adapt ourselves, we are not called to “be” Jesus by doing ministry just like he did, in the lands where he traveled. That’s not adaptation – and it’s certainly not realistic. Instead, we are called to be faithful to the Gospel in the particular place we live, and in ways that make sense for the place we live. The fundamental question of the Church isn’t: What would Jesus do? The fundamental question is: What would Jesus have us do in our particular time and place? That’s the question each of us must face. And each of us will have a different answer. The important thing is to be faithful to the answer that each of us discerns. The common thread will be adaptation and change as we seek to be as faithful and effective as possible in our different contexts. As Charles Darwin said: “It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent that survives. It is the one that is the most adaptable to change.” For the sake of the effectiveness of the Church and our ability to share the Good News, we need to adapt. Theology After Google was one important conversation along the path toward good and faithful adaptation. We need more conversations like these. They help us to discern the best ways to adapt the Church in our postmodern, internet-based world. As our foremothers and forefathers in faith have always done, we must continue to mold ourselves into ever-new designs from the clay that has been passed onto us.

What precisely should we do?

It depends. Seriously. Each context will require different kinds of adaptations and actions. A short list of possible ideas could include these strategies: 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. Barstools over pulpits. Blogs over journals. 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. Cultural inclusiveness 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.

All of these ideas and more will be needed as we adapt the Church for the postmodern, internet-age world. The last thing we need to do is be a "Gutenberg Church" (hierarchical and monological) in a "Google World" (interconnected and dialogical). So we need fresh, relevant ideas about which adaptations would be most faithful and effective - and how to apply those adaptations. But one person can't make such a list. For one thing, the list would be outdated by the time the person finished writing it. For another thing, a good idea in one place may not be a good idea in another place. Therefore, the most important thing we can possibly do right now is to join the conversation and start trying things. And that is part of the point. We need to be more dialogical, contextual, and nimble. And always be learning, growing, and adapting.

What ideas do you have?

Monday, March 8, 2010

Obama, McLaren, and Breaking the 9th Commandment

As Barack Obama is to politics, Brian McLaren is to theology. And we mean that as a compliment to both of them. Both are committed to being open and inclusive of different perspectives. Both speak with nuance and charitably. Both invite as many people to the table as possible. Yet, the interesting thing for us is to see how Obama and McLaren are treated by their detractors. McLaren is labeled a "heretic" and "apostate." Obama is labeled a "socialist" and "communist." Clearly, these words are simply meant to stamp these men with a deeper label: "other." We're supposed to fear Obama and McLaren because they are not like "us." It's the old "us-versus-them" game. It pits the implied bad people of the world ("others" like Obama and McLaren) against the implied good people world ("us"). The irony in this sloppy label-slapping is that the two people who seem the most open and inclusive of other people are being labeled as the most "other" and "extreme." There's a phrase for this kind of label-mongering: bearing false witness. And that breaks the 9th commandment (Exodus 20:16).

Obama is not a socialist. We lived in Norway for a while and experienced the gifts and challenges of socialism. We can say confidently that Obama is no socialist. And is certainly no communist. To say otherwise is to break #9. In reality, Obama is a rather centrist, pragmatic reformer of politics. (Click here for more.)

McLaren is not a heretic. We have studied church history and know about the diversity of theologies in Christianity. We can say confidently that McLaren is no heretic. And is certainly no pagan. To say otherwise is to break #9. In reality, McLaren is a rather centrist, pragmatic reformer of theology. (Click here for more.)

We desperately need more civil discourse in politics and religion. And once we have that, we might even begin to have more generative conversations with one another. It's time to follow the lead of people like Obama and McLaren. We need more thoughtful dialogue. And there's nothing false about that.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Sparkhouse: Who Made The Bible? And Other Cool Stuff

Sparkhouse is a design group that is making creative, fresh resources for congregations. Right now they have three main programs. ReNew: Green VBS empowers youth to get involved in environmental stewardship. ClayFire: Reshaping Worship explores emerging ways of worship. And ReForm: Conformation helps to make theology interesting for young people. It's good stuff. Check out their video that explores who made the Bible below. Somehow they managed to make the canonization process into an interesting 4-minute cartoon. That accomplishment alone makes Sparkhouse worthy of a shout-out!

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Lies My Preacher Told Me (During Lent)

A few years ago we read the book "Lies My Teacher Told Me." It's about how the depiction of US history in many textbooks is inaccurate and skewed. In fact, much of it is told from a Eurocentric perspective that makes Europeans out to be the "true" heroes and "true" Americans in our history. This Eurocentric telling of US history negatively affects all peoples because it doesn't help us to understand history from a more broad perspective. Certain things get emphasized over other things - all at the price of a more helpful understanding of our history.

Churches, especially during Lent, emphasizes certain aspects of Christianity over other aspects. It's no secret that Lent is a time to focus on the suffering and death of Jesus on the cross. Suffering is the emphasis. And it brings with it the cost of justifying unnecessary suffering in the lives of some Christians. Like unhelpful US history, unhelpful theology harms us all. So, we'd like to address three lies that frequently get told during Lent. The hope is that exposing these lies can help us all navigate the season of Lent in more healthy and helpful ways.

(1) Suffering is redemptive. Traditional understandings of the cross suggest that Jesus' suffering and death was redemptive. Isaiah 53 is used to suggest this during Lent. Verse 5 says, "He was wounded for our transgressions, crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the punishment that made us whole, and by his bruises we are healed." The message is that the suffering of one person can be redemptive for others. This idea can suggest that suffering is a good and faithful thing for people who want to be Christ-like. Some believe that suffering is simply "bearing one's cross" for God, like Jesus did. But not all "crosses" are good and faithful to bear. As Parker Palmer says, it's "important to distinguish in life...between true crosses and false crosses." Some crosses are worth bearing and some are not.

"Crosses" that are worth bearing are the things we do to stand up for our faith despite their unpopularity. People like Rosa Parks and Martin Luther King Jr. bore the cross of the civil rights movement. They risked their lives for the sake of helping others. And they helped bring healing to a hurting nation. This kind of cross can ultimately be redemptive for oneself and for others. It's a cross that's good and faithful to bear.

"Crosses" that aren't worth bearing are things such as cruelty, abuse, depression, etc. Some people refuse to leave abusive relationships because they believe it's just their cross to bear. Some refuse to get help for diseases such as depression because they think the pain they experience is their cross to bear. The list could go on and on. The point is simple. In these cases, their crosses are destructive without being redemptive. This kind of suffering only leads to more suffering for oneself and for others. Therefore, this kind of suffering should be addressed, resisted, and overcome. These are bad crosses for anyone to have to bear.


(2) To suffer is to love. Traditional understandings of the life of Jesus suggest that he selflessly suffered and sacrificed himself on behalf of others. His suffering is considered the highest form of love. Christians, as followers of Christ, are called to share this same kind of sacrificial love. In fact, John 15:13 says, "No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends." However, the suggestion that the greatest form of love is suffering and giving away one's own life can be deeply problematic.

Some self-sacrificial suffering is harmful even when the person is well-meaning by it. One example that comes to mind is the over-committed worker who puts in 60-70 hours of work each week in order to feel needed, important, productive, supportive, and faithful. This shows up in people who are CEOs, lawyers, pastors, etc. They all have high pressure jobs where their responsibilities are endless. They think that the more they work, the more they will be appreciated and the more they will be able to provide for their families. So they decide to self-sacrificially suffer through the long days. But the over-work that comes from over-commitment can become a destructive idol. Marriages become rocky because of the lack of time spent together as a couple. Families become angry because they feel the person has chosen his/her career over the family. And the person who over-works can begin to feel depressed, guilty, burnt out, and dependent on drugs. While the person may be well-meaning in their desire to sacrifice their life for their work and family, the sacrifice will eventually destroy their work, family, and person him/herself. This is an example of an unhealthy sacrifice.

Obviously some self-sacrifice is needed and helpful. New parents have to sacrifice time and money for the joy of having children. Employees working near a deadline may need to work extra hours in order to finished necessary responsibilities. Members of the military sacrifice time in order to protect their nation. All of these are examples of healthy sacrifices. The important aspect in applying Christianity's emphasis on self-sacrifice is to use it rationally and discerningly. Some self-sacrificial suffering is beneficial - and some is destructive. Some self-sacrificial suffering is loving and some is not.

(3) Silence about suffering is a virtue. Jesus is often held up as the model of silent suffering. He was meek and mild. He was obedient unto death. Isaiah 53:7 is often used to emphasize Jesus' willingness to suffer silently: "He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he did not open his mouth; like a lamb that is led to the slaughter, and like a sheep that before its shearers is silent, so he did not open his mouth." In the face of suffering, Jesus kept his mouth shut and did not complain. So, in order to be Christ-like Christians, the suggestion is often that we should be willing to suffer silently through our troubles as well.

Silence in the face of suffering can be a great evil. We should not be silent about sexual, physical, and emotional abuse. We should not be silent about racism, sexism, and classism. We should not be silent about the aches and pains in our bodies that need medical treatment. We should not be silent about poverty, AIDS, and global warming. In all of these cases, the suffering needs to be brought out into the open so it can be addressed. If it's hidden away and masked with silence, then the suffering will destroy those who need help the most. And in our interdependent world, the suffering that affects one person directly affects all of us indirectly. Therefore we must all speak out against suffering so it can be resisted and addressed. Especially during Lent, we need to remember that Jesus frequently spoke out against the suffering, pain, and injustices that harmed people. As disciples of Jesus, we too need to raise our voices.

Jesus lived to lead the way to "abundant life" and "complete joy." He came to teach us how to live according to love, justice, and mutuality. He came to show us the best way to fully appreciate the gift of life. Jesus did not the come to show us the way to suffer through life. In the words of Parker Palmer, "The God who gave us life does not want us to live a living death." We're called to seek the beauty in life and resist all that seeks to tamp down that beauty. Thankfully we're a part of a cloud of witnesses who are already working on this goal.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Lenten Journey: A Series Exploring Ways to Heal the Memory of the Crucifixion

For Lent, we wrote a series of reflections on the crucifixion of Jesus. Year after year we struggle to find something good about Good Friday. So this year we decided to explore the topic of Jesus' execution directly. What if the crucifixion of Jesus caused major trauma in the life of the disciples? What if that unresolved trauma got passed onto us through their traditions and theologies? What if some of those traditions and theologies are distorted due to unresolved trauma in the memory of the Church? What if we could heal that memory? What if something more healing and hopeful could emerge? What would that mean for our current rituals and theologies? What if things like the Eucharist could look radically different? Those are a few of the questions we'll explore. To whet your appetite, here is a synopsis for each part in the series:

Part 1: Did the Crucifixion Cause Grief and Trauma?
we'll explore the possible impact of the crucifixion on the people who knew Jesus. Then we'll explore the impact of their trauma on the memories, traditions, and theologies in the Church today. Maybe things could look different.

Part 2: Crucifixion as Unresolved Grief and Trauma
The crucifixion of Jesus likely caused a great amount of grief and trauma for the disciples - especially the ones who knew Jesus personally. The emotional "stuff" remained unresolved and was eventually passed on to us through some of the memories, traditions, and rituals of the Church. Some of these things passed onto us were distorted and may need to be addressed and healed.

Part 3: Grieving the Crucifixion to Heal the Church
Grieving the crucifixion is an important step toward healing the memory of the Church. We'll use Judith Herman's steps for healing from trauma from her book Trauma and Recovery: (1) naming and remembering the loss, (2) mourning the loss, (3) honoring the Church's resistance and survival; and then (4) integrating and expanding the story. While residual parts of the trauma will continue to be a part of our collective memory, we no longer have to allow it to dominate our theologies, traditions, and rituals.

Part 4: Adult Education Program of Healing and Hope
What now? We'll bring the ideas from the series together in a practical way to explore healing the Church's memory through an adult education program. First, Brian McLaren’s book, The Secret Message of Jesus, will be used to explore the content and meaning of Jesus’ message. Second, Marcus Borg and John Crossan’s book, The Last Week, will be used to explore what led up to, and contributed to the execution of Jesus. Third, the movie Pay It Forward will be used to tie together the major themes of both of the books through a narrative that symbolizes the great life and unjust killing of Jesus. Finally, the group will be invited to create a Communion liturgy that expresses their understanding of the ministry of Jesus and theology of the Eucharist. Things like the Eucharist might look different after working through the trauma of the crucifixion. In fact, maybe Communion should look more like a party than a memorial. The party could celebrate things like the persistence, resilience, and survival of the Church and Jesus' vision of love, justice, and mutuality.

Want more details? Click on the links above to read each part of the entire series. Plus, in a few years Christopher Grundy will have a book that explores these ideas in much greater detail. It's a heavy topic. But it ends in hope. We are an Easter people. And this Lenten journey leads to the joy of the Emmaus Road (Luke 24:13-35).