28 March 2006

The web will never be the same


Just needed to announce that Tina (aka Dr. Evil) has entered the blogosphere. She (with a little help from her more wired hubby) will be journaling her Appalachian Trail oddysey (2,175 miles, Georgia to Maine, April Fool's Day 2006 until roughly 1 October 2006) at the following web address:

http://cattailsgonewalking.blogspot.com/

She's already got several posts up about pre-trail preparations.

Check it out!

22 March 2006

19 March 2006

The Continuing Conversion of the Church (3)

Chapter three of CCotC is entitled "Mission as Witness". In it, Darrell Guder argues that the essential character of the mission of the followers of Jesus is to be his witnesses. To begin to explain what this means, I think I need to quote the first paragraph of this chapter in full.
What makes the gospel truly good news is the fact that the Jesus events are the outcome of God's loving decision to heal the broken creation. We have described this as God's mission. To demonstrate divine love, God brought about salvation for all creation in the death of Jesus on the cross. That joyful message is now to be made known to all the world. That is how God's mission now continues. The center or core of the missio Dei is evangelization: the communication of the gospel. Carrying the good news across all borders and into all the world is an essential part of the kingdom message which Jesus brought and embodied. Jesus Christ intended the mission of the apostolic faith community as the necessary consequence of God's redemptive work for all creation, which was accomplished in his life, death, and resurrection. "A clear line of connection can be drawn between the sending of Jesus and the sending of his disciples: as Jesus reflects in his actions the goodness and righteousness of his Father, who send him into the world, so his disciples become witnesses and the image of Christ to those to whom Jesus sent them.
Further:
  • The New Testament is fundamentally a missionary document; it does not "explicitly command the church to do mission - it assumes that mission is what these communities are all about. Although the Great Commission in Matthew 28, along with the other post-resurrection statements of Jesus in the Gospels and Acts, present Jesus explicitly sending his followers, these are an affirmation and validation of what these disciples were already doing, since the beginning of the church.
  • "The early Christian communities understood themselves to be witnesses to what God has done. The earliest evangelization was that done by eyewitnesses...." "It is fundamental to the goodness of the 'joyful message' that it can be witnessed, experienced, reported on,and passed on so that others might join in the experience." "The New Testament cluster of terms based on the root for 'witness' (martyr-), in a broad diversity of forms and nuances, defines comprehensively the missional calling of the church in the New Testament."
  • The language of witness - of being witnesses, rendering the testimony of a witness, and giving/bearing/living out witness - permeates the New Testament, especially the letters of Paul, the Gospel of John, and the book of Acts.
  • "The essence of witness...is the gracious action of God that produces such witnesses and their testimony." This commission as witnesses "comes from outside ourselves and is, in fact, a constant surprise for us. It is the result of God's initiation of God's mission."
  • Witness is theocentric, Christocentric, and pneumatological. Witness is to God's saving activity in Christ's incarnation, death, and resurrection, and is enabled and empowered by the Spirit.
  • Witness is historical, "based on unique and particular events that have universal importance as history continues."
  • Witness is eschatological. "The missionary message is that the kingdom of God is near, breaking in, present and active in Jesus Christ, and yet to come in all its fullness."
  • Witness is ecclesiological. "God's people are called and equipped for witness as particular communities whose lives and actions are a continuing demonstration of their message.
  • Witness is multicultural and ecumenical. "Witness is spread throughout the world as the mission community translates the Gospel into every culture."
OK! Having established the centrality of mission and evangelism in Chapter One, the surprising expression of God's mission as Good News in Chapter Two, and the fundamental identity of Jesus' followers as those who are, do, and say his witness in Chapter Three, we move beyond foundations into Part Two of the book: "Challenges". And the challenges flow right out of the last bullet-point above: the absolutely necessary process of translation required as these witnesses spread the Gospel and translate it for each new culture. How does this cause challenges? Find out next time....

Marcus Borg: The Last Week

In the tradition of "the other Mike's"* fine series on Miroslav Volf's teachings at the Emergent Theological Conversation (#1, #2, #3, #4), I thought I'd blog some of my notes from Marcus Borg's engaging lecture at the National Cathedral last week, entitled "The Last Week". The lecture shares a title and subject with a book recently published by Borg and John Dominic Crossan, about the last week of the life of Jesus, with an emphasis on the account in the Gospel of Mark. If you'd like to actually watch the talk (highly recommended!), you can check it out here.

*(I know, I know: He's Mike; I'm the other Mike.) ;-)


Notes on The Last Week, a Lecture by Marcus Borg at the National Cathedral, Tuesday, 14 March, 2006
  • With few churchgoers able to attend Good Friday services any more, many churches have replaced the traditional Palm Sunday liturgy with one for "Passion Sunday" - essentially, the Good Friday liturgy moved five days earlier. Why? Otherwise, many would go from Palm Sunday straight to Easter - two triumphal liturgies in a row. "I wonder what the hell happened in between??"
  • In the time of Jesus, Jerusalem was both the center or worship for the Jewish people and the center of "native collaboration with the Imperial domination system of Rome." Those native collaborators were the Temple authorities.
  • Palm Sunday: Two processions. Imperial procession entering from the west to underscore Rome's domination on the occasion of the Passover holiday. Jesus' peasant procession entering from the east. This seems to have been deliberately planned by Jesus. Wealth/power/violence vs. justice/nonviolence/peace.
  • Monday: Jesus overturns money-changers' tables in the Temple. Not a cleansing of the money-changers - they were not gouging anyone. This was a symbolic, prophetic act - "My house is a house of prayer for all nations - you have made it into a den of robbers." Who has? The temple leaders, not the money-changers. If this had occurred in the Old Testament, we would certainly have looked for a deeper, prophetic meaning behind this outrageous act.
  • Tuesday: Longest day in Holy Week in Mark. Borg picked out three dialogues: 1) "By what authority do you do the things you do?" 2) Parable of the greedy tenants. 3) "Render unto Caesar that which is Caesar's; unto God that which is God's." All three describe an escalating conflict and game of cat-and-mouse between the authorities (the "greedy tenants" and Jesus.
  • Wednesday: A woman anoints Jesus for burial, becoming the first to understand the necessity and significance of Jesus' impending Passion. Judas offers to betray Jesus.
  • Maundy Thursday: The Last Supper - a Passover meal, recalling the liberation of the Isrealites from Egypt's empire. Highlights the importance of a radically welcoming table fellowship for Jesus. Bread: the material basis of life. Not bread alone, but, yes, bread!
  • Good Friday: Crucifixion - a political form of execution. "This is what happens to those who defy the authority of empire." Christianity is the only world religion whose founder - as well as the vast majority of its early leaders - were executed by the established authorities. Good Friday is the domination system's "NO!" to Jesus.
  • Easter: God's "YES!" to Jesus. Note well: If Jesus is Lord, the Caesar is not!
  • Later, Christianity became a religion of afterlife and forgiveness, not life and liberation.
  • The word "passion" has a broader meaning than "suffering". Jesus was passionate about God and the kingdom of God - dream of God - justice, nonviolence, and peace. His Passion in the narrow sense flowed out of his passion in the broader sense.
  • Jerusalem was both the place of his death and resurrection and the place of his confrontation with the authorities.
  • Lent invites us both to personal transformation (Paul: "I have been crucified with Christ.") and to reflection on which of the two Palm Sunday processions we are a part of.
  • To "repent" means to go beyond the mind we currently have.
  • We are called to follow a crucified Lord - what does this mean?I
  • "Do you accept Jesus Christ as your personal Lord and Savior?" Good question. Here's another one: "Do you accept Jesus Christ as your political Lord and Savior?"
  • Question from the audience: "What do you think was Jesus' intended outcome to his Holy Week actions?" Borg: Good question. This much is clear: he almost certainly intended to confront the authorities, and he certainly knew what that could mean for him.
  • Borg's co-author Crossan asks and answers: "Where did Jesus get his passion for justice?" "He walked out the door one morning in Nazareth and said, 'This sucks!'"
  • Question: "What should the church be about today?" Borg: two roles: to nourish and to challenge. Two central justice issues today: 1) economic injustice, and 2) resisting our country's use of its imperial power.
  • Two authentic Christian perspectives on war: pacifism and "just war". For "just war", among other things, two conditions must be met: the war must be in self-defense,and it must be a last resort. What if our country had applied those criteria in its recent past?
Pretty challenging stuff, no? Like I said, if you want the whole enchilada, you can get it here.

Helping the Lamb Center help Fairfax's homeless folks

My friend Marco has set up a blog for the Lamb Center which will be updated with their current needs:

http://lambcenter.blogspot.com/

Also, if you click on "deliveries calendar" in the right-hand links area, you can get to a calendar showing who's bringing what when to the Lamb Center. If you want to sign up to being stuff (sandwiches, etc.) on a particular day, leave a comment, and Marco will update the actual calendar post shortly.

Marco also created a Yahoo! Groups e-mail list for discussing the Lamb Center's needs and how to help meet them:

http://groups.yahoo.com/group/lambcenter

If you'd like to subscribe to the that forum, just send a blank e-mail to:

lambcenter-subscribe@yahoogroups.com

You can choose to get a daily digest, so you get no more than one e-mail per day.

If you live in the area, please consider helping, and please pass this info onto folks in your churches, friends, etc. With the new restrictions it's now living with (including being completely dependent on us to bring prepared food to serve its guests), Fairfax County's only daytime homeless shelter really needs our help to keep serving and transforming the lives of our most vulnerable neighbors!

16 March 2006

Come and grow

So yesterday, I get an e-mail from A. Bowie Snodgrass, Web Content Editor of the Office of Communication of the Episcopal Church, saying that my blog was, at some point within the last year, one of the top 25 referring domains to the "Come and Grow" evangelism campaign of the national church. Frankly, that's a little scary. I love dearly each and every one of you readers of this humble blog, but one thing you aren't is numerous.

Anyway, Bowie wanted to know if I'd be willing to mention/link to a new survey regarding the future of the Episcopal Church's online evangelism, which is available on the Episcopal Church homepage until Friday, April 7. So, sure thing, sez I. The survey is interesting, and Bowie says that folks who aren't part of the Episcopal Church are especially welcome to fill it out. I myself will need to put some thought into my answers.

So, give it a look, and if you feel inspired to do so, fill out the survey. The church, I think, could sure use your help. Danke.

13 March 2006

You might not be emerging if...

My friend P3T3 has assembled quite a list of items that might not characterize an emerging church worldview. I think it's pretty provocative. If you're interested in that sort of thing (emerging church stuff), check it out.

09 March 2006

The Continuing Conversion of the Church (2)

Chapter 2 of Guder's book is entitled, "God's Mission is Good News". He begins by saying that "Our theory of evangelistic ministry must be rooted in a biblical theology of mission and, above all, dominated and shaped by the gospel it seeks to proclaim." Toward the formation of such a theory, Guder makes the following assertions:
  • "The fundamental certainty of biblical faith is the fact that there is good news about God." This good news is rooted in a particular history, in times and places, and is the continuously surprising story of God's good, loving actions in those times and places. The appropriate response to this story is joy, thanksgiving, and reciprocal love.
  • God's mission - the missio Dei, the arc and thrust of these historical actions - is motivated by God's compassion. In compassion, God created, and in compassion, God acts to heal God's broken creation. The epitome of this compassionate mission is the incarnation of God in Jesus and the sending of Jesus on his earthly ministry.
  • The expression of God's mission on earth is the "kingdom" or "reign" of God, which Jesus proclaimed to be "near" throughout his ministry. The kingdom is both present and yet to come, and it "is defined by the very character and action of God, which means that it cannot be reduced to simple definition nor made to serve human purposes." The nearing of the kingdom invites response - the acceptance of an invitation - but it also causes negative resistance on the part of the powers of the world, and inevitably leads to suffering.
  • Jesus' compassionate sacrifice of himself on the cross is the center of the gospel. It is the inevitable consequence of the breaking in of the kingdom and the ultimate action of the compassionate mission of God.
  • "When God raised Jesus from the dead, the message and the messenger merged, the king and the kingdom came together." "The gospel is the person and work of Jesus as the salvation event towards which God's mission has been moving and from which that mission now moves into the entire world on the way to its eschatological consummation when God fulfills all his promises [at the end of the age]."
Toward the end of the chapter, Guder summarizes:
The missio Dei has always been the gospel, good news about God's goodness revealed in God's Word through Israel's experience, leading up to its climax and culmination in Jesus Christ. Throughout the biblical witness, God acts, initiates, and sends. God's compassion leads to his salvific witness in human history. The Father sends the Son. This exclusive focus on God as the subject of his mission is essential to the gospel, for it makes clear that humans, in their lostness, find hope in what God has done for them, not in what they might imagine they can do for themselves. Now, however, on the cross and at Easter, the salvation of the world was accomplished. God's mission now broadens to embrace the whole world for which Christ died. The gospel of God's love fulfilled in Christ is now to be made known to everyone. Because of the evangel [good news], the call to evangelize is now heard. God's mission continues as that call takes shape in the apostolic community, the church.

So that's what Guder means when he talks about the "good news", "gospel", or "evangel", and since the book is about evangelistic ministry, this is what that ministry is meant to proclaim. But what is the relation of those ministers to this good news, and to the God and Christ that the good news is about? Guder's answer - explored in the next chapter and using a fundamental New Testament vocabulary word that's packed with meaning - is that we are "witnesses." I'll try to help unpack what that means next time.

07 March 2006

Overwhelmed Fairfax Shelter Temporarily Closes

The Lamb Center, the daytime shelter which is a lifeline and a life-transforming anchor for homeless folks in Fairfax County, has closed temporarily, and its future is uncertain. I am attempting to contact them to determine what can be done to help. In the mean time, please pray for the people of the Lamb Center and the folks they serve. I reprint the article from today's Washington Post below, without permission.

Overwhelmed Fairfax Shelter Temporarily Closes

Homeless Center Deliberates Future As Demand for Its Services Swells

By Bill Turque
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, March 7, 2006; B02

One of Northern Virginia's only daytime homeless shelters has been so stretched by the number of people needing help this winter that the facility has closed for 48 hours while its staff determines its future, the shelter director said yesterday.

The Lamb Center, a daytime drop-in program operated by Truro Episcopal Church in Fairfax City, has been coping with a sharp increase in the number of homeless people it has been serving. What began several years ago as a place for spiritual guidance and job counseling has evolved into a critical source of support for those without shelter in Fairfax.

This winter, 60 to 70 people, mostly single adult men, have been coming to the center every day for a meal, a shower, a telephone, washing machines and a gathering place for those taking late-afternoon buses to spend the night in one of the Fairfax churches participating in a program to keep the homeless off the street in cold weather.

That is roughly twice the number of previous years. And it has created an often crowded, sometimes chaotic scene at the small (less than 3,500 square feet) converted car radio repair store on Old Lee Highway near Fairfax Circle.

"We've just been swamped to the gills," said director Bob Wyatt, who said the numbers have made it difficult to pursue the spiritual end of his mission. The church decided to close the center's doors until tomorrow morning to give Wyatt and his staff a chance to clean up and reorganize what space they have.

The increased numbers have frayed the staff and relations with Fairfax City, which has long been uncomfortable with the center's location in a commercial strip adjacent to a 7-Eleven, where many of the homeless purchase alcohol. At least twice in recent weeks, city police have responded to calls at the center. In one instance Feb. 17, police arrived to find a man outside the center waving a two-foot board and threatening to hit people. He was arrested and charged with disorderly conduct.

"The Lamb Center is in a crisis situation because of overcrowding and its popularity," said Fairfax City Mayor Robert F. Lederer, who said he has worked for months to find it a new location.

Wyatt and church officials say they remain committed to the Lamb Center. But Bob Sisson, Fairfax's city manager, said Truro seriously considered closing the facility permanently.

"That's what they told us," Sisson said.

Tom Riley, Truro's project manager for the Lamb Center, replied, "I can't imagine us doing that."

Wyatt did acknowledge, however, that the center may make changes to try to winnow the numbers. Among the possibilities: cutting back on meals and using a firmer hand in helping patrons make new plans for their lives.

City, county and church officials met over the weekend to discuss the situation. To improve conditions at the center, the city agreed to provide space at a nearby park as a gathering spot for people taking buses to overnight church shelters. The county donated two Fairfax Connector buses to assist.

The Lamb Center's predicament is part of what Fairfax officials describe as an increase in the number of people seeking shelter.

Waiting lists for families seeking space in one of the county's five shelters have expanded over the last year, from an average of 60 families to more than 90. Church volunteers anticipated about 30 to 35 each night for their shelter program. Instead, the numbers have been twice that, despite the relatively mild winter.

Fairfax's homeless population has hovered around 2,000 for the past five years, the highest of any area jurisdiction except the District, with its more than 8,900 homeless, according to the most recent figures. Those who work with the homeless are not sure whether the increased demand at shelters represents an increase in the population or heightened awareness of the services available.

"I don't think the homeless population is growing. I think they just found us," Riley said.

Whatever the underlying reasons, county officials said yesterday that the Lamb Center is a critical link in the chain of services for the area's homeless and that permanent closure is not an option.

Board of Supervisors Chairman Gerald E. Connolly (D) said a task force is being assembled to redouble efforts to find a new home for the center.

"The Lamb Center is an absolutely essential lifeline," he said.

Yesterday, with the Lamb Center closed, its clients were scattered about central Fairfax, some in libraries, others in parks or movie theaters. Waiting for the bus yesterday at Draper Drive Park, Louis Crandall, 52, said: "This has left a lot of people in dire straits."

© 2006 The Washington Post Company

05 March 2006

Great day

Wow, what a great day. Naturally, I spent most of it at church, or at least hanging out with church folks. It would have been better if we'd spent some of it out in the world doing some kind of compassionate work with our neighbors, instead of just among "us church people", but it was a great day nonetheless. And it's not like it was all selfish, inward-directed stuff: the first weekend of March Mission Madness at Holy Comforter (highlighting the good works of the Episcopal Church Women, including the Pennywise Thrift Shop here in Vienna, and the United Thank Offering, which raises money for all kinds of great Kingdom work), followed by a time of Lenten fellowship with Mars Hill in which we ate simple homemade fare instead of the usual Chipotle burritos and reserved the would-be Chipotle money for a family in need. Then, this evening, a big Lenten fellowship/study session at Holy Comforter that I believe may lead to some missional transformation. So, it was all good.

Unfortunately, it ended with my receipt of some terribly bad news: the temporary closing and (what sounds like) permanent service reduction of the Lamb Center, which does so much to serve the homeless population of Fairfax County. It may be that there is some action called for to counteract this tragedy. Stay tuned. God's work will be done, as long as God's hands and feet don't fall asleep.

And, I really wanted to do the next chapter of CCotC, but instead I find I must sleep. Again, thanks for bearing with me. Peace, brothers and sisters.

Great day,
Great day,
Great day!
That the Lord has made!
So let us
Shout it out!
And let us sing!
And praise His name!
Our God and King!
For all He brings
On this great day!

02 March 2006

Word cloud


Thanks to Holly for this cool toy. It's a word cloud about my blog, generated by Snapshirts.com. They would have preferred that I bought a t-shirt, but they'll have to settle for some free advertising.