26 March 2009

The Remerging Church

Jeromy Johnson, in a short, beautiful essay, captures precisely what's in my heart for the Church as we emerge together. Here's an excerpt:

A remerging of the willing. This is how I believe history will define this time.

A remerging of those who don’t want to put aside their differences for unity’s sake, but want unity to be found in recognizing and embracing the beauty in all of our differences. (Paul’s description of the Body comes to mind for me here).

A remerging of those who realize they don’t need to seek permission from the “top” to unite and walk together in love, but now see that Jesus already gave them permission to unite and then prayed that they would.

A remerging of those who choose reconciliation, healing, and forgiveness over entrenchment, division, fear, and anger.

A remerging of those who choose to toss aside the rules and theologies that divide, and choose to embrace the healing freedom that really does exist in Christ.

Amen, and amen, and amen. Read the whole thing, I beg you.



My friend's non-profit could use your vote

Hey all,

My friend Israel's non-profit (Cell Alert) and some others are trying to win a non-profit challenge. It's a good cause (actually, several good causes), so if you wouldn't mind going and voting, here's how:

1) Go here and register: http://www.netsquared.org/hrc-ucb/vote

2) Then click "Vote in the UC Berkeley Human Rights Center Mobile Challenge" here: http://www.netsquared.org/user

3) Then vote for these 3 projects



4) Then click "View/Cast Ballot" (below your selected challengers in the upper right hand corner)

5) Then click "Submit Ballot"

Does that make sense?

Israel Kloss

Founder, Cell Alert



P.S. Would you mind passing on this URL (http://cellalert.org/node/104) to your friends and family so they can vote for us too?

25 March 2009

We ain't entitled to jack

I'm not sure this is a theological insight. It's sort of a personal conviction. I've referred to it before, but I just feel like stating it, as clearly as I can. Here's what I think.

We - you and I, any human beings - are not entitled. We are not entitled to anything.

Anything, that is, except God's love, to whatever extent we can manage to receive it. But that's it. Really. That's it. Nothing else.

So, for example: your health? Not entitled. Your loved ones? Not entitled. Your natural gifts, talents, intelligence, sanity? Not entitled. Your job, your house, your money, your stuff? Not entitled to a lick of it. (But I've worked for those - they're mine! Sorry, no.) Human rights? Not entitled. Food, water, shelter? Nope. Freedom from oppression, imprisonment, war, torture? Uh-uh. Your next breath? Sorry, no guarantees.

There is nothing built into this universe that entitles us to anything within it. Anything. If we attain, or retain, any of these things, it is completely, 100% a free and amazing gift through the grace of God. If we lose these things, it's merely the natural end of a good thing (and as "they" are fond of saying, all good things must end.)

The nihilists are right. The universe is devoid of meaning and purpose - unless we make those. And the only way way to make those is by entering into loving relationship with God and each other. When we don't get good things, or we lose good things, it's not the universe's fault, and it's not God's fault. Neither God nor the universe entitled us to those things.

Those losses may, in fact, be our fault, but this is not about "we suck, we're totally depraved, original sin", and BS like that. That kind of thinking assumes that entitlement is a reality - it's just one that we don't deserve because we SUCK so much. That's crap thinking. Entitlement is a lie. We don't miss out on entitlement because we don't deserve it - we miss out on it because entitlement doesn't exist.

When we look at life this way, we realize that EVERY. SINGLE. GIFT we have is not ours to keep, because we deserve it - but only ours through grace, to share through grace. We give and share and love freely, sacrificially, joyfully, and with abandon - like God does. (I suck at looking at life this way.)

When we don't look at life this way, we sin. When we feel entitled to something (or someone), we fear losing it, or we fear not getting it in the first place. When we fear, we respond in anger, or in greed, or in numb avoidance. And we sin. (I'm much better at this kind of behavior.)

That's what I think about entitlement. And life. And I honestly think that if I could remember and practice it more, I would be more of a blessing to the people with whom I share this world.

image "ENTITLEMENT" by ChrisB in SEA (rights)

24 March 2009

Dancing in the light

Since I don't seem to be blogging here much lately, I figured I might as well mention that I posted something on my church's shared Lenten blog (and, in the process, point you toward the good stuff on that blog from sundry Common Table folk).

For context: we decided to "give up church as we know it" this Lent (through Easter, and who knows what happens after that?) and spend the season with another church community with whom we're becoming friends, New Hope Fellowship. (New Hope is a community made up mostly of folks who are homeless and recently homeless.) We're trying to be alert for ways in which we can serve and help out at New Hope, but mostly we're just hoping to be present, listen, and make friends.

In many core ways, New Hope is a lot like us; for example, in the ways they think about, talk about, and practice community, leadership, worship design, shared responsibility and action, etc. (It's crystal clear to me that they are an emerging church by any useful definition of the term, though I guarantee that almost nobody there has ever cracked a book by Brian McLaren, Pete Rollins, or Tony Jones.) In other ways, though, there are differences: they're much more charismatic or pentecostal in their worship and language, for instance, and much more comfortable with language that sounds like certainty with regard to God's will for us. Since many Commoners are what you might call "post-"charismatic, and even more of us like to think we're "post-certainty", sometimes this language can make us uncomfortable. So we started this shared blog, in part, to help up work through those feelings so they don't get in the way of our friendships. More on the shared blog can be found on the first post, here.

But anyway, yesterday I posted about my experience worshiping at New Hope Sunday morning. It was full of images of light, and relationship, and dance. So, it you want, check it out (and stay to check out the other posts too).

image "Light Dancing" by diveofficer (rights)

09 March 2009

Americans fleeing religion in droves

Here's the current cover story on a certain well-known newspaper:

Most religious groups in USA have lost ground, survey finds

This is not exactly a surprise.

One thought I had, which I enjoyed having because it made me feel OK: "emerging churches" are criticized (and I myself worry about this) for not having many converts - for being made up mostly of people who have departed more traditional church environments and are trying to save their own faith. But in an atmosphere like this, I sorta feel like helping folks to not leave the Church is, well, something. For real.

(But I still think we collectively miss opportunities to engage - for mutual benefit - with folks outside our comfy and safe and "thank God we're not where we used to be" church cocoons.)