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Archive for October, 2009

Books / Readings

Attack upon Christendom

Over the last year or so when reading various books about postmodernity, the culture, etc.. I kept bumping into a Philosopher/Writer name Soren Kierkegaard. When I found quotes by him, I really really liked them, underlined them, and shared with others his quotes. But I had never read anything by him so I decided to find out where the quotes that I had really liked came from. I found out that most came from a book entitled “Attack upon Christendom.” So I went to my local library, found they had a copy and picked it up. Now I am not that far into it, and it is slow going, heady, and wordy…but worth the effort.

Here are just a few quotes that have stood out to me.

Translator: “Certainly the notion of ‘Christendom’, ‘a Christian world’, ‘Christian lands,’ under ‘Christian rulers,’ is now more problematical than it was a century ago when S.K. wrote.”

“So then sermons should not be preached in churches but in the street, in the midst of life, of the reality of daily life, weekday life.”

“Verily there is that which is more contrary to Christianity, and to the very nature of Christianity, than any heresy, any schism, more contrary than all heresies and all schisms combined and that is to play Christianity. But precisely in the very same sense that the child plays soldier, it is playing Christianity to take away the danger(witness and danger correspond) and in place of this to introduce power (to be a danger for others) worldly goods, advantages, luxuriously enjoyment of the most exquisite refinements.”

So that is only the beginning of this book. Over the next few days I will post more about Attack Upon Christendom, but also on two other books that I have read or am reading. The two books are Advent Conspiracy (will do a post on Amazon.com for this book) and The Justice Project (an Ooze Viral Blogger book).

Spiritual Formation

Reflections on Psalm 19

This morning, I was meditating on Psalm 19. Here’s a few thoughts that came to me in my meditation on verses 1 and 2.

The heavens declare the glory of God.
Declare the glory of God.
The glory of God.
God.

The skies proclaim the work of His hands.
Proclaim the work of His hands.
The work of His hands.
Hands.

Day after day they pour forth speech.
They pour forth speech.
Pour forth speech.
Speak.

Night after night they display knowledge.
They display knowledge.
Display knowledge.
Know.

I don’t normally create writings in the midst of my spiritual disciplines. But, I found this helpful in reflecting on God’s Word today. What are your spiritual practices?

Blessings to you!

Jeff

Uncategorized

Letter to the President

Just yesterday I became aware of a “letter” written from Brian McLaren to President Obama about Afghanistan. I read it and for the most part I really agreed with the sentiment that Brian was trying to get across. I thought I would include the letter here on this blog for people to read and leave comments about their thoughts on this “letter”
Dear President Obama … (an open letter on Afghanistan)

I am a loyal supporter of your presidency. I worked hard in the campaign and have never been as proud of my country as I was when we elected you.

I’m writing to ask you to find another way ahead in Afghanistan. I wrote a similar letter to President Bush when he was preparing for war in Iraq.

I believe now, as you and I both did then, that war is not the answer. Violence breeds violence, and as Dr. King said, you can murder a murderer, but you can’t murder murder. As the apostle Paul said, evil must be overcome with good, which means that violence and hate must be overcome with justice and love, not more of the same.

Obviously, you know things the rest of us don’t know. And you have pressures and responsibilities the rest of us don’t have. But we have based our lives on the moral principles that guided leaders like Dr. King, Desmond Tutu, and Nelson Mandela. We share a profound faith in a loving, non-violent God. We share a commitment to live in the way of Jesus the peacemaker. That’s why escalation is not a change we can believe in.

I don’t argue for leaving Afghanistan high and dry as we’ve done too often in the past. Evil can’t be overcome by passivity or abdication, but only by positive good and creative action. In that spirit, I offer this humble proposal:

1. Take the 65 billion we would have spent there in the coming year and turn it into an aid and development fund. If you want to go farther, you could put a value on the cost of American lives that would be lost there (I have no idea how this inestimable cost could be calculated), and add that sum to the fund. 65 billion could build a lot of peace-oriented schools and hospitals in Afghanistan. It could serve as start-up capital for a lot of new businesses and it could pave a lot of roads. It could train a lot of police officers and it could enhance a lot of social infrastructure. It could give hope to a lot of women and girls who currently don’t have much hope, and it could provide a lot of constructive outlets for men and boys who right now don’t have many options besides picking up a machine gun and joining a warlord.

2. Other nations might contribute to this fund as well, and the fund could be extended into the future based on the number of years our military would have been engaged in Afghanistan. The fund could be administered by the US, or better (in the spirit of international cooperation), an IAEC-like agency could be created, subsidiary to the United Nations, to monitor progress in Afghanistan.

3. Then a set of benchmarks could be set, and the money could be released for development in Afghanistan as the nation reached appropriate benchmarks. This fund would be an enticement to mobilize public opinion in the direction of peace and justice, as people would know that their lives could be substantially improved if their factionalized leaders would start collaborating nonviolently for the common good.

4. With this kind of approach, the people of Afghanistan (and Pakistan) would have two clear choices. Al Queda and other extremists offer violence and unrest. But the international community would be offering support for order, rebuilding, collaboration, justice, and peace. This choice is a much clearer and better one than the choice between two groups of leaders who both depend on violence to achieve their aims.

5. Conservatives could support this kind of approach because it emphasizes personal choice and responsibility among the Afghan people. It would come alongside them in their own nation-building efforts at their own best pace, rather than trying to impose our own nation-building on them at a pace we determine. Progressives could support this approach because it changes the role of the US in the global neighborhood – from reactive bully or intentional dominator to responsible neighbor and partner for the common good.

Mr. President, you have my respect and my prayers at this important time. I believe you have the intelligence and insight to find a creative way to use a new kind of force in the world … something far more powerful than bombs, guns, and bullets: the generative force of creativity, of justice, of collaboration, and yes, of hope. Can we find a new and better way to help Afghanistan rise out of chaos and complicity with Al Queda? You know the answer many of us will shout and chant: yes, we can.

With respect and hope,
A citizen

For me the part that I llike the most is part 1, taking the money that we would spend on the military and instead use it for development and aid. If we take the money and bless people with it, in a way it takes the legs right out from under the violent regimes. And people in those countries view Americans through a different lens…one that is about blessing, sharing and love. I would love to hear your comments on the open letter to the President.

Change!?!, Understanding Context, Worship

LoveFeast

Veritas is planning on having our first “Love Feast” (I really don’t like the name….seems like a throwback to the Sixties, or honestly the name of a 70’s Porn Movie) on Sunday October 11. As I began to plan the gathering I sent out a preliminary gathering plan to our Core Group for feedback and their thoughts. This has turned into an e-mail conversation focusing around the feetwashing part of the gathering. I thought I would post some of the thoughts of the Core Group, and get your feedback. What do you do with Feetwashing? Do you do it, do you offer another way of serving each other (handwashing), do you find a modern equivalent, do you forgo the feetwashing altogether? Would love to hear your thoughts and comments.

Here are the comments from my Core Group:

Do we have to wash feet/get our feet washed? I get the whole Jesus got dirty in connecting with us and we need to be ready and willing to get dirty too- and I def think I do that with people (in the mental/emotional/spiritual sense); but is there any alternative for people who don’t want to do that?

am I just being weird over nothing? Totally not trying to be a party pooper….
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To all,

Carmella brought up the same concerns I struggled with about this tradition. Below is my experience

I have been involved in the brethren faith for 5 years and until about a year ago never even considered going the twice annual service where foot washing is performed.

A) I was grossed out
B) I was embarrassed
C) I was cool with washing someone elses feet but didn’t want anyone to do mine.

A. It wasn’t anything gross. A basin is filled with a very mild bleach water solution. The washee placed his feet into or on the edge of the basin and you cupped your hands and poured water over the feet. you then took a towel and dried them.
B. While I was nervous my feet would somehow ruin the entire event my foot washing went just like everyone else. No one singled my tootsies out for ridicule 🙂
C. Willingness to humble myself but refuse to let someone humble themselves before me defeats to whole point of the tradition.

It’s funny I remember the last hour or two before the service being really freaked out and now I’m just meh.

The service was moving and I understand why it is a tradition is some denominations. It will never be my “favorite” service but I hope everyone will try it once and then we as a community can discuss it further. I do believe that in experiencing it you will find something of significant worth.

Ray

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I grew up in a church that regularly did feetwashing and i still don’t like it. Frankly, I have trouble seeing the point. Jesus showed hospitality by caring for his guests who had traveled to be with him. It was especially shocking that a rabbi would do something normally done by a servant. So do we do exactly as Jesus did even though we live in a different culture? Or do we show hospitality in a way that people would be shocked at our humility?
And regarding hospitality, I think we need to turn around our definition to truly understand the concept. In many cultures, hospitality means that you recognize your visitor as someone sent from God with a message or gift for you and you are blessed to have that person visit you. How would we treat people that God sends to us? Would you tell them to take off their shoes so you can wash their feet if that is uncomfortable for them?
I do love the Love Feast idea and if we do the feetwashing thing I’ll do it while gritting my teeth.
Brian

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Just to throw out a different point of view… For me, the footwashing service has always been the most meaningful service. I don’t think it’s as much about hospitality as service. It’s about humbling myself to someone else in the same way that Christ did, as well as allowing someone else to serve me, which in our culture I think is the harder part. I’m not sure there is a modern day equivalent. It certainly isn’t about forcing someone to do something that is uncomfortable for them, and I would assume that anyone that wouldn’t want to do it could just “pass”.

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I grew up with this practice and so I can understand how some people would find it meaningful. I might even find it meaningful if I were with others from my same church tradition and who I knew were comfortable with the practice.

But when I think about some of my neighbors or friends coming and being confronted with this practice, I can almost imagine their aversion to it.
And this makes me uncomfortable. If we do foot washing together but fail to communicate the message of servanthood/hospitality what is the point?
Are we then just serving ourselves? Would those who find this a new
practice really understand what we are trying to do? If we really want
to show service and hosipitality to others and one another, how do we best
communicate that to our current culture? Foot washing was as common and
normal to those of Jesus’ day as going out for coffee is for us. We don’t have servants so much these days so it makes it hard for us to understand and feel the impact of what Jesus really did. I think it’s important for us to find a way in our current culture to show each other love and service in a way that’s completely understood and impacts people.

Ranita

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So as you can see we have a very thoughtful team and one that is concerned about the “other” and those who aren’t yet Christ followers. They are aware of contextualization and understanding culture. They have great insight. I don’t want to do something just because that is what we do, or because we are Brethren. What are your suggestions regarding Feetwashing? Any and all thoughts would be helpful.

Thanks,
Ryan Braught
Veritas
www.veritaspa.org