twinkle, twinkle, little star #reverb10

Last night…. well, this morning… I drove home at 3:00am in the morning from a friend’s party.  It was about four degrees outside and the sky was absolutley clear.  The air was crisp and clean and the stars were so bright and vivid that you felt you could reach out and literally pluck them from the sky. I almost had to pull over the car just to look and gaze upon the sight… but I knew if I stopped at that hour I would most certainly fall asleep!

December 4 – Wonder. How did you cultivate a sense of wonder in your life this year? (Author: Jeffrey Davis)

It has not been difficult in 2010 to really grasp a sense of wonder at this world.  Everywhere I look around me I see these miraculous and beatiful signs of God’s power and the beauty of creation.

The other evening we had seven deer in my back yard eating acorns.  I stopped at the bathroom window and watched them with amazement for fifteen minutes instead of brushing my teeth.

I was driving to my parents house and I saw a bald eagle soaring through the air and in between the trees.  Good thing it was a straight road or I would have driven off it!

My nephew’s little tiny smiles and giggles knock me over flat.  My neice’s expressions stop my heart. The things my older nephew comes up with make me want to wrap him up in my arms and never let him go.
The sunset one evening as I walked around the local park was so spectacular that I pulled out my phone and captured it to remmeber forever.

The waves crashing in one after the other on the west side of Oahu absolutely stunned me. The sky was a brilliant blue, the sun was blazing and the white churning sea dazzled.  I could have sat there and watched them for hours.

The intense feeling of reconnection and the amazing discovery that I love spending time with my parents as an adult child and a friend.
The warmth of a cat’s body curled up and nestled into yours when you are sick or sleeping, cold or lonely.

The thrill of a storm lurking on the horizon and the shades of gray and green that pass over the sky as the wind picks up and the rain starts to pour and the lightening streaks against the sky

You just have to look.

You only have to pay attention.

There are so many things to wonder at in this world.

Hebrews Part 2: Cut to the Heart

This morning, I want share with you a little video clip that will become for us a parable about what it means to trust in God’s word.

http://www.theworkofthepeople.com/hosting_files/theworkofthepeople.com/content/store/images/preview_video.swf?preview_file=/hosting_files/theworkofthepeople.com/content/store/files/previews/V00444.flv&thumb_file=/hosting_files/theworkofthepeople.com/content/store/files/thumbs/system_thumbs/V00444.jpg

If we each took some time, we might each find ourselves relating to one of these characters just a little bit more than others. We could ask who we each as individuals are, or we could ask who we as this congregation is most like.

The character that I relate to the most in this clip is probably the father.

You see, we have good intentions but are so wrapped up in the things around us that we are just going through the motions. We’re doing something just because we think it’s the right thing to do. And then, in our attempts to be faithful we stumble and we fall back into old patterns.

The father in our holiday dinner is trying his hardest to bring his family to the table and to offer thanks for what they have received. And after his wife makes a meager attempt to give thanks – I think Nordstroms and Neiman Marcus were on her list – our dad himself flounders around with his thankfulness. He hasn’t really thought it through all the way. We are disappointed by his focus on things and in the end we have a feeling that he has set a bad example for his kids to follow.

More often than not – no matter how good we are or how hard we try, we are like that dad. We are like the rich young man in our gospel reading from Mark. We can cross all the t’s and dot all the I’s, but then Jesus shows up and cuts straight to our hearts. Deep inside, are we really ready to leave it all behind and trust in the God of the universe?

We are going to journey a little bit farther into the book of Hebrews this morning. Last week we skimmed over the beginning of this letter. So I want to touch on it again. In chapter 1 we are reminded that God has been reaching out to us throughout all of history… first through the prophets… and then through his Son.

The Son of God – Jesus Christ – has finally brought God’s message of love and salvation to us. He is greater than even the angels – who helped us to hear this message in the past.

In chapter 2, we find the same question raised that we did when we studied Isaiah – presented with God’s glory and majesty and power… we start to compare ourselves to that glory and find ourselves utterly unworthy and feel as tiny as ants. If you remember in Isaiah – this leads to confession and it is why we confess our sins together in worship after we praise God in our call to worship and opening hymn.

But in Hebrews – there comes a slightly different answer to this question. The author of Hebrews goes back to Psalm 8 and while we might question why God cares so much – we are reminded that God made us just a little less than the angels – that all we see is a gift and it has been placed in our hands. While we don’t always see the power in this statement – we do have control over this world. We have control over how we treat one another. We have control over our children and the animals that surround us. We have harnessed natural resources for power. And In this day and age as we see the impact that humanity has made on the climate of our world – we even recognize our power over the wind and the rain and the sun.

We have lots of power… however sometimes that power spins out of control and we do hurt one another, and we are hurt by one another and by the planet. What gets us through those times is knowing that Jesus humbled himself and took human form and became himself a little less than the angels for a time. Christ entered fully into our human experience so that the one who saves and us who are being saved might all become one. Christ took our lives upon himself – so that he might redeem us, restore us, heal us, from all of the mistakes we have made with our gift of control, power and free-will.

God in Christ came to save us and calls us to follow… but first, there is a warning.

You see, God has tried to save us before. In chapters 3 and 4 of Hebrews, we are reminded of the failure of the Hebrew people to respond.

Our writer in Hebrews is very familiar with our Old Testament and he quotes from Psalm 95… Hear these words again from the Message Translation:

“Today, please listen; don’t turn a deaf ear as in the “bitter uprising,” that time of wilderness testing! Even though they watched me at work for forty years, your ancestors refused to let me do it my way; over and over they tried my patience. I said, ‘They’ll never keep their minds on God; they refuse to walk down my road.’ Exasperated, I vowed, ‘They’ll never get where they’re going, never be able to sit down and rest.’”

Because of their stubbornness, because of their unwillingness to trust in the God who was leading them, because of their foolish attachment to the “golden years” of slavery in Egypt – the Hebrew people refused to accept the gift that was right in front of them! All they had to do was trust in the power of God enough to cross over a border into the land of the Canaanites. And they would have found themselves in the land of milk and honey.

But they couldn’t let go of the security of the past. They couldn’t let go of the things that they knew. They wouldn’t open themselves up to the possibility of what was lying ahead.

The same could be said of our father in the clip we showed at the beginning. He wanted to show some kind of faithfulness so he was trying to express his thankfulness. But he was so tied to the things of this world like cars and HDTV that he found himself grasping for straws…. Did any of you think that he really meant what he was saying?

As the older son chimes in – his thankfulness extends to things like piracy and music groups and the internet. He is focused on himself and what he can get and how quickly he can get it.

The younger son follows up with being thankful for the food that is right in front of them. He rattles off the items on the table because he knows that if he says something he will finally get to eat them. He might actually be thankful for the food – but he has no spirit of thankfulness for those who have prepared it or made it possible for him to sit down and eat.

In our gospel reading – our rich young man falls in the same boat. He has said all the right words and done all the right things and he has gone through the motions of faithfulness – but is his heart really in it? Does he really believe?

You see, belief is the difference. In the message translation, it might be called “ a deaf ear” and in the text as printed in your bulletins it might be called “ a hardened heart” – but in either case, it is an unwillingness to accept the truth.

There are a couple of ways that the truth escapes us.

First, we might not look beyond ourselves. Like the older son, we see and feel only our own truth and our own reality. If you noticed in the clip, he actually interrupted someone else who was speaking to quickly rattle off his list of items. This perhaps was also the greatest sin of the Hebrew people in the desert, because they were so focused on what was in it for themselves that they forgot the blessings they had received from God and looked only at what they lacked – what they were missing.

Second, we might be unwilling to go past the surface level of things. Like the boy at the table, we see only what is right in front of us and don’t look any farther. We put our blinders on to the reality that is just beyond our fingertips. All he sees are mashed potatoes and red stuff – and he misses the time and energy his parents put into making the meal, the people at the store who worked so they could buy the ingredients, the farmers who raised the crop, the sun and the rain and the earth that nurtured his food, and the God who is behind it all.

Third, we might be fooling ourselves by going through the motions. Here, the father at our dinner and the rich young man have a lot in common. They are doing all the right things – they might even be saying all the right things, but are their hearts really in it? Do the dad really understand what thankfulness is about? Does the young man really understand what the law is about?

In Hebrews we are warned about the deceitfulness of sin – it blinds us, it tricks us into thinking that we can do it on our own.

But what we really need – all we really need – is faith. We just have to believe and trust in God’s promises. We just have to believe and trust and God’s goodness. Today – Please listen – the psalmist implores us – don’t turn a deaf ear!

God means what God says. The promises are sure. The invitation is real. And when Jesus calls out to the rich young man asking him to leave all of his wealth behind – he means it. Because he is cutting to the heart of what is holding him back. The Word of God, both as we see it on the page and as Christ speaks it, knows who we are and it cuts through all of our defenses. As put by the Message translation – the word lays us open to listen and obey – nothing and no one is impervious to God’s Word – to the truth. We can’t get away from it – no matter what.

Jesus has compassion on that rich young man… even more than that he loves him. And so he has to tell him the truth. And Jesus’ words cut straight to the heart of the matter. You are just going through the motions, my friend. You have built for yourself a wall of deception through your wealth and you trust in your things more than you do in me. So trust me. Leave it all behind. I will take care of you.

The rich young man hears the truth. He sees the promises. But just like the Hebrews in the wilderness who could almost taste the honey that awaited them across the border, he turned a deaf ear. He walked away. He thought it was impossible – because he wasn’t ready to believe that with God all things are possible.

Which brings us back to the person at the dinner table we haven’t talked about yet. The daughter among the group – who was hesitant to even speak opens her mouth and out pours truth. Her words cut to the heart of the matter, and you can see that each person around that table has to stop for a second. The truth gets through – even if just for a second – the truth gets through that God loves us… even if we don’t deserve it… even if we turn a deaf ear and harden our hearts and ignore him. The truth gets through.

Today – Please listen – don’t turn a deaf ear. Take the mercy, accept the help, trust in God.

the redemption of creation


Over the next few weeks (months probably) I want to go back through my notes and blog a bit about some of the amazing things I have brought back from the Moltmann conference.

The first one that has been really chewing in my soul is the idea that creation needs redemption.

I guess this has always been in the background of my theology. I think about Paul writing that the creation is groaning. I think about how all of the earth suffers under the sin of humanity and our greed and destruction. But for the first time, I started thinking about how this planet itself has also fallen and committed acts against God’s will and needs to be redeemed.

Now – I don’t think that the oceans have a will. I don’t think that the skies and the clouds do things intentionally – but in many ways neither do we. But this world is not as God created it. And when a tsunami strikes land in southeast Asia and 225,000 people die – I don’t think that is God’s will. Moltmann said time and time again that God is with those who suffer, not the cause of the act. He said time and time again that an act against creation is an act against God.

So, in putting various pieces together, we could talk about an ecological soteriology. That as Christ redeems us, Christ redeems the world. That all of creation is taken through the cross to the promise of the resurrection.

We spend so much time worrying about theodicy, looking for God as the cause of these events, instead of thinking about God as the one who will ultimately redeem even the world from the suffering it has caused. God in Christ through the power of the Spirit bears all of these things through to the new creation. And that is an amazing thought to behold

Moltmann Conversation – Session 3 Crucified God

Soteriology didn’t make sense until I read this book – Shroyer

• Don and ann from a pastoral perspective, other speaker coming from a personal working through pain and changing ideas of God – three years since his 4 mo. Son died. Questions of where God is in the midst of that. Moltmann is helpful in remembering the pathos of God – the passability of God. Asking the Why? The why questions is not helpful, because there is no answer we would accept. The why question Jesus answered was the resurrection, but not an explanation. We ask for what will not satisfy us – we don’t want to have an answer – there is no answer that can bring us to peace with the suffering. If we feel the presence of the suffering Christ next to us, in us, that he shares our suffering and we his, then we have consolation. The other question is whether there is a process after death ,to bring the destiny of a life that was cut short – I believe there is. God will bring to a good end what he had begun with a human person

• Dismissal of the question of theodicy, and yet the question is so ubiquitous – I affirm that this is the wrong question, Caputo talks about weak forces in the world from physics (like gravity) – yet people constantly critique God – is this only a philosophical thing:
it comes from the stoic philosophy… if God is omnipotent and good, how can ____. So there is no understanding of love, suffering, compassion because it starts from those two qualifications of God from greek philosophy and not from the scriptures. The more I thought about it, I not only felt the compassion and sympathy of Jesus in his passion, as our suffering, but also the bereavement of the Father. If Jesus really was true in saying “why hast thou forsaken me” then the father is also forsaken by his son and we then have two sides of the triune one which suffer bereavement as we do, and the other who suffers forsakenness. For me at least, this was a consolation.

• Challenge in pastoral care – people want a god that is very powerful and want concrete answers – that God is vulnerable, how do we communicate that to our churches? By preaching the presence of Jesus Christ instead of talking about a God apart from the life and the destiny of Jesus Christ. When in my younger years talked about this morning had problems with God, Jesus came and solved these problems I had with God. This is a problem people have with God, but they won’t have them with Christ – without Christ, I would certainly be an atheist as the other members of my family because looking into a human mystery I am not convinced there is a God that has everything under control. Can’t look in the face of a tsunami and see God’s love…. I don’t like general talk about a god – there are so many gods good and evil

• Theologians listening to people, when I speak to people as a pastor and talk about God suffering with them, they feel disappointed b/c they want someone to pull them out. How does the suffering God give us hope? The suffering God is a compassionate God – the god who is there in your distress and situation, he is not far away from you b/c he is compassionate and suffering with you. Other hand – outcome of crucifixion = resurrection, new life, eternal life. We trust the same God that is with us will raise us and bring us into that new life. Suffering God is only the one side. Other side is the God of life. We have a hard time looking at both side. The joy of God and the joy with God at the end is greater than the suffering and grief we experience.

• Validity of the theodicy question? Volf said that atheists are closer to God than theists b/c they are arguing with God constantly… someone said it’s like Moltmann experienced Christ and then fell into the trinity: Looking at Christ, I see God, his God is my God. Theism is a general understanding of transcendence and that there is a higher power somewhere. Atheism is difficult because we had this type of protest – atheism. The best story about it is in the brothers karimozov – Ivan protests because of the suffering of an innocent child – I have nothing against God in heaven, but this earth as God’s kingdom I reject b/c there is not justice on earth. We had that kind of protest atheism after the war that the German Catholic poet said, I don’t like these atheists – they always talk about God! But another time of atheism which is just banality – just talk. In 19th c. the theodicy question is: If God, why evil? Best answer = no God, so the question collapses.

• The god the atheists are debunking is not the God we experience – how so: They have no use for God in their life, neither negative nor positive – you can live without using, but you miss a lot of your life – the liveliness of your life. There are two lands in Europe where atheism is wide spread, perhaps because of a long tradition of suffering under religious persecutions

• Protest atheism – protest hope… as people of God in the world, we live as protesters for hope, holding onto it in the face of suffering and reality: when one has seen the God of Hope (1 Peter 3) we wait and hasten the coming day of the Lord… we wait expectantly for someone that we have been promised is coming – we don’t adjust to unjust conditions in the present because we know that it can and will be changed and therefore you resist conformity and silence to injustice and violence in your surrounding. To wait in this sense means to resist.

How do we actively resist and be in dialogue and resistance as the church? Follow the Sermon on the Mount – resist capital punishment…. In all the churches we pray, but the NT calling is not only to pray but to pray and watch so open your eyes if you pray to God and see what is a contradiction to God and what is an analogy to the coming of God – watch and don’t close your eyes and transcend to the other world.

?:– we have turned this instrument of painful dying into something of gold and silver – we should be reminded of the cross of God again and again and those who followed the crucified one – the early Christians who were called in their surrounding atheists because they refused to serve the political demons of the Roman Empire and they suffered the same fate of Jesus. Only changed after Constatnine – HCE = two crosses… the real Cross of Golgatha, the other is the dream cross of Constantine – on this sign we will win and they painted it on their shields and they won the battle… since that time we have these two crosses. The german, Victoria, st. george cross… they all go back to emperor Constantine and this makes a lot of confusion! All Christian nations have a cross on their flag – only the Americans don’t have it and that’s good (but we have turned our flag into a cross!!!!) On God, One Cross, One Empire – this was emperialistic because of the oneness of God and the oneness of Caesar – St. George = dragon killer saved the church, changed from a Martyr to a dragon killer… St Michael = archangel killing the dragon in heaven, symbolism of Holy Christian Empire that worked until the present day. I agree with the Anabaptists that we must go back to the origin to find a new future for Xty in the world – apart from this time of Xian imperialism

Atonement theory – Penal Substitutionary, Christus Victor – Jones calls it the Indentification theory, that God identifies with the forsaken part of humanity and the atonement…? We identify with Christ on the cross – so it’s a double identification… is that right? Is that theologically, economically a transaction that takes place in the atonement. It’s very appealing that God suffered, was really tempted, really walked in our shoes, and when we identify with his suffering on the cross, that’s atonement.. How does itwork? We can call it 1) Christology of solidarity, he suffers with us, 2) he suffers for us, the guilty… both sides belong together. He suffers for us is a reconciling suffering – but we must see both sides together. He was given up for our sins and raised for our justification, so the whole process is called justification, on the other hand forgiveness of sin, the crucified one, on the other resurrection – has to bring you to a new life, a new righteous life. There is another point – I had tried to convince Catholics and Lutherans about it, but couldn’t get through. 1) justification of the sinner – but what about victims of sin? Must we not speak about justification of victims of violence and injustice – God is righteous because he gives right to those who suffer. The victims are important and the justification of the victims is the first act – in practical terms, the sinners who have become guilty of their victims have a very short memory, if they remember at all – but those who suffer have a very long memory. For those on the side of the guilty want to enter into life, you have to listen to victims because they tell you who you really are – there is no justification of sinners w/o justification of victims first!!! After the war, we listened to the stories of survivors of concentration camps- because we didn’t know what happened in the death camps. We listened to their stories and looked into the eyes of the survivors and became aware of who we the Germans really were. Same took place in the truth commissions in Africa – the victims must tell the stories, perpetrators must listen to the stories, or they can’t become aware of their guilt. Sacrament of repentance! Confess the truth, change your mind, make good what you have done evil as you can… but there is no ritual/sacrament for the justification of the victims – they have to overcome depression, weakened, degraded – we need to help them get out of this, so that they can overcome feelings of revenge to overcome evil by the good – so they can be alleviated, can raise their harts to God – can find a new self-confidence.
(Resources from Missy Meyers – Andrew Sung Park – rituals for victims… Ruth Duck has some communion liturgies and resources that are helpful here)

• Talk about love. What is so helpful about your work is it reframes so much for us – “anyone who enters into love and suffering enters into God – his forsakenness is lifted in the forsakenness of Christ – need not look away from the negative and death” I think you are expressing a whole new understanding of love that we get from God that helps us experience pain and suffering: The greatest challenge when suffering comes is to become apathetic, to not love anymore because it will cause only pain. If you love no one, you will feel no suffering – if you don’t love yourself you will not feel your own death b/c you don’t care. I saw soldiers who became so apathetic that they don’t care about death b/c they were completely resigned and no logner in service of life, but in service of death. We have similar development with terrorists today – once said – Your young people love life, our young people love death – if you love death, you cannot be threatened with punishment! You cannot feel any deterrent. This is a real danger. If you love life again, you risk disappointment, you must be ready to suffer on behalf of your compassion for another person and you must be ready to feel their dying. (I wonder how this relates to the health care conversation – we don’t want to see/feel other people’s pain and are only worried about our own)

Personal salvation, Personal cross? All of creation has the space for redemption I nthe cross: In Western tradition we lost the cosmic traditions of Christology that we find in Ephesians and Colossians – that Christ died for the redemption of the universe – it is also corrupted and there are conflicting powers in the world so that even the universe needs reconciliation… not that only humans will be saved, but the universe will be saved – it is a deification of the cosmos! Christ became human so that the whole cosmos will become the place where God makes God’s home

Universalism? Not a Universalist because there are some people I don’t want to see again – but God created them and would certainly like to see them again. Universalism is not only to speak about all human beings, but to speak about the universe, the stars and the moon and the sun and the whole cosmos. This is always misunderstood by fundamentalists that want a dual end or to have the other go to hell, this is anti-creation! I don’t want to go to heaven, the angels have their home in heave – I want to be reaised on earth and to live on the new earth in which justice lives. God in the end will be all in all – so where then is heaven? Christ ascent to heaven has an eye opening effect on us to those we wish to go to heaven. Luther once said in treatise on preparing for dying – don’t look at hell in the destiny of others – don’t look at heaven in your own destiny – look at hell in the wounds of Christ, there the hell is overcome, because Christ suffered.

Moltmann Conversation – Notes from 101 w/ Danielle Shroyer

Moltmann 101

I. impressionistic theologian (nice analogy)

II. Life
A. Hamburg, Germany, secular parents, commune?, spent time gardening on Sunday mornings
B. Loved Einstein, mathematics, science – apathetically joined the Hitler Youth – but was a terrible soldier, German POW – learned about God in the POW educational camp
C. Struck by the power of the story when reading the bible
D. Started theological training, pastor, professor
E. Because of lack of training – not a systematic theologian – not start with doctrines

III. Method
A. Started not by a narrow focus, but through the broadest lens possible and started with eschatology – changed the method of how people understood eschatology
B. We can see doctrine in how it relates to everything else
C. Trilogy! (not intentional)
D. People wanted him to do systematics – no way!
E. Influenced by many other theologians along the way

IV. Theology of Hope
A. Came out at a time when it was a faux paux to talk about eschatology – we are rational men who shouldn’t talk about that tacky subject…. So Moltmann writes all about eschatology
B. The idea that we are too “modern” for eschatology is stupid – unhistorical historicity – you have created a way of speaking of the world that is not grounded in anything real whatsoever
C. The one thing that makes this life real is that we have a hope in something that is coming in the FUTURE
D. Promise of God always taking us towards a future horizon
E. It’s not something we tack on to the end of dogmatics, but it is the medium of Christian faith as such – the glow that suffucies everything here in the dawn of an expectant new day
F. The minute we turned to despair we instantly stop believing in Jesus – if we believe in Easter, we can’t be people of despair!
G. Why do we hope? What gives us the right to have this hope? Because the way God reveals Godself is by saying “I promise…” and God does. “I promise I will make all things new!” so we are constantly facing that future of hope
H. In America – hope has become the opiate of the masses, a joke that people who can’t get their lives together talk about: Moltmann – hope is not in any sense an opiate for the masses – it is the very thing that makes us feel like we understand the mission of God in the world!!! Hope is what makes us point at an injustice and say – that’s not right! Hope makes us people of protest, because we have not bought into the fact that this is all there is
I. Hope makes us antsy – we can’t feel settled in this world because we have to point out the things that aren’t right and say that there is a day when things will be right.

V. The Crucified God
A. Good Friday and Easter are inseperable realities – so when you talk about hope, you have to talk about what gives us that hope. IMMEDIATE response to the first book.
B. Smackdown moment: soteriology – most theologians only have the sense of thinking about what it does for “sin management” – how does it help me NOT die; cur dues homo – why did God die? However we have to work it, we just want to make sure we are good to go.
1. Moltmann comes and says – hmm, I wonder what the cross meant for God! What did God feel on Good Friday? What was it like for God the Father watch his son die?
2. completely alters the trajectory of soteriology
3. a lot of dialogue with nihilism… at the cross your faith dies, or it should, because look at what really happened
4. but this is where it actually begins Moltmann says… you have to look at Jesus on the cross, as a God who died and suffered among us. You think you understand what it means to look into the abyss? The existential abyss is nothing compared to the abyss of what it means for God to LET God die!!
5. the place where godlessness and godforsakenness comes together
6. godlessness – the killing of innocent life
7. godforsaken – a death you did not deserve
C. Theodicy – God as despot, divine child abuse, God becomes this mean judge; so, we think that is terrible and we try to step in and do something, but then we become despots ourselves and we decide who suffers where and when.
1. God SUFFERS on the cross – there is no impassable God.
2. And God is right in the middle of suffering – God isn’t on the outside listening to his son call for him and not answering, but is also there on the cross calling out not hearing a response
D. Metaphor of intersection – God being in every place “no one can love the cross, it’s awful” But in this place of the intersection, all sorts of separate things fight for one another, atheism vs. theism, death vs. life, hope vs. despair, godforsakenness vs. god-loving, divine vs. human…. All dialectical understandings of our faith collide in this moment
E. Radical break between the reality of the cross where all of these things are fighting and the resurrection. “money move – checkmate!” Because all of those things that were colliding, are answered in the cross – there is a victory! If you go all the way down into the abyss – Easter Sunday encompasses all of creation all victory, all beauty.
F. He took suffering seriously without telling us to go out and seek suffering or without condoning suffering. – this suffering happened only in context of who God is.
G. If we’re going to call ourselves theologians, everytime we come up with something we believe about God, we need to stick it at the foot of the cross – the litmus test for what we understand about Jesus, God, the world, etc.

VI. The Church of the Power of the Spirit
A. Really pastoral and practical, because he didn’t just want to talk about ideas all the time – the mission and act of the people of the faith in the world is VERY important to him = the mission of the church is what this is all about.
B. Hope is not other worldly, I talk about the future, because it’s the only time that makes the present make any sense
C. Giving bearings to the church…. I feel like we are grasping for what our bearings our, lost our sense of the way, lost our direction. I want to help provide some bearings for that course.
D. We have become a people who are too concerned with religious institutions (God, spirituality, Jesus, religion) and have stopped actually living life.
E. Wrote in the hopes that people would live the Christian life again!!! A messianic fellowship. We are the people who get together and actively wait for the coming of Jesus, for the future of God, for the coming of the new creation
F. Sunday: talk about and figure out ways to live out our future reality. And then do it!
G. Church = gathered people who anticipate and work toward coming kingdom 1) before God, 2) before others, 3) before the future…. What will the future say about the Christianity we follow? What will others say about the work we are doing? What will God think about how we are living our faith? (MISSION!!!)
H. God’s glory – the goal of the church = to glorify God. But the deal is, we glorify God by working towards God’s end goal: the redemption and liberation of all creation…. God doesn’t WANT to be glorified unless it’s by the redemption and liberation of all creation…. God doesn’t want to just be glorified for Glory’s sake.
1. Heaven and earth declare God’s glory.. when the shalom of the city is working, then the glory is there!
2. We’ve made God’s glory so far out of our cosmic realm that we don’t even know what we are talking about… but it is something that we practice and work at NOW
I. We tend to ask as theologians really dumb questions in ecclesiology – the more interesting question is WHERE is church? Our job as people of God is not to say what the church is, but to point to where the coming kingdom is. Then we aren’t about the business of protecting “the church” – so if something is happening that is a glimpse of the KOG – and it’s not in church – woo hoo!!!! Celebrate the presence of the church wherever we find it – liberates us to live in the world fully, instead of ghetto-ized Christians.
J. We don’t need to make absolute claims, or totalize belief, we just have to point to hope.

VII. Contributions to Theology Books:
A. Trinity of the Kingdom
1. theology of the social trinity… doesn’t care about the homo usia conversation or the subject conversation…
2. The New Testament talks aobut God by proclaiming in narrative the relationships of F/S/HS – relationships of fellowship open to the world. We know what the trinity is based on the narrative of the story. The story says this – so lets just read the story.
3. These relationship that we see are ones of fellowship – NOT hierarchy – that has been opened to the world.
4. Trinity in the Kingdom – because in this fellowship we are invited into the life of God in the world.
5. UNITY _ we are still monotheists! Ecumenical, pluralistic conversations
6. F/S are one – not one and the same.
7. not numerical unity, but same divine life/goal/love
8. not worried about tasks of the Trinity… in a relational sense, they don’t need work duties/job descriptions… but changing patterns. NOT STATIC
a. The spirit sends and is sent, the spirit is the one who sends Jesus into the world as the Kingdom Come.
b. Not a triangle – but a circle!!!
9. “relationship of F/S/HS is so wide that the whole creation can find space, time and freedom in it”
10. the way that we understand how God makes time space and freedom for all of us to exists and live and move and have our being.
11. perichoresis! =) round dance, mutual indwelling
a. each one always yields to the other in this dance, mutual submission.
12. Isaac Loreas? Zimsum = expanding and contracting, heartbeat of the world where the love of God are constantly expanding and contracting in this perichoretic dance and in this space we are invited and we experience life.
13. eternity breathes itself in between these relationship so as to breathe out the spirit of life.
14. ALWAYS connected to the kingdom. God isn’t just God apart from us – if that is so, in any case, we don’t know it.
15. Moltmann NEVER separates God from the world.

B. God in Creation
1. tension between immanence and transcendence
2. in creation there is a secret hiding of this tension, because God is present and indwelling – as those who have been created by this relational God, God is already present
3. in heaven – relative transcendence, on earth – relative immanence – there is a space between where we wait…. (future of hope!)
4. God is present now, and yet God is not fully present now. 1 Cor. – the promise to end all promises is that God will be all in all.
5. so now, there is this secret (God is dwelling in the world!) but not FULLY – insomuch as we see creation, we can say God is here, but in the future, God will be there even more so.
6. Panentheism – middle ground between Pantheism (God is everything) but also not so radically separate from creation that we cant’ access God here. God indwells in creation by the fact that God made it – we bear the image of the one who created us… all of the cosmos has this indelible image of God
7. World of nature bears the prints of the triune God, so we can access the idea of the day God will be God all in all.
8. $move – we got wrong the way we tell the creation story – God made these things… to get to the part where WE show up… the problem with that way of talking is that it assumes that WE are the crown of God’s creation, but we aren’t… Sabbath!!! IS =) God finished the creation, receded back into who God was and rested, rested as being God over and in creation. “the God who rests in the face of his creation does not dominate the world on this day, He feels the world, he allows himself to be affected, to be touched by each of his creatures”
9. The act of creation did in some sense change God. God could always create – but after having created, he’s different. (isn’t this the reality for parents?)
10. This is not an act of dominance – Sabbath is the eschatological place of HOPE – that reminds us why all of this creating happened. Something inherently eschatological about Sabbath… the day that we rest from our work of trying to make the kingdom come and we trust in the fact that the kingdom WILL come. 6 days we labor and we are the people of promise and on the 7th day we stop, lest we get too big for our britches and we worship God and say, we trust you are the God who will make this happen – that we trust you will make this happen.
11. the way that we recognize our relationship with the presence of God in creation. Not only do we rest in God, but on that day, God is also on the Sabbath resting in us.
12. Ecological issues in 1985 – not just about interpersonal power, but our relationship with the creation itself. Not here to gather information for dominance sake, but so that we can participate in the kingdom through the creation.
13. Jubilee – the Sabbath – when we divest ourselves of things in order to further the kingdom we show that we trust in it enough to be a part of it. The feast of redemption
14. first six days – yet not complete. Sabbath is the crowing moment (good, not complete) God is still creating after the first Sabbath
15. The Fall – he doesn’t think that any fall would take away the imprint of the Triune God that is on creation… no sense of our brokenness takes away the fact that God made us. the broken places are still held up in the life of God, and will not be left untended
16. possibility for Godforsakenness – pulls back so that there is a space for us
17. Time = the future of Christ is truly an unfinished future that is really a question mark – everything is up for debate. When we put our trust in Christ, we are trusting in the hope of the one who has always been faithful to God’s promises. Not because we know exactly what will happen, but because we trust in God.

C. The Way of Jesus Christ
1. really good Christology
2. but does Christology in a really open way… because Jesus is still on the way somewhere! All of our Christilogy has to be a theology on the move towards the coming future
3. life lived out in Christ, with Christ, out of expectation of Christ

D. The Spirit of Life (1991)
1. wholistic pnumatology – we normally put her in a tiny box. And add little tiny things we don’t understand there.
2. we feel embarrassed to talk about the Spirit.
3. The Spirit is not some thing off in some other corner, but every experience of life that is joyful is the presence of the spirit!
4. If you go out to dinner and had a good time – the spirit was there, it was life-giving =) all of life that is lived and experienced and enjoyed is done so because of God.
5. no need to separate “more” and “less” religious experiences. The spirit really did come and stay at Pentecost – no reason not to talk about the Spirit!!!
6. God is bound to creation in love = God created in love, so we are beloved. The problems start to happen when we turn away from being God’s beloved – we become miserable and aggressive and mean and angry and selfish and greedy. Because we forgot that we are beloved. “the whole misery of men and women comes from a love of God that has miscarried”
7. Spirit of Love births life to us – and all those places where that experience isn’t fully birthed is where the love of God has miscarried.
8. Full person of the Trinity – beckoning the future to come forth, showing us what it means to bring the future into the present, who makes the KOG to come in Jesus, Breath and Space…. Ruach and Ruah, (in German too!)
a. Breath calls creation into being, breathed out onto the world (valley of dry bones, creation, etc) but also Space (Ps 31) – a broad place, room to move, liberates us to live our lives with freedom – the creative passion for the possible. Downpayment for what is to come. Anytime we feel moved to do something really beautiful in the world – that’s because it’s what is coming – holds us over – keeps us in that hope – helps us protest in all the right ways.

E. Coming of God
1. homeless Shekinah – God is homeless here, so we celebrate God on the Sabbath, but this is not fully God’s home. At the coming of God, the Shekinah will become fully permanent here. When the temple was destroyed, the spirit is holding us together from Sunday to Sunday, but at the coming of God, the Shekinah will be homeless no longer
2. Four Horizons – for God’s glory, new creation, history of humans with the earth, resurrection and eternal life… we tend to do it backwards

F. Experiences in Theology
1. capped off the last books, discussed method of theology – theology is just experimenting in creativity. He just played in something that captivated his imagination.
2. through his theology, he has come into conversation with so many people that he wants to offer his thoughts – Mirror Theology (black theology for whites, feminist theology for men, etc…)

Good Dirt

(a sermon for Earth Day, Stewardship Week, and in response to a youth auctioned sermon on the theme “soil conservation”)

It seems like everyone and their brother is talking about “going green” these days. We can buy “green” organic food at the Big G. We can get rebates and incentives for buying “green” appliances and lightbulbs for our homes. “Green” cars are now a commonplace site, even on the streets of Marengo. With all of this recent emphasis in the world on the environment, you might get the impression that this protecting the Earth idea is a new one. But it’s not. From the very beginning of time – in fact, from the first pages of our bible, care for this world that we live in has been the core of our Christian tradition.

We already heard the familiar story of the creation with our kids this morning. This world was made by our God – and God declared it good. And then, that very same God formed us from the dust of the earth and gave to us a precious task… to care for the world God had made. From the ancient Israelites to the early followers of Christ, caring for the Earth was an important means of offering thanks and praise to God.

The General Board of Church and Society for the United Methodist Church has put out some wonderful resources for churches to us as we celebrate God’s Creation. They remind us that the “ancestors of our faith lived amid cultures that worshipped many different gods who were thought to control all aspects of nature, from fertility of the land to ferocity of the seas. Communities celebrated local gods that tended to their own particular climate systems and conditions.

But as the Ancient Israelites moved throughout the land, they encountered many climates, many different communities and religions. And as they saw the connections between all of those different environments, they began to realize that “the natural world was controlled not by many competing gods, but by one God who could be revealed through the unity of nature.”

“Along with their insights about God, the Ancient Israelites observed the ways in which interdependent systems work well when they are cared for and fail when they are damaged or neglected. In response to their understanding of God and the natural world, they created an ethos for living in healthy relationship with God, the Earth, and one another. People of the church today often refer to this ethos as ‘stewardship.’”

In the wider world, stewardship of the earth is also seen as just good old common sense. In fact, the National Association of Conservation Districts has established a National Stewardship Week – this year beginning on April 26th – in order to celebrate and remember the importance of protecting our natural resources.

According to the NACD resources, many people believe that had farmers and landowners “chosen to band together and implement proper agricultural practices, demonstrating good land stewardship, the devastation of the Dust Bowl in the 1930’s could have been somewhat diminished. The good news is that Americans have learned from the past, and since the 30’s there have been severe droughts, but the same devastation has not been repeated because good stewardship practices have been taught, learned and implemented on the land.”

The goal is good soil. And good soil isn’t just something that farmers and gardeners care about. Soil makes our lives possible. How many of you slept on soil last night? Well, where do you live? What is your home built on?

How many of you are wearing soil today? Cotton grows in soil! Just check the label on your clothing.

What about eating soil? Just think about all of the foods that you have eaten this week that were grown in the soil, or medicines that were taken from the ground, or water that we have drank that has flowed through and been cleansed by the soil.

When the Ancient Israelites noticed that everything in this world is interdependent, this is what they are talking about. The dirt and the air and the sun and plant life and our lives are all interconnected and this beautiful system God created works – as long as we take care of it.

Jesus knew this too – and he used many parables that talked about the earth because they are grounded and real. Everyone can touch the ground and feel the dirt between their fingers or toes. Everyone knows what Jesus was talking about when he talked about the soil.

Our challenge is to figure out what it means to protect the soil and make it good. And in doing so – we might learn a little bit about what it means for this little plot of ground that is our church to also be good soil – ground in which we all can put down deep roots to grow and produce fruit.

First: good soil needs to be protected by roots (strength to tell stories)

This is the number one thing that we can learn from the Dust Bowl. With all of the vegetation stripped away due to the drought, and without roots to hold the earth in place, the wind blew away an estimated 850 million tons of topsoil in the Southern Plains alone. Roots hold the soil together and help prevent erosion and they also loosen up the soil so that oxygen can filter through the ground.

Basically, roots are like fingers. They dig down deep into the ground and give the earth the support it needs.

In the church – we need roots too. Without roots, we will be tossed to and fro by the winds of change and the latest fad. But we have plenty of things within our tradition that ground us and help us to find the stability we need. In the United Methodist tradition, we especially think of four deep running roots: the scriptures, the tradition of the church, well-thought reasoning, and the experiences of the saints. As we gather together and share all of these stories, we find ourselves firmly rooted in the past, and yet also able to grow and mature into our future.

Second: good soil must be abundant and unified (strength to accompany, convene)

This is not something that we often think about, but one little clump of dirt can hardly do much. All by itself, that clump of dirt would become dry and would not have the room for anything to take root within it.

But when one clump of dirt is surrounded by millions of other little dirt particles, then, it is something to be reckoned with! We know that the outermost layer of our planet is soil… but did you know that five tons of topsoil spread out over an acre of land would only be as thick as a dime? We need soil and lots of it to have abundant life.

In the same way, Christians can’t go it alone in the world. We need one another to help us create abundant life. That is the message that we get from so many of our scripture readings from this morning. In Acts especially – it was when the believers came together, with one heart and one soul sharing what they needed that tremendous fruit came forth.

While this may sound cliché – people need people. We were created to be in relationship with others. And as the church, we are invited to walk along with others through the difficult and the joyous situations in their lives. We accompany one another through times of illness, injury, death, birth, marriage, loss of jobs, and marital problems… and together – together – we can have life and life abundant.

Third: good soil is alive (strength to bless)
We think about dirt as dead matter, but in reality it is organic – full of both living and dead organisms. Fungi and bacteria help break down matter into soil and animals such as earth worms churn and nurture the earth. Without all of that living and breathing of the soil – life as we know it would cease.

In the same way, our congregations are alive and they are living and breathing things. In a world that is so damning and critical, the church is a place of blessing and acceptance for all. The diversity of silt and clay and minerals within the ground all have a purpose, and within the church, we can only be the living body of Christ if we affirm the gifts that every single one of us bring to the table. Some of us are teachers, some of us are prophets, some of us are evangelists – and all of us are needed within the body.

Fourth: good soil needs nutrients and moisture ( strength to connect – sharing resources)

Good soil cannot give life to plants without being full of nutrients and minerals and moisture. In fact, 25% of our soil is water, while only 5% is organic matter… which means that it has a lot to give to thirsty plants and hungry critters. But when the waters dry up and the nutrients are taken out of the soil, then the ground is not good for growth. Just ask any farmer who employs crop rotation in order to keep vital nitrates in the soil!

Our church too needs to be filled up before it can be poured out. The Holy Spirit brings us the refreshing waters of new life through baptism. We are fed by the bread of heaven and the cup of salvation – grain and grapes from the land. We are nourished by the Word of God. And as we find ourselves blessed and strengthened, we can share of our abundance with the world. The church has the ability to bring together the resources of our communities and peoples to help life to come forth out of the darkest places in people’s lives.

Friday Five – Dog Day Afternoons

1. What is your sweetest summer memory from childhood? Did it involve watermelon or hand cranked ice cream? Or perhaps a teen summer romance. Which stands out for you?

Hmm, I think the closest thing I came to a sweet teen summer romance was on a camping trip my family took around the Wisconsin dells when I was in probably 8th grade. I can’t remember his name, but I do remember how much fun we had in the water park at the campground!!

2. Describe your all time favorite piece of summer clothing. The one thing you could put on in the summer that would seem to insure a cooler, more excellent day.

I guess probably just lazing around in a bikini and one of my sarongs from hawaii would have to be on the top of that list. I also have a great new pair of mesh shorts with the heat wicking technology that I love to wear when I disc golf – that and a white tank top totally keeps me cool. But NOT a ribbed tank. I didn’t realize how much that extra ribbing traps in heat until I almost died of heat stroke the other day (okay, I just felt like I was going to die)

3. What summer food fills your mouth with delight and whose flavor stays happily with you long after eaten?

Sweet corn. I LOVE sweet corn. And it stays with you because it gets stuck in your teeth!!!! I also love a great glass of sangria. I have a friend who made white sangria and it was to die for.

4. Tell us about the summer vacation or holiday that holds your dearest memory.

I would have to say the first time we went up to raft on the Menominee and Peshtigo Rivers in Wisconsin. This last time was fun, too, but I love playing cards and being outside and it seemed like that was all we did that first trip. That and drinking wine.

5. Have you had any experience(s) this summer that has drawn you closer to God or perhaps shown you His wonder in a new way?

I think getting myself back into my devotional life has been really good – and I did it on vacation while i could sit outside and enjoy the beauty of God’s creation.

Bonus question: When it is really hot, humid and uncomfortable, what do you do to refresh and renew body and spirit?

When i was a kid, the sprinkler would be running. Now as an adult, I just head for the nearest air conditioning… how boring is that?