Posts Tagged 'Holy Spirit'

A Mosaic of Voices & Feast of Visuals

What if there was a Bible that combined a readable-yet-accurate text with breath-taking art from every continent and era, combined with meditative reflections both ancient and contemporary? What if they ancient voices were similarly from a myriad of ethnicities and theological persuasions, carefully chosen to sing a chorus of praise to the One who eternally Was, Is, and Is to Come? And what if these reflections and art were paired together – much like fine wine and good food – and synced to the ancient rhythms of the liturgical calendar?

Well then, you’d have the Holy Bible: Mosaic, one of the most ambitious Bible undertakings in years. Publisher Tyndale House and editorial director David Sanford wanted to create a truly ecumenical, multi-cultural work of art that is as beautiful to behold as it is to read. It achieves its goals, I think. But then again, I might be biased…I’m one of the contemporary contributors!

Below are excerpts of my unedited contribution*:

God as Nourishment

Exodus 24:9-11 * Leviticus 6:18b * Psalm 34:8a, 10 * Isaiah 25:6 * John 6:22-58 * Revelation 19:1-9

Food and God, God and food. God is food—taste and see. Jesus and fish, fish and bread; bread and wine, wine of New Covenant. Come to the banqueting table—set and served by the God of plenty, our El-Shaddai, God who nurses us at the breasts of divinity. The Spirit and Bride sing out—the wedding supper of the Lamb arrives! Father, Son, and Spirit, setting a table before us—even before our enemies. Fear dissipates; our Abba gives us fish and not stones. When we rest in our true center, we play hide and seek—we are lost in God, and found in the way things really are: God is immediately present to us, and us to the Triune God. Here God nourishes our spirits—Jesus is real food and real drink. At the table of our souls we are consumed by the all-consuming God.

* * * *

When the Church eats and drinks in Eucharistic feast, in Lord’s Table and Lord’s Supper, we celebrate Christ’s subversive presence in our midst. We consume God and are consumed, eating and drinking once again in God’s upside-down reign. This holy meal that Jesus gives us disorients us in God’s nourishing presence and re-orients us to our real surroundings, God’s Kingdom on earth as it is in heaven. When we take the recipes of heaven into our bodies, the Church re-members once more that we are reconstituted, new creation, real bodies becoming one flesh and blood by Jesus’ flesh and blood. We become God’s life incarnate, free to act in the world with startling freedom, astonishing grace and truth, no strings attached.

Let us taste God, and let us become. What if we became gardeners, cooks, party-throwers; cultivating God’s organic life and sharing this nourishment with all? Communal meals, agape feasts, subversive lunches and dinners shared in the Way of Jesus. What if we followed Jesus, inviting everyone to the table: sex workers and terrorists, homeless and high-powered business leaders, blacks and Asians and whites and Latinos, televangelists and gay activists? Around the table of God, we are reduced to the grandeur our common humanity, the spark of divinity that by God’s grace sparks us, perchance to dream, together. To dream of another world, one filled with choice food and fine aged wines, and new wine—the wine of New Covenant, containing the inebriating dreams of God’s new world.

God is food and drink. We can taste and see the Lord’s goodness with our whole lives, along interior and outward paths alike. We can imbibe divinity in the still, small moments of restful inner repose; we can eat and drink the will of our Father at the raucous tables where stranger, neighbor, enemy and friend meet…

…to be continued on page 320, in Pentecost week 27!

Mosaic: Holy Bible Hardcover

Mosaic: Holy Bible Simulated Leatherbound

Check out the Slideshow

Browse inside the Advent Meditations!

*They cut back some portions of this, with my blessing. I wrote like a bit of a mad chef, experimenting with ingredients. The editors needed to be mindful of the appropriateness of its use for a large and diverse readership, and I completely understand their editorial revisions. I’ll write more like a whirling dervish channeling John of Ruusbroec and Sara Miles when my book on God-as-nourishment comes out – which will be soon!

“I Don’t Want to be Part of Any Jesus Revolution Without a Perichoretic Dance” – Why We Need Both Jesus Manifestoes

Frank Viola and Len Sweet’s book  Jesus Manifesto remains in the Amazon Top Ten today, and my interview with them yesterday has stirred a lot of interesting conversation. Among conversation partners is my friend Jeff Straka, who airs some honest thoughts and frustrations that inspire me to say something I’ve been wanting to say for a long time. Jeff wonders:

While Brian McLaren has endorsed both these authors’ books in the past, his name is glaringly (to me, anyway) missing from the list on this new book. Nor did I find any endorsements from other names considered more solidly in the emergent movement (and not just in “conversation” with). Am I reading too much into this or is this shaping into a “spy vs. spy” manifesto?

Also, are the subtitle words “the supremacy and sovereignty of Jesus” a helpful choice of words as they seem to imply then that other religions are flat-out wrong or false (ala Franklin Graham)?

Well Jeff, we know that Brian rarely eats or sleeps, but even he cannot endorse everything. 🙂

But seriously. I think there is a difference between divergent views and hostility. F’r instance, it was apparent that Mike Wittmer didn’t merely have differences with Brian’s presentation in A New Kind of Christianity; he was pretty hostile toward Brian, both theologically and personally.

I’m almost certain that this isn’t the case here. While there are doubtless differences between Len and Brian (as the Sweet piece you cite demonstrates), I see them as iron-sharpening-iron differences and not iron-jabbing-your-opponents-eyes-out differences. Both Len and Brian have been accused of various grevious heresies by the self-appointed watchdog ministries; I doubt Len wishes to inflict that pain on anyone else, even if he disagrees with them theologically.

So: Does JM say some different things than ANKoC?

Yes.

Is it possible to enjoy both books?

Yes, I think so, though natural predispositions being what they are, readers might naturally gravitate toward one perspective or the other.

Here’s the fascinating thing, as an aside: Brian in ANKoC and Richard Rohr in The Naked Now (which I’m presently reading) both write out of a conviction that Jesus has become in the hearts and minds of Christians too remote and too ‘divine’ to be of any earthly good, or connection with his followers today. Rohr specifically indicts contemporary Christians of the heresy of gnosticism, saying that while Nicea (or was it Chalcedon? I always forget…) technically settled the matter of Jesus being fully human and fully divine, “most Christians are very good theists who just happened to name their god Jesus.” By contrast, Rohr calls for a robust incarnational ethic, where we disavow a remote ‘theism’ as such and affirm a ‘down and in’ God who is located precisely right here, in our midst. Brian and Rohr both hope that people will stop merely worshiping Jesus and start listening to and following his teachings.

Sweet and Viola, by contrast, are observing an opposite trend: People following the human Jesus, but neglecting the exalted Christ. They wish to reclaim the grandiose language of the Epistles, which speaks of a Christ who fills all-in-all. This is different than a John Piper or Franklin Graham approach of brow-beating the planet earth with a jingoistic Christ, in my opinion.

To begin with, ‘supremacy’ is used in a mystical sense, inspired by T. Austin Sparks. And the divinity of Jesus championed by V&S isparticipatory divinity: We have become partakers of the divine nature through Christ. It’s a perichoretic divinity: The expansion of the dynamic life of the Trinity into communities where this Trinitarian life is made welcome, and thus radiating into the earth. (See Viola’s From Eternity to Here and Sweet’s So Beautiful.) To be honest with you, not counting Rohr, I miss this kind of unbridled mystical-devotional dimension in much of the emerging church. I too agree that everything must change and I don’t share Len’s antipathy with liberation theology (I don’t see how anyone can read Leonardo Boff or James Cone or Gustavo Gutierrez, or know the story and plight of the Base Ecclessial Communities in Latin America, and dismiss liberation theology as simply re-hashed Marxisim), but I will paraphrase anarchist Emma Goldman here: “I don’t want to be part of any Jesus revolution without a perichoretic dance.”

I want to see an emerging conversation that makes room for neo-liberationists and neo-pietists, Jesus Manifesto and Jesus Manifesto. We need neo-pietists in the Conversation to remind us just how revolutionary Paul was, and the Epistles are – that participatory divinity linked to the monotheistic God was truly a new phenomenon in the first century, and can be just as much so today. We need the neo-pietists to remind us of a good, strong, Lutheran-esque Gospel of God’s gratuitous grace and favor toward us, and how we can’t be the ‘hands and feet of Jesus’ unless we’re connected to the authority and animating energies of Christ our Head.

And so: I hope that in the next year, emergents and missionals, organics and liturgicals, conservatives and progressives, can stop writing each other off. If I have to stop calling it the ’emerging’ conversation in order to help missional and neo-pietist folk feel more welcome at the table, I will. Because I think that’s what Jesus – the whole, living Christ – wants.

Anguish and Grace: I Interview Kevin Prosch

From my mid-teens on, I grew up on the music of Kevin Prosch. I discovered him during that odd time of my life when I was attending a Presbyterian church but dating a Vineyard gal and avidly reading the Morninstar Journal out of Charlotte; it was as though I was trying to preserve the ecstatic fruit of my Assemblies of God past amid my rationalist Reformed church-going. Kevin’s music helped keep me sane – or was it insane with a visceral longing for friendship with God and real-world emotional vulnerability? Either way, I kept listening to Kevin even after I outgrew certain aspects of charismatic Christian culture, even as I departed the PCA.

Then…Kevin disappeared from the scene, amid rumors of scandal. Years later, as suddenly as he had dissappeared, he was back! It looked like he began a new life, one of transparency, integrity, and grace. To top it off, he’d cut one of the most moving albums of his artistic career to that point, Palanquin. Listen to this song from that album:

The words are worth meditating on in their entirety:

There’s a harp in my heart,
and only you can play it
There’s a song in my broken soul,
and only you can sing it
You’re so unpredictable, God,
just like the rhythm, the rhythm of weeping
And my life is so upside down
But you keep on coming, coming around
You keep on loving, I still let you down

There’s a harp in my heart,
and only you can play it
There’s a song in my broken soul,
and only you can sing it
I hear those curfew bells are ringing,
but I just can’t stop my singing
I’ve got to tell just one more person,
Never give up, keep on dreaming
Quieter than rain, He knows all your pain

There’s a cry I have had
that I could love my brother
And not look at that race,
That religion or That color
You love those Presbyterians, God
you love the gays and the lesbians
You love the Buddhists and the prostitutes
You’re not like us, we always change
You see through our sin, and You love us anyway

Oh, I wish you would put those words in my mouth, God
To tell the world what you’re realy like
Not some dead God who lives in some building
But a Father of kindness, a son of forgiveness,
a Spirit who helps me
Yeah that who you are

After all these years of enjoying Kevin’s music, we were finally introduced via a mutual friend, Don Milam. Thanks to Don, I was able to connect with Kevin via phone to interview him for the mega-esteemed Homebrewed Christianity podcast! Ohh yeah. We talked; it’s an absolutely riveting hour as Kevin pours out his heart and soul.

As they wrote on the Homebrewed hub,

His story is incredibly fascinating — from his troubled relationship with his abusive father as a child, to stockpiling arms and being held captive by gold miners — with music being an important source of comfort throughout his early life. His conversion to Christian faith and involvement in the early Vineyard movement led to his career as a musician, both in recording Christian worship albums, and in the mainstream with his band The Black Peppercorns. But later he sold all of his equipment, feeling too broken and unworthy to continue, only to reemerge later restored to ministry at More Church in Amarillo, Texas, and visionary of the Music Coope Festival (June 9-11), where artists are coming together to create music in the context of community.

So there you have it! Listen here. You’ll be glad you did.

And be sure to check out the Music Coope artists’ collective, their upcoming Festival, and More Church in Amarillo.

Sunday Devotional: Sara Miles – Jesus Says GO!

In the midst of all the (well-deserved) hoopla surrounding the release of Brian’s A New Kind of Christianity, it is literarily crucial not to lose sight of another, equally-important book that released this month: Jesus Freak: Feeding/Healing/Raising the Dead by Sara Miles. I really think that both of these books could well define Western Christianity’s soul-searching in the second decade of the 21st-century.

I’m not going to do a full book review today – this week, God-willing! – but for now I’ll just say that Sara’s book works on the reader in a whole different way than Brian’s; whereas Brian’s adeptly takes you on a journey through Scripture, church history, and the genealogy of ideas, Sara’s book is hyper-local (rarely, if ever, venturing outside of her home city of San Francisco) and deeply embodied – it’s story after story after story, driving a central theme home: God lives in us, and Jesus gives us the authority to feed, heal, forgive, and practice resurrection. Here is Sara reading an excerpt from Jesus Freak (this is what inspired the non-technological part of my KedgeForward Theology After Google Preview Talk):

The blogosphere has been positively abuzz about Sara’s infectious story and embodied spirituality. Here are some of the highlights…and again, my take is coming soon!

Bill Dahl

Carl McColman

Faith Matters

Father Jake

In Touch Magazine (In Touch?? Isn’t that Charles Stanley’s magazine?? Wow!)

Journey With Jesus

Matthew Paul Turner

Next-Wave

Reiter’s Block

Rhodes Network

Sarx

Spirituality & Practice

Through A Glass Darkly

Walking With God

Whatever

Weary Pilgrim

Why Is Marko

Wrecked for the Ordinary

Wounded Bird

Yearns & Groans

Left-wing Lesbian author comes out as a Jesus freak and claims power to feed the hungry, heal the sick, and raise the dead – Religion Writers. Now that’s an attention-grabbing headline!

(My previous posts about Sara are here and here.)

Brian & Spencer’s Excellent Adventure

I started reading Brian McLaren about eight years ago. I was drawn in by his probing, unconventional, and sometimes-controversial questions about Christian faith and practice – his, ours, everyone’s. Reading Brian morphed into friendship with Brian, and today I’d say he’s one of the top half-dozen living people who’ve had the greatest impact on my faith and life. I wasn’t alone in finding his work compelling: Many people worldwide were asking similar questions; the conversations and action that followed have created conversations and (arguably) movements. From The Church On The Other Side and his New Kind of Christian novel trilogy, to A Generous Orthodoxy and Everything Must Change, Brian has been on a journey to re-envision what it means to faithfully follow Jesus in the 21st century. For many of us in emerging, missional, and ‘progressive’ faith circles, Brian needs no introduction – and in some ways, that’s a problem, isn’t it? Presumed familiarity can sometimes breed narrative contempt, especially in our world of high-profile authors who basically rewrite the same book over and over again. But I can honestly say that, in light of Brian’s back-catalog, this book breaks some new ground and is written with fresh candor and synthesis. That’s why I’m so happy with this ten-minute video of Brian and Spencer Burke, driving around Santa Monica and discussing where they’re at with faith and life these days.  I hear a wiser, more no-nonsense McLaren who’s grown more comfortable in his own skin, more comfortable as a voice and statesman for a new generation of Christianity coming of age in the 21st century. What hear ye?

Brian isn’t finished questing and questioning. Whether you love his work or it makes you nervous, whether you’ve read his every book or have lost track with him these past few years, his latest offering is his most important and striking to date: A New Kind of Christianity. In it, Brian asks ten questions that attempt to integrate our inner lives with our outward actions, to align our beliefs with how we live in increasingly interconnected global community. Questions like

  • The Narrative Question: What Is the Overarching Storyline of the Bible?
  • The Authority Question: How Should the Bible Be Understood?
  • The God Question: Is God Violent?
  • The Jesus Question: Who is Jesus and Why is He Important?
  • The Gospel Question: What Is the Gospel?
  • The Church Question: What Do We Do About the Church?
  • The Sex Question: Can We Find a Way to Address Sexuality Without Fighting About It?
  • The Future Question: Can We Find a Better Way of View the Future?
  • The Pluralism Question: How Should Followers of Jesus Relate to People of Other Religions?
  • The What Do We Do Now Question: How Can We Translate Our Quest into Action?

We at TheOOZE are teaming up with Brian to bring these questions into your churches, coffee shops, pubs and living rooms. In addition to the Think:FWD episode here (go here for show notes BTW), we’re going to be launching an entire Brian McLaren channel devoted to exploring these questions starting in February. Stay tuned!

Want more links?

On Scatology and Compost

No, not eschatology, though many folks consider than an equally excremental topic. Rather, yesterday’s post Organic Church: Full of Crap? elicited a lot of lively feedback (thanks all!). One friend in particular emailed me off-blog  and wondered if perhaps I was carrying the metaphor of church history/our personal experiences-as-compost a bit too far; couldn’t saying that the ‘crap’ is valuable justify abuse, manipulation, or normalizing sub-standard experiences? It’s a good question. Here’s what I replied:

Great question. And if I was brutally honest about my own ‘organic church experience’ over its 10-year period, on a scale from Euphoric to $#!tty, I’d probably say it’s somewhere in the middle – and that I’d rather not spiritualize my experience of the latter.

Far be it from me to make the compost metaphor whitewash the $#!t and justify manipulation and groupthink. Rather, I think that this image of spiritual life can stand – on a personal/local level as well as a macro/historical level – as an ecosystem metaphor for even the best of times and the healthiest of institutions/movements. ‘Cause when you think about it, most people don’t pile steaming excrement on their home compost heaps. That’s just fertilizer – and that’s helpful too, but somewhat different. No, the compost heap in my parents’ backyard garden gets a regular supply of egg shells, carrot peelings, old lettuce, and other bits of organic matter that were (and are, strictly speaking) life-giving – just not at that moment for my parents. They were yesterday’s meals – yesterday’s manna, if you will. By sewing into the compost heap, they hope to reap some life-giving food down the line a bit. Even a psychologically-healthy, well-adjusted group will have old manna to put on the compost heap for tomorrow’s nourishment.

You’re right, too, that we don’t worship the decay – the compost heap isn’t = the life of the Spirit. Rather, it’s the fertile ground where the Spirit can do her work.

Organic Church: Full of Crap?

The Web has had been a-buzz with some conversation about my native church milieu, ‘organic’ church – aka house church or simple church. Folks meeting in homes, rather decentralized, certainly de-clericalized. Senior Christianity Today editor Mark Galli wishes organic churchers well, but is concerned that we might burn out on our lofty ideals.

What I worry about is the coming crash of organic church. And after that, I worry about the energetic men and women at the forefront of the movement. Will they become embittered and abandon the church, and maybe their God?

Some folks think this is over-dramatic – including Neil Cole, who responded to Galli’s editorial here. (Update: Frank Viola has responded too.) But others, like my friend Neil Carter, were writing about the death of idealism in organic church before they even read Galli’s piece. Carter finds himself looking at organic church on the outside after 10 years as an insider: Far from breathing the rarified air of ‘changing the world’ (as Cole suggests organic churches do) or ‘revolutionizing the history and practice of the church’ (as the house church stream Carter & I share proclaims as one of its goals), Carter is now churching with that most ubiquitous (and some would say, boring) of tribes: Southern Baptists. Reflecting on this, Carter writes:

It’s funny how you can age ten years in the space of just one, while at other times you can go ten years and hardly age a year. It’s a variable process, it turns out. It’s all about what you learn — what you experience in the space of a year. Having said that, I feel I’ve aged more years than I know how to count just in the last 12 months.

Specifically, he recounts a major compromise with his ideals in allowing some professional pastor dude baptize his youngest daughter – even though he baptized his first two daughters himself as part of his former house church community, in a swimming pool. He quotes a coupla Michael Caine flicks – “Obsession is a young man’s game” and “Idealism is youth’s final luxury.” Neil’s only about five years older than me, but he’s musing, as Blink-182 did a decade ago, “I guess this is growing up.”

Or is it?

Do-it-yourself New Testament scholar Bill Heroman – whom I also shared a living room with, a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away – thinks the organic church movement is full of crap – in a good way. “The challenge,” he says, “is sustainability.”

Human systems last a long time mainly by suppressing the human element that challenges established traditions, but that same human element also provides authenticity and vitality. Thus, the best way to survive for a long time is to be nearly dead. Nature, naturally, sustains itself quite differently. The work God needs to do within a local body of believers will always be messy, but Institutional Christendom keeps peons & yokels from participating precisely because they make messes. The shift is: who says messes are bad? Antiseptic works well for hospitals and elementary schools, but not in gardens or forests. After all, crap makes good fertilizer, and God is a gardener.

God is a gardener, and we – our individual lives, collective lives, our history and our institutions – are compost. Just like the Holy Spirit, Sarayu, in The Shack: She is unoffended by our messiness and our chaos. Indeed, it is beautiful to her.

So thanks, Bill, for stealing my metaphor. :)

Even so – I understand and respect my friends like Neil Carter, who find themselves outside of these more ‘ideal-laden’ patterns of doing and being church – whether by necessity or shifting sensibilities. It’s an internal tug-of-war, sometimes. Even though I’m far more interested in liturgical and traditional elements (from the ‘compost’ of our history) than I once was, I’m as opposed to clericalism as I’ve ever been. Even so, I’m not at all opposed to leadership – even strong leadership – as some in the organic stream are. Leadership is, it helps, and not everyone is gifted at it. That said, any leadership modeling itself remotely on that of Jesus or even Paul will be continuously giving power away – “You feed them!” “Try this!” and not seeking its own self-preservation. Because while we’re not all ‘leaders,’ we are all priests.

What does this look like, practically? These days I’m drawing inspiration from the 70-year-old Church of the Saviour cluster of churches in the D.C. area (read Inward Journey, Outward Journey by Elizabeth O’ Connor! Do it now!), as well as the 30-year-old St. Gregory of Nyssa congregation in San Francisco (do yourself a favor and pre-order Sara Miles’ new book Jesus Freak: Feeding/Healing/Raising the Dead). While these fellowships are older than the current ‘organic’ church nomenclature’s popular use – and they certainly have the trappings of Galli’s ‘smells and bells’ in significant ways – to me they embody composted communities; not experiments in puritan house-cleaning, but groups who are full-of-crap and they know it. It’s from this rich, loamy soil that they can sprout the Spirit’s life afresh in each generation.


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  • Friend of Emergent Village

    My Writings: Varied and Sundry Pieces Online

    Illumination and Darkness: An Anne Rice Feature from Burnside Writer's Collective
    Shadows & Light: An Anne Rice Interview in MP3 format from Relevant Magazine
    God's Ultimate Passion: A Trinity of Frank Viola interview on Next Wave: Part I, Part II, Part III
    Review: Furious Pursuit by Tim King, from The Ooze
    Church Planting Chat from Next-Wave
    Review: Untold Story of the New Testament Church by Frank Viola, from Next-Wave

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