Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Homosexuality and the Church

We miss the forest for the weeds when we church leaders spend our energy drawing lines around who can be in our club.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006


A day off! I wanted to hear about the General Synod meeting this morning so I sought the internet. Google shows nothing, of course, of this 19th century church, so I resorted to the RCA’s website. Information here is neutered and filtered through the lenses of whatever leadership has decided is Our Goal. I look to Blogger and find several entries, each of which is more disturbing that the other. These Chicken Little’s have their own lenses through which the news is filtered: lenses of sexism, fear, gnosticism and a heretical cocktail of LaHaye, Bright and Darby.

Frustrated, watched “Saved!” which I borrowed from Isaac and thoroughly enjoyed. It's cathartic to watch the fear-based, gnostic, heretical wing of the church satirized. Maybe if the girls nap at the same time, I'll put in Constantine, cathartic in its own way...

Monday, June 12, 2006

Missing the Point

If you had asked the apostle Paul, "If you were to die tonight, do you know for certain that you would be with God in heaven?" I'm certain Paul would have said yes. But he probably would have given you a funny look and wondered why you were asking this questions, because to him, it missed the point. To Paul the point of being Christ's follower was not just to help people be absolutely certian they were going to heaven after they died. Paul's goal was to help them become fully formed, mature in Christ, here and now -- to experience the glorious realities of being in Christ and experiencing Christ in themselves.

After hearing Tony Campolo speak a week ago (after hearing Len Sweet a few days before that) I'm treading water in ideas, trying to sort out and process what I've heard. At the Campolo display, I picked up a book he wrote with Brian McLaren, from which the quote above is taken. Our faith is not given to us for warm fuzzies by some Cosmic Care Bear (that's Derek's image and one I really like). Our faith is given to us so that God can get to work through us.

When Misha and I were married in the States, after our Chinese wedding(s), my mother preached at the ceremony in Virginia. The liturgy we chose was a "Blessing of Civil Marriage" in which we did not exchange vows but rather to affirm the vows we had made in a previous civil ceremony, and ask God and the congregation to bless those vows. One of the clearest memories I have of that ceremony is Mom's sermon: we had been blessed with an amazing start to our relationship but God asked now that we use our relationship to bless others. Mom used the stories of Abraham and Sarah at our wedding, McLaren conveys much the same essense in Jesus' hypothetical tyrade in his book with Campolo:

God's promise to Abraham was not limited to Abraham's descendents: his promise was to bless Abraham and make him a blessing, to make Abraham's descendents a great nation, so they could bless all other nations. So by being preoccupied only with your own blessing, your own liberation, your own concerns -- you are missing the whole point about salvation.

The church exists primarily for the benefit of its non-members. God, strengthen me to lead such a church.

Friday, June 09, 2006

Not the God we would have chosen

The following prayer is from Walter Brueggemann's "Awed to Heaven, Rooted in Earth" (Augsburg Fortress 2003). Since hearing that this collection of Brueggemann's prayers was published, I have wanted to read them. At the Upstate New York Synod (ELCA) assembly I attended earlier this week, I found the book while wandering in Augsburg's display after I left yet another denomination's discussions about sinking finances. (By the way, who out there can I talk with about the wealth of information and experience I'm collecting by having feet in two denominations?) Several prayers jumped at me, but this one in particular addresses the awe I frequently feel when considering the freedom and opportunity God has given me to work in this unique environment.

Not the God we would have chosen

We would as soon you were stable and reliable.

We would as soon you were predictable
and always the same toward us.

We would like to take the hammer of doctrine
and the nails of piety
and nail your feet to the floor
and have you stay in one place.

And then we find you moving,
always surprising us,
always coming at us from new directions.

Always planting us
and uprooting us
and tearing all things down
and making all things new.

You are not the God we would have chosen
had we done the choosing,
but we are your people
and you have chosen us in freedom.

We pray for the great gift of freedom
that we may be free toward you
as you are in your world.

Give us that gift of freedom
that we may move in new places
in obedience and in gratitude.

Thank you for Jesus
who embodied your freedom for all of us. Amen.