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Omaha, Nebraska, United States
I am more and more convinced that most congregations die from a staggering lack of imagination. Let's change that. Drop me a line on email or leave a comment if you have thoughts on God, Jesus, congregations, the church or whatever.... I look forward to our conversations.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

What's a Heaven for?

My neighbor Julie stopped me on my way to the mailbox. How come heaven is so kitchy? (I'm not actually sure how to spell what she said.) What do you mean, I asked?
"Well," she said, as she leaned on her rake, "every time I see or hear something about heaven it's so trite or old-fashioned. It's like all our ideas about heaven are stuck in 1842. They just are so stupid."
"Are you suggesting we should have some pictures of Ipods and some stories about heaven with people driving around in hybrids?"
"Yeah," she jumped in, "anything that would make heaven someplace I might actually want to be a part of. Every time I see or hear about heaven it's so old-fashioned, with lots of stupid pictures about angels and harps, and old Norman Rockwell pictures hanging on the gates. It's just dumb."
Now, Julie, who is a graphic designer for one of our local companies, is big about design. Her house is beautifully decorated, and what she does to her yard--unbelievable! I can see where she is coming from, as every time I hear something about heaven it is usually a bit...dated, shall we say?
"I suppose. Heaven is to be something we strive for. It should be about our wildest dream, our most hoped for ambitions. Heaven is about the best God makes us, the best God calls us to live." I put the mail under my arm, and started for the door.
Julie started pulling some thatched grass from her boulevard. "Just remember Scott," she called after me, "Best has never been the same from year."
And, if that's true, then neither is heaven.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

A Few Thoughts on "the Christians"

I had barely gotten settled onto the barstool, when Gar, my favorite bartender, challenged me with a question. "How come Christians are so angry these days," he asked? "What makes you folks so pissed off?" (Sorry for the language, but Gar is a bartender...)
That is an interesting question...
First, are Christians angry these days? I suppose some are always angry, as Christians are people, and people are always in conflict one way or another. I asked Gar what he was talking about.
"Well," he said, "some guy came in here last night saying if we didn't stop sinning we would all go to hell. And he wasn't pleasant about it."
I can imagine anyone who walks into a bar shouting for the sinning to stop, and invoking hell on the sinners might not be a pleasant person. "But that happens all the time, why did it bother you so much last night? As opposed to the other 1000 times?" (Gar's bar is located within 300 yards of four different Christian churches. He gets this every now and then.)
"I don't know, Scott. He seemed so self-righteous about it. It just ticked me off."
"So really," I mused, "it's the self-righteous thing you noticed, not his anger?"
"I guess."
Here's a way that you can tell Christians apart: any Christian will tell you if we don't change our ways things are going to get worse...but the real Christians are the ones who while saying that know THEY are the ones who are sinning--- just by saying that. (In most of Christian scripture, judging fellow humans is sinning...judging is God's prerogative only. By the way, me using the word "real" in the last sentence makes me a sinner...but you already knew that.)
I smiled over at Gar, and started texting. "Who you texting," he asked?
"My insurance agent. Apparently, there's gonna be a fire."

Monday, September 14, 2009

A Day at the Renaissance Festival

Have you ever been to a Renaissance Festival? Either it makes sense to you or it does not. Basically, for those who have not experienced one, a Ren Fest is street theater where anyone who walks through the gate is a player on the stage...even if the stage is 80 acres. I've been going to them for years, since my college was about 30 miles from a large one located south of Minneapolis, MN. A lot of my friends from college and high school worked the Festival, and so I would go to hassle them...and to meet girls.
When we moved back to Minnesota after living in Chicago, (Chris and I once went to one in Wisconsin while in the Windy City), we started bringing our girls, and they are addicted to the Renaissance Festival. Now, every year about this time, Rachel, Maddy, one of their friends and I pile into my truck and drive down there for a day (this is a seven-hour one-way committment) just to be part of the show...

I don't go to the Ren Fest for the history (there is very little, and what there is provides fodder for jokes. Shakespeare is the bathroom tissue of Ren Fest street theater.) I don't go for the art, pottery, or wooden bowls. I do like the honey there though (and speaking of honeys, for those of you who are single, the Ren Fest is a feast!) There is little sanitation, although the "Men Only" bathrooms gives males in our society an unique sense of entitlement, and the food is a constipatory nightmare...especially for those post-forty. (To note: this year I had, in order: a orange glazed chicken breast on a croissant with coffee for breakfast, a beer, a falafel sandwich and diet coke for lunch, a bread bowl beef stew for second lunch, a beer, some honey mead and chicken wings for a snack, and a beer. Even with the falafel I am still not regular...) I go to the Renaissance Festival to see something unique...and I saw it this year. Aske me about Johnny Phoenix or the Tortuga Twins sometime...preferably with no children around.

That uniqueness is what we Christians call "revelation." As God revealed God's own self in a bush to Moses or on the cross of Jesus, those "revelations" speak about who God is, and what God invites us to do. But you can't plan a revelation anymore than I could plan to see female pirates dressed in pink and black plaid mini-skirts, or belly dancers in chain-mail lingerie.

For Christians, the revelations of God speak to a larger purpose, to a broader vision, and to being part of a larger plan than our own usually mundane, pedantic lives that seem to trap us in futility. Jesus, as the revelation of God, gives us a broader vision to be part of, a larger world to walk around in, and more people to wonder at...which, like those of us at the Renaisance Festival, is all we could ask for.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

What is the Purpose of "Scripture?"

(I know a lot of my blogs recently have dealt with reading...but it's what I do, and people have questions...especially if they have never thought about reading. Apologies for those who want to hear about something else.)

I wrote last week that "Scripture has not convinced me..." and people asked me what I meant. What I mean is that what I read in the Holy Bible does not seem to indicate to me that gay sex goes against God's will for humanity. Scripture has not made its case. It is too ambiguous on one hand, (anything against gay sex in the New Testament); and, fulfilled by Christ on the other hand (i.e., Older Testament). Since the only argument I have heard against gay sex is that it is against the will of God according to scripture, and since I'm not convinced by scripture on this topic, I have no reason not to accept gay and lesbian people who may have gay sex. (I assume gay and lesbian people have gay sex, but it is only an assumption...I have no empirical proof.) I have heard from many people who do not agree with me on this, but I have found something interesting in these conversations. I've gotten into the habit of asking this question of my Christian brother and sisters: If gay sex wasn't mentioned in Romans 1, would you still disapprove of it?

The purpose of Scripture, it seems to me, is to expose our relationship with God, and for Christians, how that relationship feeds into our relationships with the rest of the world. So scripture carrying the story of a God whose love runs so deep as to die on a cross for its profundity exposes the ambiguity of the loves which dominate my life. A scripture that reveals an insistent exposing of greed at the expense of community questions the excesses of my life. Scripture does nothing for me in this regard to gay sex...(the people mentioned in the Bible who practice gay sex have no relationship with God...God has given them up...the gay Christians I know have actually been claimed by God in baptism...what does gay sex mean in this case?...Hence, the ambiguity I mentioned above.)

I pray that when I read scripture I am open to how God (not the Bible, please notice) is around me, by me, with me as I walk and journey through life. I am a Christian because of what God does and did as a First Century Jew...Scripture is just a way to remind me of that...not because it is "true," but because it is the only place where that story is told.