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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.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

On the Prophetic Voice

I have just returned from two engaging weeks with a couple of DMin cohorts where we debated questions of mission, ministry, and congregations...thanks to all the folks who make those times fun (and don't forget to turn it your papers!! LOL)

One of the more interesting questions we pursued was the question of how to speak prophetically in a world that does not want to hear it? Most people of all kinds, we imagined, do not want to hear that they are lazy, bigoted, slovenly, lacking in the essential characteristics of generosity, faithfulness, and compassion...so, as pastors and preachers, most of us don't tell. "Don't ask, Don't tell" relates to just more than gays in the military, and may be an even bigger problem in the relationship between a preacher and his or her parishioners. In fact, as one of my students suggested, for some people it would be easier to have a gay preacher than one who told them that they are greedy and don't give enough to God and God's mission through the church. So we concluded--rightly or wrongly--that preachers don't ask about people's sins and people don't tell preachers about them...and Jeremiah weeps again.

This lack of honesty, this seeming lack of prophecy about the "world as it really is" does not stem from misguided theology as much as it stems from compassionate impulses and the preacher's own indemnity to sin. As such, my advice to people who listen to preachers and preachers who seek to preach is that until you hear a prophetic word prepare to be disappointed. Disappointed that the world doesn't change, disappointed that no one seems to care, disappointed at the seemingly triviality of "it" all...but what do you expect? If the prophet's right (whomever he or she is) than something would have to change...and that something? It'd probably be us.

May your tables be full and your conversations be true.

Monday, January 3, 2011

Musings on our "souls"

First off, let us clear up what "soul" is not:
*The soul is not part of a dualism which separates existence between the seen/unseen or some kind of mind-body separation. (I do not agree with Plato on this.)
*Secondly, the soul is not some substance infused into life (The First Vatican Council and I disagree here, God cannot "infuse" soul into an embryo. For me, the embryo has the soul from the get-go, and does not need any kind of infusion...and in general Roman Catholicism and I disagree on any "infusions" from God throughout life.)
*Soul and body never co-exist separately...as body helps define soul, and soul helps define body.
All right...now on to what "soul" seems to mean.

"Soul," in the way I understand the term is what makes you YOU. That is, when I say, "There is my wife," what I mean is that the person who is my wife is who she is, and I use the world "soul" to capture everything about her. She is female, married to me, works as a pastor, likes good food (she recently became enamored with foie gras), mother of our children, etc...and all that goes into her is what we encapsulate with the word "soul."

Notice, this includes her body, but is not limited to this. She looks different from other women, behaves differently than some, but part of who and what she is is what her body is. So I know the difference between Marissa Miller (my favorite supermodel) and my wife in part because of how they look. (I also assume they have other differences...but how would I know?)

But there is more to "soul" than body. Music, for example, goes into who my wife is, just as it does for all of us (hence "soul" music for me is a generic term that describes the music that is the soundtrack of our lives.) My wife, for example, resonates in ways to people like Carole King, Paul Simon, and Don Henley and others like Bob Dylan and Frank Sinatra mean little to her.

Soul is how we know who is who in the world...and that is why it is important to me as a word, and why I use it...The best question to ask yourself each day is not "Who am I?" nor do you need to pump yourself up in the mirror chanting some mantra of success; rather, ponder and pray for your soul...it is God's gift of you to us.

May your tables be full and your conversations be true.