Saturday, December 22, 2007

the rebel jesus

all the streets are filled with laughter and light
and the music of the season
and the merchants windows are all bright
with the faces of children
and the families hurrying to
as the sky darkens and freezes
they'll be gathering around the hearths and tales
giving thanks for all gods graces
and the birth of the rebel jesus

well they call him by the prince of peace
and they call him by the savior
and they pray to him upon the seas
and in every bold endeavor
as they fill his churches with their pride and gold
and their faith in him increases
but they've turned the nature that i worshipped in
from a temple to a robbers den
in the words of the rebel jesus

we guard our world with locks and guns
and we guard our fine posessions
and once a year when christmas comes
we give to our relations
and pershaps we give a little to the poor
if the generosity should seize us
but if any one of us should interfere
in the business of why they are poor
they get the same as the rebel jesus

but please forgive me if i seem
to take the tone of judgement
for i've no wish to come between
this day and your enjoyment
in this life of hardship and earthly toil
we have need for anything that frees us
so i bid you pleasure
and i bid you cheer
from a heathen and a pagan
on the side of the rebel jesus

- jackson browne

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

christmas in a different light

I have always loved Christmas. The music, the food, pretty lights and glittery ornaments. I'd rush around buying gifts and wrapping them. I'm one of those people who goes out after the holiday and buys up tons of shiny, sparkly wrapping paper goodness- to use it the next year creating elaborate packages. These fun things along with quality time with family and friends have always made the season something I greatly enjoy. But over the last couple of years, Christmas has lost a bit of its luster.

It's not because I dont still love the aforementioned activities- I do. But my worldview is changing. I'm a born and bred midwesterner, daughter of republican small business owners- who grew up believing that the American dream was the be all end all of human existance. The thinking always was, at least in my mind, that God favored the United States and that our system of capitalism and democracy was the *best* in the world. I firmly believed that poor people were poor because of laziness and did my once, twice or three times yearly volunteering at a homeless shelter, nursing home, whatever- because, after all, that was some kind of effort.

I dont begrudge my parents anything- they're wonderful people. I had a happy,secure childhood and was ( and still am) quite blessed. But as mentioned in the previous post, I'm learning that the kingdom of God looks like no government or societal system here on earth- including America's.

So, back to Christmas. As my eyes are opened more and more to the needs around me, the once a year charity surrounding Christmas makes me ill, quite frankly. I'm torn because in a way, yes, any charity is 'good'- people need help. But at the same time, what in the world is wrong with we Christians that we aren't doing that all year long? Why are we throwing huge expensive pageants in our multimillion dollar sanctuaries furnished with plasma screen tv's and state of the art sound equipment? Why do we buy a cheap gift for an Angel Tree kid and think somehow that's teaching our children a lesson in loving others? Why do we count on government agencies to make up for our laziness and apathy?

If I sound bitter, I promise I'm not. I'm just broken hearted..the way things are right now is just not right. As mentioned in the previous post, there are those who believe ' another world is possible.' For a long time I ascribed to the thinking that the earth is just a cesspool spiraling down into destruction, and the only hope was to accept Jesus and pray to be 'raptured out' of this mess ASAP. I still believe my only hope is Jesus, but I believe His message is not only about self salvation, but about living out God's kingdom here on earth. That His message is about reconciliation, healing, compassion- action on the part of those who love and follow Him.

So I suppose after all of this rambling..the question remains, what can we do to bring God's kingdom about-not just pay lipservice to charity at Christmastime. Maybe there's a much bigger problem out there than the battle waged over ' Merry Christmas' or ' Happy Holidays'. Maybe it should be how we live, how we act-rather than talking about what we supposedly believe.
I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.
Matthew 25:40

another world- is it possible?

Shane Claiborne, one of the “new monastics,” offers some fresh images of God’s new order that might help us find a place to begin the journey towards a more authentic, whole-life faith. In his book The Irresistible Revolution, Shane describes an impromptu demonstration on Wall Street, during which he announced to the surprised crowd:

Some of us have worked on Wall Street, and some of us have slept on Wall Street. We are a community of struggle. Some of us are rich people trying to escape our loneliness. Some of us are poor folks trying to escape the cold. Some of us are addicted to drugs and others are addicted to money. We are a broken people who need each other and God, for we have come to recognize the mess that we have created of our world and how deeply we suffer from the mess. Now we are working to give birth to a new society within the shell of the old. Another world is possible. Another world is necessary. Another world is already here.

As we begin to identify the aspirations and values of this “world that is already here,” we will realize how counter they are to the values of empires of every age. Jesus strongly reminds his followers that we will never find the good life of God by seeking life but only by losing our lives in service to God and others.As we begin to identify the aspirations and values of this “world that is already here,” we will realize how counter they are to the values of empires of every age. Jesus strongly reminds his followers that we will never find the good life of God by seeking life but only by losing our lives in service to God and others.
-Tom Sine

Sunday, December 16, 2007

one dimensional faith

"More and more reflective Christian leaders are beginning to realize that for the millions of young adults who dropped out of their churches in the late twentieth and early twenty-first centuries, the Christian religion appears to be a failed religion. And for a reason not unlike the one expressed by the young healthcare worker from Khayelitsha: it has specialized in dealing with ' spiritual needs' to the exclusion of physical and social needs. It has specialized in people's destination in the afterlife but has failed to address significant social injustices in this life. It has focused on 'me' and ' my soul' and ' my spiritual life' and ' my eternal destiny', but it has failed to address the dominant societal and global realities of their lifetime: systemic injustic, systemic poverty, systemic ecological crisis, systemic dysfunctions of many kinds.

When young adults from churchgoing backgrounds lose confidence in this version of the Christian religion to address the pressing issues of our world, their faith becomes more and more privatized and personalized and therefore diminished. They may or may not continue to practice it, but they will almost certainly become less enthusiastic about sharing it with others.
As a result, those on the outside of the Christian religion find fewer and fewer enthusiastic proponents, and there seems to be less and less reason to accept or even consider it- apart from threats of hell, which lose their effect when those making the threats seem a little defensive, deranged, out of touch, manic, or embarassed of their faith"
- Brian McLaren, Everything Must Change
In the first few chapters, the author is setting up this idea as the basis for the book. I love it, because these are things I've thought for years. Growing up, I noticed a very ' me' centered church setting, it was all about personal spirituality and growth. Don't get me wrong, personal spiritual growth is of utmost importance. Howver, the means of attaining that spiritual growth could be different. I've read that the first reformation was about beliefs- what to believe and why. Luther led the way for this. But a second reformation of sorts, one concerning deeds and much overdue. It as always struck me as very bland and one dimensional to only be concerned about people's eternal destination, while paying little to no attention to their present concerns. Jesus didn't do things that way.He addressed what was going on in that moment, as well as eternity.
What good is it, my brothers, if a man claims to have faith, but has no deeds? Can such faith save him? Suppose a brother or sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to him' Go, I wish you well; keep warm and well fed,' but does nothing about his physical needs, what good is it? In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.
James 2:14-17

baby, its snowing outside

Well, it seems that mother nature has decided to dump approximately 5-6 inches of snow on us. Thankfully I thought ahead and visited both the book and video stores this afternoon before the real blizzard began. I've got to work tomorrow, and have been out late the last few nights, so I decided tonight was going a time of staying in and getting things done.

I was quite domestic. Not only did I do two loads of laundry, cleaned the living room and bathroom, and did a bunch of dishes. Then I decided to bake. For no apparent reason, when I'm shut in at home, I cook. Tonight I made a cherry pie, a first for me- complete with a double crust with fancy designs in it. Cooking is something I enjoy, but baking isnt really my forte. When you make a nice dinner, there is room for interpretation. Add a little of this, a little of that, and you just might wind up with something really neat. Baking, on the other hand, requires more precision. Maybe its the non conformist in me.

The pie turned out reasonably well, minus a few mishaps attempting to put the foil strips on an extremely hot pie plate- who thought of that anyway? Then I made cranberry sauce, another first for me. While grocery shopping this week I saw cranberries for sale and thought I might find a use for then. Turns out, they're pretty much only good for sauce. Oh well. After the cooking adventures, I settled in to watch some videos and dig into my book splurges. One is by Brian Mclaren, the other by Richard Foster.

I realize that this has been a post full of fluff, but fear not- I will return to my usual soapbox diatribes soon..the books should give me much to think about.