Monthly Archives: January 2012
If you are at this blog, you probably know at least a little something about All Saints Lutheran Church – a progressive Christian community in Kelowna, BC. We “do church” a bit differently than many other churches. While we are rooted in the Lutheran tradition, we also make an effort to be welcoming and open to those who are outside our tradition – so we hope to be accessible (yet thoughtful, and hopefully thought-provoking) in a number of ways.
It’s helpful, these days, to be ‘available’ to those who may not be likely to darken a church door-way. We have the task of dispelling certain negative stereotypes out there. (And, if you happen to be one of those just checking us out, I commend you! I’m conscious that church isn’t put too high on our society’s list of priorities, these days – and often with good reason.) In order to let people know that we are not the church that they hear about on the news, or read about in the headlines – you know, the ones that hold up signs about God hating whomever, or the ones where the clergy abuse children, or the ones that take extreme action against doctors who supposedly perform abortions – in order to let people know that we are not that church – and in fact we do care about those of other faith-traditions, and we do welcome LGBTQ people into the life of our community, and we do talk about how different people may understand God or prayer – in order to let people know that we are perhaps even a place where they might find meaning, we believe we need to make ourselves available to their needs.
So, it was a pleasure to get a ‘shout out’ from a high-school chum on his blog, recently. Benjamin Freeland, a writer living in Edmonton, was writing about blog-names and noted this one!
The big thing with church, and invitation, I find, is getting people “out there” to simply come and see. Come and see that we care – about people and planet – and that we want to live what we say we believe about grace, hospitality, generosity, and welcome.
A goofy blog-title, I know – sounds more like a soap-opera.
I’m struck by how things have changed so rapidly in the past decade. We’ve gone from having a few people on the internet to having everyone on the world wide web. We’ve gone from having a few people using cell phones, to the vast majority using them. We’ve gone from having a few people questioning the existence of God to best-selling books declaring, with certainty, that there is no God.
And other things have changed, too – the globe continues to warm. Species continue to struggle for existence. Our dependence on fossil fuels goes on, apparently with little change. Those are changes that ‘continue,’ but have significant consequences for the future.
What inspired me to put these musings online is an article I read about people dying (being hit by cars, etc) because of wearing headphones. Not that long ago, new laws were put in place in various cities around North America about driving and texting or speaking on one’s cell phone, and the dangers of it. There’s a funny video that Rick Mercer made a number of years ago, as Blackberry devices were becoming popular – mocking the way in which people tend to focus on their hand-held gadgets, but not much on what’s around them.
We have all sorts of ways to connect, today, we’re able to communicate more often and more quickly than ever before. While we are in touch with each other – via email, social networking sites, phones, video-conferencing – we seem to be less-in-touch with the world around us.
As the old saying goes: “stop and smell the roses!”
It’s 2012! According to some, the Mayan calendar predicts the end of the world, this year. (I like this comic‘s take on that thought…) This blog is, essentially, to direct you to a colleague’s reflection on ‘doomsday predictions.’ Pastor Dennis Hendricksen, of Christ Lutheran Church in Regina, offers an excellent overview of such predictions in recent years. Go read it!
Whether it’s people who have been trying to pinpoint a date, and those dates come and go, or whether it’s holy texts that may or may not be saying something about when time will end, no one really knows.
A recent article says that the world has about another 500 million years to go. …given the amount of time that we’ve had recorded history – I think we can say ‘things will go on indefinitely, until further notice’ (!).
With Baptism of Our Lord Sunday, yesterday, I appreciate what John Dominic Crossan writes about John the Baptist and his movement, versus the Jesus movement…
“John [the Baptist]’s theory was […]: oppression by Roman power was a punishment for Israel’s sins, and that sinfulness impeded the promised advent of God. What was needed, therefore, was a great sacrament of repentance, a popular repetition of ancient Israel’s coming out of the desert, crossing the Jordan, and entering the Promised Land. In that process, the Israelites would repent of their sins as they were “baptized” or immersed in the Jordan, their moral cleansing symbolized by the physical washing.
A critical mass of repentant people who had “retaken” their Promised Land would prepare for, or possibly even hasten, the start of God’s Great Divine Cleanup. In the meantime, of course, and no matter how nonviolent his proclamation was in theory, John was planting ticking time bombs of eschatological expectation all over the Jewish homeland. So Antipas executed him. Notice one very important aspect of that action. If Antipas had considered John a violent threat, he would have also rounded up as many of John’s followers as he could catch. The fact that he did not, and that he executed only John, tells us that Antipas was responding to somebody who opposed the Roman system nonviolently.
One of the surest things we know about Jesus is that he was baptized by John. This means that Jesus had, at least originally, accepted John’s message of the imminent advent of an apocalyptic and avenging God.
It seems that Jesus started by accepting John’s theology of God’s imminence but, precisely because of what happened to John, changed from that to a theology of God’s presence. John expected God’s advent, but Antipas’s cavalry came instead. John was executed, and God still did not come as an avenging presence. Maybe, thought Jesus, that was not how God acted because that is not how God is. Jesus’ own proclamation therefore insisted that the Kingdom of God was not imminent but present; it was already here below upon this earth, and however it was to be consummated in the future, it was a present-already and not just an imminent-future reality.
Jesus could hardly have made such a spectacular claim without immediately appending another one to it. You can speak forever about the future-imminence of the Kingdom, but unless you are foolish enough to give a precise date, you can hardly be proved right or wrong. We are but waiting for God to act; apart from preparatory faith, hope, and prayer, there is no more we can do. When God acts, it will be, presumably, like a flash of divine lightning beyond all categories of time and place. But to claim an already-present Kingdom demands some evidence, and the only such that Jesus could have offered is this: it is not that we are waiting for God, but that God is waiting for us. The present Kingdom is a collaborative eschaton between the human and divine worlds. The Great Divine Cleanup is an interactive process with a present beginning in time and a future (short or long?) consummation. Would it happen without God? No. Would it happen without believers? No. To see the presence of the Kingdom of God, said Jesus, come, see how we live, and then live likewise.” (Crossan, God & Empire, pp. 102, 111 ff.)
It is not that we are waiting for God, but that God is waiting for us.