Monday, July 26, 2010

The Bible as a Sacred Cultural & Community Library

Once again I have been greatly encouraged by Brian D. McLaren as he wrestles out loud with the authority question about how the bible should be understood. In his latest book A New Kind of Christianity - Ten Questions That Are Transforming The Faith he reminds us that we need a new approach to the Bible, ...."because we've gotten ourselves into a mess with the Bible."

From the Protestant Reformation forward, we in the Western Church inherited the slogan sola scriptura - "Scripture alone in enough!" That has now spawned over 27,000 different Christian denominations full of smart, articulate and well-meaning folks who find countless curious and unique ways to interpret the Bible over time.

McLaren asks the obvious question, "Enough for what purpose?" He goes on to answer his own question. "Enough to justify thousands of splits and to inspire centuries of bitter competition! Enough to keep preachers and theologians and writers in business for centuries? Yes, ....but that is not what the Bible is for."

What if the Bible is truly inspired by God, and yet it wasn't meant to stifle conversation but instead as McLaren states was..."intended to stimulate conversation, to keep people thinking and talking and arguing and seeking, across continents and centuries, then it has succeeded and is succeeding in a truly remarkable way."

Could it be that God's Word, God's speaking and self-revealing takes place between people in relationship, in community over time as we are invited to be part of an ancient and ongoing conversation that has the power to transform and disarm us....."rather than arm us with "truths" to use like weapons to savage other human beings?"

Perhaps the Bible was never intended to give us all the answers and short cuts to truth, but rather to guide us into a more intentional posture of humility, awe, respect and even rebuke and insignificance in the face of the mysterious and unknown?

If we consider the Bible as more of a sacred community library..."the record of a vibrant conversation, and a stimulus to ongoing conversation, it is beautiful, I'd say." The same creative Holy Spirit we read about in Genesis, calling forth life from chaos and darkness....."is the same Spirit running like a current through the characters of Job, Eliphaz, Bildad, Zophar, Elihu, and God. And we might add, this is the same Spirit evoking the text from the chaos of human writers in a vigorous culture. And this is the same Spirit hovering over us now, running like a current through us today, at this moment, evoking understanding as we seek to understand, to know, to learn, drawing us like an orchestral conductor into the holy conversation and symphony of the sacred Scriptures. And this is the same Spirit by whom Jesus is conceived, filled, and empowered..."

So from this perspective perhaps the Bible is enough - as a sacred cultural and community library to help us encounter the living God. "As the portable library of an ongoing conversation about and with the living God, and as an entree into that conversation so that we actually encounter and experience the living God - for that the Bible is more than enough."

As McLaren goes on to point out, this approach is beyond both liberal and conservative dogma. "The Bible they want to put us "under" tends to be the Bible as they have interpreted it, which unsurprisingly means we are actually under their authority as they stand over us with Bible in hand."

He closes this chapter with his hope: "...that this approach will not try to put us under the text, as conservatives tend to do, or lift us over it, as liberals often seem to do. Instead, I hope it will try to put us in the text - in the conversation, in the story, in the current and flow, in the predicament, in the Spirit, in the community of people who keep bumping into the living God in the midst of their experiences of loving God, betraying God, losing God, and being found again by God. In this way, by placing us in the text, I hope this approach can help us enter and abide in the presence, love, and reverence of the living God all the days of our lives and in God's mission as humble, wholehearted servants day by day and moment by moment. Even now."

Cheers, O'

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Revelation Through Conversation !

I am not making this up. Every time I sit down and read another chapter in Brian D. McLaren's book A New Kind of Christian - Ten Questions That Are Transforming The Faith, I come across something so simple and so obvious that it makes me mad.

By that I mean why didn't someone articulate these ideas prior to 2010? Really, why didn't I hear about these ideas early in my journey of faith, like back in 1976 or 1982 or even 1995.

I have waited patiently for over 36 years to finally come across these words...."revelation doesn't simply happen in statements. It happens in conversations and arguments that take place within and among communities of people who share the same essential questions across generations. Revelation accumulates in the relationships, interactions, and interplay between statements.

In this light, the biblical text doesn't give us cement blocks and mortar with which to construct a building of certainty from the ground up. It gives us a bunch of hammers and chisels in the form of stories and questions. With these tools we chip away at human constructions, and revelation is like the breeze or shaft of light that streams through the cracks. The Word, or Self-Revealing of God, in this light, isn't a bunch of lessons, morals, doctrines, or beliefs that God dictates or otherwise encodes. It is an event, a turning point, a breaking open, a discovery, a transforming and humbling and ennobling encounter that occurs to readers when they engage with the text in faith - the text with all its tensions and unresolved issues intact.

To say that the Word (the message, meaning, or revelation) of God is in the biblical text, then, does not mean that you can extract verses or statements from the text at will and call them "God's words." It means that if we enter the text and feel the flow of its arguments, get stuck in its points of tension, and struggle with its unfolding plot in all its twists and turns, God's revelation can happen to us. We can reach the point that Job and company did at the end of the book, where, after a lot of conflicted human talk and a conspicuously long divine silence, we finally hear God's voice." Or not....

See what I mean? Wow! As usual I have my wife Ann to thank. She is always lugging home tons of books, and from the library of all places. As I write this blog post in bed I can easily count over 47 books with titles like The Next Reformation - Why Evangelicals Must Embrace Postmodernity, by Carl Raschke, The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath, Leaders Who Last by Margaret J. Marcuson, The Company of Strangers by Parker J. Palmer, Sexual Bargaining by John Scanzoni, Soul Survivor by Philip Yancey, The Night Offices by Phyllis Tickle, two different version of the Bible, The Healing Power of Emotion by Fosha, Siegel and Solomon, Intuitive Leadership by Tim Keel, Picturing the Face of Jesus by Beth Booram, The Education of the Heart by Thomas Moore, The Healing Imagination by Ann and Barry Ulanov, and a giant book called The Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett.

And these are just the books I can grab with my right hand on her side of the bed. (Did I mention Ann was an English major in college?) So thanks again to the wife of my youth for exposing me to some of the greatest minds to ever flesh out an idea on paper with words.

Yet even better than merely reading a lot of books, Ann is out daily in the marketplace engaged with real people, with hammers and chisels constantly discovering revelation through relationships.

Thanks Ann for dragging home thousands of library books over the past 29 years of our marriage and introducing me to writers like McLaren. And thanks even more for living out your faith in an extended community of global relationships while chiseling away at the certainty that keeps so many of us from the transforming power of revelation found in intentional conversation.

Keep swinging that hammer!
Love you like a rock,

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Open Hand Jubilee Pitch-In Feast - Crane Family Purchase of 3174 Home

We are happy to announce the sale of our community property at 3174 N. Delaware Street to Leah and Jeff Crane! They will be taking possession of the home on Monday the 26th of July.

Please help us celebrate this memorable occasion on Sunday the 25th of July by coming over in the late afternoon to help move a few boxes from the basement followed by a cookout hosted by the Crane's and Open Hand. The grills will be hot and cooking burgers and dogs by 6:00pm.

We have had a wonderful 8 years of countless guests, housemates and young adult interns from around the world living in the property formerly known as the Flander's Home.

Jeff, Leah and their children will be a great addition to the Open Hand community on 32nd Street. They want to welcome you all and continue the tradition of radical hospitality that has been a blessing to so many of us over the years! Cheers, O'

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Elisabeth - Keep Dancing!

Here are the words I read for my quiet time before bed this evening:

"There is a Methodist hymn about Jesus that goes: "I am the Lord of the dance, said he." In Thus Spoke Zarathustra, Nietzsche's own philosophical Gesamthkunstwerk, the theme of dancing is paramount. Zarathustra is not a prophet. Nor is he a teacher. He is a dancer. Nietzsche was ambivalent about the relationship of Jesus to Zarathustra. Nietzsche could only imagine the "Christian-moral view" of Jesus, which refused to dance, like Baptists for so long. Dancing is one of the root metaphors of postmodernity. It is not only an art form; it is also signification in motion. Music cannot be codified by Indo-European grammar; it cannot be "thought". But dancing is the sound of music combined with the performance and energy of the body. In the history of religion dancing has regularly been integrated into worship. It can be utilized for an expression of pagan and sensual rhythms, but it can also give form to the sensuous ecstasy of having come face-to-face with the most awesome God. When one is in the presence of the God of faith, one cannot easily sit still. Even at the risk of ridicule by his jealous wife, David danced before the Lord. The Scriptures indicate that Jesus might have danced. It appears that Paul did. Jews have never been ashamed of dancing. We can imagine what it means to dance "before" God. But what about "dancing with the Lord"?

Wow, I immediately thought of you Elisabeth and am so glad you are back in Indy visiting your Open Hand tribe. I can only pray that you continue to teach us how to dance with the Lord. Amen!
Chapter 8 Dancing With The Lord Charismatic Renewal and the Deconstruction of Worship
The Next Reformation - Why Evangelicals Must Embrace Postmodernity by Carl Raschke

"I want to be a legend. Is that wrong?" Lady Gaga

Ok, I have to admit that I am one of Lady Gaga's millions of facebook friends. Or fans or whatever they call our curious tribe of global admirers that continue to be mezmerized by her performance art.

I recently grabbed the Rolling Stone July Summer Double Issue to read about the infamous interview that got General McChrystal sacked by least that's what I told my wife.

Eventually I did get around to reading the rambling interview with McChrystal by Michael Hastings and was surprised to hear Ann come to the General's defence. "Of course he is going to say some outrageous things over the course of several weeks while running around the world with his loyal entourage.... passionate thoughts easily taken out of context by a roving Rolling Stone journalist. He doesn't deserved to get fired for his politically incorrect military jargon."

Say what? How can a superman like General McChrystal, who has proven that the human race needs less sleep (only 4 hours a night), less calories (one meal a day) and more exercise (runs 7 miles every morning) ruin his legendary career with a few slips of the tongue? Imagine if a Rolling Stone reporter had followed Coach Bob Knight around for a few weeks during the IU basketball season!

Oh well, can you imagine President Obama in full combat gear ducking and darting around Afghanistan for a few weeks while he lets off some White House steam with his mates covering his back every day? After a few midnight missions into hostile territory he might just express some frustrations that would sound, well, lets just say not very Presidential.

McChrystal proved once again that living legends are mere humans, but don't worry, this extraordinary and now retired 4 Star General will land on his feet and be back in the thick of battle quicker than you can say Woody Hayes. I hope he ends up in Washington D.C. We need more focused and fearless leaders on Capital Hill.

And as for Lady Gaga....I can only hope that her greatest tumble is a fall in the airport while wearing 10" heels.

Cheers John Barry ! Runnin down a dream...

Great news for John Reynolds.......he was just promoted to a new position of incredible responsibility with the company he works for in NYC. Well done son! Can't wait to get our arms around you again soon. Love Annie, Nick, Peter and of course MOM and DAD

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

The Sex Question

I am currently reading A New Kind of Christianity - Ten Questions That Are Transforming The Faith by Brian D. McLaren. I must admit that it is a much better book than I suspected.

Starting from the back of the book and reading Chapter 22 first - Conclusion: A New Kind of Christianity, gave me the motivation to plow ahead reading from back to front each chapter in descending order. (This has been a useful practice that helps me determine whether or not to actually begin reading an entire book.)

Chapter 17 is entitled: Can We Find a Way to Address Human Sexuality Without Fighting About It?

The chapter begins with this admission from Brian:

"I don't want to be closed-minded or judgmental, but in good conscience I simply can't approve of the lifestyle. I believe it's a choice, although upbringing and genetics may have a role. Freedom has limits - one limit being where others are hurt by a chosen lifestyle. And this lifestyle, there can be no mistake, is hurting a lot of people. Families are being torn apart by it, and churches too. There is absolutely no question about God's opinion on this lifestyle if we begin with the Bible. This orientation and the behaviors associated with it are thoroughly condemned by Jesus. He was compassionate toward all kinds of people, but he had an absolute and uncompromising commitment to confront and expose one group: those who dishonor themselves and others by engaging in this lifestyle and its practices.

When people choose this lifestyle, they often cut themselves off from everyone who doesn't agree with them. They end up being assimilated and absorbed in closed communities where only their own voices and views are heard, and everyone who disagrees is mocked and condemned, often with very strong language. Some, after giving themselves over completely to the lifestyle, have a crisis of conscience. But when they want to leave, their leaders and peers depict their changing perspective as a betrayal, and pressure them to stay, often using fear tactics to intimidate them and keep them in their gated community. Special ministries have formed to help people exit the lifestyle, recover from the abuse and pain the community has been known to impose, and be reoriented to a healthier life and perspective. But even with professional therapy, many people feel they have been wounded for life by their years in this lifestyle.

Advocates of this lifestyle are eager to recruit others into their "love," as they call it. Through various organizations, they raise huge sums of money to recruit youth and children into their chosen way of life, and they have been extremely adept at using media - radio, TV, and now the Internet - to gain an aura of credibility and legitimacy. They organize huge and mass rallies to celebrate their growing clout and demonstrate that they are proud of who they are and what they stand for. Everyone knows how much influence they have in our political system, and how one political party in particular panders for their votes.

Yes, activists may use the word "love" to justify their behavior, but those who disagree with them are seldom treated with love."

As you may have guessed by now, Brian is speaking of what he terms fundasexuality. This neologism describes a very reactive, confrontative form of religious fundamentalism that is preoccupied with sex. It refers to that boisterous and righteously angry crowd which tends to dominate conservative branches of religion while declaring war on any who differ.

Fundasexuality is essentially an anxious orientation, less rooted in faith, and more in fear. A fear of new ideas, of new ways of processing life and of heterophobia - a fear of people who are different.

Sociology teaches us that groups often need a scapegoat to project their anxiety upon. They can manage without a god, but often need a devil or someone identified as an evil threat to rally the troops around. Groups in the majority are fond of projecting their fears and anxieties on smaller minority groups and gay people makeup between 3 and 10 percent of each society. Just the right size to be the brunt of many self-righteous blame throwers.

McLaren goes on to point out that our current cultural preoccupation with sexuality is a symptom of a much larger and growing dissatisfaction with inherited frameworks and stock answers to the basic questions he addresses in this book.

In Book One he highlights 1. The Narrative Question, 2. The Authority Question, 3. The God Question, 4. The Jesus Question, and 5. The Gospel Question. In Book Two he highlights 6. The Church Question, 7. The Sex Question, 8. The Future Question, 9. The Pluralism Question and finally, 10. The What-Do-We-Do-Now Question.

If this is not enough to make you interested in reading his new book, listen to how he starts the chapter titled The Church Question: What Do We Do About the Church?

"Many if not most of our churches are perfectly designed and well equipped to promote and support the five paradigms we have questioned so far: the Greco-Roman narrative, the constitutional approach to the Bible, a vision of a tribal and violent God, a rather flattened view of Jesus, and a domesticated understanding of the gospel. When we unlock the gates of those paradigms and begin to emerge into new territory, we find this question waiting for us: What do we do about the church?

I would recommend you get a copy of this thought provoking book by McLaren, but be prepared for angry rock throwing antagonists that might want to take off your head with a well placed stone.

What did Stephen say when he was dying?

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Olay.....Olay.........Olay! Saint Penelope challenging the Dutch

Spain is playing with the passion and imagination of Picasso.......can't wait to see how they handle another strong young side from northern Europe. We were in Barcelona when they won the European championship and have to go with Saint Penelope and your face confidence!

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Open Hand July Events - Welcome Home Elisabeth Harnes of Norway!

July 5th - 3174 Monday Night Feast - 'Childhood Favorites" - bring a favorite childhood dish around 7:00pm and join Carley, Eric, Liz and the gang for a stimulating after dinner conversation with Stuart Mora (plight of hotel workers in Indianapolis) - liberty and justice for all...

July 16th - Curb Your Anxiety Friday - Reynolds porch from 5:30-9:00pm - pizza and beer with Bob Hunter, and time to greet Elisabeth Harnes from Norway and her son Emmanuel.

July 25th - Open Hand Pitch-in Gathering Sunday at 3174 - welcoming the Cranes to their new home while we help prepare for their transition. Time to be announced.

Hope to see you here! Cheers, O'

Thursday, July 1, 2010

hTC EVO 4G with Google - Intelligent Evolution

I still can't believe I let my son Nick talk me into upgrading three of our six family phones to the new hTC EVO 4G with Google. Fortunately, I was one of the three getting the new technology and can no longer be made fun of by my friends with other fancy smart phones.

One look at my sweet ride curbed with a kickstand and they quickly turn aside and mumble something about getting an upgrade soon.

So far we all love our new ride and the battery life has handled everything we've thrown at it, well at least everything that Nick and John have. I'm still just learning how to add apps, make movies, take pictures and download them to my Facebook.

You get the picture. I am evolving along with my hTC EVO 4G with Google. By the time Indianapolis gets 4G coverage, I might actually need it. For now I am thrilled that I have a thin, cool ride that slides right into my Mr. Fancy Pants pockets.

Merry Christmas in July Nick and John.
PS Thanks Nick for bugging me daily for the past two months about getting the EVO. Some things never change!