Friday, January 28, 2005

old testament

(meant to be spoken aloud)

Dry dirt
enriched with the most basic of elements
yet grounded still.
The breath of God into our nostrils

Emerging from the ground that was,
becomes the life that is,
and we are.

Tumbling, fumbling, the first steps are taken.
A young calf, an infant child, the monarch butterfly
shaking loose the earthen cocoon.

Rise up, Oh dust of the earth, rise up and look
into the eyes of your parent, your Beginning.
He awaits your embrace, naked and clean...


The years prostitute intimacy,
rebellion ensues and the course is set.
East is our destination, to the desert we go!

Languishing in heat, we burn and dry.
First the sizzle of morning bacon
then what's left?
Just leather and bones.
My eyes, my hands, why have you forsaken me?

Just bones remain, and dry bones at that
and then it happens again.
A cool west wind gently visits.

The smell familiar, the feeling faint
but the wind still blows and blows
as the sand is kicked around.

Lifting up, taking shape, pulling together,
these bones begin to dance.
The breath of God
and once again

Thursday, January 27, 2005

green eggs and ham: the new Last Supper

Have you ever seen these things called poetry "slams". Its very similar to the rap wars as depicted in the movie 8 Mile. If you haven't seen the movie, basically two guys get up and try to "out rap" each other. Much of it turns in to rhyming insults with a wide assortment of ghetto slang woven into the fabric of their art.

Well, poetry "slams" are a little different but much the same. They don't necessarily try to insult another person to cut someone down. And the competition usually isn't one on one. It is a showcase of poets in their truest form. Rather than reading their poetry the audience gets to hear it and see it. They get to feel the power of the words and see the emotion that is bursting forth from the author. Some of it rhymes but most of it is free verse. It is a very captivating form of public speech.

In contrast, speeches abound in our culture but are rarely captivating or entertaining. Although, Jon Stewart from the "Daily Show" on Comedy Central often brilliantly finds the humor in some of the most boring of political speeches.

So when do we have to endure speeches? Well, if we see some political figure trying to push his/her agenda. We grew up getting speeches from authority figures like teachers, parents and principles when we got in trouble. We might catch a CEO giving a speech to try to rally his/her troops in the market place. I would say that most of us don't listen to speeches as much as we endure them. Most of the situations where we would have to endure a speech are not positive experiences.

So I ask the question: Why do our sermons still sound like speeches? Sure there have been great speeches by great leaders over the years. But they are so rare that we memorialize them. Its as if our whole society wants to remember the day that a speech was actually worth listening to.

What if our sermons sounded more like poetry "slams?" Would it fly in church? I think at the "emergent" type community of which I am a part and by which I get paid to be a Christian, this poetry type sermonizing could work. But even there, in a community that is used to change and comfortable with very different "looks" and "sounds" on Sunday morning, it seems that poetry would push the envelope.

Brian McLaren speaks of the need for more mystical language like poetry in his new book Generous Orthodoxy. Leaders are talking about the next leadership style not being CEO or Coach but "Gardner poet" (Whatever the heck that might look like). Donald Miller reminds us in his new book Searching for God Knows What that when the biblical authors reached the limit to their theological language, they broke out in poetry. Many biblical scholars help us see the reality that so much of scripture is indeed poetry.

So would it be possible to take poetry to the pulpit? And I am not talking about the old school "three points and a poem" routine. I am talking about pure poetry from start to finish. Food for the heart, soul and mind.

Saturday, January 22, 2005

post-modern, post-humble...Post cereal, post-office

Do you ever get tired of the "postmodern/emergent church" lingo and discussion? I get paid to be a Christian for a community called Horizon Church (, this was a shameless plug). We would be considered by most to fit the label of "emergent." But isn't one of our postmodern characteristics that we don't like to be labeled? So why are we all doing it again?

Raise your hand if you get tired of reading blogs that show how superior emergent church is to "traditional church." Raise your hand if you are tired of your own arrogance about your "new" way of doing church. (I have all my arms an legs raised in the air with my thumbs and big toes pointed toward the sky.)

It seems like we are all cursing the wombs from which we were born these days. I would venture to say that most "emergent" church leaders came out of "traditional" churches. And sure, our angst and disillusionment which has driven us to "rethink" church may have come from that church of origin. But isn't that also the place where we learned about Christ? Wasn't it in the "backward" thinking "traditional" church where so many of us got on the path of following Jesus?

I don't know. Maybe I am just being a pain in the ass. No, I am sure of it. I am being an ass right now. But sometimes my arms and back get tired of all of us going around patting each other on the back for being such brilliant and innovative Christian leaders.

Lets have some confession. We aren't brilliant. In God's eyes we are bumbling around much like the first disciples. And he loves us just as much as he did them. While we are celebrating our mantras of "mystery" and "organic" we also, as a whole, seem to be "sinning all the more so that grace may abound." Something Paul warned us against. We are a community of young people that have experienced very little of life and most of us are addicts of some kind. And Jesus loves the crap out of us.

But lets not pretend that we are doing something "so right" while the rest of the Christian church is "way off." Maybe our epidemic of having "authentic" as a core value should be switched with "humility" in the future.

Thursday, January 20, 2005

freedom ringing?

After watching the inauguration speech done by George W. Bush, I have a few reflections.

First of all, I think it should be mandatory that all Presidents take a public communications class. I am not a huge fan of Clinton, but it was so much easier to listen to his speeches. Bush pretty much stinks as a public communicator. His content isn't too bad. Its his delivery that needs work. One would think that after four years of giving speeches on a regular basis as President, that his skills would have improved. Unfortunately, this is not the case.

Secondly, he spoke mostly about freedom. It seems that his overall view of the world, government, the war, and humanity is that freedom is a primal urge that cannot be thwarted. He wants America to be the nation that supports, enforces and upholds "free democracy" (for Bush these two words are one and the same) around the world.

Though he isn't allowed to talk about it, I believe Bush is a sincere Christian. I also think that his theo-political equation for the world is this: democracy = freedom = freedom of religion = the opportunity to learn about and meet Christ. I don't know if this is actually his view, but it seems logical.

There are a few problems inherent in this equation. I have some questions. Is the price of war worth the kind of freedom that comes with democracy? Does democracy offer the kind of freedom that we are all longing for deep down? (First century Christians living in a violently oppressive empire still found freedom that changed their lives.) Are there necessary evils involved in moving toward necessary goods?

Maybe Bush has the equation sort of right but is working backwards. Maybe history went the other way: people meet Christ = nations with freedom of religion = freedom = democracy. So could it work the other way around? After all, Afghanistan, Iraq and Palestine are all experiencing free elections. Free elections always seem to be the beginning of democracy. Wouldn't a democratic Afghanistan, Iraq and Palestine stabilize the Middle East?

Though I really struggle with the war, I am excited about the possibility of women having rights in places like Afghanistan. I am excited about the opportunity for churches to be planted in Iraq. I am excited about Palestinians being provided for by their own government rather than depending on the handouts from Israel.

But am I allowed to oppose war and then celebrate the results of war? Is that not hypocritical? Real freedom isn't brought about by force. But force sure seems to open the door for it. We saw this truth in play during WWII when the Jews were liberated from Nazi prison camps. And it seems like we are seeing it again in our time. I wonder what Bonhoeffer would have to say today if he were an Iraqi or an Afghani.

Friday, January 07, 2005 Jesus name, Amen.

I know some wives who have decided to hyphenate their last name. This is done in the name of equality. Though I understand the purpose, I was thinking about it in a new light today at Starbucks.

After many generations of male dominance and oppression, women these days want some justice. And I say more power to them. When I read Ephesians I don't see a hierarchy where the male dominates and the woman is subservient. I see in place and upside-down hierarchy. I see a backwards sort of equality where its not that the wife and husband have the same "rights," but rather that they both decided to give up their rights to each other and to Christ. Two become one. Mutual submission takes two individuals and creates a unified community of love.

So wouldn't it make sense to hyphenate the last names? If the submission is indeed mutual, who came up with this crazy idea of the wife losing her last name and replacing it with the husband's? It must have come from some Paleolithic caveman who was used to dragging his woman around by her long, tangled braids of hair.

Donald Miller in his new book, "Searching for God knows what" helped me see this "changing of names" in a new light. He goes on in the last chapter of his book about how the balcony scene between Romeo and Juliet is a great metaphor for Christ and the church. Romeo is challenged to give up his name and identification as a Montague as Juliet promises to give up her name and identification as a Capulet. For more details into this interesting Shakespearian insight, read the book.

The point is that they both had to shed their old identity in order to fully and truly love each other. Miller points out that this is how it is with Christ and the church. We followers of Christ must shed our old identity in order to be identified with Christ. We must die with him so that we might also be raised with him.

Then the idea of a wife taking the name of her husband became beautiful for me. Just as the church sheds her old identity to become one with Christ, so the wife becomes a wonderful picture of this in marriage. She so loves her husband that she longs to be identified not by her own name, but by his. She sheds her name and receives his.

What lovely submission. What humble grace. What an amazing picture of how we should be toward Christ. And what an amazing challenge to husbands. Our wives decide to be identified with us, with our name, with our family heritage and tradition. How much more should we be willing to be like Christ. How much more does her humility demand submission and sacrifice from us. Just as Christ demonstrated for his bride, the church.