Sunday, September 20, 2009

Beresheth Sermon: 10 Bridesmaids

Text: Matthew 25:1-13

Oh this parable. It’s a good one isn’t it? You can see all the bridesmaids, waiting around for the bride and groom to show up. They’ve got their lamps or their flowers or whatever is appropriate for a bridesmaid to hold for the age the story is told. And they’re hanging out expecting the happy couple to arrive any minute, but they don’t. And like excited girls at any sleepover, the bridesmaids fall asleep. But they awaken to discover the bridegroom is approaching. They smooth their skirts, pat their hair, pad their bras and suddenly discover that five of them don’t have enough oil to keep their lamps lit.

“Give us some of your oil!” Five bridesmaids beg of the five other girls. “No way, they say, buy your own.” And the unlucky bridesmaids scurry to the store to grab some more oil. And of course, while they are gone, the groom comes, invites the five remaining into the wedding hall and shuts the door.

The five girls return with fresh oil and lamps burning but when they beg of the groom to be let inside to which he replies, “Yeah, sorry, not sure I recognize you.” And the door remains shut.

I actually hate this parable. Why do you need a burning lamp to get into a wedding anyway? And what’s up with the five stingy bridesmaids? Surely the gospel teaches us to share. Do unto others as you would have them do unto you? And then there’s the groom. He doesn’t recognize them because they’re late to the party? I mean, better late than never right? Doesn’t Jesus remember telling the story of the Prodigal Son?!

So I read before this parable in Matthew chapter 24 to see if I could get any insight.

Well, we’ve got the destruction of the Temple in addition to wars, famine, and earthquakes. Then we’ve got faithful followers persecuted and false prophets running rampant. There’s also desolating sacrilege and vultures eating corpses. Then comes the story of Jesus and the trumpet trio, not to mention some mighty winds. After that a story about some guy getting plucked up out of a field and a cruel slave who gets cut up into pieces and of course some good old weeping and gnashing of teeth.

Helpful. Maybe I’m liking this bridesmaid story more and more.

Okay, so what comes after this parable? What does the rest of Chapter 25 say?

Next is the parable of the talents and the guy who saves his master’s money by burying it and then returns it to him as it was and gets reprimanded for not monopolizing on the opportunity. Then we get some sheep and goats and left hands and right hands and finally we find out that anytime we saw someone hungry and gave him food, or thirsty and gave her something to drink… anytime we saw a stranger and welcomed him, or someone naked and gave her clothing… or when we saw a sick person or someone in prison and visited them we were doing the same for Jesus. And maybe finally we can begin to make sense of these parables.

It’s important to remember as we read passages like Matthew 24 and 25 or any of Jesus’ parables, that we are not reading a systematized theology. Just as that goofball wrote his Left Behind series so could someone easily write the A New Creation series or the I Shall Draw All People Unto Myself series or The Great Divorce. Oh wait. C.S. Lewis already did that one.

My point is that this is a story. And just as soon as Jesus says, “you will know the time has come because of war and famine,” so in the next breathe he says, “no one will know the time it will come like a thief in the night.” The word eschatology means the study of the end times or of the final things, and a theology of eschatology deducted from these chapters would be hard to pin down. In fact, the most tangible word Jesus actually gives us in these stories comes to us at the end of chapter 25.

Feed the hungry, clothe the naked, visit the imprisoned, hang out with the sick, refresh the thirsty, welcome the visitors. And finally I think. Okay, I don’t know about oil in my lamp, but I can do these other things.

In fact, I can do them now.

And suddenly we move from a theoretical eschatology to a realized eschatology.

In other words, ushering in the Kingdom of God was something that Jesus and the disciples did in their own lives before Jesus’ death and resurrection and after. And ushering in the kingdom of God is something the Holy Spirit continues to do on earth amongst us and indeed through us right now! Thus, if we are to celebrate the death and resurrection of God here on earth and live life abundantly, if we’re gathered to celebrate the wedding, we have to keep our lights shining, our lamps burning and our neighbors taken care of.

We need to be a city on a hill as a testimony to God’s love and mercy. We need to be salt that irritates the wounding sin of injustice in the world. We need to be faithful to wait expectantly for the bridegroom and active in preparing for his arrival. For just as he returned to the disciples in his resurrection, so one day will we be resurrected along with all creation indeed the entire universe to a new life fully realized with God.

For the end of the night is not the time to run off to attend church or to write a check to the Red Cross or drive down and feed a couple of people at the Soup Kitchen. At the end of the night if you’ve missed living fully in God’s abundant love and justice, you don’t want to miss the bridegroom. Don’t go running off to make last minute amends. Wait expectantly for God whether you’re a child on a playground, a college student in classes or a thief hanging on the cross. When God is among us it’s not the right time to try and usher in God’s kingdom. Rather, it’s time to meet the King.


Wednesday, September 16, 2009

A Testimony at Truett

So yesterday I awoke at 6am to prepare to drive to Waco to speak at CBF Hispanic Awareness Day at Truett Seminary. No, I have not suddenly become tan and hispanic. But I did take a group of students to Chile in May, and the CBF director wanted me to speak about my experiences there to raise awareness of Mission work in South America. "You'll speak for about 15 minutes with the students and let them ask you question," he said. "No problem," I replied.

As I was driving in the car yesterday morning after about an hour into my trip to Waco I started musing about the day. Okay, I'll speak at 9:30 and I wonder if we'll have lunch... Wait a ticker. 9:30. 9:30. What day is this? Tuesday. 9:30 on a Tuesday.

That's Truett's Chapel Service.

Somewhere in between Chicago the Musical and Regina Spektor, somewhere in between Austin and Temple, I discerned I would be speaking in Chapel.


I started to worry and called my friend JoAnn who works now at Truett in their recruitment office. Hey, JoAnn. So you know how I'm supposed to be speaking to the students at Hispanic Awareness Day? Well, they told me 9:30 and do you guys still have chapel at 9:30 cause if so I haven't prepared anything and well, if you knew of something I'd...

"Yeah girl, I saw you on the program. And there's a song we're doing (she plays the violin in the worship band) where we leave room for testimonials. Maybe that's you."

A testimonial?!

Hanging out with some students and telling them about my trip suddenly became giving a testimony about Chile in chapel. I began to freak out. I was in jeans and cowboy boots for heaven's sake. Would Paul Powell groupies pull me out of the pulpit? Granted I had a dress shirt on and nice jewelry but he was such a jerk so many years ago, who knows what it's digressed to now.

I arrived at the school and met the CBF director. "Yes, you'll give your testimony," he said. "Three or four minutes."

"Okay great. I've uh just gotta run to my friends office to type something up."

"No no, speak from your heart seniorita. About your trip. A lot of people have criticized me for bringing white people to talk today but I want people to hear from your hearts about how we call all work together as one."

"Yeah, that's super. But I'll be right back."

There was no way in hell I was going to stand up in chapel and speak before all my former professors and give my testimony without writing it down. I need my words, my symbols, my metaphors, my language. It tells my heart. I had a very love/hate relationship with Truett as in some of the people there loved me and some of them hated me. There was no way I would be caught dead in front of them in worship unprepared.

My friend Kate and I (she'd come to drive up with me at the crack of dawn praise Jesus) went to my friend JoAnn's office where I told Kate, "Give me ten minutes of silence." "Okay, I'm timing you she said."

I began shaking and I began writing.

"Ten minutes," she said and I kept typing.

Three minutes later I was done. We went to the bathroom (all that pop drinking to stay awake on the trip up!) and then went to sit down in the chapel.

But things had changed since I'd been there last.

There were instruments on stage. Lots of them. More than just a piano and an organ. Cool, I thought. And there were students. Lots of them. In the chapel. Going to worship. What? What happened to my school? And some of them were, *gasp* dressed in shorts.

Worship started with one of my former professors, Dr. Tucker, welcoming everyone to "community gathering" (guess the language of Chapel left with PaPa) and introduced me and the other guest speakers. Dr. Tuck was now dean of the school. "He used to teach here?" one of the students I spoke with during lunch asked. "Yep, I had him for Hebrew. He gave me a B+."

The main speaker who was sitting next to me, a white guy who'd done work for 13 years in Argentina and spoke great Spanish, leaned over to tell me he knew Roger after Dr. Tucker introduced me. After that he paid much greater attention to me than he had when I was just some little girl talking about a mission trip. It's amazing how who you know can affect how you're perceived. Thank God there are men like Roger who advocate for women in ministry and help them succeed.

The song came and the first verse was sung. That was my cue. With my knees still shaking I went to the pulpit and delivered the following testimony...

"I arrived in Temuco Chile in May of this year with ten students and another sponsor who would serve as our translator. When I spoke with the CBF last year about doing overseas missions, they asked me, “Where do you want to go?” I said, “Well, somewhere that Spanish is spoken.” “Oh great,” they replied, “you speak Spanish.” “No,” I said, “I speak French, but most of my college students speak Spanish, so I want to go where they can work and interact with people linguistically.”

I figured I would supervise. Delegate responsibilities, make sure the fence got painted the floors got mopped, I would chaperone, make sure no one snuck out of their room at night to go into town, you understand. And of course, I had Steve, or Estaban to be my translator.

What I discovered was that I had a whole other calling. Yes, I delegated, yes I chaperoned, but I also met people. I met girls who had been court ordered removed from their homes. I encountered their smiles and their giggles and I became a part of their world and they became a part of mine. They crawled into my arms, they sang me their favorite songs, we played games.

With no common language.

You know why? Because God moves beyond language. God moves beyond racial lines. God is bigger than a theology of mission or the structure of a denomination or a carefully planned out mission trip where 10 American students would work for a Girl’s Home. God is a spirit that moves amongst people of all ages, languages and gender.

I expected to accomplish a lot of things while at the girls home. Get a new fence painted, build a study room for the girls and re-do a storage closet. I wanted tangible results and while I did get that, what I also found were friends. Friends and colleagues in the adults who served at the home. Friends in the teenage girls, working to finish school so they could go to college. Friends in the little darlings crying out “Tia Ann, Tia Ann!” I discovered I had been changed.

I’m wearing a bracelet on my arm given by a child in the home to all twelve of the North Americans. When I told the director of the home that the girl had made each bracelet for each of us. She said, “No. Not her. You’ve confused her with someone else. She’s a hoarder, she always takes and stores and keeps her stuff.” And then the director and I realized that this girl who was usually selfish and stingy with her possessions had been changed too and chose to share her love through giving.

I was changed. My students were changed. The employees of the school were changed and the girls who have had such hard lives at such young ages were changed. Not because of what we did or what we said, but because of Who God Is.

Thanks be to God."

I swallowed and returned to my seat on the pew. Kate squeezed my hand. We sang the second verse and the second testimony began. I was done. I had survived.

Thanks be to God.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Moltmann: Session Three

I got to be an interlocutor for this Session (more on this later!!) so I will refer you to my friend Joe B's blog. His notes are there.

Moltmann: Session Six

A congregation who is not accepting of disabled persons is a disabled church. (Moltmann's older brother was disabled and died when euthanasia began in Germany).

We often associate reason as being created in the image of god but how do people without reason fit into the Imago Dei.?: "The Imago Dei is two things, it is a relationship with God. The relationship of God to EVERY human being and this cannot be destroyed neither by disabilities or sin. So we must respect God in every person we meet. The other part is our ability to respond to God."

Regarding the framers of our constitution who were influenced by Locke. Inalienable human rights. Some contemporaries have said there's no such things. People who share a language create those. Theologically what do you think about America's foundation and our thoughts on inalienable rights.: "In 1978 I wrote about human rights and God's rights. All churches in the World Alliance of Service have signed up. How do we apply the rights of humans to the rights of nature? Every Chinese and every African person has inalienable rights. If you create a crime against this we have an implementation for holding people accountable in the UN. But the US didn't sign this. The world community must be based on human rights or there will be no world community. Every child in Africa says, 'Am I not a human being?' After that we belong to race or society or whatever. Inalienable rights - whether John Locke said it or whomever, it's true!"

"God is neither he nor she nor it. God is God. We should not use Gods divinity to justify the domination of man over women. The image of a trinity is neither the Father or the Son or the H.S. but a community. This can be reflected in human relationship. Let them all be one like you in me and I in you Jesus says. So no human being is the image of the Father and no human is the image of the son. It's community. Which we call parouasis or love."

Talk to us about the schism that happens in American churches regarding sexuality: "Let me first say this is no problem in Germany. We never have a struggle about sexuality or homosexuality. The church is about the gospel not about sex. We believe in the justification of faith alone. It is heresy to see it another way. Whomever believes by faith alone is SAVED and is certainly able to be ordained in a Christian community. Why should I not bless a partnership in two human beings. Homosexuality is neither a sin nor a crime. Why is this more important than the question of war and peace for example."

"People who died are with us and they are watching over us and can feel occasionally their presence. If a life was cut short God will bring what He had begun with the human being to it's intended end. Death cannot hinder God to do this because God is God. This is my trust and the future world we may see them again if seeing is the right expression for an intimate relationship. "

What is the church?: "For a long time we said it is the body of Christ. after Vatican 2 we talked about the people of God. If we say this we must say that God has two parts of his people - Israel and the church. The mission is not only through the church but also through Israel - the Jews. This is my understanding of the mission of the church. To take care of the poor people and of the Jews. We have a book in common and a hope in common. We should dialogue with Israel. Not with all the other dialogues. Because if we convert the other person the dialogue ends. A dialogue needs a common ground and with Israel and we have that."

On the one hand we have the mission of the risen Christ whoever hears you hears me, on the other hand we have the inviting voice is Christ whoever visits them visits me.

I still believe strongly in the face to face community. Cyberspace may be nice to communicate but a cyberchurch would be a church without the Eucharist. You can see and listen but you cannot feel, touch, or smell. The near senses are underdeveloped and our far reaching senses are over developed. This has effects on our communities! I believe in local face to face communities where we can see each other and be a community with full senses.

How do you see the role of communion and Eucharistic in the church?: I believe strongly that you do not celebrate on the Lord's table our theories about his presence but his presence! we may have different theories but let's celebrate his presence first and then after let's talk about our different theories. If we start with out different theories we will never come to the table. Every dialogue is better when we have eaten and drunk first. Jesus invited all who are heavy and burdened not just catholics or just Presbyterians. that would not be the Jesus I know. Wine for the priest and bread for the community (catholic church) is heresy.

Do we need to go to church: when time is a commodity, etc.?: "For those who have a church attending church is an issue of community. For the unempleyed it's not an issue. The church is both a gathered people and a sending into the world. Like inhaling and exhaling air."

Moltmann: Session Five

"Unless you confess God cannot bless." Saw this sign but I don't give God the power to forgive me. It's like we've handcuffed God. - Jones

You cannot make as a human being conditions to God. This wouldb eto make God an object an idol. God will bless whom God will bless. The initiave is God's initiative and> God will bless you and then you can confess whatever is on your heart. God is God, not a bargain partner for you and your religion. this is completely heathen. If we do this then God will do this. It's a denial of the freedom of God and it's ot Christian. I am completely opposed to this bargaining for our destiny. This is pure capitalism. - Moltmann

But Jesus' teaching about prayer seems to be all about keep bothering God and you will get what you want. - Jones. "But this is not Jesus' only teaching on this. Whenever you pray you know that God knows already what you need otherwise it would be nonsense to pray. the hearing of God proceeds your prayer." Moltmann

Can we pray for something that's already happened? Is God separated from time so that I could pray for something in the past?:

"There's a long tradition for prayer for the dead because they are included already in the prayer of Christ. i think I am praying for the dead because the dead are not dead. They died but we cannot say that they are dead now. they are sleeping until the day of awakening. they are with us. they are watching over us. they are not in a modern sense dead and gone and annihilated. they are present. if you believe Romans 14 then we have a community with the dead in Christ and a community of hope because we are raised from death together. we need to overcome this modern thought of death is annihilation."

Zimzum: prior to creation all there was was god and in order to create god limited god's self and made space and room for creation. How does that relate to panentheism and does that mean God bound God's self to time?:

"I'm not the first person to take up this kabalistic thought. Christians have been doing this for 300 years now. Before God created the world he decided to become the creator. the first act of creation was inside God. Before He created heaven and earth he needed space and room for creation that another limited and finite reality of heaven and earth can be and can co-exist with God. Normally we understand creation as act but to take oneself back to oneself to let another being develop and flourish is also very creative." Moltmann

"If God as a being by nature is timeless but part of God's self limitation that wie're in that God has bound himself to time so God is experience time with us." Jones "Yes otherwise he couldn't be called the living God. A living God he must be able to have life giving relationship to other living beings." Moltmann

Hegel - God is unfolding history:

"Hegel did not develop an understanding of the trinity. It has nothing to do of the Christian understanding of Jesus, Abba and the Holy Spirit. Hegel had no eschatology. Panentheism everything is in God. But this is only one side of the biblical understanding of God. The other idea is that God is in everything. God dwells in the highs and the lows with the broken hearts. He's dwelling with Israel a cloud by day and fire by down. Shekinah. In the NT you have a mutual indwelling especially in the letters of God. Parousis. Mutual indwelling. So whomever remains in love God is in him. Also in John Calvin. The glory of god is already reflecting himself in all things. but we have no eyes to see it. So was God in the Tsenumi or with the terrorists. This is nonsense."

Theosis - god in each human being. Do you believe in this: "yes."

Martin Luther - God became a human being so that we unhappy gods could become fully human. "So God became a human being to liberate us from our God complex." Moltmann

Original Sin: Judaism doesn't have a doctrine of original sin. Can you comment on Augustine?: "I think these ideas of Augustine is leading to a christian form of gnosticism. Procreating is bad. Original Sin is like AIDS that we deliever from one generation to another. This is gnosticism this is not the OT form of life. We have received life and we should give life to another generation. So original sin ahs notheing to do with sex and procreation. The idea is more collective Guilt. I think this was the understanding of Luther. Everyone is guilty of evreything which happens in the world because everything is related to everything. There is a collective destiny because we share into everything and everything shares in us. But this has nothing to do with Adam or Eve. Did it enter with Adam or eve, this is all speculation. Guilt came into the world through Cain and Able since this time it's one against the other. This is more realistic I think."

"The other people's religion I give so God may give so you must make sacrifices to the Gods so God will give you God's blessing. If you don't do it right the God gets angry and you experience disease or whatever. So you have to look around and figure out who brought the wrong sacrifice to God. Jonah. This is all not biblical. The scapegoat is given by God. He is not asking this from the people but is giving this to Israel so that all the sins can be put on the scapegoat who then takes the sins out into the desert. God doesn't NEED a sacrifice. He GIVES it to the world. The initive is God'sinitiave. They used the Temple language but something completely different is meant."

So God is always the protagonist. The initiator. How is God the protagonist in allowing trinitarian love to overflow?: "Love takes God outside of himself and therefore he creates creatures which can resonate. He is not in need of the creation. The creation is a result of his overflowing joy and love."

"Dispensationalism is not a Christian idea. You can talk about this without mentioning Christ. Jesus was just one part of it. What is lacking is the new beginning that comes in the resurrection of Christ in anticiaption of the general resurrection and the new creation. So the new has already begun and the future is not very far away because it is already beginning. Prophet Isaiah: don't remember the things of old. Behold I create a new thing. Not one dispensation after another."

Will there be a moment in time of Jesus' return?: Yes. We have this linear concept of ttime and this is the time of our clock. In this linear concept he will not come. But we have another concept of time, the kairos. Our life experiences are not according to clock time but to kairos. A good time. This Kairos is an anticipation of the eschatological moment. 1 Cor 15. You can put it in terms of fulfilled time or life. In fulfilled time you don't care about the clock anymore you live in the eternal moment. When you come into the intensity of living you take the clock away.

Do you separate from Reformed Theology when you say we cooperate with God?: "I don't see that putting everything on God is a very Christian understaning of God. God enables us and gives us chances and energy to work in accordance with his will. and to resonate to his tune. and take responsibility which includes response. If God were all in all already then yes. But now it is our responsibility."

Who is the trinitarian God in nature?: "My question for science is: do you understand what you know? We need a hermeneutics of nature. We need to interpret the science. So science explains but we need understanding and interrupting. A doctor measures your blood pressure and your temp and takes all the data he can get from your body if you're not well or sick. So he takes the data and then he takes the data as symptioms of a disease and he interprets this as a disease you have and then the therapy can begin. The data is symptoms and now we must interpret these symptions to understand what we know. For example, to understand the data we get from climate research and economic research and interpret them and react in order to get over the danger which is come. The hermeneutics of nature. We put whatever we know of nature in the transcendant dimension. We can see the H.S. in the transcendant cycle of every human being. More complex life forms are open systems transcending themselves. This is an expression of a transcendance of the Spirit. You must speak of the H.S> herself and the energies of the H.S. Every Christian is filled with energies of the H.S. and therefore they form different communities with different gifts and energies. But only one spirit. The positive energies are from the spirit. The annihilating ones are not from the spirit. In each criminal or negative act of destruction there is energy which much be redeemed. Redeem the sinners, redeem the sin. Turn it into a positive life giving energy."

"If death will be no more. There will be a creation without organic death. ALL the death will disappear. That maybe a brand new biology a brand new physics, etc.
Evolution: nothing new, only evolving.
Emergence: something new; the old is new according to the qualification of the parts.
I think something new is always happening."

"At the end God will be All in All. So the end is not the annihilation of the world (Luther) but the deification (Greek Orthodox) or transformation (Reformed) of the world. "

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Moltmann: Session Four

"The war and peace question can be reduced to three options: one change swords into christian swords and be a dragon killer. this is the option of the christian empire. change bombs into christian atomic; leave the swords to the unbelievers and return to the plowshares; change swords into plowshares and the military complex into an ecological complex - a peace making men, change arrows into pots in the kitchens. change two patrons into pens, engage yourself in making peace. Take the swords out of the hands of the violent people. Mankind will not survive with swords, only plowshares. We need communities who anticipate this type of kingdom a peacemaking people."

Nicaragua: live in the slums as a community. "Show them that community can get them out. Escaping Poverty isn't "property" but "community." "Christian church is alive where smaller communities live together church is not formed out of individuals." (What does this mean to a downtown church? - Ann)

A church has two tasks: serve the poor and the sick and the homeless and jobless; prophetic chance to say look at those in the shadows. Without the prophetic the service and vice versa the other is empty. If you visit a sick member of your church in a hospital and this person says pastor how nice you are coming, my family has forgotten me you should turn around and go to the family and say why did you leave that person alone in the hospital! the same is for the church at large. you cannot make this. prophets are called and sometimes against their will. Nelson Mandela, MLK Jr. So let's pray for prophets who can speak in public and convince people"

Are we co-creaters with God or this something we just expect to happen: "We prepare the way for the kingdom and the peace of God. We must anticipate the justice of the Kingdom of God. We thought the kingdom of God was progress: science, technology, hospitals, etc. But this belief collapsed in WW1. Now the belief in progress is returning in the idea of globalization. the abyss is approaching with the destruction of the environment. We have globalization without the globe. The earth has nothing to say and this is dangerous of course. So we need a globalization of social justice and peacemaking. Otherwise the Kingdom would be the Kingdom of men, not of God."

The POWs after WW2 were given a chance for education and life through the YMCA and other camps and in this way they received forgiveness and it changed everything. (What can we learn from this America?! - Ann)

"If given the chance to kill a german dictator or keep the peace of the masses. I would kill the dictator. I told the Mennonites this and they said, 'That's okay'."

Moltmann: Session Two

Exploring Methodology:

You broke some of the rules of German, Protestant Systemology, so tell us what is the normal German way of going about Systematics?:

"Behind all this is the conviction that humanly speaking truth is to be found in unhindered dialogue." Moltmann Intro

How is that different than Karl Barth or others?

Regarding Karl Barth's 8000 pages a critic once said, "The Truth cannot be so long!"

"I resist the temptation to write a system because I am not a systematic person. I had an idea and I wrote about it."

Hidden Universalism in Barth not to reconcile nature to God but people to God.

"Whenever i find something that sounds true to me, i say hello yes, that's fine. that's the way i also think. so don't become narrow minded to defend only your won denomination. Christ is more than one's own denomination."

Elie Wiesel's book Night, three prisoners were hanged and two died with a loud cry of freedom and there was a boy who was tortured because he was so light he wouldn't die. he heard a voice behind him saying "where is god" and the answer: he is hanging up there."

Regarding 911: "God is not punishing New York homosexuals. A God who uses terrorists to punish his own people is a monster and for me, not a god. But maybe we should turn around our thinking of the omnipotence of God. God isn't in control of everything but is carryng and bearing everything. Exodus language: you carried us like a mother is carrying a child in her arms. you are burying us through the desert like a father bury's his own sons. we are carried on eagle's wings. I will carry you until you become old. This patience of god, the carrying of everything gives his word time and this is the omnipotence of god."

Divine impassibility was inherited by Greek philosophy. Is there an epiphany moment when you thought, that's not god. Because you write that an impassible god is not a god it's a demon.: "Aristotle, metaphysics, pope 12... criticism against the many god stories in Greek mythology god is not apathetic he is full of pathos of love and anger (wounded love) for this people. if god is apathetic then his image of us is apathy."

"it's better to be defeated than not to begin. get out of apathy. thus i talk about the passibility of god."

"i try to bring life and death experiences into contact with theological questions but theology that doesn't affect life is only a game for play. the book of my best students, Volf, exclusion and embrace is a good book because of his experiences. life and death are a source of theology, of course!"

You said once we should Read forward and backward what do you think?" "I'm old enough not to fear becoming heretical. i read the bible with a presupposition to meet the divine word in human words and whenever i meet the divine word which became incognate in Jesus Christ then i feel to meet the truth. then i have a criterion over against the human expressions of this proof. Galations 3:28 in Christ there is no male female, lord nor slave, all one in Christ and heirs of kingdom. but then i read that women should shut up in the congregation. what sentence is closest to Christ and my decision is clear. if the women were always silent we would have no knowledge of the resurrection of Christ." (clapping).

"My question for fundamentalists is do you read the bible and if you do, do you understand it?"

"My wife convinced me to change sentences from this is the case to i think this is the case and not to make objective statements. because if i say it in this way, this is my experience, provokes the subjectivity in others to make up their own mind and not to just quote me."

"Luther said theology and politics have nothing in common. We must change our attitude with the death of Auschwitz pulling on our hearts."

John Paul II - He was a good pope.
Pannenburg - He is a very dear friend and componant
Dietrich Bonhoffer - Died too early
Whitehead - Very Complicated to read.
Jaques Dierida - i think post modernity is just another form of modernity. we have universal dangers which we can ready only united we cannot split up in everything goes anwith peoples little narratives or small narr we live under the threat of atomic bomb and the extinction of mankind is all around us so why should we give up thsese universal questions
Stanley Hauerwass - The nt speaks not about a peacable kingdom but a peace making kingdom.
Martin Luther - Great job on reforming but there are two ML and MLK what's the difference.
Augustine - Ask his wife about him There was a wife and a son and he left both of them for his mother but it happens :)
Marx - I like the early Karl Marx had influences from romantic philosphy, the naturalization of human beings and nature his early writings the communist manifest is one of the greatest documents of the 19th century. Even if you disagree with it.
Miraslov Volf - he is a very dear friend and a very gifted theologian he came to me at tuberton to write his dissertation about work and marx but then he was drafted and when he returned and experienced suffering and resistance and i loved him very much when he returned wounded. and then he wrote the book on community and now he is going on writing writing writing. He had a calling to Heidleberg once. Either go there to Christians there or you go to Yale and be an American postmodern theogian. Unfortunately
Pelagious - he is the saint of american christians.

Moltmann: Session One


Tell us your story:

"It's easy to tell but was difficult to live through the years. I was born in 1926 in Germany. Family secular of school teachers. My father left the church because of free will and reason. I also believe in reason. When I was 16 I was studying a book on quantum physics when my class was drafted into the army." There was a firestorm in Humborg in July of 43 where fires went on for miles and miles. Mostly women and children were killed because the men were on the front. Additionally, a bomb went of around Moltmann and when he got up, he looked and there were dead people all around him. From those experiences come the questions "Where is God" and "Why am I alive and not dead as the others are?" "These two questions followed me and tortured me for years."

POW in Feb 45

"Imprisonment of the soul and of the body." But he saw a blooming cherry tree which raised the first response of life in his life.

Scottish families and workers were kind to POWs even though they were enemies and the POWs felt forgiveness despite the guilt of Moltmann and his people.

An Army chaplain distributed Bibles to the POWs which he started to read. When he came to the Psalms, especially psalms of lament, and epecially psalm 39, he found words that spoke to his heart. Then when he found in Mark "My God Why hast thou forsaken me," Moltmann understood the torture of Christ and felt that God understood him. "This was my first encounter with Jesus and the impression hasn't left me since that time. Christ found me in the dark pit of my soul and behind barbed wire."

After that "I lost interest in mathematics and physic and wanted to find the truth of Christian faith. I was still seeking God but I got the impression I wasn't seeking for God if God was not already drawing me."

"In 46 I heard about a special camp for the education of teacher and pastors of post-war germany a gift from the bittish to the prisoners and was funded by an american business man. And then I started studying Theology and then Hebrew and then Greek. I heard my first lectures and had my first contact with the church, but still wasn't sure to become a pastor. I didn't know what the church was all about. I was only searching for the church."

April of 48 he was sent home. "I felt that my soul was healed from the wounds of the war and post war time. I felt I was like Jacob who had come through the dark side of God. And then had experienced also the warmth of his love and the presence of his shining face."

Asked to be the doctoral student under the professor that his wife was already studying under (not his wife at the time). :) "I wanted to become a pastor and nothing else. I had read Karl Barth up and down and thought there was nothing else to be said about theology. When I pastored a small town of mostly people and cows." And there he was with his PhD. Pastored there five years.

Then went to seminary and felt impoverished because as a professor he had the more or less good educated young students with the distance of a lecture hall - and this wasn't life. "I had to bring life into this more distant way of doing theology" more "than I did as a pastor."

He was a guest lecturer at Duke and they had a different interest than the students at Tubingen. At Tubingen they ask "What is the Church" but the students in NC only asked "How to run a Church?"

At first he loved America, but then he was shown the black ghettos and the burnt crosses of the KKK and "my american dream was a little disappointed." Theology of Hope was published in America and the NY Times front page "replacing the God is Dead theology which is not too difficult." :) At a Theology of Hope Conference, he was debating with someone when someone else came in and said MLK was shot. The conference was over immediately. "This was the end of my american dream? no it was not because that same evening 400 students went out on the campus and sat for four days and four nights sitting in silence and mourning and this made a deep impression on me and then on the last day black students came from a black college and danced through the rows of the white students sitting and then they all students stood and sang we shall overcome. At first I liked American then I didn't like America and then I came to love America."

What's the message of early 20th Century European humanism?: "do good, love the beauty of nature and follow your instinct for adventures of life, a kind of humanism of free will and good emotions but without sentence. God is everywhere and everything is divine. But with this you cannot go through the war, imprisonment and suffering so this collapses very quickly. There were no words for the destruction, the war, the forsakenness."

"All the best theologians were pastors" McClendon. Do you continue to draw on that years later?: "When a theological idea occurs to me i think, 'what would the people think about it' or 'what would they make of it.' and the people of my congregation would appear in my eyes and react to it. professional theologians must again and again go down and listen to the people's theology and their questions and also to their answers and the people should not be shy but should take responsibility for the theologians. most seminaries have connections to local congregations."

"To most of the things in my life i came by chance." In 1990 in Manague Nicaragua it was a really poor and destroyed country with a very self-conscious people who had won their freedom by themselves. Five years later they created the first Protestant university. Atlanta coast is Protestant and the indians are moravian brothers

In San Salvador they killed six Jesuits and the wife and housekeeper and in the blood of one of the man the crucified god fell off the bookshelf and was soaked in blood. three years later he made his pilgrimage there where the book is now held in glass as a reminder.

Trinity: "Eastern Orthodox you have the three angels sitting around the table - a complete doctrine of the trinity which we in the west do not. the best would be to create a social doctrine of the trinity where the father Son and holy spirit are one, you are in me and i am in you. true human community is an icon and witness to the one triune god. Very simple. If you come into fellowship with jesus you come into fellowship with the Father and when you do you feel the life giving energies of the spirit. not a mystery. we live in god through Jesus surrounded by the spirit. we are surrounded by God on all sides. I found this for myself very enlightening."

"Jesus addressed his god as abba dear father. Paul heard the abba prayer in Galacia and Rome and after a few centuries the abba prayer was replaced with 'our father art in heaven' which is patriarchal. if we would reintroduce the abba prayer we would feel the nearness of jesus in the moment. so i'm trying to convince congregations to reintroduce the abba prayer because then you are already in the trinity. Not only three persons but three rooms - give room for the indwelling of the other's spirit in their room. we too much leave room for other people, open our lives and houses and love and friendship to them. A group giving to each other is the best."

Wednesday, September 09, 2009

Moltmann: Questions for the Crucified God

This afternoon, The Emergent Convention's Moltmann Conversation began at First Pres in Libertyville, Illinois. It's interesting that I should attend this after I wrote yesterday's blog about not being able to know anything about the end times. Moltmann's initial book of theology which gained him international fame and put him at the forefront of innovative theology is all about eschatology or, the study of the end times or final things. Moltmann is famous for his Eschatology of Hope at a time when theologians were putting eschatology on the back burner.

So I've been asked to be an interlocatur for the first session based on Moltmann's text, The Crucified God. I'm supposed to be available to people to give me questions to pose to Moltmann tomorrow. Here's some of my musings and the musings of my friends here with me...

Questions for Moltmann:

1. I fell in love with you in seminary and when I was explaining to my friends and family what I would be doing in Chicago and to whom I would be listening, I answered "Jurgen Moltmann, a German Theologian and a Christian Universalist. He wrote The Crucified God." I explained that you believed that because of Jesus' redemptive work on the cross all have access to God. But as I re-read Crucified God this weekend, I didn't find what I remember so explicitely laid out in your text. So I guess my question for you is, "Is it okay for me to explain your theolgoy as a Christian Universalism or would you describe it as something else?

2. The Crucified God allows for pastors and others to care for people who are hurting by encouraging them that God is here with them in their suffering. But is that it, or is there something stronger; do we have anything else to say to suffering?

3. Your book was born from the question, where was God in WWII? Do you see any human situations now as pressing to theology as the atrocity this book was born out of?

4. You say that an eschatological community must be critical of society, so how can the church critique a society that turns critique into commodity. How can we creatively engage politics? Ex: the protestors of the war in Iraq. They came, protested, had a clean conscious, but Bush started the war anyway. So how do we actually and effectually engage the public sphere as a church?

5. Is your primary question at this point in your life still "Where is God?"

6. What's your favorite Bible Story? (and you can't say Jesus' crucifixion and resurrection)

What are your questions? Get them in by 9am!!

Monday, September 07, 2009

So Why Don't You Believe In God?

I could have killed him.

I know that's not very Christian of me. But seriously. I could have.

My father always taught us, "Girls, there are two things you don't talk about with friends if you want to stay friends: religion and politics."

But Zachary is an instigator. And when he, Amy and I joined his boyfriend's family for a Labor Day picnic, he said, "Ann, why don't you tell us why you believe in God."


I was surrounded by two atheists, one agnostic, a devout Catholic, two non-chalant Catholics, a Protestant and myself.

"I'm not really comfortable talking about this Zachary." The last thing Atheists want to do is hear from some girl about how God is real and Jesus is good and I wasn't about to offend our daily-mass-attending host with my protestant heresies. "I'd kind of prefer to not talk about religion or politics today."

"Go ahead," Dr. S said. "Do you feel hopeless in your job?"

"Hopeless sir?"

"Yeah, hopeless. Look at these kids. I've got three atheists and an agnostic all of whom were raised in the Catholic church. Is there hope for religion with this new batch of youth? Is your job hopeless?"

HOPELESS? Pour on the pressure why don't you.

Then the Catholic Mother piped up and began talking about doing good and being good, and heaven and the unfortunate alternative to being rejected when we meet God.

The agnostic argued with Mrs. S. "I'd rather do things that are good or right because they make me feel good not because I'm trying to do something that will get me into heaven."

"You're so narcissistic," she replied to her son.

"Well, why don't you believe in God?" Zachary asked Dr. and Mrs. S's atheist daughter, further stoking the fire. "Why don't YOU?" She retorted back.

My face turned red. This was turning into a family quarrel and the Catholics and Protestant wanted me to provide some Christian enlightenment and the atheist wanted the conversation to end. Zachary just wanted to start a fight. He'd already tried to earlier in the meal when he brought up healthcare. The little shit.

I offered some alternative thoughts on heaven and hell (potentially not existing) while recapping C.S. Lewis' allegory in The Great Divorce. I spoke of Good and Evil and how I don't think that good deeds can be attributed to Evil, that I believe all goodness gives testimony to the Good God. I talked about how people today and religious leaders way back when pushed the prostitutes and the lepers (and the gays, Zachary added) to the margins of society to convince the Messiah to come. I spoke about how ideas and thoughts about the end times or the 2nd coming don't really interest me because, who really knows how that will happen or when? And maybe that's not the point...

"This intellectual elitism and atheism is just a fad, a bandwagon kids get on anyway nowadays. They don't think about anything seriously," the mother said.

The atheist left the table and went inside. The agnostic and his mother continued to argue. I put my face in my hands while Dr. S looked amused and finished his cherry pie, rhubarb/strawberry pie, and chocolate mousse pie all covered in vanilla ice cream and whipped cream with caramel and chocolate drizzled on top (that is one hundred percent NOT exaggerated). I excused myself and followed the sister to the kitchen.

"I'm sorry Zachary put you on the spot like that. It was wrong of him."

"I don't care," she said.

"Well, I do. It's hard to talk about religion because it's so personal. You mom probably thinks I'm a crazy non-Christian and I feel like I've not defended what she holds so dear. And that's okay to talk about, but then there's the really personal part, like none of the atheists even believe in what I've devoted my life to... you know? I mean, what if I said I didn't believe in Medicine? (Like Amy, Zachary and Dr. S, she's a doctor.) It's just sometimes very hard to talk about religion with people who think you're ridiculous and wrong."

"But it's good to talk about it with people when they're open and you can just lay ideas on the table."

"Yes, it is."

We talked for a few more minutes and before we were interrupted by the crowd from the picnic coming inside, I said, "You know... like... I believe you'll be in heaven. But that doesn't do you any good. Why would you want to go someplace with some God that you've rejected?"

"True," she said. "But I appreciate the sentiment."

And I appreciated her not treating me differently the rest of the evening. And maybe somewhere in all the raised heart rates of the ostricized rosery-saying Catholic mom, the atheist/agnostic children who rejected the priests and nuns who tried to train them and now their parents who were disappointed in them and the rest of us just trying to figure out what to say to bridge the gap without pissing off one side or the other while still being true to the Gospel as we understand it, maybe amidst all that, we did share a sentiment or two.

And maybe from me they heard words of a Christian who didn't condemn them to hell or say Catholicism is evil or try to convert them. Maybe not.

Different people need to hear different things. We're all in different places. And when you preach at a progressive Baptist church some people will need to hear what you have to say and others won't get much from your words and others may flat out disagree with you. But there's a common idea and bond in that community. But at our Labor Day table? I would have loved to talk to Mrs. S about religion by herself. Asked her how the ritual of the Catholic church forms her spiritual formation and what her favorite ritual is; told her about the prayer beads we made in our church. I would have welcomed a conversation with her daughter like the one we had in the kitchen on our own. Asked what she hated about going to Catholic school and what philosophers she likes to read. I would have been happy to talk about heaven and hell openly (and no doubt loudly) with Amy and Zachy on a blanket in a park or in the car or over a glass of wine (as we'd already done so many times this weekend), but all of us together... it was like I couldn't say anything helpful.

But maybe that wasn't the point either.

I guess sometimes it is really easy to talk about God and sometimes and really hard to (even if you're a minister). And sometimes it's hard to feel "different" whether you're an atheist, a christian or a catholic. Just depends on who else is eating at the table.

But we all were that day. All sitting around the table. And fortunately, according to my faith tradition, all are invited to the table.

Atheist, Protestant, Agnostic, Catholic, Back-sliders, Ministers and even Instigators named Zachary.

Thanks be to God.

The Windy City, Harry Potter and the Importance of a Glerb

A Number One (I know that doesn't make sense but that's how I talk): Chicago is lovely. The sun is out but it's cool and of course breezy. The grass is green and flowers are blooming and my sister's ghetto neighborhood is as beautiful as it is dangerous. I feel so at home here. I'm living with Amy and Zachary which means there are always goodies baking in the oven (currently a yellow squash and chives quiche) and laughter is always just around the corner. I love the sun and the warmth of Texas, but the heat can become oppressive to one's spirit and it's nice to feel known here in Chicago.

B Number Two: Dumbledore dies? WTF? What in the world? After a lovely Labor Day dinner yesterday, me, Amy, Zachy and Zachy's friend Justin went to see the latest Harry Potter since none of us (except Zach) had seen it yet. I didn't cry like I usually do in HP movies (but I did shriek out loud when that hand came out of the water and grabbed Harry). I think I was in shock. There was no time for tears when you were lead to trust Dumbledore. He kept saying to Harry, "trust me, do what I say, trust me." And I trusted him... and then he DIED. I'm still in shock.

C Number Three: Zachary. He needs some explanation. Zachary, well actually all his siblings, and the Pittman girls all went to school together from Noyes Elementary to Bode Middle to Central High and were also raised in the same church. So we've know Zachary our whole lives. And while the story is longer than what I will tell, now he and Amy are roommates in Chicago where both he and she are doctors and residents. Zachary is an odd bird. He makes me look normal. I don't actually even talk much when I'm around he and Amy because he's always talking and Amy's always laughing so there's no need for me to entertain anyone. Zachary is beautiful, head to toe and is young (28) and smart and stupid all at once (those damn cigarettes!), and adds the letters -e-r- to words so that the second day I was here I exasperatedly commented, "Zachary, I can't understand half the words that come out of your mouth."

"That's because he adds er to words," my sister explained.
I turned to him, "You what?"
"I add er."

So plate becomes plert.
Walked becomes Werked
Sterffed Perppers is Stuffed Peppers

You get the picture.

In addition to the er, Zachary has also created a new word utilizing the er compound: Glerb. Glerb is the word Zachary uses as a term of affection for his boyfriend. Whereas the rest of the world uses, "honey" or "lovebug" or "sugarbumpkin," Zachary uses the word, "glerb."

"Hey Glerb, what are you doing?"

Today Zachary is making his glerb a care package. We watched Love Actually yesterday morning (when the rest of my world was in church) and of course there's nothing better than Emma Thompson, Liam Neeson, Alan Richman, Hugh Grant, Kiera Knightly and Colin Firth all mixed in with a batch of neurotic romances. So Zachary got all mushy and was on the phone today finding out which candy shops were open on Labor Day and Amy was making recommendations on the proper wrapping for the package. All over a lunch of squash and chives quiche.

Oh My God.

"Did I tell you about the last time Zachary and I went to Kiehl's?" Amy said.
Kiehl's is a hair product store in Lincoln Park where they thought they might pick up a couple of good hair product samples for Damien's care package.
"We noticed a smell and when we opened the hood of my car we discovered a dead squirrel wrapped around my engine! Of course we screamed and slammed down the hood."
"You know, that's how Zorby (my cat properly nick-named Satan's Little Helper) lost lots of clumps of fur the first time I had to give her a Lion's Cut. She'd been sleeping inside Clarence's car and when he started it, he scrambled out. My vet says that sleeping under or in cars is how many cats die. He said I was very Lucky Zorba wasn't killed."
"Yeah, we're all so grateful," my sister said under her breath.
"Zorba's the nice one?" Zachary asked.
"No, Zorba's the vampire," my sister corrected.
"Oh yeah, Radley's the nice one," Zachary determined.

And I just stared at him.

"No, Radley died," Amy said and started giggling nervously as she studied my face. "Potter's the nice one." (Yes, my cat is named after Harry Potter and did I tell you Dumbledore dies?!)

"Did Radley die naturally?" Zachary asked.
"No. He was hit by a car." A little girl across the street called out to me one morning (Thanksgiving day in fact), "Hey, your cat's over here." I relayed the rest of the story and concluded with, "A couple of weeks later I got a little note from the little girl that said, 'Hope you're not sad anymore.' and had a picture of a cat she'd drawn on it."
"Several people sent me notes after Lily (Amy's first dog) was hit by a car. Including the man who was driving the car."
"You know, Damien sent my mom flowers after Maddy (Zachary's mom's dog) died and on the card he wrote, 'All dogs go to heaven.' I knew then I had a good glerb."

A good glerb.

I think I would broaden glerb to mean anyone we love and who offers us love. Zachary is Amy's glerb and so am I. "You're a good sister, she once wrote me." I'm a glerb. The little girl who found my cat was a glerb. A glerb who thought of me two weeks later and drew me a picture "to help me feel better." A glerb is someone who makes life a little easier, a little brighter, a little more lovely.

"Everybody needs a glerb." I said to Zachary.
"Glerb's are impertant," he replied.