Tuesday, January 27, 2009

The Kingdom of God is Within You

Opium fiend, 100 years dead. You died in our street; yet lived this beauty in thee? Francis Thompson wrote the poem that follows as he wasted away with a needle in his arm. "Be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited." (Rom 12:16)

The Kingdom of God is at Hand
by Francis Thompson, 1859-1907

O world invisible, we view thee,
O world intangible, we touch thee,
O world unknowable, we know thee,
Inapprehensible, we clutch thee!
Does the fish soar to find the ocean,
The eagle plunge to find the air--
That we ask of the stars in motion
If they have rumor of thee there?
Not where the wheeling systems darken,
And our benumbed conceiving soars!--
The drift of pinions, would we hearken,
Beats at our own clay-shuttered doors.
The angels keep their ancient places--
Turn but a stone and start a wing!
'Tis ye, 'tis your estrang├Ęd faces,
That miss the many-splendored thing.
But (when so sad thou canst not sadder)
Cry--and upon thy so sore loss
Shall shine the traffic of Jacob's ladder
Pitched betwixt Heaven and Charing Cross.
Yea, in the night, my Soul, my daughter,
Cry--clinging to Heaven by the hems;
And lo, Christ walking on the water,
Not of Genesareth, but Thames!

"For this very reason, Christ died and returned to life so that he might be the Lord of both the dead and the living. You, then, why do you judge your brother? Or why do you look down on your brother? For we will all stand before God's judgment seat...Therefore let us stop passing judgment on one another. Instead, make up your mind not to put any stumbling block or obstacle in your brother's way."
Romans 14

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Strip Church, by XXX

"Delightfully tacky, yet unrefined", as they say.

I remember when I was young, a Hooter's began to build a restaurant right at the doorstep of a prominent local church. In the ensuing uproar, spokesmen for the church said it was indecent, and it was an outrage to have such an establishment within eyeshot. Remember, this is a restaurant with a "breast motif". Waitresses wear orange shorts and t-shirts in there, no joke. And you know, it's called...HOOTers. Gasp.

Now here is a 360. After years of attending the AVN porn fans convention and ministry to porn addicts, the XXXChurch guys have taken their show to the strip. That is, they're planting a church there. Strip Church. Takin' it to the streets, or slouching toward Gomorrah?

Okay, we pulled your string -- let's hear you talk.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Creation, Take Two

Genesis 1 begins with an account of creation, one that begins to define what it means to be the people of God. Then, it doubles back to look at God’s creation of Man from a different angle, focusing on the experience of the first individual man, Adam.

In Genesis 1 the creation of human beings emphasizes their innate community. Man “as male and female” reflect the image of God. Genesis 2 God recognizes the “not-goodness” of the man’s solitude. We are to be members of “a People”, not isolated individuals who commune only for necessity or convenience.

“People-ness” is inherent to our created nature. In many cultures one almost wouldn’t have to say this. Billions of human beings understand what it means to be part of "a people", so they instinctively understand what it means when God calls them out to join in the “People of God.”

But American Christians naturally read Christian faith through the lens of individualism. We emphasize personal salvation, personal spirituality, and personal devotion. We can even disparage the life of the Body of Christ as unnecessary because what really matters is that we each have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.

But although like Jesus we approach the cross alone, we rise together in newness of life. “One body, one Faith, of God and Father of all.” We are joined in the presence of God at one Table, and we drink eternal life from one Cup. If we read the bible and heed the Spirit, we know that living personally in fellowship with God through Jesus IS a corporate thing. We are one Body in him.

What a difference it would make if Jesus-Followers and our churches really grasped this! We’d understand that we’re not to live out our faith in the poverty of isolation, but in the richness of fellowship.

It wasn’t good for the man to be alone in the garden, nor is it for you.

The unChurch is in open rebellion against the zeitgeist of suburban isolation. Loving is the foundation of knowing God, because God is love. So we "throw our lives in together". For real. We share meals and prayers, hopes and fears, wins and losses. And we throw open our collective life for all to see and share.

Across barriers of time, space, privacy fencing, and parochialism…the glow of faith spills from the open doors of unChurch Abbey.

This post was shamelessly snatched from my hero, Mark D. Roberts. I hacked it down and botox'ed it, but he is the man. Go read the whole series here!

By Mark D. Roberts | Friday, February 1, 2008
Part 3 of series: Being the People of God

Sunday, January 18, 2009

unChurch...or antiChurch?

In recent days, we at The unChurch have taken a few rotten tomatoes from the gallery. So just what would provoke these good townsfolk to anger, especially against the gentle "monks of the unChurch abbey?"

The name, for starters. For certain beloved brothers deeply imbedded in the "Religious-Industrial Complex", the mere name "the unChurch", is like a bee in their bonnets. (Or perhaps in their turbans?)

But The unChurch is not anti-church, and neither is our name. Like, 7up the Uncola...is that anti-soda? Come on boys and girls, it's all soda and it arrives on the same truck. If we were anti-church, I think we would have called ourselves something creative. Like, The antiChurch! It's not like we were too shy to say so.

Let me break it down. "The Church", in the biblical sense, is (1) the holy temple God assembles (2) out of individual believers, (3) each filled and led by the holy spirit, (4) each reporting directly to Jesus, (5) all joined & fit together in him by bonds of love, (6) functioning according to how each member does it's part, and (7) displaying God's rule of love to the whole world. Did I miss anything?

In that sense, "The Church" is Christ's body, the incarnation of God on his earth. Amen dat. History backs me up: when men band together to form "a church", this is not how it goes down. Jesus winds up more like a mascot than a coach. The Holy Spirit's violent wind and tongues of fire get pressed between the pages of plans and programs, agendas and ambitions. And we're not about dat.

Thus, we are not a church. We're an "unChurch".

Go ahead and do the church thing. I go to "a church" myself, and it's cool. But if you'd mistake "a church" for "the church", you'd best listen again to what God says: "The Most High does not live in houses made by men. 'Heaven is my throne, and the earth is my footstool. What kind of house will you build for me? says the Lord. Or where will my resting place be? Has not my hand made all these things?" (Acts 7:48-49. Note that the guy who said it immediately got stoned by the religious-industrial complex. Why does this make me smile?)

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Friday, January 16, 2009

Sola Hotties: The Answer Key

Okay, class, here is the answer. A picture is worth a 1000 words, but I'll give it to you in only 363 and you can keep the change:

First the girls. Teetering, as one commenter said, between childhood and maturity. Totally ambiguous. A blank slate, except for the watermark of the image of God. Trembling at the brink of decision. One is blonde, strong, and commanding; the other is dark, weak, and tentative. Innocent or provocative? Harmless or dangerous? They are raw humanity at it’s brooding best--bursting with hope, brimming with curiosity and passion. Clutching each other in a dance, but preoccupied with some other possibility or peril at hand. Eden revisited! (Except without the whiskery Adam dude who really was not as photogenic as our two little Eve's, was he?)

Well, we cannot leave Eve in peril, can we now? But I can’t quite leave her untouched either…

Which brings us to the letters.

Jilly B nailed it: We kidnap ‘scrap-tures’ out of context and cobble them together to make our own statement. We end up with something like a ransom note. You cannot recognize the author. Bingo. The authorship of God is obscured by dead-letter religion. And, the Imago Dei, as displayed in the beautiful humanity of these kids, is obscured and scarred.

Did you notice what happened once I had papered over their eyes and ears? We immediately thought they were fallen. Prostitutes, sirens, daffs. Before being PhotoShopped by the serpent, these girls were just dancing a tango in fancy clothes! But taken out of context, tailored in fig-leaves, and cast in over-contrasted B&W, now everyone is calling them whores! They are dehumanized in the sight of others, and they are blind themselves. They are deaf and mute, just like their idols. To quote Jillian again: “Just like [much] of the church has thoroughly ignored the big picture of the Bible, thus erasing God's fingerprints from his masterpiece.”

“The words I have spoken to you are spirit and they are life. Yet there are some of you who do not believe." (Jesus, John 6:63)

“He has made us competent as ministers of a new covenant—not of the letter but of the Spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life.” (St. Paul, 2 Cor 3:6)

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Sola Scriptura...right?

"Sola Scriptura!" That is, "Only Scripture!", in Latin. It's the bedrock principle of being a protestant. The Bible is inspired by God, and its authority is above anything men may say. Hooray! It's all so simple!

Except that...it's not. What exactly does the Bible say, after all? It kinda depends on who you ask, doesn't it? Not that God is confused; the words themselves are pretty clear. But people can get kinda hard headed. And just as sure as you can fashion a pile of bricks into either a church or a brothel, men have fashioned the holy scriptures into all sorts of odd doctrinal structures.

That's when the fun begins. Because people "explain" the Bible, and "simplify it" into a list of things you must believe. Or else. Then "faith" becomes a matter of agreeing with the "10 Truths" or what-not. Sola Scriptura, my eye.

Sola Scriptura, plus 100 years of church traditions.
Sola Scriptura, plus 1000 volumes of systematic theology.
Sola Scriptura, minus all the pages that don't support your position.
Sola Scriptura, minus the Holy Spirit, and plus a hundred coats of paint.

It's time for a New Year's resolution, Loved Ones. So how about this one?

Read the Bible, even if you never have before. Read it in spite of the barbed wire that men with big hair and pinstripe robes have wrapped it in. Read it without feeling like you need to have understood it the first time through. Read it listening for God's voice as God's Spirit blows right through you. Read it without picking it apart. Read it without cramming it into an interpretive frame you bought at Bible Store, Inc. Read it without searching for rebuttals to those pesky Baptists or Lutherans or Democrats or whatever. Read it like you never heard any of it before, without supposing you know everything in it already.

Let's resolve in 2009 to shut up and let the "guy in sandals" do the talking!

"The anointing that you received from God abides in you, and you have no need that anyone should teach you. But as his anointing teaches you about everything, and is true, and is no lie — just as it has taught you, abide in him.
[1 John 2:27]

Not sure that makes sense to you? Try this: That odd word "anointing"? In Greek it says "smear". And it refers to the ceremony in which a priest is consecrated for his office. Dude, that is you God is talking to. And NObody can teach you--not in a lifetime--what God can smear on you in just a moment.
Joe B
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