I was just given the information on a new website that has profoundly impacted me. It is called called Geography Of Grace It is a resource for grassroots urban leaders doing “theology from below.”
Center for Transforming Mission and Mile High Ministry in Denver have teamed up to create this new resource. Scott Dewey and Sam Trujillo from Denver are the managing editors of the site. They have had lots of experience with this sort of thing and have led us into this very thoughtful and creative effort to actually do theology from below with a world wide network of grassroots leaders.
I was particularly impacted by the entry Table of Hope with the painting of Jesus with the street children in the Philippines. It is often hard for us to remember that Jesus identifies as much if not more with children like these than he does with those of us who are wealthy. The kingdom of God truly does belong to children such as these.
I think that it also impacted me because of my recent reading of Danielle Speakman’s book Nothing But a Thief that I mentioned in a previous blog.
I have just returned from Camano Island and MSA’s annual Celtic retreat. This is always a relaxing and renewing time for me. Some of us spend the weekend camping on the land though most of the participants only come to spend Saturday with us. This year we had 25 adults and 5 children
Our Theme was The All Embracing Community: Celtic Christians held a deep love for the Trinity and every family, clan and tribe was seen as an icon of the Trinity. The Celts felt very comfortable with a God whose very nature was portrayed as a companionable relationship between persons and consequently were strongly committed to community life. As Esther de Waal expresses it “A God who is Trinity in unity challenges self centred isolation and points instead to fellowship.” They were very aware that to come into the presence of God meant to be drawn into community not just with the Trinity but with the entire human family and even into unity with God’s creation. It meant to enter into fellowship with sisters and brothers from every tribe and nation – rich and poor, young and old, disabled and whole. It meant to identify with the sick the oppressed and the marginalized.
The strongly monastic character of the Celtic church produced a model of ministry that was community minded rather than individualistic. “Ministry in all aspects… was undertaken by teams of men and women, ordained and lay, who lived together in community and operated from a common central base from which they went out among the people preaching, teaching, baptizing, administering the sacraments, caring for the sick and burying the dead.”
It was a great day of prayer, worship, meditation and celebration with friends. I hope that some of you can join us next year.
I have just been browsing through the latest edition of Alternet and environmental ezine that often has fascinating though at times decidedly anti Christian articles that relate to the environment. I appreciate its viewpoints because often it gives me insights as to why so many environmentalists are anti Christian. (though that is worthy of another article)
The article that caught my attention in this issue was The Toxic Chemistry of Everyday Products in which the author looks at the contrast between regulations in the US and in Europe for the labelling of products. Concerning stuff that only reinforces the research I have done myself that suggests cleaning products, toys, and even processed food stuffs all contain toxic chemicals. All of us are concerned today about what comes out of China but maybe we should be jsut as concerned about what is produced closer to home.
While I was reading this article the sidebar reference to another article The Stone Age Diet: Why I Eat Like A Caveman caught my attention. I am convinced that there is a diet out that rationalizes the eating habits of every food fanatic but this one is definitely one of the most interesting I have come across for a while. Unfortunately one of the strong advocates recently had a heart attack but he blamed that on all the broccoli his mother made him eat as a child…. hmmm! not too sure about that.
Over the last few days I have been reading a number of books that talk about “the real message of Jesus”. One book that really challenged me is Danielle Speakman’s Nothing But a Thief. The author spent time working with street children in Peru with Word Made Flesh and she wrote the book “to give them a voice, and in so doing to bring them the justice and the love all humans deserve to receive.” I was particularly impacted by her reflection on the real world.
It is for certain that the “real world” isn’t quite like the way we picture it in American suburbia. Funny how since I came home from Peru, many people have said things to me like: “Well how has it been, adjusting back to real life?”…. When I’m told something like that, I feel a little turned around about what the real world really is. … We in suburban North America live in a bubble far different from our neighbors to the south … the street boy growing up parentless in the city of Lima defines that place as his reality… Experiencing another person’s real world forces redefinition,.. it forces us to admit that the real world is a mixed world. There are both the rich and poor, there are those who always suffer and those who rarely suffer, and there are different kinds of sufferings…
A mixed world requires us to deal with connections. How do the rich connect to the poor? How does my life affect their lives? How does my real world interact with theirs? How then shall I live?”
The other book that I enjoyed getting into this week was Ron Martoia’s Static in which he reflects on ways in which we turn people off from the real message of Jesus. I particularly enjoyed his chapter on Redrawing the Lines, in which he asks “What if the kingdom of heaven is essentially about the restoration of things to the way God intended them to be?” … “What if the coming of Jesus was the arrival of God’s future into the present?”
Such important questions for us to think about – particularly in light of the fact that half of the world’s population lives in a reality in which there is not enough food, there is not enough shelter and in which they are unlikely to live out the the life span that we think of as normal.
What does the reality of the kingdom of God look like? For me it looks like God’s shalom world in which all of us are once more restored to our full potential. It is a world in which we are once more in perfect relationship with God, with each other and with God’s good creation. It is a world in which justice has come for the poor, the hungry are fed and the oppressed are set free.
The wonderful thing as Ron Martoia suggests is that we all have the opportunity to enter into that world now. Every time we reach out in love and compassion, every time we heal the sick and feed the hungry, we bring a glimpse of God’s shalom world into being and we enter into the hope of that longed for future time in which Christ returns and all that God has created is indeed made whole.
We are not called to be isolated individuals who are concerned only for our won fulfillment. We are called to be part of God’s great family, caring for each other and for God’s creation and living into that world of health and wholeness that God promises.
You can probably tell from my reflections over the last few weeks that I am spending a lot of time meditating on the many faces of Jesus in different cultures, in different ages and in this post in different situations.
I have always been fascinated by how Christians perceive Jesus. It is interesting to me that early Christians (and the Celtic Christians we so much admire) saw Jesus more as a companion and a brother. It was only after the emperor Constantine became a Christian that the view of Christ shifted to more of an emperor figure. No surprisingly as Christendom took hold and wars became justified as holy wars we also started to see images of Christ as a warrior king.
The more I reflect on who Christ is the more uncomfortable I am with these images of Christ. In the gospels he is more likely to touch lepers and talk to tax collectors than he is to embrace the rich and the powerful. He is more likely to be seen in the face of a repentant beggar than in the face of a self righteous Pharisee. I would be interested to know what type of people and what situations most represent Jesus for you
Here is a poem I wrote a couple of years ago that reflects on some of my thoughts about who Jesus is.
Our God with a Human Face
In Christ Jesus God’s love is revealed
Our God with a human face divinity concealed
Even the simplest act God’s spirit divine
Ennobled and sanctified like water into wine
Born in stable, raised as a refugee
Compassion and caring in his actions we see
Friend of the outcast the broken the poor
In the faces of others god’s image he saw
The face of the father providing a home
The prodigal son who has chosen to roam
The love of a mother embracing her child
To these faces of God we are all reconciled
But a beggar who is hungry and needs to be fed
A refugee running from a war she has fled
All who are tortured, in suffering and pain,
The image of God in their faces remain.
Sharing the burdens of those who are poor
God’s image in others we seek to restore
Planting our mustard seeds, watching them grow
A kingdom that’s coming glimpsed now as we sow
Preaching the good news, proclaiming God’s peace
Healing the broken, bringing captives release
Enabling each person as God wants them to be
The image of God in their faces we see.
This last week I was given 2 new books. The first Manga Messiah, was a comic book version of the gospel story that is based on the manga style that comes out of Japan and has spread around the world. Evidently this is the only form of print that is presently increasing in sales. it may not be the form of the gospels that most appeals to me but obviously it has huge potential for reaching out to young people around the world that are into this form of reading. For more information check out the website Next
The following day I was given a copy of Ancient Christian Devotional, a Year of Weekly Readings, by Cindy Crosby & Thomas Oden. This fascinating devotional draws on the wisdom of early Christian saints and leaders. It provides rich material for prayer and meditation. Much more my cup of tea than the Manga Messiah.
One thing that intrigues me is that both this reach back to ancient wisdom and the reaching forward into new forms for expressing the gospel message are equally compelling and important in our day and age. I meet a growing number of Christians of all ages who are looking back to ancient writings for inspiration yet at the same time want to be able to express their faith in a way that is appropriate for their own culture and context. In the process they are discovering rich new ways to worship God and to grow in their faith.
I have mentioned before that I have learned a lot from Christians from other cultures. That learning is not restricted to cultures in other countries or to our present day. My faith is continually enriched by my interaction with subcultures within my own cultural context – everything from Skateboard culture to Hip Hop Church. And at the same time I am enriched by the ancient writings of Christians who lived almost two thousand years ago. What an awesome God who can find new ways to be revealed and expressed – and I suspect that we have only scratched the surface of who God is.