Wednesday, September 27, 2006

christian unity? (or, what if they do it without us!)

Our scripture for Sunday is from Mark 9:38-50. It starts with the disciples sounding (I think) a lot like kids who want to have exclusive control of Jesus' brand of coolness.

"Teacher, we saw someone casting out demons in your name, and we tried to stop him, because he was not following us..." they say.

I feel a bit that way sometimes. I think my way to God is pretty good, and that others should follow it.

Or, on worse days, I think that I've worked hard to get to this place, and other people should have to go through the same stuff. They should FOLLOW me. (I had a college instructor like that once--it felt like she had suffered to get her PhD, and thought that we should suffer, too...)

Jesus is more expansive. He says that if folks aren't actively against us, they're as good as for us.

On our team. (And they may not have to follow US to get to God!)

It's been a while since I felt like I was really "on the same team" as all other Christians.

I wonder what that would look like today?

Monday, September 18, 2006


Other than being the street on which Mr. Burns lives in the Simpsons, I've been intrigued today in exploring what "mammon" means for us.

As in "serving God or serving Mammon."

This Sunday is "open minds" Sunday, which I take to mean I can follow all sorts of nerdy searches into finding out what this might mean.

Wikipedia had all sorts of interesting things to say.

I'm struggling with this distinction James makes--between "earthly" things and things that are "from above."

I think James reminds us of an important reality: this life of faithfulness requires constant, vigilant attention to the "reality" we're living in. Do we get caught up in seeing things the way that is MERELY earthly--that is, that ignores the divine presence in creation? Are we able to connect all that we see and know to our knowledge of God?

My problem is that it's far too easy to think that earth=bad and spiritual=good. I treasure the earth, and delight in many earthly things. (Just yesterday, the way the daisies I had so rudely transplated, and in so doing subjected them to searing heat, bounced back to life amazed and delighted me.)

I see God's presence in those daisies. And in many other places. I'm trying to see God's presence even in difficult/ugly places.

If earth=bad and spiritual=good, how does that all work?

One way we've avoided this dilemma is by personifying "earthiness" as "mammon." Sometimes become a devil-like character, mammon is a force of temptation to all sorts of greediness and worldliness.

(Turns out that underdog geeks used this image/word to describe Microsoft's empire... But that must have been before the Gateses got named Time Magazing People of the Year. With Bono.)

Unhappy with easy answers, I don't like this simplification, either.

It's not a case of choosing, once, between the two. I think we have to make this choice everyday.

The big question, I think, is:
Will I see the world only as a limited resource, to be owned or used for my personal gain? Or will I see the world as God's creation, to be enjoyed and shared?

The difficult questions are how I'm going to live differently to show that I've chosen the second answer.

I was talking the other day with a friend who had a profound encounter, in which she felt confirmed in her commitment to care about people who are poor and in need. She really wants to change her life and the world. But then, when she was shopping with another friend, she still wanted to buy all those fun things...


(And I'm still letting my mind spin as I imagine commentary can be made from the fact that MTV--producers of the "real" world--is now making an online virtual reality, "set" in Orange County.)

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

poverty and riches

This week, our text is from James, chapter 2.

It's a challenge to us--a reminder that we shouldn't welcome rich people and be less-than-welcoming to poor people.

This is work enough for the church.

Just this past week, I had a conversation with someone, who would not count herself as part of the church. And is reticent to join--mostly because it looks like church people are all perfect. (And, really, probably not that much fun to be with.)

Her description made me think of church membership as being like the "No Cavity Club" that my dentist had when I was a kid. If you could go the whole year, between check-ups, with no new cavities, he'd take your picture (with a Polaroid camera), and post it on the bulletin board. And you got a treat. (Not candy, of course...)

I think church often looks like the No Cavity Club--folks who have it together, who dress nicely, and who are probably rich.

In James, it's different.

And it also continues. "Is it not the rich who oppress you?"

More than just welcoming poor people, we are called to identify with them, and to seek out answers to poverty.

May it be so.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

house rules

This Sunday will be our "Open House" Sunday. It's the start of a fall series of Sundays, on our "Open Hearts, Open Minds, Open Doors" theme. It's a good time to come to church, and a good time to bring friends...


This past weekend, I was up in Julian again, working on my husband's family's house, which we're rebuilding post-Cedar Fire. It was hot. When Matt handed me an ice-cold glass of Gatorade, a proverb I learned in west Africa welled up in me. (I got used to saying it there, when people would offer cold water. It was hot a lot...) The translation of the Proverb is "Cold water knows the place of the heart."

Proverbs are fun, and a bit funny; knowing how to speak this proverb in Zarma won me quick affection from Nigeriens who were impressed. I love trying to learn at least one useful Proverb when I travel--it makes me look much smarter and aware than I am.

When you can speak in the proverbs of a culture, you know more than the surface of its language--you know something of it's values.

And, in both Niger and Julian, cold water (or Gatorade...) can be a true gift.

This Sunday, we'll share a piece of scripture from the book of Proverbs, chapter 22. Short, easy sayings, embedded with all kinds of insight into the values of their speakers.

Proverbs seems so familar that they lose their literal meaning. (After all, who knows what a "bird in the hand" is worth, and how in the world would you compare it with "two in the bush"? I have no idea what I'd do if I had a bird in my hand...)

I wonder what proverbs (biblical or otherwise) you know? Do you have a favorite? (Postings encouraged!!!!) What do you think these Proverbs say about us?