Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Reformation Day 500

As Christians committed to recovering the integrity of our witness to Jesus Christ, today offers us a perfect opportunity to do so. We might excuse a lukewarm Olympian indulgence in the observance of Halloween. Far better, however, would be to celebrate the 500th anniversary of the surprising start of a profound reformation of the Roman Catholic Church sparked by Father Martin Luther on October 31, 1517. We might celebrate this well by reading the original Ninety-Five Theses that caused all the excitement to begin with. We might do this even better by discussing this document with our companions in our prophetic mission group.
To better understand The Ninety-Five Theses as spark, some background might prove helpful.
Martin Luther was born on November 10, 1483, in Eisleben, Saxony. He was baptized the next day on the Feast of St. Martin of Tours.

The Ninety-Five Theses of Martin Luther (1517)

One way we may recover the integrity of our witness to Jesus Christ is by making a habit of reading the major documents of Church history beginning with the Bible. One such document is The Ninety-Five Theses of Martin Luther. To aid in this effort, I offer the English translation below (copyright © 1997 by KDG Wittenberg). Luther publicly posted the original theses in Latin on October 31, 1517.

Friday, October 20, 2017

Getting Much Closer to One Another (Love)

As Christians, we are called each day by Jesus to join him on the narrow and difficult path of freedom. It is on that path alone that he calls us each day to share his truth, love, and vitality with all others without condition just as he shares them with us.
Speaking of love, at his last supper with his disciples before his crucifixion, Jesus said to them, A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13:34-35, New King James Version, here and following).
     As I have loved you: now that’s a hard and scary thought. We do well always to remember this love which Jesus has for us. The apostle Paul described the love which we are to have for one another in this way (Romans 5:6-9):

Getting Much Closer to One Another (Proximity)

We’re leaving the Global Technological System (GTS). It is humankind’s greatest monument to those six conventional yet false and destructive gods of Olympianity—especially to Vulcan, god of technology. As it turns out, technology most definitely isn’t—and has never been—neutral. That was one of many falsehoods of the gods we failed to discern in our adoration of them.
We’re leaving it primarily to devote ourselves, instead, to Yahweh, the one odd god of truth, freedom, love, and vitality. Because Yahweh created the heavens and the earth as the perfect context for a covenantal relationship of freedom and love with his human creatures, we want to witness to that freedom and love by developing ways of living that affirm the vitality of creation.
To develop ways of living that nurture and protect all species and their habitats, we need to relearn together how to live without two fundamental innovations of the GTS: motor vehicles and electricity. In a previous essay, “Getting Much Closer to the Land,” we reflected on the need to remove the GTS as our mediator with the land and reestablish direct contact. To do that, however, we will also need to get much closer to one another.

Sunday, October 15, 2017

Getting Much Closer to the Land

Today Jesus Christ is calling us Christians to witness more clearly to him by developing a way of living which respects the integrity of God’s good creation. We respect that integrity (as opposed to violating it) when we live within (as opposed to trespass) the vital limits of creation.
I introduced and biblically grounded this invitation in a series of essays in 2014: Creation as Perfect Context through Limits (Genesis 1)” (September 30), Respecting Vital Limits: Other Species and Their Habitats” (October 1), First Step away from Electricity: Abandoning the Gods for Jesus” (October 2), Vital Limit: Carrying Capacity” (October 4), and “Vital Limit: Solar Income” (October 6).

Thursday, October 12, 2017

Prophetic Mission Groups: Banked Embers

When wood and kindling are first placed in a woodstove and lit, they burst into wide playful flames. Later, after the kindling has burned away, the heavier wood burns brightly and releases great heat. Finally, as the fire burns out, only random embers remain. To keep them burning until morning, these scattered embers need to be banked. They need to be raked together, some new wood needs to be added, then the whole pile needs to be covered with ash until no ember is seen. In the morning, once the ash is removed and new logs are added, wide playful flames begin anew.

This process of bursting into flame and dying down is an apt analogy for the Church today in the US, Canada, and Europe (perhaps elsewhere as well). Beginning with Pentecost, the Holy Spirit burned wide and playful in the hearts of an increasing number of people beginning in Jerusalem (Acts 2). Through the centuries, the Church burned brightly and released the great warmth of Christ’s love in the world. Now, after two centuries of being drained of meaning by the exponential yet parasitic growth of the Global Technological System (GTS), all that remains are scattered embers.

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Forgiveness: Freedom from Resentment in Christ

One sign of the absence of Jesus Christ in our churches today is our desperate inability to practice forgiveness.
When once talking with Jesus about this challenge, Peter felt he was going far beyond any reasonable limit by suggesting to Jesus that maybe forgiving someone seven times was more than enough. In his always surprising and often irritating way, Jesus told him no, there was in truth no limit to the number of times we were to forgive another person (Matthew 18:21-22). So, when Jesus speaks to us again as congregations, or at least to us in our prophetic mission groups, we will clearly practice persistent forgiveness.

Just How Irritating Is Jesus?

You’d be unlikely to discover that, however, if you went to church on Sunday. Our Sunday worship services are too tame, bland, fluffy. They have all the nutritional value of marshmallows.
TV has had an injurious influence here. Now, those of us in the pews understand ourselves as spectators. As sophisticated media consumers, however, we demand a liturgy that is smooth and upbeat, with a well-rehearsed choir (or praise band), a dramatic reading of a short passage from the Bible, and an entertaining pastor. His time with the children up front should be one of short stories, visual aids, and little giggles. If she is more serious during her sermon, her words should nonetheless remain rather abstract so that none of us will find them too personal and possibly discomforting. She must never speak concretely enough to challenge our self-centered adoration of the Olympian gods. That would be meddling. Instead, her sermon should be the moving retelling of a story either about herself or some non-threatening, pre-approved other. We want to leave church on Sunday with a satisfactory sense of having experienced something pleasant. Whew!

Sunday, October 8, 2017

The Fruitfulness of Yahweh's Vineyard

This is a short meditation on the liturgical readings for today, the Eighteenth Sunday after Pentecost (Year A), according to the Revised Common Lectionary. The readings are Isaiah 5:1-7, Psalm 80:7-15, Philippians 3:4b-14, and Matthew 21:33-46). Read these first. The words of the biblical witnesses are far more important than my words which follow.
In Isaiah, we learn that Yahweh’s people in Jerusalem and Judah have been planted there by Yahweh where he has nurtured and protected them with his truth, freedom, love, and vitality. He expected this same fruit from them. He did not get it. Instead, his people devoted themselves to the six conventional gods of Olympianity and produced the fatal works of falsehood, power, indifference, and death. So what will Yahweh do? If his people really want to be the people of those other—destructive—gods, he will grant them their wish. He will withdraw his nurture and protection from them. Then his people will experience first-hand what liars those other gods truly are and what destructive consequences come from worshiping them. Can that really be what his very own people want?