Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Brand Gap or How Do You Brand a Church?

So, I found this presentation that discusses branding. I found a lot of parallels to the task of church planting. You might check it out if that kind of thing interests you.

Monday, March 26, 2007

Hook me up!

So I entered this contest at this website. If you go there or here and register and vote for me I could win an iPod. Please.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

fundies are terrorists

So here's my thought process:



Terrorists blow crap up and take hostages and stuff, right? What is the effect? Tighter security and more regulations and less stuff that regular people are allowed to do. You can't wear your aquarium-platform shoes on a plane any more.



Terrorists ruin it for the rest of us. That is the effect of terrorism, all of the rest of us have to suffer because some people couldn't play nice.

Then, I'm surfing around my interwebs and I find this post about GodTube, which is supposed to be YouTube for Christians or something like that. Anyway, one of the videos talks about how a banana is supposed to prove that God exists, because it's easy to eat and hold. How are people supposed to take Christians seriously when that is what they see?

Or what about the people that claim we are losing the war in Iraq because of homosexuals?

Or what about the people that promise God will give them a boat and a car if they pray over a paper hankie?

What are they accomplishing? They just get everyone else to think that all Christians are nut cases that should be mocked and feared, but never taken seriously. They're ruining it for the rest of us.

Therefore, fundies = terrorists

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

I am so freaking productive

According to this article, messy people tend to be more productive than neat people. Apparently, a little bit if disorder is good for productivity - not wasting time neatening things that don't need it, not wasting time dealing with stuff that doesn't need to be dealt with now.

Sunday, March 18, 2007

A Community Exercise pt. 2

Update: So I preached the sermon this morning. You can listen to it here or you can watch the video here. If you get a chance, let me know what you think. You can see the video that I played at the beginning here (it's pretty funny).

Saturday, March 17, 2007

Reflections on the "church"

So it's paper time again - and I want to share with you some of the tidbits that I'm learning in my "ivory tower".

So for this go I decided to look at the Hebrew antecedents to the Christian church. In the New Testament the Greek word translated as "church" is ekklesia. This was just a Greek term that meant "assembly" until the Jews/Christians got their hands on it. About 300 years before Jesus the Jews translated the Hebrew Scriptures into Greek (called the Septuagint) and the word ekklesia shows up in there about 100 times.

Most of the time ekklesia translates the Hebrew word qahal which also usually means assembly. Ekklesia never translates the synonym of qahal, 'edah - for that they use the Greek word synagogue - a gathering.

The earlier Hebrew Scriptures tend to use the word 'edah to refer to the covenant people of God, where the books written after the exile tend to use the term qahal to refer to the covenant people. Most people think that it is durring the exile that the Jews developed the Synagogue as a meeting place (since the temple was destroyed). So, after the exile 'edah/synagoge actually referred to a building.

When the Christians needed a term for their meetings they wanted to choose a Scriptural word (the Septuagint was their bible), but they didn't want to have buildings (Synagogues) but rather communities of God's people. Therefore, they chose the word ekklesia.

Fast forward to the future and another word comes into the picture - kurios-oikos (Lord's-house from the Greek) begins to metamorph into Latin and from there into the Romance languages and is the root of our word 'church'. But at that time the New Testament was in Latin and Greek - when the Reformers started to translate the bible into the common languages they sought a term to translate ekklesia and they chose (after much debate) the word 'church', even though that meant a building, not a community of God's people.

So, we are facing the same problem now that the first century Christians faced - we don't want to be identified by a building or a place, but by the God who has called us into community and has made us a people.

Spiritual Pathways

If you're curious about your own ways of connecting to God you might check out this little assessment (it's a pdf file). It's not the best tool (sometimes the questions seem a little too obvious), but it's interesting to see the ways that I connect to God and the ways that I don't really connect to God.

I'm:
Creational/Intellectual - 15
Activist/Contemplative - 12
Serving 7
Relational 6
Worship 5

That explains to me why I feel dry when I don't spend any time outside and alone. I remember times when everyone would be standing around and singing in a group and I just wanted to go outside and be away from them all. People, with every good intention, would try to bring me back to the group.

This is important to me, because it tells me that people connect to God in all sorts of different ways. As a church planter I need to empower everyone to connect with God - even if it's not the ways that I want to. Most traditional churches focus in on Worship and Intellectual and leave the other types of connection out.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Challah


I learned how to make Challah (חלה) which is Jewish Sabbath bread. This is the bread that they would bake on Friday to eat on the Sabbath. "The term challah actually refers to a small piece of dough—about the size of an egg—which is separated from the main quantity of dough" and intended to be offered to the priests. Since the destruction of the temple in Jerusalem this piece has been burned.

Our LIFE group shared this bread on Sunday night. We passed around the loaves and broke off chunks (as the Jewish Christians would have done on the Sabbath). We also shared watered down wine, similar to what they probably had two millenia ago. When it says that they blessed the bread it probably means the traditional blessing: "Baruch atah Adonai, Eloheinu Melech ha'olam, hamotzi lechem min ha'aretz." Translated, this means, "Blessed are you, Lord our God, King of the universe, who brings forth bread from the earth".

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Because I like you


Beware-the-Ides-of-March, Shmeware-shme-Shmides-shmof-Shmmarch!


Two days hence (March 15th) Starbucks will be bringing you a free cup of coffee (you can thank me later). Between 10am and 12pm local time - go get you some!

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

What's the point?

I heard a story on NPR the other day about James Dobson and the book about him: The Jesus Machine. The author points out that Dobson doesn't want evangelicals to get involved in working against global warming or AIDS in Africa or other issues so that they can focus on the important moral imperative of ending abortion and defining marriage as between one man and one woman. Now I don't want to attack Dobson over this position, but I wonder if those two issues are really the most important for Christians.

Before abortion was legal women got abortions, even if it is outlawed women will still get abortions. This issue isn't the law, but the lives and choices of women. Shouldn't Christians be "pro-life" by helping women to have whole, healthy lives that minimize the "need" for abortions?

Homosexual marriage has been legal in the past, and even if it is legal in the future it won't change God's definition of marriage. God isn't subject to the laws of nations and marriage won't cease to be if homosexuals can sign a government contract that recognizes them as being married. What I have with my wife has very little to do with the government (they give us a tax break is about all) and almost everything to do with the work of God in our lives. Shouldn't Christians be "pro-marriage" by having marriages that are centered on God and full of mutual submission-type love?

A Community Exercise

So this dude named Doug wrote a book about preaching that caught my eye. In it he says that preaching has been the authoritative act steeped in individualism and modernity which he calls "speaching". He wants to "re-imagine" preaching as something that is rooted in the life of the community and is conversational at its heart.

So what he does is to work through his sermon text and come up with some discussion questions. Then he has a discussion with a small group. Out of that discussion he crafts his sermon. And even though he is the only one speaking in the sermon time, it is the fruit of a conversation in community.

I like the idea, and I'm wanting to put it into practice. I'm preaching in just under two weeks and I would like for you to help me. Will you have a conversation with me through comments to help me create a sermon that flows out of conversation and community?

If so, read on.

Text: Luke 21:1-4 (TNIV)



The Widow's Offering

1 As Jesus looked up, he saw the rich
putting their gifts into the
temple treasury. 2 He also saw a poor widow put
in two very small copper coins.
3 "Truly I tell you," he said, "this poor
widow has put in more than all the
others. 4 All these people gave their
gifts out of their wealth; but she out of
her poverty put in all she had to
live on."
To me, this is a very difficult text. I'm preaching as a part of a sermon series through the book of Luke that is leading up to Easter Sunday. The main emphasis of this series has been that kingdom people will give to the poor. On Easter we will take up a collection for the poor. So this text was chosen for me as a part of this series.

Context:

Jesus has entered Jerusalem as a king and is now in the temple courts. The Law-teachers approach him in order to trap him in some theological or political point so that they can carry out their plans to arrest him. They ask him about his authority and he responds with a question about the authority of John. Score one for Jesus. Jesus then tells a parable about wicked tenants that the Law-teachers knew was directed against them. Score two for Jesus. Now the Law-teachers are really steaming.

They try the political tact and ask Jesus about paying taxes to Rome. Jesus game of show-and-tell foils that scheme. Hat trick. Now the Sadducees ask Jesus an old question about marriage in the Resurrection. This is one of their favorite baits into one of their favorite arguments. They know all the possible responses and all the ways to win. Well, almost all the responses. Jesus points out that the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob is not a God of dead men. Oops. Four for four.

Now Jesus pushes back again - this time he turns to Scripture and asks them about interpreting the Psalms. If the Messiah is supposed to be David's son, then how does David prophecy about the Messiah and call him his Lord? How can the Messiah be both son and Lord to David?

Not even a peep out of the smarty-pants.

Then Jesus really puts the pressure on by telling his disciples to watch out for the Law-teachers. They dress in the finest of clothes and go to the best banquets, but they "devour widows houses" and they will be punished for it.

Then we get the four verses about the widow's gift and then Jesus' disciples ask him about the temple and he spends the next chapter talking about how the temple will be destroyed. So where does the widow's story fit in all this? It's not a question by Jesus or the Law-teachers. It doesn't seem to connect to the following teaching about the temple. The one verbal queue that we have is Jesus calling the Law-teacher people who "devour widows houses".

How is this widow an example to us?

She stands in contrast to the Law-teachers as an example of right action and right priorities.

She is an example of sacrifice - just as she gives all that she has to live on, so will the Christ give all he has, so should Christ-followers.

The funny thing is that Jesus never uses her as an example of giving. He's not shy about telling people to give (all through Luke he's telling people to give and to sell their possession and give to the poor). But Jesus instead focuses on her sacrifice. We never find out what happens to her. Though elsewhere Jesus says that if we seek God's kingdom first then he will provide for our needs, here we see a widow giving all her money away - we don't know if God provided for her (though we hope and trust that he did).

Why is this story here?

Jesus has been firing back at those trying to trap him. With his question about Psalms he gets them to be silent, but now he tells them that they will be punished for their excess. The exclamation point is the widow who out gives them all. They can say nothing else against Jesus in the face of such an act.

Or perhaps Jesus is tired of this endless debate about the minutiae of the Law and he want to re-focus the discussion. Here sit a bunch of rich people arguing their intellectual positions while there is an anonymous woman who is on the brink of starvation. How can they think anything else is as important as a widow who needs food? How can they think the temple is so important when a woman is about to die? She is about as low as one can be on the social ladder and still enter the temple, but she is the one that Jesus notices when he look up.

What does this look like today?

How much money goes to fighting political battles over prayer in the schools or evolution vs. intelligent design? How many people die for want of that money?

How many books are published about the wrong position of other religious groups? How many books are published about working to help the outcast?

I am so guilty.

How would you visualize this?

What pictures, videos, songs would capture this message?