Thursday, July 26, 2007
OK - I haven't been able to get my hands on a copy of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows yet - my wife sleeps with the book firmly enclosed in her arms at night...not even a peek yet!
I just finished a great novel - The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova - a vampire novel focused upon History and the vocation of an Historian. It was a good read...not too bloody or anything (I'm thinking Lestat), but scary enough. There's a review and summary on wikipedia [HERE].
There's an audio review of the book on NPR [HERE].
I enjoyed the history (not that it's all 100% accurate)...but the book felt to me a bit like the Da Vinci Code throughout Eastern and Southern Europe, on the trail of Dracula as opposed to the Holy Grail. Great vacation reading.
Wednesday, July 25, 2007
This is a reprint of something that I created for our church community to encourage and empower folks to deepen their spirituality and mature their faith through a regular experience and discipline of reading scripture...not as an intellectual excerise, but as a spiritual experience and practice. Lectio Divina is an ancient form of meditation and scripture reading that is meant to empower us to turn "off" our head and to think and listen with our hearts and lives to what God is doing around us, in us and inviting us to let God do through us.
The Bible is the Word of God which is always alive and active, always new. Lectio Divina is a traditional way of praying the Scriptures so that the Word of God may penetrate our hearts and that we may grow in an intimate relationship with the Lord. "Lectio Divina", a Latin term, means "divine reading" and describes a way of reading the Scriptures whereby we gradually let go of our own agenda and open ourselves to what God wants to say to us. In the 12th century, a Carthusian monk called Guigo, described the stages which he saw as essential to the practice of Lectio Divina. These are:
lectio (reading) where we read the Word of God, slowly and reflectively so that it sinks into us. Any passage of Scripture can be used for this way of prayer but the passage should not be too long.
meditatio (reflection) where we think about the text we have chosen and ruminate upon it so that we take from it what God wants to give us.
oratio (response) where we leave our thinking aside and simply let our hearts speak to God. This response is inspired by our reflection on the Word of God.
contemplatio (rest) where we let go not only of our own ideas, plans and meditations but also of our holy words and thoughts. We simply rest in the Word of God. We listen at the deepest level of our being to God who speaks within us with a still small voice. As we listen, we are gradually transformed from within. Obviously this transformation will have a profound effect on the way we actually live and the way we live is the test of the authenticity of our prayer. We must take what we read in the Word of God into our daily lives.
The practice of Lectio Divina as a way of praying the Scriptures has been a fruitful source of growing in relationship with Christ for many centuries and in our own day is being rediscovered by many individuals and groups. The Word of God is alive and active and will transform each of us if we open ourselves to receive what God wants to give us.
God is still speaking…we often have a hard time listening and/or recognizing God’s Voice. For the past month we’ve been talking and reflecting upon hearing God’s voice in Scripture, relationships, events in our lives and our community life together. It can be difficult to discern God’s Will for and with us in the midst of the many voices that we hear in our daily life. Some of these competing voices/wills include: the media, our culture, our daily to-do-list, our family, our selfish desires, our well-meant intentions that are too stubborn to conform to God’s timing, our doubt in God, and even our self-doubt, disbelief that God would speak to me, ever need me, or choose to work through me.
I want to offer you a challenge of practicing Lectio Divina on a weekly basis this summer in view of deepening and/or discovering your own personal faith spirituality. Below is a list of scriptures from Luke for the summer months. They’re the scriptures that we’ll listen to each Sunday in Worship at Fruitvale Presbyterian Church. Take 15-30 minutes each week to reflect, pray and listen your way through these scriptures. You can try this spiritual practice using the following 3 lectio divina-based questions each time you pray through a scripture:
What word/phrase/image grabs your attention as you read the scriptures?
Where does this words touch your life – or our life as a church community – today?
How is the Spirit of God inviting you to change, or act through this scripture?
Three gospels in the New Testament offer similar portraits of the life of Jesus; Luke is the third of them. Its author, traditionally Luke the physician who accompanied Paul on some of his missionary journeys, draws on three sources: Mark (via Matthew), a collection of sayings (known as Q for Quelle, German for source) and his own source. It is a gospel that emphasizes God's love for the poor, the disadvantaged, minorities, outcasts, sinners and lepers. Women play a more prominent part than in the other gospels. Luke never uses Semitic words; this is one argument for thinking that he wrote primarily for Gentiles.
Throughout June, July & August we’re reading sections from Luke that scholars repeatedly call a “mini-school of discipleship.” They contain many parables, stories, and teachings meant to invite us to deeper, maturing faith.
The Gospel according to Luke in
July 8 Luke 10:1-11, 16-20
If you have questions, comments or want to talk over your discoveries email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or leave messages on the blog itself to encourage and empower others in their faith journeys...
Tuesday, July 24, 2007
National Night Out is one of the greatest things for our city of Oakland, as well as any city. It's a chance to not just meet your neighbors, but to spend time with them, to build relationships and connections for good and to deter bad. There are numerous block parties already planned, but you can also plan your own.
Here's some helpful information - including links - that I found on Councilwoman Jean Quan's Website.
Register for National Night Out Now; the nation's night out against crime is Tuesday, August 7, 7-9 pm. Research shows that when neighbors know each other and look out for each other crime goes down. Last year District 4 had over 60 parties, join with their neighbors to have a neighborhood block party, ice cream social or other outdoor event to build neighborhood spirit and unity - the first defense against crime. My staff and I, police, and other city staff will visit each party. Register your party online, or contact Brenda Ivey with the Oakland Police Department at 238-3091. The deadline to register is 5:00 pm on Friday, July 27th. Only registered groups will be eligible for a visit! Block Party Guide
Monday, July 23, 2007
July 22, 2007
At church yesterday we celebrated Homecoming Sunday, a worship idea from the Presbyterian Church of East Africa (in particular Kenya). The passages from the Lectionary and meant to compliment the gospel selection (my choice) were Psalm 1 and Luke 10:38-42.
I was and am struck by the word of God in these passages.
Psalm 1 talks about faith growth. It's the opening Psalm to the entire collection of Psalms, a sort of introduction to a larger group, the first thought in a theological relfection on the relationship between God and us - the human community. It's about faith education and spiritual formation - but through a different world view. The poet proclaims that we learn faith not in a school room, nor in a lecture hall. We learn about faith - about the desires of God's heart - the divine project or pasison for creation - through study of God's Law the Torah and through relationships with God and God's people. The Gospel selection in Luke 10 echoes and affirms the same thing. We often think that Jesus is shaming Martha for spending time cleaning the house and offering hospitality. He's not. Jesus is saying that relationship - time in community - with him is the essential aspect and foundational experience of Christian faith. Jesus isn't criticizing hospitality, showing love, social action, or doing works of justice and compassion, rather Jesus is saying first and foremost be in relationship with me and then let everything else flow from that.
In the midst of a culture and world view that portrays education and growth as based upon content, presenting and acquiring the correct information these ancient scriptures offer a totally different worldview and pedigagocial approach. Faith growth is like the growth of a tree - the tree in Psalm 1 planted near a stream. It continually is fed and strengthened by its relationship with the source - water, earth...the gifts of God meant for the gift of life.
In church I've often heard that you have to read the Bible, have a daily quiet time, and pray in order to grow as a Christian. I think it's true - but it's often been packaged and proclaimed to me in an all-too-easy package. We also need each other. I think about the times, places and things that I've learned about God - Sunday School, Worship, Sermons, Personal Reflection, Mission Experiences....what sticks with me is the example, mentoring and words of other people..the way in which they incarnated faith in God through Christ for me, to me and with me. That's what Jesus is calling us to - first and foremost to testify to our faith by being in relationships with God through Christ, to demonstrate that (to make our walk mirror our talk) in what we do, say, decide, how we spend our money, how we articulate our feelings, and in our relationships. Who has modeled faith for you? What do you remember? I'd bet that it's most likely similar to my expriences, memories and reflection...much more about relationship than content, yet relationships that mirror, integrate and reflect the content-matter of deep faith. How are we doing that as individuals and as a faith community?
Friday, July 20, 2007
You can see several maps and info about the quake here.
Thanks to a neighbor friend on Rhoda for the tip.
I received this helpful info from a friend in Ignacio de la Fuente's District. Good informaton and follow-through actions in case your trash hasn't yet been picked up.
Keep your unemptied garbage on the curb, all 3 cans.
If Waste Management fails to provide collection by the end of your regular service day, report the service failure to WMAC Customer Service at 510-613-8710.
ALSO, report the failure to pick up to the City at our Recycling Hotline 510-238-SAVE (7283) or email@example.com We will use this information for documentation in our legal actions.
AND, call Alameda County Environmental Health Department at 567-6700 where there is a health hazard. The County needs calls from residents so that they can declare lack of trash pick up an official health hazard.
When you see a particularly bad build-up of garbage, please also contact the firstname.lastname@example.org and copy us. We are especially concerned about apartment buildings and restaurant/commercial areas and any other situation where health and safety will be affected.
Please call the the PWA Call Center at 615-5566 if you notice any illegal dumping on the streets.
Find updates on our Oakland Recycles webpage.
Thursday, July 19, 2007
An editorial , Fruitvale Presbyterian Church
When I stand before God at the end of my life,
I would hope that I would have not a single bit of talent left and could say
"I used everything you gave me"
- Erma Bombeck
I received the above quote in an email from a church community member this past week. It’s good food for thought! We live in a culture and time in which we’re often told we have to be perfect in order to do something. We’re told by the stores that want to sell us things: that other people do a better job – so just buy what they made, or pay them to do it for us. We’re told that things are tough; there isn’t enough time; you don’t have the necessary skills; so don’t bother. Maybe that’s why so many people love the Harry Potter books so much. It tells the story of a young boy, becoming a young man, who seems to be no good at anything, not wanted by anyone, of no importance, who turns out to be important – not for what he can do as much as for how he brings people together in relationship and community. We all are gifted like Harry Potter. We all are given unique talents, diverse gifts that are intended not just for our benefit but primarily – and foundationally – for the good of our community – church, neighborhood and even the whole world. The Apostle Paul says that in his first letter to the church of ancient Corinth (Greece) 12:7-12:
“4Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit;
5and there are varieties of services, but the same Lord;
6and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God
7To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good.”
- 1 Corinthians 12:7-12
Our church is facing challenges (but aren’t we always doing so?). No one person has the answer, but Paul’s words – and the story of Harry Potter among other things – remind us of the mysterious faith that we confess together each Sunday in worship. We are all loved by God. We are all created in God’s image. We are all redeemed, healed and transformed by the radical love of God we know and experience in Jesus the Christ. We are all gifted by the living Spirit of God with unique talents, gifts and visions meant to build up the community through the putting-into-practice of the gospel, in other words for the “common good.” Some of us are gifted at music, others teaching, others understanding Scripture, others making great coffee, others in leadership, others in prayer. Our world often tells us that we aren’t unique, that we aren’t gifted, that we need more than we are needed. Yet our faith in Jesus the Christ reminds us, invites us to believe that we are not just loved by God, but needed by God to accomplish God’s vision and mission for the world! We don’t always know what that looks like. We don’t always understand or know how to do it. Yet if we believe that God calls us today just as God first called Abraham, Sarah, Moses and Myriam, Ruth, Nehemiah, Peter, John and Paul…then we need to be looking, working, seeking, praying, yearning to discover our gifts, to name them, and to use them for the common good. This month’s edition of the Voice details many ways that you can do just that in the life of our community whether that be the Commissioned Lay Pastor Program, hosting Coffee Hour, helping with COPE, special music, standing for Peace, or praying. God is calling us today, here and now. How will you respond with the gifts that you’ve already been given?
Many homes and businesses still haven't had their trash collected and removed. I took pictures of neighbor's trash still lining the sidewalks near the church where I work around MacArthur Blvd., Coolidge Ave. and Rhoda.
Many folks in and around the Dimond and Laurel districts still have not had their trash emptied in over 17 days.
The Oakland Tribune reports that a judge ordered Waste Management to pick up the trash...yet folks are still waiting. Read the article "Judge to Waste Management: Pick Up the Trash" here.
SF Gate reports that the Union and WM met today, and will continue tomorrow. While - like many of us have experienced - WM claims to have restored service to normal, yet the trash continues to pile up and "Residents Fume over Stinky Garbage"
Some folks have reported that their "grey" cans have been picked up (recycling). Others have claimed that trash has been picked up on a regular schedule - as if nothing was happening - in Montclair and other "hills" neighborhoods. Jennifer Crawford, a policy analyst for Councilwoman Jean Quan emailed earlier that this is incorrect. The recyciling or 'grey' cans are picked up in some neighborhoods by another company than WM. Which explains why they've been collected, while supposedly all the trash - wether in the hills or flatlands - continues to pile up unless the trash fairies are protecting you like those on the block where I live. Our block was serviced last week - while no one on the nearby streets and blocks were.
Kron4 News reported tonight of some neighbors in the Laurel (Octavia) who took matters into their own hands, forcing the WM temporary workers to collect their trash which had gone uncollected since late June. Watch and hear the story online here.
Wednesday, July 18, 2007
San Francisco made the USA section of the Economist this week. Good article on the economic recovery that has been manifesting itself in the past years, as well as refletion on the major demographic transformation happening - wether we see it or not.
Read it at www.Economist.com or go straight to the article here.
OK - I'm a junkie. The next - and final - Harry Potter novel comes out this coming Saturday - the 21st at 12:00am. I'm rereading the last books preparing - ok I'm a geek. At least I own up to it. But I love it. 4 days and counting. I'm checking the following site each day for fun and creative posts.
It seems that Talk of the Nation on NPR is doing something on Harry Potter every day this week too. Check out their offerings here.
The Oakland Tribune also has an article entitled "Pigging Out at Hogwarts," which is helpful is you're planning on reading all night once you get your copy at midnight and will eventually need to refuel to finish the book before dawn.
Tuesday, July 17, 2007
We've been talking and dialoguing about Communication a lot this past week. I've been participating with a friend Bruce Reyes-Chow in doing a monthly podcast talking about Christian Faith and Community from a more progressive point of view as well as urban life. We taped our most recent edition this past Sunday night in San Francisco, talking about American Christianity and the Myth of Being able to Raise a Perfect Child.
If you want to listen, or to sign-up for the podcast you can do so through Bruce's blogsite here...plus there's more info about the others in the recording and past/future editions.
Thanks to Bruce for sharing his gifts and resources in making this happen.
Let me know what you think by leaving a post on the monteskewed blog.
Preaching at a wedding this past weekend I referenced a book review that I recently read on SFGate. The article is called "Here Comes the Bill" talking about the recently purblished book "One Perfect Day: The Selling of the American Wedding" by Rebecca Mead.
The ideas of the book made for a great introduction in the sermon...reflections on the modern American Wedding and the myths that we have been fed by corporate America over the past 100 years in regards to what constitutes and what doesn't make a traditional wedding.
Every Saturday in July there are an average of 11,00o weddings in America, which cost an average of $27,852 (which equals 8 months of the median salary in our country).
The author of the book, Mead, has an interesting theory about modern American weddings:
"Overblown weddings result from a couple's feeling of emptiness; there's a void at the center of the ceremony that needs to be filled. With the decline in relgious authority, she argues, a wedding no longer has the meaning it once did. With more people delaying marriage until they're older, it no longer marks the transition from childhood to adulthood as it once did. Many people live on their own before getting married, have had sex before marriage and may even have children togther - or from other relationships. The wedding itself, then, becomes the 'traumatic experience' to overcome. The survivial of self-imposed financial hardships and unrealistic expectations becomes the rite of passage. And thanks to our willingness to accede to a consumer-oriented society with its "I buy therefore I am" mantra, wedding planners, gown sellers and travel agents offer therapy. We purchase - things or experiences - to make ourvselves feel emotionally whole."
Shocking words...is it a sign of the decline of our civilzation - like I wrote of yesterday about the decline of reading among youth? Is it a call for a Re-Christianization of America? Is it a call to overthrow the shackling cultural propoganda diffused subversively by corporate America into our values, ethics, and worldviews?
As I reflect on the article, the wedding this past weekend (in which the scripture was Luke12:22-34 - Jesus saying, "Do not worry about what you'll eat, wear or where you'll live. Consider the flowers of the fields, the birds of the air. If God cares for them, won't God care for you who are created in God's image?" I suspect many couples spend so much time worrying about the small details, that they miss out on the whole meaning-making experience of being wed publicly with family, friends and one's community present as witnesses. The writers of the New Testament often write about the Christian Church as the Bride of Christ, articulating the mystery that somehow through Christ and his resurrection, we as part of the community of believers are united - or married - to God in a mystical and real union. I can't help wondering if in our rush to copy what we see in Martha Stewart Weddings or on E! we've settled for becoming Bridezilla instead of dreaming of being the Bride of Christ?
My worldview and belief system form my perspective that God's presence, purpose and passion are at the root, foundation, and the force that brings us together in all relationships - married or not. What does it mean if we're empty at the core? If the major meaning-making events/experiences in life (not just weddings, but births, death, major life transitions) are simply becoming opportune times for us to purchase this or that item in order to satisfy what we can't fill within oursevles and our lives?
Monday, July 16, 2007
I enjoyed a great article on SFGate this morning: "Kids reading fewer books despite Harry Potter hoopla" Read the entire article here.
Here's some of the excerpts I found poignant:
"We seem to be doing better than ever at teaching younger kids to read, but when kids enter adolescence, their reading - and reading ability - falls off. The power of the electronic, commercial entertainment media seems to be taking teenagers away from reading."
"While some experts worry that a drop-off in reading is an early warning sign of a culture in collapse, others interpret the results as part of a general shift toward electronic-based commnications, which will simply require new ways of measuring potential. 'You have to be careful when you say kids are reading less,' says Michael Kamil, a professor of education at Staford University. 'It doesn't mean they are incapable of reading. It means they choose to do other things instead.'"
It made me think:
1. Have the new medias and new techonologies available to us transformed the way we communicate in such a way, or to such an extent, that we can't go back? Is it all for good? Or is it a mixed bag? Maybe we are reading more - yet differently. Is it about quanity or quality? How do we quantify literacy in an image-based culture in which we spoon fed 30 second bits of information so that we don't change the channel, turn the page, or lose our attention?
2. What does it mean that children (those most immersed in our new communicative culture) read less and less? Is that a sign of the decay, decline and iminent destruction of our culture/society? Or is it an indicator/consequence of a radical worldview shift? Are we shifting back to some dark ages cultural world in which the priveleged (maybe in the future based on intelligence and reading capability) will rule the world in a big-brother-Brave-New-World sort of way?
3. What does this mean for the way we relate and communicate with each other? I've blogged a lot this past week about communication....are we struggling to communicate (an inalienable part of the human condition I believe) in new and particular ways because of the media shift that's emerging and already partially happened? Are we still fully human if we communicate principally and primarily via technology-enhanced means? It's like email converstaion...it's great! Helpful. Efficient. Fast. But I don't believe it can replace face to face conversations, dialogues and communication. I think it enhances it...but only in a complimentary not a sustitutionary way. Does it make us more passive and reactionary than active and participatory?
4. Specifically what does this shift mean for the way tha we relate and communicate with each other in the context of Christian community, in particular a local church? Here's an example: My daughter received her wildest-dream-come-true present for her birthday recently - Bella Dancerella. If you have no idea what Bella Dancerella is let me bring you up to speed. It's an example or incarnation of what the new media/technology are doing to our communicative reality. Basically it's a DVD dance class. It comes with all the goods - a ballet bar, some dance steps on a nifty plastic carpet (different carpets for different ballets) and some DVDs of Bella - the best ballet dancer (according to her)...who dances her way through swan lake while teaching the watcher the moves. Basically it's a dance class that you don't have to leave home to do. It's a dance community of like-minded friends that are all virtual. And Bella is also an expert at cheerleading, tap, hip-hop, you-name-it, she'll teach it to you in the safety, comfort and isolation of your own home. Here's a youtube clip I uploaded to give you a taste of what it's like.
It's a good thing. I love it. My kids adore it. Yet what does it mean? Are we headed towards some radical sci-fi futuristic imagined reality becoming what we live here and now? Will the future resemble somthing like the school scene in Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure where the learning, teaching, and classroom setting are virtual? For education it is actually amazing - the new seemingly limitless opportunities. But what would that mean for things in which community - being with other people - is foundation, paramount and the raison d'etre? I think of Christian Worship - a time and a space in which we gather in community because our common faith gathers us together. Can you gather in such a way through virtual community? Does that cheapen the experience? Are we fooling ourselves into accepting the isolation that most of us seem to constantly be running from in our modern urban life? And what will happen to our gathering "worship" or "church" in which we gather around and are primarily gathered by a written text? Should I be circulating my resume or be enrolling in more programming classes so that I can create my own Pastor-Dancerella type worship videos that can be streamed live to every ipod/mp3 player and iphone in my parish neighborhood? Church isn't a spectator sport. You can't watch it, download it, or observe it. You have to participate in it. So what will the future hold?
Saturday, July 14, 2007
This week at Fruitvale Church I'm preaching on two of the Lectionary List Scriptures proposed for Sunday, July 15th. Psalm 82 and Luke 10:25-37.
Psalm 82 is a poetic affirmation of God's justice and judgment, the declaration that the God of the Bible is on the side not of the rich and the powerful, the bold and the beautiful - but for all people, in parcticular the weak and the orphan the lowly and the destitute. It reminds me of other sciptures - the prayer of Hannah at the birth of Samuel (1 Samuel 2:1-10) and the song of Mary (the Magnificat) as he response to the news that God will come into the world through Jesus the child of her womb (Luke 1:46-56).
The passage from Luke 10 is commonly called the parable of the "Good Samaritan." Ironic as a title, for Jesus never says that the Samaritan is good. It's a striking example of the depth, honesty, and transformative teaching and presence of Jesus of Nazareth. As I've studied it every day this week in theological works and reflective meditation and prayer, I'm struck by the simplicity, truthfulness, and salvation power in Jesus' relational interaction with the lawyer (student of the Torah) that he tells this parable to as well as in his teaching.
1. The Lawyer comes to test Jesus. He thinks he's better than Jesus. He comes not wanting to learn, dialogue or deepen a relationship, but with a hidden agenda. He comes wanting to trap Jesus, to trick him into saying something foolish, or better yet to agree with what the laywer thought. Jesus surprises him, for he turns the situation around. The lawyer becomes the student, the one who is challenged in his worldview, religious convictions, and personal faith.
2. The Lawyer has the right answers but doesn't live them. There is a total disruption between his thoughts/mind and his heart/life actions. He doesn't walk his talk.
3. Jesus tells a parable that we miss because of the cultural/historical contexts. The injured man may or may not be Jewish. If he's not, then touching him makes one ritually unclean, spreading a contagion that was based upon ethnic division and a worldview based on racial superiority.
3a. The Priests were at the top of that society. They knew everything. They gave their life to following the Torah laws, living a life based on righteousness and purity because of their application of God's laws. The Priests is the ultimate "good guy" in that culture - probably both esteemed for their dedication and judged for their priveleged lives. The priest not only doesn't help but seems to go out of his way to walk around the hurt person.
3b. The Levites were in 2nd place in the hierarchical ladder of social privelege. The Priests were chosen from among the Levites. They too would be expected to help, yet would also seek to keep themselves pure, not wanting to spiritually defile themselves by touching an unclean and/or Gentile person.
3b. The Samaritans were the unwanted, black sheep. As Jesus told the story his listeners most likely would have expected the hero of the parable to be a laymen, an ordinary Jewish man. They might have expected Jesus to be teaching about the equality of all people, that ordinary Jews were as holy, righteous, and involved in God's ways in the world as the Priests and Levites. But Jesus goes farther. The hero is a Samaritan. They were like distant cousins of the Jews who had remained in Palestine during the Jewish exile in Babylon some 400-300 years earlier. They worshipped God not in Jerusalem, but in other places. They were like the bastard cousins, the ones who weren't good enough, who had a blasphemous faith, who thought there were equal but who weren't. They were the butt of the jokes - like some ethnic groups are oftentimes in jokes I hear these days.
4. Jesus teaches that faith and community gathered in God's name has nothing to do with socio-economic privelege or ethnic identity. God loves all people equally. God speaks to all people. All people - and maybe those that we oftentimes least expect to do so - speak, act, work, and live for God and God's justice - grace - and peace - in our world.
5. Jesus doesn't condemn the lawyer for his pride, racism, or elitism; but rather invites him to conversion, to transformation, to freedom from the lies and -isms that trap him in a small worldview and a faith in which the God of the Bible is held prisoner in a small box. Jesus doesn't give the answer. He asks the lawyer to answer the question that the latter asked the former, "Who this is my neighbor?" - the question that started the telling of the parable. The lawyer is most likely so angry, so trapped in his worldview, so unable/unwilling to change that he answers without saying aloud the words at which he cringes "The Samaritan is the neighbor." Instead he answers correctly but with general pronouns. Jesus invites him to a radical conversion, a deep transformation of his worldview: the way in which he makes sense of life by applying his faith, makes meaning of his relationships, and defines what his community is. Jesus invites him to a larger worlview, a wider definition and experience of community - yet he seems unwilling and unable to move into it.
So what does this word mean for us? In a week of continued talks about unionization in Oakland in our stores as well as the lock out at Waste Management, when the President and Congress talk about Iraq and the future there, in regards to Libby's potential pardon, and many other events in our life together as a city/nation and our personal communities and relationships.
In my week up at Summer Camp in the Redwood Forest I was struck each day by the mysterious beauty of the forest, in particular the redwoods. I was speaking and teaching on the parable of the sower and the seed (Matthew 13:1-9). Talking about seeds with 2-3rd graders I was hit by the notion of how God defines and nurtures community incarnate in the forest around me. Redwood tress grow both from seeds and in groups. They spread out from the "mother" tree in a circle shape. Their roots are actually quite shallow, so such tall trees should easily blow over in the wind. But as they grow in groups their roots grow together, making each other stronger through their mutual growth, giving and receiving of strength. The redwood tree is a perfect icon/image of community and what Jesus is trying to teach us even today through the Parable of the Samaritan. The same question is asked of us today..."Who is our neighbor?" In an era in which our neighbors might be those that have lived here forever, or those that can afford a skyrocket high mortage, or those that are stuck in the same economic circumstances that we are it's easy to feel like we don't have a choice in who our neighbors are. Yet it's not just about fences and property lines. Who do weconsider your community? Is it just those that share ouropinions, beliefs, worldview, ethnic backgrounds? Or is it something different? How do we treat our neighbors? Is our faith or are our 'basic values' evident in how we talk with, act alongside, relate with, and live alongside those who are our neighbors?
I heard on the Glenfriends Web Group about a new Preschool Opening in Redwoods Heights this Fall. Can't tell you if it's good or bad, can't recommend it to you as I personally don't know anything more about it than what I've inserted below. I do remember the challenge of finding 1) a good preschool for our kids, 2) something that was local, 3) something that was affordable, and 4) something that we could get in to.
They have a nicely constructed website for the school
Here's the entry that I read on the Glenfriends Yahoo Group:
"Our son¹s daycare is opening a brand new preschool in Redwood Heights. It¹scalled the Oakland Garden School and has begun taking applications. It¹sgoing to be a unique and amazing school with 3 separate classrooms for eachage group. The garden is about 1/2 an acre filled with fruit trees, asandbox with a water play area, and a deck with an outdoor kitchen for thekids. Tae, the director believes in nurturing children to express themselvesas individuals. Check out their open house every Sunday 4 5 pm, until thelast Sunday of July. For more information, check out their website:oaklandgardenschool.com "
Friday, July 13, 2007
I escaped for a mini-mental health break yesterday to watch Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix. As I left the Bayfair Movie Theatre and merged onto the 580 I had an "ah-ha" experience. As usual the crowd at the last stoplight was thick. When I finally got onto the on-ramp I was side by side with another car. They were in front of me, so obviously (to me at least) they should pass in front of me in the merge. They hesitated and I looked over and made eye-contact with the driver, waving him forward ahead of me. As he merged and sped ahead I saw his right hand reach up into the air. Suddenly I was pissed, expecting to see him flip me off - yet what he did was wave generously his gratitude for our merging encounter. I had expected a rejection, and yet the wave seemed to be an invitation to dialogue and relationship. It got me reflecting on urban life, communication, the Harry Potter Movie I'd just come from and some of the recent sharing around "communication" on the blog.
In the Order of the Phoenix the bad gal is Dolores Umbridge, a quasi-fascist governmental official who takes over the Hogwarts Wizadry School. She assumes control with the goal of purging the school community of the impure, the dis-obedient, and what she considers "hateful lies" among the words and thoughts of the students. She asserts her power by coercion, manipulation, and even physical abuse. She's interested foremost and entirely in achieving the results she expects, not in any way in the people she's been called to serve or with whom she lives, works, and exists. Having never shown compassion, humility or any desire for relationship, she falls - rather is taken down violently - by the children of the school when they get the chance to overthrow the shackles of her egomaniac power regime. At the end of the film she mutters to herself, "I hate children." It's in her downfall that we discover the foundation of her self-righteous, persecution-based, power-tripping: she doesn't really care about anyone, she cares only for what she perceives as "order", the "common good," and that things return to the way that they've been, the way that they should always be. She has no interest in relationship. She has no relationships. She - having taken over the school community - has neither an intellectual idea of what community is nor an experience of community.
I read of the Pope's recent comments about the Catholic church being the only true church, asserting that she alone has the apostolic succession needed, and required, in order to be the truth, authoritative church within our world. While it seems archaic, elitist, divisive, destructive, and out-to-lunch in terms of the post-modern organically connectional world in which we live (and it is) it's based upon his notion that there can only be one relationship format in the world Christian Community. It has to be based upon the primacy of the Catholic Church. That's what legitmizes his power, place, and purpose. So how can he say that and at the same time seem to place such emphasis on relationships with other Christian Communities, the community of Islam, and other religious contexts? Can he really be in relationship with others that he treats as objects, while demanding that he and the Catholic Church be the subject of and in everything. A good sumamry article is on sf gate "Pope: other Christians Not True Churches"
In an earlier communication entry I talked a bit about the work of Jewish philosopher/theologian Martin Buber and his seminal book entitled "I and Thou." He talks about relationship - community - between two subjects, in which "I" addresses not "it" but "Thou." His idea that he develops across philosophy and into Theology is that God seeks to develop, empower, and birth in and between us such subject-to-subject relationships. Such community is the essence, purpose and passion of life. It is not possible when we objectify God, each other, or ourselves. It is not possible with anonymity, for it's all based on knowing each other and being known as a subject, a creature that acts, speaks, creates, listens, responds, and constructs with others.
In the car merging onto 580 I expected the driver to flip me off in a Dolores Umbridge-sort-of-way, to treat me as an object, or as less-than-equal. I was surprised by the opposite reaction. Having done several marriage counseling sessions this week talking about the importance of communication, I was taken aback when someone actually was initiating communication in an "I and Thou" way when I had expected the opposite. Maybe we all have that expectation. Someone in one of the communities in which I live has several times told me to "F*%@ Off" whenever I had a different opinion than them, or asserted my own opinion. That person has no desire to be in relationship with me. In fact they're the closest thing I know to Dolores Umbridge in the flesh - a person with no relationships with anyone except themselves. Maybe that's what we're use to in our urban life in which we have to react before we're treated badly, assert our will before we steam-rolled by others, flip off that driver in the other car before they flip us off - or worse pull out a gun. Maybe we're communicationally-challenged because we often don't know what we most long to have: relationships, living in an "I and Thou" sort-of-community.
Maybe that's what Paul is talking about is 1 Corinthians 13:
If I speak in the tongues of mortals and of angels, but do not have love, I am a
noisy gong or a clanging cymbal.
Maybe we've become so use to noisy gongs and clanging cymbals, both around us and coming from our own communication, in our urban lifestyle and survival needs, that we have forgotten what Community can be like, what life-in-relationship is about, and how we're incomplete in our isolation.
Thursday, July 12, 2007
Summer Camp @ Westminster Woods
I've had a great week some of the children of our church community at Summer Camp (Sherwood Forest to be precise) at Westminster Woods Camp and Conference Center. If you're part of our church community and know the kids enjoy the photos! And even if you're not yet a part of our faith community...enjoy the pics and any memories that they may bring up in you about laynards, campfires, crafts, archery, field games and good times!
If you want an e-copy of an photo, email me and I'll try to help you out! The kids come back on Saturday...we'll celebrate camp and share more photos in worship @ Fruitvale Church this coming Sunday.
Here's the most recent recent update on the garbage situation that I received from Jennifer Crawford, a Policy Analysit for Jean Quan. It comes from their most recent e-newsletter. Read it in its entirety online here.
Keep your garbage on the curb, all 3 cans. WM is giving out contradictory information. They have hired 200 replacement workers, but are clearly not well organized. A few lucky people had their brown and fewer yet had their grey cans picked up, but most of my district's Tuesday pick-ups are still on the street. Some people were told to put their cans back, only to be missed when a random truck came by. Note: Those of us who live north of Lincoln Avenue have uninterrupted recycling (gray bin) services from California Waste Solutions, they are not affected by the lock out.
If Waste Management fails to provide collection by the end of your regular service day, report the service failure to WMAC Customer Service at 510-613-8710.
ALSO, report the failure to pick up to the City at [the]Recycling Hotline 510-238-SAVE (7283) or http://us.f833.mail.yahoo.com/ym/Compose?Toemail@example.comWe will use this information for documentation in our legal actions, including possible rebates of your garbage fees. The hotline has increased staff to handle calls.
If you cannot wait and must haul your own garbage to the Davis Street Station, 2615 Davis St , take your WM garbage bill and they are suppose to waive the fees. One [district 4] constituent was charged and we made arrangements to have the fee rebated.
Please call the the PWA Call Center at 615-5566 if you notice any illegal dumping on the streets.
If you see a particularly bad build-up of garbage, please contact the http://us.f833.mail.yahoo.com/ym/Compose?Tofirstname.lastname@example.org and copy [Jean Quan's office or your supervisor's office] . [They] are especially concerned about apartment buildings and restaurant/commercial areas and any other situation where health and safety will be affected. Luckily, most restaurants and stores use other companies.
Find updates on our Oakland Recycles webpage.
Sunday, July 08, 2007
I've been thinking since last night about communication and relationships and my recent experiences/musings I sought to articulate in last night's blog. It seems that we - and I mean me - often so easily lose perspective in the midst of dialogue and in particular debate, whether the subject is unionization in a local store, trash bins uncollected on our streets, lock-outs, family situations, property lines, school enrollment, or national policy, or causes of inequality in our city. It's so easy to move from dialogue to polarization, from discussion to dismissal. I think we live in a culture that's increasingly polarized and polarizing, in which we're required to voice our opinion more in the negative (I'm against this, or him/her as opossed to I'm for this, him/her...). We entrench our positions before beginning to dialogue so that our discussions become like the nightmare battle quagmires of WW1 like Verdun. Most conversations about President Bush, Hillary, our governor or Paris Hilton begin with such statements....He's an idiot! She's a bitch! He should go back to Hollywood! She's a loser!
Granted we don't know those folks - at least I don't - on a personal level, so generalizing comments like that are easy to say, make us feel better in our powerlessness, and often either get a laugh or piggy-back on a previous joke. Living a public life opens you up to such treatment - for good or bad. But what happens when it gets personal, on a local, community-based, or family level? I think we all too often lose perspective. In our bitterness in losing a battle, or sadness in the face of our wounds, or anger in being misunderstood, or elation is emerging victorious...we forget that it's not just "someone" on the other side, but that it is someone's someone. We forget that at the root of it all it's about people - you, me and the other guy/gal.
In reading the paper this morning I ran across an editorial by Newt Gingrinch reprinted by the Oakland Tribune about the new president of France, Nicolas Sarkozy entitled "Sarkozy's lesson for U.S." (Sac Bee E-Version). What struck me is not Newt Gingrich's policy perogative or message per say, but the example of Sarkozy who has emerged as president in a difficult time in France, when change is not just necessary, but absolutely necessary to ensure the future. I don't think he's necessarily Mother Theresa dressed up in a designer suit (most of our friends in France cried the day he was elected, but didn't go out into the street and burn cars). But I'm struck by his words (interpreted by Gingrich from Sarkozy's book) For France - and America - or even the Dimond, Laurel, Maxwell Park, whatever community we're in - to change, to make a One80, we have to not just focus on what we want, or keep our enemies/adversaries in clear-sight, or entrench our positions for battle...we have to have perspective, to not lose sight that whatever and all of what we are doing is about people - you, me, and the "forgotten (wo)man."
Maybe that's part of what Jesus meant in what we've come to call the "golden rule"
‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your
soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind; and your neighbour as
yourself.’ Luke 10:27
or what singer/songwriter/activist Amy Ray means in some lines of her song about Gay Rights and Religious Communities entitled "Let It Ring" on the album "Prom"
When you march stand up straight.
When you fill the world with hate
Step in time with your kind and
Let it ring
When you speak against me
Would you bring your family
Say it loud pass it down and
Let it ring
Let it ring to Jesus
‘cause he sure’d be proud of you
You made fear an institution and
it got the best of you
Let it ring in the name
of the one that set you free
Let it ring
(more lyrics here)
I'm getting preachy...so I should stop. But it does argue a point....do we need to make a One80 in the way we not only talk but even approach each other? Have we forgotten that the person on the other side is first and foremost a "person" before being "on the other side?"
I have been blessed in my life so far to have been impacted an mentored by many people I now cherish. I didn't necessarily appreciate and/or enjoy all of the relationships with some of them during the moment, but I now see how I have been formed and shaped (for good and bad) by them. One of them is an older woman who lived a long fruitful life of many relationships. She was the wife of a pastor who sought to sharpen other people and mature future leaders by basically taking the role of a devil's advocate. Granted many times I wanted to half-nelson her (which would have been totally inappropriate as I was in my 20s and she in her 70s when I first met her - but it sure what have felt good - until I would have had to call 911)...but I digress. The point of the matter is that she taught me a lot. One of the sayings she often repeated was a truism I learned to experience only through her consistent dronings.
In my flippant reponses I thought it was stupid, so obvious, too trite to matter...yet on further relfection through life experience, theological wondering, and hopefully personal maturation through social interaction and work experience, I find Isabelle's comment to be so true that it's a bit frightening.
I've thought much about her in the past week or so. I recently posted a blog article entitled "Shop Farmer Joe's". Since then I've heard and recieved several comments by email and phone call about my words/response to the continuing and emerging situation around the unionization debate and spoiled-food-claim-debacle swiming around the Farmer Joe's store in the Dimond and the deep shared desire for meaningful and meaning-making community within the larger context of East Oakland, and specifically the Dimond District (in which I primarily work as serve as pastor of a neighborhood church). Divided between pro-union and pro-business (as we always like to spin our various and diverse positions in a positive light) they all expressed that first and foremost they are pro-neighborhood...excited about the Dimond, proud to live in East Oakland...to have stayed, to have not fled to Piedmont, Orinda, or other safer places through the Caldecot or with a different zip code. They're proud and hopeful that the emergence and opening of Farmer Joe's in the Dimond (after the oringinal store in the Laurel) is a big sign and continuing catalyst of deep, systemic and organizational transformation within our neighborhood seeking to articulate, affirm and embrace the identity - both historic and emerging - of the place in which we move and live and have our being.
In some brief and rapid online reading tonight, I ran across a hot-off-the-keyboard-presses blog entry from Kristine Dang on her Dimondites site entitled "garbage" in which she shares a bit about some of the mis-communication and dis-communication directed towards her in terms of her response and blogging on the whole Farmer Joe's situation. I'm not meaning to take sides, nor taking the easy solution of seeking to be Switzerland. But I can say I deeply appreciate her Dimondites Blog and echo her desire for community and organic, inclusive and participatory dialogue/community within the larger Dimond Context.
Why is it that communication has to be a miracle? In the past week I've had several conversations that went no where. There was no connection. There was no listening because there were either too many elephants in the room or unclaimed baggage needing to be unpacked. I'm not saying I was in the right all the time. Yet the sadness of these multiple encounters were that they weren't encounters or dialogues...they were more like ships passing in the night with horns blowing, or sermonettes preached to another person, or cacaphonic noise. There was no encounter, only failed manipulation, propaganda dissimenation, and endoctrination efforts. Communication is more than just getting a message across. It's more about encounter and dialogue, about two subjects talking with - not just to - each other, in a way that invites and nurtures relationships, births community, and creates initiative towards shared, joint and mutually participatory action. More and more I suspect that there is indeed something sacred about communication. Maybe it is only possible by God's presence, purpose or passion. Maybe a theologian (John V. Taylor) I once read is correct in asserting that the Spirit of God is the "Go Between God" who makes all relationships, inter-personal encounters, and community not only meaningful and meaning-making but also possible. Without something present other than just our will-to-power, or egos, or desires wether spoken or unspoken...no communicaiton, no encounter, can happen.
Reminds me of the words of the apostle Paul in the 13th chapter of his first letter written to the early Christian church community in ancient Corinth
If I speak in the tongues of mortals and of angels, but do not have love, I am a
noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and
understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as
to remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give away all
my possessions, and if I hand over my body so that I may boast, but do not
have love, I gain nothing.
Words are cheap - as the saying goes...yet Love is the thing that seems most absent in my recent non-encounters and refelections. I'm struck by Kristine's words tonight...and so many others of the past days. Maybe they're brief encounters that leave me longing for more, deeper discussion and thoughtufl dialogue, pointing towards an emerging initiative for shared action in the context of community, instilling in me a desire for love like Paul writes of or the Indigo Girls sing of when they say "love is just like breathing when it's true."
Saturday, July 07, 2007
We escaped the heat and piling trash following the Waste Management Lock-Out with a brief family trip to trash free Tahoe. Upon returning home we were welcomed by the site of trash-lined streets over which the brown and grey cans of WM loomed like Sentries. So what are we to do?
Do you leave them out? Do you bring them in? When will they be picked up?
Jean Quan's District 4 Newsletter - out in e-format today - suggests to leave you can out because you never know if they'll be picked up. Read more about that, the emerging situation and trash tips in her newsletter here.
She recommends that you check the Oakland Recycles Website for updates on info (here)
A good article appeared in yesterday's SF Gate on the situation (with interviews from our neigbhors) (here)
Tuesday, July 03, 2007
Fireworks in Oakland
If you're looking for fireworks in the East Bay the 4th of July (not the drive by kind) here's a list from Jean Quan's office to help you locate what show might work for you and your family.
Follow this link to her most recent e-newsletter. Then scroll down to the Fireworks Hotline.
Monday, July 02, 2007
Yesterday I had a great conversation after church with some friends about doing what God asks. First of all it's hard enough to know what God wants, or as some recently have said to know "What Would Jesus Do?" But these passages seem to point to a God that wants us to participate, to act, to be involved, to offer our testimony - not in some lone ranger sort-of-way, but submitted, informed, formed, sent out. We talked yesterday about WWJD? That in the end the real point is not what Jesus did but rather What Will You/We Do? We have to know the story, claim the testimony of those who've gone before us, for ourselves...and then speak, act, relate, and live from the underlying truth, ethic, and praxis. Jesus never waited in line for an IPhone, lost friends in a drive by gang-related shooting, or crossed a picket line to buy his groceries....so how do we decide and discern how we will live and act from the deep truth that we know in our relationship with Christ?
Not sure how to preach on this, how to present it on Sunday in a way that's both experiential and revelatory, participatory and reflective. Any thoughts?
In my email reading this morning I learned about multiple shootings - most likely gang related - that happened at Fairfax and High Streets in East Oakland this past Saturday. At our place we hear loud bangs - seemingly fireworks - all night long these days. But that might not be the case. You can read about the shootings online in an Oakland Tribune Article Here
One note I read posted to a community website talked about the irony that if the shootings that happend in Maxwell Park (and happen in the Laurel and Dimond at times) were happening in Rockridge, the Oakland Hills, or Montclair (where property values are much higher - and the related socio-economic consequences of that situation) police/city action would be happening at a quicker or more effective rate. I'm not meaning to slander anyone, merely being the messenger of an observation which often seems to be fairly accurate. A response posted encouraged folks to contact our Oakland representatives, to ask for more effective police action - whether that's by email, phone calls, letter or by actually going in person to a City Council Meeting. Here's a link to help you know how to contact the official(s) that represent you.