Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Oakland is Being Transformed by the
Bobos, Creative Class, Rejuveniles & SF Housing Refugees
The proof is in the Pinot, not the Pudding

The cover of today's Tribune sports a great article on the changing nature of Oakland. Oakland's Wine Scene is Ripening. The article points to what many of us are expereincing directly or through heresay. At a recent gathering someone asked me if I thought that the Dimond District was gentrifying, and then wondered what was being done to ensure that all of the Dimond residents were still made welcome in their neighborhood.

The article talks about the changes of and in Oakland through the example of several newly opened wine bars. The first paragraph says it all, "IF SPROUTING condominium complexes and the construction of upscale supermarkets haven't convinced you of the revival under way in neighborhoods around Oakland's Lake Merritt, consider the handful of trendy wine bars coming to the area. "

I guess I'm one of the transplants, happy with Oakland and also happy with the new Farmer Joe's, La Farine, Peet's, Whole Foods, Trader Joe's, Bakesale Betty and Cesar. But the changes aren't just about shopping, eating, and wine-drinking. It's also a lot about culture. How is the new emerging, or post-modern, or bobo-ish culture effecting the larger multiculturality of Oakland? In my own community I see some of the tensions eeking out. I never would have thought 6 years ago (when I came to Oakland) that there would be a Yoga Studio, Candle Shop and Designer Women's Clothing Store on the same block that the church I serve as pastor is located, along with about 2 corner liquor stores. Are we really responding to the transformations happening all around us on so many levels, or are we merely reacting to them? Does a renaissance in what has often been called gritty urban Oakland, the working-class Dimond/Laurel neighborhoods, or even Fruitvale Presbyterian Church have to come at the expense or loss of those that have long been here? Or is there a win-win way forward?

When it comes to the Christian Church today, (I seem to bring everything back to this) I think the reason we're shrinking in numbers is that as a community we're not able to manage this major change of worldview, nor to integrate this transformation of communication and relationships, nor to articulate what it means to follow Jesus in the language that our world and culture speaks. It's not just a matter of "repackaging" things to jazz them up. It's not a question of method over message. It's about understanding and claiming what is essential to and for us as followers of Jesus and then articulating that in a coherent and connectional way to a culture more interested in experience, participation and community than in a 3 point sermon, a easy to memorize tract, or an easy-to-sing hymn.

In talking with a wise friend today about this article we asked each other if we see the tension of the emerging Oakland vs. the existing Oakland and our city-wide transformation in and throughout Oakland. I do and I don't. How about you? Do you see it? If so, where?

Monday, October 29, 2007

Can Parents & Teens be
BFFs in a Tech-Friendly World?

I heard a funny ad on the radio this morning with a 90+ year old woman talking to her grown daughter in texting language. It made me remember youth group at our church last night during which I talked with some late-teen/early-20s folks from our church about facebook and myspace. In the middle of that conversation an 11 year old asked me if I'd seen his myspace page yet. (Of course he's too young to have one, but that's besides the point - isn't it). I also remember a recent meeting during which someone asked "What's a BFF?" Coming home to down my second cup of coffee I began reading today's Tribune & ran across the great front-page article "Tech creates parent-teen disconnect" in which it's suggested to parents to "bridge the gap by getting up to speed on the techonology teens use."

Makes me wonder about my own kids, who haven't yet started texting, and then about the changing nature of communication. We seem to have more and more to say in more and more formats (phones, email, cell phones, blackberries, texting, blogs....) and yet there seems in general to be more and more confusion in terms of interpersonal communication and relationships & community buidling. I don't think it's just a young in body vs. young at heart contrast. It has to be bigger. I think it has to do with worldview more than age, with the larger transformation of our society, culture, and world economy. We can wish to go back to yesteryear when everything was so rosy, safer and easy. But those rose-colored glasses don't yet have the power to teleport us backwards in time. Makes me wonder a lot of things about relationships, community organizing, education - and church communities. I wonder if we're even aware of what's already changed and happening around us today? Seems like we're not, after this tribune article.

If you need a texting tutorial, or initiation, here's a helpful site (Lingo2Word) HERE.

GL txtN

Sunday, October 28, 2007

New Mural @ Sequoia School
Plants and Hopes Growing High
Art is Education

I went today to the Harvest Festival and dedication of the new mural at Sequoia Elementary School designed and painted by Sequoia's Artist-n-Resdidence Debbie Koppman. (photo).

The mural is based on collage drawings made by Sequoia student in grades 1 - 5. The mural's theme of plants growing high makes a visual connection between their art, garden, and arts integration programs, while working to improve the aesthetics of the school. As an Arts Anchor Schoo, they want their ongoing efforts to increase their students' access to the visual arts to also be embodied in the building itself. Dedicated Saturday, October 27th from 11am-12pm. [text retaken from the flyer made by Debbie Koppman with permission]. Here's some photos in a slideshow of both the Mural and the Harvest Festival.

I talked with Debbie for a few moments and learned that she is helping facilitate the creation of another mural (in the very near future) at Bret Harte in the blacktop area with the theme of "IMAGINE." I'm looking forward to more great public art that supports our schools and community as well as integrating art as education in our curriculum. Thanks Debbie and others - including Sequoia principal Kyla Trammal - for your imaginitive and integrative work!

Bret Harte Middle School is have an information night for prospective parents November 15th, 6-8pm. More info is online on their website HERE.

Read more online about the Arts Program at Sequoia on East Bay Express HERE.

More Upcoming "Art IS Education" programs and events HERE.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Blogging Towards Sunday
October 28, 2007
The Un-named Woman, The Hokey Pokey,
Peter Parker & Following Jesus

Mark 5:21-34
Luke 17:20
20[Jesus] said to them, ‘…Truly I tell you, if you have faith the size of a mustard seed,
you will say to this mountain, “Move from here to there”,
and it will move;
and nothing will be impossible for you.’

1 Corinthians 6:19
19Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, which you have from God, and that you are not your own?

1 Corinthians 12:27
27 Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it.

This passage from Mark is the scripture of the first sermon I ever preached, nearly a dozen years ago at the ERF Church in Vallon Pont-d'Arc. At the time a friend told me that it was a horror that I - and/or any man - should preach on this text.

The story is about an unnamed woman who is suffering from constant menstruation that has lasted for over 12 years and cost her all that she once owned in medical costs and fees. She comes to Jesus in the midst of a massive and faceless crowd for her final chance, hope and dream of healing. She pushes through the bodies and reaches out her hand, touching the fringe or fray of Jesus' garments and is instantly healed. She then tries to sneak away without being noticed. Yet Jesus won't let her go so easily. He calls out, asking who has been healed by the anonymous touch. Is he going to punish her? Scream at her? Embarrass her? Why would he do such a thing?

According to established Jewish Law her condition makes her unclean - both ceremonially, ritually, spiritually and physically. She cannot enter a synagogue to seek healing. She cannot enter her home. She cannot go to the market, or visit her friends. She must live outside of the camp, or town, in isolation [the title of the first painting in the slideshow] until she is healed and whole so that she won't contaminate the community she once belonged to with her unclean-ness.

Jesus calls out to her to recognize her, to name her "daughter", to restore her as a vital part of this community. It's more than just a story about healing. It's a story of healing, which lifts up that our faith, our bodies and our relationships/community are interconnected and interdependent. We so often seem to forget or deny that. We so often dissociated faith or spirituality from our bodies and what is physical. We regulate faith to one realm and the rest of life to another. Some would say that it's a problem of separating church and state, I'd say it's much bigger than that.

I led some signing at our daughter's preschool the other day with my guitar. The closing song was the "hokey pokey." What fun to see toddles so at ease with their bodies: jumping, falling, laughing and tumbling, touching each other and letting others touch them as they danced around. What happens to us to make us so ashamed of our bodies, so jealous of other bodies, so prudish about the forms in which we were created?

Sunday is Reformation Sunday, the Sunday each year during which we're invited to celebrate the reformation - and what it means for us to be reformed followers of Jesus today. An essential part of this reformed perspective of Christian faith is recognized that faith is embodied..that the Word of God became flesh, human flesh; that we are created in God's image in bodies; that we are called to live out and into our faith in a community - what the Apostle Paul calls "the body of Christ."

Spider Man is one of the movies in my world these past years, because I like it, and also because some friends say I look & act like Peter Parker. What strikes me about that whole comic myth is the theme that Peter is the everyday man, in fact more like the everyday nerd - skinny, scrawny, overlooked yet smart. When he becomes powerful his uncle whispers his last breath to him saying, "with great power comes great responsibility." I think that's what the scripture of Mark 5 is about. It's a bit corny but Peter through his trials, heartbreaks and tribulations learns to live into his faith: that he has a purpose.

Jesus knows his great power - he knows what great responsibility is. It's about building community, expanding the body, not excluding those who don't fit in, or look a certain way. It's about living by faith, acting from faith (like the un-named bleeding woman), and into faith like Peter Parker. That's what faith really is: following Jesus. It's not having all the answers. It's not being on the "inside" of the righteous club. It's not about knowledge, but about experience; not about isolation but about community; not about being a know-it-all but about participation. More and more I think we're called more to follow Jesus (doing what he taught, living as he lived) than to just believe in him. Maybe that's what he meant when he said that if we have faith the size of a mustard seed (that's really small- for us urbanites) we can move mountains.

2 Trader Joe's in Oakland

I couldn't resist cruising to the new Trader Joe's Store that opened on Lakeshore yesterday. It was beautiful. The parking lot was crazy, although I scored a front row spot without any effort. Doubt that will happen again.

The store was packed and beautiful. The line was about 25 people long, seemingly endless but efficiently processed with great speed. Here's some photos of the long lines that took less than 5 minutes to work our way through to check out and score some free popcorn.

Here's an article that ran in Friday's Oakland Tribune too (HERE).

After going to TJ's I took my daughters for gelato at the new Whole Food near downtown (our new favorite ice cream spot). It's great to see so many Oaktowners shopping in Oakland, keeping our money, time and relational connections in our city as opposed to just across the city limit lines in Alameda and Emeryville (no offense to them!).

Friday, October 26, 2007

Sequoia Elementary's
Prospective Parent Night

Sequoia ElementarySchool is having a Prospective Parent Information Night on Tuesday, November 13th at 7 pm in the school library.

SequoiaElementary, is an Oakland K-5 elementary school, and represents the very best of urban public education. They are a small and caring multicultural environment where children flourish academically and socially, with the support of our dedicated teachers, parents, and volunteers. Come learn more about this wonderful school community, meet their dynamic principal, and talk to current parents.

Sequoia is located at 3730 Lincoln Avenue.
Oakland, CA 94602
Phone: 879-1510.
You may also view additional information about Sequoia Elementary School at http://www.sequoiaschool.net/
Amy Blackshaw amybshaw at gmail.com

Cheers to Kelly for the info!
She also shared that a second info night is scheduled for January 15th.
Here's a link to the Prospective Parents' page on their website (HERE)
Here's a review of the School on Great Schools (HERE)

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Dimond Howl-o-ween Pet Parade
and Costume Party
Here's a great Dimond/Laurel family fun event for families with members with both 2 and 4 legs! We went last year and loved it!
Dogs, kids, and adults are invited to the 4th Annual Dimond Howl-o-ween Pet Parade and Costume Party. Meet in front of Paws & Claws at 6 pm and parade through the Dimond District collecting treats. Then return to Paws & Claws for an outdoor party behind the store with a campfire and spooky games for kids. Dress warmly!
Donations will be accepted for the Oakland Animal Shelter
Where: Paws & Claws, 2023 MacArthur Blvd., Oakland
When: Oct. 27, 2007, 6 pm -9 pm
More infor online @
Here's a link to the blog article I wrote reflecting on last year's parade and party (HERE)
Trader Joe's Grand Opening
Friday, October 26th
@ 8:15am

I wrote recently about the 2 TJ's opening soon in Oakland (this coming weekend). I heard some more specifics this weekend. The Lakeshore Store will open this Friday @ 8:15am with lei cutting and other festivities. The store will be open 7/7, 9am-9pm.

Cheers to Tim Chapman for the info.
Montana Slim Halloween Bash Oct 27th

The members of Montana Slim (the bluegrass band who played at our recent church fundraiser)are fired up for their Halloween bash at the Connecticut Yankee on Saturday night (Oct 27th). This night happens to coincide with World Series Game 3. For everyone that is not aware, The Connecticut Yankee is a HUGE Boston sports pub. The owner is from New Hampshire, and MS says that there is not a better place to watch New England sports than at the Yankee.

Come in your costume to grove, cheer and get down at the Halloween Bash with Montana Slim
The Connecticut Yankee
100 Connecticut St. (at 17th St.)
San Francisco, CA

I can't make it but hope that you can.
Learn more about Montana Slim online at www.myspace.com/montanaslimmusic

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

More Playground Pictures

I spent a lot of yesterday checking out pictures from last week's build, chatting with folks and reliving moments - as well as blisters, neck pains, and trying to remove the last of those nasty woodchip/tracks non-organic trans-fat-filled slightly toxic-wastey boogers.

Cheers to Sharyl Marshall @ the Presbyterian Church of Deep Run for the fun photos that I've stolen. (glad that they weren't copyrighted!)

Monday, October 22, 2007

Building The Playground
Community, God-Moments & Snail Eggs
Day 7 of the build
We did it!

We finished the build in time for the 5pm dedication blessing, paper-chain cutting and play-time on the new playground. I was present in so many good conversations, bouts of laughter and shared memories and common hopes that I don't know how to share them (of course I'll try in the coming days to do so on the blog). Also had some very cool conversations about art with the creator of the Mosaic Wall (Leslie Scott), and realized how much unexpected connections, whether we call them serendepity or God-Moments/God-things, made all of this possible. So here's some pictures - a slideshow of the build and some videos of the opening. Also great photos on the Westminster Woods Site HERE.

My best-of photos of Sunday.

Progression of the final stages of the build.

Dedication Blessing offered by Rev. Sharyl Marshall

Ribbon Cutting Ceremony
and rush of the kids to play!

It's a miracle that only one person went to the emergency room this past week - with all of the power saws, table saws, and potential death, or at least finger-removing tools all around. And the visit to the emergency room wasn't build-related (at least not directly) It was our 3 year old daughter who stuck a small ball, or "snail egg", so far up her nose that we couldn't get it out!

Building The Playground
Community, Leathers & Meaning Making
Day 6 of the build
1 more to go!

I was too busy and too tired to get online for the remainder of the build, so I'm posting after the event.

Saturday the rain ended. Our daughter was sleeping in, after staying up all night, and so I did some reading and reflecting while everyone else starting working on the playground at 8am.
I was thinking about community. The playground is being built by a gathered community of folks who are committed to and passionate about the ministry, purpose and place of Westminster Woods. It's through the great organization called Leathers & Associates: a family owned company that designs unique and personalized playgrounds, based upon the visions and dreams of those for whom it's built. They construct playgrounds with the goal of "shoulder-to-shoulder" play possibilties for children of all ages and abilities. And the whole thing is always built by volunteers. An amazing group that transforms community gathering together to be together or because of a shared value or memory, into a gathered community making permanent and public meaning through their collaboration, solidarity and diverse skill - and un-skill -levels.

People today aren't looking for a professional cleric, or religious professional, to teach them about faith or to talk about what it might mean for life, community and making meaning in our 21st century world. They're looking to experience faith for themselves, to participate in communal meaning-making efforts, and to both feel and be connected to something bigger, whether that be a community with shared values and hopes or a universal life-force, what I'd call God. Isn't this what our faith communities should be more like as opposed to bastions of tradition-maintaining committees?

Here's some of the pictures I took on Saturday - while trying to look like I was working - all my reflection on the theme of "community." Also I'm including below the slideshow 2 quotes (from music and a book) that inspired my reflections on community, meaning-making and the vocation of the church in particular in our emerging post-modern culture today.

"We're all searching / Time is unfolding /

Trying to fill / our lives with meaning."

"Stop Running Away,", Angel Milk, Telepopmusik

"Community is everything.

Relationship to God and to each other is life itself."

Breathing Space, Heidi B. Neumark

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Building The Playground
Community, Following Jesus & Experiencing Faith
Day 5 of the build
2 to go!

The rain has been pouring down throughout the day, yet progress has been made on the playground that my family and I have come and joined with about 50 other people to help build at Westminster Woods Camp. I'm including some of my pictures in a slideshow below. You can also see more photos of today's work and witness the emergence of the playground on the Woods website HERE.

I was talking with someone about the playground, what it represents for the camp and in a way what it means for the larger community of faith. Things are getting rough from the church. It's not just the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence that are finding it to be an unwelcoming place. Many people don't even consider the Church community as an option, or a desireable place because it seems either a) so out of touch, b) irrelevant, c) a tradtional throwback to the 1950s, or d) an unwelcoming exclusive place, or e) all of the above. While I can understand, and myself have felt this at times, I have to admit that being actively involved as a participant in the life of the church as my community of faith is not only formative but foundational for me in my life. As our churches either close, or struggle to attract anyone who is "post-modern", "po-mo", or "emergent", I don't believe that such doom and gloom has to come to pass.

We have to change. We have to be transformed from the builder-generation, corporate-cultured way of doing and being church that has come to dominate our country's experience and spiritual sphere in the past 60 years. No one wants to come and listen to some sort of quasi-corporate expert talk to us about faith with some flow-chart or boring 3 point sermon. People want to experience it for themselves. We want to participate in a community of faith, feeling connected to others who are on the same path, seeking the same spiritual journey, desiring to practice spirituality in their daily life - not just with an ordained "expert" one hour a week on Sunday. This playground thing is all about it. It's an event, a worship gathering - in which we are experiencing what faith means as a community gathered to accomplish something bigger than us. It's a community that's come together in faith because of a vision that was born by a cosmic power about 2 years ago in the hearts of a few key people - I have to call that the living Spirit of God moving in our midst. This is faith. This is the real stuff of practicing our spirituality. It's not just talking about what faith looks like. It's not hearing about what faith can do for you and to you. It's experiencing faith in 12 inch deep mud, around a table sharing dinner with soaked-through people filled with joy, sharing drinks with friends at night reflecting on the meaning of the day and the way in which our shared faith has made so much meaning in our life. Faith isn't a spectator sport, I often say. It's dangerous. It's challening. It's makes you change, be open to transformation. It's oftentimes quite muddy. But it's real. It makes meaning of and in our lives. It invites us to make meaning together as a community confessing a shared hope that their is more than what we just see, or can buy in a store, or experience through our tivos.

Maybe that's why church is struggling - Presbyterian, or other. For the past 60+ years we've been so busy talking about faith, that we've forgotten how to practice it?

We still need help up here at the Woods - Saturday and Sunday! Come work on this amazing project. Come experience what faith is all about, what Jesus really meant when he said, "Come and follow me!" Info is on the Camp Website.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

The Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence
SF Values &
The Meaning Made in & by Communion

Yesterday's SF Chronicle was plastered with a large picture of Archbishop George Niederauer who has come under attack for knowingly (or un-knowingly) served communion to two members of the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence, a drag-queen dressing justice-seeking group in San Francisco. The furor erupted when folks started asking if the Archbishop knowingly, or even possibly subversively, served the elements of communion to cross-dressing persons in a mass taking place in the middle of the Castro Street Faire. The archbishop has spun things a bit offering an oligatory (my words) apology for his actions. The SS troops of Fox News stormed into the affair, again lambasting the "SF Values" that characterize not just the city across the Bay Bridge, but most of the Bay Area Community. The whole affair really set me off - and got me writing (even if I'm supposed to be offline for vacation). Here's why.

1. Communion is more than a ritual, it's a sacrament (a visible expression of an invisible grace). So whether it's given to Sister Delta Goodhand, a homeless man who got dealt a bad hand, or to Bill O'Reilly, we believe and the ecumenical church community affirms, that communion is about both receiving the Love of God in Jesus the Christ and participating in it. So it's totally appropriate to share it.

2. Many complained that communion had been cheapened by serving it to the Sisters. Interesting. Are those that complained Catholic, Christians or followers of Jesus? Is Bill O'Reilly Catholic or Christian? If not what does he care? We believe - at least in my reformed family of followers of Jesus - that the simple bread and wine/juice become something mysteriously and powerfully real not by our efforts but by God's presence in our worshipping and seeking gathered community of faith. So how can we cheapen what only God's Spirit can make worthy or full of meaning both experiential and spiritual?

3. The article goes on to say that the Archbishop was simply following the "general sacramental principal" that you don't deny the sacrement to someone who request it. Interesting, for I myself a Anglo-American 30-something heterosexual male have been refused communion in mass at least half a dozen times in my life, not becuase of my sexual acitivty or preference, my clothing, or my politics, but because I follow Jesus in a protestant, or non-Catholic, way. So I'm not sure what the general sacramental principal is, because I've not experienced that. It seems to be more about church laws and church dogmatics than about inclusivity. Besides the Catholic church, under the leadership of the current Pope, affirmed and re-affirmed that the Catholic Church alone is the true church of Christ on Earth in a document entitled Dominus Iesus.

4. I was struck in the article - you have to read to the end of it - to read the included note from Sister Deltagoodhand, one of the two who received communion, who wrote to the church the following words: "Just a quick note to recognize the wonderful mass yesterday at your Church. Your entire congregation was so welcoming and it was great to be able to participate. You are a wonderfully inclusive Church." From my read of those words, they didn't come it to destroy or subvert things, nor did they seek to do so through the media (of course I admit I'm naive). They entered a worship gathering, were invited to be both present and participants, and left feeling like the Church, that church in particular, could not only have a place for them, but be the place for them. Isn't that what we're supposed to be about? Isn't that what Jesus taught: "Love your neighbor as God has loved you."?

You can read the article online HERE.
You can also read a great "Two Cents" photo-montage piece with diverse responses to the article and event HERE.

I find this whole event and media re-presentation challenging because of the question it asks underneath it all. SF Gate isn't really interested in declining church attendance, or imploding church systems, or even inclusivity and what it means in a Christ-centered and faith community-forming way. Why is it that we seem to always want to define who we are but who we aren't or who we won't let in? I think it's a theological or philisophical issue. In the end the whole hoopla is about who is and isn't part of the church, who is and isn't welcome, and who should be and shouldn't be welcomed. What a tragedy if we let Bill O'Reilly or our political parties shape and form our faith communities! I think our issues, and our struggles with how we form, articulate and define our "identity" as both individuals and communities reflects our brokeness - that "sin" that is so deeply embedded in who we are as human beings. Jesus himself challenged this, inviting all of us to find our definition of who we are in our relationship with God. We not Jew or Gentile, Free or Slave, Male or Female (as Paul writes in 1 Cornithians)....we're not gay or straight, righteous or of the devil...in God we are God's children. In Christ we're invited to claim that promise through the powerful mystery of the death and resurrection of Christ. By God's Spirit we're empowered to live lives with a new sense of identity, the one we're meant to live from and into....that we are the beloved children of God.

That's what following Jesus is all about. It's what the meaning of communion is and the meaning that it makes - a true sacramental marker of community - that in Christ the walls are broken down...walls that divide us from each other, from God, and from who we are created to really be. It's the power of the mysterious sign and symbol of communion - as we share the cup and bread we experience solidarity, we participate in saving community and we are connected through the only force in the Universe that can connect us together: the Living God.

Any thoughts?

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Build It & I'll Come
New Playground @
Westminster Woods

I'm off for Occidental, CA to help build a new playground at Westminster Woods Camp & Conference. The Woods is a summer camp owned and facilitated by the Presbyterian Church. I went there as a kid. It's one of the main pilgrimage (still today) places in my life of faith. It's also the place where my wife and I met back when I was 17 and just out of high school. We still take our children - both genetic and church born - each summer for amazing times of spiritual discovery, personal growth and fun - fun - fun! Can you tell that I'm a fan?

Anyway they're building a new playground: a community effort. The Woods Community raised the necessary money. This non-profit designs the playground based on ideas solicited from kids at camp last summer (including the kids from Fruitvale Church)...and then it's a whole community build thing. Kind-a-like Field of Dreams but not in Iowa but Sonoma County, not in a cornfield but in a redwood forest, not in the sun but in the rain-rain-rain! Can't Wait!!!!! Plus it all ends Sunday with a dedication worship gathering time and then a free-for-all for all the kids to go and play on the p-ground!

Read more about the playground build on the Woods website HERE. It contains plans for the playground, color schemes and plans for the Creation Themed Mosaic Wall, and a way to donate (they sill need to raise about $5,000). Or you can sign up to come and volunteer from now through Sunday!

Watch the live-movie cam that's documenting the emergence of the new playground HERE.
Loka Yoga
in the Dimond & Laurel
Opens Sunday, October 21st

I'm excited about the Yoga studio opening next to the church I serve as pastor in the Dimond/Laurel Districts of Oakland. Alice is the owner and yoga master. She's great. The past few days I've seen her husband, her neighbors and herself doing the last minute finishing touches on the studio. BEAUTIFUL! And what a difference on that corner. Plus you should see the light installations that they put in. Very cool.

The first class is scheduled for this coming Sunday, October 21st @ 11am.

She's also having a grand opening party this coming Saturday, October 20th @ 4:30pm.

I'm out of town but both sound fun. Alice also has a blog going for Loka Yoga you can read it HERE. (It has more info about class schedules, cost and info about the tea ceremony opening party on Saturday).

Welcome to Loka Yoga to our block! I'm eager to see how the neighborhood continues to emerge and transform thanks to Alice's presence and work.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Trader Joe's
Coming to Oakland
October 27th
Twice Over

I was down by the old Albertson's and the future - imminently close - Trader Joe's and Walgreens down by Lake Merrit this morning. Still the same old parking challenge....but things are getting close. Here's a picture I took. Also had a chance to go by the former Albertsons, future Trader Joe's in Rockridge near Zachary's....they have the floor in and are working on the wall containers. Both stores are scheduled to open Saturday, October 27th...at least that's what I've heard.

Has anyone heard anything different? Looking forward to spending our Trader Joe's dollars in Oakland instead of Castro Valley, Alameda and Emeryville.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Blogging Backwards
To Sunday
October 14, 2007
"A Chip Off the Ol' Block"
Porta-Potties, Firenze, Forgiveness and Authentic Humaness

Yesterday we continued our series in our Sunday Gatherings at Fruitvale Pres. Church on Heroes and Heroines for God. King David, a man whose heart was after the heart of God was our hero for the day selected by one of our community members.

The passages we reflected upon and built our gathering around were 1 Samuel 24:1-22 & Matthew 6:7-15. The reason that Nancy had picked out this story in particular about David was the theme of "forgiveness" and the radical example of trust, risk, solidarity with God's purposes and compassion that David exemplifies in the story of him hiding in the port-a-pottie-replacing cave.

King Saul is pursuing the un-coronated David to kill him. God has said that Saul will be dethroned for his self-centered evilness and David will replace him as the King of Israel. He badmouths him. He slanders him publicly. Then he decides to take him out. But Saul is so pissed off and irate that he doesn't just hire a bounty hunter to go all bobba fet and track down David, he sets out after his protege - with part of his army - to wipe him out. Ends up Saul uses a cave to go to the bathroom during the long journey. David is in the cave. Saul is distracted. David could kill his ennemy and make his life a lot easier. And David chooses to show mercy, to not kill, but to embrace non-violent trust that God will bring justice and balance.

What would you do if that happened I asked? What if Osama bin Laden came into the cave where you were? What if ________ (you fill in the blank with the name of the person you think of....co-workers, family, someone who has wronged you that you struggle to forgive)? I asked what would you do if someone who had opened fire with a gun in your child's school (thinking of last week's tragedies in Cleveland) came into the cave? On one hand it's easy to answer...take'em down. If I'm honest, I'd struggle to show compassion to an ennemy. And yet what would it change to strike them down? Doesn't that just purvey the endlessly downward spiral of vengeance, violence and victory-at-any-cost? Isn't that the very thing that I believe Jesus' death on the cross overturns, undermines and reverses? Tough. It's ugly to face the stuff inside us - or at least inside me.

The second passage is Jesus teaching on how to pray. (Today we call it the Lord's Prayer when we communally offer it aloud each Sunday in our Worship Gathering). Jesus says that we should ask God to forgive us as we forgive each other...in fact we ask God to do so aloud and in public each Sunday. Jesus continues after the teaching on prayer emphasizing that as we forgive God will forgive us and that if we don't forgive God won't forgive us. YIKES. It gets even tougher. I'm a classic first-born virgo as friends tell me.....quick to want to perform, to embrace perfection, to be moody, flighty and to hold on to my bitterness. So forgiving, really forgiving, you know those deep down difficult destructive things is hard for me...it's hard to let go. I suspect I'm not alone. So how do I grapple with my desire to be a person of faith, following Jesus of Nazareth, when what I'm asked to do - live from, by and into forgiveness - is so seemingly impossible.

Michelangelo created the amazing statue of David picutred here. I'm told that it's the most perfect re-presentation of the human body. It's in Florence in the Galleria dell'Accademia. It's enoromous, something like 8 feet tall. When I saw it the noisy bustling of the heat-exhausted crowd was hushed rapidly to a whisper when people's eyes fell upon the beauty of the statue. Tradition says that the piece of art had more humble beginnings than we'd expect. Michelangelo found the monolith piece of marble in the Florence dump. It was a chunk of stone considered imperfect, unwanted, left to suffer from the elements. He took it and transformed it by his loving hands, connectional creativity, and passion into something that superceeds our normal notions of beauty.

Maybe that's the answer to recognize that I - that we - rhat even David - are just like that statue. David is an example of godliness and faith-full living, yet he was also self-centered and unfaithful except to his own lusts. Some of his shortcomings in life were killing the husband of his married lover, and choosing favorites among his own children. Yet I think that faith - and the mystery of God's incarnation, embodied in Jesus and also in us today - points to the fact that we are complex creatures filled with both light and darkness. Often feeling like unwanted, overlooked items left in the mess of the town dump that can be transformed into paragons of beauty, invited to participate with authenticity in that ongoing process of transformation - that is being facilitated by the power I call God - of chips off the old block into masterpieces. Maybe what this story and what Jesus is trying to teach is that being able to choose to forgive - either by our own grit or God's grace - is what it means to be authentically human. That choice to reconicile and resurrect relationships is ours alone in the diverse community of creatures with whom we share planet Earth?
PS - a rumor circulated around our church community yesterday that this is actually my portrait. While I wish it was true, I have to be honest that I'm not this pale and my pecs are more oblong. :)

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Blessing of the Animals

Yesterday we had a Blessing of the Animals celebration at our church. It was a day to remember.....again true Oakland experience as I heard rapidly spoken Cantonese drifting over the coffee table, while so many other things were happening. I loved the whole experience, not just because I talked about the "circle of life" or the "web of life" of what biblical language calls the "body of Christ in the world" but because we really experienced and participated in that connection, community and creation during the ministry event. My favorite moment (a first for me) was trying to lead singing on the church patio while at least half a dozen AC transit buses drove along the church with the deafening roar....never have played with such percussion as well....neither have I had a choral back-up group coming principally from the canine community!

Here's some pictures from Alan Ball

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Austin, YUPers, Spazmatics,
and the Spider House Cafe
Keeping it weird

I spent the week in Austin, staying at Austin Presbyterian Theological Seminary for a week of study, reflection, rest, renewal, laughter, BBQ, lattes and beer with other Presbyterian Young Urban Pastors. It was a great time of renewal, relaxation, and reflection. Highlights included some great conversations, a fun Yoga Session and multiple visits to the Spider Cafe as well as a chance to experience the Spazmatics (a local Austin 80s band) at Cedar Street Courtyard. I loved Spider House Cafe so much I was almost ready to sign up as an undergrad at UT, except for the homework, dorm life, papers, and return to late teens/early 20s.

I leave the week with many things:

1. Feeling encouraged and confirmed about my vocation and sense of call to serve as a pastor in the urban context.

2. Feeling encouraged about our church community - in the larger sense - and my colleagues I'm blessed to serve with.

3. the discovery that Texas can be quite different than you think....Austin.

4. A Reaffirmation of my passion for 80s music.

5. A Reaffirmation of my commitment to crazy colorful socks to keep things interesting!

Check out the Spazmatics on their website HERE and their myspace page HERE.

Check out Bruce's take on the week on his blog HERE.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

World Communion Sunday Bread
What did you do with yours?

Last Sunday in the worship gathering at our church we gave out baguettes at the end of communion, charging and challenging folks to take one and share it with others...neighbors, family, co-workers....someone else...as a symbol and sign of God's love given freely, authentically and entirely to us...so that we might pass it on, not hoarding it, but giving it away, not saving it in tuperware, but passing it on.

What did you do with your bread?
Who did you give it to?
What did you tell them?
Leave a comment in the comment box below!!!!

If you want to listen to the sermon from October 7th...click HERE and look for the sermon entitled "Jesus didn't have tupperware in his fridge."

Monday, October 08, 2007

High School Musical
Those who didn't make the cut

Our daughters are in love with High School Musical...too bad that they learned the lyrics bit too late. Does anyone know if they're going to do a remake of the musical with an Elementary or Nursery School slant? If so let me know. I might be able to retire early.

World Communion Sunday Celebration

The church community of which I'm a part celebrated World Communion Sunday with several other East Bay Sister Churches tonight. Here's some best-ofs of the photos and videos that I took!

Sunday, October 07, 2007

Olafur Eliasson
Experiential Art

I got my weekly Economist edition on Friday and diligently began working my way through it. In the Arts section this week is an article on Olafur Eliasson - "Spinning tops and frozen cars." His work is well known all over the world, and currently the SF MOMA is showing a retrospective of his work (through early Winter 08) that he helped install. His art is more about experience and participation than representation and passive reflection. When asked about his art in the article, he responded, "I am not a nature lover, I am a people lover. That is why I am an artist: I use art to engage people."

In an earlier blog entry (HERE) I wrote about my discovery and process of his creation and his experiential approach to art which aims for human participation and connectivity....all of which some current authors suggest should be some of the foundational elements to post-modern worship in Christian gatherings. Interesting food for thought that I'm still wrestling with and trying to get my mind and hands around. It's worth a read over a up of coffee...and a visit to the MOMA.

Thursday, October 04, 2007

Blessing of the Animals

Saturday, October 13th, 2007
@ Fruitvale Presbyterian Church
2735 MacArthur Blvd. Oakland, CA 94602
530-0915 • http://www.fvpc.org/

Registration, Coffee, Introductions & Information

Blessing Gathering Begins

Bring the 2 legged, 4 legged, feathered, hooved,

and scaled members of your family

for a free blessing on the church patio
in your neighborhood!

Co-Sponsored by


What are we eating?

I went to Costco yesterday to get new tires and ended up shopping for food instead. While there I noticed how much everyone was buying. Later in the day someone told me that they can't go to Costco and leave without spending $500. Most of what was being bought were 2 month supplies of candy bars, snack foods, chips, and other assorted processed delicacies. Now don't get me wrong....I'm the first to jump at some tortilla chips. But it got me thinking...that and the fear of God that is being put into me about our industrial food system as I finish Michael Pollan's book, Omnivore's Dilemma.

First of all nearly everything that we eat is made of corn...either animals that are now force feed corn instead of allowed to graze grass gracefully, or sweetened, preserved and tweaked by processed food additives all coming from, you guessed it - corn. So I laughed out loud reading the Chronicle today in which the article "Not Cutting the Mustard" points out that with the increase of corn prices (because of ethanol production pushing in the MidWest) Heinz now has to sweeten its ketchup with sweeter tomatoes instead of with corn syrup. Is this a tragedy especially when compared with the recent tortilla crisis in Mexico which is also a consequence of ethanol pushing and dramatic increases in corn prices?

So while downing a corn-feed oig polish sausage in a corn-sweetened bun and topped off with high-fructose sweetened (another corn by-product) coke I was staring at the idyllic and pastoral image of a farm on the box of milk I'd just bought. It brought up images of some beautiful countryside with the barn located somewhere between a babbling stream and a cool forest and some clothesline swaying in the wind in the distance. When in reality the milk I'm buying for my children was most likely taken at a dairy farm that rivals Manhattan for density of inhabitants per square mile. Then scanning down I noticed the double disclaimer....that the cows producing this milk were not given growth hormone...then lower with an * - the teaching moment disclaimer that growth hormones have not been found to make a significant difference in taste, quality or tumor growth. Now I'm not a victim...I know what I was buying and where I was buying it....but still it's an opportune moment to gripe.

In the Tribune on Tuesday there was an Op-Ed article about how Quality, Whole, Organic, TJ's, Farmer Joe's or Slow Food (any and all of the above) are bringing change and opportunity to the city of Oakland...not just calorie-wise, but mirroring the gentrification, or re-emergent metropolitan dynamism (you choose the term that best fits your perspective) in Oakland. Read the article HERE.

I gotta go, my Big Mac is up and I'm in a hurry to get to the doctor to be checked for rBST Tumors in my stomache.

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

What happens
when there are no more

Today's Oakland Tribune heads with an article entitled "Teacher shortage hits suburbs." The article shares about the severe and severely increasing shortage of not just qualified and certified teachers, but any body with a pulse willing to teach in our public schools. Shocker of shocker....this is already a problem in our urban areas...but now our safe flight-to-paradise & good-school-promised-land suburbs are also seeing teacher shortages. Unknown before in places such as Danville, Walnut Creek and Piedmont.

I don't know what was most troubling for me in the article: Was it the complacency and apathetic way in which it was articulated that this shortage problem is not just common, but increasingly the norm, in such places as Oakland?; or was it that there will be a radical shortage in the future everywhere of teachers (and that's not even considering the massive black-hole drain that will empty our schools of qualified and experienced administrators over the next 10 years.) Scary! Will our schools become empty wastelands, like this abandoned school building in Germany?

Why would you teach when you have to live off your salary to do so? In particular in suburban places where you're teaching children whose families don't struggle financially. It seems like teaching has been tweaked from a "noble" profession to a self-chosen form of indentured servitude? And education is the key to the future. In the World is Flat, Tom Freidman lifts up tha massive investment (not just throwing money, but skills and skilled people) in education is the only way to ensure that the USA stays financially strong, systemically somewhat healthy, and techonologically able. You've got to wonder where are priorities are?

I struggled all last year to get our daughter into a quality public school....now I wonder if I should have maybe started getting stuff together to home school her?

The Tribune helps to host this great ongoing blog written about new Oakland teachers and their experiences in the first year of teaching. HERE.

An editorial from our church newsletter @

We all have heroes that have encouraged, inspired, and formed us: Superman, the Bionic Woman, Peter Parker, Barry Bonds, Alan Greenspan, Mother Theresa, that favorite teacher, even Hiro Nakamura. But we also have heroes that have let us down, deceived us, or even deserted us: Barry Bonds, Britney Spears, OJ Simpson, or maybe a relative, friend, or co-worker. Our heroes are not just assigned to the pages of Marvel comic books or the frames of Hollywood movies, they’re in our lives. They are the people that have changed us for good, who have taught us about life, how to love, and to be loved in return. What’s most striking about them is that as much as they’re people we look up to, they’re probably also people that have taught us about the human condition – that we let each other down, are only human, or what the Bible affirms, that we are all sinners and fall short of the glory of God.

My favorite TV show (Heroes) started again this week, telling the story of ordinary people who suddenly discover that they are extraordinary with “special” powers and are charged to save the world. OK, I admit I’m a Sci-Fi nut. But the premise of the story is what we all long for…I think that’s why the show is so popular. We all dream that we might be more important, or have some special purpose in the universe. Don’t we? It’s something that’s deep inside all of us as human beings – a need to have meaning, to make meaning, to lead lives of meaning, and not merely go to work every day, or accomplish our daily to-do lists. We all want to “save the world” in our own unique & relevant ways. While this all seems like classic science fiction fare, or imaginative dreaming, it’s the underlying message in all of the stories of the Christian faith. First, we each are uniquely and lovingly created by God. Second, God through the Divine Spirit invites us all to be involved in what she is doing in the world. Third, God through Christ transforms, empowers and resurrects us in order to be co-participants with him in his efforts to not just save the cheerleader, but to save the world! The stories tell of ordinary people doing extraordinary things by the power of God. For instance, an old barren couple become the parents of a nation. A timid fisherman becomes a great public speaker. Small David overcame giant Goliath. Two sisters are now remembered for all time for their example of faithfulness and a boy who shared his lunch with 5,000 people.

From now through Advent (December 2nd) we’ll be talking about our favorite heroes and heroines from the Bible in worship. It’s a great time to do so as we celebrate Halloween and reflect upon the legacies that some of our national heroes have left us. It’s a great time to celebrate, affirm and explore the mystery that in Christ, we too, are new creations, the beloved of God, ambassadors for Christ, HEROES and HEROINES sent to save the world!

-Peace to you and yours,

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

One Hour For Peace
Jack - 7-11 & Unconscious Christians

I finally made it back to the One Hour for Peace monthly peace vigil community tonight for 60 minutes for peace. It was great to be out working, standing for peace, deepening community in our neighborhood. I found myself thinking about the whole "one hour for..." thing. I came out to stand for peace, for 60, no 59 more minutes....yet experienced something much more. Yet maybe it was just experiencing what peace really is.

While there I met, or re-met, a neighbor - Jack - who has lived in the neighborhood, in the same house, for nearly 85 years as the city of Oakland transformed, morphed, emerged and built-up all around the house. We'd met at a Christmas Dinner at our church two years ago. I remembered him and knew his house...often parking in front of it to run to the post office at 4:59pm. We talked of the neighborhood, mutual acquaintances, his work with the police department and changes in the Dimond. A walking encyclopedia, our talking invited me to actively remember that so much more is going on all around us all the time. What has he seen out of those windows over the past 85 years? Where the street car use to run he now sees a 7-11, where a hillside used to be there's now a litter layered street. How much do I miss out on when I'm focused on me, on my stuff, looking only straight ahead instead of looking at the big picture in a more peripherial or holistic way.

At the same time as we stood there, waving to those that honked in response to our "honk for peace" signs and swaying to the bongo drum beat I had this theological wave of reflection come over me in the neon light glow of the massive 7-11 sign hovering over us. We're doing a Bonhoeffer class at our church, reading his book on Ethics in a discussion about being followers of Jesus and what that means for us in our life, work, relationships, and ministry in the 2007 East Bay. In the reading we shared from this week we shared about a selection in which Bonhoeffer talks about the "unconscious Christians" that he worked alongside and with in his resistance eforts to the Nazi Regime including smuggling Jews out of Germany and to bring down the regime by removing Hitler. Bonhoeffer realized that many of the people he worked with were doing the same thing as him, with a similar passion, and shared purpose and perspective. He was doing it because of his Christian Faith, and so concluded that his colleagues - not involved in the larger Church community or claiming to be disciples of Jesus of Nazareth - were unconscious Christians....following the movement, mission and mystery of Chrsit in the world without knowing it. So I found myself reflecting on the group I was with, in which some are Christian, some are seeking - interested in Jesus and his teaching - but not exclusively, and others who knows?

How is it that we in the church community seem to think that we own or know what God is doing in the world? Why is it that we - and I mean me - so often think that the God works in and through the church, revealing things to that community...when maybe that's not at all it. That as Paul says the Spirit is intereceding for all of humankind as creation waits in labor pains for the revelation and redemption of the children of God (Romans 8). Much food for thought, in particular after great conversation with a friend at Peet's earlier in the day about the purpose of the church, the challenges facing pastors, and the way in which we in the Presbyterian Church are so slow to jettison our past baggage and systemic structure in order to move more effectively, fully and passionately into the reality of God emerging within our own reality? Bonhoeffer argues against thinking of 2 spheres in the universe, the sacred and the profane, or the kingdom of God and the kingdom of the world. He says there are not two, but one, integrated reality based upon and from the ultimate reality of God. Why do we, what is it in humanity that so often splinters and divides things, polarizing and making two from the one. Why is it that so often the "good" stuff happens in our unconscious? Maybe Eugene Peterson is right when he says, that God accomplishes most of his work when we're asleep.

Maybe that's what Peace really is? Biblically speaking it's "shalom" in Hebrew meaning not just the absence of war, but the presence of God's fullness, wholeness and love. Mabye the whole unconscious Christian thing that Bonhoeffer experienced and wrote about is just that...discovering a radical wholeness, oneness, integrity and unity in life. Mabye that's what is the key, the secret, or the foundation of peace....where we polarize, divide, debate, destroy, oppose and bifurcate God is actually calling us to seeing life and experiencing the reality of the universe in God, through God's love and by God's grace.

Monday, October 01, 2007

Blogging Towards Sunday
October 7, 2007
World Communion Sunday

We're starting a series at our church of scriptures selected by worship gathering participants that detail and lift up some the heros and heroines in the testimonial stories of the Bible that speak to them. This week is about Jesus and his radical hospitality and inclusivity.
In Luke 4 Jesus goes to Temple in his hometown and gets up to preach. He selects a part of the prophets (Isaiah 61:1-3) and then reads it in an experiential and connectional way. Jesus reads this prophecy of annointing to proclaim good news, the jubilee of God's favor, love and Shalom-peace and then promises that it's come true today in his reading and his person. The hometown crowd responds with a normal reaction, "Hey! Isn't that Jospeh's son? You know the carpenter on the street leading off of the town fountain? What's he thinking?"
They're surprised! Is it by Jesus' reading and interpretation? Is it that he dared say that? Or is it that they've been wondering as they've heard about some of the crazy things such as healings and puclic speaking to large crowds around not too far away...could it be true?

But then their surprise turns to anger and indignation. Jesus pushes the envelope. He proclaims what everyone had been waiting for...the revelation of the Jubilee, or salvation, or radical peace-making of God breaking into the world to become the ultimate reality. But then Jesus continues, saying that it's not just for the Jews - his own people - but for those pagan, unbelieving, Gentiles as well - those outsiders, the ones who are the "them" in the the whole there's "us" and there's "them" socio-ecnonomic cultural and ethnic conversation.

Jesus refers to two stories about the great prophets of yester-year: Elijah and Elisha, who represent some of the best and brightest of Jewish history, religion, culture and ethnicity. Yet Jesus alludes to two stories in which they go to help and save not Jews, but Gentiles, proclaiming and giving God's love first to the un-promised non-people of God before the promised and chosen people of God. Elijah brings the widow of Zarephath (a Gentile town and definitely a Gentile woman) back from the dead in 1 Kings 17 and the healing of Naaman (another Gentile and the leader of the ennemy army opposed to the Israelites in 2 Kings 5.

The home town crowd freaks out. "Who in the hell does this young freak think he is coming in here and saying this crap!?! *&%*! Jesus has told them what they fear...there is more than enough of God's love to go around to both the Israelites and everyone else (the Gentiles). The people of Jesus' day didn't believe that there was enough to go around. There were those that had been promised justice, deliverance and peace (the Israelites: the people of God) and then there was everyone else. It was clear. There were those who were "inside" and those who were "outside." There couldn't been enough to go around for everyone. There just wasn't enough.
The hometown crowd turns from indigantion to active violence. Luke tells us the faceless crowds mobs Jesus trying to throw him off a cliff. Only death could silence such comments worthy of eradication. So Jesus begins his ministry with both acclaim and rejection, in a moment of promise, prophecy and passion in which the crowd begs for more, dares to hope that just maybe this guy is the beginning of God's jubliee...and then they reject the radical extent to which he explains jubilee means and leads to. They have to kill him to silence such talk of inclusion, bridge-building, and peace-making. In a nutshell this story is representative of the larger, whole, story of who Jesus was, what he taught, and why he died and what his resurrection from among the dead means for Israelites, Gentiles, all of humanity and the cosmos.

So what does it mean for us? In his recently published memoires, Alan Greenspan affirms that the war in Iraq is first and foremost about oil: the resource that seems to be the most scarce and precious in our world today. We fear not having enough of such limited and precious stuff so we do whatever to not just get some, but to try to control it to ensure our future, our protection, our stability, our familiar way-of-life. It's not that different. Theologian & Biblicist Walter Brueggemann writes about the Liturgy of Abundance and the Myth of Scarcity in the Bible testimony. (read the whole article HERE or settle for my quickie summary and interpretation which follows) The Creation story is about abundance. God creates the world. It's all good. There's more than enough for everyone and every creature. It's a perfect system in which abundance is the norm and the thing that leads to gratitude and praise and worship of the benevolent creator of it all. As the stories continue fear, mistrust, jealousy, sin enters the story. Adam and Eve aren't sure if they're getting everything they deserve. Cain and Abel fight over who is the better one. Abraham is afraid of losing his own skin. Sarah doesn't want to lose her place, of for her son to be shamed. Issac prefers one son over other. Jacob cheats his way to what he wants. Joshua is screwed over by his jealous brothers. Then Pharoah who wants to reign over and control the whole world. All the stories point to the emergence of a human feeling, thought, perspective and fear that maybe, just maybe, there isn't enough to go around....maybe I won't get what I deserve, want, or expect as my piece of the pie....maybe God isn't just...maybe He's asleep on the job...so I should take matters into my own hands to ensure that things are fair, to speak for justice...to make sure that I get me some of whatever is it both today and in the days to come.
There is a movement from the Liturgy of Abundance to a Myth of Scarcity.

The pictures in the slide.com slideshow are from a photo album about what families eat for a week in places around the world and what they spend to do so. It's powerful, in particular contrasted with pictures of communion. I think we often act from the myth of scarcity....there's not enough food for coffee hour so everybody can only have one small little piece of cake...and then we're surprised to see how much is left over. It's usually my daughter that goes up and takes a second and third piece...perceiving abundance where most of us adults suspect scarcity. Or how often do we say in our homes, "there's nothing to eat." When the truth is the opposite. I often multitask in every moment, worried that there won't be enough time to get everything done, be with my family, enjoy some down time, and succeed....so I end up like I was last night talking with my wife, watching TV, blogging, and doing paperwork all at the same time. My fear of scarcity leads me to not notice and walk around the abundance in which I'm already living. Recently I was in a worship gathering and the bread on the communion table was this tiny little loaf. Every piece was spoken for. There was only just enough to go around. There was one little cup for every person, but not extra for an unexpected visitor. How tragic it was! Not at all representative of what communion actually proclaims and enacts....the liturgy of abundance...the Jesus is himself the bread of life...not cubed on a tray...but abundant, life-giving, life-affirming, and resurrecting.

I think those folks in Nazareth were freaked out by the implication of having to let go of the myth of scarcity, the ways in which they controled life in order to feel secure, in order to move into a liturgy of abundance - the good news that God will provide, that God does provide. We do the same don't we? I know I do. I mistrust what I can't control, what I can't expect. I want things to fit into the box, and when they don't I suspect first that they're wrong. What does it mean to live good news? To recognize the abundance in which we literally live in our country, and from which we've always lived according to the creation myths of Genesis 1 and 2. How would it change my life, my day tomorrow if I started the day recognizing that there is more than enough to go around - that God gives manna every day - instead of from a fear of scarcity driving me to self-preservation at any cost? Isn't that the peace that we all are longing for, whether in the Middle East, in Oakland, in our families or our communities of faith - and even in our own personal lives? What greater message is there than that on World Communion Sunday when we affirm, proclaim and celebrate our unity: in both our human condition and need and our salvation and deliverance from such destructive sins of scarcity?
E-P-I-C Worship Ideas
How can we experience abundance in worship? And in doing so feel connected to others in our complicity with the sin and myth of scarcity and the abundance of God's love? Maybe have a communion table overflowing with food...more than could be eaten...so that it has to be shared with others, friends, family, neighbors?
Worship Planning Resources for WCS at Textweek.com HERE.
I took some photos for a great photo montage at Time.com entitled "What the World Eats" regarding what families around the world eat in one week. View it HERE. Could be a great powerpoint show to use in worship this week.