Friday, November 30, 2007

Teaching Our Children to be Faith-FILLED
Reactions to the "Godlessness" of the Golden Compass

I've been hearing for about 6 weeks now about a new atheistic, anti-Christian, child/morality destroying movie that will be released in Theatres next week on December 7th. It's called the "Golden Compass." It is bad because it's written by an atheist, and some critics say targets and portrays tthe Catholic church as a semi-fascist, ego-centric, theocratic organization bent on preserving itself at all costs. (Now I leave that interpretation up to you.) I've received at least half a dozen emails warning me to protect my children at all costs from this Hollywood distributed evil first written by an English author, and to be sure to also preach against it in my pulpit.

I have several reactions to this event, the trilogy and forthcoming movie:

1. I look forward to seeing it. How can I talk about it in any sort of thougthful, intelligent or coherent way if I haven't read or seen it, or better yet both.

2. I wonder if anyone that has sent me these emails has read the book, of course they can't have seen the movie yet unless their part of the Hollywood intellegensia.

3. Why is it that so often we react violently against the ways in which publishing houses, record labels, or Hollywood organizations seek to shape our children, in particular in terms of their faith experience or moral vision? Isn't it the job of the parents, extended family and care-givers to do that? If you're not doing anything to provide some sort of culture, education, or participatory experience for your children in terms of faith and simply let whatever you get from blockbuster or netflix do so, then you're most likely getting what you deserve.

4. How come we so often hear in evangelical circles what is so bad, or corrupting, or evil in terms of the effect it can have on our children as opposed to hearing - with the same sort of consistentcy and vehemency - what might be encouraging, life-transforming and world-view shaping for our children that is authentic, organic and culturally pertinent?

5. Why is it that we look, in evangelical or catholic circles, to our clergy members to tell us what to do in some sort of a mindless parrot-mimicing sort of a way? I personally aim for, and hope that, the people in the faith community I serve as pastor are growing in their experience, vision, and eschatological hope regarding their faith as active actors and participants with their own minds, thoughts and reactions...not just repeating what I may or may not say on a given Sunday in the alloted 15 minute sermon period.

6. I pledge as a result to actively share, publish and teach diverse and different, culturally pertinent and applicable, concrete and coherent ways, strategies, rituals, and discussion-starters to enable us to not just talk about faith, but to put it into practice in an experiential way with our children, extended families and children of our faith communities. All Starting Today. (See 7).

7. In our family we try to pray most nights before dinner. Our goal as a family is to teach gratitude, to experience as a family that we are dependent upon others (to pick, harvest, slaughter, prepare, etc. our food) and that ultimately everything in life is a gift, which we believes come from the living triune God of the Bible. We will either sing a song (Johnny Appleseed - great theology and fun) or ask our kids to say what they're thankful for. Most times it's for this or that Barbie, for this or that friend. We don't try and change it to say thankful for our sins being forgiven, or for Jesus dying on the cross. They'll get that when they can get it. They can today (as toddlers and under 8 year olds) understand that most things in life are a gift, and that God is the source of all the gifts that we receive. It takes about 2 minutes (tops). It's always fun. The more we do it the more the kids want to do it (even asking for it) and the more they're able to articulate their gratitude in coherent and pertinent ways. Try it. If you tend to forget in the rush of getting the meal on the might just be your kids that quickly start asking or reminding you to say the prayer.

Newsweek (out today) has an article on the Golden Compass Movie (link HERE) that page also has a thoughtful interview about the theology of the Golden Compass that you can listen to (link HERE).

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

News Flash
Pastors often succumb to job burnout
because of stress & low pay
Nearly 50% consider the work hazardous
to health & well-being

I received a great article in my email today. Too late to include in our church newsletter for this month, but worth the try. I'm laughing as I write this and dream of an appropriate picture for this entry. But it does make you wonder...if those working full-time in the ministry are so miserable (myself included from time to time) what does that say about our church communities? If our leadership is so malcontent (and I doubt it's just pastors) what does that communicate to those outside the church community about the joy, peace and hope that following Jesus supposedly brings?

READ the article HERE - It's worth the read. Then publish it and share it with the members of the personnel committee of your faith community!

Catch you on! :)
OUSD School Options for 2008-09

OUSD has scheduled their school options fair for December 7-8th.
The Enrollment Window for 2008-09 will be December 10-January 15.

I found the options fair really helpful last year - a unique chance to meet all the schools, adminstrators and usually at least 1 teacher and 1 parent from each school community - all in the same place. OK - it's totally overwhelming...but helpful.

More info online at the OUSD website HERE.

Specific School Information for each site is HERE.
You can also check out 3rd party ratings of the school at

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Blogging Towards Sunday
December 2, 2007
The 1st Sunday of Advent
Waiting on the World to Change

Sunday is the first Sunday in Advent, the liturgical season of the four Sundays preceeding Christmas. Advent means "coming" in Latin. It's the celebration of participation and experience of the good news of the birth of the Christ child in distant and long ago Bethlehem. It's experiential in that we are invited today to experience for oursevles what those over 2,000 years ago waiting for the coming of the long awaited Messiah, or Annointed, of God to deliver them from foreign oppressors in Babylon, Assyria, Persia, Greeks and Romans. We participate in that historic period of waiting through the telling, re-telling our hearing of the story of the birth of Jesus of Nazareth as we move together through our reading from text to action.

What did those long ago prophets imagine? What did John the Baptist imagine in his time preparing for the arrival of Jesus? What did Mary think of, and reflect upon in her heart during those long 9 months? What did the Shepherds, the most excluded of peoples think between their angelic vision and their discovery of the baby in the manger? What did those Magi imagine as they traveled searching the night sky, checking their maps and confering with Herod? How did they all imagine that the birth of this child would not only signal but embody the victory of God over the forces of division, destruction and death in the world?

The scriptures for this first week of Advent talk of HOPE - the hope of the prophets that God would indeed bring light into darkeness, freedom from captivity, hope to the hopeless. A hope best symbolized in God's intended future for all the nations of the earth - a giant table, sort of like Thanksgiving without the sales and football, to which everyone would come to eat, be healed, made whole and know community with one another and with the Living God who will sit and preside over the table. The hope of the early church that this ultimate victory would come soon, that pushes us to prepare, to await this deliverance not as passive spectators but as active participants scanning the horizon for a sign, putting oil in our lamps, perparing the banquet feast room and table. The hope as John expressed it in Revelation that there would come a new heaven and a new earth that would be without the sea (the eternal symbol of division, destruction, death and chaos throughout the Bible from the chaotic pre-mordial waters of the creation story, to the destructive waters of the flood, to the enslaving waters of Egypt).

The scriptures all point towards a way of living that is both in the moment and looking forward, both remembering the past and anticipating the future while living fully in the now. It's about living with perspective in terms of who we are, who are neighbors are and how God in Christ calls, invites and challenges us to love them as God first loves us. When we get that wrong, when we live it backwards focused on ourselves out of fear, mistrust, greed, or competition...then we move towards the evil that so often dominates the systems of our world. Our hope in Advent is that the light of Christ not only shines in the darkness, but shows us the way to something bigger, better, a promise hinted at in the birth of that baby in the manger.

What is our hope? That's the question that these scriptures ask us. It can't just be a trinket on a shelf, or a postive thought on a hallmark card. I has to be gritty, human, real, authentic, honest. What is your hope? What is the thing that gets you up out of bed, into motion and sustains you through the trials, trails, and treats of your daily life?

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Happy Thanksgiving

I'm taking a few days offline for a much needed break at Thanksgiving. But I couldn't resist sharing some un-Martha-ish tips for a happy holiday. Hope you find it helpful! Let me know if you go for the Turduckin.

The Future of Reading
Should I be looking for a new job or just a Kindle?

A friend who works for told me about the cover story on this week's edition of Newsweek (came out yestreday). He's been working on the latest project just released - a digital E-book device, shared in the article entitle "The Future of Reading." It's worth the read (pun intended).

As a pastor and leader in a faith community based upon the reading as both individuals and a community of the sacred texts gathered in the Bible I find myself asking some questions:

If reading goes digital what does that mean for the 3 religions of "the book" (Christianity, Judiasm, and Islam)?

How might digital books impact the way we read texts together as communities of faith? Will it empower us or divide us?

Do we lose something when we can't touch the paper, smell the ink, or stack the dog-eared collections on our desk?

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Free Community Dinners @ Thanksgiving

Here are 2 free community dinners happening in Oakland on Thanksgiving Day. They may need volunteers or donations, and can definitely use prayers of support. I took the below text from the Holiday Events section in Today's Tribune (couldn't find an online version of the text).

Two Star Market's 4th Annual Thanksgiving Day Community Dinner with traditional and non-traditional food and barbecue, free, 11:30am-4:30pm, 2020 MacArthur Blvd., Oakland, 94602. 415-710-3281

Lake Merritt United Methodist Church's 28th Annual Thanksgiving Day Community Dinner with all the trimmings, free, 1-3pm, 1330 Lakeshore Ave/1255 Frst Ave., Oakland, 465-4793

Monday, November 19, 2007

7th Annual Community Thanksgiving Dinner

Tonight was our 7th Annual Community Thanksgiving Dinner served for the diverse and different members of our East Oakland Community from the Glenview through Millsmont. I'm posting a slide show of some of my best-of pictures.

What encouragement to see so many different folks working together to create a community meal about giving thanks and about building community. That's a buzz word these days...but what I love about living in District 4 is the diversity, the deep meaning of what community means for us whether it's a Thanksgiving Dinner for those hungry for a hot meal, hungry for company in their isolation, or hungry for an urban neighborhood community in which we actually know, recognize and communicate with our neighbors. It reminds me of my latte at Peet's in the Dimond the other day. While talking with a friend from church about music a homeless friend came in for a cup of coffee and joined us, while the manager Scott checked in with us and I saw a friend from my child's school. If that's not community, I'm not sure what it is.

Special thanks to all those that helped make our Community Thanksgiving Meal and our Thanksgiving Food Distribution possible:

La Farine for the donation of bread
Bret Harte & Sequoia Schools for their canned food drive efforts
The members and friends of Fruitvale Presbyterian Church
All the Neighbors who joined in and helped with donations and service
Diane Ball for heading the whole thing up
Robin Goodfellow for the fantastic arts & crafts for the children
Cecilia Jackson for cooking all those beautiful turkeys
and the Thursday Night Bible Study for the clean-up help til the very end!
See you next year the Sunday before Thanksgiving!

Friday, November 16, 2007

Volunteer Service Opps for Thanksgiving
in District 4 of Oakland

Someone asked me yesterday if I knew of ways that they and their family might serve others in our Oakland neighborhoods at Thanksgiving Time. So I'm posting a list of what I know of in order by date from now to Thanksgiving Day. If you know of another one please share it in a comment. I'll try to include links and phone numbers as possible.

7th Annual Community Thanksgiving Dinner at Fruitvale Presbyterian Church, Sunday, November 18th, 4-5:30pm (come at 3 to help set up and serve, stick around after to help clean up!)

Victory Outreach Ministries in the Laurel. They often do something. Couldn't find it on their site but you can call them to see.

Thanksgiving Day @ Abdo Alawdi's Two Star Market in the Dimond business district.

Two Star Market will hold its fourth annual community Thanksgiving Dinner on Thanksgiving Day at 2020 MacArthur Blvd. in Oakland. This dinner is held so that the homeless, families without resources for a traditional dinner or people in need of community can come together to enjoy the holiday. The guests will sit down to a traditional holiday feast of Turkey, Dressing, an assortment of side dishes and pie. We will also have grilled chicken for guests that prefer that to Turkey.We need volunteers to help cook and serve the meal. Cooks are needed from 8 am to 12 pm or 12 pm until 3 pm. The cooks will be cooking chicken on a barbecue grill. Servers are needed from 11:30 until 4 pm.If you are interested in helping out call Abdo at 415-710-3281.

Shiloh Christian Fellowship usually does something too on Thanksgiving Day - call and ask them.

And the Alameda County Food Bank always needs help - not just at the holidays - donate your time, your money, and your food!

Cheers to Tim Chapman for the site links re: Abdo!

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Blogging Towards Sunday
November 18, 2007

Heroes of the Bible:
Ruth & "Chesed" Loyalty


Sunday at our church community we're reflecting upon the story of Ruth, one of the Heroes of the Bible picked by a member of our community of faith. It's a challenge to preach and facilitate a dialogue about an entire book, so I chose a section (used by the Lectionary) to summarize and respresent the entire story. We're using Ruth 1:1-19 as the foundation for our worship gathering. If you can read the whole book. I remember learning that the book of Ruth is one of the best literary examples of a short story in class in college.

Ruth is a challenging story. An Israelite family leaves Israel during a famine and settles in Moab. While there the father and two sons die, leaving the mother and her childless daughter-in-laws to fend for themselves. The daughter in laws are moabites, foreigners for the Israelite mother now stuck in a foreign country in a time when Israelites were encouraged to only marry within their ethnic group. Naomi, the mother-in-law decides to return to her people, her land, her home in her loss. For her widowhood, lack of progeny, and continued poverty seem to mark her as cursed by God, a possible visible sign of her invisible unfaithfulness. One daughter-in-law accepts her liberation from marriage bonds and stays, the other - Ruth - refuses to leave her mother-in-law returning with her to Bethlehem. Once there to stays faithful, and while in their poverty, forced to eat from their gatherings of the gleanings, or unharvested edges of the farm fields meets Boaz a good man. They fall in love, marry and have a child, who turns out to become the grandfather of the mighty king David.

So what's the big deal?

*The story is written with much more depth, invisible to our eyes as we come from a different culture and time.
*Moab is a bad place for the Israelites. It's associated with gluttony, sexual perversity and generally has the connotation of a place of the ennemies of God's people throughout the First Testament.
*The Israelite family that is faithful forsakes their homeland, marries into foreign families, and sets up shop in the worst of all possible lands - all no-nos!
*The story was most likely written down in a time when the Israelites were forbidden to marry women outside of the Israelite ethnicity, and if they had were automatically granted divorces to right that wrong.
*The personal who exemplifies faithfulness (chesed in Hebrew) in the story is actually - horrror of horrors - a woman, a foreign born woman, a foreign born woman who never really talks about the God of the Isarelites, and on top of it all she's childless after her first marriage.

So the story is actually subversive. The one that seems to be the most unfaithful is the absolute paragon of faithfulness and has become the icon of chesed living in the testimonies of the Bible. Ruth challenges us, the way that we put God in a box, the ways in which we put each other in a box with our expectations, racial/ethnic/gender stereotypes, the ways in which we restrict what God could be doing in our world, and when and who God might be doing them through.

It's Thanksgiving. Our community gives out Thanksgiving Baskets to those who are hungry and come for them. It's great. We feel good. Folks are served. We do it in the name of God's love in Jesus the Christ. Yet there's always a Ruth-ish challenge. Someone always comes who drives this beautiful Cadillac. Do they deserve a turkey and basket of food if they drive such an expensive car? Why are they coming for free food when their car cost as much as some people pay in rent for a year? A wise woman of our community says, "I don't care what they drive, or how they come. If they come and ask for food we're going to give it to them. If they're hungry and they ask then they'll be fed, doesn't matter if they come in a Cadillac, on the bus or walk. That's all that Jesus says to do. Feed the hungry. Clothe the poor. Open the door when someone knocks."

Maybe that's the challenge of the story of Ruth, in particular for us in this week of Thanksgiving. God works in mysterious ways, most often from the margins, in avenues that we don't expect, understand, or even always like. The question isn't "Why is God doing this?" but "How is God showing up? How is God inviting us to respond to the needs around us in the love of Jesus?"

What do you think? If you drive a Cadillac do you still get a turkey?

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Oakland Unified School District
Open Enrollment School Options Info

OUSD just released information about the School Options Open Enrollment Process for public school students for 2008/09.

The window for submiting your open enrollment paperwork will be from December 10th through January 15, 2008.

They have a School Options Fair scheduled for December 7th & 8th at the Coliseum. (It's a great way to visit all of the schools in one shot, talking with adminstrators, teachers and parents).

They haven't posted that to the website yet, but a worker in the office said to keep checking as it should appear any day now.

Here's the link to the OUSD website:
Nouveau Beaujolais
This Thursday

So if you know me you know that I'm a Francophile. Half a dozen years living in several places throughout France has marked and shaped me in ways that I still don't fully grasp. This Thursday is a fun French culture event. It's Nouveau Beaujolais day. The new harvest of Beaujolais wine is released every year on the same day in every country on the planet. YES, the third Thursday of November is the day that the new year of Beaujolais goes on sale. This year it's jeudi le 15 novembre, or Thursday 11/15.

It's a young wine, the first uncorked in the "wine season," not necessarily the greatest, but it is great fun. In Paris - and throughout France even here in French restaurants - there is a special menu created on this Thursday. Everything is paired with the new wine released in these special 24 hours, an invitation to celebrate life, the coming of Winter, the end of the Harvest, the fruits of the Earth, good friends, la bonne cuisine and all that stuff. Usually the weekend after the third Thursday you might be invited to friends' home for lunch and dinner, with each meal seeking to show off, pair with and celebrate the new Beaujolais.

Here's some links to learn more:

(one of the big makers of Beaujolais)
includes a count-down clock
party tips
and a link to find parties and public tastings scheduled for Thursday.

In Oakland I buy mine at Bev&Mo and Cost Plus at Jack London Square. They also have better varieties at Montclair Village Wines. Leave a comment if you have any other places to suggest.

We're pairing the wine with Beef Bourginon at our dinner party this year.

Chin Chin!

Friday, November 09, 2007

Does Religion Have to Change?

I've had some interesting reading about faith (religion) and change/modernity in the past week. From the book Bobos in Paradise that concludes that our culture is spiritually bankrupt to the ways in which the Republican Presidential Candidates have been pandering a diverse group of Evangelical Christian Leaders (and vice-versa) jockeying for endorsements we see what philosophers have been claiming for the past few years: religion rather than confimring Nietzsch'e affirmation that "God is dead!" has experienced a hyper-resurrection in Western Culture. This is fleshed out in a great special report in the Economist last week "Religion and Public Life" HERE's an interview with one of those authors, to an article in today's SF Chronicle "Behold-religion just needs to dance," to some thoughtful blog article by friend and colleague Bruce Reyes-Chow on his blog (check out the entry on the same SF Chronicle article and "Number 1 Reason why the PCUSA... ").

Religion is increasingly (and has been now with the emergence of the cultural shift around President Bush years ago) playing a larger - or at least more visible (for good or for bad) - role in our culture, society and political establishment. But is it what faith is meant, or intended to be?

Does the church have to change? Hell yes. Read Bruce's entry and the comments/discussion. But that doesn't mean that the essence of faith does. For me what my faith is based upon isn't dogma, a religious establishment or ecclesiastical system, but rather a key teaching, a foundational example, an invitation to follow Jesus in what I do, how I think, the lens through which I view my neighbor and make decisions, as well as the forming factor of my relationships, commitments and raison d'etre. Faith needs to change, or be transformed, in its relationship - or enslavement to the Western paradigm of modernity. It needs to be liberated to what it orignially was (what Jacques Ellul calls X in the Subversion of Christianity), to a new vision, freed possibly by what we calls post-modernism or the emerging cultural shift happening in, around and among us all. Faith doesn't have to change because we've created it and want it to. We have to change the way that we talk about it, describe it with imperfect vocabulary, and experience it as communities of faith.
Blogging Towards Sunday
November 11, 2007
Why Doesn’t God Answer Our Questions
About Suffering & Evil?
Heroes of the Faith

At our church we're continuing our series on "Heroes of the Faith" in which someone from the church community suggests their favorite Bible Hero or story. Inspired by my mania for the TV Show Heroes, it's our way to reflect on heroes and heroines of the faith and how we're called by their example from story texts to participatory action.

This week it's Job. Not a part-time or full-time gig, but a man who's story is the ultimate story of suffering, and looking for sense in the chaos, crap and challenge of life.

Here's the Monteskewed-notes to bring you up to speed. Job is a good, faithful, God-fearing man. He is pursued and tormented by the devil; losing all that he has - wealthy, power, status, land, family, wife, and health. He refuses to curse and blame God for all the *%$# that has gone down. His three good friends come along and try to convince him that it's his fault: he's been bad, been a sinner so he's gotten what he deserves. In the end Job asks, "Why?" God responds (our reading for Sunday) saying basically, "Who the hell are you to question me? Where were you when the universe was made? Who are you to think yourself that important? Don't you see my love for all things. I make it rain on the good and the evil, on the rain forest and also the desert." Job realizes what God is saying, repents of his arrogance, and is commended by God.

Did it happen. Maybe. Scholars say that it most likely is a long philosophical poem written as a way to question the theological ideas of the day (about 2,300 years ago), which are still the questions we face today:

1. Why do bad things happen to good people?
2. Why do good things happen to bad people?
3. If God is so loving and all-powerful how come the world is so %$&*#$ up?

I first have to say, "Who I am to answer these questions?" I haven't lived a life of tremendous suffering like some friends I know, captivity in the Middle East, homelessness, abandonnement. So I can only answer based on my experience and faith journey and relationships with others.

Classic theology calls this the question of Theodicy. We basically have 3 options (this comes from Kushner's book When bad things happen to good people.)

1. God is all powerful but not all-loving. He can do anything but doesn't love us enough to be kind to us all of the time. So bad things happen because of him.

2. God is not all powerful but all-loving. She loves us so much, wanting to do anything for us, but she can't. So bad things happen despite her.

3. God is all powerful and all-loving. God loves us so much, wants to do anything for us, and does but somehow bad things happen. Evil is. God could overcome it completely in a petrelli-power-move of omnipotence but doesn't. It's a mystery that we have to accept.

If you choose 1, then God is a jerk.
If you choose 2, then God is a joke.
If you choose 3, then God is an unknowable mystery that chooses to make himself known.

I choose 3. But that doesn't make it any easier.

I think we get screwed up as followers of Jesus because we expect God to answer our questions on our terms and in our contexts. "Why do you let my ennemy win?" "Why do you let evil continue in Darfur?" "Why didn't you help the Raiders to win?"

Yet what I fathom in the testimonies of the Bible and glimpse in my own life experience is that God speaks another language. God doesn't exist or relate to us in order to answer our questions like or google. Jesus never really answers the questions that he's asked with a straight-forward multiple-choice kind of answer. Instead he says, "Come and see." "Follow me." "Get up and walk." He always turns it around, not to make fun of the question or to be elusive, but rather to invite the question-asker to action, participation and movement. It's not a static tit-for-tat question-answer session. It's something else. A mystery, sure. And also more intimate than a mystery. As Job learns and confirms, there is no answer there's only what the Bible calls obedience, Paul Ricoeur calls moving from text to action, and what I'd call following in faith.

One thing that comes to mind is a quote that I often see on the internet these days and another from George Eliot:

"PEACE: It does not mean to be in a place where there is no
noise, trouble or hard work.
It means to be in the midst of those things
and still be calm in your heart. "
"Deep unspeakable suffering
may well be called a baptism,
a regeneration, the initiation into a new state."
I think that's partly what the author of Job is trying to tell us and invite us to discover for ourselves

Thursday, November 08, 2007

The Devil
Becoming Biblically Literate

We're gathering at our church on Sunday for the next session of BBL with the them of "The Devil." Is there a devil? Is it an idea, a metaphor or a real person? Does the devil really do things in the world or is it merely an excuse that justifies our inaction or our naivete? If you're interested check out the following discussion starting readings (a summary of what I based out at our church) and come join the discussion on Sunday morning at 9:45am or do so online in the comment section of this entry.

I'm basing the following summary of options concerning the devil from a helpful book Christian Doctrine by Shirley C. Guthrie Jr. If you like the exerpts (my summarizing) buy the book!

Evil cannot come from God, for what God wills and does is good. It cannot come from an evil god who is the rival of the good God, for there is only one God. Nor can it come from human beings, for they are below God.

Where then does evil come from? According to scripture, it comes from the "Tempter" - Satan. He was already there in the form of the serpent at the very beginning of human history before human beings did anything. It was this already exisitng Evil One who put evil desires into the heart, mind, and will of the first human beings (the representatives of all humanity every since) and tempted them to choose to rebel against the Creator.

Who is Satan? According to the ancient Christian tradition, he is a creature of God - not a human creature but an angelic creature of some kind, who perhaps with other angelic creatures, rebelled against God and then became the sourve of corruption of God's good creation.

How can modern Christians understand the reality and power of this Evil One?

There are 2 possible ways:


1.1 Some would say that if we are faithful to scripture we must believe in the literal existence of a personal devil and in invisible demonic powers at work in our lives and in the world around us. If you choose that option than there are 3 conditions:

1.2 Christians do not "believe in" the dveil. We confess our faith in God the Father Almighty, Jesus Christ the son, and the Holy Spirit. Christians believe not in but against the power of darkeness in God's good creation.

1.3 Our interest in the devil and demons must not become so central and intesne that their reality becomes more important to us than the reality and power of God. We must take the powers of darkness seriously, but we can never make them the center of our though, which gives them too much honor and power.

1.4 If we listen to what scripture tells us about Satan and his opowers of darkness, we will not look for their work only where there is obvious filt, obscenity, and godlessness in the world around us; we will also look at ourselves and at the Christian community. Satan is not only at work "out there." He is alsot at work especially where pious people try to use God to maintain their own pwersonal or social security, prosperity, and power instead of serving God.


Some modern Christians believe that we can no longer believe in the reality of a personal Satan and personal demonic forces. Biblical talk about them, they would argue, is only a primitive way of expressing the truth that in God's world there is not only order but also chaos, not only huanity but also inhumanity, not only good but also evil.

One advantage of thinking of evil this way is that it enables us to think of impersonal as well as personal forces of evil at work in and among us. A question is if this effort to demythologize the interpretation of Satan is meant to secretly attempt to explain away the biblical way of talking about evil? And to be sure that we don't affirm that systemic evil is more powerful thatn God's goodness.

We have 2 major ways to interpret Biblical language about evil and the devil but a faithful reader of the Bible has to conclue that there is no explanation for the origin and reality of evil in God's world. The Bible presents with this profound simplicity, while biblical testimony encourages us to confess faith in the midst of chaos and order, to profess faith in the tension of suffering and blessing, and to affirm faith in a loving, good, powerful and personal God in the mix of good alongside evil.

So what do you think?
What view of the devil to you take? Literal? Symbolic?

I included a photo slideshow above with some funny pictures of who diverse people would say is the incarnate of the devil today...those 3 names come up when you google "devil." Not sure what that means?

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Dimond History Night Wednesday,
November 7 7:30pm to 9:00pm
Dimond Library Community Room

The Dimond Improvement Association (DIA) invites all Dimond residents (and residents of nearby neighborhoods, too) to a colorful, story-filled evening of local history.

Come enjoy:

• An illustrated history presentation by Eleanor Dunn
• Small-group sessions with local historian and author Dennis Evanosky, and commercial-area researcher Karen-Marie Schroeder (and possibly others)
• Handouts on Dimond chronology, researching the history of your house, and a mini self-guided history tour of the Dimond

Bring your own old photographs and memorabilia of the Dimond to share.

Dress up in old-time clothes, if you like.

Enjoy light refreshments, too. .

Sounds like lot's of fun! See you there tonight.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Day Of The Dead

At our church on Sunday we incorporated the Latino Holiday Celebration of Dia de los Muertos into our worship gathering. We've done this the past few years on the Sunday after Halloween or All Saints' Day. We create an altar with photos and ofrendas in our worship as our way of celebrating what the church universal is - those of us following Jesus gathered from with our differences, from around the world, and across the ages through life and death.

It's a favorite for members of our church community. It was again this year. I was really moved as I realized the presence of those who pictures were on the table, as we remembered them in the gathering for the ways in which they marked us as people, shaped our community of faith, and are still present with us in the great mystery, or the life that Jesus promises us is after physical death.

Makes me think that we so often avoid death. We don't want to talk about, think about, deal with it because if forces us to recognize that we too will die. Yet it's an unavoidable and essential part of life, which has a beginning and an "end." I was struck in particular by our celebration of communion, in which the juice was made from grapes picked from a grape vine planted by one of the church members who died several years ago. What an image and experience of the promise of resurrection and life beyond death - to have that man present with us around the communion table both according to the promises of scripture and through the continuing gift of his grapes. Maybe that's what it's all about? Recognizing that we will die. Death cannot be cheated. And that death is not the end. We shouldn't live in fear of death, neither should we be seeking it. It is as we are. Maybe that's a big part of what Jesus was trying to do and teach, that we have to live death - not from our fear of it, and not into it...but with death and in the hope and promise that there is more than just this. Maybe that's part of what he was getting at when he said, "You shall know the truth and the truth shall set you free"?

I'm supposed to have the answers in our congregation. Right? I mean I have the Masters in Divinity. I have the ordination. I'm the one "in charge," the resident expert on all things spiritual, related to God and existentially true. Yet I don't know what happens after we die. Sure there are things in the Bible that point to what the next life is like - starts in a twinkling of an eye, at the sound of the trumpet, we will be raised up anew, with new yet the same bodies. Yet all of that is somewhat vague. I've heard many things from other Christians on my journey: the righteous will be there with wings and in power while the evil, sinful, doubters will burn in hell. I've heard that depending upon how and who you have sex with you'll either know an eternity of bliss or of torturous pain. I've heard that the whole reason to believe in Jesus is so that you can go to heaven. I've heard - and prayed myself - that a simple prayer of less than 100 words will get you a get-out-of-jail direct pass to the pearly gates where Peter is waiting with a harp, a large ring of keys and some sort of giant book with our names in it.

But I don't believe it. How can faith - or following Jesus - just be about the future, about life after death. What about life right now? I've prayed that prayer of repentence. But what then? It has to be about right here and now too, in the middle of the grim and shit that seems to be going down all around us. I believe that Jesus is the hope of the world (though I don't always feel it in my daily life) and that can't just be about saving certain ones of us, or of giving us hope for heaven so that we'll put up with the crap were in up to our knee caps.

I don't know what happens. But like the Mayans and Aztecs, like those that followed Jesus 2,000 years ago (and still do) I believe that death of our bodies, the flatline on that screen, the last exhale isn't all there is. Call it what you want. I call it the great mystery (I think that's what the Apostle Paul was meaning). There is life - not our bodies floating up with wings to heaven or descending in chains to hell, but life - different yet the same - active, not just passively watching what's going down on Earth like Patrick Swayze in Ghost - purposeful and passionate, not just like the ghost of Christmas Past pointing the right way to act morally. It has to be LIFE. Different yet the same. Not isolation but community. Not freedom from suffering and pain, but freedom for passion, purpose and community: freedom for life.

It can't be all based on how or who or if you have sex with someone else. It can't be about a ritualistic prayer that is simply repeated as a mass phenomena. It can't be about some truth that you scream at others while waiving your picket sign. I think it has to be about Truth that we can't know with just our minds, but also with our bodies, with our relationships, in our actions, - it has to be some sort of an experiential relationship in which we participate, are challenged, challenge back and find meaning. It has to be something that makes sense, not congitively, but in and for our lives.
The MacArthur Metro
has a new website
There are even color version of the b/w photos in the print version of our local paper.
Check it out online at

Friday, November 02, 2007

Join us for our Annual Community Thanksgiving Dinner
Cheers to Corn Dog for the great flyer!
Hope you can join us for a community Thanksgiving Dinnner for the Dimond/Laurel/Maxwell Park Neighborhoods
The purpose of the meal is threefold:
1) to feed the hungry & homeless
2) to offer company for the isolated and elderly
3) to build community and deepen relationships between neighbors across East Oakland.
Come to get a hot meal.
Come to celebrate the holiday with others.
Come to meet your neighbors, develop relationships and be in solidarity!
More info our our church website at
Hope to see you the 18th!
Discovering the Dimond
Licoln Court Senior Housing

I went to the dedication today of the new (ok - not so new - but newly celebrated) senior housing at Lincoln Court at the corner of MacArthur & Lincoln/Champion.

It was amazing...something like 200 people gathered to celebrate. I'm struck by the memory of how many layers of community, governmental help and money it took to make such affordable housing possible in the Dimond District. Councilwoman Jean Quan spoke, and what I remember as poignant was her sharing that the Hillcrest Motel (what was on the site before) was the #4 on the list of most heavily crime reported sites in Oakland. WOW! Such a transformation of a crime-infested, prostitued-ridden, drug-homeish site into a home for diverse seniors and families, in the middle of the dynamically re-emerging Dimond District!

The lunch - provided by some great Dimond merchants/restuarants including Cybelle's Pizza, Farmer's Joe's, Full Moon Restaurant, and Los Comales was amazing. The friend that invited me to the celebration retired early with her desert to her apratment. So I took my luch buffet-on-a-plate to the patio outside the Apartment Building. While there I overheard 3 mutli-racial bobo's commenting on the Dimond. Here's what I remember.

An Anglo Woman, "You know it's just like Piedmont Avenue...but there's still some...."

An Asian Man, "WOW! What is this Farmer Joe's place? I hear so much about it?"

An African-American Woman, "It's just like some sort of neighborhood, smaller Berkeley Bowl. You should go."

I wrote earlier this week about a great article in the Tribune talking about the changes, transformation and gentrification/renaissance (depending upon which side of the fence you are on) of Oakland. I foudn that my experience at the Lincoln Court dedication was more proof of the transformations that have already taken place.

The slideshow pictures were taken during my tour of the apartment complex. It's quite a place. 82 apartments. There were over 1,000 requests and applications for the housing. They have a beautiful new computer lab, funded by the Pleasant Valley Adult School, with wait-listed classes starting soon, and a vision of a Senior Center without walls. Exciting. What does this mean for the whole melting pot mix of what is emerging now - and in the near future - in Oakland's Dimond District.

Jean Quan talked about how many businesses/people want to come to the Dimond now following the openings of Farmer Joe's, Peet's and La Farine and how it is causing rent prices to rise. Great news! I wonder who else is trying to come to the Dimond to open for business? I also wonder how much support were giving to existing, and long-fighting-for-the-neighborhood businesses such as Paws & Claws and Two Star Liquors?