Tuesday, April 24, 2007

The Real DaVinci Code
Star Wars Version of the Last Supper

I was researching online this past week for info and images about DaVinci's painting of the Last Supper for our Godly Play lesson, and stumbled across this fantastic version of the painting and event of the gospel.

I wonder if this may just be the original version - maybe the pope of DaVinci's day tweaked it to make it more acceptable.....hmmm. I wonder how I could contact Sophie Neveu? If you know her cell number or her email send it to me.

I found the pictue on this blog http://www.neverhappened.org/neverhappened/2005/05/star_wars_episo.html

Thursday, April 19, 2007

The 911 for Community

I detoxed from tv yesterday while I took care of our sick daughter. Coming back online into the world of Media this morning I discovered - what most of you probably watched in endlessly repeating styles on MSNBC, FOX and CNN yesterday - regarding the video, picutres, and letters sent by Cho Seung-Hui to NBC. As I read through this information, trying to digest both it and my breakfast with an underlying sense of tragic dread and unease, I find myself remembering words of a conversation with a fellow pastor on Tuesday. We were talking about the future, trying to think outside of the box for and with the chuch, in order for the church community to remain faithful to the perspective, praxis and worldview of our faith tradition but to not trapped in the shackles of convention, repetition and fear-of-the-future induced flight. He told me that he'd be able to finish off his career as a pastor, continuing to receive a salary and even collect a pension, while unfortunately myself and others in my age bracket might not. This pastor's child - also a pastor in my age-bracket - is considering getting an MBA sensing the changes that might be in store for the future. Why is the church so stuck?; in particular when the world seems to be so un-stuck and increasingly flexible and adaptable?

Journalists have discovered and named the change in communication that became even more evident at Virginia Tech in response to the murder rampage of Monday. Many students checked in with their families, or friends checked in with them through blogs, facebook pages, and myspace links. In an article a Bay Area student wanted to see if a friend at VT was ok, but rather than get stuck in the mass of phone calls that would jam the telephone system, they checked the friend's facebook update which verified that they were ok. It demonstrates that technology in changing (not all by itself) the ways in which we communicate and experience community.

So I think about the church, seeking help, trying to collaborate with the dynamic forces emerging in our cultures, industries, artistic creations, and community connections....and I wonder if we're failing because the church is trying to dial up help on rotary land-lines phones, or so busy typing up our soon-to-be-mimiographed newsletters, that we're missing out on all the communication, collaboration and connectedness already happening all around us in the parallel 2.0 world through which dialogue and exchange is increasingly happening on cell phones, IMs, blogs, myspace, and facebook? The church is so busy seeking information that we're missing out on experiencing what is happening just beside us.

Here's links to some of the articles that got me thinking....

ONLINE: Studnets flock to social networking site (SF Gate, 4.18.07)

Future: Has NBC ushered in a new ear for multimedia (SF Gate 4.19.07) by Tim Goodman

MEDIA ETHICS: Tough decisions on how much to show (SF Gate 4.19.07) by Matthew B. Stannard

Virginia Tech killer: Using media for his message (SF Gate, 04/18/07) by Tim Goodman

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Earth Day in East Oakland

I found this great picture last night as I surfed the web for some inspiration for our Earth Day Worship Celebration at the church I serve as pastor. Not sure which decade I should dress for come Sunday (plus don't know how warm it will be yet)

If you live in or love East Oakland here's a link to ways and places where you can get involved in your neighborhood on Saturday for Earth Day. The link is to a page of Jean Quan's website for District 4. Check it out here.
Harmony, Cacophony & Time Out

I've been struck - as we all have - with the events of the last days.....Virginia Tech, Don Imus' radio ranting, a Music Sunday Worship Experience at our church, and then attending a Dave Brubek concert this past Sunday night. Our worship service at Fruitvale Pres. Church this past week was one in which Music was given the forefront....we had several "styles" of sermons - spoken, played, and silent reflection on the scriptures passages for the day. One of those (John 20:19-31) tells the continuing story of the post-Easter or post-resurrection experience with Jesus of Nazareth. Jesus appears and speaks to his disciples, not telling them how lazy, stupid, irritating, or unfaithful they were, after they all pretty much just abandoned him to die alone for fear of being arrested along with him. Rather Jesus shows up and say "peace to you." Then he says it again. I found myself wondering who of those gathered dared first to approach Jesus, and get a good look at him, touching his wounds, checking out to make sure the whole in his hands (actually more likely his wrists) were legit and not some costume make-up. Then Jesus says to them, "As God sent me, so I send you." I hear in that notions and catch visions of deep respect, a life-giving relationship of connectedness, cooperation and transformative trust, and a harmonious reciprocity in actions, words, and reactions. WOW....we're sent in the same way....with each other, to testify to the life-transforming experience of Christian faith that we've had in a harmonious, collaborative, reciprocal, inter-dependent way.

Sunday night I went to a Dave Brubek concert in the city. It was remarkable. He's like 800 or 85 years old, seemed to barely be able to stand up and yet filled the room with music, like the incense I light each Sunday morning fills up the sanctuary in our church building. I was stuck in an awe-inducing trance, and struck by the habitual and traditional reciprocity of harmony and collaboration in jazz - of the give and take. The saxophonist steps forward and goes for it on this whaling wicked solo...and then turns, smiling to the drummer inviting him to do the same. The give and take was beautiful - like dancers lifting and holding each other in some sort of radical ballet move...and then switching roles.. I found myself thinking about our church community, and most of my experiences in different sorts of communities. Usually there is that one (or more) complainer, that real pain-in-the-butt, who is never happy, never content, never satisfied (unless of course what was done was their vision, on their terms, in their way, at the financial expense of others) - that person symbolizes the cacophony of our human relationships....we're able to be, act, relate, speak, and live harmoniously for a while...but then we get to that place where we want everyone else to want what we want, to feel our pain, to take up our passionate defense and investment in whatever it might be (the war in Iraq, recycling, supporting Israel at all costs, the color of paint on the walls, the way that the coffee is poured). It's in that movement that we slip from harmony into cacophony - to many voices speaking against each other rather than in complimentary ways that deepen, reflect, and expand upon the others. The Dave Brubek Quartet never made that slip - at least to my ignorant lighter-waving ears - they worked with each other, playing off each other, supporting and enjoying each other....giving and taking. Why can they play like that and yet we struggle to live like that? (part of it might be that it was only a 90 minute set verses a 90 year life....) I thought about the cacophony around and from the destructive words of Don Imus last week...the fallout from it....and then the beauty of those Rutgers women who grace this week's cover of Newsweek.

Then the murderous and too tragic (almost to be true!) ramapage at Virgina Tech that happened yesterday. I heard a great interview with Lucinda Roy on Talk of the Nation Today - she wrote a great co-oped contribution for the NY Times. Read it here. What is it that makes us make that slip, that jump, that radical break from the reality that we all want - one of harmony, collaboration, mutual respect, reciprocity, and connectedness - to that parallel and paranormal reality of fear, mistrust, hateful revenge, isolation, brokeness, and eruptive violence? I don't mean to be trite, or simplistic, or flippant, but maybe it's in all of us...maybe we - and when I say we I mean me - aren't all that different deep down than Cho Seung-Hui? I'm not going to suddenly go all NRA and buy a gun at WalMart tomorrow...but maybe I'm broken deep down in the same - or similar - ways that he was? I mean I want harmony - I've just been droning on about it - but I also have that devilish desire to destroy at times, to let my cynicism loose to wreak havoc and create a cacophony that I can sit back and congratulate myself on causing.

As I write I think back to the last entries that I've been doing on the blog...about the 40 day Lent Challenge to read through the Bible...It burnt me out a bit blog-wise...but was formative for me in terms of how I reflect on the texts, testimonies and stories that make up the Bible - how they formulate a harmonious (yet often poli-tonal) message - The world is amazing. Something is broken. That brokness ends up screwing the world up as we screw ourselves up. Only someone outside the system, beyond this brokeness of the human condition - God and God in Jesus the Christ - can make things right, pay the price, or write the prescription, or turn things upside down - in order to bind the broken, make whole the divided, and resurrect that which died long ago. This transformation isn't just some sort of systemic social science, philisophical musings, or political progaganda, but a truth that we're invited to experience through relationship and make into the currency, vocabulary, and musical instruments with which we relate to and with each other in a new sort of liberating community.

Not sure what all this means...the past 40 or so days, and the events of the past 10 days....but it makes me wonder as I reflect upon one of the Scriptures I'm preaching on this coming Sunday

"Like good stewards
of the manifold grace of God,
serve one another
with whatever gift
each of you has received."

1 Peter 4:10 NRSV

Saturday, April 07, 2007

Holy Week

"We are talking about
the event
that changed everything.
What has it not changed for you?"

- Jeff Krantz & Michael Hardin. Read more on their webiste at the following link here to Preaching Peace

Friday, April 06, 2007

Friday, April 6, 2007
Lent Bible Reading Challenge Day 40
God Wipes Away All Tears

Revelation is my least favorite book in the Bible. Parts are quite beautiful. The way that it was written to bring hope, give courage, and invite perseverance in the face of persecution during the rough years of the Roman Empire is amazing. Yet when we read it in an egomanic self-aggrandizing literalist way today, assuming and interpreting every word to be about us, here and now, then I must say I'm not for it. The selection - our last in this 40 day Bible Reading Challenge that I took from a list in a Lent Activity Book - portrays the wide diversity of the people that will be saved in the end. It's an appropriate sequel to the events, story, and theological world-view that we encounter in the resurrection of Jesus (affirming the value and potential of human, physical life) and those of the Pentecost Story (affirming that God wants us not as docile inactive spectators, but as active spirit-filled co-participants in the work that God is already doing in the universe brining all of our difference, diversity and uniqueness to the life vocation.)

The passage (taken from the middle of the book) concludes with a vision of wholeness and peace. In God's presence, in this community gathered from all of the nations, the ennemies of life will be defeated: grief, hurts, fear, anxiety, injustice, isolation, oppression, hunger, thirst, and death. This is the image that the writer of Revelation sought to share with those he was writing to under persecution in the Roman Empire.

Unfortunately today we twist the meaning of this text from one of hopeful perseverance and an invitation to faithfulness in the midst of living in the world that ends with God's paradise being in the world to an escapist vision of our world - true believers are whisked away to a far-off heaven leaving this screwed up world to its own demise. What then becomes paramount is not Christ's challenge to love our neighbors as God loves us, but rather to focus on our own spiritual well-being, making sure we say the correctly worded prayer to ensure that our soul makes it to paradise. In the Tribune today I read an article on page 2 that talks about a church outside of Toledo that has seen explosive growth from just such a vision, that they've effectively spread in a tech-media-savy way thanks to their previous work experience in marketing. Check it out here. (Sorry can't find the online version of the article entitled "Satan rants about Easter from on high."

Now here's my disclaimer - I'm not jealous of their success, nor meaning to judge them, nor am I working for Satan. I found that I was amazed that such marketing would be effective - most likely that's because of my world-view shaped by my culture, life in the East Bay, educational background, and my hypocritical cyncism, that you may have or may not have of already experienced in my less self-conscious moments.

I'm a disciple of Jesus of Nazareth as the Christ - the visible image of God - not because of fear of damnation (I'm probably on my way there already anyway), Satan, or guilt. I'm a follower on the way of the Cross because Christian faith affirms the instrinsic value of human life, invites to working for peace, justice, and wholeness in our world through a cosmic transformation made possible by the action, vision, and meaning-making of a Savior who dies to fight injustice and evil and is raised from the dead in a victorious coup d'etat. I'm a follower not because I'm hedging my bets in a Blaise-Pascal-wager sort of way, but because I want to be transformed by the love of God made known and experienced through the revelation of Jesus of Nazareth. I want to live wholy, love generously, fight radically for solidarity and justice, and live gracefully in community in such a way that by my - and our - actions all can see that we are Christ's disciples.

Thursday, April 05, 2007

Thursday, April 5, 2007
Lent Bible Reading Challenge Day 39
Paul's Conversion

In a transformative flash of light filled with prophetic words, Saul becomes Paul, the persecuter becomes the persecuted one, the ennemy becomes friend, the power of God is not only talked about but experienced. Saul had been the chief persecuter of the early Christian church community...encouraging mobs to murder the Christian Stephen and seeking to empower and enable a faith-based genocidal purging of this church community. On his way to Damascus, Syria he encounters not the ones he's been persecuting, but rather the Risen One that they serve, claim as Lord, and proclaim. The word "conversion" in the Bible (written in Greek) means to turn around 180 degrees, to suddenly head in the opposite direction, to make a radical U-turn in the way we live, the way we love, and our world-view. The passage ends with the words "his eyes were opened but he couldn't see." I find myself wondering this morning as I reflect on the story - how are my eyes opened and yet not seeing? How are our eyes open in our faith communities to the world around us, to how we live in community, to the identity and heart of God's passion for creation, and yet not seeing? How do we - do I - need to be transformed in a road-of-Damascus-conversion way?

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Wednesday, April 4, 2007
Lent Bible Reading Challenge Day 38

Pentecost is the birth-day story of the Christian Church, explosively emerging 50 days after the resurrection of Jesus. The disciples are gathered together, and suddenly they are overwhelmed and transformed by the presence of God. Throughout the Hebrew Scriptures in the Bible it is only the Kings, Priests and Prophets who are the chosen ones that the Spirit of God comes upon to gift them with wisdom, prophetic word, and power. Now at Pentecost the Spirit of God comes upon all men and women that are gathered in this celebration, pushing them to proclamation of Jesus as the hope that the gathered diverse crowds in Jerusalem are seeking. Their sudden preaching power is one that reflects the diversity of those present, representing the multi-cultural diversity and richness of all the world. In a sense it's the reversal of the story of the Tower of Babel in which people are scattered because of their desire to replace God. Here at Pentecost the scattered people, separated by their lingual diveristy are gathred by the sharing of a common message in all the languages of humankind, that they might be unified in their hope, spiritual experience, and call to Christ-like cooperation and connectionalism.

This is one of my favorite passages in the entire Bible - the radical affirmation of cultural and enthnic diversity as God-given, God-desired, and God-shaped is a massive message of hope and pertinence in our increasinly shrinking world in which multi-culturality in not the product of the international forces of globalisation, nor the PC propaganda of some faceless study group or think tank, but rather the will, desire, and delight of God. What a message of connections, community, and Christ-like participation. All those present are gifted...not just the ordained males of the clergy, not just the upper classed folks, nor the monied members, nor a specific ethnic class, or group with MBAs....but all those gathered in the Name of Jesus the Christ are gifted, transformed, and invited to participation and full and equal participants in the ministry of the emerging church.....how did we get so far from that in our current state as the diverse church in the world.... where church planting schemes targeted specific ethnic groups, or social classes, suggesting that churches in which everyone is similar will grow faster and more effectively than ones with a wide spectrum of economic, educational, or cultural diversity. That's not what I want.....I want to be in a faith community that's truly community reflecting the rich diversity of the East Bay Area in which I live....where I encounter every time I gather in that community the different ways in which we celebrate, experience, and anticipate God's actions, desires, and invitations in our lives, city, and world.

The suggested reading for our Bible Reading challenge is the bare bones of the story (to keep it short and sweet). You can read the whole story of Pentecost here (Acts 2).

Monday, April 02, 2007

Tuesday, April 3, 2007
Lent Bible Reading Challenge Day 37
The Resurrection

I flew back to Oakland from a rapid trip to Orange County tonight. On the flight I finally managed to read a thin book I bought recently talking about the historicity of Holy Week (Francois Bovon, The Last Days of Jesus). It had a lot of ideas to chew on and digest...so the 2 hours alone were a gift. Bovon traces the history of the last week of Jesus' life - what we call Holy Week - the week we're currently in. In his introduction he writes, "In history, we must remember, bare facts are irretrievable: an event can be viewed only through the mediating language that narrates and, in narrating, interprets it. Any witness will reconstruct, according to a particular understanding of the events, how the events unfolded." This isn't because of some sort of manipulative idea to provide propoganda, but because we all provide interpretations of what we experience - we see differently, feel uniquely, understand diversely, and use language in ways that are particular to our minds, bodies, cultures, age, gender, native language, and life-experiences.

He goes on talking about the week, then ending with Easter...and the resurrection accounts (what today's reading is about). It struck me in a new way...Jesus is the same yet different. He's resurrected not ressuscitated. He's old and new. He's the same yet unrecognizable. Here's what Bovon says (pp. 64-65).

"New Testament exegetes [studiers of the Bible texts] frequently distinguish between two types of Easter narratives: between appearance stories and empty-tomb stories. In the first type, the resurrected Christ appears to an individual or a group, showing himself to be fully alive. Often the wintenesses to the appearance have difficulty recongnizing the Risen One, a fact that attests to a new quality of life the Crucified now manifests. His resurrection passes beyond the resuscitation of Lazarus, for Jesus does more than merely recuperate his lost viatality. He actually recovers his divine identity, an identity now tinged by the particular experiences of his incarnation and passion. He is evidently so transformed that Mary Magdalene originally mistkes him for the gardener (John 20:15). The disciples also stuggle to recognize him during their encounter on the lake shore (John 21:4-7). In the Emmaus episode too, it takes the breaking of the bread for the two disciples' eyes to be opened to his identity (Luke 24:30-31). In the Gospel of John as well, narrative details depict the qualitatively new identity of the Risen One. A locked room on an upper floor poses no difficulty to the Johannine Christ, who enters mysteriously into the midst of those gathered there (John 20:19, 26). Lest such behavior lead some to confuse these apprearances with those of a ghost, the Lukan Christ proposes to eat in the disciples' presence and shares a morsel of grilled fish with them (Luke 24:41-43)."

I think it's something we can only experience - never truly understand....a mystery (see yesterday's entry), of course that doesn't mean that we shouldn't try, seeking to grapple mysteries with our intellects, cultures, historical research, philisophical musings, political perspectives, and humor. But maybe the answer that explains or "justifies" the questions we have isn't a fact, a simple statement of truth or even a forced acceptance of beliefe, but rather a relational step of daring to enter into a relationship with what or who emerged from that emptied tomb.
Monday, April 2, 2007
Lent Bible Reading Challenge Day 36
The Crucifixion
Luke 23:44-49

The Crucifixion. Jesus dies and as he does Luke tells of the pain of the universe by describing darkness, earthquakes and the curtain in the temple being torn in two. He's not talking about the need to redecorate, but expressing the significance of this death. The world is crumbling at the death of the Victimized Son of God. The temple curtain, which separated the Holy of Holies (the holiest spot where God's spirit dwelt on earth) from the rest of the temple (into which human beings could come) symbolizes the destruction of the distance that separated or divided God from humanity. What would it have been like for the men and women gathered there, who called Jesus friend, healer, and master, who watched him die despite their deepest hopes. Is it any wonder that they have nothing to say, that they can only watch? How is it that the death of this one Man changes the universe, transforms our personal lives, and recreates relationship between God and humanity?
Saturday, March 31, 2007
Lent Bible Reading Challenge Day 35
The Arrest of Jesus

As I read this passage today - I'm struck by the fact that Jesus is betrayed with a kiss. That action that most expresses hospitality, friendship, love, acceptance, trust, passion, tenderness and relationship. It's with a kiss that Judas chooses to betray Jesus. Didn't everyone know who he was? Why didn't Judas just jump out from behind the bushes in that dark garden and shout "that one, in the dirty robe! - get him!" Or why didn't he just point him out in the safe and secure silence of a distant spot? And then everyone - the closest friends and confidants of Jesus flee. They don't just hide, or hesitate, they flee.
Friday, March 30, 2007
Lent Bible Reading Challenge Day 34
The Last Supper

This passage is mysterious. Here's the last night of his life. Jesus has seemed to be so in control, so wise, so prophetic in knowing what will happen, so fearless in the face of disbelief, opposition, and even deep betrayal....yet he loses it on the last night. The passage reminds us of the mystery of what we call the incarnation: that Jesus was both human and divine, both limited and limitless, both fearless and fearful. A book I'm reading, Cross-Shattered Christ, sums it up well:

"'Mystery' does not name a puzzle that cannot be solved.

Rather, 'mystery' names that which we know,

but the more we know it,

the more we are forced to rethink everything we know."

The last night in the Garden is a mystery - the revealing of Jesus most human-ness - fear and his most divine-ness - trust. Maybe that's what made Mel Gibson's movie - the Passion of the Christ - so powerful for so many - it opens with this scene, Jesus praying quietly and passionately in the garden...and then flashes both backwards and forwards. Maybe we all live this mystery - in a different way - in each day as we travel back and forth between fear and trust?

Thursday, March 29, 2007
Lent Bible Reading Challenge Day 33
The Last Supper
Matthew 26:17-29

Is Jesus a cannibal? Someone shared with me the other day a question about communion....it sounds crazy..yet here it is. The last meal that Jesus shares with his friends is one in which he tells them to eat his body and drink his blood. ??!! I just had the image of the final scene of the movie "The Thief, the Cook, and the Lover" in which the body of a murdered person is hidden by preparing it and serving it at a sumptuous meal. YIKES! Is this what this sacramental and spiritual meal is all about? It's what the Romans accused the early Christians of, and is most likely one of the ways that they justified first persecuting and outlawing Chritianity and its followers in the Empire 2,000 years ago.
I think that Jesus was actually a great teacher, knowing that we are much better experiential learners - that we remember what we touch, smell, taste, feel, hear, and experience......much more than a simple and classic 3 point sermon. So Jesus sums it all up with this symbol, a sign - food and drink - the most common of things - that from now on will be infused with meaning made at this meal - eat and drink to remember, to remember who Jesus was and is, to remember what love looks like, costs, and demands, to remember what we are called to in life, what we are created for, and what consuming is actually all about. What a genius...in a sense every time that they (and we now...) eat - the disciples will remember. In their experiences they'll remember the meaning-making Maundy Thursday meal in the words they hear, the flakiness of the bread, the touch of the cup to their lips, the feel of a body up against theirs as they sit crowded around a table, the longing of hunger in their stomachs and thirst in the back of their throat. REMEMBER. How come it's so easy to forget that?
Wednesday, March 28, 2007
Lent Bible Reading Challenge Day 32
The Entry into Jerusalem

The story of Jesus' Triumphal Entry into Jerusalem is the story that essential frames and shapes the celebration of what we now call Palm Sunday, the first day of Holy Week in the Christian Perspective. Jesus arrives (not for the first time) in Jerusalem, the capital city of his homeland - capital in terms of Politics, Economics, Culture and Religion. For our country Jerusalem would be like combining Chicago, Manhattan, DC, Seattle, Los Angeles, Hollywood, Nashville, and Houston. How is it that historians don't make much notice of this triumphal entry? Most likely it wasn't hundreds of thousands that threw their cloaks to the ground madly waving palm branches like over-caffeinated fans at the Super Bowl as Jesus passed by on a never-ridden donkey. More likely it was his disciples and the closest members of his "fan club" that cheered him on, acclaiminig him as the true king, the king of kings, the promised Messiah as he arrived in the capital city. They proclaimed and anticipated his greatness in ways different than he. They wanted him to storm the capital, and set up a new faith-based goverment by throwing down the Romans, turning out Herod and his minions, and overthrowing the centralized power of the Sadducees. They wanted a true government for the people, of the people, and by the Messiah. Yet Jesus comes as the king, but his kingdom doesn't come. For him it's more about relationship than political revolution, more about prophecy than politics, more about the left-outs than the left-overs to share with those riding his coat-tails to power. Is there any wonder that Judas - and others - were confused, feeling let-down, seeking to force Jesus to be the leader that they wanted as opposed that he sought to be. How do we see Jesus today? How do I? Is it in the authentic way he strove to be in his words, actions, presence, and relationships? Or is it in the ways that I think he should be or want him to be?