Thursday, January 31, 2008

Save the World
Without Having to Save the Cheerleader

nonviolence is organized love

We often - or at least I do - wonder if it's worth it, if I make a difference in the world, if things are really changing or if there is something deeper than what we see, smell and taste. The way in which I've most experienced the transcendant nature of the maker and realized that life is bigger than just me is through community and joint action. One of my favorite ways of living this out and living into it is this fun monthly gathering for peace in the Dimond District. Hope you can come!

We have enjoyed spending an hour with our neighbors,and building
community, if you've never been, we encourage you stop by. We light candles and hold signs that express our hopes for peace in Oakland and the world. Bring a sign if you like, but you don't need to because we have extras. Just bring yourself,your friends and just in case you were wondering, yes, four legged companions are welcomed. When: Fri. Feb. 1, 2007 at 7 PM (the 1st of EVERY month) Where: Oakland, Corner of MacArthur & Lincoln ("Peace Park"--a small park across from 7-11) This is something we've been doing the first of the month every month since January 1, 2005. We always have fun and it's great to make new friends in the community. For more information, call Molly Kenefick at 510-530-3099 or 510-504-2003 (cell) or Paws & Claws (510)336-0105. Feel free to forward this to anyone you think might be interested.

"I am only one; but still I am one.
I cannot do everything,
but still I
can do something.
I will not refuse to do the something I can do."
--Helen Keller

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Un Gars et Une Fille
(A Guy and A Girl)

My wife found my favorite French TV show on Youtube. I have to share it. It's just a few minutes long and is the French equivalent of Seinfeld, Friends, The New Adventures of Christine and Sex In the City all mixed together. It's the story of a typical French married couple in their daily life ranging form sollicitors knocking on the door, to life with in-laws, to shopping, eating, and to sex. It offers a thoughtful reflection on married life and culture as well as poked fun at the insane things that we all do and take for granted. Very funny. Totally French. Extremely Parisian. Excellent writing. Authentic. Real. Messy. HILARIOUS!!! We never missed one!

Here's the only episode that I could find with sub-titles in English.

Another great episode you don't have to understand French to get. Just imagine what you do when you rock out all by yourself at home.

Here's a funny episode about their wedding in church. The sermon is long. Too long. You can get it without getting the French. I've been long-winded at our church this past month....but not near as long as this.

Here's a LINK to more episodes on
Why I'll Be Voting for Barack Obama next Tuesday

The Tsunami is coming. Less than 7 days now. I'm going to be making my voice heard, endorsing whole-heartedly Barack Obama for president.

Here are 10 reasons why I'm voting for Barack Obama:

1. We want change. I long for it. How can we expect someone who has been part of the system (for good and for bad) to be able to change it? Obama is the one candidate that is legit enough to win, and yet not prisoner to the existing system.

2. Now is the time. In the book of Esther, the princess is asked basically, "If not you, then who? If not now then when?" I think now is the time for Barack's message, purpose and presidency.

3. He is a product of the world of which I'm a part. He's from a diverse background, having lived around the world in his educational and formative years. He is himself in the incarnation of the American Dream coming from diverse nationalities and cultural backgrounds. He has a larger vision of what it means to be American and what it means to live in the 21st century informed and formed by his actual experience not just policy making decisions. He's for giving driver's licenses to illegal immigrants. Although he is for building a wall along the border (boo!)

4. He is more in touch with the 2.0 world in which I live, move and find my being. He has said clueless things, insisting on the price of arugala at Whole Foods to a union meeting in the mid-west. Yet he is in touch with the life I live and the world view that shapes my context.

5. He talks about hope instead of the politics of fear. Sure it might be just rhetoric but I can believe him more than the other candidates. He's a preacher, a true orator, who through his charismatic speaking can rebuild the hope and sense of community that have long marked our national culture and which have been scuttled to the winds in the recent wars of polarization and culture.

6. I think that Obama (Hillary could too but differently) could re-engage the entire world community in a new discussion and dialogue as the representative of the American people. I want him to represent me at the UN, and in the talks that would be re-established around the world once we have regime change here at home.

7. He has a priority for the poor. His community organizing in Chicago is and was formative in his worldview. Hillary & Edwards are good on this too. But I have to go with Obama.

8. He's in a similar life-stage as me, with younger children. Plus if he could win over Michelle he can win over me.

9. We need to think-outside-of-the-box to solve the problems we're facing and choosing not to face: Iraq, Pakistan, Kenya, Medicare, Social Security Reform, Election Reform, No Child Left Behind, Taxes, the Mortgage Crisis. I think he's outside of the box enough in a post-racial, post-partisan way that he will work across the polarizing divides to find solutions.

10. I think he can win. He's not divisive. Whereas Hillary won't win the Republican vote in November, I believe Obama will.

11. (OK I did say 10 but I can't stop myself!) He won me over in his speech after winning Iowa. I watched Hillary and then him. I don't want the same old Cronies. I want new people with a new agenda with a new leader!

12. I switched teams in my heart when I read the SF Chronicle article on an interview with Obama and then watched the interview with between Obama and editorial board of the Chronicle. You can watch and read it HERE.

13. I'd actually vote first for Mrs. Edwards who actually says 100% what she believes. But unfortunately she's not running.

See you on Tsunami Tuesday!

Monday, January 28, 2008

10 Things I Love About Oakland (4::10)
The Coffee

My all time favorite place for coffee in Oakland is currently (and for the past few months) the Peet's Coffee on Fruitvale Ave. in the Dimond District. I love it there because it's in my context of life. I know the story of the space and neighborhood. What was there before. What it was like during construction. What it's like now on the other side. It's one of - if not the - nexus hub for the Dimond District, where an amazing ecclectic mix of people mingle to various extents each day from street people to 3 piece suits, from stay-at-home parents with kids to parents of multiple dogs sitting on the outside benches, from the crazies of urban neighborhood to those volunteer militants working to transform Oakland. I love the table near the window that looks across Fruitvale Ave towards the parking lot of Farmer Joe's. From there you see this mix spill out onto the sidewalk and the Dimond District. The coffee is good. The staff is kind. The atmosphere is Oakland. Plus it's within walking district of the Dimond Library (one of the best-kept secrets of Oakland).

Other more than worthy mentions:

1. World Grounds in the Laurel. Great coffee, a nice menu and even serving beer. Plus they have free wireless and art installations. One of the nexus meeting places for the Laurel Neighborhood with community meetings and open-mike nights! (Yelp review)

2. Caffe Diem in the Dimond. Small. Good art. Still my most preferred double-no-foam latte!

3. Peet's Coffee in Montclair Village. Great place to see and be seen.

4. The Coffee Shop at Lincoln Square (near Safeway on Redwood Road above Why 13). Great views. Sit by the windows in the afternoon to catch the sun. They're working on improving their menu.

5. Coffee with a Beat (458 Prekins) Great place for coffee and music.

6. Cafe DiBartolo ( 3310 Grand Ave
(between Elwood Ave & Lake Park Ave)) Nice menu.

Not quite in Oakland but still great.

6. Peet's Coffee next to the Claremont. Great courtyard on a nice day - plus right next to Rick and Anne's.

7. Espresso Roma on College and Ashby. Great place to people watch, read or just disconnect. Good coffee. Great menu. Plus they have beer and hard cider on tap.

Check out other options on

Any that you like that I should try?
Blogging Towards Sunday
February 3, 2008

Exodus 24:12-18
Matthew 17:1-9
Psalm 99
2 Peter 1:16-21

At our church I'll be building our worship gathering upon the two foundational stories of God's Theophany to Moses on the Mountain in Exodus 24 and the Transfiguration of Jesus with his closest friends on the Mountain in Matthew 17.

Interesting stories that raise up the notions of experience, participation and connection (my recent must-blog-ons).

Exodus 24 tells the story of Moses leaving the elders and general population of the Israelites to climb the mountain to encounter God and receive the commandments. The story isn't told to express a primitive belief in magic, but to depict the consequences of encountering the living God, how God's experiencing God's presence alters and transforms us.

Matthew 17 is another mountain top experience of God's purpose, passion and presence. Jesus takes his best friends (Peter, James and John) to the mountain - most likely to pray as mountain tops were commonly considered to be holy grounds and places. While there the cloud of God's presence envelops them (as it did Moses in Exodus 24). But this time instead of receiving God's commandments written on stone, they are told that Jesus is indeed the Son of God, the living Word of God in the world.

The stories talk about foundations, that faith is more about experience than dogma, more about participation than spectatorship, more about connection then rugged individualism. The power of faith isn't that it legitmizes political platforms, or justifies hierarchical governments, or even that it dupes the proletariat. The power of faith is that it lifts up up and out of our exclusive or entho-centric cultural/political contexts to give us a more expansive and enduring grasp of reality or world view. Faith transforms us. An experiential encounter with God (while it might not often happen) changes us, invites us to become participants, to connect with the passion and purpose of God. It pushes us to testimony, to share about our experiences, not with a desire to dogmatically convert people, but to point to what we believe, to hint at what we suspect, to invite others to a dialogue. If we're transformed we can't be quiet about it. It's not about information as much as it is about formation.

Reminds me of the Tazo Tea bags I blogged about last week.

The packaging seeks to sell the teas by depicting what drinking the tea is like experientially. Faith in Christ is similar. Though it can't be packaged in a small bag, or a three-point-sermon, it can be experienced through our testimonies of who God is and what God has done with us, discussion which invites us to walk on the holy ground of dialogue and community.

Where, when and how have you experienced God in your life?
How has that experience pushed you to testify in your life?
How is Christ transforming you from a spectator to a participant?

Sunday, January 27, 2008

how long till christmas?

OK - If you didn't know it I'm an addict of Playmobil toys. I regularly buy them for my kids, but they're actually for me. I received my monthly e-update yesterday (yes - I'm a subscriber) regarding new toys.
They're released some great dinosaur sets - drats! Christmas has come and gone so I don't have an excuse for buying them for myself, I mean my children. Here's some links if you want to see what the new sets are like.

I love Playmobil for my kids (and myself) because:

1. They're not tied into Disney, Barbie, or other mass-market toy companies, TV shows or Theme Parks.

2. They're well made. Unlike other toys they will last for more than a week.

3. They represent every day life and activities both today and in hisotry- mail carriers, police officers, camping sets, bakers, Roman soldiers, Vikings, and cool castles! - ok not Dinosaurs unless you live in Jurassic Park off the coast of Costa Rica

4. They're great for imaginary play, empowering kids to integrate imaginary play and every day life without being sucked into capitalistic marketing schemes.

Check out the new catalogue online HERE.
You know it's time to move out of Oakland when....

Today we were on a family shopping trip to Target in San Leandro. On the way there we drove past the hospital and remembered aloud how a special older woman from our congregation had been there after surgery. She died over a year ago, leaving a huge hole in our church community and also in our lives. Ms. Vernie was kind, compassionate, gracious, and always sharing a smile with our kids. We talked about how she had died and how her husband had died long ago before we came to Oakland. Then our oldest daughter (5 years old) asked the following question: "How did Ms. Vernie's husband die? Was he sick or did he get shot?"

WHAT? Maybe we need to move to the suburbs to escape urban blight and the proliferation of guns in Oakland. Then again we could end up living next door to Leona Babbit, the Unabomber, or something even worse.

Gotta love Oakland!

Friday, January 25, 2008

Today's 411 on Kenya

We have several members of our church community that are originally from Kenya and the Presbyterian Church of East Africa. For weeks now we've prayed with them for the elections that took place on December 27th, and since then for peace to emerge from the contested election and emerging actions of genocide.

A friend Tara Taylor also shares a lot of updates regarding Kenya as she has worked there through the church and gone there several times to both learn and do music.
She emailed today with some updates on what is happening.

BBC reports a bit of encouraging news today Kofi Annan (the former General Secretary of the United Nations) is there now and for the first time, the two rivals (Kibaki and Odinga) met face to face to discuss a resolution to the issues. Both are calling for peace, and asking Kenyans to remain calm. This is a huge first step. More talks are to be held, and the issue is far from over. There are still spots of violence around the country (Kisumu, Mombasa , Kibera/Nairobi), and more people being killed/displaced. Incidents of rape have more than doubled between Dec. 1st and now (women and children are extremely vulnerable living en masse in temporary shelters). More than 250,000 people remain displaced and in dire need of shelter and food (children are particularly vulnerable to malnourishment with a shortage of milk in refugee camps).

Here's other online Articles

The Standard (Kenyan Paper)
The Daily Nation (Kenyan Paper)

I'll do some online research to see how you might be able to help bring peace, reconciliation and restore wholeness through the gifts of your time, money and/or prayers.

(scroll down to find the article
about Kenyan refugees relocating to Uganda)

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Blogging Towards Sunday
January 27, 2008
Obama vs. Hillary, Tazo Tea,
Zaccheus & Experiential Worship
Luke 19:1-10

We're deviating from the Lectionary this week as we celebrate a baptism in our church community. So I chose the story of Zaccheus as the scripture to build our gathering upon. I love it. It's so graphic. So whacky. It has to be true. A short guy climbs a tall tree to check out the man of the hour who then invites himself over to this short guy's -who's taller in infamy than he seems - house for a happy hour with the excluded and forgotten ones of the village. It's like an un-Sex In the City meets Entourage with the humor of Weeds, all with a tree thrown in.

What strikes me reflecting on this story this week is the idea of
experience. Zaccheus has clearly heard all about Jesus, but never encontered him, never experienced him. The story is all about participation, connection, and experience. Jesus refuses to let Zaccheus remain a spectator, which he's been doing in life for a long time. Disconnected from his community, from his neighbors and from encountering the Living God of the Bible because he's been auto-excluded and clandestinely ridiculed as a tax collecter, Jesus reconnects him to the vine of community. He doesn't do it with a speech. He doesn't do it with a tract. There is definitely no placard he's carrying. Instead he says to the guy in the tree, "Come down. I'm coming to your house for dinner. Hurry - invite some friends over because I'm coming to party with you at your house!"

This past week or so, the emerging Presidential Election Season has increasingly focused on EXPERIENCE: Who has it?; Who doesn’t?; Who has too much of it?; Who doesn’t have enough? I was struck by a comment by Bill Richardson who asked in a debate, "When did experience become such a bad thing?"

I wonder why we think that in our practice of faith in church communities? In Christian worship we oftentimes downgrade experience to the back row. Worship ends up being first and foremost about an expert – supposedly me in our church community – who talks about faith: what to believe, how to believe, how to act and how to integrate faith and daily life. But that’s not what faith is like!!! Faith is about how we live, who we share with, how it informs our decision-making and priority-choosing. Jesus calls us to a faith that shapes us at the core of our being, work, rest and relationships! It’s something you can’t just talk about or listen to. You have to live it. You can never have too much of it. (Colossians 3:17)

TAZO teas teach a bit about experience. Each packet (see some photos in the slideshow above) describes the tea with an experience – drinking this tea is like resting in a field of flowers, or praying with sacred monks, or escaping to a remote hilltop. They sell a lot of tea that way. I think that same strategy is what we often lack in worship which is often more times about giving information than actually forming us a spiritual people.

I think Jesus got that - not the tea - but the idea. We need to experience things for ourselves. Not just just hear a debate about it. Not just read a tract or placard on a street corner. We need to not simply listen to someone tell us about God but to experience God ourselves and to participate and connect with what God is doing in our world, our hood, and our community. I think that often in the church we're so often stuck up in the tree with our excitement, that we forget to come down and put our feet back on earth to approach each other in truly human ways. Maybe that's why no one comes to church anymore?

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Proof that ordering a cake from Wal-Mart
may not be a good idea.

Wal-Mart Employee: "Hello, how can I help you?"

Customer: " I would like to order a cake for
a going away party this week."

Wal-Mart Employee: "What you want on the cake?"

Customer: "Best Wishes Suzanne"
and underneath that "We will miss you".

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Who Is The Ideal Presidential Candidate for You?

This past week I've been involved in at least half a dozen serious group conversations about Hillary, Obama, Huckabee, Edwards, Rudy and Ron Paul. Who is the best person? Who is the one we need as the next president? Which of them might actually do what we need as a country to move forward?

Great conversations....and I've nearly decided how I'll vote on February 5th.

A friend Chuck sent me a fun online quiz that helps you identify which candidate best represents your stances on policies, issues and worldview perspective. Here's the LINK to take it online (it's quick and fun).

Here's my score. Not sure what to do!

Below are the candidates ranked by how much you agree with their stances.

Barack Obama
Score: 51
Stem-Cell Research
Health Care
Gun Control
Social Security
Line-Item Veto
Death Penalty
Hillary Clinton
Score: 51
Stem-Cell Research
Health Care
Gun Control
Social Security
Line-Item Veto
Death Penalty

By the way - TODAY is the last day to register to vote in the California Primary of February 5th. To find out how to register click HERE.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

10 Things I love about Oakland:: (3/10)
The Views

I think Oakland has some
of the best views of the bay area. My favorite is from the top of Kaiser Hospital (Oakland) - the top floors and the roof of the parking garage (see the slideshow for a peek). I love it because you have a 360 view of the city from the bay to the heartlands of Oakland to the hills, all from right in the thick of everything. It's my favorite too because I often go to the hospital to visit people suffering, sick and in unsure situations. Taking in the view on the way in or the way out of the hospital always gives me a zen moment of new perspective.

Other honorable mentions:

1. The view from the top of Hiller (Hiller highlands) - [photo 1]

2. The view from the top of Joaquin Miller Park - climb the steps to the waterfall.

3. The view from Aquatic Park.

4. The view of downtown Oakland from the side of Lake Merrit near Merrit Restaurant.

5. The view of Oakland in the thick of the Saturday morning farmer's market at Lakeshore/Grand.

6. The views towards the Bay and towards the valley from the section of Skyline Blvd
between Redwood Road and Lincoln (below Chabot).

7. The view of the Bay from the parking lot of the Mormon Temple on Lincoln Ave.
below 13. [photo 2] One of my favorite places to take a break from it all while sitting in the car listening to music.

Friday, January 18, 2008

San Francisco Presbytery

I've heard a lot of comments & questions from some people about the Presbytery Meeting of Tuesday night at which the community of Presbyterian Churches in the SF/Bay Area voted to approve a lesbian woman church member as ready to be ordained as minister.

It seems to be the end of the world for some, while others shout "Hurray," yet I'm most struck by comments from friends that are not Christian or church-going. They hadn't noticed and don't really care. For my thought process that's the comment that seems to be the most haunting.

Here's more of what's being said about the event and decision around the Bay Area and the Blogosphere:

SF Chronicle Article of 1/17
Oakland Tribune Article of 1/17
Presbyterian Church (USA) Website
More Light Presbyterians
That All May Freely Serve
The Layman
Associated Press
Decently and in Order (Blog)

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Blogging Towards Sunday
January 20, 2008
New Meal, New Family
How's the Dream Coming?

Colossians 3:1-17 &

We continue in our third week of worship celebrations at our church organized around and built upon the experiential and participatory theme of COMMUNION. It's funny, in a sense Jesus invites us to eat our way to faith, community and justice-doing. Smart guy, food seems to motivate me to action much more than lofty rhetoric (maybe that confirms either that I'm a gourmand or just lazy.)

My reflections on these scriptures and the theme of "new meal - new family" are influenced by so much this week - coffee this morning with Susannah at Peet's (look out for her she is wise beyond belief), the events of our Presbytery Meeting this week (see my blogging on it), interactions with my kids, our ongoing communion celebrations at church, thinking of MLK Jr., 3 songs I heard on my ipod this past week, and the following quotes:

But I am giving you a new commandment.
You must love each other, just as I have loved you.
If you love each other,
everyone will know that you are my disciples.
- Jesus of
Nazareth (John 13:34-35)

“Diversity is the most challenging thing to live with
and the most dangerous thing to live without.”

- Rev. William Sloan Coffin

"I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will they be able to sit down together at a table of brotherhood."
- Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Communion is so radical - as radical as Jesus. Here's an action that makes faith visible, brings spiritual encouragement and makes community all at the same time. If a sacrament is a visible demonstration of an invisible grace of God - than this is definitely what it's all about.

The scripture of Colossians 3 is a bit of the letter written by Paul (or his followers) to encourage disciples of Jesus is ancient Southern Turkey. They are called, invited and challenge to live differently, to live by faith, for faith and from faith in a radical way - to love all - not to win favor but to reflect the love of Christ, to incarnate it, to proclaim it in every word, deed, action - even in silence!

The scripture of Acts 2 tells of the birthing day of the church community which is by nature multi-cultural, inter-generational and counter-cultural. Folks gathered together by faith - cement that community, proclaim what spiritual wholeness is, and reflect the super-natural love of Christ first and foremost around the communion table. It's a radical revolutionary meal gathering disparate and divided peoples of the ancient world together in a common action, shared belief and mutual generosity - free and slave, male and female, Jew and non-Jew. Radical gathering. Subversive community. Revolutionary and revolution-producing relationships.

This open-table fellowship is what we're called to continue in, to experience, to participate in and to lift up as proclamation, nourishment and prophetic vision. Divided peoples brought together. Unequals made equal around the table. It's not pc. It's not democractic. It's not republican. It's not something that Steve Jobs first presented at Mac World. It's not something that Disney can replicate. It can't be bought online or in a store. It can't be created. It can only be experienced by faith and through the dangerous act of committing to living life and practicing faith in community - not just for a year, or during the good times but through the hard and easy, bountiful and the desert.

Open table fellowship is the hardest thing to do and yet we can't live faith together without it. It's what nearly split the church in ancient Corinth, it's what most likely got Jesus killed, it's what our churches - including the one I attend - fail to do. It's not natural. It's super-natural. Something that only God can make happen. So we have to trust, ask for it, and then seize it when it's give to us - but with open hands rather than seized fists. It's a call to a new way of living that doesn't fit well in our racially divided, capitalistic-shopping based, and narcissistic culture.

Increasingly I'm convinced that it's truth through my experience of it and seeing how un-natural it is for the human race and the systematic powers of the world. Hillary and Barack fought over this idea this week - about who thought of it and who implemented it. It's neither MLK Jr. nor LBJ, only JC.

Tracy Chapman, Mountain O'Things

Madonna, American Life

I Am Somebody

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

The Presbytery of San Francisco
Who's In & Who's Out.

Several people asked me about the meeting of our San Francisco Presbytery Community last night - January 15th in Richmond. At the meeting several things happen - a great class on Olafur Eliasson - contemporary art and Christian worship, we endorsed a candidate to run for Moderator of the Presbyterian Church (USA) and we had a vote - following much much much discussion, dialogue and debate - which ended in the narrow victory of a majority report recommending the ready to be ordained status for a local Lesbian Presbyterian woman.

It's been much in the news lately - before the meeting and since then. Here's some connections to see what's been said in the press - which were not allowed to stay during the meeting last night - although one reporter stayed illegaly after being asked to leave.

Last week's article in the Oakland Tribune
Presbyterians to vote on lesbian's ordination

Today's report on KTUV Channel 2
Lesbian Can Go Forward in Presbyterian Ordination Process

It was an interesting meeting. Although a victory was had for one side of the issue - as some might say - I would venture that it was a loss for everyone. We didn't have a dialogue, more like an entrenched debate between polarized sides. Some argued for openness. Some motivated by fear of the future. Some were not succinct in any way. Some argued morality. Some argued sensitivity to the 2/3rds world and the LGBT community. But in the end did we really dialogue? Did we reflect together? Did we listen for God's voice? Or did we come ready to vote what we already thought? Not pointing any fingers.....I'm not a hypocrite. I also did the same thing.

Can we listen for God's voice in community? Or are our different perspectives/worldviews/baggage just too much in the way?

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Experiential Art & Postmodern Worship
Olafur Eliasson, Take Your Time & You

I went with some friends to view a fantastic exhibit at the SF MOMA this past week entitled "Take Your Time" by Icelandic artist Olafur Eliasson. I've blogged in the past about him and his work and how it can inform the ways in which we understand many things, in particular for me Christian Theology, Worship and the practice of life in a church community. It was amazing! I'm grateful for Susannah and Matt and how they introduced me to this material.

If you're part of the Presbytery of San Francisco, please join us for a discussion involving and integrating this material in terms of the practice of church on Tuesday, January 15th at Sojourner Truth Presbyterian Church from 1:30-2:30pm.

If you can't (or even if you can) join that discussion do go and see the exhibit at the MOMA through the end of February. Here's some pictures I took as well as some reflections from the art, our conversations there and observing the interaction of all those in the museum.

1. We think there has to be an "expert" in everything who guides us and teaches us at the same time. Eliasson's art deconstructs that so that we all are the experts gathered as a community by a common experience. It changes the discussion and dialogue from the expert and us, to us about who we are and what is happening. That's what Christian worship should be more like, as opposed to an expert (clergy person mostly) who does most of the talking seeking to impart information as opposed to facilitate experience, participation and connection.

2. We think that we have to explain everything, but deconstruction is something we all can do and join in. Eliasson deconstructs the simplest natural elements (water, light, moss) so that we might have a new perspective on what life is about and like. Jesus did that all the time. It's what his teaching was about, and what made it so powerful, deconstructing everyday life, exposing the way in which we live, relate with one another, understand ourselves, seek power, serve others, and love God - so that we might become aware of the disconnect between who we think we are and who we are, and how things are and how God longs for them to be. That's what the gospel is both about and what it does when it's proclaimed. I don't think I ever experienced that on a Sunday morning. How come?

3. We spend so much time telling others (in particular children) to "Be quiet!"; "Don't touch!"; "Keep moving!" that we all miss out on the life all around us. The Moma was filled with kids. They wanted to touch things (which Eliasson intended them to do), to make noise as they responded to the beauty of the installations (which Eliasson intended them to do), to physically express their jubilant intellectual curiosity in their own language. Repeatedly many of these kids were told by their teachers, parents, and even some of the museum staff - don't touch! be quiet! keep moving! All of which are completely counter to the experience driven exhibit that seeks to involve observers as participants in a new community. How can you do that from silent, passive distance? The kids were articulating what we all felt. They were much freer to do so yet folks shut them down so that they'd conform to our grown-up norms. We do the same thing in worship and church communities. We talk about participation and community but we're actually terrified of it. That goes not only against the central word of the gospel, it's actually the un-gospel of Jesus of Nazareth.

Have you seen the exhibit? What struck you? How?

I have a great article from the New Yorker (Nov 16, 2006) about Eliasson. If you'd like me to email you a copy leave me a note with your email.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Feeding the Hungry
in the Dimond & Laurel
Today was another one of our twice monthly regular food distribution to the hungry at our church in Oakland. Several new folks came to help us in our work together. I was struck today by the power of community. When we gather we can not only do amazing things, but be challenged by each other to rise to higher levels of humanity, to conform to the likeness of Christ in a deeper way. Before we distributed food we introduced ourselves to each other, offered a prayer and shared why we came to help. I am humbled by the grace, fortitude, generosity and great faith of those that were in that sacred circle of prayer and discipleship. All we do is "pass on" the food that we receive from the Food Bank, who had it passed on to them. What would life be like if we were more aware on a daily basis in our work, words, and even our worst moments...that much of life is about passing it on - whether it's a spark to get a fire going, a violent word of anger when we're angry, or an undeserved gift of grace that transforms us.

Much thanks to the Alameda County Food Bank for their continued vision and solidarity and to La Farine - our neighborhood bakery who donated their unsold baked goods from yesterday to feed the hungry!

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Blogging Towards Sunday
January 13, 2008
The Last Supper, or Was It The First?
Change, the Democratic Primaries,
Judas & Trust vs. Mistrust

This coming Sunday in worship at our church we're reflecting upon 2 primary scriptures from the Bible as we continue our experiential and participatory sermon series on communion (inspired in part by the book The Meal Jesus Gave Us by amazing practicioner N.T. Wright).

John 15:1-17 (the impossible commandment that Jesus gives, love each other as he does in a self-affirming, life-giving, universe-altering crucifixion-bearing way.)

Luke 22:1-38 (the story of the Last Supper. It should have been a celebratory meal, like going to the pizza parlor with the team after a big win. Instead it was a meal that was marked by the various feelings, fears, hopes, and polarization of the 12 disciples: those that wanted to follow, those that wanted to force change, those unsure of what was going on, those along for the ride, the one willing to force the hand of Jesus to action by selling him out to his enemies. This community, challenged to live the impossible commandment, seems polarized and paralyzed by fear of the future and mistrust of each other.)

In the light of everything going on this week: emerging genocide and civil-war in Kenya, chaos in Pakistan, someone skipping the Bay Bridge toll booth 637 times, the fight by Democratic Presidential hopefuls over who can best bring change, what change is, and who represents it, and the drug use (supposed) story of Roger Clemens - I find myself meditating on these two scriptures so essential to the world-view formation of those that follow Jesus.

Jesus offers a meal - the last supper - which is actually the first re-interpretation of the Passover meal in light of his life, death and resurrection. The meal is the ultimate expression of open-table fellowship, community, life-sustaining transformation, trust, faith, peace - in brief what we seem to be calling "the politics of hope" these days. He offers it not to the old party faithful, but to his dearest friends, who've left everything to follow him physically, emotionally, politically and spiritually. In the group are many different responses to his teaching, approach, and political stance in ancient Israel. Some are content with it, others challenged by it, others wanting it to come about in a revolutionary or even violent-uprising way. But this passover, this last supper is different, it's the first meal in a new way of eating - of eating together purely for peace, being willing to give everything up - including life - to change the world. It's the ultimate meal of TRUST - in the giver of all, in the faithfulness of God, the power of grace over sin, and the potential of true community. This ultimate meal of trust is given freely to a community of friends polarized and paralyzed by mistrust of history, each other, their leader and even themselves.

Throughout the past days I've heard and read so much about the apathy, indifference and hopelessness of our country - whether it's people under or over 30 - from both genders - and across the racial/cultural spectrum. In general our nation community is plagued, polarized and paralyzed by mistrust - of our government, of each other, of the world, of our leaders, and even of the whole process. Who can best bring change? How can we best get that message out? Will our 2008 election end peacefully with nonviolent regime change, or will it result in ethnic strife like that between the Kikuyus and the Luos in Kenya needing some sort of a surge of strength to bring order from chaos? Can Obama, Hillary, Edwards, McCain, Romney, or even Huckabeee bring that peace, hope, trust that we need?

In the short run I'm still undecided between Hillary and being swayed by Obama's rhetoric. In the long run I have to affirm with the centuries of the church community of those who have followed Jesus before me - that only he can bring this hope and trust from chaos, bringing light from darkness, peace from paralysis and polarization.

When I celebrate communion that's in part what I experience and believe I'm participating in with those that also share that meal of bread and wine, a body broken for the world, a community (in physical proximity, global in nature and timeless in inclusion) that is called to do the same.

At our church we end our table celebration of communion each week with the following prayer - which sums it all up for me:

“As this bread is Christ’s body for us, let us be the Body of Christ for the World –

in our actions, words, presence and relationships,

starting here from the corner of MacArthur & Coolidge to the ends of the Earth.”

How is communion the first rather than the last supper for you?
How do you experience it as the giving of hope, peace and trust?
How do you participate in that passion for justice, community and shalom around the table and throughout the week?

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Blogging Backwards towards
Sunday, January 6, 2008
Communion as the Freedom Party

Last Sunday at our church we began a month long sermon series on Communion - not just talking about it but experiencing it as the sacramental act that is foundational (along with baptism) in terms of what Christian worship, community and service is built upon.

Our texts were Exodus 12:1-14 (the story of the first Passover and the institution of the celebration) and Matthew 2:1-14 (the story of Epiphany or the coming of the Magi who as scientist/philosophers of the ancient world seemed to better know what the Messiah would be then the people to whom the Messiah came).

Communion is based upon the celebration of the Passover. It's what Jesus was doing with his dearest friends when he instituted the lord's supper or communion for the first time. The Passover is meant to be celebrated - it's a meal that you have to eat as you tell the story, and a re-telling of the story that you have to do as you eat the meal. There is a foundational connection between story-telling, experience and participation. It's the way in which you enter into the story of the Passover and Exodus so that you can claim the story as your own, no matter what age in which you live. That night is different than all other nights (as the Haggadah affirms) because we remember that we too have been (and maybe still are) slaves in Egypt under Pharoah. It's about freedom, remembering what it is, what it cost in the past so that we might live it, seize it and use it in the present.

Communion is the re-interpretation of that Passover Freedom Meal by Jesus, pointing to a new, or different experiential articulation of what freedom is, costs and empowers us to be. When we eat the bread and drink from the cup we remember what freedom cost, what Jesus did, where we come from, so that we might more fully live in the moment as free people, followers of Jesus, participants in the ongoing fight for justice, freedom and shalom-living.

How have you experienced communion as the freedom meal in the past? How might you need to do so today?

Thursday, January 03, 2008

Blogging Towards 2008
(worship from sunday, december 30, 2007
at fruitvale presbyterian church)

In our last worship celebration together we asked the question, "Why do you go to church?"

Our scriptures were:
Psalm 33
(God alone is worthy of praise and service as God has created all, saved all, redeemed all and loves all).

Luke 2:21-40
(Simeon and Ann, who both basically lived in the Temple awaiting the arrival of the Messiah meet the infant Jesus on his 8th day of life and presentation according to the law. What does it mean to live life as worship of God? It's what they did, but what is it for us?)

Romans 12:1-2
(Paul encourages the faith community in the church of Rome to continue meeting together, worshipping as a community and reading the scriptures as a gathered group - for these experiences are the ways in which God's voice is heard, God's word is received, and we are transformed by God's presence in and throughout the world).

So then we talked - basically an open-mike sharing about why we come to church. What fun it was to hear the different and diverse remarks. During the celebration we showed a photo montage of events and activities of our church community throughout 2007. Here's a shorter version.

So why do you go to church?
If you don't go why don't you?

Wednesday, January 02, 2008


An editorial from Monte McClain

Pastor, Fruitvale Presbyterian Church

Eat, Pray, Love. Omnivore’s Dilemma. Supersize Me. Animal, Vegetable, Miracle. These are some of the names of recent best-selling books that talk about how we eat as Americans and why we do so. The general consensus includes the following conclusions on our eating habits: We eat too much. We eat badly. Most things contain massive amounts of sugars, and not even natural ones at that. We eat a ton of processed food, meaning food that has been artificially and industrially created – most of the time from derivatives of corn. Instead of eating food that naturally grows in a given season, we want to be able to eat whatever we fancy, whenever we want, and for a cheap price. There may be a direct relationship between how much processed and industrial food we over-eat and our skyrocketing rates of health problems, obesity, and general societal malaise. These authors preach to us the all too common saying, “you are what you eat.”

At the beginning of the New Year we commonly make resolutions. We want to be better, to improve, to stick with the commitments that we made in 2007, but somehow managed to give up on during the last twelve months. Our resolutions are about improving our lives and livelihood, the way we feel in general, and most likely the way we feel about ourselves. We want to lose weight, to work out, to be stronger, to stop bad habits, to begin good ones. In general our society tells us repeatedly and consistently that “we are what we do.”

One of the foundational experiences in Christian worship is the celebration of communion. Along with baptism, we followers of Jesus believe it to be a unique way we somehow experience – or see visibly – the love and grace of God in Christ which is an invisible reality and truth. Our worship space is marked first and foremost by the baptism font and the communion table. For it’s at the font and through the water that we experience a rebirth, an entry into Christian community, our connection to other followers of Jesus and even God himself. It’s around the communion table that we experience God’s love anew, participating in God’s great unfolding drama for all of humanity and the entire universe. It’s in sharing a meal together – not just any meal – and one containing neither high fructose corn syrup nor hydrogenated fats – that is the visual expression of both the extent of God’s love for us and our connection to each other as disciples participating in God’s mission of grace, freedom and community for all of creation. All of this is happening while we share the meal Jesus gave us, a simple sacramental meal of bread & juice together.

In January in worship (at Fruitvale Presbyterian Church) we’ll be celebrating Communion each Sunday as our way of wrestling with the meaning of communion and our experience of it as a post-modern, intergenerational and multicultural community of followers of Jesus. Each week will be slightly different, seeking to expand our personal understanding and our communal experience of the Lord’s Supper. For God tells us something radically different than both our current best-sellers and our culture in general. At the Table we remember that God says to us, “You are my beloved! You become what I have given you to eat together!” I hope you can join us for this month-long experiment and experience of communion in worship!

- Happy New Year to you and yours,

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

Christmas Lights in Oakland

Several local Oakland neighborhood associations take nominations and then vote on the best decorations (Halloween, Holiday lights, etc.). So I thought I'd just share my favorites as my votes will be overwhelmed by everyone else in those general elections. My all-out favorite lights:

1. 2718 Carmel in Oakland (94602) between Rhoda and Coolidge. This house (pictured) goes all out each year with the most ecclectic, diverse, dare-I-say-Oaklandish display of lights, items, decos and gear ranging from Santa, to a singing Elvis, to Budweiser babes, Alvin and the Chimpmunks to baby Jesus in a manger scene. Year in and year out they're the best! Here's a photo of this years.

2. The Mormon Temple (Lincoln Ave. just below 13 in Oakland 94602).
What is there to say - this is over the top: palm trees, a manger, music....and the view of
the entire Bay Area on a clear there is convenient parking.

The house on the corner of Greenly and Keller Ave. (Oakland 94605). This place is great...they leave their stuff up most of the year in order to build on it. Where else can you see a 2 story manger scene bolted to the house? Awesome!

Picardy Drive between Seminary and 55th Ave. (Oakland 94605). This is the hands-down best neighorhood community effort. Amazing!

Happy New Year!