Friday, May 30, 2008

Blogging Towards Sunday
June 1, 2008

Mark 5:24-34

This is one of my favorite stories of encounter with Jesus. Here's this woman, completely excluded because of her condition: forbidden to enter town, to touch anyone else, to go to worship, to go to the market,
to go home, to be with her family. According to the laws of the Torah, she's a complete untouchable: a dalit sentenced to live with other dalits. Anonymous she arrives daring to touch Jesus, to contaminate him with her unclean-ness, in hopes of finding health, wholeness, peace and some sort of semblance of life. Jesus proclaims that she's not only touchable, but should be noticed and recognized not as a dalit but as a daughter. What a power encounter. His heals her. He then uses it to heal the entire culture and town-system, challenging them to recognize the humanity in each other, to see each other as God first sees them. Makes me wonder who are the dalits that I overlook, neglect or don't even notice? Who are the ones that god is calling us to encounter not in power but in transforming love and mercy? What would our national foreign policy look like if we based it on that notion? How would we respond to the poor, downtrodden and excludedin our country and throughout the nations?

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Are you a racist? I am.
Rachel Ray Obama Keffiahs & YOU

If you've caught the news today a recent ad for Dunkin Donuts starring Rachael Ray was
pulled because she was wearing a keffiah (scarf sort of headdress traditionally warn by bedouins across the Middle East to protect them from the heat of the sun). It appears that she looked too "muslim" in this ad, which just might scare off all those donut eaters. [video]

I find myself wondering if those donut eaters, that need to be protected - or soothed - in
order to ensure growing profit margins at dunkin donuts, are the same white working class folks that won't vote for Obama because he's black. An article in this week's Newsweek "A Memo to Senator Obama" raises the question of racism, telling Obama that he's going to have to talk about it in order to help move a large majority of the American population to the post-racial perspective that dominates his worldview, but which apparently is still in the closet for our national culture. I find myself wondering, why is it that we spend so much time deflecting hard issues, crucial to who and how we are, by talking about peripherial ones? Why will so many say that they will vote for a black man, but when it comes time to do so in the secrecy of the walled voting booth they won't. We spend so much time saying that we live in a color blind society (of course that's usually those in power or from the dominant sub-culture that insist upon it) yet it so obviously is not. I myself live in a predominantly African-American neighborhood. I often find myself as the only Anglo (White) male in a meeting or group. I speak 3 languages. My family is multi-racial. I choose to live in Oakland because it's racially very rich, mixed and diverse (of course it still is plagued by racism). And yet I am racist. I judge and am judged by my ethnicity, gender, and orientation. I have stereotypes deeply embedded in me and my psyche. I am not a victim of them. I accepted them. I don't always challenge them. I want to be honest. I want to be true. I want to be free. I want to boast of living in a democracy where anyone from anywhere can actually run, win and rule with and by the power of the people.

Race is always present. Culture. Class. Gender. Orientation. Education. Language. It's always there. We can't deny it. We shouldn't deny it. But we can't live in fear of it. We can't base judgments solely upon them. We can't be imprisoned by false images and stereotypes. We can't say we live in a racially blind society because we don't. But we can rise up and speak the truth. It's crap that Dunkin Donuts is pulling this ad because Rachael Ray is wearing a scarf that is commonly (and fashionably) worn around the world. It's not an Al Qeda uniform, but rather the daily wear for bedouin (and others) folks living in and with the heat of the sun. We're so worried about making money, keeping everyone happy, being pleasant, keeping the peace, that we don't dare to go there, to name and dialogue about the things underneath the iceberg which actually do divide and destroy us. We all are racist. The only way to deal with that it to admit it AA-style and then move forward from that point together.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

I Hella Love Oakland Unified School District

Granted OUSD has some significant problems that persist despite a most amazingly ecclecticly talented hyper committed groups of teachers & administrators (that I've encountered in my experience). And I am proud that my children learn, grow and discover more of life in an OUSD school. We went to open house last week at which some songs were performed by some OUSD kids and the evening climaxed with a pulled-fire alarm and amazing African Dance. I don't see any children being left behind at our school and thank God it's not all just about API.

Bumper Sticker of the Week

I saw this one on a car in an East Bay Regional Parks Parking Lot after a hike. Glad I didn't run into the owner on the trail in some psycho deliverance stand-by-me hitchiker kind of way.

Monday, May 26, 2008

What I Read this Past Week that was Read-Worthy

Spreading the Word on the Street (SF GATE) [homeless preacher man that lives where I serve]

Mildred Loving (Obituary in The Economist)

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Blogging Towards Sunday
May 25, 2008

Matthew 6:19-34

What would you do if you had three months to live? In a sense that's what Jesus is talking about as he completes his fundamental teaching at the conclusion of the sermon on the month (Matthew chapters 5 & 6). Live wholly for God. Don't squeeze God in around the nooks and crannies and holes when it's convenient, or when you're desperately stuck in an impasse. Live holy lives Jesus is saying, set apart, consecrated to God....meaning live integrated lives where faith and daily life are united and feed each other. Let your faith be the treasure of your heart, the cornerstone of your live, the animating life force of your work, relationships, words and rest. It's about integration that frees and liberates us to live as new creations, for God, with God and towards God.

We often wonder what would we do if we only had three months to live. I think that Jesus is challenging us to repose the question: "What would you stop doing?" Aren't those the things that most take up our time, distract us from what we really want to live, and keep us from integrating our faith and daily living?

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Fun New Music
L'éphémère - Alexandre Désilets

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Oakland Crimewatch Website

A friend told me of this existing website hosted by the Oakland Police Department. It can map out crimes according to any address in the city. Helpful and a bit scary.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

19 Ways to Keep a Healthy Level of Insanity

Uncle Tio sent me this today and I loved the laughter break...I need to try some of this tips - and to remember not to drink the coffee at his place next time I go.

1. At Lunch Time, Sit In Your Parked Car With Sunglasses on and point a
Hair Dryer At Passing Cars. See If They Slow Down.

2. Page Yourself Over The Intercom. Don't Disguise Your Voice.

3. Every Time Someone Asks You To Do Something, ask If They Want Fries
with that.

5. Put Decaf In The Coffee Maker For 3 Weeks. Once Everyone has Gotten
Over Their Caffeine Addictions, Switch to Espresso.

6. In the Memo Field Of All Your Checks, Write "For Marijuana".

7. Finish All Your sentences with "In Accordance With The Prophecy".

9. Skip down the hall Rather Than Walk and see how many looks you get.

10. Order a Diet Water whenever you go out to eat, with a serious face.

11. Specify That Your Drive-through Order Is "To Go".

12. Sing Along At The Opera.

14. Put Mosquito Netting Around Your Work Area and Play tropical Sounds
All Day.

15. Five Days In Advance, Tell Your Friends You Can't Attend Their
Party Because You have a headache.

17. When The Money Comes Out The ATM, Scream "I Won! I Won!"

1 8. When Leaving the Zoo, Start Running towards the Parking lot,
Yelling "Run For Your Lives! They're Loose!"

19. Tell Your Children Over Dinner, "Due To The Economy, We Are Going
To Have To Let One Of You Go."
Vote for Hilbama!!!!

Don't know who the newest candidate for president is? Check out his/her photo over at Corn Dog's Blog.
How Do You Make A Comment on Monteskewed?

Someone recently told me that they read the blog, but haven't left any comments because they didn't get how to. So here's some steps to empower you to leave a comment or participate in an online dialog with your thoughts:

1. To make a comment:
Click on the line below the entry in the middle that has a number followed by comments.
This will shoot you to the comment page, you type it in and select enter on the bar below the blank page.

2. You can't make an anonymous comment:
I changed the blog format after some nasty comments and anonymous criticism last year following some blogging about the events around Farmer Joe's. It's my way to ensure that we don't simply badmouth or shamelessly attack others who are courageous enough to voice their thoughts.

3. You can also email a post to a friend:
To do this you simply click on the icon that looks like an envelope on the right below the article. It will shoot you to another page, on which you fill out email information and then the post is emailed away.

4. A comment doesn't have to be some sort of discourse between 3 and 30 points long. It can be anything. Short. Sweet. Confused. Chaotic. It's all about us talking in community.

Hope this helps and empowers you to join the dialog!
Looking forward to hearing from you.

Monday, May 19, 2008

What I Read this past week that was read-worthy

"The Last Bite: Is the world's food system collapsing?" (New Yorker)

"Obama's New Gospel" and "A Turbulent Pastor" (Newsweek) - Faith and how we unfaithfully seek to integrate it with politics (my words)

"A ruling Californians can love" (LA Times editorial by Gavin Newsom hosted on his website)

"EBMUD Adopts Water Rationing Rules" (SF GATE)

"Of dollars and sense and cheap government" (Leonard Pitts Jr., Miami Herald)  Why the president should get a raise.

"Facebook vs. Yearbook: Memories Saved Online" (Talk of the Nation on

Friday, May 16, 2008

Another Wacky Crime, Typical Day, in Oakland

They caught, arrested and charged the freaky lady that was going around from Piedmont Ave. through the Laurel District robbing people, in particular old ladies, by spraying them in the face with chemicals such as Ant Killer Spray. Bizarre that such things are tolerated here, and that we keep paroling so many crazies who are drug-dependent and thus lost back in our neighborhoods instead of helping them get the strategic help that they need.

Read the Tribune Article for more un-skewed info: "Woman charged in chemical spray robberies."
Presence: Part 1
Monte's Book Club

We live in a world and culture that seems to be stuck on separation, distinction and breaking
things down into parts that we can get our minds around. Yet in this first part of the book, the writers advance that "the whole exists through continually manifesting in the parts, and the parts exist as embodiments of the whole." p. 6 of intro. Where we see separation we should be looking for integration, synchronicity, inter-dependence, mutuality and reciprocity. Historically it seems that those that are able to step back, to see the big picture, or take in the whole are the ones to voice as prophets, healers, and truth-tellers what the whole is that we live in, what's wrong with it and how to transform it. That's what the authors advance as the most true and essential vocation of leadership. Moses, Buddha, Jesus, Abraham Lincoln, Winston Churchill, Nelson Mandela, MLK Jr., Gandhi, Amos, and Esther...they are examples of leadership according to presence. Leadership is more about being a being who can see the whole, who recognizes that the whole - or system in which we breath, move and have our being - is a whole that is fundamentally relational.

With the emergence of global culture, instant communication, rampant individualism and as-of-yet-historically-unknown-material acquistion our traditional family, religious and social structures are threatened. We live in a moment where much of what we know is questioned, in crisis, and unsure to continue. Global Warming. The Food Crisis. Global Multinational Companies. The Slow Food and Locavore Movements. We need leaders that are aware of the changes around us - and call us to hope - of course it's one thing to talk about it (like Obama) and another to be what the authors consider living an awareness of the system in which we live, the changes happening and the ways in which to move into the future. We can't just react to change (which merely leads to reinforcing old established habits and affirming empty vague rhetoric, violence and genocidal tribalism), we have to move beyond the escapist tendency to find comfort in habit to seeing uncomfortable and extraordinary clarity regarding what it means to act in the service of what is emerging around us.

We most often think that we fail in changing institutions because we lack visions and noble intentions, when in fact we ail because people can't see the reality that we face. In a sense we live in an almost sci-fi world depicted in the Matrix, Star Wars, Battlestar Galatica and the X-Files. We fail to recognize and discern the synchronistic and interdependent relationships all around us from the quarks that make up the atoms of creation to the ways in which we work together. To be a good leader in an effective and emergently aware way, is to redirect energy to focus on the whole through spiritual practices of mediation, centering prayer, silence and awareness.

It's challenging to see that these non-religious folks go towards spiritual practice as the foundational essence of leadership. It's not about action but about awareness, not about reactivism but presence, not about being distant but about being connected. Yet we continually focus on leadership as about power over others to direct things in ways that we want. It's about collaboration through motivation, shared decision making or if all else fails, manipulation.

I think about the people/leaders/mentors that have had the most impacted me.....they did so more through their relationship then through their knowledge, wisdom, actions, or words. It's a direct challenge for most pastoral leaders, when we base people work leadership on a CEO model in which leaders stay in an office, directing others by staying on top of information...instead of walking the streets, hanging in the cafes and bars, and being present in the world seeking to be aware of what God is doing. The other day I walked through the Dimond District (the neighborhood of the church I serve) in jeans, a t-shirt and my ipod visible. A friend said that no one would ever be able to know my pastoral profession from the way I looked. Maybe I'm on the right path then towards Presence Leadership....

Thursday, May 15, 2008

short urban street e-fiction
the bush part 2

ok - last week corn dog was inspired by a large daisy-like bush in the back of my car, and wrote up a short urban street e-fiction (part 1) piece. today i saw that same bush, where i planted it, and it looks like this....

so how does the story end?
corn dog?

anyone else?
Bumper Sticker of the Week

I saw this one - ok it's actually a mosaic of stickers - on an old beat up semi-white Vanagon (aren't they all?) in Rockridge a couple weeks ago. It made me remember that we often ask if the glass if half-full or half-empty, when we should start by being grateful that there is a glass. Cheers. Wish I could have gotten the whole back of the Vanagon in the was completely covered. I think the stickers were what was holding the bumper on.
Blogging Towards Sunday

What do you spend most of your days talking about? I'm a habitual complainer - on the inside of course, I'd never want to come out of my sarcastic, cynical and passive-agressive closet. Ironically (or not) the more I complain the worse I feel because I allow myself to be consumed by my narcissistic anger, bitterness, and malcontentment.

Deuteronomy 6 tells the Israelites how to transmit and mature faith, how to pass it on to others - through dialogue, discussion, conversation - not just at a weekly Bible Study or regular coffee date - but in every moment and activity of life: rest, recreation, work and travel. It seems to affirm that we talk ourselves into faith through story-telling, testimony, dialogue and relationship. They're to remember who God is, the living God who brought them out of slavery in Egypt to a new life in the freedom of the promised land.

In John 20 Jesus tells his friends and followers that as God has sent him, so Jesus sends them. It's a promise that extends to us. Jesus was sent to preach good news to the poor, to proclaim freedom to the prisoner, recovery of sight for the blind, release the oppressed and announce the moment of the Lord's favor. (Luke 4:18-19). We - as those that follow him and call him master - to be about the same business. To talk about it when we walk and when we sleep, when we work and when we eat.

I asked someone how they share their faith today. They told me that they do it with their children, but that otherwise they're not much of a preacher, that's your [meaning me] job. But that's not what these two scriptures teach. It's all of our job. And it's not as difficult as we make it out to be.

How do we see Jesus in our world - through the actions, presence, work, words and relationships of others. We talk ourselves and each other into faith, not in a proletariat-dupping sort of way, but in a dialogue-discussion, have another beer or latte way. It's in those conversations that we are open to being changed in the way that we see the world, see each other and see ourselves. It's like the funny picture above. You have to change the way you look at it to see Jesus in it. You have to take in the whole thing, not just a part of it, in order to grasp the big picture.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Speak up for and with your favorite teachers today!
4-6pm at Frank Ogawa Plaza
Make your voice (and that of your children) heard with your feet!

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

short urban street e-fiction
written by corn dog

corn dog walked by the church where i worked the other day and noticed the ecclectic collection of junk, plants and dirt in and on my car....which inspired a short urban street e-fiction piece that i just had to share. corn dog is a great writer - ready for publication in the new yorker - check out other stuff at

Monte was a man, small in stature, but not heart or spirit. He knew what the country needed. He loaded bush into the back of his station wagon, drove to the abyss, and threw him in. Polly Pockets rained down on America after that, and God forgave Monte because bush survived well in the abyss, bottom feeding as he had in the White House. Dimond Gospel according to LaTina Chapter 1 Verse 1

Day of the Teacher May 14, 2008
Take Action to Prevent Cuts & Protect our Public Schools

Articles & Resources to empower your voice & support our teachers!

Directions to Frank H. Ogawa Plaza (Oakland City Hall)

"Day of the Teacher" - California Teachers' Association

"Teachers to rally from Peninsula to San Jose" [Oakland Tribune]

"Day of the Teacher to be used against Governor"

Oakland Education Association - Invitation to the Rally May 14th from 4-6pm @ City Hall

List of things YOU CAN DO to fight for public education on the OUSD website

Budget Crisis Articles hosted on the OUSD website

What I Read This Past Week 
that was Read-worthy

In my burnt-out, over-relationalized, technology-avoiding hair-let down of Monday I always catch up on reading through the newspapers and magazines that came during the weekend.  Here's what struck and stuck with me this weekend:

2008 Summer Movie Preview (Pink Pages SF Gate)

Monday, May 12, 2008

Urban Francophile Reggae

I'm doing traffic school at home via the web...and while I should be studying I'm loving listening to an old album of accoustic reggae that I'd almost forgotten about. TRYO is a French group, all the rage (ou bien le top) when we last lived in France. They were environmental, political, rythmic, hip and marjauna-smoking long before Al Gore got into it (without inhaling of course). Here's some of their stuff for you to enjoy! It's a good workout for your French - fast and argot-ridden!
MySpace Page

Amusez-vous bien!

"La Misere d'en face" - The misery in front of us

"L'Hymne de nos campagnes" - Hymn of our Countryside

"La Revolution" -
well performed by some unknown guys
well performed by some unknown guys

Tryo mixed to Harry Potter

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Oakland's District 4 (my hood) in the News

Last night CBS5 ran this profile of a family in Maxwell Park that recently was caught dumping massive amounts of discarded paint and then burying it in their backyard. Would you want to picnic on the grass at their place?

Where does the line between
faith spirituality and political nationalism?

Jesus for President
Thoughts #3

According to an article in the paper today (Conservatives push for political sermons) conservatives legal advocates are recruiting pastors nationwide to defy an IRS ban on preaching about politicians in worship services. The ban is not meant to be a 'big-brother' action, but rather stipulates and holds Churches, which exist as non-profit 501c3s, to not endorse a specific candidate (although they can do lot's of other things such as hold forums and distribute voter guides) in order to maintain their non-taxable non-profit status. The idea then is to overturn this IRS ban in order to liberate faith communities to preach political appartenance and how to vote without restriction.

It makes me wonder where is the line between our faith spirituality and our political nationalism? Why is it that there has been so much vocal uproar about Rev. Jeremiah Wright's comments intended to challenge what he considers to be blind, ego-centric nationalism, and none about the efforts of the Alliance Defense Fund to act so that churches can become press release outposts for specific political candidates? Why is the church so often so quick to get into bed with politicians and political machinery in order to scratch their back? They is the community of 'believers' so quick to polarize itself, pointing fingers at the opposing side in terms of politics while forgetting that the New Testament writes (in Hebrews) of our call to be sojourners, to be resident aliens, recognizing that our home kingdom is of another world, not so that we live in a reclusionary, escapist way, but rather that we engage our world in a subversive, prophetically challenging way.

I'm a huge Obama fan, believing that he alone is the candidate that can address and motivate our national community in the ways and areas that need to emerge in the next few years, but I'm not going to preach that in church. My identity as a follower of Jesus is much more important than my passport, or my membership in a political party. Why is it that in our efforts to integrate faith and spirituality into all aspects of our lives, we tend to do so at the expense of our faith and spirituality? Are we incapable as human beings of true integration?

Friday, May 09, 2008

Oktoberfest in the Dimond
Saturday, October 4th

I was hanging out in the Dimond and talking my way through the area and ended up at my favorite of faves Paws & Claws where I heard some exciting news about the 1st ever (as of the past few years at least) Dimond Oktoberfest Party scheduled for October 4th. It's being organized by a professional party planner that heads up the annual Montclair Wine & Jazz Festival. They've also already acquired the right to close down MacArthur Blvd from Canon to Fruitvale Ave. to have plenty of space for the beer, music & fun. Can't wait.

Thanks to Tim Chapman for the help!!!

More info also at

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Jesus for President
Monte's Book Club
Entry 2

I just returned from a meeting a friend invited me to tag along to about "Jesus for President" and how the authors Shane Clairborne and Chris Haw are going on a speaking tour this summer, including coming to Grace Cathedral in SF on July 11th @ 7pm.

As we talked during the lunch gathering I was struck by someone's wording of their interpretive take on the book - are we identifying ourselves with our baptism or with our passeport? I know I use one to leave the country and the other to get through each day and as a compass. It doesn't seem provocative to me to challenge being American vs. being a follower of Jesus...but it can be, and is when we confuse things and it gets all muddled up like mix-matched socks in the dryer.... Who said what? What is caesar's? what is God's? So what do we give to who? Where do influence and affluence cross and become the same narcissistic self-serving thing? Where do we cross over from talking about serving the poor, the orphan, the widow, and the foreigner to actually doing it - not as a mission trip, but a daily vocation, lifestyle and worldview? Where I live it's every day that I'm fac
ed with this in my neighborhood, at the church I serve, all throughout my city. A friend talked today of the city - seems like a lot of faith communities in the city raise up followers expecting them to go and serve elsewhere as there an underlying assumption that no one will stay in the city because it's too poor, too nasty, too -un-pretty, too negligeable,....and maybe too late? I'm looking forward to seeing how the author's talk about this in the book, for they're city-folks....

I was always told to keep faith and politics separate in my words and sacramental actions as an ordained clergy person representing the church community.....yet how can political action & reflection be distinct and
disparate from faith if it's the foundational experience of God's overwhelming presence that shapes and gives meaning to all that we do, say and are?

To learn more about the upcoming book tour check out the book website at with, outakes & appendixes, and counter propaganda (including this cool amish homeland security t-shirt).

The author's are part of a Christian Community called The Simple Way in Philadelphia &
the Camden House in Camden.

Video interview regarding the hopes of author Shane Clairborne for the book

Blogging Towards Pentecost Sunday
May 11, 2008

Acts 2:1-21
1 Corinthians 12:3-12
Romans 8:14-17

Sunday is Pentecost - the birth-day of the church community. I've been reflecting, praying and wondering what does it all mean? What it is about community that turns me on, grabs me and convinces me that this whole Jesus groupie story thing is true? It's what these scriptures are about - the story of being overcome by the power of God and being thus drawn into a life of counter-cultural revolution-starting world-transforming community based upon the God given and inspired notions of equality, inclusiveness, empowerment, liberation and solidarity. That's what I want. A place where all gifts are welcome. A place were everyone is recognized - as happens in these scriptures. A faith community that includes all those on the journey, not in a pc-tolerance way, but in a dynamic life-liberating community praxis experience of mutuality - like the logs and embers in a fire that enrich, enliven and challenge each other as they burn, burn-out and burn-again in a resurrection sort of way. Why is it that the church community so often is more like a match that lights burn bright, burns out, and often makes a lot of smoke to hide the ugly odors we want to deny as part of our humanity?

While on the stair-master I re-read a masterful and incredibly short book by Eberhard Arnold, Why We Live in Community in which he says perfectly what Pentecost - the church - community is all about:

Faith is not a theory for us; neither is it a dogma, a system of ideas, or a fabric of words, nor a cult or an ogranization. Faith means being overwhelmed by God. Faith is the strength that enables us to go this way. It helps us to find trust again and again when, from a human point of view, the foundations of trust have been destroyed. Faith gives us the vision to perceive what is essential and eternal. It gives us eys to see what cannot be seen, and hands to grasp what cannot be touched, although it is present always and everywhere.

If we possess faith, we will no longer judge people in the light of social custom or according to their weaknesses, for we will see the lie that stands behind all the masks of our mammonistic, unclean, and murderous human society. Yet we will not be deceived in the other direction either and made to think that the maliciousness and ficklenesses of the human character (though factual) are its real and ultimate nature. Admitttedly, with our present nature, without God, we humans are incapable of community. Tempermental mood-swings, possessive impulses and cravings for physical and emotional satisfaction, powerful currents of ambition and touchiness, the desire for personal influence over others, and human privileges of all kinds - all these place seemingly insurmountable obstacles int he way of true community. But with faith we cannot be deluded into thinking that these realities are decisive: in the face of the power of God and his all-conquering love, they are of no significance. God is stronger than these realities. The unifiying energy of his spirit overcomes them all.

Here it becomes abundantly clear that the realization of true community, the actual building up o f a communal life, is impossible without faith in a higher Power. In spite of all that goes wrong, people try again and again to put their trust either in human goodness (which really does exist) or in the force of law. But all their efforts are bound to come to grief when faced with the reality of evil. The only power that can build true community is faith in the ultimate mystery of the Good, faith in God.

How do we make this experiential and participatory in worship? I'm stuck as I wonder about it. Shouldn't every Sunday - every moment of life in faith community be this? I lived in a radically envisioned community for a year. There were moments like this - escaping the death-making system we live in to glimpse experientially true community based in, through and for faith in a living God...yet all too often the ugly natures of our humanity came out: envy, power-seeking, jealousy, fear, passive-aggressive silence. Can we live in true community? That's what Pentecost is all about. Have have you experienced community? Like logs in a fire, a match...or somewhere in the grey-in-between?

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Jesus for President
Monte's Book Club Reading
Section 1 of 4 (pp. 1-63)

I love the mosaic-styled cut and paste visual layout of the text interlaced with images and the millenial-inspired vernacular with which the authors write and interpretively articulate their theologically shaped world-view. The best way to experience this is by reading the introduction to the book. The best way for me to share that was to make a slideshow (see below) for you to experience it yourself. [I also included photos of some other pages and the uber-visual bibliography. Buy the book so I don't go to jail for copyright infringement - plus it's good!]

This first section of the book is a brief summary and effective introduction to the global metanarrative of the Hebrew Scriptures of the Bible. From the creation narrative to slavery in Egypt, from the Exodus to the Exile to the Prophets the writers lift out the reoccuring motif that the Israelites are called to be the People of God through whom God is liberating the world to truly be human. They are called to remember this unique identity as a people whom God was protecting and redeeming, not because of genetic superiority, moral excellence, or intellectual royalty - but because they stood out as poor, enslaved, despised, overlooked and underestimated - the perfect test-tube demonstration of God's power, purpose and passion for humanity. This whole process of liberation from economic oppression, physical slavery, sur-indebtedness, imperialism, and foreign domination was meant to set them apart (which is what the word "holy" means in Hebrew). Their contrasting calendar, customs and culture were intended by God to remind them of their communal identity as this people of God and to even be a direct confrontation with the customs, powers, and economies of the nations and empires they lived among and under. Their culture rooted in this monotheistic belief in the God of the Bible, the God of Abraham and Sarah, of Moses and Myriam, of Elijah and Ruth, of Sabbath and Jubilee was intended to be a "regularly scheduled revolution" which would embody the plan and hope of God for creation.

The two principal questions they ask in this section (pp. 54-55) and I imagine the entire book as a sort of thesis conversation starter) are:

1. What is it that sets the people of God apart as a "holy nation" for God?
2. How has God branded and marked our lives and communities [today]?

Good questions in particular in our time of revolt against an evangelical-named dominant culture in our nation that has been subverted or hijacked (take your choice) by political parties, economic multinational powers and imperalistic media movements to further other ends. What is actually Christian about us and our communities? What is unique about our worship gatherings founded upon a communal following of Jesus when many of them our shaped by Hallmark inspired holidays, imperialistic nationalism, and/or economic trends? If we're really called to holiness, to be set apart, it doesn't seem (at least in the majority or dominant forms of Christianity in the USA) to be all that visible? And when it is - it's either under the radar - or upfront and centered and twisted around like the ministry of Jeremiah Wright. Time for a revolution. Or at least to address the one that has already emerged.

What do you think?

Bumper Sticker of the Week

I ran across this sticker on a pristine foreign car in a Target parking lot. It stuck with me in part because of the religious undertones and in-your-face language and also from the online blogger-fed dialogue about homosexuality, sin, the church, and the future being hosted and moderated by Bruce Reyes-Chow over on his Moderator Run Blog: "Can we agree to disagree on homosexuality?" As of this morning the comments are more than a page long. Concise writing by Bruce is enabling this interesting discussion board comment conversation well worth the read.

Monday, May 05, 2008

making sense of the world 1 coffee at a time
(editorial from our church newsletter - read it online here)

Change can be hard. Change is constant. Change can be scary. But what we most fear isn’t change itself. Rather it’s what we could lose because of change. How do you deal with this constant fear of loss and the anxiety change can produce in our daily life? How do you do it as a person of faith following Jesus? I start each day with the same habit, routine or ritual. I look out the window at our yard, taking in the new day and the changes in the garden. Then I head for the kitchen to make a coffee. While the machine warms up I get the paper. The coffee ready, I then read through it. It’s my sacred space or spiritual time. I start the day trying to welcome the day God is inviting me to, savoring my favorite coffee, then reading & thinking about what’s happening around and in me, actively reflecting to glimpse where God is actively present in it all. It’s my quiet time that both grounds & prepares me.

I don’t like it when this routine is disturbed. I’m happy to give it up when we’re traveling, on vacation or have out of town visitors. But when my day beginning ritual is messed up by oversleeping, the paper not being delivered, or running out of coffee – my day seems to be thrown off kilter. I don’t mind changing it up, but I don’t like losing it. It’s more than just my daily routine. It’s how I make meaning of my day –it’s my spiritual practice or daily quiet time – through which I begin my day in prayer and gratitude. It centers me, serves as my grounding foundation for the day and remind me of God’s chronic faithfulness. Without it, I’m lost. With it, I feel ready and able to face everything that might come at me that day.

This month we celebrate Pentecost on May 11th. It’s the feast day when we celebrate and remember the birth-day story of the church community in ancient Jerusalem (told in Acts 2). But it’s more than a story. It’s our story. We gather each Sunday, and practice certain rituals: passing the peace, listening to scripture, sharing communion, and having coffee hour in order to help us make sense of life, to make meaning in our life. Many of us don’t like the format of worship to change. We don’t like too many songs from the songbook, someone sitting in “our” pew or chair at coffee hour, or an unplanned outburst of ecstatic joy by one of our children. These are some of the changes that can mess it up. We don’t like the change because we could lose what we cherish, what feeds and nurtures us, or worse yet, we might lose “our” place in our church community, the community which keeps us going from Monday through Saturday. Increasingly we’ve come to expect worship to respond to all our spiritual needs, and our pastor – or worship leader – to respond to all our wishes and to do consistently do it in a way that makes us feel safe, secure and included. We want to be assured of our place in the pews and in the life of our church community, in particular when change and transition is swarming all around us in our world, culture and city. Without our church ritual, we’re lost. It’s the spiritual practice that grounds us in the changes of life.

The gospel of Jesus Christ is about change and rebirth. It’s a living Word that transforms us, challenges our habits and presuppositions, and invites us to new beginnings and deeper living. Pentecost is the birthday celebration of this community of people seeking to practice this gospel-based life every day, in everything, and in every relationship. Today however, the way we do it doesn’t seem to respond to the needs of the world, and even our own needs. Somehow our faith is often practiced or experienced only on Sunday mornings. There is little, if any, congruence between Sunday Worship and Monday-Saturday life.

For me, the way I practice my faith each day begins with that cup of coffee ritual and later ends with the nightly prayers shared around our family dinner table. How do you practice your faith each day? How is their congruence between your Sunday life and your Monday through Saturday life? The church isn’t the goal of the journey of faith. Rather it’s the community that accompanies us and nurtures us through that journey. How do you need God to transform your vision and expectations of church? How do you need to develop your own sacred routines or spiritual practices in your own life? Throughout May and June this is the theme that we’ll be celebrating and discussing in worship and our faith growth education classes. I pray that through our dialogue you’ll be challenged and fed!

Peace to you and yours,