Friday, October 31, 2008

Blogging Towards Sunday,

We have a hard time practicing what we preach. It's a real challenge
- even if meaning-making and life-transforming - to follow Jesus. We want to be peacemakers, yet we become war initiators. We say we're for nonviolence, yet we are for the death penalty. We say we're for neighborly love (also called solidarity) yet freak at the hint of the s----ism word. We say we're for free grace and unconditional love yet are consistently sucked into the existential meaning-making propaganda of modern capitalism and the money pull of the weekly Target ad.

We learn more from watching, imitating and experiencing that from liste
ning and taking notes. Who then can teach us? We need new heros to show us what Jesus meant in verse 12 - that can model for us what it means, looks like and costs to be Christian. (Mother Theresa, Matthew Fox, Soeur Emmanuelle, Desmond Tutu, Ben and Carol Weir) Isn't that what Dia de los Muertos is about in a senses? Or All Saints Day? Who are your heroes in the faith?

Here are some great pages on this from Jesus for President, pp. 228-231 & 318-322. Click on the image to enlarge it for reading. If it speaks to you buy the book!

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Let's Just *&$#in Vote Already!

This bit from last night's Jon Stewart is brilliant, 
a zeitgeist of what the nation is feeling, 
experiencing and the change that we ALL need!

High School Musical Election Distraction

If you're tired of hearing about the 3 senators and a governor...
here's a little humor break straight from East High!  
Vote W-I-L-D-CATS November 4th!

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Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Bumper Sticker of the Week

I love living in the East Bay.

New Blog on the Near East School of Theology
in Beirut, Lebanon

Friend Carol, who works for NEST, has begun a blog about the Near East School of Theology. She's currently spending several weeks on site in Beirut blogging about happenings, relationships and personal stories.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Faith & Politics

OK - am I harping on a living/dead horse?  I've been talking, preaching & blogging on this for the past 8 weeks.  And today the SF Chronicle Insight (editorial/opinion) section published a whole edition on faith and politics.

I think they're inseparable for me in terms of living as a person of faith.  Yet I also refuse to limit my faith perspective to focusing simply upon one issue: marriage, abortion, school vouchers, war, or stem-cell research.  I follow Jesus who was all about mercy, compassion, justice, inclusion and personal transformation and systemic salvation.  He didn't focus on only one issue, rather he opened all his action to a experiential reflection upon the breadth and depth of his perspective, faith and worldview.  I can only hope to do the same.  AND I don't want anyone else to force their religion upon me, whether Muslim, Buddhist, Atheistic, Catholic, Evangelical, or god forbid - Presbyterian! :)   What do you think?

Here's some great articles in today's Insight

Public Debate and The Quietly Religious (A different perspective on faith and politics other than the dominant evangelical/fundamentalist one).

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Why I'm Voting NO on 8

This past week I've witnessed, experienced and talked through half a dozen encounters, some verbally abusive and borderline violent in our neighborhood regarding Proposition 8. (See my last blog, Blogging Towards Sunday October 26th for more theologically reflective thoughts on that).

I'm voting NO on the proposition, which has come as a shock to a few people as I am both an unashamed follower of Jesus and a protestant pastor.

Here's why I'm voting NO:

1. I believe, theologically, philisophically, and politically that we each and all are created "good" in the image of God, are created equal, and should be neighborly loved as God loves us and as we oftentimes love ourselves.

2. I believe in the separation of church and state. There is a reason our founders and framers began the amendments to our Constitution with this precision [link]. I follow Jesus as teacher, prophet and Lord. Yet I don't want our government to try to legislate a particular interpretation of what that may or may not mean, in particular in a way that could become something like a legalistic Christian version of the worst of Sharia law. "Government should not endorse, promote or subsidize religious views - and particular religious views should not be the determining factor in public-policy decision making." I don't want the government telling me how to transmit my faith-philisophical & worldview values and perspectives to my children. The flip of ensuring that I'm protected that way, means that I have to ensure that no one is treated that way.

3. Some would say that I'm a laxist in my faith, a heretic in my interpretation of the Christian Scriptures and doomed to hell for my non-fundamentalist faith practice. This is a big discussion. I would assert that I do believe and assert the authority of Christian Scripture, which I read and interpret essentially through the lens of who Jesus was, what he taught, did and how he lived. For me the fundamentals in faith, of following Jesus come down to the Sermon on the Mount, living out the Beatitudes, Loving God with all of who I am, and loving my neighbors in the same way, a radical affirmation of the inherent beauty of dignity of all creation, the universal brokeness of the human condition and tendency to life-denying judgment, and the call to love the least and little in a christ-ic way.

4. There are a lot of things said, repeated and proliferated that are diabolical twistings of the truth in order to scare people and motivate radical de-humanizing polarization through fear: Equality under the law and the right to marriage will not result in:

a. the restriction of the rights of religious communities. I already decline to marry people, and have the right to do so at my own discertion (which isn't racially, or orientiationally biased). The government won't force any religious community or clergy-type-person to perform weddings that they don't want to. Besides who would want to have someone officiate over your wedding that doesn't approve?

b. the state will not mandate and force public schools to advocate, legislate or dictate same-sex marriage to our children. This is ludicrous. My children attend a school where possibly half of the teachers are gay or lesbian. It is the more openly loving and deeply respecting learning community I have ever encountered and experienced, for the kids and the families.

c. there are some ridiculously silly fundamentalist, quasi-facist, propoganda being distributed these days that evoke the Judeo-Christian and claim to represent it with unquestionable authority and unassailable deniability. I received in the mail yesterday a letter addressed to protest clergy asserting that there is a direct link and connection between Same-Sex Unions and Child Sacrifice. (Bad Bible study by the folks at the Judeo-ChristianView: the Canaanites didn't do child sacrifices to Moloch because they were gay. They did so because that was the twisted god that they worshipped). [Here's their letter which also ties this into support of Barack Obama]. This is just one example of fundamentalist perspectives that claim to take the high moral ground, possess authoritative moral practices and definitive interpretations of the Jewish/Christian Scriptures - which have always been know to profess a unique faith with different perspectives and approaches to faith praxis. It's just not true. And it's not good Bible reading.

d. that legalizing same-sex unions will destroy traditional marriage (in particular in a Christian sense). This is ironic, the tradition of marriage in the Bible begins with polygamy, and historically inaccurate. Marraige was highy legislated and encouraged in medeival Europe by the royalty because it created a new way to tax subjects (maybe this would solve our current budget problems!?). I have yet to encounter troubles in my marriage because of gay and lesbian couples that are in our family, in our relational communities or in my neighborhood. Ther 50% failure rate of "traditional hetero-sexual" marriages in the USA has nothing to do with the presence of our gay and lesbian brothers and sisters. It's called human nature, selfishness and our brokeness. I think for myself, that I'd rather focus on the log in my own eye rather than upon the splinter in another's eye.

5. I read yesterday on a neighborhood discussion board that we are being fooled when we equate equality of marriage today with the legal/religious/sociological battles for equality in terms of inter-racial dating/marriage in the past. I would disagree. How is it different. Rights are rights.

Of course I'm subjective and biased (we all are). Here's some links (trying to be fair and balanced) if you want to think some more about the issue.

"A Line in the Sand for Same-Sex Marriage Foes" [NYTimes]
Conservative Christians lead Prop. 8 Push (with good Bible Explanation Table) [SFGate]
No on Prop 8 Site
Yes on Prop 8 Site
Covenant Network [Presbyterian Christian Association Against Prop 8]
James Dobson's Focus on the Family and various broadcasts / print documents Supporting Prop 8

How are you going to vote? Why? What are your motivations for doing so? What do you hope your vote will help our nation/state move towards?

Blogging Towards Sunday

We're in a time of intense polarization, fighting, in-fighting, name-calling and judging. The neighborhood I live in has witnessed protests and counter-protests regarding
Proposition 8 every night this week. On Wednesday the protests were broken up by the police after the YES crowd parked a car in the middle of the intersection and ramped up the level of the fight. The cover of this week's New Yorker points to the atmosphere of intense polarization, blame laying and us-vs-them mentality resulting in radical judgment of others: whether over wardrobes, war records, orientations, economic policies or who is an real American and who is a false one. Suddenly it's not just Democrats vs. Republicans, but plumbers versus nurses, neighbors versus neighbors. We have something in us that pushes us to judge one another. It's a wonder we haven't had more assaults in Oakland this past week.

This week's scripture has Jesus condemning judgment. Funny. An ironic paradox. According to scholars Jesus isn't talking about judgment like "nice hair," "hypocrite," or "bad politics." Rather Je
sus is saying that we can't play God. We can't condemn one another to hell. We can't say to others that they're going to burn, or be excluded while we won't - because we don't know. Jesus tells a funny story about logs and splinters. He turns things upside down, basically saying who are you to judge. For when you judge you overlook yourself. And if you thoughtfully, prayerfully and spirit-filled-ily look at and examine your own life, you won't be quick to judge others. We can't condemn or pretend to be able to exclude anyone else from God's love: whether they're gay, straight, plumbers, from Alaska, community organizers, own more than 10 houses, or come from Scranton. God doesn't want moral watchdogs, for such dogs always lead to violence, and a downward spiral of more violence. Rather God wants participants, pre-emptive actors.....blessed are the peacemakers....for theirs is the kingdom of God. Maybe the Amish are on to something...

Here's some great pages (270-277) from Jesus for President that t
alk about non-violence....the Jesus Doctrine. Click on the picture to make it bigger and easier to read.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Election Scare 2.0

You Could Be Responsible for Destroying the Planet.
I know I am. [Here's the proof]
A great video. You can tweak it and pass it on to get out the vote.
Thanks to Adam for the link.
Too Much Material

So many little time to blog


thanks to matt, nani & patrick for the images...

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Make a Decision 2008

I've been talking a lot about politics and faith the past weeks, how all faith is necessarily political, faith is meant to be visible, not just a question of private morality, or intellectual doctrines, but a life orientation, a foundational world-view that shapes our discernment, decisions and commitments. So I thought between now and the election I'd blog a bit on some of the decisions that are coming up.

I was struck by this thought this past weekend during and after a baptism
in the church community I serve. The person who was baptized is highly involved and greatly visible within the context of our faith community. Gentle, kind, compassionate, helpful, thoughtful and engaged, it's a person who is recognized across the diversity of our community members as a leader. After worship 3 things happened to remind me of the power of baptism and the active integrative connection between faith and politics.

1) I was cleaning up the church and happened to be bent over p
icking up some papers when I turned and looked up through the baptism font water towards the light streaming through a stained glass window (Here's my best photo attempt to recreate the moment). The waters of baptism oriented what I saw, (re)shaped my experience of my context, and invited me to a different point-of-view, with a perspective on the margins of the majority view of the font (and life itself). That's what baptism is, more than an invitation to a new experience of life, it's a re-orientation of how we live, make our priorities, see ourselves, relate with one another, and understand the ultimate power of the universe: that death is transformed into new life by the power of God - all the little (and big) deaths that we experience in life.

2) I was reading Jesus for President, prepping for our ongoing series and read this gre
at section on baptism. (Jesus for President, pp. 144-147. Click on the images to make them bigger and easier to read. If you enjoy it buy the book!)

3) In talking with kiddo #2 about the day, she told me that the bath-tism was really cool. Traditionally, at least in some parts of the church community, we understand baptism as a bath, a cleansing of evil, a renouncing of the power of the devil or forces of systemic evil in our world and life. Many folks I've known struggled with that, in particular regarding infants, wondering what evil they have to renounce. I think #2 is onto something, in particular in light of the JFP interpretation, it is a bath-tism: an invitation to a new life-orientation based upon the kingdom of God and its priorities as opposed to those of the nations of the earth, multinational corporations and other empires that seek at all expense to preserve their own power. I'd down for that sort of bath-tism which is more about action than information, more about participation than observation, more about activism than spiritualism. Faith is policital, that's what we've been bath-tized into.
High School Musical 3

HSM 3 is big, maybe not real american big, but big nonetheless (at least in our commie meth-lab socialist-embracing liberal elite media embracing postmodern family). The film opens on Friday (the 24th). Here's a copy of the trailer and my favorite song from the CD (released today) "Now or Never"

are you a real american?

jon stewart ran some great stuff on the daily show last night about the real american portions of the country as labeled by governor sarah palin and other republicans leaders.

so are you a real american? i'm clearly not. guess i need to move to a small town in order to do a patriotism internship at wal-mart, kfc, a pawn shop or selling meth.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Monday, October 20, 2008

Tina Fey for Emperess of the World
(OK - maybe not quite...but she's hot!)

Here's some of the recent SNL Tina Fey/Palin videos from this weekend.

You can watch more of them online at or on the SNL site.
You can also play "White" House with Governor Palin in a video game format at (very fun...I like clicking on the curtains!) Thanks to Tio for the link.
Blogging Towards Sunday
October 19th
Matthew 6:16-34

Jesus for President:
wall street main street plumbers

financial planning wealth distribution
and life orientation

This past week has seen ups and downs and downs and ups. Personal incomes wiped away. Retirements postponed. And a plumber, delinquent in paying taxes and seemingly fickle in voting records, set the tone for the political realm. The Presidential Debate focused on economics: basically trying to reassure us that the bad guys (aka the stinkingly rich and selfish fund managers) on Wall Street were to bla
me for all our woes. If we make them pay, literally with taxes and figuratively with regulation, than we can feel better about ourselves. What neither Senator pointed out what was Jesus (my candidate, though he never shows up in those polls either on CNN or FOX!) looks to a different way. He'd say you all are guilty, responsible and part of the problem. We all hedge our bets, trying to protect ourselves with financial planning. Now protection isn't a bad thing, and I don't believe that Jesus was down on the wealthy. Rather he's pointing out that God has a bigger persepctive: more than being focused on financial planning for rainy or retirment days, Jesus invites and challenges those who follow him to re-orient their lives, to recognize what belongs to God and what belongs to Caeser (Uncle Sam or Mr. Merril Lynch). What serves as the foundational frame for our world-view? Is it mistrust: that there's not enough to go around, that someone will get us and ours if we don't get them and theirs first? Or is it trust, trust (not naively in our equally messed up and selfish neighbors) that God wants something bigger, better and more beautiful for us: to live and be cared for like the birds of the airs and the grass of the field, in mutuality, inter-dependent community and grace. (Read the pages below 116-118 of Jesus for President for a radical concise interpretation of this passage. Click on the images to make them bigger and easier to read).A great old hymn is entitled "Count your blessings" ... count them, or name them, one, by one in order to see what God has done. It's not naive nor ignorant (even though our materialistic uber-consummation society tells us so) to recognize what we've been given, to call a gift a gift, and to respond in gratitude and trust that the giver will keep giving.

What kind of a presidential platform would that be? Not even Nader goes that far. I wonder if Tina Fey will start doing Jesus too?

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Blessing of the Animals
Saturday, October 18th @ 10am
Fruitvale Presbyterian Church

The community I serve as pastor is once again doing a Blessing of the Animals Ministry Event this coming Saturday, October 18th beginning with coffee at 10am on the church patio (Coolidge @ MacArthur in Oakland 94602).

Last year was a great time of meeting new folks and checking in with old friends. A church member joked that I should be ready for either a horse or a snake. I guess I got lucky we didn't have any. Of course who knows this year? Hope you can join us with your beloved furry, scaled or feathered ones!

Here's a slideshow of last year's event and some online information about what the Blessing of the Animals is and how it makes meaning in the Christian Tradition.


Blessing of the Animals & story of St Francis of Assisi

Blessing of the Animals: Prayers & Resources

God Bless the Animals Blog
Bumper Sticker of the Week

Monday, October 13, 2008

Blogging Towards Sunday
October 12, 2008

Today's scripture in our on-going Jesus for President series is all about prayer (fasting is in essence about prayer and connection with God): the foundational space that serves as generational center of our actions, words, presence and relationships.  Jesus reminds his audience, who have been called to be agents of change in the world in the manner that salt brings taste, light brings clarity, and mustard brings healing and potency.  We all agree that we want change: wether we claim to be mavericks or admit we're part of the system.  Yet we seem to get lost because we try to get there on our own.  Jesus invites his listeners, that day on the mountain and today as we meet, reflect and act, to find a source of regenerative power, redeeming creativity and loving presence in relationship with the living God of the universe.  Whether we call it prayer, spiritual discipline, meditation, reflection or something else - it's admitting that we are not the center, that we need a higher power, a deeper love, a wiser word to move us, heal us, orient us, and shape us.

Here's - what I found helpful - a short reflection video inviting to the practice of prayer from youtube to help you as you journey with this question and challenge of prayer and spiritual discipline.  I've also found a great daily prayer practice page (Sacred Space) that I tend to use to help center me.

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Oakland potential School Closures

OUSD is holding a meeting tonight to talk about the closure of schools in Oakland, specifically smaller schools with an enrollment of under 300 (like the one our oldest child attends). The district in siting the need for efficiency and cost effectiveness over educational results of such learning communities. I have to wonder what that has to do with the District catch phrase "Expect Success" when some of these smaller schools outperform larger ones (see Stanford Study article below)? Does it all boil down to money or is there something else in the mix? Here's some online connections about the process, supposed purpose and potential results:

1. Meeting tonight Wednesday 10/8 moved to a larger venue at 4351 Broadway. (Tribune article by Katy Murphy)

2. Stanford study asserts that smaller schools are working (Katy Murphy Trib article)

3. Will the wrong schools be targeted? entry on the education report (Katy Murphy's Edu blog)

6 uninteresting things about me
blog meme

i was tagged this week in an online blog meme game by leslie. it's an online game for bloggers where you pose some sort of a question, tagging other bloggers who link back to you to get the discussion going.

here's the meme
terms and conditions
1. Link to the person who tagged you.
2. Mention the rules on your blog.
3. List six unspectacular things about you.
4. Tag six other bloggers by linking to them.

so here's my answers:
1. i always put my pants on right leg first.
2. i love nutter butters, and tend to eat the entire package in one sitting.
3. i always played first base in little league as a kid.
4. when i enter a room with lot's of chairs for a meeting or group discussion i always sit far away from the door.
5. i love to iron and vacuum.
6. i write out (or think out) most of my sermons listening to thumping techno-styled music (some of my favorites include music by madonna, breathe, and listening to 92.7 fm from 12-1pm).

and i tag:
susannah, ladyburg, sharyl, matt, sarah, steve. & elena. (ok i know that's 7 can't stop - i don't like rules)
Sorting out the Suds after the Oktoberfest in the Dimond

In the midst of the rain late last Friday night I feared that the Oktoberfest in the Dimond Event would go down the drain. Yet come morning the sun showed up as well as thousands of people throughout the day to enjoy the event, our hood and each other. I spent most of the day at the booth of the church community I serve talking with folks as they came and went. I ran into dozens of people I have connections with through the Dimond, my church community and the schools our children attend, as well as friends who came via facebook invitations to check out the fun. I was blown away by the mass of people hanging out - and seemingly enjoying themselves (or was that the beer?) - in the Dimond. Encouraging for our (re)emerging sense of community and growing business district. Here's some other online posts about the event if you want to read or see more about it:

William Brand (Tribune Beer guy) on the Rockin' Ocktoberfest in Oakland

East Bay Reality Pro Blog (a real estate view of the East Bay)

Flickr Picture Album by Ron

If you came to the event what did you enjoy? How did it encourage you about our 'hood?

Thursday, October 02, 2008

Blogging Towards Sunday, October 5, 2008
Jesus for President

The Jesus Doctrine: Jesus' War on Terror
Matthew 5:21-48 (NRSV) (The Message)

What does it cost to have freedom, security and peace? Our answer - the historic human one through every empire and nation - has been that it takes war, fighting, violence and quite often the curtailing of freedoms in order to ensure that we're "safe", free from harm, free from loss. To protect our families, livelihoods and the mountains of things we've accumulated we have to give up more. Yet what kind of peace do we get from it? Violence begets violence. Our possessions aren't safe - whether stored in a golden parachute on Wall Street or under our mattress on Main Street - they can't be bailed out when lost. How do we actually get to this pie-in-the-sky, real-on-the-earth Beatitude vision of peace on earth aka the kingdom of God that Jesus talks of? How do we respond in the nitty gritty to agression whether it's nukes in Iran or a neighbor that refuses to recognize us as a living human being, or a brother/sister that abuses us? Is there a way to escape the blinding of the whole world that Ghandi talked about? What is the Jesus Doctrine (contained in large part in Matthew 5:21-48) that he clearly talks about yet which we struggle to understand and be able to articulate when we're interviewed about what it is and what Jesus hopes to accomplish through it.

The following pages (92-98) from Jesus for President offer a striking interpretation of the challenging eye for an eye teaching of Jesus. As always if you like the pages - buy the whole book!
Click on a photo to enlarge it for easier reading.
I think that the Jesus doctrine is a radical affirmation of our humanity. Each policy that he puts forward is designed to force us to love - to recognize the humanity - of our ennemies and our friends. When that happens things change: Walls break down. Divisions can be addressed. We have to choose between recognizing what we share with those we oppose, or decreasing our own humanity through shameful violence that minimizes and refuses to recognize our similarity with our brother and sister in front of us. Whereas most empires (Herod, Caesar, Napolean, Hitler, maybe some that are more recent like that of the Bush Administration.) act out of a will to power, a desire to have it all, they always refuse to recognize the humanity that we all share. They pre-emptively attack or intentionally wipe-out others in order to ensure their own supposed freedom, security and peace. Today we call such actions a war on terror, when in fact Jesus would call it a war of terror. Violence only leads to violence: a downward spiral. The only way out is to choose another way all together: the Jesus Doctrine.

What do you think the Jesus Doctrine is? Is it realistic policy that we can put into action? Or is it a pie-in-the-sky dream-land sort of thing?

Wednesday, October 01, 2008


High School musical & everyday faith

For hundreds of thousands of young Americans this month is all about October 24th: the opening day of the movie High School Musical 3. As school begins, homework flows and every day challenges are met, it’s something to dream about. In our household it’s spoken of with excitement, hope and joy, nearly as if it were a high holy day. As a country, we keep moving towards the presidential election of November 5th. Many speak of that day in a similar sacred way. In the middle of the chaos swarming around us it easily feels like the 11th hour. Banks fail every day. Repossessed houses populate our neighborhoods. Our purchasing power is decreasing. Our leaders seem unable to curtail, let alone concretely address the problems we face. We thirst for something different. As followers of Jesus, we dream of a sacred day when the policies of Jesus, war on terror and the Jesus Doctrine, spelled out in the Beatitudes (Matthew 5:1-11) will become the reality of both our universe and our everyday life. But how do we get there? It seems like a pipe dream?

“They say that you should follow

and chase down what you dream.

But if you get lost and lose yourself

What does it really mean?

No matter where we’re going,

It starts with where we are.”

These are lyrics from a favorite song from HSM 2 is entitled “Everyday”. It speaks to the times we live in, inviting us to claim Jesus’ call for us to live as the salt of the earth and light of the world: putting his teachings of the Sermon on the Mount into action.

In the midst of the fears we’re facing we can’t help but ask if we are lost? According to the rhetoric of our election we’re looking for change & mavericks, for something bigger than what already is. We seem to be afraid of missing out on our once in a life-time opportunity. We hope for something better rather than celebrating who we already are. As a nation and as individual people, we often are looking for that secret ingredient, that unknown power, the Gnostic message of truth, that experience of God that will bring us samsara, enlightenment and peace. We look outside ourselves for salvation of our world, yet the testimonies of the Bible say that God looks to us. Jesus, in the sermon on the mount, teaching us not to sit passively under a lotus tree waiting for beatitude enlightenment, but rather to prayerfully participate in what God is doing in the world, not settling for organized religion but to dare to be a community of faith organizing the chaos or our world into something different, the realization of the Jesus Doctrine. Visible not just from Russia, but from our houses in the fats and flats of the East Bay, the kingdom that Jesus calls us to become and claim comes about through a nonviolent revolution of living out of our faith every day. Jesus challenges us to be salt, light, mustard, yeast: transformational elements that find their potency not in secret powers but in who and what they are, in living faithfully and full of faith everyday.