Friday, February 27, 2009

OUSD School Options: Holding Your Breathe

Today or tomorrow thousands of letters will arrive in the mailboxes of homes were many residents are holding their breathe to discover what local Oakland Unified Public School there child(ren) have been assigned to for kindergarten. It's a letter that seems to decide your fate. News that many have waited actively through visits, research and charm offensives for months, if not years, to receive. News that, you have to wonder, does it just come down to chance in a "lottery" or is it all about the squeaky wheel getting oiled? The same schools perceived as "good" are repeatedly sought after both by those that live in the neighborhood and those that don't, who are looking to parachute out of their school (whether it's failing or for other reasons including: safety concerns, poor facilities, racial/cultural make-ups, or even the lack of a PTA). So hundreds - maybe thousands - of families vie to get into: Hillcrest, Thronhill, Glenview, Montclair, Redwood Heights, Crocker Highlands, Kaiser and Chabot.

It's a process that seems more intense than trying to find a college. How do you go forward when some feel like $20,000/year for kindergarten is nearly and unavoidable necessity because of the public schools in our city? How do you pay for that if you are already maxed out with your over inflated (which is now deflating in our economy) rents and mortgages? It seems unjust that there you must fight so hard to get into a quality public school in a society that supposedly gurauntees us all the right to quality education. Of course in the end it all depends on where you live and if the caregivers of a child can or are able to fight for the better educational options for their children. The year we looked for kindergarten as a family, I felt like this whole process was a second full-time job that I took on. What about those that can't do that, don't want to, or won't? It this a question of entitlement? Is it an expression of middle class angst in our currect society? Is it a question of racial/class divide? Probably a little of all three.

Monday the assignement office of the district opens to hear appeals. It'll be crowded with unhappy and frustrated folks (
like last year: Trib Article). Will it be better or worse this year? Will even more Oaklanders that could afford the option of private school but no longer can in our continuing to emerge economic collapse be going public, thus swelling the number of kids looking for a spot? I also reflect that the month or two after the options announcement is when I hear the most people talking of possibly leaving to Oakland, fed up with the harshness and impossiblities they face here - loving Oakland, the people, the geography, the emerging social scene - yet not being able to overcome the discrepancies and failing aspects of our public schools. It's a great place to live, and if you're middle just might no longer be affordable or doable.
Lent Bible Practice | Day 3
Luke 1:26-56

We often think of this story of Mary as so spiritual and surreal: young woman, possibly virgin, suddenly pregnant. Is she drunk? Delusional? Making it all up so that she can feel important or justify her misbehavior that may have led to this pregnancy? We misread the story. It's not so much about her and her justifications, it's about the big picture, almost a call to jihad for the global work of justice - of turning the world upside down: the rich going away hungry, the poor being lifted up. It's actually a radical expression of hope, maybe even a political manifesto. We think snowglobes and hallmark card, yet the text is talking more like Che or those that stormed the Bastille: at last hope and liberation for the long oppressed poor of Israel - the people on the margins. It's not a Thomas Kincaide sort of God, more like the God of Karl Marx. It's not the destruction of one class/race/culture at the imperilaistic hands of another. Rather the reversal of the world order for the wholness and benefit of all: true peace. I wonder how we (in general as society today) would take in the story if we heard it more as the call to justice, that we are called to enter into today as well?

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Little Caesar's in the Dimond

The new Little Caesar's opened this morning at 2218 MacArthur Blvd in the Dimond District. Here's a photo of the workers being trained on the cash registers by the manager this morning as food was being delivered.

Lent Bible Practice | Day 2
Luke 1:5-25

The first testimony story of transformation in Luke's gospel is one of an old faithful man who has given up on his dreams coming true. Zechariah's accepted the platitude not that bad things happen to good people, but rather "good things don't happen very often to good people." Visited by an unexpected angle|experiential vision of God, his world is turned upside down from unrealized dreams to radical hope, from faith to fear to skepticism. He's so disbelieving and question-asking that he can't accept or recognize what's already happening. Maybe I do the same thing. So quick to not necessarily doubt, more like never suspect, that something amazingly good and life-changingly hopeful is closer than right around the corner, maybe more like under my nose. In our age ruled by fear, skepticism and mistrust, can we see God's transformative presence in our lives, in our corrupted systems and often too unjust world?
Lent Bible Practice | Day 1
For the Bible Practice Challenge I'm using Eugene Peterson's modernist translation/interpretation entitled The Message. The gospel account of the words, actions, relationships and death|resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth according to Luke, is just that. His retelling, through various conversations with eyewitnesses, of what happened. He writes because it impacts and transforms him. This is a story that changes those who hear it. Today we're often so absorbed with a scientific desire for positivist truth that's objective that we don't recognize the flip of that is self-centeredness in the sense that we don't want to engage other ideas or being engaged by them. Luke is writing to Theolophilus [Greek for Lover of God] - a real person and maybe us today too. It's a conversation, an encounter with a person we encounter through story and witness words of others. Often today we split hairs between truth and truthiness. But maybe truth isn't what you expect nor does it arrive when you expect it to? Luke is writing to say that truth is action, how when we enter into the story of Jesus we are changed, transformed and made whole.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Read the Bible Lent Challenge 2009

Lent starts tomorrow on Ash Wednesday. That means today is Fat Tuesday, or Mardi Gras - a day in which some folks traditionally eat donuts, pancakes and drink burbon to go crazy. I wonder what a donut dipped in burbon and wrapped in a pancake would taste like? Joking with friends all day today on facebook led me to discover this great little pancake song video on youtube that some creative person whipped up. Enjoy!

Each Lent I do a Read the Bible as Spiritual Practice challenge. It's my way of encouraging others to not just give something up for lent but to take something on. This year we'll read through the gospel according to Luke. Each day will have a video/photo and short 2 paragraph max blog about the passage for the day. It's every day until Easter (April 12th) - not counting Sundays. Starts tomorrow!
Bumpersticker of the Week

Monday, February 23, 2009

The Facebook Song
New Music

I'm back from my vacation and settling back into my routine of seeming to work while blogging and connecting online. The past few days I've heard this new song "The Facebook Song" (that we first learned of from Uncle Lori - there's your shout out!)coming from the youtubed version of it on my iphone as my kids played with it while we drove around Los Angeles, the youngest singing "faceboooooooooook." It's been making its way all across the internet as well as across LA in our station wagon. Quite clever and my favorite new music of the week. Here it is. There's also a thoughtful - and quite funny - article in last week's Newsweek about Facebook Made Me Do It.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

OFFline for Vacation

I'm unplugging for a week of vacation with my girls.

Bumper Sticker of the Week

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Should Religious Faith Be Regulated on the Net?

The SF Chronicle has an article today that deals with this issue, asking several questions of our emerging and consolidating net culture. "Cal Web site draws anti-evolution lawsuit" A Conservative/Literalist/Fundamentalist Christian who works as a teach in Roseville is suing the University of California and the Goverenment over issues of separation of Church and State because of one page [Misconceptions: Evolution and religion are incompatible] of the website on Understanding Evolution for Teachers. The teacher isn't suing because the govt. funded site promotes the scientific theory of evolution, rather she's upset and suing because this page asserts that religious faith and scientific support of evolution are not mutually exclusive, that they're not in a force either/or relationship of polarization but might actually be in a both/and relationship of symmetry. The teacher says this violates her fundamentalist Christian view and thus causes her personal damage; hence the suit claiming that the governmental suport of the site violates her rights (and by extension ours) of separation of church and state. I find this problematic. This teacher is a reflection of our larger problems in terms of faith and social practice of religion (in particular of the Christian persuasion) in our country.

This person (perspective) is the one that is quick to sue and attack anyone that asserts something going against Christian doctrine, claiming that we live in a "Christian" nation. Yet this is the opposite. It's quite possibly a scientific perspective seeking/pondering rapprochement with the faith/religious perspective. Actually it's just 1 page of 480 on the site! I think the page is great. Of course I disagreee with the Roseville Teacher over what and how to approach following Jesus as a faith and world-view existential choice. What gets me even more is the sense of entitlement: we deserve special protection because Christians and Christianity are under attack in our country. I disagree. Maybe I'm in the hoardes of Satan seeking to subvert Christian practice in the USA as a member of the Democratic party....or maybe I'm not. Personally I think much of our problems as Christians and members of the church is that we've forgotten what it's all about (Jacques Ellul calls this X - the pure state of birth that we can't get back to because of historical contexualization) - we've forgotten what it means to follow Jesus - in particular in terms of entitlement and what we claims to deserve. Our problem has systematically become hypocrisy, crying "foul" when something unfair happens to us, and then often legitimizing it when it happens to someone else we disagree with. Where is Jesus' foundational "love your neighbor as yourself" in that?

I don't think that Evolution and the Christian foundational story of Creation are/have to be mutually exclusive. I'm not a literalist. I like the idea of 7 days, and yet I think that the Creation story is talking more metaphorically and poetically about who we are and how we're meant to live with God, each other and creation as opposed to a scientific explanation theorizing on how things came to be and explicating the differences we see in the natural world around us. Why is Christian faith (in the way we practice it today) so often more about polarizing positions of either/or as opposed to dialectical ones of both/and? Is that worldview situation, (the western church has thoroughly embraced a polarizing and hierarchizing modernist view in my opinion)? Or it is a cultural one, how Christianity is interpreted and practiced in 20th/21st century America? Or is it inherent to the Christian faith from its birth? I think it's the first and second.

Should we extend more regulation over censuring what is said on the internet? This suit argues that we have to protect the separation of Church and State - this site is bad because it's federally funded, as opposed to mine - which talks freely about religion and state (of course I'm a nobody!) and is personally funded. And do we need that sort of protection as: one) Americans?; two) Christians?; three) non-Christians? I think it's a slippery slope.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Closing Down Oakland Unified Schools
Tilden School in the Guillotine
I heard today through the blog that OUSD is slating to close down Tilden School in the Laurel District [n-hood association] and also the school that the church I serve as pastor has adopted. This is news to me and I promise to do some blogging-worthy research and share it in the next days.

Here's a blog entry on the situation.

Here's the OUSD statement on school closures and the process of deciding who is closed and who isn't.

Link to Katy Murphy's Oakland Tribune
Education Blog about Tilden's Closure. Do you know anything about Tilden, OUSD decisions and/or the School Board?
Alt 7
Retreat for PC(USA) Clergy Under 40

I'm going to lead a workshop at this conference this June at Montreat for clergy under 40. The whole thing was emerged from a facebook conversation and was organized on facebook too! Promises to be thoughtful, fun and unforgettable. Here's a cool new video promo for it and more info on the facebook group. Search "Alt7 - A Gatherin for Young Presbyterian Minsters"

alt7 2009 from Montreat on Vimeo.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Is Life as We've Know It Over?
Generation Net - Elsewhere USA & Obama's Blackberry

I'm impassioned by thinking about how the world is changing through the use of technology, new ways of understanding reality and our experience of community. Things are speeding up more and more yet our world seems to be falling apart faster and faster. The way we communicate is radically different than it was 5 years ago, let alone 10 or 20 years ago. Yesterday I was at a church meeting during which I communicated with people face to face, through the written word, via text messages, live Twittering feed reflecting on the meeting during the meeting, chatted with someone in Philadelphia about my meeting in Oakland via Facebook, checked in with someone via cell phone, emailed France and browsed the agenda of the meeting on the internet - all within the space of 3 hours in one physical building site context. Was I communicating with others or communicating at them? I came home and then blogged, facebooked and emailed while I ate cookies, read Newsweek and watched the Daily Show on our Tivo. Things are changing? But is it for the better?

I read a helpful book by
Don Tapscott about the changing nature of our culture. Grown Up Digital points to the emergence of the Net Generation (or Milliennials or Generation Y) which outnumbers the Baby Boomers [who have long set the tone for our culture] and is already making a huge transformation in and upon our culture, economy, social structures, educational system and political power (he theorizes that it's most evident in President Obama's election) and that we ain't seen nothing yet. He had a thoughtful interview on Talk of the Nation on election day [link]. Here are 2 pages from books (click on them to expand them) talking about the 8 characteristics of the Net Generation. I also heard a great interview with Dalton Conley on Talk of the Nation [link] regarding his recent book Elsewhere USA, which talks about the ways in which societal/cultural/technological changes are transforming the way we live, blurring the lines between work and leisure, public and private, and altering the way we parent. It's even apparent in this week's Newsweek article on President Obama's Blackberry. [Will the Blackberry Sink the Presidency?]

I'm not into change for the sake of change, yet it does seem that our culture has not only changed, we're in the midst of a massive shift (it's up to you to decide if it's emerging or already done). I wonder about my own life and context: in particular work as a pastor in a church. My work is about communication: sharing hope, teaching and empowering others to think theologically about life, building community, organizing community and accompanying others in grief and mourning. Is that changing? Is my life changing in terms of the border between work and leisure? I find I easily slip into the pattern of always working, checking my Iphone each time an email comes in, cruising facebook to always be "in touch." Are we being drawn into incessant doing and communication? Or are these transformations helpful, empowering news ways of organizing, being together and relating? Does it have to be an either/or situation or can it be a both/and one? I do see that the way we "do" church is increasingly ineffective (or less effective): one person talking to others about God. People in my congregation seem to most effectively respond to a dialogue, when a sermon is about participation, identifying the universal question we share and empowering each of us to dive into it, to reflect from it and to grow spiritually as individuals and a community. This happens not just in a cartesian, 3 point sermon - but most often times in the children's time, at the communion table, in diverse rituals and in particular in the times in which we share our prayers/comments with one another. We're changing. Yet we often proclaim that the church can't change. It has to be our bedrock and anchor, the unchanging thing in the chaos of constant change. We universally affirm that to be alive means that we're growing, changing and evolving. Yet when it comes to God and church maybe we prefer ones that aren't growing (meaning that they're dead) because they make us feel better?
Is Jesus the Only Way?
(Part 2)
The Vocabulary of Faith
Blogging Towards Sunday
John 14:1-17

I followed a car on Sunday that had a bumper sticker that read "Pagan and Proud of it!" [wish I'd had my camera!] I found myself unconsciously thinking "how sad." Then I wondered why do I think that? They obviously are proud to be pagan; not a choice I'd make, and one they've happily made. For me Jesus is the choice I've made, the one I follow, the one in whose footsteps I want to tread, grow and mature. A friend of facebook recently updated their status saying "I know Jesus is the answer. But what is the question?" What does that mean? Is that faith? Or merely endoctrincation? How do I know that Jesus is the only way? That I am saved? That I'm not wrong?

1. How do we know we're saved and consequently that someone else isn't?
We (in the Christian family) have different takes on this. The Catholics would say you're saved if you practice your faith in the membership of the one holy church. Methodists have said (at least historically in Welsley's England) that you know you're saved by sanctification, how God works to redeem and make whole your life (for them the temperance movement and leaving alcohol behind historically played a big part in that). But how do we know we're saved? In a sense you can't know. It's not necessarily visible. Max Weber wrote the Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism affirming that spiritual security isn't visible or tangible and so isn't a sure thing. As a consequence he observed that Protestants (in particular Calvinist-leaning ones) worked hear to accomplish economic security as a visible sort of proof of their salvation. This leads in my opinion to the tweaked health and wealth gospel, which dictates that if you're doing well financially you must be loved and blessed by God, aka "saved." Yet I can't accept that the poor and disenfranchised are so because they're not saved. So how do we know?

2. How do you know if Salvation is true?
How do we know that God is true? We can't see him. We can't touch her. We can't prove his existence with an experiment or convoke her to an interview for validity. How do we know that Jesus is the living visible image of the invisible God? Can you prove it? Is Jesus an objectif(ied) truth: one that we can prove, touch and objectively say is truth via the scientific method? Or if Jesus existential truth: one that we can't prove but can point to through our own testimony, life-story and faith-journey? Is existential truth less true than objectified truth? Is truth universal, shared in common between and across all cultures? Or is it contextualized? How do we know? And can we ever know?

3. Is faith, the salvation story, the experience of God merely a contextualized event?
Is it true according to our context: our cultural background, socio-economic situation, gender, a
ge or orientiation? We say following Jesus is a choice. Yet what if you've never been given that choice because of your context, if you've never heard the gospel in word or experience? Can you still know God personally, experientially and existentially? Is it all just a question of where you were born and what you've experienced (or haven't experienced?) Catholic Theologian Karl Rahner posited that you could via his "Anonymous Christian" doctrine [basically that you may have chosen to serve and follow the God known in Jesus the Christ without ever having heard of that God through the way that you live].

4. Maybe in the end it comes down to the question of what does it mean to say "I believe."? Does that mean that if you believe X, that Y is wrong? And when we say we believe X, what are we saying we don't believe in the words we aren't pronouncing?

I believe in an orthodox way that God chooses to reveal God's-self in an unique & exclusive way in a signular historical event: Jesus the Christ. In confessing that, am I saying that there is only one revelation of God? That Jesus is the best revelation among several revelations? Or that Jesus is the best/right revelation of the divine for me?

Historical Jesus scholar Marcus Borg wrote that the resurrection was/is not a video-tapeable moment, meaning that it's beyond objectif or scientifically measured truth. It's an existential choice. Sure would be nice if you could netflix it on DVD. But you can't. And Jesus didn't talk this way about context, existential truth and objectified truth. It wasn't his vocabulary for talking about this question of existence. So if we dialogue about this are we reading into Jesus, projecting our issues on him in a way that can never fully be answered? Is Jesus the path or one of the paths? (Here's a thoughtful video of Marcus Borg talking about this)

So how then do we live faithfuly and faith-fully in our pluralistic world, living the core teaching of Jesus: love your neighbor as yourself, or love your neighbor as God first loves you?

I've been called a conservative traditionalist as well as vaguely referred to as a heretic. I believe with all my heart and life that Jesus is true for me. I can't prove it. I can talk about my experience and point to it with my testimony. It's my existential truth. It's my context. It's my choice (even though I'd argue that it chose me). Does that mean I'm not faithful? that I'm unitarian? that I have no back bone? Or could it reflect a deeper truth that we can only experience and never really "understand" cognitvely or in a cartesian way?

What does it mean that I (or maybe you) claim Jesus as center of my life, life and the universe? How can I affirm that and live in a pluralistic culture and context and completely, honestly and organically respect my neighbor (who may or may not follow Jesus) in a way that recognizes them as a fellow human being and created child of God? I wonder. I love this song. As I listen to it I find it both beautiful and challenging, comforting and disturbing. What does it mean to have Christ as center?

Is Entering the Clergy a Better Bail-Out 
than Obama can Offer?

This week's Newsweek has a curious article about the documented rise in seminary enrollment and attendance following cataclysmic events (genre 9/11) and hard times (like recession/depressions).  Turns out most seminaries expect increasing enrollment in the next 12 months.  Ironic because you'll spend about $20,000 a year going to school (for at least 3 years) in order to be ordained and then make about $45,000 a year (if you're lucky).  Not necessarily a good bail-out option.  I'd suggest retraining yourself for green technology, or maybe bounty-hunter to chase down those derelicts that so many fear we'll release once they leave Guantanamo.

The article Divine Refuge in the Storm ends with an interesting quote: "You turn to God sometimes when it's so grim."  I wonder why do we do so only when life is grim?  Is God merely a force to save us when no one else can?  What kind of bail-out is that?

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Bumper Sticker of the Week

I ran into this sticker a few months ago in the Laurel District of Oakland.  I think it's a great expression of what many people believe or practice, maybe more out of the pain and disillusionment of past experiences than out of moral or spiritual conviction.  Plus it's funny.
Can Only White Men Be Christian?
Lunar New Year Reflections

The above question may seem idiotic or silly to you. Of course it's not true. Anyone can believe anything that they chose to commit to and orient their life around. Yet in terms of the Christian Church I'm not convinced that our regular, at least historically so in the particular context of this country, actions reflect that belief.

We celebrated Lunar New Year in our worship gathering this past week. We tried, as we have done so in the past few years, to go beyond the token/stereotypical celebration which affirms cultural specificities and particularities by sharing a meal of what some might call "ethnic" or cultural-specific food. This year our children again learned in Sunday School how to make some of that food, actually helping to prepare our Chinese feast. We also have a longer presentation with media clips and photos of past experiences of the speakers growing up in a Chinese Church in Chinatown, learning that being Chinese is bad in terms of being Christian: in a sense that they had to choose being Christian over their identity as Chinese-Americans. The presentation, seeking to engage the audience in participation, lifted that ironic and painful evangelistic and effacing approach to cultural diversity and the culture of the church. I was struck again by the multicultural nature, since birth, of the community of those that follow Jesus: or the church. Begun in a land dominated by at least 4 languages (Hebrew, Aramaic, Greek and Latin) it grew quickly (within 300 years) to take in and "take over" the immensely diverse Roman Empire. Where along the line did it start to become a mono-cultural entity, erasing cultural diversity in the name of orthodoxy and even into a triumphalist power that legitimized imperialistic oppression and the cultural destruction of colonialism? Good question. Are those tragedies consequences of aspects inherent and innate to the Christian worldview/doctrine/experience? I hope not. I don't think so. So are they then merely logical consequences and developments from the broken nature of the human condition? Hmmm.

I do know that historically the Church grew rapidly [in particular places like ancient Scotland and Ireland, not in those such as enslaved colonial Brazil] because it engulfed and embraced diverse cultural aspects in its evangelistic endeavors, pointing to the "Christian" which actually lies underneath the previous/ancients practices. Sunday our speakers made this great insert breaking down similarities they see between Chinese cultural celebrations and Christian meaning-making holy days/liturgical seasons, in particular comparing Lunar New Year to Advent. Here's a jpeg of it.
I'm well past starting to go off, and still struck by the comment by a speaker on Sunday. "I grew up thinking that being Chinese was bad, that I couldn't be both Chinese and Christian." What pain did that teaching (whether conscious or unconscious) cause and does it still cause? And how much more pain is there like that both inside and outside the church?

Saturday, February 07, 2009

What Makes a Good Store?

A local psychic made the new on channel 7 last night in a fraud investigation. The interview turns sour and both verbally aggressive and profane. [LINK to video] [LINK to blog & comments on report].

Throughout today I've seen at least a dozen comments on a neighborhood Yahoo group about the need to close this store down and remove it from our shopping neighborhood. The issue really isn't about the business owners, the store, or even the report on channel 7, I think it simply touches the nerve, the root of the problem, the desire of residents for different stores, more diversity and particular desires such as a brew pub, breakfast joint or family-friendly restaurants. It's about the tension of community, the one we live in and which is emerging around us and the one we dream of and work to live into.

So I find myself thinking and wondering today as I walked through the Dimond District taking pictures of neighborhood businesses both old and new, both well-loved and tolerated, what makes for a good neighborhood store? How do you balance that with fears of gentrification and needs of development? How do you balance that in terms of age, cultural background, class and family/single issues? What do we do to encourage new desired businesses in Oakland when it seems to be so hard to open one [See today's trib article "Oakland Zoning Rules a Minefield for Businesses"] In the end I wonder for my own thinking what I deem a good business is it simply because of my individual tastes: this is ghetto, this is trashy, this is bobo, this is chic, this is locally empowering; or do I think about businesses in the district a systemic or community way: this is good for the community because it addresses this or that sub-population, or in the sense that this or that business is sustainable and will contribute to the ongoing transformation of the business distrcit for the good of all?

In the end I think I probably most think about it in an individualistic way even if I am intentional about how I spend my money to invest in and encourage locally-owned sustainable businesses that meet my - the the needs of my family. Can we get beyond our individual own tastes and preferences? And should we try to?

What do you think? What makes a good neighborhood store?

Thursday, February 05, 2009

The Bay Cafe
New Restaurant in the Bret Harte
(Border of Dimond and Laurel Districts)

The Bay Cafe opened yesterday at 2818 MacArthur Blvd (at Coolidge). After hearing kudos from local business extraordinaires Ruth and Diane, I thought I'd check out the new eating place across the street from my work. The owners have done a nice job of redoing the interiors, updating the kitchen, new paint and furniture. There's now a pizza oven! They plan to expand their seating to include several outdoor tables.

The menu (below) includes good sandwiches, burgers, pizza/calzones and some nice breakfast options. And it's a good deal. $5 for a sandwich/burger with fries/chips. I got a cheeseburger which was good, made fresh as well as the fries. They also have a great can-do attitude salted with humor in terms of dealing with the often overwhelming student population of
Bret Harte Middle School in the afternoon. It's a great walk-to-place for those of us that live and work in between the Dimond and Laurel Districts. This year I've heard several times people declaring that they'd like to have a breakfast joint that they can walk to on the weekend. We'll now they have no excuse. I'll be going back.

Here's a few shots of the new restaurant

Here's their menu (click on the image to get a bigger version).
Is Jesus the Only Way?
The Vocabulary of Faith 6
Blogging Towards Sunday, February 8, 2009
John 14:1-6
Revelation 17:1-19:10
(or selections below)

The word for the week in my preaching series at the church I serve is "Only through Me" - "or "is Jesus the Only Way?" Tough. We want to be inclusive without being exclusive. And what is Jesus saying? I read John 14 and most often have heard people preach/talk about all those that won't be saved in some sort of long list or repetitive litany. Yet in the context of the passage Jesus isn't talking about other religions or faith traditions.

We’re often quick to judge others, or say that Jesus is the only way to knowing God, salvation, or inclusion in what God wants for the world and the chosen people of God. And maybe it means something more. Are we ourselves following that way, truth and life? I hear John 14:6 and I think of Jesus as being first and foremost relational, a truth we know and experience, a life we receive and mature in, a way of living that is more a journey to discover in community with other disciples than a moral certitude or theological knowledge to posses. What does it mean for you to follow Jesus? How does it shape your daily life, priorities, way you spend money, relationships, work, rest and spiritual life?

Are we following Jesus as Jesus commanded us to?

What does it mean that Jesus is the way, truth and life? Here’s some of the definitions (the gospel of John is first written in Greek) to help you go deeper in your experience of Jesus.

Όδος: WAY, public highway, street or road, journey, a way of life or conduct.

Άληθεια: TRUTH, truthfulness, dependability, uprightness, divine truth, reality.

Ζωή: LIFE in the physical sense, livelihood, means of sustenance life with God.

Revelation portrays a vision of faith and faithfulness from John in the 2nd century of the Roman Empire, a time of great tribulation and persecution for followers of Jesus. The book is a challenging read. Many people disagree on what it means and how is it truth. Is it more like a newspaper or a poem? Is it fact? Is it a metaphorical vision? Is it historical prophecy? Babylon the enemy of the people of God, is most likely Rome, representing the Roman Empire and the wealth and ways of the world. John portrays Rome as a prostitute or whore, who gathers wealth and admirers through seduction. What he's warning is for those who follow Jesus as the way, truth and life to not forget who they're following, or called to follow, and not to be seduced by the voice on the corner, or in the office of power in our government, industry, medias, neighborhoods or families. I'm struck this week by all of the blow outs about the bail out. Executives getting huge pay offs when they're receiving bail out monies paid out by the people who were abused, or lost their money. Of course the irony of it all is that we're quick to point fingers, yet we all were seduced by our own Babylons and Romes: cheap things to buy, overbuying, mortgages that were just too good to be true, borrowing seemingly free and endless money, believing and acting as though the good times might not ever end.

In the church, at least a lot of people I know and have heard, are quick to speak up about the sins of others in terms of choosing Jesus as the WAY, yet mute in terms of noticing the log in their own eyes. Isn't that a deeper reflection of human nature, and the new way of living that I believe Jesus invites us to know as truth, not found in a book, but in a new way of life that comes first and foremost with the living God that Jesus points to.

">Then one of the seven angels who had the seven bowls came and said to me, ‘Come, I will show you the judgment of the great whore who is seated on many waters, 2with whom the kings of the earth have committed fornication, and with the wine of whose fornication the inhabitants of the earth have become drunk.’ 3So he carried me away in the spirit into a wilderness, and I saw a woman sitting on a scarlet beast that was full of blasphemous names, and it had seven heads and ten horns. 4The woman was clothed in purple and scarlet, and adorned with gold and jewels and pearls, holding in her hand a golden cup full of abominations and the impurities of her fornication; 5and on her forehead was written a name, a mystery: ‘Babylon the great, mother of whores and of earth’s abominations.’ 6And I saw that the woman was drunk with the blood of the saints and the blood of the witnesses to Jesus.

When I saw her, I was greatly amazed. 7But the angel said to me, ‘Why are you so amazed? I will tell you the mystery of the woman, and of the beast with seven heads and ten horns that carries her….9 ‘This calls for a mind that has wisdom: the seven heads are seven mountains on which the woman is seated; also, they are seven kings,… 14they will make war on the Lamb, and the Lamb will conquer them, for he is Lord of lords and King of kings, and those with him are called and chosen and faithful.’

15 And he said to me, ‘The waters that you saw, where the whore is seated, are peoples and multitudes and nations and languages… 18The woman you saw is the great city that rules over the kings of the earth.’

18 1After this I saw another angel coming down from heaven, having great authority; and the earth was made bright with his splendor. 2He called out with a mighty voice,
‘Fallen, fallen is
Babylon the great! It has become a dwelling-place of demons,
a haunt of every foul spirit, a haunt of every foul bird, a haunt of every foul and hateful beast.
3For all the nations have drunk of the wine of the wrath of her fornication,
and the kings of the earth have committed fornication with her,
and the merchants of the earth have grown rich from the power of her luxury.’

4Then I heard another voice from heaven saying, ‘Come out of her, my people, so that you do not take part in her sins, and so that you do not share in her plagues; 5for her sins are heaped high as heaven, and God has remembered her iniquities. 6Render to her as she herself has rendered, and repay her double for her deeds; mix a double draught for her in the cup she mixed. 7As she glorified herself and lived luxuriously, so give her a like measure of torment and grief.Since in her heart she says, “I rule as a queen; I am no widow, and I will never see grief”, 8therefore her plagues will come in a single day— pestilence and mourning and famine—and she will be burned with fire; for mighty is the Lord God who judges her.’ 9 And the kings of the earth, who committed fornication and lived in luxury with her, will weep and wail over her when they see the smoke of her burning;

My thanks go to Sharyl who talked with me about this, relating a sermon that Tony Campolo preached on this last week with the Presbytery of Philadelphia, which I'm freely plagurizing.
Proposition 8
Stickers Signs & Videos

If you read me regularly you'll know that I'm always scanning bumpers of cars to find new bumpersticker treasurers to share on my weekly Tuesday "Bumper Sticker of the Week". I noticed something yesterday as I drove through the Dimond, the first yellow "Yes on 8" sticker that I've seen in months.

I don't see any of those signs in front yards - in the places where I live and move and have my being - mostly Oakland. I do see lot's of yards that still have "No on 8" signs and many cars that still bear stickers (usually both) like these that I saw on a bumper at Trader Joe's by the lake on Friday night.

It got me wondering. Why do we leave some stickers/signs up/on and take others down? Is it about the pride of victory of the motivation of loss? Maybe I'm reading too much into it. Yet I was struck that I saw my first Yes on 8 sticker at the same time that I kept hearing about the court fights to ensure that the lists of those that donated to Yes on 8 couldn't be made public.

Today I got an email with this video (made by some associates) about the impending decision about the marriages that did occur between the initial court pronouncement for marriage equality and then the overturning of it in November. You might (or might not) disagree with me, and I think that nonetheless it's a well made video (with a great song) by the Courage Campaign.

"Fidelity": Don't Divorce... from Courage Campaign on Vimeo.

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

Dimond District Survey for Improvement

If you live, work or hang out in the Dimond in Oakland, I encourage you to take this online
survey that the Dimond Improvement Association is hosting in view of community organization and next steps in the immediate future. Takes between 5-10 minutes.

Here's the link.

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

Bumper Sticker of the Week

I ran across this sticker a month or so ago in the Trader Joe's filled more than capacity parking lot the week before Christmas.  What could have seemed like some sort of buddhic stereotypical saying, or trite well-wishing, seems to point to a deeper truth (or at least one more of us are willing to recognize today).

Sunday, February 01, 2009

Experiencing the Bail Out Pains & Needs

I was at Target Bayfair in San Leandro today, shopping with my children when we suddenly heard loud shouting at the register area. A lone male voice resonated above myriad other voices and then starting screaming explicitives and refusing to be arrested. Not knowing excatly what was happening, yet feeling the tension in the store ambience and population, found myself wondering if that moment was merely the first in what could become almost an apocalyptic sort of reoccuring shopping/shoplifting/arresting scene to be replayed and experienced again and again in the expanding and deepening pain, depression and chaos of the continually emerging financial melt-down black-hole ceasing our nation.

On the way home we were stopped at the light at MacArthur Blvd and High Street in Oakland's Laurel District. Looking to the sidewalk I noticed an impromptu yard sale set up, not in a yard, but on a public corner. Again I wondered if this too is a sign (and one to be repeated?) of the deepening darkness and despair that many has already foreclosed on many lives and livelihoods and is expanding - in particular in the divisive news heard this week about increasing lay-offs and the long-term vision of relief not coming until at least late in 2009.

Maybe I'm speaking like a crazed or mistaken Cassandra, yet I still find myself haunted by these two experiences as the day closes.