Saturday, October 20, 2012

Jesus As President: politics for ordinary radicals; part three; When the Empire Gets Baptized

 First we looked at how the stories and values of the Hebrew scriptures presented competing visions of the people of God, between those who desired and abused power, and the prophetic voices who sought freedom and justice as the way to be in right relationship, or covenant, with God. Then we looked at the life and values and ministery of Jesus and how it contrasted with the life and values and power of Caeser and the Empire. Here we will look at the early church as a follower of Jesus against the lure and the domination of the Empire calling people to follow it. And how gradually the church sought the protection of the state instead of trusting in the power of God and gained the world but lost its soul, except for minority of souls who continued to be a peculiar people embodying God's vision on the margins of the Empire, and refusing allegiance to the Empire even in the midst of the Empire.

Jesus as President: Politics For Ordinary Radicals, part three: When the Empire got baptized…discussion based on book by Shane Claiborne and Chris Haws


1.     When those who followed the way of Jesus were called atheists for not following the Roman Gods way and instead the way of the gospel, when persecuted for not adhereing to the Empire way of life and markets and military, when they didn’t believe the state was the savior.

2.     They didn’t celebrate the festivals of the state (what would that mean today? Like Black Friday coming up in November? Others?)

3.     Baptism for jesus followers was a way of conversion and dedicating their lives to the dangerous way of following the God of Israel as shown in Jesus instead of the way of Caeser. It meant for many having to change their jobs, how they made money, whether from the brothels or from the government and the early church had to support those making that change.

4.     They started living Jesus’ vision now, not just waiting for him to come back and do it for them, not waiting to do it in an after life….but how could they get food from the markets without supporting the Empire? They had to get the mark of the Empire before they could enter the agora; John in Revelations and others cry out against the Empire and collaborating with it and that it is already fallen so need to find another way of living by sharing, not only food but life: they lived near one another, daily sharing of worship and friendship, and resources, and gradually effected change and a small alternative society within the Empire, like leaven and mustard seed. Image of the New Jerusalem: city of God come to earth, where mourning is turned to dancing, death is no more, the gates are left open for everyone, and the gardens take over the ghettos.

5.     Who they were: from the fringes of Empire, and from the middle of it: those who had been left behind in the Imperial progress, without family, without health, without country, and those who were converted from it. Both became “martyrs” which means witnesses. Rome was not just violent and evil but it was alluring in its wealth, art, society, roads, security. By contrast the early followers of Jesus were considered the scum of the earth: from 1 Corinthians 4: We are fools for Christ, but you are so wise in Christ! We are weak, but you are strong! You are honored, we are dishonored! 11 To this very hour we go hungry and thirsty, we are in rags, we are brutally treated, we are homeless. 12 We work hard with our own hands. When we are cursed, we bless; when we are persecuted, we endure it; 13 when we are slandered, we answer kindly. We have become the scum of the earth, the garbage of the world—right up to this moment….and from 2 Corinthians 4  If you only look at us, you might well miss the brightness. We carry this precious Message around in the unadorned clay pots of our ordinary lives. That’s to prevent anyone from confusing God’s incomparable power with us. As it is, there’s not much chance of that. You know for yourselves that we’re not much to look at. We’ve been surrounded and battered by troubles, but we’re not demoralized; we’re not sure what to do, but we know that God knows what to do; we’ve been spiritually terrorized, but God hasn’t left our side; Our lives are at constant risk for Jesus’ sake, which makes Jesus’ life all the more evident in us. While we’re going through the worst, you’re getting in on the best!

6.     Constantine: before his military rise to Emperor, the church had gradually become more mainstream, widespread and populous, easy for it to be coopted by the rulers. It had lost much of its Jewish roots by this time. 300 years after Jesus. Now it was influential on a major level and could be “relevant” in the world. From baptizing all those within the Empire, to resist the Empire, it instead baptized the Empire itself. As if we felt we needed the state to do what God and church couldn’t….one aspect of the Nicene Creed, making Jesus deemed same as God, was to make clear that Caeser wasn’t.

7.     Movement away from places of power to the desert and abandoned places of Empire, in order to find self and faith and God. Every 500 years or so a major movement of renewal…from Constantine to Crusades to Conquistadors in Americas, the effort to take God to people and control them instead of going to serve them and find God there.

8.     Puritans City on A Hill vision; American exceptionalism?; beware all efforts to see yourself as a special people different from others, beware having God on your side; we are a Christian nation insomuch as the USA looks like Christ….Shane’s Traitor response from Iraq, p. 175….like Frederick Douglas’s depiction of difference of Christianity of slave holding America and Christianity of Christ….but the church is not just called to opposition to the American Empire, but also to the dictatorships and power-over values of other nations as well

9.     The Gospel of America and Beyond: global reach of consumer values and also military presence, 700 stations in more than 100 countries (Rome had peace but throughout its Empire years, its legion out on the edges was not in war but only a few days; and the cost to the Empire consumed half of its budget that could have gone to the poor)…What are our idols? What would we kill for?...Who provides for our economy and cheap oil and food and products? Who is exploited for our lifestyle? Wendell Berry’s words calling us to a kingdom of God economy, not just distinction between church and state, but between church and economy, how we live and make our homes; in Rome people began dropping out and going to edges to farm and live and not need the economy of war…Read America through the eyes of the Bible, not the Bible through the eyes of America….The theology of power-over translated into kinds of church today (Mark Driscoll’s words that drive the mega-church world power church macho church today: “I cannot worship a guy I can beat up.” So he presents Jesus as warrior prize-fighter Hollywood action hero….Replacing flags and crosses that signify death and power with that of the “slaughtered lamb of God.”…God bless the whole world: no exceptions.

10.    What about Hitler? Example of Jesus telling Peter to lay down his sword not to prevent Jesus’ death. Bonhoeffer and Hitler, but he did it recognizing he was doing evil. And knowledge Hitler’s don’t come from nowhere, but we are called to be active in stopping them before they get power. Unintended consequences when we try to take God-like action; Hitler was even more emboldened after assassination attempt, thought he was protected more by God. Violence is not redemptive but damages the image of God within us. Evil done in the name of Good….christians leaving the military or saying they will go die for brothers and country but won’t kill for them anymore….the case of Catholic air force captain George Zabelka who blessed the men who dropped the atomic bomb on Nagasaki, including Catholic soldiers, and they later regretted what they had done as the bomb landed on the cathedral in Nagasaki, the heart of Catholicism in Japan. He said he didn’t preach to them the Sermon on the Mount, to love their enemies; something for three hundred years the Church preached and lived after Jesus even though during those three hundred years it had been bearing the brunt of the Empire trying to wipe it out by killing. Church needs to begin by confessing how it has not been the church, and needs to wash feet of those it has wronged, and become the church as it does that, not as it holds a sword and is capable of beating up evil-doers in the name of God. People might pay attention to the church that does that.  


Saturday, October 13, 2012

Jesus As President: A Different Kind of Commander In Chief (Caeser), A Different Kind of Politics, following a Different Kind of God

Notes for discussion, Part Two from the book Jesus as President: Politics For Ordinary Radicals, by Shane Claiborne and Chris Haws, for Sunday, Oct. 14, 9:30 am at The Welcome Table conversation before communion and common meal.

Jesus As President: Politics For Ordinary Radicals, part two: A Different Kind of Commander In Chief (A Different Kind of Caeser)

“the construction of a set-apart people into a living temple of blessing is going so-so. The solution: God puts skin on to show the world what love looks like. But here’s the catch: the Prince of Peace is born as a refugee in the middle of a genocide and is rescued from the trash bin of imperial executions to stand at the pinnacle of this peculiar people. A strange way to start a revolution…”

1.     The dangerous radical story of Christmas, of Jesus birth...turning the words of Empire on its head: lord, gospel, faith, savior, kingdom, peace. But Jesus didn’t want to climb on Caeser’s throne. He didn’t pray for the world for governments to become more religious, but for people to be a peculiar people in the culture to show the way of God, not just be a better version of the kingdoms of the world.

2.     Politics of Jesus’ time: constant uprisings, rebellions against Rome; the building of Sepphoris, taking land from the peasants, next to Nazareth. Whole towns were destroyed as Jerusalem would be in 66-70 war. Rebels were often violent too, as the Legion was. Some fled and formed totally separate communities like Essenes. John the Baptist setting up anti-Temple communities in the desert baptizing in the river as forgiveness in opposition to the Temple’s rituals of forgiveness (like church and church versions). Also non-violent protests, like the Israelites who protested the introduction of Roman coins with Caeser’s image on them into Jerusalem. Surrounded by soldiers they exposed their necks. The conflict back to time of Alexander the Great’s Hellenistic conquering of the world. Herod the Great, murdering to stay in power, collaborating with Rome. John the Baptist protest against Herod, killed in response.

3.      People flocked to the edges of wilderness, the margins of Empire, to be with John and with Jesus to get Rome out of their system…

4.     Jesus went to the desert for preparation before he began his public ministry. A vision quest. Tempted to be powerful and influential Power-Over in the world….Tempted to produce quick miracles of stones to bread in a time of starvation, but he says we do not live by bread alone (think of that lesson for our work with food). Rome would give out food to calm the masses and distract them with circuses…He was tempted to be in charge of others, to take back the power from Rome, but he knew the stories of his people when Kings became corrupted. Instead serve God, he said, and so Jesus decides to enter his people’s story, identifying with them, not ruling over them, sharing their blood sweat tears and hunger….Tempted to be spectacular, to throw himself off and let angels save him, but he knew God works not through drawing attention to himself but through others.

5.     Jesus would make for a bad candidate, a bad president, a bad commander in chief, nevertheless he was political. He returns from the desert and gives his commencement speech: Luke 4, wearing the mantle of Isaiah: God’s kingdom in the poor, the prisoner, the blind, the oppressed, the debtor. That was his campaign speech. His solution for the people’s oppression by Rome: The sermon on the mount: an alternative economy: “folks coming together, forming close-knit communities and meeting each other’s needs—no kings, no major welfare systems, no presidents necessary. A practice for the people of God, not suggestions for an Empire. Jesus takes his solution not just for people of Israel but for all.

6.     Jesus’ third way response to Empire force, between aggression and passivity, creative response nonviolently: turn the other cheek, give the shirt as well as coat, walk an extra mile (look them in the eye and make them look you in the eye)….letting the wheat grow up the weeds, hard to distinguish the good and the bad, might destroy good in destroying evil…Is realistic about the continuing presence of Empire and its affects, like parable of the sower: so many seeds lost: but “the blessing of the world through the people of God is not like a quick violent revolution that takes over power; it starts small, grows silently, faces setbacks, but nevertheless permeates the world with love.” Oppose discouragement and cynicism. Mustard seed and leaven kingdom.

7.     To be born again is to be born again into a new family, into a new kingdom, new spirit (moreso than an aspect of personal only salvation). Not that his kingdom was not in this world just not of it, but not out of it either, but differently, not apolitical but differently political, in his kingdom we do not fight to maintain the kingdom. There is a yoke to living in this kingdom, but there is a yoke to living in Rome’s kingdom too; choose your yoke. Is your yoke suffering from the weight of the American Dream?

8.     Jesus’ campaign trail: the healing, exorcisms, meals on the shore of the sea of Galilee. People resisted the transformation, tried to trap him with questions like whether to pay taxes or not: give to caeser what is caeser and to God what is God’s: first, equating the two was radical revolutionary stance; second, what was God’s? All of Creation. You weren’t supposed to have Caeser’s coins, and so he exposes the hypocrisy of the questioners….He preaches to his followers also, the disciples, always arguing over who is favorite, all about their needs; jesus says need to serve, rule with a towel to wash people’s feet in hospitality not with a sword; his last prayer, in John, pray for followers to continue being peculiar set apart, not for the world but for those you have given me.

9.     Jesus’ inauguration, not like Caeser’s with pomp and circumstance and show of might and wealth and with displays of religiousity and showing how God is in your side and not your enemies. Jesus’s inauguration is the crucifixion which was written of in mock form to the inauguration of a Caeser: the first evangelist as the Roman centurion in Mark, just saw him at his most helpless, vulnerable, and says truly this is the son of God. The cross is a completely different way of seeing the world. It is the sign of the Empire, power-over; became the sign of God, forgive them, love lasts not evil….The Temple as sign of power and collaboration is broken at time of death, as it was destroyed by Rome soon; the new temple becomes the body, the people, worship not in temples but in spirit and truth…The cross busted God out of the temple, it reflects God as “the wildest being in existence” as Wendell Berry described God.

10.                        Resurrection Appearances as Inauguration Speech: even those who abandoned him are still his, now go do as he did, share the story and the love and grow others like him too, be the new family, new temple, new polis. Be the body of the Anointed and Jesus lives in them.

Saturday, October 06, 2012

Morning Prayer and Communion on Sunday Gatherings of The Welcome Table, between conversation and study and common meal

Morning Prayer and Communion: The Welcome Table missional community

Today is the day which God has made
Let us rejoice and be glad therein.
What does the Eternal require of us?

To live justly, love mercy, and walk humbly with our God. (from the Psalms and Micah)

This is our covenant as we walk together in life in the ways of God known and to be made known, following our mission to make Jesus visible in the world, wherever we are, together or apart:
In the light of truth, and the loving and liberating spirit of Jesus, we gather in freedom, to worship God, and serve all.

Response For The Morning Hour of the Day:

The day is lit. Choose your course….My heart pounds in Your rhythm. Syncopate my life, O God….O Lord, let my soul rise up to meet you, as the day rises to meet the sun. The sun is up, stopping and praying shapes the day instead of the day shaping us. Each day is Resurrection Day; there can be an end to repetition. Bring forth the Song in you.

From Our Morning Songs
Spirit of Life, Dona Nobis Pacem, Ubi Caritas, I Know This Rose Will Open, Gathered Here, Morning Has Broken, Love Will Guide Us, Over My Head, Joyful Joyful, Immortal, Invisible, Tis A Gift To Be Simple, O Life That Maketh All Things New, Wake Now, My Senses, Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing, We’re Gonna Sit At The Welcome Table, All Creatures of the Earth and Sky

Morning Prayers For Your Life and For The People

O God, the sun has risen. With it, lift up our hearts and prepare us for all that the day will bring. Be with us in our humble and deliberate beginning of the day, in work as in prayer. O Come, let us sing to the Lord, let us make a joyful noise to the rock of our salvation. Come into God’s presence with thanksgiving. Awake my soul. My heart pounds in Your rhythm.

Come Spirit, into our hearts. Into our thoughts. Into our work. Into this day. May God be gracious to us and bless us and shine upon us. Enter now into a time of prayer and meditation:

Eternal Spirit, we come with hungry hearts, waiting to be filled: Waiting to be filled with a sense of your presence; Waiting to be filled with the touch of your spirit; Waiting to be filled with new energy for service; We have followed too much the devices and desires of our own hearts. We have left undone those things which we ought to have done, and we have done those things which we ought not to have done.

Loving Creator, we confess what seems always with us: broken things within us that seem never to mend, empty places within us that seem always to ache, things like buds within us that seem never to flower. God of everlasting hope and forgiveness, help us to be open to your Presence within us, mending and tending to our aching hearts and to our hurt and wounded land. Help us to listen to others, and empower us to be your hands of action and healing, sowing seeds of compassion and justice into our families and communities and to support all those in need in our one world which you made and called good.

Pastoral Prayer
Let us pray for those who weep, and for those who cause their weeping. Hear our prayer, O God. For those who are without food, clothes, and a place of shelter this day and everyday. Hear our prayer, O God. For those who live without hope and meaning. Hear our prayer, O God. For those who live in fear or sickness. Hear our prayer, O God. For those who make gods of things and of themselves, Hear our prayer, O God. For those who are working to serve others this day, Hear our prayer, O God. For those travelling today, Hear our prayer, O God. For those in harm’s way, in homes and on battlefields, Hear our prayer, O God. For those who are finding their way again to love and laughter, Hear our prayer, O God. And for the great mission of God to bless the poor, to pardon the imprisoned, to bring sight to the blind, to set free the oppressed, to feed the hungry, to give drink to the thirsty, to provide hospitality to the resident aliens, to clothe all, to visit the sick, and to proclaim the year of the Lord and end all debts, Hear our prayer, O God.

Lift Up Names For Prayers

Eternal Spirit of Life and Love and Liberation, may we be open to your presence in our lives, in all our joys and sorrows, fears and faith, dreams and disappointments, hurts and hopes, those shared openly with others, and those shared only with You.

Everlasting Hope that holds us up, so that we may go hold others, we give thanks for all that has blessed us, and all that has brought us to this day of Life’s Celebration.
Universal Love, continue to show us the way home to our own true hearts, our duties, and to the service of creating a better world for all. Help us to see anew the sacredness placed right before us, right beside us, right within us.
Deepest Source of All, may our prayers be times of listening as well as speaking. May we be open to what Life yet speaks to us of truth, joy, and goodness.
God beyond all human naming, yet as close as our breath and beating hearts, we bring today these reflections of our minds, these meditations of our hearts, these prayers of our souls. And as Jesus taught to all those who would follow in his radical, inclusive, compassionate and transforming way, feeling free to use the words you were taught in the diverse faith traditions, or the words You have chosen for the spirit of the prayer,  we say
Our Father, who art in Heaven, hallowed be Thy name. Thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day, our daily bread, and forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us. Lead us not into temptation. But deliver us from evil. For thine is the kingdom and the power and the glory, forever and ever. Amen.

From Our Songs of Response: Find A Stillness, Amazing Grace, Glory Glory Halleluia, Precious Lord, O God Our Help in Ages Past, There Is More Love Somewhere, We Shall Overcome, Gonna Lay Down My Sword and Shield, I’ve Got Peace Like A River, Lean on Me, There Is A Balm in Gilead

Communion Prayer:

 O God, in the loving and liberating spirit of Jesus, we gather at this welcoming table open to all, remembering how Jesus gathered people from all the walks of life, stranger and friend and enemies, gave thanks to you, offered all the bread of life and the cup of blessing and proclaimed a covenant of love for all in your name. We remember too the wonder of his life, as we remember the wonder of all of Creation given unto us and how all are One. We remember the agony of his death, and all the terrors and the tyrannies that oppress people today. And we remember the power of resurrection, the mystery of faith in the everlasting Spirit, the triumph over fear. Help us to remember to practice resurrection everyday, as we remember all those who have given Love the ultimate trust and the last word and who have worked to create the beloved community of renewed and abundant life. Help us to remember with this meal especially all those who are hungry, and may we treat all our meals as sacred and to be shared. Take us, bless us, so that even in and with our brokenness we may serve others. Amen.

 Jesus said I was hungry and you gave me food. I was thirsty and you gave me drink. I was a stranger and you welcomed me. I was naked and you clothed me. I was sick and you visited me. I was in prison and you came to me. And they said, Lord, when did we do this? And he said, You did this for me when you did it for the least of these.

Here is the bread of life, food for the spirit. Let all who hunger come and eat. Here is the fruit of the vine pressed and poured out for us. Let all who thirst now come and drink. We come to make peace. We come to be restored in the love of God. We come to be made new as an instrument of that love. All are worthy. All are welcome. (from Singing the Living Tradition hymnal, Rob Eller-Isaacs)

“Let Us Break Bread Together”

Passing the Bread of Life and the Cup of Hope

From Our Songs of Commitment: I’m on My Way, We’ll Build A Land, Woyaya, Guide My Feet, Shall We Gather At The River

Let us go out into the highways and byways.
Let us give the people something of our new vision.
We may possess a small light, but may we uncover it, and let it shine.
May we use it to bring more light and understanding
to the hearts and minds of men and women.
May we give them not hell, but hope and courage.
May we preach the kindness and everlasting love of God.


Jesus As President, Politics for Ordinary Radicals, Part One conversation

Notes for Sunday's conversation at 9:30 am, the first of four weeks of discussion, in light of the political campaign year, from the book Jesus as President by new onastics Shane Claiborne and Chris Haws.

Jesus As President: Politics For Ordinary Radicals, by Claiborne and Haws

Oct. 7: Introduction and Section One

1.     Why Jesus as President Is A Contradiction; why Jesus wouldn’t and couldn’t be President, no more than he would or could have been Caeser

2.     What do we mean by politics? Use the word to mean Civics, Citizen, Civil Engagement with Others In and For The World…being committed citizens to country party community but not giving them ultimate allegiance so able to challenge and question while following.

3.     Are we ordinary radicals? They are people who do extraordinary things on a daily basis in ordinary life, away from positions of great wealth and power and influence, living life tapping into the “root” (the meaning of radical) of God’s dream and values for the world, and by doing so are seen as living very different kinds of lives.

4.     Our definition of Church, may be very different from others definitions and mission of church: “the body of people who make the God of Jesus visible in the world (for better or for worse).”

5.     Can we distinquish between (US) American and what is Christian? The irony of having In God We Trust on our national currency.

6.     God is continually forming a new kind of people to bring light to the world: Genesis, Exodus, Exile, the role of the prophets in Israel

7.     Temptations in the bible and in our world today: to be like God, to possess all things, the most alluring, beautiful, even peace, freedom, justice can be an idol that leads us to kill. Temptation to power. Cain and Abel. The Tower of Babel.

8.     Abram and Sarah and small helpless band of wanderers seeking new land come right after the Babel episode, a sign of how a people is to be. Even in their/our dysfunction.

9.     The tension of King or No King for Israel; of Temple or Tabernacle for Israel. Competing voices and visions in the Hebrew Scriptures. Over and over kings oppressed; overturned; for every King there is a Prophet. Some supported by people, some voices in the wilderness; “their vocation is to interrupt the status quo.”  They were “always doing wild things—stunts, pranks, miracles—that exposed and unveiled truth.” The story of Rizpah (2 Samuel 21). Desmond Tutu: The oppressed are freed from being oppressed and the oppressors are freed from being oppressors” and this is when God heals the land.

10.                         Yahweh continues to be careful to choose the weakest, most unlikely characters to be the heroes of the liberation story. We were taught as children to sing songs of Noah and Abraham and little David and Goliath but not about debt cancellation, land reforms, food distribution and slave amnesty, about taking care of resident aliens and widows and orphans. About taking just enough for your need, not your greed.