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Category Archives: love

Interruption, and a song that gets me every time I hear it.

“The shortest definition of religion: interruption.” –Johann Baptist Metz

Strange as it may sound, one of the foremost topics that I explored during this first just-recently-completed semester of doctoral study was the topic of “interruption.” Especially since, for those of you who know me, interruption is something I already do pretty well on my own. (Just ask Amy.)

As a theological/philosophical category, though, “interruption,” or “irruption,” is about our assumptions being challenged—it is the moment where we are confronted with something or some insight that forces us to reassess the way things are. (And I think It’s one of the most interesting categories about which postmodern thought and the Christian faith can be in dialogue.)

And so since many of the church communities that I have been a part of have struggled to contend with cultures of complacency and comfort, it’s really not that strange that “interruption” would be a category of interest for me.

According to theologian J.B. Metz (quote above), interruption is the very purpose of Christian faith—and yet so often faith and religion and religious practices are associated with everything but interruption—i.e., challenge, confrontation, awe, exposure, humility, spirituality.

While I’ve been studying this phenomenon the past few months on an academic level, earlier this week I was reminded of an example from my own life—a song that I first heard about seven years ago.

(Click below to find out, and to get a link to, the song.)

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Posted by on January 6, 2012 in love

 

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God wants “Godly things…” God wants YOU.

Here is another excerpt from a sermon—this one is from our most recent Sunday at our church in West Groton, Mass.

In all likelihood, this will be a common trend on this blog for the foreseeable future— to either reflect on readings from my doctoral study, or to post excerpts from recent sermons. So, it will be a combination of me trying to make sense of faith, and of me trying to explain faith to others. Either way, I hope to continue receiving feedback from others in the blogosphere.

This is the middle portion of the sermon, part of a series of sermons teaching on the Kingdom/Reign of God, using the lectionary passages. This Sunday, the passage was Matthew 22:15-22:

(NRSV) 15 Then the Pharisees went and plotted to entrap him in what he said.16So they sent their disciples to him, along with the Herodians, saying, ‘Teacher, we know that you are sincere, and teach the way of God in accordance with truth, and show deference to no one; for you do not regard people with partiality. 17Tell us, then, what you think. Is it lawful to pay taxes to the emperor, or not?’ 18But Jesus, aware of their malice, said, ‘Why are you putting me to the test, you hypocrites?19Show me the coin used for the tax.’ And they brought him a denarius.20Then he said to them, ‘Whose head is this, and whose title?’ 21They answered, ‘The emperor’s.’ Then he said to them, ‘Give therefore to the emperor the things that are the emperor’s, and to God the things that are God’s.’ 22When they heard this, they were amazed; and they left him and went away.

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Posted by on October 18, 2011 in faith, love

 

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I read the book. This is my consequent attempt at the shortest book review ever.

 

Last week during my trip to Boston I finally read it.

I have five things to say about it.

That’s it.

 

* Don’t say another word about the book, or its author, until you’ve read it.  Don’t watch another interview or another vlog.  People have seriously misrepresented the agenda and content of this book, and thus having others read it for you will seriously skew your opinions. 

*Those who have commented on the book, specifically those who critique it for its lack of scholarship or incomplete references, are not the ones for whom the book was written.   It is a pastoral book.  It is first and foremost written for someone who has left the faith or struggles with faith.  Not for those who have the answers (although he challenges us Christians as well). 

*The book profoundly ministered to me.  It also deeply convicted me

*I do wish he wrestled more with what “judgment” is (and why it’s good) and with free will (and why it is not absolute, and why we at times do not do what we want).   He does reference, but doesn’t always show his work (although you can figure it out yourself if you do your own homework). But it honestly doesn’t bother me that much… It seems fairly clear that he wanted to streamline his arguments and to disencumber the reader as much as possible, and that doesn’t bother me, given his intended audience.  

* Again— READ THE BOOK YOURSELVES.   If you’re concerned about paying money for a potentially-heretical book, then sneak over to Barnes & Noble and read it there— seriously, you can read it in three hours if you want.  I’ll even lend you my copy, if you want.  But don’t read another one of the 87 million reviews/articles about this book.  Read it yourself—and even if you read it with a closed heart, at least you’ll have to wrestle directly with his words in order to disprove him. 

Seriously.

Stop reading this right now. 

Go to Amazon and get your own copy.

(And no, no one’s giving me money to endorse him. )

 
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Posted by on April 6, 2011 in love

 

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Thoughts on Rob Bell (final part).

This is a sampling of what you find when you do a Google Image Search for “Love Wins.” 

Seriously, I didn’t expect to be so inspired by the sheer variety of representations of such a simple phrase. 

I just thought I was going to add some pretty pictures to my last (for now) Rob Bell-related post…. but the sheer number of ways “Love Wins” is re-cast, having inspired people to do so?  What can I say?  I’m moved by a Google search. 

It’s not just lip service that Rob Bell pays:  The simple message of “Love Wins” (as contradictory as Peter Rollins might find it) is clearly a compelling one, especially to post-Christians, the “de-churched,” or those jaded to institutional Christianity.  It strikes a nerve. 

rollins tweet love others win

Smarta$$.

It’s too bad that we have spent so much time… (for me, I have spent four blog posts, now)…. talking about hell and the implications for various Christian ideological/cultural parties… when we could have been discussing the simple appeal of the message—that I believe comes from something deeper than what some are accusing as the modern world’s need to “water down” the Gospel.

It’s the desire to affirm that love is the supreme attribute of God and the primary life-characteristic of the faithful (1 John 4:8, 16; 1 Corinthians 13:13).

It’s a desire to see the power of love in action, even in a world full of violence—a power to which Martin Luther King, Oscar Romero, Mother Teresa, Martin Niemoller, Desmond Tutu, Gandhi and now our brothers and sisters in Egypt, have testified. [At the cross, God Himself testified to that power, in defiance of the Roman juggernaut… and demonstrated how pitifully powerless the worst of human violence was, when it came into contact with His outstanding, out-lasting, out-of-this-world love.]

It’s saying that God wins, to say that love wins. 

For God is Love. 

And God’s desire?  That the world might be reconciled to Himself (2 Corinthians 5:19).   Our desires line up with God’s, when we long for the earth to be renewed, for heaven to come to earth.

“But wait!”  you might say. 

“Don’t God’s love and God’s justice have to balance each other?”

         Why? 

         It’s called mercy for a reason, after all.  Undeserved.

         And if that were the case, why doesn’t the Bible have balancing passages that say “God is justice?”  Seems like it would, were it an equal component of God’s character to His love.

No, we understand God’s justice through the context of God’s love.   God will hold us accountable for how we have wronged each other; He will make things right again, as the Righteous Judge, and settle accounts between every oppressor and every oppressed. [How He does this, however, is not for us to speculate.]

Earthly parents give consequences for broken rules, but if they lock children in their room forever, that would be considered unadulterated child abuse.  (Never mind if they set that room on fire!) Loving parents enact consequences, but they also forgive relentlessly, time and time again, without limit.  Is the love of parents greater than God’s love? 

This message?  That God’s love will dry up eventually, so get on board while you can?  Doesn’t strike me as good news.

Am I a universalist?  No.  (Course, I don’t think Rob is, either.)

Do I probably agree with Rob?  Don’t know until I read the book; based on interviews and reviews, I’m guessing that I’ll agree with 90% of him, at least. 

I say what I do above about God’s love for the purpose of highlighting the inherently scandalous nature of love, not to take a theological position.  I don’t have the answers. But within the huge range of possibilities of the nuances we highlight regarding our beliefs about heaven and hell, can we at least maybe, at least try, perhaps just once, pretty-please-with-sugar-on-top, let that AMAZING RADICALITY OF GOD’S GRACE AND LOVE, AND THE CONQUERING OF SIN AND DEATH BY A DRAMATIC LOVE-ACT OF GOD HIMSELF, SETTLE INTO OUR HEARTS…. and chew on it for a while? 

Speaking of Egypt— While Evangelical Christianity is wetting its pants over Rob Bell, there’s a WHOLE lot going on in the world.

Stuff that Christians, who claim to serve a GOD OF LOVE, should be VERY concerned about. 

Read this, if you haven’t already, regarding this sad fact.

Rather than spew vitriol, which is a testimony to some other God other than the Crucified One which we follow…

Perhaps we should instead testify to the God of Love.  You can start right now by giving to the Adventure Project.  Then give to the Red Cross for Japan and Libya.  Then learn more, speak out more, get in the ears of your leaders for the sake of the voiceless more, sit with the poor and hurting and get to know their names more, pray more, listen more, and celebrate more. 

That’s what “Love Winning” looks like. 

Christ on Earth.  In You. 

 
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Posted by on March 22, 2011 in justice, love, theology

 

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Okay, okay… some Rob Bell-related comments (part one).

Well, on Tuesday I was nearly refusing to post about Rob Bell—mostly out of frustration that Love Wins has created so much, in all likelihood, needless attention. 

Now, only a few days later, I’ve hit my limit of standing idly by.

Especially since, after another period of blog-reading and reflecting (and subsequent fuming), I had no less than five blog post ideas pop into my head. 

And so rather than continue to fight this urge, I now present to you, the reader:  five mini-posts about the now-infamous Rob Bell…. over the course of the next five days. 

Ugh… I mean seriously, doesn’t he just LOOK evil?  With that perfectly placed hair, always wearing glasses…. and those, uh, hands!  Hide the children, already!

mini-post #1: Really, Kevin DeYoung?

[…see me have a mini-aneurism, after the jump.]

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Posted by on March 18, 2011 in love, theology

 

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on being human.

If I may…

Okay, so here’s what happened last week:

Say, you’re really into kayaking.  But you just haven’t done it for a while.  You’ve been preoccupied with other things, but in your fervent desire to get back in the water, you begin planning a massive kayaking excursion to jump-start your re-commitment to kayak on a regular basis.

(Stay with me here.)

But somewhere along the trip-planning process, you became distracted again.  Other pressing matters forced you to postpone your big trip indefinitely.

Once the preoccupations passed, you were so overcome with frustration and a sense of urgency to get back into the water, that you drove to the nearest river immediately.

And jumped in… without a life-jacket, paddles, or…. even a kayak.

(Are you pickin’ up what I’m puttin’ down?  I’m talking about myself and blogging here, people.  I jumped into the water too fast.  With last week’s post I didn’t give any content or context, but I expected people to respond anyway.  I ….. oh, never mind.  )


At any rate, there was actually a reason as to why I asked the question I did last week of what you think makes us human, what separates us from animals.

Because this blog is about the journey, the “song,” of faith… and faith, I think, is in many ways the discovery of what it means to be truly human.


***

Last week, while I didn’t pay a ton of attention to the news, there were two things I saw a ton of…. tweets and messages of Martin Luther King quotes, and references/opinions on the tragedy in Arizona.


Conversation about hate and violence have been on our minds more so than normal… although even by this week, many of us may already be again slipping into complacency about conversations about hate and violence.


But I have heard/read people (including President Obama) making the connection between rhetoric and violence, a connection that King understood all too well.  His mission, and his birthday, brought timely reminders to all of us about the cycles of violence, and how they are fed by fear and exclusion…. and how they can be redeemed with defiant, bold, and blinding love.   The sheer number of King quotes that were passed around Facebook and Twitter, I think, came out of a need for us to remember this “good news,” and that for all the shouts for violence, shouts for peace could and do still ring out as well.

Animals fight back.  They see the world in terms of survival and in the perception of threat.  Either they fight, or flee.


Humans are animals, and left to our own devices, we do this, too.  (And sometimes our “fighting” and “fleeing” is expressed through our words, especially in this world of New Media that gives everyone a voice.)


Yet the way of Jesus was different.  His way was the Sermon on the Mount.  His way was to love our enemies… and people in our age like King, Maximilian Kolbe, Oscar Romero, Gandhi, Desmond Tutu, as well as countless others in the 20 centuries following the ultimate act of self-giving love, have provided the church with a living testimony to that way.


That way is unnatural…. but it is the most truly human way to live… in the way that God intended.

 
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Posted by on January 28, 2011 in love, people

 

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All of life…

The KOG is like a symphony.

I only had the opportunity to preach a handful of sermons during my time at my former church, and each one was a learning process.  The art of the sermon illustration has taken a while for me to pick up, and I imagine I’ll spend a lifetime perfecting it.

One image that I used, however, was one that I thought was particularly powerful and effective.   Not surprisingly, it wasn’t an entirely original concept (The idea was first planted in me by a NOOMA video… so I must give credit to Mr. Bell.)

The image was that of a symphony, and it functioned as a modern-day parable, that basically compared the Kingdom of God to an orchestral performance.

Without delving into the specific focus of that sermon, for the future of this blog, I hope to explore this basic image further:

All of life is a song about God.

Every part of God’s creation plays along in their respective ways.

For us humans, on the whole, we somewhere along the way stopped following the music, or keeping our eyes on the conductor.  We play out of tempo; sometimes we play off-key; sometimes we jump into improvised solos.

All of life is a song of love.

We don’t have to look very hard at the church in our culture to see examples—of people and communities who have forgotten how to read music altogether, who can hear only distant whispers of the original score, and who consequently piece together quite rudimentary attempts to follow along, assuming their own ability to discern and play the music to be much greater than anyone who has come before, enraptured by the romanticism of originality and creativity that when out of sync with the entire composition produces only short bursts of cacophony.  No wonder that we are easily seduced by other melodies—made to follow music, we will follow along with whatever we can most easily hear.

All of life is a song about God, who is love.

This blog at first glance will look like another blog about theology.  My goal, however, with this blog is to explore this basic idea—that we as a church have lost the ability to hear the music, know the score, or even being able to communicate either, often reducing rich musical complexity into easily digestable (and not particularly nutritional) bits.  So this blog will often deal not just with theology, but with how we talk about theology (that is, our “God-talk”), both intentionally and unintentionally, both in classrooms and conferences, and in local churches.

The hope is that we all can learn to hear the music better, know the score better, and be able to communicate about both more effectively and in a non-reductionistic way.

Posts will (hopefully) come about once a week… but we’ll see!  (I will try to make this a discipline.)

Stay tuned.  (Get it, “tuned”?….   🙂  )

 
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Posted by on June 15, 2010 in church, love, theology