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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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Sermon Excerpt: Learning to Marvel

Here is a (mostly) unedited excerpt from the sermon I preached this past Sunday at West Groton Christian Union Church. I hope you find something here that grabs your attention, and turns your heart Godward, today.

 

(Exodus 16:2-16) This morning’s text is of course the famous story, as you might know, of manna…. which as we already noted, means “What is it?”

So I think it’s kinda funny that when we call this bread “manna,” we have named this bread, the “what is it?” bread! There’s a lot of great lessons about God’s grace to pull out of this story of manna, but I think the fact that it’s named after an expression of CONFUSION is perhaps the most interesting part of the story for me. What is interesting, is that after the people say, “manna?” to Moses, he explains it for them. “It’s bread, you goofs. It’s what you asked for. You see? God listened to you. God hasn’t forgotten about you.” Manna was their God-sign…. and you’d think it’d be a pretty obvious one, wouldn’t you? Yet they still looked at it and were dumbfounded! “What is this stuff?”

The truth is, that’s why we must look for God, because if we’re not looking, if we’re so wrapped up in ourselves, and our own problems, that we forget God, God’s mission, and God’s people, God’s creation…. we can even look at God’s care for us straight on, and still miss it completely.

So when we look for glimpses of God in our midst…. there’s another step we take…. so that what would be confusion, turns into MARVEL. We are AWE-struck. We are TAKEN IN by the beauty, the love, the sense of belonging, the compassion, the justice…. Just like Moses translates the scene for them, so that the Israelites look at this strange stuff on the ground, and stop seeing “stuff…..” they start seeing BREAD. LIFE. HOPE……so must we look for God in our lives, because when we do, it gives the ordinary, the new and challenging, and even the confusing, “stuff,” meaning…. we can find Bread. Life. Hope.

We can look at our stories of the past (where we’ve come), and LEARN, to MARVEL at God’s past care, and the sense that God is taking you somewhere that will really make a difference.

We can see ordinary trees and rivers and LEARN, to MARVEL at the Beauty of God’s creation, and consider His loving craftsmanship for all things, including ourselves…. seeing that as its said, “God doesn’t make junk.” Or we can overcome with the charge we’ve been given to be caretakers of the earth.

We can see love in our relationships, and LEARN, to MARVEL at the power of love to grab us, to change us, to make us better people. To see ourselves as deeply and fully loved, and worthy of love. To share that love with others, freely and selflessly.

We can encounter great music or art, and LEARN to MARVEL at the creativity that God has placed in every human being.

These are all acts of prayer, but of course we can, and should, also sit and pray, perhaps sit in the silence, and instead of praying a rote blessing, or praying “for” things we THINK we need, or saying lots of words, we can just sit… and LEARN to MARVEL at God Himself.

We are indeed “pilgrim people.” We all are on journey with God, not just as individuals, but as a community, together. And that journey goes through ebbs and flows, ups and downs, as all journeys do. But there is one who has “pilgrimed” before us. And in the thick, and thin, moments, we can see Him… sometimes clearly, sometimes as if through a haze, but he’s there. If we seek Him, in the ordinary, the everyday, in the “what is it?” moments, we will be able to see Him in the Big, life-changing moments, too. And if we as a church community, can LEARN TO MARVEL, together, as we step forward into uncharted territory… we will find ourselves to be exactly what we’re called to be… a community of hope. An oasis in a desert. The people of God.

 
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Posted by on September 20, 2011 in sermon

 

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What JJ Abrams reminded me about the beauty of God (A.K.A., how the church should be like a mystery box).

 

[Travels to Boston this week have thankfully yielded housing; word still out on employment… travelling also meant no early-week blog, hence the Saturday post.

In case you were wondering.]

typical airplane passengers

(via EmilyDawn2)

I spent most of this week with my lovely wife/spouse/partner in crime, Amy. Wonderful.

Much of that time being, in an airplane. Less wonderful.

Towards the end of our final flight on Tuesday, with a few spare minutes left to kill before the limitless thrill of landing and taxiing ensued… I picked up the on-flight magazine and read an article. Well, I read a paragraph, at least.

Couldn’t tell you what the article was about, but that paragraph was about lauded TV producer JJ Abrams, of Lost and Alias fame, and the “mystery box” he kept in his office. Curious, the next morning while sitting in a Massachusetts Starbucks [always an admitted source of comfort in a new location; I can always rest assured that all Starbucks everywhere are the exact same.] I looked up the story— and as it turns out, the airplane magazine ripped the illustration off a TED presentation Abrams did a few years ago. 

(See his thoughts, my thoughts, and some other words formed into sentences, after the jump.)

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Posted by on May 28, 2011 in church, faith

 

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“Easter Philosophy”: Faith can be a crutch (Rollins). It can also give life (Jones).

 

Yeah, I’m still FOB (Flat on Back) today.  Thanks for asking.

Yesterday’s post featured a “vlog” of me responding to a great discussion between philosopher Peter Rollins and pastor/theologian Tony Jones (who just defended his Ph.D. dissertation yesterday at Princeton) that occurred on Easter in New York City.

(I’m still not happy with my vlogging attempts so far, btw.  If anyone has some ideas as to how to improve them, I’d be happy to hear them.  [Anyone else find it immensely awkward to talk to a computer screen?] )

But yesterday I offered some passing thoughts regarding Rollins, who is far more interested in the present-day manifestations of resurrection-living in faith communities, than in the historical facts of the resurrection itself.  (Which sounds Marcus Borgish, and it kinda is, but I think his objectives are quite different.)  I wondered what the implications were for his take on resurrection for missional church behavior, and I tried to summarize his take on the relationship between faith and doubt in comparison to my own.  By comparison Jones makes a case for a physical resurrection, not by prooftexting or using apologetics, but by talking about what makes a story about a physical resurrection compelling, fitting, and beautiful.  In many ways, their positions well summarize the two primary so-called “postmodern” approaches to Christian philosophy today, although the divide is not nearly as dramatic as it was in the modern era. 

When we say “I love God,” is this really what we mean?

Today, in contrast, I want to mention where I particularly resonate with Rollins, and then talk a bit about (what else?) faith.  Follow me, beyond the jump.

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Posted by on April 26, 2011 in theology

 

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Video: Quick response to “Resurrection Story” (Rollins and Jones)

I’m trying the “vlog” thing again.

And I’m doing it while bed-ridden. 

Apparently I’m trying to combine as many things that make me appear pathetic at the same time as possible.   Hmm…Maybe one of our parishioners who saw me yesterday was right when they chortled that I must have somehow subconsciously willed myself to injury, for the sake of attention-getting.

(Actually I got to thinking that maybe, whenever we share ideas and opinions online, we should choose some sort of position of humility from which to type/make videos.  Maybe if we were all supine, or prostrate, when we submitted our thoughts, we all wouldn’t be so quick to feel superior or judgmental, and remind us that our capacities are ultimately limited and broken.   But I digress…)

Yesterday for Easter, Revolution in NYC hosted Peter Rollins and Tony Jones, presently two of the most influential voices in emerging/progressive/post-evangelical/etc. circles.  The two “debated” (loosely defined) the meaning and hope of resurrection, and luckily for us, the entire thing was recorded.  If you have 40 minutes or so today/tomorrow, be sure to check it out.  It’s a great summary of what I perceive to be two of the most pertinent and commonplace positions in postmodern Christian philosophy. 

[For those who want to know, it’s the postanalytic philosophical world now largely represented by Alasdair Macintyre as well as others, and the theistic turn in Continental postmodernity articulated, among others, by the followers of the noted deconstructionist Jacques Derrida.  I throw this in just to say that, while many of you might listen to Jones and Rollins and immediately try to fit them into conservative/liberal camps, the divide between the two of them really isn’t as clear as one might think, and while there are similarities, the goals of the new philosophical conversation are quite different from the goals of the more typical modern (read: pre-post-modern) debate. ]

So today, you can take a look at my short(ish) response to the conversation, which is largely a 1) question and a 2) thought re: Rollins’ perspective (not to pick on him unfairly; considering that he could do gymnastics around me, intellectually-speaking… and considering that he has in fact helped me a great deal, despite limited exposure, to articulate my own thoughts). 

Tomorrow (hopefully) I will share some more thoughts.  Until then, be sure to check out the audio, and (so long as you promise not to find me too pitiful) video below:

VLOG 4-25-2011: re: faith, doubt, Rollins, and Jones.

 

Click here to find the Rollins/Jones discussion from Easter morning.

 
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Posted by on April 25, 2011 in theology

 

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New Questions– Compelling reasons for faith. (ANKC/God-Notes)

This week features both: 1) A change in blog theme, if you haven’t already noticed, and 2) Returning to posts inspired by A New Kind of Christianity by Brian McLaren.  Almost too much awesomeness to handle all at once, I know.  Take deep breaths if you get dizzy. 

There, there.  Everything’s going to be fine.

Actually, my line of thinking for this post originates from a conversation I had with a youth at our church last week about his faith, and the nature of faith in general.  He had some amazing spiritual insight for his age (16), and drew from a variety of religious sources to get there, including a bit of sensationalized religious “wisdom” passed on from peers.  In other words, as research would tell us, he is your typical American teenager [although I’ll give him higher than average marks for spiritual awareness and humility, imo].

It brought my memory back to a familiar question that I faced regularly in college, as I confronted religious diversity for the first time:  “What are the essentials of my belief system?”…. [which is followed by the important corollary:  “Why are they so essential, and what’s actually at risk if those essentials are muddied or disregarded?”]   

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Posted by on April 21, 2011 in theology

 

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