Friday, September 30, 2005

Still here...

Not a lot of time to post. I haven't forgotten the Jesus in History series. It is just percolating.

Monday, September 26, 2005

Unless God Shows Up...

I had this realization in church this weekend. We were visiting a friends church, it is what would call liturgically sparse (they accidentally had a sanctus in there which tickled my soul). Not that that is bad mind you, most mainline evangelical churches are the same way. So there I was thinking about the structure and all the barriers I was having to overcome to encounter God - when I have this insight.

It doesn't matter how rich or poor your liturgy, if God doesn't show up it is all really just a waste of time.

Yeah, brutal I know. But there is truth in there. I have been studying liturgy intently for a number of years now and I am always amazed at the potential for encounter that is soaked into liturgical structures. That is what it is all about. When God shows up even the liturgy itself is transformed.

I've also experienced a broad variety of liturgical settings. About the only kind I haven't experienced is a quietist liturgy and by definition it too is a waste of time without God showing up - in fact I think they are the most honest about this fact. IN all those settings I've seen God show up and I've seen people squander all the point of encounter that their liturgy was made for. The good, the bad and the downright ugly. It all comes down to us and God, and if you take God out of the equation then you are better off staying home and reading your email.

I did enjoy myself at church this weekend. I did long for more liturgical richness, but heck I'm just spoiled. My friend who pastors this confessed that talk about liturgy leaves him cold - lack of liturgical consideration does the same for me. But one thing is for sure I'm glad shows up even in sparse liturgy.

[edit - just to clarify what I am saying here, koinonia is one of those encounter points that is squandered by some liturgicist. When community happens - God is always in the midst of it. It is where Jesus loves to be, "whenever two or three...".]

Saturday, September 24, 2005

Online Poker

So I don't know how many of you play poker online but it is a lot of fun. Over in the Christian Gamers Guild we have been debating the moral aspect of games - that is can a game have no redeeming value. Actually it goes a bit further because for some a game can be considered sinful. This all came up when one of the members said what do you do with these games, where one was a card version of Russian Roulette and the other was a game that simulated getting drunk and stoned (even glamourized it). Can games like that have any redeeming value? It is a really good question.

The issue of black and white areas comes up a lot in the ongoing debate. My big beef here is that I am not sure these games fall into the black and whiteness that some want to pin on them. While I haven't seen the games, I have a hard time imagining what mental leap is required to go from a chance cardgame to actually sticking a loaded gun to your temple and pulling the trigger. And even if someone were to make that leap - does that imply the "game" was evil and made him do it? It is a weak argument to say that a game did it anymore than to say Ozzy is responsible.

Now don't get me wrong, I wouldn't promote these games. I don't really see a draw to them myself. But the scenario presented with them is what do you do if you find a believer playing one of these games and (heaven forbid) enjoying it? It is also a great question.

While some would want to make sure they pointed out that these games were sinful and innappropriate for a Christian, I have argued for an approach of grace. Just because I can't envision enjoying these games or finding them edifying, that doesn't mean someone else couldn't. What I really want to say is that I don't want to be quick to judge. If it came up for sure I would voice my discomfort, but that is not an excuse to jump on someone. At least that is the way I see it.

For example, I didn't qualify my enjoyment of online poker. I play in freerolls, but I am not willing to put any of my own money at risk. I play for fun and you know what I even had an opportunity to pray for someone at the table one night. God can even work through that - imagine.

So next time you log onto your favourite poker site - look for pomorev (Post Modern Reverend), that is most likely me. Having a great time. Meeting new people. Hoping to win some money without spending a dime. And all the while loving Jesus.

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

God's Justice - Matt 20:1-16a

What happens when God's sense of justice is in conflict with our own? This is something that Christians have wrestled with down through the ages. Some come up with elaborate schemes of election to appease their uneasiness with God's justice. Others go to great lengths to explain why God's hands are off the situations entirely. I don't really want to debate any of this, but suffice it to say that this has been a problem for us throughout history.

Our story from Sunday is the epitome of this. A rich landowner calls workers at various points in the day, then he deliberately pays them all the exact same wage. In fact he starts with the ones that worked the shortest amount of time which seems to build an expectation in the rest that they might get a bonus. When they all end up with the same wage, well what would you do in that situation?

This story challenges our sense of fairness and justice. Why are we so fixated on "fairness". Actually I would dare say we are fixated, at least in North America, on ensuring we get what is due us. I say this because all across the world there is incredible disparity between the haves and have nots - and if we were really concerned about equity then we'd do something about it. (Please don't be offended if you already do, because I know many give sacrificially to the third world, but this comment is more for those of us who don't think about it often enough).

So what is fair? What do we deserve?

I know most of us are realistic enough about our lives to recognize that we don't really deserve God's mercy - yet thankfully God thought we were worthwhile to extend it to us. But what this verse really hits home on is those times in life where it is just not fair. We step out in faith, or we decide to invest in a person or an idea and in the end there seems to be no real benefit.

The problem is one of focus. It is God's justice, not ours. It is God's generosity not ours. Our culture teaches us that we can do anything if we put our minds to it. It is a nice sentiment but hardly an accurate reflection of reality. So when we are convinced life isn't fair, it is true. Life isn't fair - that is part of the problem. But it is also the point where God steps in with His justice. However, because what we are looking for is a sense of "fairness" we can easily miss the sense of God's generosity.

A good friend of mine asked me once why he seemed to be more blessed than other people. (BTW this guy has many challenges in life that would leave most people bitter.) I told him that it wasn't a matter of him being more blessed, but that his eyes were open to seeing that blessing. Our own persuit of our sense of justice can often overshadow our ability to see the tremendous blessings God pours out on us all.

Stop to think about the workers that came in at the end of the day. They have families too. They missed a whole day of work. They were going to have to go home in failure, likely to a stressed out spouse and hungry kids. They might not have laboured the same, but were they any less deserving? This story seems to say that God's answer is one of generosity.

I would encourage you to look for the blessings, look for God's extravogant generosity. Don't let your own sense of "fairness" rob you from that blessing.

Frank Emanuel
Pastor Freedom Vineyard

Rest in Peace Jennifer

I was going to write about this a few days back. But we have been shaken by it, the news yesterday shook us even further. My heart and prayers go out to Jennifer's parents and brothers. Lord, bring the murderer to justice.

Monday, September 19, 2005

Montreal DDM Sealed Championships

Lots on the go. Went to Montreal last weekend for the Dungeons & Dragons Miniatures Championship (Sealed). In 6 rounds I went 3-3 which is not bad for my crappy pulls (rares were Copper Dragon and Ogre Mage). Hey I got great RPG pieces but nothing special for the battlemat. So all in all I did rather well. Human Blackguard has pics up here - see me geeking out with the best of them.

Friday, September 16, 2005

Jesus - Today

This is the second in a Series that began with Jesus - Yesterday. Enjoy.

It might sound like an incredible no-brainer to talk about Jesus in relationship to the now of history, at least for the believer. But thinking that this relationship is so obvious means we tend to not think about it enough. In fact it is so easy to live our lives in such a way that we completely miss the fact that Christianity is not a religion relegated to another time in history - but a religion that is immenently realized in the here and now. If it were not so, then much of what Jesus did was nothing but a sideshow to somehow tie us over for the "main event". Jesus is the main event in history! This is realized as much today as it was during the incarnation and as it will be during the consummation of the Kingdom in Christ's return.

So what does Jesus have to do with me, here and now, today? Well, everything!

I was astonished when reading Brian McLaren's "A Generous Orthodoxy" (a rocking book BTW) and come across a very familiar landscape. I too taught a number of weeks in Santa Clara. I loved hanging out at the Vineyard kinship, but just down the road from the office I was teach at (this was IT BTW) was a huge metal statue of Mary. There was a grove with a smaller statue and a pathway around in front of the big statue. So I'd go there to pray. It was cool because I had made a bunch of good Roman Catholic friends and so I was always reminded to pray for them. One night I decided to sit in the grove and pray, I had just sat down and closed my eyes when I felt like there were people all around me. I opened my eyes and there was no one visible around. But just then a scripture reference dropped into my head (that happens a lot with me, it is kinda odd I know, but I like it). The reference was familiar - "no one comes to the Father except through the Son". A passage that even I had misused in the past to speak out against my precious brothers and sisters in the Roman Church. Yet here am I at a Marian shrine with my bible opened to this. Immediately Jesus began to remind me of how I had seen the undeniable presence of the God in my dear Roman friends - and then I knew that Jesus was actively drawing folks to the Father is so many ways I had never even thought of. I understood that verse different from that day on (note this is a devotional interpretation), if something is drawing people to the Father, then chances are that Jesus is in it.

Jesus once said that He didn't do anything except what He saw the Father doing. There is something incredible about this. Especially when we meditate on the next thought. We are the body of Christ.

I think we are so concerned about the end of all things, heaven, and even our less than well defined ideas of "salvation". That we miss the fact that we are called to be Jesus to this world. We are called to draw people to the Father. This isn't fire insurance, this is a deepening and widening of their relationship with God. This is a ministry of reconciliation that restores the intentions of God in the lives of everyone around us. It isn't necessarily calling them to Christianity - it is sharing the same invitiation that Jesus made to us. The Kingdom of God is near. Turn from those things that are destroying you and receive life in the arms of the Father.

This invitation should extend through us to all of the world that God so loved. It calls us to be responsible for the welfare of our neighbours. It beckons us to respond with mercy to the poor. It compels us to pray for the sick. It motivates us to ecological responsibility. And the list goes on. When we see these things, we are seeing Jesus here and now.

I'll leave you with this to meditate on. And close with a prayer:

Father show us Jesus.
Spirit reveal Christ to us.
Jesus dwell in us richly.
May we be your body, your love, your bride.

Monday, September 12, 2005

Back at St. Paul

It is soooo goood to be in class again. Today was my first day of classes. I started this journey at St. Paul in 2000, and I am only halfway done the first leg! Today was my all-time favourite professor - James Pambrun. In a course on Systematic Theology, Humanity: Creature and Creator. We are examining the question of humanity in a time of wide horizons - expanding universe, narratives that go well beyond traditional Salvation History and include things such as evolution and ecological irresponsibility. Should be an awesome course. The other course I am taking is Susan Roll - The Eucharist, I've met her a few times and heard good things about her sensitivity to Christian pluralism in the classroom. Should rock! Now to scurry through McLaren's "Generous Orthodoxy" so I will only have Moltmann's "The Crucified God" on the go on the side.

When Christians should just shut up

Why oh why would Ron Gray write this? Read this article to see why I am really getting sick of restorationists trying to get into public office. To be blut I just don't trust them. (NB this was edited slightly to better convey my feelings)

BTW incase they delete it, this was my response:

This Is Dangerous Ground
Frank Emanuel :: 2005/09/12 :: 119 words
RE Katrina's Warning to America by R Gray

Frank Emanuel writes, "Attributing natural catastrophes to God's wrath against political decisions - especially when doing so trivializes the deaths of so many is just plain irresponsible. I would expect this sort of fatalistic worldview from a fundamentalist muslim sect, not a Christian expecting to lead in a country like Canada. It reminds me of a similar event during the Space Shuttle Columbia disaster. Even hinting that God finds the poor of New Orleans a disposable commodity, useful only for sending a message to a nation that already twists God's Word to its own political ends, not only violates God's revealed Character in the Bible, but it sends an anti-Christian message to all who would read it.

Frank Emanuel
Pastor Freedom Vineyard

Thursday, September 08, 2005

Jesus - Yesterday

I started out in ministry in the Foursquare, a Pentecostal denomination founded by an Ontario girl named Aimee Semple McPherson (Her Bio is a fascinating read). The mantra verse for the Foursquare was from Hebrews - Jesus the same yesterday, today and tomorrow. Now for them it was a justification for the continuation of the spiritual gifts - I'm no cessationalist so I don't need convincing. But I have been meditating a lot lately on Jesus and history. So I thought this would be as good a place to start.

First of all let me say that I am not going to use history the way some of you will expect. When I talk about history I am referring to the story that unfolds for humanity in creation. This is a story that has a beginning and an end in God. It is also a story that we are very much a part of. In fact it is a story that God is writing (unfolding) in which we are often like these free radical paint bits that when thrown onto the canvas go in unpredictable directions to paint something beautiful that has never before been seen. Only God could effectively paint with such a medium.

Ok so we have a bit of common ground to work with. Jesus is related to history in some really profound ways. 2000 years ago Jesus danced onto the scene as God stepping into history, and He did some pretty profound things. He preached a radical message that even most of the Church ignores today. He willingly submitted to the most scandelous of deaths, that of a common nothing criminal (remember this is the same God who created the universe). He proved God's victory over death by raising from the dead. He sent His Spirit on the Church to empower it to complete the mission He gave to it before leaving. And there is more to come.

But what I want to talk about in this series of reflections is Jesus in relationship to our yesterday. I think we tend to focus a lot on the completed works of Christ and on the future hope of Christ. But a lot of the relevance to who we are today tends to get glossed over. I think part of it is that this stuff really demands a response (action) on our part, but also I think it is because we have lost a lot of the Jesus message in the church. Can you blame us we have had other agendas.

So what does Jesus have to do with my past?

How about everything.

The past sets the perspective for the present (we shall see that the future does the same as is illustrated in next Sundays reading from Sirach). How Jesus sees and deals with our past sets the trajectory for living in the now. Let us pull that assumption apart a bit.

When I first heard about Jesus I was told that He will forgive all my sins and wrong doings. I didn't really understand that at first, but one day driving down the road listening to Warnke's depiction of the crucifixion (Yes I know he was defrocked but that was what hit home) and it hit me like a tonne of bricks. I had to pull over and bawl because I realized that it was what God was willing to do for me. Later on I was struggling a lot with the sin that so easily besets men (at least most of the guys I know will know what I am talking about) and I went out into a field (there is a Loblaws there now). There the opening chapter of Ephesians bubbled out of me (I had been memorizing it) and I bawled my head off at the notion that in all wisdom and understanding Jesus died for me. It has been many, many years since those days and I still find that immensly helpful to remember.

Jesus sets a trajectory of forgiveness on two fronts in our lives. First with regard to ourselves. Because like it or not we are bound to screw up a lot in our lives. Sharon comes to me with the phone earlier today, the kids are screaming and I lost it and yelled at them. I immediately knew I screwed up and was going to regret that later. Yup, you betcha, when I was off the phone Sharon called me to account. So I apologized. But God had already begun working on me. I was on a trajectory of forgiveness. I didn't need to kill myself over it but I did need to deal with why I flew off the handle. So having the confidence of forgiveness allows me to actually face and deal with the issues within me.

Without this trajectory of forgiveness we are literally crippled to deal with the roots of our own sinfulness. When I refuse to live in forgiveness the problems never get better, only worse. But within the confidence of forgiveness is a promise of presence to continue the work of perfection (sanctification) in my life. In otherwords if Jesus was there for me when I didn't deserve it, while I was caught in my sin, then Jesus will be there for me when I need to overcome the roots that keep me bound in sin. Jesus sets a precident for an active participation in our lives drawing us ever closer to wholeness.

This trajectory also makes possible reconciliation. Sin hurts. It hurts us and often it hurts those around us. Yelling today hurt my wife. When I don't live in forgiveness (grace) I get even more defensive and try to justify my sin in order to "live" with it. But Jesus sets us free to make things right.

Which leads us to the second trajectory, forgiveness with regard to others.

Just as likley as it is we will sin, it is also that likely others will sin against us. I am struck over and over by how strongly Jesus preaches that we need to forgive. Todays reading in Luke 6 was all about how you need to live in the face of those who would sin against you. It is tough reading. Turn your other cheek, bless, give to those who steal from you. This is not easy stuff. (The funny part is we often extract "Do unto others" from here and miss the context completely). But that is the trajectory set by God's radical act of forgiveness to us. If God would go to the cross for a sin sick world, how can I live any less radically?

Well that is enough to reflect on for now. Next installment: Jesus - Today.

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

Generous Orthodoxy

I finally got my hands on Brian McLaren's "Generous Orthodoxy". It is hard to put down - which is why I haven't posted much. In fact I have been neglecting other readings I am supposed to be doing. He says things in there that I've been saying for a long time - and he articulates them much better than I could. What is really cool is that maybe a week before I got it Sharon and I were chatting about what does being "saved" really mean. We agreed that much of Christiandom had missed the mark on that one, but it was hard to put into words what it should be. The chapter called "Jesus: Saviour of What?" is a great articulation of this. I have been saying forever that Christianity is more about life here and now than it is about life in the hereafter. In "In the End - The Beginning" Jurgen Moltmann proposes that the language of the hereafter is for the living more than the dead, then the focus on the hereafter in the Church has not been overly helpful in speaking life to the living. There is too much fear in Christianity which is supposed to be about Jesus' perfect love, something that casts out fear. Also I love the idea that there is another way other than exclusivism, inclusivism and universalism. I have leaned towards what I called radical inclusivism, but it doesn't completely satisfy naming my thinking on that because I am convinced that there is something special and unique about the claims of Christ. I'm excited about that - even if it isn't named yet, the fact that other people are unsatisfied with the current categories gives me a lot of hope.

I am going to attempt a series here in the next few days talking about Jesus in relationship with history. I call it Jesus: Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow. Watch for it. In the meantime I have been musing about an Invitational faith in the Freedom Vineyard group, enjoy.

Saturday, September 03, 2005

Took Dan Wilt Jogging

There comes a time when you realize you are getting fat. It might have been when my dear wife calls home and tells you according to this chart at work I'm obese. Or maybe it comes when you realize all the guys sitting around the gaming table are fatter than you - but not by that much. It could be when I go home for vacation and remember that my dad has adult onset diabetes. Maybe it is when you get sick of always making excuses when the folks you love point out your growing girth. Anyway, the realization has hit and I've finally decided to do something about it.

So a while ago I started jogging. It is about the only physical activity I ever really enjoyed. Well I do enjoy playing other running sports (soccer and one-on-one basketball) but last time I tried soccer I nearly had a coronary. One of the things I am longing for is the day I can shoot some hoops with my girls - the way I'm headed I'd last one game and have to be hospitalized. Maybe I'm exaggerating but the first real go at running and I didn't warm up, made it a quarter of my block and thought my heart was going to come out my mouth. The next time I ran into a wiser friend and Mari shared with me how you should gradually build up your running versus walking ratio. I've a lot to learn - especially since I am an all or nothing type of guy. Please ask me in a year if I am still running, I mean that I need the encouragement.

Anyway, I did run a few times on vacation. Not near as often as I would have liked. The bugs got bad at dusk and that was pretty much the only time I could do it. So here we are back and I have just been wanting to get back at it. I'm not running far, trying to build up the muscles and endurance. I haven't done any regular physical exercise since I don't know when - so likely before I was married, a long while before I was married. Tonight, it was dark but I said I to myself, "self, you need to do it!" So off I went.

Oh yeah Dan came with me. Not phsycally - but on my minidisc player. He got me going at just the right pace and even inspired me to worship as I jogged around my block. I almost made it halfway before I stopped to walk my heartrate down. Thanks Dan.

You know when I was younger I had it easy. I had one of those blessings that turns curse. An overactive metabolism. I could eat anything and remained a skinny beanpole. It was wonderful. But just like my folks 30 hit and so did the need for a new wardrobe. Maybe it was God's way of telling me to take responsibility for my life. If so it is still taking me a long time to get that lesson. I'm not far from 40 and God is still working on me. It is high time I joined Him in His efforts.

I want my CBC

You know I don't really care what the lockout is about. All I know is that I don't have a single radio station to listen to.