Friday, April 24, 2009

Review: The Immigration Crisis by James Hoffmeier

I liked this book. Now considering it is really more of a Biblical study than an indepth analysis of the issue of immigration, that is saying something. No one can accuse Hoffmeier of not being thorough in his examination of the texts. I was really impressed at how he laid out his assumptions regarding the text and carried that throughout the whole book. He has some good critiques of the ways that social justice advocates treat the texts of scripture, and while he deconstructs their proof texting he does not trash their projects - rather he simply points out where their projects extend beyond the reasonable application of the texts. I think this is a very healthy approach to the issue.

My opening statement about the focus of this text, as a biblical study, does not mean that Hoffmeier fails to tackle the issue of immigration. In fact the opening chapters show an intimate connection to the issue as well as outlining what is at stake. His discussion of illegal versus legal aliens is worth pondering. But even more attention should be paid to his discussions of how we treat the aliens in our midst. I wish he had spent more time on his treatment of Christians as aliens. But still this book is a solid work and a very worthwhile read.

The Immigration Crisis: Immigrants, Aliens, and the Bible, James K. Hoffmeier (Crossway books - out April 30th, 2009)

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Detoxifing the Body and Mind

I started yoga yesterday. Yeah, I know I don't have a good track record with exercise routines. But it is just about an hour since I did my second session (about 45 minutes) and I can't remember when my body has felt this good before. Now I'm taking it easy, using a yoga for dummies video I found online (plus trying to find poses and neck exercises to help me out). Anyway, it is really good so far. Gentle and I actually feel it - especially in my hamstrings. (I think that's what they are called).

So I'm thinking about yoga and the claims that it detoxifies the body. And I make a connection with how Len's post got my brain spinning. Which really was an extension of a webinar session I attended yesterday afternoon. But my thought is this: the way we read scripture and inoculate us against scripture. Let me unpack that a bit.

I lament the teaching mode of protestant churches. Our liturgy is really centered around a sermon. There have been some great efforts to counter this, personally I think Wimber was on this track. But the problem with the sermon is that it might have had an ideal cultural moment - but this isn't it. People aren't engaged in long narratives. And most sermons cater to this shift - they string together proof texts into a mish-mash of irrelevance and downright heresy. I often cringe in services that I'm subjected to sermons.

Now don't get me wrong. I am a preacher at heart. I love to teach from the pulpit. That is probably the irony of my realization. But I recognize that we need a more wholistic approach to both scripture and to liturgy. I'm going to focus on detoxing from scripture in this post.

The problem I see with scripture is the assumptions we bring to scripture. First we have a false notion that scripture is simple. In my response to Len I say we treat it like a how-to book. If you are looking for simple answers to specific life problems then back away from the bible. Seriously. You can make the bible say just about anything you want. That is a low value of scripture. That toxin kills scripture in your life. Scripture is not a random assortment of promises just for arrogant you (me). It is a drama. It is the ultimate drama. The story of a people wrestling with who they are as the people of God. It is the straining to appreciate what possibilities open up in light of the Christ event. It is a story that lives with us and should grow to be our story. It is patient, wise and available - yes. But its wisdom is never trite, it never panders to our ignorance and it is always more than we give it credit for.

The second false notion is that all scripture has the same weight. This is our erroneous notion of infallibility. We've actually turned scripture into our idol. Scripture is meant to fit in a context. One of the worst innovations applied to scripture has been chapters and verses. Dividing it us has made us lazy and leads to the false assumption that we can lift snippets out and apply them however we like. Look at the great arguments within Christianity - how many of them are over particular readings with the assumption on each side that they are correctly dividing the Word of Truth? It boggles my mind. This toxin leads to what my Baptist friends used to call lucky dipping! Context is not the enemy - wanting a quick fix is.

See the remedy is having a high view of scripture. Not idolizing it, but really embracing it. Bringing your life to it as a whole. Resisting the urge to skip around, but sticking with a book until the story becomes our story. This might mean putting it aside for a bit - seeking God and then starting over. But detoxification is a good process. Toxins destroy life. We do well to get rid of them.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

What is Christian faith?

"Christian faith is not a set of ethical principles, nor is it a compelling logical syllogism that leads all rational persons to necessary conclusions. Rather, at its centre lies an event or an experience that occurs in life. Faith is the testimony of persons who have encountered the power of God who is forever at work in human history, breaking the bonds of evil and restoring hope when hope has been lost. Christian faith is the attitude of confident expectation that, in some mysterious way, God is at work both personally and socially and that we can experience this activity time and again through our lives. This faith restores our commitment to responsibility when evidence would incline us otherwise. The most critical effect of this faith is to halt the radical acceleration of evil that occurs when we give up on the possibility of the good." Ken Melchin, Living with Other People, 97.

Quotes like this affirm my call to study theology, so full of life and challenge. God must become more and I must become less.
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Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Arneson Failed his Last Save

I heard the news Good Friday. We lost Gygax last year so now both of the creators of Dungeons and Dragons have gone on to roll dice with the Big Guy. Here is the OOTS tribute. Over on the Christian Gamer's Guild Alex posted a snip from an email conversation he had with Dave Arneson. In it Arneson recounts what happened when a new pastor came to serve his church and spoke out to the elders against Dungeons and Dragons. Arneson (long time elder) wasn't even there and they basically came to Arneson's defense. The pastor realized that he was speaking from the hearsay. It is unfortunate that so many Christians bought into the BS spread about the game. Both of the founders came from religious homes and if they had any ulterior motives it was to create a game that depicted the epic battle of good against evil. Their only crime really was to teach a generation that it was ok to use their imaginations - imaginations that God gave them. If you think about people who did something that touched a whole culture - it is gonna be a pretty short list. The influence of Arneson and Gygax's creation is still playing out today (pun intended). Thanks for the game Dave. You will be missed.

Thursday, April 09, 2009

Modified Eucharistic Prayer (St. John Chrysostom)

This is the prayers I will be using to open the table for the sensory service. Thought you might like to comment on it.

[Wash hands in personal penitential reflection; arrange the elements, pouring the wine into the decanter along with 3 drops of water]

It is fitting and right to bless and praise you, to give you thanks, to worship in all places of your dominion. For you are God, ineffable, inconceivable, invisible, incomprehensible, existing always and in the same way, you and your only-begotten Son and Your Holy Spirit.

You brought us out of non-existence into existence; and when we had fallen, you raised us up again, and did not cease to do everything until you had brought us up to heaven, and granted us the kingdom that is to come.

For all these things we give thanks to you and to your only-begotten Son and to your Holy Spirit, for all that we know and do not know, your seen and unseen benefits that have come upon us.

We give thanks also for this ministry; vouchsafe to receive it from our hands, even though thousands of archangels and ten thousands of angels stand before you, cherubim and seraphim, with six wings and many eyes, flying high, [aloud] singing the triumphal hymn crying:

Holy, holy, holy Lord; Heaven and earth are full of your glory. Hosanna in the highest. Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord. Hosanna in the highest.

[Softly] With these powers, Master, lover of humanity, we also cry and say: holy are you and all-holy, and your only-begotten Son, and your Holy Spirit; holy are you and all-holy and magnificent is your glory; for you so loved the world that you gave your only-begotten Son that all who believe in him may not perish, but have eternal life.

When he had come and fulfilled all the dispensation for us, on the night in which he handed himself over, he took bread in his holy and undefiled and blameless hands, gave thanks, blessed, broke and gave it to his disciples and apostles, saying, [aloud] “Take, eat; this is my body, which is broken for you for forgiveness of sins.”

[softly] Likewise the cup also after supper, saying, [aloud] “Drink from this, all of you; this is my blood of the new covenant, which is shed for you and for many for the forgiveness of sins.”

[softly] We therefore, remembering this saving commandment and all the things that were done for us: the cross, the tomb, the resurrection on the third day, the ascension into heaven, the session at the right hand, the second and glorious coming again; [aloud] offering you your own from your own, in all and for all, we give you thanks, Lord, and pray to you, our God.

[softly] We offer you this reasonable service also for those who rest in faith, Fathers, patriarchs, matriarchs, prophets, apostles, preachers, evangelists, martyrs, confessors, ascetics, and all the righteous perfected in faith; look on us, O God.

And remember all those who have fallen asleep in hope of resurrection to eternal life, and grant them rest where the light of your own countenance looks upon them.

Again we beseech you, remember, Lord, all the faithful servants who rightly divide the word of your truth, all the ministers and priests, all who serve your Church.

We offer you this reasonable service also for the whole world, for the holy, catholic, and apostolic Church, for those who govern our land and keep the peace, may you through them fill our land with peaceful life in all godliness and honesty.

Remember, Lord, the city in which we dwell, and all the cities and lands, and all who dwell in them in faith.

Remember, Lord, those who bring forth fruit and do good works in your holy churches and remember the poor; and send out your mercies upon us all, [aloud] and grant us with one mouth and one heart to glorify your all-honourable and magnificent name, [sign] the Father, [sign] the Son, and [sign] the Holy Spirit, now and always and to the end of ages. Amen.

Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name,
your kingdom come,
your will be done,
on earth as in heaven.
Give us today our daily bread.
Forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us.
Save us from the time of trial and deliver us from evil.
For the kingdom, the power, and the glory are yours
now and for ever. Amen.

[softly] O LORD, may all your graces and blessings and gifts be showered upon your Church, upon the sheep of your flock, that we may offer unto [sign] you praise and thanksgiving and to you only-begotten Son and to your Holy Spirit, One God, in all worlds unto the end of ages. Amen.

Behold the mystery of God in the sacrament which Christ has commanded.

[Fill the chalice; raise the bread and say aloud] The holy things for the holy people.

[Break bread and place on plate] One is holy, one is Lord, Jesus Christ, to the glory of God the Father.

Come, for all has been made ready.

Holy Week

Liturgically this is my favourite time of the year. It is a bit exhausting though. We had our regular service last night, but now the special services begin. This year we are doing our annual Good Friday sensory service. Sharon and I have planned out 6 stations on the theme of Christ's Passion - Our Redemption. They include:
redeeming our relationship with God, redeeming our relationship with our selves, redeeming our relationship with each other, redeeming our relationship to the world, redeeming our relationship to time, and redeeming our relationship to money. I only have to get some thin ribbon, bread and wine yet. I usually get the bread the day of if I can't convinced someone to bake it fresh. I still have a lot of work to do to get this service ready.

Also we are having an Easter vigil. Andrew and Lori are hosting a midnight candle mass. I love this service, for some reason it didn't happen last year. We really need it because I left the corporate candle in the car too much last summer - it is very warped. Did you know those thick candles could get warped? We have been using the same candle for two years now - every Eucharist and special service. Those candles are like energizer bunnies! Good thing. What I love about the Easter vigil is that the primary liturgical feature is the community reading scripture to each other, at least how we do it. This is the first time we've done it so late, so I'm not expecting a large turnout.

Saturday, April 04, 2009

All Comes Tumbling Out

Last week was like a wave crashing through my life. So much to get done and between life, sickness and the unexpected I wasn't sure I'd get it done. But Thursday I handed in my paper on Wimber's liturgical spirituality. Friday I handed in my last progress report for the academic year. And then came home to crash.

What was cool is that after I finally dragged myself off the couch I realized that I had all this pent up creative energy. Great because I needed to get something ready for my D&D game that night. So now I have a clear sense of the next 95+ days (game time) and I have some really cool base story to work with. To top that off we had a great game session.

But today is the real stop.

I went out to buy something I've wanted for a while - flying bases to make some custom miniatures for my game. Sounds simple, I've even seen them. But I could only find Warhammer bases that were quite a bit too big. No thanks. So I tried the second thing I was out to buy today - a hypoallergenic cook book. I got to a very busy Chapters only to remember that I had a few websites of recipes to look at first. It is one of those kinds of days. So I kicked around there a few minutes and headed home. Just feeling like something that washed up on shore. I know this will pass, probably sooner now that I've acknowledged it.