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Shalom. Peace. This word should ring true to all of us here. It is a word that is familiar to us here in the church and beyond. Peace. This is something we all desire. We all fall into the Miss America trite statement of, “I support world peace.” Well, who doesn’t?

In the book Shalom, by Perry Yoder, he writes, “At the entrance to McConnel Air Force Base, Wichita, Kansas, stands a large sign which says, “Peace Is Our Profession.” Others would say that war, not peace, is the work of people who have command over ICBMs poised to wipe out entire Russian cities. And President Reagan has dubbed a new MX missile system peacekeeper. Clearly, the use of peace to refer to weapons intended to kill millions of civilians is opposed by those who picket military bases or who work to halt the building of nuclear arms. Missiles: peacekeepers or threats to peace? The answer depends on how you define peace” (10).

Perry leads us to question as christians, followers of Christ, what kind of peace ought we work for?

Matthew 5

An Eye for an Eye

38“You have heard that it was said, ‘Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.’[g] 39But I tell you, Do not resist an evil person. If someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. 40And if someone wants to sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well. 41If someone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles. 42Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you.

Love for Enemies

43“You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor[h] and hate your enemy.’ 44But I tell you: Love your enemies[i] and pray for those who persecute you, 45that you may be sons of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. 46If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? 47And if you greet only your brothers, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? 48Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.

In these passages we see a call to love our enemies and pray for our persecutors. This sounds awfully strange and naive, especially in our culture today. It seems that Jesus is inviting us to be walked over, having no control, or not doing anything about things we just know are wrong. Things we know we should do something about, anything!

Let us first look at verses 43-48. What Jesus is doing here is setting up a new interpretation, when he says “you have heard it said but I say to you”. It was common sense that one should love their neighbor and hate their enemy. Actually the idea of neighbor in that time was used to describe someone who is like you. So for Jews, others other Jews would be neighbors. However, Jesus extends this love to our enemies. Why? Well in the story of the Good Samaritan, the man asks Jesus who is my neighbor. There Jesus states a different definition of neighbor, expanding it to include those Samaritans who were not like the Jewish people. Jesus in a way enlarges neighborhood.

Here in the Sermon on the Mount, though, we see Jesus calling his followers to love their enemies and pray for their persecutors. Why would Jesus do this? Well the thing is Jesus calls us to do it because he has already done it. We see in Paul’s letters that while we were still sinners Christ extended love to us. We were God’s enemies, and yet God extended grace, mercy and reconciliation to us. We were first strangers to God, and yet God extended hospitality to us, inviting us to the table.

We are called to imitate Christ, and as Christ first loved his enemies, even up to his death on the cross, so too are we called to love those around us. Our Enemies, Our Strangers, Our Foreigners.

Now we are challenged further, to pray for our persecutors. Why do we pray for them? Do we think that God is going to change the situation. Doesn’t God already know what is going to happen? Isn’t God already in control?

If anything, Prayer changes our situations because prayer changes us. When we pray for our persecutors, it begins to change our perception of them. We begin to see them as truly loved by God. As we pray, we begin to see our encounters with these “others” through God’s eyes. These eyes that cause the sun to rise on everyone and the rain to fall on everyone.

In these verses we are challenged to not be like the world, only extending love, hospitality, life to those we like, or those who make us comfortable.

Because by doing so we end up looking just like the world. No. We are called as Christians to stand apart, to be different; we are called to extend that love to everyone, to those we see as different, dangerous, and those who could ultimately kill us.

Now as we wrestle with this idea of radical love, let us turn to look at ways in which we see Jesus offering ideas on challenging systems of oppression and injustice.

In verses 38-42 8“You have heard that it was said, ‘Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.’[g] 39But I tell you, Do not resist an evil person. If someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. 40And if someone wants to sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well. 41If someone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles. 42Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you.

It may seem that this scripture is describing to us how when we are in a situation of injustice that we should contribute even more to our own suffering. I mean if I get punched in the cheek why would I want to get punched in the other?

However, what Jesus is doing here is offering us a third way. When confronted with a situation of conflict often there are two responses, flight or fight. As Christians we recognize the tension between both. We realize that to run away from a situation seems weak and does nothing to correct this system of injustice. On the other hand, we also recognize that we aren’t called to fight back, and that often fighting back increases the violence. What are we left to do?

Well let me explain why these responses are seen as a third way.

In the first response of someone striking a person on the right cheek, she or he must turn the other also. This is important to note. In the hebrew culture during that time the left hand was seen as unclean, and so often when a person wished to insult another he would slap the person with the back of his right hand. This was demeaning to be slapped with the back of the hand. It made the person getting slapped feel inferior. This is often how one would slap a slave or servant. However, after a person would be slapped, what Jesus is saying is that by turning one’s cheek the opponent would be forced to slap with his palm.

You might be wondering why or how this is different. Well

this would assert the persons dignity, because to be slapped with the palm was to establish equality between the two people. Now understand in this situation the person would be getting slapped quite a bit, but they are not participating in the violence, nor are they letting the situation of injustice continue. They are asserting their status as an equal without fighting back or running away.

In the second example Jesus offers we see a person getting sued for their tunic. This is also seen as a situation of injustice. In that culture it was shameful for a person to cause another to be naked or to take all their possessions in court. So this is another example of a person experiencing injustice and taking a third way to reassert their equality. The person being sued would expose this injustice by offering their cloak along with their tunic.

The last example that is given eludes to government affairs and the military. Surprising isn’t it? First off you may be wondering why anyone would force you to go one mile with them or what that means. This culture was primarily ruled over by the roman government. So it was common to be walking down the road and see roman soldiers. At that time it was legal for a soldier to ask a citizen to carry the soldier’s bag for one mile. No more. What Jesus is saying here is an act of resistance against the military, the idea of going two miles put the citizen back into a position of equality with the soldier, which would have made the soldier very uncomfortable because it was unlawful for a citizen to carry the equipment more than one mile.

These three examples shows how Christ invites us to be creative in situations of violence and injustice. Challenging us to not be violent or allow oppression.

If we begin to view our world, the people we interact with, the strangers we bump into, the enemies we are in contact with, with the eyes of Christ, the labels that we assign to each other should begin to fade away, and be replaced with the label of God’s beloved. Iraqis, Illegal Immigrants, Liberals, Conservatives, Muslims, Terrorists….fade and become God’s beloved. When we see each other as God’s beloved, as God’s creation, as people who God unconditionally loves, how can we move to harm them in anyway?

Biblical peace, Shalom is deeper than just absence of conflict. It is a movement of restoration, of reconciliation, of all things, relationships. A fulfillment of the hope we experience in the body of Christ.

We are called to be peacemakers. As disciples of Christ, we learn how we can interact in this world, with these people that God has created.

As peacemakers we work against systems of injustice, against hatred, resentment, and violence in all forms. To participate in these systems, systems of violence, or war, or oppression means that we do not have faith in God.

In the book, What about Hitler? Scholar Robert Brimlow wrestles with Christ’s call to nonviolence in the face of such evil’s like Hitler. He describe’s violence as “the expression of the arrogance of selfhood…Ultimately, violence comes from power, the ability to act the way one wills. If I can act as if I were alone to act upon the universe, I have the power of God and I am God. That is the sin of violence” (134). He continues, “War, then, is the expression of an egotistical violence performed in the name of a group that has made itself God” (135).

Being a peacemaker means having faith in God. If we have difficulty seeing God’s creation, God’s beloved in the people around us, seeing past these labels of enemy, terrorist, muslim, hispanic, illegal alien…then whose standards are we following? If we wage war upon others, or if we allow our palestinian brothers and Afghan sisters to be constantly under oppression and conflict whose borders are we recognizing?

Does the church have borders? Don’t we serve a church where the borders transcend nationalities? Ethnicities? That is why we are called to peace. Our Church is too vast and we do not know everyone’s stories. We are not God.

You might be wondering how Brimlow finally answers that question. What about Hitler?

“We must live faithfully; we must be humble in our faith and truthful in what we say and do; we must repay evil with good; and we must be peacemakers. This may also mean as a result that the evildoers will kill us. Then, we shall also die. That’s it…We are called to live the kingdom as he proclaimed it and be his disciples, come what may.”

He does include though, that if the church acted as the church should before hitler we would not have that question. If the church, stood up for justice and peace after world war I, it would not have allowed for vengeance and unfair retribution to happen to germany, setting it up for as a despondent country.

The Church does not look like the world. It is inefficient, naive, and cares for the underdog. The Church is meant to be scandalized. Taken advantage of. Martyred. Even as it continues to offer forgiveness, hospitality and love in the face of evil.

This naive church is where Mennonites have their ground. The early anabaptists were killed and murdered because they believed so much that God ultimately was in control. They believed so much in the physical resurrection, that death was something that did not scare them.  The early anabaptist loved their enemies, even to the point of their own death because they would rather die in the comfort of their God then kill someone who has yet to experience God’s love. An example that comes to mind is Dirk Willems. He is a somewhat famous martyr in the Mennonite world. He escaped from prison where he was held because of his anabaptist beliefs, and while he was running away these men were following him, ordered to catch Dirk. As Dirk was running he ran across this frozen river and made it across just fine. His pursuer on the other hand did not and fell through the ice. Immediantly Dirk turned around and helped this man out, saving his life. Dirk was caught and returned to prison where he was later executed.  This is where our martyr stories play such an important role, they teach us how in the face of death and suffering, love triumphs. Love always wins. Resurrection defeats Death.

So as followers of Christ we are called to love like Christ. Challenging systems of oppression and injustice using creative means, but also gaining a new perspective on how we view others. Trading our worldly perspective with the lens of Christ, which allows us to see others as God’s beloved. And as we fall deeply in love with others, our enemies, our persecutors, may our hearts find comfort in the resurrection. That in the end Life beats Death. Love triumphs over hatred. Resurrection defeats the Cross.

2 Corinthians 4.7-12;5.14-18.

But we hold this treasure in pots of earthenware, so that the immensity of the power is God’s and not our own. We are subjected to every kind of hardship, but never distressed; we see no way out but we never despair; we are pursued but never cut off; knocked down, but still have some life in us; always we carry with us in our body the death of Jesus so that the life of Jesus, too, may be visible in our body. Indeed, while we are still alive, we are continually being handed over to death, for the sake of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus, too, may be visible in our mortal flesh. In us, then, death is at work; in you, life…For the love of Christ overwhelms us when we consider that if one man died for all, then all have died; his purpose in dying for all humanity was that those who live should live not any more for themselves, but for him who died and was raised to life for them.

From now onwards, then, we will not consider anyone by human standards: even if we were once familiar with Christ according to human standards, we do not know him in that way any longer. So for anyone who is in Christ, there is a new creation: the old order is gone and a new being is there to see. It is all God’s work; he reconciled us to himself through Christ and he gave us the ministry of reconciliation. 2 Corinthians 4.7-12;5.14-18.

May you join in the reconciling work of God through Christ. Seeing Peace, shalom, as more than just absence of violence, but as a fulfillment of life and justice. May we embrace and love those around us as Christ loves them. Opening our hearts, our minds, our hands to their needs. Let us allow ourselves to love our enemies and pray for our persecutors and let that prayer challenge us to not view others with labels that world gives. Terrorist. Illegal Immigrant. Liberal. Conservative. Enemy. And So on, but embrace the label that God gives, that we are ultimately God’s creation, truly loved by the Creator who makes the sun shine on the righteous and unrighteous and the rain to fall on everyone. May the peace of Christ, that transcends all understanding dwell in you. Amen. Go in Peace.

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With Coffee In Hand

delicious.It’s due time that I write up another blog. The weather seems to be echoing this as it is a rainy/dreary Sunday afternoon. Unfortunately I have nothing too pressing on my mind that I wish to share, but because I enjoy having a blog and I enjoy expressing ideas I’m going to try and give a little blurbs about some things I have been thinking about. So with no real agenda, I proceed…and of course with coffee in hand.

My hope is that my blog becomes more of a conversation between you and I and that other person who is reading. I invite feedback, questions, recommendations (both books and ideas), and the likes. Also the following are just some ideas that I would enjoy expanding on further…

One thing on my mind, and has been, is the seemingly Christian obsession with families. Now I think families are great, and I think family is a wonderful metaphor for talking about Church. The thing is the Bible seems to be somewhat anti-family. We see instances where Jesus says that he hasn’t come to bring peace but a sword that separates even familial ties or another where someone comes running to Jesus and tells him that his mother and brother are waiting/ wanting to seem him…and what does he do? He responds saying, “who is my mother and brother and sisters? These are my mothers, brothers and sisters.” And he points to those around him. To be honest I think it would be tough to have Jesus as a son or a brother and hear him say that. What did Mary think?

“I GAVE birth to you, of course I’m your mother.” I think Jesus’ words might have cut pretty deep. I think what Jesus does often is maybe no so anti-family…but ultra family…including everyone! Along with this whole family thing, marriage concomitantly follows. So for both family and marriage, Christians seem to hold such strong traditional feelings that aren’t necessarily reflected in the scriptures. We see often that Jesus, Paul and other leaders hold pretty radical ideas of what it means to be in relationship with others that reflect equality, intimacy, and (pick your own third word…too many to choose from even though phrases like that come in threes. Compassion?)

The other thing I’ve been pondering was something that I thought about earlier this year, but has resurfaced from a reading of one of my friends blogs. My friend Brent wrote a tremendously well thought out blog about interacting with other people and how to love them well. I would want to encourage Brent to maybe rethink how he talks about sin and the language he uses. When we say something about sin, we say something about God.

So if either of these things interests you and you would like me to reflect more on them feel free to comment.

On a side note I have finished a fantastic book titled A Canticle for Lebowitz. It describes the life after a nuclear war ravaged most of the earth and a group of monks have come together and keep scientific papers and ideas safe, although most don’t understand them. What I found wonderfully strange about this book is the reverse relation to science that is seen by this Christian community. The book covers a long span of time, and different lives. It is prophetic, heartbreaking and challenging.

Right now I’m moving to reading the book The Sparrow, which I feel will be just as challenging as Lebowitz.

Another way for you to influence my blogging is choosing which non-fiction book I will read next. I have three choices in mind (but am not exclusive to just these), but they include: Kierkegaard ‘s Works of Love, Bonhoeffer’s The Cost of Discipleship, Marilynne Robinson’s Absence of Mind. I will most likely read all of these at some point, but as far as the order goes you can help me decide.

So just a brief update and and an invitation to conversation.

Namaste.

This is my sermon that I preached this morning, some of the information is from the book Velvet Elvis by Rob Bell. I figured that most of the congregation did not read it and so I felt comfortable sharing information from Rob.

Matthew 4.18-22

As he walked by the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon, who is called Peter, and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea – for they were fishermen. And he said to them, “Follow me, and I will make you fish for people.” Immediately they left their nets and followed him. As he went from there, he saw two other brothers, James son of Zebedee and his brother John, in the boat with their father Zebedee, mending their nets, and he called them. Immediately they left the boat and their father, and followed him.

Come! Follow Me! This is the invitation to follow Christ. Pure. Simple. Unaltered. This is where our Christian journey begins, this is where we experience the saving work of Jesus. Salvation begins when we drop our nets and follow him. Jesus calls – summons – his disciples out of their ordinary, monotonous lives and invites them on this life altering and changing journey known as Discipleship. The call to discipleship is one of the first extensions of grace we receive – where we are called to respond.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer, a prominent Lutheran theologian during World War II talks about discipleship being tied to grace. He describes two interactions we have with grace that make grace look either cheap or costly. He writes, “Cheap grace is the preaching of forgiveness without requiring repentance, baptism without church discipline, Communion without confession, absolution without personal confession. Cheap grace is grace without discipleship, grace without the cross, grace without Jesus Christ, living and incarnate” ( The Cost of Discipleship 44). He continues describing costly grace as, “the treasure hidden in the field; for the sake of it a man will gladly go and sell all that he has. It is the pearl of great price to buy which the merchant will sell all his goods…it is the call of Jesus Christ at which the disciple leaves his nets and follows him” (45).

Our call to discipleship begins with grace. Grace with responsibility or in other words grace with response. The move to love because we first were loved (1 John 4.19). This is what Bonhoeffer calls the cost of discipleship.

Discipleship begins with grace and lives in faith. The call and the response. The summon and the dropping of nets. The invitation and the complete allegiance.

Since discipleship has its roots in grace, its extensions are in faith. – I see this faith being evident in three ways, faith in God, faith in ourselves, and faith in others. We find that faith in these areas is uncomfortable, dangerous, humbling, and yet rewarding and life-giving.

In the gospels many times the disciples are the ones seen as just not getting it, they blunder things up, they don’t get the parable, they argue with each other, they try to gain power over each other…and yet these are the ones where the christian community has its beginnings. These are the ones who are called.

Discipleship means having faith in God.

Let’s do a brief History lesson in Hebrew Culture.

In that time there was no printing press and the cost of scrolls was pretty high because to copy them, one had to do it by hand. This oral culture developed where there was an importance on memorization and story telling. Small communities would usually only have one torah and many would only see it about once a week at the synagogue..

Young Jewish boys starting around the age of 6 would begin to learn and memorize the first five books. Genesis. Exodus. Leviticus. Numbers. Deuteronomy. Memorized. This time of learning was called the bet sefer (house of the book) and would last until the boys were 10. So everyone in this society had a basic knowledge of the Torah.

If a student showed particularly strong abilities they would continue memorizing the rest of the Hebrew Bible, our Old Testament. This was the Bet Talmud (house of learning)

Those who were not the best of the best would return to their homes and take up their family’s occupation, fishing, carpentry husbandry.

In this area of learning, students would also begin to focus on the oral tradition around the testimonies, interpretations, comments from those who wrestled with the texts. Here students learned how to ask questions, they were not taught to just spit our information. Isn’t this thinking still true today? People have more to offer when they are able to think deeply about a topic rather than just regurgitate information.

After this school of thought the best of the best continued on. These students would apply to a rabbi, and asking him to be his disciple. Rabbis were revered in this society because they knew this text inside and out. These students would ask to be a rabbis disciple. This is more than just being a student, to be a disciple was to learn to be like the rabbi. Bet Midrash (house of study)

When the student would ask the rabbi to be his disciple, the rabbi would respond by drilling this student about the knowledge of the torah, prophets, oral tradition, laws and interpretation. If the rabbi thought that this student has it, that this student can be like me, he would say, “come, follow me.”  If not he would respond saying, it seems that you know the torah well, but your just not cut out to be my disciple.

Jesus begins his ministry around the age of thirty, the same time other rabbi’s would begin. This is when he calls his first disciples. He calls two brothers. Simon Peter and Andrew. Now what were they doing. Fishing. This meant that they were not the best of the best. They were not “disciple” material. They had continued in the family business. But Jesus calls them and says come, follow me. Nets are dropped. Immediately. For a Rabbi to say come, follow me, was the same as the Rabbi saying, “you can be like me.”  Of course they would drop their nets.

We are all called to come and follow Christ. Jesus has extended this invitation to us, this grace, and our response must be discipleship. Having faith in God. However, this call frightens us, we don’t trust, we question why we feel God leading this way, or we feed lies to ourselves that we’re not that great, I’m not that capable, I’m weak, I have to get through these issues first, or I don’t have the best reputation. We make excuses for our lack of discipleship. We fear letting our nets drop, the security blanket also known as our occupation, reputation, or our other allegiances.

Mark 8.27 – 33

Jesus went on with his disciples to the villages of Caesarea Philippi; and on the way he asked his disciples, “who do people say that I am?” And they answered him, “John the Baptist; and others, Elijah; and still others, one of the prophets.” He asked  them, “But who do you say that I am?” Peter answered him, “You are the Messiah.” And he sternly ordered them not to tell anyone about him. Then he began to teach them that the Son of Man must undergo great suffering,  and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes, and be killed, and after three days rise again. He said all this quite openly. And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. But turning and looking at his disciples, he rebuked Peter and said, “Get behind me Satan! For you are setting your mind not on divine things but on human things.”

Mark 8.27-33 shows that often the disciples did not get it “right,” here we see Peter going from a disciple who got it, who called jesus out as the messiah but then in a few verses misses it causing Jesus to say, “get behind me satan.” We see other stories where the disciples are arguing about which one of them is the greatest or who will sit by Jesus (Luke 9.46). How often do we squabble over issues in the church and miss the big picture. But yet jesus still says, come and follow me.

This leads to the second area of discipleship, having faith in ourselves. Having faith that we are capable of following Christ, that we can build a passion to know more, that we can imitate Christ.

In Matthew 14.22-33 we see the story of Jesus and Peter walking on water.

Immediately he made the disciples get into the boat and go on ahead to the other side, while he dismissed the crowds. And after he had dismissed the crowds, he went up the mountain by himself to pray. When evening came, he was there alone, but by this time the boat, battered by the waves, was far from the land, for the wind was against them. And early in the morning he came walking toward them on the sea. But when the disciples saw him walking on the sea, they were terrified, saying, “It is a ghost!” And they cried out in fear. But immediately Jesus spoke to them and said, “Take heart, it is I; do not be afraid.” Peter answered him, “Lord if it is you command me to come to you on the water.” He said, “Come.” So Peter got out of the boat, started walking on the water, and came toward Jesus. But when he noticed the strong wind, he became frightened, and beginning to sink, he cried out, “Lord, save me!” Jesus immediately reached out his hand and caught him, saying to him, “You of little faith why did you doubt?” When they got into the boat, the wind ceased. And those in the boat worshiped him, saying “Truly you are the Son of God.”

Peter gets out of the water because he sees his rabbi doing it. Peter is taking this discipleship call seriously. He wants to be like his rabbi. But as soon as Peter looks down at the water he starts losing faith. He doesn’t lose faith in Jesus because Jesus is still there standing on the water in front of Peter. Peter loses faith in himself that he can be like his rabbi. He doesn’t think he can do it.  in this story we see Christ call Peter,-  “Come”, -Jesus has faith in his disciple. What is remarkable in this story, besides the walking on water part, is that as soon as Peter doubts that he can be like Christ, he calls for help. At first glance Jesus’ comment of “You of little faith, why did you doubt.” might sound reprimanding. However, I think it’s better to hear that statement as encouraging. I wonder sometimes if Jesus ever got giddy when he saw his disciples getting it, understanding. Did his heart leap as soon as he saw Peter stepping out of the boat. As Peter took those first few steps?

Jesus has faith in us. Christ’s last command to his disciples was what? Go and make more disciples. Jesus handed over the keys, the ability to bind and loose, in other words for a Rabbi to do this meant that his followers were able to make new interpretations, after debating, discussing, praying, wrestling and that in this decision making process God will be involved. Jesus then leaves. He trusts this new movement to these disciples. Christ promises to send the Spirit which will guide them, but essentially it is in their hands.

Where does this lead us? Community.

Discipleship means having faith in others. And this is where Anabaptism fits because having faith in others means incorporating the priesthood of all believers, of valuing others ideas, life experiences, stories, of listening first and working together in this journey. Priesthood of all believers means that each one of us has something to contribute to the Church. That each and every member has something to build the body.

John Roth writes in his book Beliefs, “discipleship is not for loners or individual heroes: Christian discipleship cannot be pursued alone. The context for the new creation that Paul writes about is always within a community of believers. We become the people God wants us to be by practicing discipleship together.”

Its our turn. We saw what it meant to be a disciple of Jesus. It was difficult. But here we are now, and so we must figure out what it means to live out the gospel in this context. We must, as a community, continue to debate, discuss, pray, wrestle, and fall in love with scripture knowing that in this process God will be involved.

We see one of the first examples of discipleship within community in Acts 15. Here we see a community wrestle with whether or not to include gentiles to this distinctly Jewish faith. There were people on both sides of this issue, there were the conservatives who Peter represented and stated that first Gentiles must become Jewish, have a little surgery, then follow all of the Jewish laws, and then be included in the Church, and there were the liberals, like Paul who argued for full inclusion of Gentiles. What could have happened is that the community might have divided over this issue. However after working as a community on this issue hearing from both Gentile believers and Jewish leaders, the response was given. Acts 15. 28 “For it has seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us to impose on you no further burden than these essentials.” This huge decision the made, that affects most if not all of us here was made with the words, “it seems”?

We can see this community step up during such a controversial issue, make a decision, and yet remain humble that they may not have hit the nail on the head on getting it right, but they trust that God will continue to lead them. Christianity was not finished there. And it’s not finished now. If it were this faith would be dead. Discipleship involves trusting and respecting others, and growing together.

Discipleship has its roots in grace and its extensions in faith. We are called, summoned, invited – grace. We drop our nets, security, allegiances – faith. Discipleship is our responsibility to Grace. Not Cheap Grace, but the kind that is disturbing, different, a catalyst for change. May we embrace discipleship and be willing to take seriously the cost of Grace, Grace that is giving and receiving, Grace with responsibility. Let us be disciples together on this journey of the Christian faith.

Go in the sustaining, creating, unrelenting love of God, May our response to the grace extended to us, be passionate discipleship. May we come to realize the importance of the call, of Jesus saying, “Come, follow me.” That in this statement Christ is extending to us Grace, inviting us into the salvific work of discipleship and let us drop our nets, our nets of insecurities, our nets that make us comfortable, our nets that imprison us in our own ideologies, and truly follow Christ, on this Christian journey that is dangerous, confusing, uncomfortable, humbling, and yet saving, life-giving, and liberating. May we reflect that discipleship is: Having faith in God, that even though we are not the best of the best, we have been chosen. Having faith in ourselves that we can truly imitate Christ, that we can be like our rabbi, and that our rabbi has faith in us. Having faith in others, of those in our community, that in the grueling debates and discussions, in the listening and speaking, in the waiting and hoping, God is present. That the Spirit is leading. And ultimately may we embrace the humbling experience discipleship brings when we say, “Its seems good to the Holy Spirit and to us.” Amen.


God. The icon of the Trinity is one of my favorites. I first laid eyes upon a copy of it as I was decorating the Religion Department lobby. What ultimately struck me first about this icon was that I was unable to determine the gender of these three persons. They have masculine features, and yet at the same time a grace of feminism. Though some fear creating idols, I feel that in this picture one experiences the complexity of God. This picture represents God. God, the Creator, God the Word, God the Spirit. Look at their faces…all the same. Now in this language of Trinity, we may get wrapped up in the legalism of ousia’s, but what the Trinity should express to us, or what we should experience when we talk about the Trinity is that God is relationship. So our language and understanding should begin to stretch that when we talk about God, or use the word God, that picture is what we are talking about.

I think we have fallen into a bad habit of slopping language when talking about God. Well all language is sloppy when talking about God. Maybe its that we are unaware of our language barrier when we talk about God and begin to create a cage, bar by bar that defines God.

Now you are probably wondering when am I going to talk about God’s agency. I’m getting there, but first I think it is important to think of God as relationship in order to move into reflecting further. Remember the “relationship” part of God is relationship, is essentially unlike any relationships we have experienced, relationship is a metaphor. So the question becomes how does God, who is relationship, act in this world.

By now you may have noticed that I have yet to use the word will. To be honest most times when I hear people talk about God’s Will it makes me want to vomit. When we talk about God’s Will it is usually in selfish ways, let me explain. “God’s Will” is so uncontrolable and yet we like to think we have it figured out. We deny relationships with people because we don’t feel it’s God’s Will, we go to war because we feel it’s God’s Will, we protect ourselves from suffering stating it is God’s Will. We bend and manipulate those words so much to our own desires that we have become calloused to it.

I had to look up some notes on God’s Agency. I think these are very helpful in reflecting more:

“God’s activity and ours are unlike each other, If God is reacting to a situation, we have to suppose God failed to provide for in advance. Is God the cosmic Santa Claus?”

“If God’s purposes are those of responding to problems on earth, what does that say about God’s creative and redemptive plan? Is God a cosmic bandaid?”

“To say that God is God is to say that God is not conditioned by environment. God’s Freedom. God has a radical freedom to be unconditioned – covenants made out of love and not obligations. Asking God to fix something makes God a thing.”

The most powerful thing in my notes that I’ve read tonight is: “What God does…is who God is. When we talk about who God is we talk about what God does.”

These reflections from my notes show that God’s activity is not in competition with ours. If it were, God would be like a cosmic santa, or bandaid, a thing.

So how is God acting? Go outside, experience life, relationships, creation…that is God acting. It is always a God thing. From the most minute detail to the moving of the planets. God.

Now you may be frustrated saying, “yeah, yeah, that is all good and wonderful, but still….”. So here we change the question from “How does God act, or What is God’s will” to “How does God’s agency work in people, or How do we interact with God’s agency.” Fair enough.

This is where a continuation of my theological upheaval picks up. I was thinking about this. This is a side track. Are you familiar with Lacan or Derrida? (If not I highly recommend exploring them more). Both seemingly describe something that is not, meaningless, separating. Lacan giving us the word Lack, and Derrida’s differance (to differ and to defer). In both cases the person experiences a separation, wether it is in relating to someone, or in communicating to some one. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jacques_Lacan) Anyway what really got me thinking about our agency interacting with God’s was Lacan’s perception of the Real (look it up in that address). Similarly I wonder if the Real helps with thinking about God.

We all have idolized God. Our concept of God is always an idol, our language always falls short. If it didn’t than that would not be God. We as humans are subjective and objective beings (though i would describe objective subjectively :P) We have tried so long to separate the two claiming one to be more true or more important than the other. Though as humans beings we are all subjective, and our experiences in the subjective influence the objective reality around us. (So in that case subjective is more important, philosophy more important than science). Our concept of God exists in the subjective. Though God may not exist in the objective nor subjective (because God is not a thing), we still experience God as true in the subjective. We experience God in the subjective. We get glimpses of God, the Real, and that is traumatizing, it changes our concept of God and thus changes how we interact in the world. We read about others’ glimpses of God and how that changed their concept of God, and thus changed their community.

A glimpse of God is transforming.

Thus our agency and God’s agency interact within the hermeneutical cycle. We come with an idea of God, this impacts our actions, we read, get a glimpse of God, which in turn transforms us, changes the way we view and experience everything, we then enter the world with new eyes, experience life and others, where we get another glimpse of God which changes how we read, which changes how we think, which changes how we act, which changes how we relate, which changes how we read…..and so on nonexclusively.

In essence this hermeneutical cycle should raise questions if we ever have free will since all our actions are based off of experiences and ideologies. An interesting idea I read in the book, The Dispossessed by Ursula K Le Guin was from a character who said something like physical free will exists, but not psychological.

God is acting in the world. It is all a God thing. We experience God’s agency relationally within the hermeneutical cycle taking place within Community. God acts to us through us.

I didn’t really touch on the incarnation of Christ and I can later if people desire, but I think it would fit in experiencing the traumatic Real of God. An encounter with Christ is a transforming one.

I would love to hear feed back from you, maybe present some things you would like me to reflect on, or questions you have for me, or clarifications you want me to make. Thanks.

May we experience the sustaining, creating, and unrelenting love of God, and see, and touch, and feel, and hear, and enjoy that love in the creation around and in us. May we feel the transforming glimpse of God and move us into loving relationships with others. Amen.

Namaste.

Blog Bug

So I wanted to inform you all that I’m going to try and get the blogging bug tonight and write some more. Hopefully reflecting on the agency of God drawing on previous ideas presented in the “Image of God”.

So this is a conversation I had that describes my ideas on community and what makes a human being good.

[6/2/10 11:52:53 PM]: i just like the person that you are… your a good one, not that i think that there are bad ones, just ones in different places, so maybe i like the place you are in…

[6/2/10 11:53:15 PM]: or are there bad ones and good ones?

[6/2/10 11:53:17 PM] : 🙂

[6/2/10 11:54:44 PM] Jason Frey: well depends on your theology…you can either start with we’re all bad people who need redemption or we’re all good people who need encouragement… both might be fair answers…but i would challenge anyone to say that some people are inherently good or bad =)

[6/2/10 11:55:36 PM] : (psst. i like to think we’re all good =P )

[6/2/10 11:56:17 PM] : i find myself believing that it is relative to where i am in life, and that my perceptions of what is “good” and “bad” are not always the same as others. i dont really know if i believe in good and bad really, Im glad you are so optimistic!! 🙂 hahah

[6/2/10 11:56:21 PM] : a

[6/2/10 11:57:24 PM] Jason Frey: i think there are good and bad ways of being human

[6/2/10 11:57:40 PM] Jason Frey: being violent is a bad way of being human…. loving is a good way

[6/2/10 11:57:45 PM] : are there good and bad humans?

[6/2/10 11:57:52 PM]: i dont usually think so

[6/2/10 11:58:14 PM] Jason Frey: nope just good and bad ways of being human

[6/2/10 11:58:20 PM] Jason Frey: well so i believe haha

[6/2/10 11:58:44 PM] Jason Frey: choosing bad ways of being human doesn’t make someone a bad human also

[6/2/10 11:58:49 PM]: this seems to be your struggle right now… i feel like we are being drawn back to the question of what defines good and bad ways of being human. have you made any headway there?

[6/2/10 11:59:31 PM] Jason Frey: yeah! are you ready for this idea

[6/3/10 12:00:02 AM]: oh ya 🙂

[6/3/10 12:00:06 AM] : hahaha

[6/3/10 12:00:11 AM] : i love this

[6/3/10 12:00:13 AM] : ok

[6/3/10 12:00:14 AM] : im ready

[6/3/10 12:00:54 AM] Jason Frey: so it all starts with is it good to be a human individually or in community… right?

[6/3/10 12:01:01 AM] : ok

[6/3/10 12:01:16 AM] Jason Frey: so individually would mean it is good for a person to get ahead in any manner possible aka Darwin/Competition

[6/3/10 12:01:22 AM] Jason Frey: survival of the fittest

[6/3/10 12:01:55 AM] Jason Frey: and so if you begin there then violence is acceptable because you just need to look our for number one…

[6/3/10 12:02:05 AM] Jason Frey: then charity makes sense…

[6/3/10 12:02:29 AM] Jason Frey: charity in that i’m important and have lots of resources so i’m just giving some away because

[6/3/10 12:02:49 AM] Jason Frey: it’s a good thing…but i don’t have to ask why people are in those situations…

[6/3/10 12:03:02 AM] Jason Frey: they are just bad at being human (looking out for number one)

[6/3/10 12:03:03 AM]: well it also increases your status and others persception of you, which is part of survival/success

[6/3/10 12:03:08 AM] : charity that is

[6/3/10 12:03:12 AM] Jason Frey: right

[6/3/10 12:03:29 AM] Jason Frey: (right now i’m developing the individualist good life)

[6/3/10 12:03:43 AM] : sorry 🙂 continue

[6/3/10 12:03:51 AM] Jason Frey: your fine…join in

[6/3/10 12:04:00 AM] : ill take notes for later

[6/3/10 12:04:08 AM] Jason Frey: i just didn’t want to confuse you…because our communication is limited…

[6/3/10 12:04:17 AM] Jason Frey: um so individual

[6/3/10 12:04:49 AM] Jason Frey: it’s this get ahead mentality…

[6/3/10 12:05:23 AM] Jason Frey: no need for others…or others…

[6/3/10 12:06:46 AM] Jason Frey: where this idea of the individualist good life breaks down is that it is a myth because everything one learns about being an individual s/he learns from others….aka community…even communication, culture, money, economics…

[6/3/10 12:07:11 AM] Jason Frey: its a myth that is important for people who perpetually lle to themselves because they believe this myth

[6/3/10 12:07:24 AM] Jason Frey: and it only is true for them if others also believe in the myth

[6/3/10 12:07:52 AM] Jason Frey: and so this culture develops that makes individual rights/freedoms/beliefs obvious

[6/3/10 12:08:29 AM] Jason Frey: but in all reality there is no such thing as an individual, no such thing as individual freedoms, choices, beliefs, and so on

[6/3/10 12:09:10 AM] Jason Frey: because this myth is only able to exist within a certain community that chooses (whether consciously or unconsciously) to perpetuate it…

[6/3/10 12:09:34 AM] : but is then still acting communally?

[6/3/10 12:09:44 AM] Jason Frey: yeah

[6/3/10 12:09:50 AM] : 🙂 hahaha

[6/3/10 12:09:54 AM] Jason Frey: therefor a pardox is created because to be an “individual” means to be involved in community

[6/3/10 12:10:08 AM] Jason Frey: (a very sick way of being involved in community)

[6/3/10 12:10:14 AM] : very 😦

[6/3/10 12:10:42 AM] Jason Frey: i would describe these communities as viruses….

[6/3/10 12:10:52 AM] : do they spread?

[6/3/10 12:11:00 AM] Jason Frey: like they fall into this myth and try to expand this myth to other communities

[6/3/10 12:11:19 AM] Jason Frey: (yeah the church, other countries, so on)

[6/3/10 12:11:53 AM] Jason Frey: it’s like a pseudo-community…people are trained in this community to destroy community….

[6/3/10 12:12:03 AM] : but to do so as a community

[6/3/10 12:12:25 AM] : this is the idea that gets me… just that it is very ironic

[6/3/10 12:12:27 AM] Jason Frey: but they can’t destroy community…so ultimately individualism fails

[6/3/10 12:12:52 AM] Jason Frey: yeah it’s a false perception….its unsustainable

[6/3/10 12:13:05 AM] : so then does it just become a matter of good and bad ways to be in community?

[6/3/10 12:13:08 AM] Jason Frey: as we can see currently in the weird economic relations, climate relations so on

[6/3/10 12:13:14 AM] : right

[6/3/10 12:13:18 AM] Jason Frey: yeah

[6/3/10 12:13:43 AM] Jason Frey: so really this path of it being good to be an individual as being a good human leads to community….

[6/3/10 12:13:54 AM] Jason Frey: therefore the beginning of that argument is flawed….

[6/3/10 12:14:29 AM] Jason Frey: so one must move to the other end…and say for a person to be good human is for them to be appropriately placed in community…

[6/3/10 12:14:50 AM] Jason Frey: so one must figure out what are good and bad ways of being in community…

[6/3/10 12:15:49 AM] Jason Frey: also one must define what community this wish to be apart…Philladelphia? Pennsylvania? the United States? North America? the West? the whole human race?

[6/3/10 12:16:38 AM] Jason Frey: also in the same breath one must realize that to be healthly involved in these local communities, one must also be healthily involved in these broader communities…

[6/3/10 12:16:53 AM]: is it possible to not be apart of any of them. are all of our lives so integrated that we are part of every community?

[6/3/10 12:17:03 AM] : you are always writing what i am going to ask 🙂

[6/3/10 12:17:12 AM] Jason Frey: haha =)

[6/3/10 12:17:24 AM] Jason Frey: there is no way to get a part of these communities

[6/3/10 12:17:52 AM] Jason Frey: right when we’re born we’re part of a familial community, then a small area community, then a school, then nation, then ultimately globally….

[6/3/10 12:17:55 AM] Jason Frey: we can’t help it…

[6/3/10 12:18:11 AM] Jason Frey: especially in the culture right now

[6/3/10 12:18:46 AM] Jason Frey: (maybe early in history this argument would not have made sense…because people were so divided i.e. native americans)

[6/3/10 12:19:17 AM] : so, how does one balance the interest of each community, considering that they are often different and in conflict. Is this just a result of “bad” communal practices?

[6/3/10 12:19:41 AM] Jason Frey: HAHA i was just writing about balance…

[6/3/10 12:19:49 AM] : i told you!!!!

[6/3/10 12:19:59 AM] Jason Frey: so weird…

[6/3/10 12:20:18 AM] : (i wish you could see me… this is so wonderful. just wanted to let you know how happy this makes me)

[6/3/10 12:20:19 AM] : 🙂

[6/3/10 12:20:24 AM] Jason Frey: ok anyway….one must figure out how to balance being part of this global community and local communities

[6/3/10 12:20:27 AM] Jason Frey: =)

[6/3/10 12:20:59 AM] Jason Frey: this actually fits in well with some of my ideas on queer virtues…

[6/3/10 12:21:19 AM] : of course 🙂

[6/3/10 12:22:02 AM] Jason Frey: so i think there will always be some sort of imbalance between global and local communities…unless

[6/3/10 12:23:07 AM] Jason Frey: we develop a (queer) virtue of self-criticism that constantly causes us to reevaluate our own understandings, our own beliefs, values and so on….so that when we interact within these global communities we can do so with compassion, patience, and humility…

[6/3/10 12:23:38 AM] : maybe like the view of the Beatitude from Blessed are the Pacifists?

[6/3/10 12:23:48 AM] Jason Frey: otherwise we will always enter the global community sphere thinking we are right (arrogance)…which is a bad communal practice because thinking we are always right is a lie of individualism

[6/3/10 12:23:57 AM] Jason Frey: yeah definitely

[6/3/10 12:25:03 AM] Jason Frey: also thinking that we are complete and not needing to hear other’s stories is a bad communal practice….because it fails to recognize how we change and are constantly being impacted by our surrounding communities…

[6/3/10 12:26:29 AM] Jason Frey: (ok so right now so many things are connecting in my head…all of these words have been apart of my life these past four years and are now all beginning to fit together: stories, connectedness, community, others, vulnerability, queer, virtues, good and bad, human….it is freaking nuts…and making me think about possibly writing a dissertaion on all of this) …sidenote…haha

[6/3/10 12:27:05 AM] : please do it. you are making magic happen in my head right now… for realls

[6/3/10 12:27:26 AM] : copy and past this convo to a word document for sure

[6/3/10 12:28:36 AM] Jason Frey: i was thinking of putting it in my blog (i can change your name if you want) but that way i can share my ideas as well as it will put a date on it….so if i write about it later i can point back to it

[6/3/10 12:29:15 AM] : ya, i would like my name to be changed. its not that i wouldnt want to be included, but ya. i think its best

[6/3/10 12:29:50 AM] Jason Frey: are you ok with me putting it on the blog? if not i’m ok just keeping it a word document

[6/3/10 12:30:19 AM] : you could take some of the things out that i said that dont aplly to the conversation, or were just me saying how happy this convo makes me… thats sort of embarressing 🙂

[6/3/10 12:32:17 AM] Jason Frey: OHHHH ok so …..one might feel overwhelmed in thinking: how do i interact well within this global community…and this is why we practice virtues in our local communities…so violence is a bad form of being a good communal human…it denies the importance of the other, hearing hte other’s story, allowing oneself to be impacted by the other’s community….and so on…so as we create good healthy habits of being human…it so follows that these habits infiltrate all areas of our lives…affecting all communites we interact in…

[6/3/10 12:32:39 AM] Jason Frey: sorry that idea i was just typing…i will change things to be more applied

[6/3/10 12:32:58 AM] Jason Frey: HOWEVER!!! …..sorry this is where it gets frustrating

[6/3/10 12:33:05 AM] Jason Frey: in my argument

[6/3/10 12:33:27 AM] : (im sort of very self conscious of my thoughts…)

[6/3/10 12:33:30 AM] : ok im ready

[6/3/10 12:33:32 AM] : i hope

[6/3/10 12:34:07 AM] Jason Frey: there is a problem with humans and community

[6/3/10 12:34:22 AM] Jason Frey: it deals with hermaneutics….

[6/3/10 12:35:00 AM] Jason Frey: earlier i had said this conversation would be limited because of our ways communication. well it’s more expansive than that….

[6/3/10 12:35:25 AM] Jason Frey: you see communication is our major downfall of being humans who find it good to be in community…

[6/3/10 12:35:40 AM] Jason Frey: its a downfall because communication is an isolating force

[6/3/10 12:36:00 AM] : i hate this idea so much… its always in my way

[6/3/10 12:36:18 AM] Jason Frey: when i say/write/act/sing/something it will never fully express what i want it to…

[6/3/10 12:36:37 AM] Jason Frey: i have to speak it…another must listen and translate/interpret it

[6/3/10 12:36:52 AM] Jason Frey: as soon as i speak….i become aware of my own isolation

[6/3/10 12:37:19 AM] Jason Frey: however…

[6/3/10 12:38:31 AM] Jason Frey: some may say this limit in communication supports individualism…but i would say that in all it actually supports community…if we were able to fully communicate all our ideas in all the communities we were involved in communities would dissolve…

[6/3/10 12:38:49 AM] Jason Frey: communites are the formation of humans trying and trying….so hard….to communicate with each other

[6/3/10 12:39:06 AM] Jason Frey: communites are alive because interpretation takes place

[6/3/10 12:39:23 AM] : so if we were able to fully communicate, then we could truly be individuals?

[6/3/10 12:39:24 AM] Jason Frey: they form and morph as people hear ideas, either correctly or incorrectly…

[6/3/10 12:39:28 AM] Jason Frey: right

[6/3/10 12:39:48 AM] Jason Frey: if i can fully communicate my ideas to you…then i don’t need you anymore

[6/3/10 12:40:35 AM] Jason Frey: but since i can’t…than we experience a sense of mystery that lures us into relationships…because we can’t fully experience what the other experiences…but we want to soo badly

[6/3/10 12:40:54 AM] Jason Frey: and so communities form

[6/3/10 12:42:03 AM] : so i think this ishelps me understand why i try and know everything i can about the people around me. so that i can get as much context as possible so that i can understand as best i can what it is they are trying to communicate to me. thats an encouraging thought

[6/3/10 12:42:08 AM] Jason Frey: therefore practices that support communities (including compassionate, patient, and humble listening/interpreation/interactions) are good ways of being human

[6/3/10 12:42:42 AM] Jason Frey: yeah you have good ways of being human =)

[6/3/10 12:42:48 AM] : write this/ publish this 🙂

[6/3/10 12:42:56 AM] : please

[6/3/10 12:43:21 AM] : it is so beautiful

[6/3/10 12:43:30 AM] Jason Frey: haha ok…can i dedicate it to you (and to all the communites that helped form me)?

[6/3/10 12:44:25 AM] : if you want to 🙂

[6/3/10 12:44:28 AM] : hahaha

[6/3/10 12:45:40 AM] Jason Frey: in conclusion what one can learn is that to be a good human means to try so hard at communicating (in all forms) with others which leads to community…one can also learn what are bad ways of being human…ways that cut off communication…, cut off listening….violence…suffering…pain…brokenness…are not good.

[6/3/10 12:46:15 AM] Jason Frey: this is why christ’s message makes the most sense….

[6/3/10 12:46:47 AM] Jason Frey: (psst…i think this is what he might have meant when he said “I am the way, the truth and the life. No one comes to the father except through me”

[6/3/10 12:46:50 AM] Jason Frey: )

[6/3/10 12:47:10 AM] Jason Frey: God is relationship….we can’t experience God unless we embrace community…

[6/3/10 12:47:33 AM]: but i wanna get saved 😦

[6/3/10 12:47:40 AM] : jk

[6/3/10 12:48:23 AM]: jelly beans man, jelly beans

[6/3/10 12:48:36 AM] Jason Frey: AHH well salvation involves community….(physical,spiritual, mental, so on are met in certain communities….aka the church)

[6/3/10 12:48:39 AM] Jason Frey: haha thanks

[6/3/10 12:50:12 AM] Jason Frey: this is why the statement, “there is no salvation outside the church” makes sense…because there is no salvation outside of this special, holy, sanctified, set apart community….because this is the only community that has at it’s core beautiful ways of being human….serving others, loving enemies, taking care of each other, breaking bread together….

[6/3/10 12:50:43 AM] Jason Frey: however one has the ability to point and say where the church is….but noone has the ability to point and say where the church is not…

[6/3/10 12:51:45 AM] : interesting.. could you say more about that.

[6/3/10 12:52:12 AM] : not overly confusing, id just like to hear more about

[6/3/10 12:55:07 AM] Jason Frey: well its a statment that shows how complex and deep the Church community is…

[6/3/10 12:56:20 AM] Jason Frey: so it would be good for me to recognize where the church is (because hopefully it is one of the communities i’m involved in because it creates in me virtues of appropriately engaging in communites as a good human)

[6/3/10 12:57:14 AM] Jason Frey: however it would be bad for me to point and say where the church is not because that is an indiviualist statment…a failure to recognize the other person or group of people as human…

[6/3/10 12:58:06 AM] Jason Frey: um here…saying where the church is not is an “othering” statement…. is that fair?

[6/3/10 12:58:21 AM] : i think so.

[6/3/10 12:58:51 AM] Jason Frey: we do it all the time on this side of the church…you know the side that is a little fed up and frustrated….

[6/3/10 12:59:04 AM] : ya…

[6/3/10 12:59:44 AM] Jason Frey: i think “othering” statements are statements that make us feel safe as individuals…

[6/3/10 12:59:51 AM] Jason Frey: or as groups of individuals…

[6/3/10 1:00:12 AM] : a question

[6/3/10 1:00:17 AM] Jason Frey: yeah?

[6/3/10 1:01:19 AM] : is there any value or place in recognizing any specifics in any person then. it seems that under this framwork of othering ideas, any label of any kind moves toward exclusivity of some sort. is this ok?

[6/3/10 1:02:05 AM] : example: so like i am a male. is it ok to recognize that.

[6/3/10 1:02:50 AM] : and recognize that there are traits/characteristics that i posses because of that, things that a female might not have

[6/3/10 1:03:57 AM] Jason Frey: umm right….i think statements like that are ok…given the limits of communication…so i think statements that recognize and embrace diversity contribute to community…

[6/3/10 1:04:19 AM] Jason Frey: but we must recognize that it is always easier to make “i am” statements that “you are” statements…

[6/3/10 1:04:37 AM] Jason Frey: right because though most people are male or female…there are some who are not either…

[6/3/10 1:04:58 AM] Jason Frey: and so this just exposes the limits of communication, and the need for community…

[6/3/10 1:05:09 AM] Jason Frey: because i want to know so badly what it’s like to be you

[6/3/10 1:05:58 AM] Jason Frey: so it’s possible that there is a difference between “othering” statements as a movement of fear and curiousity statements as movements of commun(ity)(ication)

[6/3/10 1:06:11 AM] Jason Frey: communalication?

[6/3/10 1:06:15 AM] : ha. i like it

[6/3/10 1:06:27 AM]: so i can describe me. but really only me

[6/3/10 1:07:17 AM] : and even that becomes difficult because your interpretation automatically changes what i am to you.

[6/3/10 1:07:18 AM] Jason Frey: yeah but you need to describe others too…so you can only truly describe yourself within this certain context (time, place, community…)

[6/3/10 1:07:38 AM] Jason Frey: right…and as soon as we start talking we both end up changing

[6/3/10 1:07:49 AM] : shit

[6/3/10 1:07:52 AM] : in a good way

[6/3/10 1:07:53 AM] : 🙂

[6/3/10 1:08:12 AM] Jason Frey: so like the statement “i am male” means something different to us than it did 10 years ago

[6/3/10 1:08:50 AM] Jason Frey: like in the past i would have had a simple view of that word…but now i know that when i say i am male…that means that i am part of athe most dominate group in society…

[6/3/10 1:08:55 AM] Jason Frey: that other’s aren’t male…

[6/3/10 1:09:06 AM] Jason Frey: that other’s can’t define their sex

[6/3/10 1:09:45 AM] Jason Frey: so even the labels/metaphors we use to define ourselves change…

[6/3/10 1:09:57 AM] Jason Frey: which is GOOD! it cultivates community

[6/3/10 1:10:10 AM] Jason Frey: things need to change…

[6/3/10 1:10:21 AM] : ya 🙂

[6/3/10 1:12:01 AM] Jason Frey: we need Wisdom to be an unreachable thing in philosphy, we need Creativity to be an unreachable thing in the arts, we need Logic to be an unreachable thing in the sciences, we need Infinity to be an unreachable thing in Math…and we need God, a freaking holy mystery that blows our effin minds because God is so incomparable to our little existence here on earth

[6/3/10 1:13:13 AM] Jason Frey: having these mysteries invites community to take place as we try and reach these mysteries….we are never fully going to be able to understand each other communally just like we will never fully grasp these mysteries….but to be a good human is to not give up trying….we try until we die…then we get resurrected

Image of God

Every so often I get these theological vomits. Apologies for the disturbing image, but usually I go through my days soaking in all my interactions with people, my experiences, my thoughts, what I’ve read and I begin to connect it to what I have learned. After awhile whatever is in my head begins to overflow and I just have to speak out my thoughts to better understand and organize them. Thus a theological ralphing takes place. Luckily I am usually by myself, otherwise people think I’m crazy…sometimes it happens with friends, which embarrasses me because I hog the conversation. With my newest spew I have focused around the phrase “Image of God”.

Now I desire very intensely to be careful with my language, with how I communicate my thoughts. Many of my friends would state that I use my hands and body a lot to communicate the position of my thoughts…however that is not so much possible here. However, I press on and desire for comments and questions from you.

So “Image of God”, imago dei. Often when someone asks me to describe my theological journey or understanding I describe how most Christians would begin with the phrase that Humans are sinners. That all have fallen short of the glory of God. Many develop their theologies off of these ideology. I, on the other hand, like to begin by stating that I believe all are created in the image of God. Most people are pretty well pleased with that. There is nothing too radical about that statement, that they understand. However, one should find this particular statement so controversial and profound. Why?

Well for starters we are giving an image to God. In other words definition, limits, beingness. In this statement we are saying something about God, that God is ultimately a thing, which we know not to be because for God to be God than God cannot be creature and everything that is has been created. In other words God is not a thing of any kind (this one will hear many times in Bluffton University theology classes).

Second we are making a claim about humans in that statement. Even with that clarification about God not being a thing, we are still stating that in God’s not thingness, we are created likewise. Weird. Humans. As humans we have definition, limits, being, senses.

This should begin to sound nonsensical. Humans are created in the image of a God with no image. (hold on to this thought).

For awhile I have been struggling to reconcile this knowledge that God does not exist. God does not exist, you heard correctly. It should make sense because only things exist, only creatures exists, only ideologies exist, only materials exist, all things, most theists/deists would say, are created. God is not created, God is creator (no this is not a blog about creationism). There is no evidence for God’s existence because all things are evidence. To know what something is, one must know what something is not. This just so happens to not be the case for God.

Like any good Christian theologian, I began to wrestle with this thought that maybe there doesn’t need to be a God. Or if there is a God, God would be unlike any failed human metaphors. Regardless which way one decides to talk, atheism is the word that appears. So I had a flash back to a couple years ago when I developed this way of thinking involving Santa Claus.

I began thinking that people can act out “Santa”, be generous, compassionate, loving…Santa would be a verb. People could practice the act of Santa. But! I thought so passionately, we can prove that Santa does not exist by going to the North Pole. I presented this thought process to my theology professor Trevor Bechtel and he responded saying something like, “That’s all good thinking, but people still get presents every Christmas.”

People still get presents every Christmas. That statement did not make sense to me until recently. Let me begin again.

The basic goal of this theological upchuck was to reconcile my thoughts on God not existing with Faith. This is where the Image of God phrase fits in. This phrase helped me deal with this mass difficulty.

So let’s begin with God. All the words and metaphors and myths that we use to explain God, talk about God, experience God, express, sense, define and so on…are all idols. We should realize that when we talk about God, that is not God. Yeah it sucks. That’s what you get when you want to worship the holy mystery that is. I am who I am….etc. And no matter what metaphors we use, or new modes of thinking, or new myths, metaphors, made-up words, or negative theology will not get us to a better understanding of God. So God.

Now let’s begin with humans. Humans are pretty easy to define. We have male and female, different races, two legs and two arms, two eyes a nose and mouth, language, culture, intellect, communication. We know our species well.

Do we? (enter corny thrilling music). If there is anything that describes humans it is that we often like to organize ourselves, by sex, gender, race, ethnicity, religion, culture, age, ability/disability, sexual orientation, language, nationality…and so on. By doing so it makes life easier to describe, experience and communicate. What is difficult is that we find that some people are not easy to organize…so we create new groups for them. These new groups however, distort the boundaries. Intersexed people are neither male nor female, so when they are attracted to others are they straight or gay? What if they are interracial then what? These boundaries begin to crumble. We begin to find that all groups are socially constructed…nothing is natural. What is horrific is that we have created a society where these boundary breakers don’t fit. For example, I learned earlier this week when we use the word disabled we automatically state that they are somehow different than us, when in fact the reason they are disabled is that we have created a society that does not work for them.

So by nature humans are boundary breakers.

And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light. 4 God saw that the light was good, and He separated the light from the darkness. 5 God called the light “day,” and the darkness he called “night.” And there was evening, and there was morning—the first day.

Evening and morning are not day and night. God likes boundary breakers. So humans are…humans. Difficult to define because what really entails humanness?  Is it physical appearance? Mental capabilities?  Sex? Humans in essence have a sense of mystery to them.

Humans if anything are defined by their relationship to other humans. It is good for people to have each other. (Look at next Blog where I discuss this further in a conversation). Humans are Humans in Community.

God (in the Christian tradition) is often defined as being in relationship with God’s self. The trinity.

Humans created in the image of God.

Some might misconstrue that statement and state that maybe that statement should read, “God created in the image of Humans.” However, as I will describe more thoroughly later, that is impossible because it is impossible for humans to be fully in communion with each other. The reason is whenever humans communicate there is a role of interpretation that must take place, communication is never fully translated. This would be experienced in Lacan’s lack or Derrida’s trace in Literary Theory.

Humans that are mysterious in their own right, are created in the image of God, a God who is fully and completely mysterious and yet perfectly sustaining and relational. However, that God which I just described is not God.

This raises other questions that I will blog later about involving God’s agency, the incarnation of Christ, and some other reflections.

Loving and sustaining God, fill our hearts with a desire to know, feel, experience, and touch you more and others more. Though we know that these are naive goals, we can hope for no less. May we search further the unfathomable depths of you and those created in your image. Amen.

Namaste.