The slideshow you see above is from the work of Kevin Rolly. He is a very talented and inspiring artist living in California. All rights were purchased through Eyekons Image Bank. Please do not copy any of the images. If you would like to purchase the images you can contact www.eyekons.com to inquire as to whether you might obtain this CD collection of "Tributes for Kings: The Stations of the Cross". Should you like to purchase a book of the images, along with descriptive prose from the author, you can go to this link: http://www.blurb.com/books/594511.
To me they represent a memory, filled with images and emotions, and wonder. And they are part of a book I am writing entitled "Miles to Go: the life of God laid bare".
The premise of this book is profound and simple. I believe that 'essentially the Bible is the love story we all want to live'. To live this life we must become One with someone else. It can be any one else, a child, a friend, a lover, a companion, just another particular person, in our own particular time, in our own particular life. While it can be anyone it must be Someone. Anything less is a fantasy vulnerable to our manipulations and imaginative desires. Love must be experienced in the real world of dialogue and relationship. It can't be known by 'thinking about it' or 'dreaming of it'. It must come through the crucible of relationship. Just one time we must give ourselves away so that another might raise us up. This is where love finds wings. And along that journey we will experience life, and if we hold the course till the very end; real love. There is not another way, no shortcut, no easy road. This is the way we meet God on a deep level. If God is love then we will come to know him in that experience.
For those who have found love--this will be a familiar road. Love is powerful. It is found in most of the songs we love, the movies we watch, and the stories we listen for. We are so hungry. And sometimes we don't even know it. We just long for...always long for.
May you find that which you've always longed for. May you find the courage to have your life laid bare, to be naked and unashamed, again. May you rise to another place--somehow familiar, somehow known, always waiting for you.
'I was bruised and battered and I couldn't tell what I felt
I was unrecognizable to myself
I saw my reflection in a window I didn't know
My own face
Oh, brother are you gonna leave me
Wastin´away On the streets...
'and my clothes don't fit me no more...I've walked a thousand miles just to slip this skin' `
Let us stand for right ...
The woman is a fire-
A woman is a fire; a campfire to be precise; she is born amidst more than just a little anticipation. People have gathered round, bringing sticks for kindling, newspaper for fanning, nurturing and coaxing the flicker of new life. Fanned smoke gives way to a burst of flame and a gathered community watches in wonder as her life begins. The fire ignites with a breath of oxygen.
She emerges spreading her fire from sticks, to boards, to logs. Wood helps her grow. The pit is really just a place to live out her life. She is growing up fast.
As time passes, people come to enjoy her, as she burns high in all her glory. She is a sight to see in her splendor. Folks from all around come to stare mesmerized, as she dances with a playful grace that is at once both wild and precise. Free and full, she is a blooming sea of goldenrods, reaching upward, climbing to the heights, leaning towards the stars.
This will not last forever, but she will never forget these moments, when she burned hot and high, when people stopped to look her way.
In time, her flame dies down. She matures. Sensuality gives way to a nurture that sacrifices in a mysterious way. She provides warmth and comfort as others bundle close to her; she opens herself to her children. There is laughter. She gives delights for consumption. She gives whatever it takes to bring joy as they bask in her presence.
It is a beautiful time. She remembers and still longs for the time she reached high into the sky, on tiptoe, teasing the branches of the trees with her slender flame and blazing beauty.
But while that was fleeting; this is forever.
Here memories sear into legacy. This is the high point of the fire. In this age, she is content to burn ever strong casting light out from within. Her warmth comforts all without bias. She protects the young from wolves of the night. Her aroma is of cedar, hickory, pine nuts; like incense filling the air with peace and calm. We don't just see her beauty we feel her presence as her aroma lingers in the room. She gives all she has. Home surrounds her.
n time, the wood no longer finds her. Nothing comes to feed this flame. The children are off to bed and we remain to watch her slowly fade. We reminisce about life as we recline in canvas or wicker. We are old friends. This is the time of contemplation and recall. Calming is the fire at this hour of the night. Fine aged wine is in order. The fire is tired and has earned these reflections with those whom she has loved and been loved. From time to time, someone turns a log that touches her gently, and she ignites again for but a moment. She lies back down too tired to burn long. These friends disappear to their place as orange embers burn down, fading, into this dark cold night.
One stays here.
It is me.
I stay by her side deep into her last refrain. I will observe her quiet descent to ash, smoke rising, gasping for oxygen she can no longer take in. I swallow hard. In the deep hours of the dark night, she is waning. Mercifully, I pour water on her fading form. It is salty water in the shape of a tear.
I accept it. She is gone before dawn.
Come morn laughter will greet the day and play forever in the sand, woods, and swings of this campground. Life will go on in blue sky and sunshine on the day before another fire is born. On it goes through autumn. Then winter comes. Winter will not withstand. She returns.
Because a woman is like a fire; a yuletide fire to be precise. Found beneath the mantle of the home; she warms this place, burning bright on a crisp winter’s night. Pictures dance above her warm glow, where family portraits rest proudly on display. The whole house draws near to her beauty. As for me, I lean into her. I bask proudly by her side. She is my companion deep into this Christmas Eve night.
For a woman is like a fire...one that burns in all seasons; and she burns in my mind all the time. This flame will never die.
Inclusion and identification or the Wittmerites and me
When ‘emergence’ speaks of the concept of ‘belong—believe’ the perception or communication may as first blush appear to be about inclusive language. Perhaps this inclusion is just an inevitable ‘child of the times’; a result of the cultural and educational priority of acceptance of other groups and respect for others views that has been hammered into the emerging generation from educational systems for several decades now. This is the outcome or fruit if you will, of that—or so it’s surmised. And so ‘belong—believe’ may appear to be a reaction to the changing times and pressures in the present world. It may seem to be a response to the pressure to tear down walls (sexual orientation, gender differences, racial divides and such) and ‘include’ everybody. It may feel to some like repositioned liberalism or rewrapped humanism. It may even appear to be on the edge of ‘universalism’. At first blush, from a certain perspective, 'emergence' with it's emphasis on 'belong--believe' can have that appearance.
So the understanding of ‘belong—believe’ given this perspective leads one to conclude that this inclusion is nothing more than an accommodation to the prevailing culture on a slippery slope on the way to believing nothing. And it is to be warded off—because it represents a road to a melting pot of mindless stew. What might be left, some reason, is a hodgepodge of mixed beliefs systems, so synchronized and distilled, that is has little aroma of the ‘gospel of Christ’ anymore.
‘Emergence’ from this viewpoint ‘doesn’t believe anything’ really. It is simply dangerous. And people 'need' to be warned. To the Wittmerites (a literary device I will employ to designate the group that adheres to this thinking,) their questions seem never answered but persistently sidestepped.
'These people are slippery in a Clintonesque sort of way’ they declare. ‘Why don’t they just answer the question? Why don’t you (emergence) define your box so we can know how to get in or how to be out?’
They are frustrated.
What Wittmerites are wrestling with comes from their paradigm or perception of what Jesus and his followers, chief of which is Paul, were ‘up to’.
In their world, they (Wittmerites) are the people who have been given the truth. They are ‘the new Jews’ who are the particular or peculiar people of the One God. All other gods are no gods at all. Wittmerites and their adherents have been grafted in to the vine. Given these presuppositions the task of the ‘enlightened’ is to help convince or persuade the ‘others’, those outside the circle, to come into their worldview or systemic understanding. This vocation is the same vocation of pre-Jesus Israel. The idea is that ‘we are to be the light of the world so that others might come in’.
This is familiar stuff. I have preached it for years. Essentially we are to scrap other agendas and agree to an understanding of the ‘what is’ that will lead us to eternal life. For the most part evangelical Christianity is strongly powered by these assumptions. The goal is to preach or proclaim this truth in our gatherings and perhaps in other settings so that ‘others might come in’. So 'outsiders' might confess, speak, say, agree. Then they are in. And then we are in communion. In order for others to belong they must first come in. In order to ‘belong’ you must ‘believe’. In order to have communion or fellowship you must enter the box.
I’ve have been there and it’s been hard to shake these deep seated convictions.
And it can only be done by looking closely at what Jesus was ‘up to’. He was, as I have said before, bringing an end to one story and beginning a ‘new story’. The question is: What is that new story about? How are we to understand that ‘new way’?
I believe that a major theme of Jesus’ vocation was to proclaim that the particular god of Israel contained in their land, writings, temple and traditions is now the One and only God of the world. One God for one people. One God who is for the entire human race.
Jesus was not so much about inclusion as He was about identification. He identified with ‘everybody’. In some ways the scriptures are more about Him than us. It is a subtle but significant shift to say that. Jesus was saying 'I have come to identify with this fallen place' more than ‘will you come into this circle so that I can include you in my deal’.
The gospel is about ‘God’s unveiled intentions’. When He descended He was saying ‘I am with you’. I am human. We have a common story. His baptism was a baptism of identification with humankind, His personal preferred title was—you guessed it—Son of Man. He didn’t just like the way it sounded. He was the Son of Man. He came to walk amongst the masses. He from the onset was and is about identification.
Identification and inclusion is not the same thing.
What emergence is trying to say, (as I understand it) is that we are to identify with the entire human race. We are not to exist here simply to invite others to ‘come into our story, to enter our metanarrative’, we are to say…’we recognize that we are already by virtue of being human in this together and have commonality’. Communion comes out of commonality. Words like pilgrim, journey, conversation, and community flow out of this theological assumption or worldview.
The oft sited illustrations are numerous in the life of Jesus in relation to table fellowship. The ‘in’ group was consistently at odds with Jesus over who he allowed into his ‘circle’ at the table. Why does he ‘sup’ with, ‘touch’, ‘talk’ to these people? Why is he over at the well with that Samaritan woman (so deep was this cultural conviction that even the disciples were flustered at times); Why does he heal the Centurion’s daughter (doesn’t he know he is the oppressor, the enemy, the one who has the foot of Rome on our neck, and after all isn't healing 'the children's bread' which begs the question; Who are the children anyway?), Why does he tell stories that make the ‘outsider’ the hero and our leaders (as indicated in The Good Samaritan parable) the bad guys? Why? The reason he did this was because he identified with them and their plight because they too are human. The answer to 'who is my neighbor?' is, of course, everybody… for 'God so loved the world’.
When this new movement speaks of community it is based on commonality rather than differences. They have commonality and in that—they have communion. For Jesus that centurion is ‘his brother’,that Canaanite woman who says ‘even the dogs get the crumbs from the master’s table’ is his ‘sister’. The woman caught in adultery is ‘His sister’ too, so He reaches down to lift her up. Jesus came to confront Judaism with their hoarding of God. They didn’t own Him. He identified with all—even the shyster Zaccheus, who was a ‘lost’ child of the homeland Israel.
He wasn’t against the Jew.
He was for the world.
And it was in these stories that Jesus was confronting the box which ‘kept 'them' (the others) at bay and told them they were less than human. They were treated as unworthy, as sinners’.
In the letter of Galatians we are told a fascinating story of Paul confronting Peter about this issue of table fellowship. Many conclude that Paul was somehow ‘one upping’ Peter to establish His authority as an apostle. They (when I say they I include me, because I have said it or acted in out from time to time) think the story is about hypocrisy. They say ‘isn’t that just like impetuous Peter who denied Jesus during Passover' and vow not to be like that, etc. While those things may be true and good, the central point of the message Paul is hammering home in Galatia is about ‘table fellowship and the gospel of Jesus Christ’.
When Peter is intimidated into moving away from his Gentile brothers by the pressure of the old system represented by the Judaizers he is ‘betraying the Christ’. This is ‘why’ the story is told in this letter, this is why the occasion is so important. It reveals what Paul is 'up to'. It isn’t simply recorded so we don’t act insincerely or indecisively like Peter did…it is included in the letter because it is essential to see this moving away from identification—as nothing less that a violation of ‘the gospel’ (of which Paul goes on to say interestingly enough is 'One gospel' and ‘the only gospel’) that has come to break down dividing walls, to establish neither Jew nor Greek, to bring down hostilities Indeed Paul says it is the mystery of the ages revealed. The mystery revealed is that God accepts Gentiles, wants to have table fellowship, and in this is putting away, or if you prefer, fulfilling the ‘old way’ or covenant and making room for the ‘new way’. These attitudes should have been put away long ago, Peter should know this, this is as central as can be. Jesus came to break down the barriers between Jew and Gentile so that they might be One, one spirit, one people, one God. This is the heartbeat to the gospel of Jesus Christ. It is one of the major themes of His life and vocation.
We should be like him.
Recently the band U2 conducted their Vertigo tour. One stop was in the city of Chicago on a night which happened to be Bono’s birthday. This is the concert they put on DVD for all time. I have it and I watched it. Man something was resonating there, very profound. In the midst of the concert Bono begins to point at his headband which has symbols of Christianity, Judaism and Islam on it. He begins to chant Abraham, Jesus, Mohammed all one-- again and again during the song, “ONE”.
Somehow I think Bono gets Jesus.
I was reading some reactions to the tour by people on various blogs. One contributor on a website called Rhythms of Redemption was really upset. She was at a concert on tour and she felt violated. “I thought Bono was a Christian, I was really disappointed” she lamented.
I think she missed the point.
What she was saying was Bono doesn't fit the box so he must be something other than Christian. I believe that what Bono is trying to tease out is that Judaism, Christianity, and Islam “all are monotheistic religions and all want to rise up against oppression, poverty, and inequity”.
He is simply saying let’s come together and get this right in our generation. We have commonality. Since all monotheistic religions have a desire to help the oppressed why can’t we ask them (us) to get it together without being seen as a traitor. We can all collectively cry out to the mother ship of religion to 'come together' particularly when we have an interest in justice and righteousness. It is obvious that this clarion call rings true for humankind.
Once I tried to suggest this to a Wittmerite, actually a seminary professor, by suggesting that perhaps Jesus was involved in revealing or unveiling something new in our space and time. The article I was responding to was mostly "Christians Make the Best Lovers". I felt sheepish about that declaration so I responded...
'...to conclude that people outside of Christianity cannot love or serve seems wrong, if not downright arrogant to me. People ‘love others’ or ’serve humanity’ as a result of their honor, integrity, or commitment to a truth or cause. Whatever the driving force the sacrifice is real and the resulting act of love most definitely ought to be acknowledged as ’sacrificial love’.
To say we have a corner on the market is offensive and drives a deeper wedge between those who need Jesus and the church. And the ‘rising tide of compassionate inclusivism’ (his term--mine would be attitude of commonality) may be actually be unstopping our ears in order to hear…I think Jesus said something about that.'
To which he replied:
'Also, do be careful when quoting Jesus. You don’t seriously believe that “He who has ears to hear, let him hear” was a reminder that we ought to be open to the insights of other religions, do you?'
And I was a bit stumped. Stumped because I do think others have something of value to say. Stumped because I think we should be listening. I was stumped because I do believe that we ought to be open to the insights of other religions. We should listen, converse, and learn. We should not be afraid. I seriously believe we should be open to insights of other religions.
I guess I'm stumped mostly because I believe Jesus will come out of those discussions standing tall. Jesus is that big. No one can really know this man without being impressed by him. I believe in Jesus. I think others will be drawn to him as a winsome, authentic person.
I do not believe Bono is “giving up” on Christianity. I believe He is Christian, but perhaps a new kind of Christian. I believe he is identifying with all mankind. And people are listening.
From time to time we have these experiences. These moments when we look about us and conclude this moment is surreal. I experienced one at Western Theological Seminary. My musical, artistic, emotionally deep friend Drew Nelson had called me to let me know he was speaking to a seminary class in Holland, Michigan. He was a little nervous and just needed some support. I went along. Now teaching a graduate level class is a stretch because Drew never went to college and really doesn't even like college, is a bit burnt out on church, let alone seminary. He is a voracious reader and thinker.
The 'twilight zone' moment came while I was sitting in this class listening to Drew weep as he spoke of his deep compassion for the marginalized. That doesn't happen a lot in seminaries. To my left sat several students, one of whom I was sure was homosexual. That was a bit odd since this was a seminary class and the I didn't think he would 'ever get a job (or call) in this town', yet here he was, accepted, and I'm not sure why. Across from me in full Indian dress sat an old chief Drew's friend named Two Dogs. He had been a mentor and was a father figure to Drew. He sat proud but I knew he was trembling inside. The kind of tremble you feel at the moment you want to punch someone in the face but compose yourself while the adrenalin seeps through your veins. He told me that it was really hard to come here because 'this was the enemy'. But here he was, right here, right now, on this Dutch, white (except for the imported African next to me; when you see a black guy in seminaries like this one you can pretty most know he isn't indigenous) hallowed seminary turf. He had passed through years, decades actually, with this burning hate and pain over the losses of his people. He told me that 'one little, two little, three little Indian..' was a song about the slaughter of young braves in a most brutal way. I sang that song as a kid in kindergarten. It was just a song to me. I never really gave it a thought, I didn't really understand. He was speaking to me, even though I was looking like the enemy, mostly because if Drew brought me then I must be ok.
Here he was. At wounded knee. Heart in hand. Hurt, and even shaking a bit. But here he was--and he was here--for his friend.
I can learn form that.
I think he would smoke the peace pipe with the people in this room. As hard as it would be--he would do it. Now that takes courage and deserves respect. I would like to learn about that. That takes forgiveness. I think Jesus would want us to know something about that, too. To say we have nothing to learn of Jesus from others is arrogance.
The Wittmerites are losing their grip. They are as Phyllis Tickle suggests beginning to move to the edges where they will eventually stake out their turf for the remaining few loyalists that still embrace their way. We will remember the ‘defenders of the faith’ the ‘apologists’ someday and wonder how their world was so small in the same way that we marvel that at one time women couldn’t vote and black folks were asked to move to the back of the bus. We eventually acknowledged them (I hesitate to use ‘them’ for obvious reasons) as ‘sister’, as ‘brother’, as female, as black, as--Us. And that is a good thing.
push and pull
History pushes while the future pulls. History informs us while our dreams and hopes beckon us. Together they can work in harmony if we embrace both without falling for one or the other.
They (the Wittmerites) can see it coming, it will take a while but it will happen. There is a shaking going on, at this time the Wittmerites hold the cards, but when they look over their shoulder they instinctively feel ‘little brother is coming’ in a MSU-Michigan sort of way. In football, the University of Michigan had always been 'the team' in the state of Michigan. After a comeback victory over rival MSU in 2007 one of the Michigan players Tailback Michael Hart told the media "Sometimes it's just like when you're playing your little brother in basketball," … "You let him get a lead and let him get excited, but then you take it back from him."
Hart then was asked if he regarded the Spartans as Michigan's subservient sibling.
"Yes I do," he said. "They do, so why shouldn't I."
Things change. 'Oh how the might have fallen'. This year Michigan suffered a 3-9 season while MSU went 9-3 and defeated the Wolverines in Ann Arbor 35-21. And little brother grew up.
And emerging ideas are 'growing up'. This shouldn’t be a competition but we mustn't be naive. There is, whether we like it or not, a conflict that comes out of convictions. A lot of blood was shed over the reformation and its convictions which provided the foundation of the Protestant Reformation.
At this time Wittermism holds sway...much of the 'resources' and backing find their locus right there. But other ideas and ways of thinking are seeping in. In the emerging marketplace of Christianity something is emerging.
And it can’t be stopped.
I believe Jesus is at the helm.
hope for something better
Come on up to 'The Rising'. In the end it is not about Obama, Bono, or Springsteen. The song I mean. These songs are always rising up to the One God. That God, as revealed by Jesus, is for Us.
What if it (‘The Great Emergence’ to borrow Phyllis Tickle’s phrase) is of God? What if He is moving things to a fantastic end? What if tomorrow really is good?
The Great Emergence may be somehow a reactionary movement. It may seem humanistic, or too open to other voices, it may seem risky. But I believe it is being pulled forth, birthed, and brought forward by God through His revealed agenda in Jesus. It is grasping what may have been lost or hidden for quite some time. It is not ‘better’ but it is coming from a different paradigm for a time such as this when it can be received. Just because something is a reaction doesn’t mean it is necessarily ‘bad’ or ‘wrong’. Sometimes reactions guide us along the way.
"If blood will flow when flesh and steel are one
Drying in the colour of the evening sun
Tomorrow's rain will wash the stains away
But something in our minds will always stay
Perhaps this final act was meant
To clinch a lifetime's argument
That nothing comes from violence and nothing ever could"... Sting in "Fragile"
I find it ironic that this beautiful song was sung as we remembered the tragedy of 9/11. Odd that a nation that has more armaments than the next 13 nations combined should grieve the use of violence against another. I know, I know, I know, we who live beneath the cloud of protection that the military provides for us, ought not question the ones who provide it. Colonel Jessup set us straight on that issue in the movie 'A Few Good Men'.
You can’t handle the truth! …Son, we live in a world that has walls, and those walls have to be guarded by men with guns. Who’s gonna do it? You? You, Lt. Weinburg? I have a greater responsibility than you could possibly fathom. You weep for Santiago, and you curse the marines. You have that luxury. You have the luxury of not knowing what I know. That Santiago’s death, while tragic, probably saved lives. And my existence, while grotesque and incomprehensible to you, saves lives. You don’t want the truth because deep down in places you don’t talk about at parties, you want me on that wall, you need me on that wall. We use words like honor, code, loyalty. We use these words as the backbone of a life spent defending something. You use them as a punchline. I have neither the time nor the inclination to explain myself to a man who rises and sleeps under the blanket of the very freedom that I provide, and then questions the manner in which I provide it. I would rather you just said thank you, and went on your way. Otherwise, I suggest you pick up a weapon and stand a post. Either way, I don’t give a damn what you think you are entitled to.
Pick up a weapon and find a post. The true definition of the consumeristic, militaristic, technological, therapeutic story we live in here in America. We need, we want, we search, we grope, we take, we defend, we kill, we see the doctor, the priest, or the lawyer to cover us for our sins. And we find no peace on earth. We become a monster so the monster will not take us. But it does and we have fashioned something which takes on a life and 'owns us'. Idols are no longer crafted of iron and wood. Perhaps they never really were. The are created by systems, and policies, and a strong need to protect and shelter ourself from the vulnerability which we all experience. Yes, we find you grotesque, yes, we need you on the wall. We are fragile. Be careful when you gaze in the abyss.
We live in a 'weapons producing nation under Jesus'. Really? Is there such a thing? Currently the United States has more armaments that the next 13 nations combined. And we deem ourselves Christian. I beg to differ. I think we should grasp his story and intentionally avert the story of armament we have been supporting. The hand we have been given should fold.
Here is what Jesus is saying in life and in death. 'He who lives by the sword dies by the sword'. Pilate employed the sword. Or it employed him. Either way. Blood flowed. That's the insidious nature of idols. We create them and they come to own us. Jesus did not employ legions of angels. He did not bow to that monster. It did not own him.
In the end we too, have blood on our hands...other's blood, our blood, way too much blood. Like Pilate we try to wash it away. But the stain remains. Sting is right. At the end of the day'something in our mind will always stay'. It cries from the ground since the first murder in sacred scripture. Where is your brother Cain?
And so, we the people, honor the victims and we pray for peace.
But why honor non violence only when you are the one who has been hit? Is that what we teach our children? Is this the legacy of power? Are we not our brother's keeper? And who might that be. How far do we extend brotherhood? Just define for me Jesus; Who is my neighbor? And so there comes a story 'There was a man on the road to Jericho'. I mean no disrespect to any of the people who lost loved ones that tragic day. I just set forth the plea suggesting that these well crafted words ('Perhaps this final act was meant to clinch a lifetime argument... that nothing comes from violence and nothing ever could') should give us pause while we stockpile more swords to tear flesh.
My condolences to all those born beneath an angry star.
christianity from the centerpoint outward