Monthly Archives: May 2007

Wikis, wikis, everywhere

The newest wiki (definition) I’ve come across is wikiletics. It was set up by Leonard Sweet, a forerunner in church imagination. Here’s what Rick Lawrence says about him:

In sum, Leonard Sweet sees things others don’t. He leans into the corners so he can peek around them. I can’t think of a better person for a brain-picking session on youth ministry’s second century. That’s why we asked him to point his mental browser at today’s young people and tell us what he sees.

I’m also excited that Sweet is going to be a keynote at Catalyst. (Oct. 3-5. Anyone else want to go? More people = better price…) At first I kinda dismissed him as a grandiose thinker without a gameplan, based on others’ descriptions of him. But the more I read, the more I see the error of my ways hahaha. A good example of me being proved wrong like this is in the above-mentioned interview he did for Rick Lawrence.

Anyway, back to the wiki. I created a login yesterday and put up my first contribution. It’s a sermon I composed and delivered last November. It’s also posted here within my wordpress.

Stewart, you should join in!

Transactions

What do you think of this?

“You can get anything you want if you help enough people get what they want.”

Author available upon commenting. (I don’t want the author’s identity to influence any unintentional biases…)

The Prophetic Imagination

Was updating my Bibliophilia page, and thought that it should probably just spill over into a main-page post.

Not entirely coincidentally, Matt and I are both reading Bruggeman’s The Prophetic Imagination right now. (I finished Yancey… for a little while.)

I still owe a couple posts to the “scripture interpretation” joint-blogging project. But after that, I look forward to bouncing a lot of ideas around with Matt about this book. In just the preface alone, I can already see some stuff that I don’t already entirely agree with, even though I think the book overall will be a very profound and stretching read. I really don’t like only reading things that I have a hard time disagreeing with, or reading things where I only disagree with nit-picky non-central details.

Walter Bruggeman does strike me as a very well-intentioned, moderate, and honest scholar. Contrary to the polarizing nature of some of our contemporary writers and thinkers, Bruggeman refuses to point ideological fingers in only one direction. When there’s criticism to dish out, he legitimately applies it to errors that lie in both ends of the lib-con spectrum. (A popular criticism of someone matching this description might be a “fence-sitter;” Bruggeman’s constant proposal to hold things in tension and let extremes supplement each other is far from fence-sitting.)

Anyway, just a couple main ideas that stand out from the preface:

The prophetic voice no longer has significant social or moral clout, so it must therefore be very sharp. “Cunning… nuanced… perhaps ironic.”

The pairing of “prophetic” with “imagination” leads us in a creative, artistic direction that will not be eagerly adopted (nor allow itself to be domesticated) by the hegemonic majority’s dominant paradigm of interpretation.

One thing that Shedden and I were talking about today is the headiness of P.I., and I kinda said that the book seems to have profound pastoral value. But if the greater portion of pomo Christ-followers are going to begin to live out the p.i., it will be their pastors who explained and lead and urged them into it. I don’t think that Joe Christian will put in the effort to read this book. (But that’s ok!)

Thesis #7

7. The saints of the church provide guidance in how to interpret and perform scripture.

From the earliest communities of the church, through whose scriptural interpretation we received the Christian Bible, to the present communities of biblical interpreters, generations of Christians have received this book as a gift from God and sought to order their lives according to the witness of scripture. This chain of interpreters, the communion of the saints, includes not only those officially designated as saints by the churches but also the great cloud of witnesses acknowledged by believers in diverse times and places, including many of the church’s loyal critics. This communion informs our reading of scripture. We learn from the saints the centrality of interpretive virtues for shaping wise readers. Prominent among these virtues are receptivity, humility, truthfulness, courage, charity, humor and imagination. Guidance in the interpretation of scripture may be found not only in the writings of the saints but also in the exemplary patterns of their lives. True authority is grounded in holiness; faithful interpretation of scripture requires its faithful performance.

How much of a gap can be endured between one’s right interpretation of scripture and one’s failure in performance (e.g., churches that practice racial exclusion or unjust divisions between rich and poor)? How do we understand what goes wrong when the Bible is used as an instrument of oppression and division?

I think each thesis just keeps getting better and better. After the halfway point in this progression of theses, there’s a growing emphasis on community. A key element is one that brings in a sort of checks-and-balances notion, one that safeguards against agenda-driven rogues completely writing the standard for everyone else. Recently I’ve felt frustrated with the damn tyranny of the minority that’s going on in my country and in my denomination… Sometimes I’m tempted to be bitter and assert that the current norm for how our lives are ordered runs counter to the actions of the great cloud of witnesses before us. But surely T7 is good for more than enabling me to point out how it seems that the prevailing interpretation and the actions emanating from it disregard the interpretation and action of the saints before us. Of course, it would be wrong to say that the saints’ interpretation and action must not change with the times, as well.

Anyway, the great balancing part about T7 is its suggestion of the virtues of “receptivity, humility, truthfulness, courage, charity, humor and imagination.” I’m entitled to my opinion on what kind of job we’re doing with interpretation and action that stays faithful to that of the saints before us, but if that’s where I stop –if all I do is form my critique– and then move on to write about T8 or something else, I’ve failed. No matter what I think about the current state of things, I’m supposed to engage that critique (positive or negative) with those virtues. I’m supposed to engage those around me with those virtues. I’m supposed to engage my own interpretation with those virtues. And really, my own interpretation must be lived out by me (“faithful interpretation of scripture requires its faithful performance”), and I can hold only myself to that interpretation. For everyone else, that’s where the receptivity… and humility… and truthfulness… and courage… and charity… and humor… and imagination comes in.

  • How much of a gap can be endured between one’s right interpretation of scripture and one’s failure in performance (e.g., churches that practice racial exclusion or unjust divisions between rich and poor)? I’m hesitant to draw a line for where you have to declare a person or a church officially heretical or hypocritical; it’s a losing battle because we’re all suckers for legalism. I do think that when you see this mismatch going on, it definitely needs to be discussed, and it’s all the more important to make sure you’re doing your part to kick into high gear the exercise of those above-mentioned virtues.
  • How do we understand what goes wrong when the Bible is used as an instrument of oppression and division? What’s gone wrong is that too many people fail to practice T7’s virtues. Things should never get to the point where the majority of those engaged in the interpretation of scripture (or those with the most influence) are seeking to accomplish things that run completely opposite to the spirit of the lives and practices of the cloud of witnesses.

Matt’s post here.

Retreat

Today I’m getting a much-needed retreat. Thankfully I’m not one of those super-busy types that people try to track down even on days off, so I suppose I can tell you where I’m at. I’m up in a secluded little town called Ouray, about 70 miles north of Durango. I’ve passed through before, but never really stopped. The 12,000-foot mountains fencing in the town 360 degrees around are just mind-bottling. Durango looks like it’s in the middle of Kansas compared to the valley that Ouray sits in.

 The occasion for this retreat is a gathering of others within my presbytery who are also on the path seeking ordination. It’s called an Inquirers’/Candidates’ Retreat. So there are about 10 of us at various stages along that journey, and we’re each joined by our mentors from our local congregation, and there are some presbytery-level folks here too. Coming from a congregationalist background, I would have initially flinched to read about such a gathering: “Ugh, all sorts of committee business and meetings and whatnot.” I would have assumed it would be a lot of wasted meeting time and red tape and whatnot.

So far, it has been nothing but refreshing. For starters, once I finally cleared the north end of Durango (a 20-minute exercise in traffic navigation), I had an absolutely breathtaking drive this morning, crossing three 10,000-foot passes, and zig-zagging down switchbacks, spying abandoned mining camps off in the distance, passing along a ledge of a road through a steep canyon with absolutely vertical (if not inverted in some places) thousand-foot walls. When I arrived at First Pres. Ouray it was a pretty informal time of just chatting with folks while everyone arrived. A good number of the other Inquirers and Candidates are in youth ministry jobs as well. Also, I met someone preaching her ordination sermon this weekend whose call is as a campus pastor at a college in Edmonton, Alberta. (Cool, I hadn’t thought about attaining PCUSA ordination while working with college kids…) After the mingling time, we went upstairs for a great worship service. Some songs that I would actually call “contemporary,” as well as a few like “Come Thou Fount.”  Thankfully none of that Jesus is my significant other crap, though. Then the dude who just happens to be my presbytery-level mentor (not to be confused with congregation mentor), the Rev. Tom Hansen of First Pres. Grand Junction, shared some thoughts on pastoral calling. Tom mainly referenced Peterson and Willamon and read Moses’ and Jonah’s stories from The Message. His words penetrated to my core more than any message or sermon in recent memory. A lot about the idea of call vs. career, and the passage from Peterson’s book was awesome for that. Then a light lunch with friends also here from my home church, and topped off with a stroll downtown to a good cafe, which is where I’m sitting now.

I guess today probably counts as work, so I guess it’s safe to say work hasn’t left me feeling this refreshed in ages. You should find a way to have your work do the same for you.

Recent Decline in Blogging

My friend Stewart shot me an email this morning to ask if I was alright and whatnot, because it’s been a good week-&-a-half since I posted last. I anticipate to be able to knock out the final portions of the Scripture Interpretation Project early next week, and then hopefully Shedden and I will get back on track with some joint-blogging on a book.

I’ve been swamped at work the past couple weeks, and that’s where I do most of my blogging, because I can write it off as theological development. Last Saturday (my day off, mind you), I worked from 9:30AM to 11:00PM… scanning dozens of pictures and working on a slideshow for a lunch honoring our high school graduates, and having an interviewee fly down for our children’s director position. I’m not throwing a pity party, but that’s just an example of a couple big projects that were going on recently.

Also, Anina’s mom and stepdad are in town right now, so we’re playing host a lot when I’m not working (and even taking some time off work too!). Contrary to the popular stereotype, I’m having a blast with my in-laws in town. They’re staying at a beautiful bed-and-breakfast north of town, and the owners are always inviting Anina and I to come out for breakfast and to hang out. Sunday night will be cigars around the firepit! (Shameless plug: Country Sunshine is the name, and I’d highly recommend it. Walter and Jodi are the owners, and they’re awesome people!)

I finally finished Yancey’s Reaching for the Invisible God, a book I originally opened in 2003. I’ve read the first few chapters maybe 4 to 6 times because I’d start and then lose momentum and restart a year later. But now it’s done, and it was great.

Now I’m in Bruggeman’s The Prophetic Imagination. It was originally published in 1978, and I’ve got a 2000 edition, and just taking notes on Bruggeman’s thoughts in the Y2K Preface is a chore! Interesting material, for sure, but quite complex.

Against a Wall

When your back goes to the wall it is sensible to see that the wall is well founded and not given to collapse.

-Sebastian Dangerfield, in The Ginger Man, by J.P. Donleavy