Friday, November 02, 2018

Church of the Rez: The Great Doors are finally finished!

My friend, Janice Skivington Wood, helped design these doors for her church in Wheaton, IL. They are breathtaking, and the story of their creation is humbling. Praise God for giving us artists, and craftsmen, and theologians, and congregation that value beauty.

https://spark.adobe.com/page/fgRpgrjVd2Lvw/?fbclid=IwAR0Sn2TX7jae2RpdO3WdP18dMfpbqBcpqkhfjvy_4ENEwR3EFmwgMD-IkhE

Wednesday, October 31, 2018

Being pro-life without being a pro-life voter

This is a worthwhile essay, and I agree with it wholeheartedly.

https://peaceaftertrauma.com/2018/10/23/blood-on-our-hands-7-reasons-why-im-a-christian-against-abortion-who-doesnt-vote-pro-life/?fbclid=IwAR3Wz0Poza-JmS0StBtIlgmAbYW9CpnH71T5XKecywiZmC1zqtpxJoS1AKI

Blood on Our Hands: 7 Reasons Why I’m a Christian against Abortion Who Doesn’t Vote Pro-life

As we approach the November 6 election in the US, I again hear and read comments that people who vote for pro-choice candidates have the blood of millions of murdered babies on their hands. Sometimes the opinion includes the question of how such voters can call themselves Christian.
I’m one of the people those comments target. I am a Christian from the Anabaptist stream — a historic peace church that includes Mennonites and Amish — and I usually don’t vote for so-called pro-life candidates.
Why? Because the Anabaptist ideal, as I understand it, is that as followers of Jesus, we are to be as pro-life as possible in our complex world. (Some people use the term “completely pro-life,” which makes me wince a bit. Because humanly speaking, when are we consistently and completely anything?)
This means no killing. By abortion. Or the death penalty. Or of enemies, even in war.
You see where this leaves me? Given my faith perspective, to cast any vote is to have blood on my hands. I can find pro-birth candidates. But I have yet to find a completely pro-life politician in any party.
Historically, Anabaptist Christians have “solved” this dilemma by not voting at all. I grew up hearing that not voting is a witness to society that we belong to the Kingdom of God, not to the kingdoms of this world. I was taught that not voting is an expression that we are in the world but not of the world.
Some Anabaptists still follow this practice. Others, including me, believe that we have a responsibility to vote, that there are no pure enclaves under a bushel somewhere to hide in and be absolved of the whole bloody mess. As German theologian and anti-Nazi activist Dietrich Bonhoeffer said, “Not to speak is to speak. Not to act is to act.”
Given the complexity, why don’t I just vote for pro-life candidates, as some of my fellow Anabaptists do, even if those politicians are more pro-birth than pro-life? At least I’d know I’m not supporting the murder of babies. Here are seven head-and-heart reasons:
  1. My convictions are shaped by my work as a counselor with left-behind children in public schools, some of whom wished they had never been born. I’m glad people care passionately about unborn children, but I find my heart breaking when that passion seems to dissipate once a baby is born and disappears altogether at our borders.
  2. I’ve done community trauma work on five continents and have witnessed the devastation and suffering of real people impacted by violence, migration, war, injustice, and dignity violations. The way our elected officials vote on war, immigration, and foreign aid have life and death consequences. I want the babies and children in those far-off places, created in the image of God just like my own, to live and thrive, too.
  3. Pro-life legislators are more likely than their pro-choice counterparts to vote against the very programs that research shows decrease abortion rates: access to affordable contraceptives, age-appropriate sex education, paid maternity leave, and access to affordable child care.
  4. Pro-life politicians are more likely to support the death penalty and increased defense spending, which includes bombs and drones that kill other people’s babies and children.
  5. Even if I don’t condone abortion, I know it’s going to happen. I don’t condone war either, but I know it’s going to happen. I don’t support defunding and closing veterans’ hospitals as an attempt to stop war. Rather, I put my effort into supporting policies that reduce the likelihood of war. Likewise, I believe the most effective anti-abortion work I can do is supporting policies that prevent abortion and decrease abortion rates rather than working to defund or close clinics or criminalize abortion. I value the lives of women having abortions and want them to be safe, just as I value the lives of our veterans who need care even while disagreeing with their choice to go to war.
  6. Being as pro-life as possible means we don’t kill through supporting policies that deprive those unaborted babies, once they get older, of healthcare or school lunches. We don’t kill by allowing assault weapons on our streets or supporting systems that pipeline young people to prison. We don’t kill this beautiful planet Creator God has given us through policies that increase our carbon footprint.
  7. If we’re one-issue pro-life voters, foxy politicians — as Jesus called Herod — play us. All they need to do is say they are pro-life, and voilà, they have a whole flock of Christian voters in their pocket, regardless of their character and even if they support policies that increase abortion rates and kill in other ways.
The way I vote comes from being deeply rooted in my 500-year-old faith tradition, yes. But it’s not just something I inherited. It’s based on what I have seen and heard and carefully considered. When another Christian disparages my lifetime calling and my faith, it saddens and sometimes angers me.
Amidst the clamor that deepens divisions, it’s easy to forget that Jesus said the greatest commandment is to love each other. I wish we loved enough to stop demonizing: “Pro-life Christian voters are simplistic and end up harming women and children with their narrow focus;” “Pro-choice voters are disingenuous child murderers who can’t possibly be Christian.”
What if we stopped the othering rhetoric and started over with something we all agree is solidly Christian, a humble confession: We all have blood on our hands.
Maybe then we could work together, despite our differences, in the life-giving spirit of that greatest commandment. Love.
As we approach the November 6 election in the US, I again hear and read comments that people who vote for pro-choice candidates have the blood of millions of murdered babies on their hands. Sometimes the opinion includes the question of how such voters can call themselves Christian.
I’m one of the people those comments target. I am a Christian from the Anabaptist stream — a historic peace church that includes Mennonites and Amish — and I usually don’t vote for so-called pro-life candidates.
Why? Because the Anabaptist ideal, as I understand it, is that as followers of Jesus, we are to be as pro-life as possible in our complex world. (Some people use the term “completely pro-life,” which makes me wince a bit. Because humanly speaking, when are we consistently and completely anything?)
This means no killing. By abortion. Or the death penalty. Or of enemies, even in war.
You see where this leaves me? Given my faith perspective, to cast any vote is to have blood on my hands. I can find pro-birth candidates. But I have yet to find a completely pro-life politician in any party.
Historically, Anabaptist Christians have “solved” this dilemma by not voting at all. I grew up hearing that not voting is a witness to society that we belong to the Kingdom of God, not to the kingdoms of this world. I was taught that not voting is an expression that we are in the world but not of the world.
Some Anabaptists still follow this practice. Others, including me, believe that we have a responsibility to vote, that there are no pure enclaves under a bushel somewhere to hide in and be absolved of the whole bloody mess. As German theologian and anti-Nazi activist Dietrich Bonhoeffer said, “Not to speak is to speak. Not to act is to act.”
Given the complexity, why don’t I just vote for pro-life candidates, as some of my fellow Anabaptists do, even if those politicians are more pro-birth than pro-life? At least I’d know I’m not supporting the murder of babies. Here are seven head-and-heart reasons:
  1. My convictions are shaped by my work as a counselor with left-behind children in public schools, some of whom wished they had never been born. I’m glad people care passionately about unborn children, but I find my heart breaking when that passion seems to dissipate once a baby is born and disappears altogether at our borders.
  2. I’ve done community trauma work on five continents and have witnessed the devastation and suffering of real people impacted by violence, migration, war, injustice, and dignity violations. The way our elected officials vote on war, immigration, and foreign aid have life and death consequences. I want the babies and children in those far-off places, created in the image of God just like my own, to live and thrive, too.
  3. Pro-life legislators are more likely than their pro-choice counterparts to vote against the very programs that research shows decrease abortion rates: access to affordable contraceptives, age-appropriate sex education, paid maternity leave, and access to affordable child care.
  4. Pro-life politicians are more likely to support the death penalty and increased defense spending, which includes bombs and drones that kill other people’s babies and children.
  5. Even if I don’t condone abortion, I know it’s going to happen. I don’t condone war either, but I know it’s going to happen. I don’t support defunding and closing veterans’ hospitals as an attempt to stop war. Rather, I put my effort into supporting policies that reduce the likelihood of war. Likewise, I believe the most effective anti-abortion work I can do is supporting policies that prevent abortion and decrease abortion rates rather than working to defund or close clinics or criminalize abortion. I value the lives of women having abortions and want them to be safe, just as I value the lives of our veterans who need care even while disagreeing with their choice to go to war.
  6. Being as pro-life as possible means we don’t kill through supporting policies that deprive those unaborted babies, once they get older, of healthcare or school lunches. We don’t kill by allowing assault weapons on our streets or supporting systems that pipeline young people to prison. We don’t kill this beautiful planet Creator God has given us through policies that increase our carbon footprint.
  7. If we’re one-issue pro-life voters, foxy politicians — as Jesus called Herod — play us. All they need to do is say they are pro-life, and voilà, they have a whole flock of Christian voters in their pocket, regardless of their character and even if they support policies that increase abortion rates and kill in other ways.
The way I vote comes from being deeply rooted in my 500-year-old faith tradition, yes. But it’s not just something I inherited. It’s based on what I have seen and heard and carefully considered. When another Christian disparages my lifetime calling and my faith, it saddens and sometimes angers me.
Amidst the clamor that deepens divisions, it’s easy to forget that Jesus said the greatest commandment is to love each other. I wish we loved enough to stop demonizing: “Pro-life Christian voters are simplistic and end up harming women and children with their narrow focus;” “Pro-choice voters are disingenuous child murderers who can’t possibly be Christian.”
What if we stopped the othering rhetoric and started over with something we all agree is solidly Christian, a humble confession: We all have blood on our hands.
Maybe then we could work together, despite our differences, in the life-giving spirit of that greatest commandment. Love.

Saturday, October 27, 2018

Obama Finally Speaks Out

Obama's speech in Milwaukee, 10/18

https://www.facebook.com/TheIndependentOnline/videos/1873750602742737/?hc_ref=ARRcoCwlJq8TkyMKPeWpt7p6lfdKrxMz_vcj06gwgtHExaZtLrNQpbpQlUnLC-DDbFI&__xts__[0]=68.ARB2gLNZEC9HV7RMHX6dFCgyaJ2WKyq25zmUbzh-gUsvw-mZkoWqAAqSr_EvDfCCM_NpBBEPV2mm0wAL3o49srdudbeDMiohfzO7wAdx57pf_ch-4YNbV4awB5SkX98l3zyVMgJJNc_E0xLzbi38ZjBOtc1BOQZb1cVKjOc9oxPgdBJjCf2dvcvEi3tGyvcubwyJgwksqrluPTI9s6n-DhsBrHKPpvFz6llGoRHi7A6PxLhmELsgGuB6s9RbNNTr5V3N5g&__tn__=FC-R

Thoughts upon the passing of Eugene Peterson, 1932-2018

Eugene Peterson has died. One of his last words was "Let's go!"

“Resurrection does not have to do exclusively with what happens after we are buried or cremated. It does have to do with that, but first of all it has to do with the way we live right now. But as Karl Barth, quoting Nietzsche, pithily reminds us: ‘Only where graves are is there resurrection.’ We practice our death by giving up our will to live on our own terms. Only in that relinquishment or renunciation are we able to practice resurrection.” --Eugene Peterson (1932-2018)


IMO, Peterson is right about relevance, grandiosity and power.
Relevance has eclipsed faithfulness for American evangelicals. Thus, when they are presented opportunities to demonstrate their faithfulness--welcoming the stranger, caring for the poor, preferring others in love--they forget how to walk their talk, and easily swallow the different gospel of nationalism, grandiousity and self-interest.


8 church leaders share what they learned through his books, letters, and friendship.


Eugene Peterson, author of The Message Bible, frequent contributor to Leadership Journal, and pastor to pastors, passed away on October 22, 2018. Upon learning of his death, we asked several church leaders—some who learned from Peterson’s writing, others who were personally mentored by Peterson for decades—how he shaped their ministries. What lessons from Peterson, we asked, reframed their understanding of the pastoral calling?

Choose your words carefully.

Dean Pinter, rector at St. Aidan Anglican Church in Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan
Eugene was a poet. Of course, he was much more than that. Like a poet, however, he was careful with his words. He chose them wisely and used them winsomely.
I was one of Eugene’s students at Regent College from 1992 to 1996. My wife’s office at Regent was next door to his. (This helped with our initial connection!) We stayed connected over the years—they visited us in our homes in England and Canada, and we visited them often in their home in Montana.
While his numerous published works attest to the fruitfulness of his words and the congruence with which he wove them into the fabric of his life, these are a few of the words he shared with me personally that continue to sustain my life and ministry.
Resurrection. Amen.
These were the final and fitting two words that Eugene preached at my ordination. The text he chose for his sermon was John 12:20–30. As he reflected on the pastoral implications of the manifestation of Jesus’ glory, Eugene reminded me, a would-be priest, that “glory” means entering into what Jesus wants, not what I want. All the things that are poor and despised by the world, including suffering and death, are backlit by the glory of God. These things appear dark, but if we look at them through the gospel lens and through the story of Jesus, then suddenly they start to look very different. As he closed his sermon, Eugene pointed out that Jesus’ prayer, “Father, glorify your name” (John 12:28), is the only prayer he prayed in which we are told his Father gave an answer. A voice from heaven replied, “I have glorified it, and I will glory it again” (v. 29). This is a reminder, Eugene said, that we shouldn’t worry that our prayers are not often answered. Jesus only got one! Yet in this, God would glorify Jesus in his own way. God the Father did do it his way. Eugene concluded, “Jesus wrote that gospel into the depths of human pain and disaster and ruin and resurrection. Amen.”
Poetry.
Like many pastors and priests, I find Mondays to be difficult. Most ministers take Mondays off to rest and recover, as Eugene did. Unfortunately, this has never worked well for me, yet I still need a way to ascend from the “Arimathean Tomb” that is Monday. Eugene offered a one-word solution: “Poetry.” He suggested I take an hour or so at the beginning of every Monday to read poetry. So that’s what I do. On one axis of my desk in my parish study sit Bibles, prayer books, and lexicons—the necessary tools to listen attentively and restoratively to God’s Word. On the other axis sit books of poetry—George Herbert, Malcolm Guite, Luci Shaw, Denise Levertov, Seamus Heaney, Christina Rossetti, and, yes, Eugene Peterson—the necessary tools to listen attentively and restoratively to human words. Poetry, to crib a line from a Wendell Berry poem, helps me to “practice resurrection.”

Relevance is irrelevant.

Mark Galli, editor in chief of Christianity Today
I first met Eugene at a conference for young Presbyterian pastors, held at Mt. Hermon in the woodsy Santa Cruz Mountains on the central California coast. This would have been in the mid-1980s. His talks were about faithfulness in the pastorate, and he was exegeting the Book of Jonah to this end. (These talks were the first draft of his later book, Under the Unpredictable Plant.) Simply put, his talks were riveting, a refreshing breeze of biblical interpretation and theological insight for young, tired pastors on retreat.
During one question-and-answer session, a pastor asked Eugene how pastors could be more relevant in our preaching. In those years, we were one and all enamored with the excitement coming out of Barrington Illinois, the home of the then shiny and very relevant Willow Creek Church. So we all mentally leaned forward to hear his answer.
Eugene stared at the pastor for what seemed a minute, although it was probably just 10 seconds. But the silence began to feel uncomfortable. His face did a slight contortion, and then he said, with evident disgust, “Relevance—That’s a Nazi word.”
My memory says one or two gasped aloud in disbelief. One pastor may have let out a brief laugh, perhaps because he agreed, or maybe to ease the awkwardness of the moment. All in all, we were in a state of shock.
Eugene went on to explain that pandering after relevance is a sure way to destroy the integrity of the church. In the early 1930s, Germans suffered from severe low self-esteem after being humiliated by defeat in World War I and the subsequent Versailles Treaty. The Nazi party made these disconsolate citizens once more feel proud of being German. The party clearly met felt need. Their message was very relevant at the time. Instead, Eugene exhorted us to faithfulness—as he did in his entire ministry. (Anyone who heard Eugene preach knows what it meant when Eugene exhorted his listeners.) For Eugene, faithfulness was first and last.
During the coffee break afterwards, we chatted vigorously about what he had said. Some remained unconvinced about the irrelevance of relevance. But I was one who, from that day forward, held the maxim of our era in less and less esteem.

Pastoral ministry is serious, consequential work.

Trygve Johnson, Hinga-Boersma Dean of the Chapel at Hope College
I first heard the name Eugene Peterson in college. My chaplain, after listening to me wrestle with a sense of calling, squinted like a doctor making a diagnosis, pulled a book from his shelf, and handed me The Contemplative Pastor. “Read this!” he said. I did. In Eugene’s words, I found a vision for pastoral life I had always hoped existed but did not know how to articulate.
Years later Eugene befriended me. He had recently retired to Montana. I was a young aspiring pastor, and he took me on, inviting me into a mentoring relationship through letters, conversations, books, and pilgrimages to Flathead Lake. This invitation changed my life and my ministry.
Eugene gave me a vision and a language for who I could be as a pastor. He restored honor and dignity to the calling of the pastor. Eugene revived a vision of a pastor as someone serious, intelligent, savvy, creative, playful, and prophetic. Eugene encouraged those in ministry to resist the seductive sirens of the pragmatic pastor, in favor of a ministry animated by the patient and cruciform witness of a long obedience in the same direction.
Through this encouragement, Eugene pulled me into a larger world of consequence. His words and vision helped me see and experience the wide-open country of salvation. Here, Eugene invited me to explore the geography of the Trinity, which expanded my imagination and bent my reason back into shape. The use of cliché or paint-by-numbers theology was unworthy of the work. The pastor, Eugene counseled, required a charged imagination, an earthy piety, with a double shot of humor! He showed me that a ministry at play in the expansive fields of the Triune God was a more interesting place to spend the day.
The key to this larger world was the Bible. Eugene showed me how to read with a scriptural imagination. He taught me that the goal of reading Scripture was not to know more, but to become more. His great lesson was that Scripture had everything to do with the neighborhood, because the neighborhood is where Christ shows up.
Maybe Eugene’s greatest legacy on my ministry was that he taught me to love by simply loving me. Eugene gave me time. He always wrote back. He never refused a call. He always welcomed me into his home. Never was I treated as an abstraction or a project to solve. He treated me as a friend. He showed me that healthy ministry requires, even demands, relationships where we can be known and understood.
Receiving the news of Eugene’s death feels like what the Fellowship of the Ring in the Tolkien novel of the same name must have experienced when they lost Gandalf. What do you do when your guide is gone? But Eugene taught us well, for he reminded us to practice resurrection. And so we carry the Message on!

There is no ministry in the abstract.

Marshall Shelley, former editor of Leadership Journal, and now director of the Doctor of Ministry program at Denver Seminary
Many scholars revel in abstractions. I never met a more scholarly man than Eugene Peterson, who once wrote an article on the middle voice in Greek grammar and its implications for our understanding of prayer.
But I also never met a man who was more insistent on the concrete embodiment of biblical truth. Never content to merely grasp the principle, he pressed on to specific application.
One example: when his church in Maryland grew beyond the point where he could know everyone’s name, he stepped down because he didn’t want to be pastor in name only. He insisted that pastoring, shepherding, is personal, and when the church grows beyond the point of knowing everyone personally, he refused to accept the abstraction of “pastor.”
He was intensely practical. On one of my visits with him during his pastorate in Maryland, he introduced me to the works of philosopher-farmer Wendell Barry. For instance, he read to me this excerpt from Berry’s book The Gift of Good Land: "Charity is a theological virtue and is prompted, no doubt, by a theological emotion, but it is also a practical virtue." It cannot be practiced "by smiling in abstract beneficence on our neighbors. … It must come to acts, which must come from skills."
How can you love your neighbor if you don't know how to build or mend a fence, how to keep your filth out of his water supply or your poison out of his air? How will you practice virtue without skill? The ability to be good is not the ability to do nothing. It is the ability to do something well—to do good work for good reasons.
With Berry, as with Peterson, commitment and love are not simply a mental attitude; they mean developing an ability to improve the situation, to further the cause you're committed to.
Yet while deeply committed to people and community, Eugene wasn’t sentimental about them. He wrote,
When I became a pastor, I didn't like much about the complexities of community in general and of a holy community in particular. I often found myself preferring the company of people outside my congregation, men and women who did not follow Jesus. Or worse, preferring the company of my sovereign self. But I soon found that my preferences were honored by neither Scripture nor Jesus.
I didn't come to that conviction easily, but finally there was no getting around it. There can be no maturity in the spiritual life, no obedience in following Jesus, no wholeness in the Christian life apart from an immersion in, and embrace of, community. I am not myself by myself. Community, not the highly vaunted individualism of our culture, is the setting for living the Christian life.
As a scholar, pastor, and Bible translator, Eugene Peterson saw with vivid clarity the world around him. And guided his students and readers into personal engagement with life and the Author of this world and the world to come.

Every step is integral to your journey.

Dante Stewart,student at Reformed Theological Seminary in Augusta, Georgia, where he teaches Bible at Heritage Academy Augusta
I remember like it was yesterday. I sifted through people’s ragged, throwaway books in the free bin at the bookstore, and there it was. No marks, no scuffs, as if it were waiting eagerly to be picked up by me. It was Eugene Peterson’s memoir, The Pastor. In some providential way, God was saying, “Eugene, Stew. Stew, Eugene. I’ve been wanting to introduce you to one another.” As I reflect on the legacy of Eugene Peterson, I can honestly say his life changed my life.
One of the things brother Eugene showed me was that everything is interesting—in the words of Denise Levertov, “every step an arrival.” As I made my way through The Pastor, I felt as if I were living alongside him. Whether it was the story of his formation as a pastor, his Pentecostal roots, the humorous story of his first “convert,” it was clear that he had a deep awareness that every step was integral to his journey, one step closer to being who God called him to be. Events mattered. People mattered. The Resurrection mattered. My spiritual formation mattered. Through him, I’ve been able to make sense of my own steps. When I read about his mother, I saw my own mother. When I read about his Pentecostal roots, I saw my own. When I read his life, I saw my life.
I’ll never forget how moved I was by the story of his father’s butcher shop; it changed the way I viewed my job as barista and an aspiring pastor. The shop was his introduction to the world of congregation, a place of safety where everyone felt welcome, his eventual workplace as a pastor. Each person had dignity. Through him, I’ve come to see my coffee shop in the same way.
I spend a lot of time with coffee. In the spirit of brother Eugene, I was reflecting on the roasting process. It is slow. It is intricate. It is tough and rough. It is specific to the bean. It is communal. Yet, I realized that it’s not much good for anything if it’s not poured out for others. No one roasts a batch of coffee and leaves it on the shelves. Likewise, life and living is not much value if it is not poured out for the good of others. It does not care about the “who” like we do. It only cares to produce real good for real people. That is its value. And this was the value of Eugene: his life and ministry were wholly devoted to being poured out for others. He showed me that every cup is a story and every story is a sermon. And for this, I’m eternally thankful.

Christ is all we have to offer.

Kyle Strobel, teaches spiritual theology for Talbot’s Institute for Spiritual Formation and preaches at Redeemer Church, La Mirada, California
The first time I met Eugene, he was speaking to about 50 pastors. I had never seen such a broad range of pastors come to hear someone before. One’s theological background seemed insignificant; no one questioned that Eugene brought immense wisdom to pastoral ministry. But many of the pastors left feeling a bit empty. They had come hoping Eugene would solve pressing problems they believe they had, but he wasn’t selling quick solutions or simplistic ministry tricks.
I can still feel the desperation in the questions, yet Eugene refused to respond with anything other than Christ. “We have no Plan B,” he told them, because offering Christ is all we truly have. Characteristically, it was through a meditation on Winnie the Pooh that Eugene encouraged these pastors with Galatians 6:9–10: “And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up.” Do not grow weary. This was the message he brought that day, a message almost impossible for pastors to hear.
From that day on, I started writing letters to Eugene, an ancient pastoral practice he continued to imbue with life. He stood against the quest for power, significance, and notoriety from within the pastoral office itself and served for decades as a signpost for another path. He refused to see other churches and pastors as competition, to embrace something because it was a sign of success, to embrace ambition in ministry. He rejected celebrity. That meant cultivating a certain kind of life, not merely a strategy for ministry. It meant embracing deep relationships, and recognizing that ministry is always to other people, never wielding a platform for significance. Because of this, Eugene models for the church today the cultivation of a pastoral ministry by faith alone, not by sight. Sight can allure by seducing us to numbers, to the grandiosity, and to the perception of significance, but ministry by faith is allergic to all of this. This meant, for Eugene, never functionalizing relationships, but trusting by faith that personal relationships were truly powerful in the kingdom of God.
This is the path he witnessed to, and this is what I am sitting with after hearing of his death. His way was the way of the Lamb, and by faith he recognized that the temptations in ministry are Legion. Today, more than ever, we need to remember that the way of faith is the way to be powerful in the kingdom of God.

Reject grandiosity.

Jamin Goggin, pastor at Mission Hills Church in San Marcos, California
Eugene Peterson provided a beautiful and compelling vision of the pastoral vocation when I needed it the most. Only few years into pastoral ministry, I had arrived at what felt like a breaking point. The initial sturdiness and adventure of my calling was being choked by a prevailing set of expectations defining “success” in ministry, leaving me discouraged and disillusioned. Eugene’s words met me in that place. His words saved me from the temptation to abandon my post. They gave me hope.
As I devoured books like Working the Angles and Five Smooth Stones, I discovered a vision of the pastoral vocation that put words to what I had so longed for in ministry, but didn’t quite know how to articulate. The Lord used Eugene’s words to expose temptations of my heart toward grandiosity and power in ministry. More than any other person, Eugene Peterson shaped the way in which I pastor. Eugene taught me that the pastoral vocation was a call to be relentlessly personal. It meant unhurried conversations marked by listening. It meant preaching to people, not an audience. It meant loving people, not using them. It meant hours of prayer for people and with people.
A few years after reading Eugene’s books, I began to write letters back and forth with him, and after a couple of years, those letters turned into an opportunity to spend time with him at his home in Montana. In his house beside the lake, I experienced being pastored by Eugene. I encountered a man of integrity, whose way of life and relating was exactly what I expected from his writing—perhaps the most profound truth I can speak of his character. In my time with Eugene, I was graced with a vision of pastoral ministry not merely in written form, but experienced through the course of prayer, unhurried conversation, and shared meals. He opened his life to me and took a profound interest in my life. Eugene not only taught me how to pastor, he pastored me.
When I heard the news of Eugene’s passing I was standing in front of the home where Ernest Hemmingway was born. I was pondering the profound impact Hemmingway had on many generations of authors inspired by the brilliance and beauty of his corpus. As I stood on Hemmingway’s porch, I remembered the back deck of Eugene’s home. I remembered him telling me stories of the trolls that lived in the lake below with a warm grin upon his face. I remember the way he spoke of his journey as a pastor, the joys and challenges. Eugene stands as a Hemmingway of the pastoral vocation. His long pastoral obedience has provided a body of work that will define the shape of pastoral work for generations to come. It will certainly define the shape of my pastoral work until I finish the race.
Thank you, Eugene. I look forward to continuing the conversation after your liturgical nap.

Sabbath is a gift.

Rich Villodas, lead pastor of New Life Fellowship in Queens, New York City
Through his writings and witness, Eugene Peterson taught me how to be a pastor. My life in Christ has been enriched beyond measure through his life. My thoughts and practices on prayer, preaching, and pastoring have his fingerprints all over them. What I’m most grateful for, however, is the intentional Sabbath rhythm he built into his life.
During my mid-20s, I was a pastor overseeing college students and young adults at a megachurch in New York City. During one of the church staff meetings, a visiting pastor who was on sabbatical shared that, during this season of rest and recreation, he was visiting churches. I was not impressed. I thought, This man must be in some kind of moral failure, or he is too weak to do the work of pastoring. I had no framework to see the practice of sabbaticals, let alone weekly Sabbath-keeping, as core to my pastoral calling. Soon after this occasion, I came across a book from Eugene Peterson: Working the Angles: The Shape of Pastoral Integrity.
In this book, I was given a vision to see pastoring as the interplay of resting and working. I was taught to see Sabbath-keeping not as a burden to bear, but as a gift to receive. Eugene defined Sabbath as,
Uncluttered time and space to distance ourselves from the frenzy of our own activities so we can see what God has been and is doing.
Quieting the internal noise so we hear the still small voice of the Lord.
Uncluttered time and space to detach ourselves from the people around us so that they have a chance to deal with God without our poking around or kibitzing.
As I read those words, something in my soul opened up. He was describing the kind of rhythm that flowed out of worship, the embracing of limits, and the presence joy rather than a kind of non-stop, anxiety-ridden pastoral life built on proving myself to others.
I realized I needed a new paradigm to be faithful to Jesus, to steward my life well, and to love my family and congregation. This paradigm required a weekly, sacred space and time fashioned amidst the hustle and bustle of a big city. For a few years, I struggled to apply the practice of Sabbath into my life, but in 2008, I joined a church in Queens whose pastor was shaped by Peterson as well.
In my interview for the assistant pastor job, the senior pastor, Pete Scazzero, sat across a table filled with fries and grilled cheese sandwiches and said to me—in what I thought was hyperbolic language—“Rich, there’s only one way to get fired at this church.” I sat up straight waiting for him to give an example of some kind of moral failure. He said, “If you don’t keep Sabbath you will get fired, because you won’t have the kind of life that will sustain you for the kind of work pastoring entails.” Later that day, I thought about Eugene. His writings prior to that conversation gave me a vision for what pastoring could and should be.
Anyone seeking to have a long obedience in the same direction needs a regular rhythm of stopping. Otherwise, we won’t make it. I’m grateful Eugene gave me a vision of what faithful pastoring could be.
Thank you, Eugene. Enjoy the fullness of your Sabbath rest.



_______________

During one question-and-answer session, a pastor asked Eugene how pastors could be more relevant in our preaching. In those years, we were one and all enamored with the excitement coming out of Barrington Illinois, the home of the then shiny and very relevant Willow Creek Church. So we all mentally leaned forward to hear his answer.
Eugene stared at the pastor for what seemed a minute, although it was probably just 10 seconds. But the silence began to feel uncomfortable. His face did a slight contortion, and then he said, with evident disgust, “Relevance—That’s a Nazi word.”
My memory says one or two gasped aloud in disbelief. One pastor may have let out a brief laugh, perhaps because he agreed, or maybe to ease the awkwardness of the moment. All in all, we were in a state of shock.
Eugene went on to explain that pandering after relevance is a sure way to destroy the integrity of the church. In the early 1930s, Germans suffered from severe low self-esteem after being humiliated by defeat in World War I and the subsequent Versailles Treaty. The Nazi party made these disconsolate citizens once more feel proud of being German. The party clearly met felt need. Their message was very relevant at the time. Instead, Eugene exhorted us to faithfulness—as he did in his entire ministry. (Anyone who heard Eugene preach knows what it meant when Eugene exhorted his listeners.) For Eugene, faithfulness was first and last.

Monday, October 22, 2018

How we view God determines how we vote

Doug Pagitt see something I have also noted in relation to George Lakoff's thought.  In his "Moral Politics,"   Lakoff argues  that one group of Americans works from a "Strict Father" model, and another group works from a "Nurturant Parent" model. I take this one step further, and note how this actually reflects two different ways to understand God. ISTM that most American evangelicals hold the "Strict Father" model, and so are more susceptible to the Trump/Republican/authoritarian/hierarchical way of understanding the world. But there are Christians who understand God as our "Nuturant Parent, " that is, one whose essence is love, not wrath. So, with Pagitt, I ask: "Will we continue to vote out of fear of God’s wrath, or will we turn a corner and vote to spread God’s love for all people?"

Evangelicals are paying high moral price for anti-abortion gains. What would Jesus do?

https://www.usatoday.com/story/opinion/2018/10/21/donald-trump-abortion-cost-evangelicals-moral-high-ground-column/1686348002/?fbclid=IwAR2CQ4J5G3pUXHZy6Z9RDkMZ9M6qu67MoL9_uf2JFAsNYu7xcKBvI0-OkbU

"...So often in our country Christian faith implies Republicanism, but I want to challenge the idea that faith is partisan. My faith does not call me to be Republican or Democrat. My faith calls me to love God and love my neighbor as I love myself. I am called to vote for the common good, for justice and humanity.
With the midterms just a couple of weeks away, we face a critical juncture in our country: restore some power to those who would govern with compassion, or continue ceding moral ground for the sake of abortion. Will we continue to vote out of fear of God’s wrath, or will we turn a corner and vote to spread God’s love for all people?
In such a time as this, evangelicals are called to dislodge control of Congress from Republicans who have abandoned our values. The Good News of God compels us to use our vote as a tool for the common good of all people, for if good is not accessible and common to all, it is not good; it is privilege."

Saturday, October 20, 2018

Immigrant Creed



Immigrant Creed

I believe in Almighty God,
Guided His people in the exodus and in
Exile, the God of Joseph in Egypt
And Daniel in Babylon, the God
Of foreigners and the
Immigrants.

I believe in Jesus Christ, a Galileo
Displaced, who was born away from his
People and their home, who had to
Flee his land with his parents
When his life was in danger;
Who, when returning to his own country,
Had to suffer the oppression of
Tyrant Pontius Pilate, servant of a
Foreign power. He was persecuted,
Goal-Peado, tortured, and finally
Accused and sentenced to death
Unjustly. But on the third day,
This despised Jesus
Resurrected from death, no longer like
Foreigner, but to offer
A citizenship in heaven.

I believe in the Holy Spirit,
Eternal immigrant of the kingdom of
God among us, who speaks
All languages, live in all
Countries, and gather all races.
I think the church is home
Safe for all foreigners
And believers who constitute it,
Who speak the same language and
They have the same purpose. I believe
That the communion of the saints is
Inseparable from the diversity of the
Santos.

I believe in God's forgiveness,
That makes us equal to all, and in
Your reconciliation, that we
Identify more than our race,
Language, or nationality.
I think in resurrection, God
He will unite us as a single village
Which everyone is different and
Similar at the same time. I believe
In Eternal life beyond this
World, where no one will be
Immigrant but all will be
Citizens of the kingdom of God
It has no end. Amen.

José Luis Casal

Saturday, September 15, 2018

How to illuminate a manuscript

If I had been born male  in the middle ages, this is what I would have wanted to learn to do.
I awed by illuminated manuscripts.

This blog post by Patricia Lovett shows the steps involved:

Recreating the ‘Beatus’ page from the Eadui Psalter

http://www.patricialovett.com/recreating-the-beatus-page-from-the-eadui-psalter/



Monday, September 10, 2018

Joint worship with Manatial de Vida, Sept. 9, 2018

Yesterday's joint service Valley Covenant and Manantial de Vida.
https://www.facebook.com/294213230589897/videos/273690869911603/UzpfSTczMzU0NjAyMjoxMDE1NjQxOTI4MjI3MTAyMw/


Steve is almost finishing preaching through Acts. The incredible Charo Shaeffer translated his message on Acts 28:1-10.Here is the English transcript:

September 9, 2018 “Snakes” – Acts 28:1-10

Acts 28:1-10
“Snakes”
September 9, 2018 –
Sixteenth Sunday after Pentecost

[The audio for this sermon will also have a Spanish translation by Charo Schaeffer.]

I knelt down and connected a hose to the faucet. Then I heard a loud “buzzzzz.” I realized I was nose to nose with a coiled rattlesnake. I yelled and jumped back. Our daughter ran around our cabin in Arizona to see what I was yelling about. The snake relaxed and stayed there, wrapped around the pipe.
My project with the hose was over, but there was an urgent issue. We were leaving the next morning. The water needed to be turned off for the winter. The rattler blocked my access to that valve. I tossed rocks at the snake, but it didn’t budge.
Paul came through riots, prison, and a shipwreck, but a snake blocked him too. As the last chapter of Acts opens, the kindly natives of Malta start a fire on the shore and welcome the cold, wet castaways to warm themselves. Paul helped gather wood.
In the gloom and mist, Paul did not see the snake camouflaged as a small branch in the brush he picked up. The snake was dormant from the cold. But when he laid the bundle on the fire, it warmed up immediately, slithered out, and attached itself to Paul’s hand.
Luke says in verse 3 that it was a viper. There are no vipers or other poisonous snakes at all on Malta today, but there were then. Physicians in the ancient world, like Luke the writer of Acts, had good knowledge of snakes. The locals immediately recognized it as venomous. Verse 6 tells us “They were expecting him to swell up or drop dead.”
The Maltese also thought Paul must have been a murderer. “Justice” was bringing him his due. He escaped the storm, but the goddess Justice, holding her scales, would balance things out. Instead of drowning, he would die by snake bite.
They didn’t know God had other plans for Paul. If the deity that looked after him was not going to let angry mobs, cruel soldiers, prison chains or northern winds keep Paul from going to Rome, a little snake was not a problem. The Lord miraculously kept Paul from feeling the effects of the venom and he shook the viper off his hand back into the fire.
The islanders jumped then to the opposite conclusion. Paul was not being punished by a god. He was a god. So the red carpet rolls out in verse 7 as Publius, the chief official, welcomed Paul’s party into his home for three days.
We may draw the same lesson as we did from the shipwreck last week. Whatever God’s plans are for us, they are not going to be frustrated or ruined when we run into obstacles along the way. When the snakes of this world jump out and bite us, the grace of Jesus Christ still watches out for us and will see us through. Whatever God wants for you will not fail. He will not fail. Even when there’s a snake in the way.
That doesn’t mean you should play with snakes, literally or otherwise. The Gospel of Mark, from which we read about Jesus doing healing miracles, has an extra ending someone wrote after Mark finished. It’s verses 9-20 of Mark 16 in some Bibles, but not in recent versions. Mostly it’s all OK and offers a nice tidy ending to Mark, but it’s not genuine. One really troublesome bit is verses 17 and 18 of Mark 16.
And these signs shall follow them that believe; In my name shall they cast out devils; they shall speak with new tongues; They shall take up serpents; and if they drink any deadly thing, it shall not hurt them; they shall lay hands on the sick, and they shall recover.
The idea is that miraculous signs happen for those who believe in Jesus. That’s true. But it doesn’t mean you should deliberately handle snakes or drink poison. That’s foolish. Just last month a pastor in Kentucky nearly died when a timber rattlesnake he was handling in church bit him. He nearly died and it was hospital life support that saved him, not a miracle. God will help us, but He gave us brains so we wouldn’t go looking for trouble. The Old Testament tells us, and Jesus repeated it, “Do not put the Lord your God to the test.”
Paul did not go looking for a snake. He just gathered firewood, just tried to serve others and stay alive to do God’s work. God didn’t save him from the snake to make a spectacle. God kept Paul alive through one more trial because He had plans for him. Jesus was bringing Paul to share the Gospel with people who needed to hear it.
God has plans for you. Your story may not be as exciting as Paul’s prison and shipwreck and snake, but you have your own trials. And God will bring you through them so that you can share the Gospel with people in your life, your friends and neighbors and maybe even some strangers like Paul did.
Look at verse 2. My translation calls the people on Malta “natives.” But Luke literally called them “barbarians.” It was a derogatory term for anyone who didn’t speak Greek. To Greeks and Romans, other languages sounded like “bar, bar, bar,” just babbling. The Maltese language derived from Phoenician, a tongue related to Hebrew. Modern Maltese language still has Phoenician words and the current residents have Phoenician DNA.
Yet these “barbarians” were “unusually kind” and hospitable to Paul and his company. Their chief opened his home to them. When the travelers were ready to sail on, Luke says in verse 10, “they put on board all the provisions we needed.”
Luke doesn’t mention preaching the Gospel on Malta, but it’s plain that God had a purpose for stranding Paul there. The chief’s father was sick with a form of fever and dysentery unique to Malta, transmitted by germs in goat’s milk. Paul prayed and healed the man. Then he healed everyone else who was sick on the island. God didn’t just take care of Paul. His took care of those around Paul, like the sailors saved in the shipwreck. God’s purpose included those strange-speaking people on a little island.
God’s purpose includes you and me. To respond to that promise and hope, we can learn from the Maltese. Before they had even heard of Christ, they did the Christian thing. They were kind to strangers. And when they received from Jesus through Paul the gift of healing, they were grateful. They responded by giving back what they could, supplying the needs of Paul and his companions for the rest of their journey. Kindness to strangers is a lesson you all know we really need today in this country.
Give and then give back, even to strangers. That’s the Gospel. Jesus Christ gave Himself on the Cross for you and me. Our whole lives are to be given back to Him in thankful response to His gift, by giving to others. And as we receive grace and forgiveness from Jesus, we must admit that we don’t deserve it. In His eyes, in our constant sin and failure, we are all “barbarians.” Without Jesus, we are spiritually uncivilized, enemies of God. Yet Christ loves us and comes to us and gives us His gifts.
You may be wondering how my snake story turned out. Well I was dismayed. It was late Friday morning and we need to leave at 8 a.m. the next day. How do I get rid of the snake? I made phone calls. National forest service: “Call animal control.” Animal control: “Sorry, we don’t go outside the city limits and we don’t do snakes.” Private pest control companies: “Only bugs and mice. No snakes.” Finally Arizona Fish and Game: “Call one of these two people. They can help, but there will be a charge.”
I called the first name, “Anthony.” A child answers. I ask for Anthony. “Daaad, phone!” Anthony came to the phone and I explained my problem.
“O.K., tell me how to get there,” he said.
“Just a moment,” I replied, “I have a couple questions. First, does this mean you are coming right away? Second, how much will it cost?”
“Yes,” he said. “I’ll be there in ten minutes and it’s not going to cost you anything.”
Anthony’s Ford Ranger came down the driveway in ten minutes on the dot. Within another five minutes, deftly using a hook and long tongs, he had the snake in a canvas bag. Then he turned to Joanna and me and said, “Now, I need to a place to let her go.”
I was expecting him to put his tools and the bagged snake in the Ranger and drive away with our problem. But Anthony wasn’t going to kill this creature. In fact, he kept remarking on the colors of its stripes and talking about how “beautiful” she was. He wanted to protect that snake, get it out of harm’s way, not destroy it!
So we took a hike down by the creek, a good distance from our cabin and the other homes around us. Anthony carefully upended the sack as my daughter and I stood back and took a picture to show my wife when we got home.
As we walked back up the hill, I learned that Anthony does this sort of thing all the time, just because he likes snakes. He has a regular job as a commercial pilot for FedEx, but he finds beauty and fascination in animals that make most of us shudder and want to run. Anthony loves them.
If you and I are honest, we will admit there is plenty of bad in us, even if we look pretty good on the outside. If others knew they might shudder and run. We’re not just barbarians, we are snakes. In our pride and anger, with our jealousy and greed and lust, we are, as Jesus said to some Pharisees, children of our father the devil, the old serpent who first deceived us and made us wretched.
Yet Jesus loves us. He finds beauty in us. Like Anthony finds in his snakes. Like Paul and Luke found in those Maltese barbarians. Jesus Christ finds you and me fascinating and lovely and worth His time. You are worth enough that Jesus gave His live for you.
As Anthony got in his truck, I asked, “Do you really do this for free? Can’t I give you something?” He said, “No, I do this just because I enjoy it. Payment is not necessary. But if you want to donate something to my son’s little league team, I’ll take that.” I was so relieved, so totally grateful, that I reached for my wallet, pulled out some cash, and handed it to him. It was a small token of my gratitude for a huge relief to my mind. If it bought a bat or a Little League uniform for some kid, that would be great.
Jesus died and rose again for you and me. He did it for free. He did it just because He wanted to. He didn’t expect to be compensated for His sacrifice. We’re barbarians and snakes, after all. We could not possibly afford our salvation. So it’s free. It’s grace.
But we want to be grateful. We want to honor Jesus with real gratitude. So we bring Him gifts by bringing gifts to others. We give to Him through our churches so that anyone can walk in those doors and hear in either Spanish or English that Jesus loves him, that Jesus gave His life for her.
We also give to people that maybe only Jesus finds lovely. The poor. The uneducated. The criminal. People who speak languages stranger than English or Spanish. People on the edges of our civilization. People we might think don’t deserve it, the barbarians of our world. They may stay in an RV in our parking lot, or sleep under a bridge, or live on the other side of the world in a hut. But just like Jesus loves us, He loves them. We can show our gratitude to Jesus by loving them too.
So show “unusual kindness” to someone. Ask where can you find “barbarians” or “snakes” who need Jesus’ love? People like the Maltese who need to be healed, or people like Paul and the castaways, who needed to be warmed and fed. Who are they? Let God show them to you and then show them His love. They are all lovely in Jesus’ eyes. He wants everyone to be saved.
Amen.
Valley Covenant Church
Eugene/Springfield, Oregon
Copyright © 2018 by Stephen S. Bilynskyj

"Look!"


                                             
                 https://i.pinimg.com/originals/ee/14/ef/ee14eff2ad795c74c05a2c24ceaa96b1.jpg

The first word I learned to read was "Look" from a soft-cover Dick and Jane primer. Even at age six, I realized the significance of that moment, and I appreciated how appropriate it was that my first word should be "look." Literacy would open the world for me, and all I had to do was pick up a book to discover it. It's not an exaggeration to call that a holy moment in my life.