Wednesday, October 22, 2008

They say there is an election in two weeks

Ok, cut this guy some slack. I'm trying to get rolling with my blog. I resonate with Greg Boyd when he said last year, "To be honest, I don't get this blogger thing at all...I'm sure it's because I'm almost 50."

I'll figure it out as I go, I'm sure.

A thought came to me when I was on a bike ride last week: putting that campaign sign up in our yard, for one of presidential candidates, evoked some conversation in the neighborhood. Neighbors tend to keep to themselves in our neighborhood and there isn't a ton of chatting. But, the sign prompted more talk than usual.

Like when there's a snow storm and everyone is outside shoveling their driveways and the conversation picks up. Or, when we had that terrible rain storm and flooding in Indianapolis and neighbors were pitching in to help, or at least, commiserate together.

Some interesting things happened due to that sign (the first time I put a sign out for a presidential candidate). It's worth a few more lines, at least for me.

But, I decided against writing about it until November 5th or later. The primary reason: from my years as a pastor I do not want to be seen as endorsing a specific candidate. So, I'll wait until November 5th to say more about this; it won't be primarily about the specific candidate as it is the broader issues pertaining to faith, politics, and so forth. (This might appear contradictory since I have a sign in my yard! Fair enough. But, I view it as my expression in my neighborhood.)

Here's what I can say now. This current election has stirred up a chunk of emotions. Other presidential elections have, as well. It has eaten into a lot of my time over the past year, whether it is reading the New York Times or Denver Post, Newsweek or Time, the Jon Stewart Show or CNN, Sojo or Christianity Today, Googling, Youtube or...blogs!

When you have the Democratic National Convention in your own city, you are bombarded with the news and the city is alive in new ways. Gail and I read, watch, view and engage in conversations with others and then spend time on our walks or over dinner comparing notes and ideas.

Here's the thing: I have got caught up in this and get fooled into thinking that it is more than it truly is. In Kingdom of God terms, that is. Considering, praying and discerning who might be a better candidate for President is worthwhile. It can play a role in what we think will be a more humane society, striving for the common good in a nation. But, it's not the most important piece.

What I find more crucial- much more critical, in fact, is what followers of Jesus are actually doing. Those communities (ok, I'll say "church," if you understand that I'm not talking about some institutional reality) who gather, talk, build community, worship, study, pray, and then act on that commitment to Jesus to the poor, marginalized, lost, suffering and broken in their sphere. That's where the primary action is.

You don't have to choose: do I vote or do I become part of community seeking to live out the way of Jesus in one's city or area? Both actions can flow out of one's faith. They do for me.

I see it like this: I will vote for one candidate who I believe holds positions that will help advance some of the areas for the common good in our nation and world. But, it doesn't hold a candle to gathering on Sunday nights (when our new church meets) to eat, hang out, pray, read Scripture, put together Mennonite Central Committee relief kits for people in Iraq, Nicaragua, Haiti, etc. and discern together how to live out the way of Jesus in serving people in our city.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

1st blog post..."mission statement"

Anyone who knows me is aware that I’m a couple of steps behind the majority culture when it comes to technology. When my friends, family and colleagues were well on the way with email, years ago, I resisted. I had my arguments lined up for debate: “There’s no substitute for the ‘high-touch’ forms of communicating- in person or on the phone.” “Communication could slide into being impersonal; even the hand-written note conveys something about the personal nature of what I want to communicate that an email could never do.” “This could lead to further breakdown of community.” I had my reasons.

That was then and this is now: how could I exist without email?

“I-pod? I’m fine, thank you, with my CDs. Saving songs to I-tunes and purchasing songs will be time consuming.” Guess who listens to his I-pod on bike rides and working out at the fitness center?

Then: “Digital camera? Is it necessary?” Now: “Why didn’t you guys tell me about this before?!” In the past I kept my list of contacts in the back of my Franklin Covey Planner (nope, I haven’t switched to a PDA yet), whereas now, I run down the cell number, email, home address, and personal information in my Contacts in Outlook.

It won’t take Albert E’s keen intellect to deduce that I’ve been late to the blogging scene. I’ve been pushed and poked and prodded by friends and family to consider my own blog.

My read is that there are tons of reasons why people blog and some that are great and some that are, uh, not so great.

So, here’s my primary motivation for this blog: the start of our new church and community in Denver. This is one vehicle to communicate the vision, hopes and direction of this church for participants and for those who may be interested. As well, I hope it can be a setting to offer some reflections- perhaps, on-the-ground theology and stories and ways of trying to live in this way of Jesus here and now. My hope is for conversation and engagement with interested folks.

Blog entry number 1…

Some of you will know that we are starting a new church in Denver (I’ll have much more to say about this in the future; since we are just getting started and only three weeks old, and no website yet, I’m very happy to communicate personally about this). It will be affiliated with the Mennonite Church (I’ll try to dispel some of the myths about Mennonites in the future- no, we’re not Mormons, I don’t have a horse and buggy, my wife does not wear a white bonnet, and I like to dance).

But, we will be more than that and not linked to some of the historical, cultural expressions of the Mennonite Church, e.g. dress, style of worship, family ancestry and so on. For example, with the beginning group in this church, only a minority of the persons are from any Mennonite Church background. It will be tied to faith values of personal relationship with God, serving one another and the world, social justice, peace and endeavoring to be a visible expression as a community of Jesus’ followers here and now.

One further thought. I’m reading a book by N.T. Wright, Surprised by Hope: Rethinking Heaven, the Resurrection, and the Mission of the Church, and a potent line jumped out at me. (He wants to have us rethink a popular notion going around for some time: that the point for Christians is all that matters is getting a “soul saved,” dying and then this disembodied soul goes off to heaven. It’s got to be more than this. I’m with him!)

So, this line jumps out at me, a good summary line. And, it occurs to me: this could be my “mission statement” of sorts. And our new church’s mission statement. And, something you might consider. Here goes:

“Our task in the present…is to live as resurrection people in between Easter and the final day, with our Christian life, corporate and individual, in both worship and mission, as a sign of the first and a foretaste of the second. (p. 30)

I like this. I like this a lot. I have never written a personal mission statement that I have laminated and tacked to my office wall. But, this feels like a mission statement I could live with.

This is part of what I’m seeking to do: live as a resurrection person, in between Easter and the final day, and that this life can be a sign of the first (Easter) and a foretaste of the second (final day). That’s what I seek to be in my marriage, how I treat the clerk at King Soopers or the waitress at McCormick and Schick’s who brings drinks and appetizers, why our recycling bins are full each week, why I pray for those who see me as their enemy, why we put relief kits together for persons in Iraq…actually, for every facet of my life. I falter, ask for forgiveness, and keep going.

Hey, I think this is a compelling mission statement. I think many in the world are looking for this type of visible Christianity. Not just talk and theology and statements of faith, but living “testaments” of faith as resurrection people, here and now.

That’s the hope for my life. That’s the hope for this new church and community in Denver.