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Horton Doesn't Choose Civility

Holy Week and Easter just about did me in this year. I'm glad I went to New Orleans for four days of the KC group, but I'm not going to do a work camp during Holy Week again. I tend to forget resolutions like this within a year of making them, so please help me remember.

On Monday, my most brain-dead post-holiday day, I took Paul and Rosa to see the new movie version of Dr. Suess' "Horton Hears a Who". It was perfect for the state I was in, and all three of us had some laugh-till-we-cry moments. I particularly liked the ending which featured a group-sing of REO Speedwagon's "Can't Fight the Feeling Anymore". The song subverted all of our Disney-trained expectations for a closing musical number that drives home the moral of the story and instead offered kareoke.

There is a moral to the story, and it's not the anti-abortion message that some people apparently find in Horton's statement that "a person's a person no matter how small". Rather, the moral is quite simply that compassion trumps morality--a message that Jesus liked to drive home as well when he did stuff like heal people on the Sabbath, etc. Horton's compassionate acts are opposed by a kangaroo who "pouch schools" her child so that he isn't influenced by Horton and others who encourage imagination and exploration.

I know Howard County's "Choose Civility" campaign isn't intended to squelch creativity, but I couldn't help but notice the similarity between some of the kangaroo's comments and the tone of P.M. Forni's book, "Choosing Civility" on which the county's campaign is based. The kangaroo makes it quite clear that the reason why people's behavior needs to follow certain predictable rules is because it makes our world feel safer and more hospitable for children. Put that way, it almost makes sense.

Unless you're the type of person who listens so carefully that you actually start caring about things that other people don't even notice. I'm going to get a "Choose the Whos" bumper sticker.

The Second Sunday of Easter

Acts 2: 14a, 22-32
Psalm 16
1 Peter 1: 3 - 9
John 20: 19 - 31

Here is an interesting term (to us at least):  Historical Revisionism. The term basically refers to folks being able, after an event has passed, to do further research (or apply newly discovered evidence or facts or opinions) and revise the understanding or meaning of the

A recent example would be President Bush confidently launching our country in to our current grouping of wars with great confidence in the information that was available to him (and his inner circle); and then, not too much later, further information came to light that
negated most of the initial reasons for launching in to the war(s).

Now, some folks believe taking new / current information and changing the way we understand what has already occurred is inappropriate-understandings and opinions have already been formed, choices have been made, events have taken place and we cannot change there is no need to look back and criticize.  And, there are also some folks that want to commit to taking all of the possible information at any particular moment to be able to understand what actually happened in the past.

Part of this is an issue of context.  It is easy for us to pass judgment on folks that draw (what turn out to be) wrong conclusions or make bad decisions when they did not have all of the appropriate information available to them.

This week's selection of scriptures gives us vignettes of people's view of God before Christ, shortly after the Resurrection of Jesus, and a couple of views of God long after Jesus had Ascended.

In the Psalm we see a person who completely and totally believes in and trusts in God.  This is a beautiful poem of devotion that reflects the Hebrew covenant with Yahweh. This song of praise tells us a bit about what sort of faith choices exist for the readers.  The author
chooses the one God of Israel in which to put his/her faith rather than a selection of gods to whom offerings of blood are made.

Then, in John, we see Thomas the Realist interacting with Jesus. Thomas had been a believer of Jesus. He had been a follower of Jesus. He was distraught after the death of Jesus. In his grief and in the days that followed the crucifixion, he was caught in a crisis....he wanted to believe this man he had been following...and at the same
time he had never known anyone that had been brutally killed and came back from the grave.  Jesus uses this appearance to the disciples as another teaching moment.  He encourages folks to investigate and touch and see AND he encourages folks also to believe the stuff they have heard and also to share what they have seen so that others might also

In both Acts and in 1 Peter we see two examples of some early, detailed, elaborated, precursors to early church creeds.  These statements mark an important transition: people were moving from believing in Jesus while he was there with them to passing the belief
on to later generations of folks.  And these early creed-type statements are in a sense documenting the pedigree of Jesus. They are drawing the connections of Jesus from the Jewish / Hebrew stories and expectations, and connecting them to the what Jesus said about himself.  They are also connecting what they have heard and witnessed
to the events that took place  to their early insights and understandings.  They were processing history through their experience in order to assemble it into a whole picture for themselves and the next generation.

Acts is often attributed to the author of Luke, continuing the narrative of this gospel.  The passage chosen this week is actually a fulfillment of one of Jesus' teachings in Luke 24:47 - 48 (that the forgiveness of sins is to be proclaimed among all nations, beginning
in Jerusalem).  Peter stands and addresses this Jewish crowd in Jerusalem, launching the disciples' mission into the world to build the church. Peter proclaims Jesus' message through the lens of history that is well-known to the Jewish community.  Suddenly they have
information and connections that they didn't have days, weeks or months earlier.

1 Peter is written to a community that has fully embraced the divinity of Jesus without actually witnessing any of his life.  Out of response to what they understand, they have chosen to live outside the dominant culture and they reject the teachings all around them in favor of this one.  From what we read, it is safe to assume that it isn't always easy to adopt their read on history in their greater community.

Our daily experiences shape our faith.  Our history and tradition shape our faith.  Both positive and negative viewpoints and understandings shape us and our viewpoints and understandings of history.  As we learn and grow, we add dimension and depth.  Others
add dimension and depth for us.  We have moments where we need to see and touch the wounds.  We have moments where a leader can point us in a new direction.  We read books, we share our experiences and our understanding of our faith grows.  Sometimes it happens individually and sometimes it happens in community, but always History is Revised.

So what does this mean to us?  Aren't we still revising the history today?  Isn't the very act of studying scripture and drawing our own conclusions a revisionist history?  Is a faith that is constant and unchanging really growing?

And if we take that view, what happens to our view of other faiths? Can we consider how the histories and traditions of other faiths - and maybe specifically the Abrahamic faiths - have been shaped and might continue to shape one another?

Gracious God,
let your will for all of us be known.
Let all be partners in shaping the future
with a faith that quarrels with the present
for the sake of what yet might be.  Amen.

Anonymous, from Taiwan
Printed in This Day: A Wesleyan Way of Prayer
by Laurence Hull Stookey

Easter Monday message

I think this came from the book "Surprised by Hope", but am not sure. I thought it moves us into the action that Easter inspires.

To build for Gods' new world.  "Every act of love, gratitude and Kindness--every work of art--or music inspired by the love of God and delight in the beauty of his creation. Every minute spent teaching a severly handicapped child to read or walk--Every act of care and nurture, of comfort and support--for ones' fellow human being--every prayer--all spirit led teaching--every deed that spreads the gospel and  builds up the Church----embraces and embodies holiness rather than corruption and makes the name of Jesus honored in the world. All of this, through the resurrecting power of God into the new creation that God will one day make."

Easter-a time of hope!

I thought this writing by Henri Nouwen was so beautiful I wanted to share it.

From the book "Show me the Way."

Easter season is a time of hope. There still is fear, there still is a painful awareness of sinfulness, but there also is light breaking through. Something new is happening, something that goes beyond the changing moods of our life. We can be joyful or sad, optimistic or pessimistic, tranquil or angry, but the solid stream of God's presence moves deeper than the small waves of our minds and hearts. Easter brings the awareness that God is present even when his presence is not directly noticed. Easter brings the good news that, although things seem to get worse in the world, the Evil one has already been overcome. Easter allows us to affirm that although God seems very distant and although we remain preoccupied with many little things, our Lord walks with us on the road and keeps explaining the Scriptures to us. Thus there are many rays of hope casting their light on our way through life.

Also a prayer by Nouwen

Almight, everlasting God,

on this day

you conquered death through your son

and opened for us the path to eternal life.

And so we celebrate in joy

the feast of his resurrection.

Make us new through your Spirit,

so that we too may rise

and walk in the light of life.

We ask this through Jesus Christ.

Charlie Powell


Jeremiah 31: 1 – 6
Psalm 118: 1 – 2; 14 – 24
Colossians 3: 1 – 4
Matthew 28: 1 – 10

Bare branches to budding leaves; icy ground to green grass; frigid winds to fresh spring breezes—Lent is a season of transformation.

During this deeply reflective church season we find ourselves moving through the days with some intention of a deep personal change or commitment when we have walked through the 40 days and emerged on Easter morning.  We begin in the shorter dark days of grays and browns and slumbering life and end with the warmth and color and fragrance of spring in the air.

In many ways, the gospel accounts of Jesus’ life take an entire cast of characters through a radical, life-altering space of time and experience.  Any one chapter of their individual experiences with Christ would not have resulted in the Life Transformation that they experienced at his Resurrection.  Without being called, without hearing the parables, without witnessing the miracles, without developing high hopes, without a triumphal entry into Jerusalem, without a gut-wrenching turn of events ending in betrayal, crucifixion and death, these lives would not have been so radically altered, and the hope that was discovered in the empty tomb would have had a different impact.  It took these folks living their entire lives for a difference to be identified.

This year as we write, we are acutely aware of how much of our daily experience shapes our faith and understanding of grace, of Resurrection and of the Kingdom of God.  Forty days are not enough; it is the journey of a lifetime and each moment further refines our faith.  One set of convictions is probably not enough for our range of experiences.  As we journey through our own wildernesses, enter into various promised lands, and stand before various burning bushes, we relive the experience of Israel, in covenant with a God who is faithful, living out a commitment as forgiven people through a new covenant in Christ’s life, death and resurrection.

It helps to really place ourselves in the shoes of those who witnessed a risen Jesus.  It wasn’t just his followers who experienced the Resurrection.  It was also his detractors…the Roman guards paid to be at the tomb, the priests who had set Jesus up for a fall, the people in the streets who didn’t know what to believe as it all unfolded before them, the angry mobs, the joiners… 

The Jeremiah text this week is a prophesy borne on the lived experience of Israel.  Through the wilderness, through the entrance into Canaan, through the Judges and the Kings and the fall of the temple and years and years of living dispersed as foreigners in foreign lands, the Israelites have looked with hope toward their restoration through the will of God. 

The Psalm is joyous and victorious.  The reference to the cornerstone once rejected by the builder reminds us that the Israelites in their history were often underdogs.  We can almost hear the tambourines referenced in Jeremiah as the synagogue hears the Psalm.

Matthew’s gospel describes the drama of Christ’s death and the revelation of Resurrection, risen saints going out from their tombs to see their families.  There are dead men walking, there are earthquakes, there is darkness.  Two Marys discover an empty tomb.  As if they haven’t seen enough, they are met by earthquakes and an angel whose appearance is like lightening.  It is believed that Matthew’s gospel was written for a Jewish audience.  The melodramatic telling of the story of death and Resurrection, from the point of the veil being torn in the tabernacle (Matthew 27:51) to the discovery of the empty tomb, hearkens back through words and images to the same images that surrounded Moses as he received the commandments and established covenant with Yahweh in Exodus . 

To the early readers/hearers, these images would have been sort of “embedded” in their faith.  They had heard stories of Moses and the prophets and they had been steeped in the history of covenant.  We can almost hear their “ah ha” moment as the folks following Jesus put the stories of their childhood together with their experiences of the events of the present moment.

Paul is addressing the Colossians with a challenge to look beyond their earthly existence.  Yes, the death and Resurrection of Christ seems out of this world.  Right.  And so, as followers our minds need to be set in a “higher” place.  Again, Paul is fulfilling his favorite role as Encourager.  He is saying that if they really believe all that Christ said, then they need to live in to that by setting their minds (and hopefully the rest of their lives will follow) on God as revealed to them through the example and teachings of God.  He seems to be helping people recognize that the commitment to Christ means that things are different now…their lives are transformed in to something new.

+So what do we do differently because of Easter?  How do we live as “Easter people,” changed by the experiences, teachings and actions of one man who was the Son of God?
+We have our own covenant with Yahweh, a covenant forged through the Easter experience.  God is faithful.  Are we?
+When we are faced with something surprising, unexpected or unknown, do we have enough background information – enough life experience and story – to “go and tell” like the women did when finding the tomb empty?
+How do your experiences, day by day, week by week, year by year, reveal the nature of God and Jesus to you?
+Are you able to “go and tell” like the women did?

God our Father,
by raising Christ your Son
you conquered the power of death
and opened for us the way to eternal life.
Let our celebration today
raise us up and renew our lives
by the Spirit that is within us.

Grant this through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

-A Shorter Morning and Evening Prayer:  The Psalter of The Liturgy of the Hours

Good Friday

"Shock Me with the Terrible Goodness of this Friday"

Holy one,
shock and save me with the terrible goodness of this Friday,
and drive me deep into my longing for your kingdom,
until I seek it first--
          yet not first for myself,
but for the hungry
           and the sick
                      and the poor of your children,
for prisoners of conscience around the world
for those I have wasted
          with my racism
                  and sexism
                            and ageism
                                      and nationalism
                                                and religionism,
for those around this mother earth and in this city
who, this Friday, know far more of terror than of goodness;
that, in my seeking first the kingdom,
            for them as well as for myself,
                       all these things may be mine as well:
things like a coat and courage
          and something like comfort,
                     a few lilies in the field,
                               the sight of birds soaring on the wind,
                                         a song in the night,
                                                   and gladness of heart,
the sense of your presence
           and the realization of your promise
                     that nothing in life or death
                               will be able to separate me or those I love,
                                         from your love
                                                   in the crucified one who
is our Lord,
                                                             and in whose
name and Spirit I pray.

Guerrillas of Grace  Ted Loder

Maundy Thursday

This day of dread and betrayal and denial
        causes a pause in our busyness.
        Who would have thought that you would take
                this eighth son of Jesse
                to become the pivot of hope in our ancient memory?
        Who would have thought that you would take
                this uncredentialed
                Galilean rabbi
                to become the pivot of newness in the world?
        Who would have thought that you--
                God of gods and Lord of lords--
                would fasten on such small, innocuous agents
                        whom the world scorns
                to turn creation toward your newness?
As we are dazzled,
        give us the freedom to resituate our lives in modest,
                uncredentialed, vulnerable places.
We ask for freedom and courage to move out from our nicely
        arranged patterns of security
        into dangerous places of newness where we fear to go.
Cross us by the cross, that we may be Easter marked.  Amen

Awed to Heaven, Rooted in Earth: Prayers of Walter Brueggemann

Notes From Louisiana, Day Two

Well, as far as I can tell, everyone in our group worked hard today. We were in three groups, working at two different houses. The group I was with was composed of people who complained that they hadn't done that much work yesterday. Well, the MDS organizer took our interest in hard work seriously, and assigned us the job of hauling trash out of the swamp that surrounds one of the houses they are renovating.

The house is owned by Mitch who built the house himself and has lived out there for 37 years. The house, like all the houses in the community, is accessible only by boatImg_0330. There were at least 30 houses out there, from the looks of it, but since Katrina there are only one or two that have been reinhabited. Mitch said it was a great place to live and raise kids--and Katrina was the first time they ever had water in their house.

Our job today was to haul all the trash and debris out of the front and back yards of Mitch's house. Some of the trash was from recent construction, but the layer under that was stuff that had been there since the hurricane. It was a dirty job--but fun in a sick king of way.

There was also a group inside the house doing some carpentry that required more skill--and more patience--than most of us were able to muster.

The third group was "mudding" (covering over cracks in the dry wall with spackle), taping, sanImg_0353_2
ding and even a bit of electrical work. This work was a great opportunity for Sophie, with her meticulous attention to detail and great patience, to shine. Mary Jane, on the other hand, said at dinner tonight "I should be shot before being allowed to spackle again."

We're all tired tonight--all except for Ethan, Vernon, Matt, Natalie and Sophie who have been playing ping pong for the past two hours!

More tomorrow....

Notes From Louisiana, Day One

Our group of 16 from KC is about to start our second day of work down here in Diamond, Louisiana, a tiny bayou town about an hour South of New Orleans. I didn't even know there was land an hour south of Louisiana, but it turns out people have been living down in this area for hundreds of years. There's a small Native American community who has been living here for over 300 years. But this is a flat and watery place to live, and when the levies were topped by the storm surge from Katrina, people's houses were washed away.

We worked in four different groups yesterday, and had four different experiences. One group had a pretty exhausting day of sanding, taping and spackling, one group was doing more skilled work framing windows and cutting trim. One group had a dirty morning picking up and hauling trash and then ran out of work by lunch. And the last group--which was just me and some of the other people who are volunteering this week--did a little electrical work, a little sanding and took a long trip to Lowes which is about a 45 minute drive away.

So, last night, when we sat around to debrief the day with our "highs" and "lows", we were concerned about there being enough work for all of us this week, but reallyImg_0325_4
delighted to have learned some new skills, made it through the day, enjoyed each other's company and met some of the families who are going to move into their new home.

But my highlight ended up being hearing Vernon talk about his highlights from the day. He said, "I've got two high points today. The first one was picking up trash at the side of the highway! And the second was that I got to help Mr. Dean make a bench." His incredibly positive attitude did a lot to help mine.

Response to dreaming about Spiritual formation

Why was I not surprised that Heather had written a blog about our Saturday night gathering on Sunday morning. Of course, she had a couple of hours with 'nothing to do'!

I thought the evening was exciting. Fred and Elizabeth seemed open to exploring possibilities with then. It seemed to me that more was going on than just the words that were expressed. I felt the Holy Spirit was actively participating in what we were about. Fred said his heart was warmed when Ruth talked about our Iranian conversation.

What may we be lacking at KC? I believe Rogers question about faithful to what, is key to our Church moving ahead. It seems we have been trying to fill in gaps but without a plan. What may we be lacking? I don't see that most people at KC have a working knowledge of the Bible. What is the value of the Bible? Its Gods' Kingdom that we are about. The Bible is the rule book, the action plan, to learn where God wants the world and beyond to end up. Where else can we get information and find the source of power to do what God wants? We need to learn our past, how to live now and what we have to look forward to in the future.

The evening was really not about Christian eduation, the evening was more about where is the Church of the Saviour relevant in the world today and what makes it relevant? The same would be true for KC as well.

For the Church of the Saviour Gordon had a vision, a dream, a conviction about an authenic Church during the time he was a chaplain in the Army during WW2. (read Call to Commitment) When he came back from the war he gathered some people around him for a year and they together asked God to show them how to live out the gospel (my interpretation) in the world today--and specifically in DC. To ask, what is needed in peoples lives and how to open themselves to Gods' power to bring about help for a group of people in ministry seeking to fulfill the scripture in Matt to feed the hungry, visit the prisioners, take care of the poor etc. They needed to be equipped with Gods' power not their own. First they needed the spirit that God promised the early Christians and us. They needed to believe that all things are possible to those who believe. It was never about them, it was about beging Gods' people in the world. They have done that in incredible ways and continue.

The servant leadership school has fed many people because they are not just serving their small group but have reached out a hundred miles in every direction to bring people together in the classes and in the short worship service and meal. They do not believe this ministry is dead and I don't either. I think it may be changing and we may be able to be in on that change.

I think we need to prepare ourselves to be able to participate with them. We need to build our own series of classes that we could then offer to them and to others. We need to give as well as receive.

I believe we should develop two core classes for now. One would be on the Bible. Probably the New Testament and maybe Luke and acts to begin. I think the other class should be about Jesus. A title may be "Who is this Jesus that we espouse and serve?  Marcus Borg has a wonderful book titled "Jesus". Brian has several. We could develop a good curriculum arould both of these subjects and I think that would help us answer the question "faithful to what?".

I believe the meeting on Saturday night was the springboard. I would propose that we set up a series of meeting. One or more with Gordon Cosby. Seekers and some of the other ministries of the C of S. Lets continue the dream and let it expand and gel. We had a great beginning.  Charlie Powell