"Reading the Statisticians of Our Predicament Rather Than the Prophets of Our Deliverance"

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R.R. Reno

Give and Take is a conversation podcast that can be very heady and wonky for those who love theology. Frankly, the people on this podcast are too smart for me to always follow and I am humbled every time I listen - I just am not as smart as I want to think that I am.

Recently, Scott Jones (the host) had a conversation with R. R. Reno (AKA Rusty). I was introduced to R. R. Reno in Seminary via a book he wrote called In the Ruins of the Church. When I heard this podcast, I wanted to just jot down a few great ideas that came from this conversation, so that I don't forget them. I hope these notes are as inspiring to you as there are for me. 

Among the gems that I found in this conversation was the idea that too much of our time is spent reading the statisticians of our predicament rather than the prophets of our deliverance. I am aware of how much I spend reading about the "predicament" we are in. I know that it is critical to diagnose the illness before treatment can begin. It seems clear to me that too many of us (self included) are parsing diagnostic words but few prophets are discussing what the treatment is for such ills. 

We are not able to listen to these prophets for at least two reasons. First is human nature. Prophets call us to account and call us to change. Humans have done a very good job at killing prophets in our world; this is an ancient problem.

The other reason we don't listen to prophets sharing solutions feels newer. We may not listen to the prophets of our deliverance because we do not have consensus on what the problem is. 

Moses was a prophet and he was not killed by his people. Why? Perhaps it is because there was a consensus on what the problem was - the people were enslaved. There was a deep agreement that slavery is the "predicament" and so it is easier to hear the prophet who is speaking deliverance to that predicament.

I grow frustrated about how much time I spend on understanding the predicament, I also know that until there is a sense of what the "problem is" we will never be able to hear the prophet lead us toward the path of healing.

Absorbing the Bible is Easier Than Being Absorbed by the Bible

Sometimes we think of the Bible as combination of an ancient encyclopedia and fortune teller. That is to say, many of us read the Bible in order to absorb it's knowledge so that when we are faced with a situation we can fire off a few Bible verses to make sense of the situation. There is a respect given to those who are fluid in their knowledge of the Bible that often times we think that the more you absorb the more you must really know the Bible. There is a comfort in absorbing the Bible, but absorbing the Bible is easier than being absorbed by the Bible.

When we absorb the Bible often fall into the trap of using the Bible as a tool for argument. We reference the scriptures that are used as bullet points to try to make the argument. However, the Bible is not a tool for argument, it is closer to being a tool for conversation. It is a collection of conversations over time and space even into today. There are numerous conversations going on in the Bible that to pick up and begin reading at any location would be like walking into a party that was well underway and try to jump into a conversation. We don't know how the conversation got to this point, but we are now a part of it and we are invited to participate.

Just as we are absorbed in conversation, keen readers of the Bible are absorbed by it. You don't jump into the conversation with your own agenda and topics, the conversation has already begun, the direction is well underway. When we are absorbed by the Bible we are invited to take a different perspective and world view. We are invited to participate, rather than dictate the terms of the conversation. 

When we are absorbed by the Bible we are shaped, formed, transformed. We are, like clay, molded and fired. We are strangers in a foreign land and dependent upon the hospitality of our conversation partners.

Here is one way to know if we are absorbing or being absorbed by the Bible - If we believe there is one, and only one, correct interpretation to a scripture then we are absorbing the Bible. If however, we trust that the Bible is a conversation that is influenced by the Holy Spirit, if we believe the Bible is the living word open to new and fresh understanding, a book that speaks life into every age - then we are being absorbed by the Bible. 

Absorbing the Bible is much easier, it does not involve much faith or trust at all. Which may be why we are more interested in just absorbing the scriptures than being absorbed by them.

Mustaches on Babies and Resurrection: That's Funny!

 Alexander Crispin

 Alexander Crispin

It has been said that humans have five senses: touching, tasting, hearing, seeing, and smelling. I would submit that humans universally have a sixth sense: the sense of humor. Just as we all have a different sense of what is “spicy”, so too we all have a different sense of what is humorous and what is not. We all know something is funny when we see it, but we all don’t laugh at the same things or with the same intensity. Whatever we find funny, humor is built on the same principle: incongruence. For instance, if you drew a mustache on a baby that would be an example of incongruence. Now a baby with a mustache may not be that funny to you. The more you see the same incongruity, the less funny it becomes. However, children who see babies with mustaches laugh the most because it is the first time they are seeing this incongruence.

In order to recognize incongruence, you must first have a sense of what is congruent. In order to know what is extraordinary, you must know what is ordinary. Even the lightest chuckle means that you recognize something is “out of sorts” (incongruence). The ability to see what is “out of sorts” is not only being funny, it is also being prophetic. The prophets would point out the things that were out of the ordinary - like when Amos called out those who had so much food they were throwing it away while the people they ruled were starving (Amos 4). Or when Jesus told a parable about workers getting paid the same wage regardless of the amount of time they worked in the field (Matthew 20). We should laugh at these because they are not “normal.” When we experience resurrection, we should laugh because we have been told that it is normal for death to be the end and to have the last word. Resurrection is the great laugh of God in the face of what we think is normal.

It is true that in trying to explain a joke, the joke becomes less funny. Humor is funny like that: it thrives with understanding but diminishes with explanation. Humor is best experienced rather than dissected. Humor is relational rather than clinical. In this way, humor is much like the Christian life: it is to be understood rather than explained. If we struggle with the irony and complexity of understanding humor, then we can safely assume that we may also struggle with understanding resurrection!

And so, may we enter God’s world with a sense of awe and wonder at all the ways it is congruent so that we can have a fuller understanding of the incongruent nature of the life, death and resurrection of Jesus. May we see with prophetic eyes the things in this world that are out of sorts or not normal so that we can work to usher in justice and peace. May we be the people of God who laugh, even in the dark times, knowing that the Light cannot be extinguished.

Source: http://www.rookiemoms.com/parenting-trends...

Best Preachers Practice, Not Rehearse, Sermons

Not only do the best preachers deliver sermons and develop a point of view they also practice their sermons. This is something that every homiletic class (the fancy title for preaching class) in seminary teaches. Practicing sermons are vital to the delivery and to the development of the point of view. However, practicing sermons is not the same as rehearsing sermons.

One does not have to rehearse sermons, but they must be practiced. 

Practicing sermons, or "practice what you preach", is the idea that we need to do what we preach not just speak it. So if you are a preacher that preaches about the need for reconciliation, then your sermons will be made great if you practice reconciliation. If you are a God accepts all people sort of preacher, then you should practice that sermon. 

The beautiful part is that when you practice your sermons, then you will not have as much of a need to rehearse them. The sermon will come from your being and doing. The people can see your sermon each time you stand in the pulpit.

You can rehearse all you want, but the best preachers practice their sermons.

There is a great little story by Henri Nouwen (Time Enough to Minister, 1982) that speaks to the need to practice your sermons, even when you don't have time to rehearse them. It goes like this:

"Often we're not as pressed for time as much as we feel we're pressed for time. I remember several years ago becoming so pressed by demands of teaching at Yale that I took a prayer sabbatical to the Trappist monastery at Geneseo, New York. No teaching, lecturing, or counseling--just solitude and prayer.  
"The second day there, a group of students from Geneseo College walked in and asked, 'Henri, can you give us a retreat?'
""Of course at the monastery that was not my decision, but I said to the abbott, 'I came here from the university to get away from this type of thing. These students have asked for five meditations, an enormous amount of work and preparation. I don't want to do it.'
"The abbot said, 'You're going to do it.'
"'What do you mean? Why would I spend my sabbatical time preparing all those things?'
"'Prepare?' he replied. 'You've been a Christian for forty years and a priest for twenty, and a few high school students wan to have a retreat. Why do you have to prepare? What those boys and girls want is to be a part of your life in God for a few days. If you pray half an hour in the morning, sing in our choir for an hour, and do your spiritual reading, you will have so much to say you could give ten retreats.'
"The question, you see, is not to prepare but to live in a state of ongoing preparedness so that, when someone who is drowning in the world comes into your world, you are ready to reach out and help. It may be at four o'clock, six o'clock, or nine o'clock. One time you call it preaching, the next time teaching, then counseling, or later administration. But let them be a part of your life in God--that's ministering."