Preacher of the Month - 4 years later

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A few years ago, I ran this little project called “Preacher of the Month”. It was an excuse for me to listen to other preachers I appreciated and then wrote a little thing about why I think others should know of these preachers as well. It was a small project highlighting preachers who are not in big pulpits and people you may not come across in your day to day activities.

Four years later, I wondered what it would look like to revisit the “Preacher of the Month” project. So over the course of the year it is my intention to connect with the original group of preachers and also to introduce a new set of preachers that I think others should know about.

God's Insistence

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The debates of the existence of God drive me bonkers. Not only are they usually staged between two people entrenched in their views but they generally talk past each other in order to score points so to “win” the debate. The whole process is just silly because, and this may be shocking, but it is a fools errand to talk about God’s existence. God is much less one who exists but rather the One who insists.

For example, when you look at a landscape painting, you will see distance and perspective. Asking if the mountains in the painting exist is a question that misses the point. The mountains do not so much exist as they insist. They are there on the canvas, insisting their presence even as they do not exist.

God’s insistence is how we come to know God’s presence. Most people do not have a “burning bush” experience or an angle coming from the clouds telling them a message. Most of us move through our lives and bump into moments of beauty, love, joy and hope. These moments insist there is something beyond what we can sense, something within and yet beyond the material world.

There is an insistence to creation. That insistence to life and love, joy and hope, we divine.

Some of us even call it God.

It is because of God’s insistence that God’s existence is real.

Orthodox, Heterodox and Heretic

I grew up in the “crazy” streets of a sub-urban cul-de-sac neighborhood. It was there, in those secure and safe streets that one rule reigned supreme among the neighborhood kids. Majority rule. When we all got together to play, the majority decided what will be played. It did not matter if you wanted to play soccer, the majority had roller blades and so it was decided that street hockey was to be played. Majority rule. It was the indisputable logic and rule of the “sacs” (the name we gave to the collection of dead end streets in our neighborhood).

By in large, majority rule is still the reigning rule of groups not just in group decisions or politics but even in theology. Of course, the Church does not call it “majority rule”, the Church word is “Orthodox”. What is considered orthodox is what has been agreed upon by the majority of people in a given time and place. Sometimes those majorities rule for a long time but others change with high frequency, however the underlying assumption is it is the will of the majority that rules.

Of course as long as you are in the majority you are probably happy, but once you come to disagree with the majority then what do you do? In the “sacs” the minority positions would be banished from the conversation and you either got on board or you went home. Thus, making decisions becomes a zero-sum game. There are those who “win” and those who “loose”.

In the life of the Church, this zero-sum approach shows up as there are those who are “orthodox” and those who are “heretic.” It becomes the task of the heretic to get on board with the orthodox and it is also the task of the orthodox to convince the heretic to join the majority.

The Heterodox Beauty

The Heterodox Beauty

Many people in the Church do not hold the majority (orthodox) position but they are not heretical. For example the UMC upholds that women can be in any level of leadership. However there are many in the denomination who do not agree and refuse to accept a female pastor. Those who do not accept a female preacher hold a minority position in the UMC. Of course this position is the majority in another denomination.

Minority positions in the church are called “Heterodox”. The heterodox position is one that is of dissent to the orthodox position. It is the voice that challenges and critiques. It is not heretical, it is heterodoxal.

So what are we to do with those who hold minority positions in the denomination?

As a side note: I wonder why the majority/orthodox positions become frustrated with the minority/hertordox positions? Why would the majority be annoyed by the minority if not but out of fear of loosing the prestige of being in the majority? If the majority is really threaten could it be because on some level those in the majority know there is truth in the minority position?

Giving up Bible Reading in 2019

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Reading the Bible is a time honored tradition in the life of the Christian and this year I think I am giving it up. I am giving up reading the Bible for scripture reading.

Reading the Bible and scripture reading are different not in content but in posture. The same words are engaged but it is a different approach. When we read the Bible we tend to look for what we can learn or what we can gain. We look for the teaching or the wisdom we need to get through the moment. We find something that can challenge us or stimulate our thinking. The vast majority of Bible studies that I have been apart are interested in expanding your thinking in order to shore up belief structures. Reading the Bible puts the reader as the protagonist (the main actor) in the process.

Reading scripture is different.

First of all, we do not read scripture - scripture reads us. Scripture exposes to us the things in our life and world that we are blind to and even need to repent of. However the primary difference is that scripture reading means that we are open to (and expectant of) an encounter with the living Christ. This means scripture reading is not an action but an event. It is a “happening”. It is a theophany.

Shifting from reading the Bible to scripture reading is ultimately differentiated by the fruit each practice bears. If we are not transformed by the words we read, then we are reading the Bible. And so, as a start consider this scripture reading:

But if you had known what this means, “I desire mercy and not sacrifice”, you would not have condemned the guiltless.
— Jesus, Matthew 12:7