I love this interaction between Fred Peatross and Brian McLaren on New Wineskins.
Fred: One of the chapters in your book, A Generous Orthodoxy, is titled, "Why I am Missional." I'd like to hear your thoughts on the differences between a church that does missions and a missional community. I find this distinction very difficult to articulate to leaders today. Can you help me with this?
Brian McLaren: The biggest difference here is theological. If our understanding of the gospel is primarily dualistic: focused on "saving souls" for "eternity,” apart from the body, society, the environment, culture, history, etc., then we'll have "missions programs." But if our understanding of mission is integral: flows from an understanding of the gospel of the kingdom, then everything we do is mission. For example, public worship involves forming people as God-centered disciples, and God-centered disciples are a redemptive and healing force in the world, the kinds of people who do justice, love kindness, and walk humbly with God. To me, the gospel of the kingdom of God—the gospel Jesus proclaimed and demonstrated—integrates everything and changes everything.
Okay, I'll admit it. I'm a book-a-holic. Amazon loves me. Between being a teaching pastor and finishing a Masters in Biblical Studies, I get to do a good amount of reading - and this year was no exception. Of everything I read, here are a few gems:
I read this book as a part of an online book club. What impacted me was the fact that Yoder was saying things that were so ahead of his time, as he wrote the original The Politics of Jesus in 1972. This is a classic on what it means to have " you kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven." Yoder spoke of the gospel as a gospel of peace and justice, of liberation and hope. It's as timely today as when it was first written.
The title says it all. The book explores the last week of Jesus' life through the eyes of the book of Mark, the only gospel that offers a timeline for the events of the Passion Week. I read this book during the Passion Week. Amazing. Inspiring. Borg and Crossan have tapped into some powerful images of the events of the last week of Jesus in light of the socio-political climate.
In Spring 2006, I had a class called The New Testament World where we studied primary texts from the second century BCE to the first century CE. One of the texts that blew me away was the Dead Sea Scrolls. What I discovered was that in many ways those in Qumran embraced a similar outlook and relationship to Judaism as Christianity. They believed that they were the chosen remnant of Israel, and that the Hebrew scriptures were really written about them and their times.
Ashdown and Ryan Sharp kept recommending this book to me saying it was a must read. When I finally got around to starting it, I couldn't put it down. What challenged me the most was Rushkoff's idea that Judaism as it's core has never been about protecting theological boundaries and beliefs, but is [and should] more about a living relationship with the living God in more of an open source environment. Perhaps the future of Christianity should be more like that. Thought provoking. Challenging. Enlightening.
We did a series on the parables with the Sa'kred community this year. This is one of the books that made a profound impact, as it challenged me to re-think a lot of what I thought the parables were all about. The first part of the book explores the world in which Jesus spoke the parables and is worth the price of the book alone. The second and third sections explore specific parables.
Would any reading list be complete without something from N. T. Wright? Of the few Wright books I read this year, this one was my favorite. What I love about Wright is his ability to see and express the greater story of God - the renewal and restoration of all things. This book explores that larger story of God, as well as where we find ourselves in the midst of it as followers of Jesus.
I'm a big fan of Horsley's stuff. This book does a tremendous job of placing the life and teachings of Jesus in the midst the social and political climate of the first century. As is classic Horsley, he ends the book by exploring how the revolutionary nature of Jesus should transcend time, finding embodiment in his followers today.
I've loved everything Feiler has written. He has the amazing ability to place you on the ground in the Holy Land like no other. This book explores the person of Abraham from the perspective of the three major monotheistic religions of the world - Judaism, Islam, and Christianity. Along the way he find more that unites than divides.
I read this while on vacation in Kauai. More than just a great read, it had a profound impact on me. By exploring the connection between surfing, science, and spirituality - it provided a new window onto the issue of spirituality and how we are wired. Rather than limiting God, it just made God bigger for me. After reading and posting about the book, I had a great email exchange with Kotler about the book and the reaction from the religious community.
I read this book for my class, Scripture and Canon. It explores the formation of the Hebrew Scriptures, focusing on the time of King Hezekiah and King Josiah as the crucial developmental stage. A must read if you want to understand the religious and politcal forces behind the formation of the scriptures. The crucial question Schiedewind reminds us is not "who" wrote the scriptures, but "why" were they written.
Ulrich, who teaches at Notre Dame, is perhaps one of the foremost thinkers in the area of the Dead Sea Scrolls. Here Ulrich explores the origins of the scriptures through the lens of the Dead Sea Scrolls. What comes to light is that while evidence of every book of the Hebrew scriptures was found at Qumran, the amazing discovery was the presence of differing literary editions. Books were seen as authoritative, not necessarily a certain version of them. Hhhmmm. This book is flat out amazing.
abraham, bruce feiler, dead sea scrolls, douglas rushkoff, eugene ulrich, geza vermes, jesus, john dominic crossan, john howard yoder, marcus borg, n. t. wright, parables, richard horsley, steven kotler, william herzog, william schniedewind
Just sitting in one of my low rent offices doing some reading and came across this great quote from Anthony De Mello's book, Awareness. Enjoy.
The fact is that you're surrounded by God and you don't see God, because you "know" about God. The final barrier to the vision of God is your concept of God. You miss God because you think you know. That's the terrible thing about religion. That's what the gospels are saying, that religious people "knew," so they got rid of Jesus. The highest knowledge of God is to know God as unknowable. There is far too much God talk; the world is sick of it.
"The one who knows, does not say; the one who says, does not know." All revelations, however divine, are never any more than a finger pointing to the moon. As we say in the East, "When a sage points to the moon, all the idiot sees is the finger." [p. 102]
Salon has a great interview with Karen Armstrong in regards to some thoughts in her new book The Great Transformation: The Beginning of Our Religious Traditions She covers a lot of ground in the interview - including the history of monotheism, why most of what say about God is "unreligious," why the afterlife should be irrelevant, and our misconception of Isalm as a religion of violence [where she notes "that there are more passages in the Bible than in the Quran that are dedicated to violence."]
Stimulating. Thought provoking. Well worth the time.
Here's just a taste of the interview...
Religion is hard work. It's an art form. It's a way of finding meaning, like art, like painting, like poetry, in a world that is violent and cruel and often seems meaningless. And art is hard work. You don't just dash off a painting. It takes years of study. I think we expect religious knowledge to be instant. But religious knowledge comes incrementally and slowly. And religion is like any other activity. It's like cooking or sex or science. You have good art, sex and science, and bad art, sex and science. It's not easy to do it well.
So how should we approach the sacred texts? How should we read them?
Sacred texts have traditionally been a bridge to the divine. They're all difficult. They're not a simple manual - a how-to book that will tell you how to gain enlightenment by next week, like how to lose weight on the Atkins diet. This is a slow process. I think the best image for reading scripture occurs in the story of Jacob, who wrestles with a stranger all night long. And in the morning, the stranger seems to have been his God. That's when Jacob is given the name Israel - "one who fights with God." And he goes away limping as he walks into the sunrise. Scriptures are a struggle.
Is faith a struggle?
Well, faith is not a matter of believing things. That's again a modern Western notion. It's only been current since the 18th century. Believing things is neither here nor there, despite what some religious people say and what some secularists say. That is a very eccentric religious position, current really only in the Western Christian world. You don't have it much in Judaism, for example.
But it's not surprising that religion has become equated with belief because these are the messages we hear as we grow up, regardless of our faiths.
We hear it from some of them. And I think we've become rather stupid in our scientific age about religion. If you'd presented some of these literalistic readings of the Bible to people in the pre-modern age, they would have found it rather obtuse. They'd have found it incomprehensible that people really believe the first chapter of Genesis is an account of the origins of life.
If you've been a regular reader here for a while, then you'll remember that Jamie used to work at this killer little crepe place called La Galette, which is right across the street from the San Clemente pier. It was her favorite job in the entire world. Great people. Great food. Amazing view. [If you're ever in town, I highly recommend the Chicken Apple Sausage Scramble and a large Latte!]
Anyway, they called her a few weeks back and wanted to know if she would fill in for a few shifts over the holidays because they were in major need. She agreed. So this morning the kids and I went to "visit Mom" at work and have breakfast. Afterward, we went for a walk on the pier.
We got about half way out to the end, when we saw a crowd of people gathering and poiting out to the northside of the pier. It was about a dozen dolphins swimming about 50 yards off the pier. Josh saw them first and was the only one to witness them fully jumping out of the water... and doing a full twist! The crowd followed them as they headed around the end of the pier and south toward T Street. Just amazing!
With the big storm in the North Pacific, the surf was going off as well - sweet shoulder high sets with nice form. We stopped by the tower to watch the guys ride just south of the pier, between the pier and T Street. Had a great conversation with my son about surfing etiquette in the lineup.
So I guess you could say that I was pretty thankful for the morning. We got to relax, spend some great time together, and take in some amazing sights.
Here are a few photos I took from my phone. Not real great quality...
Almighty God, you have given your only-begotten Son to take our nature upon him, and to be born [this day] of a pure virgin: Grant that we, who have been born again and made your children by adoption and grace, may daily be renewed by your Holy Spirit; through our Lord Jesus Christ, to whom with you and the same Spirit be honor and glory, now and for ever. Amen.
Just walked in the door from our candlelight service at Sa'kred, where one of the songs we sang was O Holy Night. I've probably sung this song a thousand times, but I was really hit by the following lyrics tonight:
Truly he taught us to love one another
His law is love and his gospel is peace
Chains shall he break
For the slave is our brother
And in his name all oppression shall cease
These are the things that have speaking to me this Advent season. These are the things I want to mark my life as a Jesus follower - more than mere words, my prayer lately has been that these things would become central to my every day living, as natural as breathing. This is the way of Jesus.
O Jesus, may we live as the light of this world. May we love others the way you taught us to live. May we embody your gospel of peace for all creation, breaking the chains of oppression, and setting those in darkness free to live in the light of love.
O God, you have caused this holy night to shine with brightness of the true Light: Grant that we, who have known the mystery of that Light on earth, may also enjoy him perfectly in heaven; where with you and the Holy Spirit he lives and reigns, one God, in glory everlasting. Amen.
O God, you make us glad by the yearly festival of the birth of your only Son Jesus Christ: Grant that we, who joyfully receive him as our Redeemer, may with sure confidence behold him when he comes to be our Judge; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.