John Lackey, starting pitcher for the Angels, is now blogging here. He recently posted about tonight's start against the Royals and his pre-game routine - a strange ritual involving a peanut butter and jelly sandwich and a couple Red Bulls. [Sounds like a recipe for disaster.]
While reading tonight, I came across another gem from Gregory Boyd's book, The Myth of a Christian Nation - perhaps one of the better and more compelling visions of what the kingdom of God is like...
By God's design, this is how the kingdom of God expands and transforms the world. As we allow Christ's character to be formed in us - as we think and act like Jesus - others come under the loving influence of the kingdom and eventually their own hearts are won over to the King of Kings. The reign of God is thus established in their hearts, and the kingdom of God expands. That process, Scripture tells us, will culminate in the return of the King accompanied by legions of angels, at which time Satan's rule will end, the earth will be purged of all that is inconsistent with God's rule, and his kingdom of love will be established once and for all.
This in a nutshell, is the primary think God is up to in our world. He's not primarily about getting people to pray a magical "sinner's prayer" or to confess certain magical truths as a means of escaping hell. He's not about gathering together a group who happen to believe all the right things. Rather, he's about gathering together a group of people who embody the kingdom - who individually and corporately manifest the reality of the reign of God on earth. And he's about growing this new kingdom through his body to take over the world. This vision of what God is about lies at the heart of Jesus' ministry, and it couldn't contrast with the kingdom of the world more sharply. [p. 30]
The Church has lost a vital voice with the passing of Robert Webber, who died Friday night in his wife's arms, after an eight month battle with pancreatic cancer. While I was doing my undergraduate work at Azusa Pacific University, I can remember reading his book Worship is a Verb
for a class I was taking. I can remember how revolutionary it was for
me at that time, completely stretching my thoughts on what worship
Although I never got to know Robert Webber personally, I did have the opportunity to meet him and spend some time hearing his heart for the Church at an event locally a few years back. He was grace-filled, thoughtful, and engaging - full of life and vision.
Webber was a vital voice for many of us who were searching and wrestling with what the Church could and should be in this world. He will be mightily missed, but his impact will reverberate in the hearts of many for quite some time.
I know there has been much written about the state of the war in Iraq, but very few voices have been as intelligent as Andrew Sullivan, blogger and online thinker for The Atlantic Online. If you are not a regular reader of his blog, well... you need to be. Anyway, the Sunday Times ran an online article by Andrew that I thought was perhaps one of the most clear-headed assessments on the current state of Iraq. Here's just a bit...
The question, of course, is whether Americans are being defeatists or realists. One way of answering this question is to ask another: if they are being defeatist in Iraq, who are they conceding defeat to? If it’s to Iraq’s Shi’ite majority, then it’s not a defeat but a victory. If it’s to the Kurds, then, again, it’s a win.
Saddam is gone. There is no longer any potential threat of weapons of mass destruction from a failed Iraqi state. The actual reasons for fighting this war in the first place have therefore evaporated.
Bush says it would be a defeat against Al-Qaeda. But Al-Qaeda was not the presence in Iraq before the war that it is now. And occupying a Muslim country indefinitely is not exactly a way to staunch jihadist recruits either.
Most grown-ups in Washington, even Obama, are arguing for a redeployment out of Iraq that would retain an active potential to take on Al-Qaeda if it were to establish an enclave in Iraq more dangerous than the base it has already established in Pakistan. And if Iraq’s Shi’ites and Sunni tribes take on Al-Qaeda in Iraq, then we will have scored a huge victory by exposing the real battle that can only be fought by Muslims against other Muslims.
These arguments are not peacenik or liberal or defeatist. They are simply a recognition of fact. The fact is that a majority of Iraqis want the Americans to leave Iraq soon; and a solid majority of Americans want the same thing. Nothing looks as if it will change those two facts in the near future. And for Republicans facing an election next year, the near future is beginning to look alarmingly imminent.
You can read the rest of the Sunday Times article here, as well as more of Andrew's take here.
Our team had the first game of the day at the field, an 8:35 am start, playing against the Athletics. We made a lot of noise in the bottom of the first inning, with four hits and a walk, but only had one run to show for it. Meanwhile Brendan, our starting pitcher, held them scoreless for the first three innings, striking out like eight guys - yeah, he had pretty sweet control. We gave up for runs in the fourth inning though, via a few misques and a few timely hits. We tied it up in the bottom of the fifth when Josh scored from third on a sweet squeeze play. It was a battle all of the way, but we pulled it out in the bottom of sixth with the go ahead run. Padres 5, Athletics 4. So we're 7-3-1 for the season and firmly in third place. I like how the boys are playing, they are beginning to really click as a team. Josh went 0 for 0 at the plate, as they walked him three times.
If you've followed our journey for a while, you've at some time or another heard about this Thursday night group that we've hosted in our home for... geez, like five years now. The group has gone through a variety of seasons, we've seen people move away to other parts of the country, as well as welcomed some of the most amazing people. Yet even with the addition of new faces, the ethos the group has remained - an eclectic batch of people walking together and exploring faith.
Well, we're in one of those "new" seasons, where we've re-launched the group, so to speak. One of the things we've loved in the past is to use Rob Bell and the NOOMA videos to help frame our discussion and interactions. So last night we decided to watch the latest NOOMA offering, You. It presented some profound thoughts on the nature of the gospel and living in the reality of the resurrection, which is exactly what we've been exploring as the sa'kred community. The video was thought provoking [as usual] and left us with whole new set of questions that few of us had any clear answers for...
If the tomb is empty, what does that mean for the places we find ourselves everyday, with the people we find ourselves everyday?
How do we embody the resurrected kind of life? How do we spread it, inviting others to taste and touch it?
If the message of the gospel was truly "good news" to the first followers of Jesus [the message that God was putting all things back together again in the here and now], how does that message translate into "good news" to those in our world - here, now, today, in Orange County?
If the message of the gospel was so revolutionary, how do we capture that understanding today? Is the message truly still revolutionary? How so? If it is, how are we embodying it and inviting others into it?
Just a few questions from our discussion, which left all of us hungry and yearning... not for easy answers, but for a way of life that is connected with the core of who we are.
Our team kicked off a stretch of three game over the next five days with a quality win over the Tigers, 5-2, last night. The boys played a pretty much mistake free game [which has been quite a feat for our team at times], even pulling off a pair of pick-offs. Josh was our starting pitcher, going four innings and giving up one earned run on three hits, striking out six. He also had a nice drive to the fence for a single. He went 1-2, with an RBI and a run scored.
Recently a friend of mine recommended Gregory Boyd's book, The Myth of a Christian Nation. It had been on my "to read list" for a while, so I decided to pick it up. My smiley box arrived a few days ago. This morning, I decided to launch into the book and got as far as the introduction and came across this little gem...
The myth of America as a Christian nation, with the church as its guardian, has been, and continues to be, damaging both to the church and to the advancement of God's kingdom. Among other things, this nationalistic myth blinds us to the way in which our most basic and most cherished cultural assumptions are diametrically opposed to the kingdom way of life taught by Jesus and his disciples. Instead of living out the radically countercultural mandate of the kingdom of God, this myth has inclined us to Christianize many pagan aspects of our culture. Instead of providing the culture with a radically alternative way of life, we largely present it with a religious version of what it already is. The myth clouds our vision of God's distinctively beautiful kingdom and thereby undermines our motivation to live as set apart (holy) disciples of this kingdom.
Even more fundamentally, because this myth links the kingdom of God with certain political stances within American politics, it has greatly compromised the holy beauty of the kingdom of God to non-Christians. This myth harms the church's primary mission. For many in America and around the world, the American flag has smothered the glory of the cross, and the ugliness of our American version of Caesar has squelched the radiant love of Christ. Because the myth that America is a Christian nation has led many to associate America with Christ, many now hear the good news of Jesus only as American news, capitalistic news, imperialistic news, exploitive news, antigay news, or Republican news. And whether justified or not, many people want nothing to do with any of it. [p. 13-14]
For many people I've talked to "outside" of the religious establishment, the good news of Jesus has become exactly as Boyd as described it. Which has led me to question how this beautiful message of the kingdom has become so sectarian. It's become not just a message about the kingdom, but one that has now come with qualifiers. Could God be concerned about issues larger than either the Democratic or Republican platforms? Is God indeed "on our side" as a nation, even only on the side of the Republican Party? I wonder, have we merely made God into a nationalistic, tribal God - and thus are being led into a seductive form of idolatry?
The Kingdom of God transcends political platforms and tribalism. It is a way of living that we are invited into, a way of life that is counter-cultural, even counter-American culture. May the Church rediscover its radical, counter-cultural, revolutionary nature once again, remembering that the Church is at it's best not when it is fighting for power, but is inhabiting places of love, servanthood, and embrace. This is the way of Jesus.
... a day game at Angel Stadium. [And it's even better when the tickets are free!] My cousin just called me with four Club level tickets for tomorrow's game against the Detroit Tigers AND the same four tickets for Thursday's game against the Tampa Bay Devil Rays.
Ah, the smell of the grass on a spring afternoon...
I just got back from dropping my Mom and Step-dad off at LAX, where they are on their way to Venice for a two week Greek Isle cruise. Must be nice, 'eh.
Anyway, on the drive back I had a chance to catch up on some much needed podcast listening. First up on the docket, Rob Bell's latest from last weekend at Mars Hill. Again, Rob continues to say things that make me want to shout "Yes" at the top of my lungs. In fact, I think I let a few out on the drive home. So if you were on the 405 this afternoon, my apologies.
Rob was teaching on the nature of being a disciple of Jesus from Matthew 28. He made mention that central to being a disciple is "teaching" others what the Creator is like. He made mention that when they had one of their town meetings in regards to their XYZ initiatives, he recieved this question:
"I think serving the poor is fantastic, but I am a little concerned. We need to be sure to tell them about Jesus. When is it that we are going to tell them about Jesus?"
Rob's reply expressed something I've been pondering for a while. He said that after some thought, he came to the realization that the question is not when do we teach them about Jesus, but what are we teaching them about Jesus. You see, by the way we live out lives and interact with others we are teaching something about the nature of who Jesus is and what he is about. In other words, we do not "tell them about Jesus" only in a prescribed presentation using words and propositions. We are actually "telling others about Jesus" in a myriad of other ways, all the time.
What I'm coming to learn is that when we reduce the gospel to information in a tract that we present, we actually neuter the gospel, so to speak. I would even say we cheapen and limit the gospel as well.
A few years ago I was accused of being a person who "cheapened the gospel." This person felt that I was "soft on sin" and that all this stuff about restoration clouded the message of Jesus' substitutionary death on the cross. I was a little taken aback, mostly because the person admitted that he had never heard me teach before. After giving it some thought, I wondered... isn't reducing the beautiful and mysterious message of the gospel to a four statements and a prayer in a tract you could "throw down" with someone actually be the cheapening of the gospel?
Rob's reply opened up all sorts of questions for me. What are we teaching about Jesus when...
... we picket and boycott?
... we choose not to work with an organization that is not "Christian"?
... we hold signs that communicate hate and condemnation, all in the name of Jesus?
... we isolate ourselves from "the world," living only amongst ourselves.
... we chose to label things "non-Christian" and "Christian," and only believe that God is in the one and not the other?
... we make the church into a distributor of religious goods and services?
... we market "Jesus junk"?
This is something I've been pondering lately, especially in light of the desire of the sa'kred community to serve and love those living with AIDS/HIV. More to come on this, but suffice it to say, I've already personally encountered some surprising suspicion and outright judgment from those professing to be like Jesus. Quite saddening.