Monday, February 27, 2006

Birmingham Today

Despite what I said in the previous post - I just looked at the Birmngham News' newly published civil rights era photos. So I am posting after all.

I look at those images and think that the people working non-violently for rights, for opportunity, for justice . . . won technically, but I am afraid that looking at Birmingham today, they really lost.

Bigotry and prejudice are always inventive, and ways were found to comply with the changes in law but to keep the evil going. New legal ways were crafted to separate blacks and whites, for the whites to hold onto wealth, and to leave blacks in poverty.

Here in the great "Christian" south where some champion putting the ten commandments front and center, we still fail miserably to do right by our neighbors. Some southerners will resent my assertion, but then you only have to go outside this area to see what life is like where racial prejudice does not continue to profoundly shape society.

To be fair, prejudice exists everywhere -it was Polacks when I lived in Iowa, wogs and aborigines in Australia, wetbacks in Texas . . . but there is something more prevalent where the separation continues in systemic ways.

What the bigots don't realize is that when any of us are impoverished, it affects us all. We are all poorer. You don't get ahead by stepping on others . . . you only sink down by trying to push them down.

Reusing Posts

Because I have too much to do to write another post today, or at least I think I have too much to do, I am including part of a post from my other blog, Contemplations.


Contemplation #111
“I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting the one who called you by the grace of Christ . . .” Galatians 1:6

The grace of Christ tolerates no rivals and no exceptions. God’s grace is so all-consuming that it leaves no room for any other way of living. Therefore, any move to live by means other than grace is a desertion of God’s merciful action in Christ. This is why our abandonment of grace can come quickly. We do not slide gradually from living by grace, but at the first turn to something other we immediately abandon God and the way of grace. The nature of grace means, though, that my quick desertion of it is not the same of God’s removal of it. Paul instructs us to return to the grace that we so quickly leave, living intentionally once again in that which we left, though which did not leave us.

Thursday, February 23, 2006

Another Voice . . .

Words from Ozzy Osbourne's Dreamer:

Gazing through the window at the world outside
Wondering will mother earth survive
Hoping that mankind will stop abusing her

After all there's only just the two of us
And here we are still fighting for our lives
Watching all of history repeat itself
Time after time

I'm just a dreamer
I dream my life away
I'm just a dreamer
Who dreams of better days

I watch the sun go down like everyone of us
I'm hoping that the dawn will bring a sign
A better place for those Who will come after us ...
This time

I'm just a dreamer
I dream my life away oh yeah
I'm just a dreamer
Who dreams of better days

Your higher power may be God or Jesus Christ
It doesn't really matter much to me
Without each others help there ain't no hope for us
I'm living in a dream of fantasy
Oh yeah, yeah, yeah

Saturday, February 18, 2006

Truth Telling

I think that I (and I cannot say to what degree this may or may not be true for others) am still only slowly coming to understand how Jesus dealt lovingly with others - to nurture them toward God. I am convicned that I have not known how to be first loving, and only "right" within that framework.

Too often in the past I said what was "right" or "correct" on a matter, believing that being truthful in telling others what was right was to be loving. It makes good logic, but in practice I think it is actually self-satisfying. What I mean is that when I tell someone else truth to unburden myself, I am telling them out of self-love, not love for others.

Surely you know the same Bible stories that made me tend to do this - the lepers who had to tell everyone that the enemy army was gone. The watchman who isn't guilty of the people's blood as long as he sounds the alarm; if they don't listen, their blood is on their heads.

Many times I think I was like Pilate, washing my hands of other people's blood, by making sure I told them the truth. Now it was up to them - not me anymore. I was off the hook eternally.

Now when I look at the gospels - I just don't see Jesus telling others "truth" so he wouldn't be responsible. He seemed to say what they needed, not what "truth" demanded.

If you don't know what I mean by "truth" here . . . this is going to be long enough without explaining it completely. Maybe I can say simply, "truth" is something that I believe to be "right" but may have nothing to do with helping anyone. It's sterile, laboratory truth. It's truth about what is sin. That kind of statement.

Contrast this with Jesus talking to the woman caught in adultery. When he says "I don't condemn you . . . go and sin no more" he tells her three things, only one of which is new. She knew what she was doing was sin, and that she shouldn't do it anymore. It had been 1200 years since Moses received the ten commandments. She knew this.

What Jesus told her that was new was that he didn't condemn her. What if Christians stopped being those who tell everyone the "truth" of how what they are doing is wrong, and shared the truth of how Jesus (and his followers) are not in the condemning business?

We'll all be roundly labelled as soft on sin, of simply being pc, of being tolerant and reflective of a permissive age, and not believing in absolutes.

Oh, well.

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Order and Love

In part of our coffee conversation the idea was raised that in congregational life orderliness and love are at odds. Orderliness can have many forms such as to be nice and neat about beliefs and practices, about forms and structures, or about ways of simply doing community. Love is about acceptance.

Orderliness requires the exclusion of any who might not conform. When the dominant "order" is love, then there is the inclusion of diversity in belief and practice, forms and structure, and divergent ways of being a community.

The unavoidable reality is that there is a lack of orderliness in humanity, and in our spiritual condition. To love will mean not easing our discomfort concerning the orderliness of another that seems disorderly to me.

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Catching the Wave

We are glad to begin sharing the building we lease with another church, Tapestry of Hope. For anyone who's been missing going to two services on Sundays . . . well now at our Lorna Road building Disciples' Fellowship meets in the mornings and Tapestry of Hope in the evenings.

The really cool thing is that this is just one in several ways in which God has mulitiplied our participation with His people in the last few weeks. In my missions experience, it takes 2-3 years for a movement to really get started, to work through the start-up process, and then begin really moving as God directs.

Realistically, many who began this journey did so with a considerable amount of extra luggage - more like great weights and chains which shackled everything. Thorugh God's grace we've are being brought to where we won't bind our burdens on others - and have been freed to lay much down that was needless and the dictates of men.

To me this is a sign of God moving us into an exciting and uncomfortable adventure (uncomfortable if you like knowing what is going to happen) of being and doing what will be to God's glory.

It seems that some of that is going to be practicing a unity with believers and an acceptance of anyone struggling to come to belief.

When our work in Africa reached this point I likened it to riding the crest of a wave of the Spirit's working . . . just trying to ride it and knowing there is no controlling it.

Way cool.