Emerge and Restore

Exploring faith, God, and church in the 21st century...

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Location: Kansas, United States

Tuesday, May 24, 2005

Are you Certain?

Here's a longish quote from a lecture by Walter Brueggemann that sort of articulates what postmoderns have been struggling to communicate to moderns about how they look at faith. Please understand that these are snippets from a talk which I have transcribed...(EDITED: after listening to the lecture for the first time in a while, I noticed that these comments I transcribed aren't exactly word for word...but they're really very close. Consider what's here THE MESSAGE to Brueggemann's original text):

"We all want certitude in our lives, but the Gospel is not about certitude, it is about fidelity. Fidelity is a relational category, while certitude is a flat, mechanical one. We have to acknowledge our thirst for certitude, and then realize that if we had all of the certitude in the world, it would not improve the quality of our lives at all because what we wouldn't have is fidelity...

...Fidelity is like having a teenager in the house in that, you don't ever get it settled for more than three minutes. If you aren't constantly working on it, you don't have a relationship...

...We need to recognize the promise for certitude, made by ANY voice is a false promise that cannot be kept. There is not enough certitude in the world to make us happy and make us safe. In the Gospel account, that's called the way of the cross. Jesus never makes any of his disciples certain...

...The truth of the Gospel cannot be articulated in flat, certain prose...

...It is our job as ministers to deconstruct our church members' need for certitude..."

You can download the whole sermon, plus more Brueggemann and great N.T. Wright stuff at:

- What do you think? Is certainty over-rated? Is it something we are incapable of, yet delude ourselves into thinking we posess because it makes us feel better?

I tend to agree...but this whole concept sure makes people uncomfortable...

Monday, May 23, 2005


I originally started this blog to help hone my writing skills, since I like to write, but rarely get the time. Still don't seem to find time to put out anything of quality...but here's something I wrote for the religion column of my city's newspaper a while back:

A few months ago, late on a Sunday night, it snowed. I remember it clearly, because if I would have had my way, I would have never seen it at all. But my infant daughter was crying and it was my turn to get up. I changed her, wrapped her tightly, and rocked her back to sleep. And passing by a window as I returned to the comfort of my own bed, I saw the snow. It was snowing heavily, but the flakes themselves were light and graceful, fluttering slowly to the ground like oak leaves in autumn.
What really caught my attention was the size of the snowflakes, maybe the biggest I had ever seen. Some appeared to be more than two inches in diameter. I felt drawn to go outside to see it more clearly, barefoot, wearing only shorts and a T-shirt. I sat in the old rocker on our porch and watched the beautiful snow come down.
For an hour, until my limbs were numb with cold, I sat captivated by the snowfall. The beauty was startling; the contrast between the busy motion of the snow and the total silence of the landscape was unearthly. And I prayed. I’m no stranger to prayer, but I somehow connected with God in a way that surprised even me. There in the quiet, I knew God was at work, I knew he was close. It was just snow, but it was more than that; it was one of the most spiritually stirring moments of my life.
There’s a fascinating story in I Kings 19:10-18, where God chose to reveal himself in a telling way to his prophet Elijah. As Elijah stood on the face of Mount Horeb there was a devastating windstorm that shook the ground, but God wasn’t in the wind. Next came an earthquake, but God was not in it. Then a fire, but still no God. But then there came a gentle whisper, and Elijah knew it was Him. The Lord spoke to Elijah, encouraging him, revitalizing him for the next part of his journey. God was in the whisper. And I think God was in the snow.
Many people would like God to reveal himself to us in a gigantic, exciting, life-changing way, maybe in a piercing blast of light like with the apostle Paul (Acts 9:3). But today God chooses to reveal himself in smaller, quieter ways.
He never shouts for our attention. He won’t force his way into our lives. There will always be things in our lives that call out more urgently for our attention. Our busyness will always obscure our view of Jesus. It’s what he called “the cares of this life and the lure of wealth.” (Matthew 13:22, NLT).
Why does the omnipotent creator of the universe allow himself to be upstaged by the insignificant matters of our little world? To lead us to seek him. Because he wants us to want him. He communicates in murmurs and whispers so that we have to stop and pay attention and actively search for him amid the roars and confusion of our lives. He’s not avoiding us; he’s asking us to give the effort that worshipping him requires. He wants to be part of our lives, but we must look for him as well.
Sometimes we must overlook all the urgent, often perfectly appropriate things that consume our lives. To know he is God, maybe we’ve got to be still. Listen for his whisper. Look at a snowflake. Connect with God.

Tuesday, May 17, 2005

Something I've only recently been brave enough to teach in the church: "IF WE TALK ABOUT ANYTHING MORE THAN WE TALK ABOUT JESUS, WE'VE MADE THAT THING AN IDOL." I was specifically referencing baptism, but everyone's got their sacred cows.  Posted by Hello


It's always been interesting to me, although I've only recently been able to connect it to the larger picture, that salvation in the Old Testament is always talked about in very concrete, "here-and-now" terms. Save us from our enemies, save us from this famine...salvation is a huge OT topic (check out the Psalms), yet without the language of Heaven or Hell. It was a salvation from earthly things.

And I wondered if that had any correlation to our life under the new covenant...or if we are just luckier than them and get to conceptualize salvation in a purely spiritual sense, thus muffling the NT's call on our lives for transformation in the here-and-now.

I slowly have begun to see that salvation has a very real, very important significance in both the spiritual and physical realm (I know...that's a false dichotomy...but it's easily understood). Just as we are saved FROM "Hell" and INTO Heaven, we are also saved FROM our sinful nature and INTO God's purpose here on earth. Maybe we need to revise our concept of salvation, too.
I think Jesus came to save us from our lusts, from our lies, from our laziness. He wants to save us from the power that greed holds over us, break us out of our bondage to our culture. He came to give us salvation from broken relationships and self-centered egotism. And he came to save us into a kingdom of healing, of peacemaking, of relationship and community. He's asked us to share in his mission of love and concern for others, of worship and generosity...that's salvation. Those things that sometimes we wish we wouldn't have to do...those things we consider obligations...those aren't values to be tolerated...they are the point of salvation: to have our brokenness restored...right now. To have the sins that are killing us destroyed and to be swept up in the excitement that comes with really doing kingdom things. We aren't saved and then gradually begin to do those good things...we are saved TO do them.

We haven't just been saved from the eternal guilt of our sins...he wants to save us from sin. Right now.

Friday, May 06, 2005

Blessed are the Poor in Spirit

In my Bible, Matthew 5:3 reads: "Blessed are those who realize their need for Him..." I think that's one of the clearest translations out there (NLT). I preached recently that "We Must Be Poor Before We Can Become Rich," based on that verse. Here's a list I used:

1. The poor know they are in need of urgent redemption.

2. The poor know not only their dependence on God and on powerful people but also their interdependence with one another.

3. The poor rest their security not on things but on people.

4. The poor have no exaggerated sense of their own importance, and no exaggerated need of privacy.

5. The poor expect little from competition and much from cooperation.

6. The poor can distinguish between necessities and luxuries.

7. The poor can wait, because they have acquired a kind of dogged patience born of acknowledged dependence.

8. The fears of the poor are more realistic and less exaggerated, because they already know that one can survive great suffering and want.

9. When the poor have the gospel preached to them, it sounds like good news and not a threat or a scolding.

10. The poor can respond to the gospel with a certain abandonment and uncomplicated totality, because they have so little to lose and are ready for anything.

Thursday, May 05, 2005


Since I'm still relatively new to the area, and very new to the pulpit, I've only recently joined my community's ministerial alliance, where many of the ministers from all over the area come together to study the Bible, fellowship, and plan spiritual events for the entire community.

Yesterday was only my second time participating in this group made up of 40 ministers from nearly 20 different fellowships, and both times I was met with a fair amount of incredulity both because of my age and because of the tradition from whence I come. Some of the comments include: "You're not allowed to be here, are you?" "I didn't expect to see you here." "Aren't you ashamed to be associating with us unbelievers?" (Ok, ok...lots of them asked, "How old ARE you?")

This group, the LCMA (Lyon County Ministerial Alliance) , always begins by discussing the week's lectionary passage (don't know what a lectionary is? Look it up...and think about getting out of your denominational house once in a while), which this week happened to be from John 17. Jesus' prayer that "they may all be one." Each of us got to share a few thoughts about this passage. When it was my turn...I repented. I apologized on behalf of all the members of the Churches of Christ who had been hateful and divisive and exclusive and mean. I upheld these ministers' identity as believers and Christians and expressed a desire to be unified with them, lest the world not recognize that Jesus was sent from God. And guess what...I got a standing ovation...in fact the only ovation of any kind, along with many handshakes and hugs.

Then an older Baptist minister was asked to close us in prayer. He prayed for our group, our churches...and for the "dear brother who has joined us today to take a stand for unity," and continued to pray for me and the Churches of Christ and since I thought I heard his voice break, I glanced up at him to see tears rolling down his cheeks. He finished and came and embraced me and told me stories of how many times he'd been told that he wasn't a Christian, how often he'd been excluded and shunned by my brethren. And as a final tear fell from his chin, he thanked me for my simple act of participation.

And so I learned that we have done wrong, that we've damaged our own reputation, that we've failed to earn respect. This IS important...we can't afford to be arrogant...we just need to be Christians only...not the only Christians.