Thursday, July 26, 2007

Expanding the Boarders of Salvation

For some time i've wrestled with the idea of salvation. From a fundamentalist Christian perspective, salvation means being saved from "hell". Salvation then has everything to do with the "next life".

i reject this notion of salvation. Not that there isn't a such thing as hell, but that it's not how i've heard it described (fire and physical torment) and it's not what salvation is primarily about.

First and foremost i believe salvation is deliverance. This is what the Hebrew term means. So then we have to ask what we need deliverance from. Generally speaking, we need deliverance from being separated from God and his creation. That is relationship. Life is about relationships. These relationships are oft times broken, or at a minimum, strained. Hell is the uttermost lack of relationship, while salvation is the restoration of whole, healthy relationships. With God and with each other.

Yet Salvation goes beyond this and becomes unique to each one of us. Generally speaking, we are "saved" or "restored" to proper relationship or at least working toward proper relationship(s). Expanding the boarder though, we are each saved/delivered in a unique way from a number of things. One person explained thier salvation like this:

To know the joy of reconciling when I've been estranged; to experience the ecstasy of forgiveness when I've been bound by guilt; to feel passion and energy when I've been sick; to see clearly when I have been spiritually blind; to be comforted when I've been grieving; to be empowered when I've been paralyzed with fear; to be inspired when I've been depressed; to let go when I've been attached; to accept the truth when I've been in denial; to be back on purpose when I've been floundering—each of these is a precious face of salvation.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Adoption as Redemption

i think adoption is the greatest and closest example of God's redemption we can scoot up close to. To receive someone, detached from us, as though they were our own, birthed from our very selves, is a vivid image of restoration.

i believe living in a fallen world is all about redemption. We live to continually enter into acts of restoration. When i was five, i was adopted. i took my dad's name as my own, though we don't have the same blood running through our veins. It was one of the proudest days of my life. Now my children have that name.

He wasn't the best dad, but he was my dad. i loved him unconditionally. Why? Because he adopted me when i wasn't his responsibility. So i adopted him too.

Living in redemption is living a life of adoption. Adopting those who are not our own as though they were. Entering into the lives of others with unconditional love, even when we feel no kinship responsibility to them.

This is not always easy for me. i meet people i'm not particularly drawn to (that's the way i say it so you don't think poorly of me). But i am committed to these people. We choose to love and seek to learn the best way to love. Love is revealed, expressed, and experienced differently by different people. In order to enter into covenant community with others, we must adopt them. This is an act of redemption.

He has adopted us as his sons and daughters. We are to do what we see him doing.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

The Mistrust of Modernism & Christianity

Like it or not, religion is no longer regarded as a place to find peace for the soul. Increasingly, sanctuaries have been turned into war rooms. Perceiving the postmodern world as a threat to any concrete views of life and especially religion, fundamentalists and their conservative cousins have become obsessed with holding their theological and cultural ground. In many ways, these efforts are like putting a finger in the dyke, trying to hold back the sea of change that ultimately cannot be stopped.

One of the biggest trends in postmodern culture is an increasing suspicion toward institutions linked to modernity. Even though religions like Christianity trace their history far back before the dawn of modernity, many people view the institutional church today as a product of the failed modernist project.

...the future of Christian faith lies in its ability to capitalize on the nonreligious dynamics of contemporary global society.

From: A Heretics Guide to Eternity

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Today in History: Salem Saints (a.k.a, Witches)

Today, in the year 1692, five women were hanged in Salem M.A. They had been accused of being witches and in the name of Jesus(yes, the same one who healed the ear of his captor)they were hanged. They were not witches of course.

Let us remember Christ, who laid down his life for us even while we were his enemies. Let us also remember the dangers of empty religion and shallow legalism which often masks a malicious heart.

"Love others"

Anything else is not the Way.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Oppressed

Last week i preached a message on human justice. It was a judgment scene from Psalm 82. It was in the lectionary, so it's not like i'm trying to push my own agenda. What i've come to realize is that human justice is the main theme of the Scriptures, yet not the main theme of the Christian life. i wanted to hide under the pulpit after i was done preaching.

i think i could have done a better job. We had a funeral two days before. It was my first time developing two sermons in one week. The funeral went well, but i was sure to disappoint come Sunday. First, i preached on the judgment of God. i try to stay away from that. Yet it was necessary. Second, it wasn't put together very well. It could have been smoother. But that takes a lot of time and work. i didn't have enough of either.

This week i deviated from one of the Psalms that i was scheduled to preach. It was too harsh. Instead i chose another OT passage from Amos, which was also in the lectionary for this week. It too is about human justice. In fact, all the writings of the prophets have to do with human justice (or injustice) and God's judgment as a result. So here we go again. i suppose there won't be too many people telling me how they were blessed by the sermon again this week.

Should i mention the part about how America began with the mass genocide of a people mistakenly called "Indians" but who were not Indian but Native Americans, which means we are all illegal immigrants? Or how we attempted to prosper this land of liberty on the backs of the oppressed African people? Should i ask when exactly it was we were a "Christian" nation?

Or do i try to keep my job?

i have a great congregation, but we're new to each other. We like each other right now. This is what i fear:

"If you make people think they're thinking, they'll love you; But if you really make them think, they'll hate you"
- Don Marquis

i pray my fears are unfounded...

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Political Spam Gaurd

Have you ever received a bogus e-mail forward... perhaps accusing Proctor & Gamble of donating money to Satanist organizations or of Target targeting veterans? Both of these were scams meant to undermine those companies, likely put out by competitors.
Today i received an e-mail from someone i respect very much. The e-mail was a forward, which went through Obama's background, having a former Muslim father and having been enrolled in Muslim & Catholic schools when he was a child. Up to this point the e-mail is accurate. Then it goes on to speculate [though stating as fact] that Obama is still really an extremist Muslim. Apparently he only 'adopted' Christianity to get ahead politically.
Now, Obama strikes to me as being a surprisingly authentic person. i have an inkling that the person who forwarded this to me hasn't listened to any of Obama's speeches.
There were no references listed on the e-mail, as to where it came from or what the facts were based on. My suspicion? Yeah, propaganda from the opposing party or at least by a supporter of an opposing party. Yet here it goes, spinning through the Christian spam channel as though it were written in red letters.

"The first to present his case seems right,
till another comes forward and questions him."
Prov. 18:17