Thursday, December 07, 2017

Porch Stories :: Hope

porch stories 06 December hope

For her Porch Story this week, as Kristin Hill Taylor considers The Thrill & Pain of Hope, she tells us about a painful ear condition and anticipates {isn't anticipation a variety of hope?} celebrating the arrival of Jesus in our midst.

Last Sunday the church opened a new Year of Grace with the season of Advent, the nearly-winter month {in the northern hemisphere} we formally watch and wait for Jesus to be born in Bethlehem. The word advent has roots in the Latin ad-venire, toward-coming—just like adventure! Every year Advent begins with a splash of scriptural apocalyptic, signaling the end of the world as we've known it.

Churches that follow the Revised Common Lectionary for their scripture readings started listening to and studying the gospel according to Mark for this new liturgical year. Most weeks in the lectionary we hear an Old Testament reading from one of the prophets; as I explained to my adult Sunday School class, people tend to think of Hebrew Bible prophets calling people to repentance {to some extent they did—they also lined out if-then alternatives}, but more than a change in human attitude, behavior, and outlook, prophecy proclaimed the inbreaking of the grace-filled reign of God, the end of the old, the birth of the new creation. They announced resurrection from actual death!

Blue is the color for Advent; blue is the color of hope. Advent with its hope is a harbinger of Easter, the great Trinitarian feast of resurrection we celebrate as the fulfillment of hope. "Advent" comes from the same root as adventure. Are we ready to trust God through the season of Advent and beyond as we anticipate the defeat of death, the adventure of resurrection, the reality of the new creation? I hope so!

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Saturday, December 02, 2017

Five Minute Friday • Near

I've been playing and working catch-up, but I had to Five Minute Friday this week because Kate Motaung's near prompt aligns with my preparation for introducing the Gospel according to Mark on Sunday. Everyone already knows Mark's gospel quite well, but with the start of a new Revised Common Lectionary year B that's Mark's year, I needed to create a quick overview. I'm also Friday Fiving because of the beautiful illustration Kate provided; I took the liberty of decorating her banner photo for my header.

five minute friday near

A few minutes ago on urban wilderness I blogged a short overview of the Gospel According to Mark I'll use to open my adult SS class session tomorrow. Similar to many people today, back in those days of the Ancient Near East (love that ANE terminology!) people tended to think of God far away, unapproachable, distant, and uninvolved. Or if they believed God was a little closer, they imagined God contained and protected in a space or place like the Jerusalem temple they'd worked so hard to build. Particularly as we've studied a pericope or selection from one of the four gospels each week, we've been discovering and uncovering a God who's anything but distant and far away, anything but unapproachable and uninvolved in creation—and in our own sometimes difficult lives and pressing concerns, in our joys and everyday routines! Especially as God self-reveals in Jesus of Nazareth, God has drawn near to earth, to creation. So near that God has chosen to live as one of us, as a human, in a body formed from stuff of the earth. But paradoxically, God-with-us, close-to-us still is the God of the Hebrew scriptures who fills heaven and earth, who remains free, elusive, and can't remotely be contained in space or in time. But you already knew that!

Given that humans tend to be more mimetic than thoughtful, the temple concept partly imitated gods of other ANE religions that mostly were gods for a certain place. Not only Mark but all the gospels reveal God so near that in Jesus God becomes and lives as part of creation—yet we find actual "near" vocabulary more in the deutero-Pauline theology of Ephesians and Colossians than elsewhere in scripture. In any case, as another Advent dawns, literally breaks open this week, let's remember God's abiding passion for all of us. God incarnate as a baby in the Bethlehem manger. God embodied in each of us so we can live as God's presence very near to our neighbors, friends – and enemies.

disclaimer: I wrote this very quickly in a little less than five minutes, but unlike most weeks, I found too many discrepancies and discontinuities, and In the interest of overall coherence, I edited so it would make sense, so this represents closer to fifteen minutes than to five.

five minute friday near five minute friday new button

Friday, December 01, 2017

Damian Chandler • The Crooked Christmas Tree

crooked Christmas Tree book coverThe Crooked Christmas Tree by Damian Chandler is a nice book for seasoned Christians and possibly to help introduce newcomers to God's love and grace for each of us. Each mini-chapter is really really short; you could make this into an Advent season devotional book, follow the author's chronicle of purchasing, definitely not liking, gaining insight into, and then loving the Crooked Christmas Tree his kids chose. Pastor Damian Chandler parallels the less than perfect condition and appearance of the evergreen (not quite ever-eternally verdant, because in the end its needles turn brown) and his attempts to make it acceptable, then finally beautiful, with God's redemption of human sinfulness and our less than attractive traits and habits. I realize this is a very "slim volume," and nothing is comprehensive, but I'd have appreciated more emphasis on God's gracious redemptive activity in Jesus Christ restoring humanity's original Imago Dei (the image of the divine in which God created us) rather than what comes across as original sinfulness and depravity.

Pastor Chandler's interaction with the sex worker (strip teaser?) when he recognizes her vulnerability and essential beauty and then invites her to the revival he'll be preaching is a strong and stunning model for us to follow as it demonstrates one way he followed Jesus' example. And I love how he describes chopping the truly finished-for-Christmas tree into three pieces, taking it to the curb for recycling, and tells us how the tree will get shredded and return to the earth it grew from as mulch to become a life-giving matrix for other trees and vegetation that in turn will help restore life to humanity and the rest of God's natural creation. Jesus of Nazareth on the tree of the cross of Calvary?!

Bringing his three kids and his spouse into the story about the crooked Christmas tree is an excellent device, but I got confused. In the book his kids apparently are very young; they weren't a whole lot older and bigger in Chandler family pictures I found online. Yet the author refers to decorating the tree with years of stored school craft projects! I doubt the kids had gotten much beyond preschool at their ages in the book, not much further in their online photos, so maybe that could be revised? All in all, very well done!

my amazon review: very well done!

Thursday, November 30, 2017

2017 • Autumn • November • on a page

Autumn 2017 on a page

This post features the month of November and the meteorological season of Autumn; here's Chronicling September, and October :: Reformation500. And I'm linking up with Emily P. Freeman's What I Learned in...

Porch Stories November summary

For this year's National Adoption Month of November, Kristin Hill Taylor has been sharing testimonies of God's faithfulness in creating families through adoption. For her Porch Story this week her guest is Melody Hester.

Some aspects of my life have slowed down as I continue looking for settled healthy housing and as I discern the future God may be leading me into. During November I didn't go on any fun or interesting outings; I kept on working as a graphic artist-designer, kept on preparing and facilitating adult Sunday School at my church, kept praying matins and compline, kept on a fairly even overall schedule.

International Sandwich Day

Since I've learned how to customize my sandwiches {that was more of a learning for November 2016 than for this November}, I've become a major fan of Subway sandwich shops. I enjoyed International Sandwich Day at my nearby Subway; instead of illustrating my not highly photogenic actual lunch, I've decorated a fabulous image from wikimedia commons.

Glendale Utility box Glendale Utility box Glendale Utility box Green Faith Team Sign

Our judicatory Green Faith Team has gotten back onto a monthly meeting schedule; again the on-campus school didn't have any art on display. But I got pictures of another graphic utility box and definitely learned grabbing a few snapshots was worthwhile even though I couldn't clearly see what I might be capturing. You can read my opening devotional talk "buy local, buy in season" I blogged almost immediately afterwards, so I remembered close to everything I said. We savored another yummy lunch from the newish Mediterranean restaurant a few doors down the street.

Thanksgiving Day 2017

Thanksgiving Day 2017 Thanksgiving Day 2017

Another Thanksgiving Day Feast following Eucharistic Worship at church—my third Thanksgiving Day in Current City!

Each of the days I've pictured represents a kind of adopted into / belonging with a group of people I even might call my tribe or family. Please take note? Each event on this list involves food!

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Emily P Freeman Fall 2017

Saturday, November 25, 2017

Porch Stories :: Adoption

porch stories: adoption

November is National Adoption Awareness Month! Today I'm blogging to Kristin Taylor's prompt from two weeks ago, How God Adopts Us, inspired by Monica Bidwell's book. Late some? I got sidetracked and waylaid trying to say something about this amazing topic and didn't have anything even by the following week. However, I expect to be on time for the linkup that began Wednesday three days ago.

We all have that longing for belonging. No matter how it might appear, everyone has experiences of rejection, exclusion and doubt about their worthiness as members of the human race. Long ago I checked into the hostel in L├╝beck and started talking with the only other lodger in the room; she announced she knew how much her parents had wanted her because she was adopted. No doubt whatsoever.

Adoption is a picture of the gospel

The gospeled good news of God's passion for all creation, God's embrace of everyone, God's big "yes!" to what's often society's "no," to what's often our own negative commentary to ourselves, about ourselves.

By Water and Word, God who first created us claims and adopts us – the doubly chosen! – into the family of God in every place and every time; we become one of Jesus' of Nazareth's many siblings. But there's more! God calls us to live in covenant with all creation. God trusts us to live as God's hands, feet, mind, will, and heart on earth, in the power of the Holy Spirit of Pentecost to claim our divine nature as humans who truly reflect and embody their divine image by caring for creation as God and Jesus would.

God adopts you and calls you worthy. Believe it. Claim it. Live it! Celebrate it! This week's linkup closes in about an hour, so that's all for today.

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Friday, November 24, 2017

Five Minute Friday :: Familiar

For today's {Black Friday} Five Minute Free Write, Kate Motaung's prompt is Familiar. Whazzup with that? Time to take five out and write.

five minute friday familiar thanksgiving

Familiar can be related to a group or family of something: humans, botanicals, animals, or others. Familiar can mean a concept or place we know so well it's like a part of our immediate.... well, family. On this Friday after Thanksgiving Thursday USA, I'm especially considering the family or household of God.

I relocated to current city almost two and a half years ago; yesterday was the third Thanksgiving Day I attended late morning worship and afterwards enjoyed a traditional American harvest feast with my current church family. Decorations each year have been similar but different, highlighted by gorgeous fresh flower arrangements – even more of a high light than the bountiful food? Almost but not quite. So I've become familiar with the basic style of their T-Day celebration. We had seating in all the downstairs rooms of the parish house and also out on the lawn, but I sat in the main living room. That place has become super-familiar to me because that's where I lead my adult Sunday School class every week. Bringing all this together? Right now this interestingly diverse church in urban West LA is my little niche, where {for now} I've found and continue exploring my place in God's household, God's own family.

That's my simply five for this time.

five minute friday familiar five minute friday new button

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

A World Ablaze :: Craig Harline

A World Ablaze: The Rise of Martin Luther and the Birth of the Reformation by Craig Harline on Amazon

Craig Harline Martin Luther book coverCraig Harline teaches history at Brigham Young University; If I had the opportunity, I'd register for every single one of his classes! If he speaks the way he writes...

There has been a deluge of Luther/Reformation-related books over the past year; even if you belong to the Flat Earth Society, you likely realize church and world very recently celebrated the 500 year anniversary of the event that kick-started the Protestant Reformation and put Wittenberg on the map. A World Ablaze – ablaze in the freedom and fire of the Spirit of Pentecost – chronicles some of magisterial reformer Martin Luther's academic history, his years as a professed religious friar and priest in the Roman Catholic Church, and the early years of the Wittenberg Reform, but not quite as concisely wrapped up as that brief description conveys.

During the months leading up to 31 October 2017, my church judicatory {oversight and accountability structure} sponsored a series of six Saturday-long Reformation Road Trip events. I attended five of them, and learned a lot about Luther's personality and assumptions, along with some of his rationale behind reforming worship and sacramental practices. Particularly as he details Luther's relationships with Frederick and Charles, Craig Harline fills in more of the blanks in my understanding.

I'd had some awareness of Brother / Doctor / Pastor Martin's political involvement, but I'd chalked it up to the fact if you stay in castles you need to stay friends with the people who own the castles. The idea of "The Presentation of The Augsburg Confession" to whom....? always seemed highly irregular to me in light of scripture, but Luther was more a late medieval guy than an early Renaissance one, so he depended upon and became involved with royals and government types in ways a late medieval worldview implies, and thus developed his doctrine of separate Spiritual and Temporal Kingdoms. It's far more nuanced than that, yet the concept isn't biblical. Would I want a theocracy like John Calvin's Geneva or colonial New England's? Not that, either. Not. Scriptural. In his Small Catechism explanation to the Lord's Prayer, Pastor Martin himself lists "good government" as part of the daily bread we need and pray for. In any case, my confidence in the {almost realized but not quite yet} eschatology of the Reign {Kingdom} of Heaven on earth is far more robustly Reformed than it is Lutheran.

{page 273} "He turned a very old 60 in 1543, and even began to dislike Wittenberg." Our Reformation Roadtrip presenter also mentioned Luther's very "premature aging"—despite 60 way back then being much older than even 70 years old is now in 2017. He told us Luther didn't travel much, probably a factor in his attitude being more insular than most educated people of his time. Lack of exposure to different styles of being and living may have contributed to his ultra-embarrassing diatribes again Jews and Judaism. Enough to get him banned from today's twitter? Probably. The late Timothy Lull referred to Luther's "polemical overkill."

Beyond the history that's never bare, I've taken away more than what's on the surface of A World Ablaze. I believe Martin Luther was Holy Ghosted Roasted, as were countless others who reformed / revitalized / restored the church. Like Luther, every one of the Spirit-filled and Spirit-led renewers of the church had a share of human frailties and less than admirable traits. Jan Hus, John Wycliffe, Ulrich Zwingli, Bros Charles and John along with Mom Susanna Wesley. In the New World? Awakenings through the agency of George Whitefield and Jonathan Edwards; Restoration movements from Barton Stone, Thomas and Alexander Campbell, Joseph Smith. Back across the Atlantic, renewal or aggiornamento in the Roman branch of the church via John XXIII—even protestants commemorate and celebrate him as a Renewer of the Church; his liturgical reforms still continue to ripple through mainline protestantism! I'm taking away and claiming the validity of doctrinally and liturgically diverse expressions of the church, partly acknowledging Luther and cohorts' insisting we find the church and "it is enough" {satis est in the Latin version of Article VII of the Augsburg Confession} for the unity of the church that the gospel be preached and the sacraments rightly administered. Everything else is indifferent or adiaphora, a term famously ascribed to Lutherans but also used elsewhere.

A World Ablaze opens and concludes with Brother Martin in his Knight George persona making a quick incognito visit to Wittenberg from Wartburg Castle—nice way to capture reader interest. The back includes a useful collection of Sources and Further Reading. I plan to keep this book in my permanent collection and expect to read it again, though I may loan it to my church library before I do.

My Amazon Review: Wittenberg, Worms, Wartburg – and Martin Luther