The Least, First

Monte Asbury's blog

Posts Tagged ‘Religion and Spirituality

Gov. Huckabee Decides God No Longer Omnipresent

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Poor little god!

Gov. Huckabee says God has been “systematically . . . removed from our schools.” (You know, as in: “should we be surprised that our schools become places of carnage?”)

I have seen people removed from schools.  A police officer – usually large – escorts away a scrawny 7th grader who’d done something along the lines of smoking dope in the bathroom. The kid vanishes, last seen as a pair of small eyes barely elevated enough to peer solemnly out the cruiser’s back door window. Removed.

Apparently, something similar happened to Gov. Huckabee’s god.

Too bad. Some kind of law enforcer that must’ve been, stronger than god and all. Some pathetic little god that was, too, that heavies could just toss him into the back seat and whisk him away.

I wonder what god it was.  Does it sound like the same one who spoke to Job:

“Where were you when I laid the earth’s foundation?
Tell me, if you understand.
Who marked off its dimensions? Surely you know!
Who stretched a measuring line across it?

On what were its footings set,
or who laid its cornerstone—
while the morning stars sang together
and all the angelsshouted for joy?”

And

“Can you bind the chains of the Pleiades?
Can you loosen Orion’s belt?
32 Can you bring forth the constellations in their seasons[c]
or lead out the Bearwith its cubs?
33 Do you know the laws of the heavens?
Can you set up God’s dominion over the earth?

Has that God ever been small enough to be “systematically removed” from any place in the cosmos?

See, I know students and teachers and administrators and bus drivers and secretaries and custodians and para-professionals who pray their way through every day of their public school careers. They’re pretty convinced that “the LORD our God is near us whenever we pray to him . . . ” Right there. In school. They don’t pray “on street corners” “to be seen by others,” (as Matthew describes – and that kind, when commanded by staff people, is illegal, thank God.) They pray, instead, secretly, to a God who is unseen, believing that he hears and responds.

That kind of prayer in school is protected by every court in America.

Wouldn’t that kind of God have to be present now, right now, everywhere, no matter what people do? And, as far as that God being “systematically removed,” well, LOL.

 

 

 

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Church for a new era

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Those of you following the life of New Oaks Church may find this story encouraging. Here’s Donnie Miller (pastor of the Trinity Family Church in Gardner, KS) telling of a change of direction:

A New Era begins for TFC

Donnie Miller

There was an energy level among the congregation on Sunday that I haven’t experienced for a long time. People kept telling me, through smiles and hugs, how much they love the changes that have just happened.

These changes have been a long time coming. Last spring, we began a numerical slide that has resulted in our Sunday morning worship attendance being between 2/3 – 1/2 of what it was a year ago at this time. Toward the beginning of that slide, after a very lowly attended Sunday in March, I spent a sleepless night talking with God and wrestling with my fears and hopes. My fear was that if we continued to “do church” as we were at the time, we might not continue to exist. That fear lead to a hope, a hope that TFC could stop focusing on “doing church” and become more intentional about “being the church.” At about 4 AM, I got a pretty clear picture of the changes we could make.

I began sharing those changes with staff, the board and then ministry leaders; everyone was on board with the ideas. Last summer, we polled the congregation to find out approaches were working and to gauge their openness to the potential changes. The surveys revealed an almost unanimous support of the structural changes our leadership was considering.

Discussion groups

In August, we took a big first step in introducing Discussion Groups to Sunday AM worship. To say these groups have been a success would be the understatement of the year. Every Sunday, over 90% of the congregation participates in discussion groups. This past Sunday, only ONE person skipped discussion groups and that was because of a family emergency. It was almost hard to hear the other members of my group over the dull roar of the conversations happening all over the commons. The introduction of Discussion Groups, as well as “Ask Anything” Sundays, have all been a part of our effort to take a more dialogical approach to Sunday morning worship.

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Tantalized by the writing of N.T. Wright

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Mm-mm. . .

I just read a first chapter full of promise.  Know the feeling?  A chapter that makes your heart beat faster, for you catch a glimpse—as if peering through the woods—of what you’ve been looking for? Many of you know.

The book is N. T. Wright‘s The Challenge of Jesus: Rediscovering Who Jesus Was and Is. A few (of many) quotes that have left me tantalized:

We have been taught by the Enlightenment to suppose that history and faith are antithetical, so that to appeal to one is to appeal away from the other. […] When Christianity is truest to itself, however, it denies precisely this dichotomy—uncomfortable though this may be. […]  Actually, I believe this discomfort is itself one aspect of a contemporary Christian vocation: as our world goes through the deep pain of the death throes of the Enlightenment, the Christian is not called to stand apart from this pain but to share it. [15-16]

I am someone who believes that being a Christian necessarily entails doing business with history and that history done for all its worth will challenge spurious versions of Christianity, including many that think of themselves as orthodox, while sustaining and regenerating a deep and true orthodoxy, surprising and challenging though this will always remain. [p 17]

Many Jesus scholars of the last two centuries have of course thrown Scripture out of the window and reconstructed a Jesus quite different from what we find in the New Testament. But the proper answer to that approach is not simply to reassert that because we believe in the Bible we do not need to ask fresh questions about Jesus. […] And this process of rethinking will include the hard and often threatening question of whether some things that our traditions have taken as “literal” should be seens as “metaphorical,” and perhaps also vice versa. [17]

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A letter from Guido

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Sometimes you come across a story so holy that your only concern is not messing it up.  This is one. Guido is a friend of a friend, Donnie Miller.  Donnie writes at One Church Planter’s Journey, where this note from Guido was published.  If you want a little background, follow Donnie’s “Love Wins” tag here.


As I get older I realize that a lot of my views on life seem to change. One of them is the subject of religion. I grew up thinking that religion was all about control of the people and if you didn’t fit the mold you were thrown to the other side of the line. Either you’re a good person or a bad person. Most of my experiences with churches have been bad ones.

Guido (at right)

I believed you don’t bother me and I won’t bother you. They criticize you if you don’t follow their rules even if you didn’t know the rules. From what I know of Jesus I thought he talked to all people and did not judge them but explained what they should be doing and let them figure out what they needed to change.

My opinion has changed over time but more in the past couple years. A big influence in my thought change has come about because of a couple, who years ago I would have judged as those church people and avoided like the plague. It all started one day when my door staff guy at work called me and said some church ladies were there I thought “Oh NO here we go again”. (Several years before some church ladies had been in our parking lot picketing and handing out negative brochures.) He said they were leaving some gifts for the girls. I think he asked them if they had paint bombs in them because he was also leery. After talking to the employees and the staff I found it odd they would bring stuff to dancers and thought what’s their angle? So this happened again the ladies came to the door dropped off gifts, smiled then left. I thought that’s nice so I had my bartender put together a basket of nice things for the ladies and drop it off. I later thought to myself “wow I’m interacting with church people”. Read the rest of this entry »

When atheists come to church (sermon of July 5)

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C Vonaesch - Femme Touchant Jesus

C Vonaesch - Femme Touchant Jesus

Last week, Jesus, pushing through a crowd, was secretly touched by a woman who’ d been bleeding for 12 years; her bleeding stopped.  She who’d been untouchable by the rules of the day touched him; she was then well, and he became untouchable.  She gets well. He takes on her “uncleanness.”

And then he touched a 12 year old girl who had recently died. He was now “unclean” twice-over (touching a dead body made him so a second time), but the girl was alive.   She gets life. He takes on her “uncleanness.”

Magnificent.

And the next thing that happens is that Jesus, the now-famous, compassionate, but scandalously irreligious traveling teacher, goes home to Nazareth. And while he’s been amazing everyone, at Nazareth, Jesus is amazed.

What could possibly amaze Jesus? Read the rest of this entry »

Homosexuality: a theologically conservative—and inclusive—view

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It’s almost a truism that Christian conservatives see homosexuality as evil.

J. Kenneth GriderBut consider this courageous 1999 paper of the late Dr. J. Kenneth Grider, long regarded as a voice of conservatism among theologians of the Church of the Nazarene* (and of Wesleyans generally).  You just might be surprised.

I’ve reproduced the first two pages to give you the feel of it, followed by a link to the entire 45-page .pdf. And I’ll guess that there are some insights here you haven’t heard before.

He begins with a question of compassion . . .

Grider p1

Grider p2

Click below for the paper in its entirety. Intriguing reading!

Wesleyans and Homosexuality by J. Kenneth Grider

Care to share your thoughts?


*I should probably note the obvious: Dr. Grider spoke (as do I!) for himself and not for the Church of the Nazarene, the WTS, ONU, or NTS.

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Nazarenes elect non-North American General Superintendent

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The denomination of which I am a member (the Church of the Nazarene) has officially aspired to international leadership since shortly after its beginnings in 1908. But, like so many organizations that were first mostly North American, coming to a point where we of the USA and Canada would allow others to lead us has taken a long, long time.

Finally, the men and women of the 23rd Quadrennial Assembly, meeting in Orlando, have taken a step toward making internationalization believable.

Bravo and amen to them.


Dr. Eugenio Duarte

Dr. Eugenio Duarte

On the 7th ballot, receiving 783 out of 959 valid ballots cast, the 2009 General Assembly Church of the Nazarene has elected the first General Superintendent outside of USA and Canada.

Dr. Eugenio Duarte currently serves as the regional director of the Africa Region. Born and raised in the Cape Verde Islands, he has served as pastor and district superintendent, before being appointed to regional and field leadership roles.

He and his wife Maria Teresa have three grown children, and live in Johannesburg, South Africa where the regional office is located.

This historic moment in the Church of the Nazarene was greeted by thunderous applause from the delegates and the gallery. Many of the African delegates responded with joyful singing, flag-waving, and surrounding Dr. Duarte with hugs. After several moments of cheering, clapping, singing (and even lifting Dr. Duarte into the air), he was escorted to the platform, declared elected, and invited to speak.

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