Friday, August 28, 2009

Raggedy Rocky

Satellites probably because Space Shuttle Discovery launched about an hour ago. Rocky Mountain High because who doesn't get happy when they hear that song?
And Rita certainly because of our heavy week.*
Raggedy Ann - Mindy Smith
Rain King - Counting Crows
Rain Please Go Away - Alison Krauss and Union Station
Reason to Believe - the Dillards
Recovering the Satellites - Counting Crows
Refine Me - Jennifer Knapp
Restless - Alison Krauss and Union Station
Resurrect Me - Jon Foreman
Rhymes and Reasons - John Denver
Ring of Fire - Johnny Cash
Rita - Bebo Norman
Rocky Mountain High - John Denver

*Rita, by Bebo Norman

Lay down softly in our sorrow
Lay down sister to die
And cover over, my sweet Father
Cover over her eyes

Your broken body, it cannot weather
The years your youth still longs to spend
So go down graceful, sleep with the angels
And wake up whole again

'Cause it was not your time
That's a useless line
A fallen world, it took your life
But the God that sometimes can't be found
Will wrap himself around you,
So lay down, sister, lay down

Slower passing are the hours
To tell this tale it takes its time
But the finest moment, no man can measure
Is to look your Saviour in the eyes

So take her tender to Your table
Take her from this killing floor
To taste the water that is forever
Let her be thirsty no more

Cause tt was not her time
That's a useless line
A fallen world, it took her life
But the God that sometimes can't be found
Will wrap himself around you,
So lay down, sister, lay down

And the God that sometimes can't be found
Will wrap himself around you,
So lay down, Rita, lay down

From the album Ten Thousand Days

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Mourn with those who mourn

Could anything be more difficult than laying to rest a young mother of two, struck down early by the ravages of swine flu? Knowing that she, who had so anticipated the arrival of her daughter, died before even knowing that daughter had safely entered this world?

It was a beautiful, warm August morning in Puyallup today where we gathered with Katie's family to say goodbye. It was heavy, it was heart-wrenching. These are the mornings when, as a minister, you show up thinking 'what in the world do I have to offer in this situation? What can I possibly say to help us all navigate this nightmare?"

And yet, as God's people, we are never left without hope. For if "neither life nor death" can seperate us from the love of God, we are assured that God's love extends to that place beyond the grave, where we must surely live on as well.

Others within our Body are suffering as well - seniors with dangerous summer colds and spider bites, those suffering the pain of ongoing depression and anxiety, those still mourning the loss of loved ones within the last year; some are wondering about their future in this hurting economy.

But I was reminded this morning through a couple of conversations, and through the Word, that God is still good, and our hope secure, that weeping may last for a night, but joy comes with the morning.

God bless Kenny and the family with mercy.

Lest there be any confusion between this note and earlier emails, this morning was the committal service; Katie's memorial is still planned for Saturday morning, 9:30 a.m., at Puyallup Foursquare.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Bike Ride Report

Route: South to Longbranch, West on Rouse Rd. to Whiteman Rd., north to KPH, back north on KPH to home.
Distance: 11 miles
Time: 1 hour

Just when I thought I knew where all the hills out here are, I found a whole new set of monsters.

Number of barbecues I smelled along the way: 6
Number of coyotes running across the road: 1
Top speed: 35 mph
Point at which I had a splitting headache: mile 2
Point at which I thought my hamstring was going to explode: mile 10

Still, I'd rather be the guy out dying whilst huffing along the road, then the guy sitting in front of my tv watching reality shows on a Sunday afternoon.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Ripped from Today's Headlines

In the iWorld, not only can laws and constitutions become increasingly malleable, but the underlying absence of legal dogmatism will also seep into public political discourse. In the iWorld politics gives every appearance of becoming less about the free discussion and debate of ideas and more about protest and activism. As Alasdair MacIntyre argues in After Virtue, in a world that ceases to believe in truth, it is no longer possible to debate ideas because there is no commonly accepted standard to resolve debate. Consequently, politics becomes what Nietzsche envisioned: an exercise in will and power rather than dialogue and debate. If reason or discussion cannot resolve political disagreements, then the most effective political tools that remain are protest, manipulation, demagoguery, and coercion.

Dale S. Kuehne, Sex and the iWorld: Rethinking Relationship beyond an age of individualism (p. 84)

Pay Puppy

It should be mentioned that Poor Boy's Delight may just be my #1 favorite of any song on the ipod.

Pay Me My Money Down - Bruce Springsteen
Piano Man - Billy Joel
Poems, Prayers, and Promises - John Denver
Poor Boy's Delight - Infamous Stringdusters
Prairie Sunrise - Peter Ostroushko
Praise the Father, Praise the Son - Chris Tomlin
Praise the Lamb - Alli Rogers
Praise to the Lord, the Almighty - St. Olaf Choir
Praise to the Lord, the Almighty - Jill Phillips
Pretend - Sierra Hull
Pride (In the Name of Love) - U2
Puppy Belly Dance - Peter Ostroushko

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Sermon Prep #2

"I am a friend of all who fear you, who walk according to your precepts."

The other day I came across some magazines in an old box out in the garage. One was from 1981, with a feature story about the 1st Space Shuttle launch. One was from 1986, with a feature entitled "A Letter to the Year 2086," talking about life in the world in the 1980s. And the other was from 1988, with a lead article about the Space Shuttle Discovery launch, returning the U.S. to space for the first time since the Challenger explosion.

Do you remember the 1980s? Reading through these magazines was like a trip back in time. Oliver North, and the Iran-Contra scandal. Michael Dukakis and the 1988 presidential election. In the 1st magazine there was an article detailing Ronald Reagan's first days back after the assassination attempt. The advertisements are quaint, with their o-so-modern Buicks, the cigarette ads, and even a few ads for "Ultra-modern word-processing computers" that pack up into a large suitcase.

Of course, one of the most prominent issues in the 1980s was the Cold War and our enemy, the Soviet Union. It was an obvious, well-known fact, that the commies over there were bent on our destruction, that they were just waiting for a chance to nuke us all to oblivion. Movies like Wargames and Red Dawn reinforced the fact that "those guys" were soulless, godless, mindless cretins, prone to violence and murderous rampages. Any number of spy novels portrayed Soviets as Evil personified. They were the enemy, they were to be hated and feared, they were to be kept at bay by any means necessary. (Granted, movies like "Spies Like Us" painted a slightly more nuanced picture, but you get the idea).

This was the Truth. I remember a poll taken amongst high school students across America in around 1986. Over 75% of those polled believe they would see a nuclear war within their lifetime. Of course, we knew we would never start one, being the good guys and all, so the implication was that, at some point, the Evil Empire would finally try to destroy us, and we'd find ourselves in a grand battle to defend Truth, Justice, and the American Way.

Then the Iron Curtain fell, the Soviet Union disintegrated, and, in rather confusing fashion, Russia became an ally of the U.S. The threat moved way into the background, and, eventually, we found new enemies in International Terrorism and Iraq.

So, a funny thing happened recently. We've become friends with a family in Gig Harbor; they've attended our church a few times and become friends with many of our people. Last June we spent a wonderful summer evening with them, enjoying a BBQ dinner and s'mores over the burn pile. They are wonderful Christian people, committed to their church, to the Lord, and to ministry.

And here's the ironic part. They are originally from Ukraine. And in the 1980s, Yuri was in the Soviet army. And he was a Christian at the time. He served because everybody did, but he served as a Christian. And he had no intention of invading the U.S., killing our children, or raping our women. He was not, in fact, a soulless, godless hellion hoping to come over here and destroy everything good, decent, and fair. He was attempting to survive as a Christian in the Soviet Union in the 1980s.

Which means, of course, that my worldview wasn't exactly accurate. That, to be honest, my 'enemy' was actually my brother. That the man I believed to be evil incarnate was instead a man filled with the Holy Spirit. That my enemy should have been my friend.

So let's not be too simplistic, and pretend that the Soviet Union was entirely made up of kind, gentle, god-fearing folks who were simply misunderstood. Anybody can read "The Gulag Archipelago" and recognize that a lot of evil did take place in Russia's history. Certainly, they had their leaders who wanted to rule the world, to see Communism spread from pole to pole. Being a Christian (or a Jew or a farmer or a woman) wasn't easy or encouraged during that time.

But still. . .looking back, it was probably sinful to look upon the Soviets as one mass of evil ooze, as our mortal enemy, when in reality there were many Christians (and Jews and Muslims) among them, simply trying to live their lives and support their families as best they knew how.

Where is all this going? I'm not sure. There may not be any universal truth at the bottom, other than the fact that I came face-to-face with the creature who stalked my nightmares, and found out he was really my friend. That, in Christ, we were one, and that I had been guilty of labeling him as "the other." That it hadn't occurred to me to think kindly toward, to pray for, to embrace him (even if emotionally), because I believed the propoganda.

Makes you wonder. A few weeks ago I was in a conversation with a man who was utterly convinced that The Muslims were Evil, Soulless Cretins hell-bent on world domination and the destruction of everything we hold dear, that they are the sworn enemies of Truth, Justice, and the American way. He had seen PROOF that EVERY Muslim was part of a worldwide conspiracy to subtly infiltrate our society, and that SOME DAY, even in a few generations, they would RISE UP and SLAUGHTER US in our sleep. We must REMAIN VIGILANT, he told me. It surprised me how much his rhetoric exactly echoed our language in 1986, only then it was the COMMIES instead of the MUSLIMS.

And yes, I get that there were Christian Commies, but the idea of a Christian Muslim is an oxymoron. But still. . .are we going to sit here and throw mud and bombs (verbal or otherwise) at those with whom we disagree? Are we going to continue to live by propoganda and stereotype? Or, as God's people, are we going to recognize that, even among today's 'enemy' there may be men or women who, someday, we will call friend?

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Sermon Prep #1

This summer at Lakebay Community Church, we've been working through the Covenant Affirmations, the six core statements that help define and root us in our own unique tributary of the Church. As summer slowly winds down, we're also reaching the end, and this Sunday brings us to affirmation #6: The reality of Freedom in Christ.

This affirmation is probably the one that drew me most strongly toward the Covenant Church. Having spent too much time among those fine folks who spend their days slinging mud and arrows at those who hold slightly different positions on theological minutia, I was looking for a place that spent less time debating and demeaning and more time serving and ministering. I found that place in the Covenant Church, and am ever grateful that we are defined by this idea of true freedom to disagree over secondary issues while focusing in on carrying out the work of the Kingdom.

Much of it comes down to Psalm 119:63 - "I am a friend of all who fear you, to all who follow your precepts." Key is that word "friend." Friendship takes this to a whole new level. We're not just talking about "putting up with" or "being cordial toward." Friendship implies looking beyond differences and finding commonalities upon which to build strong, positive relationships. Friendship implies enjoying each other, looking out for each other, seeking the best for the other, and even (gasp) learning to like each other.

I've mentioned here before that sometimes I forget. I get so used to living in this stream, where we discuss theology and practical ministry, and then go out for pizza, sharing in each other's lives, caring about each other's families, supporting each other in our particular ministries. It's so. . .freeing. Which is what freedom is supposed to be about.

Then I make the mistake of assuming I'll get the same treatment in an online theological forum, or talking to a 'fellow believer' at the coffee shop. Only, when I mention I just may not be a true 5-point Calvinist, or I just may not completely agree with Darby's understanding of the end times, or I may just not completely buy into supralapsarianism, they begin to treat me as if I have an open, infectious wound and I'm spewing a deadly virus into the air. And 'friendship' isn't exactly the word I would use to describe the sudden shift in our relationship.

Of course, it pushes back out into the bigger world, doesn't it. In so many areas we as a society have lost the ability to carry out civil conversations, let alone maintain friendships, with people who disagree with us over any and every issue, be it music preference, favorite TV show, or, gasp, politics.

It would be all too easy right now to speak national politics. But I want to keep it local.

Across the state of Washington, any number of fire departments were seeking the passage of levies yesterday, hoping to raise extra tax money to pay for much needed staffing and improvements as other sources of funding have dribbled to a halt. And, as of this morning, all but one of those levy lifts was passing. The only one to lose was our own Key Peninsula Fire District 16.

And why did it lose? I'm sure some voted against it because they can't afford to pay more taxes, I'm sure others had other valid reasons for voting against it. But, by and large, it seems most voted against it because we have two fire commissioners out here who haven't figured out how to get along. How to be a friend toward those who disagree, how to set aside personal issues and focus on the bigger mission of supporting our local fire department.

And, because these two have not learned how to be civil, how to carry on a conversation, how to live in the freedom of disagreement, they have instead turned toward antics like smear campaigns, illegal back-room meetings, lying, and, in one famous instance, attacking with a coffee mug.

So this week I'm spending time pondering what it means to behave civilly, and to pursue friendships with people who hold to different understandings of Truth and the nature of reality, to be kind and considerate even with those who hold theological positions which I consider just plain silly, to pursue friendship over being right, relationship over getting my own way. . .and at the same time I'm watching our local fire department being dealt a serious blow, simply because two men can't, in fact, just get along.

What about you? Can you think of other places where this idea of "Freedom to disagree" has played out in such a way that it was life-giving, and community-affirming? Or have you seen what we've just seen here, a time where people's inability to set aside differences eventually led to painful division and disaster?

Anybody want to share?

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Maybe it's just me. . .

but I find myself losing all respect for a news anchor when, in the midst of an interview or a story, they say "Let me read some tweets that have been coming in. . ."

Of course I know what they mean; and yes, I get that they're trying to remain "hip" and "uber-cool" in order to reach and maintain a younger audience.

But still. Can you imagine Walter Cronkite saying "Wow - what a great picture of Neil Armstrong on the moon. And sexydude456 just tweeted 'An amazing day for America!'"

No. Listener comments, sure. Audience feedback - absolutely. But can we cut with the 'tweet' language when dealing with solid news stories?

Friday, August 14, 2009

Omaha Page

Seems like the ultimate singer list - Mandy Patinkin, Steve Tyrell, Norah Jones, Mindy Smith, James Taylor. A lot of talent there. "One Man Gets Around" is on my top-3 all time favorite 'Christian' songs list. "One Moment More" seems especially poignant, given the tragic events earlier this week.

Omaha -
Counting Crows
On the Atchison, Topeka, and the Santa Fe - Mandy Patinkin
On the Sunny Side of the Street - Steve Tyrell
One Flight Down - Norah Jones
One Man Gets Around - Charlie Peacock
One Moment More - Mindy Smith
Only a Dream in Rio - James Taylor
Only My Heart - Sierra Hull
Our Great Savior - Mars Hill Music
Out Loud - Mindy Smith
Own Me - Ginny Owens
A Page is Turned - Bebo Norman

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Let me brag for a moment

There's a movement afoot among churches to "get out of the box" and into the community, which is good. One of the latest trends is for churches to cancel Sunday worship, and instead have their people gather and then disperse into the community, doing various service projects around town for the morning. This is also good. It's good for the community to see the church acting in sacrifice and love; it's good for the church to learn that worship includes 'loving our neighbors as ourselves.

Recently, I was pondering this trend, and wondering if it might be something Lakebay Community Church ought to try. I wondered for all of 3 seconds, and then realized that, no, we shouldn't try it. Our people are too busy doing all that stuff the rest of the week.

According to Rebecca, in June and July we had over 30 of our people involved in various outreach projects. In July we painted a house here on the Peninsula. In May we hosted a traveling choir from Alaska. In June we hosted another traveling choir, this time from Uganda. Over the months we've been serving meals at the community house. Last fall we sent a group over to lead a hymn sing at manor care. Over the winter we sent people to Seattle and Tacoma to share meals with street people. And still, every Wednesday and Thursday people gather here at the church for free groceries, clothing, bedding, and sometimes a hot cup of soup.

And there's a lot more - people looking after the homes and yards of the widows and seniors in our church, people giving rides to doctor appointments, work done to help struggling marriages, money donated to get kids to summer camp, visits made to men and women in prison. . .and on it goes.

I know we're not supposed to boast, but as the pastor I think I need to brag on these people just a bit. They're already outside the walls, being salt and light in the community. And I'm proud of 'em.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Heavy Day

Dawn Martin is an important part of our church. Yesterday, her sister tragically died from complications of swine flu. Adding to the tragedy is the fact that, while in a coma, Katie delivered a baby daughter who she never had the chance to meet.

Watch the video - it tells the story well. And if you have a chance, pray for the family, and consider making a donation as a sign of love and support.

Lord, have mercy.

Bike Ride Report

Distance: 11.6 miles
Time: 1 hour, 6 minutes
Route: North to the post office, around Home, south along the water, back roads to Longbranch Fire Station, north on the highway to our house.

Did I mention there are a lot of hills out here on the Peninsula? But the sky cleared to a dark blue as I rode along the bay, the clouds turned purple and gold with the sunset (must be Husky fans, them), and only once did a red Explorer try to run me off the road.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Church Changes

I was updating our church website the other day - not any sort of major overhaul, just checking on some of the links, making sure they still work.

On the list of "area churches," I used to have quite a few. At last check, there were seven. But in this past month, Community Bible Fellowship moved their operations over to Gig Harbor, giving up on their plan to build their own meeting center up along the highway (ironically, directly across the street from where somebody just opened up one of "those kinds" of coffee places). And, in following links, I discovered the Presbyterian Church moved off the Peninsula and in to Gig Harbor, as well. In addition, one of the local churches down here in our area no longer seems to have a website; I'm not sure if that reflects on the state of their congregation or not.

So, as far as online presence goes, there seem to be only four of us here on the Peninsula. As far as 'real' presence, I know of a couple others (Lakebay Assembly and the Historic Vaughn Church), plus I hear stories of a number of little house churches out here. But it does change the tone of the conversation about ministry out here on the KP; fewer houses of worship, fewer Kingdom members rooted in this land doing the work of being salt and light. But I have this sneaking suspicion God hasn't up and left, even if the presence of his people is less visible.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Good Movie

Have you seen The Tale of Despereaux yet? It's a kid's movie on the surface, but I was pleasantly surprised by the deeper themes running through the story - themes that resonate closely with my passion as an ambassador of reconciliation and minister of the gospel.

Three interwoven themes stood out in particular:

1) the cycle of shame and violence. The pain and anger held by one are transferred to those around them - the king's pain causes him to lash out at the people, the princess's pain causes her to insult her ladies' maid, the maid's pain and shame cause her to react in anger to the princess, the people's fear and sadness cause them to alienate the rats, and the rats, on the bottom of it all, react in violence toward all.

2) the reality that the only act that can end the cycle is forgiveness - for one injured party to choose forgiveness, rather than carry on the endless train of anger and shame.

3) and that, in the end, victory comes when (literally) the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness cannot overcome it. One simple act of forgiveness, coupled with a few small acts of defiance against the status quo (acts made at great cost and sacrifice) end up bringing an end to the time of shame and darkness, and restoring the Kingdom to her former glory.

Rarely do you see a movie in which the entire plot hinges on the issue of forgiveness, in which the crux of the story does not, in fact, turn toward Even Bigger Guns or More Powerful Weapons, but instead gives way to an act of contrition, an apology, a recognition of wrong giving leading to repentance and restoration. Thus, Despereaux is refreshing and affirming. And, it's a good story, and excellent movie, to boot. If you haven't seen it yet, I highly recommend you do.

(now I'm off to find the book. . .)

Friday, August 07, 2009

Want a headache?

Here's an odd tidbit. As most of you know, at the moment I'm wearing a contact in only one eye, due to the corneal transplant I had last October. Which means, generally, I can only see clearly out of my right eye, while my left eye is simply along for the ride, adding some color commentary. And the brain is remarkably adept at sorting things out, basically ignoring those fuzzy signals coming from the left while focusing on the sharp, clear signals from the right. (no, that's not a political statement)

But. . .the other day in the pool I put on a pair of goggles and went under water. Can anybody guess what happens?

Underwater, everything reverses. Suddenly the left eye is the one with clarity of vision, while the right is the out-of-focus one.

At first, I was struck by the fact that, for the first time since October, I could see clearly with my left eye. But quickly that fascination gave way to a grinding headache, as my poor brain desperately tried to click over and process this new information.

And then reverse the process once again upon surfacing.

Yep. A whole night of headache for 5 seconds of underwater coolness.

Thankfully, as I just tweeted, tomorrow I go in and get tested for a contact for the left eye. Another week or so, and I'll be back to seeing with both eyes. It's been nine months. I'm looking foward to it.

Nobody Old

In which we reach song #300 on Dan's ipod. We should hit the end in time for Christmas.

Nobody Loves Me
- Derek Webb
The North Cove - Blue Highway
Nothing (Without You) - Derek Webb
Nothing to Cry About - Alli Rogers
O Mary Don't You Weep - Bruce Springsteen
O Praise Him (All This for a King) - David Crowder Band
O Santo de Polvora - Chris Thile
Ocean Size Love - Leigh Nash
Old Dan Tucker - Bruce Springsteen
Old Fashioned Morphine - Jolie Holland
Old French (Dancing with the Mandan) - Lewis and Clark original soundtrack
Old Rugged Cross - Blue Highway

Thursday, August 06, 2009

Band practice

I'm now one of the lead trumpets for the Down Home band, a local band here on the Key Peninsula. And by band, think "The Music Man." No, not a marching band, but not a rock-n-roll band, either. A band like towns all had 100 years ago. We play about 4 gigs a year - Old Timers Days in Longbranch, the Christmas Tree lighting in Key Center, the KP fair (well, when there is a KP fair, which there isn't this year), and maybe another show or two.

My first show with the band will be next Saturday, August 15, at the Old Timers' Days festival at the Longbranch Improvement Club. I think we're playing around noon. Songs like "The Pennsylvania Polka," "In the Mood," "Kansas City," and "Stars and Stripes Forever." It's not quite the caliber of my other gig - the Gig Harbor Peninsula Symphony Orchestra - but it's still a lot of fun, and a chance to make music with other folks in the area. So if you're free next Saturday, come by and say hi.

Wednesday, August 05, 2009

I was baptized last night

After working out for an hour, I took Clara and Olivia swimming in the pool at the YMCA. We'd been in the pool about 30 minutes when it happened.

Clara: "Daddy, come over here. We'll do that thing with God and the person."
Me: "Um, what?"
Clara: "Come here!"

We swam to the edge of the pool.

Clara: "Now sit down here. I'll be God and you be the person."

So I sat, and she grabbed my head. And said "Now I'm God and you're that person." At which point she pushed my head underwater. Going over backwards, just like we always do in a 'real' baptism. Then she pulled me up and that was that. Olivia witnessed the whole thing. She told Clara, with some assurance, "Clara, it's called baptism."

So, all cuteness aside, my question is, How did she know it's God who is the agent in baptism, and not the pastor?

Tuesday, August 04, 2009

Book Report: Andrew Marin's "Love is an Orientation"

Over the last few years, I've read a lot of books and articles related to the issues surrounding Christianity and homosexuality. It should be obvious to everybody that this is one of the hottest of hot-button issues in the church and in our larger society. And, except to those on the extreme right or left, it's not a very easy issue on which to determine any hard conclusions.

Most of the books and articles I've read deal with a couple of central topics: theology (what does the Bible say about same-gender sexual contact?) and science (what do biology and psychology and sociology have to say about same-gender attraction?) For some Christians, the answer is easy: the Bible says homosexuality is a sin, and we're supposed to call people to righteousness; therefore, gays are sinners and have to stop their behavior (or they have to be stopped, if they won't do it themselves). For other Christians, the answer is just as easy: there is absolutely nothing wrong with being gay or lesbian, so we ought to welcome glbt people into our fellowship just as they are, and stop all this bigoted nonsense.

Unfortunately, there doesn't seem much middle ground. For many of the rest of us, the scriptures seem clear on their singular approval of the male/female sexual union, but the strident, angry condemnation of gays and lesbians just doesn't seem to reflect Christ's call to love our neighbors as ourselves. After all, "God demonstrated his love for us in this, that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us." Plus, It's God's "kindness that leads to repentance." The struggle then becomes, is it possible to find another way, where theologically we may believe certain truths about sexuality, while at the same time we create space for meaningful dialogue and true friendship with people who are, in fact, gay or lesbian.

This becomes even more important an issue when people whom we love, people with whom we've built friendships, people who are dear to us, people from our own churches come out of the closet, admitting they are attracted to others of their own gender. Some would instantly condemn, but to many, the love and friendship we share calls us to seek another path, one wherein we maintain true friendships while at the same time disagreeing on this issue.

Enter Andrew Marin's Love is an Orientation. Of all the books I've worked through, this is the first to purposefully focus on the relational/missional issue. Marin's work is not so interested in "what does the Bible say about homosexuality" as in "how should the church respond to the glbt community?" And the answer is in the title of the book: in love.

Essentially, Marin seeks to get beyond the entrenched either/or zero-sum arguments that mark the battle lines between the church and the gay community. He challenges the church to give up our desire to be "right," on this issue, to cease trying to "win the culture war," and instead to see gays and lesbians as God sees them: men and women seeking after God, in need of hope and redemption just like everybody else in the world.

To Marin, the ultimate value is friendship, fleshed out in acts of love and kindness. If Jesus befriended the woman at the well, if Jesus washed the feet of his disciples, if Jesus cared enough about this broken world to come live in it, then so to should we choose to share friendship with all people, saint and sinner alike. The questions become not so much "is it a sin to be gay?" but "who are we when we stand before God?" It's not "can gays be Christians?" but "how do we walk alongside all people, helping them find hope and meaning in their life?"

Some might argue that Marin is watering down the scriptures, some might wish he took a harder stand on the issues, but I think his challenge is one the church must take seriously. Without necessarily ignoring our theological position on the issue, we must ponder our true call in this world: to be salt and light, to represent the hope of the world in acts of service. Christians are not behaving as Christ when they stand "over here" and throw rocks at people "over there." Marin would state, I believe, that what the world really needs is Christians willing to step outside the comfortable walls of the church, walk over to the glbt world, and become Christ incarnate to them, not as an OT prophet preaching damnation, but as a gentle servant, willing to listen, learn, and share their own hope in Christ.

This is certainly not the final book on the subject; for those seeking any definite theological clarity on the specific issues of "being gay," the book will be disappointing. Personally, since theology is so often at the heart of the conversation, I wish Marin had given more than a few brief paragraphs to the pertinent texts; in addition, his attempt to draw out "big-picture-principles' from those texts often stretched the meaning of the text a little too far for my comfort.

Where the text shines, however, is the personal stories and experiences Marin brings to the text, because this is a book that comes from a life attempting to live these thoughts out. This isn't any kind of abstract theology, this is ministry on the run, attempting to sort out definitions in the midst of the ever-shifting debate. And, one could imagine, it's a theology being worked out whilst being shot at from both sides of the discussion. And it's for that very reason I appreciate Andrew Marin and this book. He is living a life few of us are willing to risk, and I believe God is using him to discover and discern new insights we all desperately need.

Saturday, August 01, 2009

My Nobody

Two moments:
- out in front of FBC one sunny afternoon in the mid 90s, Jessica pulls up in her shiny red car and says "Dan - have you heard this song?" She punches in the CD, and out comes the first strains of REM's Nightswimming. I was never a fan of REM until I heard that song. It was. . .enchanting.

- sitting in the balcony at Urban Grace Church for Wintergrass 2007, wondering if I should stick around or go find another show, but Jerry Douglas was coming later and I didn't want to lose my seat. Up walked this unknown bunch of kids. Who overwhelmed the stage with "No More To Leave You Behind." It was like nothing I'd seen or heard before; it sealed my love affair with bluegrass. I'm still living in the aftershock of that show, 2 1/2 years later.

My Idea of Heaven - Leigh Nash
My Oklahoma Home - Bruce Springsteen
My Ropin' Days are Done - Blue Highway
Near the Cross - Iris Dement
The Nearness of You - Norah Jones
Never Finish - Leigh Nash
Next Door Blues - Harry Connick, jr.
Nightswimming - REM
No More to Leave You Behind - Infamous Stringdusters
No One Like You - David Crowder Band
No Resolution - Infamous Stringdusters
Nobody Knows - The Dillards

Bike Ride Report

Route: Southern Key Peninsula, with a side trip to the beach at Penrose and a loop through the campground.
Distance: 10.2 miles
Time: 59 minutes

Number of piles of rubbish dumped along the road: 3 (one pile of televisions, one pile of whiskey bottles, one camper shell)
Number of times the chain came off the sprocket: 1
Number of really long, hot, sun-blistered hills: 6
Number of chipmunks running across the road: 3 (unless one was stalking me)
Number of arts/music festivals passed along the way: 1
Number of fortunate people enjoying the sunshine and water at Penrose Point: a lot
Number of times I couldn't get my foot out of the pedal clip, causing me to fall flat on my face in front of the fortunate people enjoying the sunshine and water at Penrose Point: 1