I believe that all things are good, all things are fractured, and all things are being redeemed. I believe that our human actions continue to break and build the world around us, a seemingly perpetual domino and infinite butterfly effect.
The narrative of scripture opens with the repetitive refrain that “it is good.” With this as our starting point we delve into a fractured world, perpetually falling apart and in constant process of redemption. The Spirit of God hovers over the chaotic waters of creation, an image that we continue to see in our world and lives today. The epistle to the first century church reminds us that in Jesus all things hold together. This “all things” even includes the chaos. And the gospel of John provides the much needed nudge in the ribs, telling us that the light of Jesus is the light of all people and all creation, an “all” that even encompasses the chaos.
Because God made it all. And God continues to make it all today. We hope for a day when God will make all things new, knowing that we are called to be both made new and join God in making all things new. Rabbi Lawrence Kushner writes, “This world and everything in it is a manifestation of God’s presence. Our goal and challenge is to find it and then act in such a way as to help others find it too.”
But our world is riddled with suffering. We can dream of a utopian “once upon a time” when all was well or hope for a utopian “someday” when all will be well again. But we only ever live between these two points, knowing the world as it is while we strive to create “what could be” or “what should be” out of “what is.” And the “what is” finds itself saturated with suffering.
The origin of this suffering is unknowable. From our limited perspective, it simply is. Rather than tracing it to some temporal “fall,” it is the ongoing consequence of human existence, from famine to farmer’s market, total genocide to Toyota Prius. Rather than a scapegoated human disobedience, it is our ongoing actions, both good and bad, that contribute to the perpetual and infinite butterfly effect that creates the world as we know it.
I don’t believe in a fall. I believe in a falling down and a getting back up and a falling down and a getting back up and a falling down and a getting back up and so on and so forth. God is the cosmic Alfred Pennyworth, reaching a hand to an ever-stumbling creation, lovingly saying, “Why do we fall down? So we might learn to pick ourselves up.” And God is always there, helping us to our feet, present with every fall and rise, every moment of breaking and building, curse and blessing, suffering and celebrating wrought with our lives.
Because our world is stricken with dis-ease. Yet even still, God is present and active and never giving up. The most fractured pieces of this good creation are held and taken up by God. In the cosmos of our creator, everything belongs, even if we cannot readily see its place in this present moment. Every system and power, no matter how fractured or distorted, is being redeemed by God and the people of God.
My earliest memories with my dad are being pushed around in his office chair in the church basement in Marshalltown, Iowa.
I remember (mis)adventures in Fort Wayne, Indiana in cars that were literally falling apart and losing hub caps. (But I’m forever grateful for the endless supply of doughnuts and toys in the back seat to keep me occupied.)
I remember the Bible you gave me in Fairbank, Iowa (I still have it!) signed Pastor “Dad” Keat.
I remember summers in Okaboji where you taught me to fish and ride go karts (not at the same time, though that would be interesting to try sometime).
I remember the day the phone rang with a job in Michigan. At the time I did not want to move. But looking back over the past 14 years I’m glad we did.
I remember the year when you coached my middle school soccer team even though you didn’t know anything about soccer. (Thank goodness for the dozen books on “How to coach soccer” you found at the library.)
I remember shooting hundreds of free throws. And I remember your constant reminder that free throws can win almost every game.
I remember the summer I spent in Alaska and the Yukon leading Bible School camps and programs and the letter you sent me signed “your brother in Christ.”
I remember when you gave opportunities to try many of the things that would later become my job: teaching, leading music, writing, leading a student ministry summer camps, and more.
I remember your office full of books you never read. It inspired me to have an office full of books too. (Only I want to read them all.)
I remember when you gave me (or I stole) your accordion.
I remember your sloppy handwriting. Because I inherited the same typeface.
I remember making up games together, inventing things together, building things together, going on adventures together, and so many things that have forever embedded themselves into my creativity and personality today.
Happy Father’s Day. I love you.
Who is Jesus?—an ominous question that is in some ways commonplace and in other way completely taboo. We live in a narcissistic world where we proudly proclaim, “Jesus, thou art mine,” perpetuating a buffet of options for Jesus, from latte drinker to mixed martial arts fighter to homeboy to co-pilot and more. Take your pick; Jesus can be whoever or whatever you want him to be. A name uttered as a curse in one breath and a prayer in another, Jesus is as ubiquitous as small talk about the weather and as off limits as discussing politics at a family reunion. Yet through it all, the all too deserving question remains—Who is Jesus?
Every answer is undoubtedly biased and incomplete. Yet the consistency and misrepresentation of the question prompts a response, albeit the perpetual first word and question in an ongoing conversation rather than the final statement or punctuation in a debate. What follows is not exhaustive, but initial.
Jesus is the divine sophia, the eternal logos.
He is the image, ikon, and avatar of the invisible God.
Jesus is the son of man, come with the clouds to display a new and our true humanity.
He is a rabbi and prophet, inviting us to find our present life as a part of the age to come, proclaiming in method and message the reign and realm of God.
He is our savior, our advocate, our ally.
Jesus is a finger pointing at the moon, directing my gaze to God and God’s work in the world.
He is the living Buddha and living Christ.
He is an archetype of suffering, death, and resurrection.
Jesus is a lightning rod on the cross, absorbing all sin, evil, violence, and injustice upon himself and letting it do its worst. The cross is not God’s penalty or punishment or any sort of cosmic child abuse but simply profoundly God’s place-sharing with a broken and fractured world.
Jesus reveals the domination system and its myth of redemptive violence, exposing our mimetic desire and scapegoat mechanisms; he is the lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. Jesus is fully and truly human; a model and example for our inhumanity, for our life and suffering, for love and justice and forgiveness, for resurrection and New Creation.
Jesus is a pillar of cloud and fire for the people of the new exodus. He is the embodiment of the returning and redeeming action of the covenant God. Jesus was and is, for Israel and the world, that which according the Jewish people and their scripture only God could do and be: the end of exile, the forgiveness of sins, the embodiment of the Temple, the fulfillment of Torah, the year of jubilee.
Update: Apparently I left my math skills in Michigan. 8 x 10 x 5 does not equal 800. It equals 400. (Sadly, 400 minute abs doesn’t have the same ring to it.) Whoops.
Eight minutes can be simultaneously ironic and effective. Here’s how:
Six years ago Johnny McKenna gave me a digital copy of this video. Matt Laidlaw and I would spend three days a week running or lifting weights or something. Whatever our routine, the last eight minutes were always the same.
A couple months ago I turned my #5DaysInARow project into 80 Minute Abs: 8 minute abs, twice a day, five days in a row. The first few days of my project weren’t too bad. My stomach definitely felt the difference at first but began growing numb to the twice-daily pain I was inducing on it. By the end of the week I was ready to be done.
My hope with my #5DaysInARow projects is always that they’ll actually seep their way into my everyday routine. (So far my most successful one has been “Five Days of Mindfulness” — you should ask Jes about my daily “walk on water” routine [or at least that's what she calls it].) Only sit-ups (or any workout) hasn’t quite stuck.
So I’ve come up with a crazy idea. Potentially my craziest idea ever.
I’ve done eight minute abs. I’ve done eighty minute abs.
This week my goal is to do eight minute abs ten times each day. For five days in a row. Totaling 800 minutes.
I figure if I can make it through one day I actually have a shot at the whole week. I’ll be twittering each time I complete a set, updating the world (or at least my mom) on how far into the ominous
800 400 I’ve journeyed.
So stay tuned for my twitter updates. And my future washboard. (Or just an achy abdomen.)
Banana goes on an adventure.
Understanding the regular gatherings of followers of Jesus as a renewal of our covenant with God (and with one another?) not only changes the need for sacraments to be present, but it changes the posture around those sacraments.
Rather than simply rote rituals and routines, they are an invitation to continue living as a part of God’s ongoing story. Rather than just a change in the liturgy or an extra song or two, the waters of baptism and the bread and wine of communion remind us who we are and whose we are, they remind us of the story we find ourselves in.
In baptism we are reminded of God hovering over the chaotic tahom, present and calling forth beauty within the chaos. This parting of the creation is echoed in the parting of the exodus waters and again in the parting of the promised land waters, all of which continue to lead forward to our baptismal waters. We are called into this water and into this deep story of God continuing to hover over our chaos (and inviting us to do the same).
In the bread and wine we are invited to remember the story of Israel’s liberation as our own and look to Jesus as a new Moses leading humanity and all creation on a new exodus. In the simple elements of bread and wine we find a body that goes beyond those gathered together, but stretches to slaves in Egypt through all God’s people today and every “today” to come. We are invited to be living eucharists, as we see modeled in Jesus, breaking our body and pouring ourselves out for the world around us.
As a covenant renewal the sacraments of baptism and communion are not simply static events that happen once and for all but are an ongoing and living memory of who we are and whose we are, blessed to be a blessing, a kingdom of priests, the hands and feet and face of God, a new creation. This is the story we find ourselves in and our sacraments can serve as kinesthetic, experiential, and ongoing reminders of our participation in it.
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