Write a post or a comment on our blog about one (or more) of the questions.
I'm not hurting for books on these hot summer days, but I am always looking out for what others are reading. Here is my list of good books for this summer:
Bossypants, Tina Fey
A Visit From the Goon Squad, Jennifer Egan
The Age of Discovery: How the Romantic Generation Discovered the Beauty and Terror of Science, Richard Holmes
Cloud Atlas, David Mitchell
And because I went to see Woody Allen's new movie and felt shamed by it that I haven't been challenging myself in the literary department of late, I've just re-started Ulysses, James Joyce. I hope to be done with it sometime around Christmas.
What are y'all reading?
I've been listening to a new album lately. It's by The Belle Brigade. Apparently it's their first album so, of course, the album is also called The Belle Brigade. I think I'll name my first album, "Anything Other Than My Band's Name". Anyhow, in an addictive-as-heck little song entitled Where Not To Look for Freedom,it shares these lyrics:
You cannot find your wisdom
In someone else's story
But if you find your glory
Tell me where to look for freedom
I like this lyric. I like it for alot of reasons:
I absolutely disagree that you can't find your wisdom in other people's stories: that's precisely what Scripture is about. It's about finding wisdom (and lots of other things) in the stories of other people.
I also absolutely agree that you can't find your wisdom in other people's stories: often I have needed to live certain experiences myself. It's not enough to read about other people who experienced something. I need to experience it myself. It needs to become my story.
Perhaps this is the mystery of Scripture: somehow these ancient words on the page are able to become something much more than the stories of other people who lived a long time ago and experienced life, the universe, and everything in a completely different context than I do. Somehow that particular text (in a way unlike most any other text I've encountered) has the ability to become my story.
I think that's a key part of the invitation of the gospel: to understand ourselves to be part of the grand story...to come to understand that these words that were written thousands of years ago, in languages and contexts very different from our own, are - in fact - our story, too.
Then the real power of the gospel comes when we understand that our stories - the ones we literally live - are a part of that same story.
Reading the above post, I was moved. At first.
Reboot. Yeah, that's what we need to do. Rethink what it means to be evangelical, Reformed, Presbyterian, church, Christian, governing body, etc. etc. Makes me think of Jeremiah. Tear down, pluck up, build and plant. A powerful thought.
And then I started sifting through a little of what that would mean. If we were to reboot the denomination, what would need to go? Do we tell those with historical leanings to ignore the documents, rulings, and creeds of years past? Do we ask the members of older congregations to forget the messages of their pastors, elders, musicians and Sunday School teachers that formed them? Do we rework the social fabric of the small towns of the United States--many of which were built on the idea that to be hospitable you should support a handful of churches from a handful of denominations?
I think a reboot is impossible.
When I consider the operating software of the PC(USA)--and here's where my computer-geek co-authors roll their eyes at me--I don't believe that our groups and alignments and overly-discussed problems are anything more than desktop icons. The stuff that is locking up the system is written much deeper in who we are. We are a church in the United States, with all the cultural baggage that brings. We are a church in the twenty-first century, with all the historical baggage that brings. A reboot doesn't remove those identities.
I think humbly admitting that we don't get to dictate how the Spirit is building the Church is where we begin. The Spirit is moving in Africa and Asia in ways that it is not in Europe and North America. We in the PC(USA) are not the reason the churches of Europe and North America are shrinking. We are a symptom. I believe we can only see ourselves differently than deathly ill is to become witnesses to the places in our communion where the Spirit is moving: Large churches that listen to their young people instead of doing things the way they've always done them. Small churches that pool their resources instead of dwelling in isolation. New people called by God to teach and proclaim even when I don't agree 100% with their theology or praxis.
What we seem able to agree upon in this church is that there are changes to be made to make us better witnesses. I'm all for that: Partial reboots. Breaking out of our like-minded groups. Staying in our like-minded groups but being open to hearing from time to time (rather than simply criticizing) what the other like-minded groups are witnessing. All these are necessary; the Spirit's reforming work is still ongoing in all of us and in our structures. But I'm not going to go to the Sessions of the churches I serve and propose that we remake the system. Such a proposal seems only to be cleanup of a cluttered desktop.
After a recent conversation that took place in emails, I remembered how much I miss this blog and regular exchanges with its authors. So, for about the fortieth time, here am I, pledging some random occasional thoughts.
My first comes from Bruce Reyes-Chow... of course. Not much has changed in my reading habits. Here's his post:
I want to disucss this. Very much. It is a thought that I've had for a while now, yet haven't had time to develop. However, I'm putting it out there now to hook myself into a second post. This teaser will hopefully bring me back, if not our readers.
If you follow the link and read the post, please also read the comments. They develop upwards, with the earliest at bottom (which is all the rage these days and of great annoyance to me), so if you want to see how some people develop their thoughts, start down low.
Well - I'm off for a little more than a week at Mo Ranch. I'll be toting around a sound system, making other people sound good, and hanging out in the river.
While I'm gone, the 219th General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (USA) will get underway.
Here is my prayer for that assembly, in the words of the lyrics written by one of my recently-favorite bands:Serve God love me and men
My bloggy silence has kept many thoughts unformed beneath the surface. It is time for a soft reboot of Drink Upstream, in the hope that the thoughts will emerge with shape and substance.
Thank you, Brian Dees, for this link.
The book isn't written from the perspective of an academic - but rather from the perspective of a former advertising executive for Porsche turned Mennonite preacher. It uses no high-brow language, and the writing is often stumbling and the logic somewhat broken.
But, it's a great conversation starter.
This post wasn't supposed to be about that...more on it later...
In the opening chapters of the book, Hipps uses Martin Luther as an example of the kind of thinker who was shaped by the print media. He writes about how the printed word allows our thinking to move into a different plane - it allows us to become almost hyper-rational (to the point that we can begin to neglect real-world experience in favor of logical discourse that can be, at worst, disconnected from reality.)
Here's a great quote from those opening chapters:
Hipps then goes on to talk about how other, more recent, technologies have begun to shift our conciousness away from "doctrines about" Jesus and back towards "stories of" Jesus.