Friday, February 29, 2008

2nd Post from the Pastors Convention

Picture here is Shane Claiborne, talking about his new book, "Jesus for President."

Big Ideas

You've probably heard me mention NT Wright in some of my sermons over the last year. He's an Anglican Bishop and a prominent English theologian who has stirred no small amount of controversy because of some of his ideas and interpretations. He's been the speaker here for the last 2 sessions, mixed in with lots of music, comedy and other fun stuff. When he gets up to preach or, more accurately, lecture, he's like a fire hyrdant being opened up full throttle. He doesn't do much pleasantry stuff, but just lets loose. Last night, when the hydrant of his teaching opened, he flooded the room. I've never seen anyone preach like him. It isn't his style that's amazing, it's the speed, the force, the ideas, the sheer volume (amount, not loudness), of it. He explodes all over with thoughts and images that are new and amazing. Although there are things I don't completely agree with or maybe understand, he's very powerful and thought-provoking. Not in a charismatic way, but a very spiritual, intellectual, blow-you-into-new-territory kind of way. For any of you who are interested, I recorded his talks and you're free to listen to them when I return. I can burn them on a cd for you.
The first night I arrived in San Diego, I spotted NT Wright on Nightline (I think- or another late night thing, but I'm fairly certain it was Nightline). They have a “Faith” segment they've been doing, and maybe you saw him too. He talked about one of his “radical” ideas that says Christians have the whole idea of the afterlife wrong. Of course they tried to make him seem more edgy than he really is by highlighting Wright's belief that when we die we don't live forever in heaven. Instead he looks at passages like Revelation 21 that talk about the “New Jerusalem coming down out of heaven as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband” - and he says that's an image of heaven on earth; eternity on a newly created earth. That may seem like splitting apocalyptic hairs, but the thing that's radical about it is his view that eternity may be very different than what we've been taught in our culture/church. Instead of being a forever in heaven experience, singing God's praises for all time, NT interprets scripture to mean that eternity is about God's Kingdom coming to earth – the New Jerusalem coming out of heaven, and that perhaps it begins now as we work and live out Kingdom values. He very much believes in eternity, resurrection, resurrection bodies and eternal life, and heaven being a real place. What's different is “thy Kingdom come, thy will be done ON EARTH as it is in heaven” points us to the possibility that God is starting this whole revolution of new creation now, not after some destruction of all creation and God starting over. And you and I, our church and our individual lives, are meant by God to be little glimpses of God's re-creation of all thing beginning now, not later after we die. As little chunks of a new creation, we are put together by God to be building blocks in a whole new created world. It is quite scriptural, but not exactly the way the bible has been interpreted for a long time. Christians are windows for others into God's new recreation, at our best. Our problem is that, as windows, we're quite foggy. All of this has things to say about our priorities, our resources, our vision for who we are and what we are to do - now.
Anyway, I probably risk making him sound like something he's not – but I believe he's right on target. I'd enjoy the chance to share more with you when I return.
Otherwise, I haven't been out much! Just going to seminars and buying my year's supply of books and supplies for church – everything is half price here.
In the next few days I'll be doing some planning for future worship and sermons; visiting my brother in LA; checking out Loyola University, (where Amanda has been accepted, but isn't yet sure she wants to attend) and if I get up the chutzpah, I may venture out to the surf for the closest I'll ever get to walking on water.
I'll keep you posted on my adventures if I can locate continual internet access. Grace to you this week as you seek to be little windows of God's new creation.
If you want to see or hear more about the convention I've attended, check out: - this is their blog. Let me know if you spot me in any of the pictures...
- Curtis

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

From San Diego - February 27th

1176 Miles From Home
No, it's not a sermon I'm writing about this week, but my adventure to San Diego for the Pastors Convention. I left town Sunday afternoon and zig-zagged my way to San Diego in my blue rental Chevy Cobalt by Tuesday for the conference. I know that being able to attend is an extravagance. Our church is able to pay a chunk and Ana graciously says "you need it, go for it" - so we pay the rest and here I am. I'm sharing some of what goes on here so that you'll have some idea of what's going on for me this week.
The things they have here for the 2000+ pastors from across the country are really quite amazing. I'm referring to the speakers and ideas and resources available - 60 seminars with more than 50 different speakers. Right now I'm typing away in a room they have set aside with internet access - a big comfy room with overstuffed chairs, and a young woman playing guitar and singing for us. She's a PK, probably in her mid 20's who's voice sounds like a cool stream. I suspect she'll be better known one day - Hannah Ford. Sort of reminds me of our own gifted Britt Petrovich, who I can see doing something like this too one day.
Last night the main speaker was a Rwandan Bishop who spoke about reconciliation and his experiences growing up as a child exiled to Uganda and then coming back to his home country. He spoke of seeing murderers who hacked up children during the civil war - who were then forgiven by the victims' families. "Who but Jesus could cause people to forgive such terrible things?" he said.
This morning Chuck Colson, (Watergate convict, Prison Fellowship founder) spoke. He shared the desperate need to teach people the core truths of our faith, not just so we know head knowledge, but so that we'll have a pool of understanding with which to act upon and change the world.
A bit later I spent two hours in a seminar called "Two Way Mission Trips." It was put on by Christianity Today and used all of us attenders as sounding boards and resources for an upcoming training series for short-term missions. There were just a few of us in the seminar, but it was good. It was encouraging for me to learn that our partnership with Shekina/Shalom is very unique and that we're doing a lot of things "right." It occurred to me that, with the large group going in July to El Salvador, we are approaching almost 40-50% of our church having made the trip - and being changed in deep ways by the relationships and experiences. I was also reminded once again that the trips we do are not especially about what great things we can go go do for "those people" far away. It is even more about our desperate need to receive the gifts of their faith and the way they teach us about relationships and the Body of Christ in the world. Hopefully, along the way, we'll be able to give them some gifts as well - but they may not be the ones that we think they are.
The last seminar I attended was a 90 minute talk by Shane Claiborne. He's a rather radical guy that might remind some people of a left-over or resurrected Jesus freak from the 60's. But he's much more than that. He's challenging and faith-shaking in very good ways; he lives in a "Christian Community" with 7 other people in inner-city Philly. They do strange good work with the homeless and speak up loudly on matters of justice. His new book is called Jesus For President. Afterward, I got to chat with him for a few minutes. In one of his other books, Irresistible Revolution, I read that he knew our Salvadoran friends, Ruth and Alex, so I talked with him about them. I also mentioned how I sent Stephen a copy of Irresistible Revolution, and that he loved the book -- that it helped ignite a new understanding of his faith that he could really dig into. Shane offered to write Stephen in prison, which I think Stephen will really enjoy.
So it's been a full couple of days already. I've run into a couple of people from Oregon, including one surprisingly unfriendly pastor from Hillsboro! He was quite un-interested in talking to me when I sat next to him, and then he hogged the leg and elbow room to boot. Oh well, maybe he had a bad day.
Well, time to wrap this up since I need to grab some dinner. Kids Klub back home is sitting down to eat right now too. The singer, Hannah, just finished up and so I went up to get her CD. Maybe she won't be so famous - I was the first cd she sold all day! Turns out her dad (flashing pictures and clapping loudest), is an American Baptist pastor as well - and we share some friends in N. California. More to come tomorrow...
- Curtis