Monday, December 06, 2010

O Antiphon #3 - O Radix Jesse

This 3rd O Antiphon is "O Radix Jesse."  The root, or stock of Jesse.  It highlights the messianic element of Christ in his lineage in King David - Jesse being David's father.  Thus we have a chant to Christ our Ruler, and Messiah.

The "O" is once again emphasized, and this time with the element of the trinity specifically considered.  In worshiping Christ, Who is God incarnate (the son of David) the whole of the Trinity is considered in this "O."

The first note begins on the root of the chord, which is the foundational note the chord is built from, and this represents the Father.  The second part of the "O" moves to another chord for the Son, and the note sung is the root note of the chord but the 3rd, and this represents Christ the man Who by His incarnation brought harmony between man and God.  The third part of the "O" drops in a sequence of notes and does not fall on one chord, and so speaks of the Spirit, Who does not speak for Himself but speaks of the Father and the Son,  The descending order of these last notes also represent the Spirit "falling upon us."

Like before this is the recording as I sent it to the musicians at The Gathering.

This is part of an Advent Synchroblog.  For the other posts which are a part of this series see the Synchroblog Wordpress Blog

O Antiphon #2 - O Adonai

This second of the Great O Antiphons is also one of my compositions.  Since O Adonai utilizes the Hebrew word for "Lord" in this reminder of Jesus' place as Creator, and Lord of All I have given this folky modern chant a touch of a Jewish feel with the minor key arrangement.

Once again the "O" is emphasized as a expression of emotion in worship, and the "O" rises upward simply as an expression of our worship rising upward to the exalted Lord of Heaven.

Of course, as before, this is my first recording the song, and as I sent it to our musicians at The Gathering.

This is part of an Advent Synchroblog.  For the other posts which are a part of this series see the Synchroblog Wordpress Blog.

O Antiphon #1 - O Sapientia is the first of the seven "Great O Antiphons" The Gathering is composing for Advent 2010.  I have composed the first three.  Carl Nystedt will compose #4, and #6.  Jonathan Meharry will be composing #5, and Jodi Ainsworth will be composing #7.

The "O Antiphons" are medieval chants or recitations which cover the days preceding Christmas Eve - the 17th through the 23rd of December.  Each recitation covers an aspect of the Person of Christ.

These are the "Great O Antiphons" in one English translation below.  We have used this as a guide for creating our music, and there may be some minor variation on the lyrics to fit the music.  The "O" will be emphasized in triplicate in each song in typical trinitarian respect.  The reason for emphasizing the word "O" is that it is a unique word, which does not represent anything except the expression of emotion.  O is not a thing.  O is not an action.  You can not buy an "O" at the store, or go out "Oing" on a Friday Night.  (Though both those actions may cause you to come home Owing money.)  The scriptures have Os.  Jesus pronounces them with the use of the Greek Letter omicron, and this seems to highlight the fact that there just might be a place for the expression of pure emotion in our worship, without a direct intellectual attachment.

These "Great O Antiphons" highlight that expression of emotion, but connect that wonder to aspects of the character of Christ.

We began six weeks before Christmas, and will learn a new "O Antiphon" each week, learning two of them on the fifth week.

O Sapientia (Is. 11:2-3; 28:29): "O Wisdom, you come forth from the mouth of the Most High. You fill the universe and hold all things together in a strong yet gentle wary. O Wisdom, now come to teach us the way of truth."

O Adonai (Is. 11:4-5; 33:22): "O Adonai and leader of Israel, you appeared to Moses in a burning bush and you gave him the Law on the Holy Mount. O come and save us with your mighty power."

O Radix Jesse (Is. 11:1, 10): "O stock of Jesse, you stand as a signal for the nations; kings fall silent before you whom the people acclaim. O come to deliver us, and do not delay."

O Clavis David (Is. 9:6; 22:22): "O key of David and scepter of Israel, what you open no one else can close again; what you close no one can open. O come to lead the captive from prison; free those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death."

O Oriens (Is. 9:1): "O Rising Sun, you are the splendor of eternal light and the sun of justice. O come and enlighten those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death."

O Rex Gentium (Is. 2:4; 9:5): "O King whom all the peoples desire, you are the cornerstone which makes all one. O come and save man whom you made from clay."

O Emmanuel (Is. 7:14) : "O Emmanuel, you are our king and judge, the One whom the peoples await and their Savior. O come and save us, Lord, our God."

Here is "O Antiphon" #1 "O Sapientia" or "O Wisdom."  It references Christ as the Wisdom of God.

I wrote this antiphon with this in mind:  The search for wisdom is often our hunt for resolution in the struggles of life.  The first note of the "O" is a dissonant note moving to resolution just like our hunt for wisdom is the search for resolution in the struggles of life.

In this post you are getting the first recording of the Antiphon as it was sent out to the other musicians of The Gathering.

This is part of an Advent Synchroblog.  For the other posts which are a part of this series see the Synchroblog Wordpress Blog.

Friday, November 05, 2010

You Will Be Exposed! Threats from Fundy-ville

This is my first personal story from the Halloween season.  It is fresh in my mind and so weird that I thought I would share it first.

It was Halloween Night.  I was changing the stage set up, because my friend from Wales, Sarah Louise Owen was playing next, and I was backing her up on the guitar.  I turned and looked out over the street in front of the stage, and there had suddenly appeared a street preacher with a sign which said "Jesus Saves."  The street preacher was standing directly in front of the stage, and his sign was tall enough to block the faces of musicians while they performed if he remained there.  So I asked Jeff Cox to ask him to move on somewhere else.

Street Preachers with big signs apparently don't like to be asked kindly to move on from obnoxious locations they have procured.  He took umbrage with the request and began to argue with Jeff, and then myself.

Then he shouted up to me and asked, "Do you have non-Christians playing on this stage?"

I responded by saying, "Yes, do you have a problem with that?"

He replied in some form that there is no fellowship with darkness and light, and then went on to say that I was not a real Christian.  Well, I was setting up the stage, and didn't have time for this nonsense, so I said, "Well if you feel that I am doing wickedly, you should leave and not fellowship with this darkness."

So, our friendly street preacher commented, "You will be exposed."

I responded, "                ."

Heck, what was I supposed to say?  I was going to be exposed for having non-Christian musicians on the stage we provide for the city of Salem, and it's visitors?  So.  What's the big deal.

Then seeing that I was not particularly moved he said, "and John Paul Jackson will be exposed too."

I responded, "Hmmmmmm, I don't think he is going to care too much."

At some point the Street Preacher finally stomped off.  Later while I was backing up Sarah Louise Owen on her set he returned.  This time he had no sign, but he did have a video camera, and he took video of me playing rhythm to "Zombie" by the Cranberries.  I was dressed as a tree, or more specifically The Green Man, who is a character from the carvings on Gothic Cathedrals, but of course the missional potential of that would have been lost on him anyway.  Jeff got a picture of the videoing Street Preacher, and there he is getting ready to expose me I suppose.

Later that same evening as the stage wound down, another preacher looking guy came by, and was videoing a girl who fell down near stage.  My buddy Allan who helps run the sound, plays bass, and is a former pastor and YWAM leader put on Thriller and people were dancing.  The guy began to video the girl up close as she was on the ground, and as people began to help her up, and make sure she was okay he only pressed in for a better shot.  I certainly hope he wasn't one of those street preachers, because if he videoed the event of her falling to show something he thought was wrong, and did not help the girl (as our team of workers were doing)he is a Pharisee in the ultimate expression.

Later that same night he spoke to the leaders from the Streams Ministries internship, and said that he would expose me to John Paul Jackson. let's get this right:  He will expose me, he will expose me John Paul, and then he will expose John Paul?  Does something seem wrong with this picture?  Could I have a little deception with that exposi[tion] perhaps?  Oh well, what's one to expect.

The next day, I heard from a pastor friend who was that the Street Preacher appeared at his church at 8am (his church is an hour and a half away) and was taking notes.  If you know this guy, write him and say hi. :-)

That's my first story from the fringes of Halloween in Salem.  This one is weird.  Others will be weird as well, and some will be graciously wonderful.  Halloween in Salem is a weird and wonderful place.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Journeys from the Land of Jah (Chapter 14)

 Chapter 14 brings our small troupe of travelers to a village of barefooted country folk who are afraid of snakes, and have strange ways of dealing with it.


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Saturday, September 18, 2010

The Garden of Love

Yep, I wrote a hippie dancing worship song.  Thursday evening we meditated on Genesis 3 in our lectio divina gathering, and yesterday morning I wrote this song.  Sorry, hippie dancing (as my son calls it) is not included, you will have to do that yourself.

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Garden of Love
I want to walk with you
I want to talk with you
in the garden, garden of love
walking in the cool of day
we will talk, we will play
in the garden, garden of love

Here inside this land of harvest
I am a gardener and an artist
working with you in the garden...of love
I will see all things harmless
except the serpent and charmed hiss
here before You in the garden...of love

I want to walk with you 
I want to talk with you 
in the garden, garden of love 
walking in the cool of day 
we will talk, we will play 
in the garden, garden of love

Won't hide behind my garments 
sewed fig leaves or skinned varmints 
bare before in the garden..of love 
May we never have a parting 
or sentry angels standing, guarding 
my entrance back into our garden...of love

Monday, September 13, 2010

Further Thoughts on Burning Man: the direction of spiritual pursuit in a post-Christian America

Today I had my yearly eye doctor exam with Krishna Gaddipati.  Our whole church likes Dr.Gaddipati, he has been a life saver, you can read more about that story here.

After the rains at Burning Man 2010.
I mentioned to the Doc that I had just returned from Burning Man.  He spent time in the Bay area and had friends who had extolled the virtues of Burning Man.  For Krishna's friends Burning Man was a spiritual experience - a pilgrimage of sorts.  My last post relates some of those same spiritually enlightening dynamics which it held for me.

This is the nature of spiritual pursuit in our age as I have seen from the perspective of one living in a pilgrimage location.  500,000 people will visit my city in October alone.  Many come to Salem, MA in pursuit of fun in the month long Halloween season, but others come in pursuit of the mystical, magical and in hope of the answers or comfort it may provide.

There appears to be a growing movement of people leaving the Christian church as we know it in its traditional forms in search of something other.  Among those who have left Christianity altogether, some have adopted other forms of religious expression such as Neo-Paganism.   Others have adopted non-religious worldviews such as new-atheism.

Interestingly, Neo-Pagans and new-atheists have a common factor.  They are both movements which gather around events - "festivals" as it were. Whether the Amazing Meeting, or local gatherings during Pagan Pride days both movements exhibit a trend toward gathering together on a yearly calender cycle, and finding their inspiration to live throughout the year by a combination of the 'festivals' and personal reading during the year.

Enter Burning Man:  a festival based upon radical self-expression.  50,000 people meeting in the barren desert.  Like Jews traveling out into the wilderness to see John the Baptist they gather in a climatically brutal, and barren environment.  But these do so to celebrate life, art and a tradition of "gifting."  To find meaning, to cry at the temple, to celebrate the burning of the man - these are things which happen at Burning Man.

Is this our new mode of spiritual pursuit?  Is this how our generation is finding God, or inspiration, or direction, or hope, or learning experiences?  If so, the Christian church might be behind the times on discovering how to touch pilgrims wandering through the deserts, and festivals looking for God.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Burning Man: Post-apocalyptic, post-Christian, and somehow a return to an ancient faith

Burning Man 2010: I spent the week in the barren desert.  Well, it was a once barren alkali flat called a playa, but last week it was filled with 50,000 people, their goods, and art projects.  It was a party, it was a pilgrimage, it was a radical ongoing experiment in human community and creativity.  It was my first burn.

It was not new to me in its ethos.  I live in Salem, MA, and as a Christian pastor, I have been able to develop deep friendships with the Witchcraft/Neo-Pagan community.  This is not the same thing as Burning Man, but the rules of engagement are not dissimilar.

My church world, and their festival world are not the same.  We speak different languages - or we used to, but I have learned the languages of our culture in Salem, and it was not a significantly different language at Burning Man.

I walked away with a few observations which I want to put down in white and black.

Enculturation is at the heart of the Jesus way.

Popularly we speak of incarnational ministry in Christian circles, and this often means being filled up with God, Who then is poured out through us to others.  That view is good, but it is also mechanical if there is nothing more to it.  It presents the believer as a thoughtless, action-less vessel who becomes nothing in order to allow God to flow through unhindered.  The way of Jesus included that dynamic, but was not that only.  Jesus was incarnated as one of us.  Spoke our language, ate our food, worked a job we might work, and struggled with our calamities.  Incarnational ministry means being birthed into and becoming one with a culture.

So as to make sure I am not misunderstood:  This does not mean partaking of the unhealthy, unwise practices within a culture, but it does mean understanding and identifying with all things redemptive, and non-detrimental within a culture, and allowing those things to become a part of your own way of being.  For example - radical creativity is not antithetical to the Jesus way - in fact it is perfectly connected to the Jesus way.  It is part of the ethos of Burning Man, as it is in Salem, MA, and is easily embraceable.

Initiation into culture can be an important process.

A first time attender to Burning Man is asked to step out of the car, roll in the dust, and ring a bell declaring they are a "virgin."  The dust will be the ever-present host of the week.  It sticks to you like talcum powder, and will travel home with you as well.  Rolling in it has become the initiation.  Some people avoid this nasty process, and do not divulge that it is their first time on the playa.  I did not do that.  I happily declared that it was my first event.

I was ushered from the car to a dusty piece of ground near a large bell.  I was told that rolling in the dust was something new burners should do.  Dust angels were suggested,  I thought - 'no, not dust angels.  I grew up on the beach, not in the mountains.  I should surf the playa dust.'  So I did.

I laid on my belly, paddled in the dust like I was catching a wave, and then hopped up and declared that I was getting tubed in the playa dust.  I threw the dust over my head like it was a wave, then I shouted "wipeout!" and crashed around on the ground like I was being tumbled by waves.  This silly activity, was my way of embracing the ethos of Burning Man - I embraced the initiation with my way of doing things.  Then I hugged the group of greeters who had begun to gather around me.  This was followed by a lady who grabbed a big handful of alkaline dust from the ground, and poured in my hair delcaring "Ashes to ashes, dust to dust."

This encounter was more for me, than it was for anyone else.  I was initiated, and felt as if I had passed through a simple process of identifying with the event, and its people.  Those at the gate were laughing, and having a good time through it all, and I was in some small way identified as a contributor to an event which is all about contribution of the many members to one another in a radical community experiment.  The initiation was to prove to be a significant part of my high level of comfort with the whole event.  I was a theologically and morally conservative (I suppose some of you reformed thinkers may not believe that) pastor who was immediately at home in a wildly counter-cultural, post-Christian experience.

Finding the redemptive story in culture is invaluable.

People sat at the temple, which had been built out toward deep playa - away from the city, beyond the Man. 

Some sat on the ground holding pictures of loved ones who had died.  Others sat on benches built into the temple walls and cried over lost relationships.  All wrote on the walls with words of hope, or sorrow, loss or thanksgiving, lessons learned or pains inflicted.  I wrote on the wall too.  I wrote something deeply personal.  At the end of the week the temple would burn to the ground, and like the prayer written on a piece of paper and tossed into the campfire the smoke would rise to God.

This was a deeply potent experience for me to write on the temple walls, and I could have stayed in the temple for far longer than I did.  It came home with me, and will serve me well for a long time.

This was a redemption story built of wood, waiting to be burned to carry my struggles to heaven.  This was not the only redemptive story on the playa either.  Unbiased eyes will have walked away with a sense of holiness seen upon that blank canvas of desert, which had been turned into a painting with God's signature appearing upon some of the work.  God speaks into every culture, and developing cultures like Burning Man are not an exception to this rule.

God is already speaking.  We are merely translators of His voice.

I was privileged to participate in this event with a theme camp doing Dream Interpretation, and offering a variety of "Spiritual Encounters."  Every person I worked with was talented and brilliant, and it was an honor to stand with them.  Yet, we did not have to conjure up encounters with God.  People entered our Dream Tent with God upon their shoulders.

The Ancient One preceded us, and was already at work in people's lives.  How could it not be this way?  The One who loves us all, actively pursues us all.

People cried.  People rejoiced.  People had returned from previous years' encounters with stories to say thank you.

Incarnational ministry will change you.

Once you discover God speaking into other cultures, and are able to identify His voice you will be changed.  You will have learned more about God, and will have experienced His love in new ways.

Coming to Burning Man I was asked to have a "playa name."  I did not come up with one.  I did not pray for one.  I was determined that others would name me in accordance with what they saw in me.  Consequently no one name stuck, but I was constantly being named by people throughout the event.  Some names were embarrassing, some were glorious, all were acceptable because they came from other people.

Here's the list of the silly, the mundane, the sacred, and the profound names I was given over the course of the week:  Dr. Phil, Dr. Love, Jerry (as in Jerry Garcia), Treebeard and Greenman (for my costume), Moses, Abraham, and Socrates.

Hopefully I carry a little of all of those names with me.  Like being given a new name, I am in some small way a new person for having walked with friends, for having met new friends, and for having served in community with 50,000 other radical self-expressionists.

If our humanity is imprinted with imago dei, then self expression must have a bit of dei in it.  I found it last week, and I am the better for it.  I hope the people I encountered were imprinted with the little bit of dei I might have offered as well.

Like Old Testament religious experience, festival is the new (yet ancient) way of church for many people today.

People (like our new found friends at The Tribe in LA) have been fleeing the institutional church for decades.  Similarly to the Neo-Pagan culture I have come to know in Salem, MA there has been a development of seasonal festival experiences, which look something like the feasts of Israel.

It has replaced church, and become a new kind of church for many people.  God seems to have designed this pattern for the children of Israel in the desert.  Who's to say that it might not be a new, yet ancient way of drawing close to God today?

So, am I a Burner now?

Only if another Burner sees it in me.  I will not name myself what others can not see in me.  At the very least I am extremely comfortable in that world for the week Black Rock City exists.  Next Year in Black Rock City?  Who knows - perhaps - I would certainly love to be there in 2011.

Some special thanks to those who spoke into my life most potently:  Rob and Lisa - thanks for trusting me in a difficult season of life.  Hippie Fish and Fish-wife (couldn't resist) :-) - you make everyone feel comfortable - what a great gift it is, and I will be wearing a burner necklace for quite some time - even though I never wear jewelry.  John Bear - I miss your wry smile already.  Dannette - be seeing you soon in Salem perhaps?  The whole Deifell family - some real Burners who made me feel like a Burner too - included me in on their re-wedding, named me Socrates, and allowed their sis to hang with the weird Christian Dream camp and teach us how to really appreciate the experience fully. Roger, Elmer, and Monty - you may not have stayed in the camp with us, but your gracious ways both before and after we returned to default world were life giving.  Mr. Inventor Man - we could be seriously dangerous together if someone let us loose!  Godfather, and Mama Bear - I could not have met better friends to drive across the country with.  For each of you, mi casa es su casa.

Friday, August 06, 2010

Journeys from the Land of Jah (Chapter 13)

The town of Revival pulls out all the stops.  Flying Man falls in love, and the Adventurer leaves Revival with two new travelers for his mission.



Tuesday, August 03, 2010

Journeys from the Land of Jah (Chapter 12)

 In chapter 12 the small troupe with the Adventurer, his father, Flying Man, and the small sad family leave Greater Faithville and head west toward the town of Revival.  There they discover a place of refuge with the Sad Mother’s cousin.


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Tuesday, July 20, 2010

A Wild Theology: Why I think "Why?" is the wrong question

A little over a week ago I had a great evening with a friend with whom I regularly discuss theological and philosophical issues.  The heart of the matter on this particular evening (besides a good brew at the Gulu-Gulu and Arturo Fuente cigars) was the problem of evil, or "why God allows" terrible things to happen in the world.

As my friend (and I mean "friend" in the fullest capacity of trust and respect) started this line of concern, I mentioned that it was not a question I found myself asking - ever.  I furthermore went on to state that not only was I not wired that way, but that my philosophy of God, time, and the nature of sin did not make a place for this question of "why" to make much sense.

We went around for quite some time on this issue, and we had some interestingly humorous exchanges such as:

Friend:  "I want to know why God allows suffering in the world."
Me:  "I don't think 'why' is the right question to be asking."
Friend:  "Why do you say that?"

Toward the end of the discussion there was a little light at the end of the tunnel.  Not that he came around to my opinion, but that he finally understood what I was saying, and commented, "Oh, I see what you mean.  That makes sense."

I am not expecting people to come around to my position, because it may require a series of readjustments on theological presuppositions, which you may not be willing to compromise on.

Nonetheless, here are MY REASONS for believing that "Why" is the wrong question in regards to the problem of evil, and perhaps it will help others as well.

1)  I believe in a simple view of time.  Time is not a "thing" in my view.  The past does not exist as a thing, or a place to be visited.  The future does not exist.  It has not come to pass, and thus the present is all that there is.

Similarly, God does not live in the future, nor in the past.  These are not places to go, and to speak of them as places God exists is to offer the illogical idea that God lives in a place that does not exist, as if to say He lived in Wonderland with Alice, or Mordor with Sauron.

This position is held by very orthodox - yes, and even reformed theologians.  

This in itself does not keep me from asking the question "why" about the nature of evil, but it allows me to remember that God did not unalterably create all things past, present, and future at once.  The future is yet to be.  It is unwritten.  So, the future is not necessarily hurtling toward me with some terrible purpose designed by God to torment me.

Yet, this simple view of time does not even come close to completing the picture of why I think "Why" is not the right question to ask about the problem of evil.

2)  I am not a determinist.  Although simple time and a determinism are not necessarily independent and self-contradictory, I am free to hold a non-deterministic position in regards to history, because I believe in simple time.  Not every action has been pre-determined by God to happen in an exacting detail.  Because the future does not yet exist, there are things which will occur based upon choices that we make in the present, and therefore we are all co-creators of both the present and the future by means of the choices we make daily.  World history is wild and growing like weeds in the garden of God.

In this non-deterministic world-view I am able to see myself and others as a source for both good and evil in the world.  God is not the end of all blame, nor the sole receptor of thanks, (Please note my careful wording of this my reformed friends. :-) and yet this point does not complete my reasons for not asking "Why?"

on point three I will get in the most trouble I am sure, but here it is anyway.

3)  I do not believe that God is in control of everything.  In fact, I chafe under the phrase that "God is in control" when it is tossed toward me as a catch all answer in times of difficulty.

The problem of control is one of the great problems of the world.  The world is wild and out of control.  Tyrants battle for control over the oppressed.  Husbands, wives, and children battle for control over one another.  Nations battle for control over resources of other nations.  This is part of the reason for the Cross of Christ - to speak to, and solve the problem of control under the model of sacrifice, humility, and offered submission.

Heck, I'm even having trouble allowing God to be in control of me.

If God was in control of the oppressor's emotions and actions at the time of murder and tyranny, then God would be an accessory to the crimes of murder and the tyranny, but the tyrant acted on his own behalf.  If I believed that every action was under submission and control of God then I would be led to ask "why" God allowed, or even performed the harmful things I struggle with, but even this does not complete the picture of why I do not think "Why" is the correct question.

4)  I do not believe that everything happens for a reason.  In fact, many things do not make sense. 

For me, this is part of the nature of sin.  Sin can not be expected to make sense at all times.  Sin may at times be part of certain individual's cruel and selfish plans, but much sin is simple unthinking self-gratification, or uncontrolled emotions-based response.  Thus every moment of existence is a wild, uncontrolled experience.

This world is not a safe place for control freaks, and control freaks may quite frankly be the worst thing for this wild world.

Sin and evil may have its reasons, but it does not necessarily make sense.  Why does the addict choose to fall into that lifestyle, which becomes so self-destructive?  Ultimately, (unless, of course, you are a radical behavioralist who sees everything through the deterministic lens) some things are simply senseless - they do not make sense.  Accidents are just that - accidents.  As parents, we sometimes ask our children "why" they did something, which was an accident.

"Why did you do that?!"
"I didn't mean to,"  followed by crying.

Sin like accidents, in its fullest expression does not make sense.

Let's rebel against the omnipotent, and benevolent  Creator of all things.  Oh yeah, that makes a lot of sense doesn't it?

The Cross of Christ is in part the solution to the senseless behavior of rebellious beings, who have destroyed this world and its intended perfection.  The Cross did not come to make sense of senselessness, but to redeem us from senselessness, and bring about a positive ending to the failed and ridiculous enterprise of evil.  I do not think the Cross came to give us a reason for our troubles, but more simply to deliver us from them.


These are my primary reasons for thinking that the question "Why?" in regards to the problem of evil do not make sense.  For me to ask that question is to assume things, which I believe are not true:  That everything which happens is predetermined, that God is in control of all things, and that everything happens for a reason.

To ask the question "Why" assumes a plan on God's part to employ evil to create good, but I do not believe that He does that.  Rather, I believe that God turns the workings of evil around and redeems us in spite of ourselves, and evil is not being redeemed, or redefined as masked good.  Asking "why" assumes everything has a reason - I do not believe that.  It assumes that He was in control of all events leading to my trouble - I do not believe that.


Now this covers the issue of sin and human behavior, which leads to undeserved suffering.  I recognize that it does not yet speak to certain categories of suffering such as natural disaster, birth defects, and disease; or to the issue of Divine correction of the redeemed.  So it may only be a starting point for the discussion, but it does outline my core beliefs, which allow me to consider that the question "Why?" is the wrong question to ask God about suffering.

Have you ever noticed how trite and shallow it often both feels and sounds when you try to give someone a reason for "why" God allows suffering?  Have you ever noticed that it sometimes appears that we Christians are forced into a position of feeling like we need an answer for everything?  I for one don't want to fall into that trap.

I am willing to say that some things don't make sense.  My theology allows for that to be true.  I don't need an answer for everything, and if some things simply don't make sense, perhaps God won't need to have an answer either.

Now that's a wild theology isn't it?

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Journeys from the Land of Jah (Chapter 11)

The Miracle Meeting continues at Greater Faithville, and following a most surprising gathering the Adventurers are sent on their way with the somewhat confusing blessings of the Prophet.  - Is this what your Pentecostal church looks like? 


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Monday, June 07, 2010

Journeys from the Land of Jah (Chapter 10)

The Adventurer and his father have come to the town of Greater Faithville.  Their new friend Flying Man takes them to the Miracle Meeting for an experience they will not soon forget.


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Crazy Tales about Religion and Worldviews

Since the middle of May I have been posting podcast readings of the chapters from my latest wacky idea (Okay not really the latest wacky idea, because I can come with a wacky idea every few seconds): Journeys from the Land of Jah.

These are tales of an adventurer taking a journey outside the village he was raised in to see the world, and discover what other people believe.  The goal of these tall tales is to poke fun at belief systems and present them in such absurd characterizations as to present our beliefs as they might be seen from the standpoint of the outsider who thinks we are crazy.

The Adventurer is every person, and the isolated village he comes from is the Land of Jah - the world of Christianity.  His travels take him into the land of Jah, and outside to far more divergent faith systems.  So far the Adventurer has traveled outside the Land of Jah into psuedo-Christian Gnosticism, Free Thought Atheism, and a land of New Age relativism.  Now he is beginning a journey back into the villages of Jah to meet Word of Faith, Revivalist, and Deliverance Ministry villages.

In the end I hope to pick on everybody equally - including myself (already done a little actually).  Baptismal views, reformed theology, and extreme views of grace will get equally made fun of with materialism, astrology, and waiting for flying saucers to come and take us away.

There is a goal in all these silly tales of religion and worldviews:  To help us see ourselves in the same light that we judge others in, and understand that perhaps our beliefs are at times as equally absurd to others as theirs are to us.

These podcasts are loose tellings from a first draft of the story.  They are presented in oral tradition storytelling form for this first release of this concept with hopes of getting feedback from friends.

After I have set out about twenty podcasts I will return to ask questions which come from each podcast, and hope to start dialogue about the absurdities presented.

If you have been listening in - thanks.  You can download the chapters on the iTunes store - simply type in my name Phil Wyman, and it should come up.  Or of course you can start listening here on this blog.

Tuesday, June 01, 2010

Journeys from the Land of Jah (Chapter 9)

The Adventurer and his father begin a short journey into the land of Jah with the goal of finding other adventurers who are interested in helping the dispossessed of the world.  On their first day, they come to the large town of “Greater Faithville,” and find a surprising new friend.


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Monday, May 24, 2010

Journeys from the Land of Jah (Chapter 8)

In the 8th Chapter the Adventurer sets up a small community around the cottage of the Wise Crone, and establishes a new home for himself and the dispossessed who have followed him in the Land of Jah.


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Friday, May 21, 2010

Journeys from the Land of Jah (Chapter 7)

In this seventh chapter the Adventurer and his growing troupe of misfits and outcasts now numbering almost twenty souls return to the Land of Jah in hopes of finding homes for the children.  Both celebration and disappointment are the result of his return.  This episode is 10 minutes and 26 seconds long.

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Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Journeys from the Land of Jah (Chapter 6)

The Adventurer and his growing troupe of children leave the Land of the Freemen to discover the Land of Earthly Bliss, where all is peace and love, everyone holds all things in common, and everyone is the master of their own destiny - or so one would be led to believe.

This chapter is a bit wilder than the previous, and is the longest thus far at 15 minutes and 38 seconds.


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Journeys from the Land of Jah (Chapter 5)

Journeys from the Land of Jah continues with the Adventurer and the little dark haired girl - his new traveling companion enter the Land of Freemen, and encounter a wild-haired man in a cage.

These stories are read in one sitting and include all the mistakes of live storytelling.  At most these stories have been told only once or twice, and as the tale continues the readings will be first tellings.

This fifth chapter is 11 minutes and 12 seconds long.


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Monday, May 17, 2010

Journeys from the Land of Jah (Chapter 4)

Journeys from the Land of Jah is a missional tale.  The first 3 chapters have primarily been introductory to the longer tale now before us.

In this 4th chapter our Adventurer leaves the Land of Jah, and enters the Land of Him Whose Name we only Share in Secret.  Our tale begins to take the wacky twists and turns of a tall tale, and not just a little irreverence toward the funny things we humans believe. 

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Journeys from the Land of Jah (Chapter 3)

Our Adventurer finally discovers the road which leads out of the land of Jah, and begins his travels to the border.

This episode is 6 minutes and 14 seconds long.


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Journeys from the Land of Jah (Chapter 2)

This is the second chapter of the missional tale Journeys from the Land of Jah

Our Adventurer has traveled the wide road which leads out of the land of Jah only to discover that it never left the land at all, but only went in  big circle.  We begin with him sitting in the road crying, after having traveled for many days only to discover he has gone nowhere.

This episode is 9 minutes and 14 seconds long.

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Link to Episode 1

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Journeys from the Land of Jah

This is the first chapter of my missional tale.  I will be releasing these in storytelling oral tradition first, and as written tales later.

Journeys from the Land of Jah begins rather benignly and becomes more absurd as the tale continues.  If you feel that I am making fun of religion, just wait - I'll get to yours and make fun of it soon enough.  The fable is a long story of the journeys of an young bard who lives in a land where everyone believes just one thing.  He chooses to become an Adventurer and he comes in and out of the land of Jah in his journeys to other places where people believe other things.

I certainly don't have the quick wit, command of the English language, or adept social commentary of G. K. Chesterton, but the absurdity of these tales gathers some of its impetus and silliness from his brilliant fiction.

Here is Chapter 1 of Journeys from the Land of Jah - unedited and laid out in one sitting, which is how each of the following chapters will be done.  So far I have 7 chapters completed, and plans for another 5 more are in the works.  I foresee this becoming like the Canterbury Tales, but only in this sense:  certainly not because I am brilliant like Geoffrey Chaucer but because it will be long and still incomplete.  The potential for chapters is only limited by the number of crazy things we humans believe.

I have told some of these chapters at The Gathering, and in the evening service we have stopped at the end of each chapter to consider the story.  Do you find biblical allusions, or similarities to philosophies or belief systems in this tale?  If so, stop and consider it, or even listen with a friend and talk about it.  For now, here is chapter one, and the first part of the introduction to the greater tale called Journeys from the Land of Jah: a missional tale.

This episode is a little over 13 minutes long.

Listen to this episode

Saturday, May 08, 2010

Quaking at Transform East

Last week I attended Transform East, a gathering of emergent types organized by Steve Knight and his buddies.  It took place in Washington DC at Wesley Methodist seminary.

My primary purpose for going was to (as I described it to my newfound friends from the conference), "put flesh on pixels."  I had met a number of the people who would be attending through Facebook, Twitter, and as fellow SynchroBloggers over the years.  So, this was an opportunity to finally meet many of them face to face.

I spent time with people I knew like @imageoffish (Callid Keefe-Perry), and Brian McLaren, and with people I was only just meeting such as the Outlaw Preachers, Rick the Zen Buddhist monk awesome Christian dude, and Rev. Vince.

As far as the presentations from the conference, I want to focus on one single moment following a single message.  I think it holds some insight, and reveals a tension within the emergent movement which will only expand if the movement seeks to continue growing in influence.

I have periodically given voice to this tension over the last 5 years.  Whether through occasional posts, or in discussion with people like Tony Jones.  It is the tension of predominantly post reformed evangelical emergents, with their charismatic, Pentecostal, and in this case mystical Quaker brethren who also identify with the heartbeat of the movement.

On Friday evening, Peter Rollins was the speaker.  He was giving a shortened rendition - without the chapter breaks - of his Insurrection Pub Tour.  I had heard this before, because Pete brought his Pub tour to Boston, and I had set up the sound, and ran it for that evening.

I sat outside the doors at the back, in the foyer of the chapel.  I could hear the entirety of the lecture.  Pete's theme was based upon the phrase that "to believe is human, to doubt is divine."  Of course, this is a common thread in Pete's writing and thinking.  He purposely turns things upside down, and creates a dynamic tension and struggle in our faith.  He is filled with paradox, and gutsy philosophical dark battles of the soul.

The evening ended with a song by Padraig O Tuama, an Irish poet/musician who traveled with Pete on the Pub Tour.  It is a haunting chorus, which highlights redemption through struggle, failure and loss.  Rev. Vince performed the song with Amy Moffit.  Between his growling delivery and mad piano skills, and her gorgeous voice it was a an incredibly beautiful ending.  I stepped forward to the back door and stood next to Brian McLaren who had been standing in the back during the message.

The last two verses are the most poignant.  Partly due to the fact that the next to the last verse uses the F-bomb:  "I f***ed it up so many times, I f***ed it up so many times, I f***ed it up so many times, Hallelujah."  I suppose someone would have to hang out with Pete and listen to his Hegelian tension theology to come up with that line.

Then the last verse ended with a line describing going to Babylon and finding a home in exile.

When the song ended there was a brief moment in which the audience did not know how to respond, and everyone sat in silence.  As a Pentecostal, I recognized this as a moment pregnant with a nearly palpable sense of God's Spirit.

Then Pete rose and mentioned that the song was rooted in thoughts from Jeremiah. 

Then everyone clapped.

Steve Knight who was the host for the event stood up to do some "housekeeping."  You know, the boring stuff that every conference requires to transition from event to event.

That's when "it" happened.  My buddy Callid, who is a Quaker with a heavily mystical leaning stood up, interrupting Steve and said something.  Callid was in the front of the room, and I could not hear him, so I had to step forward to Brian and ask him if he heard what Callid said.

Brian replied, "He said something about the kingdom of God having arrived in the room, and that we should stop to acknowledge it."

I laughed softly, and said to Brian, "Well, isn't that gloriously Quaker."

Steve had a bit of an 'I'm not sure what to do here' look on his face, and then we continued in silence for a few more moments.  He then mentioned that it was difficult to move on, and the evening ended with the "housekeeping."

Callid left as the housekeeping was going on, as many people do during conference announcements.

The following day there were was some discussion about the experience.  Some people struggled with what occurred.  Others were glad Callid spoke up, because they felt a holy tension in that moment.  Callid was spoken to by a number of people, including some of the leadership of the conference who had a concern that his interruption might be misunderstood by some of the people at the event.

To view the moment you can go to the transform network page and watch the video here.  The song is played at about 1:23:00 in the event and you can watch to through the end.

My Thoughts:

I have been saying for some time that there is an uncomfortable alliance with the emergent discussion and those who identify with it who are coming from a Pentecostal or Charismatic persuasion.  Tony Jones has been studying what emergent has to say to the Pentecostal church, and vice versa recently, and it is something I have questioned him about a few times over the last few years, but the answers have always been stated in terms of being open to discussion.  This moment at Transform East highlights to unsatisfactory nature of relegating the tensions to a discussion.

Pentecostal, Charismatic, and mystical Quaker experience are just that - experience.  Talking about that experience is insufficient as an agent of transformation.  The experience must be experienced.   It is bound by a mystical union of the church with God's Spirit, and the moment by moment acknowledgements of God's Spirit speaking and acting among us.  The experience is anarchic, and messy, because God arrives at times most unexpected.  These mystical traditions have learned to stop for those moments, and reflect and respond accordingly.

Many of the people who are a part of the emergent discussion do not have experience in these more mystical traditions.  Instead emergent has adopted more easily controlled mysticism, and so they light candles, and place icons around the room.  These things do not necessarily acknowledge an interruption in the order of service from a God Who could often care less about what we were supposed to do next.

After about 5 years of networking with various emergent types, and discussing this exact issue with those from my own Pentecostal tradition who identify with the emergent discussion, I am not sure that we are any closer now to bridging this tension, or even having a sense of how to do it than we were 5 years ago.

5 years ago my Pent-emergent friends were feeling like they did not fit well into the movement.  That light tension remains there still, and this was evidence by the fact that there were people in leadership who did not know what to do with Callid's interruption, and were uncomfortable with it.

Callid said about the experience, "When these things happen, I really don't know what to do with them."

He did the right thing, he acknowledged the moment - that is how I, a pastor from a Pentecostal tradition or over 20 years feel.

I pointed out that none of us know what to do with God's interrupting activities.  I am also convinced that we do not need to know what to do in these moments, we nearly need to know what to do, when we do not know what to do.  If that doesn't make sense to you, then you are still on the other side of understanding the heart of mystical church life found in Pentecostal and Quaker traditions.

There is a plan for creating Transform West in the near future.  I would hope the leadership would lean on the shoulders of some of the Pentecostals, Charismatics, and Quakers who might understand how to ford this river into the uncharted territories of worshiping together with the mystical expressions as part of the experience.  Until that happens those of us from the mystical traditions will probably  remain mildly uncomfortable and feeling slightly outside the circle.

My prayer is that the Quaking may continue in gatherings such as this.  Callid asked one of the leaders how many Pentecostals they thought were present at the event.  The answer was, "maybe 10."  They both acknowledged that something was wrong with that number being so low.  When Pentecostals, Charismatics, and Quakers feel accepted as a group complete with their religious experience those numbers will change.

At least that is what I think.  What do you think?

Thursday, April 08, 2010

Peter Rollins' Insurrection Tour hits Tommy Doyle's in Cambridge

We arrived at Tommy Doyle's in time to find Pete Rollins standing on a stool to plug his computer into the video projector.  We were there so early, because The Gathering provided the sound for the event.

For a further report of the event go to the Examiner Article about Peter Rollins' Insurrection Pub Tour.

Some more photos of the people and the event follow below.

Emergent in Boston: John Franke at The Gathering and Gordon-Conwell

Theologian, Professor at Biblical Seminary, and Author John Franke came to The Gathering Tuesday night April 6th.  This was the first of three days of Emergent activity in the Boston area.

The event was organized by Jesse Browning, Matt Miller and "The Church which Meets in Beverly."  I did not count the people who came, but it was a little over 15 people I think.  Some of us from The Gathering, others from The Church which Meets in Beverly.  Adonis Vidu, a professor at Gordon-Conwell joined us as well.  Adonis teaches a class on the Emergent Movement, and John lectured there as well.

Before the evening began, we stood around talking about topics such as the people who think that John is a heretic and deserves to be taken outside and stoned (with rocks that is).

Then we gathered on the couches in our little library corner, and John taught for about 45 minutes.  He wandered around a few points, and then followed up with a discussion time.  He discussed the following things (my words not his, because I did not take notes, and my brain is little):  1)  Christians should be learning to serve together in God's mission with people from other Christian traditions - there should be a plurality of witness,  2)  The Mission of God is what we are to be about (and this is "Mission" as a singular word - not "missions." God is about one mission and what we do should be a part of that one mission), and 3) Our enlightenment informed perception of truth and the Gospel is problematic in contemporary society.

At one point during the teaching, John compared enlightenment thinking, and modernity to "The One Ring to rule them all and in the darkness bind them."  This was one of the last points before the discussion time began.  I could not help but laugh - I loved the illustration, but also shared my uncomfortableness with the fact that the illustration was similar to saying that enlightenment/modernity thinking was Satanic.  Hmmmmmmmmmm... not comfortable with that myself.  John admitted he may rethink the use of that illustration.  But, his point was well made that an individual who believes they hold uncorrectable, absolute truth stands in a position attempting to intellectually rule over others - great point.

Once the discussion opened up Megan DeFranza presented a challenging point.  She suggested that perhaps modernity versus post-modernity were not as critical delineations as more important categories as humility and pride.  Jesse jumped in and questioned what the bottom line actions, and motivations of our missional engagement ought to be.

Caroline topped off the evening with a wonderful little testimony/sharing moment.  She talked about not fully understanding the whole conversation, but identifying with the direction of it, and feeling as though it offered her a solid footing for her transition out of the days of a Fundamental Baptist background in which she "could not wear pants."  That might have been my favorite part of the session.

There was about 45 minutes of discussion, and following the event, most of us hung out at Gulu-Gulu Cafe for a couple more hours.  Once again as the last meeting at Gulu-Gulu I was joined by Jesse and The Unidentified Baptist dude.  As well Matt the Pirate, Michael Giobbe, and Caroline.

This afternoon, I also went to see John speak at Adonis Vidu's class at Gordon-Conwell on the Emergent discussion.  This is a photo of Dr. Vidu giving the introduction.

During this discussion John shared his holiest moment in the Boston area:  Going to a game at Fenway Park.  Then he wandered into a discussion, which I am assuming comes from his book Manifold Witness: the plurality of truth.

He discussed his view of plurality as something God is leading us toward, and part of the plan of redemption.  He framed his understanding of truth in Barthian terms, and discussed the difference between Truth and truth.  Some of the gang from Tuesday night were there as again:  Megan, Jesse, and Ben the Tattooed Mystic (as The Prof. Carlos Z. calls him).

There was some good Q and A afterward including a question about Scott McKnight distancing himself from Brian McLaren recently.  John described his position on the issue:  He does not agree with some of the premises of Brian's most recent book, but even more so does not agree with Scott's choice to disengage from mission with Brian.  For some reading on the McLaren/McKnight debate check out John Armstrong' Blog.

After the class at Gordon-Conwell students lined up to talk with john and get his autograph.  Students at Gordon-Conwell getting his autograph - now that's interesting. :-)

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Some Thoughts by Jason Callina about Church

Jason emailed me these thoughts below, and I asked if I could post them on my blog. As he says they, "were just me brainstorming a couple of weeks ago. I want to get them up on a wiki so that people can collaborate and refine. Some are better thought out than others. My inspiration was the Cluetrain Manifesto from years ago and how it made perfect sense across disciplines."

This was in response to my Open Source Church post asking for narratives describing The Gathering. This post can be found on the Blog for our church in Salem.

Here are Jason's thoughts. Some good stuff, some provocative stuff, and as Jason says they are open to refinement and collaboration. Go ahead and respond to things you like, things you dislike, things you agree with, and things you disagree with.

* The new megachurch is not some vast resource sucking room. It is hyperlocal and networked. Thousands of people sitting in little rooms talking to each other from all over the world.
* Kindness and compassion need heroes. They can't defend themselves on their own.
* If something isn't broke don't fix it. If it is broke FIX IT NOW.
* Because something has been done for decades or centuries does not make it legitimate.
* if you are doing something but you don't know why, stop until you do.
* Lingo confuses an issue. If you can't explain something in plain language then chances are your logic is flawed.
* Ask difficult questions, don't settle for pat answers and don't give them.
* There are questions where there are no good answers. Be content.
* Be respectful, live with others of different opinons. Defend yourself passionately but be willing to be wrong and open to learning.
* Publish transcripts, videos, audio of services. Bring these things out into the sunlight.
* Worship is holy, sermons are not. Sermons are opinion. Don't confuse this.
* Fact check sermons. Just because someone thinks they are right and speaks with charisma doesn't make it so.
* If your service is unwilling to make a backchannel then make one yourself.
* Tweet, text, email, look stuff up on wikipedia during service, engage.
* Learn the logical falacies, they will serve you well.
* Loving someone is not the same as liking someone or how they behave.
* Differences of opinion are not disunity.
* Some of the best church happens in the hallway outside of service.
* Recapture the meaning of "church", it is you and your neighbors, not your building and the structure of the service.
* We should not be afraid of mistakes or FAIL. FAIL enough and it leads to WIN

Friday, March 12, 2010

Answering McLaren's Ten Questions Before Reading the Book (a SynchroBlog)

Steve Hayes revived the SynchroBlog tradition I started a few years back by asking us to answer Brian McLaren's 10 questions before reading his newest book.  So here are my answers to the 10 questions.  Now I will have to read the book after this, but that is okay, because I highly respect Brian.  I respect him not because of his writings, but because I have met him and spent some time with him.  Lots of people can write good and provocative books.  But to be a good and provocative person is something more difficult to do methinks. Brian is a standup kinda guy.  If you want to buy the book follow the link with the pic of the book, and pay a little less on Amazon than at Border's or wherever you go, and you will help Pastor Phil (that's me) with his Amazon account as well.

Now, if you have not read the book and are planning on getting it I challenge you to this same exercise.  Answer the 10 questions below and let me know when you do so.  This is good Christianity to practice our proclamation, and put it into dialogue instead of monologue.

Well, here are my responses to Brian's 10 Questions:

1) What is the overarching story line of the Bible? - there is a dynamic relationship between God and man.  It has been in tension and fraught with difficulty since time immemorial, but God still pursues that relationship passionately.

2) How should the Bible be understood? - as a narrative of the above filled with history, poetry, parables, and visions documenting the sorrow and the joy of this tension.

3) Is God violent? - passionate love has a violence to it.  Not as the violence of this world as we experience it, but violence in its expression nonetheless.  Perhaps it is best to see God as transcending the issues of violence/non-violence, and simply call Him Peacemaker and Judge, Lover and Defender.

4) Who is Jesus and why is he important? - God, second part of the question answered by the first I think.

5) What is the Gospel? -The specific curative message of God's pursuit of us in love, which was worked out in the life, death, resurrection and continued facilitation of Jesus.

6) What do we do about the Church? - go and help it be a carrier of the curative message.

7) Can we find a way to address human sexuality without fighting about it? - uhm, yes?

8) Can we find a better way of viewing the future? - since I am not reformed in my theology, and do not hold to a predeterministic point of view I would have to be extremely biased here and say that if we can not view it as in formation, and being created by the actions of God and humanity then we are not viewing it as future at all, but as a concrete sidewalk.

9) How should followers of Jesus relate to people of other religions? - like they relate to Christians - with love.  Shouldn't the church be the place where we model how we relate to the world?

10) How can we translate our quest into action? - by putting one foot in front of the other, and asking God to help us do so.  A pinch of idealism sometimes helps.

Go ahead.  Answer these questions on your blog, and let me know where to find it so we can link up with you.

Here are my other friends Synching up too:

The Evening of Kent: Ten questions that might transform something.
The AnteChurch: Synchroblog: A new kind of Christian?
Beth Patterson : Lenten reflection 5: I’m probably way off base
A New Kind of Christianity: My Answers to Ten Questions: Ryan Peter Blogs and stuff
Steve Hayes answers Brian's 10 Questions
Kieran the Celtic Rover answers Brian's Questions too