Tag Archives: ponderings

the space between us

My Lent devotional this year has been A Way Other than Our Own, by Walter Bruegemann.  There are several quotes throughout the book worth pondering, but here’s what he says about Maundy Thursday that has me thinking today:

“The drama of the towel provided an example for the disciples to replicate:

  • Replicate the truth that you have come from God; you are not on your own.
  • Replicate that the truth that you will go to God; your future is assured.
  • Replicate that the space between you and others is filled with a towel.
  • Replicate that as you travel with towel and basin, you will be safe in vulnerability, treasured in obedience, and free from anxiety” (p.88)

What do I make of this image of the space between me and others being filled with a towel?    The towel is the symbol of vulnerability and humility.  If the space between me and others is filled with a towel, we are open to that vulnerability–both in ourselves and in the other.  We are mutually serving each other…at each other’s feet.

That means not only am I serving my neighbor, but I am open to being served by my neighbor.

Deaconesses (and others) use this image of basin and towel to describe our call to the world.  We receive a basin and towel at our Consecration service.  So I can intellectualize and spiritualize this ritual with the best of them.  But, personally, I am all too aware at how easy it is to keep distance between me and others that is not filled with the towel of service and vulnerability, but is filled instead with fear, criticism, and self-protection.

So what would difference would it make to see the space filled with a towel?

I imagine it would make quite a difference.

As Bruegemann says, as we travel with towel and basin, we will be safe in vulnerability, treasured in obedience, and free from anxiety.

Safe.  Treasured.  Free.

Yep.  I imagine it would make quite a difference.


Redemptive Violence and 24

A few weeks ago I listened to a Robcast about the “lie of redemptive violence.”  In this podcast, Rob Bell explains how this idea of redemptive violence–that violence in retaliation for wrong-doing can be justified–is deep in our society…and even in our theology.  But it’s really a myth, and he goes on to talk about how the “Jesus narrative” provides a powerful alternative to this myth of redemptive violence.

So I had this podcast in my mind and was pondering this concept of redemptive violence, when I had a brief window in my regular schedule of television shows and was looking for something to watch.  So (don’t judge me) I settled on the final season of the show 24.  In this final season, counter-terrorism expert Jack Bauer is called on once again to save the U.S. from the threat of a terrorist attack.  Jack Bauer spends the next 24 hours trying to neutralize the threat in order to preserve peace.  And, of course, in quality mediocre television drama fashion, lots of people are tortured and killed in the race against time.  And at the last minute, the president of the United States has to decide what lines can or cannot be crossed for the sake of a signed document called a ‘peace treaty’.  To the show’s credit, it does not tie all the pieces together nicely at the end, and the whole thing ends with a bit of a question about who exactly ‘won’ after all that fighting and revenge.

Continue reading Redemptive Violence and 24

The Boat…

My congregation is doing a 6-week sermon/study series based on the book by John Ortberg, If you Want to Walk on Water, You’ve Got to Get Out of the Boat.  I’ve been familiar with this book for quite some time, but I don’t think I’ve read it.  The book is based on the story of Peter walking on water, and the basic premise is that to really experience the fullness of what it means to follow the call of Jesus, we need to step beyond the safety and security of what they know and walk directly into the storm.

So this first week we were invited to ponder what boat we are in that maybe Jesus is calling us out of.  Ortberg says, “Your boat is whatever represents safety and security to you apart from God himself.  Your boat is whatever you are tempted to put your trust in, especially when life gets a little stormy.  Your boat is whatever keeps you so comfortable that you don’t want to give it up even if it’s keeping you from joining Jesus on the waves.  Your boat is whatever pulls you away from the high adventure of extreme discipleship” (p. 17).

As I was pondering this for myself, I began to wonder…what if the church (structured religious institution) is my boat?  What if I’m missing out on something bigger because all I can see is what I’m doing now…which is good and important and genuinely matters.  But is there somewhere beyond this to which I am being called? Continue reading The Boat…

This confusing of the languages…

I was in the States for 8th grade, and near the end of the year was getting ready to go on a summer mission trip to Mexico with a friend’s youth group.  One day as we were getting ready for P.E. and reflecting on the orientation meeting we’d been to the night before where we began learning basic Spanish phrases.  Our conversation went like this:

her: “Why do we have to learn Spanish?  Why doesn’t everyone just speak the same language?”
Me: “it’s because we messed up at the Tower of Babel.”
Her: “…the tower of what-now?”
Continue reading This confusing of the languages…

The “To Done” List

Ponder the difference:

A ‘to-do’ list is full of the un-achieved goals.  The stuff not yet tended to.  The myriad of piles still unsorted.  A ‘To-do’ list is meant to be motivating…to show you how much further you still have, and how close you are to the finish line.

A ‘to done’ list, on the other hand, is made as things are done.  Did you just wash the dishes?  Add it to the “To Done” list.  Did you just water your plants?  Add it to the “To Done” list.  This list grows as things are accomplished, giving you a sense of what you have already achieved.

My tendency is to see life as a ‘to do’ list…all those things I have not accomplished or achieved yet.  Problem is…talk to anyone who keeps lists and they’ll say there’s always more on the ‘to do’ list.  So no wonder I live with a cloud of unfinished life stuff hanging over my head.

What if I created a life “To Done” list?  How would I then feel about things like achievement and success?  What would be on my “To Done” list that I would be especially proud of?  On my list would be the faces of all the kids in the daycare I worked at in college, the children’s home in Kenya, the preschool in Minneapolis.  On my list would be the projects, papers and presentations prepared in school.  On my list would be game nights, Good Friday road trips, late night phone calls and text conversations.  On my list would be trips to Africa, to Europe, to various places around the country.

Yeah…things are different if I’m working off of a “To Done” list.

Worthiness and Poverty

I recently began reading the book “When Helping Hurts,” by Steve Corbett and Brian Fikkert.  I’ve heard about this book in the context of reflecting on attitudes and methods used in “Christian Outreach” that are…less than helpful.  I’m reading it to increase my capacity to engage a conversation about the attitudes and methods of ‘mission’ in my local context and in other environments.

A few chapters in, the authors are offering a ‘theological framework for poverty.’  I’m not sure I agree with everything they’re saying, but much of what they say is not untrue:  poverty is not just material, poverty is spiritual, relational, emotional, etc…and any ‘help’ that’s given that only addresses material poverty ignores the other dimensions.  And “until we embrace our mutual brokenness, our work with low-income people is likely to do far more harm than good.”  I don’t disagree.

But then here’s the question posed at the end of the chapter:

Continue reading Worthiness and Poverty

Reflections on a Christmas Eve sermon

I have found that often when I am preparing a sermon, I end up convicted by the very thoughts I am forming into a sermon.  I was not expecting to preach on Christmas Eve, but at the last minute I was given the notes of a sermon the pastor was going to preach and tasked with crafting it into something.  This is what I came up with.

And wouldn’t you know, I was struck by this idea that God is not ‘watching from a distance,’ but is indeed in the middle of the messiness of life.  I was struck by the idea that to move towards someone in relationship, which is risky and carries with it the potential of rejection, is the Incarnation.  Doesn’t matter who that person is…whether it’s the little old lady in the hallway on Sunday morning, the three year old who likes to sit with me during worship, a family member or a friend…when I move towards relationship, I am experiencing the incarnation…the God who is NOT watching from a distance.

So this year, that’s the goal.  Work on getting up the courage to potentially… consider… and maybe even attempt… at least once…

hmmm…probably need to write a sermon about moving ideas into action.