Friday, October 30, 2009

Congregational Flu Response

I sent this out to the congregation today:

Dear Campbell Church,

A few of you have been curious about what the congregation’s response to the flu pandemic is. Of course, our response is fluid, as the situation evolves. In numerous and ongoing conversations with staff, worship planners, and leaders, our current response is as follows.

Each individual who gathers for worship (or some other meeting) is able to decide for him or herself the level of contact with which he or she is comfortable, including the choice not to gather together at all. Each person’s decision will be respected by others, so that in interpersonal interactions, the one whose comfort level is for the least amount of contact will determine the response.

You could even use this as your conversation starter when you greet someone. You say, “Hi! Are you a hand-shaker?” They say, “Nope, I’m a waver!” You say, “Great! Good morning!” And give them a big friendly wave.

As for me, just so you’ll know: I will greet you however you want to greet. I know that touch is very important for some, and very uncomfortable for others. So if you want to shake my hand, do so. If you want to give me a big hug, do so. Knuckle bump? Groovy! If you want to put your thumbs in your ears, stick out your tongue, and wiggle your fingers at me, go for it! It doesn’t matter; the point is that I want to greet you – I want to see you in worship!

The same principle holds true for Holy Communion, which will be celebrated this week. All of the servers will be healthy and have thoroughly cleaned their hands. And if you are not comfortable coming forward to receive a piece of bread from the loaf, please do not let that stop you from sharing the sacrament with your brothers and sisters. Just come forward, let the servers know you do not care for bread or juice, and then kneel in prayer for a few moments around the table. Or just stay in your seat in an attitude of prayer as we celebrate the sacrament together.

The one who stays in their seat in prayer will be regarded no differently from the one who comes forward with hands open to receive a bite of bread. The point of communion is not the bread and the juice, the point is the grace of God. The point is that I believe with all my heart that God’s grace is there for you whether you take a bite of bread or not!

I hope this clarifies things for you. The bottom line is to find a way to be the church and at the same time be careful with this flu season. And as always, if you have any questions, do not hesitate to contact the church office any time.

Shalom, Andy B.

Does your congregation have a response or policy regarding this flu season? Do you mind sharing it? Please include it in a comment if so.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

To Alter What God Has Made Perfect?

Today I read this sentence, “The very idea that man could alter what God has made perfect is ludicrous.”

(Here's the column in full.)

The author, Mike Hall, is the Springfield News-Leader’s “From the Right” columnist. His column today was intended to argue against the climate change (cap-and-trade) legislation now before congress. He was intending to argue that the earth warms itself and cools itself as needed, and that human activity has no impact upon it.

I should say that I love reading conservative columnists. I love to dig into a rational, insightful, well-written point of view that is different from my own that challenges me and makes me think. David Brooks is my favorite, I really like George Will and Kathleen Parker, and I read anything John Danforth writes and wish he would write more. Reading their ideas helps me formulate my own, and I truly appreciate what they have to say.

And I have many conservative friends, and many of you who read what I write on Enter the Rainbow are conservative people, also. I really appreciate your respectful, grace-filled comments over the years that I've written this blog. And so I’d like to have some respectful, grace-filled dialogue about Mike Hall’s idea that I read today.

Please correct me if I’m wrong, but isn’t it one of the fundamental premises of the Christian faith that humanity did, in fact, alter what God created perfect? Isn’t that kind of what we call “sin”?

Is it not the case that God sent Jesus to the world to right the very wrong that is being categorically denied in Hall’s argument? Doesn’t Christian orthodoxy go something like: God created it perfect – we screwed it up – God sent Jesus to make it perfect again?

To be sure, there is “science” on all sides of the global warming conversation. I find myself convinced by the science that says human activity has an impact on the earth’s climate, and so we ought to do all we can to lessen that impact.

And there is also “theology” on all sides of the global warming conversation. I find myself convinced by the theology that says human activity is the result of free will which is itself a gift from God, and so we ought to respond to God’s gifts with activities that care for God’s creation rather than destroy it.

In his column, Hall goes on to argue that passage of the cap-and-trade legislation will drive business overseas, where factories unregulated by the EPA will spew pollution into the air in what he calls “planetary suicide.” So, in his own column he actually contradicts what he has affirmed earlier, and seems to end up saying that humanity actually can alter creation.

(Not to mention that he seems to affirm that the EPA’s regulation of pollution is actually a good thing, which may actually run counter to his position against what he sees as government interference with private business. But I digress.)

In the end then, maybe even Mike Hall doesn’t quite believe his own theology. I happen to believe that it is absolutely true that humanity is quite capable of altering God’s creation. I think that’s actually a pretty good definition for sin, in fact. And salvation is the restoration of God’s creation, setting things in order again, reconciling the world to God.

So what do you think, readers? Does Hall's idea accurately represent theology "from the right?"

And deeper than that: Can / did / does humanity “alter what God has made perfect?”

How do you balance the sovereignty of God with the free will of human beings with regard to environmental issues?

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Define "Underdog" ...

2009 Playoff Payrolls:

New York Yankees - $201,449,289 (#1 in MLB)

Los Angeles Angels - $113,709,000 (#6)

Philadelphia Phillies - $113,004,048 (#7)

Los Angeles Dodgers - $100,458,101 (#9)


I'm not saying ... I'm just saying ...

By the way ...

Florida Marlins - $36,814,000 (last)

(The (damn) Yankees payroll is 5.5 times higher than the Marlins.)

And by the way...
Yes, even the Marlins payroll is obscenely high, relative to more substantial things.

followed-up from here

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Not Only Did the Chiefs Win Today ...

...but check out this article:

Raiders Achieve First Down
According to referee John Parry, the first down also caught members of the officiating crew off guard. Parry said that when Bush moved the chains, his instinct was to throw an unsportsmanlike behavior flag for taunting.
"Michael just got up off the ground and handed me the ball without trying to provoke anyone," Parry said. "Usually you'll find the Oakland guys are jumping back on the pile trying to jam a finger into someone's eye or just kicking wildly with their cleats."

Friday, October 16, 2009

The Wesleyan Jazz Combo

Not that there’s anything wrong with it, but if you dance to music that only you can hear, other people look at you funny.

It works out better if music accompanies your dance, and it also means that others can dance with you. The accompanying instruments give shape and form to the dance itself; the tempo, rhythm, harmony, and melody guide the movements of the dance. Sure, you might have “a song in your heart” that accompanies your dance, but I’m working a metaphor here.

The metaphor involves a jazz combo, a lead instrument and a rhythm section. The drum set energizes the dance with a swinging rhythm, the bass lays down an upbeat groove, and the piano slaps in some funky chords. With the rhythm section rocking, the lead instrument comes in with the tune and we’re dancing!

So let’s say that the dance is our spiritual life, and the instruments that accompany the dance are the resources that we use to give shape and form to it. Comprising the rhythm section are reason, tradition, and experience. The lead instrument is scripture.

I included this metaphor in my ordination papers, in which I wrote the following.

Specifically, the tradition of the church is a historical measuring system for testing the authenticity of our faith. This does not mean that we do it this way because we have always done it this way, but rather that we acknowledge the debt we owe to generations of faithful witnesses before us whose work for the sake of God’s mission has afforded us the opportunity to be where we are.

But even a scriptural faith tested by the tradition may still be a dead faith if not enlivened by our own experience. In other words, faith has to be relevant, to make a real perceived difference in people’s lives.

And finally, it has to make sense in a reasonable way. This does not discount the supernatural by any means; surely God is capable of working miracles in every moment. But there must be a kind of common sense rationality to the faith that is confirmed in its interaction with other spheres of the human endeavor.
Scripture, tradition, reason, and experience comprise what Albert Outler called the “Wesleyan Quadrilateral,” four sources he identified in John Wesley’s theological process. But Wesley never considered these sources to be like four equal points of a geometric figure. Scripture is always primary, carrying the tune of the song to the accompaniment of the others.

Of course, it is possible to hear a hint of the tune if you listen closely to the rhythm section, and even figure some of it out. Just like it is possible to sense the truth of scripture in the mix of tradition, reason, and experience. To be sure, you can even dance to a drum solo!

But the fullness of the song is best expressed when the full combo is swinging, with the Scripture carrying the tune and reason, tradition, and experience grooving behind it.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Feels Like the "First Stone" Was Cast...

I hate blog entries that begin with, “I haven’t written anything here for a while…” so I won’t begin this one that way, although I certainly would have good enough cause.


I was at a Walk to Emmaus this past weekend, and it was about 92% wonderful. Unfortunately, the 8% that wasn’t wonderful was comprised of prejudicial comments made by some leaders of the weekend about people of other races and sexual orientations than themselves. Not all the leaders of course, but it was more than one person, and it happened more than one time.

And now I’m not sure what to do with it. Setting aside for a moment the question of whether such comments are appropriate for a follower of Christ at all, such comments are clearly not appropriate for a Walk to Emmaus, where the theme is all grace, all the time. The comments were made in informal times, not in any of the official programmed moments, but still they dulled the colors of the weekend somewhat.

There’s a stone on my desk with the word “First” painted on it. I got it at my Cursillo weekend, and it reminds me of Jesus’ teaching that only the one without sin is able to cast the “first stone” at another person. Well, it feels to me like the “first stone” was cast this weekend. The word “homo” was used in a derisive and scornful tone, intended to evoke laughter from the group. There were several snide remarks about “that rainbow group” that were intended to compare the Emmaus logo to that of the gay rights movement in a negative and judgmental way. There were several negative comments directed toward Hispanic immigrants, and racially charged comments about “the hood” that were intended to stereotypically portray African Americans.

I confess that I was stunned into inaction, and I should have spoken up right then. But truthfully I was so caught off guard that I couldn’t think of what to say. It was just so unexpected to hear at a weekend like that, and I didn’t want to add to it by drawing extra attention to it, I guess. I decided to let it go and come at it from a positive angle instead by emphasizing as often as I could that God’s grace is there for all, even for us.

Other than those isolated comments, the weekend was wonderful. I loved being able to make some new friends, to offer spiritual guidance to some who are working through some spiritual issues in their lives, to be present and pray with a man who rededicated his life to Christ on Saturday night, and experience the Christian community in action. In no way shape or form do I believe that these comments are a reflection on the Emmaus community as a whole or the Show Me the Way Emmaus group specifically.

And so I would especially like to hear the opinions of people who have been involved with Emmaus weekends, or Cursillo or Camino. What should I do with this? I think it needs to be followed up, but how exactly?

And (because I think it needs to be said again) please be respectful and gracious with your comments, not attacking anyone personally while affirming what you believe. There is a spectrum of beliefs about this topic, and it is possible for good and faithful people to find ourselves in different places.