Monday, November 21, 2011

Penn State, Fathering, & the Nonviolence of Christ via Pastor Rudy Rasmus

Often when people get into a discussion of the nonviolent response of Christ, and thus, of his followers, the typical response is a presentation of the hypothetical question: "But what about if someone is hurting someone you love? What would you do then?"

As one convinced of Christ's peaceable living, and as one who loves my wife and four children dearly...this is a haunting question. (It's also a little bit of a ridiculous question, not because I can't imagine it happening, but because there is a certain insanity after a while when it comes to hypothetical questions. Life is not hypothetical.). I recently read a short book by John Hower Yoder, who many see as the go-to when it comes to Christian pacificism that seeks to begin to "answer" this question. It was a great read. But part of the insanity of this over-simplified question is that there is no over-simplified answer, at least not for the pacifist.

Today, I found a video thanks again to from Pastor Rudy Rasmus. I've only heard of/from Rasmus a couple of times, but I perceive him to be a man of one message: love, and love at all costs. So I was intrigued as to what his response would be in light of the Penn State child sexual abuse situation. He responds not as a pastor, but as a father who follows Christ. I appreciate his honesty.

"Daddy, I would have hated to have lost twice."

Crossing Over To Love from The Work Of The People on Vimeo.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

A Great Prayer

Your kingdom come around and through and in me;
Your power and glory, let them shine through me;
Your Hallowed name, O may I bear with honor,
And may Your living Kingdom come in me.
The Bread of Life, O may I share with honor,
And may You feed a hungry world through me.

Once every three months or so, I listen to this version of Gloria Gaither's song, I Then Shall Live. I'd probably otherwise assume that the Gaither Band is a "sweet-by-and-by---someday-we'll-get-to-heaven" kind of propagation...and I'd be wrong.

Pretty much the whole song is quotable ("I've been so loved that I'll risk loving too!"), but the third verse above is such a great prayer for your day and your life, here and now.

May it be so.

Friday, November 11, 2011

After the Yellow Ribbon, Pre-Conference

Why would someone who believes in the nonviolence of the cross of Christ decide to go to a conference based around our response to and support of American soldiers?

Today is Veteran's Day. I'm right now sitting at JFK Airport in New York City on a layover from Boston to Raleigh-Durham for a Conference at Duke University. There are yellow balloons everywhere, probably 500 or so just within 100 feet of me, in bunches and making a huge archway. There is a troop of Boy Scouts, probably 15-20 of them here, waiting for soldiers from the New York National Guard to come in from a flight. My Facebook feed is saturated with patriotic pictures, thanks made to veterans, and yellow ribbons. People are remembering veterans today. This is of mixed emotions for me.

A problem with holidays is that we tend to reserve the designated celebration or thankfulness for those holidays. But my mother is my mother 365 days a year and not just a day in May. And it's good to be thankful on days other than November 25th. And we would do well to resolve to do well in our lives other than on the first day of the year.

So I fear that I will forget veterans tomorrow and the day after. It's likely that most of the country will as well. 

I've twice now read the stat that veterans of the recent wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are committing suicide at the rate of 17 a day.

...seventeen a day...

I didn't even know that there were that many vets to go around. (I still kind of question the statistic.)

The ongoing effects of war and the results of fighting in war are so incomprehensible to me. I truly can ONLY imagine. Stanley Hauerwas calls us to consider the difficult transitions and situations that soldiers go to in the video below.

Hauerwas on moral fragmentation

And so I hate the wars. I hate that the most powerful nation in the world chose to fight them in the ways that she has. I hate the money that has gone into them. I hate that men and women from the United States have died by the thousands in them. I hate that hundreds of thousands of Iraqis and Afghans have died, many of whom were not soldiers. 

Selfishly, I hate most of all that Bobby Moscillo is dead today because of the war in Iraq. 

So in a few hours I will be sitting with a group of people listening to and responding to the topic of our response to the homecoming of soldiers. 

Why am I going?

Because the compassion of Christ to which I am called is for all. I'm no great futurist or sociologist, but I can imagine that there will be veterans whose lives have been drastically affected by these wars around us for decades to come. As a pastor in a small church, I expect that I will come across many of them in the coming years. Indeed, I already have.

There are a variety of ways that evil causes us to suffer. Veterans are suffering after returning home from the evils of war the likes of which I cannot imagine. Christ's call is for his followers to identify the suffering and suffer with them ("with suffering" = com - passion). 

That's why I'm going.

Friday, November 04, 2011

Wesley's Spiritual Disciplines

When my good friend, Dr. John Reilly, first spoke to me about Wesley's spiritual disciplines as though there was a set group or list of them, I was intrigued. As much as I'm not a big fan of checklists, Wesley's writings are so extensive that having a scholar succinctly translate important aspects of what he said is helpful.

After that conversation, I went home and searched for them, but didn't easily find any comprehensive or generally agreed-upon list. I emailed John, and he sent me something that had been compiled from Dr. Henry ("Hal") Knight's dissertation, which is now in published book form: The Presence of God in the Christian Life: John Wesley and the Means of Grace. Don't look for the Kindle version and be prepared to spend at least $50 if you want it in book form. This compilation/list is at the end of this post in three parts.

Recently, I was able to hear John present some work from his own dissertation, and he gave what I think is a more comprehensive work. This list is his own compilation. Some asked me to share this when I returned, so here they are - John Wesley's Spiritual Disciplines:
  • Prayer - Personal/Corporate
  • Fasting - Personal/Corporate
  • Journaling - Personal
  • Solitude - Personal/Corporate
  • Silence - Personal/Corporate
  • Bible Reading - Personal/Corporate
  • "Feeding" the Poor - Personal/Corporate
  • Christian Conferencing - Corporate
  • Circumstantial Grace - Personal/Corporate
John was continually insistent on reminding us that all of these are framed around, pointed at, and intentionally directed to a heart of love. So the practices don't matter unless they are directed at this purpose.

Now I don't believe that they were ever presented in such a list/form by Wesley himself. Let's remember that Wesley's writings are extensive. Sometimes I feel like if something can be said one way or another, then Wesley said it that way at some point. He often changed his mind. So a single voice in the totality of his writings is often difficult to ascertain. Nonetheless, I find the above list helpful as I consider my own discipleship and the oversight of others. They can certainly be demonstrated to be within the totality of Wesley's encouragement to those who listened to him.

I'd love to believe that in the next several weeks I might blog a post commenting on each one, but those who know me know that this will not happen. So let me comment generally:

For me, discipleship is firstly formed by Christ. As I look at this list, I can understand from the witness of scripture Jesus Christ himself participating in a form of each one, with the exceptions of journaling and perhaps silence (we might assume it from his regular solitude, but it's not there explicitly). But the rest are easily demonstrated to be within his own discipleship, even in both forms and all of them are within scripture. I haven't yet explained that this list was given with the distinction of whether or not each practice can be either personal, corporate, or both. Wesley apparently encouraged the distinction, and practicing each both individually and in community as was possible.

Any time a list is presented, one runs the risk of codification or fostering legalism. I'm willing to run that risk since discipleship is so impoverished these days. At least in my own tradition, discipleship generally means "Sunday School" and "book studies." The intentional and regular practice of fasting, solitude, silence, etc. is reserved for old saints, super-pastors, and monks. Even for a denomination that prides itself on compassionate ministry, it's vastly encouraged as a means to change the world rather than to change me.

There are obviously things not on the list, namely for me: evangelism. While evangelism is generally not considered an act of discipline/discipleship, I argue that it indeed is. Jesus, in forming his own disciples, sent them out to evangelize as an act. Evangelism is a spiritual discipline and is the last one Jesus handed on in the synoptics. Making disciples is part of our discipleship in Christ. 

Now, for the list as given from Dr. Knight:

All means of grace have as their end the life of love, the Christian life.

General Means of Grace
  • Universal obedience
  • Keeping all the commandments
  • Watching
  • Denying ourselves
  • Taking up our cross daily
  • Exercise of the presence of God

Instituted (Particular) Means of Grace
  • Prayer: private, family, public; consisting of deprecation, petition, intercession, thanksgiving; extemporaneous, written
  • Searching scripture by reading, meditating, hearing; attending the ministry of the word, either read or expounded
  • The Lord’s Supper
  • Fasting, or abstinence
  • Christian Conferencing, which includes both the fellowship of believers and rightly ordered conversations which minister grace to hearers

Prudential Means of Grace
  • Particular rules or acts of holy living
  • Class and band meetings
  • Prayer meetings, covenant services, watch night services, love feasts
  • Visiting the sick
  • Doing all the good one can, doing no harm
  • Reading devotional classics and all edifying literature