Thursday, February 26, 2009

Come and Drink

I am memorizing Isaiah 55:1-13 (scroll down to see the entire passage). They are powerful words for our time. We so readily "spend our money on food that does not give us strength." We rely on our own thoughts, our own ways, our own wisdom. But there is an alternative. There is "food that is good for the soul." There are "ways that are higher than our ways."

I will seek the Lord while I can find Him. I will call upon Him while He is near. God's word always produces fruit and will accomplish all He wants it to do. Where once there were thorns, good trees will grow. Where once there was darkness and evil, joy and peace will burst out.

I don't want the expensive, sugar-laden, drinks that our world offers. They do not satisfy. I want this never-ending drink that satisfies and is good for the soul. Jesus said, "If you are thirsty, come to me!" and "If you believe in me, come and drink!"(John 7:37-38). That is the kind of refreshment I need.

Isaiah 55:1-13
"Is anyone thirsty? Come and drink—even if you have no money! Come, take your choice of wine or milk—it's all free! [2] Why spend your money on food that does not give you strength? Why pay for food that does you no good? Listen, and I will tell you where to get food that is good for the soul!
[3] "Come to me with your ears wide open. Listen, for the life of your soul is at stake. I am ready to make an everlasting covenant with you. I will give you all the mercies and unfailing love that I promised to David. [4] He displayed my power by being my witness and a leader among the nations. [5] You also will command the nations, and they will come running to obey, because I, the Lord your God, the Holy One of Israel, have made you glorious."
[6] Seek the Lord while you can find him. Call on him now while he is near. [7] Let the people turn from their wicked deeds. Let them banish from their minds the very thought of doing wrong! Let them turn to the Lord that he may have mercy on them. Yes, turn to our God, for he will abundantly pardon.
[8] "My thoughts are completely different from yours," says the Lord. "And my ways are far beyond anything you could imagine. [9] For just as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts higher than your thoughts.
[10] "The rain and snow come down from the heavens and stay on the ground to water the earth. They cause the grain to grow, producing seed for the farmer and bread for the hungry. [11] It is the same with my word. I send it out, and it always produces fruit. It will accomplish all I want it to, and it will prosper everywhere I send it. [12] You will live in joy and peace. The mountains and hills will burst into song, and the trees of the field will clap their hands! [13] Where once there were thorns, cypress trees will grow. Where briers grew, myrtles will sprout up. This miracle will bring great honor to the Lord's name; it will be an everlasting sign of his power and love.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Walter Brueggemann's 19 Theses

Lots of people are talking about these theses again. They are worth another look. MP3s of the original lecture are available at

1. Everybody lives by a script. The script may be implicit or explicit. It may be recognized or unrecognized, but everybody has a script.

2. We get scripted. All of us get scripted through the process of nurture and formation and socialization, and it happens to us without our knowing it.

3. The dominant scripting in our society is a script of technological, therapeutic, consumer militarism that socializes us all, liberal and conservative.

4. That script (technological, therapeutic, consumer militarism) enacted through advertising and propaganda and ideology, especially on the liturgies of television, promises to make us safe and to make us happy.

5. That script has failed. That script of military consumerism cannot make us safe and it cannot make us happy. We may be the unhappiest society in the world.

6. Health for our society depends upon disengagement from and relinquishment of that script of military consumerism. This is a disengagement and relinquishment that we mostly resist and about which we are profoundly ambiguous.

7. It is the task of ministry to de-script that script among us. That is, to enable persons to relinquish a world that no longer exists and indeed never did exist.

8. The task of descripting, relinquishment and disengagement is accomplished by a steady, patient, intentional articulation of an alternative script that we say can make us happy and make us safe.

9. The alternative script is rooted in the Bible and is enacted through the tradition of the Church. It is an offer of a counter-narrative, counter to the script of technological, therapeutic, consumer militarism.

10. That alternative script has as its most distinctive feature, its key character – the God of the Bible whom we name as Father, Son, and Spirit.

11. That script is not monolithic, one dimensional or seamless. It is ragged and disjunctive and incoherent. Partly it is ragged and disjunctive and incoherent because it has been crafted over time by many committees. But it is also ragged and disjunctive and incoherent because the key character is illusive and irascible in freedom and in sovereignty and in hiddenness, and, I’m embarrassed to say, in violence – [a] huge problem for us.

12. The ragged, disjunctive, and incoherent quality of the counter-script to which we testify cannot be smoothed or made seamless. [I think the writer of Psalm 119 would probably like to try, to make it seamless]. Because when we do that the script gets flattened and domesticated. [This is my polemic against systematic theology]. The script gets flattened and domesticated and it becomes a weak echo of the dominant script of technological, consumer militarism. Whereas the dominant script of technological, consumer militarism is all about certitude, privilege, and entitlement this counter-script is not about certitude, privilege, and entitlement. Thus care must betaken to let this script be what it is, which entails letting God be God’s irascible self.

13. The ragged, disjunctive character of the counter-script to which we testify invites its adherents to quarrel among themselves – liberals and conservatives – in ways that detract from the main claims of the script and so too debilitate the focus of the script.

14. The entry point into the counter-script is baptism. Whereby we say in the old liturgies, “do you renounce the dominant script?”

15. The nurture, formation, and socialization into the counter-script with this illusive, irascible character is the work of ministry. We do that work of nurture, formation, and socialization by the practices of preaching, liturgy, education, social action, spirituality, and neighboring of all kinds.

16. Most of us are ambiguous about the script; those with whom we minister and I dare say, those of us who minister. Most of us are not at the deepest places wanting to choose between the dominant script and the counter-script. Most of us in the deep places are vacillating and mumbling in ambivalence.

17. This ambivalence between scripts is precisely the primary venue for the Spirit. So that ministry is to name and enhance the ambivalence that liberals and conservatives have in common that puts people in crisis and consequently that invokes resistance and hostility.

18. Ministry is to manage that ambivalence that is crucially present among liberals and conservatives in generative faithful ways in order to permit relinquishment of [the] old script and embrace of the new script.

19. The work of ministry is crucial and pivotal and indispensable in our society precisely because there is no one [see if that’s an overstatement]; there is no one except the church and the synagogue to name and evoke the ambivalence and to manage a way through it. I think often; I see the mundane day-to-day stuff ministers have to do and I think, my God, what would happen if you took all the ministers out. The role of ministry then is as urgent as it is wondrous and difficult.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Prayer of St. Patrick

Prayer for the Faithful
May the Strength of God guide us.
May the Power of God preserve us.
May the Wisdom of God instruct us.
May the Hand of God protect us.
May the Way of God direct us.
May the Shield of God defend us.
May the Angels of God guard us.
- Against the snares of the evil one.

May Christ be with us!
May Christ be before us!
May Christ be in us,
Christ be over all!

May Thy Grace, Lord,
Always be ours,
This day, O Lord, and forevermore. Amen.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Thirsty for Wine

John 2:1-11.

According to the gospel of John the first miracle of Jesus was to change water into wine. I have often wondered why this would be the first miracle Jesus would choose to perform. Why would he not heal someone or raise someone from the dead? Wouldn’t calming a storm be a more fitting first miracle? Verse 11 tells us that the result of this miracle was that Jesus revealed His glory and His disciples believed in Him. Wouldn’t a healing have been a better foundation for faith? Why did Jesus choose to turn water into wine for a crowd at a wedding who had already drunk enough wine to not notice the quality of the wine they were served (verse 10)?

The hosts had run out of wine. This was a serious breach of hospitality in middle-eastern culture and Jesus’ mother was concerned for the wedding party. This would not look good for them and might have had longer-term relational impacts in the community. Despite Jesus’ initial words (verse 4), He also shares His mother’s concern and decides to do something about it. It may not yet have been the precise time for God in the flesh to reveal His glory in a miracle but He shows compassion for this human situation. So He brings out a 750 ml bottle of table wine and adds it to the banquet table. No, He decides to supply the party with at least 450 litres of wine (the equivalent of 600 bottles of wine). And it is good wine; the best wine that had been served that day and maybe the best wine that has ever been consumed.

Jesus uses the six stone water-pots which were normally used for the Jewish custom of purification (verse 6). In contrast to their usual solemn and legalistic use, Jesus uses them to make wine, which as Psalm 104:15 says “makes man's heart glad.” He blesses a wedding with a gift of joy and ushers in a new joyful Kingdom of God on earth. Wine is freely offered in an abundant supply just as His own blood will one day, when His time has come, be poured out for all.*

Jesus looks deeper than the immediate needs of humans and offers abundance for our true needs. I know that I can joyfully trust Him to supply my true needs.

*Some thoughts in this paragraph have been gleaned from RVG Tasker in the Tyndale Commentary on The Gospel According to St. John. Eerdmans, Grand Rapids, 1977.