Monday, October 26, 2009

wrestling with economics

If there is among you anyone in need, a member of your community in any of your towns within the land that the Lord your God is giving you, do not be hard-hearted or tight-fisted toward your needy neighbour. You should rather open your hand, willingly lending enough to meet the need, whatever it may be ... Since there will never cease to be some in need on the earth, I therefore command you, "Open your hand to the poor and needy neighbour in your land." - Deuteronomy 15:7-11

I've been reading and being challenged by Brian McLaren's book 'Every Thing Must Change' recently. McLaren presents Jesus and his teachings as an alternative meta-narrative to the one that is prevalent in our culture at the moment one which McLaren says is suicidal for the human race. As such Jesus teaching has many important things to say to our global crises encapsulated in what Bono sees as the unholy trinity of 'extreme poverty, extreme ideology and extreme weather.'

Today as I read the above passage from Deuteronomy (sent to me as part of the Sojourners verse for the day) I couldn't help but hear the echo of McLaren’s reflections on Jesus alternative to the religion of capitalism and its four spiritual laws of 'progress through rapid growth', Serenity through possession and consumption, salvation through competition alone and freedom to prosper through unaccountable corporations.

McLaren says of Jesus economy of love...

“This economy is 'bound to justice and not 'free' of duties and to neighbour and community... In his economy the goal is fruitfulness, not consumption."

Its guiding principles are four different spiritual laws: the Law of Good Deeds for the common good, satisfaction through gratitude and sharing, salvation through seeking justice, and freedom to prosper by building better communities.

AS I have read McLaren’s book and been challenged by scripture I have found myself wondering how much I am enslaved to the leading ideologies of the west. While we can change the very narrative we live by. How does that works itself out in everyday life?

Friday, October 23, 2009

Found myself agreeing with Bono's assessment of the controversial awarding of a noble peace prize to Barack Obama this year.

he wrote in an article in the new york times entitled 'Rebranding America'

"When Mr. Obama takes the stage at Oslo City Hall this December, he won’t be the first sitting president to receive the peace prize, but he might be the most controversial. There’s a sense in some quarters of these not-so-United States that Norway, Europe and the World haven’t a clue about the real President Obama; instead, they fixate on a fantasy version of the president, a projection of what they hope and wish he is, and what they wish America to be.

Well, I happen to be European, and I can project with the best of them. So here’s why I think the virtual Obama is the real Obama, and why I think the man might deserve the hype. It starts with a quotation from a speech he gave at the United Nations last month:
“We will support the Millennium Development Goals, and approach next year’s summit with a global plan to make them a reality. And we will set our sights on the eradication of extreme poverty in our time.”

They’re not my words, they’re your president’s. If they’re not familiar, it’s because they didn’t make many headlines. But for me, these 36 words are why I believe Mr. Obama could well be a force for peace and prosperity — if the words signal action.

The millennium goals, for those of you who don’t know, are a persistent nag of a noble, global compact. They’re a set of commitments we all made nine years ago whose goal is to halve extreme poverty by 2015. Barack Obama wasn’t there in 2000, but he’s there now. Indeed he’s gone further — all the way, in fact. Halve it, he says, then end it.

Many have spoken about the need for a rebranding of America. Rebrand, restart, reboot. In my view these 36 words, alongside the administration’s approach to fighting nuclear proliferation and climate change, improving relations in the Middle East and, by the way, creating jobs and providing health care at home, are rebranding in action.

These new steps — and those 36 words — remind the world that America is not just a country but an idea, a great idea about opportunity for all and responsibility to your fellow man."

Obama called his Nobel peace prize 'a call to action' and the in Bono's words

The Nobel Peace Prize is the rest of the world saying, “Don’t blow it.”

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

The Dead Don't Remember God Pslam 6:5

StudentSoul is the church that I am involved in planting in Auckland New Zealand. You can tell by the name that it's focus is the student and young working population. We meet for worship on Wednesday Night at the University's Maclaurin chapel. We are a small group but whenever we gather there is an amazing sense of God's presence.

This Wednesday (we've become fourth day Adventists, bad joke I know) We were looking at Psalm 6 (in a series we're calling 'give your soul a lift: exploring the Psalms as they are ways people have lifted their soul to God.'

and we wrestled with Psalm 6:5

5 No one remembers you when he is dead.
Who praises you from the grave

It has been used to talk about early Hebrew understandings of the after life but in looking at the passage there is a sense of David saying to God what good does it do if I die because I wont be able to live my life praising you and telling others of the great things you do'. I illustrated it by showing a clip of the theme song from the movie 'Bucket list' where two elderly men who have terminal diseases write a list of things they want to do before they die. It's starts off with wonderful adventures and adrenaline junky stuff and then gets down to real issues such as reconciliation with estranged family members and seeking forgiveness.

I asked the people at the service what was their bucket list. I found that while at 46 I may have had more of a sense of my own mortality and that (sigh) time is short that those at the service were not captivated by the concept of a bucket list.

The day after (sigh, it always happens) I was reading Terry Wynn's book 'Onward Christian Socialists' and came upon this challenging story about Gladstone and a Young Man.

"There is a story told of Gladstone and a young man in conversation: "What do you want to do with your life?”, asks Gladstone.

"I intend going to Oxford University and getting a first degree", the young man replied.

"What then?", asked Gladstone.

"I intend becoming a lawyer in a London practice", he replied.

"What then?", asked Gladstone.

"Then I intend to pursue a career in politics, becoming a Cabinet Minister", he said.

"What then?", asked Gladstone.

"Then I shall retire to a house in the country",

"What then?", Gladstone asked again.

"Well, then I shall die", he answered hesitatingly.

"What then?", said Gladstone slowly.

"I hadn't planned beyond that", he said.

Gladstone looked at him and said, "Young man you are a fool. Go away and rethink your plans."

Wynn concludes

"If Gladstone were alive today and he confronted many of the Christians I know with the question, "What do you want to do with your life?", I'm sure the answer would be, "To serve God as best I can". They do it in their everyday lives amid the problems and the troubles and the ridicule."

Thursday, October 1, 2009

'Get me Jesus on the line' in the age of electronic operators

I don’t like electronic operators. I’d much rather deal with a person on the phone than a machine. A while back I wondered what it would be like if God Installed an electronic operator to deal with prayer in more efficient way and I wrote this little skit (feel free to use it).

EO: Hi you’ve reached prayer central

If you are praying a prayer of Adoration Press 1
If you are praying a set/read or liturgical prayer Press 2
If you are praying a prayer of confession Press 3
If you are saying grace please Press 4
If you are praying a prayer of intersession Press 5
If you are praying a prayer of thanksgiving Press 6
If you this is your first time praying Press 7
If you are praying “the sinner Prayer” Press 8

Person: Oh OK I’d better press 5

EO: You have chosen ‘Intercessory prayer’

If you are praying for the World Press 1
If you are Praying for a specific country Press 2 And access our Continents directory.
If you are Praying for your city Press 3 And access our city directory.
If you are Praying for your church Press 4 And access our Denominational directory.
If you are Praying about your heath Press 5 and Access our Medical directory.
If you are praying for family members then Press 6
If you are praying an emergency prayer Press 7
If you are Praying for the Lost Press 8
Press 9 if you wish to hear these options again and 0 if you wish to be returned to the operator.

Person: Oh I’ll Press 7 this is a real emergency.

EO: You’ve selected Emergency prayer Hold the line please RINNG RINNG RINNG Click.

You’ve reached the voice mail for “God”. ‘Hi I’m Not in at the moment Please leave your name, phone number, church affiliation and a brief message after the beep and I’ll get back to you as soon as possible. BEEP.

Person: Oh ah It’s Heinrich Morse, 347 0002, St Emma’s at the mall here, Umm I’m Just praying to you about my mum’s health. She’s Ah really sick, the doctors say she doesn’t have that long to live and that it’s only a miracle that can save her now. I tried to get you this morning but well I just got your answer machine again. I really would appreciate an answer”.

EO: Thank you.
Press 1 to end this call.
Press 2 if you want to hear your message played back.
Press 3 to delete your message
Press 4 if you would like to re record your message.
Press 5 for the soothing music of the heavenly choir
Press 6 If you are going to continue praying and would like to access another department.

Sometimes we pray and the only answer we seem to get is the mocking echo of our voices off the walls and ceiling , or deafening silence as we shout our prayers into the void.
We pray and we feel we are not heard let alone that any answer comes.

That somehow God is otherwise occupied, to busy with world affairs to hear our prayers.

He’s left the phone off the hook or we get his voice mail. It can be easy to get despondent and give up.

It’s as if the gates of heaven we’re closed tightly to us and we are left pounding on the on the doors hoping someone will hear us.

But God Jesus says is quick to answer pray, He doesn’t fob us off . He hears our prayers and he answers.

God doesn’t have an Electronic Operator, or voice mail nor an answer machine.
God’s open twenty four hours a day, and you don’t need a touch tone phone to get through.
God’s schedule is never to full that he will tell us to go away and come back another day.
God doesn’t have a guard dog secretary to keep people away. But rather ‘God will see his chosen Get Justice quickly’ (Luke 18)

In our minds and our hearts it may often feel as if God had turned his back. But there is always hope. The poet in lamentations is devastated by Jerusalem’s destruction. The fighting, the carnage, the suffering, the homelessness he grieves, it as if he has taken a bitter poison.

Yet hope returns when he remembers one thing :

“The Lord’s unfailing love and mercy continue,
Fresh as the morning ,
as sure as the sunrise.
The Lord is all I have So in him I put my trust”