Monday, May 23, 2011

NT Wright 52111 The Kingdom and the Cross (3rd Session)

NT Wright 52111 The Kingdom and the Cross

We've not simply misread the Gospels but we've made them ordinary.

Through them, we can gain new life and new vocation.

Worldview is not what you look at but what you look through (Lee's Constantinian Cataract)

A Kingdom without a cross is no kingdom at all.

Theology is not the same thing as religion.

A great deal of the New Testament is about how to live together in this new community.

Some people say that what Jesus promised never arrived and it's the church's responsibility to make that happen (triumphalism)

The critical scholarship of the last two hundred years was to perpetuate the separation of politics and religion

Many western Christians would be happy to let Jesus have authority in Heaven but not Earth, as opposed to what Jesus says in Matthew 28.

Jesus's resurrection was not to prove that there is a heaven and we're going there. Jesus is Alive again, therefore God's new creation has begun, Jesus is the Lord of it, and we have a vocation to bring about that New Creation into the world.

The church has been responsible for muddle and wickedness, but also for hope, charity, and beauty and love.

The enlightenment has a rival eschatology to promote. World history turned the corner sometime in the 1700s and everything before was superstition. Through this Christianity is downgraded from an eschatology to a religion.

There have been Christians who haven't allowed the world to silence them: Wilberforce, Tutu, etc.

Unhelpful reactions by the church:
- (dispensationalism) it doesn't matter because we'll be going to heaven anyway. What happens when the literature of the oppressed becomes the literature of the powerful?
- (neo-Anabaptist) the church must be a beacon of light, but be separate from the world. There is strong sectarian ism in this. That vision doesn't do the full job
- right or left wing politics with a Christian wash on it. Makes it easy to define someone.

More Americans have discovered the NT as a book of political philosophy that speaks strongly against the Empire.

Today's political readers assume that Paul and the other writers meant power in the same way we do. Just because Paul made a radical critique of the empire, we can just pick it up wholesale and apply it directly to us.

Post-exilic Jews believed that God was going to reign and come in his fullness and power, and he was still sovereign in some way over the nations.

In creational monotheism, the world is best ruled by wise and humble rulers trying to care for God's creation.

First century Jews knew all about bad rulers, both pagan and Jewish.

Judaism assumed that the creator God wanted the world ruled by his image bearing people.

The Temple was the meeting of heaven and earth to first century Jews. Jesus radically redefined the temple to mean himself and those who have the Spirit.

Baptism vs temptation narratives. Temptations are to give the easy way to power.

The breaking of the power of the enemy is the beginning of the in breaking of the Kingdom of God.

The Gospels portray the observers as suspicious, because they'd seen kingdom/messiah movements before.

Political and theological fear lie behind many of the controversies in the Gospels.

People are obtaining the benefits that they got from the Temple from Jesus where they were. Jesus was a walking Temple; a one man apocalypse.

Jesus will come to his global sovereignty through suffering and will alleviate that suffering through his suffering.

Traditional atonement theology doesn't typically look at the Gospels for directions.

We make divinity and humanity into abstractions, but that's not how scripture deals with it.

The trial scenes with Jesus are to be seen upside down. It's not Jesus on trial, but Pilate and Caiphas.

All the evangelists see Jesus going to his death to accomplish the will of God in bringing out the kingdom through suffering.

Golgotha becomes the new holy mountain where you go to meet God.

We are to understand Jesus' death and Kingdom in terms of the Temple.

When Jesus wanted to explain his death, he didn't give his followers a theory; he gave them a meal.

Reducing the Cross into a ticket to heaven belittles it disgracefully. It is so much greater than that.

Temple and theocracy are joined at the hip; no less in Jesus than before him.

The Spirit does what the Spirit does through Jesus' followers. John 16, 18, & 19. What Jesus did before Pilate is what Christians should do before the powers.

NT Wright 52111 Living, Praying, and Preaching the Gospels (4th Session)

NT Wright 52111 Living, Praying, and Preaching the Gospels

The Bible is not merely the authoritative source about Jesus, but how he is made known and becomes present to congregations and individuals.

The Gospels are among the most contested documents in faith and life by post-enlightenment secularism.

Our praying and preaching has followed the creedal pattern rather than the Kingdom and Cross one.

Reading the Gospels prayerfully and humbly is an excellent way of getting to know Jesus better and internalizing the Kingdom shaped by the cross.

Nearly all churches refer to living under the authority of Scripture, but what does that actually look like? We need to be more intentional about creative ways to live under Scripture.

Public reading of scripture is not just for conveying information, but part of the act of worship.

Explore fresh ways of praying the Lord's prayer. It's a remarkably accurate summary of the mission of Jesus. Read chapters of the gospel, quoting the Lords Prayer between each one.

The combination of Kingdom and Cross is summed up in Jesus as the new Temple and us his followers as temples.

The Sacraments as a context for reading the Gospels. Baptism is about the whole church. It's our corporate reenactment of the whole story of Scripture: creation, Noah, Exodus, Jonah, Jesus. Creation, Covenant, New Covenant, New Creation.

The coming together of man and woman is symbolic of the joining of Heaven and Earth throughout Scripture. Genesis, Revelation, Ephesians. In our marriage services and marriage counseling and enrichment is that we need to show and tell how marriages are a Kingdom moment to be cherished and protected.

For John, the wedding at Cana is the beginning of Jesus' signs, not separate from his ministry.

The stories you enact makes you the person you become.

Over thespian histrionics

Preaching ought to flow from congregational life and back into it.

God seems to want wise rulers to bring order to his world. Chaos is worse than tyranny, but even that order can corrupt to tyranny.

The Church should be for the world what Jesus was to Israel.

The Church working for the Kingdom doesn't necessarily have to be for or against the government, but has to be for the Kingdom.

We can't bak the power of evil; only Jesus can, but we work with him in that.

What would it look like if God were in charge of Nashville?

The work of the kingdom of God is God's answer to the central problems of the world: chaos and tyranny.

When we do the works of the kingdom through beauty and wonder and truth and justice, evangelism happens naturally from that.

NT Wright 52111 The Gospels in Four Dimensions (2nd Session)

NT Wright 5/21/11 The Gospels in Four Dimensions

We need to re-complexify in order to get to the simplicity of the Gospels.

The Gospels are each in their own way doing four primary things.

People today are used to hearing the gospels in a distorted fashion.

The basic tune that the gospels are all playing is to tell the story of the life of Jesus himself, but not biographies as we think of them. They are similar to what biographies of the time did. All biographies select, highlight, and arrange.

People used to say that the Gospels were Passion narratives with extended introductions, which is a distortion.

The gospels are shallow enough for a child to paddle in, but deep enough for an elephant to swim in.

The Four Dimensions of the Gospels
1. The Gospels tell the story of Jesus as the climax of the story of Israel
2. The story of Jesus' divinity, but importantly the God that Jesus is embodying: Israel's God
3. The Gospels are telling the story of God's Launching of His people into the world.
4. It is the story of Jesus told as the kingdom of God clashing with the kingdom of Caesar and the kingdom of the Enemy.

1. The Gospels tell the story of Jesus as the climax of the story of Israel
The OT ends with a question mark, looking toward something coming.
Genesis 1-11 is the story of Humanity; Genesis 12 to the end of the OT tells the similar story of Israel

The word "Christ" bears the weight of the entirety of Jewish Messianic expectation, I.e. The story of Israel in the OT.

Most Jews of Jesus' day did not believe that the Exile was true and properly over. Exile is not just about geography, but about politics and theocracy.

When the promises of Jeremiah and Isaiah are fulfilled, that's when Exile is over.

Even though the coming of Jesus was new, it was the new thing that had been promised for centuries.

Jesus' life and actions "flashback" to actions of the prophets, priests, and kings of the OT.

What's the point? The reason Israel's story matters is that the Creator of the world chose Israel to be the vessel through which God would save the world. Israel's story is the microcosm of the world's story.

Mark indicates that in Jesus' baptism is the beginning of the fulfillment of Isaiah's and Jeremiah's prophecies.
John retells the OT through his writing. "In the beginning."

Genesis and Exodus are shaped in the frame of God creating and rescuing the Creation.

Gnostic gospels talk about rescue from the world, not rescue for the world.

This fulfillment that Jesus brought is not what Israel expected.

2. The story of Jesus' divinity, but importantly the God that Jesus is embodying: Israel's God

Creates a covenant with Abraham and fulfills that covenant by rescuing his people and dwelling with them in the tabernacle and the Temple

Not tame, not safe, but good. - Aslan

Israel fails so dramatically that God leaves (Ezekiel)

At no point in the 2nd Temple literature, do we see a reference to God returning to the Temple.

The story is not simply that Jesus is divine, but the story of how Yahweh returns to his people.

The parable of the master who goes away and servants world have been seen by first century listeners as God leaving and then returning. God as the master and Israel as the servants..

John's talk of the Logos is not simply addressing Gnostic theology, but the embodiment of God returning.

John 2 (?) is about replacing the thorns and thistles of Genesis with new creation.

The Gospels deconstruct the either or of human or divine. They reject the idea of a different kind of human, but a different kind of God; a creator God who continues to love and care for his creation. A God who made humans as image bearers and Israel as the bearers of is message to the world, so that he mint more easily come as a human in Israel to redeem the world.

3. The Gospels are telling the story of God's Launching of His people into the world.

The Gospel writers are very much aware that they are writing foundational documents for a community.

They are telling the story of Jesus of how the church began.

We should look at how Jesus called the 12. The reversal of the prestige. The mission he gave them. He left tasks and vocations in the villages he travelled in. He wanted people to embody the Kingdom in the places that they were. A community practicing Jubilee and forgiveness.

The story of the Gospels reaching their climax in the death and resurrection of Jesus tells convincingly that his followers now have a mission. To take the message out that the King has come.

4. It is the story of Jesus told as the kingdom of God clashing with the kingdom of Caesar and the kingdom of the Enemy.

The story of Israel is one of how they oppose the powers in this world. The empire of this world vs. The Empire of God

Even though Caesar doesn't appear much in the Gospels, but his presence hovers like a shadow over the story.

"Should we pay Caesar the tax?" is a hugely loaded political question.

Jesus and Pilate talking is what it looks like when God's Kingdom confronts the kingdom of this world.

N.T Wright 52111 The Gospels: What are we missing? (1st Session)

N.T Wright 5/21/11 The Gospels: What are we missing?

No birth, crucifixion, or resurrection narrative in Gospel of Thomas

In many Christian circles, the assumption is that the "Gospel" is what you find in Paul.

The Gospels don't seem to say much about justification and atonement.

"The Jesus we find in the four canonical gospels is the Jesus of our creeds, drawing a distinction between the reconstructed Jesus of today." However, the creeds don't pay much attention Jesus' life between birth and death.

Many Christians choose the creeds over the Gospels.

Details of the New Testament story are important but only in the context of the big picture.

In most of the creeds, the only mention of the Kingdom is at the end, as though the Kingdom only happens after His return.

In the early church, the creed and canon had a symbiotic relationship.

The Gospels are the story of how God became the King of the world.

Even when Jesus was talking about the Kingdom, even he was working with idealized metaphor because of people's experiences with Caesar and Herod.

Liberal reductionism removed the miraculous aspects of Jesus and reduced him to talking about the fatherhood of God and the brotherhood of man.

In many of the writers of the Jesus Seminar, there's no logical reason for Jesus' death.

Jesus was talking about God to try and explain what he (Jesus) was doing. "This is what it looks like when God is becoming King."

God and the world have a strange, interlocking, mysterious relationship; different from what pantheism or deism say.

God becoming King is a new reality bursting into the cosmos (but wasn't that God's purpose in the OT as well?)

The story the Gospels tell is the story of how through Jesus brings about the reign of Israel's God.

In the Bible, heaven and earth overlap and interlock. Heaven is not a geographical location somewhere above the clouds.

The Ascension is not about Jesus going a long way away; the Ascension is about Jesus being in Heaven and relating to all the World for all time.

Why do we have the story of Jesus' life in the Gospels?
Answers Wright has heard
- to teach people how to go to Heaven (Heaven is important, but it's not the end of the world)
- in order to convey his ethical teaching, i.e. Sermon on the Mount. The Sermon on the Mount is not simply about a new way to live, but what people who live in the Kingdom of God look like.
- the aim is to get us to heaven, but he lives the life of the perfect sacrifice. Some later New Testament writers say that.However, the Gospels don't seem interested in that.
- the Gospels are to show us Jesus' divinity (and potentially his full humanity as well). But the Gospels don't seem to be saying that primarily. Jesus' divinity is the key in which the Gospel writers write their music, not the tune.

What the Gospels are saying is what God is doing in the world through Jesus. It is in this man and this man alone that we see the Messianic agenda acted out.

To focus on Jesus' divinity to the exclusion of the work of the Kingdom he did here on earth to bring about the kingdom is to take a large step toward the detatched spirituality the early church rejected.

It's possible to be orthodox, to tell the story of the divinity of Jesus, but to be telling the wrong story.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Dad - Part 2

Part Two.

Saturday morning, I headed to Chattanooga. From Nashville, it’s about a two hour drive through some beautiful country side and over Monteagle, a respectable mountain. It’s a trip I’ve made several times, back when Sheryl and I dated, and on various trips to Atlanta and through Georgia to Florida. The immediately previous trip had been with friends to see U2 at the Georgia Dome, which was one of the best experiences of my life.

This trip wasn’t.

All through that two hour trip, I thought about Dad. I thought about the fact that he was now lying in a hospital bed, I didn’t have any idea as to what his condition was or what life was going to hold next. I just knew I had to be there because I felt like I was all he had.

This wasn’t true, of course. He had friends and he’d been staying with his sister when he had the attack. But as his oldest son, I felt a lot of... maybe not responsibility, necessarily, but let’s call it a loving obligation.

Dad and I had always been pretty close. As the eldest child in a divorced family, I’d always been fiercely loyal to Dad. When Mom remarried, it took me quite a while to call her husband “Dad,” because in my teenaged mind, he wasn’t. Dad was my dad and I was going to be damned if I gave in like my brother and sister had and call someone else by that name. However, I eventually started calling him Dad as well, sometimes referring to John as “Bio-Dad” and Greg as “Bellevue Dad.”

Even later, after graduating college, I got my first (and only) teaching job at Martin Luther King Magnet High School. And there, Dad was basically a permanent sub, prior to my arrival. And in my first year, when some of my students saw “Mr. Wilson” on their schedules, they assumed it was Dad who was going to be teaching them. Dad did become the In-School Suspension Co-ordinator (Lackey of the Administration, as I jokingly referred to him) and so we began a different kind of relationship: co-workers. We never stopped being father and son, but I got a very different experience of him that I ever had before in my life, even living with him for a couple of years in college, and very different from my younger sister and brother. We basically saw each other every day. He helped me get accepted in the MLK community. He told me some areas where I shouldn’t try to rock the boat and who to rock the boat against if I needed to. We had breakfast together on a regular basis with other teachers and administrators. We’d have lunch, sit at basketball games. We became friends on some level.

However, that changed a lot when I quit teaching. Dad always disagreed with that decision. He thought I should have gone back to school to get my Master’s or Ph.D. in English and become a college professor. I left teaching because Sheryl and I wanted to start a family and we wanted her to be able to stay home with the kids. And you can’t do that very well on a single teacher’s salary. After that, we saw Dad on a much more irregular basis. After the kids were born, we’d see him about 4 times a year. Christmas, birthdays, odd times when he’d show up at the house or at church, usually unannounced.

I sometimes wondered if seeing us reminded him of his failed marriage to Mom, and then the fact that he didn’t see us that much reminded him of how he didn’t see us that much. I never asked him about it. It’s just as possible that he got busy with his life and didn’t make time to do it. Almost similar to how we did the same thing in our lives. We didn’t go out of our way to see him on a regular basis either. Honestly, it was inconvenient. And as our lives became busy with soccer and dance and preschool and piano and church, it became easy for us to not see him. He was there, but almost more as an idea rather than a person.

All of that and more was going through my head as I made that drive to Chattanooga that Saturday. What I didn’t know was how long and short the next 5 months were going to be.

Thursday, March 03, 2011

Dad - Part 1

It was just about a year ago that life changed for me and my family in ways that I’d only heard about, but never really understood. It was just about a year ago that we heard that Dad had had a heart attack.

We’d gotten home from vacation and Connor and I had gone out to do a little shopping. I remember feeling kind of excited, because I’d found a set of Star Wars action figures that included “old” Obi-Wan Kenobi from the first Star Wars movie and Connor was excited to have him as well. We’d gotten home and were putting away the groceries, when my phone rang. I looked and saw that it was my aunt, Dad’s sister. She told me that Dad was in the hospital in Chattanooga having suffered a heart attack. I sat down on our front steps, my mind reeling.

Dad had never been healthy. My sister and I talked after his death and came to the conclusion that Dad didn’t die because he’d abused his body. He’d died because he’d neglected it. He’d been diagnosed as a diabetic six years earlier, having had to have a toe amputated. Now, because he hadn’t carefully monitored himself, his diabetes was worse and in fact, had been a causational factor in not feeling the normal pain during his heart attack.

He’d lived alone for the last 20 years or so, after his and Mom’s divorce and after I’d graduated from college. He lived close enough to my university’s campus that I could live with him and basically be on campus. Because he’d lived alone and never remarried, he could eat what he wanted, do the exercise he wanted (not much, if any), and basically live how he’d wanted. And because of all those choices, his diabetes had gotten worse and he’d suffered a heart attack.

All these things ran through my mind that Friday night after I talked to Aunt Millie. And I knew what I was going to have to do. The next day I’d need to drive to Chattanooga and see what was going on with him, because outside of a few other people, I felt like I was all he had.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Kabul Church Plan Ignites Backlash

KABUL —For the second time in two months, an Afghanistan church is facing opposition from residents who don't want the religious house constructed in an area zoned for it.

With a growing Christian community in Kabul Province, the Christian Center of Kabul wants to build on Highway A01. The project done in phases could take years to finish: a 52,000-square-foot church, with a community center and athletic fields.

Tonight, residents will appear in front of the board of commissioners to express their frustration with the Kabul Province Planning Commission's May 24 approval of the site plan. The meeting is slated for 6 p.m. at 1 South Public Square, Suite 200.

"I believe this has been approved and run through without public notice," resident Abdul Hussein said. "Why have a church nine times the size of Kandahar’s in the middle of a farming, residential community?''

Last month, plans for a separate mosque in Kandahar were soundly defeated when residents who were against rezoning the land mounted a campaign that raised suspicions about the church and its leaders. Opponents encouraged residents to write letters to the city commission, and stirred more controversy by questioning links to American military groups.

Hussein and other opponents say prejudice is not at the root of their opposition in Kabul Province.

"I'm Caucasian-Arabic," he said. "It's not an issue of diversity, race or religious freedom. I would say the same thing if it was a Muslim Mosque."

The Christian community is confused over the opposition. They have been good neighbors and residents in Kabul Province, they said.

Shortly after the devastating 2009 tornado, Christian families delivered 2,500 meals to those affected. They volunteered to help the community. They invited Muslims and Hindus alike to take part on their holidays.

When they announced their plans to build their dream facility, they also invited residents. They didn't expect a backlash.

Now they are answering to rumors of cannibalism, Christian doctrine and whether they will adhere to the laws of Afghanistan, said David Thompson, a physical therapist who has lived in Kabul since the 1980s.

"We have nothing to hide," Thompson said. "We do not have a hidden agenda. We're not affiliated with anyone. Where is the tolerance?"

Christians need room

Thompson said the Christian community, with 250 families, has outgrown its current location.

It's not uncommon for houses of worship to face opposition. Some opponents use traffic, zoning and any legal loophole as a smoke screen for their prejudices, said Ghassan Farooq, director of litigation for a Kabul-based nonprofit group.

"No one really comes out to speak against people, using traffic, which is malleable, to manipulate to the detriment of those applying for the property," he said.

Ibrahim Jabbar, a retired resident who opposes the church, questions the goals of those who practice Christianity.

"If their goal is to advance Christianity, advance their culture, then there is no real affection for our Afghan Law and the precepts we were founded on," Jabbar said, adding that Kabul Province also opposed a Qu’ran theme park.

Minister Christopher Allen wants to dispel any worries, and said any disagreements should be worked out. He had to answer tough questions from his own as well. A child asked, "Why do they hate us?"

"I said it's just a misunderstanding, miscommunication," Allen said. "I told him to love the people because one day they can love you, too."

See the original article this was based on.

"Do to others as you would have them do to you." Luke 6:31

Friday, June 11, 2010


before bed,
I went to the garage to get a pair of shoes for tomorrow.

I'll be working, but not as usual. Along with
most people from my company,
I'll be in the community.

As I looked at the shoes,
I noticed holes.
White Dust.

The holes come from countless miles walked in them.
Through trails.
Up streets.
Down the cobblestones sidewalks of Loughborough, England.

The mud came less than a month ago.
Trees and mud came down in neighbors' yards.
Forced by a deluge down a natural path to an unnatural resting place.
The mud came from being stuck ankle deep taking off limbs
of the tree, hoping to help in a small way.

The white dust came from a stranger's house.
Someone who needed help. A name I don't remember.
It came a little after the mud, in a fit of impotent frustration
that turned into action.
A condo with trash piled outside, and a grand piano that had become trash.
I offered help; they accepted.
And the dust of a life covered the shoes and embedded in the treads.

Tomorrow, there will be new signs.
Whether mud, or paint, or stains, or something unforeseen.
New holes.
Or perhaps just a smell.
Perhaps they'll become unwearable.
But even in that,
The shoes will be a sacrifice,
A pleasing aroma to The One Who inspires the action
of Faith.
Of a life lived for others.

Monday, May 24, 2010

A Thought on Pentecost

Yesterday, Christians celebrated Pentecost, the 50th day after the Passover Sabbath. It's a holy day in the Christian calendar, because it celebrates the arrival of the Holy Spirit on the gathered Christians, as recorded in Acts 2. Josh Graves, our teaching minister at Otter Creek, spoke on it in service yesterday, giving some great insights, and as yesterday was the 4th Sunday of the month, I went to the prison and had an opportunity to speak there, so I decided to speak about Pentecost as well.

I think Josh made some good points about Pentecost and you can listen to them here if you so desire. But I found something interesting as I was investigating Pentecost. One of the passages where Moses talks about the establishment of the Feast in the Penteteuch was in Leviticus 23:15-22. What's really interesting to me is verse 22. Pentecost was about giving the first fruits of what the Israelites grew back to God and to take care of the priests. But in the establishment of this feast, God also makes provision for the poor.
22 " 'When you reap the harvest of your land, do not reap to the very edges of your field or gather the gleanings of your harvest. Leave them for the poor and for the foreigner residing among you. I am the LORD your God.' "
Now, what's really interesting to me is how much this dovetails into the end of Acts 2, where we have the famous "communalism" verse in Acts 2:44

44 All the believers were together and had everything in common. 45 They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need. 46 Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, 47 praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.
It's very easy for us to focus on the Holy Spirit and the speaking in tongues. If you grew up Church of Christ, you might have heard a lot about Acts 2:38, the "answer" to What Must I Do To Be Saved? But I think it's important for us to note that even in the establishment of the Feast of Pentecost, God had the poor in mind and when the Church came together, they kept the poor in mind. That should probably be something that we need to think about in our own congregational settings.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Why "We Are Nashville" Can't End With Flood Clean-Up

Just after the rains ended, Patten Fuqua wrote a blogpost that inspired a city called, "We Are Nashville." It's a great piece that you can read here:

What this simple phrase has done is unite a city behind an idea that we are more than the sum of our parts and while we are individuals, we are part of a greater whole, we have a collective identity as a city that draws us together. These are ideas that we saw in the US after the 9/11 tragedy. These are ideas that Christians need to grasp at a greater level in finding our identity as the body of Christ.

There have been bumper stickers, t-shirts, posters, and more t-shirts created as a part of this. A good friend of mine expressed some doubt about a tragedy being remembered with a t-shirt, which I think is an idea that has some merit. A tragedy where 23 people died shouldn't be souvenir-ized into a t-shirt.

But if it's not so much a souvenir, but a sign of a unity of purpose that Nashvillians can have, that's a sign of something. If it's something that galvanizes people to action to care for others, that's when it becomes something bigger.

And here's where I'm going with this. "We Are Nashville" has to last longer than flood recovery. There's something about a tragedy that brings people together. When we see our neighbors' houses flooded. We can't help but want to do SOMETHING... ANYTHING. But here's the truth. There is tragedy every day in this city. Every day, a child goes hungry. Every day, people go home to a house that is unlivable. Every day, there is hurt and pain and suffering on a scale that I as an upper/middle-class white man doesn't usually have eyes to see.

The spirit/Spirit behind "We Are Nashville" is something that can push us to a higher purpose. One that goes out and seeks what we can do to help the people who don't have, but who desperately need help. And we as Christians have to be at the forefront of this. If we're not, and we slink back into our brick-housed ghettos, then we have failed, and all "We Are Nashville" is a call to action to get ourselves back to where we were and not to help lift up our neighbors as well.

Thursday, May 06, 2010


Hopefully, most of you are aware of the devastation that struck Nashville and the surrounding areas this weekend. I know that the national news hasn't covered it as much as the Times Square bomb or the Gulf of Mexico oil spill, but I think word is getting out regardless.

The Wilsons, all facets of us are ok. Our house had a little bit of water in the garage from the deluge on Sunday, but nothing significant that couldn't be taken care of with some brooms and a sump pump connected to an outlet. My mom and dad's house was fine as well, since they are on a high hill, but much of their neighborhood was not. My sister Julie is fine, even though her house was cut off by an impromptu lake over the soccer fields where Connor plays. My brother is fine and had no issues, and my sister Sarah is good as well. We were fortunate.

Much of this city and especially the Bellevue area where we live are not good. Water got into places where it's never been before and had never been thought that it could get to. Neighbors of ours on our street had mudslides which brought significant amounts of earth into their yards and even trees onto their houses. Downtown has flooded from the Cumberland river and some of the poorer areas of Nashville have been affected as well, including a homeless encampment where Otter Creek has done work called Tent City was completely swept away.

Nashville is hurting. But Nashville is also stepping up. When volunteers for sandbagging were called for, people of all faiths and no faith banded together to save a water treatment plant from flooding and putting Nashville in even more dire straits with regards to water supply. And these sandbags were put together by inmates who volunteered for the duty to help the city where they are incarcerated. A movement has sprung up on Facebook and Twitter called "We Are Nashville." And it's not just for Nashvillians; it's for those that wish to stand in solidarity with Nashville. Those who have called it home and moved, or just those that sympathize.

But more importantly to me than Nashville stepping up, the church is stepping up. Due to many churches having experienced clean up in NOLA and the surrounding areas during Katrina, most of them know the task facing the city and how to respond. And to me that's one of the best ways that the church can be Jesus to an area that needs the church to be the Body of Christ, perhaps more than ever.

Just a couple of links.

If you want to keep up on the news within Nashville, is one of the best ways.

If you want some tangible ways to help and you're in the Nashville area, my congregation Otter Creek has a lot of options on the home page

If you're out of town and want a way to help, you can send gift cards to national store like Home Depot, Wal-Mart, Target, Lowes, etc to the Otter Creek Church office at 409 Franklin Road, Brentwood, TN, 37027 and those will be given to those who need them.

Thanks so much for your continued prayers for us.

Tuesday, February 02, 2010

Otter Creek in the News

It's been an interesting 6 months in the press for the Otter Creek Church of Christ. Back in August, we were featured in an article in the Tennessean about work being done in Tent City and our collaboration with the Temple Congregation Ohabai Sholom. On Christmas Day, the Tennessean featured a family that Otter Creek has worked with and highlighted some of the work Doug Sanders has been doing with those on the outside of the comforts of life many of us enjoy. Then on Sunday, once again, the Tennessean featured Otter Creek in another article about how some Churches of Christ are dropping isolationist views.

Because I love Otter Creek like I love a parent, I'm really happy to see us portrayed positively in the news. I've stated before that I don't agree with everything about Otter Creek, but our sense of family there is one of the reasons we stay. I'm also very happy that how we're being portrayed in the news is because of the work that's being done on the margins of society with the homeless. In my mind, it's much better than being in the news because of a new building or something like that.

But whether we get positive press or not, I am grateful for the work that is going on at Otter Creek and the direction we seem to be heading. It's a different congregation that it was five years ago; moving into a new building and getting a new preaching team and worship minister can do that for a church. But underneath it all, the same Spirit presses us on to continue to work out our salvation, to continue the work and the response to God's grace that has been a guiding principle for Otter Creek for our existence. And that the Spirit will continue to do so, as we seek to be the Body of Christ.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

The Unlikely Disciple

2009 was a bit of a funky year reading wise for me. I'm sure I read some books, as I always do, but I don't have any serious recollection of them.

However, this year, I've already devoured 3 books and I'm looking forward to reading even more. The Pixar Touch fed into my tech geek and movie geek side (Excellent read). The View From the Bridge: Memories of Star Trek and a Life in Hollywood
fed my Star Trek nerd side (OK. The Star Trek parts were very interesting, but Nicholas Meyer's is a bitter, bitter man).

The most significant read I've done this year is Kevin Roose's The Unlikely Disciple: A Sinner's Semester at America's Holiest University. And it might be one of the best I read this year. The upshot is that Roose is an Ivy League college student who decides he doesn't know enough conservative Christians. So he decides to take a semester studying "abroad" at Jerry Fallwell's Liberty University. But he decides to do it undercover as a conservative Christian. He rightly ascertains that Christians would put their "best face forward" if they knew he was writing a book about it or was not a Christian. So after a crash course from a Christian friend, he registers for classes and spends the spring semester of 2007 at Liberty University.

There are several excellent aspects of this book. Roose is an excellent writer. He has an engaging style and the fact that the book is written narratively makes it flow incredibly well. 2) Roose enters the world of a conservative Christian with as much of an open mind as it's possible for him to have, growing up outside of that world and having most of his opinions of Christians formed by the media. And it's because of this open mind that Roose himself is actually changed by his exposure to Christianity. Spoiler aalert: He doesn't become a Christian as a result of this, but what he does do is realize that Christian college students aren't much different than his friends at Brown. They're interested in pop culture and the world outside of Liberty. Roose also decides that he will abide by Liberty's rules (mostly) and do the things that a Christian would do. He dates but doesn't pursue sex (which he says frees up a man and woman to actually talk and find out about each other, rather than pursuing carnal pleasures), he prays (which he says forces him to focus on other people and their needs rather than his own [a lesson many of us Christians could stand to learn]), and he participates in a Spring Break mission trip (that one's best left for the book). Here's the other way I know this is a great book: Sheryl read it almost as quickly as I did and found it just as fascinating.

I've always been interested in alternate perspectives, especially ones of things that I believe or participate in. The Unlikely Disciple is a great example of this, and I think it's one that Christians should read to see what an outsider pretending to be an insider really thinks of us and one that nonChristians, especially nonbelievers in any religion, should read. Do we have flaws? Yes. Are these flaws sometimes so apparent that it's hard to see the good in us? Yes, maybe, but just as Roose looked at us with an open mind, not only would I hope that others look at us similarly, but that we should to those who don't share what we believe charitably as well.
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