Feb 28, 2013

Everyone did as he saw fit

I close my Bible and push it across the coffee shop’s small table as far away from me as I can. The ugliness hangs around me, the depravity. I close my eyes and shake my head, trying to clear the images from the last chapters of Judges from my mind.

Gang rape. Murder. Brother turning against brother. More murder. More rape.

This is the Word of Lord?

[Thanks be to God.]

I'm starting a new series based on my study of the book of Judges. You can find the rest of this post over at A Deeper Church.

Feb 19, 2013

Jesus and side hugs

She is perched on the counter, legs crossed, face animated, as she tells me about her week, about what she’s been processing about God and Church and life. I am moving back and forth between cutting board and stove top, preparing a meal for us to share. It is long overdue, and our time together has been via screen rather than face to face for too long.

“Haley. I feel like Jesus would never side hug me!” she says.

I laugh and nod because it is true. And because the way she sees Jesus, the way she loves Jesus is beautiful and true. She calls me out of my scholarship, even as she loves to learn what I am learning, and invites me to dance around my kitchen with Jesus just because.

And, because it’s what we do and how we met, I tweet her statement.

We settle onto the couch with plates of dinner, a selection of nail polishes, and James Bond. By the end of the movie her statement has at least 20 retweets. Which, sure, isn’t anything to write home about, or tweet about, but followers and stats are not the point here. The point is that something about Jesus pulling us close with both arms hits home.

Jesus would never side hug you.

Jesus does not side hug you.

He faces you square on, and wraps both of his arms around you.

He pulls you close into a full body hug.

Because Jesus isn’t afraid of you, or of what it means if, in hugging you, your boobs touch his chest.

Because Jesus isn’t afraid of what someone else will think if they see two dudes locked in a full on embrace without any back patting.

Because nothing about the cross is a side hug.

The cross is a full on embrace of the mess and dirt and sin of who we are, exactly where we are.

So no, Jesus would never, ever side hug you. Ever.

Feb 7, 2013

Communion Is Not An Individual Exercise

This is the fifth post in a bi-weekly five part series. It is inspired by the book of 1 Corinthians and my studies of that book. Posts will have appeared here and on A Deeper Church. Read the previous posts in the series:
Part One
Part Two
Part Three
Part Four

They learned first the breaking of bread and the sharing of wine in Paul’s eighteen months with them. It was a symbol, a reminder, a representation of the Truth they had come to believe. It was entering into not just union with their Savior, but communion. A meeting. A joining together. The Spirit, the Son, and the Father reaching out to one another as hands reached out for bread and goblet.

And though bread and wine were staples in their homes, they did not mean the same when digested and imbibed alone, apart from one another. Bread and wine commingled and traveled down the esophagus, melding together in the stomach. But there was no communion. It was just a meal. But together, in those early days, together it was the Body of Christ come alive in their midst. As the Spirit of God indwelt each of them individually, the Spirit reached out to itself from with each of them. Communing with itself as they communed with one another.

At that table, with bread and wine and a God who had saved them, who was saving them, who would save them still, they entered into communion. Yes, through the sharing of bread and wine because his body was broken and his blood was shed. And they entered into communion because they were community. They were the Body he left on earth to point others to the body that hung on a cross. To the body that death could not hold. To the body that destroyed death forever for all who would believe and put their faith in him.

And so they communed.

But when bread and wine become food and drink, and tallies are kept of who brought what and if they brought the best wine and the tastiest bread, or simply what they could afford, communion withers and the table becomes a place of judgment. When bread and wine and body broke and blood shed become tools for division, there is no communion.

As we read that they sat and ate and drank, not sharing but withholding, not in communion but in disunion, dividing, not abiding, I cannot help but think of our own communion tables. Of goblets and loaves, of plastic cups in gilded trays and paper-like wafers that stick to tongues as words of reminder, words of communion, words of body broken and blood shed are poured out over us, calling us together. Do you feel it? Can you hear it? That longing of the Spirit within you crying out for Itself, crying out to Itself through walls we have erected to keep us from those who do not commune as we do? Or simply the longing to commune beside another body as we the Body take and break and eat and drink as individuals?

Spirit cries out to Spirit as we attempt to commune with the Savior alone.

But we were never meant to commune alone. Unity with one’s self is simply an individual. One. One person. Alone.

But if we are to be like him, to commune with him, then we must commune with each other. We must be united with him, in him, and with one another.

Because his body was broken, yes. His body was broken so that this body of broken sinners turned redeemed saints might never have to experience that breaking.

Let us break bread and drink wine.

Let it remind us of the breaking of his body so that this Body might never be broken.

How does your church take communion?
Do you take communion alone or with others?
How do you practice communion with the Body?

Feb 4, 2013

A Defiant Dance of Power, Not Sex? I Beg to Differ

I sit on the bus, catching my breath after chasing it down to the next stop, school and gym bag that bounced haphazardly now crammed on my lap as I try not to invade the small amount of personal space that is my neighbor's in our shared two seats. My elbows balance on my bag as I scroll through Facebook on my phone, and a shared post catches my eye, “A Defiant Dance of Power, Not Sex: Beyonce, the Superbowl, and Durga.”

I am wary, but I tap the link and read the post. The author’s intro is catchy, calling out the way we see what we expect to see, not what really is. And it’s true, stereotypes are rooted deep within each of us, grown and watered and fed before we know how to fight them. I appreciate his panoramic perspective of the stage, and I remember those long shots from the halftime show. There certainly were a lot of people—a lot of women—on that stage.

But I physically react, when I read his use of the word prophetic. Her performance was prophetic. Beyonce’s performance was a prophetic statement about female power.

"Because BeyoncĂ©’s performance Sunday night in New Orleans wasn’t about sex. It was about power, and BeyoncĂ© had it in spades. In fact, her show was one of the most compelling, embodied and prophetic statements of female power I have seen on mainstream television."

Did Beyonce command the attention of the stadium and viewers at home? Absolutely.

Was it refreshing to see a woman who doesn’t fit the waify supermodel image we are so used to seeing? Absolutely, yes.

Was it prophetic? No. No it was not prophetic.

Beyonce’s performance is not some predictive performance about the future of women in faith. It was not some predictive performance about the future of women, regardless of their faith, in America or anywhere else in the world.

It was sex and it was power.

Yes, sex and power taken captive and used by a woman, by many women, but for what purpose?

Sex and power are the tools of our culture, they are the tools that have been used to build up the platform upon which unreachable standards of beauty are held.

They are the tools used to build the multibillion dollar porn industry.

They are the tools that allow the Super Bowl to have the largest audience with the most sexually aggressive marketing platform.

Sex and power are no different when wielded by women.

As Audre Lorde [an African-American writer and feminist] said, as she railed against the racism she saw within the feminist movement, “The master’s tools will never dismantle the master’s house. They may allow us temporarily to beat him at his own game, but they will never enable us to bring about genuine change. And this fact is only threatening to those women who still define the master's house as their only source of support."

Please, please hear me when I say this: You cannot use the tools of those in power to dismantle that same power structure. It does not work.

If it did, Jesus would have come as a Roman centurion, wielding a Roman sword. He would have come as a Pharisee among Pharisees, rising quickly with his innovative interpretation of the Torah.

But that is not how he came here.

He did not pick up a Roman sword.

He did not stand in the synagogues or on the streets to be honored by men.

He came as the last and the least.

He was born in hole on the side of a hill, only to die on a cross atop a different hill some thirty-odd years later.

He fought, but he did not fight with sword or Mishnah.

He used the tools of the Master to dismantle the power structures of this world. He used love and justice rooted in Truth, not culturally relevant truth.

He used the lowly things of this world to shame the wise.