Archive for December, 2011


Of all the packages we love to open,

is it not the greatest human desire to be lovingly opened and treasured by those around us?


Each one….then filled with the sense that we are a precious and irreplaceable gifts from God.

It seems that when we are opened in such a way there is a swelling desire to give of self…wanting to do our part to save God’s world!

Let us open one another carefully!


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A Cradle Son for In-Between

“There is a land in-between –                                                                                                                                                                                                                    I’ve seen it in your eyes,                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        And heard it unfurled with uncommon speech.

To occupy, to saunter, to test and to obey                                                                                                                                                                                             is yours not mine!

I’ve had my own tree-lined pasture                                                                                                                                                                                                             Where oft we camped and counted out the stars!                                                                                                                                                                                                         But now you are the constellation glorious                                                                                                                                                                                             who bids the sun to toil and the moon to glide.

You are; “Ah, what a morning!”                                                                                                                                                                                                                     in thought, in word, indeed!                                                                                                                                                                                                                           And who amid the falling curtains of the night

Belongs to Earth’s sweet lullaby.


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 Almost 3 years after it is published, in the new year,  I will begin a review of a book Complexity Perspectives in Innovation and Social Change, editors David Lane, Sander van der Leeuw, Denise Pumain, Geoffrey West.  I first learned of this book by listening to a master’s class interview with Geoffrey West on the website www.edge.org devoted to multidisciplinary conversation among innovative scholars and scientists.

The book argues that innovation (the way that invention spreads through a population) is the driver behind urbanization.  My goal is to make this book applicable to the church which has, since the time of Jesus, been dealing with social change.

Today,  the church, it seems, can easily become a reactionary institution.  This is quite ironic given the progressive pictures of Jesus in our new testament scriptures and the progressive images of God in the Hebrew scriptures.   Fundamentally the church confesses a faith in a  living God with the help of the Holy Spirit.  Once organized we understand ourselves to be part of  a larger vitality.  Individual members become part of the Body of Christ.

In this critique I will be assuming that the church has a great deal to do with the urban environment that the editors have collected in this book.  Further, I will be assuming that the vitality of a localized congregation is found in its ability to innovate in response to its environment and its tradition.   I am sure I am not alone in this second assumption.  However, the challenge for the local congregation is the how-to of innovation and what are the necessary elements for innovation to flow through a congregation.

I hope to discover important questions and learn as I blog about this book.

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My indoor cat is a window warrior.

Her confidence is unshakable.

Daily she stalks her prey

And dissuades would be trespassers.  (Never mind the window is there).

Her throne window might even have the dogs persuaded.

I am not unlike my indoor cat.

So much of my life is as a window warrior.

But some say that God, at times, opens windows as if they were doors.

Who does the window warrior become when there is no window to protect them?


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Star of Bethlehem, Magi - wise men or wise kin...

I am jumping ahead to what are traditionally the epiphany readings.

Call to worship:

Leader: Expectation is such a difficult experience from which to recover.

People:  It has been, at least, weeks of expectation.  For some of us our expectations linger on.

Leader:  When Mary is no longer expectant she is surprised by what arrives into her life.

People:  Gift-bearing wisdom makes its way.

Leader:  Wisdom is a warp in time.  A place where past and future are conjoined in the present.

All:  Let us worship our God of wise men and women. Amen.

PRAYER OF PRAISE (easily adapted to become a prayer of confession if that is what is needed)

Holy Spirit of intuition and initiative, we praise you for the Christmas offerings of gold frankincense and myrrh presented to the Christ child and thus to us.  May gold remind us of our priceless place as your disciples and thus servants to the world.  May frankincense keep us mindful of our world ever holding others in prayer.  May myrrh leave us courageous enough to give our life and energy into our community for your glory.  May the wise men’s gifts symbolically guide our own lives into the fullness of Christ.  Amen.


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The final petal of Calvinism‘s TULIP is the “P” i.e. the perseverance of the saints.  For Calvinism, this is the idea that the “elect” never lose their salvation in the eyes of God.  Back tracking through Calvinism, however, we come to understand that perseverance of the saints emerges from Calvin’s idea of ongoing sanctification throughout the believer’s life.   (Our previous review of the “elect” in my blogs of  10/25/2011 and 12/13/2011  are a sufficient critique of the difference between Calvinism and Calvin for this blog as well.)

Sanctification is, for Calvin, the continual renewal that goes on in the life of the believer as they are increasingly persuaded by Jesus’ life and ministry.  Calvin would say their heartfelt union with Christ provides for the continual sanctification but sanctification does not stand alone.   The essential twin to sanctification is justification.  While sanctification is the renovation of the individual believer, justification is a gift that Calvin imagines is bestowed by God through the life and ministry of Jesus.  Said yet another way, Calvin does not imagine that a human responsiveness as in sanctification is possible without the generous provision of God i.e. justification.

I have, for a time, had a brief but indelible friendship with a gentleman who committed much of his life to the work of the church.  When talking about the joy of working in the church, he, having been a sailor, likened his joy to scut work.  As he told me not long ago,  “Scut work is a euphemism from Navy parlance for garbage”.   Scut work within the church has an essential nature  that exemplified his industry among good Presbyterian folk.  The essential scut work of congregational and denominational life is found in the tasks that keep us connected to one another.

  • In the records of a meeting or concern for the vitality of congregations other than our own….scut work has a sanctifying effect in that we are involved in a bigger picture than our own immediacy.
  • Scut work of the church involves interpreting the rules and order of being a church in  personal way that allows people to value and honor their relationships more deeply and with greater complexity.  Such was the scut work of Jesus as he traveled house to house…. that continues into the present day sanctifying us when we take it up within our own responsibilities.
  • Scut work in the church is the giving of ourselves (our specific gifts and talents that are organized uniquely in each individual life) trusting in the gifts of others that when compiled realize not only the industry but also the joy of what it means to be the Body of Christ to which the Apostle Paul called the Corinthians and thus us.
  • Scut work is persevering for some 71 brief years, as one welcomes the Holy Spirit to hone the mind, heart and behavior  toward a loving and inclusive God.

One of process theology’s essentials is that truth is emerging.  The world changes and we, as Christians, are challenged not to resist change and hide unnecessarily within an orthodoxy.  Rather, process realizes that each orthodoxy began as a response to changes in world view and individual understanding within it.  What becomes orthodoxy began as a suggested framework by which we might wrestle with and pray about the new world views that continue to challenge the tradition of the church of Jesus Christ.  The perseverance of the saints from a process perspective might be exemplified by one who loves what has been and that same person, with courage, welcomes God’s next thing with a discerning, open  and joyful heart.

I believe that my friend was actively editing his own life, the life of his congregation and his denomination not only because it was what came naturally to him, but also because Jesus was the finest of editors.   Scut work is an unending process attending to the mundane so that the extraordinary may emerge.  Such work ironically produces a sweat-equity sort of joy that is perhaps our finest evidence of sanctification and the continued imagination for Calvin’s notion of justification.

It is my prayer that as I persevere, I might never be talked out of scut work which now has such a joyful face and life associated with it.

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A Call to worship and a prayer of praise for this Sunday.  I love how prayers of praise can be easily adapted to become a meaningful prayer of confession ….


Leader:  Before there were notes on a page, there was rhythm.

People:  Before there was a song in our brain, our heart’s synchronized rhythm could rouse or calm us.

Leader:  Before there was radio or iPods, rhythm could travel.

People:  The first rhythms were occasional in celebration of ordinary stories.

Leader:  When stories found their rhythm, singers lost their fear and trepidation, they found their courage to answer God’s call.

All:  Let us worship our God who loves our rhythm and song.  Amen.


God of our lives, we marvel at the transformation of the mundane.  We can go through the motions and cook a meal, change a diaper, write a card or change a filter but there is no gratitude in going through the motions.  We give you thanks for the emergence of a hum or a whistle that moves our mundane to great fun and joy. Thank you for the people whose rhythms are freely given and infectious. Let us treasure each moment by setting it to rhythm.  We offer this prayer as we remember Mary’s song that surely affected the rhythm of Jesus’ heart.  Amen

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