Sunday, October 31, 2004
Saturday, October 30, 2004
Read all seven considerations I make when voting.
Friday, October 29, 2004
In times of great decision,
Be with us, God, we pray!
Give each of us a vision
Of Jesus' loving way.
When louder words seem endless
And other voices sure,
Remind us of your promise:
Your love and truth endure.
0 God, whose gifts are countless,
You send us bearing peace.
You fill our dreams with justice
For all communities.
You give us global neighbors
That all may justly live.
May those we choose as leaders
Reflect the life you give.
0 God, you bridged the distance;
You opened wide your door.
You call us by our presence
To reach to serve the poor.
You teach us: Welcome strangers!
Seek justice on the earth!
May those we choose as leaders
See every person's worth.
You call on every nation
To put aside all greed,
To care for your creation
And for your ones in need,
To care for those in prison,
For children, for the ill.
In times of great decision,
may we choose leaders well.
YES...BUT. Yes...but if I withhold my vote or participation in civic engagement until what I define or describe or think of as a Biblically "moral" politician comes along, I will be waiting a long, long, long, long time.
POLITICIANS ARE...POLITICIANS. All candidates are first and foremost politicians. And politicians are what they are: politicians. They are not the best people. They are not the moral compasses of the nation. They are not the best leaders. They are not likely to be deeply spiritual. They are flawed. They are materialistic. They are savvy. They are compromisers. They are people pleasers...and the people they like to please most are themselves, their cronies and those who support them. They are ambitious for themselves and their ideological assertions. They are addicted to power. They will likely say anything to get elected and do anything to stay in power. This is true even of and particularly for those who cloak themselves in robes of righteousness; they only blind themselves to the plank in their own eye.
THE LAST MORAL CHOICE. Who is moral or who has a "more" moral platform is a relative factor in civic leadership and elections. There has never been a time in American history in which voters have had a purely "moral" or Christian choice. A Biblically moral person and platform is unelectable (they rejected and crucified the last one).
THE WILL AND POWER TO DO JUSTICE. Personal morality and moral sensitivities in candidate or party platforms are but one of many factors that should be considered when voting. For me, the will and power to do justice for the dispossessed ranks higher as a voting factor than a candidate being able to pass my list of Christian sensitivities.
WHY I WILL VOTE. Here's why I will vote, in spite of limited choices: We participate in a democracy that strives for the best possible at the time, not the perfect person or answer forever. That I have the privilege of a vote at all is historically incredible. And our particular democracy is blessed to at least have some orientation to Biblical principles. And, at the same time, our founders had the wisdom to separate church and state. My hope for humanity's future, for the transformation of society and redemption of all cultures lies not in the state but in the confession "Christ has died; Christ has risen; Christ is coming again," and in living the Kingdom of God as we are given grace to glimpse and embody it.
I DARE TO VOTE. As feeble as I may think the voting options are, I dare to put what I have learned and know about Christian ethics and decision-making in the face of many bad choice options to work. I will, in the words attributed to Martin Luther, "trust God and sin boldly."
Thursday, October 28, 2004
Wednesday, October 27, 2004
Long-time Boston fan (are there many in the midwest?) and Indy native Tom Orr sent me this link to a good article about Red Sox fans.
#1: “WHAT DOES IT DO TO THE POOR?” At the core, my politics really come down to framing one question in reflection of any candidate’s or regime’s positions, policies, proposals, priorities, etc.: “What does it do to the poor?” A leading evangelical from another generation, Nicolás Wolterstorf, framed this question. Regarding it, the evangelical media and religious and political voices that purport to speak for “moral” issues have not raised this question or considered it. Neither domestic poverty nor the impact of American policies on those who are poor internationally factor into this year’s campaign. Yet it was to the poor who were being crushed by the Romans and belittled and condemned by the Pharisees that Jesus primarily addressed himself and to whom he announced the Kingdom. The poor continue to be disregarded by the powerful; their issues and concerns are lost in political agendas that seem to be influenced more and more by money and the preservation of moneyed advantage than morals (even the moral issues mentioned seem to be litmus tests or smoke screens behind which unbridled greed, self interest, and power are sought).
Read all Seven Considerations at www.geocities.com/bikehiker/electionspecial.html
Tuesday, October 26, 2004
GRACE NOTES THIS WEEK. I just posted my "weekly fragments from the margins of a graced life" at www.geocities.com/bikehiker/gn102404.html. This week's Grace Notes contents include:
- October Epic - a reflection on Boston and the "Curse of the Bambino"
- Forgiveness and Gratitude - a quote from Henri Nouwen
- A New Confession of Christ - text from the recently signed statement regarding Christian witness in a world of violence
Monday, October 25, 2004
Friday, October 22, 2004
“Quit trying to get your personal needs met by making members of your family conform to you and live up to your expectations. Instead, learn to depend upon God to meet your heart needs. He’s the only one who can fill the emptiness inside and satisfy your soul, anyway. When you count on Christ to meet your needs, it sends ripples through every other relationship.”
Thursday, October 21, 2004
Our world is wracked with violence and war. But Jesus said: "Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called the children of God" (Matt. 5:9). Innocent people, at home and abroad, are increasingly threatened by terrorist attacks. But Jesus said: "Love your enemies, pray for those who persecute you" (Matt. 5:44). These words, which have never been easy, seem all the more difficult today.
Nevertheless, a time comes when silence is betrayal. How many churches have heard sermons on these texts since the terrorist atrocities of September 11? Where is the serious debate about what it means to confess Christ in a world of violence? Does Christian "realism" mean resigning ourselves to an endless future of "pre-emptive wars"? Does it mean turning a blind eye to torture and massive civilian casualties? Does it mean acting out of fear and resentment rather than intelligence and restraint?
Faithfully confessing Christ is the church's task, and never more so than when its confession is co-opted by militarism and nationalism.
- A "theology of war," emanating from the highest circles of American government, is seeping into our churches as well.
- The language of "righteous empire" is employed with growing frequency.
- The roles of God, church, and nation are confused by talk of an American "mission" and "divine appointment" to "rid the world of evil."
The security issues before our nation allow no easy solutions. No one has a monopoly on the truth. But a policy that rejects the wisdom of international consultation should not be baptized by religiosity. The danger today is political idolatry exacerbated by the politics of fear.
In this time of crisis, we need a new confession of Christ.
1. Jesus Christ, as attested in Holy Scripture, knows no national boundaries. Those who confess his name are found throughout the earth. Our allegiance to Christ takes priority over national identity. Whenever Christianity compromises with empire, the gospel of Christ is discredited.
We reject the false teaching that any nation-state can ever be described with the words, "the light shines in the darkness and the darkness has not overcome it." These words, used in scripture, apply only to Christ. No political or religious leader has the right to twist them in the service of war.
2. Christ commits Christians to a strong presumption against war. The wanton destructiveness of modern warfare strengthens this obligation. Standing in the shadow of the Cross, Christians have a responsibility to count the cost, speak out for the victims, and explore every alternative before a nation goes to war. We are committed to international cooperation rather than unilateral policies.
We reject the false teaching that a war on terrorism takes precedence over ethical and legal norms. Some things ought never be done - torture, the deliberate bombing of civilians, the use of indiscriminate weapons of mass destruction - regardless of the consequences.
3. Christ commands us to see not only the splinter in our adversary's eye, but also the beam in our own. The distinction between good and evil does not run between one nation and another, or one group and another. It runs straight through every human heart.
We reject the false teaching that America is a "Christian nation," representing only virtue, while its adversaries are nothing but vicious. We reject the belief that America has nothing to repent of, even as we reject that it represents most of the world's evil. All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God (Rom. 3:23).
4. Christ shows us that enemy-love is the heart of the gospel. While we were yet enemies, Christ died for us (Rom. 5:8, 10). We are to show love to our enemies even as we believe God in Christ has shown love to us and the whole world. Enemy-love does not mean capitulating to hostile agendas or domination. It does mean refusing to demonize any human being created in God's image.
We reject the false teaching that any human being can be defined as outside the law's protection. We reject the demonization of perceived enemies, which only paves the way to abuse; and we reject the mistreatment of prisoners, regardless of supposed benefits to their captors.
5. Christ teaches us that humility is the virtue befitting forgiven sinners. It tempers all political disagreements, and it allows that our own political perceptions, in a complex world, may be wrong.
We reject the false teaching that those who are not for the United States politically are against it or that those who fundamentally question American policies must be with the "evil-doers." Such crude distinctions, especially when used by Christians, are expressions of the Manichaean heresy, in which the world is divided into forces of absolute good and absolute evil.
The Lord Jesus Christ is either authoritative for Christians, or he is not. His Lordship cannot be set aside by any earthly power. His words may not be distorted for propagandistic purposes. No nation-state may usurp the place of God.
We believe that acknowledging these truths is indispensable for followers of Christ. We urge them to remember these principles in making their decisions as citizens. Peacemaking is central to our vocation in a troubled world where Christ is Lord.
"To leave home, whether it was a good or bad home, is one of the greatest spiritual challenges of our life. Two of the most important ways of leaving father, mother, brother, or sister are forgiveness and gratitude. There is so much to forgive. But if we are willing to see our own parents, grandparents, and great-grandparents as people like ourselves with a desire to love but also with many unfulfilled needs, we might be able to step over our anger, our resentments, or even our hatred, and discover their limited love is still real love, a love for which to be grateful."
Wednesday, October 20, 2004
Tuesday, October 19, 2004
"47" IS THE NUMBER. That's 47 weeks for me as Senior Pastor of West Morris Street church. I've joked about this with the congregation on Sunday mornings from time to time: "Well, this is my eleventh Sunday as your pastor...and they haven't shut us down yet!" Forty-seven means we're nearing a year--I think it will be the last Sunday in November, since I started the first Sunday of December, 2003.
Monday, October 18, 2004
CHALLENGE IN ALL DIRECTIONS. Whatever way I go, whatever street or highway I take, I am aware that these are places people have left behind or are moving toward. These are emotional and generational boundaries as well as geographic locales. They represent spiritual journeys toward and away from Christian discipleship, hospitality, and creative witness.
WHOLE CITY. As I think about this, it seems to me that metropolitan ministry, for both individuals and groups, calls for ever higher levels of understanding and appreciation for the whole city, its movements, and its challenges--inside and out.
- Autumn Prayer by Ted Loder
- Where the Sidewalks End
- The Lord of the Dance
Sunday, October 17, 2004
Jared and the Ben Davis High School boys varsity finished runner-up in the Ben Davis Sectional, falling 0-1 to Covenant Christian on Saturday evening; BD defeated Ritter earlier in the day. BD's mostly sophomore and junior team will return next fall as a strong contender for the MIC conference and a possible berth in the "elite eight" of the state tourney.
On Saturday in Ben Davis Cadet Football, the Bears beat the Bucs, 12-0, and Sam's team finished the season 5-2. Good luck in the playoffs Sam.
Up in Warsaw, Indiana, where Olivet Nazarene University soccer women visited Grace College, Abby's team defeated Grace 2-0 on what was the coldest day of the year...so far. Good luck in upcoming playoff games, Abby.
LOOK UP! IT'S A... All eyes are on a soccer ball (looking more like a flying billiard ball) kicked into play during the championship game of the U-14 Gold Division of the Nightmare at the Rock tournament in Center Grove, Indiana. The girls in blue are Arsenal; Molly is #5. Arsenal won on PKs after two overtimes, 4-1.
Friday, October 15, 2004
O extravagant God,
in this ripening, red-tinged autumn,
waken in me a sense of joy
in just being alive,
joy for nothing in general
except everything in particular;
joy in sun and rain
mating with earth to birth a harvest;
joy in soft light
through shyly disrobing trees;
joy in the acolyte moon
setting halos around processing clouds;
joy in the beating of a thousand wings
mysteriously knowing which way is warm;
joy in wagging tails and kids’ smiles
and in this spunky old city;
joy in the taste of bread and wine,
the smell of dawn,
joy in having what I cannot live without --
other people to hold and cry and laugh with;
joy in love,
and that all at first and last
Thursday, October 14, 2004
DARING TO KEEP SABBATH. “Yet Jews and Christians are peculiar people who celebrate the Sabbath rest and understand that rest as one of the most crucial aspects of our witness. Unlike others in our society, we claim that our lives do not belong to us and are not in our control. We claim there is a Creator who trusts the goodness of his creation enough even to rest himself on the seventh day! How better can we show that the world and its welfare do not depend on us and our efforts than to rest regularly and boldly? How better to show that the world is good enough to believe in than to let it be one day a week?” -- Rodney Clapp in Families At the Crossroads (IVP)
Tuesday, October 12, 2004
"There is such an enormous gap between our words and deeds! Everyone talks about freedom, democracy, justice, human rights, and peace; but at the same time, everyone, more or less, consciously or unconsciously, serves those values and ideals only to the extent necessary to defend and serve his own interests, and those of his group or his state. Who should break this vicious circle? Responsibility cannot be preached: it can only be borne, and the only possible place to begin is with oneself."
Northwest played with the intensity and skill of an all-Latino team. BD countered with tough defense and good strategy. It was a rough game; at least 10 yellow cards were handed out. Once again, Jared shined.
BD takes on Cardnal Ritter in Sectional round 2 on Saturday morning; if they win that game they will likely face either Pike (ranked 7th in the state) or Covenant Christian for the Sectional championship at 8:00 pm Saturday night. Go Giants!
Monday, October 11, 2004
GRACE NOTES UPLOADED. I just uploaded to my www.geocities.com/bikehiker site the latest edition of my weekly e-journal. This week's contents includes:
- A reflection on the choice of Wangari Maathai to receive the 2004 Nobel Peace Prize.
- A reflection on forgiveness in the household.
- The Dominion of Trees, a poem by Annie Dillard.
Sunday, October 10, 2004
1. Forgiveness is an imperative for authentic Christian life and witness.
2. Forgiveness in the household is necessary because we are selfish, error-prone, and often presumptuous.
3. Forgiveness is possible because God is gracious.
4. Forgiveness is both a daily choice and a distinctly heavenly grace.
Friday, October 8, 2004
TREE HUGGER WINS. This is the first time the Nobel Peace Prize has gone to someone for working for environmental concerns. Kenyan Wangari Maathai's work is tied inextricably to local and international justice. Her efforts to oppose development exposed the strong-arm corruption of Daniel arap Moi's government. And the Green Belt network has helped many women become self-sufficient through the sale of saplings in a country that had become 90% deforested through rapacious development and bad wood harvesting practices.
TALE OF TWO WOMEN. On the day when a popular and "ideal" American woman entered jail for lying about investments on the stock market, a relatively unknown 64-year old Kenyan woman entered world consciousness and won the world's most celebrated award. Meet Wangari Maathai, winner of the 2004 Nobel Peace Prize. She's no Martha Stewart. Maathai has likely never made cutesy knick-knacks. But Stewart has probably not stripped naked in public to show marks from beatings from her government, either.
"To forgive the incessant provocations of daily life – to keep on forgiving the bossy mother-in-law, the bullying husband, the nagging wife, the selfish daughter, the deceitful son – how can we do it? Only, I think, by remembering where we stand, by meaning our words when we say in our prayers each night, 'Forgive our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us."
Thursday, October 7, 2004
Wednesday, October 6, 2004
Tuesday, October 5, 2004
POHL & SOME OF THE PIC'S. These are some of the "Pastors In Community" that I am in discussion with this week at Simpsonwood near Atlanta. On the far left is Christine Pohl, author of the groundbreaking book on hospitality, Making Room: Recovering Hospitality as a Christian Tradition. Among the range of evangelical pastors from California to New Hampshire are three Free Methodists (myself included).
Monday, October 4, 2004
MAKE THE MOST OF SMALL OPPORTUNITIES. “Your chance is to be found in a continuing succession of small, manageable events - little opportunities as well as the great ones. Every time any public building is built, that building is a statement to anyone who uses it, anyone who passes by, as to what this city thinks about itself, what standards it sets for itself, what it aims to be.”
WHAT STATEMENTS DO OUR BUILDINGS MAKE? “It matters not whether the building be a city hall, a museum, a school, a jail, a fire station, a parking garage, a park, or for that matter, new signage laws, exposed power lines, or the design of benches at bus stops. Each, for good or ill, makes a statement.”
CREATE ENDURING MESSAGES. “If the design and construction is clearly aimed to be the best it can be, that message is sent out every day, as long as the building or the park, or the ordinance stands. If the design is ugly or routine and the construction shoddy, the message is that nobody really cares. Nothing you do or build is too small or too insignificant not to do well.” Read more of J. Irwin Miller's reflections @ www.geocities.com/bikehiker/gn100304.html.
Sunday, October 3, 2004
THAT'S MY OLDEST SON. Yeah, the one waving his hands and acting crazy. The Indianapolis Star snapped this photo (and put it on its web site: www.indystar.com) at Friday night's Indianapolis Ben Davis High School vs Lawrence North football game. BD (6-2) beat previously undefeated LN, 14-7. Not sure what Jared won...or lost? Click on this or any photo on the blog to get a larger view.
Saturday, October 2, 2004
ANOTHER PATRIOTISM. Scott Button, age 18, comments on military recruiting in school, and wraps up his essay with this: "It is not enough just to say, 'I oppose killing in war'; we must represent our opposition as positive energy through our daily actions. We must not condemn those willing to die for what they see as the good of our country, but join them by demonstrating that another kind of patriotism rests in offering enthusiastic service to help make America and the rest of the world a safer, happier, and better place."
Friday, October 1, 2004
JARED CHIPS THE BALL TO A FORWARD. That's our blond-haired bomber, #3, chipping the ball to a forward in Thursday night's second round of the Marion County High School Boys Soccer Tournament. Ben Davis trounced Perry Meridian 6-3 to advance to the semi-final round. The Giants face Lawrence North on Saturday morning.