Thursday, March 27, 2008

Never a Dull Moment

Today I co-officiated a funeral for a man named Bill who died at the age of 83. My participation in both the grave site ceremony and the funeral service was limited to reading scripture and sharing a prayer, but it was enough to make me wonder “Am I really doing this?” It also forced me to ponder the Christian response to death.

For the funeral service, I read from Romans 8:18-25. This passage speaks of creation’s bondage to decay and its groaning to be set free. It also speaks of the anticipation of the redemption of the body.

Personally, what I find most fascinating about this passage is the absence of heaven. I have become more aware of the fact that most Christians today speak of heaven as the final resting place for those who have “fallen asleep” in Christ. In other words, getting to heaven is the goal in mind. But this is simply, to borrow the title of a recently published book, UnChristian. N.T. Wright talks a lot about this in his latest book called Surprised by Hope. He says that most Christians, as well as non-Christians for that matter, have a very muddled view of what exactly happens to a person after they die.

According to Wright, the historical Christian belief is that heaven is a temporary resting place that precedes the greater event of the resurrection of the dead and the redemption of the entire cosmos. But why all our talk of “Going to heaven”? Why is it that when Billy Graham asks, “If you died today, do you know where you would go?” his question is preoccupied with getting to heaven?

If you ask me, the resurrection of the body and the redemption of the entire cosmos is a hope worth celebrating which gives us a joy-filled response to death.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

New England, Playa

Sometimes I have a hard time articulating to my friends from the west coast what living in New England is like. But at last I have found something that perfectly describes what life in the northeast is all about. Please take a couple of minutes to watch this video. Enjoy!

Monday, March 24, 2008

New York on a Dime

This past week my sister came out to visit along with a friend of hers that I had met over the summer. We planned on doing some serious traveling: 5 states in 6 days including a two night stay in New York City. Of course, the three of us had little money to back up our ambitions to travel so we needed our dollar to go far. Lots of people we’re telling me how expensive New York is (and it is), but surprisingly there are some really inexpensive travel and lodging options:

1. I live about 50 miles north of Boston and by far the cheapest way to travel between Boston and New York is via the infamous Chinese buses. There are several of these so-called Chinese bus companies that offer direct travel from China Town Boston to China Town New York for a mere $15 each way. Granted, these are older coach style buses with dated upholstery and seats with a protruding metal bar that runs across your back; but if you’re not concerned about traveling in style or comfort and just need to get to New York cheaply this is the mode of transportation for you.

2. Hostels in Harlem are cheap. You can’t find any where cheaper to stay in Manhattan. Okay, so I’m totally not racist or anything but I’d be lying if I said that I wasn’t slightly concerned about walking the streets of Harlem with two girls. But being the only white people around wasn’t all that intimidating and for $17 a night we couldn’t let such a deal pass us by. $17 included a bed, linens, a towel, and all the knock-off brand sugary cereal you could eat for breakfast.

Sunday, March 16, 2008


There’s a niche market for just about everything nowadays. The church is no exception. I was recently sifting through a pile of catalogues and other “ecclesial junk mail” in the church office and came across a church supply catalogue called Living Grace. The cover was announcing Stoles For All Seasons As Low As $19.99 (Wow what a deal!). The attractive-obviously-not-a-pastor model on the cover sporting the white clerical robe and purple stole led me to investigate further the catalogue's contents. As I flipped through the pages of the catalogue I was taken back by all the Christian junk being sold for a discount rate if ordered by the case. Here are just a few of my favorites:

1) The “Noisy Offering Can” is advertised as having a “metal bottom" which "makes taking of offering NOISY! Listen to the change rattle in the pot and watch the giving momentum grow!” I bet the Pharisees had a Noisy Offering Can.
2) “The Gospel in a Nutshell”? You can’t be serious. Someone’s going to get punched.
3) Oh thank God we finally don’t to have to settle for the same ole boring clear communion cups. Now you can get them in “Bronze” and “Cherry”.
4) The “Golf-style polo shirt with embroidered Ichthus" now gives me something to sport on the week days.

My hat’s off to Living Grace for providing affordable church supplies since 1948.

Sunday, March 9, 2008

Emergent Church

Much has been said about the growing Emergent Church movement, especially in recent years. A lot of enthusiasm as well as criticism have surrounded the movement and its major proponents. Since the unveiling of Tony Jones’ new book The New Christians: Dispatches from the Emergent Frontier, there has been a significant spike in the amount of dialogue around Emergent Christianity. Although I have had some exposure to the movement through reading books written by some of the more recognizable Emergents such as Brian McLaren, I didn't feel confident that I understood what Emergents or their churches were all about. I decided that I needed to learn more so I read Jones’ book. To my surprise, as I moved through the book, I self-identified with almost all twenty of his descriptions (what he calls "dispatches") of Emergent Christianity. I guess that makes me Emergent, or at least Emerging (I was reminded just recently that we have to be careful to acknowledge the difference between Emerging and Emergent, since the latter is an official organization). How about you? Do the Emergent dispatches resonate with you?

1. Emergents find little importance in the discrete differences between the various flavors of Christianity. Instead, they practice a generous orthodoxy that appreciates the contributions of all Christian movements.
2. Emergents reject the politics and theologies of left versus right. Seeing both sides as a remnant of modernity, they look forward to a more complex reality.
3. The gospel is like lava: no matter how much crust has formed over it, it will always find a weak point and burst through.
4. The emergent phenomenon began in the late 1990s when a group of Christian leaders began a conversation about how postmodernism was affecting the faith.
5. The emergent movement is not exclusively North American; it is growing around the globe.
6. Emergents see God’s activity in all aspects of culture and reject the sacred-secular divide.
7. Emergents believe that an envelope of friendship and reconciliation must surround all debates about doctrine and dogma.
8. Emergents find the biblical call to community more compelling than the democratic call to individual rights. The challenge lies in being faithful to both ideals.
9. The emergent movement is robustly theological; the conviction is that theology and practice are inextricably related, and each invariably informs the other.
10. Emergents believe that theology is local, conversational, and temporary. To be faithful to the theological giants of the past, emergents endeavor to continue their theological dialogue.
11. Emergents believe that awareness of our relative position—to God, to one another, and to history—breeds biblical humility, not relativistic apathy.
12. Emergents embrace the whole Bible, the glory and the pathos.
13. Emergents believe that truth, like god, cannot be definitively articulated by finite human beings.
14. Emergents embrace paradox, especially those that are core components of the Christian story.
15. Emergents hold to a hope-filled eschatology: it was good news when Jesus came the first time, and it will be good news when he returns.
16. Emergents believe that church should function more like an open-source network and less like a hierarchy or a bureaucracy.
17. Emergents start new churches to save their own faith, not necessarily as an outreach strategy.
18. Emergents firmly hold that God’s Spirit—not their own efforts—is responsible for good in the world. The human task is to cooperate with God in what God is already doing.
19. Emergents downplay—or outright reject—the differences between clergy and laity.
20. Emergents believe that church should be just as beautiful and messy as life.

Friday, March 7, 2008

Good Friday

I can just imagine it now… Todd approaches his friend Suzie and says, “Hey Suzie, what’s your church doing for their Good Friday service? Suzie replies, “We’re going to have lots of candles and everyone will receive a nail and a scrap of paper to nail their sins to a cross at the front of the sanctuary.” After her response, Suzie asks Todd, “What is your church planning to do for their Good Friday service?” Todd says, “Oh, well we’re going to crucify somebody for a half hour.”

Sound outrageous? Well, my most favorite controversial church is pulling out all the stops for its Good Friday service this year. The Mars Hill Ballard campus in Seattle, Washington is crucifying someone during their service. Don’t believe me? Check out the link:

Thursday, March 6, 2008

New Wetsuit

Something exciting happened this week... I got a new wetsuit! Yeah I know, not that cool, but I thought I'd post something since it had been a while. I hope the diversity (randomness) of my blogging is appreciated. If you were curious, the suit is a Quicksilver Ignite 4/3 Hyperstretch. By the way, the Atlantic Ocean was 38 degrees today; that's up from 36 degrees a month ago.