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I thought I would create a space to share some of my life thoughts as well as some my life's adventures and misadventures. I am not sure what is in store for this Blog. I love God, I love my wife, I enjoy reading, kayaking, cooking, thinking about ways to sustainably help the world's poor, and leaving a smaller carbon footprint on this planet—Steve G’s Eclectic World. As life is both an experiment and a journey so is this blog. I hope that you will take what you like and leave the rest.



Monday, May 1, 2017

NOT SO MUCH A POLEMIC BUT MORE THOUGHTS ON CHRISTIAN WORSHIP




Last week I wrote a rather long comment on a Facebook post of mine responding to an inquiry from a friend.  Often, comments such as these are fleeting for me.  However, one part of that comment stuck with me the rest of the week.  I will be honest here—I am not real comfortable with worship.  To clarify that, I am thinking in the context of incredibly well-produced-Cold-Playesque-concert worship music that typically begins many church services.  Much of this music fits in the context of penal substitutionary atonement; a dogma that no longer is part of my canon.  However, perhaps that is a topic for another post at some point—we will stick to worship here. The friend that I was responding to chose to walk away from the church years ago.  Here is part of what he shared:

In order to be honest with myself, I had to leave the church and abandon god at age 16. I can assure you at that age it was an extremely difficult thing to do. Everybody in my town was a believer, or so they said.

Sadly, I saw a lot of dishonesty and injustice back then and since then, perpetrated by people of faith, and also those of little or no faith to be sure.

One of the most difficult things I had to reconcile, was how to be a person with some decency, respect and compassion without a "rule" book.

I learned that I needed to examine my daily dealings with myself and those around me with critical thoughts and eyes.

I needed to understand what I would expect of others, but more to the point, what I needed to expect from myself.

Reality is at best elusive if it exists at all. Truth varies enormously from person to person, place to place and circumstance to circumstance.

Amidst that response I was also asked from a place of honest inquiry about my journey.  I let my response just stream and here I am a week later not being able to let go of what came out respecting worship.  Add to all of this, I just finished Richard Rohr’s The Naked Eye which really debunks many of the merits of dualism, which has both challenged and reaffirmed the path that I am on.  However, before continuing and in the spirit of Rohr’s book, coupled with the last sentence from my friend; what I share below should not be looked at through a dualistic lens.  That is, I am not making the claim that there is no value in worship—even if it is at church with a band that makes you feel like you are at a Cold Play concert.  Rather, this is my narrative respecting worship, contextualized in the church setting, and my hope is that it will open and challenge hearts and create dialogue.

Part of my response to my friend read something along these lines: Four rather short narratives on the life of Jewish Carpenter from 2000 years ago is a limited amount of data to go on. But I am completely taken with the life of Jesus. Sure, Ghandi and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. talked about enemy love, but Jesus was really the first to preach and live it.  This idea and practice is something that I want to emulate.  Jesus, however, never called his followers to worship him.  I am a bit appalled at the word "worship." It makes me wonder if perhaps if it is even blasphemous to worship Jesus.  Jesus was offered the world if he would worship Satan (Luke 4:7).  Interestingly, the ESV translation has Jesus’ response to Satan as “You shall worship the Lord your God, and him only shall you serve.”  This is a quote from Deuteronomy 6:13 which in the same ESV version of the Bible reads “It is the Lord your God you shall fear.  Him you shall serve and by his name you shall swear.”  Moreover, pagan culture is was full of worship, a practice that Aaron emulated in Exodus 32, which God said resulted in them corrupting themselves (v. 7).  I am unconvinced that I am called or commanded to worship at all.  With Jesus challenging us to make disciples (Matthew 28) and his bold and humble exclamation that his followers would do greater things than him (John 14) it would appear that Jesus was not and is not now interested in us worshipping him.  What if Jesus completely debunks the concept of worship?  What if I/we are called to follow…period?  I am not 100 percent sure what that looks like. My journey has become a perpetual deconstruction- reconstruction process. My hope is that each time I am able to deconstruct and reconstruct I am capable of loving deeper.  For me, most often, this deconstruction and reconstruction consists not in worshipping but feebly attempting to follow that carpenter from 2000 years ago.

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

CONFUSION AND PEACEMAKING: AN ODD CORRELATION



My amazing mother-in-law, Claude, recently chided me on how my trip to Palestine/Israel was.  I struggle with such broad questions and my beautiful, amazing wife, Helene, was able to ask me several specific questions in responding to her mother’s query.  One of the questions Helene asked was what was one thing you learned that you didn’t know before, even though it is my fifth trip?  The short answer to that question is Confusion.  Below is a slightly edited e-mail to Claude that I felt worth sharing with a large audience on how I came home with a new perspective of confusion.


The focus of our trip is from Jesus' Sermon on the Mount in Matthew five--specifically Matthew 5:9.  This passage states "Blessed are the Peacemakers, for they will be called children of God."  What can we learn from this passage that will help us to become better peacemakers.  Somewhat ironically, one word that I walked away from this trip fixated on is "confusion." 


Daoud Nasser and his family are Palestinians who live on a 100-acre farm just outside of Bethlehem they call The Tent of Nations--they have Ottoman Papers showing ownership of their land which has allowed them to, thus far, maintain their land--they have an open court case that they have been fighting in Israeli courts for more than 25 years now.  Five settlements surround their land.  The motto of the farm is "We refuse to be enemies."  They host people from all over the world and the fact that they are well known throughout the world has undoubtedly helped them to keep their farm. 

Daoud shared one story with us where the IDF, clad with weapons and their green uniforms came to the farm and broke down their gate.  Daoud, calmly asked the IDF what they were doing and they said that we have a reason to visit you.   Daoud's response: "Well, here on this farm we have a custom of sharing tea with those that visit us...please come share some tea."  The IDF commander was perplexed and confused, but on Daoud's insistence the soldiers came into one of the caves that the family has made habitable to share tea with Daoud.  Of course, this was awkward, but at the end of having tea the soldiers thanked Daoud and appeared to have forgotten what their original reason for coming to the farm was.  I could not help but think about myself and the last time that I was confused.  What went on in my head?  My answer to that is that most everything else stops--and I focus on what it is that is confusing me--it flips a trigger.  IDF soldiers and soldiers around the world are taught to dehumanize the other--my own father shares that he was trained to kill "gooks" in his Marine basic training during the Vietnam war--gooks not other humans, not fathers, husbands, brothers and sons—no, gooks.  When Daoud invited the soldiers to tea, he overcame fear, he took the power out of the soldiers in confusing them in not playing their game of dehumanizing.  Rather, he recognized their worth as humans.  Let us not forget that the soldiers thanked Daoud for the tea as they left--those soldiers also saw the humanity in Daoud.  This is how one refuses to be an enemy—it is how one is demonstrating what it means to be a peacemaker.