‘it defines itself in terms of the growing edge’ -H. Thurman

The crucifixion of Jesus Christ reminds us once again of the penalty which any highly organized society exacts of those who violate its laws. The social resistors fall into two general groups – those who resist the established order by doing the things that are in opposition to accepted standards of decency and morality: the criminal, the antisocial, the outlaw; and those who resist the established order because its requirements are too low, too unworthy the highest and best in man. Each is a menace to organized society and both must be liquidated as disturbers of the peace.

Behold then the hill outside of the city of Jerusalem, the criminal and the Holy Man sharing a common judgment, because one rose as high above the conventions of his age as the other descended below. Perhaps it is ever thus. Whenever a Jesus Christ is crucified, there will also be crucified beside him the thief — two symbols of resistance to the established pattern. When Christianity makes central in its doctrine the redemptive significance of the cross, it defines itself ever in terms of the growing edge, the advance guard of the human race, who take the lead in man’s long march to the City of God.

-Howard Thurman (Deep Is The Hunger)

The Nursery of Truth (John 15)

From the very beginning of the Quaker movement, Friends have liked asking questions. Part of this is because they got rid of the creeds, and something need to take their place.

So they used queries.

We could have t-shirts made up that says something like “The church of questions.”

(Q:) What do you think of that? Wouldn’t that be interesting?

It’s like being in a classroom within one of those really annoying teachers and you raise hand to ask a question “Professor, what is Paul’s anthropology?” And the professor responds back, “Well Johnny, what do you think it is?”

It’s hard to get answers out of someone like that.

George Fox was famous for saying, “the apostles say this, and the priest say that, but what canst thou say?”

For Quakers, the purpose of queries is to help spur on the growth of truth in our lives and meetings. Continue reading The Nursery of Truth (John 15)

Convers(at)ions in Community: On Creating Space for Dialogue Around the Sermon

This is a third post in a series of reflections on the nature of dialogue and transformation, or “convers(at)ion” as I am referring to it as for a little playfulness (see a and b).

These are some ideas of how we try to inhabit some of the ideas of conversations/conversions within our faith community specifically around our dialogue with scripture.

Invite the congregation to reflect throughout the week on the upcoming text

I got started doing this very early on at Camas Friends (almost 6 years ago). I think I stole the idea from my friend Jason M. but I’m not sure where it came from now. But basically I send the text out on Tuesday or Wednesday so people can reflect on it the rest of the week. Continue reading Convers(at)ions in Community: On Creating Space for Dialogue Around the Sermon

The Taste of Truth (John 18:33-38)

“Pilate asked him, “So you are a king?” Jesus answered, “You say that I am a king. For this I was born, and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone who belongs to the truth listens to my voice.” Pilate asked him, “What is truth?” (John 18:37–38 NRSV)

I, like Pilate, want to know what is truth.

I want to be able to identify truth the way that I can identify the notes of coffee from Ethiopia and distinguish it from coffee that came from Central America. I want to recognize the hints of truth the way I can recognize the hints of berries, chocolate, and orange in a fresh cup of Joe.

Pilate’s question, what is truth, is an honest one. It is a universal one. It sums up every question that has ever been asked. Is God there? Does she or he love me? Is this job the right job for me? Have I done good enough? What is the right thing to do?

Then Pilate asked him, “What is truth?” Continue reading The Taste of Truth (John 18:33-38)

The Contours of Convers(at)ions

Yesterday I began to sketch out some thoughts on how my approach to teaching the Bible has shifted towards a participatory understanding of learning and community. (This is no small part is influenced by the research of my dissertation and is reflected in much greater detail there and in my forthcoming book.)

Today I want to say something about why this play on words, convers(at)ions, which I take to reflect the interplay between conversation and conversion.

It is my belief that we are shaped by many micro-conversions throughout life. I’ve written about three of my own in the past (a, b & c). There may be one central moment where we “wake up” from a like Lazarus, but as I look back through my life I see many points at which my life took on, sometimes, radically new information and incorporated it into my existing framework or even shifted that framework in a new direction. Continue reading The Contours of Convers(at)ions