Discerning Endings

New beginnings are hard. Endings may be even harder. It is hard to say goodbye. It is hard to see all the hard work, all the investment evaporate before our very eyes. It is hard to know when to let go. Some endings are not hard. Some endings are more like heroic escapes in the nick of time. That’s not what I want to address here. I want to address those endings that are hard to come by, hard fought, hard won: endings that feel more like death than relief.

“You’re Next” by Austin Kleon

I have experienced many endings in my life. Most of those endings were extremely difficult. I have shared some of them here. But most of these were more personal.

I want to lift up collective endings. Endings that mark a change in leadership. Endings that mark a change in the existence of a community: a church, an important program, or an organization or set of relationships we came to rely on.

Continue reading Discerning Endings

Resisting Empire: The Book of Revelation (Resources)

My new book on Revelation “Resisting Empire,” has been out a couple of weeks and it’s a lot of fun seeing people download it, read it, and comment on it. If you didn’t know about it or get a chance to check it out, here is a link to the book.

I wanted to make a few more things available for the book that readers can download to use while you read.

Sketchnote Summaries

These are like graphic novel summaries, capturing key ideas from the book. Sketchnotes #3 is the one that summarizes the whole book into a few select images.

Downloadable Resources

The first download is a .pdf of some of the charts that show up in the book. Kindle doesn’t translate those charts very well so here there are which will be easier for you to read. The second link is a series of short devotionals based on the work within this book that was original published for “Fruit of the Vine” publication.

Review #1

If you are looking for a verse by verse commentary on the book of Revelation that will tell you what it “really means” then this is probably not the book you’re looking for.

Yes you will get interpretation. But what you will also get is an extended reflection on what it means to try and read the Apocalypse of John in this world which is so very different from the era in which John of Patmos was writing. And I hope you will take that extended reflection seriously because it will tell you something about how you can read the rest of the scriptures as well.

Let’s look at how we usually read Revelation. We see it as a kind of future history — the world’s first science fiction story if you will. It’s a call to arms it’s a call to join the winning team. And that means fighting the good fight now when it doesn’t look like were winning at hall in faith that God our quarterback will call us offside when the real fight begins. With this reading the beast and the false prophets and all the other strange critters crawling around the pages are all the other guys — there are the bad guys but where the good guys.

C. Wess Daniels presents us with a thoroughly biblical Christology of the Slaughtered Lamb. This is who Christ is for us and this is the model of faithfulness that Christ leaves with us. Life is not about fighting until the rapture comes — it’s about loving our enemies until the our enemies become friends. 

He examines this image of Christ using scapegoat theory. Scapegoat theory was made famous by René Girard the French literary and social sciences critic. But Daniel accesses a Girard mostly through James Alison — the Catholic theologian who applied Girard’s theories to theology. At the heart of our sinfulness lies our tendency to point fingers at other people to make our own discomfort at our vulnerability go away. This is a trap. And God’s way out of that trap is to place her faith in the Lamb that was slaughtered from the foundation of the world.

Read this book. Share it with others. Learn to have faith in a God who is more than just the biggest bully on the block. DavidMcKay | Apr 9, 2019

Review #2

Resisting Empire looks at the Book of Revelation through a different lens than the “Rapture” one that became popular a few generations ago. It reaches for an older reading, based in the Roman Imperial oppression experienced by the churches who received the revelation. This book draws a line between the “religion of empire” and the “religion of the lamb that was slain,” contrasting the lives we lead within each.

Daniels’ quote repertoire is alone a reason to read it. He’s pulling from James Cone, Martin Luther King Jr, James Alison, and Wes Howard-Brook.

If the Book of Revelation has always confused you, or if you’re turned off by Rapture Theology, this is one you’ll want to check out. It’s short too! –Maco April 8, 2019

If you read the book and like it, I’d love to have you leave a short comment on Amazon for me. Thank you in advance!

Yoda on Renewing the Tradition

I was re-watching The Last Jedi with the family yesterday and the scene with Yoda and Luke at the Sacred Tree with all the old texts hit me like a ton of bricks. Yoda is totally convergent, wanting to see the tradition renewed and remixed, while Luke is seen here clinging to “traditionalism.” This reveals an interesting twist, that often it is the one student who believes they are the ones with the responsibility of protecting tradition who turn out to be guilty of leading it towards a slow death. Luke is rebuked here by Yoda as essentially policing/protecting the tradition in a way that will kill it off. Yoda points out that the tradition can actually live without any of the “trimmings and trappings” that Luke has associated with it. I think this scene sums up the key ideas of a convergent model of renewal beautifully.

Introducing Fireweed Coffee Co.

Fireweed is a wildflower that grows in volcanic ash healing the ground underneath.

This past summer I decided to create a little side-project, roasting coffee and selling it at our weekly farmer’s market and online. Some of you are aware of this, but I have never announced “Fireweed Coffee” on Gathering in Light.

The purpose was to really make a creative outlet for myself, give me an opportunity to build community with folks in Greensboro, and improve my roasting skills. 5 Months later we’re going strong, selling about 13-15 pounds of coffee a week to friends, colleagues, and folks in the neighborhood. I love selling my coffee at the farmer’s market each Saturday. It gives me an opportunity to connect with folks and have fun “wearing a different hat.” One of the things I really love about this side project is that it remains creative rather than stressful, and it is a very basic, concrete thing to give someone a cup of hot coffee, see them taste it, and then have them smile because they really like it.

The logo was created by my good friend Seth Ferris

If you want to read more about the story behind all of this there are two places online:

If you are interested in following fireweed online you can find us on Instagram, facebook, and here on our webpage.

You can also order online for the holidays now. I will ship to anywhere in the states.


On Bogus Religion and Elitism

I came across this passage in my reading this morning and it struck me. Like so many things, this connects to some of the things I’ve been working on and thinking about these past few months. Back in January, I went to a great workshop with Soulforce on “Christian Supremacy,” and that has got me thinking a lot about where supremacy, elitism, and what Rohr calls here “sacrificial or bogus religion” play into our attitudes about ourselves and others.

“There is an early state “holiness” that looks like the real thing, but it isn’t. This is sacrificial religion, on which the scribes and Pharisees in every group pride themselves…All zealots and ‘true believers’ tend to be immensely sacrificial on one highly visible level, and fool almost everybody. ‘I sacrifice myself by obeying these laws and attending these services or even serving the poor.’ And by being more heroic than you are, they might think. Often they do not love God or others in such heroic ‘obedience,’ they are merely seeking moral high ground for themselves and the social esteem that comes with it (See Luke 18:11–12). Or as Paul puts it, ‘I can give my body to be burned, but without love, it is worth nothing’ (1 Corinthians 13:3:). Most bogus religion, in my opinion, is highly sacrificial in one or another visible way, but not loving at all. Yet it fools most people. I will not dare to name names here, but you can fill in the blanks.” (Breathing Underwater – Richard Rohr – p.23–24)

As I read this, I did that really “bogus religion” thing where I first thought about who else this applies to, but as it steeps down into my bones, I can’t get away from the query: “How can I make sure I am not falling into this trap?”

In the book Breathing Underwater, where Rohr compares AA and Christian Spirituality, he points to AA as having a process to do this kind of elitism. AA does not reward this kind of “worthiness” behavior and puts everyone on equal ground, “I am an alcoholic.” With this confession of unworthiness, “Suddenly religion loses all capacity for elitism and is democratic to the bone.”

Or as Paul once said, “It is when I am weak that I am strong.”

New Quaker Studies Publications Out

Looks good. Feeling proud. #quakerstudies

For those of you following this blog, I wanted to share with you two recent publications that I’ve worked on this past year in case you have interested in finding out more about them.

Quaker Studies: An Overview: The Current State of the Field Authors: C. Wess Daniels, Robynne Rogers Healey and Jon R. Kershner

Link to the publisher’s page

The first is a book co-authored with two other Quaker scholars, Jon Kershner and Robynne Rogers Healey. The three of us are associate editors on a 6 year project through Brill Publishing on Quaker Studies. We are working with editors Stephen Angell and Pink Dandelion on this this series, which is going to be quite amazing with some new and emerging Quaker scholars in the mix. I’m very excited about it. This initial book is an introduction to the series. Robynne, Jon, and I each introduce a pretty comprehensive look at the work within Quaker studies up until now in each of our respective areas: history, theology, and sociology. Continue reading New Quaker Studies Publications Out