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Archive for January, 2010

Assignment: Create an exercise in missing the point of the message of the Gospels.

Answer: Army rifles with Bible verses.

http://abcnews.go.com/video/playerIndex?id=9598128

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So I’ve recently run across the Catholic Rosary.  While I’m drawn to it’s structure and it’s ability to help people pray, as a good Anabaptist, I take issue with some of it’s theology.  So here is my initial thoughts and proposal for an Anabaptist Rosary.

First- An orientation to the actual Rosary.

How to pray the Rosary
1. Make the Sign of the Cross and say the “Apostles Creed.”
2. Say the “Our Father.”
3. Say three “Hail Marys.”
4. Say the “Glory be to the Father.”
5. Announce the First Mystery; then say
the “Our Father.”
6. Say ten “Hail Marys,” while meditating on the Mystery.
7. Say the “Glory be to the Father.”
8. Announce the Second Mystery: then say the “Our Father.” Repeat 6 and 7 and continue with the Third, Fourth, and Fifth Mysteries in the same manner.
9. Say the ‘Hail, Holy Queen’ on the medal after the five decades are completed.
As a general rule, depending on the season, the Joyful Mysteries are said on Monday and Saturday; the Sorrowful Mysteries on Tuesday and Friday; the Glorious Mysteries on Wednesday and Sunday; and the Luminous Mysteries on Thursday.

Prayers of the Rosary

THE SIGN OF THE CROSS

In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

THE APOSTLES’ CREED

I believe in God, the Father almighty, Creator of heaven and earth. I believe in Jesus Christ, His only Son, our Lord. He was conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit, and born of the Virgin Mary. He suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died, and was buried. He descended to the dead. On the third day He rose again. He ascended into heaven, and is seated at the right hand of the Father. He will come again to judge the living and the dead. I believe in the Holy Spirit, the holy catholic Church, the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting. Amen.

OUR FATHER

Our Father, who art in heaven; hallowed be Thy name; Thy kingdom come; Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread; and forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us, and lead us not into temptation; but deliver us from evil. Amen.

HAIL MARY

Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with you; blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb, Jesus. Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death. Amen.

GLORY BE TO THE FATHER

Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit. As it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be, world without end. Amen.

HAIL, HOLY QUEEN

Hail, Holy Queen, Mother of Mercy, our life, our sweetness and our hope, to thee do we cry, poor banished children of Eve; to thee do we send up our sighs, mourning and weeping in this vale of tears; turn, then, most gracious Advocate, thine eyes of mercy towards us, and after this, our exile, show unto us the blessed fruit of thy womb, Jesus. 0 clement, 0 loving, 0 sweet Virgin Mary!

Pray for us, 0 holy Mother of God, that we may be made worthy of the promises of Christ.

The Mysteries (These are basically events from the life of Christ, or Mary, for the purpose of meditation)

I won’t type out all of the mysteries here.  For a complete list of the 4 sets of mysteries, click here.

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The Anabaptist Rosary

Physical changes to the Rosary itself.

1) Change the Crucifix to a plain cross.  This points to the resurrection as well as the death.

2) The medallion that typically has an image of Mary would be changed to the symbol of a lamb caught in thorns.  It’s a symbol of persecution, specifically used to refer to the Early Anabaptists.

Changes to the Prayer

1) Replace all “Haily Marys” with “Our Father”

2) Replace all “Our Fathers” with the “Beatitudes” (see below for text)

3) Replace the “Hail, Holy Queen” with the “Commission”

4) For the Apostles Creed include Willard Swartleys additions about the life and ministry of Jesus. (see below)

Instructions for praying the new Rosary
1. Make the Sign of the Cross and say the “Apostles Creed.”
2. Say the “Beatitudes.”
3. Say three “Our Fathers.”
4. Say the “Glory be to the Father.”
5. Announce the First Mystery; then say
the “Beatitudes.”
6. Say ten “Our Fathers,” while meditating on the Mystery.
7. Say the “Glory be to the Father.”
8. Announce the Second Mystery: then say the “Beatitudes.” Repeat 6 and 7 and continue with the Third, Fourth, and Fifth Mysteries in the same manner.
9. Say the ‘Commission’ on the medal after the five decades are completed.

Prayers of the Rosary

THE SIGN OF THE CROSS

In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

THE APOSTLES’ CREED – (Willard Swartley’s version from Covenant of Peace)

I believe in God, the Father almighty, Creator of heaven and earth. I believe in Jesus Christ, His only Son, our Lord. He was conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit, and born of the Virgin Mary.  Lived obediently to his Abba.  Lived and taught love, peace, and forgiveness.  Healed the sick, cast out demons, forgave sins, raised the dead, confounded the powers. He suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died, and was buried. He descended to the dead. On the third day He rose again. Triumphing over the powers, he ascended into heaven, and is seated at the right hand of the Father. He will come again to judge the living and the dead. I believe in the Holy Spirit, the holy catholic Church, the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting. Amen.

OUR FATHER

Our Father, who art in heaven; hallowed be Thy name; Thy kingdom come; Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread; and forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us, and lead us not into temptation; but deliver us from evil. Amen.

BEATITUDES

Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted. Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.  Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled. Blessed are the merciful, for they will receive mercy. Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.  Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God. Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when people revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falselyon my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.

GLORY BE TO THE FATHER

Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit. As it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be, world without end. Amen.

COMMISSION (Matt 28:19-20)

Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.

A set of Anabaptist Mysteries (to be used in addition with the other mysteries)

Beginning of his ministry – Luke 4:16-30

Calling the disciples – Mark 1:16-20

Sermon on the Mount – Matt 5,6,7, specifically 7:28-29

Persecution – John 15:18-27

Pentecost – Acts 1:6-11, 2:2-4

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So, thoughts anyone?  Am I completely out in left-field? Is it right on?  Complete sacrilege?

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If the previous post was one of disillusionment with Christianity, perhaps this post is a restoration of faith.

From time to time I find myself enamored with the Catholic Church.  I’m still a strong Anabaptist and I’m not joining the priesthood anytime soon (I have to ask my wife first) but as I look back on Anabaptist history, I often wonder how much of the baby we threw out with the bathwater during the reformation.

Yesterday I went to the St. Francis Hospital in Wichita to be present for a church members knee surgery.  St. Francis is something of a unique hospital in that the Hospital is a big square with a courtyard in the middle.  In the courtyard is the still functioning original church and convent.  It so happened that I was around when they held their noon Mass.  While I’ve been to Mass at this particular church a number of times, I was once again struck by a number of things.  Most importantly I was taken by connection between the physical and the spiritual.

Let me clarify.

Many of the practices of the Catholic Church grew out of a situation in which the majority of the population was illiterate.  This fact had many implications on various things from liturgy to building design.  The Catholic Mass has many call and response sections as well as many elements that are repeated in every service.  It allows for people who can’t read a bulletin to participate in the worship.  In terms of the building design, the illiteracy issue is the reason that many Catholic churches have so many large paintings of Biblical scenes.  When people couldn’t read, the building literally became the text.

I was also struck again by the presence of the Stations of the Cross.  For those of you who don’t know, the Stations of the Cross are 14 different scenes in the procession of Jesus from trial to Cross.  What struck me this time was the realization that the Stations of the Cross, in some form, are in every Catholic Church.  There is a physical representation of theology and faith connects the churches.

After my visit to the Hospital chapel, on my way back through town I decided to stop by the Cathedral in downtown Wichita.  I’d never been there so I thought I’d pop in.  It was nice and big (although still not as cool as the Basilica at Notre Dame, In).  As I left I picked up a pamphlet how to pray the Rosary.  This was new information to me.  The elements and prayers contained within it weren’t particularly new but understanding the whole structure was.  Particularly the depth of theology contained within it.  The Rosary contains a number of creeds including the Apostles Creed, the Lord’s Prayer (our Father), the Sign of the Cross, Hail Mary, Glory Be, Hail Holy Queen and 5 different “mysteries” or scenes from the life of Jesus (of which there are 4 different sets of 5 mysteries depending on which day of the week it is).  When you break down any one of those creeds into their individual lines, each line winds up being a fairly profound statement of theology on it’s own with it’s own history.  The amount of theology, belief and scripture contained within this one simple symbol is truly staggering.

The experiences of yesterday have both refreshed my faith and sent my mind and spirit into action.  Here are some of my thoughts and questions that have come out of the day.

Questions for discussion

1. Should the printed Bible be like the painted walls, merely pointing us to the story rather than worshiped itself? The point of the images contained within the Catholic tradition (from walls to windows to icons) is to point you to the real person, story or event.  Does scripture function in the same way?  Should it?

2. What physical reminder of the faith would every Mennonite church have in it? The Stations of the Cross are in every Catholic church.  Is there any shared physical representation of our faith that would be in every Mennonite church building?  I’m not talking about doors or mailboxes.  I mean something more intentionally tied to our faith.  A pulpit…maybe?

3. What would an Anabaptist Rosary look like? I like the idea of having a physical reminder to help someone pray.  I’m uncomfortable with the level of time given to repeating the Hail Mary as opposed to the Lord’s Prayer.  (10 Hail Mary’s to 1 Our Father)  And of course, I’m a good Anabaptist who feels no remorse about changing a time honored symbol belonging to the Catholics.  This question will probably be the subject of my next post.

What are your thoughts?

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Yes I’m a pastor.  Yes I have committed my life to following Jesus Christ.  That being said, there are some days where I have a hard time calling myself a Christian.  Today is one of those days.

This angst mainly comes from the fact that there are many people who call themselves “Christian” but who look nothing like Jesus.  Or at least the Jesus that I know.

The reason for my disillusionment (this time) has to do with recent comments by Pat Robertson.  Once again he has equated a natural disaster with God’s wrath.  More specifically he basically said that the people of Haiti experienced this because they made a pact with the Devil to overthrow French imperial occupation of their country and have been cursed ever since.  There are so many problems with this line of thinking that it’s hard to figure out where to begin.    Never mind the fact that Pat just endorsed the French occupation system (and possibly all imperialism) as God ordained.  Never mind the fact that he ignored any social or political issues that might have played into their current state of poverty.  Never mind the fact that there might actually be a substantial Christian population in Haiti that also suffered along with everyone else.  At the most basic theological level, to say anything other than “when God’s creation suffers, God suffers too” is flat out arrogant and un-Christian.

It’s this kind of stuff that (sometimes) makes me want to not be a pastor, or even a Christian.

Here’s the video.

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Warning: Sarcasm to follow……again

I don’t follow sports very much (or at all) but this news story caught my eye today.  Mark McGwire admitted today that he took steroids when he broke the single season home run record.  Really!  I couldn’t tell.  You were the only person to come within striking distance of that record since it was set 40 years before and you broke it by, like, 10 home runs.  What’s more, since steroids have been cracked down on, no one has even come close to the record.  Thank you captain obvious.

In other news: The Pope comes out as being a member of the Catholic Church, the sky is found to be located in the direction known as “up”, and boiling water is now being referred to as “hot”.

Mark McGwire story

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Now that Christmas is over, I have to air a couple of grievances.  Namely, inflatable grievances.

The first one of these I came across a few years ago but the second one was new to me.

(Warning: Sarcasm ahead)

Inflatable 1: Nativity Scene – Because the last wish of our Lord and Savior was to be remembered in inflatable vinyl.

Inflatable 2: Christmas Noah’s Ark – For the times that you want to say “I want to be religious but I have absolutely no idea what I’m talking about”

Seriously people.  2000 years of religion, art and culture and this is the best that we can do?!

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OK, I’m done now.  I’ll move on.  I just had to get that out.

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I ran across this story on NPR’s “All Things Considered” the other day.  It’s worth a read/listen.

Seeing the transformation of the Mental Health system in this country, pushed by the Conscientious Objectors of WWII, it’s hard to say that we haven’t made this country better, without using violence.

WWII Pacifists Exposed Mental Health Horrors

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AVATAR

So does a movie about 10 foot tall blue aliens sound like some cheesy kids movie made by Disney or Pixar?  Yes.  That being said, it is absolutely awesome.

I was pretty skeptical going in to see the movie AVATAR yesterday.  It has received all kinds of glowing reviews, which usually means that I will usually find myself disappointed and feeling that the movie was overrated.  After seeing this film I found myself a little bit stunned as to how amazing it really was.

First things first; the downside.  The plot of this movie is nothing special.  It’s basically Dances with Wolves.  Except this time, in encumbered by real history, the natives actually get to win.  As I was reading some of the reviews on www.rottentomatoes.com there were basically three categories of analysis of the plot.  1) It’s a thinly veiled story about white expansionism and Native Americans.  2) It’s a critique of the use of violent force in the war on terror.  3) It has some racial (potentially racist) overtones.  Namely, a white guy ultimately comes in to save the people who have flat noses, big lips, are a darker color, wear “tribal” jewelry and wear virtually no clothes.  My take is that it’s a generic enough plot that you can probably see the storyline as a metaphor for whatever you want.  Ultimately these critiques probably say more about the person writing them than the movie itself.  Overall, the plot was solid, but not revolutionary.

What was revolutionary was the visual nature of the movie.  There are several things that came together to make it a truly stunning movie.  1) The use of 3d.  3d technology has been around for quite a while now but James Cameron used it incredibly well.  The scenes in the forest floor were incredibly deep.  Every level of detail was attended to; from the depth of the plant landscape in the background to the bugs, smoke and burning embers floating in the foreground.  The attention to detail was amazing.  2) The motion capture detail.  The story is that James Cameron has been sitting on this script for the last 10 years because the technology wasn’t up to what he wanted….so he created it from scratch.  Specifically, the motion capture technology that existed previously lacked in the amount of detail that it could capture, especially in terms of capturing all of the little movements of the face of the actor.  In addition to using the traditional techniques of motion capture, actors would also wear little video cameras that were directed just on their face.  It’s so detailed that Cameron is calling it performance-capture, not motion-capture, implying that he’s not simply replacing the actors but rather capturing their performance and then enhancing it with a computer.  He wants people to think of it as the next generation of prosthetics or theater makeup.  Going in to see the movie, I was a little skeptical of this claim.  Now, I would have to agree with Cameron.  It really is that good and that detailed.

I understand that I enjoy movies more than some people, but if you’re the least bit into films, you have to see this film.  You also have to see it on the big screen and you have to see it in 3d.  It’s worth every penny that you’ll pay for it.

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I tend to find the arbitrary, end of the year, top ten lists some what pointless.  At the end of a decade its usually gets even worse and more melodramatic.  I don’t really care what the top ten soft rock albums written by people from Minnesota are…….in any decade.

That being said, I do find some great value in self-reflection.  I value this reflection not just for the sake of naval gazing but rather to understand how one’s life has unfolded and how you’ve become the person you currently are.  One of the most interesting questions that I’ve come across (for the purposes of reflection) is, “what are the core stories that you tell?”  This question was built on the premise that everyone tells about 8 stories about their life to explain who they are.  These stories can change but they shape both someones personal image of themselves but also the public image that they project to others.

So, as I join the throngs of people making lists about the best or worst of the last ten years, here are my most important stories of the last 10 years.  Maybe you’ve heard some of them.  Also, these are in no particular order of importance.

1. Being an ex-football player.  The emphasis here is on the ex.  When I ended the last decade, I tended to think of myself as an athlete and, specifically, a football player.  Within a year or two of playing at Bethel College, I came to the conclusion that I didn’t actually like being around most of the people who played football.  They were good enough guys but I was just aware that my theological/social/political interests put me at odds with them and that I found much more affinity with (dare I say it) those dreaded hippies across the lunch room.  As time has unfolded, I have found myself less and less interested in sports.  When I attend games I do ultimately get into them and enjoy them.  But I don’t go for the sport anymore, I go for the sake of the people who I meet there.  This also has to do with getting pretty burnt out during my last 2 seasons of playing football at Bethel.

2. Katie’s Surgery, Part 1.  Many of you know that my wife had major intestinal surgery about a year and a half into our marriage.  While it was life changing for her, it was also life shaping for me.  For the first time in my life I was completely helpless to fix what was wrong.  I still struggle with that.  The most profound thing that I came away with through this experience is a new understanding of resurrection.   The main surgery was about the beginning of lent and by Easter morning that year, it felt like Katie was a whole new person.  I don’t think either of us really knew how sick Katie was until she got better.  The best way that I can describe that time is to say that even within a few days after the surgery, it felt like I got my wife back.

3. Working as a youth pastor at Buhler.  From summer of 2003 until fall of 2007 I worked at Buhler Mennonite Church as the “Associate Pastor with Youth Emphasis”.  I am eternally grateful to that community and the leadership there for helping me to develop my pastoral skills and identity.  While this meant having certain successes, it also meant going through a lot of failure.  I learned as many lessons from this church as I did in my whole time at seminary.  Unfortunately, most of them I learned the hard way.  I am also especially grateful for Bob Dalke, the lead pastor that I worked with.  He found a way to point my new-college-graduate energy in the right direction and help pick up the pieces when it would fall apart.  My time at Buhler also forced me to take the long view of history.  I had a lot of frustrations in the first couple of years.  It wasn’t until the end that I could see how the church cycled through different generations and how, sometimes, you simply have to spend some time waiting.

4. Katie’s Surgery – Part 2.  Sometimes people ask me if I get too stressed out because of work.  I compare everything else to this story.  Katie had surgery on a Monday.  I knew that I’d need a break from the hospital at some point so I scheduled a Jr. High fun night, just to take my mind off it on Wednesday.  Unknown to me, one Jr. Higher pulled a knife on another Jr. Higher at some point in the night.  I didn’t find out about it until the next day when I got a call on my phone from about 3 sets of furious parents.  Things quickly escalated in tension to the point where there was even talk of getting an outside mediator to come in.  In addition, the other pastors grandson was involved which meant that I was the only one who could handle the situation.  Things got worse until Sunday when I ultimately felt like I had to go to church in case the world came off of it’s hinges.  The one Sunday that I had absolutely no intention of being in church was the one Sunday that I had to go.  That’s probably the closest I’ve been to quitting ministry.

5. Seminary – I have never truly considered myself an academic.  On some level it seems a bit strange to now think of myself as actually having attained a Masters degree.  Nevertheless, my Seminary training has been incredibly formative to me.  I began at AMBS Great Plains Extension in 2004 while I was still working at Buhler.  In 2007 I moved to the Elkhart campus to finish up my “on campus” portion of the program.  Academically both experiences were very rigorous.  Culturally they couldn’t have been more different, but I wouldn’t want to do without either of them.  At Great Plains I was surrounded by students and faculty who were, in some way, actively working in the ministry field.  The ability to bring in real world, real-time experiences into the classroom was something that gave life and energy.  Being on campus, however, was an environment that created an educational stew that allowed for education, both inside and outside of the classroom.

6. September 11, 2001 and the switch to NPR. Just about everyone who was anywhere near adulthood on September 11, 2001 will include the attack on the World Trade Center in their list of formative stories.  I include this for a slightly different reason.  All throughout high school I woke up to the radio in the morning.  Being a typically adolescent type of male, I usually listened to a morning show called Bob and Tom.  On Sept 11, I woke up to them saying, “we’ll be right back with more on the explosions at the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.”  I got up and switched on the TV and watched like everyone else.  As I tried to make sense of what was going on I changed my morning radio station from 96.3 KRZZ “Classic Rock” to 89.1 KMUW National Public Radio.  I have never changed back.  In fact, in the two years that I lived in Indiana, the only radio preset that I put into my car’s radio was the local NPR station.  That switch has probably shaped my understanding of world events, politics, my connection to the world, and at times my faith more than anything else.

7. Still becoming a pastor.  I have worked for 4 years as an associate pastor.  I have now been a solo pastor for about 9 months.  Do I see myself as a pastor?  Sometimes.  One of the things that I’ve come to understand is that there is a difference between the office of “pastor” in any given church and the person who actually fills that role.  Some people have a pastoral identity, regardless of whether they are employed by a church or not.  There are days when it feels like my personal identity is thoroughly pastoral.  There are other days where I long to be that college student who doesn’t really care what other people think about him.  I’m also not convinced that I’ll ever actually resolve this.

8. Becoming aware of contemplative spirituality.  There are a couple of seminary classes that have been life shaping for me.  One of them was early on during my time at AMBS Great Plains.  I think it was a class on spiritual formation, but the part that was life changing was the introduction to spiritual disciplines and contemplative spirituality.  Up until that point I functioned pretty analytically.  My faith was very intellectual.  Spirituality was, in my view at that point, either singing praise and worship style songs or speaking tongues and rolling on the floor.  Neither of these held any validity for me at that point.  More accurately, I was unable to get my head around the unknown, therefore I rejected it.  Then I read a book by Tony Jones called “Soul Shaper”.  It was a book geared at the youth ministry world, but a couple of things really connected with me.  First, the spirituality that he was talking about was thousands of years old and didn’t look like anything that I had ever heard of.  Second, it went through a variety of spiritual disciplines and explained their history and actually articulated what was supposed to be happening when you engaged in them.  For me it bridged a gap between my intellectual nature and the great mystery of the divine.  After this book and the class, I began to see value in things that I had never been able to before.  Darkness and suffering took on drastically new meaning and value.  Fasting and emptiness now held a profound experience whereas before I couldn’t get past being hungry.

So there are my eight stories.  At least, those are the eight stories that I tell now.  They’ll probably change.

What are your eight stories?

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