Monday, October 31, 2005
Talk amongst yourselves
It was a whirlwind week, full of distracting thoughts about theological method in addition to, and separately, the Middle Bronze Period and proving with substantial evidence that a new people group appeared in Palestine. (Turns out "Because the Bible says so" is not substantial evidence.)

So now as Jackie and I drive from northern Indiana back to Wilmore, please discuss the following fill-in-the-blank question:

A successful church _________.

Answer as your presuppositions see fit.

posted by Peter at 10:59 AM
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Saturday, October 29, 2005
Odds and ends
Tonight we went to the sand dunes. "What the flip were you doing at the sand dunes?" Well, I'm glad you asked. Who knew Lake Michigan had sand dunes? Jackie and I are in northern Indiana this weekend taking a break and visiting her folks.

I let the gelid water of the Great Lake seep between my toes. It's unnatural for sand to be that cold. You'd think you were looking out on the ocean until you turn around and see all the rocks and trees.

Wednesday night in intramural softball I broke a bat. Aluminum bat. The barrel helicoptered over second base and nearly took out the shortstop. I wound up with a single. Everyone was shocked in amazement. It turned out to be a bad omen, though. We lost 27-4 to a team that hadn't scored 20 runs all season.

Father Alan has been busy working on the Vine and Branches Rule of Life...
Sections 1-3
Sections 4-5

Man, oh man, am I genius. I finally figured out how to get La Roca's sermons online. More will be forthcoming.

Jason and I went to Gethsemani last Saturday. Of course, I took pictures. I even wrote about it on the Asbury blog.

posted by Peter at 9:29 PM
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Sunday, October 23, 2005
The park

The park
Originally uploaded by PedroBlanco.
The complete collection of my photographs from my trip to Boston in July are now available here.

posted by Peter at 1:13 AM
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Saturday, October 22, 2005
This week Kingdom Conference was in town - an annual celebration of worldwide ministry. The theme this year was "Creation Healed" and focused upon a theological understanding of environmentalism.

I attended a seminar yesterday about mountaintop removal, which seems to be a local ecological hot topic. Apparently, more than half of the nation's energy runs on coal mined in Appalachia, which includes much of West Virginia and eastern Kentucky. Twenty years ago, corporations found it to be much more efficient to blow off the tops of the mountains rather than dig underground. They then fill in the valleys with the debris, forever scarring the land as well as wreaking environmental havoc on the low-income communites that live in the hollows below.

Because of a prior engagement, I had to leave before the end of the talk, which was a bummer because the slideshow and video presentation were both pretty big downers. I understand that I missed the part about practical measures that can be done.

Here are some relevant links:
Christians for the Mountains
Evangelical Environmental Network
Kentuckians for the Commonwealth
Central KY Council for Peace and Justice
A plan to re-energize America
Moutain Top Removal information
More MTR info

posted by Peter at 12:35 AM
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Thursday, October 20, 2005
Merry early Christmas
This is news to me: Sufjan Stevens has recorded a trio of EPs worth of Christmas music. I've not seen this for sale anywhere, but they can be downloaded here. There are all my favorite carols (O Come, O Come Emmanuel and O Holy Night), hymns (Come Thou Fount) and original holiday themed songs (That was the Worst Christmas Ever! and Come On! Let's Boogie to the Elf Dance!)

And I promise these will be the last Sufjan links for a very, very long time. From the Guardian Observer, dated 10.21.04:
Stevens learned to play the oboe at school and joined a folk band. 'I felt really drawn to folk because it seemed really utopian. As a naive high schooler I was intrigued. That's why I grew my hair long, wore bandannas and started smoking cigarettes...' He then rebelled by becoming involved in the church.

'The spiritual ambiguity growing up made me really latch onto a faith - Protestantism - that was somewhat conventional. Everyone else was rebelling against traditions and institutions, whereas I was rebelling against the upheaval and uncertainty in my family.'

From the LA Times, August 28, 2005:

Stevens resists discussing his life in a way that might compromise what he believes in. "My faith informs what I'm doing. It's really the core of what I'm doing in a lot of ways," he says. "But the language of faith is a problem for me, and I try to avoid it at all costs. You could say that I have a mind for eternal things, for supernatural things, and things of mystery. I'm more comfortable with using those terms because they can be used without controlling or stigmatizing anyone."

Dr. Cook exegetes the title of a Sufjan song (8/15).

Pitchfork interview, July 2004:
I think that when people react reflexively to material that is religious, they're reacting to the culture of religion. And I think an enlightened person is capable, on some level, of making the distinction between the institution of the culture and the culture itself. The institution of Christianity, the way that it's set up, it's institutionalized and comodified, and anytime that happens, anytime it's incorporated, it leads to disaster. I'm on the same page as everyone. I have the same knee-jerk reaction to that kind of culture. Maybe I'm a little more empathetic to it because we have similar fundamental beliefs. But culturally and aesthetically, some of it is really embarrassing.

And This Bird Has Flown: A 40th Anniversay Tribute to the Beatles' Rubber Soul releases this Tuesday. It includes such luminaries as Sufjan, Low, Ben Harper and the Cowboy Junkies.

There, that may be all the Sufjan links finally out of my system.

posted by Peter at 10:31 AM
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A new sheriff

For this reason the Son of God appeared: to destroy the works of the devil.
1 John 3:8b

Tonight at The Rock / La Roca, we continued our discussion of Mark's Gospel. The last time we met, we had talked about the call of the fishermen in 1:16-20. Tonight we talked about the man with the unclean spirit in 1:21-28. We were fewer in number this evening - Mona and Diana and Diana. Jeff dropped in for a few minutes while he waited for music practice to start and Steve arrived at the very last minute as he was attending Joey's graduation from the first phase over at the mission.

Jesus takes his four new disciples with him into the lake village of Capernaum. On the Sabbath (the sacred day), they go to the synagogue (the sacred gathering place). Here Jesus teaches and the crowds are astounded. Suddenly, a man with an "unclean spirit" interrupts the proceedings. He knows Jesus and why he is there: "Have you come to destroy us?" And Jesus tells him to shut up. This amazes the crowd even more.

We talked about the story of God in the Bible, from the creation that God deems good to the disobedience of Adam and Eve, which causes all hell to literally break loose. And then here comes Jesus. As Diana puts it, "A new sheriff is in town." Exactly. Jesus enters a world of darkness and brokenness and pain and begins to turn it all upside-down. Or maybe turning it back right-side-up is a better way of thinking.

We talked about Jesus being an authority figure. He speaks and disciples follow. He speaks and demons go quiet. Here at the outset of Jesus' public ministry, the first thing the narrator of Mark establishes is Jesus as the authority over the spiritual realm. Jesus is the authority over the forces of darkness.

We talked about the significance in the order of these two passages - the fishermen and the unclean spirit. Why do they follow one after the other? Jesus calls to Peter and Andrew, James and John, "Follow me," with no qualifiers or elaboration. These sucker disciples have no idea what they are getting themselves into. And now in the synagogue we begin to see what the practical ministry of Jesus will look like. The life of the disciple is one of authority, and here specifically, authority over the spiritual forces of evil.

We talked about what it is that keeps us from living in this authority that Jesus invites us to follow into. We seemed to boil it down to pride, that trusting in my own self-sufficiency leads me to forget the authority that Jesus brings. Jesus gives us the authority to push back against the darkness in our lives. To follow Jesus is to do what he does.

It may appear that all hell has broken loose, and the darkness may be a thick blanket. But there is a new sheriff in town.

posted by Peter at 12:04 AM
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Wednesday, October 19, 2005
A servant

From Karl Barth's Theological Exegesis by Richard E. Burnett:
Whereas before it had been a matter of using the words of the Bible to get at something that [Barth], like Schleiermacher, in some sense and at some level, already knew and could say to himself, after his break [from liberal theology in 1915] he learned he could never again be so presumptuous. Interpreting the Bible became not a matter of being a 'master or 'virtuoso of the Word' (as he later often referred to Schleiermacher), but a servant of the Word, clinging steadfastly to the weak, broken vacillating human words of the Bible like a beggar... It became a matter of standing under the Word rather than over it (227).

posted by Peter at 12:39 AM
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Monday, October 17, 2005
The message
All of your hopes and dreams are finally coming true: the presence and influence of God are with us, close by. Now act on this great news!


I haven't had a chance yet to share what happened at Bible Study last time. It's been about 10 days now. We were unable to do it this past week as I was entertaining delegates from the Oklahoma United Methodist conference Wednesday evening.

But the Wednesday previous we at La Roca continued our study in Mark. The same six were in attendance, plus one more, Diane.We covered the prologue again, because I wanted to focus some more on what Jesus says the good news is. We talked about just how important dialogue and direct speech are in the Bible. First words are particularly important in revealing character traits. The only direct speech of John in Mark occurs in 1:7-8. All John does is point to Jesus.

We talked about how in contrast to the other Gospels, Jesus doesn't say a whole lot in Mark. There's very little teaching to be found in Mark. Mark is interested in action. For Mark, being a disciple is less about listening to the teaching of Jesus and more about imitating the acts of the Suffering Servant. Actions speak louder than words, after all.

So when Jesus says anything, so much more his first words, we perk up our ears and listen.

The kingdom of God is near - this is the message of Jesus. So clear. So simple. So overwhelmingly wonderful, amazing, incredible good news. God is close by. We talk about how Jesus' message is not "God loves you and has a wonderful plan for your life." It's not "Hey everybody, I'm the the Son of God, so believe in me." No, its that God is near, now let yourself be interrupted by it. Because this was Jesus' message, it now becomes our message.

We wonder if this is the message that we proclaim. And we wonder just how different things might be if this truly was the message we as the Church carried out into the world.

And then we moved onto the calling of the fishermen in verses 16-20. We talk about this call that is personally tailored to these fishermen. Jesus comes to where they work. They will now be fishers of people. This is our introduction to characters who play crucial roles in the rest of the New Testament story - Andrew, Peter, James and John. This is the beginning of their adventure.

And so we talk about how Jesus called each of us. The words "pursued" and "rescued" are expressed with reminiscing wonder by two women in the group. "I was looking up from the bottom when He shined His light on me," says Larry.

I'm finding I have every bit as much to learn from this group as I have to teach.

posted by Peter at 11:13 PM
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Saturday, October 15, 2005
The festival

The apples
Originally uploaded by PedroBlanco.
Last night was the Fall Festival on campus. Jackie did a phenomenal job putting it all together.

Pictures can be seen here.

posted by Peter at 12:52 PM
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Monday, October 10, 2005
Happy Yankee Elimination Day
There was a fire in the house last night. Flames shooting out of the stove. Somebody tried baking granola and got a little carried away. The kitchen was filled with black smoke. As my bedroom is directly above the kitchen, two floor up, I get to suffer the consequences. I left the window open, and I slept alright, but I woke up to find that the smell had saturated my blankets.

I should be writing a 4-page paper about everything you should know about the Early Bronze Age, but have got that deer-in-headlights, writer's block thing going on. I'm going to bed.

My sleeping patterns have been pretty jacked up anyway recently.

posted by Peter at 11:08 PM
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Sunday, October 09, 2005
New York City

The square, pt. I
Originally uploaded by PedroBlanco.
Finally. I've got all of my pictures up from my vacation to New York back in July. The whole set can be viewed here. I recommend listening to Interpol's "NYC" or "N.Y." by The Doves as you run the slideshow.

The Boston pictures should be up shortly.

posted by Peter at 1:55 AM
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Thursday, October 06, 2005
Fall movies
This weekend I fell in love with the Kentucky Theater. Jackie and I went to see Broken Flowers. A guy played the wurlitzer organ as we waited for the movie to start. On Tuesday they showed Buster Keaton's The General with the live organ. This weekend they're showing The Goonies at midnight, and later in the month they're celebrating an international film festival and all the movies are $5, including the director's cut of Cinema Paradiso. How did I not get into this place before?

I've already been asked for the list of movies I'm looking forward to this holiday season, so here's ten I hope to see before the end of the year.

History of Violence (already released) trailer
Capote (already released) trailer
The Curse of the Were-Rabbit starring Wallace and Gromit (10/7) trailer
Elizabethtown (10/14) trailer
The Legend of Zorro (10/28) trailer
Jarhead (11/4) trailer
Walk the Line (11/18) trailer
Syriana (11/25)
The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe (12/9) trailer
Munich (12/23)

posted by Peter at 9:17 AM
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Tuesday, October 04, 2005
There is a Redeemer
Found in my Oden reading this week:
Christ's deity is not taught to encourage us to rise to do our best, but to redeem us from our worst (48).

posted by Peter at 10:36 AM
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Monday, October 03, 2005
Waiting for spring
The Mariners' season ended sadly yesterday with an 8-3 loss to the Oakland Athletics despite another outstanding performance from 19-year-old rookie phenom Felix Hernandez.
People ask me what I do in winter when there's no baseball. I'll tell you what I do. I stare out the window and wait for spring. --Rogers Hornsby

posted by Peter at 9:13 AM
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Saturday, October 01, 2005
The beginning of the good news
I love Jesus. And because of this, I find myself obsessed with the Bible. Every page of it. Every story. Every character. I remember once hearing pastor share about Ezra 7:10 - that Ezra devoted himself to the study and observance of the law of YHWH and to teaching it to Israel - and how it gave him his life's mission. I have to say that something in that hooked me like some big, shiny fishing lure. When Eric Liddell in Chariots of Fire passionately says that he feels God's pleasure when he runs, I know that's what I feel when I've got my face in the Scriptures surrounded by a desk full of open lexicons and commentaries and encyclopedias and atlases and wandering deep in conversation with someone about what the Good Book means and what it means to "perform" Scripture.

I know I'm weird, but this is me.

And so earlier this summer I approached Jim, the discipleship team leader at The Rock / La Roca, about possibly leading a bible study this fall. He invited me to one of the team's meetings about a month ago where I pitched the idea. I wasn't even through with casting the vision in my head and they were ecstatic and gave me the greenlight. I just wanted to look at the Gospel of Mark - no curriculum but the Bible itself - and interpret the text together as a community, in the back of my mind developing something of a community commentary about Mark.

So after three weeks in the Sunday service bulletin, the group started this past week. Well, officially it started the previous week, but only Maggie showed up. And she only came because I needed a ride from Wilmore to Lexington. But this week there were five: Mona and Steve and Manuel and Diane and Larry. And the thing that immediately strikes me is that these people are not like me- not anything at all like me. For starters, I'm the youngest in the room by at least ten years. For another, I need to break out of seminary mode, and fast.

Diane informs me she has been apart of the various incarnations of church that have inhabited this building for the past 53 years, and then proceeds to tell us that entire history. Larry is probably in his late 40s with a trim moustache. He asks for a King James Bible, which we find on a shelf. Throughout the discussion I see the gears in his head turning, and suddenly he'll blurt out some profound theological truth, but it isn't anywhere in the vicinity of where our conversation is going.

Manuel tells me he is from the rescue mission and says, "I'm just a babe in Christ." He's an African-American with a large physical presence, and man, the dude can preach. But like Larry and Diana, staying on topic is a challenge.

Mona pushes me as to why I'd pick Mark. Mark is the gospel she knows least about and why is that. The hunger is transparent in her face. Steve has a pen and notebook and I catch him making notes every now and again. I hope he's not making his grocery list.

We talk about the concept and significance of having four different gospels of Jesus in the New Testament and that maybe Mark has something unique to say about who Jesus is. We talk about the identity of Jesus is one of the main things Mark is after and to watch out for it. In fact in these first scenes we already see Mark calling Jesus the Son of God as well as a Voice from heaven proclaiming Jesus to be His Son. We read through 1:1-15 and talk about how important the Old Testament is to Mark.

Jesus doesn't just show up in a vacuum. He continues the story of the Old Testament. To Mark the story of Jesus begins back in Isaiah. To Mark, John the Baptist is just like Elijah. We talk about how maybe the details of the temptation aren't as important to Mark as they are to Matthew. We talk about how much happens in 15 short verses. We talk about how the baptism followed by the tempation immediately establish both the divinity and humanity of Jesus.

We talk about how we might together prepare the way for Jesus.

We spent an hour reading the Bible and talking about Jesus, and I couldn't have been happier.

And so pray for the community at The Rock / La Roca that we might together be transformed into the image of Jesus and love God more.

posted by Peter at 10:04 AM
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