Thursday, September 21, 2006
The mentored ministry not-so-much-dilemma anymore
The window shade

I took that picture yesterday while laying on my couch. I was procrastinating reading hospitality stuff.

On Monday I had my certification at the Corporate Coffeeshop, thus completing my training. I am now a certified Jedi barista. And that's El Baristo to you, buddy. The manager says she had never seen a more perfect cappucino during a training. You better believe it.

So I am sure I've left everyone in baited anticipation regarding the Mentored Ministry situation of a week ago. Let me catch you up to speed. I finally met the pastor I'm working with last Thursday, and let me say that I am thrilled to be getting to meet with this guy on a weekly basis. He's a guy I can talk about the parallels between Beowulf and the Ugaritic Baal cycles and at the same time I'm sure he'll kick my ass if I'm a complacent, cliquish, lazy seminary student.

I had this brilliant idea to write a discipleship curriculum where a faith community would read through the whole Bible in 3 years together. Too big a project. I will, however, be teaching through the book of Amos on Sunday mornings starting this Sunday.

Though, the bulk of my time, I think, will be spent organizing a network of small groups for seminary and college students who live here in Wilmore but drive the half-hour to church on Sundays. There are quite a few of them, but not yet anything to connect us all here in Wilmore. Personally, I find it silly commuting 30 minutes to church and missing the church you live with.

So I'll be working on educating Wilmore residents about the mission, vision and opportunities available within the church. I also want to get together a prayer gathering once a week that's parallel to the prayer ministry that meets in Lexington for those of us that just can't make a midweek drive into town. And lastly, I want get people connected into small groups for all those things you're really supposed to give and get from church, like prayer and Eucharist and sharing life, but most especially to engage the wider community here in Jessamine County. In the back of my mind I have the idea of a little satellite community here connected to the wider church in Lexington.

I get to stand in the pulpit Sunday morning and pitch this to the church in two services, which gives me another couple of days to refine my language some more.

So that's where the whole Mentored Ministry thing is going.

posted by Peter at 12:43 AM
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Tuesday, September 19, 2006
Guest and host

From Making Room: Recovering Hospitality as a Christian Tradition by Christine Pohl:
The story of Jesus' post-resurrection encounter with two disciples on the road to Emmaus reinforces the promise of Jesus' presence in shared meals. Jesus comes to them as a stranger (they do not recognize him), but they welcome him as a guest, and in breaking bread together, Jesus becomes their host. In this moment of table fellowship they recognize him as their risen Lord. Jesus is known to them in the breaking of the bread--an anticipation of the Eucharist and a foretaste of the final Kingdom banquet (31).

Probably the most meaningful experience I had as an RA last year was making an effort to have one-on-one meals with each of the guys on my floor. There really is something mystical about sharing food with somebody. That's probably why we figure the first thing we should do when we meet a pretty girl is to buy her dinner.

Because of my work schedule over the last two weeks, I've only had a couple of meals in the school cafeteria. For some, that might sound like a blessing. But honestly, I'm missing the time sharing food with friends.

posted by Peter at 3:09 PM
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Monday, September 18, 2006
Jesus Camp

Jackson recently forwarded me an email about a documentary currently making the film festival circuit called Jesus Camp. Here's a write-up found on IMDb:
"Jesus Camp" revolves around a pentecostal minister who hosts a summer camp for children in North Dakota, and the sectarian Christian conservative families who send their children to this camp. Directors Heidi Ewing and Rachel Grady wisely chose to avoid the polemical tone of most politically-motivated films, and instead opt to present a mostly unfiltered glimpse of this odd subculture. But through carefully selected images and the use of talk radio commentary as a framing device, they construct a subtle, yet damning narrative about a religious movement that isolates its children from mainstream culture, indoctrinates them into right-wing causes, and uses them as political props.

At Jesus Camp, the daily activities include standard camp fare such as spelunking and go-karts, but they also include speaking in tongues and smashing coffee mugs emblazoned with the word "government". Children learn that "science doesn't prove anything," and learn to consider themselves part of an Army of God. They are compelled to pledge that they will fight to end abortion. They are even pushed into publicly confessing their impure thoughts, and many of them cry and wail charismatically.

The camp director explains that she admires the way Islamic cultures raise children so devoted they will risk their lives for their faith. When we ultimately see several of the campers being placed by their parents on the steps of the Capitol with tape over their mouths, protesting abortion, the real purpose of this camp is driven home.

But the most touching scenes are the ones where the children are alone, and we see the ways that this indoctrination creeps into the most innocent elements of childhood. 11 year old Tori loves dancing to Christian rock, but frets that it's not always easy to dance for God instead of "dancing for the flesh." On an outing to the bowling alley, 9 year old Rachael feels compelled to walk up to strangers and awkwardly evangelize to them, without being prompted. A roomful of boys telling ghost stories after dark are interrupted by an adult who warns them about stories that don't glorify God.

No doubt some viewers will accuse the filmmakers of the dreaded liberal bias. But this is not a work of fiction, nor is it slanted reporting. These are real people and real events, captured on film. If the evangelical movement comes off badly in this film, the people on screen have no one but themselves to blame.

You can view the trailer, but be forwarned, it's one of most disturbing things I've seen in a while.

posted by Peter at 12:05 AM
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Sunday, September 17, 2006
Israel photos

All of my Israel photos from my archaeology trip this summer are now on my Flickr.

Go check 'em out

posted by Peter at 11:51 PM
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Thursday, September 14, 2006
Without a resurrection?
What would you do, what would happen to your faith if the bones of Jesus were found?

Over the weekend a group of us watched The Body, a 2001 film directed by Jonas McCord and starring Antonio Banderas. It's the story of an agnostic archaeologist who uncovers the bones of a crucified man that date to the first century and the pious priest sent by the Vatican sent to quell the ensuing controversy.

As a film, it's not very good. Think straight-to-video, B-movie quality. The premise, however, sparked a lot of good conversation. What happens to faith if Jesus did not raise from the dead? What happens if Jesus was just a nice guy with some admirable teachings we'd all do well to follow?

Turns out, if you throw the resurrection out the window, you have to toss the Incarnation and Trinity out the window as well. And then, you're needing to redefine the very definition of "Christian." If Jesus is not raised from the dead, then he is not God and therefore there is no God the Son, and we're left with a Father and Holy Spirit. If he is not God, then God the Father is a distant deity who would not stoop down and take on human flesh. If Jesus does not raise from the dead, there really is no good news to tell. If Jesus Christ is not alive, then he is not Jesus Christ, but merely Jesus of Nazereth.

Audrey pointed out 1 Corinthians 15, where specifically in verse 14, Paul writes, "And if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith." Chris brought up the issue of atonement and whether the death of Jesus becomes just another sacrifice according to the Levitical law. Chip mentioned the issue of Eucharist and what it might mean in a world without Resurrection. Then he talked about a vision he's had once. And man, this was good. If ever I could be an artist and draw and paint, it would be this picture. He saw the crucified Jesus, dead and lying on a table prior to burial. He reached out and pinched a finger-ful of lacerated flesh and it became bread. On the arm of Jesus was literal tap. It was a living Eucharist.

So what would I do if the bones of Jesus were found? I would take my bat and ball and go home. That's what I would do.

Yeah, this is what happens when semenarians get together to watch a movie.

posted by Peter at 12:05 AM
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Wednesday, September 13, 2006
Never too early for Christmas
According to the Asthmatic Kitty Records website, Christmas comes early this year (Nov 21) with a 5-EP box set of Sufjan Stevens Christmas music.

One original track is entitled "Get Behind Me, Santa!"

Oh what fun.

posted by Peter at 12:30 AM
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Tuesday, September 12, 2006

David Bazan, the artist formerly known as Pedro the Lion, on the process of writing:
I started to put a lot more stock in the idea of writing being a process of discovery rather than a process of communicating some concrete idea that you have... I believe that if there’s something that I feel strongly [about], that it’ll find its way out in the most appropriate way that I couldn’t hope to manipulate. That stuff tends to come out automatically in a lot more pleasing nature.

Bazan was interviewed by John Potter of Sojourners last month. The entire interview is here.

It's a good read.

posted by Peter at 12:14 AM
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Monday, September 11, 2006
Notes on Habakkuk 2
Did some chatting this morning with some of the good folks at church about the second chapter of Habakkuk. You've probably never heard Habakkuk 2 preached before. I have once, but that was a pretty exceptional community. If you've heard of Habakkuk, then you probably know that "just shall live by faith" that Paul gets so fanboy-ish about in Romans and Galatians. And you probably have heard that bit about hinds feet in high places. You probably skipped the stuff in chapter 2 between those bits.

Maggie rightly pointed out that this section is all about sin and its connection to wealth and money.

There are five stanzas to the poem, each highlighting sin and the conequences of that rebellion. Jackie noted how the first four deal relationships between people while the final one deals with idolatry, or the relationship between people and Yahweh. All of the sins center around the strong taking advantage of the weak and vulnerable.

Habakkuk lives around 600 years before Jesus. The northern kingdom of Israel has been annihilated by the Assyrians a century earlier. The southern kingdom of Judah has relapsed after the spiritual renewal of Josiah back into a cycle of blatant sin worse than before. Habakkuk lives during a time of weak kings in Judah who are nothing but pawns caught in the middle of the geopolitical tug-o-war between Egypt and Babylon. It's probably not a great time to be regular Joe Farmer Israelite, as all your excessive taxes are going to pacify Pharoah Neco. Form critics think Habakkuk is a temple prophet because his language is saturated in psalmic liturgy and the philosophy of the wisdom literature. If this is so, he probably knows and hangs out with Jeremiah and Ezekiel. Maybe he's a mentor figure to Daniel and his buddies. Who knows.

Back to the text... the question begging to be asked is who are these judgments directed to? The text doesn't say. Carter thinks its the Babylonians who are named in chapter 1. Jackie thinks that in light of the historical background its Judah. I think it could be either, and that maybe the ambiguity is the point. Maybe its to you. Maybe its to me. Maybe its to any nation or individual that oppresses the weak and violates the vulnerable. Carter rattles of a list of historical examples of nations built on bloodshed that ended in bloodshed. What might that mean for our country and the historic treatment of Native Americans? Because maybe that matters to Yahweh, according to Habakkuk. There is a sense that how a nation treats people and the land and animals matters to Yahweh. It's disturbing, but it's right there in the Bible. And verse 17 makes a nifty proof text in light of the most recent Israeli struggles.

While Habakkuk complains in chapter 1 how the wicked just seem to get away with everything, we see in chapter 2 and sin does eventually have consequences. You reap what you sow, says Kyle. You live by the sword, you die by the sword. You don't get away with sin in the end. If you want to know what the righteous living by faith does not look like, you read the rest of chapter 2.

For what it does look like, we'll read chapter 3 next week.

posted by Peter at 12:42 AM
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Sunday, September 10, 2006
Mr. Fancy Coffee Shop Coffee Pourer
Maryann just sent me a link to this Bud Light ad.

Painfully true.

This week I learned what "affogato style" means. It has nothing to do with the way one parts his or her hair.

posted by Peter at 11:00 PM
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Camping pictures

Went camping at Bee Rock with some pals about two weeks ago before all the craziness of school. We behaved ourselves. Mostly.

You can see all the pictures here.

posted by Peter at 10:56 PM
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Friday, September 08, 2006
I confess my greatest stress thus far this week is with a project called Mentored Ministry. It's driving me crazy and the fact that it bothers me so much bothers me even more. It's really much ado about nothing when I get right down to it.

It bothers me because I feel completely out of place. This is supposed to be a workshop for lab in preparation for the pastorate. The thing is I don't want to go into the pastorate. Sure, I know everybody says that, but I'm serious. I'm required to take this for credit for my degree. The first thing we were given was a survey regarding our experience with and opinions on funerals. I don't ever plan on presiding over a funeral in my life.

In my time in school over the last two years, I've experienced an increasing narrowing of what I believe God's calling for my life is. My experience in Israel this summer proved the clearest evidence yet that my passion is in communicating the Old Testament to people, and I want to do that at the undergraduate level.

Why the Old Testament? Because while Jesus Christ is the author and finisher of the faith, he enters human history in a specific time and place and culture to fulfill a specific promise. That promise is embedded in the story of Israel from Genesis to Malachi. I'm obsessed with where things come from. You can't fully grasp the meaning of the Gospel until you've come to know the story of Israel. The Pentateuch introduces the character and quality of Yahweh. The historical books chronicle the story of an unfaithful nation. The Psalms provide the conversation between man and God, while the wisdom literature spells out how to be good person and please this God. The prophets are the heart and soul of a nation, an emotional roller-coaster through the tensions of a just Yahweh and a corrupt and fallen world.

Why undergraduate? Because I remember when I was 18 and sitting in my college Old Testament as Literature class when I was first bitten. We were watching a cheesy video about the siege of Lachish in 700 BC by the Assyrians when something clicked. This was like Braveheart. This was a broad geo-politcal setting filled with real flesh and blood people being intersected by the supernatural. Interplay between Isaiah, Hezekiah and Sennacherib is still my favorite story of the Bible. A mind at 18 is much more open to new worlds such as that of the Bible than a 25-year-old one already set in its ways.

Flannery O'Connor once said something to the effect that you can tell a lot about a community by the stories it tells. I want to tell the stories of Yahweh to the Church.

Now, if I could just get the credit for this class by telling the church just how awesome the stories of Habakkuk and Amos are, I'd be a much more calm and relieved person.

posted by Peter at 12:03 AM
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Thursday, September 07, 2006
Cold bevs

The first week of school and controversy is already a-brewin'. I guess some people are getting emotional. I saw this as I crossed the campus this morning. I may not agree with the implications of the statement given the context, but I found the image striking nonetheless.

Today was much like yesterday. I'll have Philosophy of Christian Religion at 9:30 on Wednesdays and Fridays. This morning was a ra-ra pep talk about why philosophy is so awesome, which was good for me because I can't say I'm a big fan of the discipline. Abstractions make me uncomfortable. Anyway, supposedly Tertullian was full of crap and Athens really does have something to do with Jerusalem.

After lunch I then meet with a small of group of 9 guys for what's called "Mentored Ministry." It's essentially a practicum for ministry in a local church. We all do our thing and will come together once a week to discuss case studies. This element of my schedule is the current thorn in my side as I have yet to nail down specifically what I'm doing and when. Oh, I've got plenty of ideas, I just haven't yet communicated with mentor a realistic and practical plan. I don't know why this is stressing me out so much.

One thing I'm appreciating already about the new job is a refuge away from Seminaryland. It was a much needed respite today. And I made cold drinks for real live customers. I only screwed one of them up. For future reference, the whipped cream, which apparently contains as much fat as an entire cow, does not get applied to the top of "lite" drinks.

Tuesdays and Wednesdays I can already tell will not be fun days.

posted by Peter at 12:02 AM
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Tuesday, September 05, 2006
Shiny new things
I'm not ready for this day. First day of classes. First day of new job. And that incessant beeping. I really should get up and turn off the alarm. It's supposed to be playing Jeff Buckley's Grace and not beeping at me.

I stumble into the workout room and find an empty bike. Because the iPod is temporarily out of order, I've got Hallie's Lest Innocent Blood Be Shed. It's 300 pages long and I just learned I've got a paper on it due next Tuesday. Better get started.

Holy crap, this is heavy reading for working out.

Sitting in intermediate Hebrew class. This is going to be awesome. Nothing but translating narrative. This is the class I'd love to teach one day. I had three semesters of Hebrew in undergrad, but that was 7, 8 years ago. An exegesis class last semester knocked some rust of, but I'm still likely to be emotionally traumatized here at the outset. But I need that as far as my Hebrew is concerned. First assignment: The binding of Isaac, Genesis 22:1-10 by Thursday.

I was told half an hour ago the cafeteria opens at 11:30. Now they say 11:45. I have to be at The Corporate Coffeeshop in Lexington at noon. I grab a to-go box and slap a tuna sandwich together.

I'm yelling at the truck driving 35 mph down Harrodsburg Rd (55 is posted) through the mishmash of half-chewed tuna on wheat. The yelling may have been inappropriate cursing. I'll never tell.

I've clocked in for the first time and going through corporate paperwork. Is there a less intuitive form in the United States than the W-4? I'm pleasantly surprised by the amount of hospitality and community language in the mission statement and guiding principles. You'd think the dude went to seminary or something.

I finish an online tutorial on keeping the shop clean. I think it's taken 14 hours to finish, though I know my shift is only 4 hours.

After work, I rush to the store of a certain wireless telephone company. I switched providers yesterday and the guy at the mall kiosk yesterday was apparently vastly confused as to how I activate my new phone. If you called me between 5 pm yesterday and 5 pm today, this is the reason I didn't answer. Lesson learned: Mall kiosks are independently contracted and know next to nothing.

Arrive back on campus, meet my girl and head to a campus-wide picnic.

My one night class of the semester is Hospitality. It's an ethics class on recovering the classical practice of hospitality in communities of faith, a.k.a. How to Throw Parties 101. When I say the prof wrote the textbook on the subject, I mean that literally. This is going to be a great class. It's about living hospitality as a moral practice. And why is hospitality just so morally you might ask? Well, because if we take Matthew 25 seriously, then we may not just be unexpectedly entertaining angels but entertaining God himself.

This is going to be a great class. There is a half-hour break and lots of snacks!

Class is done and now I'm leading the family meeting for our house. I'm the Head RA over a house of 40-50 guys on campus. We have to go over the all the policies and such of living together. Shouldn't be that hard, should it? We spend the first ten mintues praying for all the restlessness, controversy and confusion that the school has already been thrown into this first week. I remind them, as I remind myself, that we are here in seminary, whether we realize it or not, to be transformed into the image of Jesus. Sometimes I really don't know where I come up with this stuff. It just falls out of my mouth.

We finish with communion.

I collapse on my bed after getting keys and rental agreements to five residents who just showed up today. I can finally close my door on the noisy, scary world out there and have some peace and quiet.

Finish this post and try to get and 40 pages of Hallie read before my brain dissolves in sleep.

posted by Peter at 11:45 PM
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