Sunday, July 29, 2007
Beautiful abode worthy of God
Message of GOD, the Master. On the day I scrub you clean from all your filthy living, I'll also make your cities livable. The ruins will be rebuilt. The neglected land will be worked again, no longer overgrown with weeds and thistles, worthless in the eyes of passersby. People will exclaim, "Why this weed patch has been turned into a Garden of Eden! And the ruined cities, smashed into oblivion, are now thriving!" The nations around you that are still in existence will realize that I, GOD, rebuild ruins and replant empty waste places. I, GOD, said so, and I'll do it. --Eugene Peterson, The Message, Ezekiel 36:33-36

I think it's significant that when God first made people, He put them in a garden. It's not the forest of Eden, not the plain of Eden, not even the suburb of Eden or urban-dwelling of Eden. It's the Garden of Eden. I think that's important. God made us for gardens.

There's a vacant lot on Arceme Ave behind Arlington Elementary school, just across the street from the church. A couple months ago, we at the church started planting a garden on that lot. Jackie and I try to watch over the cucumber/zucchini squash/pumpkin/okra section that we helped plant. We try to make it out about once a week to do some weeding and spread out some coffee grounds, which enrich the soil. If you've been following Aaron's blog over the last few months, you know the story.

We've done this for a whole bunch of reasons. We of the church end up hanging out and working on a project with others we may not usually talk to. We end up talking with people in the neighborhood who want to know what in the world is going on. We've got fresh vegetables to give away to people in the community who can't afford good produce and end feeding their kids McDonalds or White Castle. We get to be what I think Jean Vanier is after when he talks about being a gospel "sign to the community." I really like this idea of reclaiming and redeeming these forsaken and abandoned places in the city.

But the craziest thing is still coming. It all started with a visit from three strangers. (Seriously, when three strangers show up on your door, you gotta pay attention.) Aaron says it this way,

Three guys show up at the church this afternoon. They represent a growing coalition of community gardeners. They heard about what we are doing at Third Street Stuff, a coffee house 7 or 8 blocks down Lime. We spent some time riffing on outrageous ideas for community gardens. A realtor told one of the guys he could have 15 vacant lots. We just need the manpower. We talked Farmer’s Market right here at the Rock, we talked food access Northside vs. Southside, we talked setting up small businesses to market fresh, local produce to some of the upscale restaurants, and we talked about what one guy called “gardens of eatin’” at houses of worship. They are setting up a garden tour of various community gardens to get us all hooked up and let people and government know what we’re up to and the positive benefits of the work.
So one thing leads to another and this week is the garden tour--Thursday from 9am to 12pm. There was even a big write up in Saturday's Herald-Leader. And you can find all the details over at You should come. It starts and ends at The Rock / La Roca.

God likes gardens. And now we get the opportunity to tell people passionate about making "beautiful abodes worthy of man," as Emerson says, that we do this to make a beautiful abode worthy of God, too.

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posted by Peter at 11:37 PM
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Friday, July 27, 2007

Jason and Kelly, my brother and sister-in-law, spent a couple weeks at an orphanage in Mozambique last month. They have recently discovered the magic of Flickr and so now they've got some photos from that trip available here.

There are some really good ones.

posted by Peter at 4:08 PM
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Sunday, July 22, 2007
Nebo-Sarsekim and the book of Jeremiah
Lawson Stone is in print, interviewed by Time Magazine.

A Viennese expert in cuneiform tablets has found one dating from 595 B.C. with the name of a Babylonian official mentioned in the book of Jeremiah:

Lawson Stone, a professor of Old Testament at Asbury Theological Seminary in Wilmore, Kentucky, describes Nebo-Sarsekim's rank as roughly equivalent to Deputy Undersecretary of the Interior. "The logical assumption," he contends, "is that Jeremiah wasn't written by a later writer, but a person writing at the time. I don't know why a later writer trying to create a legendary basis for [a later Jewish regime] would want to make reference to a third-ranked Babylonian clerk. This argues that the document is accurate in its references to the world around it."
So that's kinda cool.

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posted by Peter at 10:31 PM
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Family Fun Fotos
A couple weeks back we hosted a Family Fun Night at the Rock on a Friday evening. There were maybe 30-40 neighborhood kids that showed up, most with their parents, some we hadn't seen before. Makes me think of when in the Gospels Jesus talks about the kingdom belonging to children.

I took a lot of pictures that you can see here.

Here are a couple of my favorites.

posted by Peter at 8:08 PM
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Thursday, July 19, 2007
Starting Deuteronomy
Yesterday was my first attempt at grilling steaks on my new toy. They turned out quite tasty. Maybe it's beginner's luck. But the rub I made out of paprika, garlic powder, basil, chili powder and thyme didn't hurt.

Jackie's on her second overnight at her new job. Pray for her. I gotta think it's pretty weird coming home just the sun is coming up. This morning, my alarm to get up went off 10 minutes after she crawled in bed.

Last Sunday we kicked off a new study through the book of Deuteronomy at The Rock. I personally think that reading Scripture in community is important. While we as evangelicals put a high emphasis on personal Bible reading, I think we miss a lot of the time the great value in reading Scripture together. There may be stuff that you see that I don't and stuff I see that you don't. I think the more eyes we put on a text, the more we all see together. I'd really like to read this book to see how it applies to reading Scripture together.

A couple weeks ago in the Sunday service I made an announcement about this. I talked about the Never Ending Story--how it's one of my favorite movies. I love the scene at the beginning, where the shopkeeper is warning Bastian away from the book: "This book isn't safe!" Yeah, I think the Bible is kinda like that.

Anyway, on Sunday we just did a quick overview and outline of the book. I started out wondering why we should look at the Old Testament in the first place, much less Deuteronomy. Jesus says some glowing stuff about the OT. Paul does, too. In more than one place. But two narratives that to me best show what Christians do with the OT are from the Gospels. The first is Luke 24:13-25, the road to Emmaus. As Jesus explains to these shell shocked disciples, the Resurrection only makes sense in light of Moses and the prophets. The second is Mark 9:2-8, the Transfiguration. Here, in front of Moses (the Law), Elijah (the Prophets) and Peter, James, and John (the apostles/Church), the voice tells them all the listen to Jesus. So as we read the words of Moses in Deuteronomy, we listen for Jesus. I may never stand before SBL and get away with that, but I can in a Sunday school class.

Next we talked some about how Deuteronomy isn't our book. It's a book for 3000-year-old Israelites. It's not a book for 21st century, English-speaking, Western, white folk. There are a lot of cultural barriers to cross, because there's a lot of weird stuff in there. On the other hand, it is our book. If we take "authorial intent" seriously, and the inspiration of the Spirit seriously, then the same Spirit that first breathed these words still speaks to us, the Church. So, in that sense, it is our book.

And then I did some talk about Deuteronomy as an ancient near eastern suzerainty treaty. I read a couple of sections from a Hittite treaty dating back to about 1500 BC. There are a lot of striking similarities. If the book started out, "once upon a time," we would expect a certain set of conventions. Because it starts out, "these are the words..." as these treaties do, we can then expect that structure. The point being that what is recorded here has some historical credence. We're listening to a God that intervenes with human history. And next week we'll start digging into chapter 1.

So if you happen to me in north Lexington on a Sunday morning at 10 am, feel free to drop by and say hello.

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posted by Peter at 11:28 PM
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First things
From John Wesley's Sermon I, "Salvation by Faith":

So then, that ‘whosoever believeth on Him shall be saved,’ is, and must be, the foundation of all our preaching; that is, must be preached first. ‘Well, but not to all.’ To whom then are we not to preach it? Whom shall we except? The poor? Nay; they have a peculiar right to have the gospel preached unto them. The unlearned? No. God hath revealed these things unto unlearned and ignorant men from the beginning. The young? By no means. “Suffer these,’ in any wise to come unto Christ, ‘and forbid them not.’ The sinners? Least of all. ‘He came not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.’ Why then, if any, we are to except the rich, the learned, the reputable, the moral men. And, it is true, they too often except themselves from hearing; yet we must speak the words of our Lord. For thus the tenor of our commission runs, ‘Go and preach the gospel to every creature.'

posted by Peter at 11:23 PM
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Wednesday, July 18, 2007
Eating and stewardship
I've been translating this week out of Leviticus 11: the dietary laws. I'm sure you all memorized this stuff in Sunday school--don't eat pork, catfish and bat. It's everything you ever wanted a theological discussion to be.

Anyway, this stuff has really piqued my interest this week. Particularly as I'm reading Jacob Milgrom's comments like this...

Together the food prohibitions, the blood prohibition, and ritual slaughter reveal an intricate ethical web of dietary restrictions that teaches the Israelites to have reverence for life by (1) reducing their choice of flesh to a few animals, (2) limiting the slaughter of even these few permitted animals to the most humane way and by the few who can qualify, and (3) prohibiting the consumption of the blood, as acknowledgment that bringing death to living things is a concession of God's grace and not a prvilege of humanity's whim The dietary system, then , is the Torah's prerequisite for the ethical life (108).

What he seems to be after is that what the people of God eat is directly related to the same people's stewardship over creation. In fact, the language of Leviticus 11 echoes the very same vocabulary of Genesis 1. The dietary laws may also be talked about as the "stewardship laws," that is, how the people of God refrain from abusing creation.

Where I live, I can drive over to the grocery store and buy pretty much anything I want, any time I want. Leviticus strikes to the heart of such consumerism, and particularly, such a utilitarian view of nature. Maybe these lists of animals not to eat are the lists of God's favorites. Don't touch 'em. He really likes those ones.

There's this other sense that Leviticus 11 is about how what the people of God eat matters to God. It's all enough to have me seriously thinking about paying closer attention to what I eat.

posted by Peter at 9:45 PM
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Joe story

Aaron has plenty of Joe stories that he tells. Some crack me up. Some get me teary eyed. Now I got my own.

We had a cookout at our place for the Fourth. The hope was that we could see the fireworks from the Legends game from our backyard. The Dillards came over, and Herschel, Tammy and Maggie. Jeana brought Chip and Carlos. The storms came just as I was grilling the last round of burgers. Not long after, Aaron crashed the party with John and Joe.

At one point, I’m standing next little Joe and he beckons up, “Where’s your kids?” I kneel down trying to decipher what he’s talking about and reply, “Huh?”

“Where’s your kids?” he repeats, and sticks out his arm and beckons me with his finger. He leads the way into our kitchen, and he zeros in on the box of oatmeal creme pies in the pantry. The look on his face says, “I found their stash, so where are you hiding them?”

I think he was disappointed to learn that the oatmeal creme pies belonged to Jackie.

posted by Peter at 9:25 PM
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