Tuesday, September 18, 2007
Jesus of the O.5.

Aaron introduced me to Jesus last week. It seems Jesus has taken up residence in a dilapidated blue trailer back behind the church. At first look, Jesus looks like Sawyer from Lost, but only if Sawyer just stepped out of a downtown soup line instead GQ. He has that squinty-I-could-charmingly-con-you-if-I-wanted-to look. When he opens his mouth, he sounds like Lawrence from Office Space, but only if Lawrence had a dark, menacing streak you don’t want to mess with. In one hand Jesus nurses a bottle wrapped in a paper sack, while with the other he dabs with a tissue at the blood leaking from his knee. Every so often Jesus lifts up the bottle, closes one eye and peers down the neck of the bottle. Maybe he lost something down there. He’s sitting in a white plastic lawn chair.

It seems like every portrait I’ve seen of Jesus, he’s got fair skin and flowing blonde hair. Something is lost in translation because as I stand here in front of him, he’s got an unkempt Kentucky mullet. His face looks like its seen its fair share of fists. He’s missing some teeth on right side of his smile. His own fists are pretty big and look like they could go through the wall of that trailer. And maybe they have.

Jesus’ brother had gotten caught up in the riptide that is the Monday night mercy ministries at the church. This is how Aaron knows Jesus. Jesus’ brother was a tough nut to crack. Aaron and Jesus’ brother went toe-to-toe a couple times. Living on the streets makes you tough, so I hear. Real tough. But Jesus’ brother died a couple months back. Jesus thinks he was about 42. Jesus talks rather lovingly about his brother. Like about the time he broke his brother’s shoulder. And how his brother broke Jesus’ shoulder and busted out his teeth. Or about the time some dude stole his brother’s blanket so Jesus’ brother doused him in gasoline and set him fire and watched him run down the hill in flames.

Jesus’ old lady steps outside the door of the trailer. I do a double take as she’s wearing an ivory-colored business suit with gold buttons and she’s barefoot. “See the angel pin I found?” She’s grinning ear-to-ear and points to the lapel of the suit. The shoulder pads give her petite frame a very rectangular shape. Apparently she and Jesus are planning to come to church Sunday morning. “We’re gonna dress you respectable for once in your life.” Jesus shrugs her off with another swig at the bottle. Her face looks worn, like it’s seen twice as much of life as it should have by now.

Jesus asks what line of work I do. “I work at Starbucks.” This is a surreal conversation. “What’s that?” Surreal. “I, uh, make coffee. Talk to people.” “It doesn’t sound like my style.” Apparently he’s looking for some work at the moment. “I’m a carpenter by trade.” To be honest, I’m not so surprised. “Lost my tool belt though. All new tools, too. Got drunk. Got in a fight.” He waves the now blood-blotted tissue in his old lady’s direction. “Next morning it was gone.” “You was bein’ stupid. That’s what that was.” She interjects.

There’s an old beat up Oldsmobile station wagon sitting in front of the trailer. There’s a sign in the back window: “$500: Runs good.” But apparently it doesn’t. Jesus’ old lady points at it. “That one don’t start.” She points at the other car next to the trailer. “And that one don’t stop.” Jesus says it’s something he can fix, but he won’t because it’ll only get him trouble since he doesn’t have a license. 7 DUIs. He wouldn’t be caught driving it anyway, it’s so beat up (“a time machine,” he calls it) and his long hair and he says he’s a magnet for the police. “Step out of the car. Put your hands behind your back…” he rehearses out loud like it’s his own memorized liturgy. He claims his been to the local jail 52 times. It’s a long walk home, he says. Even longer when you’re panhandling for beer along the way.

Somehow the conversation turns to drugs. “I don’t do no drugs,” says Jesus’ old lady, sitting on the steps now, cigarette dangling in her fingers. “I just smoke cigarettes.” “Them cigarettes is a drug,” observes Jesus in a condescending tone. “Lust is a drug,” he adds from seemingly out of nowhere. Someone makes a crack about being thankful there’s no piss test for that or we’d all be in trouble.

After about 20 minutes or so of this, Aaron asks if there’s any way we can pray for them. Jesus’ old lady talks about her bad back and losing feeling when she walks. Jesus turns to me while she’s explaining this. “That’s from when her husband broke her back. He got out of jail on the second. I’m surprised he hasn’t been by yet. He’s had several assault and battery charges.”

We all grab hands in a circle and pray there in front of the trailer. “That was beautiful, pastor,” Jesus says as he hugs Aaron. I shake his hand. Nice to meet you, Jesus. I’ll look for you Sunday morning.

I’m walking home and I see a freshly shed snake skin in the middle of Twelfth Street.

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posted by Peter at 1:49 PM
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Monday, September 17, 2007
Deuteronomy 10 study guide: 9/17-9/23
At the church we're reading Deuteronomy. It's a way to be formed and shaped together reading the Scriptures together. Here's the plan for the week.

What God Wants
Deuteronomy 10:1–22

Read 10:1–5
How does God respond to Moses’ actions in the previous chapter?

Read 10:6–11
What do think verses 6–9 are here?

What is significant about God’s speech in verse 11? What does this say about God?

Why does God listen to Moses?

Read 10:12–16
List out the things that God asks in verses 12–13. What are important about these?

Is there an application to Christians today regarding the conversation about believing right things and doing right things?

Read 10:17–22
Why does God include the orphan, widow and stranger in his title in verse 18? What does this say about God?

Why are they asked to love the stranger, in verse 19?

Think about the “strangers” you might interact. What do you think loving them looks like?

Read Romans 2:17–29
What do you think this passage has to do with Deuteronomy 10?

Keep in mind that Paul is at the beginning of constructing an argument about how Jewish Christians and Gentile Christians get along.

According to Paul, what is the point of circumcision?

Read all of the passage 10:1–22
What would you say this whole passage is about?

How does this chapter help us better understand what it means to love God with our whole heart?

Remember that chapters 4–11 in Deuteronomy are one continuous sermon. How does chapter 10 fit with what came before in chapters 4–9?

Sunday @ 10 a.m.
Join the discussion at the church downstairs.

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posted by Peter at 11:33 PM
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Wednesday, September 12, 2007
Merton on money
From Seeds of Contemplation (I found this first edition with a burlap binding at Half Price Books a month or so ago. Best $5 I've spent in a long time):

If you have money, consider that perhaps the only reason God allowed it to fall into your hands was in order that you might find joy and perfection by throwing it away (107).

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posted by Peter at 8:45 PM
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Deuteronomy 9 study guide: 9/10-9/16
Here's what we're reading at the church for the week...

It’s Not About You
Deuteronomy 9:1–29

Read 9:1–7
What words are used to describe the “Anakim”? Who defeats them? Why is this important?

In verses 4 and 5, what is the reason given for Israel inheriting this land?

Read 9:8–14
How would you characterize the speech of God in verses 12 thru 14? What does this say about God?

What part has being rebellious played in your own story as a Christian?

Read 9:15–24
How does Moses respond to God? How does he respond to the “rebellious people” around him?

Is there an application in this to Christians today? If so, what?

Read 9:25–29
How would you summarize Moses’ appeal in these verses?

Who is being asked to “remember” in verse 27?

Read Exodus 32 and Hebrews 12:18–24
How is Exodus 32 similar to Deuteronomy 9? How is it different? Why is this story significant at this point in Deuteronomy?

How does this passage in Hebrews relate to Deuteronomy 9? What does it say about God?

According to Hebrews, how is the experience of Christians, after the Resurrection of Jesus, different from the experience of the Jews at Sinai?

Read all of the passage 9:1–29
How many times are the words “rebel” or “rebellious” or similar words used in this chapter? What about “stubborn”?

What would you say this whole passage is about?

How does this chapter help us better understand what it means to love God with our whole heart?

Remember that chapters 4–11 in Deuteronomy are one continuous sermon. How does chapter 9 fit with what came before in chapters 4–8?

Sunday @ 10 a.m.
Join the discussion at the church downstairs.

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posted by Peter at 3:48 PM
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Wednesday, September 05, 2007
Couple things
First of all, Rosario's got a new blog. Roz was my RA when I first moved to Wilmore. Now he's planting a church out of The Rock in the Woodland Park area near downtown. So he's promising to write about the experience. Cheer him on. He has a cute puppy.

Secondly, from time to time I'm asked where my blog template came from. Good pal +Alan made it for me. He's recently gone solo and is looking for some freelance stuff to do. So if you want a cool blog template designed, drop him a line.

That is all.

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posted by Peter at 11:52 PM
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Tuesday, September 04, 2007
Last first day
I went around today telling everybody it was my last first day of school. I guess that's a misnomer whenever I start that doctoral program. But still, it's the last first day of school at Asbury. If all goes according to plan, I'll graduate in December with a Masters in Divinity. So, in order to get there, I'm taking three classes, nine credit hours. It's a very different semester for me in both content and medium. First off, no more bible classes. These are all required ministry elective credits I procrastinated until the end. And second, there's one on-campus class, one online and one independent study.

Once a week I'll go to Wilmore for an evening class on Tuesdays. That's for Urban Leadership. Gotta have a leadership credit for an MDiv. Honestly, a class on urban ministry never would have interested me in all the time I lived in Wilmore, but now that I'm in the Oh-5, it has a certain immediate relevance. In my previous lives in Seattle and DC, I came to love cities, and from my experience years ago in Tijuana the desire to serve the poor has stuck with me like an unsatisfied itch. We'll be reading through Urban Ministry: The Kingdom, the City and the People of God by Conn and Ortiz. One comment from the professor tonight has stuck with me. What I heard (not to be convinced with the exact words that came out of her mouth), was "What God has been doing in the season of seminary isn't something new. It's a continuation, a refining process, of what he's been doing already throughout my life." I'm gonna need to chew on that some more.

Next, I've got an online class, Sacramental Theology: Christ in the Church. Gotta have a worship class for an MDiv. From what I can tell so far, it's all about communicating the person of Jesus in corporate worship. It looks like it'll be some heady theological stuff. I look forward, though, to processing through the actions and symbols and words we use in corporate worship. I just hope it doesn't turn me into a church service snob. I remember taking a hermeneutics course my final semester in college, and it was the longest time before I could hear a sermon without picking it completely apart. I'm sure Jackie will keep me straight on that. On the one hand, all the blogging experience may help with the online format, but on the other, I'm a bad commenter on other people's blogs. So we'll see what happens.

The other class is an independent study about evangelism. Gotta have a mission/evangelism credit for an MDiv. Typically, I cringe at the word "evangelism," but Aaron's been making me give it a second thought. Just what if evangelism isn't just a particular spiritual gift for a few, but part of the process of becoming like Jesus for all of us? What if its not much more than loving who you are as a Christian and what you do as a Christian, and sharing that? What really has me excited about this is that I'll be working on what evangelism looks like in this particular neighborhood, right here on Twelfth Street and surrounding. Aaron's got me reading Tex Sample for this. I know that if I was sitting in a classroom hearing about this stuff I'd be bored to tears. But the idea of walking my street with some intentionality has me interested. I also know that the thought of going across the street, knocking on the door of a stranger and saying, "Hi, my name is Peter. I live across the street. And I want to take 'Love your neighbor as yourself' literally," scares the hell out of me. Pray for me.

So that's school for the next three months.

posted by Peter at 11:36 PM
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Monday, September 03, 2007
Three years
It's been three years. Three years since I started scribbling in earnest in this place. Three years since Dan, Rich and I crammed as much as we possibly could into my car and I crossed the Appalachians--from the lively suburbs of northern Virginia to sleepy, contemplative Wilmore, KY.

The number of pages I've read and pages I've written, I don't want to count. A lot. It is safe to say I am not the same person that left Virginia. Not that those brothers and sisters I was walking out this faith thing wouldn't recognize me. Maybe they wouldn't. I hope they would. I'm scared to read through the archives of this blog back to those days. Maybe I wouldn't recognize myself. But there's been a great amount of chilling out, of refining some stuff, of getting some stuff healed. Sometimes I wonder how I ever went through 20 years growing up in church and four years at a Christian college never hearing the words "spiritual formation" or "social justice." I should probably write up some post, like, "The 7 Things I've Learned in Seminary." Wouldn't that be clever.

I was chatting with Mom on the phone the other day and she thinks this seminary thing has been good for me. I'd have to agree. Seminary isn't for everybody. But it seems to have suited me just fine. I think it's made me a better person. I hope it has.

I've been thinking about John Wesley's ideas about journaling as a "means of grace." And about what that means for a blog. What if it really is a tool by which the Spirit makes me more like Jesus? Heavy stuff. So I haven't hashed it all out yet. Maybe it means the end of this space. Maybe it means I take pen to paper and stuff it away for just me. Maybe it means I scribble here a lot more often.

Time will tell. Three years have told a lot.

posted by Peter at 10:35 PM
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Deuteronomy 8 study guide: 9/3-9/9
Here's what we're reading at the church this week. This could get interesting as this passage often comes up in defending Prosperity Gospel stuff, and we're in the middle of a sermon series on what it means to serve the poor, with the poor and just what do we mean when we say "poor."

Never Forget
Deuteronomy 8:1–20

Read 8:1–5
According to verse 2, the wilderness wandering was for developing humility. What is the connection between humility and receiving God’s blessing?

Has God ever disciplined you? What was the experience like?

Why is the parent imagery in verse 5 significant?

Read 8:6–10
What connects verses 5 and 6? Why should Israel keep God’s commands?

How does this compare with Psalm 23?

How is the Promised Land described? Why is this important?

Read 8:11– 16
According to verse 11, what are some ways the people can forget God?

According to verse 13, what gets multiplied? Do you think this should be taken literally or figuratively? Why or why not?

Read 8:17–20
What are these verses saying about wealth and prosperity?

What does this mean for Christians today?

What does this say about the character of God?

Read Exodus 16 and Matthew 4:1–11
What is Exodus 16 about? What does this have to do with Deuteronomy 8?

From the context of Deuteronomy 8, what does Jesus mean when he quotes Deut. 8:3 to the devil?

Read all of the passage 8:1–20
How many times are the words “remember” or “forget” or similar words used in this chapter?

What would you say this whole passage is about?

How does this chapter help us better understand what it means to love God with our whole heart?

Remember that chapters 4–11 in Deuteronomy are one continuous sermon. How does chapter 8 fit with what came before in chapters 4–7?

Sunday @ 10 a.m.
Join the discussion at the church downstairs.

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posted by Peter at 10:25 PM
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