We All Have a Dream…

The DreamUMC conversation is more than two months old, and growing in some exciting ways. We are putting words and ideas to action, and finding new partners across denominational lines.

Background

Coming out of the 2012 General Conference, many delegates, volunteers, and folks who had followed the proceedings from afar looked for a way to continue a broad conversation about the United Methodist Church and the directions into which God is calling us. Using the social networking platform of Twitter, we created space for this communication through the account @DreamUMC and the corresponding hashtag #DreamUMC. The central goal is to have the communication and vision building be as open, grassroots, and participatory as possible. We fundamentally believe that there is something inherently Methodist about seeking out, listening for, and valuing every voice, rather than assuming direction comes from the top. Sometimes—often, even!—the Spirit speaks boldly through the people one might least expect.

Every two weeks, Monday nights at 9 Eastern, we have participated in moderated Twitter chats or “tweetups,” where people follow the same hashtag at the same time, and respond to discussion questions. Three separate people from two different Jurisdictions have moderated the chats, and participation has been strong, with the number of people tweeting declining, but the number of new tweets and secondary level questions increasing as the conversation goes deeper. The chats are archived on a Facebook page so that people who can’t tune in at that time can read the questions and responses later. Often, one or more person summarizes the conversation (here’s one of my early summaries) for people to read.

Challenges and Benefits

Certainly there are challenges and drawbacks to this method; not everyone is able to use Twitter and Facebook or comfortable in those platforms. Our conversations have been tipped toward United States based individuals (although we have several participants who sign in from Europe or Africa), and most popular in those under 40 (although there are again many active participants who are young at heart if not in years). Overcoming these limitations to being inclusive with respect to age, geographic, and socioeconomic status remains a top priority.

The benefits and advantages are stunning, however.

One might expect the conversation to be monolithic theologically, or to point to particular polity positions. This has not been the case. In the open conversation forum, participants have voiced widely diverging opinions, beliefs, and positions, and returned to engage with one another two weeks later. Sharing insights, the people tweeting have offered up a wide range of creative, forward-thinking ideas on a range of topics from the major lessons of General Conference to the need for theological and spiritual formation in local churches, from the essential qualities of an episcopal leader to spreading the message and model of DreamUMC’s open-source conversation.

Focusing the conversation

With people weighing in from around the United States and around the world, both during the chat and on their own time, the folks of DreamUMC have begun to identify key areas of focus for conversation and action moving forward, including building toward a United Methodist Church that is more connected to its Wesleyan heritage, has a stronger focus on discipleship and development, more inclusive, and more equitable globally. For weeks, we have discussed the need for education and formation in local churches, and for the development of lay and clergy leadership at all levels of the church. We have also heard frustration about the divisions, exclusions, and process-related technical details that keep us from being as effective as we can be in mission and service (like debating almost all critical topics using Robert’s Rule of Order rather than living into a more open and holy conferencing style).

These areas of interest are exciting to think about as the conversation continues. The plan is to invite participants to place themselves on one or more teams and work intentionally around these topics, while continuing the wider discussion about the United Methodist Church as a whole, and where the Spirit is leading us in the months and years ahead. For a full list of the topics we’ve lifted up, or to add a topic that should be included, please visit the DreamUMC Facebook poll.

Ecumenical dreams unfolding

One of the most exciting developments in the DreamUMC movement is not limited to the UMC. At the recent Presbyterian Church, USA General Assembly, a conversation began on Twitter that was very similar to the conversation that we had experienced at our General Conference. One United Methodist, following the PCUSA tweets, mentioned this similarity, inviting the participants there to peruse the conversations that we’d been having through DreamUMC, and suddenly @WeDreamPCUSA / #DreamPCUSA was born (you can read Rev. Andy Oliver’s perspective on the launch of this sister movement here).

Within days, new hashtags and user accounts popped up for other denominations, including the United Church of Christ (@DreamUCC and #dreamucc), the Episcopal Church (#Acts8), the Disciples of Christ (#dreamccdoc) and a broader ecumenical gathering, @MainlineDreams / #MainlineDreams. Together, we’ve begun to think of ourselves as a movement not unlike the “Arab Spring,” in the term Andy coined as the “Mainline Summer” (there’s a short summary of the known movements so far here by Rev. Emily Heath).

Dreams carry forward

My personal hope for this wider movement is well stated by Emily when she calls for a “new chapter in mainline Christian renewal.” That’s what we’re talking about here: reconnecting to the things that make us Christian, that give us power and purpose as the Body of Christ, and that inform and shape us in our various theological and historical foundations. In talking with a friend from another denomination this morning, we reflected that the ecumenical movement has historically focused on either mergers or, more typically, on sharing in mission. What if this time, we focused on a different kind of mission: to reclaim and reinvigorate mainline Christianity, to engage with a culture hungry for meaning and purpose and connection, and to offer what the church as a whole has found in Christ, trusting that individuals will flock to the particular and distinct denominations with which they best resonate?  Can we, this summer, this year, at this season in the church, open a conversation at all levels and in all places, hearing, discerning, and sharing where God is calling the Christian church into a new and more relevant, vital, connected future?

Now that’s a dream I want to live into.

Sorry for the inconvenience!

I’ve been a bad blogger, and my technology has been very very bad.

Right now, I am unable to upload my sermon from Sunday, 6/3. I’m not sure what the problem is, but I hope to have it online soon.

In the mean time, I am headed out to New England Annual Conference session. You should be able to check for news & updates from the conference here. I don’t believe we will be live-streamed, but if we are I will pass along the link.

And you can of course follow me on Twitter (@pastorbecca), where I will be tweeting the conference with the tags #neumc and #umcac

Peace!

iLearning

(screenshot from Apple.com)

I’m very excited about the iBooks 2 roll out with textbooks. I’ve been hoping for something like this since the Kindle came out. I see infinite implications for education, particularly. Wealthier districts are already providing each student with a laptop or netbook; it’s get on the ball so each student in the country can have one, or watch students in lower income districts get left behind. I don’t think it needs to be the sleek Apple product we think of as the iPad. I imagine something partway between a Kindle and an iPad: an electronic book reader, with wifi capability, and the ability to make notes and view multimedia. Microphone and speaker are necessary. It will need a text/email function, too. Oh, and a graphing calculator, so we don’t have to buy those anymore. Optional keyboard. GPS locator and auto-lock for if it’s lost or stolen. First-generation Kindles cost $80 (and the Kindle Fire, close to what I’m describing, is brand new and $200). I bet in five years, you can buy an educational iPad-type product for $100 per student plus licenses and data plans (the school buys a bulk license for the textbook in public school; the student buys their own in higher education). If you’re outfitting each student with a new stack of textbooks in each class at $60 a pop, you’re saving money.

Here’s what I imagine will be possible:

Textbooks, like all non-fiction books, would have in-text popup citations (with a link to the cited work for sale, should you want to add it to your library). New information, corrections, and editions can simply be downloaded as an update.

Don’t recognize a word? A popup glossary defines the word for you. Tapping an icon saves the word and its definition to a list for you to study as a list or in a flashcard application.

Think of something as you’re reading? Tap the side of the screen to pull up your notes on the chapter and add your thoughts. Save all your notes on the chapter as a study guide, or email them to yourself/your friend/ your teacher. Tap to print. Tap to send a note (or all in the chapter) to your teacher via email as a question (or as a homework assignment). Tap to send a note as a post to the class discussion board. Tap another part of the screen to read the class discussion board.

Enter your notes via keyboard or using a stylus to write in your own handwriting. Or, use the voice recorder to make and transcribe notes. And use text-to-speech to read the text of the book or your notes to you (imagine the implications for special education students, and for commuting students in secondary ed and beyond).

During class, make notes in a notebook feature, rather than carting those around too. Save, email, and print your notes as pdfs. Use your stylus to doodle in the margins. I can’t take notes otherwise.

At certain places, an icon might invite you to view a video clip or hear an audio file. This might be anything from a scene in a movie adaptation (say, “To Kill a Mockingbird.” How does the courtroom scene differ in the book and film interpretations? Why?), to a video demonstration of a chemistry experiment illustrating its formula, to a tutorial of how to solve a math problem, to a map or model, to a recording your teacher made.

What was that? Yes, the educator could add custom notes, recordings, or video clips, viewable to only the students in her class, or on his team. Teachers could also use the book’s review questions as homework assignments (and the students could fill in their answers directly where they appear and then email or print the worksheet), or write their own questions in place of the provided ones. Educators all using the same textbooks might be invited to share their questions in a forum, and pick an choose their favorite questions to build custom assignments. Educators on teams can link chapters, review questions, and study guides between one another to facilitate interdisciplinary units.

In class, the teacher might be able to “take control” of the digital readers in the room, so that they all “open” to page 24 at once, or everyone views the same multimedia clip on the smartboard at the front of the room. Using questions or notes emailed to her, the educator can lead the discussion, or prompt students to raise the questions they thought of (and made note of) while reading.

And if every student already had an iPad type device, non-school groups could make use of them too. Imagine a youth group book study or bible study. Imagine an adult one, for that matter. Just imagining the Bible as a full multi-media book gives me little chills. That’s a whole other post. The maps! The iconography! The links to other passages or other sacred writings! The clips from bible-themed movies! The option to text a question to your pastor ;)

A word about fiction:

As excited as I get about the potential applications for education, I drag my feet a little around fiction books. This is just a personal preference, I think, although overall I’ve been slow to embrace technology in entertainment compared to the speed with which I’ve embraced it for productivity. Only very recently (with the purchase of my iPhone 3GS), have I gotten fully on board with mp3s (and they’re not really mp3s anymore!). I *like* my shiny CDs. And don’t tell me you’re going to take my DVDs in their pretty packaging away and give me a mega-terabyte hard drive with digital copies of all my movies searchable by title, actor, genre, and keyword! Oh the horrors.

I like to read books. Paper books. I like the way they smell. I like the way they feel. I like that I can go to the library and get them for free for a little bit and then give them back (although, what if the *library* bought a digital copy of the book and then I checked it out and it was pushed wirelessly to my e-reader for two weeks and then I had to pay to renew it if I wasn’t done…). Even given the massive amount of moving I do and the huge pain it is to pack and unpack books, I wouldn’t trade them. If you offered to replace all of my books with ebooks and a kindle, I would take you up on it *for my professional library* (minus a few gems), but not for my personal library. I have a connection to books in print that I don’t have with their e-counterparts.

All that said, as I was flipping for the millionth time from the text of A Dance With Dragons (George R.R. Martin) to the back to figure out who a character was in the house lineup, and then to a map to see where they were from, I thought how easy it would be to have character names linked to their lineage, house names linked to their banner or motto, place names pop up with their location on the map, and words in foreign language offer their translation (or a recording with their pronunciation). Could I have the option of locking the book so I can’t skim ahead (or unlocking it so I can if I want to– or searching a name and only reading the parts about Tyrion…)? Oh, even my fiction has footnotes!

And then when it comes to producing and publishing books we are in a new world. This is where the publishers will revolt– just as the music industry did back when we all remembered what Napster was. Because what if an author could write a book, and imbed whatever media s/he wished, and then have that material reviewed and formatted by an editor and e-publisher, and then directly distributed to e-bookstores? No mass paper production. No shipping. Production costs so low we could sell books for fractions of the cost and yet authors could keep five times the income they do. I, as consumer, could pay you, as author, for the artwork you have made, the goods you have produced. Not the paper, not the cover, not the shipping– just the story or the research or the philosophy. I could pay you whatever that seems to be worth, and you could keep it (minus editing and formatting/production). I value your work, and you value my reading experience. Kind of like Louis CK’s pay-to-view comedy special, only (typically) without so much swearing.

As I said on facebook, I want in on the brainstorming about this. Oh, the possibilities!

More on Jesus and Religion – links galore!

I’m pleasantly surprised by the interest in my recent post in response to the “I hate Religion but Love Jesus” video. Thanks for reading, sharing, and commenting, and for linking to your own reflections.

In the spirit of fairness and follow-up, Rachel Held Evans drew my attention to this email exchange between the video’s creator, Bethke, and pastor/blogger Kevin DeYoung. In it, Bethke responds to DeYoung’s reflections on the video in a way that demonstrates thoughtfulness and maturity in the face of feedback. Kudos to him.

Here’s part of their exchange. Bethke emailed Kevin in response to the latter’s blog post, and gave him permission to share it:

I just wanted to say I really appreciate your article man. It hit me hard. I’ll even be honest and say I agree 100%. God has been working with me in the last 6 months on loving Jesus AND loving his church. For the first few years of walking with Jesus (started in ’08) I had a warped/poor paradigm of the church and it didn’t build up, unify, or glorify His wife (the Bride). If I can be brutally honest I didn’t think this video would get much over a couple thousand views maybe, and because of that, my points/theology wasn’t as air-tight as I would’ve liked. If I redid the video tomorrow, I’d keep the overall message, but would articulate, elaborate, and expand on the parts where my words and delivery were chosen poorly… My prayer is my generation would represent Christ faithfully and not swing to the other spectrum….thankful for your words and more importantly thankful for your tone and fatherly like grace on me as my elder. Humbled. Blessed. Thankful for painful growth. Blessings.

Grace and Peace,

Jeff

I love Jesus, but I kinda like religion too

A lot of folks on facebook have been posting links to this video, where political science graduate and non-profit worker Jefferson Bethke seeks to “highlight the difference between Jesus and false religion” (text of video description). Mr. Bethke is a self-proclaimed healed pornography addict, and attends the Federal Way campus of Mars Hill Church (dot com) in Washington. For those keeping track at home, that’s the mega church pastored by Mark Driscoll (as opposed to Mars Hill Bible Church [dot org] in Michigan, pastored by Rob Bell– man, did that confuse me for a while). I won’t try to articulate my concerns about pastor Driscoll, but will refer you to the excellent critique of his particular brand of (in my mind, masochistic) Christianity by Rachel Held Evans here and here.

Jefferson Bethke’s YouTube video has some merits and some pitfalls in my mind, and so I’m torn when I see it on facebook on my friends’ feed or as a recommended link by The Christian Left. Here are my thoughts on religion and Jesus and this particular video.

Pros:

The video is thought-provoking and invites reflection and discussion. Case in point. Anything that encourages us to think about our faith instead of blindly following gets bonus points in my book.

The video challenges certain assumptions about religion and Christianity, which I think is helpful. For example, Bethke says that being a Christian and a Republican are not the same thing (nor are being a Christian and a Democrat!), and that we should be freed by Christ, not enslaved by what he calls “behavioral modification” through the rules and chores that he sees as religion. I think breaking free of the rule-based way of thinking about religion is important.

The speaker insists that Jesus doesn’t support self-righteousness. I agree, although I’m not totally sold that the video succeeds in demonstrating that.

The video clearly separates Jesus from religion with what I see as a beautiful distinction (if phrased in gendered language that makes me gag) “Religion is man (sic) searching for God; Christianity is God searching for man.” Further, the words separate religion, which Bethke says he hates, from the church, which he says he loves, and that makes for good reflection as well. I fully agree with leaving behind some or all of institutional religion to follow Jesus, if that is what is needed.

We are asked “Would your church let Jesus in?” Not a new question, but an important one.

Finally, there are some beautiful words, phrases, and ideas here. I like “Religion says ‘do'; Jesus says ‘done’.” But my favorite:

If grace is water, then the church should be an ocean. It’s not a museum for good people; it’s a hospital for the broken.

Preach.

Cons:

I’m not sure what the speaker thinks religion is. He distinguishes it from “Christianity” as well as from Jesus, says he hates it, calls it an infection, and blames it for wars. But I’m not entirely sure what he means by “religion.” I suspect he may mean “institution,” but it’s not clear. I would define the broad concept of religion as a set of beliefs about the Divine (theology) and a particular way of living out beliefs (praxis), held in common by 2 or more people in a given place and time.

The video then blames this ambiguous concept of religion for war and attacks it for failing to feed the poor. Since religion, as I define it, is a series of beliefs and practices, it doesn’t really *do* or fail to do anything. Rather, religious people carry out actions and explain them using their theology and praxis. Religious people have gone on crusades and committed genocide, slavery, and rampant discrimination, claiming religion as their motivator. Religious people have also preached civil rights, resisted apartheid, lived among lepers, and given all their wealth to the poor, claiming their religion as their motivation. Maybe this is a little like saying guns don’t kill people, but I see religion as a tool, an implement, and in the wrong hands, yes, a weapon. It’s what we do with it that matters.

Bethke also decries religion for being a human invention. While I like the above-mentioned distinction that religion is humanity’s search for God while Christ is God’s search for us, it is presented as if this is a bad thing. We cannot simply receive God’s searching for us separate from our human responses. Yes, religion, church, prayers, worship songs, cathedrals, ministry programs, global institutionalized church, and YouTube videos are all human-made. And they are imperfect. What else would they be? The fallible, broken, human construct of religion is humanity’s response to and search for God. We’re still working on it and we don’t get it right, but we’re in it together with one another and with the Holy. We might show *that* a little grace, too. We never know how the God of the Universe might be able to use even the broken vessels of the church, her people, and each individual person of faith. I hear God’s good at that.

Having rejected and resented “religion,” Bethke replaces religion with something else that looks a lot like… religion. He replaces it with a series of beliefs about the Divine and implies a way of living out some of those beliefs in practice.

Furthermore, I don’t like the theology he presents in place of “religion.” It’s very strong on substitutionary atonement (the belief that Jesus took on our sin and bled and died and did we mention the blood? for us– you can read some of my reactions to this theology here). It’s also very dominated by masculine, hierarchical, and violent language. I get squeamish about blood dripping down Jesus’ face and him dangling on a cross thinking of me. Just not my thing. It may move us away from adherence based on fear to adherence based on guilt, but I’m not sure that’s a drastic improvement.

Finally, rejecting religion undermines the important function of accountability it serves. The video itself suggests some good theology and some bad, and the praxis is largely unknown or perhaps irrelevant. In the context of a “church” or dare we say a “religion,” there are other believers present against whose wisdom we check our theology and praxis. If my relationship with Jesus teaches me to hate gay people or club baby seals, who is to correct me if “religion” is vile and my personal interpretation is all that matters? Rather, the institution of religion, for all its faults, serves as a clearing house, a sounding board, a discernment group. Call it what you like, but it keeps the crazies at bay. When corrupted, yes, it mistakes the prophets for the fanatics (because there are fine lines already), and Jesus is crucified. But when it tries to let God work, it can also lift up the Desmond Tutus and the Mother Teresas, and it can resist the false prophets of Fred Phelps and his ilk. All of us individually searching for God are bound to make mistakes. In the grouped-together theology and practice of religion, our mistakes can indeed be amplified and multiplied, and more to our shame. But the good that we do, the times that we reject discrimination and violence, the voices we lift for the outcast and oppressed, the compassion we extend in word and deed– these can also be amplified and multiplied and tested, empowered, and equipped.

In Summary:

I applaud the video for raising questions and provoking discussions, for challenging outdated assumptions about religion and for lifting important, beautiful, inspirational concepts about what the love and grace of God are like. I support the sentiment of serving Jesus, even where that breaks from the institutionalized church (perhaps especially there!). I agree with the critique against what the video’s text description calls false religion. I hate false religion, too. But I remain unconvinced that the theology and (lack of) praxis lifted up here in place of such false religion are better, or a place that I would feel comfortable, and I believe the demonization and rejection of religion as a whole is throwing the baby (possibly the baby Jesus) out with the bath water. Instead, I would affirm the rejection of false religion, and the call to make the church and individuals therein more faithful to the true ministry of Christ. Let us swim in the ocean of grace.

Counting the Unaccountable

It’s that glorious time of year when United Methodist Churches hunt down, compile, and report their statistics for the year. For a growing number of us, this is now part of a larger system of reporting of statistics year round, designed to help us measure our churches’ “Vital Signs” (part of the Vital Congregations program).

My concession: Numbers are good to have. I do think that we need to set goals and have ways to measure them. Although I try not to live my life by the thrill and agony of my weekly attendance numbers, I do believe they (and their near-consistent flat line) are relevant and important information in both my ministry and the ministry of the church where I serve. Although it by no means tells the full story, I do believe that the pledged giving on my church’s budget articulates a piece of the spiritual health and growth (and sometimes the lack thereof) of my congregation. Numbers of new members, and where they came from, do tell us a little about how the congregation stretches beyond itself in a time and place. These are part of how we measure and account for ministry, which on the whole is a nebulous, hard to grasp, amorphous thingy.

We thought the Doctor had it hard trying to measure spacetime. We need his thingamajig detector that goes ding when there’s stuff to measure the wibbly-wobbly, spirity-weiridy stuff we call ministry.

The problem, as every pastor I know will repeat, is that the numbers that we measure do not tell the whole story. Of course not. Ministry isn’t about numbers, nor is discipleship about statistics. There’s the wily, uncountable, unaccountable Spirit. Jesus himself seems to have preached his crowd of several thousand down to a core congregation of 12– and some of them weren’t too great at showing up consistently. Poor Thomas missed the best sermon in the series, and Judas fell in with another congregation entirely. All that costly perfume and the extra baskets of bread meant their budget never balanced, and the lay leader and chairman of the trustees (brothers of course) never could stop arguing long enough to fill out their forms in triplicate.

Numbers try to describe the number of people in Bible Study, but don’t tell how one person’s life was saved when he stumbled in by mistake and found a community of care. Numbers count the people who ate at the soup kitchen (maybe, if you fiddle with them), but don’t account for the way the meals were served and shared with mutual compassion and respect, rather than pity. Numbers tell us who came to worship, but not who left transformed– or who left hurt and angry and vowing never to enter a church again. Numbers tell us how many people gave how much money to the church, but can’t figure out which pennies were the widows’ mites. And numbers never tell us the tears shed, the hands held, the dignity upheld, the hope gained, the faith shaken or restored, how often God was revealed or pushed aside.

And this is all okay, if we treat numbers as only part of the story, if we ingrain in our system ways to tell the rest of the story: annual meetings, for example, where the congregation tells their story to one another and to their District Superintendent; structures in which the DS and the Bishop know the pastor and the church and hear their stories; organization from top to bottom that communicates that size matters less than faithfulness– something we find hard to measure but accept, because after all we serve a God who cannot be contained in our tables and figures.

But as we move more and more toward a corporate model, and give our numbers more power in the decisions about appointments of pastors and churches, we have a problem. The elevation of statistics itself is a problem, to be sure. But if we’re going to rely on all this counting, can we at least try to count more of what matters?

Just as an example, the Vital Congregations program defines marks of a faithful disciple of Jesus, saying a disciple “worships regularly, helps make new disciples, is engaged in growing in their faith, is engaged in mission, and shares by giving to mission”. I don’t disagree with that, but…

  • We count the number of people who come to church. Can we count the people who follow up on an aspect of the worship service by joining a volunteer opportunity or engaging in a reflection suggested in the sermon? How do we know people didn’t just attend but worshiped?
  • We count our new members overall, but a new member is not a new disciple. Last I checked, Jesus did not tell us to “go make of the world members of your church,” nor is the mission of the UMC to “make professions of faith for Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.” How do we measure our follow-through with visitors and new members to encourage them to grow in faith? Speaking of which…
  • We count the number of people who attend small groups or studies, but can we somehow measure how we “growth in faith”? How would we even begin?
  • We count the number of people who go on United Methodist mission trips, but what about other forms of mission in our communities? What about those who give of their time and talent to the background work of mission?
  • We count how much money people give to God and God’s mission, but what about the gifts of time and talent that people give?

In an effort to at least address that last one, this year I invited my congregation to report the time they gave to God in service both within and outside the church. Teams, committees, projects, meals, town boards, camp directing, and state committees are all up for the counting. Many people filled out little cards in worship to report back, but I also had to call some folks that I knew volunteered and ask them for their estimates. In a couple of cases, the numbers were larger than I expected, which gave me the chance to hear about projects and passions that my congregants give to beyond the church. In several cases, the numbers were lower than I expected, in which case I called or emailed the person and rattled off all the stuff I know they do for the glory of God, and we recalculated and celebrated.

And at the end, I was pleasantly stunned. In 2011, the people of my little 65-person average attendee congregation volunteered their time for the church and the community an estimated 7,807 hours.

That’s 325.3 24-hour days, or 10.8 months. If that were a 40 hour-a-week job, we would have worked 195.2 weeks. That’s 3.9 years (with 2 weeks vacation a year). If we calculated a wage based on the lowest estimate for what a volunteer’s time is worth ($17.79/hour), we would have given the equivalent of $138,886.53 (almost 85% of our entire budget) to the glory of God!

There are still many things we can’t account for: boxes of tissues and theological wrestling matches, hardships weathered and forgiveness offered. But in telling our stories, even in part, we seek to honor all we have done in God’s name, celebrate our faithfulness, confess our shortcomings, and challenge ourselves to greater service in the times to come.

What would you like to count? Better yet, what stories would you like to tell?

Construction

I appear to be the construction goddess: construction projects like to follow me around. Culvert work outside my house, sewer work outside my church, re-carpeting projects inside my fellowship hall… I can’t escape it.

And for some unknown reason, major problems with my uploading software on my blog.

I have my sermons clipped and mixed and whatever else, and the blog posts written and tagged, but for the life of me, I can’t figure out why they won’t upload to their storage spot right now, and I’m at a complete loss as to why notes have stopped importing themselves into facebook.

So, like all construction workers, I apologize for the inconvenience and beg your patience. Thanks, dears!

The Coolest Thing Since the Printing Press

codexI’m surprised that this didn’t make more of a splash when it came out a month or so ago. The Codex Sinaiticus project is updating and making available online the images and translations of a codex—a 1600-year-old bible, one of the oldest and most complete versions of the Christian Bible ever found.

Why do I think this is amazing? Why do I compare it to the printing press or the translation of the Bible into the vernacular? Because it seems to me that this is just as important a moment, placing images and translation processes previously discussed almost exclusively in academic circles before the whole world.

To me it is moving to see the respect and care with which these sorts of documents are treated, when found, and to witness the dedication and the reverence with which they are studied, translated, reconstructed, and incorporated into the body of knowledge about Biblical source material.

At the same time, it is much more difficult to believe that this is a text delivered as a finished product direct from the hands of God. Rather, it is a very human document, edited and re-written, margins filled with corrections and commentary, lost and found, but nonetheless joyfully, reverently, miraculously handed down for millennia, still conveying truth and power and love and God’s ongoing story of creation and love for the world. That it speaks anything coherent after all that fragmentation and reconstruction is astounding; that it speaks truth and power and love is jaw-dropping.

Is this an amazing moment in the life of the church, this invitation to see the Bible perhaps with new eyes? Or is it just a bunch of old parchment found in the desert somewhere? Only we—and by we, I mean anyone with internet access—can decide what it means to us.

Link Love!

This totally made my day. Maybe my week. Not my month, but there’s some cool stuff happening this month.

Way, way down on his list of podcast he likes, Matt writes:

We Your People, Ours the Journey

These are the sermons of Rebecca Clark, aka @pastorbecca, a Methodist pastor in the US. I really enjoy her sincere, sensible and common sense lessons which take cognisance of the world as it is today. If you’re looking for a decent spiritual podcast you can’t go wrong with this one.

Thanks, Matt, and thank you to all my listeners, especially for putting up with me when I lose my recording device!

I’m not the only one who thinks substitution is bunk!

You really should check out this post by Angela on the Radical Love Project. It’s a super-good read on Jesus, attonement, and what is and is not important. Here’s a little teaser:

Jesus didn’t come here to die as payment for anything. I could go on all day about how that makes no sense at all, but I won’t. Because what’s much more interesting is why he did come here.

It reminds me of my mammoth post on attonement, which is longer and probably more boring, but you’re my friends, so you’re used to me rambling, right?

But Becca, you ask, why are you sending us on wild link-chases, rather than uploading your recent sermons? You’re two behind.

Yeah, about that. There’s an interesting thing. True story.

I think a dog ate them.

No kidding, my sermon from 5/24 *disappeared* from the recorder. As in, I pushed record and stop and it was there, a little audio file, all ready to be loaded in. Then a week went by. Then I recorded my sermon on 5/31, except there was no other sermon on the recorder. The battery was low, but that shouldn’t have effected the memory. Oh well, I can recap the important bit when I post the second sermon. I put the recorder in my pocket and came home from church. I took it out of my pocket and set it down…

Yeah, now the recorder has disappeared. With last week’s sermon still on it, and this week’s needing to be recorded. Total podcast FAIL.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 958 other followers