Thursday, March 31, 2011

Week 5: Worshipping in Community/Everything is Spiritual/Psalms and Paradox/Help on Philemon Paper

We are coming into the home stretch, and you are doing great!

This week, the topic is "Worshipping in Community,"

We may not have time to watch the Ray Vander Laan episode called "The Rabbi," but it is here at this
click as a slideshow, see especially pages 3-7.  It helps us grasp synagogue worship, and Jesus as a rabbi, abd that we often define worship in too Western and small a way.

First of all, in a Hebrew mindset, "Everything is Spiritual"...

(which is very different from "It's all spiritual")..

Rob Bell video: "Everything is Spiritual"

part 1:

part 2:

part 3:

part 4:

part 5:

-1)Did you notice in the video the synagogue was (also) like a service club/community center?
2)Can you handle talking about/to God in the bathroom?

God in the Bathroom?
The ancient Hebrew language didn’t have a world for “spirituality.” Apparently that category didn’t exist in ancient Hebrew thought because they believed that all of life had the potential to be “spiritual.” This is very different from our dualistic worldview that separates the world into two categories: the spiritual (sacred) and the material (secular). In this worldview, God inhabits the spiritual realm, but he leaves the material realm to us. In order for a dualist to experience God’s presence, he has to transcend the secular realm and tap into the sacred where he will find God. The Hebrew worldview rejects this dualism. Lawrence Kushner puts it this way:

Judaism sees only one world, which is material and spiritual at the same time. The material world is always potentially spiritual. All things– including and especially, such apparently non-spiritual things and grossly material things as garbage, sweat, dirt, and bushes–are not impediments to but dimensions of spirituality.

That means it’s possible to encounter God’s presence anywhere, including the bathroom. Here’s a prayer taken from the Babylonian Talmud that was meant to be prayed while the pray-er was relieving himself:

"Blessed is he who has formed man in wisdom in wisdom and created in him many orifices and cavities. Is is fully know before the Throne of Thy glory that if one of them should be improperly opened or one of them closed it would be impossible for a man to stand before Thee."

If this prayer makes you uncomfortable because you think the bathroom is off limits to God, then you are a dualist.
Wade Hodges


PSALMS are the Jewish prayer-book (Rob Bell called it a "book of poems")  that the early Christians used.  What's wonderful, refreshing, honest...and sometimes disturbing  (to us in the West) is that they cover the whole breadth of life and emotion.  They are all technically songs and prayers..  But note how some weave in and out from a person speaking to God, God speaking to a person, a person speaking to himself.  Somehow, Hebraiclly, holistically, it all counts as prayer.

...And as "song"  Note in your Bible that several psalms have inscriptions which give the name of the tune they are to be prayed/sung to.  Some seem hilarious, counterintuitive, and contradictory, but again not to a Hebrew mindset and worldview, with room for honesty, fuzzy sets and paradox:

  • Psalms  (click) with the line "Destroy my enemies", "break their teeth!!" ... To be sung to the tune of "Do Not Destroy"  !!
  • Psalm 22, a depressing ditty about someone in the throes of rejection despair and death.  To be sung to the tune of "Doe in the Morning"   ??
Can you name contemporary songs where the music doesn't seem to fit the lyric?  Down lyrics to upbeat music?  Vice Versa?  How might that  be healing/helpful/Hebrew/holy?  and not Hellenistic?

Remember the Bono quote:

Click here for the audio (or watch here on Youtube) of this delightful statement by Bono:

"God is interested in truth, and only in truth. And that's why God is more interested in Rock & Roll music than Gospel... Many gospel musicians can't write about what's going on in their life, because it's not allowed .  they can't write about their doubt....If you can't write about what's really going on in the world and your life, because it's all happy-clappy... Is God interested in that? I mean, 'Please, don't patronize Me! I want to go the Nine-Inch-Nails gig, they're talking the truth!

From a 2003 discussion with New York Times, more audio here

"The Jewish disciples all worshipped Jesus, and some of those worshippers doubted."  (matthew 28:17)

"The opposite of faith is not doubt, but certainty."  -Anne Lammott


This audio (click) recording (video below also if the audio format doesn't work for you) of Bono introducing Pastor Jack Heaslip (U2's chaplain/pastor...kinda) to offer a prayer/blessing on the opening night (Miami) of U2's 2001 Elevation tour, is wonderful on so many levels.

For one, try playing it without revealing who it is (too bad the Irish accents are so obvious) to a CCMfundagelical, one skeptical of U2's faith, just mentioning that it's a prayer by a band's pastor on a tour's opening night.

Their complaint couldn't be that it wasn't evangelical enough (It could have come from a Michael W. Smith or Third Day gig), but that is is too evangelical; it's not just a quick opening prayer, he even prays over every inch of wire and sound equipment. Yeah, so evangelical that it's too (uh oh) "charismatic" ("Gee, he sure used the 'a' word a lot in that prayer.").

I love how in the introduction Bono offers all the band's staff, roadies, etc. opportunity to participate in the blessing, without apology, but without coercion or exclusion. He's bounded and centered. "Seeker sensitive," even...(Maybe he has been hanging with Bill Hybels and Rick Warren too much! (:......)Who could turn him down when he asks "if anyone wants a blessing"?

I also enjoy Bono's casual, almost apologetic (in both senses of the term) self-effacing (!) remark at the band about feeding the hungry "apparently"(yeah, like he had nothing to do with it) on the band that night.

Wow; and with that prayer; and Pastor Jack coordinating prayerwalks of the stadiums and venues each night of the wonder it turned ou


There are several ways to categorize the psalms.

The first is the way the Bible itself does: Psalms is broken down into 5 "books"  Hmm, 5...does that sound familiar?  Name another book with 5 sections and suggest an answer for "Whats up with the number 5?"
Note the 5 sections are not comprised of different kinds/genres of psalms..but the styles and kinds are "randomnly"
represented throught the book..
kind of like life..

  Here is one way to categorize the styles and genres:

 Walter Brueggemann  suggests anotherhelpful way to categorize the Psalms.

o      Creation - in which we consider the world and our place in it
o      Torah - in which we consider the importance of God's revealed will
o      Wisdom - in which we consider the importance of living well
o      Narrative - in which we consider our past and its influence on our present
o      Psalms of Trust - in which we express our trust in God's care and goodness

q        Disorientation:
o      Lament - in which we/I express anger, frustration, confusion about God's (seeming?) absence
§       Communal
§       Individual
o      Penitential - in which we/I express regret and sorrow over wrongs we have done
§       Communal
§       Individual

q        Reorientation
o      Thanksgiving - in which we thank God for what God has done for us/me
§       Communal
§       Individual
o      Hymns of Praise - in which we praise God for who God is
o      Zion Psalms- in which we praise God for our home
o      Royal Psalms - in which we consider the role of political leadership
o      Covenant Renewal - in which we renew our relationship with God
                                          -Bruggeman, source Click here.

 note how astonishingly HONEST the prayer/worship book of the Jews (and Christians) is!

We'll spend some time on the "three worlds" of Psalm 22, which Jesus quotes  honestly  on the cross:

Here (click title below) 's a sermon on Psalm 22, which is another amazing psalm to use in a worship setting...How often have you heard "My God, My God, Why have You forsaken me?"   Or "God, where were YOU when I needed you!!"

  in a church song?

Yet how familiar is the very next psalm: 23.

Life is both Psalm 22 and 23...sometimes on the same day, in the same prayer.
If we think both/and...we think Hebrew.

Here's a link with several of the stories and illustrations I talked about:

"The Lord Be With You...Even When He’s Not!"

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Week 4: "So What?", Prophecy, Subversion

1)"So What?" for Nurses

Since we are halfway through the class(I am already grieving that, you may be excited!)..
We'll spend some time asking the "SO WHAT?" question about everything we've been  learning so far..
What do things like chiasm,    Herod's fortress, weddings on Mount Sinai, cross-cultural comedians who "get their sushi at 7-11 etc  have to do with your daily "contemporary world" of nursing?

Discussion about our Chapman textbook (that you wrote about tonight) should help.

I will fill in some of your answers in the space below during class:

We'll plan to take two brief field trips tonight...this time Israel, not Egypt..
with Ray VanDerLaan of course.
both on the theme of Jesus as compassionate, counterintuitive "caregiver" who subverted expectations and gave himself sacrificially..
"The Weight of The World" and "Lamb of God".  Neither is online, but suffice to say these images from the first trip:

and these from the second:

..will be remembered as symbols of radical self-giving service and kenosis
(just throwing out a quiz term there!).


This whole next session (in red), I have copied in from Week 2's post, because we didn't have time to talk about it then...we will tonight:
Often those in caregiving careers/ministries...such as yourselves..
face a deep dilemma and profound paradox.. you care intensely..but ironically,
you live and work  embedded in a system/matrix that "cannot" care.

Have you noticed that certain professions;
clergy, funeral directors, counselors doctors and NURSES
have "inhouse" jokes that might seem irreverent to outsiders to our "bounded set."?  At its best, it's one way of keeping your sanity and remaining caring.
Watch this  below...( well listen anyway, it's only audio) for a humorous example from those famous "theologians," Cheech and Chong (!!)in an old skit about Friday night employees of the E.R.:

Click the title below to read a related hilarious story:
one of my all-time favorite stories. Unfortunately, it's true!
From Eugene Peterson's "Under the Unpredictable Plant:

Sex and Drugs in Church: Peterson on Why the System Can't Care

All this to tie into "Hospitals and Those In Them) Need the Word of God," Fresno pastor Chris Erdman's amazing chapter 14 in "Countdown to Sunday," four pages that for me are as chillingly accurate,
and practically pastoral as anything in the massive "pastoral help" library.

As a pastor still wet behind my ears, I truly felt intimidated by the bravado of hospital technology and shrank before it. I didn't know then that the hospital itself, as much as the patients I went to visit, also needed to hear the Word of God in order to be what God intended it to be--an agent of divine grace, occupying its place as servant, not master...

I might not always carry a Bible [on hospital visits], but I always carry a text in mind that I speak among all the bleeps and blips and pokes. Hosting the text there among the gods of steel and electricity and drugs and know-how is vital work. The technology no longer intimidates me...

..So today, as I enter hospital doors and walk those hallways and sit beside beds and in waiting rooms and open those texts of ours. I don't stand and shout the Word--it's a power that doesn't need my strength or my energy. As I do, I not oy see the persons who need this Word leaning in, but I sense the walls themselves bending near...The real weapons that bring wholeness and peace are not machines but words, as small and feeble as they may seem. And all we have to do is mutter them.
Chris Erdman, "Countdown to Sunday," pp 71-73.

Reading this in the very real context and contour of a week of hospital visits to the sweetest saint imaginable; surrounded helplessly but not hopelessly by those bleeps and pokes and machines has brought tears to my eyes and whole images from Chris's chapter to bear on the situation.
I have never been one for wanting to look very pastorly/religious on hospital calls. I don't even park in the clergy parking!

And like a good stealth pastor, I keep my small pocket Bible tucked away.

But I can now pull it out to pay a pastoral (and prophetic) call on the relentless beeping heart monitor. Gently, I rage against the machine; I do not welcome myself to it or its domain.
Instead, I Word it back to its creative and redemptive purpose. And I have seen, like Chris, "medical people who know firsthand the limits of these gods and who themselves long to hear the Bible read in this place that often intimidates them too--they've seen the soft underbelly of the beast that demands their homage."

"Resistance is the protest of those who hope,"
as J├╝rgen Moltmann has it ( "The Power of the Powerless").

(above excerpted from my blog post: "Gentle Rage Against the HospitalMachines"

I really recommend

Chapter 5 of "Hospital Ministry,' (ed. by Holst)
"Hospitalization: A Rite of Passage"  by John Katonah..
We'll summarize it in class, but it is complete here below

(click each page to read, then click again to enlarge):

Related reading:

>>Here is a link  to read  which critiques Katonah's s three stages (see pp 302-303, about stripping but not consummating )

>>Another book suggests prayers/liturgies(click to read) that nurses/caregivers can offer  to accompany each of the three stages.

Since tonight's Bible theme is PROPHECY and SUBVERSION..and the symbol is:

we'll talk about:


It is helpful to think of prophecy as:

a).not just
fore-telling (predicting the future)


forth-telling  (telling forth truth)

b)often having multiple applications and fulfillments, to different "contemporary worlds" and across time.
We'll  used this diagram to illustrate:

-Who was Immanuel?
-Who does "out of Egypt, I have called my son" refer to ?

- < Subvers

3)Subversion of Empire
The early Christian church, living as an

  • alternative
  • counter-cultural
  • Upside Down Kingdom
 community and comunitas (within the Matrix/ Roman Empire; in but not of it)
had to decide how to respond to the empire/emperors.
Here below are two "literary/historical world" examples of one of their key responses:

Subvert/satirize it.
(How do you compare this response to culture/government/empire
to those of the Pharisees,Sadducces, Zealots and Romans (discussed  9/22, see here)

a)The Crucifixion/Resurrection accounts in the gospels:
Especially in Mark,  the "Literary world" styling and "Historical world" background  ofJesus' crucifixion scene seems set up to satirize empire, and encourage subversion. Here is a summary below from Shane Claiborne's book, "Jesus For President":

Coronation and Procession (8 steps):
1. Caesar: The Praetorian guard (six thousand soldiers) gathered in the Praetorium. The would-be Caesar was brought into the middle of the gathering.
1. Jesus: Jesus was brought to the Praetorium in Jerusalem. And the whole company of soldiers (at least two hundred) gathered there.
2. Caesar: A purple robe was placed on the candidate. They were also given an olive-leaf wreath made of gold and a sceptre for the authority of Rome.
2. Jesus: Soldiers brought Jesus a wreath (of thorns), a sceptre (an old stick), and a purple robe.
3. Caesar: Caesar was loudly acclaimed as triumphant by the Praetorian Guard.
3. Jesus: Sarcastically, the soldiers acclaimed, mocked, and paid homage to Jesus.
4. Caesar: A procession through the streets began. Caesar walked with a sacrificial bull and a slave with an axe to kill the bull behind him.
4. Jesus: The procession began. But instead of a bull the would-be king and god became the sacrifice and Simon of Cyrene was to carry the cross.
5. Caesar: The procession moved to the highest hill in Rome, the Capitolene hill (‘head hill’).
5. Jesus: Jesus was led up to Golgotha (in Aramaic ‘head hill’).
6. Caesar: The candidate stood before the temple altar and was offered a bowl of wine mixed with myrrh, which he was to refuse. The wine was then poured onto the bull and the bull was then killed.
6. Jesus: He was offered wine, and he refused. Right after, it is written, “And they crucified him.”
7. Caesar: The Caesar-to-be gathered his second in command on his right hand and his third on his left.
7. Jesus: Next came the account of those being crucified on his right and left.
8. Caesar: The crowd acclaimed the inaugurated emperor. And for the divine seal of approval, the gods would send signs, such as a flock of doves or a solar eclipse.
8. Jesus: He was again acclaimed (mocked) and a divine sign confirmed God’s presence (the temple curtain ripped in two). Finally, the Roman guard, who undoubtedly pledged allegiance to Caesar, the other ‘Son of God’, was converted and acclaimed this man as the Son of God.
This extraordinary symbolism would have been unmistakable to the first readers of the Gospel. The crown of thorns, the purple robe, the royal staff; the whole section leading up to the crucifixion reads like the coronation of Jesus! At the apex of this passage is the Roman Centurion’s exclamation that “Surely this man was the Son of God!” He saw how Jesus died and became the first evangelist. His realisation tears apart his whole view of the world and reveals the fallacy of earthly empire and the nature of the true King.
Mark is trying to show us where our allegiance should lie. At the foot of the cross, when even those that Jesus loved must have been bewildered (only failed Messiahs hung on crosses), a Roman Centurion proclaimed that Jesus was the Son of God! The journey to the cross was the final coronation of the Son of God, the rightful King, who in the cross defeated sin and death.
-Link: Shapevine 


  • Here's a Ray VanDer Laan article that Shane Claiborne drew from in the coronation article above..
  • Here is a podcast interview Keltic Ken and I did with Shane Claiborne.

b)Book of Revelation:
Here below is a Rob Bell sermon that presents the book of Revelation as subversion of empire; many do not realize that the "historical world" of this book has much to do with persecution by emperors for not worshipping them:

“Domitian was the first emperor to understand that behind the Christian movement there stood an enigmatic figure who threatened the glory of the emperors. He was the first to declare war on this figure …” Ethelbert Stauffer. How do followers of a peaceful Christ respond when the government has declared war and death on them?