Sunday, April 29, 2007

And this is for the Gators winning EVERYTHING!!

At least something's going right in this world.

Keep 'em comin'!

Saturday, April 28, 2007

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Moderate graf

As I was riding the bus the other day and trying to avoid eye-contact (while people-gazing nevertheless. It's like a game. I try to keep my ring in full-view and not gawk at people. It's interesting. You should try it.) I caught an ad for the Illinois Dept. of Rev. They want citizens to e- their tax returns. Which, I suppose, is cool. Less paperwork, right? (Marginally.) The ad read: Want taxes to be less taxing? The perfectly legible penciled-in graffiti underneath read: Vote Republican.

Probably the first instance of neo-con graffiti that I've ever seen. Which I think is interesting. Most graf that I catch is polar in its essence. There is the very conservative gang graffiti that says, this is our area, our block, our marker, stay out non-locals/non-us. There is the very liberal tagging which says that all property is public property and therefore also my property - and I have the right to mark the world with my name. Yet, even amongst those distinctives, there are shades of moderation. One of the most prolific taggers in my neighborhood goes by the nom-de-plum Jimmy Carter. Huge letters. Just a tad bit fancy. But also perfectly legible. On mailboxes all over the general Logan Square neighborhood. The southern farmer/ex-President/humanitarian is making a public-yet-restrained-yet-illegal comeback as a street chameleon.

I wonder if the Jimmy Carter guy and the Vote Republican guy ever met. And what would they say to each other. Would they engage in a lively debate about the necessity of individual rights v. corporate rights. Over earning v. living wages. Education. Etc.

Or would they just pull out their markers and try to scribble on each other as fast as they can, in the tradition of the Old West, as many moderates secretly love to imagine themselves resolving conflicts.

Let's Play Catch-Up!

  • Apparently, Ol' Bessie (aka, Cheap Acer - the term-of-no-endearment Mrs. jasdye gave her) was running on empty. The old hard drive just ain't what it used to be. An expensive inpatient stay at the Geek Squad informed me of that. Now I have to try to figure if I want to spend another couple bills fixing her or just start from scratch and buy a more reliable machine. Which I may or may not take with me to work (why should I endanger my machine for their work?, I keep asking myself. To no avail. I make a lousy conversationalist). In any case, I'm really concerned about my iTunes. Can I transfer all those tunes via my iPod into another computer? How does that work with the DRM's? Does anybody know? Stupid, stupid, stupid. I need to back everything up from now on out eight times over.
  • I also lost my phone. I'm turning into Homer Simpson in things digital. Funny thing is, I haven't stored most of the numbers there anywhere else and I barely remember my own number. AAAAAAAAAARRRRRRRRRGGGGGGGGHHHHHHHHH!!!!! I'm such a block-head.
  • Mrs. jasdye and I have been looking for a new church now for a bit. Which has been hard for me, since my old church is like family. Old family, in quite a few cases. But, we're both really liking this church. It's about a mile from our house, it's multi-cultural (in some ways more so than our last - which is hard to find in the Evangelical tradition), has a congregation that is social/economically-mixed (also like our last church - with a mixture of homeless, yuppies, college students, hipsters, etc.), is laid back but mixes high-church liturgy (which is a mix that I'm pretty comfortable with and have been trying to get my old church to embrace), and speaks our language in terms of the redemptive work of God in the whole of the world through Jesus' death and resurrection. The one weak spot that we've noticed is that we would be considered in the older end of the church's spectrum, that being a very small window for the most part. But, like ourselves, it seems like the church is also booming out some babies and young'uns. So, we'll see and try to keep posted.

Friday, April 13, 2007

I think my poor computer's about as exhausted as I am, or would be, if I didn't take some much needed (and for once, well-timed) breaks this week.

Taught the night at the youth group. Had a blast. Miss the rugrats. I couldn't even imagine giving a half-hour lecture to my own students and them being anywhere near as attentive. Ok, I was given twenty minutes, but another thing I couldn't imagine is even broaching this massive subject matter in only a third of an hour, unless it was as an introduction to a series.

I felt a bit like I was just rushing, just trying to throw stuff on the wall and see what sticks where. My boy Tankie - who's often been my silent sounding board - came through and encouraged me that at least someone carried away something from it.

And now for the final installment:
Isaiah 54
1 "Sing, O childless woman! Break forth into loud and joyful song, O Jerusalem, even though you never gave birth to a child. For the woman who could bear no children now has more than all the other women," says the LORD. 2 "Enlarge your house; build an addition; spread out your home! 3 For you will soon be bursting at the seams. Your descendants will take over other nations and live in their cities. 4 "Fear not; you will no longer live in shame. The shame of your youth and the sorrows of widowhood will be remembered no more, 5 for your Creator will be your husband. The LORD Almighty is his name! He is your Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel, the God of all the earth.

11 "O storm-battered city, troubled and desolate! I will rebuild you on a foundation of sapphires and make the walls of your houses from precious jewels. 12 I will make your towers of sparkling rubies and your gates and walls of shining gems. 13 I will teach all your citizens, and their prosperity will be great. 14 You will live under a government that is just and fair.

1"Is anyone thirsty? Come and drink - even if you have no money! Come, take your choice of wine or milk � it's all free! 2 Why spend your money on food that does not give you strength? Why pay for food that does you no good? Listen, and I will tell you where to get food that is good for the soul! 3 "Come to me with your ears wide open. Listen, for the life of your soul is at stake. I am ready to make an everlasting covenant with you. I will give you all the mercies and unfailing love that I promised to David. 4 He displayed my power by being my witness and a leader among the nations. 5 You also will command the nations, and they will come running to obey, because I, the LORD your God, the Holy One of Israel, have made you glorious."...

8 "My thoughts are completely different from yours," says the LORD. "And my ways are far beyond anything you could imagine. 9 For just as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts higher than your thoughts. 10 "The rain and snow come down from the heavens and stay on the ground to water the earth. They cause the grain to grow, producing seed for the farmer and bread for the hungry. 11 It is the same with my word. I send it out, and it always produces fruit. It will accomplish all I want it to, and it will prosper everywhere I send it. 12 You will live in joy and peace. The mountains and hills will burst into song, and the trees of the field will clap their hands! 13 Where once there were thorns, cypress trees will grow. Where briers grew, myrtles will sprout up. This miracle will bring great honor to the LORD's name; it will be an everlasting sign of his power and love.

What does the resurrection of the Messiah mean for everybody else?

A whole new world! The mountains are running and skipping, the trees are clapping, the rocks will cry out, etc., etc. A small band of people from a "backwards" nation will eventually broaden their scope, become emboldened enough to die horrible deaths proclaiming the death and resurrection of their leader (in the promised hope that they too will be resurrected), gain thousands, tens of thousands, eventually millions and now billions of followers, topple the mighty Roman Empire, heal the sick, comfort the fatherless and widows, cuddle burn-victims, AIDS victims, lepers, establish and run hospitals.

Yes, many horrible things were done by Christians and in the name of Jesus. But those atrocities are more results of being broken and self-centered than of living in and through the resurrection. More a result of having as Lord Caesar and wealth than Jesus. More a result of neglecting our God and our neighbor in favor of self-interests, rather than loving the Lord our God with all our hearts, souls, minds and loving our neighbors as we love ourselves.

And maybe the first step for many of us, in confronting the power of the resurrection, is to step back, reflect, apologize. And then make amends.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

You see, a ghost doesn't have a body

So [the women] rushed back from the tomb to tell his eleven disciples - and everyone else - what had happened... But the story sounded like nonsense to the men, so they didn't believe it. However, Peter jumped up and ran to the tomb to look. Stooping, he peered in and saw the empty linen wrappings,; then he went home again, wondering what had happened.

Luke 24:9, 11-12

Mary was standing outside the tomb crying, and as she wept, she stooped and looked in. She saw two white-robed angels, one sitting at the head and the other at the foot of the place where the body of Jesus had been lying. "Dear woman, why are you crying?" the angels asked her.
"Because they have taken away my Lord," she replied, "and I don't know where they have put him."
She turned to leave and saw someone standing there. It was Jesus, but she didn't recognize him. "Dear woman, why are you crying?" Jesus asked her, "Who are you looking for?"
She thought he was the Gardener. "Sir," she said, "if you have taken him away, tell me where you have put him, and I will go and get him."
"Mary!" Jesus said.
She turned to him and cried out, "Rabboni!"
"Don't cling to me," Jesus said, "for I haven't yet ascended to the Father. But go find my brothers and tell them that I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God." Mary Magdalene found the disciples and told them, "I have seen the Lord!" Then she gave them his message.

John 20:11-18

Then the two from Emmaus told their story of how Jesus had appeared to them as they were walking along the road, and how they had recognized him as he was breaking the bread. And just as they were telling about it, Jesus himself was suddenly standing there among them. "Peace be with you," he said. But the whole group was startled and frightened, thinking they were seeing a ghost!
"Why are you frightened?" he asked. "Why are your hearts filled with doubt? Look at my hands. Look at my feet. You can see that it's really me. Touch me and make sure that I am not a ghost, because ghosts don't have bodies, as you see that I do." As he spoke, he showed them his hands and his feet.
Still they stood there in disbelief, filled with joy and wonder.

Luke 35-37

The gotcha-ness of the Resurrection.

The four canonical Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke and John), for all their different versions of the same story - which has left skeptics wondering why Christians would believe in these muddled accounts in the first place - all record the same reaction from his followers after his resurrection. Male, female, close disciples, Roman guards, and nameless followers all are shaken and fearful upon seeing him, or rather, seeing his body where it shouldn't have been. It was as if Scooby and Shaggy had stumbled unto another one of their ghosts. Except that this was no cheap monster suit, no illusion, and was a first-experience.

The angels' response is similar to Jesus'. Their first words in all their encounters tend to be "Peace" or "Don't be afraid." Although Jesus did seem to walk through walls, I don't think that the response was necessary because people were afraid (as has been suggested by well-meaning Christians) of the awesome size and muscular size of the angels or that Jesus appeared as a ghost. Notice Mary Magdelene's response to the "white-robed angels" and her desperate plea to the gardener. It was more that Jesus was missing from his tomb, his place of death, and instead appearing in front of them.

He should be there, in the tomb he was just placed in. Not missing. And certainly not walking in on meetings.

Yet, it wasn't as if the disciples had no primer on this. They knew about, and many of them clung to the hope of, the resurrection, that the dead shall raise from and beyond the scope of death - bodies and all. I'm pretty sure that they were also getting used to the idea of a Messiah (a Jewish savior who would deliver the Israelites from all captivity) who's dirt poor, who's humble, riding on a donkey's colt. And Jesus himself had warned them (at least three times directly) that he would die and yet rise again.

But you could say all that preparation would only come into play later, after the events themselves. For there was nothing in the schema of the world to prepare them for this. This was all new. No one was prepared for the resurrection to begin now. They anticipated a military victory - a toppling of the power of Rome - before a defeat of their hopes and dreams and lives. They didn't understand, yet, the ways of the power of God. And, in many cases, neither do you nor especially I.

This is all new.

Monday, April 09, 2007

And... Discuss!

The rain and snow come down from the heavens
and stay on the ground to water the earth.
They cause the rain to grow,
producing seed for the farmer
and bread for the hungry.
It is the same with my word.
I send it out, and it always produces fruit.
It will accomplish all I want it to,
and it will prosper everywhere I send it.
You will live in joy and peace.
The mountains and hills will burst into song,
and the trees of the field will clap their hands!
Where once there were throns, cypress trees will grow.
Where nettles grew, myrtles will sprout up.
These events will bring great honor to the Lord's name;
they will be an everlasting sign of his power and love.

Isaish 55:10-13 [New Living Translation]

I will only say this much right now (for lack of sleep and time), just reviewing chapters 52-56:
I am amazed at how much Jesus, the Gospel writers, and John's Revelation relies on the images seemingly centralized here. One I just noticed the other day (to kind of tip my hand in the direction I may or may not head), is the correlation between the 11th verse here and the picture of Jesus produced in the first chapter of John, culminating with his resurrection and vindication.

Let's play a game. What other such correlations do you notice?

Sunday, April 08, 2007

Resurrection life

Easter would hardly have been, for two thousand years, the spring and center of Christian life and prayer, would hardly have provided the focus of Christian worship and the form of Christian hope, if the word Easter were simply the name of something that once happened in the past.

Nicholas Lash, Easter in Ordinary

I'm going to do a little teaching on Thursday night to my old youth group. I miss teaching in the Church context. But at the same time, I feel like this time right now, God is teaching me so much and that my vocation is only beginning to be illuminated. And I feel a bit shaken. Like there's so little I know, even though I've been a Christian for some 26 years. I feel a bit of trembling and shaking.

I'm going to be drawing largely on N. T. Wright (largely The Challenge of Jesus) and Eugene Peterson (in this case, almost exclusively Living the Resurrection) to talk about the resurrection of Jesus (spiritual, intellectual and physical new life-after-death) and his followers and what that means in day-to-day life (hint: it has nothing to do with the Left Behind books or why we should fight for or against anybody in the Middle East [militaristically, that is]).

Please stay tuned for further ruminations throughout the week. Both of you.

Saturday, April 07, 2007

And on the seventh day...

God rested from his work. And God blessed the seventh day and declared it holy.
Genesis 2:2-3

Now there was a good and righteous man named Joseph. He was a member of the Jewish high council, but he had not agreed with the decision and actions of the other religious leaders. He was from the town of Arimathea in Judea, and he was waiting for the Kingdom of God to come. He went to Pilate and asked for Jesus' body. Then he took the body down from the cross and wrapped it in a long sheet of linen cloth and laid it in a new tomb that had been carved out of rock. This was done late on Friday afternoon, the day of preparation, as the Sabbath was about to begin.
As his body was taken away, the women from Galilee followed and saw the tomb where his body was placed. Then they went home and prepared spices and ointments to anoint his body. But by the time they were finished the Sabbath had begun, so they rested as required by the law.
Luke 23:50-56

My wife and I, after a ridiculous week for her, stayed in bed today til 6. PM.
Now, as I've said earlier, Jesus is in the middle of starting a new covenant, but today is what we could call the eye of the hurricane. Rest now, for tomorrow marks new life.

(If I may be so bold as to suggest reading Isaiah 54-55 if you're feeling froggy.)

Citations from New Living Translation.

Friday, April 06, 2007

Gooood Friday, World!*

From The Gospel According to Matthew, Chapter 27, beginning in verse 27:

Some of the governor's soldiers took Jesus into their headquaters and called out the entire regiment. They stripped him and put a scarlet robe on him. They wove thorn branches into a crown and put it on his head, and they placed a reed stick in his right hand as a scepter. Then they knelt before him in mockery and taunted, "Hail! King of the Jews!" And they spit on him and grabbed the stick and struck him on the head with it. When they were finally tired of mocking him, they took off the robe and put his own clothes on him again. Then they led him away to be crucified.**

The type of new covenant that Jesus was sharing in stories and proclamations with his people - first century Jews - was expressed as the coming of a kingdom. The Kingdom of Heaven/God. It's upon you, he would say; it's like a returning, like a coming back from exile, like a homecoming for a wayward son; it starts out small and will grow like a huge tree where all the birds can nest; it's a party for the poor, diseased, crippled, vagrants, prostitutes and anyone else that wants in; it will be like the end of this world, and the beginning of a new one; it'll be cosmic, on the scale 0f stars falling from the sky and the sun turning red; every knee will bow to the King - including, by inference, Caesars, governors and provincial rulers like Herod and Pontius Pilate.

Many Jews loved this part of the story, including - maybe especially - the Pharisees. They were anticipating it even, trying to purify themselves and their country of infidelity (sound familiar?) to prepare the way of the Lord. They were looking forward to the fulfillment of Isaiah's prophecy, to the perfection of the Word. What the leaders found so unnerving is that this utterly powerless, homeless, seemingly passive (turn the other cheek, the violent try to take it by force, etc.) was declaring that the Kingdom would happen through him. He referenced himself as the Son of God and the Temple. It was obvious he was taking away from their base of power by his miracles and food and stories and wisdom.

So, the leaders (the usually feuding Pharisees and Sadducees - who weren't so happy about upsetting the Roman power structure as the Pharisees - as well as priests, scribes, etc.) came up with a plan. They captured Jesus and brought him to the Roman government. They then charged him with a half-truth: This man is an insurrectionist by claiming that he is the King of the Jews. According to the account given in the Gospel According to John, when Pilate tried to release the popular man, the leaders countered that Jesus' claims to be the King of the Jews was a threat to the power of Caesar. In this, they were correct.

In fact, though, today as I looked over the passage in Matthew 27, I was struck by how little that threat meant to the occupying forces. They weren't just mocking Jesus by calling him and enacting scenes with him, on the cross and in his torture, the "King of the Jews." They were mocking the Jews and their supposedly backward nation, as well as all that they held dear (to my ears, though, I hear traces of Abu Ghraib). Over the next several generations, the Romans would tear apart the land of the Jews and scatter them. But now those who watched over the land (as occupying forces are wont to do) felt little more than contempt for such a puny, little, insignificant, backwards nation that truly believed they were better than anyone else.

The Jews knew this claim to be a massive threat, however, because they believed the promise given to Abraham at the beginning of the old covenant: I will bless you and make you famous, and you will be a blessing to others... All the families on earth will be blessed through you (Genesis 12:2,3). This promise would be repeated and expounded upon in the prophets.

And the saga continues...

*My caveat is that I do not wish for anti-Semitism (or anti-any other people group) or any other such misunderstanding or misinterpretation. Such things are immoral and against the spirit of the whole of the Bible and of the God I worship. With that being said, I'm not trying to offend anyone or make anyone feel threatened or even exclude anyone, but I believe that more illumination is needed, not just hollow political correctness.

**New Living Translation, thank you very much.

Thursday, April 05, 2007

Happy Maundy Thursday! Woo-hoo!

From the Gospel According to Matthew, 26th chapter (New Living Translation):

26 As they were eating, Jesus took a loaf of bread and asked God's blessing on it. Then he broke it in pieces and gave it to the disciples, saying, "Take it and eat it, for this is my body." 27 And he took a cup of wine and gave thanks to God for it. He gave it to them and said, "Each of you drink from it, 28 for this is my blood, which seals the covenant between God and his people. It is poured out to forgive the sins of many. 29 Mark my words I will not drink wine again until the day I drink it new with you in my Father's Kingdom." Then they sang a hymn and went out to the Mount of Olives.

bread and winephoto © 2008 Kim Mc. | more info (via: Wylio)

I'm no biblical scholar, but my understanding is that Jesus is taking forms of an old covenant, an old agreement, between his people and God (of which, remarkably, he is a representative of both, because he's fully both) to establish a new covenant. The old covenant's way of resolving wrongs and trespasses (understood in terms of shed blood and broken bodies of a blemish-free lamb) and of remembrances of where God has brought the people from (the Passover, also celebrated this month, is the immediate context for the meal that Jesus and his disciples were eating for) is being both perfected and completed by the end of the week. In its place, Jesus stands as a testimony to the new testament, the new covenant.

The new covenant, well, we'll get to that shortly.

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Smugglers: or How I Have Yet Learned to Stop Worrying and Watch Lord of War and Blood Diamond

A rather short (but still self-involved) treatise on my rushing memories of Lord of War and Blood Diamond:

Two white men make semi-lucrative careers moving guns and goods between despotic warlords in Africa - where leadership is traded like violent payment for long-overdue gambling debts - many of whom exploit pre-adolescents for their impressionable wills and trigger fingers. Under the feigned ignorance of amorality (which doesn't exist) and cries of "meeting a service" (the same cries pushers on the West Side of Chicago mistakenly convince themselves of to cover up their shame in "making a market"), such Lords of War are arming kid energy-led platoons.

One of the child soldiers in BD assumes the nom-de-generation "Baby Killer." As Homer of the Simpsons would implore, "It works on so many levels."

Spoiler Alert!! (??); although I doubt it being that (a) it's pretty obvious to anyone who has seen snippets of it; (b) there's a good chance you may see neither film; (c) neither movie is a thriller, though both may have revelations along the way; (d) you're probably not reading this anyway.

The main difference between these two hung men (played by Nic Cage in LoW and Leonardo DiCaprio in BD) is that DiCaprio's character is slowly changing through the movie (partly led by the most foreign of all film conceits - he's in love). Although he could never directly tell anybody until the last minute, DiCaprio The Actor has to let us in on his character development.
Because of the political motivations behind the makers of LoW, though, Cage's character remains resigned to his role as a knowing cog-in-the-wheel-that-is-bigger-than-he. He remains a willing and winking scapegoat for a government that needs his support. For love of country, for love of money, he's got a duty to do, and he's gonna do it, come hell, high water, or his brother's merciless murder before his eyes. O yeah, don't forget the night with the AIDS-infected supermodels.

Unfortunately, message movies can effectively and affectively pass along much-needed (and sometimes mis-guided) information in such a way that asks us to pause before we act, or cause us to act (Why I didn't check before I bought our wedding rings is probably as good a place to start the self-aggrandizing. Though I suppose prayer, more research and money well-spent would be more appropriate and healthy), they can still contain the stench of lies.