Saturday, April 25, 2009

Tilling The Inner Land

As you may have noticed, I changed the name of this blog. Unlike Facebook i didn't propose the idea to my entire readership and ask for a vote. Reason being, quite frankly I think all three of you would have taken too long to reply. None the less, you deserve an explanation, and i am semi-prepared to give it to you. Please hold all questions until the end.

The past four years i have attempted to create gardens. My first Garden was in Toledo, OH at my rented duplex. At the time, I only knew that if you put a seed in dirt, it might grow. That was the full extent of my knowledge of gardening. So in a horribly lit area measuring about 4x2 feet i planted peppers, tomatoes and watermelons! the package said i needed to keep a good 12 inches or more between the plants, but i figured they didn't know i had limited space, so i planted enough seeds for probably 30-50 plants of each crop. So i guess around 150 plants in all, when i had enough space for 3 plants, and enough sun for none. There were a huge number of other things i did not take into consideration, but hey, at least i tried. Surprisingly a couple plants managed to grow out of the soil, but yielded hardly anything, and what it did produce, the bugs feasted on. It's nothing short of hilarious to think back on that futile effort.

My second garden was set up for success, but not by me. At this point i still didn't even know that you needed to till the ground. Nor, until recently did i know a thing about soil preparation, building raised bed, etc etc. But a 20 year gardening vet. tilled up some ground for me that had been gardened for some 30 years, so it was good to go. Except the night that i showed up with all my little seed packets to plant in May, I found out that planting seeds in May would lead to me possibly having about five tomatoes before the autumn frost wiped out the plants. So i went out and bought a bunch of pepper, tomato, broccoli, cauliflower, watermelon, and cabbage plants. With guidance from my friends i managed to get a pretty good crop that year. though most of it went bad before we could use it, since we still had no clue how to can vegetables.

My third garden consisted of three tomato plants and five pepper plants, planted in planters on our back porch at a new apartment we just moved into. They were doing pretty good, but due to unforeseen troubles with the locals, and many other reasons, we packed our bags and hit the road out west, leaving before getting anything.

Some friends and I have started just a couple weeks ago on my fourth garden. By the grace of God, in the middle of Portland, OR, right next door we were able to secure a .11 acre lot to garden, for free. Being here, I am surrounded by passionate urban gardeners, and I am learning a lot about this wonderful lost trade, that we all need.

For the past couple of weeks we have done nothing but till the soil. till, then till some more, then till that again, and now try again, and again, now a little deeper. Since this is new ground its been especially difficult, due to the extraordinary amount of good size rocks, and the hard clay soil.

So im figuring out that gardening is not just opening a seed packet, dumping it out and covering it with some dirt and then waiting a few months for delicious tomatoes. It takes time. Its a long process that requires much patience, perseverance and beer. It may take years to get a good plot going the way you need it to, but its worth it in the end.

During the tilling process there are a lot of big ugly rocks to remove. There often needs to be some good compost mixed in to make the soil more healthy, and so much more. And this is where the tilling idea comes from.

In our community we have what are called "til-ing" groups. I forget what it stands for, but during these times 3 or so people gather together for an intimate heart to heart conversation. And through prayer, confession, exhortations, etc. we till the hard, unproductive rock-filled soil of our hearts. We kindly assist one another in removing the 'rocks' in our hearts that may choke out the plants that could otherwise grow and produce fruit. These rocks may be sin in our lives, hurts from the past, ignorance, etc.

The Inner Land part, is stolen from Eberhard Arnold's book, called....Inner Land. Bet you didn't see that one coming. Its a tough to read good book. I imagine from the title alone, you get what its general subject might be about...our souls, our hearts, our lives.

So with this new trajectory, lets till the soil in our hearts, in our souls. It may take a lot of painful hard work, requiring patience, perseverance, a bit of beer, and of course each other, but in the end our souls will be suitable soil for wonderful life-giving fruits.

Peace be with us.


Reimagining the Gathering Place

Alright folks, sorry, I have been away mentally, and unable to concentrate on this study, but if i wait until I'm mentally with it, we may be waiting a long time, so lets plow ahead forward.

There are two basic church locations and set ups today, in a "church building," which i will refer to as a basilica (and that includes houses converted into basilicas) and in someones home.

In the New Testament its clear that church meetings were held in peoples homes, and when there were too many to fit in the home, they multiplied and had two meetings in two different homes. And this trend continued from Jesus, to the apostles, to the early church for 300 years. That's a long time. But for what reasons? Frank will tell us...for at least these five reasons...

1. The home testifies that the people comprise Gods house...

Like the Old Testament Judaism concept of the Temple being the house of God, we see today people calling a church building the 'house of God'. But the early Christians understood well that Gods presence resides in the community of God, in the people, not a particular building or object. So then, there is so sanctity placed on a building, or a "sanctuary" in the building. The people is where its at!

Nor is a building even qualified to be called a church...what a miscommunication we are sending to the general public. The church is the people, not the building.

2. The Home is the natural setting for 'One-Anothering'...

The activities that are described for us in the New Testament that a church should be partaking in is best suited for a small group sitting together in a circle, Mutual participation, exercising the gifts of the spirit, fostering intentional, face-to-face community, eating the communal meal, fostering mutual love and edification for one another, interactive sharing, and the shared life of the Holy Spirit, affirming one another, etc, etc. These are all made possible by the unique setting of a small group of people sitting in a circle together.

3. The home represents the humility of Christ...

"Humility, naturalness and pure-simplicity," are values the early church held that a home represented well (as opposed to the basilica setting).

Also, as Viola points out, Christians in America put between $9 and $11 Billion into church buildings every year! I don't know all the numbers, but I do know that there are higher priorities for our money in this world today. Take, for example, the 30,000+ children dying everyday as a result of a lack of food. Or the thousands of even just Americans that struggle to have adequate health care. Or the pregnant teenager who would keep her baby if the church would put their money where their mouth is and help this young lady raise her child. Or simply helping Bob next door (who, by the way, hates the church) pay his gas bill so he and his family can be warm. And literally hundreds of thousands more important needs that exist today, all of which could be seriously addressed by the Church if we weren't burning our money on building and maintaining 'church' structures.

4. The Home reflects the Family Nature of the Church

If anyone has ever had a family gathering before at a church building or rental hall (as i experience on some thanksgivings), you probably have noticed the inorganic detached feel of it all. It just doesn't feel right.

Basilica churches are designed (well) to create a passive group of people who all look towards and receive from one person in the front. Also the front pulpit area is often raised in order to reinforce the idea of a division between the clergy and the laity.

Needless to say, this does not reinforce the new testament model of church which encourages mutual participation, interactive talks, etc. The home setting does just that. Just like a family.

In addition to that, its easy to see how in a basilica, one can easily hide away and never be noticed, but this is nearly impossible to do in the home setting....and that's a good thing.

5. the Home Models Spiritual Authenticity

The basilica model of church fosters a (false) division between the sacred and the secular. No such division exists in the New Testament, or in reality. The church gathering is not a sacred event which would call for dressing up and putting on your "spiritual" demeanor. Life is sacred. Life is spiritual. The home setting for the gathering helps us to connect the spiritual with the everyday life. Its all one. "Its all the blanket."

To conclude, its really quite simple, The church is supposed to be an edifying social activity, and the basilica is not conducive to such interactions, but the home does. To quote Viola..."The typical Sanctuary, or chapel, the pulpit, the pews, and the massive space breathe a formal air that inhibits interaction and relatedness. The peculiar features of a home produce the opposite effects."

So there you have it. Time to sell those church buildings or convert them into little communes. Whatever you do, stop meeting in them for church gatherings, you have a house for that purpose.

Next chapter...reimagining the Family of God


the one called, Brandon

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Salvation has Come!

Sorry i have not written in a while, i've had a lot of things on my mind that have not allowed me to adequately read and transfer the info i have been sharing on Violas book. and i still have not read the next chapter, so im taking a break at least for one post.

I recently returned from a weekend retreat for our church community. A lot of really great things occurred there, and it was very rejuvenating. One thing i bring back from that experience is a renewed sense of what it means to have salvation, to be the church, to be the community of God. All day Saturday we explored this theme by doing an in depth Bible study of the first four books of Genesis and some of Ephesians. This is ONE thing i got....

There is NO such thing as Personal Salvation. Salvation is a word to describe the chance to live a communal life, with God and others.

Let me explain further. Before the foundations of the earth were laid there lived one God, in three persons. These three persons lived in absolute harmony with one another, and do to this day. We will call These three persons in one, the Triune God, or Yahweh. Yahweh lived in absolute community, in oneness with the three persons within. (I hope this doesnt sound too weird, if it does, dont worry about it) So Yahwehs plan for the earth was to open this this community if you will, to man. This is where Adam comes into the pictures. As it says in Genesis, Adam walked and talked, and was one with God. Still though, God saw that Adam should not be alone, and thats where the animals and Eve came into play.

Adam and Eve were two persons, but one together. They had absolute trust, community and love for each other. And they were one with God. They lived in true peace. Not peace that the world offers that looks more like the mere absence of conflict. But of course, sin came and all the negative outcomes. The main point being that communion with each other and with the Triune God was broken. Finger pointing and distrust came, and created a downward spiral until finally mankind was killing each other out of jealousy and rage. IT got pretty ugly. Though this is not what God had in mind for humanity, he was not about to give up.

God had a plan, a vision for humanity that meant returning to true community with each other. true peace. true harmony. Oneness with others and with God. I wont go through the entire Old Testament, but suffice it to say that starting with Abraham's calling to leave the land called Ur, God was working and preparing to renew the life that we once had. I (and others) call it the "life-together" life. Life with God, life with others. All of us as One. And this is where Jesus, the messiah, comes into play.

Jesus came to show us the way back. He showed us THE WAY TO LIVE. And he came to reverse the consequences of sin, which is, in a phrase, broken relationships. Again, with God and with others. Jesus' death upon the cross, not only showed us what it means to sacrifice and lay down your life for another, but it also broke the hold that sin can have in our lives. Jesus' work in his life and upon the cross therefore, gives us the ability to be one with God and others. To be in community with God and others. Salvation is living a "life-together" life. There is no such thing as personal salvation, because salvation has not come to you, it has come to us. Salvation is for Everyone, as a unit, rather than everyone individually.

Those who take up this new life of community experience salvation! This is the Gospel! The good news! That is, once we were alienated from God and others due to our sin. But through Jesus we are given the chance to no longer have sin as a deterrent in our relationships. We can live the way God intended for humanity, and still absolute community and harmony with those around us.

Salvation is not...Jesus died on the cross and now we can retire from our lives and go to heaven. FAR FROM IT!!! Salvation is that we are FREE to live as ONE with others, WITH God. now let us find out what that means. I can say one thing. Salvation, the Gospel, it looks a lot like community. It looks a lot like unconditional love. Love without conditions. Life with you.

One of the speakers kept referring to Jerry McGuire's now cheesy phrase, "You complete Me." And that just it. We are incomplete with out each other and without God. But when we are made one with each other, we become complete.

this life together will not always look pretty, and it will not always be without conflict. It will look a lot like a man and a woman who choose to share all their things in common and live together in a house. It may get ugly at times, but they remain committed through thick and thin. They are committed to figuring out how to live life together. And this is a beautiful picture of our life together in this thing we call Church, The community of Gods people. Salvation has come to US. We are free to live at peace with our brothers and sisters. We are free to share all things in common.