Feeding Others for Lent

Posted February 12, 2013 by rogueminister
Categories: Christianity, hunger, Jesus, justice, Kingdom of God, life, money, Poverty

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I like to eat, a lot! That is why the idea of fasting from any sort of food has always made my stomach a bit nervous.

I, like most folks who are reading this, have enough to eat. Unfortunately though, the facts about hunger remind us that others are not so fortunate. We know that 868 million people are undernourished, and 25 thousand men, women and children will die today of hunger related causes. That means by the time you finish reading this post about 17 people will lose their lives because they could not get enough to eat.

This bag has two full days worth of healthy meals!

This bag has two full days worth of healthy meals!

So, what does this have to do with fasting for Lent? Well, Isaiah 58 tells us that the sort of fasting that God desires involves fighting injustice, including giving food to the hungry. So, I have decided to join some friends in a fast that will get nutritious food to those who need it most. We will each be forgoing our normal diets and joining in solidarity with thousands of people around the whose only nutritious meals come from the organization Stop Hunger Now.

I will be trading in my typical American diet for Stop Hunger Now’s nutritious rice, dried veggie, soy protein, and vitamin powder packaged meals. I will eat these packaged meals (at 200 calories a piece) for each meal for all 40 days of Lent. Now for the part about how this helps other people eat.

My meals for 40 days!

My meals for 40 days!

I am asking that you join me in this effort by sponsoring my fasting journey through Lent by matching the $40 (a dollar for each day of Lent, or however much you can give) I invested toward funding a meal packaging event at Asbury Seminary for Stop Hunger Now.

Each meal packaged only costs $.25 and will be sent to hungry people, primarily children, all over the world. My $40 will feed me for 40 days, but every matching sponsor sustains the life of a child suffering from chronic hunger for over 5 months!

Please consider joining with me in this act of service by matching my monetary investment, or by giving whatever you can.  Every dollar you give will provide four meals to hungry people around the world. Your action can save the life of one on the brink of death, break the cycle of poverty by improving educational performance and opportunity, and help stabilize families made vulnerable by extreme poverty. You can donate securely here throughout Lent to help us reach our goal of 25,000 meals.

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More Quotes from Christians on Nonviolence

Posted November 1, 2012 by rogueminister
Categories: belief, Christianity, Christianity, religion, church, Church History, faith, God, Jesus, Kingdom of God, life, Nonviolence, pacifism, Peace, Religion, war

Asbury Theological Seminary has a new publishing and resourcing venture called Seedbed. They recently invited me to offer a short case for nonviolence. As a part of that post I offered some provocative quotes from a variety of voices throughout church history. However, because of the limited space many of them were cut from the final draft. So, I thought it would be helpful to post the rest of them here.*

Marcellus, ?-298 A.D. 

“I threw down my arms for it was not seemly that a Christian man, who renders military service to the Lord Christ, should render it by earthly injuries.” “It is not lawful for a Christian to bear arms for any earthly consideration.”

Irenaeus, approx. 180 A.D.

“Christians have changed their swords and their lances into instruments of peace, and they know not now how to fight.”

Justin Martyr, approx. 138 A.D.

“We, who used to kill one another, do not make war on our enemies. We refuse to tell lies or deceive our inquisitors; we prefer to die acknowledging Christ.”

Tertullian, 155-230 A.D.

“But how will a Christian engage in war—indeed, how will a Christian even engage in military service during peacetime—without the sword, which the Lord has taken away? For although soldiers had approached John to receive instructions and a centurion believed, this does not change the fact that afterward, the Lord, by disarming Peter, disarmed every soldier.”

“Under no circumstances should a true Christian draw the sword.”

Hippolytus, 170-236 A.D.

“A soldier, being inferior in rank to God, must not kill anyone. If ordered to, he must not carry out the order, nor may he take an oath to do so. If he does not accept this, let him be dismissed from the church. Anyone bearing the power of the sword, or any city magistrate, who wears purple, let him cease from wearing it at once or be dismissed from the church. Any catechumen or believer who wishes to become a soldier must be dismissed from the church because they have despised God.”

Cyprian, approx. 250 A.D.

“[Christians] are not allowed to kill, but they must be ready to be put to death themselves… it is not permitted the guiltless to put even the guilty to death.” “God wished iron to be used for the cultivation of the earth, and therefore it should not be used to take human life.”

St. Martin of Tours 316-397 A.D.

“I am a soldier of Christ, I cannot fight.”

Paulinas of Nola 325-431

“Do not go on loving this world and the military service that is part of it because Scripture bears witness that anyone who is ‘a friend of the world is an enemy of God.’ (James 4:44) The man who fights with the sword is an agent of death, and whoever sheds his own blood or someone else’s will have death as his wages. He will be responsible for his own death or for the crime of bringing it on another because of necessity, the soldier in war, even though he fights for someone else rather than himself, either meets death in defeat or attains victory through killing. One cannot be victorious except through shedding blood. For this reason the Lord says, ‘You cannot serve two masters’ (Matt. 6:24), that is, both the one God and mammon, both Christ and Caesar.”

Smaragdus d. c. 825

“For the world has its soldiers and Christ has his. Now the world’s soldiers take up weak and slippery weapons, whereas Christ’s soldiers take up strong and bright ones. The former fight against their enemies, and the result is they bring themselves and those they kill to eternal punishment; the latter fight against vices, so that after death they may be able to gain eternal life and its rewards; the former fight, and the result is they go down into hell, the latter fight that they may ascend to glory; the former fight so after death are enslaved with the demons of hell, the latter fight so that they may always rejoice with the angels; the former fight an so will always mourn with the devil, the latter fight so that they may always exult with Christ… For the former, to live is hard labor and to die is torment; for the latter, to live is Christ and to die is gain. The former battle against visible, the latter against invisible enemies.”

The Lollards Late 1300s

“Manslaughter in battle or by pretended law of justice for a temporal cause, without spiritual revelation, is expressly contrary to the New Testament, which is a law of grace and full of mercy. This conclusion is openly proved by the examples of Christ’s preaching here on earth, for he specially taught man to love and have mercy on his enemies and not to slay them… The law of mercy that is the New Testament forbids all manslaughter; in the Gospel, ‘it was said to them, thou shalt not kill.’ … For by meekness and patience was our faith multiplied, and Jesus Christ hates and threatens fighters and manslayers [when he says]: ‘He who lives by the sword, shall perish by the sword.’”

Desiderius Erasmus 1469-1536

“He should consider how desirable, how honorable, how wholesome a thing is peace; on the other hand, how calamitous as well as wicked a thing is war, and how even the most just of wars brings with it a train of evils – if indeed any war can really be called just.”

Peter Riedemann 1506-1556

“There is therefore no need for many words, for it is clear that Christians can neither go to war nor practice vengance. Whosoever doeth this hath forsaken and denied Christ and Christ’s nature.”

George Fox 1624-1691

“Therefore fighters are not of Christ’s kingdom, and are without Christ’s kingdom, for his kingdom stands for peace and righteousness.”

David Dodge 1774-1852

“In times of war thousands of virtuous women are deprived of their husbands and tens of thousands of helpless children of their fathers. … They are torn from their embraces by the cruelty of war, and they have no fathers left but their Father in heaven…. Surely Christians cannot be active in such measures without incurring the displeasure of God, who styles himself as the father of the fatherless and judge and avenger of the widow.”

Frederick Douglass 1818-1895

“I am opposed to war, because I am a believer in Christianity. … I believe, if there is one thing more than another that has brought reproach upon the Christian religion, it is the spirit of war.”

Evelyn Underhill 1875-1941

“The Christian Church is the Body of Christ. Her mission on earth is to spread the Spirit of Christ, which is the creative spirit of wisdom and love; and in so doing bring in the Kingdom of God. Therefore, she can never support or approve an human action, individual or collective, which is hostile to wisdom and love. This is the first and last reason why, if she remains true to her supernatural call, the Church cannot acquiesce to war.”

Jacques Ellul 1912-1994

“Thus violence can never be justified or acceptable before God. The Christian can only admit humbly that he could no do otherwise, that he took the easy way and yielded to necessity and the pressures of the world. That is why the Christian, even when he permits himself to use violence in what he considers the best of causes, cannot either feel or say that he is justified; he can only confess that he is a sinner, submit to God’s judgment, and hope for God’s grace and forgiveness.”

Ronald J. Sider 1939-

“If pacifism is not God’s will for all Christians, then it is not His will any. On the other hand, if the one who taught us to love our enemies is the eternal Son who became flesh in the carpenter who died and rose and now reigns as Lord of the universe, then the peaceful way of nonviolence is for all who believe and obey him. Do we have the courage to summon the entire church to forsake the way of violence?”

* Most of these quotes came from the following books: See Shane Claiborne and Chris Haw, Jesus for President: Politics for Ordinary Radicals (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2008) for some more introductory quotes regarding Christian nonviolence. For a more comprehensive study, I encourage you to see Michael G. Long, Christian Peace and Nonviolence: A Documentary History (Maryknoll: Orbis, 2011).

Check Out These Links As Well

Quotes from The Orthodox Peace Fellowship

Why All The Fuss About Christmas?!?!

Posted December 24, 2011 by rogueminister
Categories: Christianity, faith, God, Jesus

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I wrote this several years ago with my congregation in Lexington, KY in mind. I thought it is worth sharing here.

The Message says that “God became man and moved into the neighborhood.” This may be difficult for us to grasp because it doesn’t seem like Jesus moved into our neighborhood. Rather he moved into a small ancient town on the other side of the world, about as far removed from the intersection of South Limestone and Alumni as possible; in land where donkeys and camels were far more popular than “Wildcats” and people greeted one another with Shalom instead of howdy. So you may wonder “Why all the fuss about Christmas?”

The truth is that God becoming man was the most significant event in the history of the universe. Not only did God join us in our humanity but the Almighty was born to a poor, minority, unwed teenage mother, not in a house, but on the floor of a barn, in an occupied territory during a genocide, which they then had to flee as refugees. He was then wrapped in scrap fabric and laid down in the feed trough; his first breaths took in the scent of manure and musty hay, his ears first heard donkeys braying and his eyes first focused in on the gnats and flies buzzing around his face. His first visitors were not world or religious leaders, but working class loners who led animals around the wilderness just to make ends meet. This is the way that God entered the world, as a baby, powerless and totally dependent on humanity for survival. So again you may ask “Why all the fuss about Christmas?”

Perhaps the best answer is found in a single word, love. God loved, so God risked, risked it all. In order to understand the profundity of this we must grapple with the eternal nature of the Son. “Without the premise of preexistence there can be no talk of incarnation or Christmas.” (Oden, p 66) Jesus, had to be God, for his becoming humanity to have any efficacious power. God who has always existed, who created, decided to join his creation as one of us, knowing that we would not accept him and that we would ultimately kill him. “God never did anything in history more revealing of the divine character than to become incarnate and die. By his coming the poor were blessed, the hungry satisfied, weepers brought to laughter, the excluded embraced, and the reviled welcomed. (Luke 6:20-23)” (Oden, 86) Perhaps you are stil asking, why all the fuss about Christmas?

In the birth of Jesus we can pinpoint this one totally unique event that God decided to reverse the curse of our history of sin and restore humanity to its intended place as the pinnacle of God’s creation. Classical theology teaches us that Jesus became a man to redefine humanity; he took on our image to give humanity his image. This is the greatest gift that God could give us, himself. Our only reaction should be humble praise and thanks because “Humanity is incomparably honored in the incarnation for God made flesh divine, without providing occasion for the worship of the creature.”(128) Still asking why all the fuss about Christmas?

Humanity’s enemy, the damned deceiver, has made it his mission to drag us with him to hell, to invade our space and whisper lies in our ears, but he is unwilling and incapable of joining in our experiences, knowing our joys and pains. But in Jesus “God came closer than the enemy. The devil came close to us; but he did not come so close as to assume our nature… (he) did not come so close to us as did God’s Son, who became our flesh and blood.”(130) At Christmas we recognize that God would rather join humanity than see his creation destroyed; He would rather have our experiences, demonstrate his intimate closeness and move into our neighborhood than let us wander hopelessly toward our own destruction. God did all that we could never do. He came to us when we could not come to him. That is why we make all this fuss about Christmas.

Pg numbered quotes are all from Thomas Oden’s book The Living Word.

My ‘Ghetto’ Ride: Appearance, Character and Being Self-Conscious (Confessions 1)

Posted February 19, 2011 by rogueminister
Categories: bible, Christianity, church, faith, God, Jesus, Kingdom of God, life, Religion, Scripture

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Over the winter holiday break my wife and I joined some other family members on a trip to France and Belgium, a subject to which I hope to return in another post, but when we got back we experienced a small misadventure. We flew into Nashville from Europe and had to leave immediately from the airport to drive back to Kentucky so we could be home in time for work and school the next day. It is about a 3.5 hour drive, but about 20 mins from our house (mind you this is after walking across the city of Brugges to the train station, catching a train back to Paris, transfering from the train to the metro, riding the metro to the airport, flying from Paris to DC and DC to Nashville) our car died on one of the most deserted highways in KY. In short, we had it towed to a mechanic who told us the engine was dead.

As we search for a ‘new’ car we have been blessed by God, through our church family, to have access to two different cars until we find one we can afford to buy. The first of the two was a comfortable and reliable ride, nothing fancy, but still decent enough. However, the second, which I have been driving for the last few days, resembles the residence of Oscar the Grouch. It is a rust-brown Buick station wagon from the mid 90’s with busted windshield, barf-colored interior, mismatched wheels, and no rear view mirror. The engine rattles and bangs, that is when it even starts and stays running, the driver’s door makes a horrible hiss when opened and shut, it smokes a little and certainly does not have ‘that new car smell.’

As I was filling it up with gas today across the street from campus, I couldn’t help but want to keep my head down so others wouldn’t notice me with this hideous beastmobile. When someone I know has seen me driving it I feel compelled to explain to them that this isn’t my car or to make jokes about it to distract their attention from the fact that I am cruising, if one could call it crusing, around in such a ‘ghetto’ ride. Damn, am I really that shallow?

Two things stand out to me about my attitude regarding this car. First of all, I am an ungrateful jerk. God and my church family have provided me a way to get around, which I really needed since Rachel and I work in different cities and public transportation is virtually nonexistent around here, and the best I can do is be self-conscious about how ugly the car is. Second, and the focus of the rest of this post, is the fact that I even care so much about what others think about my appearance. Wasn’t I supposed to get over that crap sometime in college?

I have been particularly aware, perhaps because of the car, of my self-consciousness. I spend a lot of time wondering what folks in restaurants are thinking about my clothes and hair, and what the folks next to me at the stoplight are saying to each other about the car I am driving. I want to tell them all about my achievements, my education, my travels – anything to prove my worth to them. But, who really gives a damn what others think about my clothes or my car? Should my focus not be on what folks think about my character, and more precisely my character itself?

The bible doesn’t say much about what Christians are supposed to wear, instead it says to clothe ourselves “ with the Lord Jesus Christ, and do not think about how to gratify the desires of the sinful nature.” Yet all I seem to do is try to gratify my desire to be liked, to be valued. The bible gives one more exhortation about what we ought to cover ourselves in, it says “clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.” In other words, clothe ourselves in the kind of character that supersedes the kind of shallow junk that keeps you from being like Christ.

In my case, perhaps I could put it this way, drive around in the car of Christlike character and quit worrying so damn much about what others think about insignificant things like a beat up station wagons with broken windshields. If you only think of Jesus and the needs of others, your mind cannot be occupied with your own superficial desires for affirmation.

More confessions to come…

I have… Some Reflections on My Life

Posted June 1, 2010 by rogueminister
Categories: Christianity, faith, God, Grace, Jesus, life, love, Religion, Travel

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I wrote this a while back as a reminder to myself about how good God has been to me in my life and all the opportunities He has given to me.  I liked it so I thought I would share it here…

I have watched the sun rise over Mt. Sinai, walked on the Great Wall of China, waded in the black sea in Ukraine. I have climbed the great pyramid in Giza, rode a donkey up the cliffs of Santorini and watched the changing of the guard at Buckingham Palace. I have explored tiny villages in the mountains of Switzerland, hiked a glacier in Alaska and been lost in the grand Bazaar in Istanbul. I have devoured fried plantains in the Dominican Republic, gorged myself on sausages in Munich and munched on prosciutto as I meandered my way through Venice. I have ridden horseback through the jungle in Belize, held a giant stingray in Grand Cayman and scaled Mayan ruins in Mexico.

I have sat at the foot of the Parthenon in Athens, strolled under the legs of the Eiffel tower in Paris and perused the ancient Angkor Temples in Cambodia. I have ridden a camel along the Nile, motor biked the coastal roads of Vietnam and caught the river taxi in Bangkok. I have toured the Guinness brewery in Dublin, wandered the canal lined streets of Amsterdam and had a waffle in Belgium. I have traveled back and forth across the United states by car, plane and motor home, stopping to see Mt. Rushmore, the Golden Gate Bridge, the Statue of Liberty and countless more historic landmarks.

I have experienced the terrible sadness of Dachau, realized my own insignificance at the edge of the Grand Canyon and witnessed my religious heritage in Corinth. I have contemplated faith at Haggia Sophia, the Vatican and Westminster Abbey, imagined evangelism at the Blue Mosque, muttered prayers at the Buddhist temples of Thailand, longed for reconciliation at an ancient Jewish Tabernacle in Thessaloniki, and shared my love for Jesus in small apartments in China.

I have studied theology in Searcy, AR, Nashville, TN, and Wilmore, KY, ministered on skid row in Los Angeles and stayed at a hostel in Harlem. I have gazed at the Austrian Alps, skied in the Rockies and ridden my go cart in the foothills of the Appalachians. I have walked laps around the Coliseum, sat on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial and crouched terrified in the top of the St. Louis Arch. I have been welcomed by the Statue of Liberty, stood in the freezing sea breeze of Kowloon Bay in Hong Kong and surfed the North Shore in Hawaii. I have snorkeled in the Virgin Islands, scuba-dived in the Florida Keys and floated leisurely in the Aegean Sea. I have had meetings with power brokers at the White House and Capitol Building, and shared meals on the streets with my homeless friends under the bridge. I have exchanged vows with a woman whose beauty is only rivaled by her character, and someday we hope to have kids together.

I have been saved by grace, washed by blood and called by name. I have been sealed by the Spirit, treated with grace and mercy, and loved beyond measure. I have been beckoned by Jesus and I have chosen to follow!!!

The Church of Homogeneity

Posted May 31, 2010 by rogueminister
Categories: Christianity, church, faith, God, heaven, Jesus, justice, Kingdom of God, life, Religion

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My wife and I were privileged to visit our favorite city in the world this weekend. We came back to Nashville to help with some of the cleanup work from the recent flooding, but that is not what this post is about. Nonetheless, tonight we visited a church that meets downtown and it sparked a conversation between Rachel and I about a topic that has been on my mind a lot lately, homogeneity and diversity.

This church, where many of my good friends attend, seems in many ways to be a wonderful family seeking to love God and the people around them. They are involved in the community, even meeting in a local bar. The worship service was creative and contemporary, but not shallow. It seemed to be “seeker sensitive” without compromising the truth of God’s word or neglecting the needs of the members. But, one important detail was so glaring, so conspicuous that it was impossible to miss, yet so subtle, so plainly hidden that it could easily by overlooked; the church, like many others, completely lacked diversity. I have come to expect this from traditional, institutional churches, but this church has made a concerted effort to overcome the other shortfalls of more conventional church gatherings. Yet, most of the church body was made up of young, middle class white folks from the suburbs. This just goes to show how powerful of a force our desire is to be with folks like us.

I see it everywhere now. Our home church in Kentucky almost entirely lacks racial diversity, as does the organization where I did my internship in DC, though both are deeply concerned about helping the oppressed of all races and classes and nations. Somehow though, we have found ways to “help” those who are most different from us without joining them in their struggles or inviting them to join us in ours. I don’t mean to be overly critical of the church we visited tonight or our home church, but I do hope that we all become more aware of the diversity that exists in the body of Christ. One of the best pictures I have seen in recent years, or maybe ever, of what I understand the Kingdom to be is the annual international potluck at the seminary; people from all over the world make their favorite foods to share and we all feast and fellowship, praise and party. During the festivities we take communion together and celebrate the slaughtered and risen Lamb. After all, heaven is described as a banquet table at which people from all nations, speaking all languages gather together to share in God’s abundance and give him praise. Shouldn’t we seek such a communion here and now as we pray that God’s will be done on earth as it is in heaven?

Theology and Public Transportation

Posted May 15, 2010 by rogueminister
Categories: Christianity, church, faith, God, Jesus, justice, Kingdom of God, life, love, Peace, Religion, Scripture, Truth

I wrote this a few months ago while I was living in Washington, DC and working at Sojourners. It is my hope to write more about my DC experience in coming days…

I heard a sermon in which the speaker asked a silly, but profoundly important question. He asked the chapel full of seminarians where the most important location was in the small town in which the school is located. Is it this chapel with its beautiful stained glass and singing? Is it the building that houses the classrooms where you learn theology and philosophy? Is it one of the local church congregations? No. It is Cluckers (the local gas station). The speaker went onto to posit that he believed that Cluckers was important because it was where the world collided in our small town to refuel, talk about the goings on, grab a drink and eat the best baklava this side of the Mediterranean.

Things are different for me now. I’m living in a major world city, where I often use public transportation. Like Cluckers, public transportation, in such a metropolitan city, is where the world meets. Rich and poor, powerful and powerless, young and old, all pile into buses and the metro. This is a great place to people watch and think and pray. One day as I was doing this I was reminded of the Joan Osborn song, “What if God Was One of Us?” There is a line directly following the title line, ‘just a stranger on the bus, trying to make his way home.’ I got to thinking about what Jesus would notice, and say and do if he were riding the metro. I began to think he would be pleased to see societies’ hierarchies and barriers temporarily removed as nearly every socio-economic background, religion and race huddled together trying not to fall down as the train jerked forward.

Though the more I ride, I notice something I believe would disturb Jesus and should disturb us. As I rode certain lines in certain directions the demographics changed. Instead of a multicultural mélange, the faces on the metro became more homogenous. One could almost know which stop was theirs by looking at the number of people in the car who did or did not look like them. I wonder how Jesus would react. Would he start flipping over the turnstiles or would he stand on a seat and preach? Would he heal the blind man standing by the door or would he multiply the amount of money still left on everyone’s ticket? I don’t know, but I’m sure that he would do something, perhaps something crazy, certainly something creative, to let people know that they were loved and cherished by God.

As people interested in reconciliation, the way of Jesus, this modern day segregation should sadden us, inform us and challenge us to keep working for a world where love and justice are the norm; a world where skin color, your country of origin or the language you speak don’t have to play a role in deciding which area of town you should live. I am not suggesting that there is anything wrong with wanting to live with people who are most like you. There is however a terrible evil lurks just below the surface of this desire that works its way into our lives when we get too comfortable with where we live and with whom we associate. This evil is complacency and apathy towards the struggles of the ‘other’ and it is a structure, a principality in which individuals are content with being walled off with folks like them and failing to join in the journeys of others for more than a short metro ride.

What if our whole lives looked like the line for baklava and a soda, or the trip on the red line metro train? What if we were intentional about meeting people most unlike us and participating in their lives, helping them when they needed it and sharing our food, our journeys and our lives together? The moments we share when our paths cross on the metro, subway, or bus look more and more to me like our local church congregations ought to and the way heaven appears in Scripture. If we can get together to share our journeys to work and school and to restaurants and stores, why can’t we get together and share our journey into eternity?