Archive for October, 2008

I want to join the ranks of the unchurched!

A lot has been written and said about unchurched people over the last 10-15 years, but there may be something significant to being “unchurched.” The technical definition of “unchurched” is someone who has not participated in a worship service in 6 months or more. I’ve never spent 6 days away from a church, and it’s been both a blessing and a curse — mostly blessing. However, there are simply some things about the way I was churched that I would like to undo. In these ways, I’d like to be unchurched. So here’s my new definition of what it means to be unchurched.

Unchurched – a person who has not allowed someone else’s airtight, locked-down, unquestionable convictions regarding age old and often irrelevant conclusions about systematic theology to drain their zeal to seek and search for an unsytemitizable God and explore the mystery of faith.

Unchurched – a person who chooses to live the radical reconciliation and love of Jesus, and does not allow that pursuit to be lessoned by the fact that more people in the church care more about domination than reconciliation.

Unchurched – a person who knows that true worship is serving the widow, orphan and stranger, not singing songs you like, while hanging out with people you like and listening to the preacher you like.

Unchurched – a person who knows that Bible studies are about humbly searching for God, not lying about your Bible reading and prayer life to impress other people who are also lying about Bible reading and prayer.

Unchurched – a person who leads spiritually by the Spirit of God not the latest budget report or head count.

Unchurched – a person who realizes that the people are more important than the church because the church IS the people, and how we treat one person reflects how we will treat all persons. 

Unchurched – a person who honors ALL people, regardless of race, religion, ethnicity or anything else, because all people are made in the image of God–even Muslims.

Unchurched – a person who knows that the point of church is not to get more people in the church building, but to get more of the people in the church building OUT of the church building and into the community.

Unchurched – a person who walks, talks, votes and seeks justice and life for all people, in all forms, at all times, even when it means personal sacrifice.

Unchurched – a person who will not baptize any decision made by their community, state, or nation that does not align with  Jesus’ proclamation of the Kingdom of God just because the decision was made by their community, state, or nation.

Unchurched – a person who realizes that Jesus did not come to earth and die on a cross so that everything would be “family-friendly.”

These are a few of the ways I want to become unchurched. A better way to say it may be de-churched. Please join me in the ranks of the unchurched.

Voting Parties

Posted: October 28, 2008 in family, politics
Tags: , ,

 

Sean and Katharine Vote

Sean and Katharine Vote

My family voted this morning. All of us, me, my wife, Rochelle, and our daughters, Malia and Katharine all went to our local polling place to cast ballots. Though it is still “early voting,” the lines have been wrapped around corners and boasting hour long waits. Nevertheless, we took the chance today, betting that the lines next Tuesday will be even longer. Fortunately, the line was short–about 10 minutes total.

 

As we waited in line, I was reminded how special and important it is to vote. Voting is nearly sacred. It is a trust. And no matter who we’re voting for or what party or person’s views align most with ours, the ability to choose your leaders, to say, “this is the direction I prefer for my country,” is simply beautiful. It was beautiful because of the great caste of characters we were standing with. Our family stood in line with an elderly African-American woman, a veteran wearing a vest littered with patches designating where and when he served. There was a young white man there who drove a pick-up truck and wore his hair short enough that it almost looked military. The woman in front of us was not all that familiar with voting, so she meticulously read the directions before going into the both. An elderly man stood behind us and asked Malia her name and who she was voting for. There was a young black man wearing coveralls and work books standing next to a suited businessman scrolling through his Blackberry. This wasn’t Americans in line; it was America in line.

And we were all there to vote! 

And we knew that many of us were voting for different people, different parties.

But had you come to our polling center from another planet, you wouldn’t have known that the election we were participating in had seen people called socialist, terrorist, old-man, Carribou Barbie, or a host of other unhelpful slurs. You would not have known how ugly our national leaders — and sometimes our closest friends — had become. Rather, you would have thought something like this: “Those people are all doing something important together.” 

In line we talked. We laughed. The weather was cold so we blocked one another from the wind. Men who learned of WWII through the movie theatre newsreels joked with little girls who get the news from the Internet. And it was all very,…well, American. Part of me thinks I should have waited until next Tuesday, just so I could have been in line a little longer.

So I have a simple message: Go Vote! You will find that we do indeed have more in common than our politics suggest.

Weekend Reflections

Posted: October 27, 2008 in books, church, grace, politics, prayer, preaching
Tags: , ,

I spent some time yesterday with Todd Hunter, former national director for Alpha USA, who know consults and leads 3isEnough. He graciously preached for our congregation yesterday and had lunch with my wife and me plus another couple. Todd’s first book, “Christianity Beyond Belief” releases in February 2009. From all indicators, the book looks to be fabulous. What’s more, Todd had a lot of wisdom for young, rookie writers. I’ve now heard the exact same advice from both Todd Hunter and Brian McLaren. Maybe I should listen.

Todd spoke about the the post-modern, post-Christian turn and the need for churches to launch new missional initiatives lead by post-modern natives. This, I think, will be terribly difficult for many churches, but he is right on the money.

————

I love facebook, but I have become very distressed by my friend’s treatment of one another, and, at times, myself, concerning politics and the coming election. I’m beginning to think two things: (1) Many of us seem incapable of civil, responsible, respectful discourse, and (2) Though most of my “friends” are Christians, many seem to think that the hope of our country and the world lies in Washington rather than the Kingdom. What’s more, some seem to get the daily talking points from their political party of choice and don’t mind spewing them — with venom — on other people they say they love.

————

A Monday Prayer

Creator God, bless our week. We ask that our words be seasoned with your grace, that our eyes see what id truly important, that our feet carry us to those in need. Lord, may we in all things turn our hearts to you and allow you to shape are thoughts. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

I’ve got two sneak peeks of interest today. First, you can see the 1st episode of this season’s 30 Rock, starring Tina Fey here. It’s a complete episode, you don’t want to miss it. Second, I’m now holding my copy of The Voice: New Testament. I’ll go into further details about The Voice next week, but so far I like most of what I’ve seen. I’m now speaking, teaching, and preaching out of it almost exclusively. 

————

A Prayer of Protest

Posted: October 22, 2008 in change, church

Once again…again…I returned to Walter Brueggemann during my morning reading/devotional. I found this prayer meaningful today. For what reason, I do not know.

A Prayer of Protest

Since our mothers and fathers cried out,

since you heard their cries and noticed,

since we left the brick production in Egypt,

since you foiled the production schedules of Pharaoh,

     we have known your name,

     we have sensed your passion,

     we have treasured your vision of justice.

And now we turn to you again

     whose precious name we know.

We turn to you because there are

     still impossible production schedules,

     still exploitative systems,

     still cries of pain at injustice,

    still cheap labor that yields misery.

We turn to you in impatience and exasperation,

     wondering, “How long?” before you answer

        our pleading question,

     how our petition,

        since you are not a labor boss and do not set wages.

We bid you, stir up those who can change things;

     do your stirring in the jaded halls of government;

     do your stirring in the cynical offices of corporations;

     do your stirring amid the voting public too anxious to care;

     do your stirring in the church that thinks too much about

        purity and not enough about wages.

Move, as you moved in ancient Egyptian days.

Move the waters and the flocks and the herds

toward new statutes and regulations,

        new equity and good health care,

        new dignity that cannot be given on the cheap.

We have known now long since,

     that you reject cheap grace;

even as we now know that you reject cheap labor.

You, God of injustice and dignity and equity,

keep the promises you bodied in Jesus,

     that the poor may be first-class members of society,

     that the needy may have good care and respect,

     that the poor earth may rejoice in well-being,

     that we may all come to Sabbath rest together,

        the owner and the worker,

        the leisure class and the labor class,

     all at peace in dignity and justice,

        not on the cheap, but good measure,

        pressed down,

        running over…forgiven.

I believe deeply in our democratic process and the need we, as Americans, have to participate in our electoral process. I’ve written about this current presidential more than most. This, I think, is the most important election of my relatively brief life (34-years). That’s why I thought what Gen. Colin Powell (Ret.) said Sunday morning on Meet The Press was both beautifully articulate and powerful.  Please note, Gen. Powell is endorsing a candidate, but I am not. What I’m interested in is what he says about the American Experiment. Embedded in his words are the hopes and dreams of our founders. He rejects narrow politics, racism and heralds inclusion and conversation. I continue to find Colin Powell a singular man, worthy of respect from all.

I’m not ashamed to say that I cried when I heard Powell tell the story of the young Muslim man who was killed serving this country, my country. It was simply beautiful, stirring in me the deepest aspirations, and love for what we can be as a country. It was clear — in these days of sound-bite politics, robocalls, negative campaigning and slanderous accusations — that Gen. Powell is a focused, thoughtful and deliberate man, whether you like and agree with what he says or not. What he says, and the way he said it, indeed says a lot about him.

Of course, folks like Rush Limbaugh fired off their belief that Powell endorsed Obama merely out of racial considerations. Limbaugh wrote, “Secretary Powell says his endorsement is not about race. OK, fine. I am now researching his past endorsements to see if I can find all the inexperienced, very liberal, white candidates he has endorsed. I’ll let you know what I come up with.”  With all respect to Mr. Limbaugh, are we really expected to believe that Colin Powell, the former Secretary of State and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, is incapable of seeing past his own race? Are we supposed to believe that a man of his stature makes decisions based on one factor? Do you sincerely believe that black people align with other black people simply because of our shared race. If so, you are wrong. And I urge you to spent 5 minutes in your local African-American barbershop. Mr. Limbaugh, you are surely insane. You are insane if for no other reason than if Colin Powell was that desperate to see a black President, then he could have already. It could have been him! Sadly (and I do mean sadly), I’m listening to Pat Buchannon say much of the same things Limbaugh says. Is this what white Americans thinks about black Americans? Race is ALL that we are capable of considering. I fear that is the case. I can’t tell you how many people have assumed that since I’m black I am voting for Obama.  Apparently — to some people — I am little more than a skin color.

To Mr. Limbaugh and Mr. Buchannon, I say this: If you think that black people are incapable of voting for a black person for reasons other than race, then that says more about you — and your views about race — than ours.

The Voice: New Testament is here and available for purchase at your local book seller. The Voice is a dramatic re-telling of scripture. The project began with writers, musicians, speakers and poets retelling the Biblical story with editorial and scholarly review being added by some of the world’s best Biblical theologians. If you’re a long time follower of the blog, you know that I was asked to contribute to the Old Testament, which will not be released for a while.

The Palmer Perspective is one of one-hundred blogs selected to read and review The Voice as it enters in first month and pre-holiday sales period. As soon as the book arrives from the publisher, I’ll launch into the review. Now, I know what you’re thinking, “Sean’s a contributor to the project, so his review will be biased.” You’re right. I am both proud and honored to have been asked to participate. Very proud, indeed. Though I’m a gnat on the backside of this project, Brian McLaren, Lauren Winner, and Donald Miller are some of my favorite writers, and Chris Seay is one of the kindest people I know. So to have my name alongside their’s is incredibly humbling. But in the end, I will try to be fair and open.

The truth is that though I have had some advanced copies and the editions of the gospels that have been released individually, I have rarely used The Voice. Plus, some of what I’ve read, I have had slight criticism of. I even brazenly asked Brian McLaren (a friend and man I greatly admire) about his use of “ritual cleansing” in Luke rather than the term “baptism” (here I show my church of Christ stripes). So, I will try to be fair, and the publisher has asked me to review it from “a writer’s perspective.” I blushed at that. No one has ever called me a “writer” before. Little does he know, huh?

At any rate, I ask you to pick up a copy of The Voice: New Testament and read it along with me. I would love to hear your thoughts, and how you’re using it in your home, with your friends and among your community.

Check back here later for the review. Let’s read the Bible together!