Oh yeah. School.

Classes are settled:

Biblical Theology of Walter Brueggemann (Dr. C. Sharp – Bible)
Intro to Christian Ethics II (Dr. F. Simmons)
Pastoral Care for Young Adults (Rev. Dr. K. Leslie and Rev. C. Isabell)
Death and the Dead (Dr. F. Gordon – History)

I’m psyched, though the schedule seems to keep slipping around on me.

On Seeing through the Bad Guys – Pilate

Pluto must have thought of politics
when he first handed the boulder
over to Sisyphus. The cold, damp, useless
weight of it just sitting there, the sound
of its mass ringing with the promise
of cuts, and scrapes, and the awful grind
of stone on stone and tendon’s pop.
Just so, there wasn’t much to recommend
the sweaty work of Judea before: the
grit and dirt of it works in your robes,
the sun robs you of rich reds and purples
you thought made you so high, until
you are wearing the earth and sand itself,
until you feel you might be stone.
I have lived this toil, I have pushed
men, armies, people, senators, and emperors
up the incline of my life’s ascent. And then,
high above the street on a blinding day, there was a roar of crowd
that seemed to lift the weight, for just the tiniest moment
of hanging stone and hanging time. Friends, I swear, I did not
let go for long! And then the awful, crushing knowledge of its falling: a man slaughtered quietly beneath it, its murderous inertia rushing, dragging, me to judgment…
And so I, Pontius Pilate the Equestrian, came, weeping, to ride a stone.

On Bible Tricksters – Jacob and Assurance

If ever a plan was made to fail
it was this plan.
Dressed up in robes too big,
skinny frame sweating under pelts
to make him into his
rough-hewed brother, Jacob
must have felt like I did one Halloween:
the harsh reality dawning that
the costume didn’t make me Batman,
it made me a dork in tights. And yet,
you picked him up in a great stream
of blessing and promise, and still do today: promise
that no matter how hair-brained our disguise,
no matter how deceitful we might be to you
or ourselves, no matter the weight of our pelts
or our surety that we don’t deserve blessing,
you bless us.
You bless us with grace and peace
we know in that moment are worth cheating for.
And as the tent flap falls closed behind us,
laugh at what we go through
to get what had already been given.

Exercise 1: On preaching

When I talk, I hope you hear
that I am not talking,
that you might feel a buzz
in your rib cage, close to your heart,
as if you were playing a guitar.
It’s a promise we make:
that I will work and sweat
and shape a sounding board,
a place for resonance,
and leave for you
the work of the strings,
and what or how you play,
and hope to inspire you
to pick out songs that someone
sang in whisper to you, ears just formed,
crooked arm and breast-bone hum
that held you, and you felt before you heard.

The fear. Spelled out.

So, after having decided I was NOT going to start off with Pastoral Care this semester, mainly so I could give myself a little more time to make “the money”, as they say, I went ahead and signed up anyway. It just felt like I needed to get into some practical concerns of helping people. Nonetheless, in my first day of reading, here are the big fears of mine, writ large.

1) There is a stereotype that the best preachers are often the worst care givers. The gift of communicating externally is often seen as antithetical to the gift of listening in a effective way. I am, simply, not comfortable in my skin as an intentional listener at this point in my life, possibly to the point of being dependent upon my public speech to fit in to new situations.

2) Even more intense is what Prof. L called “impostor syndrome.” This is WAY prevalent at YDS, and is the student’s (or young pastor’s) fear that everyone up to this point has been fooled somehow. I’ve talked about this a little bit, but it really touches every bit of my life currently. I worry that someone will figure out that I’m not smart enough to be at my school. I worry that my denomination or my church will figure out that I really don’t feel all that “divine” most of the time. Adding the care question, I worry that I will fail those I try to care for because of my continued charlatan ways, and they won’t even see it coming.

I feel like I will get more comfortable in these situations in the future, but it still feels like peering over the edge of the cliff right now. This is why praying is a big part of my life here. I am not enough for all of it on my own sometimes.

Assignment: How does pentateuchal criticism matter for contemporary readers?

I was particularly struck by the notion of a kind of “larger narrative” in our readings related to literary criticism, so I want to try and address some of those issues in this discussion. For me as a reader, it is tremendously rich and rewarding to think of a method of understanding all the biblical texts in which the goal is not to “read between the lines” by trying to understand historical and contextual situated nature of the text. Instead, we can think of “reading together lines” which are made up of smaller portions of the text. In other words, the narrative may be not the events described by such and such a story, but the conflict, tension, and dialog between these smaller sections of the text.

This muti-vocality is at the heart of how I understand biblical reading for contemporary congregations, and is really heartening to me. Firstly, I feel that this is model for congregational (and, I wouldn’t mind, generic communal) living. For me: just like these texts, which contradict, and repeat, and sometimes outright confuse (!), our church communities are not magic boxes through which we receive answers and straightforward guidance for life. In the continuing struggle for congregational vitality and membership, it is easy to think of these communities as being the story of a people who agree to live – warmly – together in one act of faith. How much more rewarding to think that the REAL story of our church communities is one of our disagreements, the things we clearly DO NOT have sorted neatly into an axiom that we can all hang neatly on our door, or embroider on a pillow! The various methods that we have seen make one thing very clear to my mind, that the rich gift of scripture is that it is not simple, for surely our communities of faith are not. By understanding that the “message” of a text may simply be its tension and concern over various issues, we receive a model for living together in a way in which we boldly face issues that are important to us, yet realize that we can live together despite tension and disagreement we might face as a result. Definitive “answers” elude us in many of these texts, just as they often elude us in our faith communities.

Secondly, for me, this is just a neat trinitarian process of reading scripture. The text itself is multi-vocal and multi-faceted. As a reader, then, I enter the debate of the text. Very miraculously, I often get some sense of the Spirit moving over this noisy meeting of text and reader, and may even glean some new image, metaphor, or even meaning from the text. Returning to the issue of church communities, it does indeed seem that there may be a resolution to tensions and debates within a reading church. By being fearless in our taking up of difficult texts and issues, and not being afraid to live in the tension and debate, we may occasionally experience the grace of the Spirit moving in the community and find new meaning and union.

What Sacrament?

So I’m writing about Trinitarian worship right now. Here’s my model as I understand it, based certainly on the Trinity, as well as a concept of God being in action which I’m told I’ll read tomorrow in Karl Barth: The congregation beseeches the Holy Spirit to come into the midst of their worship action (a reflection of Christ’s actions… think baptism, eucharist, preaching, etc.) and transform that Christ-action into TRUE Christ-action. In other words, the Spirit transforms the congregation into the body of Christ proper, and in so doing makes them the adopted child of the Creator. “Brothers and Sisters in Christ.”

So, my question: isn’t all of Christ’s activity part of the activity of the second person of the Trinity? If it is, then what we view as sacrament, or at least liturgy needs to be expanded to include that range of activity. Whenever the Spirit comes amidst any reflective action that was of Christ, worship would seem to be complete in the Trinitarian sense. I’m going to argue for this in my ever expanding fight for the humanity of Christ. It should be noted that I don’t want to pull down the divinity of Christ, but rather pull up the humanity. How much more rewarding would coffee hour be if we were often reminded that sitting across from anyone at ANY table – not just the eucharistic table – was a liturgical act of worship, a calling up of the Trinitarian God? OK, maybe I can’t justify coffee hour to myself yet… but I’m working on it.

Paper Idea: Youth Identity Development in Reflection of the Silent Text

This is something I’m messing with for my Liberation Theology course. With Canonical Gospels that omit developmental stages in the human life of Jesus Christ, is the Church prepared for questions of identity development among young people? So much of the rhetoric that is used in most theologies puts Christ as the paradigmatic human experience, yet we only experience Christ’s humanity as fully formed and adult. (Some people roughly posit this as about ages 30 – 33.) I’m going to take the stance that the deafening silence in our texts has allowed for Church leaders to argue that Christ’s fully formed identity is the only acceptable one, instead of the more complex and multi-vocal view of ideal humanity that might result if we saw Jesus go through the normal identity establishing changes and experiments. I’m particularly looking at sexual identity here, as I read a very strong need for a theological answer to the really tragic tales of so many GLBT teens that are exiles in their own land, thrown out of their houses, and disowned by their communities. This has real world implications of depression, poverty, drug use, suicide, and pretty much all the horrible things that result when one human is devalued by another.

Given all this, can Church come up with an anthropology that allows for developmental process and diverse adult identity that seems to echo the truth of Christ? Do we think that understanding human development in the man Jesus Christ would diminish or take away from the identity of the second person of the Trinity, or would this thought simply serve to deepen our understanding of God’s loving gift in the incarnation? (Guess what I think.) How do we reinforce that God’s love is present and active in all as they strive to determine who they are and how they fit into creation? etc. etc.