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Goodbye, Ingmar Bergman

July 30, 2007

image Ingmar Bergman, the great Swedish director, died today at the age of 89. I credit Mr. Bergman for awakening within me a passion for film. Let me tell you the story of how I became a fan of Ingmar–and of “film” (rather than simply “movies”).

When Amy and I were first married, I worked at a store that sold men’s wear–mostly suits. I was 22, and at the time I fit into a 44 athletic cut. I’m definitely beyond that now–being a standard size 50. Someday, I’ll get down to that size again…but I digress.

Though I was a poor salesman, I liked my job. I liked meeting customers–most of them needing a suit for an interview or a wedding or a funeral. I got to connect with people during times of profound transition. I liked to hear their stories and help them. I’d usually get yelled at because I wouldn’t sell them things they didn’t need. For some reason, I was expected to sell TWO suits to someone who just lost their aunt.

But the thing I loved most about my job was Steve. Steve was a lifer. He’d been selling shoes or suits for most of his adult life. At the time, he was fifty. He was a little man–he wore the small suit we sold. He had never been married, never driven a car. And he had one great passion: film. In particular, he loved foreign films, and porn.

When he first told me of his love for these two sorts of film, I was a bit shocked. On the one hand, he loved the film greats–people like Kurosawa and Bergman and Godard and Kubrick. But on the other, he had a massive appetite for pornographic film. And for him, it wasn’t simply about getting aroused. He was convinced that some of the greats were too avant garde to direct mainstream films, and because of this, they included smut in their films in order to get their film visions funded.

He wanted to draw me into his love for film. Thankfully, he didn’t pressure me into enjoying his porn collection, but he DID share his two favorite directors with me: Kurosawa and Bergman. The first films he lent me were “The Seventh Seal” and “The Passion of Anna” and then “The Seven Samurai” and “Ran.”

Steve taught me that film wasn’t simply entertainment–it could be art. It can teach you things about the human condition and about transcendence. In the “Seventh Seal” I found a film that could explore both at the same time. It was an existential trip. Few movies have impacted me at such a deep level.

In this iconic film, a knight has returned to Sweden from the crusades. On the shore, he meets death, who has come for him. He challenges death to a game of chess…putting off the inevitable. Here’s a scene…few films in the past 20 years come close to his simple profundity:

[kml_flashembed movie="http://www.youtube.com/v/Vyqg017aFrY" width="425" height="350" wmode="transparent" /]

The film offers a grim view of faith…but an honest one. It strips away happy-face spirituality and forces you to contemplate the gentle cruelty of death. Faith in God requires…faith. It isn’t a given, cannot be taken for granted, and must be purchased in spite of the darkness in our world. The knight’s faith is filled with doubt, but is the richer for it.
Goodbye, Ingmar Bergman.

Emergent and Al Qaeda sitting in a tree…

July 23, 2007

imageJust when you thought perceptions of the emerging church couldn’t get any worse…

Today I stumbled upon an article titled Why Al Qaeda Supports the Emergent Church.

Here are some imagesnippets:

The greatest threat to world peace is radical Islam. If not for the United States, millions more would be suffering under the tyranny of sharia law all over the world. Our Muslim enemies know post-Christian Europe has already lost the will to fight. Africa, Asia, and South America seem to be already lost. Russia, China, and India would rather trade than fight?for now…

A post-Christian, post-modern, secular-socialist America will be no match for a radical Islam fueled by petro-dollars and threatening the use of nuclear weapons.

But an America where the church is strong, resolute, and courageous? That?s a different thing altogether.

Which is why al Qaeda supports the emergent church…

Their unwillingness to distinguish truth from error, right from wrong, and good from evil leave them intellectually immobilized to resist the encroachment of false teaching and heresy, and even incapable of knowing the good guys from the bad guys in the war for the free world.

The whole point of terrorism is to destroy the will of the enemy to fight.

Whose side are they on, anyway?

What Yogi Berra said about baseball is true of this war against radical Islam: ?Half this game is 90% mental.?

Yogi knew this. Osama knows this. I wonder if the ?emergents? do?

I have a number of problems with this:

  • It reminds me of the way Americans talked about Anabaptists during WWII. 
  • I don’t know a single emerging-type person that doesn’t distinguish between truth and error, right and wrong, or good and evil. 
  • The last time I read the Bible, Jesus calls us to turn the other cheek and love our enemies, not blow the hell out of them. 

He asks: “Whose side are they on?” Well, I guess, to be honest, I’m actually not on the side of America on this one.  As lame as it sounds: I’m on the side of Jesus.  I know that Islamo-Fascist terrorists want me dead.  But I don’t want them dead.  According to Jesus, I need to be willing to lay down my life for them. 

Good Mourner, Happy Mourner

July 17, 2007

I read this quote today on the website of Christianity Today:

It is impossible for one to live without tears who considers things exactly as they are.

–Gregory of Nyssa, De Beatitudine

We are told, in the Sermon on the Mount, that it is those who mourn that are blessed. Jesus, in the Sermon on the Mount isn’t offering a “strategy” for Christian living. Instead, he is calling his listeners to enter into a different way of seeing the world. The revolution Jesus started wasn’t primarily reactionary. Jesus didn’t say “the way things are sucks, I want to make things better…let’s go.” Instead, he began with a recognition of how things really are. He wasn’t primarily interested in tearing something down. Instead, he wanted to show people reality. As a result of that reality, things needed to change.

Those who mourn are blessed because they see things the way Jesus sees things. And because of their insight, they will receive the comfort of the Kingdom.

So much of modern spirituality tries to fit the teachings of Christ into an already-established paradigm. We already know how to be content and happy. We come to Jesus to aid us in this quest for happiness or meaning that we were on before we met Jesus.

Many of us grew up hearing that Jesus will take us as we are. And that is certainly true. But if our hearing of the Gospel ends there, then we are to be pitied. Our hope rests, not only in being accepted as we are, but being called into divine life, which consumes and challenges and transforms and wreaks havoc.

Good Mourner (by me)

Good mourner, happy mourner
Seeing the world as-is
Your belly aches for all the misery
Your throat catches for all the beauty
The King Mourner comes
Calling the tax-man to account
Wooing the whore to be his lover
Receiving the treasure of the poor

Good mourner, happy mourner
Your feet are sore from wandering
Your eyes swell shut to close out the lies
Your fists clench against injustice
The Chief Cynic twists the plot
Naming your enemies as his beloved
His feet glistening with smutty tears
The stranger becomes host

Good mourner, happy mourner
Your mouth curls up to giggle
Your ears embrace the word made flesh
Your fingers tap a song of ascent

Dancing in the retinue of the King of Fools
He knocks over the cash registers of the Christian bookseller
He puts the town slut on the deacon board
He gives the poor his crown

Infant Baptism…to baptize, or not to baptize?

July 12, 2007

image Let’s suppose I know a young couple, let us call them Tom and Liz, that have a beautiful baby girl together (who we shall call Lucy). Tom and Liz aren’t married. Liz was raised catholic, but has since embraced a more evangelical approach to her faith. Tom is pretty committed to his faith–and part of his faith is that baptism is for “believers” only. In other words, he isn’t a fan of infant baptism. Liz is generally sympathetic to Tom’s perspective. If left to themselves, they wouldn’t baptize baby Lucy, but wait until she can make a decision for herself.

The problem is Liz’s parents and grandparents. They are very much catholic and expect Lucy to be baptized as an infant. It is a huge deal to them. They are pressuring Liz to baptize Lucy, and Liz is seems willing to go along with it. Tom is uncomfortable with the whole idea, because of his convictions. He is also uncomfortable with the idea of having to make any promises to the priest during the baptism (like that he’ll raise Lucy to be a good Catholic and such). Tom doesn’t know how much real “say” he has, since he isn’t married to Liz. Tom is wondering what, if anything, he should do about the situation.

How would you advise Tom?

Introducing: The Missional Search

July 12, 2007

Google has a new tool called “Google Co-op.” What it allows you to do is to create a new search engine which privileges certain websites. In other words, a group of scientists can have a search engine that searches all of their collective websites or sites they find particularly helpful.  You can have the search engine search only those sites you wish to include (and nothing else) or to prioritize those sites you wish to include (thus skewing the results towards those sites you find particularly pertinent to the focus of the search engine.

This can be particularly helpful if, like me, you want to search for particular ideas related to missiology or ecclesiology.   Google is great, but sometimes you have to wade through lots of chaff to find what you’re really looking for. 

And so, I’ve created a search engine called “the Missional Search.”  I’ve already added a handful of sites to the search engine, so you can check it out.  What I’d really like from y’all is suggestions for sites to add to “the Missional Search.” I want it to be useful as a specialized search engine.

Which sites should I add to the search engine list?

Do you think a specialized search engine is useful? Would you use it?

Do you think the focus should be on missional church / emerging church stuff, or should it be broadened to a wider field like “evangelicalism” or “progressive Christianity” or something like that. I’m open to suggestions.

What Would Jesus Wear?

July 11, 2007

imageProbably not a white robe with a red sash. It is hard to say definitively, but my guess is he wore pretty much the same thing every day–a basic, comfortable, durable garment of the sort common among 1st century Jewish peasants. My sense is, if He were to walk among us today, he’d probably only own a few “outfits” of a simple, comfortable sort.

The more important question, for us, is what ought we to wear in light of our call to follow Jesus? These seem to be the main impulses:

A) The Traditional “Good Steward” Impulse: We should save as much money as possible, buying thrift store clothing and, when necessary, buy new clothes from cheap retailers like Walmart. And we should use the money we save to support missions or tithe.

B) The “Relevant” Impulse: We should dress in such a way that is relevant to whatever sub-culture of which we are a part. So, if we’re ministering to wealthy kids in the burbs, we too should shop at Abercrombie.

C) The Progressive “Good Steward” Impulse: We should, like impulse A, buy thrift store clothing and, when necessary, buy new clothes from fair-trade retailers like No Sweat Apparel.

D) The “Who Cares” Impulse: I don’t think Jesus cares how I dress. He cares about the big-picture issues. And so, I’ll buy what I like, within the budget I set for myself.

A little over a year ago, I began to opt for option “C.” I stopped buying new clothing, unless I knew where it came from. I didn’t want to wear clothing made by some child in the developing world–or from some under-paid adult. Sure, it could be argued that having pants manufactured in Guatemala (or wherever) helps their economy; they only get pennies per hour, but it is still better than nothing. You might call that development. I call it exploitation. As long as Americans demand their favorite fashions at cheap prices, there will be labor-mongers in the developing world willing to exploit people to provide those fashions.

imageAnd so, I decide to only buy new things if I knew where they came from. I want to know the story of my garments–where the fabric comes from, whether or not the workers who make the garment are paid well, etc.

In Bethlehem, where Jesus was born, Palestinian union workers are using organic cotton to make t-shirts for a company run by an American Jew. For $20 bucks you can buy a shirt with a story. I think Jesus would wear one of these shirts.

If you are intrigued by this company, you can become an affiliate. It works the same way the Amazon Associate program does. For everyone who follows your link to buy their goods, you get a cut. If you want to buy a nice t-shirt, you can follow the banner to the bottom right and I’ll get a small cut. But I’d rather have you become an affiliate yourself, and spread the word. This is a good company that is doing things right. There are other great companies out there, for sure, but No Sweat Apparel is definitely a place to start your journey into buying Fair Trade Goods.

What do you think? Do you think embracing the Fair Trade movement is something Christians ought to do, or is it just a misguided liberal agenda?

What are some of your favorite places to buy Fair Trade goods?

If I lived in Springfield…

July 10, 2007

avatarIf you go to the Simpson’s Movie website, you can create your own Simpson’s characters.  Here’s what my wife and I would look like if we were on the Simpson’s. 

I don’t know what I would do if I were forced to live in Springfield.  They’ve only got one church–and it happens to be a mix of the worst parts of the Mainline and Evangelical traditions.  I’d probably have to plant a church there–probably in the “bad part of town.” Or perhaps I could talk Moe into letting me start a pub church in his tavern (though that probably wouldn’t work, since Moe’s isn’t very trendy and he only has one type of beer on tap). avatar(4)

I’d start a coffee-shop church, I suppose, but I’ve never noticed a cool coffee shop in Springfield either.  Perhaps I’d have to plant a church in Shelbyville.  I think they might be ready for something “Emergent.”  Of course, property values are probably low enough for me to buy a couple houses to start a neo-monastic community.  Maybe we could start an after-school program.  After all, a troubled youth like Nelson would probably be transformed if he were to experience authentic, sustained, love from a community of hospitality.

avatar(2) Of course, if things went well, and a real movement of emerging-type churches were to be established in Springfield, we would probably start a Springfield Cohort.  And then we could pool resources together and throw a conference.  And of course, Tony Jones (pictured left) could come and speak. :)

Or perhaps, we could get Brian McLaren…avatar(8)

Home-Roasting Coffee

July 10, 2007

image Want to roast your own coffee from home?  Home roasting is a way to save money (since green coffee beans are cheaper than roasted).  You can buy green coffee beans at your local whole foods co-op, or online (like at Amazon.com).

Home roasting also, if done right, can make for a tastier cup o’ coffee.  And there is also the matter of increasing your sense of self-satisfaction.

Coffee roasters, however, are expensive.  Unless, of course, you use a popcorn popper to roast your beans.  Yes indeed, you can roast green coffee beans in a popcorn popper.  And you can find them for as low as $10 (even cheaper if you get one at a thrift store).

Allow me to make a disclaimer: roasting with a popcorn popper can be hazardous if you aren’t watching what you’re doing.  The popcorn popper creates a huge amount of heat.  If you are careless, you can burn yourself.  And it is also worth pointing out that it makes a lot of smoke. 

imageWhen you roast with a popcorn popper, limit your batch to about 1/4 cup or so of green coffee beans.  More than that will cause uneven roasting.  Add the beans to the hopper.  Before you plug in the poppper, remove the yellow plastic hood and cover the top with cheese cloth, or some other well-ventilated cloth.  You should secure the cheesecloth onto the popper with some string (a rubber band might melt and break). 

Once the beans are in the popper and the cheese cloth is secure, you can plug the popper in.  Make sure you are near a window or outside, since there is a lot of smoke created in roasting. 

You are going to have to judge the roast by “ear.” The beans will create two different “crackling” sounds during the roasting process.  The first crackle happens a couple minutes into the process and sounds a bit like a the snap, crackle, pop of rice crispies.  A short while later, you’ll hear a louder “crack.” Once you’ve heard the beans enter into this second stage of roasting, you are on your way to a medium roast.  Feel free, at this point, to unplug the popper and carefully remove the cheese cloth to examine the beans.  Keep roasting them until you achieve your ideal roast. 

You will need to experiment to get a sense for how long you should roast the beans.  This method is a lot faster than roasting with a conventional roaster.  Because of this, some argue that the coffee quality isn’t as good.  I disagree.  Since we are working with a small batch, the roast can be consistent and even.  And the taste quite good. 

Once you’ve got the hang of it, you’ll be on your way to saving money with your home roasted beans!

Iced Coffee Recipe

July 9, 2007

image I know I don’t usually post recipes on Jesus Manifesto, but the culinary arts are a passion of mine.  My culinary passion scarcely finds its way into my blogging.  Nevertheless, since hospitality is central to my way of ministering to others, it makes sense that I should start sharing recipes. 

This is a simple, easy recipe for Iced Coffee.  The idea is to take 1lb of coffee and add it to 1 gallon of ice water.

Steps:

  1. Grind 1lb of beans as coarsely as possible…medium roast works best. Put the ground coffee into a non-reactive pot.
  2. Fill a gallon pitcher full of ice and then add cold water, totaling one full gallon of ice water.
  3. Pour the ice water into the pot and cover.
  4. Let the coffee steep at room temp. for 12 hours
  5. 12 hours later, stir the steeping grounds and then pour the coffee through a fine wire mesh strainer into another pot or a gallon-sized pitcher. 

If your coffee was ground coarsely, the mesh strainer should filter out most of the grounds.  You want some of the finer material in your coffee anyway. 

Don’t throw your ground away–they can be added to your garden as-is (though you can compost them if you’d like).

My Blogging Break: A Debrief

July 5, 2007

coverI’ve only posted a couple of times in the past few weeks. I’ll be back in the blogging saddle on Monday. But before I dig back in, I want to share a few things from the past few weeks.

I just spent a week in Madison, Wisconsin getting some training to plant an InterVarsity Chapter at the University of Minnesota West Bank. They’ve shelling out 30k over three years to provide training, matching grants for new fundraising, and materials for the chapter plant. I’ll be honest, I was skeptical about the quality of training. I’ve read A LOT about church planting and have been involved with two church plants. I was surprised by what they’ve come up with. They took the Covenant Church USA church planting model (which is definitely among the better ones out there) and contextualized the hell out of it. They brought 65 years of campus experience, a solid church planting model, and some serious reflection on incarnational ministry and have come up with an impressive approach to planting a campus ministry.

Their materials would actually translate nicely to any one planting a ministry or church based upon an incarnational, rather than attractional, approach. Most church planting books don’t take context into account. And what they are most interested in is planting a weekly service. Everything else is supposed to be built upon a quality weekly service that is able to gather a crowd. InterVarsity, however, encourages planters to develop a large group at the beginning of year 2. After, the planter has done a lot of homework about context, the first year is spent gathering a core team of “missional Christians” on campus, doing outreach, praying, and meeting a lot of students 1:1 and in small groups.

My time with InterVarsity was very affirming. They value what I bring to the organization and affirm my perspective as a thinker and practitioner. One of the hardest things about my church planting experience has been that so many people have written me off and concluded that my approach has been too naive or foolish. It feels good to have people from InterVarsity thrilled about my approach to the campus and the neighborhood.

While I was in Madison, a couple of unexpected opportunities fell into my lap. First, I’ll be leading a point-leader session on New Monasticism at the upcoming Willow Creek Group Life Conference in September. A while back, I spoke to a group of Willow Creek interns at Bethel Seminary and one of them talked me up to Bill Donahue at Willow Creek.

Secondly, there is a scheme afoot to launch something like the Greenbelt Festival here in the states. I’ve been invited to be a part of the 12 person planning committee. The groups backing the event are serious about creating a solid event and have committed resources to make it happen. Sounds like a lot of fun, and I’m honored to be asked.

I’m excited about these opportunities…but even more than that, I feel a sense of God’s provision. Both of these things are a bit above my “pay grade.” My sense is that God wants me to focus on being faithful on the West Bank and to let him provide cool opportunities like this. After all, my efforts to get involved in lofty things have usually been a waste of energy. In prayer on the last night of the InterVarsity training, I felt like God said: “Stop looking for success. Stop trying to prove yourself. Stop trying to make things happen. Simply obey with great love. I can bring you “success” any time I want. Trust me.”

And so that is what I intend to do. I’m going to do what I know I’m supposed to do and stop fretting over how it will come about. I’m going to labor within the West Bank–on and off campus–and speak and write when opportunities arise that don’t distract too much from the priorities God has given.

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