Monthly Archives: April 2008

Hermas, 140 AD

This one’s extremely challening and I’m going to have to sit with it for a while:

You who are God’s servants are living in a foreign country, for your own city-state is far away from this city-state. Knowing which is yours, why do you acquire fields, costly furnishings, buildings, and frail dwellings here? Anyone who acquired things for himself in this city cannot expect to find  the way home to his own City. Do you not realize that all these things here do not belong to you, that they are under a power alien to your nature? The ruler will say you do not obey my laws, either observe my laws or get out of my country, Take care lest it prove fatal to you to repudiate your own laws. Acquire no more here than what is absolutely necessary. Instead of fields, buy for yourselves people in distress in accordance with your means.

-Hermas, 140 AD

Shane Claiborne and Chris Haw, Jesus For President (Michigan: Zondervan 2008 ) 146. 

Claiborne and Haw on the Yoke of Jesus

 Jesus is ready to set us free from the heavy yoke of an oppressive way of life. Plenty of wealthy Christians are suffocating from the weight of the American Dream, heavily burdened by the lifeless toil and consumption we embrace. This is the yoke from which we are being set free. And as we are liberated from the yoke of global capitalism, our sisters and brothers in Guatamala, Liberia, and Sri Lanka will also be liberated. Our family overseas, who are making our clothes, growing our food, pumping our oil, and assembling our electronics–they too need to be liberated from the empire’s yoke of slavery. Their liberation is tangled up with our own. The new yoke isn’t easy. (It’s a cross, for heaven’s sake.) But we carry it together, and it is good and leads us to rest, especially for the weariest traveler.

Shane Claiborne and Chris Haw, Jesus For President (Michigan: Zondervan 2008 ) 113.

The Prayer of Saint Francis of Assisi

 

Lord, make me an instrument of your peace.
Where there is hatred, let me sow love;
Where there is injury, pardon;
Where there is doubt, faith;
Where there is despair, hope;
Where there is darkness, light;
And where there is sadness, joy.
 O Divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek
To be consoled as to console;
To be understood as to understand;
To be loved as to love.
For it is in giving that we receive;
It is in pardoning that we are pardoned;
And it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.
Amen

Totally Disarmed

Last week I attended a luncheon hosted by Shane Claiborne at the Justice Revival in Columbus, OH. He asked us to share with the people at our table about the person or experience that made us start to really care about social justice. To me, this was a brilliant question. It was obvious that there were people in the room on all sides of the political spectrum. Shane’s radical message no doubt offended some while those of us who agreed sank further into our self-righteousness indignation.

But when I reflected on the experience that I would share about, I was totally disarmed. I thought back to a trip I took to Mauritania in West Africa. One night a young mother asked my friends and I to pray for her nine month old son. He was suffering from malnutrition and parasites which made his stomach abnormally large and round. Her home of four walls and a dirt floor was dark. We gathered around her son and each placed a hand on him. We said prayers hoping to change his circumstances.

I don’t know what happened to the boy after that. I don’t know if any of his circumstances changed. But as I reflected again on this old story of mine, I realized how much that experience changed me.

At the luncheon, when it came time to share my story, my voice started trembling, I teared up, and couldn’t talk. The old story had new meaning and it began to work on me in a powerful way. Not able to finish, I had to pass on to the next person. Feeling totally disarmed by God’s love, I looked at the people in the room around me in a different light.

Working for justice isn’t about being dynamic, one step ahead of the rest, or even being “right”. It’s about people with real lives and real stories. Anything more than that is an imitation of working for justice (and something that will most likely be watered down, put in a box, and sent to the market).

I’m still reading Jesus For President and I’ll be sharing some interesting quotes later in the week.

To the Holy Spirit

O Thou far off and near, whole and broken,

Who in necessity and bounty wait,

Whose truth is light and dark, mute though spoken,

By Thy wide grace show me Thy narrow gate

Wendell Berry, The Selected Poems of Wendell Berry (New York: Counterpoint Publishing, 1998), 107.

LOVE Cannot Be Capitalized!

In recent posts and poems, I’ve been voicing my increasing frustration with consumerism and capitalism. It seems there is a system in place which takes something beautiful, waters it down, puts it in a box, and sends it to the market. This is done with religion, art, and spiritual movements. Upon reflection I couldn’t help but feel a sense of hopelessness. I worry for people who find hope in the word ‘capitalism’ and follow a president who urges his people to consume for the good of the economy.

But upon further reflection, I was led to hope. Love in its truest form cannot be marketed or consumed. You cannot buy stocks in love. You cannot buy love at the store. You cannot make money off of love. Interestingly enough I think that some of the most successful and profiting products are false immitations of love (i.e. pornography).

True love brings true hope. And our task is to identify it and bring it to light. Henri J. M. Nouwen writes in the Life of the Beloved that we are to “constantly unmask the world around us” to see it for what it truly is. In this process, it is helpful to realize that love endures and will continue to endure capitalism, consumerism, and whatever other sort of “ism” the world develops.

St. Paul asserted to the Corinthians that these three things would remain: faith, hope, and love.

Thank God.

Jesus For President

I just started reading Shane Claiborne and Chris Haw’s Jesus For President. Last month I saw Shane speak at Bethel University. Expecting a dynamic and trendy speaker (he does, after all have dreadlocks), I instead found Shane to be goofy, homely and….genuine. To me, Shane’s real attraction was in his message and stories. It seems that he really does want to live like Jesus, love others, and work to change the world around him. Here’s a quote from his latest book which I think sums it up well:

This book is a project in renewing the imagination of the church in the United States and of those who would seek to know Jesus. We are seeing more and more that the church has fallen in love with the state and that this love affair is killing the church’s imagination. The powerful benefits and temptations of running the world’s larges superpower have bent the church’s identity. Having power at its fingertips, the church often finds “guiding the course of history” a more luring goal than following the crucified Christ. Too often the patriotic values of pride and strength triumph over the spiritual virtues of humility, gentleness, and sacrificial love.

Shane Claiborne and Chris Haw, Jesus For President (Michigan: Zondervan, 2008), 17.