Sunday, October 29, 2006

Jesus Before Christianity

If I were going to start a movement this would be the name of it. I long for all senses of the phrase, Jesus before Christianity. Here are Albert Nolan's opening words from the book of the same title,

Many millions throughout the ages have venerated the name of Jesus, but few have understood him and fewer still have tried to put into practice what he wanted to see done. His words have been twisted and turned to mean everything, anything and nothing. His name has been used and abused to justify crimes, to frighten children and to inspire men and women to heroic foolishness. Jesus has been more frequently honored and worshipped for what he did not mean than for what he did mean. The supreme irony is that some of the things he opposed most strongly in the world of his time were resurrected, preached and spread more widely throughout the world—in his name.

Jesus cannot be fully identified with the great religious phenomenon of the Western world known as Christianity. He was much more than the founder of one of the world’s great religions. He stands above Christianity as the judge of all it has done in his name. Nor can historical Christianity claim him as its exclusive possession. Jesus belongs to all humanity.

Isn't it amazing to think that there was a Jesus before Christianity? That there really was a man who walked the earth, who had friends, who ate and drank, who played, who worked, who taught certain things and lived a certain life? That before the robes and chants and creeds and councils and conventions and denominations and cadences and services and styles and pleas that there was a real, flesh and blood man who talked a certain way, walked a certain way, ate a certain way, slept a certain way, touched a certain way, healed a certain way...who lived a certain way?

Isn't it amazing to think that the image we see on TV and in prayer rooms and in worship services and in seminars and in concerts and in church committee meetings and on Sunday mornings is not in truth Jesus but rather Christianity? That Jesus is before this and will be the judge of how much if any of this was the Word made Flesh ?

Isn't it amazing to think that we are now in a Post-Christian world? That Christianity has run its course?

But the most amazing thing to me is that I don't think God is worried about any of this—not about the travesties done in the name of Christ on the one hand, nor about the conclusion of Christianity on the other.

But if you find yourself frustrated with us for ignoring your demands, for not following your rules, for not accepting your premises, for not joining in on your goals and your methods and your plans—take heart: we have chosen Jesus before Christianity. And it's going to work out.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

life is good

AHHHHHHHHHHHHHHhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh............

It's a good day.

I hold in my hands my very own copy of John Eldredge's brand new book, The Way of the Wild Heart, hot off the press, delivered to my front door step. I can't wait to read it. But for now I can't get over the smell of the ink, the crispness of the pages, the shine of the title, the beauty of the cover, and the idea of once again opening wide my mind, opening wide my heart. First things first. Books, like words, like people you love, are to be savoured, not devoured.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

for the hurt

This one goes out to all the people who have hurt me.

Thank you. You will never know what you have done for me. Because of you I am not happier, not wealthier, not stronger, not more respectable, not better looking. Because of you I am holier. By holier I do not mean that I am more sinless, although that is a clear result, nor do I mean that I am better than you or that God loves me more. What I mean is that I am more set apart, more set aside. I belong less to you, your world, your organizations, your parties, your cliques. Thank you for hurting me, thank you for judging me, thank you for the whispering about me, thank you for sending me away. Thank you above all for the rejection that all the wounds carried. Because if you are a man of enough sorrows, if you become acquainted with enough grief, and if enough people hide their faces from you, then you get to a place where the only one left looking at you is God. And that’s a holy place.

Some people down through history have gone out seeking martyrdom in foreign lands with pagan kings. That those closest to me have hurt me the most has graciously spared me that journey.

From my heart, thank you.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

across the bridge of hope

across the bridge of hope

Human beings suffer,
They torture one another,
They get hurt and get hard.
No poem or play or song
Can fully right a wrong
Inflicted or endured.

History says, Don't hope
On this side of the grave.
But then, once in a lifetime
The longed for tidal wave
Of justice can rise up,
And hope and history rhyme.
~Seamus Heaney

My in-laws came to visit last weekend bearing this album. They said they listened to it over and over all the way to Colorado and back. And they wanted me to hear it. Hmm.

The album is a tribute to the people who died in the terrorist bombing in Omagh in 1998. All the proceeds are going to the families of the victims. You can read about it here on Amazon. It's great if you like Celtic, including Enya singing Silent Night in Gaelic.

I put the CD in and heard Aslan reciting Heaney's poem, which was kind of cool. But still, I had no idea why they wanted me to hear it or what they liked about it. But that all began to change when I got to this song...

Broken Things
by Juliet Turner

You can have my heart
But it isn't new
It's been used and broken
And only comes in blue
It's been down a long road
And it got dirty on the way
If I give it to you will you make it clean
Wash the pain away

You can have my heart
If you don't mind broken things
You can have my heart
If you don't mind these tears
But I heard that you make all things new
So I give these pieces all to you
If you want it you can have my heart

So beyond repair
Nothing I could do
Tried to fix it myself
But it was only worse when I got through
Then you walked into my darkness
And you speak words so sweet
And you hold me like a child
Till my frozen tears fall at your feet

You can have my heart
If you don't mind broken things
You can have my heart
If you don't mind these tears
But I heard that you make all things new
So I give these pieces all to you
If you want it you can have my heart

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

watched X3 again

I am Wolverine. What can I say?

You know, I would have to say the sum of the movieamid all the special effects, the far out characters, the plot, the subplots, the science, the magic, the freaks, the furballs, the masters, the pawns, the kings, the queens, the pretty, the ugly, and the in betweenspeel all that away and what's at the core is, "Love wins." Love is bigger than Xavier, bigger than Magneto, bigger than the President, bigger than big business, bigger than Wolverine, bigger than Phoenix. Love never fails.

Life is full of all this conflictthis sound and fury, strutting and fretting its hour upon the stage. But in the end, the only thing that matters is not control and rebellion, not recognition and justification, not rights and wrongs and debts and oughts, not power, not wars, not rumors or war, not earthquakes, not nations, not brawn, not brains, but love. Love is bigger than death, and as big as life.

There is no fear in love. And that is why: love wins.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

the first play

Within the first two minutes of the game, Mafaz threw the ball in to Destyn, who dribbled it down into scoring area, then passed it over to Jessica, who kicked it straight into the goal. It was beautiful. It was holy. It was like the whole universe for a second was all lined up right like tumblers in the lock guarding pure joy. I will never forget the smile on everyone’s faces when they ran back for the kick off, looking over at the sideline, especially Jessica’s. I could not have been happier.

I remember the time I first met Jessica. We were halfway through our first game, when up walks a woman, claiming that she had signed up her daughter just yesterday, and this was her team. Now, a lot of people had come up before asking if this was their team both at our first practice and that first game, which were two days apart. My experience with YMCA soccer is a month of silence followed by a completely sudden phone call for first practice and first game with uniforms flying at you as fast as team rosters, schedules, and sign-up sheets for snacks and drinks. So, it was not unusual for someone to wander up to me right in the middle of the game as I was doing a bit of high octane coaching with a query about team membership. So this woman says in broken English this is her daughter’s team, and can she play.

What do you do?

I patiently explained to her that we were already playing this game, and that if this is indeed her team, she can show up at practice next week, and if so, I’m happy to include her. I am thinking in the back of my mind: Who are these people? And I need to call the director and ask them if this is real or if these people are just trying to scam a cool uniform, and if it’s real, why didn’t they call me? I was very polite. I don’t think she understood much of what I said.

I asked her if she’s sure this is her team, and tell her that there are a lot of teams, and she’s not on my list (over those few whirlwind days I had probably referred to my list a dozen times). She assured me that this was her team because when she filled out the application form, she requested that she be on the same tame as her cousin, Katia, who was on our team. Oh. I remember looking at this woman staring at me, and I remember looking down at this little girl in her pastel shorts, shirt, and flip flops. I told her that in that case this probably was her team. I welcomed them and invited them to stay and watch, and told them when to show up for practice.

We now turn our attention back to the game, which we are supposed to be coaching.

But my mind was spinning pretty fast, processing this picture. The next time the ball went out of bounds I turned to Jill, explained the story, pointed out the people, and asked her what she thought. I told her I had another uniform in the trunk this girl could have. She shrugged and said it sounded good to her. I sent Jill after the uniform, and then went and found the woman and her daughter, and told them that she could play. Today. They were amazed. The whole family reminded me of one of those little bitty dogs that get shaky and jumpy with excitement when you come around, spinning, jumping, chasing their tail, not really knowing what to do. I told them her uniform would be here in a few minutes. Jessica smiled as she jumped up and down and clapped her hands.

Now I just had to figure out what to do with her.

So I put her in at defense. I figured she couldn’t do much damage there. And she didn’t. We tied the game 1-1, although I don’t know how. It felt like we were getting whipped. It was the herd of turtles thing.

The other thing I remember was after the game seeing Jessica wearing her new uniform with flip flops. And wondering if she had just played the whole fourth quarter in them.

Anyway, since then I’ve made some changes—the important one to this story being a breakaway back, who just stands down at the other team’s end and waits for the ball to come to them, and then kicks it in. I tried a couple of my stronger players out down there, figuring that if someone could dribble pretty well, he could get into a non-herd situation and actually score. That was disastrous. Do you know how hard it is to get a 10 year old boy to stand still and wait for some ball to come to him? Yeah. Thought so.

Enter Jessica. I tried her at the position. As soon as the other team kicks off, she runs as fast as she can the opposite direction to wait by their goal. And she just waits there for the ball. I can’t tell you how many times the ball has come to her. And as soon as she gets it the other team just pounces on her. She’s such a tiny thing. With a big smile. Last week, she actually took several shots. And every time the ball just didn’t have enough umph to get across that line. One time she actually did get it across but the ref wasn’t looking so she didn’t get credit, but that’s another story. It’s also another story how many times she asked, “Coach, didn’t I score?” “Yes, but they didn’t count it. But you and I know the truth.”

So, you already read the end of the story. We won the game, too, and everyone was excited about that, but I got my payoff in that first play. And it wasn’t just Jessica. It was everyone. It was the way they shared, the way they saw her, the way they gave up what they had so she could shine. And even if the ball hadn’t gone in the net I still would’ve been proud to be their coach, proud to be on their team, proud to be human. But this time it did go in. And it reminded me that life does work, that team is possible, and that joy still rolls in from time to time.