Taste Communities

21 02 2011

Fifteen years ago I began the trek toward ordination in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA).  Turns out it was part of God’s plan for my life long before I was born.  Nevertheless, this trek yielded a new call for my life – to be a Minister of the Church of Christ in the Office of Word and Sacrament.  I thought at the time – 1996 – that I had a grasp on what that meant for me and the church.  There was even an elaborate, cumbersome and sometimes conflicting process by which committees and synods and seminaries would affirm and confirm this call to ministry.  This still exists in the ELCA today and because of abuse and misconduct in the clergy ranks of late – this process is even more burdensome – especially on families and spouses – but more on that some other time.

I have a weekly habit of searching through the archives and new releases on TED.com.  If you have not found this gem of new inspirational and innovative thought paths and ideas then you should check it out.   In a recent post, Johanna Blakley, media researcher, discussed how media and advertising companies still use the same old demographics to understand audiences, but they’re becoming increasingly harder to track online.  As social media outgrows traditional media, and women users outnumber men, Blakley explained what changes are in store for the future of media.

Two first impressions – one is the realization that on social media sites like Facebook, women users vastly outnumber men.  Second, was the observation that people aggregate around things they ‘like.’  She called the aggregates – taste communities. While this may not be a new stream of thought – that people who like similar things gravitate towards one another – her observations about women being far out in front as users on social networks AND that like-minded people aggregate describes network of the Church of Christ as well – especially using old demographics to determine how to ‘advertise’ or proclaim your message.  (More on that later too. Hint: church leaders should address the thirst for God of the 18-24 age group equally to that of the 54+ age group.)

At least in the congregations I have been privileged to serve – participation among women far exceeds that of men AND in an almost predictable way – church congregations have been increasingly forming around ‘like’ issues.  Two examples:  First, is a study years back – by the Youth and Family Institute in Minneapolis, MN – where they asked people to indicate who was most formative in your coming to know Jesus Christ – 75% responded a woman – such as a mother, grandmother or wife.  Second, with the decline of denominational adherence, churches have developed and promoted core principles that inform their interpretation of Scriptures and structure for Word and Sacrament ministry.  These principles tend to be organized around key Scriptures that address ‘hot button’ social issues (like abortion and homosexuality)  which attract people of like mind and political affiliation.

So what is the true reality for our like-mindedness or aggregation as a church?  Our ‘likeness’ is we are all created in the image of God – male and female.  Our call from Christ himself to be baptized and to come to His table of grace creates a unity that nothing – no power nor principality can destroy.  Our present and future reality is that we are gathered people by the Holy Spirit – to aggregate around water, Word, bread and wine – to repent, taste and see that God is good.

The essence of the Church of Christ is that it is the first, best and most satisfying ‘taste community’ on the planet – in the universe.  In the bread and wine we meet the life-giving and forgiving Son of God – the true Messiah – the King of all that was, is today and will yet come – Jesus Christ.  At the table where the Word is grace and the Sacrament is Jesus himself – all other taste communities submit and are reconciled, invited and fed with the bread of life.

Through all the trials and tribulations of my trek to a Word and Sacrament ministry one thing remains clear – the true, lasting – forever and ever – taste community is the Holy Spirit gathers at the Table of Grace where Jesus is the host.   Somehow and in a clear manner – God through the power of the Holy Spirit – makes equal and unites the ‘like’ playing field of all creation through Jesus in, through and under our individual taste community as we come to His table.  So we can aggregate on Facebook around our ‘likes’, we can aggregate in our communities of faith as we wish on Sunday morning – yet what we taste and see – is Christ.  He does not see our ‘likes’ or individual ‘tastes’ – rather what matters is that on the great social network – Jesus ‘liked’ (loved) us first and gave his life for us so that we would have a wonderful sweet taste that the world so longs for.

As we say each week:  Now…Go in peace.  Serve the Lord!

Forgive Me for Revealing Her Age….but KJV is 400 Years Old

12 01 2011

An excerpt from a NY Times article:

Sometime in 1611, a new English Bible was published. It was the work of an almost impossibly learned team of men laboring since 1604 under royal mandate. Their purpose, they wrote, was not to make a new translation of the Bible but “to make a good one better, or out of many good ones, one principal good one.” What was published, 400 years ago, was indeed one principal good one: the King James Version of the Bible.

It’s barely possible to overstate the significance of this Bible. Hundreds of millions have been sold. In 1611, it found a critical balance in a world of theological conflict, and it has been beloved since of Protestant churches and congregations of every stripe. By the end of the 17th century it was, simply, the Bible. It has been superseded by translations in more modern English, translations based on sources the King James translators couldn’t have known. But to Christians all around the world, it is still the ancestral language of faith.


What intrigues me most are the ending words….ancestral language of faith. For me the language of faith isn’t language spoken or written.  The language of faith is forgiveness – an act, a posture of extending grace and gift.  Yet, the KJV is the vehicle from which we learn that unwritten language.  So in some sense, every compilation of the translated texts of the Bible, like the KJV, bears some resemblance – at least in the indigenous language of the times – to the language of faith, especially as it portrays forgiveness.

Why pick forgiveness?  Perhaps it’s a blind ambition, but I have come to stake my life, my ministry, my call on the forgiving habit of God, especially in and through His Son – Jesus Christ.

When it comes to forgiveness, words tend to get in the way and often are the weapon of original intent when it comes to an act to be forgiven.  But words can also do some justice to forgiveness (pun intended) and those in the KJV have done that miraculously.

In the age of competing narratives for our life to be guided by – the KJV in all her glory and imperfections and by way of olde english idioms – has preserved and claimed for the world that the dominant narrative always has been and always will be that of Jesus Christ.  Through time, tribulation, translations and testaments – as well as the dubious actions of the church itself (crusades, WWII, Darfur, etc.) Christ in whatever language is the same – today, tomorrow and forever.

Today – in our life – may Christ be made known in the language of forgiveness – real, true and reconcilable – as much as is possible through sinners like me.

In the Word captured by the creators of KJV from Matthew 6:14-15:

For if ye forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you:

But if ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.

Invitations from God

3 01 2011

What are the deepest invitations God is making to me right now for my life?

This question is what making resolutions is really about. In my journey it is becoming increasingly clear that I have missed so many invitations God sent me through his Word and Church and Community.  So the entry into a new year no longer means turning the page in the calendar and learning to put 2011 on my checks.  Rather by virtue to Christ’s coming I am invited into a new adventure in life and faith – every day.

In our time, invitations come by electronic means – text, email, tweet, voice mail, and the like.  They also come personally in the very people God sends to accompany us on our journey.  Most profound are the invitations that come from the still, small voice of God himself.

So what are the deepest invitations?  For you?  For me?

The easy answer is…only God knows!   But that is exactly the point.  If God issues these deep and life-changing invitations – why not ask him yourself ?

So listening for God is the key to receiving and responding to those deep invitations.  You may stand at a crossroads and need some guidance.  You may be sitting in prayer or on a long winter walk.  You may be traveling or recovering from hurt, pain or illness.  You may be intentionally listening and asking God in those quiet moments of meditation or prayer.

As you journey with the question…What are the deepest invitations God is making to me right now for my life?

Just know that God is still talking and still inviting and still saving and still gracious and always forgiving.

…and our answer as disciples is still…HERE I AM LORD – SEND ME!

One the first day of my ordained ministry I wrote these words in my journal:

Life is hard.

It is hard to be a Christian, but it is too dull to be anything else.

So with all the risks and the turmoil that often accompany a life counter to the prevailing culture and the whims of Satan…know these words from Jeremiah are trustworthy and true:

11 For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.

Christmas 2010

24 12 2010

Tonight – The Holy Night – people will gather to usher in the newest installment in God’s salvation.  In my neck of the woods, this installment will be wrapped in the usual trappings of the season – tree, lights, presents, worship, and FOOD!  Yet there is a shroud over all these things that are supposed to bring joy and peace.  For the indoor tree is artificial, the lights are dimmer LED, the presents are fewer, the worship is sentimental, and the food is in abundance.  All this is not a reflection on the truth revealed in the day of Christmas – the birth of forever, the birth of freedom from sin and death, the birth which claims the journey of life everlasting – the birth of the King, the Lord, the Prince of Peace.  What is true is that life is real for the poor who use trees to cook their food and heat their huts; the only light is a candle or the sun by day; the only present is a break in the battle; worship is sitting on dirt floors; and the crumbs under the table of the rich (me) is the food.

Christmas is another day for those who have not.  Christmas is a big, extravagant party for those who have.  Christmas for Jesus is the first day of the rest of the life of the world that is saved through him.  Christmas for Jesus is the day before Herod and all the powers that oppose God put up a poster saying… Wanted: Christ…DEAD.  They didn’t even have the decency to say dead or alive.  But God himself as Jesus scoffed at all the threats by delivering the world – even those powers that oppose him – unto himself beginning that day in Bethlehem.  Thanks be to God.

For Christmas 2010…remembering Jesus is recalling the mission – to tell the good news of his birth!  Mary, the Mother of God explains this good news perfectly in The Magnificat (Luke 1:46-55):

I’m bursting with God-news;
I’m dancing the song of my Savior God.
God took one good look at me, and look what happened—
I’m the most fortunate woman on earth!
What God has done for me will never be forgotten,
the God whose very name is holy, set apart from all others.
His mercy flows in wave after wave
on those who are in awe before him.
He bared his arm and showed his strength,
scattered the bluffing braggarts.
He knocked tyrants off their high horses,
pulled victims out of the mud.
The starving poor sat down to a banquet;
the callous rich were left out in the cold.
He embraced his chosen child, Israel;
he remembered and piled on the mercies, piled them high.
It’s exactly what he promised,
beginning with Abraham and right up to now.


Time for an Xchange – the same old won’t do anymore!

10 12 2010

Welcome to A New Blog on an old theme – Reconciliation!

Biblical in scope and command, but so forgotten in the realm of reality – family, work, politics.

Reconciliation is simply a path to exchanging one state of being for another, more fruitful state of being – particularly in relationship with our environment and one another.  Reconciliation involves not just substituting or masking one thing for another – but true exchange where the ‘new thing’ fills the space – spiritual and physical – of the one that previously resided there.  The ‘new thing’ restores and is totally new – with no link or resemblance to the old thing.  It is an exchange of both time and space – transcending both for a new reality.

Welcome to the ramblings of an eclectic Christian who has lived in a box and gone dumpster diving with the homeless; who has traveled to Central America smack in the middle of Civil Wars and unrest; who enjoys skydiving and white water rafting as well as sitting in pristine wilderness; and who teaches and preaches to transform minds hoping that somewhere in the midst of my ego-centric words the Gospel of Jesus Christ finds it’s way out.

**Not just a blog – but visit my web site filled with resources for active disciples: http://www.gracexchange.net