Sunday, October 22, 2006

The "Esther" Movie ...

titled, One Night With A King, is amazing! Amazingly fictional, that is! Could someone please tell me WHY this movie is getting so much attention from the 'Christian' crowd? It's as much FICTION as was The Da Vinci Code! Both are movie interpretations of fictional books that have been rewritten with more fiction included by Hollywood. I just have to laugh ... the very truth watchdog groups that had such a fit about The Da Vinci Code because it mixed truth with fiction are now giving great reviews about this Esther movie. Can anyone smell a little hypocrisy here?? At least the Da Vinci Code never tried marketing itself as 'truth!' Any subtitle that appears under the title of this movie that suggests this movie is anywhere near 'the real story' couldn't be further from the truth. This is the goofiest rendition of Esther I could ever imagine! (Okay, maybe not "ever!")

WHY the need to change the real story? It has plenty of good scenarios just as is and, with some prophetic imagination, this sacred narrative could actually be thought-provoking and worthy of consideration for our 21st century. Prophetic imagination doesn't CHANGE the story, but seeks to realistically bring depth and an honest human/divine rendering of the story. Of course this involves subjective interpretation, but not an outright 'rewriting' of the facts of the story.

So why the misrepresentation of the biblical narrative? Oh yea ... Duh .... Hollywood! They sure have taken a lesson out of our national political playbook: how to tap into the rather undiscerning cultural 'Christian' power/money block.

PS: Shot in India, the costumes, sets, flowers, etc. were beautiful! A Plus!

Saturday, October 21, 2006

That Greek Mom with a Daughter in Trouble - Mark 7

We met, discussed, read, acted, prayed, struggled, wondered, questioned, agreed, disagreed, believed and were challenged … all in the context of a great conversational learning time with this Syrophoenician woman’s story as written for us in Mark 7. The Woman’s Kavura of Virginia Beach, hosted by Generations Quest, brought to life the voice of this desperate Mom, a Mom on a mission to see her daughter delivered from a demon so ‘normal’ life could come to both of them.

We dramatized the story with two oral readings of the story, giving different tones of voice to both Jesus and the Woman/Mom. Did she beg with crying and sobbing (Diane!) or did she beg with a tone of assertive determination to not come away empty handed for her daughter? (Jackie!) What was Jesus’ tone of voice … tired and overwhelmed with the emotional exhaustion of ministry (Kristine!) or one of annoyance at being ‘found’ and bothered by a pesty Greek woman, an outsider? Were there pauses in their conversation? And why would Matthew record this story so differently for his early community of faith compared to what Mark has already written down? (Sofronia wondered.)

Cindi asked: In the story, did Jesus change his mind and how significant is this?

How did this Mom ‘identify’ a demon in her daughter? How did she know? How can we relate to such a proclamation from a Mom about her own daughter? Wouldn’t we shy far away at making such a proclamation as a Mom in our culture/context?

Was God, through the Spirit, using this conversation to impart a new knowing to His Son about extending the parameters of His ministry way beyond the House of Israel? We also explored the questions that this story evokes concerning Jesus’ humanity/divinity characteristics during his earthly ministry as Son of Man, Son of God. (Ref. Phil 2)

Monday, October 09, 2006

A Journey In Process (over) An Event of the Past

(Continuing the discussion of how children's spiritual education might emerge with fresh prophetic imagination for the 21st century)

This suggestion is not an attempt to replace the powerful events in a child's/teen's spiritual journey with which we identify as our salvation and/or Pentecost moments. Yet, it's a shame that there is such a disconnect between these transformational events and the continuing call to be a follower of Christ, called to Divine Partnership in ushering in the Kingdom of God.

Therefore, the emphasis must shift to this journey that life will be, one of processing our vital and unique partnering roles in ushering in the Kingdom of God. Even fully appreciating our response to the call of God to salvation has validity in being framed in terms of a journey in process, not only framed in the context of needing to be a purposeful, one time, identifiable or recorded event.

Spiritual Formation then becomes a life journey to:

- begin an exciting, unending journey begun in the 'now,' one of pondering and processing The Big Story rather than just a memorized recall of Story Facts
- embrace Jesus' offer and call to discipleship/friendship for life, so much more than a one time response associated with a 'safety ticket' for eternity.

Tough –Tension Realities (over) Easy-Slick Makeovers

Part of the truth that will emerge in this postmodern culture is that the biblical narrative is true to life - it's filled with tough-tension realities, not easy black and white answers that fill in blanks choreographed by curriculum authors. Life isn't lived by systematic bullet points and God's Narrative proves it, despite our attempts at rearranging and raping it of it's often gruesome and pointed tensions.

Acknowledging, embracing and then finding God's overwhelming presence, even when seemingly absent in the real deal of life, is imperative for:

Growing Up ... dealing with the not so easily explained
... dealing with not knowing ALL the answers
... dealing with 'life is not always fair' syndrome
... dealing with mysteries, miracles, and mountains
... dealing with successes, failures and the unexpected more often than not!
... blessings and suffering, both part and parcel of life

This is all in THE BIG STORY ... why should we gloss over them with slick make-overs? What are we afraid of??

The Whole Story (over) Selected Parts of the Story

(The next few possible emphasis shifts are targeted toward older children's spiritual formation)

One of the tenants of the current emerging conversation is to revive a narrative theology, using the story to give us glimpses into the nature, character and practice of the Living God we worship and serve.

For our children, we give them a true picture, as in a picture of whole truth! (And, I will go so far as to suggest that the closer a curriculum is associated with those who proclaim to be THEE guardians of The Doctrinal Truth, the smaller the Bible becomes in it's presentation. Stories are told in manageable, controllable select verses ... over and over and over until the audience really believes that there is no more to any of these stories accept what has been selected out by purposeful design K-12)

This should not be so! Our children deserve to be told the whole version of the recorded Divine Stories. It's a continuing story that they need to be able to see their life story as a continuing part of the Creation Story! They deserve to be able to find themselves in a realistic fashion in the biblical stories that have preserved for their maturing faith journey. But they cannot, (I cannot) if the stories are not told in their entirety. Kids are ripped off ... and kids don't like being ripped off! (Do you?)

How can the whole story be recaptured and presented ... Fair and Balanced?

1. Looking for the characters in the margins (those stories rarely, if ever told)
- Women, children, concubines, slaves
- The neighbors, the friends, the extended family
e.g. Sarah and Hagar
inclusive of Isaac & Ishmael, aunts & uncles, neighbors & friends!
- The nameless ones, the rejected ones, the titless ones

2. Tragedy, Comedy, Drama, Irony ... it's all there!
- Allow all the possible emotive responses to surface of the characters in the stories, including the Triune characters!

3. The Divine Stories deserve attention for longer than a 1 hour Sunday school class period! Curriculums that jump story to story are nothing more than a medium for proof texting to drive home a moral sound bite.

4. These stories cry for conversation! Not lecture! They are food worth chewing and chewing and chewing; tasting, smelling, touching, feeling ...

When will the NO SPIN ZONE come to church? I think our tweenies and teens are waiting! Gosh ... I'm waiting!

Good News (over) So-so News

Somewhere we've lost the power and attraction of the GOOD News. The Gospel has been hijacked (once again) by the legalists! Orthodoxy has become the weapon of the rich and powerful, not the proclamation of liberating good news from the people/the least of these.

Today's children don't seem to be genuinely "attracted" to the gospel. Children were attracted to Jesus ... I don't remember parents coercing them to go see him or listen to him. What "Jesus" is being communicated to children/tweenies/teens in our churches? If the message we passed to the next generations was really GOOD ... I mean, truly GOOD NEWS would it be attractive, or at least tantalizing curious, or even too good to be true?

Where, for our children, is the good news of:

- "Your Special" and I Love You! (exclaims God)
- "Your Perfect as I Made You" and I Love You? (proclaims God)
- "Your Mine" and I Love You! (woos God)

And during the early seasons of early spiritual formation ... I suggest this be the beginning and the end of the story.

God's Family (over) God's Courtroom

(Continuing the discussion on children's spiritual formation in a postmodern context---what fresh might emerge? What new metaphors and shifts in emphasis might bring about a greater number of children valuing the commitment to become a disciple of Christ and then staying connected with the Christian community beyond their years under parental control?)

I suggest that a deliberate attempt must be made to emphasize for a good period of time the metaphor of God's Family over God's Courtroom. For young children, the concepts, imagery and language involved in Reformation's imagery of God's Courtroom has resulted in perfomance based religion. Of course we don't call it 'works' ... but the freedom inherit in God's grace has been lost. The prodigal daughter/son imagery has been replaced with judgement, payment of sin, justification, pronouncement of guilt, owing a huge debt, etc.

God's Household of Hospitality and Grace communicates to children:

o Love and acceptance in their Creator's Household
o Privilege and freedom/grace in their Father's Household
o Forgiveness and do-overs in their Jesus-Friend's Household
o Contributing/doing/ministering becomes joyful and fun (in partnership with God's Spirit) rather than an obligation to payback never ending debts

Sunday, October 08, 2006

The Gospel Narratives (over) The O.T. and Paul's Letters

Of course I'm an advocate for the whole, divinely inspired Word of God being presented over the course of time to children. BUT ... in the beginning, shouldn't the Jesus Story be the cornerstone, the foundation and the first few floors of the spiritual formation building in our children?

With our current approach, I suggest we must take responsibility for having made the biblical narratives little more than mere fairytales by not being sensitive to WHEN certain stories are presented to children. To present stories like Noah, Samson, & David and Goliath to children too young to understand the whole story -- the tragic set-up and impact of these heavy stories; the fear and awe and honest questions that these stories precipitate about the God of the Ancients (when one presents an honest rendering of them!) has caused them to become cheap, never taken seriously, worthy only of a disney production.

I ask, what would be wrong with spending the initial YEARS of a child's spiritual formation almost exclusively in the 4 Gospel narratives? ... until our children's hearts burst and overflow with This Story?

Jesus -- the author and finisher of our faith
Jesus -- God With Us
Jesus -- The Good News Story
Jesus -- Giving a Fresh View of: God the Father and God the Holy Spirit. Divine Community living among us.

It is This Story that gives real meaning to the stories that come before it and the stories that come after. Yes?

The Great Commandment (over) The Great Commission

What could be the difference if this emphasis shift was purposefully presented in children's spiritual formation? Might this guide children toward:

- an authentic, free and responsive Love for God, Self and their Neighbors
- a healthy sense of self-love and acceptance vs. a critical condemning view from a constant comparison with others
- a sold-out, wholistic ‘love’ for THEIR God
- a commitment to a demonstrative love for one's neighbor,

Would not the fulfillment of the great commission then become a NATURAL outflow of these?

Friday, October 06, 2006

Genesis 1 (over) Genesis 2

(Each of these suggestions represent an emphasis switch ... not an elimination of either)

I propose that for a significant length of time, the presentation of the creation narrative come from Genesis 1.

Suggested benefits toward a healthy spiritual formation for children:

- An initial introduction that presents ‘in their image’ for both genders equally.
- Collaborative language used for God ... a Divine Community Act of Creative Choice.
- Securing early on all children's identity of inestimable worth as the crown of God’s creation.
- Creating humanity was not just good ... but VERY good! GOD/THEY are HAPPY with created humanity! Proud, happy, excited, committed forever in love ... like most new parents!


Emerging Women's Voices 2006 Gathering

Yes, the conference held here in Virginia Beach has happened and it was a just delightful ... a whole menu of imaginative, fresh-filled conversations took place among a wonderfully diverse group of women navigating the Christian journey in today's pomo (postmodern) culture.

The table conversation I hosted was "Emerging Children ... will we feed the children of the pomo culture anything different?" I suggested some paradigm shifts of emphasis when it came to laying down a progressively maturing template for aiding children's Christian spiritual formation. Would these paradigm shifts lead to children developing their identity in Christ ... a person of inestimable worth by the very virture of their existance/creation? a confidence in the love and grace of God through Jesus? a desire to be becoming a more devoted follower of the Life of Service toward the least of these? an expectation to find purpose and security in being divine agents charged with bringing into the world the Kingdom of God in partnership with the Spirit? a realization of an eternal life begun in them today? a desire to stay connected, by choice, to a safe and mercy filled faith community as God's Way to successful living?

WOW ... did I say all that? I don't know if my suggestions could possibly initiate much of this, but I'm foolish enough to attempt the discussion!

For those interested in having a dialogue on each of the theological threads that I used to open our imaginations, I will post them here, one at a time. I will include my notes on each and then I welcome thoughts and reflections from others.