The Herb Of Grace

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Things That Sustain: The Eucharist part 2 September 5, 2008

In the previous reflections, forgiveness 1 & 2 and the Eucharist part 1,  I tried to delve into the ways in which these things are essential ‘Christian Practices.’  That is, i have been trying to investigate the sustaining quality of these actions and postures for Christians in hopes that both myself and those who read this might consider more deeply the drama that is our times of gathering.

I want to share how I have experienced the Eucharist as a Christian practice in the last year and how that has facilitated both my further incorporation into the Christian community and a deepening of my spiritual life.  My story in this regard is that of a beginner and so is only good for giving a small embodiment of what the eucharist is; there are deeper and more faithful life stories that should be told here but I am best at talking about myself.

I and some others started a small ‘celtic liturgy’ service at our vineyard church last year.  As we began to envision it, we knew we wanted it to be a few things.  We wanted a time that was simple, liturgical, filled with silence, fed by the lectionary readings (which we don’t currently hear in the main service), seasoned by communal reflection on the scriptures, and crowned by the eucharist.  This wasn’t hard to do; Kate, my wife, ‘duct taped’ together some of our favorite liturgies from the Iona community and the Northumbria community in a seamless and beautiful way.

Every week we printed out the Lectionary readings and the reading we had chosen so that people could more easily ingest and reflect on the material.  It was wonderfully simple; one of us would prepare the readings while another would bake some muffins and make coffee and orange juice.  All in all, we only had to be there fifteen minutes early every sunday in order to cover the basics.  There were and continue to be many amazing things that God brings out of our times together, just as He has always done through the many years.  But I want to focus on one thing: receiving the eucharist.

Receiving the eucharist has been something that I have increasingly loved and treasured the more I have been in the midst of it; but I had never before had a consistent time of celebrating the body and the blood, the life and the death, of Jesus as I have at our celtic liturgy service.  Often acting as the facilitator in the celebration of our liturgy, I found myself becoming increasingly excited as the moment of the eucharist drew nearer and nearer.  I was surprised at this as I realized that I had never had a focal point like this in my communal worship experiences.  Now it felt more like I had stepped into a drama in which the plot, characters, antagonists and protagonists, were all coming to a climax in the breaking of the bread and the taking of the cup.

The only thing I could liken to it was an experience I had one night in Malaysia.  A group of us were at a worship service in which the pastor, an Indian man, said that he felt like God was telling him that some of those present were going to receive a visitation from Jesus that night.  My heart leapt!  There was nothing I could think of that I desired more than to meet Jesus face to face.  Well, it didn’t happen to me.  I heard the next day that it did happen to a few people, I was very disappointed.  But the strange thing was that the disappointment wasn’t bitter, it was sweet.  More than that, I have come to treasure the deep sense of expectation I had that night, waiting up for Jesus.  I really believed on that humid Penang midnight that He could come physically close to me and the fact that he didn’t has not quenched that desire but only inflamed it.

The same expectation is there for me as I await the eucharist but a couple things are different about the context of our celtic liturgy service that amaze me.  One is that we do it every week; we do the same thing, say the same words, eat the same bread and drink the same tawny port, and yet the expectation that Jesus will come to us is the same.  The second is that we do it together.  Unlike that night in Malaysia, where I was alone, we celebrate the eucharist as a group.  This has incredible implications.  The memory that the eucharist embodies is held in communal memory.  That is, simply, we know we are not crazy.  Or at least if we are, we are crazy together.  But there is a real gift there in the sense that seeing that we have the same expectation gives hope and strength.

Taking the eucharist together gives hope because we see the transformation that Jesus effects in one another and so we come to the conclusion that God loves us and is with us today and everyday.  It also gives hope as the bread and the wine tell the story of God never leaving his people either to death or to boredom.

Taking the eucharist together gives strength because if one person is weak that day, they are carried by the ‘practice’ of the others; that person will most likely go through with the celebration even though they feel far from God, themselves, and other people.  So there is strength in the ‘together’ part but there is also strength in the gift of Jesus IN the eucharist.  From the time that Jesus commanded his disciples to regularly take together his body and blood, the whole Trinity has been there, honoring that command, and longing to fill his people with his memory and presence, which are better than life.

One other point about the eucharist as Christian practice.  There are so many stories in the world and they are all clamoring for our attention and devotion.  From Nike to Vishnu, from Mac computers to Buddha, they are all saying that their way of seeing the world is the way we should see the world.  Whether that compliance is expressed by buying a shoe or bending a knee makes no difference: they are asking the same thing.  The story of Jesus is the story that gives our lives meaning above other stories and there is no better place to access this story then in the memory and Presence that Jesus gives to us in his body and blood.


Things That Sustain: The Eucharist, Part 1 September 1, 2008

Things That Sustain: Christian Practices that must not be forgotten (or must be restored) if we hope to “Be Church.”

Here I am continuing my posts on Christian Practices, having so far written on forgiveness. If you’d like, read Forgiveness, Part 1 and Part 2

The Eucharist as Memory and Presence

It is interesting to want to write about the Eucharist, and to try to. It is interesting because of the vantage point that it presupposes; it presupposes a perspective on the Eucharist which could elucidate things about it, a perspective that stands above it. It presupposes that the Eucharist is basically a human institution that can be picked apart as an etymologist dissects a cockroach. It presupposes that we will be able, after this short discussions, to say, “there now, that’s settled; let’s move on to the next Christian practice,” and feel utterly confident that we have plumbed the depth of the thing. I am glad to say that this set of presuppositions is nothing but pride mixed with a healthy dose of stupidity. I am less than glad to tell you that I am not sure just how much of this set of presuppositions I have dwelling within me at the moment. But we try nonetheless and hope, by the power and leading of the Holy Spirit, that we will find more than our presuppositions deserve.

What excites me is the reverse of these presuppositions. That is, if the Eucharist is not what we have said above, then it must be something else, something better. Let us begin by seeing the Eucharist as essentially Christian mystery, as mysterious revelation and presence, as something that Christians do or ‘practice’, not in order to understand it, but in order that we might worship God. When we do this, we are brought closer to the place that millions of hopeful Jesus-followers have lived in their communal gathering, their gatherings of memory and presence.

See the bread and wine lifted up, just as Jesus did, and hear the words, Jesus’ words, “this my body, this is my blood.” Feel the memory rush into your bones, memory of all that God has done; you remember in that moment the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus and, layered behind that, God bringing the Israelites out of Egypt and feeding them with bread from heaven and water from rock. Now see all the sinners and saints, which are the same people, go forward and take that presence into their bodies, God’s memory into their memory. In that moment both Presence and memory collide with all our false gods and memories; in that moment Christ is victorious in his people, not by coercion or by violence, but by his community’s humble acceptance of the story and Lordship of Jesus.
Does this sound different from your experience of the eucharist or communion? I know it sounds different from mine. Unlike what I have just been describing, the mystery that surrounded the eucharist for me was simply and sadly that we so received it so infrequently.


Ethics August 21, 2008

“The knowledge of good and evil seems to be the aim of all ethical reflection.

The first task of Christian ethics is to invalidate this knowledge.”

Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Ethics, pg. 17

With these two sentences, Dietrich Bonhoeffer begins his famous Ethics. Of course, he did not necessarily mean to begin this way. Ethics is a compilation of papers found hidden after Bonhoeffer’s execution by the Nazis. The collected papers were meant for a large book about ethics so the question of the form that he intended can only be surmised from the clues of the writing we have. It is thus amazing that the scrapings of this young german pastor have made such a beautiful piece of work. I will say with honesty that I have never read such wonderful lines as the above in all my interactions with theology.

That of course brings us to the question of the above passage and to the reason why I am focusing on it in this wee paper. I think most of us, were we to read only the first sentence, would agree heartily with it. “The knowledge of good and evil seems to be the aim of all ethical reflection.” It makes sense of our experience; anytime one is engaged in any kind of ethical debate, the support one person or another will usually call to their aid is that the ethical issue in question is right or wrong, good or evil. they may couch it in language that seeks to give the impression of openness and universality but that too is a value which they accepted based on their perception of it as right and good. I don’t think we think about this much, it’s fair to say we assume that our ‘conscience’ is a universal we all share. This is further assumed to be a good thing. After all, how many of us were brought up by our parents in hopes that we would acquire the knowledge of what was right and what wrong? If we could grasp it, this knowledge was thought to be an adequate tool to paddle us through life.

Because of this I deeply understand why one would react negatively to the second sentence with which Bonhoeffer follows up the first, “The first task of Christian ethics is to invalidate this knowledge.” (the knowledge of good and evil) How could this be true? Aren’t Christians supposed to be in support of good and right things? indeed, I understand why someone would be slightly afraid to see what Bonhoeffer considered ‘ethics’ at all if it’s first task was to make ideas of right and wrong unimportant or invalid.

But to understand Bonhoeffer’s amazing point, we must see that even our parent’s best intentions at teaching ‘morals’ and ‘values’ may have been misguidedly handed down to them from their parents. Perhaps that conscience which ‘everyone’ supposedly has is not as universal as we have been taught. The core of this thought is that ideas of right and wrong are rooted ultimately in the story of the original fall of humanity. Our governments and schools have attempted this sin again in our time, suggesting that we really all know good and evil regardless of whether we know God. The separation of ‘good’ and ‘right’ from God is not a problem for those outside the Christian community, at least they have something to help them navigate life’s sometimes murky waters. (because of this, we should not fight for prayer in schools but fight first for our Christians to learn how to pray)

But if we cannot, from one side of the debate, know clearly what is right and what is heinous (and thereby win our point, whatever it is) and if we cannot, from the other side, see clearly that all ideas of right and wrong are relative (and thereby win our point, whatever it is), then why fight for anything at all? But we do have a fight, a fight for Christians to realize their own heritage, golden and blooming. We have an ethic for our lives so strong and so resilient, so flexible and unchanging, that we will never be the same once we have begun to realize it. This ethic is a person and a life, it is the life, death and resurrection of Jesus. We are not to be concerned so much with what is right and what is wrong but rather that we would live and die like Jesus did. Yes in fact, the life and death of Jesus, and God’s raising him from dead, and the Holy Spirit’s presence on earth, all make available the resources of God we need to live as His community in the world.


Raking The Coals, Pt. 4: The Story of God January 30, 2008

Filed under: peace and justice,public theology,sermons,storying — Joel @ 10:29 pm

The notes below are from the talk I gave at the vineyard here in St. Stephen last sunday.  It didn’t record so I’m posting the notes I wrote in preparation; they are reasonably thorough.  I’d love to hear what you think?   Implications?  Practical changes towards a response? 

The Church – more than you thought it was!


 The Church doesnot have an alternative, it is the alternative


We Tell The Story and We Are The Story



I’d like to acknowledge Stanely Hauerwas as a major source for me regarding the thoughts that are to follow. 

             We’ve talked in the past about how we each have a unique song to sing as creations of a good God, and that this freedom to sing that song comes ultimately from the coming of Jesus, the great liberator, into the world.

            I also want to look at the unique song given to the Church, which is us.  We, as the people of God, have a song to sing.  We’ve known this for quite a while and have tried since that time to figure out both what exactly it is and how to sing it.  This is what I want to focus on:  that in our communal imitation of Jesus, we provide in ourselves the alternative to a world of violence.

I’m going to talk about the Church today and always as God’s alternative community to the rest of the world; it is different.  It doesn’t have the best idea, it is the best idea. To do that I wanted to start by telling you a bit of how I recently got to be thinking about the Church in a way that excites, at least, me. 

One Disclaimer – In this talk, when I refer to the culture of the world around us, I am referring to the negative aspects of that culture.  I am assuming that there are many beautiful and God-given things that emerge out of culture.

 a lesson in history in my recent past.  not my usual passion.

these experiences that I’m about to share showed me how I longed for a history of my own that was strong and applicable to my present life.

            – The Chosen by Chaim Potok– Jewish history and community

            – going through airports on Christmas day, Somali muslims working many of the food stands – strong sense of identity and belonging, not abstract but wedded to their religion and culture

            – matt wiebe’s blog “why are they so content”  my answer: because of their strong community, built together and inseparable with their religion.

            – my jealousy of both party’s strong community.

But we all know that strong cultures can also be places where oppression reigns, those who are what the culture expects of them fit in and are happy but those who do not (fill in the blank) are ostracized.  The reason why I became so hopeful in looking at these strong cultural communities is because, though we can see glimpses of God in every culture in different ways, I think the Church is God’s transcendent answer to questions of culture, identity, and community. 

            I realized that we live in a society which does not cherish its elders, nor its old stories.  what is beautiful is new, shiny, or plastic.  What is treasured is the latest release, the latest news.  Even the social workers, though giving their lives to help others, are too isolated by a system which burns out its workers; we were not meant to be compassionate alone.  I thought, “I would love to be part of a community which ran counter to this strong societal current, while still being intimately connected to it, which lived as a different and better culture than that of the world in which I live.

             I do not want to be, by myself, the change I want to see in the world, but I want to band together with my brothers and sisters in Christ and be what we are supposed to be, a community, a group, the Church, which has a different prime minister, a different president:  the Christ.  A community that does not go to war for oil, nor put its old people into sterilized death camps nor close our eyes to the many needless abortions.  But instead we should be the Church which imitates Jesus in his life of compassion, powerful love, righteous anger, generous hospitality, forgiveness of enemies, a Church which imitates Jesus in his death of self-giving love, in willingness to die for the truth of God, in the unwillingness to fight back through violence but instead to fight back by waiting for God to save, and finally a Church which imitates Jesus in his resurrection, not an emotional or spiritual resurrection but trust that God would not let his little ones fail forever, it is trust that God, not us, will redeem all things, we can lay back and die like everyone else and wait for God to raise us up again.

I am coming to believe that the Church I describe above is not a matter of personal preference but a matter of being “who we are” really.  We draw this from the story of Jesus, which we have believed and decided to follow his way.  This way of Jesus has been written down in a book which has become very important to us, in many ways, it is our book.  At times, as the Church, we’ve strayed into bible worship instead of Jesus worship.  But that mistake doesn’t disqualify the scriptures, we still need the stories of Jesus this book tells, we still need the record of his life, death and resurrection so that we do not forget that, as his people, we are to be like him, we tell the story of God and we are the story of God.

– Scripture: 

So today, we’re going to look at how the Church, as God’s alternative to the world, is the thing that tells the story of God and is the story of God.  The Church does this by imitating the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus in its public and private life together in community.

We have two scriptures to look at today about imitating Jesus in his life, death and resurrection.  One is a letter named 1 John, and the other is from the gospel of Mark.  By reading them to each other, we remember the events, the historical-ness of these stories upon which we have founded our beliefs.  So we are not following a simple philosophy with only ideas but a tradition and a way which was first acted out by Jesus and his followers and then passed down through the generations.  Now we are seeking to be his followers still, thousands of years later, his way is passed down by church after church, sometimes well, sometimes horribly, but we still seek to follow the one about whom John the Baptist said, “look, the lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!”

1 John 2:3-6

“Now by this we may be sure that we know him, if we obey his commandments.  Whoever says, “I have come to know him,” but does not obey his commandments, is a liar, and in such a person the truth does not exist; but whoever obeys his word, truly in this person the love of God has reached perfection.  By this we may be sure that we are in him: whoever says, “I abide in him,” ought to walk just as he walked.”

“ought to walk just as he walked.”

also let us consider Mark 8:31

“Then he began to teach them that the Son of Man must undergo great suffering, and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes, and be killed, and after three days rise again.  He said all this quite openly.  And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him.  But turning and looking at his disciples, he rebuked Peter and said, “Get behind me, Satan!  For you are setting your mind not on things divine but on human things.”

“He called the crowd with his disciples, and said to them, “If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.  For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake, and for the sake of the gospel, will save it.  For what will it profit them to gain the whole world and forfeit their life?  Indeed, what can they give in return for their life?  Those who are ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of them the Son of Man will also be ashamed when he comes in the glory of his Father with the holy angels.  And he said to them, “Truly I tell you, there are some standing here who will not taste death until they see that the kingdom of God has come with power.”

So if I’m going to talk about the capital “C” Church as imparting and embodying some kind of story, it begs the question: what so important about a story?

why ideas of “community” “love” “spirituality” are insufficient without being concretized in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus of Nazereth, a place!, a town! like St. Stephen!

The reason why you can’t have Christianity without story, either telling or being, is that without the historical enfleshing of Jesus and our imitation of him, without us walking as he walked, our communal faith becomes too quickly a smettering of philosophical ideas that one could find in many different communities. But Christianity is a way of life which is about God’s concretization in the lives of humans.  Hence, talk of ‘love’ can mean many different things.  a good example of which is that one person says “I love you” and means one thing and another person says “I love you” and means something very different. 

            So the story of Jesus concretizes what love means and we concretize it further by enacting the story of Jesus in our community.  An example of this would be Jesus healing the sick, in those stories we have an idea, “healing,” that is made concrete by Jesus doing it.  In addition to this, because of the existence of the Church, we make healing even more concrete to us by imitating Jesus, in the power of the Spirit, by healing in his name.  and so the story goes on.

The Church as God’s alternative community tells and is the story of God

We tell the story –

implications of this…

Remembering:  first we tell the story to ourselves, it is our great remembering.  It is an amazing thing to have a history, thousands of years of richness.  It is also very painful as there have been many times when the Church has not been “itself.”  Both the joyful and the painful parts of the story are important to remember because they are ours.  If we forget our stories, we will cease being ourselves and become like the culture around us, which is indeed what has happened.

Accounting:  we also tell ourselves the story so the other may keep us accountable.  I say I am a Christ follower not because I follow Christ very nearly or well.  I say to you that I am a Christ follower because I often fail and yet I hope to follow, and I hope that by telling you, you will remind me of my desire when I am tempted to follow other gods.

– within these stories are wisdom

– we speak the words of the historic events of our faith 

Sharing:  relating back to walt’s message last week, “confidently proclaiming that which we have come to believe…without being an ass.”  We tell the story of God even by not knowing answers to question, by being a conversationalist.  This is so because part of knowing God and being in God’s community is living in and with mystery.

– Proclaiming:  We are the witness to the coming age that has already come in part.  We are the witness to the peaceable kingdom of Jesus, where we love each other

– The story of Jesus, though intensely connected to the old testament and to the new testament letters that came after it, is more important than either of these.  That is to say, our reading of the bible should be done through the lens of Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection.

We are the story

Imitation of Christ in…

– Life:  (1 John 2:3-6) As Jesus lived, his actions, inactions, loyalties, mercy, anger gave signposts for the us as the community of Jesus to follow in his wake.  He healed the sick, so must we.  He forgave his enemies, so must we.  He nurtured his personal friendship with God, so must we.  He fought for the poor and was harsh with those who enabled oppression of the people, so must we.  The life of the Church is in it’s obedience to the kind of life Jesus lived.  In this imitation, we continue the story of Jesus and of God in our world

– Suffering: (Mark 8:31) as Jesus suffered death for bringing love to the world, so the Church, if it is being faithful to Jesus, will suffer at the hands of those who would kill love, for the Church, when it is most rightly being itself, is the community of love.  In this, the Church enacts the story of God in the world, it becomes, as Jesus was, the suffering servant of God.  It is there on the cross that we see the clearest picture of God’s non-violent love, choosing rather to die than to fight back with violence; he refused to win that way.

  When imitating the life of Jesus puts us at odds with those who would hurt us if we do not give in, we must not give in but instead, fight back with love and suffering.  By this, we continue the story of God in our world, who gave himself over to be killed so that the whole world, even his murderers, might truly live.

(One thought i’d love to develop is the truth that to die is not an option.  The very sense that perhaps we don’t really know this is a clue as to why dying, whether its for love or some other reason, hits a chord within us that inspires revolt.

             So really the choice is to die or to die, but what will our lives look like before that time?  Like the life of Jesus?  Or like the useless life of self-centered materialism which has proven its only use:  to convince us of its indispensability.

            we have the chance to, before we die, live lives that speak of the crucified and risen Lord, in our Church community and in our world, local and global.  Shall we take this chance?)

– Resurrection:  As Jesus was raised from the dead by God, so we will be.  This trust that Jesus had in his life and his suffering is what we are called to have also.  This resurrection is not an emotional or spiritual resurrection but a physical one occurring at some point in the future.  Our hope is that God has us all in hand, our actual bodies, our spirits and our minds.  By waiting and hoping for the resurrection (in which we hope to be included), we tell and live the unfolding story of God, witnessing by our hope to a God who, in the mystery, will not leave us to death forever.

– Worship:  Stanley Hauerwas relates three ‘marks’ of the Church enacting the story of God:

            1)  Sacraments – baptism, the eucharist

            2)  Teaching

            3)  People being built up in their character – “by this they will know you, that you                                                                                                             love one another.”

– The Commonplace:  The story of the Quakers.  They were known as fair and honest tradespeople, this fairness and honesty came out of their communal devotion to Jesus and to His ways.  If it were just one, no big headlines, but a whole people, a whole part of the Church became known as people you could depend, people that were different than the other businesses in town.  So, how much does it matter if you pray at work if you also cheat at work?  What does that witness to in terms of your local Church community?  We live in our everyday common world as people who endeavor to be like God and also who God is forming to be like Him.


Does this sound like an exciting job?

does it sound like a big job?

if yes and yes, then here are some important reminders:

We don’t have to make it all turn out right:

So the Church’s job is not to make everything come out right; that is God’s job.  The Church’s job is to proclaim the story of God in Jesus, his life, death, and resurrection and to enact the story in our lives as a church community.  This means imitation of the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus.  This is important to say once we begin to grasp the beauty and the breadth of God’s calling on our lives; once we realize this it is important to confess:  The Church is not in control, we leave that to God.

The kingdom of God is bigger than the Church:

It is important to say this because of the humility we need.  This talk is focusing on God’s work in making the Church, but it is so true and I am glad that God works independently of the Church also.  Many people have met Jesus through a myriad of strange experiences which were simply Jesus revealing himself.  What we need is to be content to trust God to work beyond us, and for us to work on who we should be.  As T. S. Eliot says, “for us there is only the trying, the rest is not our business.”

Probably the most important one out of the three:      We Do Not Walk Alone.  The Holy Spirit created the Church on Pentecost and is faithful to empower the Church forward in its mission; that’s why the Holy Spirit teaches and encourages, so that we may more rightly tell and more rightly live the story of God; we do not walk alone. 


         so the effect of all this should be…what exactly?

– joy and contentment at the presence of God in our midst

– a sense of purpose that we have a cosmic job, a story to tell and a story to be

– confidence that the Holy Spirit who created the Church will keep the Church, continue to teach us, empower us, lead us to Jesus so we may imitate him and be like him.

– we should be glad that we are the Church, that God flows through us, created not just me or you but us together, in community, building a life of obedience to Jesus.

– a sense that these lives gathered here are part of a beautiful plan to bring love and life to the world town by town, church by church, community by community.

– a sense that we are in the middle of God’s story moving forward in our world

– laughter that we are so short sighted most of the time


and so we continue this tradition and this belief

that we build our lives, our communities, our actions

around one man, Jesus

and we believe as he taught us


we tell the story of Jesus

and we are the story of Jesus,

as we live, breathe, teach, reach out, build our families, worship together, all as a community.

that we are a sign of the coming

kingdom of God, which comes today for you and for me.



Raking The Coals, Pt. 2: We Tell The Story and We Are The Story January 24, 2008

Filed under: peace and justice,public theology,Songs,storying — Joel @ 6:28 am

I wrote this song tonight in thought preparation for the sermon I’m giving this sunday.  The talk will be about the subtitle of this post: that as the Church (capital C), we do two things, we tell the story of God and enact that story in our community.  This thought was articulated for me by Stanley Hauerwas.  This belief in the Church as central to God’s plan for the world is becoming a very compelling idea vying for my allegiance, especially the way Stan expresses it.  

                 So I’ll link the song below and write the lyrics as well.  Often the Church is experienced not as a place of humble confidence and faithful proclamation of the kingdom of God but as a place where people are trying very hard to act like they know why they are together at all (giving many the feeling that nobody really knows).                      

                     But perhaps there are some good reasons for the Church of Jesus as a community which witnesses to the work of God (which is not confined to the Church) and to enact (as much as is in their power and maturity) the works of God, as exemplified by the life, death and resurrection of Jesus.  So we tell the story and then we imitate the story, even if it gets us in trouble.  In fact, there are hints that it should get us in trouble.  This makes sense because it seems to me that if the life of Jesus caused agitation in the domination system of its day and if we are imitating him, we will cause agitation to those systems which propagate injustice and oppression.  HIstorically, we have too often been on the other side.  Here’s the song: We Tell The Story

We tell the story

And we are the story

Of Jesus, of Jesus


He came like the day springs up from the night

He clothed all our weakness in dawning delight

He suffered beneath the cruelty of fear

His body was raised from the ground of our tears


Though we were faithless and will be again

He comes and he comes to lead us like friends

Not like the cruel tryants of earth

Not like the blood lust that spikes our dry thirst




The kingdom has come he said in our ears

The ways of my father have come to draw near

Its not by a system that you’ll know its paths

But by the community we’ll build to last


Watch what I do he said to us clear

Watch how I raise those drenched in tears

Watch how I lay the powerful down

Now go and seek this kind of crown


So he has called us his dear family

The inheritors of his humility

The Spirit of God, a sweet fire within

To make us all signs of this kingdom come in


This kingdom is followed by those who believe

In a God who loves, a God who leads

His people in ways of peace and not war

He leads us to pray, he leads us to give more than we have




Jesus, Love For The Poor. worship songs for communities of justice December 5, 2007

Filed under: peace and justice,Songs — Joel @ 6:09 am

Jesus, Love For The Poor

This is a song of mine that we sing sometimes here in St. Stephen. It was written as much out of a creative unction as it was out of a systematic desire to be holistic in the theology of our different expressions of worship. I intentionally wrote the concepts simple and the ideas more immediately digestible than i would like to in the future. Step by step…..and one day perhaps there will be charismatics protesting again and social activists quaking with the power of the Spirit again….bring us together under a true flag.

It should not be that the only songs that charismatics and evangelicals sing are those of private faith experience; in the same way, social justice people should not only sing protest songs but both groups should try on each other’s theologies in song. This could be done with the endorsement and help of the pastoral leadership; giving a ‘yes’ to initiations like this could go a long way. though it would be perhaps uncomfortable at first, this would not be due to the untruth in those songs but because we are not used to singing in a touchy feely enviorment, “Jesus, change the mind of our President, give us courage to resist the evil his administration is causing.” likewise we are not used to singing in a very hip and cool, very action oriented atmosphere, “could i just stay here a while, knowing there’s nothing that i need to say, safe in the knowledge that you know my ways, love me completely, no need to hide a thing.”  Though as you are already probably thinking, there are charismatic and political ideas in both song ideas, they just need to be dug out.

here are the lyrics to Jesus, Love For The Poor

Lord your blessing comes to the weak,

comes to the hidden, comes to the meek

Lord your blessing comes to the small

comes to the broken, comes to us all….when we cry ‘our hearts are homeless!’

‘we need love more than we have’

and we proclaim You our final answer

and we proclaim You our question to the world

and we proclaim You our greatest challenge

Jesus, love for the poor