just an apprentice

the Word became flesh and dwelt among us...

Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Prayer Regarding Critics and Enemies by Serbian Orthodox Bishop

By Bishop Nikolai Velimirovic, Serbian bishop who spoke out against Naziism, was arrested, and taken to Dachau.

Bless my enemies, O Lord. Even I bless them and do not curse them. Enemies have driven me into your embrace more than friends have. Friends have bound me to earth; enemies have loosed me from earth and have demolished all my aspirations in the world.

Enemies have made me a stranger in worldly realms and an extraneous inhabitant of the world.

Just as a hunted animal finds safer shelter than an unhunted animal does, so have I, persecuted by enemies, found the safest sanctuary, having ensconced myself beneath Your tabernacle, where neither friends nor enemies can slay my soul.

Bless my enemies, O Lord. Even I bless and do not curse them.

They, rather than I, have confessed my sins before the world. They have punished me, whenever I have hesitated to punish myself. They have tormented me, whenever I have tried to flee torments. They have scolded me, whenever I have flattered myself. They have spat upon me, whenever I have filled myself with arrogance. Bless my enemies, O Lord. Even I bless them and do not curse them.

Whenever I have made myself wise, they have called me foolish.

Whenever I have made myself mighty, they have mocked me as though I were a [fly].

Whenever I have wanted to lead people, they have shoved me into the background.

Whenever I have rushed to enrich myself, they have prevented me with an iron hand.

Whenever I thought that I would sleep peacefully, they have wakened me from sleep.

Whenever I have tried to build a home for a long and tranquil life, they have demolished it and driven me out.

Truly, enemies have cut me loose from the world and have stretched out my hands to the hem of your garment.

Bless my enemies, O Lord. Even I bless them and do not curse them.

Bless them and multiply them; multiply them and make them even more bitterly against me:

So that my fleeing will have no return; So that all my hope in men may be scattered like cobwebs; So that absolute serenity may begin to reign in my soul; So that my heart may become the grave of my two evil twins: arrogance and anger;

So that I might amass all my treasure in heaven; Ah, so that I may for once be freed from self-deception, which has entangled me in the dreadful web of illusory life.

Enemies have taught me to know what hardly anyone knows, that a person has no enemies in the world except himself. One hates his enemies only when he fails to realize that they are not enemies, but cruel friends.

It is truly difficult for me to say who has done me more good and who has done me more evil in the world: friends or enemies. Therefore bless, O Lord, both my friends and my enemies. A slave curses enemies, for he does not understand. But a son blesses them, for he understands.

For a son knows that his enemies cannot touch his life. Therefore he freely steps among them and prays to God for them. Bless my enemies, O Lord. Even I bless them and do not curse them.

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Monday, January 29, 2007

Mennonites and Classical Theology...

Mennonite theologian A. James Reimer says, "Nicene Orthodoxy needs to be retrieved by the Christian church in general and by the Mennonite Church in particular as a way of remaining faithful to the Bible, as a way of preserving the essential tenets of the Christian faith within a post-biblical context, and as a theological framework for contemporary ethics."
"...I believe we need to enter vigorously into conversation with other theological traditions like Eastern Orthodoxy, which can teach us much in this regard. These other traditions, however, may also be able to learn something in turn from the Radical Protestant emphasis on personal and social ethics based on a particular Reading of the Gospels...."
A. James Reimer, Mennonites and Classical Theology: Dogmatic Foundations for Christian Ethics (Kitchener, ON: Pandora Press & Scottdale, PA: Herald Press, 2001), 249.
In the spirit of these words of James Reimer, another dialogue is being planned for March 3, 2007.
Interpreting the Bible: Voices from Two Traditions
Mennonite/Orthodox Ecumenical Dialogue
March 3, 2007
1:30-3:00 pm
Annunciation Greek Orthodox Church
64 Hershey Ave
Lancaster, PA 17603
More information on this event can be found at the SMC website.

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Thursday, January 25, 2007

Christians and "culture wars"...

An excellent essay on Christians and culture by Frederica Matthewes-Green.
She expresses so well the idea I was trying to bring out in my evaluation of Dr. Dobson in a previous post--more specifically, his approach to engaging culture.
It is not that we should put no effort into changing the "weather conditions" in culture by influencing the entertainment industry, the legal system, the educational system, etc.--but we do so recognizing the true battle ground of expressing the Kingdom of God is first in our own hearts, in the lives of individuals drowning in the drift of culture, then by also recognizing the systemic principalities and powers that are at work. And we do so with a tone of grace and humility, not righteous indignation as if somehow we are immune from expressing fallen/sinfulness in our own lives, relationships, lifestyle, thoughts, etc.
Karissa was able to hear Frederica when she spoke at Eastern Mennonite University this week. Her impressions of Frederica are profoundly revealing. Jesus said that you will know a tree by its fruit. Humility and grace exuded from the life of a person are, for me, the most convincing evidence of a depth of spirituality and authenticity in following Jesus.


Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Non-violent ways of responding to bullies...

Walking with Jesus is a resource that Dawn brought to my attention. Looks like an excellent resource in helping children know how to respond in the way of Jesus to bullies without being doormats.

And here is a resource that provides some practical suggestions for helping kids deal with bullying situations.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Bringing up boys...

At SMC, a number of us have been watching the video series, bringing up boys, by Dr. James Dobson. Last Sunday evening we viewed two sessions--"The Wounded Spirit" and "The Origens of Homosexuality." As I have been reflecting on these two sessions a number of questions have been developing for me. I welcome your responses.

A primary theme of the first session on “The Wounded Spirit” was the issue of how to respond to bullying. Dr. Dobson identifies bullying as a primary source of wounding for children. I would agree that bullying is a crucial problem that needs to be addressed by parents and educators. The input from Dr. Dobson on strategies for teaching our children to respond to bullying, however, raised some questions in my mind.

The implicit message that Dr. Dobson seemed to be communicating was that it is healthy for kids to fight back when picked on so that the bully gets the message that such behavior won't be tolerated by the victim. At least that seemed to be the implicit message by one example that Dr Dobson gave from his own life--the story of moving to Texas, being picked on, physically fighting back, and thus preventing further bullying by letting the bully know that he wouldn't be a passive, easy mark.

I am wondering if "fighting back" either physically or verbally is the only proactive strategy that we can provide our kids. Are we saying that the biblical response to a bully should be to fight back? Should I be teaching Jansen that when he is being picked on, there comes a point where he should use the “give ‘em a good punch in the face” approach so as to earn the respect of his antagonist(s)?

Each question and answer, expose the next question. What if a boy is weaker physically (developmentally delayed, or just because those are the cards his gene pool dealt him) than his adversary? What if his social/verbal skills are not as polished as those of his antagonist? Are we saying that we should be training our sons to defend themselves? What tools should we give them verbally and/or physically to respond to bullying? Should I be teaching Jansen how to fight so he can physically defend himself?

Do we take the words of Jesus to “turn the other cheek” too far? How far we should take those words? How much emphasis should we put on the words of Jesus? And if the words of Jesus aren’t practical to the “real world”, what should we look to instead to guide our parenting? Is there a biblical basis (in a Jesus-centered way of reading Scripture) that would guide me as a parent to train Jansen to use the “fight back” approach? I have not read the book, so perhaps Dr. Dobson offers a biblical basis for "fighting back."

This brings me to a larger theme. I sense Dr. Dobson present this topic against a larger backdrop of Christians versus culture—naming specific adversaries such as Michael Eisner, Disney, MTV, feminists, public schools/NEA, Hollywood, etc. I wonder whether this “fight back” approach to culture is really our vocation as the Church. Or stated another way--I wonder how we are supposed to come against evil—which unquestionably is a part of the Christian vocation.

What do we do with a passage like Ephesians 6?

For we are not fighting against people made of flesh and blood, but against the evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against those mighty powers of darkness who rule the world, and against wicked spirits in the heavenly realms.

Hasn’t the problem of evil been present from the time of the Garden of Eden? I see Dr. Dobson’s approach to addressing the problems in our culture as being one that would try to remove “the tree of the knowledge of good and evil” from the garden” by taking on specific people who represent a particular agenda (contributing to the moral decay of society).

So how do we come against evil? Or even more critically--how do we name evil? Is it certain people? Is it corporations? What if we could bankrupt Disney through our boycotts? Wouldn’t there be other sinful people who would fill the void? Isn’t that approach to spiritual warfare futile? Humans will make sinful choices. That is part of the fallen condition we live in. Yes, the sinful condition of humans is reflected in some (much) of the sleezy fruit produced in the entertainment industry, education, business, and every sector of human life.

The question is--do we “fight back”? Is it by coming against the flesh and blood people who are giving expression to the sinfulness of humanity as if they are the enemy? This is the tact of those who are fighting the cultural wars. Or do we recognize the hidden principalities and powers that are at work? Ultimately it is not Michael Eisner who is the enemy of the souls of our children? So while I don't think it is wrong to try to influence culture through economic and political leverage, We must understand that ultimately there is a much more profound view of sin that must guide our attempts to express the Kingdom of God.

The primary answer to nurturing our children in the Christian faith, in learning to follow Jesus, is not mainly about engaging in cultural warfare against the perpertrators of moral sleeze. Our vocation is not primarily to bring power to bear (political or economic) on Disney or the NEA or whatever, but rather to teach our children not to eat from that tree.

It seems to me that the tree being in the garden of culture is just inevitable. The real issue is how we teach our kids to eat from the tree of life rather than the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.

Just some questions and reflections. Maybe you can help me know what to do with them!



Monday, January 15, 2007

Jesus Christ...

As the deer pants for streams of water,
so I long for you, O God.
I thirst for God, the living God.
When can I come and stand before him?
Day and night, I have only tears for food,
while my enemies continually taunt me, saying,
"Where is this God of yours?"
My heart is breaking
as I remember how is used to be:
I walked among the crowds of worshipers,
leading a great procession to the house of God,
singing for joy and giving thanks--
it was the sound of a great celebration!
Why am I discouraged?
Why so sad?
I will put my hope in God!
I will praise him again--
my Savior and my God!
Now I am deeply discouraged,
but I will remember your kindness--
from Mount Hermon, the source of the Jordan,
from the land of Mount Mizar.
I hear the tumult of the raging seas
as your waves and surging tides sweep over me.
Through each day the LORD pours his unfailing love upon me,
and through each night I sing his songs,
praying to God who gives me life.
"O God my rock," I cry,
"Why have you forsaken me?
Why must I wander in darkness,
oppressed by my enemies?"
Their taunts pierce me like a fatal wound.
They scoff, "Where is this God of yours?"
Why am I discouraged?
Why so sad?
I will put my hope in God!
I will praise him again--
my Savior and my God!
O God, take up my cause!
Defend me against these ungodly people.
Rescue me from these unjust liars.
For you are God, my only safe haven.
Why have you tossed me aside?
Why must I wander around in darkness.
oppressed by my enemies?
Send out your light and your truth;
let them guide me.
Let them lead me to your holy mountain,
to the place where you live.
There I will go to the altar of God,
to God--the source of all my joy.
I will praise you with my harp,
O God, my God!
Why am I discouraged?
Why so sad?
I will put my hope in God!
I will praise him again--
my Savior and my God!

Sunday, January 07, 2007

Grandpa Loewer on NPR

Here is a link to an NPR story on a situation that ocurred in the rice industry this last year. My father-in-law, Jackie Loewer, was interviewed.

The story was on the Saturday morning edition of NPR.

We are very proud of him!

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Prayers of the Saints...

go stand at the crossroads and look around. ask for directions to the old road, the tried and true road. then take it. discover the right route for your souls.
jeremiah 6:16
then he added, “every teacher of religious law who becomes a disciple in the Kingdom of Heaven is like a homeowner who brings from his storeroom new gems of truth as well as old."
matthew 13:52

Prayers of the Saints is one of the CDs I am listening to these days. Thanks to Matt and Margo who had my name at Christmas. I was aware of this project at their church (Trinity Vineyard) and was happy to receive it.

Hmmm. What is God doing in our day? Across the Church I see signs of things new and emergent as well as things old, tried and true. The ancient faith, ever new. The riches of the Church through time and space.

Christianity is about an organic whole, cosmic truth, the big picture or nothing at all. To borrow language from Brian McLaren, it's "the story we find ourselves in." So in Vineyard and Mennonite Churches, we reach back into the storeroom and find new gems of truth as well as old.

Part of the unique vantage point of this historical moment is that there is much fragmentation of worldview. So people access the Christian story from very diverse philosophical starting points. The burning question is--how do we unpack the analogy of the homeowner who goes into the "storeroom" that Jesus uses in this passage? Where do we go to find the gems of truth old as well as new?

How do we access a Story which has cosmic dimensions and speak of this Truth in a philosophical milieu that has deconstructed all God-centered Narratives? A teacher is one who opens his mouth or guides a community of learning to interact with some construct of Truth. The Christian storehouse is accessed through faith and trust. The role of Cartesian doubt in the modern quest for truth was foundational. This is followed by a general skepticism toward objective truth in postmodernity.

But Jesus says that to be a teacher in the Kingdom goes hand and hand with being a disciple, a follower, a student. So the locus of authority and voice is one that integrates objective study and subjective, transparent experiences as one who is attempting to follow the historical, Biblical Christ.