Living the Questions: Introduction

A few weeks ago, Pacific Lutheran Theological Seminary said farewell to a highly esteemed group of graduates, including yours truly. It was the end of a journey and the beginning of another. A main event of the graduation weekend was the actual service itself. It was a combined baccalaureate/graduation service.

Our preacher was our former sem prof [and current Augsburg religion guru] Marty Stortz. As a part of her sermon, she included an invitation to live some of the deep questions of the faith. She outlined the first five questions that God asks in the Bible as questions that we should use for reflection and a kind of personal Bible study now that we’re out of seminary. So for the next week or so, I’ll be reflecting on the first 5 questions God asks in the Bible. Here they are.

Question #1 — Where Are You? (reflection on Friday, the 15th)

Question #2 — Who Told You? (reflection on Monday, the 18th)

Question #3 — What Have You Done? (reflection on Wednesday, the 20th)

Question #4 — Why Are You Angry? (reflection on Friday, the 22nd)

Question #5 — Where Is Your Brother? (reflection on Monday, the 25th)

I think there is a lot to be gained from exploring some of these questions, not only for us as Christians, but for us as people as well. They’re questions that reach to the foundation of who we are. So, at least for the next week, I’m going to live these questions and spend some time in reflection on here.

You’re welcome to join me in reflecting on these questions and sharing this journey with me. I look forward to our exploration.

Cheers,
Eric

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Shane Claiborne’s Devotion for Wall Street

Shane Claiborne had a great piece for the Huffington Post yesterday. I haven’t really written anything here on the Occupy Wall Street stuff, mainly because I just don’t know what to think about it. Clearly there’s a problem with the distribution of wealth in this country, but I’m just not sure that these protests will amount to much. Then again, people probably thought Dr. King’s marches wouldn’t do much either. I’m caught on it. I’m not sure what to think, but I do think that this piece from Shane is incredibly important as we reflect on these last few weeks of the Occupy Wall Street movements. Check out the full text below.

A reporter recently asked me, “As a Christian leader, does your faith have anything to say about Wall Street?” I said, “How much time do you have?” My faith has a lot to say about Wall Street.
Theologian Karl Barth said, “We have to read the Bible in one hand, and the newspaper in the other.” For too long we Christians have used our faith as a ticket out of this world rather than fuel to engage it.

In his parables, Jesus wasn’t offering pie-in-the-sky theology… he was talking about the real stuff of earth. He talks about wages, debt, widows and orphans, unjust business owners and bad politicians. In fact Woody Guthrie breaks it all down in his song “Jesus Christ”. The song ends with Woody singing, “This song was written in New York City… If Jesus were to preach what he preached in Galilee, they would lay him in his grave again.”

The more I read the Gospels, the more they seem to confront the very patterns of the world we live in. At one point Mary, pregnant with Jesus cries out: “God casts the mighty from their thrones and raises the lowly… God fills the hungry with good things and sends the rich away empty…” You can’t help but think if she were alive in contemporary America some folks would try to accuse the Virgin Mother of being Marxist or promoting class warfare. But all through Scripture we see this – over 2000 verses about how God cares for the poor and most vulnerable.

What would Jesus say about Wall Street?

It doesn’t get much better than Luke chapter 12. Jesus begins by saying, “Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; life does not consist in an abundance of possessions.” And then, as per usual, he tells a story. The story is about a “rich man” whose business makes it big. He has so much stuff he doesn’t know where to put it all. So he decides, “This is what I’ll do. I will tear down my barns and build bigger ones… and I’ll say to myself, ‘You have plenty of grain laid up for many years. Take life easy; eat, drink and be merry.'” But Jesus says God looks down and is not happy. God says to the rich man, “You fool! This very night you will die — and what will happen to all your stuff?” And Jesus ends the teaching by saying this is how things will be for folks who store up stuff for themselves.

It does make you wonder what to do about 401k’s and pensions. But it seems pretty clear that Jesus isn’t a big fan of stockpiling stuff in barns and banks, especially when folks are dying of starvation and preventable diseases.

One of the constant threads of Scripture is “Give us this day our daily bread.” Nothing more, nothing less. Underneath this admonition is the assumption that the more we store up for tomorrow the less people will have for today. And in a world where 1% of the world owns half the world’s stuff, we are beginning to realize that there is enough for everyone’s need, but there is not enough for everyone’s greed. Lots of folks are beginning to say, “Maybe God has a different dream for the world than the Wall Street dream.”

Maybe God’s dream is for us to live simply so that others may simply live. Maybe God’s dream is for the bankers to empty their banks and barns so folks have enough food for today.
Woody Guthrie may be right. If Jesus came to Wall Street preaching the same message that he preached in Galilee… he might land himself on a cross again.

What did you think of this? Did any image or wording stick out to you? What’s your take on the Occupy movements?

Cheers,
Eric

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