Friday, January 19, 2018

Abortion

Today is the 2018 March for Life. I'm reading through the chapter on abortion in Richard B. Hays 1995 book The Moral Vision of the New Testament.

Since the NT doesn't deal with abortion, he has to approach the subject from the way the scriptures portray reality, and then connect that "world view" with the issue of abortion.

Hays says:
"To terminate a pregnancy is not only to commit an act of violence, but also to assume responsibility for destroying a work of God, 'from whom are all things and for whom we exist' (1 Cor. 8:6). ... to understand ourselves and God in terms of the Bible's story is to know that we are God's creatures. We neither create ourselves nor belong to ourselves. Within this worldview. abortion--whether it be murder or not--is wrong for the same reason that murder and suicide are wrong: it presumptuously assumes authority to dispose of life that does not belong to us."
He also says that Christians who hold this view cannot, and I would add, should not try to "coerce moral consensus" on this issue. Hays continues:
"We should recognize the futility of seeking to compel the state to enforce Christian teaching against abortion... because we recognize that the convictions that cause us to reject abortion within the church are intelligible only within the [worldview] of Scripture. The church's rejection of abortion is perspective only in light of the gospel of Jesus Christ; in this respect we stand in relation to our culture just as the early church stood in relation to the culture of the Roman Empire."
What matters more than anything is the way we live, the way we love, the way we form a "countercommunity of witness, summoning the world to see the gospel in action," establishing viable alternatives to abortion, providing long-range care for victimized women and unexpected children and families struggling with poverty, mental illness and domestic violence.

Comments welcome.

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Monday, January 1, 2018

Not Impossible

If it's true that the "apostolically founded community"* is "the place where the glory of God resides,"* then it's a horrible insult to God when that community, i.e., the church, and its members, live(s) in a selfish way.

Why would the church and its members live selfishly? One reason is that many Christian teachers and leaders have rejected the idea that some of the more challenging parts of the New Testament should be applied to Christian life today. They have said, for example, that Jesus' teachings in Matthew 5-7, teachings known as "The Sermon on the Mount," are an "impossible ideal."

That is really sad. Tragic. Faithless. Apostate.

The truth this this: With God, all things are possible. We do, however, need one another to live the Jesus' life. We shouldn't do this alone.

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* From a paragraph in Richard Hay's The Moral Vision of the New Testament. See yesterday's post for a longer quote.

Sunday, December 31, 2017

New Year's Eve

The community is the place where God dwells. "Do you not know... that you [plural] are God's temple and that God's Spirit dwells in you [plural]?" 1Cor3:6 To read this last sentence as though it spoke of the Spirit dwelling in the body of the individual Christian would miss the force of Paul's audacious metaphor. The apostolically founded community takes the place of the Jerusalem Temple as the place where the glory of God resides. (Richard Hays in The Moral Vision of the New Testament, page 34)
I'm thankful, at the end of 2017, that the Lord has given us little example of that "community" to be a part of in this season of our lives. Now Toni and I need to decide if we're going to go to a winter retreat with some of the people who are part of that community, at this time. I'm inclined to go, even though some of those from our small group won't be at the retreat. We'll see.

Tonight we had a couple from the small group over at our home. It was nice. Again, thank you, Lord, for continuing to be faithful to us in providing people with whom we can share life, and you.

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Saturday, December 30, 2017

Eager

It's a little before 6:30. I've been chatting with a couple of other drivers here in the "Drivers' Room" here at Heywood, that is, at Metro Transit's Heywood Garage.
I wrote that yesterday morning at about this time. Normally I'd have been driving Minneapolis Public School trips on routes 5 and 19 in the morning, but this is winter break. I and several others need to come into work anyway. We just sit (or whatever we want) and get paid all the same.

Just as I wrote that sentence about chatting with other drivers, Glenn, one of the dispatchers, came on the PA and asked if one of us would be willing to fill in on a route where the driver didn't show up for work. I jumped at the chance. Not only did I enjoy the challenge of driving a route that I hadn't driven recently, I was was able also to leave my morning shift of work a little early.

Though I did say yes, and drove those two extra trips yesterday, there was no change what I'd be paid. And as always, the risk that something might go wrong. It's always risky to go out with the responsibility of driving. That's probably why there was no one else who leapt at the chance to go out in the cold. Lots easier to sit in the driver room, right?

Ever since 1980, when I surrendered to the Lord, who had rescued me from a overwhelmingly painful life situation... Ever since that time I've been filled with Holy Spirit eagerness to do whatever it is that the Lord has put before me. It's not that there have been no battles with the "flesh" since then, but there's a lot better chance now that I will leap into action when God calls. My life changed. I am so thankful to God.

That's all I'm going to write now. I get to go back to bed for a bit. It's Saturday!

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Wednesday, December 27, 2017

A Christian Community of Moral Deliberation

In Richard Hays' book The Moral Vision of the New Testament, the author follows the New Testament in its community or group focus. He would commiserate, I think, with me in my desire for "significant conversation aimed at transformation" as I wrote yesterday.

On page 305-6 he insists on "the embodiment of the Word" in "the body of Christ," that is, in the community or group or " church" of people who are seeking to know and live the ways of God.

Hays cites Nicholas Lash: "the fundamental form of Christian interpretation of scripture is the life... of the believing community," that the interpretation and application of God's Word is a "communal activity," and that that "it's no more possible for [an isolated individual to know and do God's Will] than for him [sic] to perform a Beethoven quartet or a Shakespearean tragedy."

Mays concludes:
Knowledge of the will of God follows the community's submission and transformation. Why? Because until we see the text lived, we cannot begin to conceive what we are reading. Thus, the most crucial hermeneutical task is the formation of communities seeking to live under the Word.
I long to be an active part of such a community in these days.

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Tuesday, December 26, 2017

Shaped More By Jesus

We just came through the first part of the Christmas-New Year season. We had a great time as a family, gathering here on Sunday and at my brother and sister-in-law's home yesterday. We ate a lot, gave and received gifts, played some games, and had some good conversations. Toni and I were among the first to leave for home last evening, mainly because it was important to get home and let our dog out. I knew too that it was good to get home so I could get to bed early, as usual, so I could get to work this morning. My work life doesn't give me extended breaks now-a-days, and sometimes that's a little sad.

During one of the good conversations yesterday, my nephew Jesse gave me a book. Jesse is a senior this year at Columbia University in New York City. The book he gave me doesn't connects with his studies and with his life, as he majors in "sustainable development" with a deep interest in theology. The Moral Vision of the New Testament is longer than I'll probably read cover to cover, but I did start looking, today, at chapter 13, which aims at offering "normative proposals about the most faithful and fruitful approaches to shaping a Christian ethic in response to the New Testament's witness."

I'm interested in the New Testament because it's formed around Jesus, and I'm interested in Jesus because he's "the exact representation" of God on earth. If human life is going to be all it can be, in a positive sense, it's going to be shaped by God, its maker, as God is revealed by Jesus, who's life shapes the "moral vision" of the New Testament." So this book by Richard B. Hays might be helpful. I think it is.

Oftentimes, I get discouraged because it seems that fewer people than I'd hope are wanting to conform their lives to Jesus and His ways. When that happens, I am called by God to remember that I don't know other people's hearts, nor God's plan for their lives. I'm redirected by the Holy Spirit at those times to what God is doing in my life. I need to let go of any expectation that other people's walk with God will be recognized by me. I'm usually able to let God be God in the lives of others, and just "live and let live" when it comes to other people.

What's harder for me to let go of my desire have more significant conversation, conversation that's aimed at transformation, conversation with people who say they want all the areas of their lives to be shaped and moved by Jesus. I long for those deep conversations, whether in person or by other means. We have some short conversations of that sort at family gatherings, but there's rarely enough time or enough good focus on serious topics of faith and life. I hope that, in the days and weeks to come, that I'll find a way to have more of those conversations, conversations that I think are very important if our lives are going to be shaped more by Jesus than by anything else.

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Saturday, December 23, 2017

Christmas Eve Eve

6 AM - Good morning friends! It's Saturday, the Day before Christmas Eve, and I'm at home, about ready to go over to Snap Fitness to do some sort of workout, perhaps running instead of my regular circuit training routine. I'm never quite sure just what I'll do before I get there.

Click here to visit or friend me on Facebook
Since the last time I wrote we in the "Amalgamated Transit Union" settled our contract dispute with Metro Transit, so there'll be no strike during the Super Bowl. Click here for an article from the Star Tribune about that. I'm glad. The contract is a lot better for workers, including "operators" like me, than the one we rejected in November, and it's good to know we won't be off without pay in February.

I continue to post many items and have good conversations -- posting on Twitter and conversations about those posts on Facebook. I think my time on there is well spent -- a part of what I believe God is doing through me in the world.

That's all for now. Maybe I'll write more during the day.

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Saturday, December 9, 2017

Winter's Start

Winter arrived this week in the Twin Cities. On Monday, on his "Updraft Blog," Paul Huttner called it "Instant Winter." And that it was. We didn't get much snow but we did have ice all over the roads. Such a change from last week. I'm so glad that Toni suggested that we do the last of the outdoor "fall" chores on Saturday. We put up the Christmas lights and got the lawn furniture covered before the ice and snow came. Toni is a great one for making sure some of those practical things get done. So good.

Driving was a challenge. It was better by Thursday, but Tuesday and Wednesday, were especially slow. A car slid into my bus on westbound 7th Street in downtown Minneapolis, just as I was waiting for the light to change to cross Hennepin Avenue. Just a dent in the side of the bus -- no one hurt -- but the driver left the scene before we could exchange information. Whether Metro Transit will pursue her is something I don't know, but I'm sure it was at least partly caught on the bus's audio-video recorders.

There were no other events of note in my work life -- except that I, and the rest of the drivers, pulled into the garage significantly late Monday through Thursday. The ice on the side streets stayed pretty much until Thursday. Then it got better, but not before the driver's Union and Metro Transit made an agreement to allow us part-timers to stay on the job beyond our contracted 30 hour per week maximum. That temporary agreement wasn't happily received by many drivers, but I was fine with it--for this one time.* I'll get paid a little more for this past week's work. I don't mind that a bit.

Did I mention on this blog that I've started learning Somali? Emphasis on the word "started." I've attended 3 class sessions at Language Central and studied a little on the side. At church, two weeks ago, I had a chance to share a bit about how I came to do that. If you're curious I could upload a little recording of what I said. Let me know.

I also continue to study politics and history. It's been troubling to me that some Christians seem to be so enthusiastic about President Trump and his "America First" and "Make America Great Again" plan. I hope I can find time to share more about that later, but part of the reason I'm learning Somali is because I believe God calls us to welcome strangers, not exclude them.

I'm going to stop here. God bless you all.

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* A new contract proposed last month by Metro Transit would have taken away the 30 hour maximum limit for part time drivers. That would have been a giveback, since it's the 30 hour maximum protects full time jobs. That's one reason the contract was rejected. Such changes need to be negotiated, not just declared unilaterally by management.

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Thursday, November 30, 2017

Contrasting Clergy Privilege -- then and now

Good morning friends! It'll be time to hit the road in a couple minutes. It's 5:37 AM right now and my alarm will go off at 5:42, telling me to stop doing other things and get my jacket on so I can make it to work on time.

Oftentimes I think about how much our life has changed in the last 10 years. Beginning when Toni and I moved to Ladysmith, Wisconsin in 1984, I was supported as a member of the clergy. Toni and I moved from St. Paul, where I'd been a seminary student, to the place where I'd serve as associate pastor of an established church. Most of our married life, and all the years during the time Toni and I were raising our children, we were privileged and well supported. Now things are different.

I wrote the item below as I was thinking about how different my younger son's life is. It's kind of a mish mash because I didn't go back and edit it.

Jon is also serving as a pastor, but the church is very small. He's needing to have a second job and even so he and Breanna are barely "making it" financially. They trust God and they are fine, but it does make me consider how privileged I have been. My older son, Dan, is at a more established church. He, I think, shares in a bit of the privilege that I enjoyed in years past.

OK... my alarm went of 2 minutes ago. Got to run.
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Written on Saturday, November 18

Toni and I are out in Cokato tonight, at our younger son's home, caring for our granddaughters while Jon and Breanna are at a wedding celebration. Another of their high school friends was married tonight. I imagine it'll be late before they get back. (It's 9:30 now.)

I'm glad they can have the night out. I can't imagine how exhausting it must be to do everything they need to, with the church they're leading, their three daughters (a 3 year old and year-and-a-half old twins), and doing everything with far less financial support than Toni and I had when we were in a similar position. At least they have Breanna's parents in town here. What a blessing they are!

When our children were small we lived in Ladysmith, Wisconsin. I was associate pastor of an established church, and, as Breanna and Jon do, we did a lot together with high school age young people. Jon & Breanna's work is more challenging though, because they don't have a lot of parents who are eager to have their middle and high school age children involved in youth activities. They're starting from scratch, in many ways, though they do have a great core of spiritually mature adults who are standing with them. There are so many reasons to give thanks!

Last night (Friday, November 19) our older son, Dan, and his wife Shatera, were at our place in Roseville making lefse with Toni. They were well on their way with the project when I got home from work. Dan & Shatera are involved in church work also, and one of the things we talked about with them is the possibility that they may have an opportunity to rent a large home (with another couple) for a reduced rate starting sometime next year, thanks to the generosity of people from Dan's church. They're expecting their first child in January, so obviously that's a great thing considering that they're now living in a one bedroom apartment.

Now that I'm working a "regular job" I'm more and more aware of how our ability to do what God calls us to do, even our ability to come out here (to Cokato) today to be with our grandkids, depends on having a regular, steady and "fair" income.

Last night Dan and Shatera and Toni and I were talking a bit about my work, and, specifically about my work schedule. Shatera asked what I would have done if I had started working as a bus driver when our kids were small. At that point I would have needed to be working full time. Hours are so crazy when a person starts. I know it's hard for bus operators who are parents today. I'm sure it would have been for me back then too. I told Shatera that I'd probably have looked for other work back then, even if it paid somewhat less money.

Though that's true, it's hard for me to even think about or imagine, that is, that I would have had to think about work and income differently. I've been privileged. As I said, I was a part of an established church, called to serve there, though that wasn't my plan. We were well taken care of. Somehow, though, it was God's.

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Thursday, November 16, 2017

Trusting God

I went to bed at about 9. Toni thought that was mighty early, but I reminded her that I do get up at 5, so if I had slept straight through that would have been 8 hours. That's about what I need to feel well. I usually don't sleep straight through though. So I get good naps during the day. One at some in the morning after my first work shift, another just before I go back for my second shift in the afternoon.

It's good, and important, for me to trust God -- not only in the abstract, not only in general, but also in the particulars of life, trusting that He has my best interests in mind even as he guides, in some ways that I can't fully understand, the daily and weekly pattern of my life, my comings and my goings, my waking and my sleeping, working and resting, my time with others and my time alone. It's good for me to trust God for all of that, to believe that He has, in some rather mysterious way, appointed certain activities and situations for me to "live into" each day. It's good for me to believe that, not only because it gives me peace, but because God does actually do that providential work in my life. And in yours too.

It's time for me to go back to bed now. More about this at another time.

Here's quote from a book I read earlier this year:
We do not learn to dance by watching our feet. Dancers do more than contemplate moves; in the dance they enjoy the partner. To follow in the dance of life is to look for, be thankful for, and pray for God's love, mercies, and providence. We may not know which events... display[] God's providence. But we can justifiably believe that the unlikeliest rock even may turn out to be a treasured jewel, that some events are miracles, and through them we can see along and encounter God, and in everything give joyful thanks. - Bruce Reichenbach in Divine Providence (final paragraph)

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Friday, November 10, 2017

Live, Work, Study

It's so great to have a warm place to be on a cold night. It's wonderful to be able to do worthwhile things. My job is a delight. I LOVE my family. It's so great to have a clear mind and a strong body and, more than anything else, to be absolutely secure in the unconditional love of God, love I know about because of Jesus, love that I know is for everyone everywhere.

from Democracy In America Part 1, Chapter 13
Sure, I can still complain. I can say, like I did in my last post on this blog, that I don't have enough time to do everything I want to. I'm one of those who, as Alexis de Tocqueville observed, is "constrained to work in order to procure the means of physical subsistence." And even though I mostly enjoy my work, especially when my bus is full of people, those hours do keep me busy, and, when I get home, there are lots of practical chores to do, and different sorts of "good things" that it's "good to do" with and for my family and friends.

But tonight I do have some time -- and I'll use it for this. I'll use it to write a bit, since I've done so reading, or better said, "listening" to audio versions of books, in recent days. That possibility of listening as I do other things, instead of just needing to sit and read, it's so wonderful! It might even be a partial solution for busy people to become better informed member of society. I believe that's a part of our calling to love our neighbor as ourself.

It's possible to be listening to a variety of educational materials while we do chores, and while we commute to and from work, and at other times when our hands might be busy but our minds aren't. That's how I managed to continue with the "Political Theory" study. I "checked out" an audio book from the library and was able to listen to The Prince by Niccolò Machiavelli- that didn't take too long. Now I'm about halfway through Part 1 of Alexis de Tocqueville's Democracy in America. I found that book for free online -- both in virtual "print" and in an audio recording.

One of the things de Tocqueville lamented in his book was how few of the "common people" were well informed about what's going on in their country, even though they could, "strictly be said to govern in the United States." The people are supreme here, so it's sad when they often ignorant of anything other what their political party says, or what they read in the newspapers, or what their friends are saying.

In the 1830s, at the time when de Tocqueville was writing, very many of the people--at the time white men only--were involved in political decision making, at least at the local level. Most of those decisions, he said, were wisely made. However, when it came to situations beyond the areas where they lived, for example, things going on with the Federal Government, they were not well informed. The "common people's" work left little time for reading and writing and study.

This was a problem because it's the people, writes de Tocqueville, who "may strictly be said to govern in the United States." It's an evil thing, and a harmful thing, when such opinions, the people's votes, and the influence of the people's representatives, are driven along by "incessant agitation of parties" and whatever was printed in the newspapers. He was also aware of the simple power of crowds, noting the common observation that our "emotions in the midst of a sympathizing crowd are far greater than those which [we] would have felt in solitude." Ain't it the truth.

The same is true today, though now it's not just parties and newspapers that drive the people's thinking, and it's not just being physically present in crowds that amplifies our feelings. #socialmedia On the other hand, we do have a technological fix available to us. We can both work and study. We don't need to choose.

So it's good to spend time learning, as deeply as you can, so that your thinking can be clear. I wonder what would happen if people in general were to read more, and study more, instead of just being entertained, even by the news. Perhaps we could find solutions to some of our national and local issues, and stop shouting so much.

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Sunday, November 5, 2017

Back to the 70s

It's the end of another weekend. My, my, how time flies. It's been a good weekend, but, as Jim Croce sang in 1973:
There never seems to be enough time
To do the things you want to do

Once you find them
And what I want to do is some writing. Specifically, I want to write about something I've been studying this past week.

Political Theory.

Yup.

Strange but true.

I was led to listen to some lectures on the topic this past week when a young friend said that Alexis de Tocqueville observed, in the 1830s, that "the reason why religion, mainly Christianity, was so prevalent and strong in the U.S." had to do with "avoidance of politics and holding strong ties to public office." That got me searching for an actual quote on the subject by de Tocqueville, and that led me to the lectures.

Why care about this? Partly it's because I've been concerned that some of us (Christians) are so connected to political parties or ideologies--or even political candidates and office holders--so dedicated to them that they're known more for those ties than for their dependence on Jesus.  

I wondered if public political positions of Christians make a difference to others, specifically, to non-Christians, as we speak about Jesus and His love?

I found an article written just after the election quoting various Christian leaders who were concerned that Trump's win would "harm the church's witness." I couldn't find any followup to that article, but then my young friend brought up the de Tocqueville quote.

That's how I was moved to study his work and the work of other political theorists during this past week.

It's interesting and important stuff. (After all, political science was my first college major.) Political theory is interesting and important because politics and government affect all of our lives, especially, perhaps, the lives of those who have the least power of their own.

Interesting, important, and often, nasty, corrupt, full of compromise and impure alliances. It's been a long time since I dropped that poly sci major (in my first college semester -- fall of 1974), but I haven't lost interest -- because somehow we need to work with others to do that "love of neighbor" work... work that brings us alongside sinful and self-interested and idealistic people (and parties, etc.), each of whom have their own reasons for being in the politics game.

This week, by the way, we'll be having elections in Minnesota -- and an election in our "Amalgamated Transit Union" local. I do tend to vote... so I'll need to do some looking into the issues and candidates in the next couple days.

And maybe I'll have time to get to the meat of Political Theory. We'll see.

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