Monday, October 29, 2007

Jesus Was Homeless

A little story about the "Jesus was homeless" shirt…as told by Shane Claiborne...

City of Brotherly Shove
Jesus teaches that it is nothing extraordinary to love our friends and relatives, people who think and look like us. He says, "Even the pagans and sinners love their friends" (Matthew 5). But we are to be extraordinary; we are to love people who don't think and look like us, even our enemies.
One of my favorite passages is where Jesus tells us how to throw a party in Luke 14, only he doesn't actually call it a "party." He's talking to a bunch of religious folks, so he calls it a "banquet," but he's talking about a party. He says, "When you give a banquet do not invite your friends, your brothers or relatives, or your rich neighbors; if you do, they may invite you back and so you will be repaid. But when you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, and the blind, and you will be blessed." I had never really been to a party like that. All the parties my friends threw, Christian or not, were ones where you invite people who are like you – friends, relatives, rich neighbors, yep. We must have not highlighted that verse. Here's Jesus telling us not to throw parties like that.
A few years ago, I caught a glimpse of this kind of party, although it got us into some trouble. Philadelphia had begun to pass anti-homeless legislation, making it illegal to sleep in the parks, illegal to ask for money, illegal to lie down on the sidewalks (which they chose to implement on Dr. King's Birthday!). Ironically, the hub for many of these laws was Love Park, which is a historic site in Philly known for its skateboarding (which was also made illegal). Love Park was a place where homeless folks hung out. It was visible, safe, and central. Folks knew they could go there to give out food or clothing to folks on the street. It's where we used to go back in college, and there are some nice steam vents that kept people (and some big rats) warm. One of the boldest moves of the city was passing an ordinance that banned all food from the park. It specifically reads, "All persons must cease and desist from distributing food." And they began fining those of us who continued to share food. We started wondering what in the world it meant to love our neighbor as ourselves, when they were being jailed for sleeping and eating. As St. Augustine said, "An unjust law is no law at all." What did it mean to submit to authority and yet uphold God's law of love? Either we had to invite them into our home (which reached capacity), or we wanted to be out with them, in solidarity. So we threw a party in Love Park.
About a hundred of us gathered in Love Park with homeless friends. We worshiped, sang, and prayed. Then we served communion … which was illegal. With clergy and city officials there in support, and police and media surrounding us, we celebrated communion. Most of the police sat back and watched, not daring to arrest anyone, especially during communion. Then we would continue the "breaking of the bread" bringing in the pizzas. It was a love feast, and we then slept out overnight in the park with our homeless friends. We did that week after week, with police watching over us and media standing by. And then one night after the worship, as we slept under the "Love" sign, which we had covered with a big question mark, the police circled the park and came in and arrested all of us there. Not the best wake up call. We were taken to jail in handcuffs. Many of us continued sleeping out over and over and were arrested over and over. Sometimes the police were very sympathetic and agreed that we should not be arrested for sleeping.
A bunch of big-wig lawyers called offering to represent us. We were very thankful and invited them to come and support us, but we decided to be represented by a homeless friend, who might not have fancy lawyers had he been alone. So our buddy, Fonz agreed to be our spokesperson.
As we stood before the judge, I wore a shirt that read: "Jesus was homeless." The judge asked me to step forward, and I did. He read my shirt aloud, and said, "Hmmm. I didn't know that." I said to him, "Yes sir, in the Scriptures Jesus says that 'foxes have holes and birds have nests but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head.'" Then the judge paused pensively and said, "You guys might stand a chance." And we did.
As we went before the court, we read all of the Scriptures where Jesus warns the disciples that they will be dragged before courts and jails and they had new meaning. He warned them not to worry about what to say so we didn't. When the time came for us to testify, Fonz stood up in court and said, "Your Honor, we think these laws are wrong." We said "Amen. What he said."
The prosecutor had her stuff together. In court I accidentally called her the persecutor. She was not amused. The District Attorney was not joking around. We faced numerous charges, jail time, thousands of dollars in fines, and hours and hours of community service (imagine that!). The judge said to the court, "What is in question here is not whether or not these folks broke the law, that is quite clear … what is in question is the constitutionality of the laws." The DA shot back, "The Constitutionality of the law is not before this court." And the DA threw her papers on the table. The judge retorted, "The Constitutionality of the law is before every court. Let me remind the court that if it weren't for people who broke the unjust laws, we wouldn't have the freedom that we do have. We'd still have slavery. That's the story of this country from the Boston Tea Party to the Civil Rights movement. These people are not criminals; they are freedom fighters. I find them all not guilty, on every charge." The papers called it a "Revolutionary Court Decision." And the judge asked us for a "Jesus was homeless" t-shirt.

Thanks Shane

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

God's Mercy or God's Justice

He has showed you, O man, what is good.
And what does the Lord require of you?
To act justly and to love mercy
and to walk humbly with your God.
-Micah 6:8 NIV

Imagine standing by a river and seeing a person struggling in the current. You find a way to rescue the person. then, moment later, you see another person in danger of drowning, and then another, and another, and another... Each time you pull a person out of the river, you are showing mercy. But eventually, someone needs to say, "we need to sent somebody upstream to see who is throwing people in the river." When we take action to stop people from being thrown in the river, we are doing justice. -Jim Wallis

We as Christians need to stop blaming people for their situations.... In the last 200 years western Christianity has taken a wrong turn. Most Christians in the west focus on personal guilt and judgement. The common theme seems to be "If everyone would just be good enough, then God would come back and take us home." This is a dangerous stream of thought professed most notably by the Pharisees of two thousand years ago.

Thursday, October 04, 2007

This time Mr. Piper has missed the point...

" 'Christ unites; doctrine divides.' Those who say this have simply replaced a proposition with a word, and they think they've done something profound...and fresh. But in reality, they've done something old, and stale...and deadly." -John Piper

At first it almost seems as if John Piper has said something quite profound. And maybe he has if you are an English major... However if your more concerned with theology then Mr. Piper has completely missed the point.

The point is stated much better by Pope John Paul II,

“Further along, the council remarks that the catholic Church rejects nothing that is true and holy in these (other) religions. The church has a high regard for their conduct and way of life, for those precepts and doctrines which, although differing on many points from that which the church believes and propounds, often reflect a ray of that truth which enlightens all men. However, the Church proclaims, and is bound to proclaim, that Christ is “the way the truth and the life” (John 14:6), in whom God has reconciled everything to himself. The Church is guided by the faith that God the Creator wants to save all humankind in Jesus Christ, the only mediator between God and man... The holy Spirit works effectively even outside the visible structures of the Church.”

-Pope John Paul II Crossing the Threshold of hope

The popes approach seks to avoid twin dangers . On the one hand he avoids a relativistic solution. He doesn't say "Everybody's okay, it doesn't matter what you believe - just believe somthing." On the other hand, he seeks to avoid a divisive tone. This is essential because in a world torn by division and hatred, people instinctively feel that a faith that adds to the division , that fules the hatred, that erects barriers rather than bridges, is part of the problem not the solution.

The goal is not doctrine! And one of the worst things we can do as humans is think we can build a doctrinal structure that can hold the creator of the universe. Seriously do you believe we can completely understand God? And even if we could (which we can't), do you believe we could flawlessly put it on paper and teach it to others.

Now some make the argument that the bible as Gods divinely inspired word describes God. But the bible is not doctrine! The Bible is the story of God reaching out to humans... Doctrine is our attempts to reach him, our Tower of Babble .

Deadly indeed, Deadly to our institutions. But it is a breath of fresh air for the organic church.

** Please note this is not a jab at John Piper. After reading some of his other books I believe his heart is in the right place. However Like most of us sometimes he misses the point.**