Sunday, April 25, 2010

In Praise of Media

I'm getting into finals these days, but for some reason I have been more aware of my media diet. Usually I think if media as fat, tasty but it really ought to be taken in moderation. Indeed, in the past I have gone on media fasts, no reading of magazines, no news, no t.v. But these days I have been feasting, gorging, on media.

It is not a far cry to link the way that people use and create media and how we think about God. The best theology is a narrative, which is a media. For more on this see the Bible.

Here's a run-down of what I've been reading, looking at, and listening to:

Watch this, it's a good example of how little it takes to tell a full-blooded story.

My friend Mike sent me some comics. The first was American Virgin, a excellent story of a fundamentalist coming to terms with theodicy. The second was Invincible, the most lovingly rendered super-hero comic that I've ever read.

All this comic reading sent me back to the work of Scott McCloud, he is comics' greatest interpreter. Reading McCloud again, I just had to finally get his masterpiece, Zot!, and I did, it does not disappoint. Browse this beautiful collection right here:

If you are a snob and think comics have nothing real to offer, watch this.

Apart from Comics, I've been reading for classes, especially alot of Liberation Theology, Kenneth Leech in particular. I met Kenneth Leech when I interviewed at Sewanee, I think he is my hero.

I've also been getting into the Gospel according to John, in the greek. Instead of the blazing speed that I need get through the material for my classes, when I go through John, with my professor we go slow, sometimes spending 15-30 minutes on a single word. I always thought of John as strictly a theological document, but now i see it as a midrash on the Old Testament, told from this side of the Resurrection.

There is also this blog, and this blog, and don't forget this one.

Also I've been playing a storytelling game, over email, my friend Jonathan created. It has taught me about economy of language to convey as much information as possible, a technigue many preachers could learn alot from

There's alot more, but as you can see I've been a glutton...

Friday, April 16, 2010

selling souls

Souls as part of a license agreement.

Gospel of Venkman

John 3:31-36
“He whom God has sent speaks the words of God, for he gives the Spirit without measure.”


This evening we get a pretty good summary of John’s gospel in the mouth of…somebody. Who’s speaking anyway, John the Baptist, John the Evangelist, Nicodemus, Jesus? It really doesn’t matter, what matters is what is said. Essentially, the speaker says, God is God and the creation is the creation. The creation can’t comprehend God, God is utterly unknowable to the creation. Yet, God has revealed himself to the creation, to us, in Jesus. When we know Jesus we know God the Father.

This is the theme of John’s entire gospel. The writer never grows tired of saying, “The father and the son are one.” “All mine are yours and yours are mine.” “As you, father, are in me and I am in you, may they also be in us.”

What John sets up and reinforces throughout his gospel, from the beginning to the end and beyond, is that God’s holy spirit has been an ever-flowing stream in all creation, Jesus came to do the works of the Father and show God in the world, so that we might believe,
…and in believing…what? To receive the Holy Spirit and receive it without measure.

Bishop Spong says. . . and this will likely be the first and last time you will ever hear a quote from Bishop Spong from this preacher or this ambo, for that matter. But, Bishop Spong describes the indwelling of the Holy Spirit as an overflowing tub of water in a basement, there is no controlling where the water goes, and it gets all over everywhere, splashing under things and into the darkest neglected corners. God gives the Spirit without measure, it is all, and I mean all, or nothing. God is extreme in this instance, wasteful, decadent.

So when we believe through Christ, we become identified with Christ through the Holy Spirit, and with Christ, God.

So we believe that God became a person through the outpouring of the Holy Spirit. All Christians agree, I hope, that in Jesus Christ a bridge was made between God and humanity.
But that bridge. That bridge between God and us. Is it a one way bridge? Is the bridge between God and us just for the Holy Spirit to go down, from God to us? The ladder that the angels ascend and descend upon Jesus, is it just for angels or is it for us too?

What was Athanasius talking about when he said that, “God became human that we might be made god.”?

In the great American cinematic masterpiece, Ghostbusters, there is a scene that might have an insight.

It seems the Ghostbusters have tracked down the big bad, Gozer, a powerful lighting fingered demon-lady who greets the guys with, “Are you a god?”

One of the Ghostbusters considers the question and says, “No.”

Gozer answers, “Then die!” She zaps the guys thoroughly, leaving them hanging off a skyscraper.

Finally, one Ghostbuster says to the other, “When somebody asks you if you are a god, you say YES!”

We are all created in the image of God, and lest we forget, God is a trinity. The God image that we bear is the image of dynamic and spontaneous love. No matter what happens to us or what choices we make, that image of dynamic love can never be removed. But through God’s giving of the Spirit, without measure, just might make us gods too.

Now, before I get harassed for heresy. Let’s look at what capacity people might have for divinity. First we all bear the image of God. But since we are creations with a creator, we are distinct from God. God is outside of time and space and utterly Other. Yet this other God, reaches out to us.

The Orthodox say that we can know God’s energies, not his essence. We can seek and achieve union with God, yet we retain our distinctiveness, our personhood. Our union with God is sanctification, not annihilation. While we don’t become God in essence and nature, we can become divine by grace. By the grace of God.

In our western arm of the church, we would have been toast against the question, “Are you a god?” For our eastern brothers and sisters they say,”Yeah, that’s pretty normal.”
Of course we will all achieve our full deification upon the consummation of all things and us Anglicans love to proclaim the eschatological horizon of the church.

But Jesus, here in John’s Gospel, is repeatedly inviting us into the divine life NOW. Yes, we still sin, we still fall, but we don’t fall alone. We are made in the image of the triune God whose property it is to love; therefore our deification is possible when we live the Trinitarian life, a life with, and for others.

So, while we might not be fully ready to answer yes to the question, “Are you a god?” We might, through faith in the measureless pouring of the Holy Spirit, stand with Christ and say, “I’m with him.”

Friday, April 2, 2010

Good Friday Sermon

Good Friday Sermon
John 18:1-19:37
The Death of Jesus, the Death of God?

Today is our second day on the Triduum. The Triduum, which began last night on Maundy Thursday with the institution of the Holy Eucharist. Our three day journey with Christ will culminate with us gathering at the gloriously empty Easter-tomb. For now, today, we are at the cross. Yet, we know how this ends. We know that the cross is not the ultimate fate of Jesus, indeed it is the penultimate.
I have a friend, and perhaps you do too, who always reads the last chapter of a book first. I have asked my friend why she does this and she says that she likes to know what she is getting into before she commits to the entire book. Some of us like to know the ending first. Others don’t want to know how the story ends. Instead, they trust the author to bring them along and lead them to discovery. No matter the story, no matter the ending and how we get there; we crave closure, we desire the tidy ending.
But today, perhaps we could hold off on our need for closure and resolution. Let us not wish away Good Friday to get to Easter. Yes, we know the story brings us to the Risen Lord; but today, this morning, I invite you to dwell on the cross, to live with the reality of the death of Jesus, to settle into the insecurity of our God, crucified. Might we, in our minds and imaginations, put ourselves in the shoes of the disciples who lived and endured those insecure shaky days from Friday until Sunday; those days when “Our Teacher, Our Master, Our God has died!”
The question remains: Does God die on the cross; indeed, can Nietzsche be right, just for one day? There is a heresy, patripassianism, which maintains that when Jesus Christ suffers, God the Father suffers. This presents a problem with the Church’s doctrine of the impassability of God, the doctrine that God is beyond creation and unable to be diminished or changed. The church rejects the notion that God can be changed through the suffering of Christ, but it holds a similar yet more nuanced view. Since Jesus has both human and divine natures, one which is corruptible and one which is unchangeable. It is Christ’s human nature, not his divine nature, which suffers and dies. The rub really comes when we ask what happens to the suffered humanity of Christ. Does it simply die away and leave us with a fully divine Jesus Christ? No, what happens to the sufferable humanity of Christ, and even mortality itself, is that God assumes it; God takes in humanity and death, and He redeems it. One of our church fathers, Gregory of Nazianzus said that “whatever Christ assumes, Christ sanctifies.” In other words, it is precisely in Christ’s human suffering and especially in his death that we are saved.
This statement of orthodoxy is extremely helpful for beginning to understand what happened on the cross. But the church’s teaching was developed over 500 Easters, for us, standing here in the disciples’ shoes, we here on the First Friday, we don’t have the benefit of orthodoxy. Perhaps one of the purposes of Good Friday is to imagine, however briefly, a world without Christ; an insecure world where we thirst for God, but get no guarantee of any impending Easter. Can we reside in a faith, a true trust in God, despite the blatant facts of life and death? Can we be confident in our unknowns?
Let’s not jump to the conclusion. Forget the last chapter.
Just for today, rest uneasily in the unresolved ambiguity of Christ crucified, died, and buried.
And that God inexplicably walks with us into death, even death on a cross.