Friday, October 13, 2006
there are a million things i love about the office including stanley’s dignified, deadpan refusal to put up with michael’s shit, the fact that ryan, in all his under-employed, sarcastic and occupationally impotent glory, often reminds me of a more talented, subtle and better looking version of the SS jeff and my hunch that a physical altercation between michael and toby is an inevitability.
however, this season i have also appreciated how much mercy and grace the workers at dunder-mifflin extend to michael scott. when michael violated oscar by outing him in front of the whole office, oscar snapped and called michael “ignorant and small.” but instead of following up that accusation with a command to go _____ himself, in the ___, with a stainless steel, serrated _____, like i would if my former lightway monkey had screeched something revealing about me in our little tree, he apologized and subjected himself to a painfully physical reconciliation. moreover, last night when michael, in his absurd grief, required his workers to attend a memorial service for a dead bird, pam didn’t call him a dollar store _____ ___ and suggest that he grow the ____ up and grow a _____, like i likely would if the chimp who served as my mentored ministry adviser at S.H.I.T. had asked us to chip in five bucks to send flowers for the wake of his townie girlfriend’s nascar lovin’ third cousin, but she facilitated his irrational outpouring of grief by creating a casket for the bird and convincing dwight to break out the recorder. none of this is to say that the dunder mifflin crew takes michael seriously or even that they refuse to make a joke at his expense, but they consistently, if begrudgingly, offer him mercy instead of condemnation and even invite him to experience community in the midst of his alienation.
i find their admittedly fictional treatment of michael incredibly beautiful. moreover, in a very real sense the dunder-mifflin crew challenges me to both maintain my sense of humor about my occupational lot in life and be a reconciler in this horribly inane environment. in the end, they challenge me to fulfill paul’s imperative in 2 Cor. 5:16-22 and so live out the full restoration that is available in Christ.
one more thing, props to whomever gave dwight my phone number this week. that was funny.
there’s bound to come some trouble
so it’s best to count the cost
cause suffering is the future
of the saved and of the lost
i’m cursing in the darkness
and looking to lay the blame
but does it matter what the cause is
when the ends are all the same?
you say there’s a losing that is winning
and that’s the way you played the game
well i’m a natural born loser
that's yet to stumble onto that way*
i still suspect there's a difference
between the ends of virtue and of vice
but when i can’t feel the former
smoking the latter sure feels nice
* fuck if i know how to finish that stanza
Thursday, October 12, 2006
over lunch, i read a brief article on christianitytoday.com entitled what's next: evangelism. this article is a brief compendium of leading evangelical's thoughts on the primacy of evangelism in the church's mission. the article was pretty bland, insofar as it focused on fairly typical evangelical banging about the great commission, but what really caught me off-guard was the concluding statement that i have posted below.
"Summing up, international evangelist Reinhard Bonnke said, 'The church of Jesus Christ is not a pleasure boat, but a lifeboat for saving souls. And every hand is needed on deck. How do we launch lifeboats and how do we get all hands on deck? There is no other agenda. It's harvest time, and woe if we do not harvest.'"
i think this metaphor provides a completely reductionistic and wholly inadequate view of the church and her mission. thus, i would like for us to develop an alternate analogy or description of the church that would be more helpful. any ideas?
Wednesday, October 11, 2006
For the past two years Sinners and Saints has had the privilege of serving with The Gathering community as they fulfill their mission of being a blessing to the people of Salem throughout the Halloween season. The first year we simply served hot chocolate, since we were a little too shy and timid to participate in their innovative P(s)alm Readings and Dream Interpretation booths. However, the second year James Wilcox got us into gear by suggesting that we replicate the Confession Booth experience that was popularized in Don Miller’s Blue Like Jazz.
For those of you who haven’t read Blue you should, but I’ll throw you a bone by providing a simple description of the Confession Booth idea. Basically, we dress in full monk regalia (as Pastor Phil of The Gathering always says, "in Salem the weirder the better!") and walk the streets of Salem inviting people to come and experience confession. People who are intrigued by this idea or fuming angry that you’re offering a Christian sacrament in the middle of a Halloween festival follow us into the candle lit, incense filled tent and we pull back our monk hoods and begin to confess the sins of the church throughout history, the sins of the church in Salem and our own sins insofar as we have failed to fulfill the Great Commandment.
This experience might sound a little cheesy to some and far fetched to others, but I can tell you from first hand experience that it provides a powerful opportunity for us to clear a lot of the rubble away that has alienated both ourselves and others from the beauty, truth and goodness of the Christian faith and so provides wonderful ground for reconciliation to take place. In addition, James Wilcox has expressed the experience in a more compelling and lyrical way than I ever could, so I would encourage you to read his reflections by clicking here.
We would love for each one of you to share in this opportunity to be a blessing to the city of Salem and the 100,000+ visitors who will walk through her streets this Halloween and receive the blessing of incarnating Christ’s compassion and reconciliation in this broken world. We need people who are willing to man the confession booth with us, but if you don’t feel quite ready for that, we could also use your help to serve hot chocolate, help prepare evening meals for the dozens of volunteers who are working each night and simply serve in whatever way is needed throughout these sacred nights.
We will be running the Confession Booth on Friday the 20th of October – Sunday the 22nd and on Friday the 27th of October – Tuesday the 31st. On Friday nights as well as Halloween Eve and Halloween we will have a shift that runs from 5-7 p.m. and a shift that runs from 7-10 p.m. and on the weekend shifts we will run two hour shifts beginning at Noon.
If you have any questions about this unique opportunity or if you would simply like to chat, feel free to contact me directly at firstname.lastname@example.org. I work from 8 – 5 pm everyday, but I can talk almost any evening. We are thankful that you are committed to seeking the Kingdom of God with us and hope that you take advantage of this opportunity to serve.
In Christian Love,
Jeff Gentry and the Sinners and Saints Community
Tuesday, October 10, 2006
as mentioned previously, last friday the pixie decided that she really wanted to see scorcese's new film and i decided to surrender to her desire so long as we could count the departed as a chick flick. so on friday night i happily dodged a devil wears prada caliber bullet and we headed to the AMC down at the dirtmall.
if you like convoluted mob stories, can stomach ultra-violent gun play and enjoy star-studded ensemble casts you'll love this movie. the performances by the major players were excellent and mark wahlberg stole the show as detective dignam. i was surprised that the theme of this movie, which i'd summarize as "everything is what it is and also something else," lines up so well with a number of other narratives that i've enjoyed this year such as mark winegardner's crooked river burning. i am constantly fascinated with the contradictory polarities of both character and action that plague my life and, i suspect, plague others as well. i am also more and more convinced that stark authenticity and consistency of character and action is one of the most attractive features of Jesus' life and needs to be an essential characteristic of those who choose to embody Christ's gospel and compassion in this world. in the end the departed is, at least in part, a testimony to the dualities that appear to serve but often utterly doom our personal lives. thus, i think the story of the film's protagonists is as an excellent diagnosis of the human condition and, in a subtle way, serves as a stark warning for those of us who call ourselves Christians.
Monday, October 09, 2006
on friday the NYT ran a front page story that focused on "acquire the fire's" youth revivals and evangelical's concerns about the faith of their children. apparently ron luce, the director of AQF, has frequently noted that if we fail to properly evangelize and indoctrinate our teens only 4% will grow into "bible-believing christians." these claims are highly suspicious insofar as they rely on a dated study by thom rainer, who admits in the body of the article that these figures are not current, and the surveys of evangelical pollster george barna, who tends to define "bible believing christian" in unmistakably modern terms that would paint many of us as apostate ee-vangelicals (i.e., belief in biblical inerrancy, an embrace of biblical "absolutes," etc.). while i agree with sociologists such as christian smith (who is interviewed in the article and recently co-wrote soul searching: the religious and spiritual lives of america's teenagers - a book i am dying to read) that the state of american christianity is not quite so dire, i do believe that we need to effectively proclaim the story of Jesus to america's teens, find more effective ways to incorporate them into the body of Christ and empower them to participate in the mission of God. however, i do not think that mass youth rallies that merely stir up religious enthusiasm and the ongoing propagation of a christian subculture (i.e., by countering the consumerism of the world by creating christian brands such as luce's branded by God line and the ever popular, sexually subversive wait wear line) is going to do the trick.
rather, in order to effectively share the story of Jesus with teens, incorporate them into the body and empower them to participate in the mission of God i think we need to: free them to create new and engaging forms of worship instead of just consuming the rah-rah shit we've been serving up for the last 30 years, find opportunities for them to serve in transformational ways and environments (i'm thinking of letting them discover the spirituality of cleaning toilets at places like l'arche and creating callouses on their hands as they dig wells in sub-saharan africa) and teach them how to actively subvert the consumeristic culture of the western world instead of simply teaching them to support and sustain the "sanctified" ee-vangelical sub-culture of middle america.
in short, i respect the passion of people like ron luce, but fear that his methods are not going to produce the ends that he seeks. i'd love to hear what you think about these matters. i'd especially like to hear what youth ministers have to say.