a priest, a minister and a rabbi

i was talking with a few of "clergy" yesterday at our "monthly free breakfast and waist time talking about nothing" meeting of the area clergy; to be honest with you it felt like i was in the middle of a bad joke - "a priest, a minister and a rabbi were sitting at a free boring breakfast..." you get the drift :) anyway, soon our conversation turned to the idea of "the priesthood of all believers"

the united methodist ("the minister") - i'll bet you thought i was the minister right - nope, i was the dumb blonde in the second joke :) - anyway, he started to talk about the idea that his church believes all believers are "priests" - the catholic guy did not like that at all - as you can picture - and the rabbi did not care for it all either - but then neither did i - but not for the reasons of the other two, remember i was the dumb blonde from the second joke, but because i know that it's a lie - it is not what the church believes; well it is if you accept their limited definition of "priest." but in reality it is not what any, or all (i hate to place it as "all" but i think i am right on this) main-line/old-line churches that claim "the priesthood of all believers" truly do not mean it - let me share -

when a church speaks of a "priesthood of all believers" they speak in terms of the ability to go directly to God with prayers; an ability to serve the church in ministry (not "ordained" ministry - for them this is a big difference between a "ordained priest" and a "lay priest" - they see things in a dualism); an ability to do some, but not all, of the work of the church - for example. before i became this radical deconstructionalist independent minister i served (while at drew getting my mdiv) in the united methodist church (one that claims "the priesthood of all believers) - because i was a "student-minister" i was only allowed to serve communion to those people in the local church - they had to be members. a member of the church i was serving had a friend who was dyeing, and her friend wanted communion - keep in mind my friend was a "lay leader" in the church i served - she asked if she could serve communion and anoint her friend with oil - well, being new to the united methodist church and taking them at their word - i said, sure go for it. well, you would have thought i called for free tickets to the passion - i was not a popular boy in the group - it seems that it is actually a "limited priesthood of all believers" and some things need to be only done by "ordained" people -

one of the "bosses" said, "if we have people giving communion as they see fit, to whoever they desire, we will have people all over the community giving communion without our approval" - my vocal thought was, "duh, now you get it" (ok, i did not make points with him). you see, not being "raised" in the church and not having a "church theology background" i only knew what i read in scripture and nowhere in scripture did it call for a "priest" or other special person to do anything we do not - my reading of scripture shows that God wants all His people connected - and not under the control of a "special class."

what about it? i firmly believe in the priesthood of all believers - there is nothing i do that others can not - the ownership of the church has been passed - from "the ministers" to "all" - the fear i have found from many ministers, priests and rabbis is that they will not have a "job" if the theology is carried out to it's natural end - but that i do not think is the case - the position of "priest, minister and rabbi" will just change to one that guides the people, helps the people and supports the people - kinda like what jesus did :)

what do you think? how do you define "the priesthood of all believers" in a postmodern world - keeping in mind that we are not living in a "shifting paradigm" - we are living in a "paradigm shifted" - it is not that "change is coming" it is that "change is here" we now need to see it and run with it :)


what's your message?

i was driving down the road the other day heading to the mall when i was given the shock of my life; i was cut off by a person in a "pt cruiser." given the fact that i drive "the dweeb mobile" (a caravan) the idea that a pt cruiser could pass me is not big deal. the shock came because she was creaming down the road talking on her cell phone and she had no care for me at all; or no care for anyone for that matter. then i noticed her license plate frame "jesus loves you." she also had "wwjd" stickers and a "fish eating darwin" silver plastic thingy and hanging from here mirror was a large cross. i thought, wow - there's a message.
when i arrived at the mall, i started to pull into a parking lot when a group of people pushed past, cutting me off they pulled into the parking space i was heading for - and they were pointing and laughing because they got the spot. on the back window of the car were two stickers, you know the ones - they look like the guy "pissing" on the ford sign, but he's kneeling at the cross. they had one of the guy and another of the girl, and a small black sticker in the middle that says, "jesus saves." i though, wow - there's a message.
i just drove up the lane to the far end of the lot and found a spot to parked. locked up the van and started to head to the mall. as i was walking a guy came speeding up behind me, beeping his horn and shouting, "get out of the way you stupid mother @#$%&^. you need to get your &&#$#* stupid @#$ out of the street - what are you some kind of ^$*##@**&& retarded #$&$##@?" as he drove past, flipping me off, i notices his bumper sticker - "Be a Promise Keeper" and "Real Men Pray." i though, wow - there's a message.
as i started to shop, i asked a clerk if she could help me find this one item i was looking for - it's hard to locate those "left handed, right angled, two pronged back and butt scratchier" - as i asked the clerk where they kept those little beauties, she seemed to be angry that i disrupted her day. it seems it is not a wise thing to ask a clerk a question while they are stocking items. she looked at me and said, "what the hell, can't you see i am busy?" just then i noticed her pin, a small cross with a words "jesus is the reason." i thought, wow - there's a message.
as i stood in line to checkout with my handy-dandy "left handed, right angled, two pronged back and butt scratchier" (on sale, i might add) people all around me seemed so bummed, depressed and just in bad moods. this little girl was standing in front of me. she looked like the standard poor little girl, ripped dress, torn shoes, messy hair and a dirt face. she was the "stereotype of all poor little girls." as she got to the counter she put up a cheap bottle of perfume; the kind no one really buys. as she did the lady behind the counter asked her if she was buying this for her mother. the little girl smiled and replied, "oh no miss. my mommy died when i was born. i am buying this for my grandma it's her birthday, we live with her and grandpa." i smiled and thought how cute it was. the lady packed up the purchase, the little girl smiled and thanked her so sweetly for her time and willingness to help, then walked away smiling.

as i was checking out, i watched her as she moved to the door and noticed that a very elderly couple, well into their 70's, started to walk out the door with five other children in tow - dirty, torn, ripped and messy - but five of the best behaved children i had ever noticed. they walked out holding hands and smiling. as i walked out of the store i watched as all the children helped the elderly man assist the elderly women into the passenger seet of a beat-up old pick-up truck. the elderly women seemed to be in great pain as she pulled herself into the truck, but never once did she snapped at anyone, or say anything mean spirited. as she was strapped in, the elderly man kissed her and placed the littlest on on her lap. she gave that little child a huge hug, while the little one fell deep into her loving arms. the rest, helped each other into the back of the truck and they all drove off. as they did, i noticed they had a bumper sticker that said, "jesus loves us." i thought, wow - this is the message.


science and faith

i remember not to long ago speaking with a good friend about christianity, and how a relationship with jesus christ can change my life. this guy has been a good friend for some time, years in fact, and we had talked about "religion" and christianity on a regular basis for as long as we knew each other. in order for this to have meaning you will need to know that my good friend is not a believer. (now for some this is hard to grasp, after all, since i am a pastor i must only have believing friends - not true at all. after all, who are you going to share the gospel with if everyone you know is a believer? anyway, that's for another article.) over that time he has found many different reasons why he can not believe, but for each reason he had, he wanted me to explain another "counter-point" of view. this time was no different - in his question and my reply. i do think he is starting to come to an understanding. this time his reason not to believe was centered on science and faith and the whole "we live in a science age" thing. you know, his argument was - "since christianity was founded in a pre-science age and we now live in a scientific age (i tend to think we are "post-science" anyway), isn't christianity out of date?" i said, "that depends on how one defines their life and how one defines science."

science does not define life, at best it can only interoperate life at a certain level, but it can not define life. we have to remember that "ologies" and "isms" make poor definers of life and the direction we walk. no "ology" or "ism" has ever successfully defined how we live life.

i remember hearing a joke about a scientist who, upon death, stood before God and told God he did not need to be there because he could do what God did and create life. God agreed, if he could create life with no help from God, God would allow him into heaven, no questions asked. the scientist went to earth and picked up some dirt and some water. upon his returned, he looked at God and said, "ready?" to which God said, "wait a second - my dirt? my water?"

science can not create life, science can only distort what God has already created. "ologies" and "isms" do not define our life, they can only, at best, help in our walk. to make a new sheep, one must start with a sheep; to make a new human, one must start with a human. living in a scientific age does not mean we do not need to know God, and the God of scripture, it means we need to know God even more. while we think, because of all our scientific knowledge we have out-grown the "primitive" understanding of God and how God works in our lives.

keep in mind, scriptures are not a science book, math books, text books of any kind. if you see the bible teaching science, or math, or geography, you are missing the point if the book - it is a book of spiritual develop of God's people in relationship with God. it can be seen as a "history" book, given the past it speaks of, but never a science book - and only in relationship to God.

the study of science is amazing and wonderful, and while science has given us some life advances, it has not done a great deal for humanity. while science speaks of better crops and higher yields, people all over the planet are starving; while science speaks of great medical advances, people in third world countries do not have the medication to fight simple infections; while science speaks of increasing the life span of humans; it has done nothing to increase the standard of that life. science may have value and a place in our world, but it is not the end all to end all. science has become the new "house of greed."
many people see us living in an "age of science." but i do not. today, i see people looking past science and into the heart of spirituality. people know science has it's place, but it in no way controls our life. the 21st century is not a age of science, it is the "age of spirituality." when we get drawn into a false debate over science and faith, we get drawn into a debate a great many people are past. my friend, while seeking an understanding of God, is like most people - he finds reasons not to believe. but i love him and desire he know who God is, so i take the time to talk and listen - he will eventually find ways to believe.



a deconstruction faith

sometime back i was helping a friend do some “remodeling” in this very cool, and very old house he and his wife just moved into. It was fun; we walked around the house with sledgehammers smashing holes in walls that he felt needed to come down. We both took turns pretending to be the Incredible Hulk and rip old wallboard off the frame. It was fun – kicking walls, ripping wallboard, pretending to be superhero’s ripping down walls to save people in distress, but the fun soon turned to hard work and frustration.

The “plan” (I use quotes because no plan ever goes right in a reconstruction) was to remove some walls and put an addition on the back end to extend the living space – it soon turned into “the best laid plans of mice and men.” The plans were all drawn up and ready to go – we know exactly what walls needed to come down and exactly what walls needed to stay up. My friend hired “experts” to help with the planning and the design of what he kept calling his “new home.” As we were doing all the work we kept saying it would have been easier to simply tear it down and start again. It was so true. When we finished all the redesigning and reconstruction we found the house looked exactly the same, it just had a bigger living room. Sure, there was a new room in the back, but the foundations did not "line-up" because the old foundation settled, and did not settle evenly. Concerning the outside look,nothing had really changed; in fact one of the guys next door commented that the house looked the same as it did before. The reconstruction just made one room bigger and cost a ton of cash. This got me to thinking of the difference between “reconstruction” modern approach to theology and “deconstruction” postmodern approach to theology. The differences between the two are vast and are centered on our cornerstone to the understanding of our relationship before God.

Surface or deep changes:
When I think of reconstruction (reforming, refinishing, restructuring, and all the other umpteen million “re” words you can think of), I think in terms of surface changes; nothing too deep and nothing too substantial. Like my friends house, while a few walls are missing, the basic structure has not changed. Here is how I see it working in the modern reconstruction world of theology – you “seek” God (even though God has never moved we still demand that God meet us where we want God to meet us), you accept God (usually in front of many people), you pray the magic prayer (the sinner’s prayer, even though you never confess your sins, you just tell God you’re a sinner) and then you go about your life pretty much the way you did before. The changes are all surface; you are “reconstructed” from who you were before, “renewed” before God.

Postmodern theology, I believe, calls us to a deeper understanding of that connection between self and God – we are called to a “deconstruction of self” and to stand before God as a blank slate ready to be molded by God into what God wants us to be, not "remolded" into something the church desires. A deconstruction theology says that what we have right now, who we are right now, is nothing before God and we need to let God do all the changing in our lives. Modern theology does not challenge us to “change” – just to reform, and that is not a depth change, but a surface change. As we started to look at building “new” walls (actually we just moved the walls) we even started to use some of the 2x4’s we took from the older walls. So, in reconstruction we can use some of the older material to help form some of the “newer” parts.

Who is the architect?
In a modern reconstruction theology, the individual is the ultimate designer of what will happen; or a collection of indiciduals (church leaders) are the ones who oversee the "changes." Just as my friend decided that he would be the one who determined how the house would look in the end, so it is with modern theology. We go before God and “tell” God to change us, and “tell” God how to change us and “tell” God what we want God the change us too – we are the one who “control” our “transformation” (reconstruction). We determine what walls will come down and what walls will stay up.

On the other hand, I see postmodern deconstruction theology as telling the architect to design the best building for the site, and trusting that it will be just that – the best. I believe trust is the center of this relationship – moderns trust themselves to control their destiny; they are the controls of their models. While I believe a postmodern deconstructionist person knows that they cannot determine their own look, and we willingly surrender our lives to a God we know and trust. Some differences between the two are:

Reconstruction says: I make deals with God for the best possible outcome. It is a band aide fixture to the required brokenness. This approach starts with the basic assumption that at our core, we are basically good people and we are only in need of surface changes. Basically, it’s a fancy new cost of paint for a fancy new look.

Deconstruction says: No deals, it’s just me and God, and God rules – standing before God totally broken. The starting assumption is that the foundation we call self is in need of dramatic change.

With a reconstruction faith (a modern evangelical faith), we have a faith that says – go to God, confess you’re a sinner, God will forgive you, but the basic look will still be the same. I have seen this more times then not. In a reconstruction modern faith we see the fallen lining the streets of the fundamental/conservative/liberal theology and mindset (reconstruction modern theology is not necessarily a “conservative” theology – it can also be, and often is, liberal). We need to keep in mind, what when we are wearing the armor of God the only part of our body that is exposed is our back. So, the only time we can fall is by “friendly fire” – people stabbing us in the back. Over the past few years I have seen people fall out of favor with the reconstruction moderns, only to be ridiculed and insulted for ever – even after seeking forgiveness and repenting.

Just a few are Bakker and Warnke. These men fell out of favor, and remain out of favor for most, if not all, evangelical reconstruction modern Christians – the question then becomes, “can a person truly receive forgiveness in modern reconstruction theology?” After all, with God it is forgiveness 100%, yet with moderns it is at best 60%. I have heard pastors teach, “God forgives, we remember.” What makes us better then God? If God forgives the heart of repentance, who are we to say otherwise? Who are we to say that forgiveness is or is not granted? Who are we to say that repentance on the part of one is right and on the part of another is wrong? A faith that deconstructs the person brings them bare before God and God does the work, and we must accept what God is doing in people. When we do this, we see our faults and our sins. When we do this we do so with honesty and with an open heart. Standing before God as a person seeking His grace, is far more valuable then standing before humanity seeking theirs.