31 August 2007

Just wrote about this to a friend and on pressing 'send,' it occurred to me that it was the sort of short snippet that belonged here as well -- the kind of thing I need to get into the habit of posting rather than saying/sending out and forgetting.

Luther was anxious to replace the Latin of the worship service with common ordinary-folks German. Why did he not also replace the bread and wine of the Lord's Supper with common ordinary-folks beer and pretzels? Answer, predictably: the Bible.

17 August 2007

Virtual reality has been an interest of mine for a long time. In the early 90s, I was very active in educational experiment VRs run by MIT and the University of Pheonix, microMUSE and mariMUSE. It got as far as my actually teaching a 'distance learning' module on the Gospels to two students in different locations in Arizona, as part of their undergrad programmes in America. It was 5 am for me and 10 pm for me when we'd meet in my virtual classroom in cyberspace and I'd use virtual slideshow projectors and discussion for our weekly hour and a half sessions. But text-based wasn't sexy enough for funding, and I watched a mariMUSE close down, a project called Virtual University flounder and fail under fraud charges and microMUSE change hands and focus.

I'm sure the day is coming when virtual environments will have a low enough learning curve and high enough bandwidth that they'll be of use. But that day is not yet.

15 August 2007

Hey, if you liked the lamp with the cord I mentioned a while back. You'll like this one, too. I'd love to have both of them in the room! (But not for that price.)

The Titanic Lamp:
Charles Trevelyan, England
The Titanic Lamp elegantly upsets one's expectations. A diagonal slice through the length of the lamp creates the appearance of floating semi-submerged in water. Combined with a high-gloss white lacquer finish and matching shade, the lamp is dressed in the stark attitude of a museum piece, frozen in time.

14 August 2007

Jeremiah is a ferocious book.

23:23 Am I a God near by, says the Lord, and not a God far off? 24 Who can hide in secret places so that I cannot see them? says the Lord. Do I not fill heaven and earth? says the Lord. 25 I have heard what the prophets have said who prophesy lies in my name, saying, “I have dreamed, I have dreamed!” 26 How long? Will the hearts of the prophets ever turn back—those who prophesy lies, and who prophesy the deceit of their own heart? 27 They plan to make my people forget my name by their dreams that they tell one another, just as their ancestors forgot my name for Baal. 28 Let the prophet who has a dream tell the dream, but let the one who has my word speak my word faithfully.

10 August 2007

My problem with Fred Peatross's new Missio Dei (Amazon UK, Amazon US) isn't what it says about reaching out; my problem comes in the assumption behind the book (and behind Michael Frost and Alan Hirsh's works with which Peatross is in cahoots) that the purpose of an institutional church, whether trad or based in a pub, is to serve the congregation and help them connect to Jesus. If I agreed with this premise, I would agree with much else.

I think the institutional church is what happens when Christians try to submit themselves to God in corporate worship. It is more of an act of emptying of self and culture than an act of self-expression and enculturation. Certainly the church, the people, are involved in the other thing -- all the time. And the institutional church can be involved in supporting and facilitating that, but ultimately it is each Christian's job to be a witness, not the job of the Christian community to erect a Lobbying Entity (though I'm sympathetic with those who try to do both).

09 August 2007

I got into a long conversation today with a non-Christian, a particular kind I'm sure you've run across as well -- believes that all human motivation reduces down to selfishness / self-centredness. I'm sure it all comes from reading too much Dawkins.

Anyway, when the notion that love is other-centred rather than self-centred didn't really make a dent in the armour, I went for science: science only advances by people not being self-centred and sticking to their methodological / theoretical guns, but by giving those up and getting out of the way and making the thing they're studying -- the Other -- become more important, more determinative, than themselves.

Then I realized that I wasn't so much arguing for 'selflessness' as I thought I was at the beginning. Love isn't selfless. Science isn't selfless. Music composition, jazz improvisation is not selfless -- else it's just mechanics and we despise it. But neither is it self-centred -- we expect submission to the tempo and key and so on or at least the use of it as a springboard from which to make a musical point. When it is self/ego-centric we also despise it.

Stereotypically, I think God wants us to be ourselves in submission to him. So here's what I'm wondering today. What defines the point when self-denial goes too far to turn Christianity into mechanics and technique? And on the other end, what defines the point where personal response (which I think is good) becomes nothing but self-expression (which I think is bad)? Or am I off-track with all of this and it's all just a matter of taste or something?

06 August 2007

Old blogging crony Fred Peatross has let me read his latest book Missio Dei (Amazon UK, Amazon US). If you see it on a bookshelf, don't be fooled by the footnotes, this is friendly and thoughtful wandering. Here's my favourite sentence... it comes in the context of Fred and his wife spending time travelling with non-believers -- putting into practice his dictum of spending more time with such folks than with Christians: "Each night I prayed behind my non-Christian friends' backs and then told them to their face over a morning bagel."

More about this book later in the week.

01 August 2007

The texts set for this coming Sunday, Col. 3:1-11 and Luke 12:13-21, are both concerned with the renunciation of non-Kingdom priorities and patterns of life. But it's easy to see from them how it is that asceticism and even gnosticism became so prevalent so early. Without balance from other Scriptural texts, it looks as though we are supposed to make a simple distinction: anything non-spiritual is worldly and evil.

Heaven knows, the hyperbole is necessary to shock some people and cultures into restoring balance, and we do well to feel the force of such passages. But the New Testament church did not set out to hate the world per se, only to love the Lord so very much that all else paled into insignificance -- to hate the world in a relative sense. And speaking of a 'relative' sense, this, of course, is also how to understand the passages where Jesus tells you to hate your family.
This blog is closed now. I've moved to http://gempf.com