Monday, May 28, 2007

everyday people

I have worked as a bellman/valet at a hotel here in Overland Park, KS for the past two years. Although I am not the one to get star struck" I have always thought it pretty cool when famous people stay at our hotel. Until today I hadn't thought about all the people I have encountered. So, here are a few singled out folks.

1. Buzz Aldrin – He gave me an autograph picture as a tip.

2. Madalyn Albright – I thought it pretty exhilarating that after I helped her up to her room I got to say, "is there anything else I can help you with, madam secretary?" Who gets to say that?!

3. Artis "the A-train" Gilmore – Gilmore is a former ABA and NBA player. I talked to him today. He was actually brought to the wrong hotel (poor efforts by the limo driver). He is 7'2" and still looks like he can dominate in the paint. Check him out here. For an update on the A-trains recent activities try here.

4. Dennis Prager – He probably means nothing to anyone not from the West coast. He has an AM radio talk show mostly dealing with interfaith dialogue. You can check him out online here.

5. Al Roker – "Here's what's happening in your neck of the woods." Or, Al's neck.

6. Dr. Oz - This one makes the list because of my wife Katie. But, I did get to store his luggage for a few hours in the morning. As far as I could tell, no one noticed it was him in the lobby.

Anyways … working at a hotel has its more interesting days.

Friday, May 18, 2007

Telling God's Story

I just ordered a copy of John Wright's Telling God's Story: Narrative Preaching for Christian Formation. A must read for any and all preachers of the Word! Here is a brief, get-to-the-point, summary. Wright's goal in this book is to promote a way of preaching able to call people into an alternative way of living, i.e. out of the world into the church. At the heart of his argument for narrative preaching is hermeneutics. Wright offers a very helpful survey of the landscape of hermeneutical developments in the last 200 years (Schleiermacher, Heidegger, and Gadamer). In the end, preaching and interpretation (homiletics and hermeneutics) are intricately related when it comes to scripture, the church, and the world. The scriptures are always read in local, concrete communities, with certain presuppositions about the way things are that need to be recognized and corrected. In other words, the goal of preaching is that we might find our lives in God’s life, our stories in God’s story. Through the lens of preaching, Wright offer’s a critical analysis and survey of North American Christianity arguing that the church has diverged from such an understanding of preaching and interpretation resulting in the eclipse of the biblical narrative (47). When the biblical narrative is eclipsed, the interpretive and rhetoric(al) framework of North American Christianity becomes individualism, nationalism, and capitalism (the market), a world quite alternative the world of the bible. Promoting a rhetoric of turning, Wright offer’s practical instruction as to how preachers might weave the story of God. Turning involves repenting from one world into another. Turning involves what Wright as a tragedy as opposed to a comedy. The goal of comedic preaching, essentially, is to affirm one’s convictions about the way things are. Tragedy, on the other hands, helps one see that our world is indeed false and needs to be merged into God’s. Through preaching the preacher must interpret the ways in which the church is being malformed in order to call the church to faithful living. Here's a sample:

“Human beings live habitually. Cultural convictions are deeply embedded in the bodies of a gathered congregation – everything is the culture around them works to make such convictions seem ‘natural.’ To allow the congregation to be formed as a peculiar people, to allow the biblical narrative ‘to replace the na├»ve understanding, student [congregants] must reveal the latter [their previous understanding] and have the opportunity to see where it falls short.’ We must embrace this tragic moment of difference if repentance is to occur.

Our post-Christian environment provides a challenge and opportunity for the preacher. This setting allows the preacher to present the genuine difference between the biblical narrative and the narratives of the failure for a congregation to heart. Rather than coasting on the narrative presuppositions of the reigning culture, the preacher may engage the congregation and then turn them to form the church as peculiar people, living within the biblical narrative as a sign of God’s redemptive intent for all creation” (91).

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

On speaking truthfully and Jerry Falwell

The death of Jerry Falwell (1933-2007) has got me thinking. How should the church mourn/celebrate in death the life of those with whom they have fundamental theological differences? Interestingly, within this question I am proposing some aspect of ecclesial unity (which might not be the case). This is an interesting question when one considers the characteristics that mark a saint in the church. What are these marks? How do I speak faithfully and truthfully about one such as Rev. Falwell with who I disagree on many theological levels?

On a deeper theological level, does sainthood imply both unity and diversity? What are the common characteristics that mark a saint? In what way are characteristics of a saint allowed to be unique to the person? To add balance to the question, consider the person of Robert Weber (1933-2007) who, ironically, shared the same life span and Falwell. How do I, who perhaps share more in common with Weber than Falwell, speak about Falwell in a way that is faithful and true but not to the detriment of Christian unity?

I guess in a way I am asking if Falwell ought to be one of whom we teach our children to consider as an example of faithful Christian living. If not, then how do we speak in love about those that have gone before with whom we disagree? Consider Origen, who got shafted by the church just for thinking outside the box during a time when it was perhaps most permitted to be as creative in his thinking as he was. Only recently has his thought been reconsidered as faithful. Might we think the same about Falwell? Should we consider his views heretical if we disagree with them? If so, on what grounds? Is the church too divided to make such statements? Does the reality of such unique ecclesial diversity in our time permit us to be more critical (always in faith, hope, and above all love) of Falwell’s understand of what it means to be a Christian?