Monday, December 28, 2009

on vision ...

"Vision, then, originates not in seeing but in hearing a voice, the living voice of the good news sounding forth within, and from, the assembly. Theologically, vision talk can be ventured only in the context of the church at prayer. Vision is a product of collective listening for the viva vox evangelii. That is why worship in word and sacrament isn't just one ministry among others (the work of the "worship team"); rather it's the ministry of ministries. It fuels learning, witness (evangelism), servant life, and support (stewardship). Vision isn't something we have; it's a reality that has us. It's cross-shaped. Pragmatically, it has us by our constantly asking questions, by our establishing a climate of dialogue, an environment of call and response." (John Berntsen, Cross-Shaped Leadership: On the Rough and Tumble of Parish Practice, 69).

A good critique for churches burdened with the quest for an original vision. In the end, what are vision, mission, and purpose statements?

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Obama's Nobel Lecture

I wanted to point out something from Obama’s Nobel Lecture. Obama rightfully acknowledges that the president of the United States cannot follow the examples of Martin Luther King Jr. or Mahatma Gandhi. I want to quote him at length on this one.

“We must begin by acknowledging the hard truth that we will not eradicate violent conflict in our lifetimes. There will be times when nations - acting individually or in concert - will find the use of force not only necessary but morally justified.

I make this statement mindful of what Martin Luther King said in this same ceremony years ago - "Violence never brings permanent peace. It solves no social problem: it merely creates new and more complicated ones." As someone who stands here as a direct consequence of Dr. King's life's work, I am living testimony to the moral force of non-violence. I know there is nothing weak -nothing passive - nothing naïve - in the creed and lives of Gandhi and King.

But as a head of state sworn to protect and defend my nation, I cannot be guided by their examples alone. I face the world as it is, and cannot stand idle in the face of threats to the American people. For make no mistake: evil does exist in the world. A non-violent movement could not have halted Hitler's armies. Negotiations cannot convince al Qaeda's leaders to lay down their arms. To say that force is sometimes necessary is not a call to cynicism - it is a recognition of history; the imperfections of man and the limits of reason.”

Isn't it interesting that the President of the United States recognizes the distinction between working for peace and justice according to King and Gandhi as opposed to working for peace and justice according to the office of the President of the United States. I'm actually very thankful that this was acknowledged, and interested that it happened in the context of the Nobel Peace prize. This helps us see that there is no such thing as "peace" that means the same thing in every context. The people of God have a particular take on peace and how it comes about and Obama's speech helps make the distinction between what he is (and has to be about) as the President. It does still make me sad that Obama believes he cannot follow the lead of King and Gandhi on the worlds stage even though I agree with him that he never could while in office.