Sunday, May 31, 2009

Rules R Rules, But...

Rules R rules, but they s___, sometimes.

We do ministry with people that may find it difficult to enter an ordinary church. Despite the fact that church after church after church will declare itself to be a welcoming, affirming community, I'm not sure how many churches have actually had to test that. How do they know? It's so much simpler and more effective to take the church to where the people are--sometimes. Where the people are is where Jesus was. 'Nuff said.

So one of the heartbreaking sorrows of doing what we do is when one of our folks has stepped too far outside the rules--not necessarily at our worship but perhaps during another time on another day. Yes, people make choices. And yes, rules finally have to be applied; or there are no rules at all. So some folks find themselves excluded from what we do.

It's for the safety of everyone, we say. We hope that is true more often than not. Would Jesus have kicked people out of church? We don't know that anyone excluded from one of his appearances despaired and committed suicide. There were prostitution and sexual abuse in his day. There was alcohol addiction, although perhaps not widespread. After all, did anyone besides nobility have a supply steady enough to get wasted enough regularly enough to become addicted? There was mental illness, for sure. There were untreated medical conditions.
We don't know that there were drugs as addictive as we find on the streets today, however. It's a grim existence to supply that habit. Sometimes people fall down, get tired of the hopeless hole they have dug for themselves. And they just want the pain to end. And they can't stuff any more goading, rejection or refusal into an hour of their lives. So they act out--bringing consequences upon themselves.

We don't treat addictions at ONW. We build relationships. Connectedness to people of love and respect can help marginal people keep going from day to day. So when we have to take away that love and respect and cut them off from church too it makes me sick to my stomach. Will this be the night they despair again and harm themselves or someone else--permanently? Everything we have built with them over the past two years is now gone. I mourn.

Tough love is the right thing to do in certain situations. As a parent I know it and have had to do it. But even in the best of circumstances it feels like utter crap. WWJD?

That picture at the top? Taken on dog Mountain, 5/30/09. We have never seen the balsam root and other wildflowers more luxuriant. Same for the picture below. These are pale renderings of the relationship with all of us that God has in mind. This is what God sees and wants for drug addicts and gender benders who know lice, bridges, urine soaked clothes and blankets, rotten sleeping bags, cold, heat, wet, beatings, rapes and infections.
If you knew the life some of these folks know, could never go places like Dog Mountain in the Gorge or places among community equally as beautiful because you were safe and loved there, would you summon the courage to rise again and live another day? For how long?

Pray for them. We've had to cut them off from church, not because Christ says but because house rules say. I'm sorry. It doesn't feel good. Father, forgive us!


Pastor Roger

Making the Most Of It

Happy End-of-May Day!

I sat on my butt in the front border of our yard digging out weeds and grass so that the roses and azaleas might fare a bit better. The man who mows and does other yard work for our across-the-street neighbor was talking to her quite animatedly. I could only get the highlights, the stock phrases of his speech; but my mind could fill in most of the details. Here are a few snippets of his words:

"Barack Obama says the discussion is over..."

"...taking us straight to the Book of Daniel..."

"...these banks..."

"...leading us to socialism..."

"when all the governments become socialist they will all decide to just become one world government..."

"...leading us straight to the Book of Daniel..."

To him, it's all pre-determined. It's laid out in prophecy which he takes (only) literally, because that's how his mind works. His scenario is that God will send Christ back to suck a few good guys out of the world and then put the rest of humanity and creation for which Christ died through a Cuisinart of sorts to squeeze the blood out of the remaining ones and then eternally incinerate everybody and everything with the great cosmic acetylene torch. Or maybe it's a nuclear torch. Heck, maybe it's nuc-U-lar.

Old Martin Luther took a few steps back from Scripture 500 years ago to ask what its point was, what lens we should use to view it all, how we could make sense of the seeming bi-polar nature of God. Was God passive-aggressive, bi-polar, manic-depressive? Could God be trusted? If so, how could we know this? Should we give more weight to certain parts of Scripture, certain types of literature, than others? If so, how?

His solution was the question "Does it make the most of Christ?"

It might help us to remember that Moses' intercession changed God's mind about Israel. It might help us to remember that Nineveh's repentance disappointed Jonah greatly because the planned holocaust was called off by God. It ain't all fixed.

If in our day all we look for in the future is an inexorable march to destruction for the many, salvation for the few, does it make the most of Christ?

More importantly, do we?


Pastor Roger

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Memorial Day

What a treat it was to have author/journalist Karen Spears Zacharias as our featured speaker at the Memorial Day ceremony at Portland's Garden of Solace in the Hoyt Arboretum. Read her remarks for the day at: .

Many of the 25th Infantry folks were thrilled to hear from this Gold Star Daughter:

And what a truly special day it was for all who attended and took time out to remember. We're sorry so many of you weren't here to see this stellar day. But we hope it's always like this where you are.

Thanks, and welcome home!

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Happy Anniversary!

Happy Anniversary, Jean! I thank God we met 39 years ago today. What would life be without each other? And it's coming up to Memorial Day weekend. Glad to be still here and healthy enough to pass along this gift of life. See you next May 23 to celebrate four decades of knowing each other. I love you and will for the rest of my life.