Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Missional Churches

This space is reserved for talk about things of spiritual significance. Often my words rough up the church a bit, talk about real life and occasionally some fresh words about faith. These seem like common practices of one of my heros. So, I am in good company.

My time in Pasadena is part of a journey of learning. I sat in a class with Alan Roxburgh and Mark Lau Branson entitled "The Missional Church." I read several of Alan's books and met him and Mark at different places last year. This chance to sit and learn was one I could not pass up. They are helping ministers and churches re-imagine what it is like to be followers of Jesus in the third millenium. Me, too. I cannot say that the course broke any new terrain for me or had many aha moments about "missional churches." It confirmed my journey and gave me more resources to explore. It did challenge many of my assumptions about the world and the country of which I am a citizen.

If I had to define this "missional" journey, I would be hard pressed to say it in a few words or stories. Here are my random thoughts anyway. I believe that God is alive and that God reigns. I believe people can enter into relationship with God. I believe we experience God's reign over our lives and participate with him in bringing his reign to the world. This is a voluntary offer given to humanity and not a crusade of overpowering people. We can enter the Kingdom of God as servants in an eternal kingdom or remain rulers in our own kingdom that will end. To be a missional church is to be transformed (changed) by relationship with God and to want God's very best for the world. It demands an attentiveness to the stories and context and culture that shapes us. So that we can be the gospel to the world.

Saturday, February 25, 2006

The Ticking Clock

The class ended with goodbyes and promises of internet phone conference calls. My cohort even set up a time for a conference call next week. I was ready to get on the plane and get back home to Donna and Nathan and Lizzie. My shuttle to Los Angeles Airport was due to arrive at 11 a.m. with my flight at 2 p.m. 11:00 p.m. came. 11:15 p.m. came. I called the shuttle came and left from the wrong address. 11:30. Would I make the filght? 11:45. . .

I had nothing to do with my time to think at the corner of Walnut and Madison. I waved as new friends in ministry passed by and left for their home. I thought about the experience of two full weeks sitting in class, reading books and taking in new information. My life is filled with much planning, a good bit of study, lots of interaction with people. But when it all comes down to it, at the end of the day we are given a few opportunities to be God to others. Regardless of our planning and structuring, we must be aware that the Spirit is nudging and opening opportunities if we will move.

I stood in the beautiful LA sun until noon Eastern Standard time before my back-up shuttle arrived. The driver was a Russian American, who explained to me that he had been sent to get me. The fare he would receive was reduced. He had other customers to pick up in downtown. Then, the shuttle company called to cancel his customers. So, he was receiving a reduced fare and caring only one customer. He was not complaining to me, but describing the system that was stacked against him. I am sure that it was in part to mine my pockets for a tip, but I bought it. I have been blessed tremendously.

My blessings are too numerous to count. Just the fact that I had money in my pocket, soon would have a late lunch in my belly, a home to return to and loads of education. These all put me in the top 5% of the world's wealthiest people.

Sure, he was in the top 5%, too. He told me about his plans to retire, buying his grandkids a toy each and every Saturday (which made me question my plan to give him another tip). Actually, anyone who owns a car is there at the top. However, today he was serving me. So, the last money I had in my wallet was saved for this servant. I can empty my wallet any time and know that God will give me food, all the basics and more. I am blessed. I gave him the money and said "God bless you and fill your shuttle full of high tippers." His smiled filled his face and we waved good-bye.

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Reflecting on Photos

One of the exhibits I wanted to take in was Robert Adams'’ Landscapes of Harmony and Dissonance. Adams is a contemporary landscape photographer who has been taking stills of landscapes in Colorado, Oregon and California for over forty years. The pictures he snapped in Colorado were near my home town of Arvada - places like Longmont, Boulder, Table Top Mesa and Golden. This made me even more intrigued by the photographs.

Ok, boring stuff, right? Well, he takes pictures of the places where modern development meets nature. He is captures how humanity destroys nature to facilitate "progress." His work really captured my imagination and showed the contrasts in a striking manner. What was most interesting (and the reason I am writing this piece) was a quote from Robert Adams that the Getty Museum placed in one of the gallery rooms. The words were so powerful to me that I had to sit down on a bench and write them down. These words were Adams' own definition of what it means to be a photographer. I give them to you.

What a landscape photographer traditionally tries to do is to show what is past, present and future at once. You want ghosts, and the daily news and prophecy. (Robert Adams, 1980)

Again, you may be bored, yet this artist captures something of my view of speaking the word. Adam'’s pursues the world that is seen by "“not blinking" -– a snapshot of a moment in time that tell of the past (where nature has existed) of the present (where human development destroys) and of the future (places with less nature and more development).

I believe that a preacher is an artist who tries to express past, present and future all at one time. Words bring forth ghosts, news and prophecy into the conviction of the heart and into the conduct of life. Followers of Jesus are people with a definite past, a mysterious but assued future, and a way of living that is aware of each.

Today May your present living be a wise reflection of your past and a confident expression of what is future.

Monday, February 20, 2006

Seeing the Invisible

Being away from the love of my life is a tough instructor. I must find and make my own food, wash and fold my own clothes. I must do things that are typically done for me. These are things that I appreciate and participate in when I am at home. I am not a mooch because Donna and I have a great partnership. However, being away from home and normalcy, my appreciation for her increases.

Each one of us live in systems of people and relationships. Many of these people we never see. Even if we cannot see them, we are dependent upon these invisible relationships. We forget that our home prices are so low in Texas because of immigrant Mexican workers. This "“illegal"” labor about which many complain, makes it possible for us to have cheaper labor, which invisibly makes a cheaper bottom line. When we go out to eat, behind the scenes is much invisible service. We only see the woman who takes our order, the man who cleans our table or the boy who brings us more water. We depend upon the chef to cook a healthy and appropriately created meal that is prepared in a clean environment, but we are not in the kitchen. Eating out hides a huge amount of people that we are wealthy enough to pay one bill that supports dozens of people by paychecks.

Who are the invisible people in your life? Maybe this week you can make them visible and show them the gospel.

Sunday, February 19, 2006

Beating Boredom

This weekend I attempted to divert my attention from school. Los Angeles has amazing weather, yet this week it has been off a bit. Friday was a pretty clear day that eventually became overcast and spit out some drizzle. Saturday it was cold (50s) and rainy, but the clouds cleared out to a crystal blue sky with huge puffy white clouds. I used Saturday to get my housework done. I went to a Laundromat down the road. I was the only person around speaking in English. After washing a drying a couple loads of laundry, I folded the clothes and left. I used the time to sit and read and reflect on my class time learning. The day was absolutely beautiful. Very clear and pleasant, but chilly and cool.

Sunday I awoke to the sounds of a downpour of rain. I wondered how this would affect my plans. I wanted to go to the earliest service I could go (9 a.m.) and then get on the road to go to the John Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles. The rain was pouring down.

Before I left for church, the rain let up, the skies turned from grey to cloudy to blue. In the distance I could see snow on the Sierra Madre mountains. When I got to the Getty museum at 11 a.m. I ate my lunch and could sea the vast ocean in the West, the expansive city of L.A. and the towering Sierra Madre Mountains covered in snow. This is an amazing paradise where there are days you can choose between being in the cool of the mountains surrounded by trees or choose the crashing waves of the ocean chasing the beaches. From this place on the balcony I could see it all . . . mountains, ocean and city. A good way to beat boredom is to take in life from a bigger perspective

Thursday, February 16, 2006

Inside Out Psalm

This morning I was still troubled with being on the inside. I got to come home and sleep inside. The psalm given to me for reflection was Psalm 13, but I could not go there. I could not complain to God about his absence. Not after last night (read yesterday’s blog Inside Out).

So, sitting outside under a tree, I kept reading and found Psalm 14. Here is where I am located. Especially verses two through four. God looks down upon the complainers and the content, the righteous and the self-righteous. God sees no one who does good.

Are we blind to our evil practice of “eating up the people as they eat bread”? We cannibalize the life of the poor, taking anything of value even while they are eating a slice of bread.

Inside Out

A penetrating, foul smell lived in the air. Downtown Los Angeles has a place known as skid row. L.A.'s skid row is flooded with activity, sleeping bags, shopping baskets and tents pitched on the street sidewalk. These are people pushed to life outside the world that towers around them.

My friend Tim brought me to skid row to meet his buddy Tim and to experience the only church on skid row called church on the corner. Several classmates also came (Wayne, Bob, Barnabus). We had come to go to Karaoke night . . . yes Karaoke night. But first came the kids. Each day the church has an after school program. There were several kids the age of my kids. They hugged me as if I were their own father.

We served the kids their dinner, cleared the table for the teen program to eat dinner. For my lunch, I had eaten off a huge buffet of Mediterranean food. I was so full from lunch I had not eaten dinner (along with Tim, Wayne, Joe and Moses). My bulging stomach was a striking contrast to everyone I met. We had food left over, so we took it out on the street and offered it to people. Only one of the people I asked politely refused. Many people looked me in the eye and said, "“Thanks, this is the only food I've eaten all day."” I could not eat tonight. I could not take food from the hungry.

With our duties complete, we had a good hour until Karaoke night. I had no idea what to expect at a karaoke night with homeless people. To pass the time, I went out on the street and sat down. I felt like I fit in pretty well. I had not shaved in five days and wore old clothes. People had already begun to line up outside the door. They were talking about songs they would sing. One woman explained that she was going to become a famous singer so that she could get on Blue Cross & Blue Shield to cover her medical expenses. Another younger man was dressed in a black cowboy had, complete with a sheriff'’s badge and a long black trench coat. I saw an elderly woman mumbling something indistinguishable walking the street wearing only one shoe.

My most memorable acquaintance was Marita. After I had been sitting outside, the blanket next to me began to move. The face of an elderly woman appeared. She smiled and we began to talk. She had no idea who I was. She had been on the street for only two months, after she lost her apartment in Phoenix. Actually, she has a job as a cashier at the ballpark in Phoenix. It does not start again until April. She looked as if she had always been here, when in reality she was new. We talked about the missions, the lack of markets and the safety of the streets. Homeless people are not much different from those "‘inside the world."’ Maybe a little more friendly, maybe more dirty and maybe more hungry, but only one eviction separates those outside from those inside.

It is astounding that a few blocks away tower the world's most powerful bank buildings, renovated loft apartments, fancy chain restraints, and the hotel presidents sleep in. It is a world of separation that is inside out.

Thanks to Tim Neufeld for giving me an inside out view of Los Angeles. Tim is a new friend who shares my fanatical love of U2, mexican food and taking people on "experiences" like this one.

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

English Lesson

Mark Lau Branson made an off-handed comment that was easily the most memorable of the week. A discussion had developed about how it is hard to go to church. Sometime church is unbearable for any of a number of reasons: false piety, pretension, entertaining display. Mark said, “it is hard to go to church where God is never the subject of an active verb.” Let that one soak in.

Umm, what? Many times in church God is the object of everything we do and say. We are here to praise God. We want God to be in this place. Etcetera. Worship does well when God is the subject and we are the object.

Translation: Talk about what God does not what we want God to do. Talk about what God has done and praise him. Do not objectify God. Do not make God an idol to back what you want and do. Allow God to be the subject that acts.

Monday, February 13, 2006

Stop, Reflect, Listen & Pray

This afternoon we listened to scripture. We started with the first Psalm found in the first testament or Old Testament of the Bible. The assignment was to read it repeatedly and listen to the passage. This is the ancient practice of lectio divina (spiritual reading) of which I am quite familiar and maybe I will share about another time. You are familiar, too, with lectio but you may not realize it. Here is an example. For the past several weeks my faith community has been listening to a passage read orally from different voices and different languages. This is a form of sacred reading. Usually in the reading and re-reading of scripture a word or a phrase is especially meaningful. You mediatate upon that word or phrase. Then, you offer it back to God as a prayer.

Here is what I experienced. I wanted to get outside, but all I found in this concrete city was an outdoor burger joint called Rick's Burgers. I couldn't hear the passage for the noise of traffic, the crying of a newborn, and conversations in other languages. City life. My focus was on verse four: the one who meditates on the instruction of God is like a tree planted by streams of water. This is one of my favorite images - a tree that has the bennefit of unlimitted water. I realized that trees always thrive along a riverbed. In fact, I had seen trees snaking their way across the country supported by water they did not dig for or channel.

People are like trees. We grow where the water is. The city is a collecting place of people. A busy street corner is a place to give water. The gathering of believers cannot become a sheltered tank of water. It must be outside, on the streets, where the thirsty people live. I want to take the water to the people and help them grow.

Sunday, February 12, 2006

Wooden Nickels

Our pilot said his name was Wooden Nickels. I still do not know if it was a joke, but he did not sound the joking type. We were late taking off, but he made up time by rerouting us over White Sands Missile testing ground. Normally the military do not allow commercial traffic over White Sands, however on Sunday allowances were made. I always enjoy the shuttle ride from LAX to the Guest Center at Fuller. One never knows what landmark will be around the corner. In the Olympic spirit, I was able to see the L.A. Coliseum a beautiful palm tree lined view. We drove right by the Staple Center, and Dodger Stadium.

I look forward to the course which begins tomorrow "“Missional Leadership" with Alan Roxburgh and Mark Lau Branson. Alan (minister, author) has been in ministry for many years in growing North American Missional contexts. Mark Lau Branson is a pastor, whom Fuller brought on as full time faculty. My interest in this course and learning cohort is centered on thinking about our local American neighborhoods as mission fields of opportunity. Places where we can be Jesus to the world.

I am glad an excellent pilot named Wooden Nickels landed us smoothly and safely on the ground. I look forward to Alan and Mark helping me think of ministry on the ground.

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Black Leather Messiah

Many of you have been emailing me about Bono's latest public words. I wish I could have been there in Washington, D.C. I have heard Bono sing in person more than a half-dozen times, but I've never heard him preach more than a few lines. So, I am open to either Bono or the president's invitation.

My most recent post about Bono mentions a desire to be like him in a unique way. In the speech below, clearly he has a Messiah complex. Bono often jokes about his "Messiah complex." This complex is shorthand for someone who believes they can save the world. Most often, I hear it and use it to indicate that a person "can not be God." I've always found it odd that Bono embraces being a Messiah.

In this speech, the answer to the "why" hit me. Bono is attempting to be like Christ, to do the things Christ would do if Christ were Bono. In other words, Bono is trying to be Christ/Messiah. That is actually a good thing. Not a blasphemous thing. Nor a pretentious pride thing. In fact, it is biblical. In an old letter written to Christ followers in Ephesus (read 4:11-13), the goal of service (or ministry) is that everybody would reach full maturity which is specifically identified as Christ. We are to become Messiah-like in our words and actions.

Impossible, you blurt. Irreverent, you complain. Maybe, but it is a very biblical journey to the presence of God. The map is Christ and the destination is Christ. My work here in this space on planet earth is done with each person I "present as mature in Christ" (Colossian letter 1:28).

While there is and only will be one Messiah, the Messiah has invited us to be like him. Go be the black leather Messiah in your cubicle. Go be the prophet in white to your kids. Be Christ to the world, for the world.

And now enjoy this 'sermon' from an unlikely messiah in black leather and shades. . .




Thank you.

Mr. President, First Lady, King Abdullah, Other heads of State, Members of Congress, distinguished guests…

Please join me in praying that I don’t say something we’ll all regret.

That was for the FCC.

If you’re wondering what I’m doing here, at a prayer breakfast, well, so am I. I’m certainly not here as a man of the cloth, unless that cloth is leather. It’s certainly not because I’m a rock star. Which leaves one possible explanation: I’m here because I’ve got a messianic complex.

Yes, it’s true. And for anyone who knows me, it’s hardly a revelation.

Well, I’m the first to admit that there’s something unnatural… something unseemly… about rock stars mounting the pulpit and preaching at presidents, and then disappearing to their villas in the South of France. Talk about a fish out of water. It was weird enough when Jesse Helms showed up at a U2 concert… but this is really weird, isn’t it?

You know, one of the things I love about this country is its separation of church and state. Although I have to say: in inviting me here, both church and state have been separated from something else completely: their mind. .

Mr. President, are you sure about this?

It’s very humbling and I will try to keep my homily brief. But be warned—I’m Irish.

I’d like to talk about the laws of man, here in this city where those laws are written. And I’d like to talk about higher laws. It would be great to assume that the one serves the other; that the laws of man serve these higher laws… but of course, they don’t always. And I presume that, in a sense, is why you’re here.

I presume the reason for this gathering is that all of us here—Muslims, Jews, Christians—all are searching our souls for how to better serve our family, our community, our nation, our God.

I know I am. Searching, I mean. And that, I suppose, is what led me here, too.

Yes, it’s odd, having a rock star here—but maybe it’s odder for me than for you. You see, I avoided religious people most of my life. Maybe it had something to do with having a father who was Protestant and a mother who was Catholic in a country where the line between the two was, quite literally, a battle line. Where the line between church and state was… well, a little blurry, and hard to see.

I remember how my mother would bring us to chapel on Sundays… and my father used to wait outside. One of the things that I picked up from my father and my mother was the sense that religion often gets in the way of God.

For me, at least, it got in the way. Seeing what religious people, in the name of God, did to my native land… and in this country, seeing God’s second-hand car salesmen on the cable TV channels, offering indulgences for cash… in fact, all over the world, seeing the self-righteousness roll down like a mighty stream from certain corners of the religious establishment…

I must confess, I changed the channel. I wanted my MTV.

Even though I was a believer.

Perhaps because I was a believer.

I was cynical… not about God, but about God’s politics. (There you are, Jim.)

Then, in 1997, a couple of eccentric, septuagenarian British Christians went and ruined my shtick—my reproachfulness. They did it by describing the Millennium, the year 2000, as a Jubilee year, as an opportunity to cancel the chronic debts of the world’s poorest people. They had the audacity to renew the Lord’s call—and were joined by Pope John Paul II, who, from an Irish half-Catholic’s point of view, may have had a more direct line to the Almighty.

‘Jubilee’—why ‘Jubilee’?

What was this year of Jubilee, this year of our Lords favor?

I’d always read the Scriptures, even the obscure stuff. There it was in Leviticus (25:35)…

‘If your brother becomes poor,’ the Scriptures say, ‘and cannot maintain himself… you shall maintain him… You shall not lend him your money at interest, not give him your food for profit.’

It is such an important idea, Jubilee, that Jesus begins his ministry with this. Jesus is a young man, he’s met with the rabbis, impressed everyone, people are talking. The elders say, he’s a clever guy, this Jesus, but he hasn’t done much… yet. He hasn’t spoken in public before…

When he does, is first words are from Isaiah: ‘The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,’ he says, ‘because He has anointed me to preach good news to the poor.’ And Jesus proclaims the year of the Lord’s favour, the year of Jubilee. (Luke 4:18)

What he was really talking about was an era of grace—and we’re still in it.

So fast-forward 2,000 years. That same thought, grace, was made incarnate—in a movement of all kinds of people. It wasn’t a bless-me club… it wasn’t a holy huddle. These religious guys were willing to get out in the streets, get their boots dirty, wave the placards, follow their convictions with actions… making it really hard for people like me to keep their distance. It was amazing. I almost started to like these church people.

But then my cynicism got another helping hand.

It was what Colin Powell, a five-star general, called the greatest W.M.D. of them all: a tiny little virus called A.I.D.S. And the religious community, in large part, missed it. The one’s that didn’t miss it could only see it as divine retribution for bad behaviour. Even on children… Even fastest growing group of HIV infections were married, faithful women.

Aha, there they go again! I thought to myself Judgmentalism is back!

But in truth, I was wrong again. The church was slow but the church got busy on this the leprosy of our age.

Love was on the move.

Mercy was on the move.

God was on the move.

Moving people of all kinds to work with others they had never met, never would have cared to meet… Conservative church groups hanging out with spokesmen for the gay community, all singing off the same hymn sheet on AIDS… Soccer moms and quarterbacks… hip-hop stars and country stars… This is what happens when God gets on the move: crazy stuff happens!

Popes were seen wearing sunglasses!

Jesse Helms was seen with a ghetto blaster!

Crazy stuff. Evidence of the spirit.

It was breathtaking. Literally. It stopped the world in its tracks.

When churches started demonstrating on debt, governments listened—and acted. When churches starting organising, petitioning, and even—that most unholy of acts today, God forbid, lobbying… on AIDS and global health, governments listened—and acted.

I’m here today in all humility to say: you changed minds; you changed policy; you changed the world.

Look, whatever thoughts you have about God, who He is or if He exists, most will agree that if there is a God, He has a special place for the poor. In fact, the poor are where God lives.

Check Judaism. Check Islam. Check pretty much anyone.

I mean, God may well be with us in our mansions on the hill… I hope so. He may well be with us as in all manner of controversial stuff… maybe, maybe not… But the one thing we can all agree, all faiths and ideologies, is that God is with the vulnerable and poor.

God is in the slums, in the cardboard boxes where the poor play house… God is in the silence of a mother who has infected her child with a virus that will end both their lives… God is in the cries heard under the rubble of war… God is in the debris of wasted opportunity and lives, and God is with us if we are with them. “If you remove the yolk from your midst, the pointing of the finger and speaking wickedness, and if you give yourself to the hungry and satisfy the desire of the afflicted, then your light will rise in darkness and your gloom with become like midday and the Lord will continually guide you and satisfy your desire in scorched places”

It’s not a coincidence that in the Scriptures, poverty is mentioned more than 2,100 times. It’s not an accident. That’s a lot of air time, 2,100 mentions. [You know, the only time Christ is judgmental is on the subject of the poor.] ‘As you have done it unto the least of these my brethren, you have done it unto me.’ (Matthew 25:40). As I say, good news to the poor.

Here’s some good news for the President. After 9-11 we were told America would have no time for the World’s poor. America would be taken up with its own problems of safety. And it’s true these are dangerous times, but America has not drawn the blinds and double-locked the doors.

In fact, you have double aid to Africa. You have tripled funding for global health. Mr. President, your emergency plan for AIDS relief and support for the Global Fund—you and Congress—have put 700,000 people onto life-saving anti-retroviral drugs and provided 8 million bed nets to protect children from malaria.

Outstanding human achievements. Counterintuitive. Historic. Be very, very proud.

But here’s the bad news. From charity to justice, the good news is yet to come. There’s is much more to do. There’s a gigantic chasm between the scale of the emergency and the scale of the response.

And finally, it’s not about charity after all, is it? It’s about justice.

Let me repeat that: It’s not about charity, it’s about justice.

And that’s too bad.

Because you’re good at charity. Americans, like the Irish, are good at it. We like to give, and we give a lot, even those who can’t afford it.

But justice is a higher standard. Africa makes a fool of our idea of justice; it makes a farce of our idea of equality. It mocks our pieties, it doubts our concern, it questions our commitment.

6,500 Africans are still dying every day of a preventable, treatable disease, for lack of drugs we can buy at any drug store. This is not about charity, this is about Justice and Equality.

Because there's no way we can look at what’s happening in Africa and, if we're honest, conclude that deep down, we really accept that Africans are equal to us. Anywhere else in the world, we wouldn’t accept it. Look at what happened in South East Asia with the Tsunami. 150, 000 lives lost to that misnomer of all misnomers, “mother nature”. In Africa, 150,000 lives are lost every month. A tsunami every month. And it’s a completely avoidable catastrophe.

It’s annoying but justice and equality are mates. Aren’t they? Justice always wants to hang out with equality. And equality is a real pain.

You know, think of those Jewish sheep-herders going to meet the Pharaoh, mud on their shoes, and the Pharaoh says, “Equal?” A preposterous idea: rich and poor are equal? And they say, “Yeah, ‘equal,’ that’s what it says here in this book. We’re all made in the image of God.”

And eventually the Pharaoh says, “OK, I can accept that. I can accept the Jews—but not the blacks.”

“Not the women. Not the gays. Not the Irish. No way, man.”

So on we go with our journey of equality.

On we go in the pursuit of justice.

We hear that call in the ONE Campaign, a growing movement of more than two million Americans… left and right together… united in the belief that where you live should no longer determine whether you live.

We hear that call even more powerfully today, as we mourn the loss of Coretta Scott King—mother of a movement for equality, one that changed the world but is only just getting started. These issues are as alive as they ever were; they just change shape and cross the seas.

Preventing the poorest of the poor from selling their products while we sing the virtues of the free market… that’s a justice issue. Holding children to ransom for the debts of their grandparents… That’s a justice issue. Withholding life-saving medicines out of deference to the Office of Patents… that’s a justice issue.

And while the law is what we say it is, God is not silent on the subject.

That’s why I say there’s the law of the land… and then there is a higher standard. There’s the law of the land, and we can hire experts to write them so they benefit us, so the laws say it’s OK to protect our agriculture but it’s not OK for African farmers to do the same, to earn a living?

As the laws of man are written, that’s what they say.

God will not accept that.

Mine won’t, at least. Will yours?


I close this morning on … very… thin… ice.

This is a dangerous idea I’ve put on the table: my God vs. your God, their God vs. our God… vs. no God. It is very easy, in these times, to see religion as a force for division rather than unity.

And this is a town—Washington—that knows something of division.

But the reason I am here, and the reason I keep coming back to Washington, is because this is a town that is proving it can come together on behalf of what the Scriptures call the least of these.

This is not a Republican idea. It is not a Democratic idea. It is not even, with all due respect, an American idea. Nor it is unique to any one faith.

Do to others as you would have them do to you.’ (Luke 6:30) Jesus says that.

‘Righteousness is this: that one should… give away wealth out of love for Him to the near of kin and the orphans and the needy and the wayfarer and the beggars and for the emancipation of the captives.’ The Koran says that. (2.177)

Thus sayeth the Lord: ‘Bring the homeless poor into the house, when you see the naked, cover him, then your light will break out like the dawn and your recovery will speedily spring fourth, then your Lord will be your rear guard.’ The jewish scripture says that. Isaiah 58 again.

That is a powerful incentive: ‘The Lord will watch your back.’ Sounds like a good deal to me, right now.

A number of years ago, I met a wise man who changed my life. In countless ways, large and small, I was always seeking the Lord’s blessing. I was saying, you know, I have a new song, look after it… I have a family, please look after them… I have this crazy idea…

And this wise man said: stop.

He said, stop asking God to bless what you’re doing.

Get involved in what God is doing—because it’s already blessed.

Well, God, as I said, is with the poor. That, I believe, is what God is doing.

And that is what He’s calling us to do.

I was amazed when I first got to this country and I learned how much some churchgoers tithe. Up to ten percent of the family budget. Well, how does that compare the federal budget, the budget for the entire American family? How much of that goes to the poorest people in the world? Less than one percent.

Mr. President, Congress, people of faith, people of America:

I want to suggest to you today that you see the flow of effective foreign assistance as tithing…. Which, to be truly meaningful, will mean an additional one percent of the federal budget tithed to the poor.

What is one percent?

One percent is not merely a number on a balance sheet.

One percent is the girl in Africa who gets to go to school, thanks to you. One percent is the AIDS patient who gets her medicine, thanks to you. One percent is the African entrepreneur who can start a small family business thanks to you. One percent is not redecorating presidential palaces or money flowing down a rat hole. This one percent is digging waterholes to provide clean water.

One percent is a new partnership with Africa, not paternalism towards Africa, where increased assistance flows toward improved governance and initiatives with proven track records and away from boondoggles and white elephants of every description.

America gives less than one percent now. Were asking for an extra one percent to change the world. to transform millions of lives—but not just that and I say this to the military men now – to transform the way that they see us.

One percent is national security, enlightened economic self interest, and a better safer world rolled into one. Sounds to me that in this town of deals and compromises, one percent is the best bargain around.

These goals—clean water for all; school for every child; medicine for the afflicted, an end to extreme and senseless poverty—these are not just any goals; they are the Millennium Development goals, which this country supports. And they are more than that. They are the Beatitudes for a Globalised World.

Now, I’m very lucky. I don’t have to sit on any budget committees. And I certainly don’t have to sit where you do, Mr. President. I don’t have to make the tough choices.

But I can tell you this:

To give one percent more is right. It’s smart. And it’s blessed.

There is a continent—Africa—being consumed by flames.

I truly believe that when the history books are written, our age will be remembered for three things: the war on terror, the digital revolution, and what we did—or did not to—to put the fire out in Africa.

History, like God, is watching what we do.

Thank you. Thank you, America, and God bless you all.


Friday, February 03, 2006

Wow: End of the Spear

Go buy your ticket now. It is Friday night. You have not been to see a movie in who knows how long. Get online right now and purchase your ticket for "End of the Spear." Wow.

If you can look me in the eye and tell me that you have seen any other movie in theaters now and you have not seen "End of the Spear" there is something wrong. Go.

"End of the Spear" is the best true story movie I have seen in years (and maybe ever). I was not entertained. I was made uncomfortable. I was challenged. I learned the essence of faith in a way that few books or movies or people can communicate. If you are at all interested in what Jesus offers the world and the religions of the world, then this is a movie that will show it to you.

"End of the Spear" is set in the Amazon. An indigenious stone age tribe lives by the spear, showing its strength. This tribe approached by 21st century missionaries in the 1940s. The story is one you must experience to believe and challenge your belief.

Go. Tonight. Stay till the final scene and watch the good news at the end of the spear.