I figured I would start doing a weekly post on things I’ve read during the week that you should check out because they made me think. I’m not good at ranking things so this list is purely in the random order that they came to mind.
The turning point in my Wild Goose experience happened Saturday at about 5:30 pm or so. The band in the photo above, called Ears to the Ground, was on stage at the performance cafe. I had been grumbling in my head that the schedule seemed to be a lot more flexible on Saturday than it had been on Friday when I played. But then this band started a song with the most amazing vocal harmony I have heard in a long time. And I had to close my eyes, because all my internal acrimony had been interrupted by beauty. And when I sat down with members of the band at dinner an hour later, I realized they were the ones God had brought me to Wild Goose to meet.
I’m having a better day today. I went to the art and spirit cafe to write some poetry and make some prayer beads. I ate lunch with a really awesome community from Harrisonburg that rode bicycles from there to Wild Goose about 20-40 miles each day, camping and crashing with friends on the way over the course of 2 weeks. Then I got to chill and breathe kingdom with my friend Bec Cranford who is actually living the life that I theorize about on my blog with homeless people and the Church of the Misfits in Atlanta. After that, I heard a talk by Mark Von Steenwyck about his Mennonite Worker intentional community in Minneapolis. One thing that he said was really convicting; he talked about the importance of overcoming our need to be heroic prophets and instead see all of our work as an act of repentance. I think I’ve written about that before but man do I struggle with it and it occurred to me that today I had a better day because I didn’t need to be a hero.
I’m not trying to throw a pity party, but yesterday was a tough day for me. When I arrived at the venue where I was playing, the sound guy said there was a problem and he wasn’t sure what to do because NPR was interviewing someone next door at the same time as my set so they would have to turn me way down. Then when I got up on stage, there was a problem with the sound that took fifteen minutes to resolve. Because of the delayed start, the stage manager walked around while I was in the middle of a song and told me I was done. I had already managed to mostly clear out a crowd of folk music fans with my strange, low volume
dance music mixed with uber-nerdy poetry. I had thought in my grandiose delusions that this event was going to be a catalyst for a new genre of worship music.
Wild Goose has been an interesting phenomenon so far. The theme of this years’s festival has been “re-membering the body.” To this end, there have been several random people going around passing out cards inviting us to engage in random acts of hospitality like sharing food with strangers. But it’s such a hard thing to transcend the well-trod paradigm of American culture where we sit in our lawn chairs as a crowd of individuals who aren’t making any effort to know each other and only share in common our adoration of the rock star on the stage. What would have to take place to create an environment in which strangers really could re-member the body of Christ together?
When people want to take potshots at emergent Christianity, an easy bullseye to tag is its alleged lack of racial diversity. There’s nothing that progressive white Christians agonize over more and bust more radical Jesus jukes about than the lack of racial diversity in our movements. What’s obnoxious is when racial diversity is pursued for contrived, self-legitimating purposes rather than as a genuinely pragmatic collaboration between communities like the kind taking place in North Carolina’s Moral Monday movement. So what should progressive white evangelicals do about their racial homogeny when there isn’t an organic catalyst for cross-racial community building?
Ephesians 2:8-9 is a passage I have often turned to for a tight summary of the evangelical doctrine of justification by faith: “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God — not the result of works so that no one may boast.” What I love about these two verses is that they explain why we need to be saved by faith and not works: so that no one may boast. When Christians are prideful about their salvation, that means it hasn’t worked. But it’s actually the verse after these two that God has really tattooed on my heart in the last year. Continue reading
Two years ago, I decided to give myself a challenge as I was starting out this blog. I decided to blog my way through the longest, and what I assumed to be the most boring psalm in the Bible, Psalm 119. Boy was I surprised at what I found there! It’s basically a love song about God’s law. I thought it was nothing more than a giant sycophantic gesture. But it was my time of reading this psalm during my Monday fasts probably more than anything else when the Bible first began to breathe on me
in a mystical way. There were many verses that blew my mind but verse 113 was the one that I decided would be the title of a devotional book if I ever wrote one about Psalm 119. Continue reading
In my second semester of Biblical Greek in seminary, I discovered John 1:5, “The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not seize it.” I had to translate it for my homework. What immediately drew my attention was the verb in the second clause which the NRSV translates as “overcome” and the NIV translates as “comprehend.” It was reflecting on the intersection between these two translations that gave John 1:5 the meaning that it has for me. Continue reading
I’ve often told the story of how I discovered the verse that became the basis for the title of this website. It was the summer of 2008 and I had been working at a summer camp in east Durham. The lectionary gospel readings I had heard over the previous months included Matthew 9:13 and Matthew 12:7, both of which involve Jesus quoting Hosea 6:6, “I desire mercy not sacrifice.” I had been tossing this phrase around in my mind, trying to understand what it meant. Then one morning at the camp, I was given the task of waking up a homeless man in our parking lot and sending him on his way. He was very belligerent, and I was worried for my safety, so I turned to walk away. But then the homeless man said, “Where’s your fucking mercy, man?” It was the only time in my life I ever heard God drop the f-bomb, and it definitely got my attention. Continue reading