Thursday, November 13, 2014

Wanting Another Future

Somehow I got invited to a community forum for Rural Broome Counts, an effort to research and address the human service needs of the rural portion of our county (Broome County, NY). One of the presenters at this forum was Frank Evangelisti, who brought us a summation of the 2013 Broom County Comprehensive Plan: Building Our Future. After his brief presentation, he half-jokingly offered copies of the full plan and report, a 300-page spiral-bound tome with graphs, data, narrative, and an extensive vision for Broome County's future progress. After the forum, I got myself a copy.

Broome County has about 200,000 residents, living in situations as diverse as dense inner-city apartment buildings and 150-year-old farmhouses without a neighbor in sight. I was fascinated to read through all the data, distillations, and declarations made in the "comprehensive plan" for such a population.

More than the hard data, the vision-casting that goes on in the document makes me think. For instance, how does leadership make a community "vibrant"? This term came up specifically in the dream of the comprehensive plan. Color? Art? Smiles on faces? People walking with energy, rather than huddled and plodding against the driving wind?

Being outside the leadership of Broome County--and therefore suffering the separation of abstraction--I found myself reflecting on what a "comprehensive plan" would look like for the community of which I am a leader: the Church. Every item in the Broome County plan called for some change, some additional investment of energy, and probably some money. How does a community get people to want to do such things?

How does the Church get people to want to enact a vision for her future?

~ emrys

Friday, November 07, 2014

Both Ends of the Spectrum

The stark contrasts within my children sometimes amaze me. It's as if, at the age of 5 1/2, there is a policy of full inclusion, unconscious of paradoxes that we will see later in life.

Here is my daughter, gleefully sloshing in the autumn creek water, one of her favorite activities outside:
And here is that same young lady, poised and ready for the beginning of Sunday morning worship:
I'm not sure who taught her to cross her legs like that--I suspect that, yet again, she's imitating Kerri. Of course, one thing is constant: PinkAndPurple.

What a grand mixture we are, from the very beginning!

~ emrys

Saturday, November 01, 2014

The Way of the Cross

There is little to be said about the work of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, not because his work is not worthy of note but because his work and story speak best for themselves. So it is that after reading Letters and Papers from Prison (Eberhard Bethge, ed., 1967), I recommend it to you for its earthiness, sublimity, and challenge, which only diminish in description.

Nonetheless I must note three quotations, which speak to the theology arising out of Bonhoeffer's experience. He writes, "Our being Christians today will be limited to two things: prayer and righteous action among men [sic]" (p161). Bonhoeffer's thinking, in these letters, has little use for religiosity and ceremony.

"God lets himself [sic] be pushed out of this world and onto the cross. He is weak and powerless in the world, and that is precisely the way, the only way, in which he is with us and helps us. Matthew 8.17 makes it quite clear that Christ helps us, not by virtue of his omnipotence, but by virtue of his weakness and suffering" (188). Here is a clear strain of Lutheranism, to be sure, but also a radical sort of faith that on which even Paul in his letter to the Corinthians only begins to touch. Bonhoeffer has no patience for the deus ex machina, the God who extracts by miracle, brand of Christianity.

Thus: "It is only by living completely in this world that one learns to have faith . . . . By this-worldliness I mean living unreservedly in life's duties, problems, successes, and failures, experiences and perplexities. In so doing we throw ourselves completely into the arms of God, taking seriously not our own sufferings but those of God in the world--watching with Christ in Gethsemane" (193). Bonhoeffer's testimony against religious escapism gains great credibility from his own choices: to plot against the Third Reich; to serve as chaplain to inmates and guards while incarcerated; and to go peacefully to his execution on 9 April 1945.

Would that we could all take up the cross, when that path calls us, in such a manner as he. And would that we who follow Jesus could live each day as if we are preparing to do so.

~ emrys