You are currently browsing the category archive for the ‘Robinwood Church’ category.

Here I stand, bare feet on ancient stone. Looking down at the water…

How did I get here?

It’s 3am in Tsfat, Israel. Dark outside. Full moon over the 4,000 year-old graveyard behind me…

I was on the way home to California from a business trip in London.

As if by an unseen hand, I was led out of my well-worn hotel room and down the switchbacks to this holiest of places in this holiest of cities. Yitzak Luria‘s Mikveh.

I feel like Indiana Jones, except there is no khaki or wide-brimmed hat…I am as naked as the day I was born, no barrier, coram Deo. Even my watch and wedding ring have been taken off.

Just me. Just God. Just now.

My name, David, which never made much sense to me, seems oddly right for, perhaps, the first time ever. I have cultivated nicknames all my life. I think of the double delta of David’s monogram…

I think back over the last 48 hours here in Galilee.

Invited into the back rooms of synagogues…

Rabbis pointing through the texts of “secret books” in Hebrew and asking questions….

  • How did you learn Hebrew?
  • Your name is David, are you sure you aren’t Jewish? You look Russian…
  • Where do you sense the presence of God here in Tsfat? Where is that feeling the strongest?
  • What are you doing here?

I did not choose to stand here. I’m not even sure what a mikveh is…I was led here…

I need answers to three questions. Just two days ago, I wrote those questions on a tiny slip of paper, rolled it up, and placed it in the Western Wall of the temple mount in Jerusalem at sunrise. My forehead against the cool ancient stone, my palms up high, time collapsed…the better part of an hour evaporated like the morning fog…

It is dark outside. Not even the roosters have begun to crow…

I slide into the biting cold of the fresh spring water, holding the pole and stepping down the ancient steps. I breathe deeply and submerge….

The world disappears.

I pull my knees up against my chest, going fetal in this womb-tomb.

An avid surfer, I am used to being underwater and I gently roll backwards….

A glow emanates from nowhere and everywhere. I open my eyes underwater to confirm the experience and the light vanishes…

I come up for air twice and submerge again. The glow returns, and I feel enveloped in the Khesed-love of the Creator. Answers come to me faster than I can receive them.

I generate a will to receive.

Something shifts around me. The third time under turns into a dream. I feel as if I am breathing underwater. The glow gets warm.

All of my theological legalisms about baptism vanish and dissolve into an ocean of God’s presence.

As I climb out and dry off, my soul comes to total rest. I will walk for hours until the hilltop town awakens. Like an old snakeskin, I have shed something. A new season is starting…

Where is your “mikveh” where you take off everything in the presence of God?

When’s the last time you were there….?

Advertisements

The final copies of my first novel just arrived!

Have a look at the 90-second intro-to-the-novel video movie:

Please pass it on to others, thanks!

The book comes with a built-in study guide for groups, book clubs, and classes.

For…

  • purchase information (Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Book Depository, etc)
  • reviews (via Powell’s in Portland)
  • interview
  • study guide
  • more videos
  • synopsis
….check out: NOVEL WEBSITE

This is the number two question I get, after:

Are there pets in heaven?

Both questions are tough to answer in a simplistic way!

First of all, there is often a “question behind the question.” So,  before answering, I counter with “What do you mean by Lutheran?”

Let’s start with Martin Luther (1500’s in Germany). I once was blessed to meet the greatest Luther scholar of the 20th century, in person, Roland Bainton, in the early 80’s after a lecture. I asked him why he never joined a Lutheran Church. His witty response was: “I’ve never seen one. Luther himself, ironically, would not be welcomed in most Lutheran churches today.”

Martin Luther

So, are you Lutheran? If you can answer difficult theological questions simplistically, you probably aren’t following Luther’s pattern.

Asked whether there is pre-destination, Luther answered “yes and no.” Asked if we can lose our salvation, Luther answered “yes and no.” Asked if we are basically sinners or totally justified, he answered “yes.” Luther was a Bible teacher, and not a systematic theologian. He loved the (obvious) dramatic tensions in scripture and was OK with just leaving them be. His counterpart, Calvin, seemed to have a high need to cram the Bible into a neat system.

There are parts of Luther’s teaching and personality that I, without reservation, condemn and reject. His bizarrely anti-Semitic view of European Jews was an outrage. His mowing down of the peasant revolt was inexcusable. His eschatology was primitive at best and incomprehensible at worst (He thought Pope Leo was literally THE Antichrist). He had no sense of Christian mission to the majority of the non-Christian world.

But he was spot-on right about the whole Bible revolving around Grace, Faith, and Christ. And he was crazy-courageous in standing up to the whole authority structure of his world (Popes and Emperors) to make it stick. He rediscovered Paul’s “Jesus plus nothing” and remade much of the Western Church around it.

Along with Isaac Newton, he is one of the most mercurial and influential humans ever to walk this planet (Newton, like Luther, had his mega-quirks). By deconstructing the monastic world-view (which had been dominant for centuries), philosophically and practically, Luther helped lay the foundation for the Modern World in which you and I live.

Ironically (I thought of this while walking the ancient stones of the Via Sacra), Luther and Paul were the two greatest historical figures ever to walk the streets of Rome. No one at the time, in that city, even noticed them. Luther and Paul could care less–they just went out and re-made the world. All of the emperors and heroes of Rome amounted to: not much. We name our sons Paul–and our dogs, Nero.

Am I a follower of Paul or Luther? No. So perhaps I’m not a Lutheran, in that sense. Luther didn’t want us to use the term “Lutheran” (see his exact quote at the bottom of this page) and Paul, in 1 Corinthians, was horrified that people would label themselves with his name. I, like Luther and Paul, am a follower of Jesus Christ alone.

But what about faith families? What about denominations? I am totally a product of Lutheran theological-cultural upbringing, and can’t do much about it. It’s like being Jewish, it’s a cultural tattoo which you can’t remove without lasers. Even if I (God forbid) were to become an atheist, I’d be a Lutheran atheist.

If I were to join a Baptist or Catholic congregation, I’d still be a Lutheran member of that church. If you are Jewish or Lutheran, you understand the tribal implications of these labels :-). I’d actually, if I had my ‘druthers, like to be a charismatic Anglican (the Alpha London folks), but I’m too blue-collar Lutheran to pull it off long term.

So, is the church I pastor, Robinwood Church, Lutheran, because I am the primary teacher? Perhaps. We affirm (in our bylaws) the unaltered Augsburg Confession, the Small Catechism, and the ecumenical creeds.  We would qualify, thus, for joining the Lutheran World Federation.

But we are non-liturgical. Totally. More than you think. And we are very Pentecostal in our expression. It doesn’t look “Lutheran.” We have no Euro-centric trappings of any kind. We are a California beach church that meets in a warehouse. No Lent. No Advent. No lectionary. No altar table. No permanent cross. I don’t own a clerical collar. There isn’t a single hymnbook in the building. It would be hard to find the word “Lutheran” on our website. I only wear shoes if it’s a cold day. The music is loud.

But if any trained theologian were to visit us for three Sundays, he or she would say:

They sure aren’t Calvinists or Arminians. Not Roman Catholics. Not Southern Baptists. Not Eastern Orthodox. Not liberal North American PC activists. Not Anglicans. By default, they must be Lutherans. Expressive, non-legalistic, missional–but pretty dang Lutheran at the core.

If Luther were to show up at Robinwood Church, I’d probably tell him off (privately) for that goofy Jew-bashing (and a few other things) of his, but we’d pour him a beer (and cut him off at two) and share his love of God’s Word, and the tensions that are simply there in it.

Is Robinwood Church Lutheran? Yes and no 🙂

And like Luther and Paul, we don’t care if “important” people don’t notice what we’re up to, we’re busy remaking the world.

++++++++++++++++

For more information:

Robinwood Church Website

Robinwood Church Worldwide Podcast

My book explaining Pentecostalism to Lutherans.

Follow me on Twitter @RobinwoodChurch

Join the Facebook Group: Robinwood Church

LUTHER’S QUOTE on LUTHERAN LABEL:

“People should not call themselves ‘Lutherans’. ‘What is Luther? After all, the teaching is not mine. Neither was I crucified for anyone . . .How then should I — poor stinking maggot-fodder that I am — come to have men call the children of Christ by my wretched name?’ Not so, my dear friends; let us abolish all party names and call ourselves Christians, after him whose teachings we hold.”

Who said that?

Martin Luther.

–from, “A Sincere Admonition by Martin Luther to All Christians to Guard Against Insurrection and Rebellion 1522”

Nothing wrong with wearing red on Pentecost.

But if no one

-gets filled with the Spirit

-speaks in tongues

-accuses your members of being drunk at 9am in the morning

-gets converted (there were 3k on Pentecost)

…then we need Linus to get up on stage and read us the Bible story (which he does so well for Christmas) to remind us of what Pentecost is really all about.

As with much of the high-octane faith in the Bible, we have de-natured it for “polite” church use. Instead of calling down fire from heaven, we wear red sport shirts.

Veni Sancte Spiritus

I have always been fascinated by Cranmer’s poetic rendering of Matthew’s (and Luke’s) rendering of Jesus’ phrase:

Give us this day our daily bread.

Please stick with me through some heavy linguistics. It will be worth it.

In Greek, which Matthew wrote and Jesus didn’t use when teaching his Lord’s/Kingdom/Father prayer, it says:

THE – BREAD – OF – US – THE – EPIOUSION – GIVE – TO – US – TODAY

Apparently, according to Danker’s Lexicon, the word epiousion was coined by the evangelists where they were translating Jesus’ Aramaic “Abba” prayer (see also J. Jerimias: Abba). Origen said early on that the word was coined by the evangelists.

The word exists nowhere else. In the New Testament or in secular Greek literature.

“Ousia” means substance/being. “Epi” means marked or designated “right on top of.” Think “epicenter.”

In depth-etymological terms, it can’t mean “daily” or “tomorrow’s bread” as so many have suggested.

We have to go with depth etymology, because we can’t go with any parallel Greek usage outside of “our” literature.

Thus they coined a Greek word to get at what Jesus was saying in Aramaic, because what he was saying was not to be contained in a normal “off the shelf” Greek word. The problem is, our current Aramaic versions of the New Testament are, in some ways, translations from the Greek. We don’t have pre-Luke/Matthew Aramaic versions of the gospels.

When doing a depth-etymology, it’s best to stick with the un-spun core-root meanings of the parts involved in the compound word.

Thus “designated-present-substance” is the best we can mine from the root words.

It unravels if we try to project it beyond the Greek into what Jesus may have said in his language–we end up with compound speculation.

But in hand, we have EPIOUSIA.

What do you think, based on what we have said, that it means?

I’ll take a stab at it:

Jesus saw provision as dynamic, and not as static. Everything we need comes out of the Father-substance (hence the Father prayer). Have a lunch box? Feed 5,000 people.

Need to pay taxes? Take the Krugerrand out of the fish’s mouth. The Father feeds and provides for us as he does the lilies and the birds.

Don’t store up treasures in barns. Rely on daily manna. Trust God for your abundance.

Get your provision from substance, don’t try to gather it from the circumstances around you.

The epiousion is the designated/marked substance from which our bread comes.

This is the abundance we are teaching a Robinwood Church. Not some form of American consumer greed.

The world is not a zero-sum game (more for you, less for me), it is an “open system.”

Give us of the designated substance our bread today. I know it’s not as “sexy” as Cranmer, but nothing in English is 🙂

What are your thoughts?

Each Christian congregation has a “piety flavor.”

For those of you not super churchy, piety is one’s spiritual “vibe.”

Once this “sets,” it’s virtually impossible to change.

The piety match between pastor and congregation is perhaps the most crucial factor in ministry success.

As Christians, we can play “away games,” and even appreciate a road trip to the other pieties. But we can only have one true “home court” pity.

There may be other “sub-groups,” or even a piety I have not thought of.

But these are the four bouncing through my mind.

They are:

1) Athletic

2) Contemplative (Cool)

3) Warm

4) Hot

I don’t think it’s an overstatement to say that aligning these flavors is actually more important in predicting success than denominational association or theological angle of the church.

For instance, a “warm” piety Lutheran will feel more at home in a a “warm” Anglican church than in an “athletic” Lutheran congregation.

Please pass this link on to others, especially the leaders in your congregation.

As in so many parts of human endeavor, the feelings “win.” The vibe of a human group is more important than we have realized.

Call it congregational “tribal vibe.”

There are many pastor/congregation mismatches. The worst ones occur when an athletic or contemplative pastor tries to transform a warm congregation into his/her image.

Most pastors going into a mismatched congregation see “vitalization” as changing the culture of their new congregation to their personal piety flavor.

Here are some brief thumbnail sketches:

Athletic

This piety is strident. There is a missionary vibe. “Discipleship” is the prevailing theme. The congregants, and especially the pastor, have serious looks on their faces most of the time.

They mean business.

These folks tend to have strong political left- or right-wing opinions. “Activism” of one kind or another (abortion, racism, hunger, the lost, you name it…) prevails as the reason for gathering in the first place.

Home schooling is common. They all vote.

This group is the one most likely to have highly developed enemy images, and they are invoked often. This creates group solidarity.

This is the home base of the “theologically serious.”

Contemplative (Cool)

Understated and elevated.

These people are consumers of 90% of the candles used in churches. And the most likely to wear tweed.

No plastic or synthetics in the room. Instead: Wood. Stone. Water. Natural fabric paraments and vestments. The organ has real pipes.

These churches are not afraid of silence.

The sermons are oblique, and often float into tertiary reflection (Outloud thinking about what someone else thinks about the Bible text). Listening can approximate being in a flotation tank.

There may be a Taize-style communion station with candles and kneelers in one of the corners.

These congregations have the best table manners at the Eucharist (only group which uses this word), which is fine dining complete with potent “spell casting” sound bites and real silverware.

Choral readings are key. Creeds. Lord’s prayer. Lots of formally-read Bible passages, but no one actually opens a Bible in the pews. The members (especially if they are audio learners) actually learn a lot of Bible over the years, because they hear so much of it every week.

The more committed of this stripe often hire spiritual directors, and aren’t afraid go on silent retreats.

$25 bottles of wine and European cheeses are available at their social gatherings.

The educational and NPR/PBS quotient is high, and the women wear less makeup than average.

Warm

Affection is the overriding theme here. If you aren’t drawn to physical touch and “stiffen up” when people hug you, then you won’t last long in this group.

The music chosen tends to be affective rather than theological. A relationship with God is eros, in a non-sexual way, if that makes any sense to you.

Small town churches of every stripe lean in this direction. Bible camp for grown-ups. There is a profound informality undergirding everything. No one would be shocked if you raised your hand and asked a question during the service.

A large minority of the attendees of these churches are socially and emotionally broken women; many of them divorced with kids. A good chunk of the men are in some kind of 12-step group.

Hands get raised during singing, and there is kleenex available all over the room.

The sermons are therapeutic and encouaging in tone. Favorite Bible texts are the Psalms and the Johannine canon.

There is always a group of folks in these congregations trying to get you to go on the next Cursillo/Emmaus weekend, where many of them were converted to warm piety in the first place.

Hot

Hot is not its own flavor, it is “warm” piety with the intensity turned up. This one can be downright scary to outsiders.

Generally speaking, this is the hard edge of the Pentecostal movement. It feels like just about anything could happen. This is the only flavor where shouting is a common form of communication.

This piety is often the norm in non-Anglo, non-Western Christianity.

Parishioners can fall out in trances and even writhe around on the floor.

Deliverance, and the here-and-now prophetic, are as common as doorknobs.

If you visit, sit in the back.

+++++++

Obviously, you can see why the pastor/congregation piety match is so pivotal.

The most pain comes from a pastor trying to “remake” the congregation in his/her piety image. Phrases like “they just don’t get it” are common.

One flavor is not better than another.

The skilled pastor will try to make the congregation into the best version of itself. And will do his/her life’s work in a church that matches where he/she would like to go to church in the first place.

Follow me on Twitter @RobinwoodChurch

Come worship with us for two minutes!

http://tinyurl.com/y9ht2hv

Christmas Eve worship at Robinwood Church in Huntington Beach, California, 2009

CLICK ON for video.

http://tinyurl.com/yzhda25

Click on the above link to see a short video of an excptional idea from a donor at our church.

Instead of being charity-oriented only, shouldn’t churches also show confidence in the local business marketplace?

What are your thoughts?

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 5,529 other followers

Follow me on Facebook

Follow Me on Twitter

Error: Twitter did not respond. Please wait a few minutes and refresh this page.