summer solstice!

Friday, December 14, 2007

God Among Us discussion 04

I've posted the first three classes in this series on desert spirit's fire; this last class is a review and roundup, so I'm posting it here.

Advent 1: Historical Witness – Creation and Prophets

Advent 2: Historical Witness – Jesus Christ

Advent 3: Liturgy, Word, Sacrament

Advent 4: Contemporary Witness – us and our neighbors

Backtrack

Abraham, Jesus, us—from the other side of the dominant social and economic culture of consumerism and exorbitant consumption; from the other side of death…alive in Jesus Christ!

2 Samuel 7:5-6 "I have not dwelt in a house from the day I brought the Israelites up out of Egypt to this day. I have been moving from place to place with a tent as my dwelling.'"

John 1:14 And the word became flesh and tabernacled, pitched a tent among us...

Creation

Genesis 1:1 - 2:4 God creates humanity in a multifaceted Image of the Divine; God's attributes and our attributes include holiness, justice, righteousness, servanthood and creativity. Yahweh's specialty was constant, unmediated presence with creation. How about us?

Acts 1:1-8 …they asked him, "Lord, is this the time when you will restore the kingdom to Israel?" He replied… "you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth."

RCL Advent 3A: Matthew 11:2-11 "Are you the one who is to come?" "Go and tell John what you hear and see: the blind receive their sight, the lame walk…and the poor have good news brought to them…"

Historical and contemporary

Exodus 5:1 Afterward Moses and Aaron went to Pharaoh and said, "Thus says the Lord, the God of Israel, 'Let my people go, so that they may celebrate a festival to me in the wilderness.'" The church gathers as the community that already has experienced its first death and second birth, fully alive under the subversive Lordship of Jesus Christ and called to live in a radically culturally incongruent, actually counter-cultural manner. An individual becomes a person by becoming embedded in a textured, connected, interwoven history of shared experiences and different viewpoints; there is no other way to create a humanly connected sense of your own identity, form memories and become part of history. Baptism and the Lord's Supper are cosmic events in each of our lives and part of our transformation from individual into person.

In worship, especially when we celebrate the sacraments, we anticipate, celebrate and commemorate and carry with us a microcosm of a redeemed world, a living and a life-giving memory of Jesus. In us, Jesus again becomes alive in the world and we offer the world a living connection to the heaven of God's Reign here on earth.

Liturgy, time; Sacraments, space and matter

Liturgy - Holy Time:
remembering Whose we are! Who has called us! We recall, retell and re-enact our corporate and individual histories of the journey from death into life.

Sacraments - Holy Place and Holy Stuff—sacred creation: re-membering who we are! The person and communities God has called and enabled us to be and to do.

Corporate Identity Package; God's call to us

We are the body, corpus, of Christ! Each of us is a member of the body of Christ. Jesus Christ incarnate, re-enfleshed in us. Corporate Identity [package]: our logo, our résumé, our curriculum vitae, detailing where we've been, what we've learned, what we live for and die for...who are we? In Christ, we have experienced our second birth and our first death. We live under the reign of life rather than in the enslavement, the subjugation of death.

Baptism: primal experience, water, womb;

Romans 6:3-10

Eucharist:
we find sacred memory and discover hope for a free future in the meta-narratives of redemption, of deliverance from death to life in the Exodus and Passion/Easter stories. Theologian Jürgen Moltmann describes baptism as "sign, witness, representation and illumination of the Christ Event," and we can claim the same about the Eucharist. We know Jesus Christ as sovereign, prophet and priest; baptized, we participate in that royal, prophetic priesthood. In the Eucharist, the church in every place and every time blesses and reintegrates all creation in every place and time.

1 Corinthians 11:23-28

Liturgy: holy time - remembering Whose we are

Sacraments: holy space - re-membering who we are

Time and space
are the conditions in which all creation lives. Living within the cycle of the liturgical year as it replicates the history of God and the people of God and celebrating the sacraments within that context helps refocus time and space as the necessary environment of God's revelation to us as human creations. How does the Divine Presence enter our lives in decayables such as human speech, grain, grape, memory and music?

Neighbors, co-workers, family, assorted "others"

Jesus' presence in our lives often becomes a two-way street in which we are both guests and hosts to each other; they are guest and host to us, also. Our experiences? Do we need to be open, or does God open our eyes in surprise? Both/and, maybe?

Living on the limen, the threshold

Can our presence in the world and in our neighborhoods be a liminal, in the process of becoming, though not-quite-yet one? Partly in our own world and way, partly in theirs, and wholly in the sovereignty of heaven?

© leah chang

Saturday, June 09, 2007

Called into Faithful Community

I found yet another Bible study handout from several years ago; I've included just a few of the texts here, since most are very familiar and you easily can check out the rest from your own Bible or online. Notice I'm not even compulsively linking to the texts! Notice, too, at the end I've cited the basic source I developed this from.


Called into Faithful Community | Living as Exodus People

Wordspeak:

* Called
* Faithful
* Community
* Living Exodus
* People

Scripture:

* Genesis 1:1 - 2:4 - Creator of All
* Genesis 6:1 - 9:17 - Keeper of Covenant
* Deuteronomy 4:32-38 - Lord of History
* Leviticus 19:1-18; 25:1-55 - Designer of Community
* Deuteronomy 6:1-25 - God of All

Genesis 1:1 - 2:4 - Creator of All

Not only does God create everything; God also provides for the environment all creation needs to live faithfully and fully. God creates humanity in the Image of the Divine - Imago Dei; in Genesis 2:3 we encounter the Bible's first use of the word "holy."
Genesis 2

3 So God blessed the seventh day and hallowed it, because on it God rested from all the work that he had done in creation.
...holy time, in which all of us live and which is essential for everyone.

Genesis 6:1 - 9:17 - Keeper of Covenant

Our God Who freely and faithfully covenants with us, the People of God
Genesis 6

18 But I will establish my covenant with you; and you shall come into the ark, you, your sons, your wife, and your sons’ wives with you. 19 And of every living thing, of all flesh, you shall bring two of every kind into the ark, to keep them alive with you; they shall be male and female.

Genesis 8

1 But God remembered Noah and all the wild animals and all the domestic animals that were with him in the ark.

Genesis 9

8 Then God said to Noah and to his sons with him, 9 ‘As for me, I am establishing my covenant with you and your descendants after you, 10 and with every living creature that is with you, the birds, the domestic animals, and every animal of the earth with you, as many as came out of the ark. 11 I establish my covenant with you, that never again shall all flesh be cut off by the waters of a flood, and never again shall there be a flood to destroy the earth.’ 12 God said, ‘This is the sign of the covenant that I make between me and you and every living creature that is with you, for all future generations: 13 I have set my bow in the clouds, and it shall be a sign of the covenant between me and the earth. 14 When I bring clouds over the earth and the bow is seen in the clouds, 15 I will remember my covenant that is between me and you and every living creature of all flesh; and the waters shall never again become a flood to destroy all flesh. 16 When the bow is in the clouds, I will see it and remember the everlasting covenant between God and every living creature of all flesh that is on the earth.’ 17 od said to Noah, ‘This is the sign of the covenant that I have established between me and all flesh that is on the earth.’
But what is the nature of covenant? What other covenants are in the Bible? Try tracing them!
Deuteronomy 4:32-38 - Lord of History

32 For ask now about former ages, long before your own, ever since the day that God created human beings on the earth; ask from one end of heaven to the other: has anything so great as this ever happened or has its like ever been heard of? 33 Has any people ever heard the voice of a god speaking out of a fire, as you have heard, and lived? 3 4Or has any god ever attempted to go and take a nation for himself from the midst of another nation, by trials, by signs and wonders, by war, by a mighty hand and an outstretched arm, and by terrifying displays of power, as the Lord your God did for you in Egypt before your very eyes? 35 To you it was shown so that you would acknowledge that the Lord is God; there is no other besides him. 36 From heaven he made you hear his voice to discipline you. On earth he showed you his great fire, while you heard his words coming out of the fire.

37 And because he loved your ancestors, he chose their descendants after them. He brought you out of Egypt with his own presence, by his great power, 38 driving out before you nations greater and mightier than yourselves, to bring you in, giving you their land for a possession, as it is still today. 39 So acknowledge today and take to heart that the Lord is God in heaven above and on the earth beneath; there is no other. 40 Keep his statutes and his commandments, which I am commanding you today for your own well-being and that of your descendants after you, so that you may long remain in the land that the Lord your God is giving you for all time.
Leviticus 19:1-18; 25:1-55 - Designer of Community
Leviticus 19

1 The Lord spoke to Moses, saying: 2 Speak to all the congregation of the people of Israel and say to them: You shall be holy, for I the Lord your God am holy.
The rest of this chapter are ordinances for ordering and living within a just and righteous society, with "I am the Lord" or "I am the Lord your God" following each declaration; this section includes giving of the Ten Commandments.

And Leviticus 25 is the Jubilee text! As well as isntructions for redemption of land, real property and chattel. "Jubilee" so points to Jesus' establishing the Sovereignty of God, Kingdom of Heaven, Reign of God - whatever expression you prefer - and, of course, the Reign of Christ is the fulness of God's reign and the fulness of Jubilee.
Leviticus 25

1 The Lord spoke to Moses on Mount Sinai, saying: 2 Speak to the people of Israel and say to them: When you enter the land that I am giving you, the land shall observe a sabbath for the Lord. 3 For six years you shall sow your field, and for six years you shall prune your vineyard, and gather in their yield; 4 but in the seventh year there shall be a sabbath of complete rest for the land, a sabbath for the Lord: you shall not sow your field or prune your vineyard. 5 You shall not reap the aftergrowth of your harvest or gather the grapes of your unpruned vine: it shall be a year of complete rest for the land. 6 You may eat what the land yields during its sabbath—you, your male and female slaves, your hired and your bound labourers who live with you; 7 for your livestock also, and for the wild animals in your land all its yield shall be for food.

8 You shall count off seven weeks of years, seven times seven years, so that the period of seven weeks of years gives forty-nine years. 9 Then you shall have the trumpet sounded loud; on the tenth day of the seventh month—on the day of atonement—you shall have the trumpet sounded throughout all your land. 10 And you shall hallow the fiftieth year and you shall proclaim liberty throughout the land to all its inhabitants. It shall be a jubilee for you: you shall return, every one of you, to your property and every one of you to your family. 11 That fiftieth year shall be a jubilee for you: you shall not sow, or reap the aftergrowth, or harvest the unpruned vines. 12 For it is a jubilee; it shall be holy to you: you shall eat only what the field itself produces. ...

... I am the Lord your God.
Deuteronomy 6:1-25 - God of All
Deuteronomy 6

1 Now this is the commandment—the statutes and the ordinances—that the Lord your God charged me to teach you to observe in the land that you are about to cross into and occupy, 2 so that you and your children and your children’s children may fear the Lord your God all the days of your life, and keep all his decrees and his commandments that I am commanding you, so that your days may be long. 3 Hear therefore, O Israel, and observe them diligently, so that it may go well with you, and so that you may multiply greatly in a land flowing with milk and honey, as the Lord, the God of your ancestors, has promised you.

4 Hear, O Israel: The Lord is our God, the Lord alone. 5 You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your might. 6 Keep these words that I am commanding you today in your heart. 7 Recite them to your children and talk about them when you are at home and when you are away, when you lie down and when you rise. 8 Bind them as a sign on your hand, fix them as an emblem on your forehead, 9 and write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.
"Into the land" is the deuteronomic historian's (Deuteronomy, Joshua, Judges, Samuel, Kings) constant refrain; it clearly shows God's Jubilee passion for the total and complete needs of creation, which supremely includes physical and temporal sustenance as well as spiritual.

Ideas source, etc.

The Bible Speaks: Old Testament, Unit 1: The Shaping of a Faith Community
© 1998, Curriculum Publishing PC(USA), Louisville, Kentucky

Sunday, May 27, 2007

Pentecost Bulletin Text

Here's the actual bulletin cover.

In the Bible and in Christian tradition, there is no narrative or legend about the creation of fire, but there are abundant experiences of visible evidence of the Divine Presence in some form of fire. From the desert of the Exodus through Isaiah's vision in the temple, to Malachi and to John the Baptizer's promise of One who will baptize not only with water, but with Spirit and with Fire, a strand of purifying, redemptive heat weaves through the witness of scripture. Luke begins the Acts of the Apostles with the risen Christ promising the apostles' forthcoming baptism with the Holy Spirit; in the next chapter, we hear about the Spirit given to individuals gathered in community.

The Spirit of Life that raised Jesus from the dead calls us from wherever we are, and gathers us into this assembly that already has experienced its first death and its second birth. The Holy Spirit of God and of the Christ shapes and forms us into the people of God in this place, a gathering of the ordinary that daily walks the extraordinary Way of the crucified and risen Jesus Christ, living as an alternative community to those under the reign of death.

Like the apostles of Jesus Christ two thousand years ago, we live baptized into the cross of Calvary, into the empty grave of Easter dawn, and into the freedom and fire of Pentecost. When our friends and neighbors meet us, like Jesus' disciples of old, may they also become witnesses to the Risen Christ!

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Prayers of Kierkegaard

Bønner af Kierkegaard | Samuel Barber

O Thou who art unchangeable
, whom nothing changes, may we find our rest and remain at rest in Thee unchanging. Thou art moved and moved in infinite love by all things: the need of a sparrow, even this moves Thee; and what we scarcely see, a human sigh, this moves Thee, O infinite love! But nothing changes Thee, O Thou unchanging!

Lord Jesus Christ, who suffered all life long that I, too, might be saved, and whose suffering still knows no end, this, too, wilt Thou endure; saving and redeeming me, this patient suffering of me with whom Thou hast to do - I, who so often go astray.

Father in Heaven, well we know that it is Thou that giveth both to will and to do, that also longing, when it leads us to renew the fellowship with our saviour and redeemer, is from Thee. Father in heaven, longing is Thy gift. But when longing lays hold of us, oh, that we might lay hold of the longing when it would carry us away, that we also might give ourselves up, when Thou art near to summon us, that we also in prayer might stay near Thee! When Thou in the longing dost offer us the highest good, oh, that we might hold it fast!

Father in Heaven! Hold not our sins up against us, but hold us up against our sins, so that the thought of Thee should not remind us of what we have committed, but of what Thou didst forgive; not how we went astray, but how Thou didst save us!


The words are taken from The Journals, Christian Discourses and The Unchangeableness of God, selected and edited by the composer.

About Yahweh...

One of the revolutionary things about Yahweh is that Yahweh, unlike the other gods of the Ancient Near East, didn't require appeasement, tribute, protection or beseeching! What does Yahweh require and demand? Here's some scriptural evidence:

Amos 5:18-24

I hate, I loathe, I despise your festivals
I am not appeased by and I take no delight in your solemn assemblies.
Even though you offer Me burnt offerings—and grain offerings—
I will not accept them; ...

Spare Me the noise of your songs,
I will not listen to or hear the music of your lutes and harps.
But let justice well up like water,
And righteousness like an unfailing ever flowing stream.

Micah 6:8

...And what does the Lord require of you but to do justice and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God?

3rd Isaiah: Isaiah 58:6-8

Is not this the fast I choose: to loose the bonds of wickedness, to undo the heavy burdens, to set the broken free, and to shatter every subjugation?

Is it not to share your bread with the hungry, and to bring into your house the homeless, cast out poor, to cover the naked and defenseless, and not to conceal yourself from your own flesh?

Then shall your light break forth like the morning dawn, and your healing shall spring forth speedily; your righteousness shall go before you, and the glory of the Lord shall be your safety and security.

Monday, May 07, 2007

Exodus Class Notes 4

Session 4

Exodus 19:1-6

Into the Sinai wilderness – the Lord called Moses out of the mountain; Eagles’ Wings!

If you will obey my voice and keep my covenant

God’s possession

A Kingdom of Priests

A Holy People

"These are the Words" – which you shall speak (see my handout for this class)

Exodus 19:7 Moses set before the elders all the words – "We will do the word of the Lord!"

"Performing the Scriptures"

19:9 The Lord in a thick cloud; wash their garments!

19:11 On the 3rd day the Lord from Mount Sinai in the sight of all the people

19:12 "Set bounds"

19:18 Mount Sinai wrapped in smoke

19:20 The Lord down to the top of the mountain called Moses up to the top of the mountain.

20:1-17 Ten Commandments: I am the Lord your God who brought you out of bondage; no graven images

20:24 In every place I cause my name to be remembered

21 – 22 – 23 These are the ordinances

22:21 You shall not wrong or oppress a stranger for you were strangers in Egypt

22:29 First-born

23:9 You shall not oppress a stranger; you know the heart of a stranger.

Passover ~ Feast of Weeks ~ Feast of Booths (Tabernacles)

Exodus 24 Aaron, Nadab, Abihu – 70 of the elders

24:3 Moses told the people the words of the Lord and the ordinances

24:7-8 Book of the Covenant; Blood of the Covenant – blood enables "doing the words"

24:7b All the words...we will do

24:15-16 Glory of the Lord in the cloud

24:17 A devouring fire

24:18 40 days and 40 nights

25:8 "Then have them make a sanctuary for me, that I may dwell in their midst..."

Exodus Class Notes 3

Session 3

Exodus 12:1 – 18:27; 32:1 – 34:35; 40:34-38

"Not exclusionists" Moses doesn’t obscure the Word!

Passover: Exodus 12:1-14, 21-28, 43-49

12 plagues hadn’t happened yet; prediction of death as the last plague.

Readiness – be ready to leave immediately! Be ready to get out, to leave.

Sourdough starter was ANE "yeast"

Nomadic religion is a religion of promise and one of speed!!!!!

Dedication of first-born: Exodus 13:1-2, 11-16

"The Crisis at the Frontier" – Exodus 12:37-42 verse 37…to the city of Succoth…

The journey is the whole entire point!!!!!

Exodus 14:2 – "Tell the Israelites to turn back and encamp near Pi Hahiroth, between Migdol and the sea. They are to encamp by the sea, directly opposite Baal Zephon…" – God is luring Pharaoh one more time.

Exodus 15 The Song of Moses and Miriam

1 Then Moses and the Israelites sang this song to the Lord :

"I will sing to the Lord,
for he is highly exalted.
The horse and its rider
he has hurled into the sea.
2 The Lord is my strength and my song;
he has become my salvation.
He is my God, and I will praise him,
my father’s God, and I will exalt him…

6 "Your right hand, O Lord,
was majestic in power.
Your right hand, O Lord,
shattered the enemy.
7 In the greatness of your majesty
you threw down those who opposed you.
You unleashed your burning anger;
it consumed them like stubble.
8 By the blast of your nostrils
the waters piled up.
The surging waters stood firm like a wall;
the deep waters congealed in the heart of the sea…

11 "Who among the gods is like you, O Lord?
Who is like you –
majestic in holiness,
awesome in glory,
working wonders?
12 You stretched out your right hand
and the earth swallowed them.

13 "In your unfailing love you will lead
the people you have redeemed.
In your strength you will guide them
to your holy dwelling.
14 The nations will hear and tremble;
anguish will grip the people of Philistia.
15 The chiefs of Edom will be terrified,
the leaders of Moab will be seized with trembling,
the people of Canaan will melt away;
16 terror and dread will fall upon them.
By the power of your arm
they will be as still as a stone –
until your people pass by, O Lord,
until the people you bought pass by.
17 You will bring them in and plant them
on the mountain of your inheritance –
the place, O Lord, you made for your dwelling,
the sanctuary, O Lord, your hands established.
18 The Lord will reign
for ever and ever."

19 When Pharaoh’s horses, chariots and horsemen went into the sea, the Lord brought the waters of the sea back over them, but the Israelites walked through the sea on dry ground. 20 Then Miriam the prophetess, Aaron’s sister, took a tambourine in her hand, and all the women followed her, with tambourines and dancing. 21 Miriam sang to them:

"Sing to the Lord,
for he is highly exalted.
The horse and its rider
he has hurled into the sea."

17:8-16 Fighting the Amelekites / Malachites

Exodus 15:22 Waters of Marah – "bitter" sulfur in the water

Exodus 16:4 – out of food!

Then the Lord said to Moses, "I will rain down bread from heaven for you…"

"Bread from Heaven" – forever the symbol of God’s provision.

"God’s providence is sooo different from what we would imagine!"

The natural order is God’s provision

Exodus 16:22-30 – here’s the first mention of the Sabbath:

23 He said to them, "This is what the Lord commanded: ‘Tomorrow is to be a day of rest, a holy Sabbath to the Lord. So bake what you want to bake and boil what you want to boil. Save whatever is left and keep it until morning.’ "

Moses wanted Jethro to stay: Exodus 18

"They wanted to ‘see’ something!" Exodus 32 – "The calf just happened to happen!"?

Exodus 33 – Leave Mount Sinai (Horeb = Sinai); Tent of Meeting; Moses and the Glory of the Lord

Exodus Class Notes 2

Session 2

Any place God meets God’s people is Holy Ground!

Moses’ excuses?

Remember Exodus 32?

The Golden Calf


32:1 When the people saw that Moses was so long in coming down from the mountain, they gathered around Aaron and said, "Come, make us gods who will go before us. As for this fellow Moses who brought us up out of Egypt, we don’t know what has happened to him."

2 Aaron answered them, "Take off the gold earrings that your wives, your sons and your daughters are wearing, and bring them to me." 3 So all the people took off their earrings and brought them to Aaron. 4 He took what they handed him and made it into an idol cast in the shape of a calf, fashioning it with a tool. Then they said, "These are your gods, O Israel, who brought you up out of Egypt."

5 When Aaron saw this, he built an altar in front of the calf and announced, "Tomorrow there will be a festival to the Lord." 6 So the next day the people rose early and sacrificed burnt offerings and presented fellowship offerings. Afterward they sat down to eat and drink and got up to indulge in revelry.

7 Then the Lord said to Moses, "Go down, because your people, whom you brought up out of Egypt, have become corrupt. 8 They have been quick to turn away from what I commanded them and have made themselves an idol cast in the shape of a calf. They have bowed down to it and sacrificed to it and have said, ‘These are your gods, O Israel, who brought you up out of Egypt.’

9 "I have seen these people," the Lord said to Moses, "and they are a stiff-necked people. 10 Now leave me alone so that my anger may burn against them and that I may destroy them. Then I will make you into a great nation."

11 But Moses sought the favor of the Lord his God. "O Lord," he said, "why should your anger burn against your people, whom you brought out of Egypt with great power and a mighty hand? 12 Why should the Egyptians say, ‘It was with evil intent that he brought them out, to kill them in the mountains and to wipe them off the face of the earth’? Turn from your fierce anger; relent and do not bring disaster on your people. 13 Remember your servants Abraham, Isaac and Israel, to whom you swore by your own self: ‘I will make your descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and I will give your descendants all this land I promised them, and it will be their inheritance forever.’

Back to Exodus 3:12 – I will be with you!

Names were "exquisitely important!" Moses – sound is Egyptian for "child"

God forever – of the past, present, future

Exodus 3:18 – 3 days into the desert

Exodus 3:21-22 – take stuff from the Egyptians – "power signs" "gamma ray bursts"

Exodus 4:14-16 God chooses so God provides – a human relationship to image the divine relationship

Exodus 4:19-26 – Read

Exodus 3:24 – "kill Moses?" Exodus 4:24 At a lodging place on the way, the Lord met {Moses} [or "Moses’ son" – Hebrew, "him"] and was about to kill him.

4:26 – "Bridegroom of blood"

Exodus Class Notes 1

During Winter 2003 we blitzed through the book of Exodus; finally I'm blogging my notes for safekeeping.

Session 1

Covenant and Redemption


Joseph and brothers were a relatively small group. Exodus 1:8 "a new king who did not know Joseph."

Hyksos – rulers ca. 1800 started conquering people. Settled in Egypt about 200 years. Amenhotep’s ancestors came to power; Hapiru were a threat on Egypt’s borders.

Goshen, between the Nile River and the Sea of Reeds in the Nile Delta – where Joseph settled – was the Scripps Ranch of Egypt.

By 1300 Hebrews were fully enslaved – like us, they quested for security! Habiru / Hapiru were the same race; some went back to Canaan.

Hyksos sort of came from the Hittites.

Hebrews think in WHOLES!!!!! Religious and secular sectors interpenetrate and are congruent.

"Palestine" is a Syrian word.

"Something of the harem thing was going on."

Amenhotep was a pharaoh who stopped worshiping his ancestral gods and instead set up a temple to Ra: Ra was the only god!!!!! Here we have the possibility of monotheism.

Jethro, Moses’ father-in-law = Reuel.

Exodus 2:24 – God heard their cry!!!

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Mission Study Notes

As you can see, this is more than 2-1/2 years old; I'm finally blogging it, mainly for safekeeping, since this puter will be history before long.

Today's Date: Thursday, April 12, 2007

To: Mission Study Committee
Date: Wednesday, September 15, 2004

Greetings in the name of our Risen and Ascended Lord!

Although I realize the Mission Study Committee welcomes input from everyone, a specific member of the Committee was kind enough specifically to request a contribution from me, so here are some comments. These observations come from my worshiping and participating within this congregation since Reformation Sunday 2000; my insights also grow out of my experiences serving a series of local churches as a full-time called lay professional. My first position was in the now-former Lutheran Church in America, one of the antecedent denominations of the ELCA; following those years I served four socially, culturally and economically very different congregations of the United Church of Christ.

Identity

But back to this church! Above all, any expression of the church, whether local, regional, countrywide or global, constantly needs to remember and act in awareness of its identity as a servant people, gathered in the power of the Holy Spirit and sent into the world as witnesses to the resurrection, proclaiming in word and action the presence of the risen Christ. On Maundy Thursday evening, in bestowing the New Covenant of sacrificial love, Jesus commanded his disciples to serve; afterwards, as Jesus' words from the cross birthed the Church that became reborn at Easter dawn and empowered on the Day of Pentecost, God's call to the Church has been and still persists as a call to a people baptized into both the cross of Mount Calvary and the empty tomb of Easter; God's call to us, the church of Jesus Christ, continues as a charge to act in the freedom of risking love.

Service

The young church we read about in Acts first ordained not Ministers of Word and Sacrament and not Elders; the newly-born community first ordained Deacons, thus from the beginning defining and identifying the church as servant of the people. We know the human Jesus as the definitive manifestation of Yahweh, the Servant-God of the people Israel; Jesus Christ calls us, both as persons and as community, to the type of self-giving he demonstrated; Jesus' living example and life-giving Words beckon and compel us to the inclusive and sometimes costly hospitality of unconditionally welcoming everyone. However, no local church—not this one or any other—is able to be or even to become "all things to all people," either in strength of service or style of worship, despite Paul of Tarsus' telling us that was his aspiration!

Worship

Worship is the highest purpose of the people of God, and worship – especially weekly Sunday worship – models a vision of and becomes a microcosm of the redeemed, restored, resurrected – Eastered – community, preparing and enabling us in the Holy Spirit for service during the following week. However, this is a congregation of a particular denomination, which in turn belongs to the distinct and distinctive tradition of Reformed Christianity, and although Reformed worship can range in style from very casual, relatively "low church" to highly liturgical, I strongly feel any local church needs to keep their worship coherent and consonant with the larger tradition with which it identifies.

Non-Traditional Worship

In addition, the structure and content of much "contemporary" worship—a style actually popularized a few decades ago in the 1970s—has evolved from the revivalist, frontier and Pentecostal traditions rather than the Reformed, and this type of worship carries with it the burden of its own theology that is not in alignment with the Reformers' insistence (as well as the historical praxis of the church bodies that evolved from the Geneva and Wittenberg Reforms) on recovering and restoring the early church's unvarying convention of keeping Word and Sacrament tightly yoked together. In fact, just as the late Medieval Church, in losing the Word had lost the essence of the Sacraments, some of the post-Reformation churches, in jettisoning regular sacramental practice and understanding lost the essence of the Word, the mystery of the hidden and elusive God who nonetheless self-reveals, but principally in paradoxical ways, particularly in the common "stuff" of everyday creation.

And regarding the prospect of two Sunday services, though this isn't the place to cite statistics, in general, most churches have not attempted more than a single main Sunday morning worship service until and unless the size of the worshiping congregation reached approximately 60% to 70% of the capacity of the worship area. You may realize that when there is more than one Sunday morning service, it frequently divides people into an us and a them, a division that gradually becomes detrimental in terms of the church's larger mission. Because of these factors of substance and culture, I'd be extremely cautious in offering a second worship service at this particular time.

Further Concerns

As someone observed some weeks ago during Sunday morning adult study, our society has become geographically fragmented with families scattered all over the country and sometimes beyond its borders, and because of this the usual practice of families supporting and caring for other family members often is not working because for plain practical reasons it cannot work. With family members not seeing or speaking to one another and families broken by divorce, anger, desertion and misunderstanding being close to routine, the (local) church more and more is in the situation of needing to function in the role of the absent biological family. Given this reality, and despite our primary call to be and become a people in mission beyond the boundaries of our everyday worlds and in spite of our call to be a people "sent" into the world to be the Christ acting in justice, righteousness and mercy to a world in need, in the near and more distant future this congregation may need to consider initiating formal structures in addition to the excellent work of the diaconate to provide for these family needs.

These are my remarks for now; many blessings as you continue prayer, discussion and action toward helping delineate and make possible our future as a faithful community of the people of God in this corner of the city!

Saturday, March 31, 2007

Easter 4 A Study

I found another class handout from spring 2005—year A; here it is.

Acts 2:42-47

42 They committed themselves to the teaching of the apostles, the life together, the common meal, and the prayers.

43 Everyone around was in awe—all those wonders and signs done through the apostles! 44 And all the believers lived in a wonderful harmony, holding everything in common 45 sold whatever they owned and pooled their resources so that each person's need was met.

46 They followed a daily discipline of worship in the Temple followed by meals at home, every meal a celebration, exuberant and joyful, 47 as they praised God. People in general liked what they saw. Every day their number grew as God added those who were saved. MSG

Review: Acts 1:1 - 2:41
  • Ascension
  • Day of Pentecost


Acts 2:42-47, Word Study
  • 42 Teaching "of the apostles" | didache - in Greek
  • life together | community, common, koinonia - in Greek
  • common meal | Greek: "breaking of bread" | Holy Communion, Eucharist, Lord's Supper?
  • Prayers...who, when, where, why and how?
  • 43 Awe in every soul, psyche - in Greek. What familiar word begins with "psych?"
  • Wonders and signs | semeia - in Greek, like the English, "semaphore!" | Through the apostles; how?
  • 45 Selling possessions and sharing the proceeds fulfilled the Jubilee Jesus announced at the very beginning of his public ministry.
  • 47 Liked what they saw - the Greek is charis, the same word we use for grace; we also get charisma and charismatic from the same root word!


Acts 2:42-47, Where we Live
  1. Have you experienced the kind of community this text describes?
  2. How does this church do in terms of: teaching; community; prayer and worship; sharing resources; service to one another and to the surrounding neighborhoods?
  3. What aspect of the early church do you most want for yourself? For this congregation?

Friday, March 30, 2007

theology of the cross 6

Although I planned this sixth class for NPC as a wrap and recap of the previous five, it was Palm / Passion Sunday, everyone participated in Holy Week and Easter prep so we didn't meet. I offered this series at OS-ELCA-NP for the adults for the five evenings of VBS during summer 2007, so we would not have needed a sixth session there anyway.


Theology of the Cross: what does this mean for the Church’s and especially for this congregation’s life and mission?
1. Go to dark Gethsemane, ye that feel the tempter's power;
Your Redeemer's conflict see, watch with Him one bitter hour,
Turn not from His griefs away; learn of Jesus Christ to pray.

2. See Him at the judgment hall, beaten, bound, reviled, arraigned;
O the wormwood and the gall! O the pangs His soul sustained!
Shun not suffering, shame, or loss; learn of Christ to bear the cross.

3. Calvary's mournful mountain climb; there, adoring at His feet,
Mark that miracle of time, God's own sacrifice complete. "It is finished!" hear Him cry; learn of Jesus Christ to die.

4. Early hasten to the tomb where they laid His breathless clay;
All is solitude and gloom. Who has taken Him away?
Christ is risen! He meets our eyes; Savior, teach us so to rise.

James Montgomery, in Selection of Psalms and Hymns, by Thomas Cotterill (London: 1820).
The cross of Calvary forms the ultimate type and reality of God’s characteristically hidden and paradoxical, sacramental presence in the commonest things, situations and people. Especially in the cross we learn God totally subverts evil for good, as the death of Jesus Christ becomes a redemptive reality for all creation.

Throughout the witness of scripture, we find God's Self-revelation from a series of mountains: the Mount Sinai Covenant recorded in Exodus 20:3-17 and Deuteronomy 5:6-21; the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5:1-11 (there's the parallel Sermon on the Plain plus in Luke 6:17...); the Transfiguration, with Mount Tabor, rising out of the Jezreel Valley as one of the traditional suspects; finally, Mount Calvary brings God's definitive self-revelation, and ultimate covenant! (I love the name of the hymn tune, Bryn Calfaria...)

New Covenant: Jeremiah 31:31-34; 1 Corinthians 11:23-26; Luke 22:[19]-20; 2 Corinthians 3:4-8; read the book of Acts!

New Covenant: On the day of Pentecost, Jews commemorated the Sinai Covenant; on the Christian Pentecost, we celebrate the gift of the Spirit through which God enables us to perform the New Covenant. Read the book of Acts!

Jesus said, "Do this!" Do this liturgical action? In the power of the Holy Spirit, God calls the church―
  • As the body of the risen Christ, the Bread of Life, to nourish the world, especially the stranger, the outcast and the "other";
  • As branches of Jesus, the Vine, to pour out our lives to those around us.

12. What does the cross mean for the world in which we live and serve?

Martin Luther begins his Small Catechism – traditional preparation for First Communion – with the 10 Commandments. Walter Brueggemann observes, "It is the God of the Commandments with whom we commune!" In the Book of Common Prayer, The Holy Eucharist, Rite One, begins with the Ten Commandments―with the Great Commandment as an alternative.

We’ve been discussing God’s action and presence in the sacraments, considered a “means of grace.” American theologian Robert McAfee Brown suggested that people who aren’t practicing justice and righteousness in their daily lives should be kept from the Communion Table.

Decalogue: Exodus 20:3-17; Deuteronomy 5:6-21; the Great Commandment: Mark 12:28-31; Matthew 22:36-48

Some churches practice foot washing as a sacrament or as preparation for participating in the Lord's Supper. Think about it!

13. The cross of Jesus Christ: Foolishness to the Greeks and foolishness to us?

"When Christ calls us, he bids us come and die...to go one's way under the sign of the cross is not misery and desperation, but peace and refreshment for the soul, it is the highest joy...we do not walk under our self-made laws and burdens, but under the yoke of him who knows us and walks under the yoke with us." Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Nachfolge (Discipleship)

14. Concluding questions, observations and loose ends.

For Paul, the gospel is death and resurrection.

Jubilee Year Redemption for all creation: Leviticus 25:8-24; Leviticus 23 and 24:

The land must not be sold permanently, because the land is mine and you are but aliens and my tenants. Throughout the country that you hold as a possession, you must provide for the redemption of the land.

How does living as people of the cross ultimately lead to Jubilee Justice for all creation?
Let us Talents and Tongues Employ

1. Let us talents and tongues employ,
reaching out with a shout of joy:
bread is broken, the wine is poured,
Christ is spoken and seen and heard.
Jesus lives again, earth can breathe again,
pass the Word around: loaves abound!

2. Christ is able to make us one,
at his table he sets the tone,
teaching people to live to bless,
love in word and in deed express.
Jesus lives again, earth can breathe again,
pass the Word around: loaves abound!

3. Jesus calls us in, sends us out
bearing fruit in a world of doubt,
gives us love to tell, bread to share:
God, Immanuel, everywhere!
Jesus lives again, earth can breathe again,
pass the Word around: loaves abound!

–Fred Kaan, 1975–
© Leah Chang 2007

Saturday, March 24, 2007

Holy Week Lections

Monday

Isaiah 42:1-9
Roman Catholic reading: Isaiah 42:1-7

Psalm 36:5-11
Roman Catholic reading: Psalm 27:1, 2, 3, 13-14
Episcopal reading: Psalm 36:5-10

Hebrews 9:11-15
Episcopal reading: Hebrews 11:39 - 12:3

John 12:1-11
Episcopal reading: same as above or Mark 14:3-9

Tuesday

Isaiah 49:1-7
Roman Catholic reading: Isaiah 49:1-6
Episcopal reading: Isaiah 49:1-6

Psalm 71:1-14
Roman Catholic reading: Psalm 71:1-6, 15, 17
Episcopal reading: Psalm 71:1-12

1 Corinthians 1:18-31

John 12:20-36
Roman Catholic reading: John 13:21-33, 36-38
Episcopal reading: John 12:37-38, 42-50 or Mark 11:15-19

Wednesday

Isaiah 50:4-9

Psalm 70
Roman Catholic reading: Psalm 69:8-10, 21-22, 31, 33-34
Episcopal reading: Psalm 69:7-15, 22-23

Hebrews 12:1-3
Episcopal reading: Hebrews 9:11-15, 9:24-28

John 13:21-32
Roman Catholic reading: Matthew 26:14-25
Episcopal reading: John 13:21-35 or Matthew 26:1-5, Matthew 26:14-25

Thursday

Exodus 12:1-4, (5-10), 11-14
Roman Catholic reading: Exodus 12:1-8, 11-14
Episcopal reading: Exodus 12:1-14a

Psalm 116:1-2, 12-19
Roman Catholic reading: Psalm 116:12-13, 15-16, 17-18
Episcopal reading: Psalm 78:14-20, 23-25

1 Corinthians 11:23-26
Episcopal reading: 1 Corinthians 11:23-26, (27-32)

John 13:1-17, 31b-35
Roman Catholic reading: John 13:1-15
Episcopal reading: John 13:1-15 or Luke 22:14-30

Friday

Isaiah 52:13 - 53:12
Episcopal reading: Isaiah 52:13 - 53:12 or Genesis 22:1-18 or Wisdom 2:1, 12-24

Psalm 22
Roman Catholic reading: Psalm 31:2, 6, 12-13, 15-16, 17, 25
Episcopal reading: Psalm 22:1-21 or Psalm 22:1-11 or Psalm 40:1-14 or Psalm 69:1-23

Hebrews 10:16-25 or Hebrews 4:14-16; 5:7-9
Roman Catholic reading: Hebrews 4:14-16; 5:7-9
Episcopal reading: Hebrews 10:1-25

John 18:1 - 19:42
Episcopal reading: (John 18:1-40), 19:1-37

Friday, March 23, 2007

Theology of the Cross 5

Theology of the Cross 5 | Lent 5 | 25 March 2007

Theology of the Cross:
what does this mean for the Church’s and especially for this congregation’s life and mission?

A Tree on Your Back

1. We meet you, O Christ, in many a guise,
your image we see in simple and wise.
You live in a palace, exist in a shack;
we see you the gardener, a tree on your back.

2. In millions alive, away and abroad;
involved in our life, you live down the road.
Imprisoned in systems, you long to be free;
we see you, Lord Jesus, still bearing your tree.

3. We hear you, O man, in agony cry;
for freedom you march, in riots you die.
Your face in the papers we read and we see.
The tree must be planted by human decree.

4. You choose to be made at one with the earth;
the dark of the grave prepares for your birth.
Your death is your rising, creative your word;
the tree springs to life and our hope is restored..

–Fred Kaan, 1966

The cross of Calvary forms the ultimate type and reality of God’s characteristically hidden and paradoxical, sacramental presence in the commonest things, situations and people. Interpreting scripture, sacraments, everything in our lives and in the world with "What preaches Christ."
  • Last week we talked some about God’s action and presence in the sacraments – considered a “means of grace” in this tradition – and began imagining ways we can be a means of grace in the world around us.

  • It’s impossible to separate out today’s discussion topics, so I’ve suggested some texts and ideas to get us started.

A Theology of Baptism

Galatians 3:26-29; Titus 3:5-8; 1 Corinthians 12:12-13; Romans 6:1-14; Ephesians 4:4-6; Mark 1:4-11; Matthew 3:11-17; Luke 3:15-22

Theologian Jürgen Moltmann describes baptism as “sign, witness, representation and illumination of the Christ Event”; we can claim the same about the Eucharist. We know Jesus Christ as sovereign, prophet and priest; alive in Christ, we participate in that royal, prophetic priesthood. Especially in regard to those roles, how can our lives signify, witness to, represent and illuminate the birth, life, death, resurrection and ascension of Jesus Christ?

Contextualizing Baptism

We are baptized for events like 9/11; we are baptized to be the Christ alongside our friends, relatives and neighbors; we are baptized to not be an exclusive community, but to risk reaching out to image and model Jesus Christ to the world – including those who are culturally, ethnically, chronologically, occupationally, educationally different from us; to recognize Jesus Christ in others and to be the presence of the crucified and risen Jesus Christ in their lives.

A Theology of the Eucharist

1 Corinthians 10:16-17; 1 Corinthians 11:23-26; Mark 14:22-25; Matthew 26:26-29; Luke 22:14-20; Luke 24:30-31; John 6:33; John 6:51; John 6:56

Jesus said, “Do this!” Do this liturgical action?

Contextualizing Eucharist

Jesus says, “I am the Bread of Life; I am the Vine!” In every culture, grain products form a substantial nutritional base; the grain may be rice, wheat, corn, wheat, barley...the fruit of the vine is a potent and pervasive biblical symbol, and beyond there and then, lately we’ve been learning a lot about grape’s benefits! In the power of the Holy Spirit, God calls the church—
  • As the body of the risen Christ, the Bread of Life, to nourish the world, especially the stranger, the outcast and the ‘other’

  • Like the Eucharist, to reveal Jesus’ crucified body in its redeeming brokenness

  • To reveal Christ’s risen body in its liberating wholeness

  • As branches of Jesus, the Vine, to pour out our lives to those around us

9. What does the cross mean for each of us as individuals?

Galatians 3:1-5; 2 Corinthians 5:16-21; Ephesians 1:17-23; Matthew 28:16-20; Luke 24: 44-49; Acts 1:6-8; 2 Timothy 2:8-13; 1 Peter 2:9-10

10. What does the cross mean for this church community?

From Water Buffalo Theology: Suffering because we’re involved with others, involved with the other; participating in the “glory of the crucified Lord”. My note: the same Paul of Tarsus also talks about “the glory of the children of God!” And isn’t our glory as God’s offspring also a crucified glory and a risen glory?

11. What does all of this mean for our nearby neighbors?

When I was on staff at the church in City of History, I wrote their Mission Statement:
We are the people of God, forgiven and set free by the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ; by the power of the Holy Spirit we are called together and sent into the world as witnesses to his resurrection. God calls us, a servant people, to proclaim in word and action the presence of the risen Lord to all those whom our lives touch, especially in this community.
The author of Water Buffalo Theology talks about “neighborology”—the word about the neighbor! The Bible and Jesus Christ reveal God’s attachment to the world of creation to the point of learning and knowing us so completely as to walk in our sandals (Tevas, or flip-flops or boots or snow boots...) and to die a physical death, just as all of us inevitably will. Especially in the shadow of the cross, how can we practice neighborology?

© Leah Chang 2007

Friday, March 16, 2007

Theology of the Cross 4

The class also will get a 2-page handout with some Heidelberg Catechism and some Q&A from the 1998 Study Catechism of the PC(USA); I chose those two because Luther's Small and the Shorter Westminster probably are more familiar in this country.

Theology of the Cross: what does this mean for the Church’s and especially for this congregation’s life and mission?
Here we will take the wine and the water;
here we will take the bread of new birth,
here you shall call your sons and your daughters,
call us anew to be salt for the earth.

Give us to drink the wine of compassion;
give us to eat the bread that is you;
nourish us well, and teach us to fashion
lives that are holy and hearts that are true.

Marty Haugen, Here in This Place/Gather Us In, © 1982 GIA Publications, Inc.

I, the Lord of font and cup,
covenant to lift you up.
Splash the water, break the bread; pour out your lives.
Faithfully my love you’ll show,
so their hearts will always know,
They are mine eternally...

© Linda LeBron, 2002

Theology of glory vs. theology of the cross: Theologians of the cross build their theology in the light of God’s own revelation of himself, particularly God’s self-revelation in Christ crucified. The cross of Calvary forms a paradigm and model for God’s characteristically hidden and paradoxical, sacramental presence in the commonest things, situations and people.

•Interpreting scripture, sacraments and everything in our lives and in the world with “What preaches Christ.” Especially look for God’s hidden yet apparent presence and for “Types of Christ.” Imagine the classic attributes of God through the lens of the cross!

8. The Cross and the Sacraments

Study Catechism of the Presbyterian Church (USA), 1998

Question 70. What is the main difference between baptism and the Lord’s Supper?

While I receive baptism only once, I receive the Lord’s Supper again and again. Being unrepeatable, baptism indicates not only that Christ died for our sins once and for all, but that by grace we are also united with him once and for all through faith. Being repeatable, the Lord’s Supper indicates that as we turn unfilled to him again and again, our Lord continually meets us in the power of the Holy Spirit to renew and deepen our faith.

a. A Theology of Baptism

Galatians 3:26-29; Titus 3:5-8; 1 Corinthians 12:12-13; Romans 6:1-14; Ephesians 4:4-6; Mark 1:4-11; Matthew 3:11-17; Luke 3:15-22

Theologian Jürgen Moltmann describes baptism as “sign, witness, representation and illumination of the Christ Event.” We can claim the same about the Eucharist.
In baptism, God and the church claim us in covenant...baptized, we live reborn into the water of Jesus’ birth and we are alive in the fire of his death—the transforming, rebirthing power of the cross. As a baptized people, we no longer live under the reign of death, its idols and its artifacts, but in the alternative community countering the individualisms of covetousness, greed, commoditization, consumption, superfluity, satiation, and (ultimately) despair.

b. A Theology of the Eucharist

1 Corinthians 10:16-17; 1 Corinthians 11:23-26; Mark 14:22-25; Matthew 26:26-29 ; Luke 24:30-31; John 6:33; John 6:51; John 6:56

Jesus said, “Do this!” Do this liturgical action? In the Eucharist, the entire church and all creation in every age and time comes together; this is an action of the whole, entire church! Farmers, vintners, truckers, weavers, potters, storekeepers, builders, bakers, more... Moltmann said Christ’s invitation is prevenient. William Stringfellow says (paraphrased, from An Ethic for Christians and Other Aliens in a Strange Land) the Bread and Cup are “tokens of the Resurrection” and these “tokens...are discerned as the Word of God indwelling all creation and transfiguring human history.” Martin Luther: the ubiquity of the risen and ascended Christ.

  • Recall Israel and desert manna, enabling God’s people to live precariously in the wilderness
  • Bread = nourishing = body that is broken unto death and raised to new life
  • Christ’s body = revealed in the breaking of bread / body
  • Church = Body of the risen Christ = nourishing the world, especially the stranger, the outcast and the ‘other’
  • Church / reveals Jesus’ crucified body in its redeeming brokenness
  • Church / reveals Christ’s risen body in its liberating wholeness


Heidelberg Catechism, 1563

Question 76. What is it then to eat the crucified body, and drink the shed blood of Christ?

It is not only to embrace with believing heart all the sufferings and death of Christ and thereby to obtain the pardon of sin, and life eternal; but also, besides that, to become more and more united to his sacred body, by the Holy Ghost, who dwells both in Christ and in us; so that we, though Christ is in heaven and we on earth, are notwithstanding “flesh of his flesh and bone of his bone” and that we live, and are governed forever by one spirit, as members of the same body are by one soul.

The Holy Supper...but it means more. Through the Holy Spirit, who lives both in Christ and in us, we are united more and more to Christ’s blessed body. And so, although he is in heaven and we are on earth, we are flesh of his flesh and bone of his bone. And we forever live on and are governed by one Spirit, as members of our body are by one soul.

© Leah Chang 2007

Friday, March 09, 2007

Theology of the Cross 3

Theology of the Cross 3 | Lent 3 | 11 March 2007

Theology of the Cross: what does this mean for the Church’s and especially for this congregation’s life and mission?
All Who Love and Serve Your City

1. All who love and serve your city,
all who bear its daily stress,
all who cry for peace and justice,
all who curse and all who bless,

2. In your day of loss and sorrow,
in your day of helpless strife,
honor, peace, and love retreating,
seek the Lord, who is your life.

3. In your day of wrath and plenty,
wasted work and wasted play,
call to mind the word of Jesus,
“I must work while it is day.”

4. For all days are days of judgment,
and the Lord is waiting still,
drawing near a world that spurns him,
offering peace from Calvary’s hill.

5. Risen Lord! shall yet the city
be the city of despair?
Come today, our Judge, our Glory;
be its name, “The Lord is there!”

Words: Erik Routley © 1969 by Stainer & Bell Ltd., administered by Hope Publishing Co., Carol Stream, IL 60188
Theology of glory vs. theology of the cross: Theologians of the cross build their theology in the light of God’s own revelation of himself, particularly God’s self-revelation in Christ crucified. In addition, the cross of Calvary forms a paradigm and model for God’s characteristically hidden and paradoxical, sacramental presence in the commonest things, situations and people.
  • Law and Gospel; interpreting scripture and life with “What preaches Christ.”
6. Paul and his ilk; Martin Luther: the cross as Weltanschauung, as an all-encompassing worldview. Why?

Romans; Philippians—texts we looked last Sunday.

2 Corinthians 5:16-21 – we are a new creation; ministry of reconciliation

Colossians 1:15-20 – Christ reconciled all to himself, making peace through his shed blood

Colossians 2:9-15 – buried and raised with Christ, who disarmed and made a public spectacle of the powers and authorities

Hebrews 12:1-3 – for the joy set before him endured the cross; not the when or why of bad things happening to good people, but the how of God blessing us and all creation

Acts 1:5-8 – restore the Kingdom to Israel? In the power of the HS we are witnesses from Jerusalem to the ends of the earth!

Luther spoke about “The God Who became small for us in Christ”—small enough to die.

From Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Nachfolge (Discipleship): “When Christ calls us, he bids us come and die...to go one’s way under the sign of the cross is not misery and desperation, but peace and refreshment for the soul, it is the highest joy...we do not walk under our self-made laws and burdens, but under the yoke of him who knows us and walks under the yoke with us.”

Great Ends of the Church 6: The exhibition of the Kingdom of Heaven to the world – that’s us!

To the five Reformation solas – Sola Scriptura, Solus Christus, Sola Fide, Sola Gratia, Soli Deo Gloria – theologian Martin Marty adds a sixth: Cross Alone - Sola crux.

7. Some familiar theologians of the cross

Especially look for God’s hidden yet apparent presence and for “Types of Christ.” Today’s discussion primarily is about discovering lives that preach Christ crucified – and risen. However, it’s not only about being the presence of Christ to and for the world, living a responsive yet unassuming servant lifestyle that may take us to the Cross of Calvary; it also includes recognizing the presence of Christ in the world and in our neighbors. Matthew 25:31-40 – Lord, when did we see you hungry...”

For starters, here’s a very short list: Bonhoeffer; Dorothy Day; Gandhi; Martin Luther King; Desmond Tutu; Mother Teresa; us! Who else comes to mind? Some of our relatives, friends and neighbors? In the church and out of the church? Christian and not? Describe and explain.

A few days I was listening to Lionel Richie’s song, “Endless Love.” “My love, there’s only you in my life; you’re every breath I take; you’re every step I make, and I want to share all my love with you. Two heart, two hearts that beat as one...and love, I’ll be a fool for you – my endless love” reminds me of God’s love for us in Jesus Christ and of the foolish love any theologian of the cross has for all creation.

Considering these theologians of the cross—including us, particularly vis-à-vis our immediate neighbors, how do we become fools for love? Paul describes the cross as a scandal, a stumbling block to trip into and fall over to Jews who emphasize keeping the law to the extreme, and as complete foolishness to Greeks – or to anyone who aspires to high levels of intellectual pretense. Think about both of those aspects!

© Leah Chang 2007

Saturday, March 03, 2007

Water Buffalo Theology notes

Over on my main theology blog I've posted the handouts for last Sunday's and tomorrow's Theology of the Cross classes:


Since I've been blogging on a reasonably regular basis on all my blogs, this time I'm not cross-posting from there to here. However, today I'm posting here the 2-page handout of some of my ideas from Water Buffalo Theology I'll give the class tomorrow. Ages ago I blogged most of my notes from our online discussion; Water Buffalo Theology, which is ecological theology, liberation theology and an offering in the Christian-Buddhist dialogue formed the main impetus towards my wanting to develop a course on the subject for the local church. We used the 25th anniversary edition of the book, published by Orbis—no surprise, right?! On Amazon I discovered Kosuke Koyama has written what I assume is a companion book, No Handle on the Cross: An Asian Meditation on the Crucified Mind.

Water Buffalo Theology notes | Theology of the Cross class 2

During spring 2003 I participated in an online discussion of Water Buffalo Theology by Kosuke Koyama on the old United Church of Christ forums; WBT is liberation theology, ecological theology and an offering in the Christian-Buddhist dialogue. The book contained a lot of theology of the cross and lots of Luther (except for the chapter based on the epistle of James...). What struck me most about the book were the contrasts the author drew between Christianity and Buddhism! My notes added up to around 40 pages—here’s a very small sample of the notes I posted during the conversation.
Part I: Interpreting History | Chapter 1: Theological Situations in Asia and the Mission of the Church

In the Church our formal symbols are scriptures and sacraments. But how about the symbolic meaning of potluck dinners, committees, worship style, social and political activism? Thailand’s cultural symbols include sticky-rice, bananas, and the rainy season; the state of Maine might include blueberries and lobsters. For San Diego, try Big Box retailers (like the rest of the country), surfers and surfing.

More thoughts about Hong Kong, homecoming and us:

Though initially it may sound astounding to make Jakarta or anywhere else “as central as Jerusalem,” if the person and work of the crucified and risen Jesus Christ is not for Jakarta just as much as it is for Jerusalem, he truly is not Lord of all.

Koyama asks where Hong Kong can celebrate homecoming; I believe Hong Kong will be able to celebrate homecoming (after all, isn’t homecoming the ultimate thanksgiving?) within a community gathered not only to perfunctorily and ritually evoke the presence of the risen Christ in Word and Sacrament, but when that assembly attests to the presence of the Christ in each other, having gone slowly enough to ignore at least some of the noisiness of commerce and consumerism, having decided to seek the welfare of the place where they are rather than seeking the wellbeing of their purses and properties: looking outward to the other’s interests and inward to a relational and re-creative self.

Chapter 3: Gun and Ointment | The Future of the Christian World Mission in Asia

Kosuke Koyama says Jesus’ anointing shows, “the substance and manner of God’s participation in history.” During Holy Week 2003 I blogged about Jesus’ anointing! Rather than being anointed by the temple hierarchy and the theological establishment – all guys – to reign alive in the material glory of sumptuous palatial opulence within the humanly established imperial structure, Jesus was anointed into his death in the glory of the cross by a woman, who because of gender and caste could have no part in the temple array. That woman, who to us is nameless, anointed Jesus at the house of a person totally outcast from polite society, far outside of the world’s sanctioned arrangements and expectations but right within God’s order that invalidates and inverts most imaginings of what should be: the way of the Cross.

Prayer and hymn singing in the vernacular is one of Luther’s Marks of the True Church; I’m convinced Evangelism in the vernacular also needs to happen for the Church; what would evangelism in the vernacular mean to us? For Luther, suffering and persecution also defines the true Church. At the end of chapter 3, Koyama asks, “How can the Christian mission do this [stand against the guns and give passionate encouragement to all the ointments] unless it begins itself to live under the sentence of death?”

Chapter 4: The “Efficiency” of the Crucified One in the World of Technological Efficiency

In Chapter 1 the author describes Christianity’s way as slow! And now he’s writing about the amazingly “inefficient investment” of God’s nomadic peregrinations in the desert to learn the people’s hearts and to teach them one does not live by bread alone. In this context, investment is an interesting word! But God also remains faithful to providing for our material needs, and partly because of this he logically observes, “The Lordship of God has a historical substance…It is the crucified Jesus Christ in Golgotha under Pontius Pilate.” Koyama calls Jesus of Nazareth a “spiritual” Messiah, but asks if technology should be our Messiah. However, I’ll ask if technology is part of God’s provision for our physical, earthly needs? Or is technology humanity’s answer to our wants?

Part II: Rooting the Gospel | Chapter 6: Aristotelian Pepper and Buddhist Salt

Our particularly Western propensity is to equate love with emotional attachment, rather than the agape “will to love,” but the Bible and Jesus reveal God’s attachment to the world of creation as a passionate - an ardent and erotic - attachment!

Chapter 7: Neighborology

From Kosuke Koyama, the book’s author: “How can anyone be a teacher of religion unless he is at home with the language of the people?”

Chapter 8: The Wrath of God in a Culture of Tranquility

Introducing the chapter on page 68, he asks, “What is the matter with this God,” who becomes perturbed to the point of wrath?! This God is no human invention! On page 72 the author says the theology of the God not-in-history “is also the theology of God who is held captive in the continual cyclical flow of cosmic time and cannot meaningfully be moved to wrath.” This essentially is a domesticated God, of course. Finally, the not-historical God is a God continuous with humanity, with no disruption between finite and infinite.

Part III: Interpreting Thai Buddhist Life | Chapter 12: Cool Arhat and Hot God

Covenant is a hot concept, since real relationship never is cool. Buddhist holy life is lived to escape completely from existence, while Christian holy life is lived in order to be completely engaged in existence. God creates in order to have a creation to become attached to! As Koyama aptly says, this covenant-awareness has given sharp focus to history-awareness. Theologically speaking, history is the experience of covenant; evangelism means bringing the experience of covenanted relationship lived within history rather than outside of history.

Chapter 13: Apostle James in Thailand

Moving away from Luther! This chapter concisely describes how we need to live out our lives in Christ both hot-ly and cool-ly! Again Koyama reminds us the Buddha’s type of detachment includes detachment from even the very idea of oneself. Risk also is a hot concept, and Jesus calls us to a life of constant risk, but a life that shows no partiality, coolly imitating our God who “is not partial.” To become involved in the world without becoming attached to the world, or more accurately, without becoming attached to the powerful pull of the world’s fleeting, ephemeral and corrupting pleasure. Page 122: if we’re cool, “the King of Death cannot seize” us! That is so Jesus, so Paul!

Part IV: Interpreting the Christian Life | Chapter 15: Tokyo and Jerusalem

Koyama says God’s first and fundamental gift to us is “the constant awareness that we are under the judgment of the Word of God.”

Chapter 18: Three Modes of Christian Presence

A hidden presence, a sacramental presence to the world. Suffering because we’re involved with others, because we’re involved in neighborology! Participating in the “glory of the crucified Lord”—the same Paul of Tarsus also talks about “the glory of the children of God!” And isn’t our glory as God’s offspring a crucified glory and a risen glory? Professor Koyama reminded us of Luther’s, “subject to none; subject to all.”

I’ll close by quoting: In this eschatological hour, God calls us to share the pathos of God, God’s pathos toward all scattered things which are held together in the glory of the crucified Lord.

Friday, March 02, 2007

theology of the cross 2

theology of the cross 3 on march 09, 2007

1 february 23, 2007

2 March 2, 2007

Theology of the Cross: what does this mean for the Church's and especially for this congregation’s life and mission?

Knowing You

1. All I once held dear, built my life upon,
all this world reveres and wars to own,
all I once thought gain I have counted loss,
spent and worthless now compared to this.

Chorus:
Knowing You, Jesus, knowing You.
There is no greater thing.
You're my all, You're the best, You're my joy,
my righteousness; and I love You, Lord.

2. Now my heart's desire is to know You more,
to be found in You and known as Yours,
to possess by faith what I could not earn,
all surpassing gift of righteousness.
Repeat Chorus

3.Oh, to know the power of Your risen life,
and to know You in Your suffering,
to become like You in Your death,
My Lord, so with You to live and never die.
Repeat Chorus

By Graham Kendrick – based on Philippians 3:7-11; © 1993 Make Way Music

Theology of glory vs. theology of the cross: Theologians of the cross build their theology in the light of God’s own revelation of himself, particularly God’s self-revelation in Christ crucified. In addition, the cross of Calvary forms a paradigm and model for God’s characteristically hidden and paradoxical, sacramental presence in the commonest things, situations and people.
  • Domesticated gods: Egyptian imperial religion; Roman imperial religion; Jerusalem Temple; contemporary consumerism
  • God of the bible: dynamic, free and elusive; the God who raises the dead
  • Three uses of the law: Martin Luther and John Calvin
  • Law and Gospel; interpreting scripture with “What preaches Christ.”
Throughout scripture, especially look for God’s hidden yet apparent presence and for "Types of Christ"

4. Paul, Mark and Jesus of Nazareth

Mark

4:35-41 – Boat on the turbulent lake; who is this?! Even the wind and the waves obey him!
8:1-9 – loaves and fishes; provision for the people.

Philippians

1:21-24 – To live is Christ; to die is gain.
2:1-11 – look to the interest of others; humbled himself unto death on the cross; Jesus is Lord
3:7-11 – count everything as loss in order to gain Christ; knowing Christ and the power of his resurrection; becoming like him in his death.

5. Mark, Paul and Jesus the Christ

Romans


3:21-26 – Righteousness from God apart from the law, but the law attests to it. Justified by grace!
3:27-31 –the law still remains in its entirety; cross as both judgment and grace; the cross of Calvary is both God’s No and God’s Yes to the world.
6:1-10 – Baptized into death and resurrection; united with Christ in both death and resurrection; no longer slaves to sin.
  • Revelation 22:1-5 – the River of Life flows from the throne of God—from the cross.
8:1-4 – because of IX, we no longer live under the law’s condemnation
10:1-4 – Christ is the end of the law; righteousness for all who have faith in Christ

Mark

Particularly in Mark’s gospel, the journey to Jerusalem and to the cross is incessant and focused.

1:1-13 – gospel of IX, Son of God; IX baptizes with the HS; Jesus’ baptism; God’s claim on him. Spirit drove Jesus into the desert.
5:35-43 – raising Jairus’ daughter from death [sleep?!]; giving her food.
8:27-29 – Some say John the Baptist; some say Elijah. Who do you say I am? The Christ!
9:35 – to be first, you must be the last and the servant of all.
10:35-40 – you do not know what you are asking; baptism; cup; places you’re prepared for.
10:43-45 – servant is the greatest; first is slave of all. Jesus, the Human One came to serve and to give his life as a ransom.
14:22-25 – Last Supper; broken body; blood of the covenant.

© Leah Chang 2007

Monday, February 26, 2007

Church Prayer Rug

To illustrate theology of glory, yesterday I gave the class a copy of this old blog. A little overdone and overdrawn, but I believe it makes the point!

In my mailbox this week I found what has become an Lenten annual, another blatant example of idolatry, another human attempt to create a god in its image, another slot-machine divinity of jumbo payoffs, a deity completely congruent with one of contemporary American society’s most brazenly unsubtle gods—consumerism. From a skinny envelope I unpacked purportedly a face of Jesus, sketchily represented crowned with a thorny tiara; four-color printing is the graphics industry standard, but this is a two-color likeness! In addition, nowhere in the mailing could I find either a web address nor an email address.

Next Sunday, continuing its journey through the liturgical year, the church reaches Palm Sunday, with Jesus’ triumphant entry into Jerusalem, city of prophets and in ages past, home to the Temple that for the Jews formed the axis mundi between earth and heaven—Jerusalem, the biblical City of God. Following the Revised Common Lectionary, the gospel chronicles the church reads during Lent consistently focus on Jesus’ going to Jerusalem and to the cross. Crucifixion Friday turns into Resurrection Sunday, with its astonishing empty grave: in God’s system you cannot have Easter unless Friday precedes it.

Returning to the Church Prayer Rug! Conceptually, it is closely related to the common contemporary practice of consumer-driven and marketing-modeled churches, as in “let’s study the location, the demographics, traffic flow, in-migration and even out-migration (likely I’ve missed a slew of necessary statistical assessments), and then decide what the people will be clamoring for and what consumer options they’ll be needing so our church can offer the right menu to meet their needs.” Is that biblical?! Martin Luther would call it an example of that humanly always-popular Theology of Glory! The designation Church Prayer Rug (contrasted with simply Prayer Rug, or other possibilities, such as Tribal Meditation Rug, Rya Prayer Rug, Dhurrie Prayer Rag, Acrylic Broadloom Whatever…) reveals a lot, too!

Jesus: friend of sinners, companion of outcasts, Son of God, Son of Humanity, liberator of women, freer of slaves, lifter-up of underdogs, putter-down of overdogs, political upstart and rouser of the rabble, challenger of the religious establishment, yet Servant, Lord of all creation, Pantocratur...but...talk about a domesticated god, idolatry?! This one is offset printed, not even engraved, flattened onto a flimsy 11” x 16” sheet of not non-acid-free paper; due to the paper’s quality (not!) I doubt it would qualify as a kitchen god, since exposed to any light for any length of time, it would crumble and fade; not surprisingly, the legend on the B-side is phenomenally unbiblical:

“This Prayer Rug is soaked with the Power of Prayer for you. Use it immediately, then please return it with your Prayer Needs Checked on our letter to you.”

Tucked into the envelope with the rug itself there’s a list of testimonials citing Rugged Benefits. They include, “Blessed with $46,000.00 after using prayer rug...;” “God blessed me with over $5,000.00”; “Received $10,000 in a financial blessing...”; “I’ve gotten a new car and a job,...”; “...17 acres of land...;” “Big 6 room house...” To assuage doubters, the *they* who sent me the Church Prayer Rug even threw in a spiritual boon, “Praise God! it is so wonderful to know that my husband is saved...”

A pair of scripture verses justifies the Prayer Rug endeavor:
  • Evening, and morning, and at noon, I will pray and he shall hear my voice. Psalm 55:17
  • God can do anything. Mark 10:27
At the time I wrote this blog, my email signature included pleading lines from the hymn,

Make Our Church One Joyful Choir

1. Make our church one joyful choir on this glad and festive day
and by song invoke the fire that invites our hearts to pray:
Shape us, Christ, to live and claim all it means to bear your name.

2. Bend us low by song and prayer, low enough to lift the cross
and to take the weight and bear love’s uncounted final cost:
Shape us, Christ, to live and claim all it means to bear your name.

3. Lift us up by song and prayer till the way we deal with loss
and our acts and words of care trace the pattern of your cross:
Shape us, Christ, to bear your name.

4. Bend us, lift us, make us strong, send us out with wind and fire,
so the world may hear the song that we offer as your choir:
Shape us, Christ, to live and claim all it means to bear your name.
Amen, amen, amen!

Thomas H. Troeger | © 1994 Oxford University Press, Inc.

“Shape us, Christ, to live and claim all it means to bear your name!” Bend us low by song and prayer, low enough to lift the cross; and to take the weight and bear love’s uncounted final cost…and our acts and words of care trace the pattern of your cross:

Shape us, Christ, to live and claim all it means to bear your name!

To bear the name of Jesus Christ! One of the greatest theologians of the cross insisted,

“I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me.” Galatians 2:20a

For Jews in Jesus’ time, the Jerusalem temple formed a gathering place and holy space connecting earth and heaven; for us Christians, the cross of Jesus Christ is the axis mundi between humanity and divinity! Our baptism into the cross affirms our creation and re-creation in God’s image—that particular part of our Imago Dei is one of certified cross-bearers! Living and claiming all it means to bear the name of Jesus Christ means in us, the Church, Jesus still is friend of sinners, comforter of the sorrowful, liberator of the oppressed, companion along the way, forgiver of offenses; because of us, Jesus still is in this world, still carrying the cross. The Holy Spirit calls all of us who – in the words of the Apostle Paul – are “in Christ,” to become and to be cross-carriers; for everyone our lives touch, God calls us to span what often seems to be a very far distance between heaven and earth. Amen!

original blog on desert spirit's fire!

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Kinsperson Redeemer

Notes from research I did to supplement printed material for a study based on the book of Ruth, emphasizing the Kinsperson Redeemer concept. In the world of the Hebrew Bible as well as today in this "world of the earth" (as Job 37:12 reads in Hebrew), we constantly encounter and engage in real battles with forces not of this earth. Sometimes they're obvious and visible, though more often they're not; in my experience they tend to be conventional circumstances and commonplace situations, and in my extensive experience, they frequently need redeeming!

In the Jubilee text of Leviticus 25, regarding "untrimmed vines" and other matters, God commands:
You shall count off seven weeks of years—seven times seven years—so that the period of seven weeks of years gives you a total of forty-nine years. Then you shall sound the horn loud; in the seventh month, on the tenth day of the month—the Day of Atonement—you shall have the horn sounded throughout your land and you shall hallow the fiftieth year. You shall proclaim release throughout the land for all its inhabitants. It shall be a jubilee for you: each of you shall return to his holding and each of you shall return to his family. That fiftieth year shall be a jubilee for you: you shall not sow, neither shall you reap the aftergrowth or harvest the untrimmed vines, for it is a jubilee. It shall be holy to you: you may only eat the growth direct from the field. . . . Do not wrong one another, but fear your God; for I the Lord am your God.

If your kinsman is in straits and has to sell part of his holding, his nearest redeemer shall come and redeem what his kinsman has sold.
The nearest redeemer, closest kin had the responsibility of redeeming his kinsman's lost opportunities. Personal note: "lost opportunities," for whatever reason, is exactly what I need to get bought back!

Continuing with the topic: If a person was forced into slavery, his redeemer purchased his freedom. In the case of overwhelming debt, the kinsman stepped in to redeem his homestead and let the family live.

Another note from me: in Hebrew culture, "debt" and "Sin" essentially are synonymous.

More from the actual notes: If a family member died without an heir the kinsman married the widow and grew a son in order to hand down his name to future generations (Deuteronomy 25:5-6; Genesis 38:8; Ruth 3-4). In case of murder, the redeemer acted as blood avenger and pursued the killer (Numbers 35:12-34; Deuteronomy 19:1-3). Originally kinsman marriage applied only to brothers, but by Ruth's time it had extended to any close relative.

Another word: reclaim, get back, regain, retrieve, recover, repossess, recoup, rescue - notice all those "re" words, and they all have economic implications!

The Kinsperson Redeemer:
  • Had to be close kin, near relative to the one needing redemption.
  • Had to be able to pay the ransom or redemption price in full—to "possess the ability to redeem."
  • Had to be willing to redeem the fallen relative out of love and free will as an act of grace; he couldn't be coerced or forced.
  • Had to be free and unbounded himself
Here's a compendium of references I discovered in my research, coupled with margin notes from my old RSV:

The English words "kinsman" (Ruth 3:9) and "redeemer" (Job 19:25) both translate the Hebrew goel. The word means "to set free" and has two different meanings:
  1. To redeem or buy back what was lost.
  2. To require blood, to avenge—only someone near of kin could seek vengeance.
In Hebrew, Kofer means the redemption price; Goel described things consecrated to God (Leviticus 27:13-31), about God as redeeming humanity (Exodus 6:6; Isaiah 43:1; 44:22; 48:20; 49:7), and those persons redeemed by God (Isaiah 35:9; 51:10; Job 19:25). The right of redemption and the office of redeemer belonged to the nearest kinsman, or "near of kin, near relative" (Leviticus 25:25; Ruth 3:12; 4:1, 6, 8, etc.). "I am the LORD . . . I will redeem you with a stretched out arm, and with great judgments" (Exodus 6:6).

Related to the familiar agora/town square/marketplace, the word agorazo means "to buy," or "to buy in the bazaar"; exagorazo means, "to buy out of the marketplace" with the intention the person so purchased might never return to such a state of slavery again, so that unbounded liberty became a permanent state of being: *delivered* from bondage into freedom.
  • Leviticus 25:25
  • Job 19:25 Though Job complained that no one came to redeem him, he still proclaimed Yahweh would be his Goel/Redeemer! "As for me, I know that my redeemer (kinsman) lives, and at the last He will take His stand on the earth" (Job 19:25).
  • Ruth 4:3-6 Boaz redeemed Ruth
Distribute; dispense = distribution; dispensation

Go on over to the groc store and redeem your cents-off (is that all you get?!) coupon!

Ransom; release; deliverance; liberation
# # #

Nature and Mission of the church | response

Here are my notes from our October, 2006 Faith, Order and Witness meeting; the following is my response to questions for our sub-committee.
1. Does this study document correctly identify our common ecclesiological convictions, as well as the issues which continue to divide us?
Notwithstanding this document's small size, it lines out well many of the historical and current concerns - especially regarding authority and apostolicity - between the Anglican and Roman Catholic communions and those Protestant church bodies who, while also considering themselves “Apostolic” view apostolic succession as happening in a different way, while (of course) being there all along. The more we read and discuss divergence and convergence in our FOW meetings, along with discussions in an online intentional community I recently joined, the more acutely aware I've become of how very Western - not simply Protestant - my perspective is. The church bodies in the Orthodox tradition bring to us and to the world at large a different way of being church, differing devotional practices and differently-focused theology that we need to consider and possibly integrate into our own.
2. Does this study document reflect an emerging convergence on the nature and mission of the Church?
Here's a personal answer: from The Nature and Mission of the Church, as well as other documents we've reviewed, it becomes clear that polity truly is an adiaphora. Nonetheless, I continue to be stuck in the Reformer's “Word and Sacrament” definition of church (possibly adding the Reformed insistence on ecclesiastical discipline), which means whenever I worship with a supposedly independent community that has no regular or well-defined sacramental practice, I have serious questions as to their status as the Body of Christ and in the Body of Christ! However, despite claiming sacraments as a Means of Grace, I find no reason to quibble with churches that have a sign of grace or effective sign of grace interpretation of the sacraments! Here I'll mention that churches that theologize about “means of grace” and “effective sign of grace” use the term sacrament while the “sign of grace” churches typically use ordinance. It's interesting the document doesn't discuss other ordinances some church bodies also officially consider sacraments. Hebrew Bible scholar Walter Brueggemann, who is huge on obedience, points out that in spite of their derivation from scripture, doctrine and theology are human constructs, but God's call to obedience is unequivocal.

Oh, “Does this study document reflect an emerging convergence…?” Short answer: yes!
3. Are there significant matters in which the concerns of your church are not adequately addressed?
I constantly wonder how to respond to the word church! Historically, “church” was reserved exclusively for the local called-out, gathered-in assembly of Believers in Christ and Followers of the Way and for the worldwide Body of Christ, with terms like synod, presbytery, conference and diocese used for intermediate entities, though currently we seem to consider judicatories expressions of the Church!? It sure does feel like it when we're worshiping together! So I'll respond from my current experiences, mainly within a pair of local churches in the theological tradition of Reformation (both are Formula of Agreement churches, too), and simply say both of them are struggling mightily with surviving into an uncertain future and with redefining their life and mission, while their pastors are hoping to find ways to help them faithfully be the exhibition of the Reign of Heaven to the world, and especially to discover ways to draw their neighbors into the exciting, risk-filled adventure of ministry in the Name of Jesus Christ!

But to add a slightly glib denominational viewpoint, the current discussions and emerging divisions between the ELCA, UCC and PC(USA) among the headquarters (Chicago, Cleveland and Louisville), judicatories and local churches is confusing people in the pews and making them ask whatever happened to the old cultural Christianity they used to know and be comfortable with, though they don't use those words.
4. Insofar as this study document provides a helpful framework for further ecclesiological discussions among the churches:

How can this study document help your church, together with others, take concrete steps towards unity?
Ecumenical discussion remains among the mainline, both Roman Catholic and Protestant, which at least in our local Faith, Order and Witness committee includes church bodies such as the typically more conservative LC-MS and Church of the Nazarene. Among churches formed from the many 19th Century Restoration movements, only the Disciples of Christ ordinarily participates in ecumenical dialogue, and in fact has become a mighty ecumenical force. Again I'll ask, “What is my church?” and say I've discovered one of the best and most visible things I can do is to mention in passing to people that I recently worshiped in a church of a different tradition or style or I'll be attending an ecumenical worship service (always adding the sorrow of not being able to share Eucharist officially, since most of these liturgies are Service of the Word), or that I serve on an ecumenical committee, and sometimes I'll tell them snippets of our most recent discussions. Even from reasonably biblically and theologically informed people, I usually get a “Why?” reaction, or occasionally, “I don't know why we all can't just get together,” without the remotest awareness or appreciation of the historical, practical and theological reasons for separation.

It is striking that for the most part this document uses “Eucharist” for the Lord's Supper with “Holy Communion” now and then. Eucharist indeed has become the ecumenical word, just as it was the early church's, but Christians in the more conservative churches who don't participate in ecumenical dialogue won't say Eucharist, and in the churches of my current participation , “Holy Communion” is the terminology I always hear from people in the pews. When the pastors and I are discussing theology or liturgy, we say “Eucharist.”
What suggestions would you make for the future development of this text?
I like ¶ 81 about our participating actively in the ongoing restoration of creation in a way consistent with God's reconciling presence in the world, but throughout this document I'd far prefer more references to creation than simply to human beings/humanity and the world. The authors rightly claim there's never simply a single focus to human interpretation of God's ongoing sacramental activity in the world; I'll add the church needs to continue acting sacramentally in and for the world and for all creation.

Besides forming a bond among God and community, I'll say baptism also is a boundary defining the church's perimeter and parameters as well as excluding and in some ways forming a barrier against those who are not of the church in some sense. In and for the world becomes in the church, too - the Church and the churches become bounded containers for people and sacraments.

¶ 77 references social, economic, cultural (etc.) institutions that preserve human life; I'll include the church as a life-preserving and sustaining institution, too, as well as living organism. Again, baptismal relations and locations: events measurable in time and space, but located and interrelated with Christians in all ages and engaged with the world in all times and places.