Thursday
Aug222013

Reading top 10 List

Recently a long-lost friend contacted me through facebook and asked for my top 10 list of books that every Christian should read.  What a great question!  I appreciated the invitation to consider what I would my list would be.  And then I enjoyed the half-hour or so I spent parousing my bookshelf and remembering all the books that have impacted my life and faith.  So I compiled my list with a brief description of each book and sent it to him.  Then I thought, it could be worth sharing here as well. 
   

So here's my list.  What would you put on yours?  

Colossians Remixed by Sylvia Keesmaat and Brian Walsh.  A great bible study that puts the letter of Colossians within its social and political context of the Roman Empire. 

Post-Christendom:  Church and Mission in a Strange New World by Stuart Murray.  A great introduction to the post-Christendom, post-Modern cultural shifts taking place and what this means for how we do church and think about the life of faith.

Failure of Nerve: Leadership in the Age of Quick Fixes by Edwin Friedman.  Not a “Christian” book per se or even a book only for leaders.  Rather, it contains great insights into human maturity and emotional health. 

Kingdom Citizens by John Driver.  A short but excellent commentary on Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount.

Recovering the Scandal of the Cross by Mark Baker and Joel Green.  A thoughtful study that captures and explains the ways in which the Bible talks about the cross and atonement.  

The Powers that Be by Walter Wink.  This book really broadened my understanding of Sin beyond the individual (which is certainly important) to also see how Sin impacts societies, cultures, nations, and systems (which is also important). 

Santa Biblia by Justo Gonzalez.  Despite the Spanish title it is written in English and provides significant insights into how our cultural contexts shape how we read and interpret scripture. 

A Muslim and a Christian in Dialogue by Badru Kateregga and David Shenk.  With so much animosity and fear that exists between Christians and Muslims, this book does a great job of building bridges to peace without glossing over significant differences in faith. 

A Long Obedience in the Same Direction by Eugene Peterson.  Really, I could add many books by Peterson on this list.  But this is a good one which calls us to faith and obedience over the long-haul which runs against the grain of the gotta-have-it-now, “fast-food” culture we live in. 

The Cost of Discipleship by Deitrich Bonhoeffer.  The title says it all.  This is a book that confronts and challenges and is difficult to face.  Nevertheless, it’s important for Christians to realize that when “Christ calls a man (or woman) He bids him (or her) to come and die.” 

And I have to add one more

Divided by Faith: Evangelical Religion and the Problem of Race in America by Michael Emerson and Christian Smith.  A book that gets at the heart of racial divisions within the American church and points to steps toward reconciliation.

As I look over the list, I do think these are all very important and insightful books.  Naturally, there are some that could be added.  And I also hope that as I continue to read deeply I will be enriched by the thoughts of faithful men and women from various perspectives.  

Grace and Peace

Joel

Saturday
Jul272013

On the border: searching for hope and fairness

On Monday July 1, my wife and I boarded a plane and flew to Phoenix for our denomination’s national convention. We dropped our 3-year-old daughter off with my parents, said goodbye, reassured her we’d see her soon, and looked forward to an engaging week of worship, seminars, learning experiences and work with our denomination. 

On that same day, Benito (not his real name) said goodbye to his wife and kids and went to work the same way he had done for the past 15 years. Only his goodbyes were always different. Benito knew that on any given day he might not come back. Benito is an undocumented Latino immigrant who worked in a garment factory in Los Angeles. On July 1, an immigration sweep went through the factory where he worked. He was caught without proper documentation and was deported to Nogales, Mexico.

Read More

Thursday
Jul182013

Citizens of God's Kingdom

It's been a while since the last update.  Summer is in full swing and things have been busy.  Earlier in July several of us from TMC were in Phoenix for the Mennonite Chuch USA national convention.  The topic of immigragion was a major focus for the convention.  Particularly the matter of how do we as followers of Christ respond to the immigrants among us knowing that Christ identified himself as among those who are strangers and foreigners in this world (Matthew 25:35).  It provided a lot of food for thought and new learning.  As a delegate body, we worked on making updates to our denominational statement on immirgarion from 2003.   Further reflections are forth coming from the border tour led by BorderLinks.  This Sunday in our worship service several people who attended the convention will share their experiences with the congregation.  Hope you can attend.  If not, we hope you are enjoying summer vacations and encountering God in new and exciting ways.  

Tuesday
Apr232013

Of Gods and Men

This past Sunday evening at TMC we had a movie night and watched the film "Of gods and men."  The film by French director Xavier Beauvois is the true story of a community of nine trappist monks living in Algeria during the civil war in the mid-90s.  This group of monks had lived in harmony with the Muslim population of the area for many years, prividing medical services and community support.  When the civil war broke out, foreigners were at great risk in the country.   Rather than flee the country, these monks decided to stay.  Through much stuggle, both spiritually and communally, they ultimately decided that they had given their lives to serve God and the people in their village, and that their work was not yet complete.  Seven of the nine monks were eventually captured and martyred as a result of this decision.  

Discussion of the film was facilitated by a TMC member who had opportunity to meet the two survivors of this community while serving with Eastern Mennonite Missions in Morroco.  He shared personal stories of these two men who were willing to make great sacrifices for their love of God and the love of their neighbors in Algeria.  

At one point in the film, as the threat of violence was escalating and the monks were in great danger, the French philosopher Blaise Pascal was quoted who said, "Men never do evil so completely and cheerfully as when they do it from religious conviction."  It is true that much violence in the world, and the violence in the Algerian civil war, is justified by religion.  But it strikes me that there is another path that religion can inspire as well; the path of self-sacrificial love on behalf of one's neighbors, and even on behalf of one's enemies.  That's the type of love that Christ embodied and lived by.  And that's the type of love that guided these nine monks.  Their faith inspired them to a love that was greater than the violence and fear and hate that was all around them.  In fact, without their faith foundation, they would not have had the strength to endure to the end.  

As a Mennonite/Anabaptist church in the peace tradition, there is a lot we can learn from the example of these nine monks.  We are blessed to not face the same threat to our lives as so many around the world face.  But we still face choices every day in which are called to respond to more subtle forms of violence and hate with the power of love.  May our faith and our religion constantly move us toward being the kind of people who sacrifice and risk and endure in the way of love, just as our Savior did.  

Thursday
Apr042013

Remembering MLK Jr.

We are mindful today of the assasination of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr, America's greatest prophet, who was killed on April 4, 1968.  We are also mindful of having just come through Holy Week during which one of Rev. King's most influential acts of leadership took place.  On Good Friday 1963, Rev. King led a march on Birmingham Alabama, an act of civil disobedience that resulted in his immediate arrest.  While in jail on that Easter Sunday of 1963, Rev. King wrote his infamous “Letter from a Birmingham Jail.”  This Easter season, we are grateful of Rev. King’s witness and his tireless work for civil rights.  You can read more about this here.  You can read the entirety of the text of his letter here.

 

From "Pride (In the Name of Love)" by U2 -

Early morning, April 4

 Shot rings out in the Memphis sky

Free at last, they took your life

They could not take your pride

In the name of love! What more in the name of love?