Peace from Pastor Joel

A Weekly Reflection:  March 30, 2015


This week is Easter Sunday and our classroom conversation centers on Resurrection, specifically, “Resurrection as Resistance.”

What did those first century Christian Jews mean when they proclaimed that God had raised Jesus from the dead?  Resurrection then, and now, is a profound political statement.  But is more than that, as well …

The world’s “violent normalcy” says no to the Way of non-violent-peace-through-justice (in every age).  Resurrection is God’s “yes” to that saving love, incarnated in Jesus, the Christ – our Christ.  “Whether Resurrection is understood literally or metaphorically, personally or politically, we are called to collaboration with it!  We are called, as Paul would say, to lead resurrected lives here on earth.”

The wait is over:  Join us this week as our journey out of the tombs of our lives to “Resurrected Life.”

More Bonuses Note: We will stay together for the last “Session” in our study on April 12th (the Sunday after Easter). Mark it on your calendars!!   

A Weekly Reflection:  March 24, 2015

We are moving steadily forward and will find ourselves at the Cross this Sunday.  This is five days ahead of our church calendar, but done so that we may celebrate our “Resurrection realities” on Easter!  As I mentioned this past Sunday, I am so grateful to all of you who have been willing and able to a part of this study and conversation.  I am very much looking forward to these last few weeks of it with all of you!

This week, we examine “the crowds” (plural) in Jerusalem and the Crucifixion of Jesus (Attached is the reading):

  1. The crowd that gathered around Jesus as he entered the city on “Palm Sunday” and stayed with him, at least, through Wednesday, was different than the one that gathered around Pilate screaming for Jesus’ crucifixion on Good Friday.  We’ll look at the Gospel of Mark to explore that.hwrFRI
  2. We also look once again at Jesus’ crucifixion to better understand its “sacrificial” ( not it’s substitutionary) significance.   Join us this week as our journey into Jerusalem leads us to the Cross … “new life” must wait until we die.

Get involved in the Blog if you want to “converse” through the week:

Note: We will stay together for the last “Session” in our study on April 12th (the Sunday after Easter). Mark it on your calendars!!   

A Weekly Reflection:  March 17, 2015


We have engaged historically, scripturally, and (this past Sunday) doctrinally in our efforts to understand Jesus, the bible, and the early church in their “historical context.”

  1. Why did Jesus happen “when” he happened? Solidarity with the first century Jewish peasant fisherman.
  2. Why did Jesus happen where he happened? In his lifetime, the Sea of Galilee was the focal point of “Romanization by urbanization for commercialization.”
  3. Why did Jesus happen “how” he happened? Unlike the “apocalyptic prophets of his time,” Jesus taught and modeled a “Kingdom here (not near), that requires our collaboration, and that will be realized by non-violent “peace through justice” engagements.
  4. How do the writers of our scripture (Gospel writers and Paul) communicate the presence of God’s Kingdom on earth in Jesus, the Christ? Through historical-metaphorical narratives intended to reveal not just “what Jesus did,” but what we must also be doing!
  5. How did/how does the community (later the church) that grew in Jesus’ name continue his “ministry?” It has canonized a set of scriptures from “lived-memory and oral traditions” and interpreted them through doctrines (teachings) to those who gather in Christ’s name. These steps were taken so that all who follow may “live as Jesus lived.” But have we traded “practice” for “belief” and found ourselves content to “let Jesus do all the work (for our own salvation and the world’s)?”


2012 Guatemala Follow-up Trip 049This week we step back into “history” and discuss Jesus’ entrance into Jerusalem.  If Jesus went regularly to Jerusalem (Matthew and Luke) for pilgrim feasts, what happened this time that never happened before? If Jesus only went there this one time, what was his purpose in making this pilgrimage? Did he go there on a search for “martyrdom?” We begin with this conclusion:

Jesus went deliberately to the capital city of his people to make a double and linked demonstration, first against Roman Imperial Control (his entrance) and then against high-priestly collaboration with it (destruction of the Temple).”

This leads us to more questions for this week (March 22nd) and the next week (March 29th): Did Jesus intend to get himself executed?  Did he intend – either from human impulse, prophetic design, or divine necessity – to die a martyr in Jerusalem?  Having failed to achieve this on “Palm Sunday,” did he try again on Monday?  And, if so, why did he survive until Friday?

More good conversation and we need you to join in the discussion!  See you Sunday …  

A Weekly Reflection:  March 9, 2015


FL2Another provocative conversation last Sunday.  “Jesus as Lord” is, indeed, a personal confession, but it was (and should still be) also a profoundly political statement.  To say “Jesus is Lord” is to say that “no one (or nothing) else is!!  The DVD “conversation” ended with a challenge to the “Empires” of the 21st century world who continue to seek “peace through violence.”  Our own conversation ended with the challenge that the birth stories in Matthew and Luke’s first two chapters offered the first century readers and the challenge they still offer us today:  Jesus and his Way are the Light of the World.  “For unto us is born a ‘Savior’ (not the Emperor), who is ‘Christ … the Lord’ (God’s anointed, no the world’s anointed)” … and the Lords of this world (Herod/Caesar/Pharaoh) – with their domination and violence – will always try to kill such a one, and such a Way.

We recognized again that this “historical-metaphorical” interpretation of the birth stories (and later the resurrection narratives) is disconcerting or disturbing to some.  We don’t want to “give up”  what we’ve always known and felt.  I want to include a few lines from one of Marcus Borg’s books that shares what I hope for this time together and this conversation:

“Historically and culturally, there are many ways of being Christian, many ways of interpreting Christianity and living the Christian life.  (Earlier, more traditional, ways have) nourished and continue to nourish lives of deep devotion, faith and love for God in Jesus Christ … For many others, these (earlier, more traditional ways have) become an obstacle … The issue isn’t that one of these visions is right and the other wrong … Being a Christian isn’t about getting our beliefs right.  It is about deepening our relationship with God and producing growth in compassion within us.”  (The Heart of Christianity, 17-18.)  

There is no need to “change your way of thinking” if that way is “nourishing” you in your life of faith.  What our conversation offers is a way of taking Christianity and the Christian life seriously for those who have, or are close to, “writing it off” because they can’t “believe” it.  Friends of ours?  Children?  Grandchildren?


In our conversation thus far we have been insisting, over and over again, that Jesus announced the “Kingdom of God” not near, but here!  As he, himself, healed and taught, he empowered his followers (us) to heal and teach.  Why?  Because this Kingdom is a “collaborative one.”  We must “collaborate” with God in the Great Divine Clean-up of the World.

hwrFRIThis week we engage the question:  How does the church’s traditional understanding of a “Substitutionary Atonement” (Jesus as the sacrifice for our sins) keep us from the collaboration that Jesus himself calls us to?  

We will discuss the difference between “sacrifice” and “substitution” (which have been synonymous for millions of Christians since at least the 11th century) and engage “Jesus as the sacrifice” in light of First Century Temple theology.

Join us this week as our journey into Jerusalem leads us to the Cross and “new life!”  Share any thoughts you have with the group before then, if you can.  Enter them below!!


A Weekly Reflection:  March 2, 2015

137 (2)This past Sunday (March 1st):  We learned again why Jesus “happened when he happened” and why he “happened where he happened.”  Herod Antipas’ Romanization by urbanization for commercialization of the Sea of Galilee made life nearly impossible for the peasant-fishers who were also the first companions of Jesus. Nothing was free any more—not casting a net, launching a boat, or beaching a catch. Antipas’s factories for salting, pickling, and drying fish took precedence and control over private entrepreneurial possibilities” and families were suffering deeply.  Jesus, in all four gospels found himself “in Galilee,” in “Capernaum by the sea,” because that is exactly where his people needed him to be, exactly where God needed him to be.  In that place at that time.  On the lakeshores of the Sea of Galilee.

We also learned why he taught in parables.  This is the perfect teaching tool for a “collaborative eschatology.”  Parables are “lures for thought” and we must participate in order to understand what it is we must “go and do.”  Further, our Gospels contain not only parables by Jesus, but parables about Jesus.  So, I’m curious …

Did any of you “get Jesus back in the boat” by “loving your enemies and praying for those who persecute you” on Sunday or yesterday?  There’s still time this week.  Get Jesus back in the boat! (Mark 6:45-51)

This Sunday (March 8th):  We engage Session #7 (of 10).  We will be discussing what it meant (and what it continues to mean) to say “Jesus is Lord.”

ChristKing-smallWe tend to think of this as a deeply personal confession, but in its first century context it was also profoundly political.  In Roman Imperial Theology that designated “Caesar as Lord,”  to confess “Jesus as Lord,” was either a low lampoon or high treason.  Rome wasn’t laughing …

Looking forward to being with you this Sunday, again.  Share any thoughts you have with the group before then, if you can.  Enter them below!!

A Weekly Reflection:  February 24, 2015


On Sunday we listened to and discussed Jesus’ program:

  1. Heal the sick
  2. Eat with those you heal, and
  3. Announce the presence of God in this “Share Community!”

We are going to take a step back from the specifics of Jesus’ program and its implications within the Roman Empire and for the world today …

We are combining Sessions #5 and #6 in order to help us conclude on Easter Sunday.  This week:  “The Lake as the World” and “Parables as Lures”

  • What was Jesus doing “by the lakeside?”  Why precisely there and then?
  • Few Christians have ever been shocked that Jesus uses fictional stories – parables – to speak of the Kingdom of God.  But we are often shocked to imagine that the gospel writers shared not just parables “from Jesus,” but created parables “about Jesus.”

The reading, specifically for Session #5, is significantly different material than what we will listen to on the DVD Sunday morning.  Fascinating stuff in both, so be sure to read this week!

Looking forward to being with you this Sunday, again.  Share any thoughts you have with the group before then, if you can.  Enter them below!!


A Weekly Reflection:  February 16, 2015


I felt profoundly pastoral yesterday, stuck at home for most of the day, but wanting to “speak” with all of you after Sunday morning’s class.  In addition to our ongoing engagement of new “Christology” (understandings of how Jesus is “Christ,” the Messiah, God’s anointed one), we engaged some profoundly alternative “Theology” (understanding of the way in which “God” is “God”).  We are being challenged more than confirmed as we venture further into this study, and that can be unsettling.  But it is also exciting … I can’t help but imagine Jesus himself feeling something similar as he began to give his heart to a God who was not vindictive, violent and punitive and wondered how our lives then are supposed to reflect such a God while “evil” was/is so prevalent.  So …

We push forward … As Dom Crossan told us, if you preach and teach God “near” (imminent), as John the Baptizer (and MANY others) did,  then you can wait a while with your “program,” with what we are “supposed to do” when God arrives.  But if you preach God “here,” as Jesus did, then you need to present a “program” now!  This Sunday we engage “the program” of Jesus of Nazareth.

How are we supposed to live, share, love, and respond to evil if we follow the Way of Jesus?  Stay warm and safe and we’ll see you Sunday as it thaws …


A Weekly Reflection:  February 9, 2015


Our email list is larger than last week’s and that is tremendous!  This past Sunday we finished up “presenting” the Matrix of Jesus with a conversation about the small town of Nazareth and the plight of the peasant class.  To paraphrase Marcus Borg’s paraphrase of Dom Crossan: We might imagine Jesus waking up one morning, stepping out in the daylight, looking around and saying, “This stinks.”    

We might imagine Jesus waking up one morning, stepping out in the daylight, looking around and saying, “This stinks.”

So what is a peasant Jew, steeped in the Messianic hopes of his religious tradition and exploited and oppressed by the most brutal Empire to date, supposed to do?!

This week we will discuss two populous responses to this challenge:  The Baptism Movement of John and The Kingdom Movement of Jesus.

More challenges, more responses, more insights, and more understanding even as we continue “Living the Questions.”  Attached is the reading for this week.  Find a warm spot, a cozy chair, one finger of bourbon, and continue the journey.


A Weekly Reflection:  February 2, 2015



I was very excited about this past Sunday’s class and your presence in it!  I know of a few others who will be coming this week and look forward to that, as well.

We had a fantastic start.  Some pertinent reminders from the first conversation “The Matrix of Jesus”:

  1. We should seek to understand Jesus in his own time and place before we attempt to understand him in ours: Jesus was a Jew within Judaism within the Roman Empire. This is not just “interesting background,” but the “necessary constitutive matrix of his life.” (Think of Ghandi as an Indian within Hinduism within British imperialism, or MLK, Jr. as an African-American within Christianity within American racism. You can’t discuss the person without understanding the “matrix” of their lives!)
  2. The “type of faith” that was powerfully present in the First Century CE within Judaism was an “eschatological faith.” Eschaton simply means the “end” of the “last” of something. “Of what something” becomes the crucial question.
  3. Israel’s faith sought an eschaton, or end, not of the world itself but of its evil, injustice, war and violence. Scriptural (Jewish and Christian) “eschatology” was never (and should never be) about global destruction, but about global transfiguration.
  4. Apocalypse comes from the Greek term for revelation. Apocalyptic Eschatology, therefore, claimed to be a “revelation” of how God would “transfigure the world.” When? And, how? And who … ?

This Sunday:  “The Advent of the Messiah.”  Is it who everyone was expecting?  I’m including the reading for this Sunday so you will have the answer to that question, but be full of many more.

Good stuff … good stuff.  Sure hope to see you back in your seats Sunday morning!