Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Jurgen Moltmann in Chicago Sept. 9-11

This has been a big summer for me! Not only did I get to spend a week with Eugene Peterson at a writer's workshop with 11 other participants (now friends), I am getting the chance to go to Chicago in September to participate in the "Moltmann Conversation" that Doug Pagitt and Tony Jones are putting on. It looks like a great opportunity to hear from someone I consider to be the greatest living theologian. When I was in seminary, I was very impressed with Spirit of Life, which I read as part of my Pneumatology class with Dr. Phillip Clayton. I have carried the notion of the Trinity as the "One Who Speaks, The Word, and The Breath" to the churches I have served, and it resonates with people. I appreciate it because it weaves the Holy Spirit as Breath concept I first encountered in Sallie McFague's Body of God into a whole Trinitarian concept. Moltmann explores this and other characterizations of the Holy Spirit in the book Spirit of Life. Here's the review from Amazon

Moltmann, "the foremost Protestant theologian in the world" (Church Times), brings his characteristic audacity to this traditional topic and cuts to the heart of the matter with a simple identification: What we experience every day as the spirit of life is the spirit of God. Such considerations give Moltmann’s treatment of the different aspects of life in the Spirit a verve and vitality that are concrete and existential.

Veteran readers will find here a rich and subtle extension of Moltmann’s trinitarian and christological works, even as he makes bold use of key insights from feminist and ecological theologies, from recent attention to embodiment, and from charismatic movements. Newcomers will find a fascinating entrĂ©e into the heart of his work: the transformative potential of the future.

(retrieved from Amazon Fri, 24 Apr 2009 07:58:08 -0400)

Monday, July 27, 2009

Bill Viola's The Passions

I'm on vacation this week in Arkansas. We've had fun meeting with old friends and family. It has been relaxing! I ran across an old pamphlet from a visit we made to the Getty one time when we lived in Los Angeles. It was Bill Viola's The Passions. It was a very poignant exhibition. Viola works with high resolution video and then plays back at very slow speeds. He bases many of his portraits on old medieval religious portriats and devotional items. I remember being transfixed by all of the portraits. He had a real technical mastery of lighting and videography. I saw it in 2003, when LCD screens were just coming out, so the colors seemed to really scream out at you.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Collegeville Institute Summary

Don't expect for the summary to be comprehensive. I just mean that I'm sitting here waiting for the shuttle to show up, and I'm the last person to leave, so I thought it'd be a good time to put down some of my thoughts about this experience.

Of course, I'm fortunate to have attended. I now feel like I've gained 12 colleagues. I'm always glad to gain colleagues. Eugene Peterson is now a mentor and a collegue, not just a writer I admire. I'm fortunate to count myself in this regard now, as he's a very quiet and reserved person. He's not someone that you could go to a massive conference and ingratiate yourself to and try to hang out with. He wouldn't be doing much "hanging out" at a conference. So, this kind of environment: rural and slow-paced and in-depth, is the perfect kind of setting to build a relationship with a master writer and really learn something from him.

I've learned that writing, as my friend Katherine said on her blog, "is not complimentary to our pastoral lives, or an avocation tacked onto our vocation. Writing is part of our pastoral lives. We don't need permission to write. We don't even need permission to write words that can't be put to good use. We can (must?) simply weave writing into our pastoral lives - a life that can be lived in freedom, not busyness, if we can find a rhythm that works."

I'm a conversationalist, so I did more hanging out and drinking beers with new friends than hard core retreat writing. This is okay with me, although I also sometimes thought, "well, if I don't write now, then I'm going to be caught up in the multitude of other things when I get home." I just found the opportunity to talk about writing to be valuable too, so that's what I did for the most part. I did add to my writing project on music and the Spirit, and I also did some exercises that were helpful, and then I found myself rewriting something that haunts me.

I had told the folks here at the retreat when we were committing to a writing schedule that we'd hold each other accountable to that I'm not too hard on myself. They all laughed as I had a hawaiian shirt on and a beer in front of me and a open bag of cheetos on the table. I suppose I hadn't needed to say that :) I committed to 1000 words a week, whereas most others committed to a number of hours. I mentioned that I'm not too hard on myself because I was deciding to do a number of words, something more tangible for me than a number of hours that I could just while away and then rationalize that I actually had spent on some tangential element of writing.

I shared the story of tripping Clint (below) as a counterpoint to that image of me as one not troubled by much. It was effective. With that, here it is:

Get behind me Satan.
I remember the undulations of the asphalt on the school blacktop. We had our toes lined up on the spray painted line, readying ourselves for our track meet qualifying race. The undulations were caused by years of busses turning around in the cul-de-sac and lining up to pick up elementary school kids. A crack of the starting pistol, and I saw a flash of legs leap ahead of my own. I struggled to catch up.
The P.E. teacher was probably right. I didn’t run like I was supposed to. Otherwise, I’d probably be able to keep up with the others. My parents told me that when I was a baby, I had to have casts on my legs to straighten them out. My mom told me that when I used to get finished with my naps, she’d know because she’d start hearing the click click clicking of the casts as I knocked my legs together in the crib. I wasn’t supposed to jump on a trampoline as a kid. They were supposedly bad for my hips. But I had never noticed any problems. I guess the P.E. teacher did though.
There was one who was as slow as I was. Clint: sullen, sandy-haired Clint. He never had any shirts with the transformers or anything like that. All his shirts were striped or solid. He didn’t have Nikes or even Reeboks. He wore Velcro shoes with stripes on them as well. He didn’t have much. I stuck out my foot as I ran and I felt Clint drop to the ground. I crossed the finish line. I wasn’t last!
Clint hadn’t finished. He was lying in a heap on the humpy pavement. He was crying and rolling around. He was clenching his leg and grunting in pain. The kids who had finished the race were looking at me. Then Ms. Guinn grabbed me by the ear and twisted it. What made you do that, Nathan? What had made me do what? I was running, and he must’ve run into my leg. He must’ve bounced off my hip like one of those tie fighters ricocheted off the edge of the city wall canyon on the Death Star. She wanted an answer. She was aghast and disgusted at what she had seen, and now she was large and hovering over me like an eagle snatching a fish out of a lake with it’s claws buried deep. “The devil made me do it,” I stammered. Her eyes narrowed. She looked at me like she actually believed me and that Lucifer himself must be there behind me, caressing the shoulders of his favorite pupil and tending my wounded ego. All those kids were looking at me after all. She pulled me inside, with her red fingernails jabbing into my wrist, and slammed me into a chair at the principal’s office while she went and got him and took him outside to check on Clint.
I sat in the office on an orange plastic chair and looked at the ground as the kids filed by and looked at me with scorn. I could feel their looks. There was Sheri, who I had a crush on since the 3rd grade. There was David, my neighbor and best friend, who knew this wasn’t like me at all. He was perplexed but also forgiving and loyal. Then came in Clint, with an arm around Ms. Guinn and the Principal. I’d find out the next day that he had a hairline fracture in his ankle. That moment, sitting on that pavement trying to find an explanation for why I had tripped Clint, that is the moment that personal competitiveness was killed in me.

Thursday, July 09, 2009

The Name of God

I'm at the Collegeville institute, and in my free time took a look at the New York Review of Books that was sitting on the coffee table. I noticed a review for a new book called

Naming Infinity: A True Story of Religious Mysticism and Mathematical Creativity (Belknap Press), by Graham and Kantor It looks interesting, and I was curious about the "Name Worshipping" thing, because it reminded me of the movie Pi in which a mathmatician is hounded by some Hasidic Jews who are searching for the number which is the name of God. Turns out the "Name Worshipping" movement was big at Mt. Athos and the story of its rise and suppression reads like a historical novel.

Friday, July 03, 2009

The most un-p.c. firework ever?

Saw this tonight at the firework stand. You might not be able to see it, but there is a Stealth bomber flying over a bunch of Arabs on camelback. Interesting what the Chinese think we'll like, huh?