Williamsburg: Hearing the Subversive Stories

I am wrapping up my family time in Williamsburg, which has been good despite it being a ‘working’ vacation. Eleven of us in total spread across several units, have enjoyed hanging out in Virginia and spending time with one another. We decided to actually visit Williamsburg, which most of us were hesitant to do, because well, we are not that patriotic as a family, and therefore tend to not be as inclined to relive early American colonial life. My dad however, urged us to do it, and so most of us did.

On the surface, it was a ‘beautiful presentation’ of early colonial America, with reenactments happening all around as you walk the streets. We of course were too cheap to pay for tickets, so we didn’t get to go inside any buildings, but rather took it all in from a sidewalk view. I honestly was bored, and uninterested in the domesticated propaganda tour we were on, which presented early colonial times through a non-existent pleasantville-esque view. I know enough history to know that just because you are walking the very geographical streets, does not mean you are getting a significant glimpse into the context and times. So I decided to grab the first black ‘enactment’ actor I could find and proceeded to ask him about slavery and slave quarters. Unfortunately, he pointed out that to actually see the slave quarters you would have had to pay the ticket price, which again we did not do. But, he then began to personally share his own knowledge of the African American slave experience in Williamsburg.

What he shared was a counter-narrative to the dominant narrative that brushed slavery and oppression out of sight. While I was not surprised necessarily by any particular details he shared (not to say it wasn’t interesting), the more fascinating experience was again to unearth the voices and experiences of those who are not allowed space within the hegemonic center of American life. Everywhere you go, if you listen carefully, you will find subversive voices testifying to narratives other than the dominant narratives being told. These bottom-up heterogeneous stories are dangerous, in that they provoke and disturb the deceptive homogeneous story being told from the top-down. May we all hear, learn from, and be shaped by these subversive stories.

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The Road to Emmaus by Drew Hart

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Freestyle with me…

Born Again or Entering the Kingdom of God???

Did you know that Jesus only talks about being born again one time, and it is to one specific person (Nicodemus) and only found in the Gospel of John. On the other hand Jesus talks about the Kingdom of God countless times throughout the gospels  (mostly Kingdom of Heaven in the Gospel of Matthew because they showed so much reverence to God’s name). Even when Jesus talked to Nicodemus about being born again, he mentioned the Kingdom twice, explaining why one must “enter” the Kingdom.  I think we should focus more on what Jesus ACTUALLY said, and less on the Evangelical tradition’s infatuation and limited focus with this one biblical metaphor.

We need more of a Christ centered, and scripturally faithful theological approach.  This does not mean discard the “born again” metaphor Jesus uses. It is both great and biblical! But lets keep things in focus and not major on the minors.  When we talk about being born again and divorce it from entering the Kingdom of God (which Jesus did not do) we justify our individualism in which our faith in Christ is only about us.  When we teach entering the Kingdom of God, we are subversively telling people that you have become a part of something bigger than yourself.

Once you are in God’s Kingdom, you must live as though Christ is King, and are now free to live free as a loved child of God. No longer enslaved to this world (its things, its appeal, it’s threats) but now may participate in what God has ultimately created you for… mission with God (to liberate, to save, to redeem, to reconcile, etc.)  and community with God’s people (while sharing love with one another). And we do this while we await the final return of our King to fully establish His Kingdom here on earth.

Given this, the thing Christians should explore is what it looked like for Jesus to do Kingdom ministry in the 1st century, and what that might look like for the church now in the 21st century.

Micah 5:2 “A Foreshadow Of Things To Come”

“But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah,
Though you are little among the thousands of Judah,
Yet out of you shall come forth to Me
The One to be Ruler in Israel,
Whose goings forth are from of old,
From everlasting.”

Who might this One be who is prophesied about here in Micah to be born in little old Bethlehem? And while they are going to “come forth” this person’s begginings are from ancient times, “from everlasting”.  For it is this One prophesied about that is clearly more than just a prophet or messiah but seems to have no beggining as though He were equated with God.  And it is this One who is to be Ruler.

Reading the Bible Deep AND Wide

All my bible readers out there, don’t you love it when you find a powerful passage that you can chew on for weeks?  Or how about when you find a verse that is jam packed with a bunch of goodies for you to chew on for a hot minute? We love a good passage or verse that we can dissect and dig into.  In fact, many have grown accustomed to digging real deep into passages. We can read, study, and meditate on the same passage for over months at a time, shoveling out all kinds of bible bits for us to eat.

I think the practice of digging deep into biblical text is a great thing, but it can be dangerous in and of itself.  Our culture loves to take an individual verse and chew on it, but hardly are we challenged to see how the verse fits in context with the passage, and how the passage fits in context with the biblical book, and how the biblical book fits in context with the entire biblical narrative.

May I suggest that we need to read both deep and wide. I believe we actually should read the bible not only in quality, but in quanity too. Discover and read the gospel of Luke in just one or two sittings and see what it was that Luke was trying to say about Jesus. What was the unique portrait of Jesus that Luke paints for us, and what are the specific themes of his gospel? What happens when we begin to read teh bible as a great meta-narrative, as the greatest story ever told, and then allow everything we read to fall in context with that great story.  Is the story taking place before or after the fall? Is it before or after Christ? And does it matter and change its implications for our lives?

Freestyle with me folks, has your Christian community encouraged you to read both deep and wide?

Reading Jesus in the OT Part 2

“Come now, let’s kill him and throw him into one of these cisterns and say that a ferocious animal devoured him. Then we’ll see what comes of his dreams.”  When Reuben heard this, he tried to rescue him from their hands. “Let’s not take his life,” he said. “Don’t shed any blood. Throw him into this cistern here in the wilderness, but don’t lay a hand on him.” Reuben said this to rescue him from them and take him back to his father. So when Joseph came to his brothers, they stripped him of his robe—the richly ornamented robe he was wearing— and they took him and threw him into the cistern. The cistern was empty; there was no water in it. As they sat down to eat their meal, they looked up and saw a caravan of Ishmaelites coming from Gilead. Their camels were loaded with spices, balm and myrrh, and they were on their way to take them down to Egypt. Judah said to his brothers, “What will we gain if we kill our brother and cover up his blood?  Come, let’s sell him to the Ishmaelites and not lay our hands on him; after all, he is our brother, our own flesh and blood.” His brothers agreed. So when the Midianite merchants came by, his brothers pulled Joseph up out of the cistern and sold him for twenty shekels of silver to the Ishmaelites, who took him to Egypt. (Genesis 37:20-28)

Does this sound familiar?  How does Joseph play a Christ like figure in the story? How does this text point us to the life of Christ?

Joseph in Genesis Chapter 50

I am Joseph, son of Jacob as I recover from the death of my father and begin to reconcile with my brothers. (Genesis 50).

I feel sick in my stomach; I can’t believe dad is dead. After all this time has passed, I never got to spend the quality time I wanted to with him. I can still remember the good memories that I had with him when I was still a child. I loved my father so much, and I miss him more than word can describe. I can still remember a particular gift that he had given me when I was young. He gave me this beautiful coat. It had so many bright beautiful colors on it. It was bright gold, red, and green, with thin black stripes between each color. My name was stitched on the top right of it. That was the best gift dad had ever given me.

I can still remember when my brothers stripped me of my coat that dad had given me. They jumped me out of nowhere. At first I thought they were joking with me, but when I looked at Rueben, I could see something was wrong. He wouldn’t look me in my eyes. I could tell something was wrong. Now here we are as a family all back together again. I have so many mixed feelings, so many things to process; so many thoughts are just flying through me head.

I wonder if we will ever be able to be a normal family again. Despite all the terrible things that my brothers did to me, I really just want to have my family back. I have had a lot of time to deal with what they did to me. Honestly, it still hurts, I mean they are my own blood and they just did me wrong, as if I was a stranger to them. I know they did not like the dreams I shared with them, but they were from God, it wasn’t my dreams, I never wanted to disrespect them or insult them. Now here we are, and they are all bowing down to me, just as the dream said.

What was God thinking? Was this the only way to work out your plan? If you loved me so much God, then why did you take everything from me, why did you allow me to go through all that hardship, all that pain? I was always faithful to you God, why did you turn your back on me when I needed you most? When I was in the pit where, were you then? When I was sold into slavery where, were you then? And when I was in Jail, where were you then?

Yet even though I have had to go through so many troubles, I can’t deny God’s hand on my life as well as my families. It is though God had a mission that he was working out through my suffering and hardships. It’s as though my suffering was the birth to life and opportunity for me and my family. Here I am with my brothers eating well, feasting, and living in luxury during one of the worst famines the region has ever seen. It was God who brought me to this point. It was God that spared my family, and reunited me with my brothers. And so it is evident that God’s hand and blessing was upon me even during some of my most terrifying life experiences. I praise God that he has taken me from the lowest depths to the highest heights!!!

My brothers approached me today fearfully, and threw themselves down into the dirt before me. They begged and pleaded with me to take them into my house so that they could serve me as my slaves. While I am still hurting and figuring this whole thing out, I really do sincerely forgive them for what they have done. And I really just want to have them back into my life as family, as my brothers. God has worked this thing out, and so how can I hold a grudge against them when God’s mission was being fulfilled through it all. I have come to realize that even though they “intended to harm me” that was only half the story because in that same action there was God who “intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives” (Genesis 50:20, TNIV).