Saturday, March 15, 2008

Wrestling Angels, Standing at a (Cross)Road, Listening to the Wind (aka why I'm a sucker for theological multitasking)

Took me a while to get this place up and running, wanted to be sure it began on the right foot, so to speak.

"Holy Wrestling" is a lifelong practice of mine. Whether it was demanding exact details on the afterlife as a four year old or spending hours in the woods looking for God as a teenager, I've always had a mind to meet life, personal and theological problems head on. I'd grab a sports drink, head out into the wilderness and tackle whatever problem or angel came my way. Diving straight to the source, which usually led to the "Ultimate heavyweight" Him(El)self.*

Wrestling with God? Isn't that blastphomous? Well, I seem to be in good Biblical company. From Abraham trying to argue God out of torching cities, to Jacob's bronze-age WWF action, to the obvious example of Job, the Bible's full of this stuff. Which makes sense, because anyone who's been in a genuine relationship knows it takes hard work to maintain (sometimes a full mediation team!) But if you love someone, you're willing to take that trouble, 'cause you believe there's something good on the other side. As a Christian whose worships the Ultimate Source of Love, being faithful means making sure I, my faith*** AND God are living up to that standard.

Scripture and my own experience lead me to believe that wrestling is worth it, that sometimes it takes wrestling to be blessed (but beware of broken hips!). And so I'm creating a place where I can do that, along with anyone interested in the ride.

This has all been spurred by some profound experiences of community and the Holy Spirit's stirring in new ways in my life over the past few months. I'm deeply grateful for what I've been given, and wish to be faithful to it and my future calling/ministry by taking some time to do some passionate seeking/discernment. I admit to sometimes pondering such issues in isolation, so I'm welcoming you, my online community along the journey.

It should be noted that this blog is a place for wrestling, "working out" and experimentation. Like myself, it's a work in progress. Like many "Emergent" Christians I will ask tough questions, challenge assumptions and risk trying new ideas. One should not assume this is my definitive theological view, but neither should such questions, the good ones at least, be taken lightly. Its my observation that the questions I ask as a devout Christian are often the same which many people within and outside the church are struggling with. Paul teaches us that much of the spiritual life is lived "through a glass darkly" (1 Cor 13), but perhaps in honest, friendly conversation we can help each other in the journey.

As a result, I encourage discussion, critique and challenges, though I ask, above all that discussions occurring here aim to be in a spirit of Love. Religion can all too easily hurt people, and this is intended to be a safe place, a Sanctuary.

As for actual content, it will be evolving, but expect range of reflections, discussion questions and prayers. I'm also hoping to get in on my friend Pastor Phil's monthly global synchroblogs, and joining my Jeff the Gent's plan to do some monthly "Live-bloggery" of Boston-area Emerging/Emergent communities. If you have any other thoughts or requests, let me know!


*It should be said, from the start that I do not consider God to be "an old man". Jesus taught us to pray to Abba/Daddy, but then you have him and the Psalms (4, 17, 36, 57, 91) longing to gather us like a mother. Its taken more than a few brave feminists to remind us of what should be an obvious point, imho. I will generally refer to Jesus as "he," since the incarnation does have specific human features, but also recall elements of Sophia/Holy Wisdom which have ties to ancient understandings of the 2nd person of the Trinity. If all of us equally bear God's image, the Son/Word would need to affirm/in some mysterious way uphold the female as Divine as well. Jesus' treatment of women, perhaps unequaled in the Bible would could hint at this. Some have argued the very plausibility of the Resurrection has stronger grounds today because Jesus first appeared to women, who in that time could not testify in court. If the Gospels accounts were fully "doctored," why leave that in?

English doesn't have a neuter personal pronoun, but perhaps that's for the best- it challenges us to creatively ponder God's uniqueness. I don't like saying He/She, and God certainly doesn't deserve "It!" So I've stolen Christian author Madeline L'Engel's habit of referring to God with one of the oldest names in the Bible, "El." VERY deep in the linguistic history of the middle east, I understand it to also share roots with the name Allah (which, for the record has been used by not simply by Muslims, but Arabic-speaking Christians for centuries).

Still, I am a man/limited by my own perceptions, and I find myself relating to God the Creator as male sometimes. To balance this, I've reclaimed ancient conceptions of the Holy Spirit as feminine, and I also reserve the right to throw all these rules out the window on occasion. I blog like I pray, which means making generous use of the box cutter. :P

I don't seek to impose these rules on anyone, and welcome discussion. But I thought I'd make my phrasing clear for folks here.

**Does this mean I think we can change, even correct God? Good question! The Bible seems to have God changing and not changing El's mind in different places. While there are some interesting writings on this, my lived experience has generally been that God's bigger than any of my expectations, so maybe I'm wrestling to see more clearly. But for any relationship to be truly reciprocal, not to mention interesting it takes some mutual learning. The Bible and my own experience uphold this possibility. Why would God create humanity with free will if El didn't want a few surprises or wonders along the way (the mystery of Omniscience notwithstanding, I think there is something qualitatively vital about our being free/able to co-create with God)?

***Faith is for me not a modern rationalistic belief but a combination of holistic felt/known
beliefs ( Buddhists talk about a heart-mind, which I love! ), lived practice, and a hope that transcends both. I may ponder the roll of all three as a form of "witness" in future posts


  1. love the allusions to jacob who is to me, even more than francis, a patron. i also consider myself blessed to struggle forward beside you and am looking forward to our ecclesiological journey.

  2. Thank you, and I look forward to traveling side by side as well!

    Don't get me wrong, Francis is amazing too... and has also been my namesake since my Catholic Confirmation. :) I'm still awed my my journey to Assisi in 2001, my dad and I went looking for his first church, never found it (it wrong hill!), but we instead stumbled through some of the vineyards where he likely slept in the dark. It was fantastic ;)

    Tweeked a few comments on feminist thought, I really need to make sure I limit myself to 3 footnotes :)