Pastoral Relief and Retreat

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Wethersfield, CT, United States
I am Pastor at Poquonock Community Church, Congregational (CCCC) in Windsor, CT. My wife Jama and I live in Wetherfield, CT. We'd like to invite you to Terre Haute -- High Ground -- That's what Jama and I call the retreat space on our property. We offer free intentional get-away retreats. We'll feed you and house you and give you space to be with the Lord. All are welcome; no questions asked. This blog is my daily devotional journal. I write it because it is so easy to go for weeks without ever taking the time to be alone with God. Writing helps me develop a discipline I need.


Monday, April 7, 2008

A lesson in mid-flight

This weekend I was on a flight from Detroit to Denver on my way to an International Mentoring Conference at Denver Seminary.   It was near the end of the flight and the turbulence coming into Denver was a bit unnerving.  I had been finishing up watching a movie on my laptop and was just putting my self-centered upper-income technology away when I glanced up to see one of the stewardesses walking down the aisle carrying a huge bag of garbage from all the other affluent travelers and with several discarded newspapers under her arm.

At this juncture I should mention that, for me, air travel is always like being put on a conveyer belt on an assembly line.  You get "worked on" and "assembled" by a great many "machines".  None of these machines has a name.  None of these machines goes home at night or even has a home or a family to consider.  I know this because no matter what time of the day or night I happen to fly the machines and the assembly line are still in operation.  So these machines are of little concern to me.  They are there for one purpose: to get me to the end of the assembly line and cause as little discomfort to my affluence as possible.  At the end of my trip down the assembly line there will be a nice warm bed and wide-screen TV in the hotel which itself is populated by so many more of these convenience makers who also exist merely for the whim of my pleasure.

Anyway, I glanced up to see this particular machine walking down the aisle.  She was struggling to stay upright in the turbulence of our decent into Denver and yet I noticed she had a smile on her face and was saying "thank you" to every affluent American that unthinkingly handed her their garbage.   I'm sure none of them thanked her.   As I handed her my own stash of stuff I happened to notice her name badge:  "A. Person".  No joke.  "A. Person" is what it said.  

I will never view the travel experience the same way again.  Thank you, Lord, for your gentle rebuke.


curmudgeon christian said...

Yes you've made your point in much the same way that DiLillo would have done. Please don't take that as a slight because you write much better then him. Still the question begs why you didn't at least say thank you?

This falls in line with a very Jamsian school of thought. There is the guilt of abundance, a gnostic inner struggle, and an emphasis on action. Works will solve all of our problems, or at least James would have thought. Is it any wonder why Luther thought so little of the book?

Consider the consequences of the converse reaction. What if every man, woman, and child regardless of their social status had perfect manners? Would the constant "Thank you Ma'm ", "Excuse me Mister" be of any consequence if the action was only a formality? You leave the question of how G-d would have been allowed to act through you to express himself in this situation. For you, what would the appropriate thing to do or say?

Moreover you carry with this situation with a very American sensibility. What works for us may not translate with the same intent in other cultures. Please explain.

Jonathan said...


I just thought it was a kind of neat opportunity to step out of my own self-centered travel plans and let someone know I had noticed them. I believe I think theologically, but never considered James on that level. I don't think his vision is that works will solve our problems. Still, there was some question as to whether James' letter is Christocentric enoungh to fit the New Testament.

curmudgeon christian said...

I guess it is not so much a question that works will solve our problems, but it does suggest that it will allow us entry into heaven. This is the enigma of James. It comes with a very Jewish perspective, that is to say it tries to bring this new apocalyptic cult of Jesus back under the law of Moses as the sole means of salvation.

It makes sense if we accept church tradition that this James was the brother of Jesus because it would have been tradition for the next of kin in this culture to administer the well being of the group in the absence of it's leader. Furthermore from what I can gleam from accepted church history, James never really acknowledged his brother to be the Messiah up until just he was martyred.

I've always been confused why the book was included in the cannon when it flies in the face of everything Paul said. As much as ministers have tried, they've never really been able to reconcile the book with the rest of the New Testament. Of course I also don't understand why others where thrown out, especially the ones supposed to have been quoted by Jesus himself.

Jonathan said...

I think the development of the canon of Scripture is itself a testimony to the activity of God in the world. Unlike most other religious texts, the new testament was written by eight different men (Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, Paul, Peter, James, Jude) over a relatively brief period of time (roughly AD 45-90).

The so-called "higher critics" of the last century or so often don't take into account the overlapping of these men's lives. Matthew, John and Peter were members of the original 12. If we accept that James and Jude were biological half-brothers of Jesus it is fair to think they were members of the group of 70 or 72 disciples whom Jesus focused most of his attention on in his ministry, and therefore knew the other three well... perhaps being discipled in some way by them.

Paul and Luke are early converts to the faith and most certainly were involved in itinerant ministry together for a time. If we can assume that John Mark from Acts is Mark the gospel writer (and there is no reason not to), he is known personally to both of them. Paul, of course, was well known by Peter and the other apostles mid-century, so there is the link to Luke and Mark as well.

Recent critics seem to think there is some mystery behind whether Luke had Mark's gospel in front of him when he wrote his -- like these two men couldn't possibly have ever sat in the courtyard of one another's homes and told the stories a hundred times to groups of varying size.

Why is James included? I think because his writing brings a kind of balance to the whole revelation that would be absent without it. The church always teeters on the balance-beam between transmitting theology (the academic enterprise) and living out what it knows (putting faith into action). Thus James does not stand in contradiction to Paul, but to hold Paul's presentation of the theology of Jesus to account for action, lest Paul's audience end their days as cold as the Pharisees.

We have needed James especially in the last 10-20 years because the old-line evangelical church had become so "Pauline" and was all about conferences and preaching. The younger generation of the church has been teaching us old-timers that it is time to go back out into the world and DO the gospel life of Jesus.