Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Where is the Lord?

Sometimes the unasked questions are more haunting than the asked questions.  Such was the case in the days of Jeremiah.  The priests were guilty of not asking, "Where is the Lord?"  In a time when the house of Israel was defiling the land and making God's inheritance detestable, there was an eery silence.  When the right people at the right time refuse to ask the right questions, wrong conclusions take root in the hearts of the people.

The priests of Jeremiah's day needed to firstly direct the question to themselves.  God, speaking through Jeremiah, says, "Those who deal with the law did not know me." There is no point in asking society a question that we have not even asked ourselves! Our willingness to introspectively address our own souls is a prerequisite to addressing the soul of society.  The only thing worse than unasked questions are questions that apply to everyone but ourselves.

Secondly, the priests needed to direct the question to the present.  It's easy to name sins of the past and indict previous generations for omitting the Lord from their midst.  However, it takes great courage and grace to be prophetic in the Today.  When we speak forth questions that reflect a heart after God, we embrace the risk of isolation, ridicule, vilification, relational strain, or misunderstanding.  Our understandable struggle with these realities often cause us to shy away from confrontation.  In so doing we opt for unity over truth.  But God compels us to speak the truth in love.

And thirdly, the priests needed to direct the question to the future.  Was anyone in Jeremiah's day concerned with the consequences of their "idolatrous commotion on the hills?"  Apparently not.  We are not the first society to be deceived by delusional living that is banking on the permanence of Today and the avoidance of consequence for Tomorrow.  We mock God when we erroneously assume that we can despise the Lord even in the Future. 

Despite all this, the love of God for us leaps off the pages of Scripture.  "Return, faithless people...for I  am merciful," declares the Lord.  Let's return to the Lord.  Let's be bold in our questions.  And may it not be said of us, "Where is the Lord?"

Ex nihilo,

R.J. Rhoden

Friday, June 15, 2012


How can an informed, civilized society not be in agreement regarding life?  One would think that in the midst of all our differences this would be a unifying subject. But sadly it is not.  Why would we not advocate together, both liberal and conservative, for our country to be a place that values and protects life from conception to last breath?

Ironically, there is significant, fundamental agreement regarding life from a variety of sources, and yet we are still polarized.  Consider the following:
  • Science defines life, with all necessary accompanying DNA, as beginning at conception.
  • The Church, who adheres to scriptural authority, theologically understands God forming life at conception.
  • The Medical community has taken an oath to rigorously preserve and advocate for health and life.
  • Our Penal Code has multiple laws governing our land that protects innocent life in a variety of circumstances.
Given this kind of diverse input, how does a reasonable society conclude that it is appropriately ethical and moral to empower a woman and a doctor to terminate an unborn life for any reason?  How does a woman believe that the life within her, distinct and unique from her own body, is subject to her choice? What about the body of the unborn life in her?  How can smart, good people allow this to happen?

Of all the social issues our society has been debating over the last 40 years this is the one that is most concerning to me.  Furthermore, I am deeply troubled by my historical silence and lack of action regarding this issue.  As a result, I recently attended some functions with The Family Foundation and also toured the Pregnancy Resource Center here in Richmond.  The Family Foundation is advocating for life in the political arena.  The Pregnancy Resource Center is about compassion ministry to women.  Though completely distinct in their efforts, both deserve our support and involvement as they seek to protect innocent life.

This blog post is not about me saying something that others have not already said, but it is about me doing something that I have not before done.  It's time to get involved. So to women who have had an abortion, God's grace and healing is here for you.  For people who adamantly disagree with me, I do not consider you my enemy.  We have life in common.  For women who find themselves pregnant, give that life the same opportunity you were given.  And to the Church, let's champion the case of the least of these.

Ex Nihilo,

R.J. Rhoden


Sunday, May 20, 2012

Don't Label Me

This is my first political blog.  The apprehension in me is not due to uncertainty of conviction but rather the certainty of being wrongly categorized and caricatured as something I am not.  Why do we insist upon labels rather than personhood?  It's one of the sad insufficiencies of humanity.  In spite of this, it's time to move some questions to the forefront and live with the resulting labels that might accompany my convictions.

The questions are simple in the asking but complex in the answering.  Namely, how am I expressing my biblical worldview in the public square?  Is it possible to speak graciously yet boldly the precepts of Scripture without losing opportunity to present God's reconciliatory love to all people?  How can I be relational with those on the opposite side of the issue from me?    

In the past I have experienced paralysis of action not as a result of asking these questions but due to an inability to answer them.  Consequently, I opted for a kind of public neutrality that stemmed from my desire and Calling to maintain relational viability with all people.  More specifically, I did not want to unnecessarily create barriers to those who believed differently than myself.  To do this, I concluded, would hinder me from any interaction and potential for ultimate influence.

But over time this posture has the potential of resulting in an undesirable outcome.  If not careful, this actually leads to the erosion of biblical values in our society rather than an embracing of them.  Silence in the public square leads to a moral drift that significantly outpaces relationships.  To avoid this we must acknowledge the difference between being "merely political" and being a vocal advocate for the presence of biblical principles in our society.  For example, I do not condone the explicit endorsement of a political candidate from the pulpit.  However, I do not want to be silent on issues that are profoundly biblical yet happen to also be at the center of political debate.  Biblical values precede our political reality. To be silent would be to violate the soul.

My desire is not to be Republican or Democratic or Independent or Tea Party.  It is not to be conservative or liberal or moderate.  It is not to be socialistic or capitalistic though I am sure all these labels will get thrown around in subsequent posts.  Rather it is to be biblical.  I want to unite content that is rooted in the authority of Scripture with a delivery tone that is gracious.  I invite you to join me.

More to come...

Ex nihilo,

R.J. Rhoden    


Thursday, March 15, 2012


An economic recession is an ideal context to reclaim, re-trust, and re-implement the simplicity of giving.  Givonomics has nothing to do with being rich enough to give or poor enough not to give.  And it does not necessarily correlate to the economy. We tend to count zeros associated with a person's net worth and become either excited or depressed.  But God counts the intent of the heart.  He desires to transform our souls from being instinctively selfish to instinctively generous.  Why do we waste so much time resisting such a change?

We are born with selfish DNA.  Watch any young child with his toys and the empirical evidence is overwhelming.  We want for ourselves.  God wants us to want for others. Jesus' teachings are bold and compelling - recalibrating us to be givers.  He emphasized the intent of the heart and de-emphasized the letter of the law.  Why? Complying with a mandate like giving 10% of your money to God does not require a revolution of the soul.  Becoming a generous person does.  We don't have a tithing problem in the Church.  We have a generosity problem.  Lack of tithing is merely a symptom.

To continue, God blesses and praises generous sacrifice over quantity.  Jesus was literally more impressed with the widow's meager offering than the large, non-sacrificial gifts of the wealthy.  He was not using hyperbole to make a point.  Jesus meant it.  God's inequality is this: Generosity + Sacrifice > All Quantities of Giving. And the metrics used to evaluate this is integrity of the heart.  In givonomics a smaller gift can be greater than a larger gift.  Or a larger gift can be more sacrificial than a smaller gift. Only God and the individual can make that judgement.  That is the beauty of this.  

So what hinders us from being people who have a harder time giving than consuming?  Let's consider two causes - self-preservation and fear of being wrong.
  • Self-preservation - Our sinful nature predisposes us to obsess over self-preservation.  Part of the deception inflicted on us by the enemy of our souls is the following insidious lie:  if all is well with me than all is well with the world!  We marinate in this lie making decisions and allocating time and resources to assure its survival.  I wonder how much time, energy, and money is wasted on the excessive self-preservation of ego and status? Some are praying for revival, but we need to pray for funerals.  Death precedes life in givonomics.  A community of people who put to death the daily obsession of self-preservation is a people who will experience the abundance of God's life-changing power both for themselves and their surrounding community.  Stories of giving will be the prequels to stories of redemption.  The Father gave the Son and redemption followed.  To gain we must give.  
  • Fear of being wrong - What if all of this is nonsense?  What if this type of thinking is an ecclesiastical ponzi scheme used by greedy religious leaders to acquire personal wealth?  What if I become generous and nothing positive happens?  And the person who gives nothing seems to prosper?  If we are honest with one another, we fear being wrong.  While we need to be prudent and wise regarding the people and organizations who are recipients of our generosity, we must be willing to be risky givers.  The generous heart does not lack common fear; it lacks preventive fear.  There is a big difference.  Common fear is a natural human condition. Preventive fear thwarts giving and provides us with excuses that ease our consciences.  Givonomics pushes us to face our fears and "to test and see if the Lord is good." 
Ex nihilo,

R.J. Rhoden      

      Monday, February 20, 2012

      A Fickle Soul

      Most of us will acknowledge that our hearts are home to faith and doubt, hope and disappointment, clarity and confusion, victory and defeat, life and death, strength and weakness, or belief and absurdity.  Active followers of Jesus often mislabel the existence of these counterpoints as spiritual immaturity.  Individuals investigating Jesus often over-interpret the existence of these counterpoints as barriers to faith.  Both miss the mark.

      There is a gracious way to understand these coexisting, competing opposites that occupy us.  To frame this as a question, what if one expression of God’s work in us is the mysterious morphing of these counterpoints from competing noise to beautiful harmony?  In other words, we should not live our lives in anticipation of spiritual achievement that finally and permanently removes doubt, disappointment, confusion, defeat, death, weakness, or absurdity.  Rather, we should live energized by curiosity as we eagerly anticipate God's intertwining work of our cohabitating counterpoints.  In this sense, to mature in Jesus is to be eternally curious and in awe of the beautiful, harmonic sounds God is able to produce from our conflicted souls. 
      Classical musicians are familiar with this kind of phenomenon because a similar occurrence exists especially in Baroque music.  This is referred to as contrapuntal sounds, which are melodies played against one another (counterpoints) that surprisingly produce harmony not chaotic noise.  If music can do this, than how much more can God, the creator of music, do this in us?  He is the Master Producer who is constantly shaping the contrapuntal sounds that flow out of our fragile lives.  

      This spiritual truth is supremely illustrated in Mark’s Gospel (chapter 9) where a father brings his son, suffering from a violent spirit that makes him unable to speak and inflicts episodic seizures, to Jesus to be cured.  The father cries out the following to Jesus, “I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!”  The father’s honest confession of coexisting opposites residing in his heart probably resonates with most of us.  But incredibly, Jesus receives both exclamations. He does not excessively credit the father for the statement of belief or excessively penalize him for the statement of unbelief. For Jesus, the two counterpoints are interdependent producing an harmonious expression of faith rather than being an indication of a fickle soul.  In the end the father’s son is graciously healed, and the father leaves probably full of wonder as to the events that just transpired.

       Jesus is a true ambassador to a universe of other options.  Just when we think we have him figured out, he surprises us.  Would you want it any other way?

      Ex nihilo,

      R.J. Rhoden

      Wednesday, February 8, 2012

      Content Conundrum?! - Part IV

      When does a traditional church become merely a well preserved time capsule functioning as a silo of nostalgia in a changing world?  Maybe when...

      • Memories trump Mission - The rowboat is an interesting metaphor for Christian faithfulness.  In order to move forward efficiently, the rower must be in a posture of looking back.  I love the balance in this.  But what happens if the rower stops rowing and becomes content gazing back from where he has come?  His mission or destination is not only halted but devalued in comparison to those places already navigated.  When our memories paralyze us from God's future mission, we jettison the Great Commission and turn nostalgia into an idol.         
      • Malcontent trumps Mutation - Some Christians have a penchant for proclaiming all that is wrong in the world.  They get an "A" in frustration and disgruntledness.  But, sadly, they have lost a sense of co-laboring with God to be change-agents in this world.  They no longer believe or chant confidently with the Psalmist that "we will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living."  Churches full of these kind of parishioners find themselves retreating weekly into their safe silos while the rest of the world goes to Hell!  
      • Meander trumps Mandate - It is one thing to meander through a project due to an unclear mandate.  It is an entirely different matter to meander in defiance of a mandate.  In this case meandering is an expression of disobedience.  Tragically, a church can possess good orthodoxy and yet exist in a constant state of disobedience due to meandering.  Here are a few qualifying statements to this point:
        • Mandate is not necessarily connected to pace.  Both a sprinter and a marathon runner are compelled by winning.  However, they engage their particular race with different speeds. 
        • Mandate does not mean action without thought. The Bible has much instruction regarding wisdom.
        • Meandering is chronologically neutral.  Both the young and old can be found guilty.
        • The "new idea" does not necessarily reflect a mandate attitude, and the "old idea" does not necessarily reflect a meandering attitude.  New is not always better.
      • Maintenance trumps Multiplication - Jesus is clear in Acts 1:8 when he says, "But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be by witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth."  Pentecost brings power for the multiplication of the Gospel to the entire world.  When the ethos of a church shifts from multiplication through the power of the Spirit to maintenance mode, a slow and painful death begins.  A church that multiplies has no interest in being a time capsule.   
      • Mourning trumps Magnificat - The Magnificat was birthed out of a state of confusion.  Mary had received the overwhelming news from Gabriel that she was "with child" followed by Elizabeth's prophetic proclamation over her.  It is in this context that Mary sings, "My soul glorifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior..." Much of the radical changes in our culture over the last three decades has occurred during my "coming of age" years.  While I have viewed most of it through the youthful lens of excitement, I admit to moments of personal confusion and lament triggered by cultural chaos.  If I have experienced this, I cannot imagine how it must feel to folks who have lived many more decades than I.  However, in this hour of cultural confusion the Church, with multi-generational unity, must stand together as Mary did proclaiming and glorifying the Lord.  Let's allow morbidity of thought to give way to a marveling heart of worship even in the midst of uncertainty and lamentation.  May we declare to our cities, "Lift up your heads, O you gates; lift them up, you ancient doors, that the King of glory may come in. Who is he, this King of glory?  The Lord Almighty - he is the King of glory."  

      Ex nihilo,

      R.J. Rhoden     

      Monday, January 30, 2012

      Content Conundrum?! - Part III

      When does a contemporary style church become nothing more than an ecclesiastical expression of crowd-source marketing?  Maybe when...
      • Topics trump Text - Most evangelical pastors would agree that Biblical illiteracy is a major problem.  And yet, the proclivity of those same pastors is to decrease Biblical text and increase topical communication from the pulpit on Sunday mornings.  Why?  I routinely hear two rationales.  First, there is an a priori assumption that the "average Joe" in the pew can be profiled in the following way:  short attention span, does not want to be confused with a lot of Biblical words, needs a motivational-talk-sprinkled-with-a-little-Bible to get through another week, is probably superficial, and wants pragmatism not theology.  And secondly, Sunday morning has been re-purposed as a time of inspiration not discipleship (I despise this distinction yet hear it all the time.)  Here are some abbreviated responses to these rationales: 
        • Relevancy does not necessarily equal "dumbing down."
        • "Average Joe" wants to understand the Bible and its application to his life.  Teach it.
        • Pragmatism should flow out of not replace theology.
        • Sunday mornings = content + creativity + inspiration.
        • Discipleship venues = content + creativity + inspiration. 
        • End the dichotomy.  Sunday worship can employ a strong element of discipleship and people can get Saved in a small group (and vice versa)!
      • Surveys misplace authority - On the one hand, surveys can provide helpful input with regard to parking lot issues, cleanliness of restrooms, attentiveness of staff, feedback on socials, suggestions for the website, or other community life concerns.  On the other hand, surveys, when used as a kind of crowd-source, marketing tool with regard to doctrine, liturgy, or mission, implicitly convey that an individual's predilections on such matters are somehow authoritative. The sacred content of these matters should be anchored in and protected by Biblical witness and orthodoxy.  If not, doctrinal and missional drift become not only normative but rationalized under the guise of being "seeker sensitive."      
      • Consumerism invades ecclesiology - There is a real tension that exists here.  Churches need to be diligently drawing people into worship and keeping them in community.  And yet those people cannot be viewed or treated like mere consumers.  Let me address this issue with seven simple statements:  
        • Churches should strive to be radically hospitable.
        • Hospitality, though, gracefully introduces new people to a community's traditions, semantics, beliefs, symbols, and rhythms as opposed to modifying them.
        • Excessive personal comfort thwarts spiritual maturity.  Challenge people.
        • Serious followers of Jesus laugh and have fun.
        • Styes vary. Standards don't.
        • Christ-centered praise can be led in a variety of music genres.  Avoid exhibitionism.
        • Pastoral leadership should love people where they are found and refuse to allow them to remain there.  
      • Prayer is undervalued - Contemporary models of ecclesiology are notorious for creating a utilitarian culture of prayer as opposed to an environment of prayerfulness.  Quick, perfunctory prayers are offered in worship, before meals, at civic events, before bed, in staff meetings, and at other community events.  But the cultivation of a praying soul, both corporately and individually, that includes lingering, practicing the presence of God, giving birth to vision, restoring hope, bringing healing, and basking in the mystery and beauty of God, is a neglected practice. Churches that create space and time for people to prayerfully marinate in the presence of God tend to understand the intangible benefits of such a practice.  Those that do not are prone to miss strategic moments of divine guidance, encouragement, and intervention that simply cannot be humanly scripted into a Five Year Plan.

      To be continued (Part IV - Final)...

      Ex nihilo,

      R.J. Rhoden

        Friday, January 20, 2012

        Content Conundrum?! - Part II

        How does a content conundrum impact the Church?

        Simply put, content is central to Discipleship.  Whether it is impartation or doing, both are dependent upon good, accurate content.  Consequently, the Church, steadfast in Jesus' command to "make disciples," is deeply affected by our culture's crisis and forces the asking of some strategic questions.  What are innovative delivery models in the 21st century for imparting content?  Do we need to "dumb down" Christian teaching and praxis for Today's worshippers due to a perception of disinterest?  How can the communication of in depth content be done in an inspiring, engaging manor without becoming gimmicky?  When does a contemporary driven church become nothing more than an ecclesiastical expression of crowd-source marketing?  Or, when does a traditional church become strictly a well preserved time capsule functioning as a silo of nostalgia in a changing world?  Typically, a church's answers to these questions create the gap between old and new expressions of liturgy and mission.

        It is easy to ask the questions, but the real work is in the answers.  The primary challenge is that proposed solutions can have a dimension of downside and are not always translatable in all contexts.  While I humbly acknowledge that this article will not provide a panacea for the above questions, it is an effort to provide some practical take-aways.  In addition, the goal is to recommend new approaches that are applicable in a variety of church settings.  I want us to begin occupying common ground between old and new churches so that our efforts are contributing to gap reduction not expansion.  Feel free to interact and add your own suggestions as we Call for a rejiggering of discipleship in the Church.

        What are innovative delivery models in the 21st century for imparting content? (future blog posts will address the other questions)

        • Life-long Sunday School Participants:  Many churches have one or more well-established, Adult Sunday School classes and/or teachers that have been together for decades.  The demographics of these classes are commonly seasoned Christians who find the traditional, Sunday School, delivery model to be familiar, comfortable, informative, a source of community, and a sacred ritual in their Sabbath rhythm. So why force change?  Bless and celebrate the years of faithfulness and continue to create space for this expression of discipleship.  The understandably entrenched semantics, symbols, relationships, and rituals of these Believers are not only embedded in their Spirituality but fundamentally represent something good. 
        • Non-Engaged Participants:  This is the group that should be of primary interest to us and who represent an opportunity to experiment with a variety of delivery models.  Let's not assume that this coterie of lacking-systematic-discipleship people are necessarily disinterested in prioritizing time for intentional discipleship.  Let's instead assume that there is a foundational interest in consuming good content, and our task is to build upon it providing a one-size-does-not-fit-all menu for our Discipleship initiatives.  Here are some possibilities:
          • Semantics:  Words create feelings and attitudes in people, and the phrase "Adult Sunday School Electives" does not appear in Holy Scripture!  So enlist the help of wordsmiths.  I am drawn to designations like cohorts, modules, webinars, online learning communities, seminars, and/or forums.  These words connote learning, innovation, intellectual stimulation, and modern organizational structures.  They resonate with inquiring minds. 
          • Varied Delivery Models:  Weekend seminars, Distance Learning with a Monthly Discussion Group, Book Clubs, Weekly or Bi-Monthly Cohorts (can meet in a variety of places like businesses, coffee shops, homes, etc...), Menu of Modules, and much more.  Creative additions can be presented on a regular basis. 
          • Teaching Churches:  There is a difference between a hospital and a teaching hospital.  Both provide quality service, but in the teaching hospital the patient expects students to be present with the doctor during medical care.  We need churches who will establish a teaching environment and prioritize substantial resources to the mentorship of future church leaders.  Partnerships with schools like Valley Forge Christian College could prove to be a creative delivery model for discipling future Christian leaders. 
          • Tablets:  Go paperless!  Encourage the use of a tablet or smart phone.  Provide teaching notes, readings, and other sources electronically.  Most versions of the Bible are accessible online.  Utilizing modern tools integrates discipleship with everyday life which is the point! 
          • Tracks:  Design a variety of tracks ranging from 6 months to two years.  People tend to appreciate working toward a goal. Tracks can be thematic, topical, or developmental.
        Discipleship is energizing, creative, thoughtful, emotional, and life-changing.  We need to repent from guilt-ridden appeals for people to comply with obligatory attendance of non-inspiring, Sunday School formats.  God's Spirit will help us to discern how to impart a wholistic Christianity within the context of our cultural realities. To use a biblical allusion, let's pursue new wine skins for the 21st century without watering down the vintage wine that's been enjoyed for centuries.

        To be continued...

        Ex nihilo,

        R.J. Rhoden        

          Friday, January 13, 2012

          Content Conundrum?! - Part I

          How is it possible that the Information Age is producing a puzzling crisis related to of all things - content?  It is profoundly ironic that a society of people with such great access to information is simultaneously suffering from a lack of good, accurate content.  Why is this occurring?  Let's consider four contributing factors.

          First, our culture has become increasingly satisfied with relying upon headlines, a few lines of text, and/or sound bites as an acceptable supply of content needed to be informed.  I, like many of you, now consume most of my media electronically.  It's been years since I actually had a newspaper delivered to my front door.  As much as I love this "zeitgeist"method of downloading information, I am concerned by the kind of distance it creates between the full content of the article and the reader.  One must click on the headline (btw, only if it creatively captures the imagination) and chase the content in order for substantial text to appear.  This is rather dissimilar to holding a newspaper with a longer column of content readily available.  An unfortunate trifecta of our cultural need to receive information quickly, the ridiculous pace of our lives, and the presence of mere headlines in our glances is relegating content to skimpy bites of text.

          Secondly, the internet has diminished our ability to decipher between reliable, accurate, and/or authoritative information and that which is rogue.  The preponderance of bad information being spewed daily by self proclaimed pundits, who now have a delivery method that is unprecedented in terms of accessibility and audience, is overwhelming.  Who has time to sift through it all in search of accuracy? Or, an even bigger question, who do we now rely upon as being trustworthy to impart reliable data?  The internet has hyper-decentralized historically, acceptable standards of appropriate sources of insight.  Our culture no longer has a macro-intersection of unanimity as it relates to Source.

          Thirdly, the no-holds-barred, commodification of content has supplanted the old paradigm.  While it is true that information has been commoditized for centuries (books, newspapers, magazines, encyclopedias), it was done so with regard to quality and product differentiation.  The cyber approach to spewing information does so without a conscience and is available to the highest bidder.  Search engines, if utilized without filters, lead us on a path laden with land mines placed by those whose sole motivation is monetary profit.  

          And fourthly, fueling this forest fire, is our insistence that impatience is not only normative but an acceptable character flaw for the 21st century.  We flaunt our impatient ways like a badge of honor.  But here-in lies the problem.  It takes time to gather good information.  Short cuts are suspect.  The art of gathering requires us to read longer texts, listen thoroughly, research more often, ask questions, attend a variety of meetings, and/or spend more time reflecting on what we have heard.  It is tragic to be misinformed or misguided simply due to impatience.  Do we not realize that this is one of the areas in the content conundrum that is fully in our control? And yet we relinquish our freedom to be informed by choosing convenience and a hasty life style over substance.

          With this backdrop in place, Part II (coming soon) will address the impact on the Church and our focus theme of the "old and new Church."

          Ex nihilo,

          R.J. Rhoden

          Wednesday, January 4, 2012

          New Words. Old Music.

          It's time to write.

          I have spent the last year navigating some unanticipated turns in the road.  Maybe you can relate?  One of the outcomes from such a ride is the gift of pondering.  At times it feels like a curse but that is actually the deceptive work of our Adversary. God, in His love, created us with an arsenal of faculties intended for extensive use. And it is good.  To think or to ponder is a gift to us from Him.

          During this thoughtful season I have found myself pressing deeper into the mysterious complexities vis-a-vis "tensions" that exist for followers of Jesus.  Our orthodoxy, strangely enough, is anchored by entrenched theological assets that are fully dependent on the coexistence of opposites.  And yet they work.

          Consider. God is Father, Son, and Spirit.  Jesus is fully God and fully human.  The Kingdom of God is here and yet it has not fully arrived.  Scripture is God-inspired and written with human hand in time and space.  Mary was a pregnant virgin.  It seems that one cannot be theologically reflective and guided without openly embracing tensions.

          Why is this important?  I want to blog about a specific ecclesiological tension that seems to be dominating the Church-world.  Here is the question I am asking and inviting us to seek answers together:  How can the Church be new and old at the same time?  Both are essential, non-negotiable, and integral to a sustainable expression of the Body of Christ.  And yet, we tend to over function in an unbalanced drift to one or the other.  Even worse, we are prone to being critical of which ever side is opposite our comfort zone.

          So let's stop fighting and begin pondering how every aspect of our life in Christ can reflect the coexistence of the following:  old and new words, new and old music, old and new writings, new and old architecture, old and new proclamations, new and old prayers, old and new techniques, new and old traditions, old and new disciplines, new and old fashion styles, old and new generations, new and old liturgies, old and new creeds, new and old art, old and new prophecies, new and old translations, old and new__________...you fill in the blank.

          Perhaps this new blog might serve to be a galvanizing and unifying instrument for us around this motif?  I need space to express my thoughts, ask questions, and listen. You might have need for this as well.  So let's begin.  Become a Follower if you feel so inclined or be a stealth reader.  In either case I welcome your comments, questions, and/or responses.

          Ex nihilo,

          R.J. Rhoden