You Won't be Able to Discern God's Actions...

...if you don't know what...

...God cares about.

This morning I was reading a wonderfully short blog by Scott McKnight, entitled "The OT's Most Important Command"* It got me thinking on a couple levels. 

Leaning on the work of Walter Brueggemann (and who wouldn't?), McKnight reveals a little know fact in the Hebrew language. There are no adverbs. Brueggemann explains, "I’ll give you a little Hebrew grammar.... Biblical Hebrew has no adverbs. The way it expresses the intensity of the verb, it repeats the verb. So if it says give and you want to say “really give” it says “give give” right in the sentence–”give give.”

This little lesson in grammar is not without a point. So if one wants to find a high priority command, look for lots of verbs repeated. With this in mind, Brueggemann says the most stressed command in the Old Testament is not what people might think.

How about,

  1. "Love the LORD your God..."? Nope
  2. "You shall have no other God's before me"? Nu-uh.
  3. "You shall work on six days, and the seventh is a sabbath to the LORD"? No.
  4. "Beat your swords into plowshares"? Not that either.

So before I reveal what McKnight wrote from Brueggeman, let me ask if we really know God well enough to share God's priorities? As a missional conviction, we need to be in mission where God has initiated mission. We look in our neighborhoods, along our sidewalks, where we work and where our kids go to school. We hope to see God active in our worshiping communities and active outside them as well. But we can be blind to what God is doing because we are seeking the actions of God in the wrong places.

If we know God's priorities, might we discern God in action in those places where God's priorities are made manifest?

Missional discernment needs people who know God. Prayerful, reflective, spiritual people who seek the heart of God in a living, personal relationship.

But missional discernment also needs to know about God. To have learned about, acted upon, engaged in the biblical narrative revealing God in action, let's us know this God we are seeking to know deeply.

Often I have thought we need to "know God" more than "knowing about God". But I'm rethinking that. Without knowing about God, we might be chasing a relationship with a god of our own creation. We need both knowing, and knowing about.

So, according to Brueggemann, what is the Old Testament's most important command?


Deuteronomy 15

, you get a law about seven years. It’s called the 

Year of Release

. It says that at the end of seven years, if a poor person owes you money, cancel the debt." As Brueggemann explains, "[The law] says to not be hard-hearted (or tight fisted) about granting poor people space to live their lives, because you were slaves in Egypt and the Lord God brought you out into the good place." Scott McKnight adds, "So grammatically, the Old Testament scripture with the 

most emphasis

 as in “you must must must must 


 do this” is a passage about forgiving debts."

God cares about releasing debts. This is big. Very big. And it let's us know where God's heart is. 





Peter's Pentecostal Preaching

I was struck while, hearing the lectionary reading a few weeks ago from the book of Acts and the story of Pentecost. Peter and the disciples were thought to be drunk. I imagine people laughing and dancing, seemingly a bit socially confusing.  

Rather than beginning with a clear defense, an explanation, Peter orients those present to a non-didactic social imagination from a prophet long deceased. He references dreams and visions. Dreams and visions begin with grand and uncontrolled stories that are witnesses more than they are spoken. They are emotionally impressive rather than intellectual. And, visions and dreams are unreasonable. Dreams and visions are more like blending and stirring together of ironic or even opposing ideas. Dreams and visions, iconic images, irrepressible illustrations, and redemptive social imaginations - these are the tools of poets, artists, and those who break the edges of molds and forms established by powers, empires, and religious leaders who believe their job is to stabilize. Like the artists I've known, these Pentecostal disciples formed a performance art piece that got people talking.

And the work of art they emerged within, and they fit into, they blend, into an emotionally charged whole.

Are there answers like these to "explain" the performance art of our unreasonable and irrrepressible imaginations? Or, do we not seem noticeable to our neighbors, not "drunk" enough, but far too sober?

A Missional Birthday

Two Sundays ago we had a party at church. As the plans for the party required a various last minute accommodation (tow-trucks, picking up balloons, providing driving directions, etc) our regular time of gathered worship was anything but regular.

The guest of honor, a one-year old little girl, Mikala, was there. She came with her caretakers as she awaited her mother. Her mother, recently out of jail is getting her life back on track. Members of our church are helping with her care for her daughter, Mikala. After the Mikala's mom and her friend had arrived, we awaited the rest of her mother's friends. Slowly, they began to filter in. Our small house church more than doubled in size and strangers began playing party games with each other. Many of these guests also had had the experience of jail. We a wonderfully diverse group. Traditional Mennonites, both young and old, playing pin the tail on the donkey with folks of widely differing life experiences.

We'll see how the relationships that began then might be fostered in the days and weeks coming. As it happened, perhaps the finest missionary among us that day is now only entering her second year of life.

"And a child shall lead them..."