The Common Good

God's Politics Blog

Rob Bell's Parting Epistle to Mars Hill: "Grace + Peace"

Editor's Note: Rob Bell, 41, the founding pastor of Mars Hill church in western Michigan, bid adieu to his congregation in a 5,000-word epistle about grace and peace, which he preached on Dec. 18 to thousands in the converted strip mall that has housed the "Jesus community" for a decade. He said, in part:

"this church, this place, this community, was once simply a

hunch. a dream. a vision. a picture in the mind of a new kind of church for the new world we find ourselves in. a church that was fearless in confronting the injustices and systems of oppression that lurk around every corner and at the very same time deeply committed to the personal, intimate experience of following Jesus, of experiencing the joy and peace that transcends space and time. a church that found the stale, old categories of liberal and conservative boring and irrelevant because we'd experienced resurrection, which includes and affirms anything and everything that brings liberating, new life wherever it's found irrespective of whatever labels and categories it's been given because of an abiding conviction that the

tomb is,

after all,

empty.

a church where the main thing was actually the main thing."

+Continue Reading

Christmas Favorites from SoJo's Christmas Favorites: Jason Harrod

The first time I heard Jason Harrod sing was more than 20 years ago at a coffee house at Wheaton College outside Chicago where we were both studends at the time. He sang Neil Young's "Sugar Mountain," and his tenor voice was so pure, so perfect and sweet and heartbreakingly earnest, I ended up crying in my mochachino.

We're both now in our 40s, Jason is stil singing like an angel, and I'm still listening (occasionally in tears) along with many other fans who have discovered the unique charm of Jason's Smokey-Mountains-meets-Brooklyn-subway sensibilities and ever soulful wordsmithery.

Jason and his former musical partner in crime, Brian Funck, recorded "Lion Song" on their self-titled second album, Harrod & Funck that, while not a Christmas song per se, has always felt like a winter tune and tale to me. Seeking shelter from the cold and finding it. Getting lost and being found. The great gift of grace in all of its myriad forms — in relationship, in a light in the darkness, a glimpse of the horizon in the storm, or in the first toddling steps taken by a baby boy sent as a gift (to ALL) to heal and reconcile the world.

+Continue Reading

The Top 10 Stories of December 19, 2011

Quote of the day.
"In [South] Africa the theme was the fight against Aids. Here we must spread the culture of peace and disarmament. We are still the country that most kills with firearms." - Renan Filho, Brazilian Member of Parliament, on a proposal for the 2014 Brazilian World Cup to give free or reduced-price tickets to fans who surrender guns, which would be destroyed and used to make goalposts for Cup matches.
(Guardian)

+Continue Reading

The Morning News: Monday, Dec. 19, 2011

North Korean Leader’s Nukes, Threats Stoked World Fears; Extension of Tax Cut Stalls in House as GOP Objects; Christian Group Recalls Pink Bible; For Times Such As These: The Radical Christian Witness of the New Monastics; ‘People’s year’ gives hope that the tide is turning; Speaker targets immigration law; Vaclav Havel, Czech’s Velvet Revolution Leader, Dead at 75; Paul Leads Iowa, Gingrich drops to 3; Mitt Romney’s Dream World: Cutting Billions Out of Medicaid Will Not 'Hurt the Poor'.

+Continue Reading

An Advent Reflection: Being a Hospitality House

I think of Mary, the young woman whose eyes were opened to God’s messenger, whose womb was opened to God in human flesh. The Greeks call her theotokos — the God-bearer.

She is the one who welcomed Jesus to make his home in her. Blessed among women, she is a model for us.

She’s not just an inspiration for a house of hospitality. She is one.

Two years ago, Leah was very pregnant during Advent. Because of high blood pressure, she was on bed rest for most of it. So we waited.

We waited for our daughter to come, and we waited for Christmas. We waited with Mary to greet face-to-face the One whom we invite into our lives every time we whisper a prayer.

Waiting, we learned, changes your relationship to time. You stop partitioning it into blocks, and you learn to receive it.

+Continue Reading

Hit the Hallelujah Button: There's an App for That

Each day leading until Christmas we will post a different video rendition of the "Hallelujah Chorus" for your holiday enjoyment and edification.

Today's offering is a group effort that comes compliments of the clever folks at Pavone Advertising in Harrisburg, Penn., the even-more clever designers of the Melody Bell app for iPhone and iPad, and the cleverest of them all, the late great Steve Jobs (for it is he who blessed humanity with the iPhone in the first place.)

In its 2011 Holiday Greeting, Pavone employees perform Handel's timeless Christmas favorite — entirely using their iPhones, iPods and iPads.

Watch their epic peformance inside ...

+Continue Reading

The Last GOP Debate of the Year: Fun with Soundbites

Our friends at the Huffington Post have had some fun with video sound bites from yesterday's GOP debate.

Favorite line comes from Texas Gov. Rick Perry who said, "I am the Tim Tebow of the Iowas caucuses."

So, for your Friday afternoon viewing pleasure, we give you "Last Republican Debate of 2011: Out of Context":

 

+Continue Reading

Georgia Couple Pleads with Bank of America via Music Video

Ken and Meredith Williams have been waiting 79 days for the Bank of America in Georgia to close on their home loan.

The bank has delayed the closing three times. And the Williams, who live outside Atlanta and want to buy a modest home in the city nearer to their work offices, have grown frustrated with the hold-up and ... clever couple that they are ... their ire turned to humor.

They started a blog chronicling their misadventures with the banking behemoth, created a Twitter account to bombard the bank with message through it's @BoA_Help account, and then made a music video — Ken plays the guitar and sings while Meredith, in one scene, dances in the background in the parking lot of the Bank of America branch in Lawrenceville, Ga.

It's hilarious and, they hope, effective.

See the video and read the Williams' tale of woe inside...

+Continue Reading

The War is Over. We're All Responsible.

Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel once said about the war in Vietnam, “Some are guilty, all are responsible.” It is a good reminder of our responsibilities now that the war in Iraq has officially been declared ended.

First, we as a society are responsible for the necessary care for our returned veterans. A total of 1.5 million American men and women served in the armed forces in Iraq.  Nearly 35,000 suffered physical injuries, as many as 360,000 may have brain injuries, and as many as 25 percent have symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder. 

Suicides and divorces are rising, homelessness and unemployment are high.

Having sent them to war, our society now needs to assume the responsibility for providing what they and their families need. As Abraham Lincoln reminded the country in his second inaugural speech, as the Civil War was ending in March 1865, one of the unfinished tasks was “to care for him who shall have borne the battle and for his widow and his orphan …”  

We must advocate for and ensure that in the budget and deficit cutting battles to come, the necessary funding for veterans care and benefits are maintained. It’s a moral obligation.

+Continue Reading

Advent or Government Shutdown, Which Matters More?

There is, once again, a threat of a government shutdown. Congress, once again, can’t get along. Even the most basic decision making has stalled as each party postures for their base.
 
But, it’s almost Christmas and there a better and brighter things to focus on then the latest Rasmussen tracking poll.

I’d like to share some Advent reflections from my former professor at North Park University, Scot McKnight. He is in the midst of a series that points to what Advent is supposed to remind Christians of. It’s a simple message with deep meaning: Jesus is King.

+Continue Reading