Sunday, December 31, 2006

New Orleans

I'm in New Orleans, LA (NOLA)for Celebrate V the Ecumenical Gathering of Christian College Students. The conference is great, but the city is the real experience. I was in NOLA for a Lutheran Student Movement gathering new year's 2000-2001; so I can not help but do a pre/post Katrina comparison. The difference is felt before it is seen. There isn't the same bustling hustling energy here anymore. In fact, for any urban area it seems sedate. It is estimated that NOLA is about 40% of pre-Katrina population. In most cities, infrastructure supports people. Here, now, the people are not present to support the infrastructure, thus slowing the rebuilding process.

In fact, if you get out of the French Quarter, it looks like the hurricane happened last month not last year. The Lower Ninth ward is heart breaking. The whole city was hit, and all are hurting. However, in most areas recovery, though slow, is happening. In the Lower Ninth, that isn't the case. With extremely few exceptions, the people of the Lower Ninth just don't have the resources to rebuild. It is enough to make one feel hopeless.

However, there is hope in NOLA! It comes from the music. That, of course, sounds cheesy, but allow me to elaborate. The music of New Orleans is not prepackaged snack food music like most sounds you here on MTV or the radio today. The music here is instrinsicly related to the expresion of deep emotions that prose just can't support, sometimes even words can not support. At the very least it takes a poem, but more likely it takes a jazz solo, a dance, or a combination. In NOLA they have a tradition called a Second Line. It is a funeral procession where a brass band leads the coffin and a host of folks to and from the burial site. On the journey toward the resting place a dirge, slow mornful music, is played. The people cry, mourn, wail, and grieve publicly. However, on the way back, the music is joyful and the dancing begins. In the Second Line, both reality and hope are publicly processed. It is the strong symbol of the Second Line that will allow the people of New Orleans to grieve and to hope, to suffer and heal.

Unfortunately most of our culture is being reduced to snack food. We are better at denial then grief. We lack the strong symbols to publily process pain and therefore make space for hope. Not so in NOLA. Here they lay it out for all to see, and we would do well to watch.

Friday, December 22, 2006

Ipod Shuffle 9:18 a.m. cst

What follows is the most recent suffling of the library:

  1. Bubblehouse -- Meddeski Martin and Wood
  2. Prelude in B Dur -- Bach Well Tempered Clavier
  3. Jeremiah Blues -- Pt. 1
  4. Fugue in G Dur -- Bach Well Tempered Clavier
  5. The Deser Shall Bloom -- Landon Whittsett
  6. Your Our God -- Landon Whittsett
  7. Nature Boy -- Miles Davis
  8. Fugue in G Moll -- Bach Well Tempered Clavier
  9. Second Line Medley -- Irma Thomas
  10. Siboney, Pts. 1&2 -- Diz and Getz

The rules, for bloggers who want to play:

Get your ipod or media-player of choice, select your whole music collection, set the thing to shuffle (i.e., randomized playback), then post the first ten songs that come out. No cheating, no matter how stupid it makes you feel!

Idea originally from Fr. Jim Tucker of Dappled Things


Yesterday was a great day for me. As some of you have probably heard, there were immigration raids out here in Nebraska on Dec. 12th. About 250 people were detained from a plant in Grand Island, NE about a 150 miles west of Omaha. They were taken to a facility in Des Moines, IA, 120 East of Omaha. After some time, 80 people were released for a variety of reasons. However, they were simply escorted out the door of the facility and told to have a nice day. Now they were 270 miles away from family, home, and jobs with no transportation! This does not even get into the fact that all those families were separated and the other atrocities that occured. Yesterday some grassroots organizers that I work with put together a press conference to respond to the raids and call for a moratorium on raids until comprehensive immigration reform. I was able to talk my bishop into attendeding and speaking. I am actually proud that it did not take much persuasion on my part at all. He was quite willing. His remarks were excellent and even made it on the news!!!!

Later I had lunch with a new clergy person here in town who I really think is talented and will be an asset to the Episcopal church here in Omaha. Then in the afternoon I worked with another organizer on a christian education curriculum on Exdus, Prophetic Ministry, and the insights of Theologian Walter Brueggemann. Jodie and I capped off the evening with dinner at one our favorite resturants! It was a great day. Social action, one on one for lunch, bible study, and dinner with my wife. I don't think I could have had a better day!

Tuesday, December 19, 2006


So I'm in my last diocesan staff meeting. I have accepted a call at All Saints Episcopal Church here in Omaha; so, I'm leaving the diocesan staff in January. I'm trying to pay attention, but it is really hard. Well...I'm at this point failing to pay attention since I'm blogging. I'm not much of a multi-tasker.

It is actually a bit of an ironic day. We are buying new software, updating an internal calendar stored on the network, enrolling in direct deposit, and instituting a reimbursement form stored on the web page. The diocesan administrative life is finally coming into this century and now I'm leaving. Oh well, I'm sure there is technology at All Saints.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Existentialist, Prophetic, Muppets

I have been thinking a lot lately about prophetic ministry. As I was ruminating a bit last week, a line from the humblist of 20th century Existentialist philosophers, Kermit the Frog, emerged from my subconscious.
Someday we'll find it, the rainbow connection
the lovers, the dreamers, and me
When those of us from the Abrahamic faiths think of rainbows we often think of the Flood Epic from Genesis. Noah himself is rarely considered a prophet, but it is a story of God creating a new alternative community from that which existed. The rainbow is a particular reminder that God will never recreate the community that way again. From that point on in scripture, God always recreates the community in and through people not through divine war upon creation. It is the task of the prophet to articulate this new community.

Biblical scholar Walter Brueggemann writes in his book The Prophetic Imagination"The task of prophetic ministry is to nuture, nourish, and evoke a consciousness and perception alternative to the consciousness and perception of the dominant culture around us." It was upon this idea that Kermit emerged in my head. To do this, to evoke an alternative community it requires love, dreams, and me.

It requires a love that emerges from love of self and the realization that the best way to love one's self is to love God. Furthermore the best way to love God is to love one's neighbor.

It requires dreams because if we aren't free to imagine, if we can not visualize within ourselves the new creation then we can never begin to articulate it to others.

It requires me, that is to say action. We must act within the world, within history. We can not wait for the "pie in the sky, by and by". We must engage the powers that be through love to shape a community that works for all.

Thanks Kermit

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Isaiah 2:1-11


"2 In days to come
the mountain of the Lord’s house
shall be established as the highest of the mountains,
and shall be raised above the hills;
all the nations shall stream to it.

3 Many peoples shall come and say,
‘Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord,
to the house of the God of Jacob;
that he may teach us his ways
and that we may walk in his paths.’"

In the fall of 2002, which feels both like a blink of eye and ages ago, I moved to New York City to attend The General Theological Seminary of The Episcopal Church. (Episcopalians are fond of the definite article. Can't you tell?) Anyway, soon after my arrival in the biggest of apples, I made the pilgrmidge to the Statue of Liberty. As I stood looking up at this icon of freedom, a mother and daughter stood behind me, and I overheard there conversation. It went something like this, "Do you see my daughter? That is the Statue of Liberty and it reminds us of the revolutionary war where we won our freedom." Now forget the fact that the statue was built long after the revolutionary war, the really interesting thing was that this woman and daughter were from India, or at least of Indian descent.

Now, in my less than brightest moment, I got really offended by what she was telling her child. I thought silently, "This isn't your country lady, and that war was not fought for your freedom. It was for mine!" I then I heard my thoughts. Oh, Lord please have mercy! How could I have such a racist thought, me then a soon to be seminary student. I realized in that moment that I still have a lot of confessing and repentance to do. Confession is when we admit our sins. Repentance is when we turn from them towards God and live differently. It takes both the actions of confession and repentance to grow in faith. Lord forgive me! Lord transform me!

Many people through the years have thought of the U.S.A. as that city on a hill foretold by both Isaiah and Jesus. It is a good goal, but we have a lot of work to do to reach it. The labor begins with guys like me being self aware, repenting, and taking action privately and publically to be better. Hopefully, someday it shall be as the prophet foretells,

4 He [God] shall judge between the nations,
and shall arbitrate for many peoples;
they shall beat their swords into ploughshares,
and their spears into pruning-hooks;
nation shall not lift up sword against nation,
neither shall they learn war any more.

Lord forgive me! Lord transform me!

God's Peace,


All scriptures quotes are from the NRSV found on

Monday, December 04, 2006

It was bound to happen...


So I preached a crapy sermon yesterday. I know some of you may be surprised. Jason Emerson preach a bad sermon? No...Never! Well, yes! I just couldn't spot the good news in the text for yesterday, couldn't come up with personal illustrations to highlight that elusive good news, and, most assurdly, I did not bring the funny!

I don't feel arrogant when I say that I am a good preacher. It is one of the gifts God has given me for ministry no different then a nursing friend of mine whose particularly good at giving shots without bruising. I have worked hard to develop this gift in response to God's graciousness in my life. Having experienced the love of God in life changing, intense ways, the particular way that I can best share that love is through preaching.

Even Roger Clemens pitches a bad game every now and again, and like an athelete in a slump my instinct is to work harder, redouble my efforts and put more time and energy into my preparation. However, I wondering if that is the right answer. Possibly, increasing the number of commentaries referenced will not make the sermons better. Possibly, the answer is to breath more, to wallow in the love of God more, to listen more, and hopefully reconnect with that good news. You can't spot the good news in the text if you aren't aware of it in your daily experiences.

So, I think I'll chalk yesterday up to a humbling experience, keep my head in the game, and listen with my heart more. Hopefully, I'll get my swing back. I think that is enough sports metaphors for now.

God's Peace,


I found a great quote by Walter Brueggemann today on what scripture is:

“The Bible is essentially an open, artistic, imaginative narrative of God’s staggering care for the world, a narrative that will feed and nurture into obedience that builds community precisely by respect for the liberty of the Christian man or woman.” --Walter Brueggemann