The current installment of the COEC began meeting in 2007.

We are currently on a "break," for no particular reason, and many little reasons - mostly pertaining to life circumstances. If anyone is interested in calling a meeting, feel free to post on the blog, join the google group (see link below) and send an email, or contact either Nancy (nancykj10@yahoo.com) or Jesse (schroeder.jesse@gmail.com) for more information.

To receive cohort emails, join our Google group.


Next Week's Celebration of the Faithful Ideas

Here are some ideas I threw out at the meeting that we could possible do for our "Celebration of the Faithful" next week, Sun. Aug. 31. Please offer your comments, ideas and suggestions.

  1. Visit a "prayer labyrinth" - see wikipedia article for more info - This website lists several in the Columbus area. Adam and Kara mentioned the OSU arboreteum, which looks to have beautiful gardens and a very nice outdoor labyrinth. We could either do the meal aspect of the gathering at someone's house, or we could try a picnic.
  2. Do some sort of prayer stations. I think at the last "Celebration of the Faithful" Nick and Jane facilitated something very similar (but I wasn't able to make it). Prayer stations are based upon the ancient practice of the Stations of the Cross, which is essentially using visual cues to direct prayer. "Stations" (or a spot to stand and look at a picture) are set up around the room and people move from station to station, being led in prayer. It would be tough for one person to set up many prayer stations, so perhaps different people could design and bring a prayer station, and then we could set them up as one experience. The stations could be interactive in some way, for example having a place to write, a picture to color in or draw, an image to look at, a physical element to touch, something to take away - this would be an opportunity to be very creative. The prayer stations wouldn't necessarily have to have any set theme, although we could agree on a theme, perhaps something general like "Peace" or more specific like praying for those suffering from natural disasters.
OK - as Nick said, "Blog it out"


Do you fear God?

Hi everyone. Good conversation today. One issue that I thought of but didn't have time to discuss is the idea of fearing God, or God requiring our fear. It is commonly said, and I believe mostly rightfully so, that there are two different Gods in the Bible, the Old Testament God that we must fear and the New Testament God that we should love. While I understand the two are not mutually exclusive, in my own life I can say that I love God, but I do not "fear" Him, in the sense that I worry that he is going to make things bad for me or something. Rather, I just recognize that those things will happen.

Today we were talking the story of the Garden of Eden and we were discussing how much God seems like a total jerk. It occurred to me that when this story was written (divinely or otherwise) there was a great need to fear God. This was a time period when people prayed for rain or saw all sickness as a result of sin. For them, it made perfect sense to fear God because if he got mad at you, things could go very badly. Now, we understand when it is going to rain and why people get sick - most of the mystery is gone if you will. I am not worried that if I don't fear God then He won't let it rain on my crops. Instead, I watch the weather channel and irrigate if I need to (okay, I don't do that...but I'm sure there are people that do).

The question is, should modern Christians fear God, since we now have the knowledge of Jesus?


2 Opportunities

1) 30 Days of Prayer for Muslim Countries, during the month of Ramadan - Zack first told me about this last year, and it was a challenging time - not only in prayer, but also fasting to identify with Ramadan practices. It's a pretty awesome way to show love to millions of people.

2) "The Shack" discussion. Not sure if anyone else has read this book, but it's really good. My dad's church is hosting a discussion night, and everyone is welcome. Fri. Sept. 5th, 7pm.


An Encounter with Mysticism

As part of my dissertation research I have been coming across numerous types of Christian mysticism popular during the Renaissance (it’s a long story, but basically I am researching the influence of magic, science, the occult, and theology on music in Prague in the late 16th century and early 17th). At first many of these beliefs seem ridiculous to me, but then I realized that in 500 years many people, including Christians, will likely look back at our system of religion, from evangelical to our own emergent, and also find it laughable. And yet, they will still be followers of Christ.

I would like to explore some of these mystical ways of thinking over the next few weeks on the blog. Many of us like to speak about the mystery of our faith, but few of us do much to encounter that mystery. Also, since we desire to be in dialogue with all of our brother and sisters in the faith, it is worthwhile to explore the different ways people have practiced it, even if those people have been gone from this earth for centuries. Now, there are certainly still people with mystical practices today, and if any of you come across this blog we would honestly love your thoughts as we strive to come to a better understanding of different religious practices. However, most of us will primarily be in contact with our mystical brethren through their writings.

The topic that has been most fascinating to me lately is the Christian Cabala. During the time I study this was extremely popular and is directly related to, though not the same as, the Jewish Kabbalah (Wikipedia article here). As a gross oversimplification, they believed that there were two laws passed down, the written and the oral, both given to Moses. Also, and this is the more famous part, they believed in gematria, which was using numerology with reading scripture (all words had a numeric value, and could be switched with other words that had the same value). The core behind this belief was twofold: first that written scripture was divinely inspired, and second that there were numerous hidden messages for the faithful to discover – which explains why so much of the Torah seems so very unsacred- the sacred part was hidden.

Anyway, there was one belief in particular that I thought I would raise as an issue for discussion. It was widely believed that in order to create this world God had to lesser himself. This is because a perfect being could not create an imperfect world. There were more justifications for this, but we need not get into it right now. Please, share your thoughts both on this issue and on mysticism in general as we begin what could prove to be a very interesting journey.


Jesus Radicals Conference

Jenn Ayers told me about the Jesus Radicals Conference, coming up this weekend. No big names that I recognize, but very interesting topics and right here in Columbus. Also, as far as I can tell, it's free. If anyone is interested, post here.


Next Meeting: August 10th

For our next meeting we will discuss the book of Ecclesiastes (yes, from the Bible!), what is to me one of the coolest and most mysterious books of the Bible. I am looking forward to having an open discussion about the text and to seeing how our very different backgrounds meet upon it. I thought about choosing just some of the book's chapters, but I couldn't do it, so for now let's look at all 10. If anyone feels that this is too large please make your opinion known. As we study it this week I'm sure that each of us will be drawn to particular themes that will help to organize the discussion. Or it might just be a big rambling mess. Ok, so pull out your highlighter, get out your commentaries and those old seminary notes, email your priest, do your word studies, google the word "ecclesiastes;" and oh, don't forget to read the Biblical text and reflect upon it with your own insight. We'll meet at 3:00 pm at the Global Gallery Coffee Shop in German Village, as usual.


The Transfiguration

"The Transfiguration" by Sufjan Stevens from his album Seven Swans

When he took the three disciples
to the mountainside to pray,
his countenance was modified, his clothing was aflame.
Two men appeared: Moses and Elijah came;
they were at his side.
The prophecy, the legislation spoke of whenever he would die.

Then there came a word
of what he should accomplish on the day.
Then Peter spoke, to make of them a tabernacle place.
A cloud appeared in glory as an accolade.
They fell on the ground.
A voice arrived, the voice of God,
the face of God, covered in a cloud.

What he said to them,
the voice of God: the most beloved son.
Consider what he says to you, consider what's to come.
The prophecy was put to death, 
was put to death, and so will the Son.
And keep your word, disguise the vision till the time has come.

Lost in the cloud, a voice: Have no fear! We draw near!
Lost in the cloud, a sign: Son of man! Turn your ear!
Lost in the cloud, a voice: Lamb of God! We draw near!
Lost in the cloud, a sign: Son of man! Son of God!

A question has been asked...

I recently got an email from a seminary student named Ryan who is writing a paper on different views of the claims of Christ. He would like our thoughts about some of the passages traditionally taken as Jesus claiming to be God or equal with God.

Here are some of the passages he mentioned:

Matthew 26:63
Mark 14:62 (same verse basically)
John 8:58
John 10:30
John 14:7-9
John 11:35



How do/should we read the Bible?

Since our Xenos discussion, this question has been rolling around in my mind. There were several times during the session that Dennis used verses from the Bible to prove his points, and admittedly I didn't have much of a response at the time. After the session, some members of Xenos commented that they thought Dennis' points were better because they were supported by Scripture.

I've really been rolling this whole issue around in my head for the past few weeks, because it feels like a seismic shift in how I approach the Bible, read the stories found there, and interact with the God that inspired it. Is it a resource to interpreted? Do I read the Bible to shape my theology? Or do I have a theology and I search for verses that support what I already believe?

I mentioned this to Jane the other day, but I've been wondering if the Bible isn't supposed to inform us of truth statements about God, but rather there are stories and accounts of experiences with God, and they are meant to direct us to him. The purpose of the Bible isn't to just know about God but to genuinely and personally know him. Of course to divide between these two types of readings to the extreme is to create an unnecessary dichotomy....this is what I've been wrestling with.

Scott McKnight on his blog Jesus Creed linked to this very short post on why fundamentalism is unbiblical. Thoughts on this article? Thoughts on how we read the Bible and how that shapes our relationship with God, other Christians and the world around us?