Saturday, June 19, 2010

the Holy Kiss for today..on a bridge and in a bucket

"There is the kiss and the counterkiss, and if one wins, we both lose." -Walter Brueggemann -
We covered the biblical tradition of the "holy kiss" in our class last night;
It was a lot of fun. We started with a game of Hangman;
We had "Holy _ _ _ _" on the whiteboard when folks came in!

They has to guess what four letter word filled in the blank to make this a phrase that appears in Scripture.

That the Bible explicitly mentions this practice five times:

  • Romans 16.16a — "Greet one another with a holy kiss" (Greek: ἀσπάσασθε ἀλλήλους ἐν φιλήματι ἁγίῳ).
  • I Corinthians 16.20b — "Greet one another with a holy kiss" (Greek: ἀσπάσασθε ἀλλήλους ἐν φιλήματι ἁγίῳ).
  • II Corinthians 13.12a — "Greet one another with a holy kiss" (Greek: ἀσπάσασθε ἀλλήλους ἐν ἁγίῳ φιλήματι).
  • I Thessalonians 5.26 — "Greet all the brothers with a holy kiss" (Greek: ἀσπάσασθε τοὺς ἀδελφοὺς πάντας ἐν φιλήματι ἁγίῳ).
  • I Peter 5.14a — "Greet one another with a kiss of love" (Greek: ἀσπάσασθε ἀλλήλους ἐν φιλήματι ἀγάπης).
...makes it a classic case study in how to apply
any scriptures that we assume need a cultural equivalent to out taking them literally.

On this issue of interpretation:

  • Brian Dodd's discussion of the "interpretive bridge" is helpful (p. 19 here)
as is
  • Ron Martoia's posts on the "two buckets" (see "The Two Bucket Theory Examined" here).

I really recommend you read both above links, then get back to us.
They helped us when we tackled women in leadership, and homosexuality.

We learned that, counterintuitively to our guesses from this end of the cultural bridge, it seems the early church's holy kissing was almost always... on the lips!
The reason is powerful: that form on kiss implied equality...a kiss on the cheeks implied one person was inferior. Nothing like a Kingdom Kiss as an acted parable and reminder that in Christ we are equal! Of course, today, when we look at cultural equivalents like the "holy hug", "holy handshake," we might not realize that that, too, began as a Kingdom equalizer:

In fact, handshaking, which can seem quite prosaic today, was popularised by Quakers as a sign of equality under God, rather than stratified system of etiquette of seventeenth century England
Ironically, the kiss of inclusion became a kiss of exclusion (from centered to bounded set):
Just as kissing had many different meanings in the wider ancient world, so too early Christians interpreted the kiss in various ways. Because ancient kissing was often seen as a familiar gesture, many early Christians kissed each other to help construct themselves as a new sort of family, a family of Christ. Similarly, in the Greco-Roman world, kissing often was seen as involving a transfer of spirit; when you kissed someone else you literally gave them part of your soul. The early church expanded on this and claimed that, when Christians kissed, they exchanged the Holy Spirit with one another. Christians also emphasized the kiss as an indication of mutual forgiveness (it’s from here that we get the term “kiss of peace”). These different meanings influenced and were influenced by the sorts of rituals kissing became associated with. For example, because the kiss helped exchange spirit, it made perfect sense for it to become part of baptism and ordination, rituals in which you wanted the Holy Spirit to descend and enter the initiate. The flip side of the coin is that before someone was baptized you wouldn’t want to kiss them. Early Christians often believed that previous to exorcism and baptism people were inevitably demon possessed. Given that they also thought that kissing resulted in spiritual exchange, it’s pretty clear why you wouldn’t want to kiss non-Christians. I sometimes think of this as an ancient form of “cooties.” It resulted in early Christian debates over whether one could kiss a pagan relative, if one should kiss a potential heretic, or if Jews even had a kiss.
-Penn, link

We incorporated insights from these and other articles linked below, and quoted the only book on the topic, "Kissing Christians" by Michael Penn. You'll note some of the articles below include interview with him. We particularly enjoyed some of the early fathers and teachers' comments and guidelines on the practice.

One early guideline, for real (wonder if this was in the weekly "bulletin"):

1)No French Kissing!
2)If you come back for seconds, because you liked the first kiss too much, you may be going to hell!!

Clement of Alexandra (c.150 - c. 215

"There are those who do nothing but make the church resound with the kiss."

Chrysostom (4th C):
“We are the temple of Christ, and when we kiss each other
we are kissing the porch and entrance of the temple.”

Augustine (4th C):
"when your lips draw close to the lips of your brother, let your heart not draw away."

One interview with Michael Penn:

Whoever said ''a kiss is just a kiss" didn't know their theological history. During Christianity's first five centuries, ritual kissing -- on the lips -- was a vital part of worship, says Michael P. Penn, who teaches religion at Mount Holyoke College in South Hadley. In that context, kissing helped Christians define themselves as a family of faith, he writes in his new book, ''Kissing Christians: Ritual and Community in the Late Ancient Church" (University of Pennsylvania Press). Excerpts from a recent interview follow.

Q: Let me start with the basic question: Who kissed whom?

A: In the first two centuries [AD], men may kiss men, women women, but also you would have men and women kissing one another. In future centuries, there continued to be a debate over who should kiss whom. In later years, Christians will no longer have men and women kissing each other, but only men men, women women. [Christians had] debates on whether or not priests could kiss the laity, on whether you should kiss a non-Christian relative in the normal, everyday situation, even debates over whether Jews have a kiss or not.

Q: When in the service was the kiss performed?

A: Our earliest references would be a kiss that would follow a communal prayer. Later on, it gets increasingly associated with the Eucharist and also occurs in part of the rites of baptism and in ordination rites. You have Christians kissing each other as an everyday greeting or also martyrs, before they're killed, kissing one another.

Q: What was the theological significance?

A: In antiquity, a kiss on the lips was seen as transferring a little bit of one's spirit to the other person. You have a lot of early -- I kind of think of them almost as Greco-Roman Harlequin -- novels that speak of the kiss as this transfer of spirit. Christians modify it a bit, to suggest that when Christians kiss each other, they don't just exchange their own spirit, but also share a part of the Holy Spirit with one another. So the kiss is seen as a way to bind the community together.

There's another side, though. There was a concern that kissing an individual who has promised to join the Christian community but isn't yet baptized should be avoided, because the spirit that would be transferred wouldn't be a holy spirit but a demonic spirit. So you have the kiss working as this ritual of exclusion.

Q: Did Christian leaders worry about the erotic overtones?

A: We have only two explicit references to this concern. One says, essentially, to kiss with a closed and chaste mouth, which suggests that a few of these kisses may have been too erotic. The other one warns against those who kiss a second time because they liked the first one so much.

Judas kissing Jesus [to betray him] terrifies them a lot more than eroticism. There's this evil intention behind it. Early Christian writers use the kiss of Judas to warn that it's not just how you practice the kiss, but what you're thinking. If you kiss another Christian while keeping evil in your heart against them, you are repeating Judas' betrayal.

Q: When did kissing fall out of favor?

A: In the third century, men and women are no longer to kiss one another. Early Christians met in what we think of as a house church -- you meet in someone's living room, essentially. Starting in the third century, when Christians [worship] in a public forum, this familial kiss is less appropriate. It's also a time where Christianity becomes concerned with making sure women and men are categorically separated. In the fourth century, that clergy and laity become increasingly distant. You start having prohibitions against clergy and laity kissing one another.

The ritual kiss never entirely died out. We still have it as an exchange of peace [in Christian services]. We see it in the kissing of the pope's ring. In Catholicism, a priest may kiss a ritual object.

Q: What would Christianity have been without the kiss?

A: What I find exciting is to see how what we think of as trivial is so central to early Christian self-understanding. Our earliest Christian writing, Paul's letter to the First Thessalonians, talks about the ritual kiss, albeit briefly. We have hundreds of early Christian references to this ritual. For these authors, it was anything but trivial.




  • Wikipedia article on Holy Kiss
  • Kiss and Tell the Gospel
  • Michael Penn explains what the early church meant by the "holy kiss."
  • On Kissing: A Q&A with Michael Penn
  • -PUCKER UP by Martin Marty
  • The Holy Kiss of Love: Are We Keeping This Command?
  • I Corinthians 16-II Corinthians 1: Greet One Another with a Holy Kiss

  • Friday, June 18, 2010

    Doorkeeper of the Lord's House

    I love Jesus, and I love Jerusalem.

    (Here's a photo of me doing both, in both).

    Do you know how often in church history those two well-meaning loves ...when tethered too tenuously together... have caused craziness, chaos and violence?

    I'm not talking interfaith clashes
    (see:Holy Hamburgers and My Real Estate Isn't as Big/Sexy as Yours),
    I mean intra-faith, in-house.

    Whatsup with that?

    As you can see by the first 24 seconds in this video clip, I may love Jesus and Jerusalem,
    but I may sometimes love myself even more (:

    Note that I rudely interrupt a panoramic view of the Holy City, just to get my face in the film(:

    That's just a
    parable of all of us.

    You probably know the story:

    The only person that could be trusted with the keys to a building
    (believed to be the spot where Jesus died and rose again)
    owned jointly by four Christian traditions is..

    ...(of course)............................a Muslim.

    How else will the Christians be kept from killing each other?

    Here it is, on video, one of one of the infamous rituals is Jerusalem. Meet Wajeeh, Muslim doorkeeper in the house of the Lord (Maybe he lives by Psalm 84:10):


    Every morning at 4 a.m., Wajeeh Nuseibeh walks through the walled Old City of Jerusalem to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, the most revered shrine in Christendom. He takes an ancient 12-inch iron key, climbs a small ladder and opens the huge wooden doors to the place that most Christians believe is the site of the crucifixion, tomb and resurrection of Jesus.
    Every evening at nightfall, after three raps of an iron doorknocker spaced out over half an hour, Nuseibeh closes up and places the key in safekeeping.(

    How about this from BBC, 1999:

    A Holy Sepulchre row
    An 800-year-old tradition of religious co-existence in Jerusalem's old city looks set to come to an end at the insistence of the Israeli authorities.
    The ministry of tourism is forcing through a plan to open a second entrance to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, one of the holiest sites of Christianity, and relieve two Muslim families of custodianship of what is currently the only door.

    The Nusaibi and Joudah families have been the sole guardians of the key to the church since they were entrusted with it by the Muslim ruler Salah el-Din (Saladin) in 1178.

    It seems that has been the only solution to squabbling between the numerous Christian denominations, which have jostled for space in the building since it was built 900 years ago.

    Salah el-Din closed all but one of the 10 entrances to the building, causing what the Israeli authorities now describe as a serious risk to pilgrims in the modern era of mass tourism.

    But some observers say the Israelis are exaggerating the risks for territorial purposes, in a city whose sovereignty lies at the very heart of the Arab-Israeli conflict.

    Millennial flood

    The Jewish state, which claims sovereignty over Jerusalem's old city after occupying it in 1967, says the new arrangement is necessary in preparation for the 4 million Christian pilgrims it says it expects during next year's millennium celebrations.

    Months of negotiations between the authorities and the churches have resulted in an agreement to open a new entrance and transfer custodianship of the key to the churches, the tourism ministry announced this week.

    He said the decision on where to put the entrance will be taken by the end of June.

    But the ministry could be being over-optimistic, given the long-standing territorial disputes within the building between the churches, which jealously guard every inch of space they occupy.

    The Israelis say the second entrance could be via an Ethiopian monastery situated on the roof of the building.

    Ethiopian monks have occupied the roof since the 1600s, when they were forced out of the main body of the church for not paying their taxes to the Muslim governors of the city.

    But the Ethiopian Patriachate has already expressed unwillingness to cede its quiet little spot without a fight.

    Terminating the contact

    Meanwhile, the bemused Muslim key-holders have not even been officially informed of the termination of their ancient responsibilities.

    Wajeeh Nusaibi continues - as he has done for 20 years - to open and close the building's only door morning and night, before returning the ancient 25 cm (10 inch) long key to his neighbours, the Joudah family, for safekeeping.

    He appears unconcerned about the fuss: "I don't pay attention, it's all talk," he told reporters.

    The families are not paid for their services. Salah el-Din gave them about 4,000 hectares (10,000 acres) of land near the West Bank city of Nablus, which provides some income, but much of it has been confiscated by Israel since 1967 to build settlements.

    VIDEO below,Armenian and Greek Orthodox priests fight in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, where both believe Jesus died and was raised again:

    Thursday, June 17, 2010

    Mark DeRaud video interview

    In these short videos below, I interview Mark DeRaud, founder of Art n Soul
    (here you see some of his art) for our class; he

    discusses the Reformation, art/images, and the convergence of Pentecostalism/Orthodoxy.
    Many of you will remember the amazing session he taught for our Preaching/Homiletics course.

    Mark DeRaud is a full time artist and muralist living and working in Fresno, California. He completed massive murals for Holy Spirit Catholic Church in the same city (18’ X 37’and 7’-14’ X 100’). He has a degree in Biblical Studies from Westmont College where he emphasized early church doctrinal development. He has studied art in Germany, and theology at Fuller Seminary..Mark has served as a professor of art at Fresno Pacific University. He and his wife Wendy developed the seminar Art n’ Soul to bring together Christian spirituality and creativity.

    Here is the piece (Bernini's
    "Ecstasy of St, therese" he talks about in the 3rd video.

    Here is Mark talking through the vision behind one of his paintings:

    Related, see Mark's blogs on:

    Sacred Space: Part One: The Spiritual Language of Beauty

    Sacred Space Part Two: If These Walls Could Talk

    Sacred Space Part Three:The Barren Cross

    More of my blog posts on Mark, click:
    Mark DeRaud

    Sunday, May 23, 2010

    Video: The LABI Line-Up

    What a great "A" class we had, can't wait for 'B'.

    For those of you who missed out, check out this first video below, where I had five stellar students line up and re-enact a version of the exercise Brian McLaren
    talks about in the second video, in a slightly different context, in this clip.
    We had a fight over who played the part of Jesus (:

    Wednesday, May 19, 2010

    SHOCKING VIDEO: "The Gaithers on Crack"

    What does this crazy video have to do with church history?
    Quite a bit...we'll find out this weekend.

    Enjoy it, it's an outtake from the famous/infamous video series posted by the KRDU boys
    (see, and me, their guest. You will recognize Keltic Ken as frequent visitor to LABI, and check out Hermano Vincent J. Vera's..he is the "straight man" in this video... awesome music ministry here).


    Tuesday, May 11, 2010

    a prayer for class...and a Rob Bell video

    Just a quick prayer, and an intriguing video as we count down to next week's class...
    • "Lord, help us all to know not only Church History better, but You better, as we gather next weekend. In Jesus Name!"
    • The video: If we have time in class, we'll watch some of this video in class. It's a very helpful and provocative sermon by Rob Bell on Revelation, and the early church's place in history..particularly when pressured to worship the emperor. “Domitian was the first emperor to understand that behind the Christian movement there stood an enigmatic figure who threatened the glory of the emperors. He was the first to declare war on this figure …” -Ethelbert Stauffer Enjoy below (or click here to watch full screen)

    Thursday, March 25, 2010

    Great way to spend a spring weekend

    One of my church history professors had a photographic memory.
    That I don't have, but I will be praying I can take up his mantle, and make church history memorable..

    ..maybe even unforgettable!

    We'll be in class together May 21-22.

    It's an amazing history the church has had, full of large- than -life characters and stories; and signs of God's holy hand and our humble humanity.

    And we are living today in what David Dark calls "this weird moment in history," an era that many are calling a new reformation, and a season of which Leonard Sweet says "there is no name for what God is doing now." The consensus, though, is these are historic times for our future (read the Phyllis Tickle articles, or her videos here for a fun preview..she suggests we are in a big once-every-500-years "rummage sale!").

    What a joy it will be to take a look at the history of the Christian church..from Pentecost through this "weird moment." You will really enjoy our very readable textbook, and I will continue to add resources to this site. Syllabus and assignments posted here.

    See you soon! Many of you are very close to graduation: congrats! You have been amazing students.