As we approach Advent I came across this clip again. As funny as it is I think it's parody hits so close to home. We often prefer the Jesus we've created in our own minds, giving preferential treatment to the Jesus we most resonate with.
It's amazing how close to home a humorous Hollywood movie clip can hit.
This summer our church did a rather extensive exterior renovation. This week the regional UP paper came and did a story on it. Yet, despite my begging, they put my mug in the paper. You can read the story [if you are extremely bored and have nothing else to do] here.
Had a great conversation with Andy the Journal photographer who came to take the pic. He's only 30 and he's the senior photographer at the Journal and absolutely loves what he does. Thanks Andy for the great pic!
I've spent a good amount of time over the last several years reading about postmodernism and longing for something more when it came to the beloved community that we call the Church. This longing lead me into the wonderful discovery of the Emergent Conversation: a group of leaders, thinkers, believers, missionaries and activists that were asking some of the same questions I was and whose hearts seemed to long in unison after several common themes.
During this time I've read a good amount on Emergent and the emerging church. In fact I'm just in the process of rounding out Tim Keel's, Intuitive Leadership [BUY THIS BOOK]. As I was spending some time reading this evening it dawned on me that there are, I believe at least, three stellar books that together serve as a triune primer of the theology, philosophy, and eccelisology of the emerging church movement [and yes they also happen to all have been written by active leaders in the Emergent Conversation].
Doug Pagitt'sA Christianity Worth Believing, dares to address almost the whole notion of a primary modern western understanding of Christianity in hopes of perhaps rediscovering it's primal roots; to tap into that vast rich history that serves as a spring board for future conversations, not the boundaries to which we must strictly abide by. Tony Jones'The New Christians, examines the current landscape of the modern church and asks, "could there be more here than simply what we have? Do the current structures work? Are they life giving or life taking?" And provides some startling and provoking conversation for how we might journey together into God's dream for humanity. Keel's, Intuitive Leadership evaluates the cultural and sociological shift that we are in the midst of and grounds it in the question how might we now live out the life of the beloved community together. Churches are no longer to be understood as program driven and compartmentalized but as holistic life giving communities wherein the participants can do life together as they seek to live out the kingdom of God in the way of Jesus.
Granted these are rather simplistic and all too brief and general summaries of each book; they each warrant their own reading. But together they, at least to me, seem to serve as a great primer to this emerging conversation about the future life of the beloved community and it's members.
All of these books are well worth their modest price!
Was sitting at the local St. Arbucks today enjoying a great cup of coffee and reading Tony Jones' The New Christians [if you haven't bought it, stop reading this post now and purchase it here] when one of the baristas that I've gotten to know over the last few months sits down with me on his break.
He recently graduated from the local University and is currently hanging around in the area working for Starbucks and investing heavily in his church. We talked about the usually post-graduation stuff like what he's going to do and where he might want to do it, when he talked about wanting to be in the center of God's will for his life.
I've always wondered where the center of God's will is, what it looks like, and why people feel as though its so narrow. Somtimes I get the feeling that people are so afraid to act because if they don't "hear" from God directly and correctly, they might miss "God's Best" for them, another phrase that has puzzled me frankly. I always was under the impression that God had already given us God's best in the gift of his son Jesus.
Maybe I'm just mincing words, but sometimes I wonder if people in the Beloved Community called the church simply embrace their own fears, anxieties or apathy by spending more time waiting for the "center of God's will" instead of joining God in what God is already doing in the world. It seems to me that the "center of God's will" seems to anywhere and anytime we as God's followers join in the mission of God in the world by living the Kingdom in Hope in front of a world that by and large feels hopeless; by loving the unloved, and clothing the poor and naked and advocating for the marginalized, and living into our role as God's image bearers.
I began my along awaited adventure into Tony Jones' new book, The New Christians: Dispatches from the Emergent Frontier, and I must say I like, REALLY like, what I've read so far. I spent the evening moving through almost half of it. So far, I believe that it is the best book on the emerging church in all it's fullness and flavors.
Coming at the heels of the end of my own annual denominational meeting and our denominations Quadrennial meeting, one section [as if I could even pick just one] stood out, and I share it with you:
is a pastor in the United Church of Christ, a notoriously left leaning
denomination founded in 1957....reflecting on the biannual General Synod
national meeting, she moaned, 'We used to be a group of
revolutionaries. Now we're a group of resolutionaries.' Operating by
a distinctively non-biblical Robert's Rules of Order, she said the
convention has devolved into a gathering of persons who read
resolutions that are then voted on and promptly forgotten. The
resolutions range from those for gay marriage to those against gay
marriage, from a call to study the imprisonment of native Hawaiians to
'saving Social Security from privatization.' The resolutions pile up;
and then they're read, seconded, discussed, voted on, and filed.' Lillian thought she was joining a movement, but she was joining a
bureaucracy. And that bureaucracy tends to squash the passion of may
Christ-centered and enthusiastic persons therein." p. 9-10
Amen, Lillian! Amen, Tony! Oh that we may rediscover our revolutionary hearts and boldly take a step forward towards the "new frontier."
After having set the bar for what it means to be an attractional seeker sensitive model church Willow Creek is shifting its weekend emphasis from primarily seeker sensitive to believer centered.
Of course no one is sure what exactly this means and if Sunday will now look like Wednesday night services, but a recent article from Christianity Today attempts to get at the rationale for the change.
Honestly, I've been to both and I think its probably a good change. The biggest difference that I saw in my few times there was that Sunday mornings was more of a experiential worship wherein participants "watched" the action of worship leaders and Wednesdays was much more participatory wherein participants were invited to take part in what was being lead on the platform. Also the Scriptural diet on Sundays was a much lighter fare than Wednesday nights.
All in all I think it's a smart move. Although I'm not really sure what the difference will pragmatically mean for their Sunday gatherings. I give them credit for doing a pretty authentic self evaluation and then actually making some decisions based on the results that they faced.
Chuck Colson in his latest BreakPoint commentary reviews William Young's The Shack. If you haven't heard about the book yet, you soon will.
The story is a powerful journey through one man's grief in the midst of a relationship the Triune God.
Now mind you, I thought some of the dialogue was a bit hokey and when God appeared as an Aunt Jemima type figure I had to pause for just a minute. This is one of the things that Colson reacts to.
In the western mind God "The Father" has always been understood with masculine stereotypes and there is much scriptural warrant for this. But we must understand that gender is specificially a "creature characteristic." That is to say that God, whom we address as "Father," transcends and is in and of Godself not limited to gender. I still use the term "Father" for God. I think it is important for several reasons: 1. It's personal; 2. It's the term Jesus used; 3. It's support by the majority of the canon and orthodox church history. When Colson reacts so strongly to God "the Father" being revealed as a motherly figure I believe he feels it is an attack against Christian orthodoxy. I do not believe it to be so.
We must understand that for God to interact with human beings God has chosen to limit Godself in order that we might relate with God. We see this most clearly of course in the incarnation. For those who don't agree see Moses encounter with God on the mountain.
To be sure God isn't our buddy or pal, but God is an intimate friend. Too often I fear God gets depicted as a stern authority figure who is perpetually ticked off and whose son Jesus begs him to give his kids a break . And, God can only do this by unleashing all hell on his son. Let me be clear. The Scriptures are unified in their understanding that God takes no pleasure in wrath. But on the same hand I understand that there are consequences that come from arrogance and disobedience [again lets leave room for multiple understandings of atonement because multiple understandings are both Scriptural and needed].
But like any parent, I think we need to remember that this comes as a last resort. In Matthew 7.10-12 Jesus compares God to human parents thus implying, "if you broken and evil people know how to care for your children and love them. Don't you think your heavenly father can do at least as good as you?" [I'll grant you here that the context of the conversation is prayer. But if this is representative of how God loves those who ask, does his love extent any less to other areas of how God relates?].
Colson also goes on to say that he believes the author has a low opinion of the Scriptures and cites two entries that I found puzzling as to how they relate to his point. Then he says this:
The Bible, it seems, is just one among many equally valid ways in which God reveals Himself. And, we are told, the Bible is not about rules and principles; it is about relationship.
That's exactly the problem with how modernism has handled the Scriptures: as a rule book to mine for principles. The entire narrative of the Scriptures is about a God who purses a broken and rebellious humanity precisely TO have relationship with them. Come on Chuck!
What Colson in my opinion leaves out of his review is the insightful treatment of what theologians have called theodicy or the problem of pain and the goodness of God. There are some incredible insights in this book about the grace of God and God's steadfast love.
Colson goes on to suggest that we not be comfortable with The Shacks depiction of God and our presumptions about God either. He writes: "As Papa warns Mack, God is not who Mack expects He is. But He is also not what our creative imaginations make Him to be either." But I cannot help but wonder if Mr. Colson feels that he has God all too figured out himself.
Is the book great? Well, no. Frankly I didn't care for some of the writing and some of the depictions of God were a bit hokey. Is it heretical? In my opinion no. No more than Pilgrims Progress anyway. It's a book that's definitely worth the read and the discussion.
I'm not about being controversial but my dander goes up when we simply begin boycotting things because of our own personal opinions. This book is not going to destroy any ones theology any more than reading the local newspaper. I guess I'm on day two of laryngitis and I'm getting irritable.
As I blogged already below, my denomination is meeting for its quadrennial meeting that will make decisions that will affect the future of how we do ministry as United Methodists.
As is usually the case, the hot topic this time around remains our theology of human sexuality and what we believe to be the appropriate biblical understanding. Now, let me just say that I do think that this is a very important issue to be talking about, and, it is my hope that both sides will for once, truly dialogue and not just shout at and demonize the other. Sometimes we forget that even those who sincerely disagree with our own view points have just as sincerely believe that they too have examined the Scriptures closely.
In the lastest Newsweek, Jon Meacham and Lisa Miller interview N.T. Wright about his latest book Surprised by Hope. Although I have recently purchased it I have not yet read it but plan to dig in in the next few weeks.
Meacham and Miller, close to the end of the article, ask him the following question:
"At the Lambeth meeting this summer, the subject of gay unions and gay clergy with top the agenda. What do you think will happen?"
Wright admits that although he beleives it will be "messy" that he has hopes that people will really listen to each other prayerfully and in a spirit of humility. Then he says the following that I cannot help but adding a very emphatic "AMEN!" to:
"At the same time, I wish we could prioritize so that we were actually talking about issues of global justice and debt remission and global warming and so on. I mean, there's something very bizarre about the rich arguing about sex while the poor are clamoring for justice" [emphasis mine].