Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Old with Vigor

The Atlanta Cohort met last night and, as is so often the case, was a notable evening of conversation. I must admit it is different being the "old guy" in the midst of a cohort of younger (twenty and thirty somethings) peers ; nonetheless, the dialogue and sharing of thoughts and hearts around a given topic within the context of remaining biblical is simply invigorating and fruitful.

I am encouraged by the thoughtful wrestling of sisters and brothers - of any age- who, in their endeavor to be authentic in the manner of Christ whilst transacting an integrated faith in everyday living, participate, communicate, struggle, risk and share to the good of themselves and benefit others. To these I must say, God bless.

Here was the topic: What should be our response as followers of Christ to the people and the question of the “sojourners in our midst”? As we live in a society seeking to address to the reality of undocumented aliens and continued immigration, how should we then live?

As we met, an understanding of the value of incremental practice that love and serve the sojourner as neighbors and part of our community took root. Heading off an "us and them" charity project mindset, we now must enter viable relationships if we are to advocate as friends and good neighbors.

I really think we are on the right track in this thinking. It is good to be challenged by practical needs and to frame our awareness of these needs in a context of hope. Likewise, it is also very good to distill a potentially overwhelming concern down to bite-sized and hope containing bits.

Admittedly, seeing needs remain unmet whilst living in a society that certainly could sort things out if we would reorient our values to include the well being of others and not only our own comfort, is frustrating. However, the tension is good if it sifts our hearts and is used by God to conform us to His image and will, and prompt us to local action.

I’m reminded of a few thoughts from Mother Teresa. Her words resonate here.
“We can do no great things; only small things with great love.”

“I never look at the masses as my responsibility; I look at the individual. I can only love one person at a time - just one, one, one. So you begin. I began - I picked up one person. Maybe if I didn't pick up that one person, I wouldn't have picked up forty-two thousand.... The same thing goes for you, the same thing in your family, the same thing in your church, your community. Just begin - one, one, one.”
To cite an earlier post, she once said that she was "a little pencil in the hand of a writing God who is sending a love letter to the world”. May I too be happy to be a little nub of graphite willing to move on the page in a way that is fruitful in the lives of my friends, enemies, and others and of use in the kingdom of God.

To quote a country song I heard a while back, it’s time for “ a little less talk and a lot more action”. Mother Teresa would have agreed – you think? So, in our collective efforts to serve, here is a parting thought from a departed sister. "If you can't feed a hundred people, then just feed one." Good counsel, don't you agree?

So, let's get started. And, as we go, let us ask- in keeping with a comment by Dallas Willard- are we becoming a people who live as the cooperative friends of Jesus? And, are we seeking to live lives of constant creative goodness by the power of the Holy Spirit for the sake of the world - sojurners and all? (Italics mine)

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Tuesday, May 30, 2006

The Color Purple

Why are followers of Christ willing value RED ideologies over folks who think more BLUE? ... Fox News over CNN or NPR?...conservative opinions over all others? Maybe we would do well to remember elementary school and art class as we go about our mission?

The primary colors are red, yellow, and blue. When mixed properly, these colors yield the secondary colors of green, orange, and purple. Carried into the context of mission in a country that seems to prize the political colors of red and blue, PURPLE may be a better option.

Perusing Allelon today, I came across an article that merits a read. Here’s an excerpt:

Sadly, in my experience, the red and blue kingdoms of America produce far more loyal subjects than the kingdom of God. That’s one of the reasons why I’m purple. Being purple is not a political statement. It’s a pastoral one. It has more to do with the Sermon on the Mount than the State of the Union. Though it certainly influences my political perspective and shapes my vision for our world, being purple is not a way to strike a balance between liberal blue and conservative red, whether in politics or theology. It’s not an avoidance tactic either, a strategy for sidestepping political activism or theological debate. I suppose that being purple is a contemporary adaptation of Paul’s passion to “become all things to all men so that by all possible means I might save some,” which doesn’t mean that I’m an ecclesiastical doormat looking for opportunities to shed my orthodoxy and tweak the ancient creeds and practices that have sustained Christian communities for centuries. It just means that I’m with Jesus, hopefully not in a self-serving, rebellious way, but in a way that is different enough to notice. (Ward, Thomas E, Jr. "A Passion for Purple." Allelon. 29 May 2006.)

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Thursday, May 04, 2006

Excuse the Rant

OK. When will people get it? Pardon the rant, but I’m really frustrated.

It seems that some amongst us Christians are more concerned about protecting the soundness of their SYSTEM of theology rather than yearning to be biblical. I just don’t get it. Likewise, they seem to be more concerned about conformity to their TRADITION than submission to and transformation by our Saviour.

Are they really less interested in the WAY of Christ and more concerned about THEIR manner of Christian practice? Do they really believe that they hold the prescription for New Testament Christianity and that any deviation from their course is a plunge into the pit of hell?

These guys sit at distance critiquing the minutest of points (straining at gnats so to speak) seeming to love argument over mission. So, excuse me…but I’m really irritated. Will they not lighten up and take their lead from Christ?

"Teacher," said John, "we saw a man driving out demons in your name and we told him to stop, because he was not one of us."

"Do not stop him," Jesus said. "No one who does a miracle in my name can in the next moment say anything bad about me, for whoever is not against us is for us. (Mark 9:28-40, NIV)

I just don’t get it! So, let me stop and go calm down. In the meantime, here are some re-hashed excerpts from an earlier post. It’s sort of a condensed and a little modified; nonetheless, it resonates with the present state of mind and merits the re-visit.

From Hatching Eggs in a Dingy at Sea: (Muse, Thomas, 6 January 2006, The Village Muse)

Recently, I’ve been grappling with church, life, discipleship, and ministry in the context of the whole of my life. I continue to wrestle with what to do with the hurt I feel over seeing pain, loss, and damage in the lives of those around me who struggle and suffer, often needlessly, due to their own choices and the choices of others whilst we as the body of Christ seem pleased to insulate ourselves from those who suffer in need of hope.

I know there is a better way for Christ has spoken into the melee and that you and I (His church) are light bearers of the reality of His life and incarnation; yet, it seems we often choose to be uninvolved. Worst yet, we even, at times, opt to be unloving, adulterous, spec picking and plank-eyed (Matt 7:3-5) in our tone and actions rather than behave as the beloved bride of a very loving, holy, and worthy of whole-life and being worship Bridegroom - who is Christ.

If we are to be light in the darkness, then much about our present Christianity is not OK.I truly love His bride-second only to Him. In fact, I do not shirk from being named among her ranks. Moreover, I labor long, hard and joyfully (most of the time at least) to see her grow. I rejoice when she loves as Christ loves and cringe- even grieve with a gut wrenching groan- when she chooses to go her own hurtful way and damage the grain in the fields that are “white unto harvest” (Luke 10:2) whilst missing the aim of her Maker and Builder.

I believe she is, in part, preoccupied with selfish- even empty- pursuits.Often, she seems to be enamored with the shininess of her sickle or scythe whilst gathering together with others to impress themselves with the latest “mirror, mirror on the wall who’s the most comfortable of all” bride-growth strategy and in-the-field, work avoiding twaddle for appearing to harvest without tilling the soil or breaking a sweat or noticing the grain.

I don’t mind the discomfort and the struggle because accepting an unexamined Christian existence does nothing to further an honest life or truly honor God. Moreover, an honest Christian life is too important to half-heartedly pursue. The stakes are just too high and the potential losses are simply too great.

Am I willing – are we the church willing- to seek God for a broken heart to move us to continually abandon selfish ambitions and be a part of His heart and will to “heal the brokenhearted” (Luke 4:18-19)? Too often, I think not and, at present, it seems we want very little of God and a great deal more of self-fulfillment. Alas, that may be a subject for another day. For now, I must be about taking up my own “cross daily” and remaining a participant in the spiritual formation of others- whom God loves.

If a church or groupings of churches in the church (catholic/universal) of any culture seem content to sail headlong into what may be a misguided –even if well intended- direction towards impending irrelevance and anemia whilst propping up structure for structure’s sake, I grieve and care; nonetheless, I’m unwilling to lend a hand in re-arranging the superficial – even if cherished- chairs as the ice berg of a wake up call approaches. I prefer to be about repentance and reformation, instead. These are the treatments that seem needed.

If we can liken much of our cultural and religious (a contrast to scriptural, modeled, described, or prescribed) practices to “sacred cows”, I’m ready to lower a much smaller dingy into the throes of the sea and make a boatload of most excellent hamburgers for you and for me with the hope of presenting them-you see- to Christ (with all of the adequacy of a lad with “ loaves and fishes”) for the sake of His loved ones and love sparked quest.

”It may be hard for an egg to turn into a bird: it would be a jolly sight harder for it to learn to fly while remaining an egg. We are like eggs at present. And you cannot go on indefinitely being just an ordinary, decent egg. We must be hatched or go bad.”
C.S. Lewis

Last I checked hatching requires a struggle and time in the right conditions. Nonetheless, a disciple of Jesus amongst a community of disciples I seek to be and to be so in the context of others- all others – including those who seek the same. The rub is, I’m simply no longer willing to tread lightly as if upon the “eggshells” of cultural Christianity to make it so.

So, don’t be impressed but don’t be surprised. This little dingy has sailed and there’s room for more. Truthfully, there are many who have already set sail. In fact, an ancient and splendid regatta precedes my leaving shore. So, sacred cows…look out. You’re not the target but stay out of the path of ministry in the way of Christ – or better yet- join in. Oh, that’s right. I forgot. You probably won’t notice… too many chairs…too many meetings…so little time.

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