Meek. Mild. As if.

September 28, 2010

In 1999 the Church of England started a campaign for their “Decade of Evangelism”.  Among the posters was this one, a kind of Jesus-Revolutionary motif.  It was a neat approach, but on many of the posters the bottom line was, “Discover the real Jesus. Church. April 4”.  Authors such as Michael Frost and Alan Hirsch suspected that “those who dared to go with the idea that Jesus was a revolutionary were less likely to believe they could find him in an Anglican church on a Sunday in England on April 4, or any other day for that matter.” 

Good point.

We can debate the extent to which Jesus was a revolutionary (I really don’t think Che is the right comparison), but as Lutherans we no doubt believe that Jesus was a game changer.  He unsettled the religious structures and turned hearts back to the Father in dramatic fashion – even to the point of death on a cross and a bodily resurrection that transformed the lives of millions.  But does Sunday service reflect this message?  Does this radical message of grace abounding transform lives today?  Are we prepared to let this Game-Changer transform our communities of faith like He did nearly 2000 year ago?  Because if there ever was a time to follow Jesus in His mission for the world, I think now is as good a time as any.

“Our hope is that church leaders would recognize that Jesus doesn’t want to destroy what they’ve got now – he just wants to reshape it radically.” (Frost and Hirsch)

So What Would You Do?

September 27, 2010

I am starting to think about what our Possibility Thinkers Group should focus on this fall. In stead of dreaming up something in my own head (which s pretty sleep deprived at this moment) I though that I would turn the question over to all of you who read this. If you were called to help a church dream about renewal and discover the life that it is called to what would you focus on? What are the key elements of renewal? What is the church’s mission toady? What might it need to live this out. I look forward to hearing your ideas, thoughts and dreams.

Reclaiming Our Spirituality

September 20, 2010

I have recently found the growth in the number of people who say that they are spiritual and not religious quite fascinating. Many of the people that I know that define them selves as such are quite fascinating. I had dinner with some folks who would identify themselves as such and they were each very creative, compassionate and profound people who were taking their beliefs and practices seriously as they made real differences in people’s lives. These were not flakes but profound people.

So we should be taking their critiques and description of religion seriously. Someone else gave me a list of how some 20-30 somethings described religion: tradition bound, blindly dogmatic, irrelevant, hierarchal and authoritarian, out of touch, institutional, judgmental and hypocritical and my favorite dead or dying. Spirituality on the other hand was defined as being of the heart, experiential, mystical, thoughtful, personal, engaged, progressive, inclusive, transformative. I must say with descriptions like that, and the reality that this description of religion in many way fits with my own experience of the larger church,  tempts me to start calling my self spiritual and not religious.

The realty though is that I am spiritual and religious. For religion is not all of those things listed, rather religion comes from a word which means to bind the whole together. Religion is the big picture, and the big questions which give meaning to life and shapes our life. Spirituality (the very term itself is rooted in the Christian tradition) is about how God moves in our life, lives though us and shapes us. The reality is that we have a tradition that that contains 4000+ years of accumulated wisdom. It is a tradition that at its heart is a God who comes down to us, moves in our midst, and transforms us so that we become the image of Christ and are invited to participate in the very life and Love of the Trinity itself.

Our challenge is to once again explore this rich tradition, and allow the spirit present in it to move though us once again.

Elements of Renewal III – Prayer

September 13, 2010

I must say I write this post with great trepidation. Prayer has so often been misunderstood and misused. It is something of such profound depth, that can be made so easily trite. How often do we use ‘we should pray about this’ to avoid the prayer of the feet and hands? Yet we should pray – is about as close to the heart of what I have seen already renewing the church.

For prayer at its heart is our turning towards God and opening our lives to God’s action in our lives. Prayer is not limited to an attempt to have God magically fulfill our requests, rather it is a process where consciously enter into relationship with God so that that relationship can change us. To say that we should pray about this, is in fact profound, for it mean that for this we should open our lives to God’s will and God’s action. It is a conscious action to turn from our own ways; from how things are; from how we think things should go and it is a turning to the power and possibility of God’s action heard though a still and quite voice.

To sit in silence, turning all of our thoughts, our ambitions, our worries over to God; to allow all the commotion of our egos, especially our religious egos, to becoming still; to wait and be open to God’s transforming breath – this is perhaps one of the most profound acts of transformation that we can begin with and then from that silence to pray with our feat, with our hands, with our voice, and in community. This is the thundering whisper of renewal.

Sit in God’s presence, breath in God’s breath, until in our stillness we are transfigured and we learn to truly act.

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