New Beginnings and Laughter

October 9, 2011

Now Sarah was listening at the entrance to the tent, which was behind him. 11 Abraham and Sarah were already very old, and Sarah was past the age of childbearing. 12 So Sarah laughed to herself as she thought, “After I am worn out and my lord is old, will I now have this pleasure?” – Genesis 18:10-12

Like Sarah, many of our people, congregations, denominations and church bodies have been around for many years. Over that time we have all experienced beginnings and new beginnings and yet, the older we get, the more impossible another birthing event seems to us.

In fact, we do much to protect ourselves from the probability. Yes, we may welcome and congratulate others in their new births, but good order, stability and security are what we work for.

A friend of ours became pregnant in her late 40’s and although I was happy for the couple, I could never see my wife and I welcoming another child at our age. I would most likely not be laughing at such an announcement, but crying.

In the midst of such attitudes God comes to us to proclaim that he has started a new thing in our day and time. The church is indeed pregnant, birthing and being reborn.

Now some of us will laugh at this possibility from inside the well constructed church institutions we have made. “Over my dead body” may be the declaration of a few. Some of us may agree with our need to be reborn, but limit it to controlled test tube events that really do not change the substance of life as we know it.

However, whether we laugh, cry or grieve, God is still in the process of birthing a new thing in the midst of the old.

Sarah laughed, but that didn’t prevent her from conceiving and giving birth to a child that would become part of God’s continually unfolding story of salvation. I wonder how much more she laughed at herself as she looked at what God had blessed her with.

May God bless us with the pleasure of participating in new beginnings.


Think Differently

October 6, 2011

I’ve discovered “Busted Halo,” an online magazine for spiritual seekers sponsored by the Paulist Fathers. Today, like many other sites, they featured an article entitled  Think Different by Tom Gibbons and inspired by the death of Steve Jobs, founder of Apple.

The article highlights for me the alternate story the church is called to be as part of God’s mission.

I leave you with a piece of this article and a video which emphasizes this point.

I have to confess, the part of me that has loved Mac computers for as long as I can remember sometimes strafed at the idea of becoming an official member for another worldwide organization for whom the slogan “Think Different” is not usually associated. But that’s when I remember that while “thinking outside of the box” is not typically a value that my church holds, it does often force me to think different in other areas of life — something that I might not have done before. And I am also reminded that the church, like Apple Inc., was started by somebody who would easily fit the commercial montage that begins with, “Here’s to the rebels.”

A discussion on the value and importance of our larger communities is something that is often lacking in American culture. The way our communities — ecclesial and otherwise — shape us. The way our communities remind us that it is not only about your individual life…my individual life…that discussion can be, and should be, had often.

But that conversation can be held another day because today is a day to honor those individuals who have reminded us about the limitations those communities can sometimes impose, the individuals on whose achievements we stand because they chose to “think different.”


aXiom Calgary

September 9, 2011

I’m pleased to announce the upcoming aXiom Calgary two-day missional training event.  We’re pleased to have Karen Wilk and Cam Roxburgh in town, two seasoned practitioners in helping churches thrive in the neighbourhood.  The landscape that the church has operated in is shifting and aXiom seeks to offer fresh yet rooted insights and training for church leaders to see God at work and join him in that work.  You can download the full .pdf poster here: Axiom Calgary Poster


Becoming “Neighbourhood” Christians: Some Resources (part 1)

September 7, 2011

This weekend I spent some time with several people who live out daily life as “neighbourhood” Christians.  They know their neighbours and have build deep lasting relationships with them by adopting practices of hospitality and making the persistent choice to live with and among their neighbours.  This is no easy task!  After a long day of work, church committments, and then barely getting supper together for your own family, how can we find time for fostering healthy relationships with other busy people on our street?  Maybe we can learn a few lessons from those who are doing it well.  Here are a few books, and better yet, a few local events that are helping ordinary church folks like you and me see our mission in a whole new light.  The result is a movement of churches that are finding health in unexpected practices:

Upcoming Events:

  • Axiom Calgary is a two day missional training event put on by Forge Canada and was created to help leaders from churches and neighbourhoods find a path towards hope for the church in a changing context.  The next Axiom event is November 11-12 at Lutheran Church of Our Saviour in Calgary and will be led by Karen Wilk, author of “Don’t invite them to Church” and Cam Roxburgh, the National Director of Forge Canada.  Click here for more info.
  • The Urban Forum is an exciting event happening in Calgary (Oct. 12) and Edmonton (Oct. 13) and it’s focus is to paint the theological and ‘how-to’  picture for local churches on how to be active participants in the building and transformation of their communities/parishes.  You can find out more by clicking here.  This is a great partnership between denominations and several para-church organizations.
  • If you’re in Winnipeg from November 15-17, you may want to attend the big church planing congress (The Congress) put on by Church Planting Canada.  It’s about more than church planting, but about how church leaders are reclaiming the missionary call in our neighbourhoods.  Exciting stuff!

Books:

The important thing for us is that the future of the church does not rest in how well we run programs or fill our church calendars, but in how we incarnate the love of Christ in our neighbourhoods and help equip our churches to live this out in real ways.


Post-Convention Life (Seeing the Bible as a walking stick)

August 23, 2011

What really has changed?

Some people would say that everything has changed.

Questions of Biblical authority are now being discussed in many different settings and some of those conversations are convincing people that the ELCIC has departed from Section 3 of the ELCIC Constitution – “This church confesses the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments as the inspired Word of God, through which God still speaks, and as the only source of the church’s doctrine and the authoritative standard for the faith and life of the church.” In passing motions that opened ordination to those of all sexual orientations and allowing rostered ministers to preside at same gender marriages, some would say that the ELCIC is in a state of apostasy. If the ELCIC has strayed from its “only source” and “authoritative standard” is it still viable or just in a confessional conundrum?

For me it is not a question of Scriptural authority – it is a question of Scriptural idolatry. Can God only speak through the words of the Old and New Testaments? Are our hands tied in reaching out because we are told what is clean and what is unclean? Maybe what Scripture says has more to do with how we approach it and what we want it to say? Maybe our understanding is too small, too incomplete?

How would your life today be different if when you were in your early years, maybe 8 or 9, you collected the letters you had written, the pictures you had drawn, the stories you had written about your life on summer vacation and put them together in a scrapbook and for the rest of your life used it to condition the way you thought about the world you live in?

Maybe we should, just for a moment, look at Scripture that way. How has our life and faith been diminished because early in the life of the Church a scrapbook was compiled from the letters and stories that were shared in the community and then “scripturalized” so that nothing could be removed and nothing could be added? It was then used to silence new faith stories, to destroy new letters of life and faith, to control those who tried to walk further. How much greater could the church be if throughout history the canon was opened to include the Confessions of St Augustine, the Life of St Francis of Assisi, The Gospel according to Luther or Calvin, The new Psalms of the Wesleys, Letters from prison by Bonhoeffer, etc. We read and are moved by many of these stories of faith, and perhaps even give them authority in our lives. Are they perhaps also “Scripture”?

Maybe it is time to move beyond seeing the Bible as a hammer and chisel, pounding and shaping us, and to begin seeing it as a walking stick that supports and assists us along this journey of faith. It doesn’t tell us which mountain to climb or what river to cross, but it is there as we see a new horizon and as we feel the water surrounding us.


What’s Up With Lutherans?

June 29, 2011

I was sent this blog post recently, written by Kevin DeYoung over at the Gospel Coalition.  You can find the link here.  It’s a blog post that got me thinking about the place of Lutherans in the larger church.  Enjoy Food for thought.

What’s Up With Lutherans? by Kevin DeYoung

This isn’t meant to be a snarky rhetorical post. It’s a genuine question.

What up with Lutherans?

More to the point: where are they? I’m looking for help from those of you out there who know the Lutheran world better than I do. I look around at what’s seem vibrant in evangelicalism and see lots of Baptists and Presbyterians. I see a lot of Free Church folks and a growing number of Anglicans. I see non-denominational guys aplenty. The Pentecostal world is a little outside my circles, but I certainly see continuationists and charismatics in conservative evangelical circles. But I don’t see many Lutherans.

I don’t know of Lutherans speaking at the leading conferences. I don’t know of many popular books written by Lutherans. I don’t know of church planting movements among Lutherans. I know lots of people who look up to Martin Luther, but I don’t see the influence of Lutherans.

I’m genuinely curious to know why the big tent of conservative, confessional evangelicalism doesn’t have more Lutherans. I understand that the Calvinist soteriology of TGC and T4G types doesn’t fit with Methodism or parts of the Holiness traditions, but Luther’s doctrine of predestination was Calvinist before there was Calvin.

I know Gene Veith is Lutheran. So is Doug Sweeney. White Horse Inn has worked hard to include the confessional wing of Lutheranism. But after that, I’m drawing a blank to come up with contemporary Lutheran leaders/theologians/pastors I know or read. I’m not blaming anyone–Lutherans or the Young, Restless, Reformed movement or the blogosphere or Sarah Palin. It’s just something I’ve thought about from time to time: Where have all the Lutherans gone? I know you exist outside of Lake Wobegon.

So which of the statements below best explains why quandry?

1. I’m ignorant. This is, no doubt, a  big part of the explanation. I’m sure there are thousands of good Lutheran churches and pastors. I just don’t know all the good they are doing and saying. And there may be thinkers and authors I like who are simply Lutheran without my knowing it.

2. With their high church, confessional tradition, Lutheranism has always been a little out of place with the sometimes rootless, low church expressions of evangelicalism. They never got on board with evangelicalism after the Great Awakening. This may be part of it, but evangelicalism has been influenced by many Anglican theologians and preachers, hasn’t it?

3. Lutherans are content to remain in ethnic enclaves. Again, that could be part of the issue, but then how do you explain the influence of the Dutch Reformed on evangelicalism?

4. The Lutheran view of the sacraments is a bridge too far for many evangelicals, and the faddish nature of evangelicalism is a bridge too far for many Lutherans.

5. Lutheranism in America has bigger problems and less influence than many people realize. The bulk of Lutherans have gone liberal and the rest have gone into bunker mode.

I’ll read the comments more carefully than usual. I blog so that I might understand. Help me out, especially if you are part of the tribe: What’s up with Lutherans?

Update

Thanks to all those who took the time to leave a thoughtful comment on the state of the Lutheran church. Just to be clear, I was not trying to suggest in anyway that there are no Lutherans in the country (there are millions!), nor that these Lutherans are not doing faithful ministry. My central question was about the place of Lutherans in the big tent of evangelicalism. Along those lines, I thought the point about closed communion was helpful. I had forgotten about that reality. Many thanks for the good insights and the good stories of good Lutherans. Special blessings on those Lutherans trying to stay faithful in a mainline context. I feel your pain.


Empowering and Sending in the Name of Jesus: A New Vision for Missions in the ELCIC

April 25, 2011

I saw a photo the other day. It was a nice photo of several ELCIC Bishops and Executives in a foreign land touring a facility supported in part by Lutherans here in Canada. There was a quote from the National Bishop who listed off all the activities being engaged, “Irrigation projects, food security, emergency response, refugee camps, community development, rural schools, health care, empowerment for women – the list is amazing.”
The picture was a snapshot of missions in the ELCIC, and I felt that something was missing. Over Easter, I continued to ponder the picture and the quote from the Bishop. What is missing? What could the Gospel of Jesus and the hope of Easter have to say to the challenge of Missions for the ELCIC? I believe there are two challenges to our present model of cross-cultural missions engagement.

First: The photo is of church leaders alone engaging cross-culturally. Bishops and Executives travel abroad, but it cannot be their project alone. It is not sustainable to leave missions work in the hands of Bishops, it must be the work of the people. I know that our churches support overseas work financially, but ordinary people must be empowered to carry on the work with their own hands. This was Paul’s model. In Acts 18, Paul traveled with Silas and Timothy, he then met Aquila and Priscilla who traveled on with him before baptizing Titius Justus’ family. It was then Aquila and Priscilla who shared the Gospel with Apollos who in turn went to Achaia and “was a great help to those who by grace had believed.” Acts 18 starts with Paul but ends several steps away with an empowered and growing group of missionaries who are eager to testify to the work of God in their lives. We need to do more to empower people to engage in cross-cultural missions. Last year, my wife (a nurse and experienced missionary) and I did an experiment. We wanted to see how easy it was for us to get involved with missions in the ELCIC.  We followed links with CLWR, emailed and called the Executive Director and the National Bishop in an effort to engage cross-culturally through our denomination.  After a year, we have learned of no opportunities for us to serve as volunteers.  If a nurse and church worker cannot get involved in cross-cultural missions through our present system, the challenge must be so much greater for others.  In fact, according to the 2009-2010 CLWR annual report, only “two [volunteer] placements were facilitated” by our primary missions/aid organization (CLWR Annual Report page 12).  Perhaps that is why, today, we have fewer missionaries than virtually any other evangelical denomination in Canada on a per-baptized member basis.  The Christian and Missionary Alliance (by way of example), has about one supported missionary for every 226 baptized members.  The ELCIC has about one supported missionary for every 50 thousand baptized members.  And those missionaries we do support are now managed by offices in the United States.  Critics may say, “look, we don’t send many missionaries because we’re all missionaries!”  But that was not Paul’s perspective, he did empower and send people out, and so should we.  We need to empower ordinary Lutheran Christians to get their feet on the ground and try out cross cultural missions for themselves.  In 2008 I took eight people to the Xingu River in Brazil.  For a week we delivered water filters, supported local churches, shared the message of Jesus and delivered medical aid with a doctor and two nurses deep in the Amazon jungle.  It was a team of ordinary people from our church using their gifts to share the hope of Jesus. 

Second: The list of activities we’re engaging in is good, “Irrigation projects, food security, emergency response, refugee camps, community development, rural schools, health care, empowerment for women – the list is amazing.”  But in this list, I wonder if we also ought to make disciples, train pastors, and support local churches. This is a big part of what it means to be In Mission for Others. Bruxy Cavey said that, “Social activism is an expression of the Kingdom of God, but don’t mistake it for the full Gospel. There can be no kingdom without a King.”  Cross cultural missions without mention of building up believers, making disciples, or helping people follow Christ is not sustainable nor biblical.  Paul went into cities and towns on his missionary journeys and told people about Jesus.  People live when they hear about Jesus, that’s why Jesus is the Chief Cornerstone of our church, our Hope and Saviour.  Let’s do good overseas, but doing good starts with a robust view of Jesus and His saving grace.  Jesus is not an imposition that must be hidden or couched in social initiatives, the Gospel transcends cultural barriers because Jesus is immanent and accessible to every culture –  it’s for that very reason that we can share Jesus without fear.

Ordinary people delivering water filters, medical aid, and the love of Jesus to the Amazon.

A new vision of missions in the ELCIC would do two things.  First, it would empower ordinary people to get out there, to travel overseas and follow Jesus wherever he may lead.  This new vision would say that missionaries do not have to be experts or clergy, just people with a passion to testify to the love of Jesus in word and deed in a setting different than their own.  Our present system would shift towards empowering others to go overseas in an accessible and tangible way.  Secondly, this new vision would make sharing the Gospel of Jesus a central part of the work we do when thinking about missions.  It would recognize that we cannot fulfill the Great Commission of Matthew 28:18-20 without making disciples of all nations.


Church Planting Congress

November 19, 2010

Last year I attended the church planting congress, held every couple of years somewhere in Canada.  I’ve just recieved word about the next church planting congress, to be held in Winnipeg, has just put out a website at thecongress.ca.  This is a very important gathering of hundreds of church leaders from across the country and North America who come together to strategize and pray for the future wellbeing of the church.  It’s an excellent event and I encourage church leaders to consider it. More info to come!


The Obstacle of Dullness

November 9, 2010

Thanks to Pete and Josanna Justine who led worship at the What if? Conversation.  They read the following, and it got us all thinking…

THE OBSTACLE OF DULLNESS
From – Dangerous Wonder, by Michael Yaconelli

Episcopal priest Robert Capon named the first obstacle: “We are in a war between dullness and astonishment. “‘* The most critical issue facing Christians is not abortion, pornography, the disintegration of the family, moral absolutes, MTV, drugs, racism, sexuality, or school prayer. The critical issue today is dullness. We have lost our astonishment. The Good News is no longer good news, it is okay news. Christianity is no longer life changing, it is life enhancing. Jesus doesn’t change people into wild-eyed radicals anymore, He changes them into “nice people.”
If Christianity is simply about being nice, I’m not interested.

What happened to radical Christianity, the un-nice brand of Christianity that turned the world upside-clown? What happened to the category-smashing, life-threatening, anti-institutional gospel that spread through the first century like wildfire and was considered (by those in power)
dangerous? What happened to the kind of Christians whose hearts were on fire, who had no fear, who spoke the truth no matter what the consequence, who made the world uncomfortable, who were willing to follow Jesus wherever He went? What happened to the kind of Christians who
were filled with passion and gratitude, and who every day were unable to get over the grace of God?

I’m ready for a Christianity that “ruins“ my life, that captures my heart and makes me uncomfortable. I want to be filled with an astonishment which is so captivating that I am considered wild and unpredictable and …well… dangerous. Yes, I want to be “dangerous” to a dull and boring religion. I want a faith that is considered “dangerous” by our predictable and monotonous culture.

A W Tozer said a long time ago, “Culture is putting out the light in men and women’s souls.” He was right. Dullness is more than a religious issue, it is a cultural issue. Our entire culture has become dull. Dullness is the absence of the light of our souls, Look around, We have lost the sparkle in our eyes, the passion in our marriages, the meaning in our work, the joy of our faith.

The Bible names our problem: sin. Don’t let the word fool you. Sin is more than turning our backs on God, it is turning our backs on life! Immorality is much more than adultery and dishonesty, it is living drab, colorless, dreary, stale, unimaginative lives. The greatest enemy of
Christianity may be people who say they believe in Jesus but who are no longer astonished and amazed. Jesus Christ came to rescue us from listlessness as well as lostness; He came to save us from flat souls as well as corrupted souls, He came to save us from dullness. Our culture is awash in immorality and drowning in dullness. We have forgotten how to dance, how to sing, and how to laugh. We have allowed technology to beat our imaginations into submission and have become tourists rather than travelers.


Asking the right questions

November 3, 2010

I recently read an article from Rod Wilson, the President of my alma mater, Regent College.  In it, he was reflecting on the questions that they ask as an institution.  This caught my attention,

“Recognizing that these are the questions students are bringing to Regent College in 2010 means that we must raise issues about curriculum (what we teach), pedagogy (how we teach), community (in what context we serve), messaging (how we describe what we do) and finances (how we fund what we do). We are doing this in a fresh way at this point in Regent’s history, not to communicate that the past is worse and the future is better, nor to engage in paternalism or consumerism, but so that we might continue to be sensitive to the work of the Spirit as we steer Regent College through this next season.”

Questioning methods and assumptions is healthy, it helps keep an institution on track, it helps keep people united and vibrant in their service, and it drives people towards excellence in ministry.  Regent College has been a Canadian success story in Christian higher education with a student body of about 700 and world renown faculty; but even so, they frequently pause to ask the important questions of themselves.  We should too.

To read Rod Wilson’s whole article in “The Regent World” publication.  Click here for the pdf.  The website may be found here.


The “Ladder”: a lesson in change

November 2, 2010

I just got back from Jerusalem this weekend, it was my third time there and once again I was not surprised to see the famous “ladder” was right where I left it.  Propped up on an upper window ledge of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre  is a very old ladder.  For as long as people can remember, at least since the mid-1800’s, the ladder has been there, unmoved.  Several Christian groups operate the church, but divisions between the groups have caused fighting (sometimes violently) and so a status-quo had been established to bring peace.  This has meant that for nearly 200 years items in the church have been left as-is (notice the ladder on the upper right-hand window of these photos).  The ladder is a glaring symbol of the discord and foolishness of these Christian groups vying for their right to control the space.  Rather than considering the big picture of God’s redemptive work in Christ and their role in the Kingdom of God, they fight over a ladder – ensuring that no one group can claim it over another.  They seem almost blinded to the message of Jesus in favor of establishing their control on this holy site.  And so there it sits.  A ladder.  A symbol of the status quo.  A symbol of a church stuck in neutral. 

Does your church have a “ladder”?  Why is it there?  What would happen if you moved it some afternoon? 

I would love, next time I go back to Jerusalem, to see that ladder taken down off that window ledge.  On that day I would know that the church is getting back to the fundamentals of our faith in Jesus; that it’s not about our control or jurisdiction – but about our Father who is mighty to save and who asks us to come along.


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)


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

August 24, 2010

After I read Preston’s article about having a summer sabbath, I thought what a great idea. It has been good to have a break from blogging since then. Over the summer I spent quite a bit of time thinking about and reading about church renewal. Advent, where I serve as a pastor, has set for itself the vision of being a centre of renewal. That is, one of the many places where God is at work renewing the church. As I have been reading and talking with people I have been noticing elements of renewal that consistently come up, interesting insights and experiments that just seem fun. So I though this year I would write a series on elements of renewal In other words from our own exploration of what it means to be a church of renewal, what are some of the elements that we are hearing about and seeing in our own lives that our brining about renewal. As always I would appreciate that this be a conversation. So if you are seeing key elements to renewal – send in a comment or even submit a guest column.

So what is the first element of renewal. Well this might be stating the obvious, but it is the most important, – Simply wanting to be renewed and being open to the possibility of renewal. Yea, I know it seems obvious. It amazes me though what resistance there is to this basic openness. I look at my own denomination nationally, at our synodical convention I again heard clearly that nationally we have set a corse for one thing – a declining church and adjusting to that declining. I have also heard and seen many congregations literally build a fortress around themselves to keep new life out. I once even attended a congregation where I was once late for church and discovered the doors were locked. They literally locked the doors so that no one might wander into the church, especially the poor (ie. Jesus) who lived around them. I have seen other churches chase people out who bring new gifts, and I see again and again how congregations work to sabotage new life, or block out anything new by holding to a static idea of tradition (which usually looks like an idealized versions of the church from the 1950-70s) So why is this.?

I wonder if it is because we have forgotten the basic dynamic of confession and forgiveness. It seems we have forgotten that it is a central element of our faith to recognize that we don’t have it all together. That we are not right. That the way things are done are not the best. Recognizing that on our own we are in adequate, that we have fallen short of what God has intend for us is the beginning of confession. Confession though dosen’t stop there. Confession’s gift is not in making us feel inadequate, but rather the ways that confession opens us  to the possibility of God’s grace-filled action. Confession is about turning from our selves, and what we have been to the possibilities that God calls us to and the ways that God is already at work amongst us. Confession is primarily about hope, it is about opening ourselves to the life of God being in us. And God’s life being in us is what renewal is all about. So the first element of renewal is not just wanting to be renewed and being open to renewal but also confession and then living into the  proclamation  of Grace and new life that flows from this opening of our lives to God.


What if…we were about fresh cucumbers, and not just pickles

June 10, 2010

Nothing like a good pickle metaphor!  Ok, maybe not a good one, but a useful one.  Growing up, my parents always planted a few cucumber plants in the garden.  They produced cucumbers that were dark green, fresh and crisp; we ate well for weeks as we brought in our haul of produce.  The rest of the year we bought cucumbers at the store, and rarely did we eat pickles.  Sure, pickles are preserved cucumbers, but it wasn’t the same as the fresh garden variety.  In fact, I have an uncle who went on a “pickle diet” several years ago – I think it was a fad he read about in a magazine.  After a few weeks he started to fall ill and he told his doctor about the pickles.  The doctor scolded him for such a silly diet, “no one can live on pickles!”  The salty pickles were slowly killing him! (I’m happy to report he’s much better now, and eating a healthy diet).

It’s my experience that Churches often go the ‘pickle route’ when it comes to faith.  We preserve things well, but often fail to plant and foster new growth.  We get used to pickles when a garden of fresh cucumbers is a season away. 

This metaphor came to mind when I read a recent National Post article written as commentary on the Anglican General Synod.  A Bishop at the Synod was asked about the slow growth of the Christian Church in the Middle East, and whether Anglicans were trying to replenish the dwindling population by making new Christians.  He responded by saying, “no, we are not evangelical. We are just trying to preserve the ‘living stones’ (Christians) already there.”

Something happens when we move from a growing culture called by Jesus to tell others about him, to a preservationist culture geared towards maintenance and nostalgia.  We hope the church will persevere, but pickles do not beget more pickles.  The National Post commentator summed up his experience at the Synod this way, “Liberals tend to believe that Christianity is one of many paths that lead to God. The good bishop could not quite see that his liberalism is chipping its way through the branch on which he is perched: if Christianity is not unique, if it has no truth to offer that is inaccessible to other religions, there isn’t too much point in keeping Anglicanism, synods, dioceses, parishes or even bishops on artificial life support.  What reason could there be, other than nostalgia, for not letting this particular path fade gracefully away?”

I believe that we, as followers of Jesus, do have something powerful to share.  The Good News of Jesus changes lives, it did with the early disciples, it changed our own Martin Luther, and Jesus changed me!  Let’s embrace the hope we have in Christ and move into a new season of growth.  This spring, let’s close the proverbial pickle jar and plant some cucumbers.  Because you just can’t live on pickles.

Read more: http://life.nationalpost.com/2010/06/07/anglican-synod-too-much-sex/#ixzz0qSvDhXzj