Tuesday, August 30, 2011

It's Almost Spring: A Prayer of Thanskgiving and Confession... and Hope

I'm full of the flu. It feels like all the energy has been sucked out of me. I ache and my head is heavy with the amount of snot being produced in my sinuses (sorry about that). But when I look outside I see hope after a real cold polar blast where it sort of snowed here in Auckland there are signs of hope of new life and spring (Sniff Sniff) so a prayer of thanksgiving and confession and hope that spring is almost here. I originally wrote it while driving up to service at the Tutira north of Napier and being surprised by the amazing pink blooms of a fruit tree in the early morning sunlight as I drove round the bend from a cold dark gully.

It’s almost spring O God,

The winter is going and there is the promise of new life

Lambs in the paddock, buds and blossoms on the trees

There is warmth working its way into the cold nights again

Yes there is snow on the mountains and frost on the ground

But the sun now drives it away the coats can come off at midday 

Its almost spring O God

We marvel anew at the wonder of the things you have created

As they burst forth again from a seeming winter slumber

We rejoice as we see the way you provide for us

Harvest is way off but the promise is there

The grass is growing after draught, rain and the cold

It’s almost spring O God

For the newness of life around us we praise you

For flower and field, warmth even in the face of a southerly wind

For the new life within us we praise you

new life we receive from your son his death and resurrection

new life that thaws our hearts and empowers us to love

Its almost spring O God

We pray you would forgive us for the winter dark that lurks within us

Forgive us for the unkind thoughts, selfish acts and motives

Forgive us as in comfort we hibernating in the face of hunger and injustice

We’ve turned the cold shoulder to strangers and those in need

We have allowed our kindness to remain fallow land too long

Its almost spring O God

AS we have confessed our sin you have forgiven us

New life blooms in what was our wasteland

As you have pruned away the dead wood

Now send your spirit afresh to bare your fruit in our lives

To enable us to live and love to the glory of God

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Apes, Weta and a mouse: The Rise of the Planet of the Apes (2011)

I took the morning off to go and watch 'Rise of the Planet of the Apes' with my son James today, his high school had a teachers only day so it was good to go and do something together. It's great having a teenage son into sci fi and we've got the stage where we can go as mates, although I'm sure he thinks its elder care, looking after me. I had been a fan of the original movie series which I guess at the time had been state of the art and when I saw them made good late night Friday movie viewing.

I thought the movie was gripping, well paced and the special effects that dominate the movie didn't dominate the movie if you know what I mean. There was so much CGI going on but thanks to the wonders of Weta it fitted seamlessly into the movie and you were able to suspend belief and think of the Ape stars as real, or as real as anything on film is. Occasionally with rapid movement you got a hint of blur that was a give away that this technology isn't perfected just yet, but apart from that all the pioneer work on live capture animation and all the work on King Kong paid off. I was amazed at the way in which facial expressions, emotions and personality were able to be portrayed in this virtual CGI artistry. The film about Apes was overshadowed by Weta ( an insect in ol NZ).

Andy Serkis deserves an Oscar for his work as Caesar, despite the fact he hides behind a CGI creation, he needs recognition for his amazing ability to do live action capture, Gollum in Lord of the Rings, King Kong, in Peter Jackson's King Kong and now in the Rise of the Planet of the Apes. It is a different kind of acting but he needs to be acknowledged for his pioneering this new acting medium.

Having said that the story line itself was great, there was  enough humanity to draw you into all the characters. John Lithgow showed real brilliance as Charles Rodman the main human character's father. The portrayal of a man suffering from Alzheimer's was captivating and the hope a certain drug being developed by his son and administered to him, was made so much more poignant by the way the character came alive again. Paralleled of course by the development of the central character Cesar.

James Franco was upstaged by most people and CGI characters in the movie and came across as wooden. What saved him was his devotion to Lithgow and interaction with Frieda Pinto.

Being a teenager James was quick to notice Tom felton, aka Malfroy from the 'Harry Potter' film series, playing, in a very type cast kind of way, Dodge Landon, a sadistic keeper at the primate house. Felton plays mean snarling teenager quite well and I hope he gets to show a wider range of acting skills in the future.

The film is a cautionary tale as the original movies were, not focusing on slavery and people being treated as equal as the original movies were, but rather on the danger of bio-research, and messing with genes and viruses. It does I think show us the pit falls of seeing humanity and our science as having all the answers. While secularism may see us as the reason for our own rise, this movie also shows that just maybe we will be the cause of our own demise. This is one of the roles that Science fiction plays in our society, it invites us to look at the best possibility and the worst case scenario:the Utopian possibilities and the distopian nightmare. I'm not a Luddite but I like the underlying wrestling in the movie between caution, and care and the desire to bring, what is in the movie healthy change, and sadly the need to return profit to investors. while main human character Will Rodman seeks a cure out of love for his father, there are deadly consequences.

The thing I found interesting was the way in which there were no stereotyping of good and bad. Apes were not all good and humans all bad or vise versa. the underlying problem of good and evil in ones character flowed across the species boundary. There were good humans and bad humans, and neutral humans simply caught up in the action, and good apes and apes bent on violence and revenge as well as simply wanting to be free. It seems science is not an answer to this most basic of problems.

I was amazed at the way in which despite knowing the apes were CGi'd that you were drawn into their world and their plight, I found myself siding with the Apes.

Yes, the film leaves itself open to another sequel, a battle for the planet of the apes, although without being a spoiler maybe the battle is fought not between Apes and humans, but a battle more in keeping with the research that was being done. The film also manages to keep the cyclic nature of the original series with references to ill fated missions to Mars. The movie,like a lot of Hollywood movies, can't resist in giving the game away, when Lithgow's character first meets the baby chimp, he can't help but quote Shakespeare's Julius Caesar, talking of all bowing down to Casar, I guess he had to get his name from somewhere.

In the end this was a good movie, it was good entertainment, in the Weta work it ascended to a CGI level of artistry, and it gave me some things to think about.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

I'm Tired Of Doing Things Alone- I'm Leaving... study leaving that is;)

I'm in the process of organising study leave for later in the year. As a topic I'm going to look at what new monasticism has to say to the church, and in particular how we do ministry.

As I have begun to wrestle with the topic two things have begun to shape my thinking (or imagination).

One is a letter from a Irish bricklayer to an insurance firms request for a further explanation in an injury insurance claim where the reason given for the accident was 'working alone'

I am writing in response to your request for additional information in Block #3 of the accident reporting form. I put "working alone" as the cause of my accident. You asked for a fuller explanation and I trust the following details will be sufficient. I am a bricklayer by trade. On the day of the accident, I was working alone on the roof of a new six-story building. When I completed my work, I found I had some bricks left over which when weighed later were found to weigh 240 lbs. Rather than carry the bricks down by hand, I decided to lower them in a barrel by using a pulley which was attached to the side of the building at the sixth floor. Securing the rope at ground level, I went up to the roof, swung the barrel out and loaded the bricks into it. Then I went down and untied the rope, holding it tightly to insure a slow descent of the 240 lbs of bricks. You will note on the accident reporting form that my weight is 135 lbs. Due to my surprise at being jerked off the ground so suddenly, I lost my presence of mind and forgot to let go of the rope. Needless to say, I proceeded at a rapid rate up the side of the building. In the vicinity of the third floor, I met the barrel which was now proceeding downward at an equally impressive speed. This explains the fractured skull, minor abrasions and the broken collarbone, as listed in Section 3 of the accident reporting form. Slowed only slightly, I continued my rapid ascent, not stopping until the fingers of my right hand were two knuckles deep into the pulley which I mentioned in Paragraph 2 of this correspondence. Fortunately by this time I had regained my presence of mind and was able to hold tightly to the rope, in spite of the excruciating pain I was now beginning to experience. At approximately the same time, however, the barrel of bricks hit the ground, and the bottom fell out of the barrel. Now devoid of the weight of the bricks, the barrel weighed approximately 50 lbs. I refer you again to my weight. As you might imagine, I began a rapid descent down the side of the building. In the vicinity of the third floor, I met the barrel coming up. This accounts for the two fractured ankles, broken tooth and severe lacerations of my legs and lower body. Here my luck began to change slightly. The encounter with the barrel seemed to slow me enough to lessen my injuries when I fell into the pile of bricks and fortunately only three vertebrae were cracked. I am sorry to report, however, as I lay there on the pile of bricks, in pain, unable to move and watching the empty barrel six stories above me, I again lost my composure and presence of mind and let go of the rope... I am not going to work alone again.”

Maybe it is my recent experience with being a solo Church planter in Auckland City or a longer experience with being in a sole charge parish I too am tired of working alone and while the wounds may not be so visible or humorous in a black humour kind of way, they are there.
...the other is a fascinating quote from Dietrich Bonhoeffer, which I keep coming across on new monastic websites (strangely enough).

‘The restoration of the church will surely come from a new kind of monasticism, which will have nothing in common with the old but a life of uncompromising adherence to the Sermon on the Mount in imitation of Christ. I believe the time has come to rally people together for this”

I don't know where this will lead me... I'll keep you updated, but I have this real strong sense that this rediscovery of being a community has a lot to say to how we do ministry and how we do church.  Watch this space. 

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

An archeological discovery at Uni Chapel... OHP Transperancies and techno acid-like flashbacks

We are clearing out a lot of the junk at the chapel at the moment and came across two boxes that had been stored at the chapel by a student group. They were dusty and old and stored away under a brochure rack. In these boxes or more correctly file boxes were Overhead Projector Transparencies for songs and notes from talks given in the past. It was odd seeing these things and it bought back memories of involvement last century and last millennium (it feels weird using those terms) in church, youth ministry and worship teams where we would invest time in making, storing, pulling out and packing away what we called OHP's so we could project them on the wall and people would sing.  before computers they would be hand written and as someone for whom written English is a second language there would always be typo's that couldn't be fixed by the press of a button.

It's just another time I am made to feel like a techno-dinosaur as I remember all the changes I have seen in almost half a century of life...sigh

I tell my kids that I started doing computing at school using punch cards. That I remember getting our first TV black and white just in time for the 1972 Olympic games in Munich and colour TV for the commonwealth games. Party lines on telephones when people down our street shared one phone number and  as we were Titirangi 5569M we had to memories the Morse code for the letter M. Before you made a phone call you'd pick the phone up and say "working" just in case someone else was on the phone.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Video clips in Worship or have the fourth day adventists join the flat screen society... or not.

In trying to develop a more multi media approach to church services for studentsoul Auckland's Worship on Wednesday, Which means I am a fourth day adventist)  I have found myself enjoying and appreciating the use of small videos that people have produced as calls to worship or reflections and posted free for use on the web.

I have found peoples creative  blending of evocative images and music, their explicit or inferred use of scripture, and ability to visually portray theological ideas invite me and the other folk who come on Wednesday into a space where we encounter God in worship.

Yes they can be overdone, yes they take time to search (like all art forms there are good and bad, well constructed and poorly executed, fluff and depth) download,m edit and even mix such video clips... but the effort is worth it.  I am even trying in my own small way to create my own.

I do wonder if drawing people together by watching a screen is rather counter productive and anti communal: watching videos together or TV gives people a false sense of community, they think they are doing something together but unless they actively interact they are actually doing something individually together.  Short clips with opportunities for interactivity through the rest of the service seem to work.

 I guess it is  a rediscovery of the ancient preliterate use of such things as passion plays and icons to help us focus on Christ and his word. Most people today are immersed in our digital culture enough to be at home with how to connect with a screen and also to detach with what they see. We are not simply joining the flat screen society, you can't go int a tore or takeaway or anywhere in the Uni these days without interacting with image laden flat screens, rather using that technology as a portal for people to settle down and prepare themselves for worship.

Anyway thank you to all the people who create these clips and put them on the web for people to use to the glory of God.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Encountering God in a Darrell L Bock Commentary on Luke 7:18-35

Last week I noted that as Prepared for the message at Studentsoul Auckland's Worship on Wednesday that I encountered God in the midst of my sermon prep in an NT Wright commentary. This week I once again felt God speaking into my life through a commentary in preparation for Worship on Wednesday... This time it was in Darrell L Bock's commentary on Luke (1996) in the "NIV Application Commentary Series".

And perhaps its shouldn't be surprising that God should speak to me in a passage where in response to John the Baptists question about Jesus NT Wright comments "even the best of God's servants need reassurance from time to time". So even those of us in the remedial class need that reassurance.

Sometimes sermon prep can be a very sterile, intellectual process, even amidst prayer and meditation, then there are times when the passages one studies and prepares to speak on, turn the table and speak to you... that's the best as it allows one to share with conviction and passion that God is able to speak through his word... even through those who comment on it.

As I read Bock's comments on the various subsections of Jesus encounter with John's disciples and his subsequent teaching on John and rebuke on those who do not respond, I sensed God speaking into my life.

Let me simply quote from Bock...Italics are mine.

firstly on John wondering about Jesus because he didn't live up to his (John's) expectations of what the messiah would do

" We sometimes expect God to do something a certain way, and when he does not, we think that he failed. Such expectations may cover a variety of things-from God's helping to make a certain business situation successful (In my case read church plant) to God's promising to heal us from a debilitating condition, to our christian expectation that the Christian life will be free of hardship. Any of the preconditions of how God must work may work against us when he chooses to build character by taking us down a harder road." (244)

Then again...

" The values of John's struggle should not be missed. Here is a man of God needing reassurance that Jesus is truly the one he anticipated. We sometimes think that the great saints never doubted. In doing so, we deny they were normal human beings. The Scripture is honest and open about such struggles and doubts, just as the Christian community today should be. The way to deal with them is to express them, as John did. However, with the expression of doubt should be an open and receptive ear prepared to hear the answer. The difference between healthy doubt and destructive doubt is not uttering of uncertainty but the response that follows it. The laments of the Psalter teach us that saints can be brutally honest on how they feel about God, but they also teach us that after they share their complaint with the Lord, they humbly wait his reply. Disappointment often calls us to a deeper less self-focused walk with God." (215)

Thank You God for speaking through your spirit, by your word and in the reflections of your faithful servants...

Friday, August 5, 2011

Fruit of the Holy Spirit (part 8): faithfulness (AKA: Shooting Star or Faithful Servant?)

How many people have seen a shooting star?
They are amazing things, light trails across the sky as meteorites travel through our atmosphere and burn.

  But don’t blink you’ll miss it. An amateur astronomer  set up his video camera for two nights and in that time managed to catch two shooting stars, all up seven seconds of video from over twenty four hours. They are spectacular and special when you see them but they are there one minute, if your fortunate, and gone the next. You could say they are flash and gone in a flash.

The total opposite to that is the north star.  For centuries cultures in the northern hemisphere, Asian and European have been able to navigate at night across deserts, the vast expanses of continents and vaster expanses of oceans by the stars and in particular by the north star, that despite the rotation of the earth seems to stay stationary close to the north pole. It’s reliable a fixed point that as long as you can see it gives you a chance to orientate yourself. It’s not as flashy and spectacular as shooting stars it’s reliable and faithful. Faithfulness says Paul is a fruit that develops in our lives as we walk with the Holy Spirit.

In a series of monthly sermons at a nAuckland church I've been working my way through Paul’s list of the fruit of the Holy Spirit in Galatians 5. The character traits that develop in a person’s life as they walk with God’s Spirit, opening themselves up to being guided not by natural desires, or the flesh, but by the Holy Spirit. Paul says one of those character traits is faithfulness: being faithful. The Christian life is not just a flash in the pan spiritual high or experience or encounter, but a lifelong relationship with God, a faithful following, expressed in faithfully committing oneself to being God’s people together.

The word Paul uses in this list is ‘Pistis’ or as the King James Version translates it ‘faith’. It’s the same word that Paul uses three other times in Galatians as Richard Longenecker puts it “to signify a person’s response to trust regarding God’s salvation provided in Jesus Christ”. It’s putting our trust in God’s saving acts. It’s the ‘salvation by faith’ that was one of the catch cries of the reformation. We shouldn’t be surprised that this faith and trusting in God’s grace should be a fruit of the Holy Spirit’s work in our lives. In Jesus teaching on the Holy Spirit in John’s gospel we see that it is the Spirit that convicts us of sin, it is the spirit that convicts us of our need for God, it is the Spirit that reveals all truth to us. And as continue to walk with the spirit, we develop the virtue of living that trust in our lives over the long haul.

The other used for the word ‘pistis’ in scripture is in the LXX (Septuagint): the very early Greek translation of the Old Testament, where the word is used to describe the faithfulness of God. We shouldn’t be surprised that a fruit of the Holy Spirit should reflect the nature of God, as we’ve seen they all reflect the God whose Spirit we are walking with each day. God is faithful, this is the story of God’s relationship with his people Israel. God is faithful to his promises to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, it is this faithfulness that leads to his hearing the cries of his people suffering in Egypt and rescuing them, in Psalm 136 we see it said over and over again twenty six times as the story of Israel being taken out Egypt and lead through the wilderness into the promised land that ‘His steadfast love’ his covenant faithfulness’ endures forever’. We see it in the cycle of life in Israel through judges and the kings. Israel is not faithful to their covenant relationship with God, so just as God has said, things happen, their enemies overtake them, then they cry out to God and confess their sin and God saves them. Even the exile in Babylon that must have really tested the faith of Israel in God’s goodness is shown in the histories of Israel, which the Jews actually call books of prophecy, is a sign of God’s faithful love, he has kept his promise and removed them from the land, as generation after generation have not kept the covenant, and after 70 years people like Daniel and Nehemiah can have confidence that God will restore the people to the land, because he is faithful. In the midst of the destruction of Israel the writer of lamentations can find hope in one thing… the steadfast love of the lord endures forever, his mercy never come to an end they are new every morning, great is your faithfulness’. God is faithful.

 It is the same faithfulness we see in Christ coming and dying on the cross for us and as we read through the gospels we see in the looking back at Jesus ministry being a fulfilment of scripture, a fulfilment of God’s faithfulness. In 1 John 1:9 we are told that our sins are forgiven because of God’s faithfulness… if we confess our sins “God is faithful and just’ and will forgive us our sins. There is a reliability and constancy that makes God good. A dependability about God, a stick-with-you-through-thick-and-thin-ability about God, a from beginning-to-end-ability about God that rubs off on his people as we walk with God’s Spirit as we nurture that relationship. God’s faithfulness as our friend, and Jesus says I don’t call you servants but friends, nurtures the same quality in us. 

Another aspect of the word ‘pistis’ is its use in Greek ethical writing and thinking. ‘Pistis’ is the highly valued attribute of being trustworthy or dependable. It fits in well with the fruit of the Holy Spirit being the way in which we relate to those around us.

It fits with the idea of the Fruit of The Holy Spirit being an outworking of love for each other, in that other passage where Paul expounds the virtues of love, 1 Corinthians 13, we see that trustworthiness of love that holds the Christian community together, with the repetition of the word always, It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres and finally ‘love never give up’ there is a sense that this faithfulness of God, nurturing a faithful trust in God in us is displayed in our faithful commitment to one another. It is the virtue that we commit to and aspire to in a marriage, to remain faithful to that person through richer or poorer, sickness and health, for better or for worse.’ We are faithful to one another.

More than that being trustworthy reflects some very practical things in our lives: Keeping ones word, doing what we say we would do, Jesus said it in Matthew 5:37 ‘let your yes be yes and your no be no”. now if you’re like me you’ll probably  realise that you can get into the situation of because of a need to be liked or valued, or out of a sense of martyrdom always saying yes, right and then living with the feeling of O Bother I’ve said I’ll do this, now I’ve got to’. Anyone wrestle with that? We need to realise that walking with the spirit that God is able to heal those kind of things within us so that our yes and no, you can say no,  are expressions of love and commitment not some warped self-image or self-need, they are selfless service, that we can live out faithfully.

In the parable recorded in Matthew 25:14-30, from Jesus teaching on end times,   we have that wonderful saying “well done good and faithful servant”, the accolade at the end of a life serving God. The parable picks up another aspect of what it means to be trustworthy and faithful that is the idea of stewardship, being able to be entrusted with the possessions of others. The sort of trustworthiness we hope for and have recently seen as lacking in those in whom we entrust our money to invest for us. In the parable it’s about using the gifts and talents and abilities and resources that God has given each of us, and investing them in the Kingdom of God. As the master was leaving on a long journey, an apt metaphor on the eve of Jesus death, he entrusts his servants with his money, giving different gifts to different people. We are not given any criteria for the entrusting of these gifts, simply that they are given. Two of the servant invest and use those gifts to make a return for their master. The other, with as we see in the end a warped understanding of his masters character, simply hides his away. When the master returns we see that he praises the servants who have wisely and faithfully used his investment in them and his reproach to the person who simply had horded and hidden his money away. We often think that those whom God will be pleased with are the ones with the flashy gifts who seem to have it all, but in actual fact it is that we are called to be faithful to use what we have been given and invest that into the kingdom of God. I very good friend of mine once said what God wants is not our ability, rather our availability, not our success but our faithfulness.

Let me finish with the inspirational example of John Stephen Akhwari.  He lives in a mud hut with a earth floor in the little village that he was born in in Tanzania, a quite unassuming lifestyle, but he has been an inspiration to millions around the world. He holds a world record that may not seem something people would wish.

 He jointly holds the world record for taking the longest time to run an Olympic marathon 3:25:27.  He set it in the 168 Mexico City Olympic Games. The sun has set, people were heading home and there were only a few thousand left in the stadium, they were about to turn the lights off  but as news that there was one runner still out on the course , those who were still there stayed to cheer on this faithful and courageous runner. Actually it’s best I show you in this clip from the wonderful ’16 days of glory’ documentary.

“My country did send me 5000 miles to start the race they sent me 5000 miles to finish the race”. And as we are prepared to walk each day with the spirit of God, he will develop that fruit in our lives including faithfulness, living out that trust in God by being trustworthy ourselves, and we  will finish the race and hear the words well done my good and faithful servant enter into the rest I have prepared for you. 

Thursday, August 4, 2011

"I had a dream" but not in a MLK way... But Helpful None The Less

" I have a dream" but not in a MLK kind of way, rather "I had  a dream" last night. It may not really have been a deep spiritual encounter it may have been that last night started out cold, so as well as two blankets a duvet I threw my sleeping bag over the bed as well, then over heated.

It was a weird dream. It was about an embarrassing moment in my life, but turned out good and helpful.

When I had been a Youth Pastor in Rotorua we'd taken our youth group to a Youth Rally run by Lake City Church, the home of Destiny Church, that churches Youth Pastor had invited all the leaders from other groups to join him on the stage (Lake City use an old movie theatre). I went up reluctantly, hoping it was for prayer rather than some prank or silly game... When we all there he whipped off his shirt and invited us all to have a pose off against him. Now he was a very athletic Samoan guy and Lake City staff may not have theological degrees but they all get free gym membership.  I hid down the back, felt embarrassed  and refused to be involved.

However in my dream something strange happened then, different from real life... and here maybe is where my subconscious or God (I'm not sure which yet) stepped in. You see I have been questioning my sense of call in the light of Studentsoul Auckland coming to a close and other events that have happened recently. The Youth Pastor (in my dream) said I challenge one of you to come up on the spot and preach what is on their heart. I found myself rising to the challenge... What was on my heart?

1 Thessalonians 2:1-10

 1 You know, brothers and sisters, that our visit to you was not without results. 2 We had previously suffered and been treated outrageously in Philippi, as you know, but with the help of our God we dared to tell you his gospel in the face of strong opposition. 3 For the appeal we make does not spring from error or impure motives, nor are we trying to trick you. 4 On the contrary, we speak as those approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel. We are not trying to please people but God, who tests our hearts. 5 You know we never used flattery, nor did we put on a mask to cover up greed—God is our witness. 6 We were not looking for praise from people, not from you or anyone else, even though as apostles of Christ we could have asserted our authority. 7 Instead, we were like young children among you.
Just as a nursing mother cares for her children, 8 so we cared for you. Because we loved you so much, we were delighted to share with you not only the gospel of God but our lives as well. 9 Surely you remember, brothers and sisters, our toil and hardship; we worked night and day in order not to be a burden to anyone while we preached the gospel of God to you. 10 You are witnesses, and so is God, of how holy, righteous and blameless we were among you who believed. 11 For you know that we dealt with each of you as a father deals with his own children, 12 encouraging, comforting and urging you to live lives worthy of God, who calls you into his kingdom and glory.

This is a passage I have always seen as being at the core of my philosophy of youth ministry or all ministry.  A faithfulness to God even if it seems the results are not obvious to those looking on, and a love of people.To love them so much that "not only do we want share the gospel with them but our lives as well, they had become so dear to us." Us of course saying that it's about growing a leadership team as well, like Paul had.

Yeah! That is at the heart of God's call on my life,  to faithfully proclaim the gospel, and to love God's people enough to share the gospel and my life with them.  I don't know where, that's Gods thing, all I know is that the call is to be faithful to that dream and vision... God takes care of the rest.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

How in The World...recommends 'Where in the World'

In this wonderful Weird Wide Wired World we journey through and the blogosphere that many of us journal through I have come to appreciate the insights of Pastor Jon a United Methodist USA Minister in Anchorage Alaska and his blog site 'Caffinated God Talk'. We share an interest in the writings of Leonard Sweet and also the challenges of doing ministry in a rather fluid environment and apparently judging from the blogs title writing under the influence of large amounts of coffee.

I appreciated his insights on connecting with new families in the area in his posting "Where in the World". Some of my friends might argue that its still an attractional model from a Christendom mind set and not totally 'Missional' and maybe they'd be right but there is I think valuable input and reflection from someone working in a culture and place which  is very transient. 

While Auckland and Anchorage are on opposite ends of the pacific and at different ends of the world and New Zealand seems a whole lot more secular than US society there are similarities that make this reflection worth pondering. Mainline Churches in New Zealand are shrinking and need to ask questions similar to the ones Pastor Jon is.  In New Zealand in a recent survey New Zealand ranked rather high in mobility, until the recent recession people were moving house and area on a regular basis and with 40% of Auckland's population born outside of New Zealand  and another good percentage coming from outside Auckland, these reflections and actions of a mainline minister wrestling with church growth (survival and thrival ) are worth our consideration.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Encountering God in an NT Wright Commentary

I am working at putting Worship On Wednesday together this week and we are working our way through the Gospel of St Luke's. On Wednesday we are dealing with Luke 7:1-17, looking at the two narratives of  Jesus healing the centurion's servant, a man of great faith and raising the son of the widow of Nain from the dead, a miracle where it seems to be all about compassion rather than faith. I am using three commentaries for this study on Luke.

1. Luke for everyone  Tom Wright, 2004
2. Luke in the NIV application commentary Darrell L Bock, 1996
3. The Gospel of Luke: The New International Commentary on the New testament. Joel Green, 1997

In Wright's commentary on the Widow of Nain, Wright takes an approach which seems different to the rest of his commentary... He walks people through the passage and then invites them on a guided meditation and I found myself struck by how relevant it was for me as I wrestle with a whole lot of issues to do with dreams that seem to have come to naught and having to look for employment. I mentioned to my supervisor recently "I Don't know if God and I are on talking terms at the moment," But in the midst of doing sermon prep I encountered God in this NT Wright commentary. Let me quote it here.

" Now go through the scene again; (Luke 7:11-17) but this time, instead of it being a funeral procession in a small first-century Galilean town, make it the moment you most dread in this next week or next year. Maybe it's something that you know is going to happen like a traumatic move of house (big possibility) or job (yup). Maybe it's something you are always afraid of,... .Come to the middle of the scene, if you can in prayer; feel its sorrow and frustration, its bitterness and anger. Then watch as Jesus comes and joins you in the middle of it. Take time in prayer and let him approach, speak, touch, command. He may not say what you expect, he may not do what you want. But if his presence come to be with you there that is what you most need. Once he is in the middle of it all with you, you will be able to come through."

In a post called 'The Sky Is Cracking' I said I felt my world was starting to crack and crumble about me and I didn't know if it was  that or rather Jesus breaking in... NT Wright's reflection lets me know its the later and Jesus isn't on the outside but there in the centre.  "I will be able to come through".

A Self-reflective Reflection On Anders Behing Breivik

I appreciated the comments and reflections of my friend Mark Keown on his blog Dr Mark K on the tragic massacre in Norway and its perpetrator  Anders Behing Breivik. Like Mark my heart and my prayers go out to the families of these teenagers killed by this mad man and to a shocked and mourning nation. As a small Nation at the other end of the world who feel as isolated and safe from the terrorism, I share the shock and the anxiety that it could be us.
As a christian, like Mark, my first response is to distance myself from this atrocity and this man who in a very weird manifesto talks of wanting to protect Christian Europe from Islamic incursion and left wing thinking. As one student here said there is no way a man who calls himself a christian could do such a thing, We are called as a people to show the love and grace that Jesus showed us and well love even those who others see as our enemies. It is sad to see racism and the echo of Nazism and extremism massacred as Christianity even if it is only cultural Christianity (and that may be the problem).

However I can't separate myself from this man... relax I'm not about to run amok... rather after so recently having posted a series of messages on the book of Jonah (Part 1, Part2, Part 3, Part 4) . I just had to reflect like the Jews do on Kom Kippur... "I am Jonah". What limits do I put on God's compassion for others. What limit do I put  on showing the compassion God has shown to me. How do I reflect the racial and societal stereotypes and barriers of my age, country and ethnic group and even defend them even irrationally by faith.  I joined a online community on September 12th 2001 which of course was 9?11 in the US and it was hard to hear Christian people full of anger and grief and shock calling for revenge and postulating the language of war even..dear I say it ... holy war. It is hard to hear and see  in New Zealand underlying racism even at a systemic level.

As Psalm 139 ends its beautiful prayer

 Search me, God, and know my heart;
test me and know my anxious thoughts.
See if there is any offensive way in me,
and lead me in the way everlasting.