Saturday, December 30, 2006

[THO] Worship IX

Well I promised this a long time ago; it has taken me a while to get to it. The start of the series is here.

A Theology of Worship

I should begin with a disclaimer that a blog post is hopelessly inadequate to express a complete theology of worship. There are many excellent books and resources available already for anyone who has been following this series and would like to go further. I’ll list a few good ones at the end of this post. My intent is not to give an exhaustive theology of worship, but to situate worship theologically and give a few jumping points for further exploration. For me theology has to be practical, it has to translate into something real for the person in the pews. Theology should challenge our preconceptions and propel us both towards God and into the world to which we are sent. If theology is just a reassembly of words than God help us.

Who do we Worship?

Any good theology needs to be unabashed about its assumptions, even if those assumptions are flawed. Not that I think this is flawed, but honestly who doesn’t think they have a good grasp on truth. To talk about a theology of worship we must begin with the object of worship. There is only one real worthy object of worship; everything else is but a reflection. The Westminster Shorter Catechism tells us that the chief end of man is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever. There is something of the truth of worship in this statement. Worship should be all about God. On our parts it is our acts of glorifying God with our hearts, minds and strength. Worship is the rightful response to God’s manifest goodness. And it is completely enjoyable.

What is Worship?

So if God is the object of worship then what exactly is worship? What is interesting in the Evangelical church is that worship usually gets explicitly tied to the liturgy. In my church family it is not uncommon to have someone talk about worship and you know they really mean only the singing. Even if they are talking about private times of worship, it is usually singing (otherwise we’d call it prayer). But this type of compartmentalisation of activities only confuses the issue. It allows us to have worship time and other times, which creates the illusion that God is relegated to certain aspects of our lives and not others. There are a host of historical issues arising out of American denominationalism that just exacerbate this mindset, but a wholistic vision of worship is really the corrective that is needed. Worship is as much a participation in the liturgy as it is how we live our lives. Perhaps we could refer to the joys of liturgical celebration as high worship and regular living as low worship, but both are legitimately the place of worship.

How do we Worship?

If worship is not isolated to the liturgical life, then the categories of what constitutes worship suddenly become harder to pin down, and that is actually helpful. Surely singing and celebrating the Eucharist are easily identified as worship. The focus is on God. Such activities are rich with the potential to mediate an encounter with God. In such activities it is easy to see how people are changed by the transforming presence of God. But do not these activities also seek to orient our Christian living with the same nuances? Our songs let worship sink into our hearts so that in the midst of life the same songs come bubbling back to the surface, reminding us that in all we do it is for the glory of God. Our participation in the Eucharist opens us to God’s intimate work that touches every aspect of our lives, redeeming, transforming and calling us into better ways. I recently investigated the standard Eastern liturgy of St. John Chrysostem and discovered, along with Alexander Schmemann, a picture of life in the world. The liturgy was meant to model the Christian life in the world, as what Schmemann calls life for the world. Not that in the midst of life we expect a soundtrack rolling (let’s just leave my inner thought life out of this right now) but there are moments when we need to confess our faith in God, there are moments when we need to offer aspects of our daily life up to God and definitely we are called to respond in life, much as in the Church, to the unfolding liturgy of life. How we respond is how we worship.

When do we Worship?

With that in mind, the when of worship becomes universal as well. When we attend the service we give ourselves to worship as a way of saying with the Church, I will live for Christ today. I will offer my voice, my time, my money, my fidelity, my heart, really everything, I will offer it all to the one who offered Himself for me. Paul tells us in Romans that this is the only reasonable response to what God has done. God’s work doesn’t suffer ecclesial bounds, and so neither can our offering. So just as we did in the Church, so do we also in the world. Worship is how we live all the time, or at least worship is how we should live all the time.

Why do we Worship?

To finish up the who, what and whys I just want to say a word about why we worship. We think about worship in the Church and it is obvious, we worship to corporately glorify God. We already mentioned the Pauline exhortation of worship as a reasonable response to God’s goodness. But there are other reasons why worship, especially worship as a way of life, is important.

Most people in our churches already know how great God is. We worship corporately to bolster our own spirituality. But really if our worship is only Sunday morning and maybe a midweek group, then we are missing the chance to give God glory in the world that God so loved. Yes, God has a special love for the Church, but the Church isn’t the end of the Kingdom, it is simply a sacrament of the Kingdom. When we live as if the Church is the Kingdom we miss the fact that the Church only really exists to prepare a bride. The Church gathers the people of God and spurs us on towards Kingdom, especially in relationship to the World. So we worship at all times so that God is glorified before the nations. We worship so that the world can see, just as we see, how great the love of God is.

We worship because it is what we were made to do. I mentioned the Westminster Shorter Catechism and it is important that we realize why we were made. There is something that is so fulfilling about living the life you are meant to live. And worship is the orientation that gets us there. Paul’s exhortation continues to tells us that as we worship God with our whole selves, we will then be able to discern his perfect and pleasing will for our lives. We worship so that we will become who and what God had in His heart from the beginning.

I hope this series was encouraging; I look forward to your comments.

Some Resources I have Found Helpful:

  • Brent Helming, Hot Tips for Worship Leaders (Vineyard Music) – Very practical advice for leading congregational worship. This is a book I would love to give to every aspiring worship leader.
  • R. C. D. Jasper and G. J. Cuming, Prayers of the Eucharist: Early and Reformed (Pueblo Publishing) – A great collection of Christian liturgies.
  • Henri Nouwen, With Burning Hearts (Orbis) – A great reflection on the Eucharist.
  • Noel Dermot O’Donoghue, The Mountain Behind the Mountain (T&T Clark) – The power of sacred imagination.
  • Alexander Schmemann, For the Life of the World (St. Vladimir’s Seminary Press) – Great exploration of the Eastern sacramental life.
  • James White, Introduction to Christian Worship (Abingdon Press.) – A great introduction to Christian liturgy including a great bibliography.

[THO] Rescue Me

I'll let Rik say it for me. This song has brought me to tears on several occasions, it always brings me into worship.

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

[LIF] From the New Computer

It has been a while since I've last bought a computer. The last one I bought from an old friend who was putting them together at the time. The SCSI card in there never really functioned right and I decided that if I bought another PC it would be something brand nameish. I really want a new Mac but I can't justify the cost. I went out boxing day and bought a new Acer with oodles of drive space and a decent processor. I will upgrade the ram at some point, but really the only thing I'm doing that uses this is a bit of video editing on our home movies. I am far from the power user that I used to be, in fact I actually dislike computers and wasn't happy spending most of yesterday migrating software and email from the old computer. There was a time I loved that kind of stuff, but now I have much better things to do with my time. I wouldn't have bothered but my main box is starting to die on me. It is on its second power supply and this ones fan is making horrible white noise. I run Win2K server on it, in a partition far too small to accomodate the OS and obligatory Windows crap the OS accumulates. I really need to rebuild the machine from scratch and add a new power supply. I've had that machine do some wierd things that I'm pretty sure are hardware related so the days of depending on that box are gone. It will make a nice kids computer though.

Speaking of videos, I assembled a video tour of my library that I'll post up here. I have to make sure the image I swiped off the net isn't going to get me in trouble first. Geeky eh? It is amazing what things you can come up with doing when you are avoiding your real chores - today I did a pile of cleaning which should make my wife happy. The house hasn't recovered from the new toys that our kids accumulated! But I am making some progress. Tonight I need to spend a chunk of time reading for my upcoming review of The Portable Seminary. I'm almost done the "systematics" section which is more like Orthodox dogmatic theology minus the obligatory references to early church controversies. I'm used to much richer fare, but as an overview this isn't that bad, just wish it took a few more risks. Seminary, for me, is about engaging with the big questions not learning the pat answers.

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

[LIF] Tis the season to spam greatly

What the heck is up with the sudden influx of holiday spam? I seem to have won the lottery with regards to notifications that my stocks, banks and penis are failing to perform??? I mean who told them about my stocks? What perverse notion has prompted this onslaught of spam? Are they trying to capitalize on holiday spending? As if I have any extra cash to invest in dodgy internet deals (or even free time with my wife to... well let's just leave that one shall we). Maybe it is just my turn in the cycle of spambots, it does seem that from time to time they deem me worthy of their cascade of joy. But I can't help but think something more nefarious is at foot. Anyone else gotten the holiday influx?

Monday, December 25, 2006

[LIF] Merry Christmas!

Hope you and yours are having a blessed celebration of our Lord's birth.

I scored some nice books, this is to make Kenny jealous!

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince (I wait for the soft cover and always get it at Christmas, been a long wait!)
John Wimber - The Way In is the Way On (Oh yeah! I've been jonesing for that one)
Jurgen Moltmann - The Source of Life (Pneumatology, Molty style!)
Miroslav Volf - After Our Likeness (I've wanted to read that since I first saw it in 2001ish.)
David di Sabatino - The Jesus People Movement (Got this and the Lonnie Frisbee video, I can't wait to see the video!).

Gotta run... kids are finishing up breakfast and I have more toys to assemble...

Friday, December 22, 2006

[LIF] Such a Little Bug!

Holy crap I got hit hard. We were driving to our annual Christmas potluck. I'm thinking of all the lovely food we are going to eat, the great fellowship with people connected to Freedom in all kinds of fun ways, singing songs (thanks again Dan) and laughing up a storm. But an interloper had other plans. As we are driving I started feeling a bit dizzy. We were stuck in traffic and it kept coming in little waves. I normally ignore discomfort like that but it was bad enough I thought that Sharon should be aware, so I told her. Our friend BJ was sitting up front with me, she seemed rightfully concerned. I promised to pull over should it get worse. Well we stopped off to pick up a gift for someone who helped us out a lot this year and I got out of the car for some air. I was still dizzy. And it wasn't long before I pulled over to let Sharon drive. By this time when I got out of the drivers seat I almost fell over from dizziness (I'm stubborn as my good wife likes to point out). We were almost at Kinship so when we pulled in I staggered out and went in to find a couch to lay down. I went to the den because it is sort of out of the way from where the party was going to happen. Laying there I broke into a cold sweat and had to keep my eyes closed or else the room spun wildly. I was a bit concerned.

Michelle came and asked if she could get me anything, I told her I was feeling nausious. She instantly came back with a garbage pail that I blessed with vomit throughout the evening. Not a fun way to spend the night. Sharon covered me with blankets, helped me get to the washroom and back to the couch, and generally took care of me like the wonderful loving wife she is. At one point I asked her to kill me, yeah I get drammatic when I'm sick - but usually only when we are alone at home. Out in public I tend to put on a really brave face. But this was bad. In fact the only thing that came close to how messed up I felt was the time I had food poisoning in Mexico and passed out on the plane ride home.

Come time to leave and Vince helped me up. Actually it took Vince and Steve to help me to the door. Apparently when I got to the door Raj was coming in and I looked at him all deadpan and said, "you really don't want to get this man." And then continued on my way. That's so bizarre, but apparently Raj got a real kick out of it. Vince just chalked it up to me being a joker to the end. Sharon related that during the meal everyone was commenting on how good the lasagna was, she told them I made it and then there was a long pause. "Frank made it..." Raj broke the silence. I am laughing just thinking of how funny that is. I'm praying hard none of them gets this. They prayed a lot for me too, my kids prayed for me all the way home. In fact Chelsea (3) made up several 'Chissmiss' (her pronounciation is so cute) songs with "make daddy better for Chissmiss" in them. I was blessed but laughing was so painful (still is today).

When I got home I made a beeline to my bed, ditching clothes desperately as I went. Sharon tucked me in, brought me a water (I found in the middle of the night) and a bucket. Then she went to sleep with our oldest. Sometime in the wee hours the worst of it broke, but yesterday was a pretty tender day for me. My breathing has been shallow, it is a bit better today. And I had lots of little dizzy spells. Today I've only had one dizzy spell, and I'm feeling a bit better. My muscles ache and my chest is still a bit constricted. No mucous build up though, so I'm not sure what that means. But I'm sure I'll live.

I noticed that my marks are starting to come in. So far three A-s. I was hoping to get at least an A on one of those, but one of the A-s was a course I thought I'd get my first B+ on, that is a relief. I work my butt off to try and keep my marks in the As. One class to come, I think that one should be at least an A-, maybe an A as I did do quite well on the paper.

Monday, December 18, 2006

[LIF] The Vue from Here

Edit: I should proudly point out that this is not your average vehicle, it is a hybrid engine which really makes me happy. There is a review of the Vue Green Line here.

We are the proud owners of one sweet ride. Well actually GMAC leasing owns it, but we get to drive it (for a monthly fee of course). We are pretty happy, our first real drive in it was to church on Sunday in Carleton Place where I was guest worship leader. The drive was nice, the service was great and we are dog tired!

I spent most of Thursday and Friday resting, exams really drained me. Sunday wore me out and we did marathon shopping today. I am crazy tired. Tonight we did up Christmas cards, yeah I know we are a bit late. Better late than never though. It has just been that kind of hectic month. We have two services this week, well one is our annual potluck, should be great. I'm making a gluten free lasagna (from scratch). Good news is I'm almost done my shopping, just a few more stocking stuffers and something for some friends and we're done.

I'm actually enjoying The Portable Seminary, a book I'm reviewing for Christian Week. The first section is all about Biblical studies and starts off with the predictable stuff on Biblical inerrancy (it is an Evangelical book that is for sure) but then launches into a much better than expected discussion of original langauges and hermenteutics. Just started the Systematic theology section, we'll see how this one stacks up. I have to finish the remaining 600+ pages and write a 400 word review by the 12th of Jan. Got's me some reading to do. I'm also trying to get ahead on my DDM scenario writing for Wizards of the Coast. Should have one ready to submit tomorrow night, just need to test it out a bit more.

If I'm not blogging so much the next two weeks, know that I'm probably running my behind off or just chilling with my wife and kids. Got me a bottle of rum and tomorrow I'll pick up some Eggnog to go with it. Mmmmmmm, eggnog. Don't worry, if you drop by I do like to share.

Friday, December 15, 2006

[THO] Mary from my mySpace

This is a repost from my mySpace blog. I only use the mySpace blog to either point people here or to chat with a few friends who seem to like the mySpace world. But I thought it might be enjoyed here, even start up a little discussion about Mary. So enjoy. (As a point of interest the icon on the right is a traditional Eastern icon for Christmas. Note the baby Jesus in a cave reflective of this burial tomb (even the swaddling cloths suggest this) and the old guy talking to Joseph (bottom left) is the Devil.)


I recently posted on the Freedom Log about tackling Mariology in an exam. I've been studying (mostly part-time) at a Catholic University for six years now and this is the first year I've really encountered a nuanced teaching on Marian thought and doctrine. I encountered it in an Eastern Studies course with John Jillions and in a Catholic Ecclesiology course with Catherine Clifford. I really enjoyed wrestling with this topic a bit simply because it is not something that really comes up in any of the traditions I have been part of, at least not in a healthy way.

On the Roman Catholic side the focus was Vatican II and beyond. So in the Dogmatic Constitution on the Church (Lumen Gentium) there is a whole chapter on Mary. This document really outlines the importance and structure of Mary's relationship to the Church. But to outline that I should try and crack a few chestnuts with regard to popular protestant thought about Mariology. First the whole idea of saint worship is troubling to all Christians. Anyone faithful to the Catholic teaching would make a clear distinction between veneration and worship. God alone is to be worshipped. The lives of saints are celebrated as both Christian encouragement and as interceders in the Great Cloud of Witness. Second the idea that Mary's role in any way overshadows or replaces Christ's role is also troubling to all Christians. Lumen Gentium (LG) makes this very clear (LG.62).

In the proper Catholic teaching on Mary the Theotokos (God bearer), like all good teaching on Mary is more concerned with what we are saying about Christ and the Incarnation of Christ than about Mary herself. So, for instance, the virgin birth is an important dogma because it expresses our conviction that Jesus was born with both human and Divine natures. He is not a mere human who attains deification, but rather God who humbles himself to take on humanity. In the East there is really only one absolutely necessary dogma on Mary, that she is the Theotokos or the one who bears God. Like Catholocism there are a number of additional interesting Marian streams of thought, but these are more a matter of local devotional practices.

Back to the Catholics. What is cool is that many were pushing (in the 70's IIRC) for Mary to be officially given the title Co-Redemtrix. A confusing term that is meant to capture Mary's necessary role in redemption, meaning her obedience to God. This title was dropped because it could easily be confused with Mary being elevated to the position of Christ. Indeed some theologians have even extrapolated that Mary was the the third person of the Trinity usurping the role of the Holy Spirit (Boff). These are pretty dangerous claims and do not sit well with the mainstream of Catholic Marian teaching.

There are some aspects of Marian thought in LG that are disturbing. Hurdles that I think we should address. LG. 54 says that Mary occupies the highest place in the Church after Christ and that she is closest to us. When she is absent from our ecclesial langauge she is really not that close to us. Also this is based on a heirarchical vision of Church which is being challenged more and more. Mary does deserve a special place in our hearts and church life, but this is taking it a bit far.

LG. 56 talks of Mary as the predestined mother. This is based on flawed fall theology. And it refuses to admit that Mary had any choice in the matter. If she had no choice then her role as an example of faithful obedience is diminished. Also there is some crazy notion of Eve's virginity, Catholics seem to really value virginity in an almost supernatural way. But we'll talk about why in the next problem area.

LG. 57 tells us that, apparently, Jesus' birth consecrated Mary's virginity. This is anatomically impossible to begin with, but what is most interesting is that it is part of the lingering Catholic hangup with all things reproductive. Sex is seen as sinful and so for Mary to continue to be holy there is a myth of her perpetual virginity that is carried on in Catholic tradition. I say myth because some Catholics live or die on this one. But I think there is value in the myth if it says something about Christ (which I bet it does for many Catholics) but for me it is unneccessary. Mostly because it is based on flawed notions of human sexuality and original sin. But more because the important issue is captured already in the dogma of Christ's immaculate conception, this does not need to be carried over to Mary (sorry Pious XI).

I like that the discourse on Mary is placed in the context of the Church. This shows that Mary is also a member of the Church. As a Christian from non-Marian and anti-Marian roots this gives me a framework for understanding why she is venerated as she is. Indeed I've seen similar devotion to living and dead pastors in the movements I come from. And yes sometimes it gets out of hand. But most of it is meant to be encouraging. Is that not the real role of Mary? To encourage us to radical obedience. For myself there is room in my spirituality for encouragement. You won't find me incorporating a Rosary into my devotional practice but I do think I will find space to bring thoughts of Mary into my ownmeditation, especially in this season of Advent.

Love to hear your thoughts and experiences.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

[LIF] I'm Done!!!!!

When I landed home earlier today it was all I could do not to crash! I wrote 2.5 hours straight on my last exam. I don't recall ever having to write into the third hour before. I filled 2.5 exam books and boy was that exhausting. What a great exam though, the last question was a choice between an essay on Mary or an essay on the Pope. Both questions were nice an juicy, but how could I pass up writing about Mary? I took the ecumenical hang up road and began exploring the Vatican II perspective of Mary. Some of it I recoil at, especially when it talks in terms of predestination of Mary, but some of it is really good for those of us in traditions that usually laugh at Mariology. I ran into Mary in two courses this semester and I must say I have a new appreciation for Mary's role in the Church. I do have to agree with the East though that the two infallible papal declarations are completely unnecessary. Actually these are only two infallible declaration ever made, don't buy the creeping infallability crap spread to slander Catholics. The immaculate conception declaration is that Mary was immaculately conceived which is based on a flawed fall theology and the assumption of Mary dogma is just aptly named. But what we say about Mary is usually to support what we say about Christ, so you can forgive the sometimes zealous Mariologizings of Catholics. I think that Mary should be discussed amongst protestants, but then again I'm for a reintegration of hagiography as a means of Christian encouragement. Will it happen, likely not anytime soon. Does it matter, not really in terms of eternal things. But it is a hard point ecumenically and there could be a lot more understanding from our side on what the Catholics are actually teaching and promoting (and even not promoting, they did decide against making co-redemptrix an official title of Mary).

I am glad to be done exams, now to catch up on all the jobs I've neglected since paper crunch. Tomorrow I clean my office, prepare worship for a sister church that has invited me to lead, prepare the livingroom for our yearly tree trimming and if I have time, clean the bathrooms. Got my work cut out for me.

Monday, December 11, 2006

[LIF] Package Day

A couple of packages arrived today. Both collatoral material for writing projects. I was napping when FedEx arrived at the door with my package from Wizards of the Coast, woke me pretty quick. But what was most surprising was the book Doug Koop sent me to review for Christian Week. It is huge!!!!! The Portable Seminary edited by David Horton. What an interesting mix of contributers, I'm really set up for the holidays now.

I finished my Eastern Studies exam as well as handed in my Ecology take-home. Two down, two to go. I have a study group tomorrow morning so things are going well. And I picked up my Grace paper, which the prof. said was Excellent. I'm going to clean it up a bit and see if I can find a home for it. The essay was called "The Weaker Grace: How the Evangelical Vision of Grace Leads to an Inadequate Social Response" and is a critique of the Evangelical overemphasis on personal salvation. I identify that even when Evangelicals do respond socially it is skewed because of an emphasis on decline narratives and escapist eschatology. But what is fun is that I use the work of Moltmann as the basis for the critique and as a way forward to a stronger vision of grace. One that keeps the important insight of personal salvation but adds a dimension of real social grace. At the very least I'll post it at the Moltmann Yahoo! Group listed in the sidebar. I might see if I can get a magazine to pick it up though as I think this is an important area for dialogue. I would love to see the Evangelical church mature the Protestant vision of grace so that we can take serious the many political issues we face in our day. If you have suggestions of publications I might submit my work to, please let me know.

Saturday, December 09, 2006

[THO] The Insufficient Response

It took a bit of wrestling but I have been convinced that a deep cosmological shift is required of Christians. The problem with the operative cosmologies such as the young earth or stewardship paradigms is that they are blinded by their anthropocentrism. I used to think that you could overcome this with an ecojustice or ecofeminist critique. But you can battle the injustice of androcentrism and still have a horribly arrogant vision of humanity.

It is this anthropocentric arrogance that is the real achilles heel. By placing ourselves at the centre of the universe we assume that all that was and is exists only for us. The world is really only a temporary sandbox in which we play until the real deal arrives. But the problem is the real deal has arrived and Jesus didn't come to take us away, but to send us as well into the Earth. And it isn't a pie in the sky dreamworld he is concerned with here, but a restoration that happens as the age to come breaks into the present, which is also the locus of its final inbreaking. We are saved for the world, not from it.

Now this salvation orientation is not a plunge into the world, but rather a transformation that happens within the world. As we follow Christ into the world that God loves, you know the one He created and called good, then we are transformed into Christ for the world, so that salvation can come to all the world. This is incredibly cheapened if we think it stops with people. That is why our narrow cosmologies are quite insufficient.

We can do great things out of stewardship and ecojustice paradigms. But if we are just mitigating the risk of our own discomfort while waiting out the eschaton then we miss all that God has in mind. We also miss what the whole Earth groans and waits for. Not to mention the complete arrogance of such a position, why would we expect to move to an otherworld when we've so violently raped the world we have been given?

The vision of the universe that science presents is amazing. It is like the thickly starry night of a country sky, you realize how small and insignificant you really are. When we humble ourselves before God and God's creation our response takes on a needed dimension. How can we know that we emerged from billions of years of evolution in an ever expanding universe the smallest segment of which is beyond our ability to comprehend, how can we realize this and go on treating our home like our personal garbage dump? How can we any longer allow the widescale massacre of entire species, biocide in which we are also complicit? How can we continue to buy into the sickness of commercialism which produces engineered for the garbage heap products which simply waste the last of our precious fossil fuels to make? How can we continue to dump poisons into our own drinking water, so much so that we have an entire industry of stealing and reselling water to the poorest of the poor? The answer is we can't. When the gravity of our own culpibility hits us we are forced to take a restock of our lives. It is arrogant to think otherwise.

But many will continue to live in the comfortable little narratives that make them so heavingly minded they are of no earthly good. Such forget that the promise of Jesus in the Revelation is He will return to destroy those who destroy the Earth. I think it is time we took Jesus seriously.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

[THO] Study Group

Spent the afternoon in a study group for my Grace course. We were talking through how Gutierrez understands the work of grace in Liberation Spirituality. We had to bring in Ken Himes, Dorr and Voegelin to understand how We Drink from our own Wells tackles the the critique of the CDF on Liberation Theology. Namely the accusation that Liberation Theology legitimizes revolutionary violence and associates Christianity with political movements. Himes was a discussion of Just War theory and helped us understand why revolutionary action is so bad in theory. But unfortunately we are living in the shadow of two world wars and the suffering faced by Latin Americans is precisely the product of the colonial governments that should be the praxis of God's activity in the political arena. Dorr begins the political conversation around the preferential option for the poor which is used to say that God is actually on the side of the oppressed poor in this. So should it surprise us that when the poor rise up and engage the political powers they also have an encounter with God? Well, if we really think about how this happens in Gutierrez's book we should be a bit surprised. But stepping back I keep thinking this is exactly what love does and if hope is not hope for this world then how can we say that our hope is in the Living God who was willing to step into this world and who promises that we will never be without His presence. Run on sentence maybe, but this is a big concept and the cornerstone for Liberation Spirituality.

Now to sit down for three hours and spill out everything we reviewed today. I'm going to read through my notes one last time, but I think I have my head around it well enough to do the exam.

But first I need to complete my Ecology take-home. I have one b-day party and a trip to lease a new car, but other than that this weekend is all about the exams.

BTW, we are pretty much sold on leasing a Saturn VUE hybrid. We are pretty stoked.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

[LIF] Life is Quick...

Had a great study group last night, well there were really only two of us. But the thing was I could pretty much outline the whole course and understood it. So you would think today would be a snap to write the take home. Yeah, right. Well one thing after another and a nice day to myself is a write off. I'm going to try to write is tonight after kinship. I slept a spell this afternoon so I might be up anyway tonight.

I landed a book review for the holidays, The Portable Seminary. It should arrive in the mail soon. Exams will be done soon. I have church tonight which is going to be fun. This day really just flew by too fast.

Monday, December 04, 2006

[LIF] Richard's Fault

Your 'Do You Want the Terrorists to Win' Score: 91%

You are a terrorist-loving, Bush-bashing, "blame America first"-crowd traitor. You are in league with evil-doers who hate our freedoms. By all counts you are a liberal, and as such cleary desire the terrorists to succeed and impose their harsh theocratic restrictions on us all. You are fit to be hung for treason! Luckily George Bush is tapping your internet connection and is now aware of your thought-crime. Have a nice day.... in Guantanamo!

Do You Want the Terrorists to Win?
Quiz Created on GoToQuiz

This was the quiz Richard had on his blog. I couldn't resist, but it isn't like the results surprised me. The creator has some great "Worst President Ever" t-shirts over at his blog. Reminds me of the sarcasm of Landover Baptist Church.*

* Landover Baptist was set up as a parody site by Whitewolf games to trash one of their new apocalyptic role playing games. They were trying to generate some negative publicity which has worked for RPGs in the past. Unfortuntaly for those who have stumbled on the site you can see that this has taken on a life of its own. I'm not even sure if you can find a reference to the Whitewolf game on there anymore. Chris Tilling - this site is especially for you, you will laugh your merry Engish arse off reading such classis as 'Lucifer's Toychest' and ordering your own What Would Jesus Do thong!

Friday, December 01, 2006

[LIF] Grace Paper is done!

My critique of the modern Evangelical vision of grace is complete and handed in. I loved working with Moltmann on this one, of all my papers this is the one I think is most important this semester. I think Moltmann does a great job of keeping the tension between a personal grace and a social grace, I personally think this will be the challenge of our generation. In fact I think that is one of things that the Emergent/Emerging contexts touches that is very valuable.

I have one more little paper due Monday on Berry's The Great Work. And I've been invited into a small group of students who want to study Thomas Berry from a Berryite. I'm hoping that works out, it isn't for credit but I think it will be worthwhile.

I'm going to work on the last Worship series article right after my exams, sorry for the huge wait! Then I'll jump right into the promised Kingdom series. My paper on the Kingdom of God as it influences Vineyard Ecclesiology came back - 88% which is awesome as Prof. Clifford is a really tough marker. It was a fun class, I now officially know more than I wanted to about Roman Ecclesiology. I appreciate a lot about the Catholic Church, but I sure am glad I'm not a Roman Catholic.

Well we have snow today, the kids want to go out and I am thinking it is about time.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

[LIF] Not sure if I am Crazy, but... emailed me a while back wanting to re-run my article on Poker from Christian Week. I hesitantly agreed provided they fix up some editorial mix ups from the Christian Week version - the friends I talk about in the intro are not fundamentalist whack-jobs like the Christian Week version could lead you to believe. They are simply concerned, like many conservatives about the Poker craze and its effect on young people in particular. So today it came out here. In some ways I am happy to share our experiences. But the only letters that I saw come back from the Christian Week run were not even worth responding to. Maybe there will be some good discussion generated this run, but it is interesting that they came after me for this article. I suspect partly because no one else dares write it. I imagine in some denominations it would be akin to coming out of the closet. "You play poker? Don't know you that will make you go blind and cause your kids to rebel???"

Anyway I was comforted when another Vineyard's weekly letter hit my inbox announcing Poker on the agenda at a midweek gathering. I'm not alone, and once again God is reminding me I am in the right family. I might be the quirky emergent fellow in Ottawa, but they know how to make me feel loved. I would really love to hear your comments on the article, even if you hate it and think I'm going to burn in hell over it.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

[THO] How TO be Emergent (Please)

Pretty consistantly I see the Emergent conversation either misreprented or misunderstood. As someone who sees a lot of value in the Emergent conversation I think it is about time to try and clear the air. I added the word please because what I see happening is Emergent is becoming the latest fad in the Church which makes it much less than helpful. (The same could easily be said for Missional). So if you are looking at joining in the conversation please weigh the following:

1) Don't miss that Emergent is a critique.

I am fond of saying that Emergent is at best a conversation and at worst a movement. The reason for this is that when a critique becomes a movement, it is starting from a fairly negative foundation. Some of what troubles me about fads is that they tend to just adopt methods or principles and miss the real purpose of what is happening. Emergent is what has always happened in the Church, there is always that edge that wants to take us out a little deeper, engage the culture a little better and see God as a little bigger than we have been. Emergent is best understood as walking in that tradition - it is not a comfortable place because it often is experimental and almost always misunderstood. So this isn't something new, but something that is definitely needed. Not to be embraced as a "new" methodology, but as a prophetic word that is trying to call us to a better place as the Church.

2) Don't think a few candles makes you Emergent.

Emergent isn't something you try and attach to how you have done church in the past. It is a conversation that dares to ask how what we are doing is working (or not working). It is a conversation that is happening amongst pastors, priests, leaders and laity from a wide range of ecclesial settings. That is one of its primary values. It doesn't look like anything because it is not a form, philosophy or even a methodology. It is a conversation and you are welcome to join in. In fact you have likely already joined in and not even realized. Sure there are some Emergent churches that use candles, but many don't and if you listen to the conversation - some actually shouldn't.

3) Don't think of Emergent as something other than the Church.

Emergent is not a new church. It is a natural function of the glorious Church of Jesus Christ. It just happens that some felt it was helpful to name it. Think of how many movements within the church have been named. Pietists, Orthodox, Protestants, Methodists, Revivalists, Charismatics. Sure some of us like the labels now, but these labels can be double edged swords. Please, if you want to make a new church, don't call it Emergent, in fact why not consider not doing that at all. The Church has had enough schism for ten Milleniums.

4) Don't think if you are Emergent you won't need the rest of the Church.

If you think Emergent means you don't need the conservatives that dislike your Emergent ways then you are sadly mistaken. One of the critiques that Emergent brings is that of a high degree of disunity. Now the critique is nuanced with a cry for diversity as the basis of unity, but let us not mistake that for a call to disunity. Again this is why Emergent is best as a conversation, conversations happen best with more voices not less, even those voices you don't always want to hear.

5) Don't miss that Emergent means a call to authenticity.

The main critique I hear over and over is one that asks, "where is the authentic experience of the Church?" It would be a shame to have that go forward and build something highly inauthentic. Emergent isn't a call to do what isn't you. It is a call to work within your blessed tradition and maybe reach a bit broader audience. It is a call to wade a bit deeper spiritually. To embrace practices from other traditions only when they are going to foster something deeper, something real. It definitely doesn't jettison the gospel or try to mush everything into a form of relativism. It might question some of the ways we describe this (and even understand this) but only so we can better frame our faith and communicate it to others, say in a way they can actually recieve (authentic). It is about being true to ourselves and the call of God on our lives. Anything less than that should raise a warning flag. Like I keep saying, Emergent isn't a fad we can jump on to try and make our church the hottest thing since sliced bread. Those sorts of things are a dime a dozen and if they really worked we wouldn't need new ones every few months. Emergent is something deeper, it is a conversation and you are welcome to join in.

I could go on, but I think this conveys what is immediately on my heart. There is a great Emergent conversation going on over at Resonate, and I'm sure there are others. I hope to hear you there.

[Edit: I fixed my title.]

Saturday, November 25, 2006

[LIF] One Down, One to Go

My Eastern Studies paper is now done! I have a grace paper due Thursday and then it is just exams (which I start getting Monday). Even though I was really depressed doing the Eastern paper I did end up with a paper I am quite happy with. I compared the liturgy with a picture of the Christian life and was able to easily trace the themes of suffering and joy. In fact I ended the paper in joy which is both appropriate and makes for an excellent ending note. Now it is time to really buckle down with Moltmann and finish up my grace paper.

I am soooooooo tired.

Friday, November 24, 2006

[THO] The Divine Liturgy of Does This Ever End?

This was painful to get through. But it did give me a sense of what actually is going on. It is pretty hard to figure that out from words on a page. I was assuming a whole lot more of this was accessible to the people, boy was I wrong. I am not sure why it is so maddening to see a priest calling the occasional phrase over his shoulder at the people, but it is. I think what is more frustrating is that after watching this and pouring over the text I just don't get the sense of what Schmemann sees. It is going to be a long night.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

[LIF] Paper Crunch continues...

Still working on my papers. I keep getting drawn to my paper on grace, my working title is “The Weaker Grace” and I’ll probably tag on “How the Evangelical Vision of Grace Leads to Inadequate Social Response”, or something like that. I keep bouncing back and forth from Moltmann to a range of Evangelical authors (including Haggard). My working premise is not that Evangelicals don't respond socially (in fact the opposite is true) but that they respond either as a form of risk management or simply out of a bad narrative bias. Fun, fun, fun. Meanwhile I have yet to complete my reading and analysis for the paper due Monday! This is going to be a crazy week. My paper on Vineyard ecclesiology has already been submitted. I wish I had more time to work on that one, Sharon felt I spent too much time unpacking history. My concern was that the prof. likely does not have any background in where the Vineyard comes from. I’m usually lumped in with Pentecostals.

Friday, November 17, 2006

[THO] Lonnie Frisbee

I just ordered this video as well as Di Sabatino's The Jesus People Movement. I've been waiting a long time for both of these (really just an excuse to buy David's book). I'll have to review it here. Lonnie, for those who have never heard of him, was the figure who was central at the Mother's Day visitation that really shook up the Vineyard. He is so important that Vineyard historian Bill Jackson devoted a whole appendix to Lonnie. He was also, ironically, a major figure in the roots of the Calvary Chapel movement (sorry Hannegraff). But what is even more interesting, this lightening rod for God died in relative obscurity because his whole life he struggled with homosexuality. The fact that God so powerfully used a gay man really ruffles feathers. Let you all know when it arrives!

Thursday, November 16, 2006

[THO] Moltmann and Grace

The coming lordship of the risen Christ cannot be merely hoped for and awaited. This hope and expectation also sets its stamp on life, action and suffering in the history of society. Hence mission means not merely propogation of faith and hope, but also historic transformation of life.
Jurgen Moltmann, Theology of Hope, 329-330.

Just getting my head around Moltmann's view of grace for a paper I'm going to write in the next week or so. Loved this quote!

Sunday, November 12, 2006

[THO] Stacking up Capitalism

Part of the job of a theologian is to be able to look at the world and understand what is going on. To make judgements and when something is problemmatic, to sound the alarm. I mean that in the most prophetic of senses.

I've been thinking a lot about how we engage with the world around us. Introspective I know, but I think this is vital. The obsession that I have with stuff is incredible. I have a collector mentality and derive pleasure from sorting things. In fact it is one of my wierder traits. I like order, even though I live a lot of times in chaos from the sheer amount of stuff I have collected over the years. My wife is into purging, which is healthy for me, but it doesn't make it easy.

What got me thinking about this is a bit of TV I've seen lately, an advertisment and a show I saw tonight. The show was 'How Clean Is Your House' in which Kim and Aggie tackle the house of a literal rubbage collector. They dragged 4+ tonnes of crap out of this small flat (not exaggerating) and scrubbed some of the vilest crap I've ever seen. Now I live in a pristine castle compared to this man, but you know it is not hard to imagine being swallowed up by all my own crap. But for me it isn't recycling rubbish or being unwilling to part with broken stuff that does me in. I actually am pretty good at chucking real garbage. (Well if you look at my library there is a bit of crap in there that I should purge, likely will now that my shelves are full, say goodbye Josh McDowell!) What does me in is the allure of stuff that I just don't need.

Take this cup stacking game that is advertised on the tv all the time now. At first I thought 'that might be fun', but then I thought about it. 'What the heck?' They are re-selling the common plastic cup as a game??? This is the empitome of capitalism. Convincing the masses to buy more crap that they won't ever need because it fuels the artificial economy and keeps the wealthy happy in their relative comfort. But are we happy? Even the rich? The thing is for capitalism to work we all have to buy into this buy to be happy deal. If someone wakes up and begins pointing out that they are just re-selling cups then possibly the illusion will be shattered. Well, I can hope can't I. (The illusion is necessary because it lets us sleep in a world where our capitalism hides incredible disparity and oppressive poverty in the world, but let's keep this light shall we.)

Sears has this new wish big campaign for Christmas shopping, where folks are going home with more oversized things they likely don't need. It is madness, sheer madness. But what drives me nuts is I am the worst culprit. I fight with my wife over buying new tools I could borrow from neighbours. I purchase more paintable terrain than I could ever use to populate a battle map, or make sure I have oodles of miniatures for trading, yet hesitate when the offers to trade come in? I am just as sick as the whole system.

I think what this points to is my next Lenten fast. Instead of giving up food or coffee. I think this time I'm going to give up buying, in fact I think I need to find something each day of Lent to either give away or chuck out. Think of it as a protest of the capitalism that so enthralls my soul. Lent is a ways off yet, so I have a chance to get my ducks in order first. A chance to flesh out the ground rules. Last year I gave up Internet Poker for Lent, and you know what I've played maybe three times since giving it up. It was hard, damn hard actually. I really enjoyed the thrill of gaming. I actually enjoyed making new online friends. But giving it up I realized how much I was missing out on simple things, like playing with my kids (or letting them have the computer long enough to learn how to use it well). And I wasn't really playing that obsessively before! I wonder if this will change the way I feel about buying into this commercialism driving society. I know I am already very distrustful of capitalism. I see the cup game and it is like writing on the wall.

Saturday, November 11, 2006

[LIF] Nightmares and other stuff

I have been spending my online moments getting through the 3 hour documentary Sam pointed to in this post. All I can say is holy crap! I ended up having an interesting chat about Leo Strauss in my Grace class (at break) after the first hour of this. Not sure I have the tools to sort through it properly, the thesis is pretty darn scary and makes me very glad Rumsfield is gone! Kenny, would love to hear you weigh in on this.

I've been progressively stuffier over the last four days, today I have a sinus headache. Yuch. Two papers to try and finish today (one is just little on the Eastern Churches Pneumatology)All the Easter papers should be "God Said it so we believe it and say it twenty times each liturgy." But they usually end up in me working out my frustrations over the horrid texts. This week we did Kalistos Ware and it is like a breath of fresh air. Sure I don't agree 100%, but Ware doesn't make me feel like a knob for having a different opinion.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

[THO] Theological Influences

There has been a lot of buzz about books that have influenced our theology and I feel a bit out of it because I can maybe list a handful of really prominent influences view books, but the real influence belongs to the context of where those books came into play. I discovered Moltmann in James Pambrun's classes, that is also where I discovered Ricoeur, Lane and Charles Taylor. I discovered O'Donoghue in a Celtic Christian Spirituality course which was very influential on my theology of worship and evangelism (George Hunter jumps to mind). Also without John Gibaut I would not have developed such a passion for the Eucharist. Heather Eaton put writers like Johnson, Soelle and Berry in vivid context. And I could go on. So I was delighted when Ben decided to list his top 20, in no particular order, theological influences. Here are mine.

  1. Eucharist - for anyone who has discovered the richness of the Eucharist there can be no doubt that theology starts here.

  2. Planting a church - I am convinced that theology and church belong together.

  3. James Pambrun - a systematics professor par excellance. Probably one of the best lecturers you could even meet, and passionate about theology.

  4. Celtic Spirituality - I came at this from a few routes, but the biggest was a course at St. Paul. This has impacted my theology of worship, evangelism, community and life.

  5. Questioning my Pentecostal roots - this is likely why I have so much trouble with the course I'm taking on Eastern Christianity. Questions are good.

  6. My wife - sometimes in the middle of wrestling through questions my wife will say something profoundly grounded and help me make sense of the bigger picture. She is definitely a gift to me.

  7. Ecumenical Friends - I am part of a lot of mixed tradition communities which has always been a source of rich theological insight for me. I guess that is why I persist with such communities even when I am the minority voice in the conversation.

  8. The Bible - yeah there are a few books that make this list, but I have had the sheer privilege of studying under Walter Vogels who is able to hold the tension of a historical critical analysis and a love for the sacred Scriptures. I bless my Pentecostal heritage for its emphasis on reading the Bible has made it so that the Scriptures are part of my vocabulary.

  9. John Gibaut - how could I not acknowledge his influence on me. He encouraged me to study the primitive house churches and imparted a passion for the Eucharist that marks almost everything I do liturgically. A finer Anglican Scholar I have yet to meet.

  10. Training Ministers - I prepared and ran a year long ministry formation class for leaders form Freedom and the Smiths Falls Vineyard. I focused on the Vineyard, but we covered biblical interpretation, preaching, history, theology and spirituality. It was intense but I learned so much.

  11. Philosophy - for helping me gain a critical distance from my engaged theology.

  12. Jurgen Moltmann - both from books and from the dialogues those books have spawned. Moltmann is my homeboy!

  13. Heather Eaton - she taught me how to take my spirituality apart and put it back together again. That is one of the most imporant abilities for a theologian.

  14. Theology Blogs - man I am loving the richness of this community. I list many of the regulars I follow in my sidebar, but more often than not I'm following their links in the rich conversation that happens on the web.

  15. Eastview Baptist Church - where I was given wings to fly and the freedom to realize I am not a Baptist. That is also the place where my library began, thanks Aubery!

  16. The Vineyard - where I found a home. Kingdom theology is the bomb!

  17. My kids - I think Luther was onto something when he said you are not a man until you change a diaper. My kids make me think deeply about a lot of things. Who the heck tried to tell them we aren't animals?

  18. Experiences - I've had lots of freaky experiences along the way. The influence of witnessing healings, visions, guidance and other Kingdom realities can not be overestimated. I might not be Pentecostal, but I am definitely not a cessationist.

  19. Worship in Song - I am oriented towards worship in this way. Especially to participate. I love to pick up my guitar and just worship. This has shaped my theology with a leaning towards the expressed love of God.

  20. Preaching/Teaching - especially lectionally, but any time I've wrestled with scripture to prepare a message for our community (or another community) I've been blown away by how God shows up. Though it is scary, I do love it when the Word challenges my preconceptions.

[LIF] Haggard and Joseph

My buddy Joseph emails a semi-daily newsletter called Coffee Jesus. Yesterday he was lamenting the responses to Ted Haggard's indescretion. Of course Joseph didn't name Ted, but a quick look at my Yahoo! showed me the story. I think Joseph was more upset at how the Christians were responding to this tragedy. When I read it my heart was very sad for everyone involved, but mostly for Ted who will likely always have this shadow over him. Christians are not good at dealing with their heroes floundering, we tend to shoot our own wounded. Joseph also included this tounge in cheek video of the Americanization of Jesus - but I took no comfort in its jangly song (but maybe you will).

I would encourage you all to pray for your pastors and leaders. I think a big part of the problem is found in our ecclesiologies that just don't work. I could also have some interesting comments on the pressures of a mega-church. I also could find many issues to disagree with my brother Ted about and maybe point a finger there. But no matter what it always boils down to our own responsibility in our own affairs. And when we are honest with ourselves we dare not think if we were in Ted's shoes we would do any better. So let's pray for the Haggards as well. God let your love rest on your servant. Thank you for the courage in you he has found through all this. Protect and restore his family. And God have mercy on us all, for we all have the capacity to go where our brother has found himself.

Monday, November 06, 2006

[LIF] Back to the Grind

Had a great weekend of gaming, I actually took the prize last night. I wasn't too thrilled with my pulls in a sealed event - got a second Pit Fiend if anyone is looking for a trade. But I fireballed the first band until they were so soft I swatted them away like flies. The second band was Richard, who I think is a really good player. He came at me with the Solar (angel). He could have played points denial and maybe won, but he is a much more noble player than that and it cost him the game. His one chance to use the slaying arrow and he missed! Doh. My last matchup was with the new player Jason. He was good for his first time out to our group. His band had a Maug and an Owlbear for rending power, but I was careful, got off my fireballs when it counted and kept my Fiend from the big guns until he could easily mop up. It was a total party kill! We had all pitched in on a booster which I pulled a second Solar from.

But this crazy weekend also included a whole day in which my router refused to connect to the Internet! That meant having to get an extension on my paper for tonight's class. Sucks, but at least I have half of my next big paper done and my paper for the class this afternoon is complete. I am definitely not happy with the Eastern studies class. I'm sick of being the one who always has to tear apart the readings. I'm tired of writing papers about how the authors miss the point. I fear it is going to take me quite a while to begin liking Eastern Christianity again after this. Ignorance, in this case, is bliss.

This week we have out sending church pastors coming to visit us. I'm making a chili! Should be a really good time, George and Janet are a lot of fun to have around. Because Elyssa is just getting over the chicken pox they can't stay with us (it wouldn't be right to boot Elyssa out of her bed). But we have them for a whole night, Friday. I've invited the whole Freedom Vineyard to hang with us. Hope we can have a bit of worship as well.

Better get off to class.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

[DDM] Bloodwar Is Here!

Lots is happening in the world of Dungeons and Dragons Miniatures! This new set is really nice. Colourful and really interesting sculptures. Tonight I am hosting our local release party! Yeah, I know it came out Friday, but that didn't work for most of us. I really don't have time for it tonight, but how can we not have a sealed event in honour of the new set?

I bought a case for myself and opened them up with my oldest daughter. She loves helping me open up minis. The first one was the Githyanki riding a Red Dragon - what an awesome miniature. There are a lot of demons/devils in this set, it is Bloodwar after all. Which doesn't thrill me too much, I always prefer the more standard fantasy fare of dragons, spiders, warriors and the like. But I must admit the Pit Fiend is a nasty beast and a great sculpt. I can't wait to field him in an Epic game.

I have two new articles published. A scenario for minis where two necromancers dual by summoning undead. It was supposed to be for Halloween, but was bumped by articles for the new set. The problem with an article coming out the same time as the gallery for a new set is that it gets lost in the shuffle. The other article was for Knowledge Arcana and is a piece on how to run a great game of minis. I share some of the insights I've gained from organizing gaming communities in Ottawa. KA has great editors and I think they did an awesome job with the layout for my article, I love the images!

I'll probably lay low for a bit on the scenario writing. Paper crunch at school and all that fun stuff. I know going into this new set of minis I was thinking I'd slow down, maybe cherry pick the next couple sets. But if the next set is as sweet as this one I'm going to be hard pressed not to pre-order a case. We'll just have to wait and see.

Saturday, November 04, 2006

[REV] A Quick Drink from the Well

Last week I had 7 days to read Gustavo Gutiérrez's We Drink From Our Own Wells. I hate power reading such a deceptively profound book. And I would commend it to anyone who is wrestling with Liberation Theology, especially to evangelicals who think that Liberation Theology is just Socialism dressed up like Christianity. Gutiérrez reveals that Libeation Theology is deeply embedded in the experience of God in the midst of situations all of us would find intolerable if we were truly to face them ourselves. Liberation Theology is an orientation towards hope and the pursuit of justice that can only be described as the inbreaking of God's Kingdom in the lives of the oppressed. I am carefully using the term oppressed because we have some romantic notions of poverty in North America that do not describe what it means to be poor in 'developing' nations.

Gutiérrez begins with the definition of a Christian "as a follower of Jesus" (p.1) a great place to start for any theology. Because he begins here I think this book would be incredibly accessible to folks who have been afraid to Liberation Theology. He then begins to describe a spirituality that arises in the midst of a foreign and oppressive land (foreign to the Kingdom that is). "We are confronted with a reality contrary to the reign of life that the Lord proclaims." (p.10) It is this that is the reality of many oppressed in our world.

His insistance though is that it is in the face of such adversity that spirituality is born. And from the depths of spiritual experience a profound theogical reflection is able to occur. This is the experience of German Political Theology in light of the horrific Second World War. I find it interesting that in the evangelical world there is a glamourization of martyrdom. Something deep inside us knows that real theological reflection occurs in the midst of real social challenges. Yet that same evangelical world is quick to dismiss what is going on in neighbouring countries, right under our noses. To this Gutiérrez makes an incredibly bold claim, one we need to consider. "There is no authentic evangelization that is not accompanied by action on behalf of the poor." (p.44)

The other aspect of this book that I think makes it accessible to evangelicals is how Gutiérrez works with scripture. This book is predominantly a scriptural study - profoundly contextualized, but a study of scripture much like I would expect from contemporary evangelical writers. I think that is also what makes this book deceptively simple. It is not a simple text. There is something profound in what Gutiérrez is asking his readers to take in. It challenges our whole notion of what it is to do theological reflection. It calls us to be aware of the deep injustices that occur in our world, but not to lament and throw money at them - but rather to come along side in solidarity with the oppressed in a way that changes our own comfortable views of reality. In that place we encounter the Lord, surprising though that may be.

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

[THO] Full Time Ministry

I am hoping this is a bit provocative. I've been studying the clergy laity split in the Roman Catholic church and I am more and more convinced that the concept of Full Time Ministry is really just a longing for contemporary evangelical clergy. Prior to Vatican II the clergy were seen almost exclusively as those who have pursued a less perfect way. They were a sub-species of Christian meant only to follow the leaders. But Vatican II challenges this notion, especially in Lumen Gentium and Guadium et Spes. People of God is recovered as an image of the whole Church, not just the laity and the clergy are restored to a servant role and charged with the promulgation of lay action.

In the Protestant/Evangelical world we haven't caught up.

Instead of codifying the offices, we've created two classes of Christians. Those who ministry full-time (whatever that means) and those who are bums in pews. Before you jump on me, I'm trying to make a point. Of course there are many evangelical and protestant groups who have addressed this, but usually what is addressed at a denominational level takes forever to make its way to the adherants. So if you have busted this myth, kudos. But so often I encounter this myth alive and well in the people who attend our churches. Also even though Vatican II has made great strides, it is nowhere near pervasive in Catholic thinking either.

What is wrong with full-time ministry?

Well it may seem hypocritical for me to talk about full-time ministry disparagingly. I've spent many of my own years as a Christian primarily and sometimes only working for the Church. There is a need for a strong sense of direction and cohesiveness in the Church which comes primarily through good leadership structures. That isn't where the problem lies. The problem is when leadership is no longer part of the congregation but something else, an ideal and even an idol.

I've seen lots of young people with aspirations for full-time ministry, as if this were the ultimate in glamour roles in the Church. I think for some it appears that way. Working for something eternal seems to have a great appeal for a lot of ministry hopefuls. Heck in some of our movements you even get to wear funky garb! But there are three big issues that must be addressed, bubbles to be burst so to speak.

1) Full-time Ministry is not a guarentee of the faithful

Just because you gave your heart to Jesus, no one owes you a full-time ministry position. This is not the pinnacle of your walk with Christ, in fact it might very well be your downfall. Paul said not many should aspire to be teachers - be careful what you ask for.

2) Full-time Ministry is not a second class of Christian

Jesus loves all of us, in fact if He has a preference it is for the least in our midst, not the most well endowed (ministerially speaking). It is foolish to think that once you've arrived at full-time ministry you have arrived in the Kingdom. If that is your destination then you can get there quicker by bringing a basin and towel with you everywhere and washing feet - that is a much higher calling than pastor or priest. Those who wish to be greatest among you... look it up Jesus is quite clear about this.

3) Full-time Ministers have the same struggles as the rest of us

I think a lot of people see ministry as a refuge from sin, especially habitual sin. Let me let you in on a secret - we all struggle with sin. If anyone tells you otherwise then you can bet they are lying. There is no magic refuge in ministry, in fact ministry can be so draining that at times those temptations become unbearable. I know I've been in ministry a lot of years and had my fair share of struggles. The same grace is available for all of God's people - even the full-time ministers, so there is no benefit here for those looking for that easy out.

Now that I've burst those bubbles. If you still feel God calling you to devote more of your life to ministry, awesome! Like I said there are definitely roles that need to be filled. But I hope we fill them with those who are truly called. Those who will humbly take their place amidst all of God's people and be the servants of God that Jesus intended.

Sunday, October 29, 2006

[LIF] Booktopia!

One of the bulk book stores is going out of business and selling a bag of books for $20! Well I filled a bag in the religion section, basically got all I wanted and a few I wouldn't otherwise have bought. Actually only a few were ones I would have bought there anyway, but they are all welcome additions to my library! Here is my haul:

  1. Gundry (Ed) - 5 Views on Sanctification - fun

  2. Vallee - Soundings In G. E. Lessing's Philosophy of Religion - dunno

  3. Taithe & Thornton (Eds) - Prophecy: The Power of Inspired Langauge in History - cool

  4. Hutson (Ed) - Religion and the New Republic - Noll is in there!

  5. Aquinas - Treatise on Law - fun

  6. Graham - Sacred Adventure: Beginning Theological Study - reader

  7. Zagano & Tilly (Eds) - Things New and Old - very cool!

  8. Allen - Love & Conflict - dunno

  9. Price - A Serious Way of Wondering - dunno

  10. Drane - Faith in a Changing Culture - dunno

  11. Ortberg - God is Closer than you Think - it was cheap

  12. Brown (Ed) - Christianity in the 21st Century - interesting

  13. Laiser - Toward an Old Testament Theology - coo

  14. Harpur - The Uncommon Touch - interesting

  15. Higgins - Heretic Blood: The Spiritual Geography of Thomas Merton - cool

I know, I should be working on my studies. But how can you pass a book buffet?

Saturday, October 28, 2006

[LIF] Inside Worship is back!

I missed Inside Worship, but now that it is back I restored the link to my article Towards a Post-Modern Liturgy. It makes a nice addition to the series on Worship I have been doing.

[LIF] Last Night was Awesome!

I showed up in Smiths Falls with a few of our Freedomites, it was a wonderful atmosphere. They had just bought a LCD projector and were projecting the acrobat files onto the wall for worship - interesting choice. I'm going have to give them a quick lesson in PowerPoint or convince them to buy Songbase or something. But it was fine, we had a quick break and then started up again. I taught on how our vision of God and of ourselves gets corrupted and keeps us from the intimacy that God desires with us. I talked about how this intimacy is a foundation for our relationship with God. And I did all this from Psalm 23! Yeah, God has a sense of humour. I finished up by talking about how worship was that place where we cultivated intimacy, and how the Eucharist is that ultimate moment in the worship where we take God, and all God has done on our behalf, into ourselves (despite the mechanics of this which are highly debated).

After my talk my friend Paul prepared to open the Eucharistic table, we had a gospel reading and then I led the song Sweetly Broken. After a spontaneous Psalm broke out and Paul opened the table while I played gently in the background (ouch my fingers hurt from that!). As folks were coming up I led out in a few worship songs as I felt led and really just spent that time worshipping God myself. We had a prayer time after and there was a really sweet presence of the Spirit in the room.

Thanks all who prayed. Now it is back to the paper grind!

Thursday, October 26, 2006

[LIF] Overload!

I am really daunted by this weekend. I've yet to actually type out my speaking notes for tomorrow night. I have a tonne of reading to do for next week (including an entire book for one class - Guiterez's We Drink From Our Own Wells). Parishoners are moving Sunday morning. I have lots of research for papers yet to do. It is just crazy. So if the posts seem to come slower, it is just because my head is stuck in a book somewhere.

Wrote my grace mid-term exam yesterday, I was the first one done which didn't really comfort me. I even re-read all my answers. I know I've promised a series on the Kingdom of God, it is coming. I just finished up the chapters of Ladd's The Gospel of the Kingdom that are relevant to eccelsiology. I'll take a boo at Derek Morphew's excellent book Breakthrough before starting to tackle my paper and my Kingdom posts should fall quite naturally out of that. Also I still have the last installment of my worship series to do - no worries I have not forgot. But developing a brief theology of worship is not something to do lightely. And I've not had the chunk of time required to really do it justice. I do have a draft on the go though so we'll see. Once I have a proper outline for my first paper I should be good to go on that front.

Finally got my courses for next term settled! Liberation Theology with Heather Eaton, Christology with Hengel, my last required English class, and Philosophical Hermeneutics. Should be a good mix.

Well pray for tomorrow night, I am really excited to go and speak. There are quite a few of our folks going as well and the ministry time should be very sweet. I'll definitely post on how the evening went.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

[LIF] Grace Paper

I wasn't that impressed with how the prof for my Eastern Studies course wants us to structure our papers, but hey it's his course. But I just got an email from Prof. Ken Melchin confirming my proposal for a wickedly awesome Grace paper, well it has potential anyway the rest is up to me.

I am going to talk about how modern day evangelicals have so bought into the personalist view of salvation that their view of grace is severely truncated. To show this I will put a number of modern evangelism models in dialogue with Jurgen Moltmann. This is going to be fun!

[THO] Sacrament of Ordination?

I really need to do some serious work on the Sacrament of Orders. Everything about hierarchy and orders gets my back up. I was against orders in the restructuring of the Vineyard in Canada (I sat on the Writing Task Force as one of two Ontario reps). Our thought was that we shouldn't assume someone will serve the same function when they move to another congregation, we want to take seriously the congregations recognition of gifts and calling. I'm sure this would sound quite alien to strongly hierarchical movements, but really it is rooted in our sense of functional leadership. This is a notion that a person will function in their role long before the congregation names that roll. So you don't get hired as the youth pastor, you fall into the roll and someone comes along and recognizes it.

The problem with our paradigm is that it isn't the norm for Christianity. Far from it actually. There is a long historical trend towards the elevation of the clergy which we have inherited. So for our paradign to work it takes a lot of deliberation and explaination. I think of it as a challenge. The challenge is to get the congregation to recognize that this is not the pastor's church, but it is their church and they have a roll in shaping what it looks like.

This sounds a bit more congregationalist than it actually is in practice. The Vineyard has a strong sense of pastoral leadership, especially in church planting. And indeed our issues have been with pastoral abuse not congregational abuse. So in a sense we do have some commonality with a hierarchical model - at least in terms of governance. But when this is working right the pastoral role is more invitational than bounds oriented. In fact at the core of our values is a center set sociological model (a great book on this is Love, Acceptance and Forgiveness by Jerry Cook). So the pastor is pointing towards a shared vision and literally shepherding the vision. Helping people know if and where they fit, always inviting them into more participation. As folks become more attuned to the vision they are invited into roles as their gifts/callings become apparent. And here is where we differ from most movements - these roles need not always be named as offices.

The philosophy of a sacrament of orders does two things that bother me. First it assumes a lifelong calling in a particular way. My own history of ministry has been one of falling into different roles in different settings: worship leader, assistant pastor, helper, prayer coordinator, team leader, participant, congregant, dish washer, chair set up specialist, bulletin maker, youth leader, youth pastor (a particularily bad one), co-leader of college and careers, guitarist, keyboardist, greeter, teacher, church planter. All of these were significant and unique, but the progression was not linear (hierarchical climbing) nor was it permanent. Just because I am a church planter right now does not mean that this is what I will always be. Because of the way that the sacrament of orders is structured you couldn't go back, you would always be the office you were last installed into, at least from that time forward. And we wondered at why it was so hard for the Roman Catholics to deal with their priests who couldn't keep their cassocks done up? When orders are supposed to ontologically change your nature then you have a problem when the Peter principle kicks in. Which is my second problem with the sacrament of orders. There must be a way back. I know at different times in my own walk I needed to step back from ministry to work on my own life. Sure you can do that within orders but when I read the third chapter of Lumen Gentium the standard for ordained ministry is so high that we are setting up the ordained for failure.

This is part of the problem with such strong separation of clergy and laity. The clergy are expected not only to perform all the functions of Church and Christian life. But God forbid they should fall. Yet the reality is that we are all likely to fall into sin - sorry if that is a shocker. Anyone who was a Pentecostal during the Jimmy Swagger days knows the pain of seeing your heroes fall. Before you think me callous, my heart goes out to the priests who have fallen into sin. My frustration is directed towards an unhealthy ecclesiology that keeps our leaders in bondage to ideals that are humanly unattainable. Sure there are shining examples, but if you think that those lives were easy you have bought into a myth. We are all in this together and that is why this is so troublesome - our best resource for dealing with our human frailty is real open and honest community. And the hierarchy doesn't promote that, it hinders that.

I love that if I'm having a hard time, fighting with Sharon or frustrated with parenting, I can show up at church and say 'I need prayer'. I love that I am one of them, not the one they all look to as a perfect example of Christian living. We point each other to the only real example of that: Jesus. I love that my congregation isn't scandalized but gathers around me and prays. I love that they feel they can do the same. That is beautiful ecclesiology. That is how we serve each other in love. To me that is Church.

Friday, October 20, 2006

[LIF] Book Find!

After the Anglican mass I decided to pop into the bookstore at school. Lo and behold sitting on the shelf in the most tempting fashion are two books I've really wanted for my library! Both by Teillhard de Chardin, The Phenomon of Man and the companion to that The Divine Milieu. Well I didn't have my wallet with me, travelled light to the service. So I took off to my locker debating the whole way. They were cheap, as far as books go that is: $17 and $16 dollars. So I buckled, grabbed my wallet and headed back. I also have this discount card that takes the average price of my last 10 purchases and gives me that as store credit, I was one book away from filling that up. Of course I don't just grab the two I want, but just below them is Alisdair McIntyre's After Virtue! Yup, the book Kenny told me I would like. All shrink wrapped and beautiful, like a siren calling me to the rocks. It was a tad more than the Chardin texts but that helped me with that dicount card. Turned out that from that dicount card, after buying After Virtue that is, I only had to pay for half of the Divine Milieu and Phenomon was free! Score!!!!!!

Unfortunately I spent much of yesterday reading After Virtue instead of doing my homework! Doh. I did manage to put together a working bibliography for my Ecclesiology paper though (thanks Peter), I also submitted a shift in my thinking for the Grace paper. What I would like to explore is how this inheritance of narrow personal grace/sin (Luther) has coloured the best (relational) and worst (fire insurance) of evangelical evangelism, with particular attention to how this contributes to our inability to respond to systemic/social sin/grace. Makes me wish I owned Church in the Power of the Spirit.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

[LIF] Upcoming Speaking Engagement

Now on the off chance any of you are in the Smiths Falls area Friday after next, I'm speaking at a night of worship and ministry. Should be a rich time, my buddy Paul and I will be preparing a Eucharistic celebration as part of the ministry time. If you can't be there, keep me in prayer. I was chatting with my friend Tracy about this today, in the midst of academics it is important to still hold the tension of relational parish life.

Monday, October 16, 2006

[LIF] Preparing to Write

It is starting to get really busy. I have a good start on the last installment of the Worship series, but it might be a while. Expect a few more of these 'sanity' blog posts. Posts that help me get my ideas organized a bit.

I have three decent papers this semester and this is what I am researching/writing about, if you have book/article suggestions please let me know.

Ecclesiology = for this I am going to look at how the Kingdom Theology of the Vineyard affects its ecclesiology. So I'm reading and re-reading Ladds Gospel of the Kingdom, Dodd's Parables of the Kingdom, Fuellenbach's Church: Community for the Kingdom, Ventor's Doing Church, Carol Wimber's The Way it Was, Quest for the Radical Middle (Jackson) and watching a number of Wimber Videos I have. Oh and Breakthrough (Morphew).

Grace = this one isn't set in stone but I was thinking of looking at the nominalists influence on Luther's concept of grace. I have no texts identified yet for this one.

Eastern Theology = The only way I'm going to enjoy this is to do something I at least like about Eastern Christianity. So I'm going to examine their sacramental theology, specifically the Eucharist. I have Schmemann, Ware, Alfeyev, Mikloshazy and access to lots of Patristic writings (will likely ask for some direction there so I don't have to read everything). I need to narrow this topic thought, I figured I'd read Schmemann's For the Life of the World and figure it out from there. I'll have to use Zizuolas in the library, late night study here we come (groan).

Looks like I have my work cut out for me.

Friday, October 13, 2006

[THO] Much To Write About Nothing

We did Rahner yesterday in Grace, actually the first half of the class was on Rahner's teacher, Martin Heidegger. I couldn't remember if I had actually read any yet, I have a Basic Writings and a standalone copy of "The Question Concerning Technology" on my shelf. I know I carried a print out of "What is Metaphysics" around one semester. It is usually wishful thinking that I will get time to read outside of material directly tied to my courses. The class was so fun that I decided to re-read "What is Metaphysics" which is also conveniently in my reader. I'm almost done this short piece, and it is hilarious. I believe the prof, Ken Melchin, used the term INSANE. The whole article is about nothing. Not that it isn't about anything, no specifically it is about nothing.

The whole class had me reflecting again on this turn towards the subject that I discussed a week or so ago. Heidegger is an important turning point in thinking, his thought influences much of our own yet I bet, other than those studying theology and philosophy, his name is not that well known. He is the one who tried to capture what it is that we are experiencing when we are experiencing and even the why we would be inclined towards experience at all. This is that turn to the subject that flew in the face of object focused scholasticism. The article I'm reading is Heidegger having a lot of fun with these kinds of a priori questions. (At least I imagine this was fun, then maybe I too am just a little INSANE as well.)

I updated the blog a bit, added and sorted links (deleted a few too). Also added a spiffy text of the day in Greek at the bottom. If you don't use it you lose it - I'm two years from being able to take the advanced Greek class (for some reason they decided to make it a grad class???) and that is one I definitely want to take because two semesters of Greek is just enough to make you dangerous.

Back to nothing!

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

[THO] Worship VIII

Worship Pedigree
OK I freely admit it – I am a worshipaholic! I can't get enough of it. I love high liturgy, low liturgy, what is mistakenly called no liturgy, I like almost all of it. There are only three types of worship that don't get me going, low participation worship (special songs, choirs, etc.), thematic worship (usually when everything is meant to serve the teaching) and forced participation worship (hype worship). Other than that I am most comfortable in the midst of worship with my hands held up and my voice raised in song. I love it.

The last message we looked at why we worship. As a worship leader it is important to understand what happens when worship is good. But some of that understanding comes from our own experiences of worship, what I call the worship pedigree. Each of us has one, so in exploring my own I’m hoping to point out a few key lessons, a few highlights and even a few letdowns. So here is my story of worship.

Early Worship Experiences
I became a Christian in the midst of a Pentecostal youth rally. The music was loud and all about surrender. My conversion was a clash of cultures and an encounter with the powerful presence of God. I could not deny it; I could only get on my face before the God I encountered. I came out of a place where I thought I knew something; I was into a lot of spiritual things and felt like I could take on anything. But when I encountered the love of God it completely disarmed me. It was so profound that I would often lose myself in worship, as it seemed to me the only adequate respond to this love.

Worship Pastor
I left my hometown and eventually landed in Ottawa working with a street church. We had a wonderful worship leader named Angela Justa, and we would worship in song for at least an hour at a time in service (usually twice a service). We often met throughout the weeks in our apartments and homes to worship and prepare for street evangelism. In those days I picked up some basic guitar and loved the freedom of being able to worship on my own. Then I was transferred to Mississauga to be the youth and worship pastor for a Foursquare church plant. Those simple Pentecostal songs (and a few Vineyard tunes I picked up along the way) flowed out of me as I learned the art of congregational worship leading. Those were good days, but they were not to last long.

Weight of the World
Soon my world came crashing down on me. Frankly I was released into ministry too early in my Christian walk. I came to the church plant with a strong sense of personal agenda and add to that a growing discomfort with the Pentecostal philosophy of ministry. Needless to say that ministry experience ended badly for me, I was removed from ministry and left wondering what had happened. But in the midst of that time of trial, God drew near. To be honest I was really screwed up. I struggled a lot with old habits, but still God kept coming near. I often would turn to God in worship, just my guitar and I. For me it was then that I learned how to pour out my whole being in worship. I learned how to flee to God when nothing else in life made any sense.

The Vineyard
I discovered the Vineyard not long after that; well it is more complicated than that. I knew of the Vineyard and was convinced it was a cult. So when in the midst of my crash trusted friends kept recommending a Vineyard kingship, I was sceptical to say the least. Not far from the basement I rented there met a little kinship, part of the famous Airport church (pre-Toronto Blessing days). It was the first time corporate worship named my pain and let me sing a real song to God. Despite my misgivings those folks embraced me and began restoring me to health. It helped that I also discovered Kevin Prosch in those days, another refuge in the storm. No matter what else was going wrong in my life I always had worship to come back to. And the thing about the Vineyard, there people who led worship really had something precious. It wasn't about hyping up the crowd nor was it about trying to make something happen. It was worship because that is just what we do; worship for the sake of worship. It happened to be artsy, but not overly complicated. It was emotive but not manipulative. It was honest.

Back to Ottawa
Though my experience of the Vineyard was profound, it was also short lived. I found an excuse to get away from Mississauga, my friends Andy and Angela were planting again in Ottawa so I came back. I did lead worship for them for a very short while, but I was far too broken to really jump back into a ministry role. I started busking and doing handyman work for the Yellow Lady (long story) to pay the bills, I lived pretty frugally in those days. I connected with Ottawa Youth Alive, a praise and worship ministry in the city and ended up at a Baptist church. That Baptist church was a wonderful place for me. I ended up going back to school, completed my high school and started college. I also began doing a lot more worship stuff, in fact I was one of the guitarists for the big national Convention Baptist gathering here in Ottawa, I forget what year but we had Campolo speaking to the youth. Towards the end of my time there I served as a lay minister and recorded a demo tape of my own songs - Frank in Session. Personally I learned a lot about just worshipping. What I loved about Pentecostal spirituality was that space they made for God to show up in powerful ways, especially in their prayer meetings. The only thing that got close to that outside of the Pentecostal movements was worship in song. At least, that is, until I discovered sacramental worship.

Not long after this I met my wife Sharon. We left the Baptist church for complicated reasons (not bad, just complicated) and hooked up with the Vineyard that was just starting up in Ottawa. That was quite amazing and this was when the Toronto Blessing renewal was in full swing, probably the worst thing to happen to the Ottawa Vineyard. We went there in the midst of all this chaos and eventually some immature people pissed my wife off to the point she wanted nothing to do with the Vineyard ever again. I was crushed. I loved the Vineyard, heck I was having a lot of fun with the renewal stuff too as desperately I needed to reconnect with my charismatic side. But Sharon had a better vantage than I that the way this church was a lot of people were going to get hurt. So much as it pained me we left and went to a wonderful local Wesleyan church, we also got married around that time.

I'm going to skip a bit here; basically those years were more about maturing in our relationship than in our worship. But we did lead a listening group at Sunnyside Wesleyan that was really quite cool. But those days were more of holding the ground liturgically.

Coming Home
God brought us back to the Vineyard about three years after we had left. Unfortunately the church, which had sprung up quickly in the renewal, never really established a strong foundation. Too many people who had come out were more interested in their spiritual fix than in really seeing a church planted, at least not the church that the pastoral couple had come to plant. Our friends who pastored that church were simply spent. We came in and asked them to train us up to plant a Vineyard. A few years later we planted Freedom and this is where God began stretching me in worship again.

With a new plant we needed worship leaders. We had a good core of leaders who were passionate about worship. Our policy was we'd let anyone do anything as long as they were ready to have feedback (it still is BTW). Those were great days and I learned a lot. That is where I really fell in love with the Vineyard three crescendo liturgy. But there was another stretch to come.

I also began studying at St. Paul University, a pontifical university. And there I began to understand more of what it meant to worship as a church. The more that I saw the sacramental side of worship; the more convinced I was that we evangelicals were missing something precious. Through a course in Celtic Christian Spirituality I became aware of the power of imagination. Through a course in liturgy I began to hunger for the way that sacraments fed the imagination. I was hooked and started to do little experiments with our congregation. Little things at first, but it grew. And other people were getting excited too. It was like finding a gem that had been lost on the path years ago; we fell in love with our emerging Eucharistic side.

Why I Love Worship
There is something so profound about worship. Worship makes a space for the encounter of God. For me I love to worship, I was just with my new friend Dan in the amphitheatre at school - two guitars, two voices and a whole lot of lost in worship. For me it is life imparting. Whether it is a song or prayer, the psalms or an act. Something about worship reorients my heart and opens my eyes to God's presence. It makes moments sacred. And that is why I am a worshipaholic.

The way I feel about worship, there is no real final destiny, just worship that gets better and better. I am convinced that those who long for worship will be led into the resources for worship. Sometimes from surprising places too. My story of worship is far from complete.  

Next I want to finish up with a reflection on the theology of worship.