Monday, October 31, 2005

Slogans are for the Initiate

Driving back from the bank this morning I couldn't help notice the slogan board of a local ELC church* - one that often has slogans that leave me upset or puzzled. This time I came away thinking "what the heck does that mean?" The slogan said: "Christians must come apart and rest or they just plain come apart". At first it sounds like it might be ok, but it doesn't weather any amount of thought. "Come apart" how? Do you mean go to church? I know lots of really screwed up people who go to church. And what about the people who don't seem to ever stop and are healthy and sound? I think I know what they are getting at - but it doesn't work on the outside.

I am not Mr. Antislogan. I think slogans can be helpful in a community. But they belong to the community. I bet that slogan is just packed full of good insights for the creator and maybe his/her community. But it means squat to the average person driving by. We have developed slogans to help communicate our purpose and vision, for example we often talk about drawing people "one step closer to the Father". Imagine that on the billboard? It only works in the context of a community that qualifies all the parts of the slogan. We often talk about the steps or movement or journey towards God in our community. We share our own stories and encourage everyone to look for those opportunities to partner with God in this process. See already there is a depth to this slogan that the uninitiated cannot appreciate. Now I will use this slogan with new people in our community - but I do so when I have the opportunity to unpack it.

This mornings musings left me convinced that slogans are for the initiate. I would encourage good sloganeering, but please, I beg your mercy, don't inflict your catchy sayings on the greater community. Most won't have a clue what you are saying and many of the rest will derive a meaning you might not have intended. If you must have a slogan - make it something we can all understand like, "God loves you" or "have a great day" or even "If you have a need let us know, we might be able to help." It'll just make the world a whole lot saner.


*To be completely fair there is a PAOC church in the other end of town that has a similar collection of inane thoughts displayed on its front lawn. And I am sure I can find representation from every denomination including my own.

[EDIT] OK so tonight I passed a BCOQ (Baptist, I used to be a lay minister in this denomination) church that had this sign :"To know the truth is to be set free". Think about that for a minute. Say I'm an addict, I can know quite clearly I'm an addict and still be bound by my addiction. I know what they are trying to say but the average person isn't going to be able to cut through the Christianese.

Friday, October 28, 2005

Starting to see the light...but keep praying

Man we have had some very frustrating financial developments. Our financial advisor started making promises she never kept. Our taxes were in her hands and never got done, took us 5 months to get them back and we had to go to HR Block. We had a string of babysitters steal from us. And the cost of gas and living totally messed up our budget. Talk about frustrating.

But now, thanks to lots of friends praying and a bit of badgering, we are starting to see the light at the end of the tunnel. Our taxes are finally filed and we are expecting a decent return - should just about cover our new debts. One of the babysitters has been returning some of our stuff, including a 100$ Ikea gift card and our electric label maker. And Sharon got more hours.

But we are not out of the woods yet. We issued a complaint to WFG Securities about our advisor and not surprisingly they sided with her. I don't get why she would be lying about us to them? I just can't fathom it. Especially since she knows we are ministers and she claims to be an active Christian herself attending a solid PAOC church in the city? Even though we have gotten stuff back from that one babysitter, I know she has a good Christian family and we really wanted reconciliation more than the stuff back. We keep praying for that. And Sharon's new work is a nightmare. They merged two pharmacies and it is no longer an enjoyable place to work. She comes home all frustrated telling me who else is thinking of quiting, not good.

Can you folks keep praying? We have actually been praying blessings on our financial advisor. Pray that God will bring a reconciliation there. Maybe we did something at some point to offend here, I can't think of anything, but even still her lack of respect for us is just horrible. Pray for this young girl to get her life straightened out. She has had some hard knocks in life, but with God's help she can overcome anything. And pray for Sharon's work. Pray that God will open a new door or better yet let the corporate management see how their aggessive work schedule is not allowing the pharmacists to give adequate (let alone good) care.

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Regional Gathering

Ahhhhhhhhhhhh, that was nice.

Only have time for some highlights. It was great to see so many folks who have become dear to me over the last 4+ years I've been going to the Summits. It was a special joy to see Brad and Mary, Brad always greets you with a holy kiss - there is something so special about them. Thanks for the Stellas guys! Tom and Sherry came and Tom backed me up on djembe. I love having them in my family. George teased me constantly - this was three days of rejuvinating George love. George you are the funkiest man in the Vineyard!

It was great to have a heart to heart with George and Janet on the first night. And to be asked to meals with so many dear friends who wanted to hear how we were really doing up here in Ottawa. And Ahren, man you blessed me this week! I forgot to add one other gift you and your church offer to our region - encouragement. You always make me feel valued and important even. I love you man.

I don't know how else to highlight the two days I spent there. I had the awesome priviledge of putting a band together for the worship. I so miss having those opportunities. But really it was cool because God showed up. The evening session I was sure I wasn't going to be able to keep playing God's presence was so thick. And when we watched Ruth Rousu's interview about the kiss I was reduced to tears as God drew near and began whispering in my ear. I get emotional just thinking of it.

What a great time. You know what? Expect great things from our little rag tag tribe. I think God was drawing near for a reason. God is getting us ready for something special. I don't know what, but Lord I for one say come!

Sunday, October 23, 2005

Off to the Regional Gathering

Don't you hate it when you are typing in a post and you go to look up a link and accidentaly switch pages in your blogging browser! Doh!!!! I have done it a few times now and the last time was a super cool message that I lost. Guess it was never meant to be.

Few things coming up - I have my fictional paper back (for a liturgical theology course) and got an A+ so I am going to post it here for your enjoyment. I don't write a lot of fiction, but I did at one time. In fact at one point in my life I had ambitions of being a novelist - ah the romance of youth. It was fun to get to dip into that in the midst of an academic programme, who knows maybe one day I'll write some more. I do love story.

So in a little over an hour I am off to the Regional Gathering of Vineyard Pastors and I am excited. I am going to be doing some of the worship (wasn't clear on how much, but I am happy even to just play along, I do usually get a set or so though). My dear friend Brad is bringing his Mandolin and George is bringing his keys (George Esser, let me say it here and now, is the funkiest man in the Vineyard!). I'm travelling with some good friends from Hosanna Christian Fellowship - a church in the process of discerning their identity and likely going to be adopted into the Vineyard. Sharon and I have been hanging out there on Sundays - well not that often, but we do try. They are a great bunch, pretty standard stuff but the love Jesus and that's good enough for us. I'm sure we stretch the heck out of them - I know they renounce Dungeons and Dragons in their baptismal formula and as you likey know I am an avid D&Der. Ah but this is to be expected as D&D got a bad rap from the get go - too bad much of it was lies propogated by fearful Chirstians. But such is life. Personally I hope the issue doesn't come up with anyone but the pastor - I made sure they knew because I like to have my cards on the table. Just the way I am.

I am so looking forward to seeing old friends again. So many that I miss. We have a small cluster of Vineyards growing here in the Ottawa Valley but all of us are planting and busy. Anyway, got to say my goodbyes to the kids, my dear wife will be back from work soon and we'll be off to the races. If they have wifi I'll check in, maybe post a few things, if not see you all later in the week.

Thursday, October 20, 2005

Game Rules

I was thinking the last couple of days about rules in games. I love playing games, as you might have noticed. All kinds of games too. I love the community it brings, the excitement and the tests of skill. But without rules games just wouldn't be that fun.

Rules make games fun for everyone.

I know it is sometimes frustrating learning a new game or having your understanding of the rules of a game challenged. But rules play a very important role. They let everyone know that this is not a free for all, anything goes and whoever can assert themselves the best wins situation. Rules also give a structure so that we know what to expect from the game and from other players. If someone doesn't play by the rules we call that cheating, and cheating (sorry Paul) is not often welcomed in games.

Some games have very flexible rules, and need to. But this is known when one starts such a game - so you know what to expect. Some games have very strict and ordered rules, again you know what you are getting into. I like both kinds of games, but games without any rules are just plain frustrating.

While I was thinking about this my thoughts strayed into the ecclesial. Not that church is a game, at least I hope and pray we don't think so. But it does help us enjoy ourselves more when we know the rules. I watched a Tridentine Mass on video yesterday and the whole thing was in Latin, priest mostly with his back to the congregation. And you know I had trouble appreciating it. (And even if I did know the rules I might not choose to play that one.) But everyone who was part of it knew the rules - and they seemed to enjoy themselves. (Heck I like a lot of games but some I just don't find fun - like Risk for example, I could take it or leave it, I prefer the post Vatican II masses by far.) All that to say that liturgy is like the rules to a game. If you know them then you can fully participate in the service, feel free to explore your boundaries and be free to have a genuine encounter with God.

Funny where some thoughts take you.

Be blessed and as I say on the poker tables - Play Well!

Thursday, October 13, 2005

Post Modernity?

Is post-modernity a true paradigm shift or is it really just the actualization of the Newtonian shift to modernity?

This is what I am wrestling with in a paper I am about to write. I understand the shift towards modernity from an aristotelian worldview - but what I have discovered is that this shift was not all-inclusive. In fact, especially in the realm of faith, this shift has been fought against all the way along. Now as we see a surge of post-modern approaches to ministry, is this finally the church catching up with society?

There is a shift for sure between modernity and post-modernity. But rather than a paradigm shift, indicating a monolithic change in the way we know and tell, perhaps it is more a realization that the headiness of the paradigm shift into modernity was overly optimistic - especially in the area of human potential.

I would characterize post-modernity with a sense of distrust. The markers we held on to are all put into question - and for the post-modern person this is not a bad thing. For the modernist, who works in the realm of scientific probabilities rather than trying to build equations that prove the proven, isn't this exactly what Newton ushered in? Isn't the ability to question everything the hallmark of modern science?

Now with this ability to question also comes the perception that we are in control. And this is really the sticking point for much of the resistance in the world of faith - an Aristotelian world was a very controlled and predictable world. The modern world is a wildly unpredictable beast, and we are but ticks on its back hoping that the paws of history don't just scratch us off.

At first when thinkers began to embrace the shift to modernity they chose as their touchstone human potential. They placed man, with his intellect and bravado, right at the center of the universe. But this veritable tower of Babel has once again been struck by God and we are left with a multitude of voices throughout the land trying to pick up the pieces - this is what I call post-modernity.

Post-modernity is not a leaving off of modernity, but an attempt to go back and recheck our assumptions. Maybe this time we'll not place ourselves at the center of the universe.

Sunday, October 09, 2005

Dangerous Romance

I really like the cult of religion, the nitty gritty details of historical liturgy and spiritualities. I have a strong affinity for things Celtic. I love the primitive Christian church. But all of these things have an inherent danger in them. They can easily be romantacised and elevated above a relevant religion in the here and now.

If Christianity isn't immanently relevant and practical then frankly we are wasting our time. Fortunately my experience has always revealed a relevant and personal faith (religion) and my heart is in making that accessible for others. There are many places where my fascination with the ancient has made aspects of modern faith accessible. But the danger is seeing those points a being faithful recapturing of something that existed long ago. There might be lots of similar markers - but we fool ourselves with the romantic notion that we can have a Acts church or an authentic Celtic spirituality.

That doesn't make it less authentic. It is just recognizing that we have quite a bit of history through which all historical content is coloured. Like one of my professors says about the Newtonian shift - "we can't go back." It is so true. But we can go forward, and we can bring these insights forward.

God chasers can easily get caught up in a similar romanticism. Thinking that they specific brand/type of manifestation somehow equates with an authentic Christian experience. The problems with that is, these same people are going to miss the God experiences all around them. Ironically, the historical records are full of God encounters in the midst of normal life. I'm all for chasing God and having an experiential faith. But that has to start in the here and now with me. A personal and relevant faith.

Part of that is a longing for signs, for the gifts as some would call it. There is no real separation between gift and giver. Seeking God in the imminent is just as powerful as heading off to the latest retreat or "revival"*. I love a great retreat, I love a good Celtic gathering, I love a visible move of God's spirit. But I really love seeing God working in my non-Christian friends, hearing about how something small (but extremely significant to the recipient) just works out, meeting God in the daily lectional reading. The funny thing is that when we look for God in everything we suddenly see that God is already there - and what is better the gifts are there as well.

So wanting to encourage discovery, I urge you to read, take in retreats and courses and lecture and conferences. Yeah, do all that. But don't mistake that for the real imminent stuff. If it excites you then bring it forward, don't live back there with it. If you see something profound about perigrenatio - then walk it out here and now. If you are touched in a conference, then reach out and touch others in your own community, if something about the church in Acts melts your heart - see how it can be resituated in the here and now. This whole thing we call church was experimental from the get go. We have lots of guidelines about what we are - but not so much about how we do it. Be free from the need to recreate something that is impossible to recreate. Don't be the church of Acts, be the church of the Living and imminent God.

*Don't get me going on revivalism.

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

I hate being sick...

Been fighting a cold since the weekend, today it won. I was almost falling asleep in class. Slept most of the afternoon - hope I can get some work done tonight.

Two papers coming up. One that is a bit of a creative exercise where we take what we know of one of the early Christian communities (Markan, Athenian, Matthean, Johannine, Community of the Didache, etc.) and write up a reflection on the Eucharistic event. If it goes well I'll post it. I am planning on doing something in the mode of fiction, it is only 6 pages so I'll have to pick and choose what to do. Should be fun, Ray Brown gimme some background!

The second is on the effects of the age of modernity on the question of humanity. I am stoked about this one. The class is brilliant. We are using Guadium et Spes as our starting point, but there are a lot of different avenues I could branch out into. The focus is on the shift in science (Newton) and history (Voltaire). Fun, fun, fun. I won't post this but I might let you read it if you ask me.

Oh and next week I have scheduled an interview with Friar Chris, the Franciscan monk I know. Hoping to have something to submit to the next Resonate Journal.

Saturday, October 01, 2005

The vilification of things

Paul tells us to even avoid the appearance of evil, good advise, one would be wise to follow it. However, there is a bit of a problem in our post-Christian North American culture. Christians have vilified nearly everything at one point or another. What makes this really confusing is that many of these things that have been called 'evil' turned out to simply be things. Rock and Roll, alcohol, playing cards, role playing games, and the list goes on. Sure some people have done some really screwed up things with these - but hell we've done some really screwed things with the bible.

So how is a Christian to avoid evil when it is so hard to figure out what is evil and what is just mundane? I think it is easy to have a list of taboo things - but really this is just part of the malaise of Christiandom. Wouldn't it be much more honouring to people to help them to walk through the morass of societal values on their own? Wouldn't it go a long way in helping each other to work out our own salvation in fear and trembling and spur us on towards love and good works? I think it just might.

I don't think there is an easy answer to a lot of things Christians write off as 'evil'. I know that my experience hasn't mapped too well to the Christian expectation. Harry Potter, for example, has not encouraged me to take up Satanism or witchcraft. Quite the contrary, Harry has encouraged decent Christian morality and encouraged me to make the right choices, not the easy ones. Maybe I am just able to find good in evil things - but just maybe the things aren't as evil as we had been led to believe.