Saturday, March 29, 2008

[LIF] Earth Hour

It is now 9:15PM and Earth Hour has moved on to another time zone. I was happy to hear my wife tell me that the businesses around her store were reducing their lighting and that every second street light seemed to be off! Nice. Her store reduced lighting too. But here at home we went to candles. The candles reminded my oldest of church so she wanted to turn it into a time of worship! So she decided to write prayers on scraps of paper and put them into a box, apparently this was to help her younger sister participate. I led a few worship choruses and the girls danced all around the livingroom in the candle light. It was really nice until it denegrated into a circular chase and several near misses of a table edge! I put a stop to that. As a parent you learn to enjoy moments within moments, it's a skill.

After our dancing came to an end the kids pulled out the prayers. I was asked to read one for Chelsea. It read:

God we love you.
God we know you.
love us.

I was impressed.

After a few of these were read out (they were all pretty similar with love and safety as the main themes) we started up the laptop (on batteries of course). I put on some instrumental music and we laughed to the visualization of a wacky snowman! It was getting close to the end of the hour anyway. So after a few songs we went up to brush our teeth in the candle light. Elyssa wanted to turn the lights on to go pee, but I asked her to wait and turned it into a teaching moment around the purpose of Earth Day. I told her that if we don't do something now her generation is going to really have a hard go of it. We talked about being conscious of the energy we use. At 9:01 she was able to turn the lights on, I had them in bed right away (the agreement for letting them stay up through Earth Hour) and came down to settle and work on papers.

Hope you had an equally pleasant experience of Earth Hour.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

[THO] Vineyard Stance

We had a really nice meal with some old friends over the holidays. I hadn't seen Denise and Terry since, I don't know when. We have some odd connections. I got chatting with Denise who is picking away at a BA in theology from Tyndale. She mentioned that in the Alliance (we met in the Pentecostal church and she was instrumental in my coming to Christ) church where her family calls home, she has heard a fairly consistant complaint that the Vineyard believes in adding to the Word of God. She wanted to hear my take. I think it is a good question and I imagine that you could accuse a lot of pentecostal/charismatic groups of the same thing. But I'm not convinced it sticks.

There are two sense of this that need to be dealt with: 1) relationship to Scripture and 2) the practice of prophetic giftings. The first is easy for the Vineyard. If you read our statement of faith it is pretty clear that we affirm a closed canon of scripture. So if the concern is adding to the Scriptures then it is unfounded.

The second is a bit harder to pin down. I know there are Vineyards (and other churches) that hold prophetic utterances, especially public utterances, as at least equal with scripture. This might not be official but it is done in practice. But overall the theology of the Vineyard isn't very favourable to this stance.

One of the key distinctives about the Vineyard is a notion that everybody plays. What is meant by that slogan is that we try not to elevate offices in a way that they lord it over the church. In fact we regularely discourage giving directional words to other people. The reason is that we believe each of us hears from God in our own ways and that the gift of prophecy is really a gift of hearing the Shepherd's voice. Further, the office of prophet has more to do with equipping the church to better hear for herself as well as helping the church become equipped to discern (test) prophetic words. In this process of testing prophecy is first of all rooted in a trust of the authority of scripture.

John Wimber would tell us that the Bible contains the Word of God, but not every Word of God is in the Bible. I find this is actually a good balance to the biblolatry that is part of the evangelical culture. It is silly to think that the Bible covers in a plain way all the situtations that life will throw at us. It is always helpful, but this is also a discernment process. The easy test case is slavery, at one point slavery was thought quite compatable with the Biblical texts. This does not mean we have a flexible canon, but rather a maturing relationship to scripture. We read it in our context and find the Bible a faithful witness in our day. For me this is a high value of scripture (much higher than forms like literalism that insist on hammering the scriptures into pseudo-static categories). It values the relationship that the church has with scripture and recognizes that this is process that belongs to the church herself.

Friday, March 21, 2008

[THO] Good Friday Sensory Service

One of my favourite liturgical celebrations is our Good Friday ceremony. We started doing it as a sensory service a few years back and it makes for a really nice service. Especially considering the somber nature of Good Friday. It takes a good day to prepare for what ends up being an hour and a half, but it is definitely worth it. A sensory service is meant to engage all of your senses, allowing you to worship in tactile and imaginative ways. This year we had the following stations (descriptions from the order of service):

The Cross – this cruel instrument of torture has become one of the most recognizable religious symbols. Often crosses are worn or carried by the faithful as a personal reminder of their faith in the crucified God. At the front door is a small vessel of holy water; traditionally the holy water is used to mark your forehead with the sign of the cross.

Reflect: Jesus’ asks you to take up your own cross and follow him.

Prayer Station – from the Eastern tradition, a small candle represents our prayers ascending towards heaven. Please light a small candle and melt the bottom of that candle to stick it to the board. Please make sure the candle is firmly attached before leaving this station. A pillow below the table serves as a kneeler for those who so desire.
Reflect: Jesus faced the suffering of the passion strengthened by a life of prayer.

The Garden – Matthew, Mark and Luke each give us a rich narrative of night of our Lord’s betrayal. In this blended reading, we are encouraged to reflect on Jesus’ struggle with all that was ahead. Interestingly, only Luke adds the dramatic angelic visitation and “sweat as great drops of blood.” But this is fitting imagery for Jesus’ preparing to enter the God forsakenness of the cross. “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Mark 15:34)

Reflect: Christ knows intimately the struggle to do the right thing, no matter the cost.

The Passion – soundless this film provides a visual depiction of the Stations of the Cross. This film gives a strong sense of the depth of suffering Jesus bore for us. Luther was very disturbed by the tendency, in his day, to beautify the cross, it is important that we never forget that the death of Jesus is an absolute scandal. Yet, Jesus willingly bore all the indignity of his passion for us.

Reflect: Jesus was willing to suffer the scandal of the cross for you.

Stations of the Cross (I-XIV) – The tradition of the Stations of the Cross comes out of a desire for the faithful to walk the Via Dolorosa (Way of Sorrows). In many traditional churches the stations are sculpted into the walls of the sanctuary, seven on each side. The pilgrim is encouraged to stop at each station and reflect on the long and painful journey Christ made to the tomb.

Object of Christ’s Joy – For the joy set before Him, Christ endured the cross (Heb 12:1-2). Paul tells us that the only reasonable response to Christ’s overwhelming act of love is to offer ourselves as living sacrifices (Rom 12:1-2). Above the mirror are the words: "Whom Christ loved".

Reflect: No greater love is there than to lay down your life for your friends (John 15:15).

The Eucharist – The Lord’s Table is central to our Christian faith, it is also where the passion narratives start. For those wishing to participate in common cup, please use the provided clothe to wipe the rim of the cup. Other cups are provided for those who wish their own.

Reflect: Jesus’ longs to share this meal with you.

This year we began with a short community celebration including prayers, songs and some scripture readings. My seven year old read the ancient hymn from Phillipians 2! Then we opend the stations (I opened the Eucharistic table with my daughter assisting me, that was really nice). After a while we came back into the main room to prepare for Holy Saturday, I closed the Eucharistic table and we covered the cross. We concluded with a benediction, it was a really nice service.

Next stop Easter Sunday brunch! Have a great Easter all.

[THO] Train Up a Child

I overheard my youngest ask this deeply theological question.

"Are there poor people in outer space?"

Monday, March 17, 2008

[DDM] It's All Over

Yeah. I just pulled up the pre-release schedule for the lastest D&D Minis installment and no Montreal. I can't say I'm too shocked, but I do feel sad. See this is the pre-cursor to D&D 4th Edition and they changed the rules. My buddy Richard put it this way, "I read the new rules and got dumber." I want to try them out but I think the interest just isn't there. I did download the new cards for the last set, but something about them leaves me less than thrilled. Maybe I'm just not ready to move on?

I'm not saying the old rules are perfect, but I am saying that I am not as adaptable as I was in my youth. The old rules are familiar, like an old shoe. And if you are like me then you want that old shoe to literally fall apart before you buy another one - as the perfectly fine new set of Dr. Martins in my closet will attest.

But maybe there is more to it. I've been playing DDM for long enough that I can't easily store my miniatures. It is ridiculous to drag them all out for D&D let alone pull a warband of only 12. Having a ba-zillion little plastic critters does not incite me to start a whole new collection of plastic crack! In that sense I definitely feel done. But, to their credit, Wizards of the Coast is updating all the old minis to the new stats. Awesome job guys. But I'm still sad.

Not like I've had time to run DDM in a while. But I did love DDM nights. And taking a van load of boyz to Montreal for the pre-release was always a good time.

I hope the new game attracts a lot of new players. I hope there will always still be veterans playing the old rules too. And I do hope one day I'll try out the new game. But for right now it is time to mourn the passing of a game.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

[FUN] Answer to an Age Old Question

This film answers that age old question: "what is it good for?"

Post when you clued in to what is going on. Byron deserves the credit for pointing this gem out.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

[LIF] Sick...oh pooh.

We've had a flu go through our house. First my youngest had it for 5 days! Then I had an off day along with my oldest. My wife caught it next and then it overtook my oldest again. She's had a fever for 6 days now. I'm on day two of shakes.

It could not have come at a worse time in my course. I took class off today (I'm super anal about that, I don't even like to be late for a class!) and I'm likely staying in bed tomorrow too. Most of this morning my brain was mush. I crashed early and woke up with severe joint pain tonight. Hence the incoherent ramble on my blog.

If you pray, please do.

Monday, March 10, 2008

[LIF] Holy Snowfall Batman!

Our playstructure has a sandbox under it and ladders to climb up! Ow my aching back!

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

[LIF] Gamers Lost a Dear Friend Today

I just heard the news that E. Gary Gygax (69) passed away today. I've been having a really wierd day so this just makes it wierder. For those who don't know, Gary and Dave Arneson created the granddaddy of RPGS - Dungeons and Dragons. I knew that Gary has had health issues for a while, he had posted a beautiful prayer request about a year ago that I remember responding to. Gary you will definitely be missed.

EDIT: a fitting memorial from the Order of the Stick.

Saturday, March 01, 2008

[THO] Canon Follows Use

In liturgical theology is has long been acknowledged that what we believe is determined by how we worship. As Prosper of Aquitaine put it lex orandi, lex credendi (order of worship goes before order of belief (creed)). So it should not surprise us that canon follows use. By canon I am not just referring to scripture, but of course the canon of scripture is a part of the canon of the majority of Christian communities. I am using canon in a broader sense to delimit those documents (scriptures, traditions, creeds, etc.) that are considered by the community as worthy of being read and pondered. In the Vineyard we have the Bible but we also have a canon of worship music, a statement of faith, values and priorities. We also have a number of books that are important to our movement (Quest for the Radical Middle leaps to mind here). This body or corpus of material is in a very real sense canon for our movement.

Now to clarify I am not trying at all to argue that these constitute divinely inspired writings. That is not the sense of canon I am picking up here. Canon can include (and in this case does include) material of various levels of inspiration. What I am keen to discuss in this post is how do items make it into the canon?
We might think that the Bible is a gimme. Of course if we consider the Bible God’s Word and the authority in our denomination then it is pretty much guaranteed a place in our canon. But I think we jump a step to make such an assumption. Why do we consider the Bible with such esteem? I would say that the Bible isn’t a priori but the experience of our founders with the Bible is a priori to inclusion in the canon of our community. It is because our founders, like so many other Christians before, found the scriptures to be a faithful and trustworthy foundation for faith, for this reason it was adopted into the canon. Canon follows use.

Canon, in the large sense that I am intending, is very specific to each particular gathering of people. It can be incredibly granular. For instance one group might really find Graham Cooke’s Developing Your Prophetic Gifting so helpful that they encourage everyone to read it. Another group might find Tony Campolo the thinker they think everyone should read and engage with. This doesn’t say either of these authors has a more inspired or inspiring read – but it does say something about the group. It says that someone within that group, at least one person, found that work so helpful that it was entered into the canon. I could easily do a similar comparison with worship songs; we have one group who love the song Dwell and another who are deeply moved by Sweetly Broken. They might use each others favourite songs, but it is when the song becomes a part of influencing the theological bias of the group that we can say it has entered the canon.

The key is that canon follows use. When, in 359, the semi-Arians added ‘descended’ into the creed it is because this resonated deeply with the communities they pastored. It resonated enough that it needed to become normative. The canon is what is normative for a community, what is expected will help everyone to understand and live as faithful Christians. The community always adopts that which it finds most trustworthy and beneficial. Canon is never accidental.

There are some real implications here.

First we can learn a lot about a community by looking at that community’s canon. What is key to their faith lives? What is animating them theologically? What makes them tick? As a pastor it can be incredibly helpful to work with the consensus of the group. How I pastor a group that includes Graham Cooke in their canon is quite different than how I pastor the group that does not.

The second implication is that we can begin to see how a community develops theologically. Sometimes we want to believe that this process is mystical in nature. That God has led that community to a hard and fast canon. But the reality is that we pick and choose among the many options available to us. This does not deny that God’s Spirit is involved in this process. But it recognizes that canon is something we can adjust and tweak as we go along. It is something that can and should grow with a community. It becomes a living part of the community.