Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Reaching Out: The Three Movements of the Spiritual Life (1)


I've read a lot of Nouwen's material - although I admit that the bulk being that of Nouwen quotes in other book. This year I have tried to read more Nouwen direct and I have to say that I have not been disappointed.

'Reaching Out: The Three Movements of the Spiritual Life' in particular is a beautiful and challenging little book. Page after page of comforting yet disquieting insights as Nouwen leads us to become aware of 'different poles between which our lives vacillate and are held in tension'. Nouwen suggests that these poles can offer a context through which the spiritual life can be communicated and seen by anyone 'striving to live a life in the spirit of Jesus Christ'.
"The first polarity deals with our relationship to ourselves. It is the polarity between loneliness and solitude. The second polarity forms the basis of our relationship to others. This is the polarity between hostility and hospitality. The third , final and most important polarity structures our relationship with God. This is the polarity between illusion and prayer." (Nouwen 1998)
I don't want to forget the insights so I hope to summarise Nouwen's thoughts over the next few weeks.

Monday, July 28, 2008

The question of evil... (3)

I think that this observation is significant and easily forgotten:
"The personified force of evil, “the satan” is important but not that important. It is wrong to think of the satan as “personal” in the same way that God or Jesus is “personal,” which is not to say that it is a vague or nebulous force. I use the term “subpersonal” as a way of refusing to accord the satan the full dignity of personhood while recognizing that the concentration of activity can and does strike us very much like that which we associate with personhood".
NT Wright (2006) Evil and the Justice of God

Friday, July 25, 2008

The Essence of the Church (1)

Reminiscent of the Hirsch and Frost's mantra 'Christology - Missiology - Ecclesiology', Van Gelder points out how important it is to maintain an understanding of the relationship of the 'nature - ministry and organisation' of church. The order has to be right when considering the development of a missiological ecclesiology...
"The church is.

The church does what it is.

The church organises what it does"

"In developing a more fully-orbed missiological ecclesiology, three aspects of church life must be defined and related to one another: what the church is - its nature; what the church does - its ministry; and how the church is to structure its work - its organisation. The interrelationship of the three aspects is clear. The church is. The church does what it is. The church organises what it does" (Van Gelder 2000:37)
Getting the order wrong can reduce the perspective of church from that of a unique community of God's people to that of merely a series of ministry functions administered designed to accomplish certain goals (2000:23).

Van Gelder's issue? Church has got to be more than that!

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

The gift of John...

"Worship has taken on a hybrid character made up of elements of pantomime, 'last night at the proms' and Jerry Springer!"

I watched the tear slowly roll down John's face and disappear into his unkempt beard. I listened to his story as alcoholic fumes engulf me; his yellowed eyes misty as he talks about his family that he is too embarrassed to visit. "I'm not well..."

John and his mate Danny have been coming to Nunhead SA for a couple of weeks and they are bringing colour to Sunday morning worship. Worship has taken on a hybrid character made up of elements of pantomime, 'last night at the proms' and Jerry Springer! There is a feeling of not what is going to be said next - John is very funny and his enthusiastic, inappropriate wit is what every church needs.

Stood talking to John, as he spilled his tea through his shakes, gave me a snap shot of his life. "I've done good things Gordon... but I'll always be remembered for the wrong things I have done.." I hope John keeps coming, he brings something to us all at Nunhead. I hope he comes long enough to discover that we see worth in him; I hope he comes long enough to see the worth within himself.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Seeds of Exclusion

"The effects of social exclusion are often all too easy to see: family breakdown, poverty, poor health, addictive behaviour and homelessness.

The purpose of The Seeds of Exclusion, the fourth in a series of reports published by The Salvation Army, is to identify how patterns of early-life experience contain the seeds of later problems, and how The Salvation Army and others might tackle them."

TSA has published its latest report looking into issues of social fragmentation - it's called Seeds of Exclusion - you can read and download it here.

Friday, July 18, 2008

The question of evil... (2)

C. S. Lewis famously suggested two errors when people thought and spoke about the devil.
  • That of imagining him or it as a being equal and opposite to God or to Jesus. The danger outlined is that of an excessive interest and expectation that a satanic influence and activity is behind every problem.
  • That of sneering and mocking the idea of the demonic. The comic caricature conjured from medieval art is probably the foundation of much of the embarrassed dumbing down of any talk of the demonic. NT Wright points to the irony that it was left-wing political theologians who reclaimed a theology of satan in the understanding of systematic failure as being evil.
Finding a position between the two extremes causes a tension that is worth exploring. I blame Constantine - he seems to get the blame for everything else!!!?

Wright, N.T (2003) The Resurrection of the Son of God (Christian Origins and the Question of God)

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Frank ... a miracle in progress...!

It comes to something when you need to go to the Dr. to get your toenails cut, because to cut your toenails constitutes a risk to life.

Frank is only 3 years older than me but looks like he is nearer 60. Drink in his life has taken its toll and he knows it. Frank is one of the miracles of Faith House, when he first arrived apparently he was all you would expect from an alcoholic whose life was drink and sleeping on the street.

I ask about his training ... "they stopped me in case I cut myself...!"

It comes to something when you need to go to the Dr. to get your toenails cut, because to cut your toenails constitutes a risk to life. I must have looked non-plussed as Frank tells me how his platelets have been decimated in his blood so that the simplest of cuts could have significant consequences.

"It's the drink Gordon, but I am so much better now, I've cut down from 12 to 2 everyday now..."

"12 to 2 cans Frank?"

"No ... litres!"

Frank is a miracle, a miracle in progress..!

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

The Faith House Team...

These guys together with Christine and Estelle have become an important part of my community. Monday's at Faith House are important to me as is the time we share together.

Monday, July 14, 2008

the language of ordination...

It seems to me that the euphemistic use of ordination to explain commissioning has made quite some journey where now a given Territorial Commander declares to each cadet "I commission and ordain you..."

It seems interesting to me that within TSA we are keen to maintain a certain line that causes frequent periodic debate when it comes to our non-sacramental stand with regards to baptism and communion. Battle lines drawn between those that both argue that 'to' or 'not to' is essential to our essence of church.

I'm not sure if I have come across the same rigour of debate with similar issues. While the more contemporary sacramental debate seems more black and white - it is interesting that the whole emphasis of ordination of officers doesn't receive the same intensity of attention.

Recently as I watched the Commissioning of the latest session I was struck by how far our language has moved. It seems to me that the euphemistic use of ordination to explain commissioning has made quite some journey where now a given Territorial Commander declares to each cadet "I commission and ordain you..." (or words to that effect). It seems interesting to me that a choice of language to protect the kudos of officership with our ecclesiastical cousins has become so mainstream as to now even infer a supposed 'higher calling' of officership.

But no debate, no walk outs, no resignations, no battle lines, no edicts from International Headquarters, no articles, no letters looking at such an impact on SA views on the 'priesthood of all believers' . Nothing to question the language of ordination as it, like a cuckoo, surreptitiously kicks out the centrality of dedication. I might be missing something, but essentially any discussion here would share something of the same root as that within the well worn conversation around that of our sacramental position.

So why the lack of debate in one area and intensity in another?

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Singing the Songs of Justice....

It seems that the International Social Justice Commission... is building its standing in its mandate to help TSA world to continue to think theologically and strategically about justice issues.

Here is a snippet...
"Joining Jesus invites us to come together as a global family and sing the songs of justice. Our proclamation and intervention trumpets Jesus’ vision for freedom… freedom from “life denying” vulnerabilities and freedom for “life promoting” opportunities.

  • Freedom from “life denying”
    vulnerabilities
    Exploitation
    Poverty and oppression
    Violence and discrimination
    Sin
    Addictions
    Exclusion and voicelessness
    Human trafficking
    Hidden injustices
    Corruption
  • Freedom for “life promoting”
    opportunities
    Dignity for all people
    Protection for the vulnerable
    Including the excluded
    Enabling the exploited
    Salvation
    Choices for the disenfranchised
    Safe and civil society
    Education and health care
    Gender equality and right relationships
    Religious freedom
    Sustainable economic opportunity
    Environmental standards
    Political stability ..."

I couldn't find it on-line on the ISJC web-site but fortunately Danielle Strickland is hosting it in Australia - read more here.

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Accompaniment Model of Mission...

The post on reconciliation uses the phrase of accompaniment mission. The term may be new to some but the concept is well recognised. Shaped on the Road to Emmaus and its metaphor of shared journey and respect shapes the engagement of the church in mission. The accompaniment Model for Mission has four goals:

1. Proclaim
Nurture new Christian communities
Support evangelisation and renewal
Build relationships of respect with people of other faiths.

2. Serve
Develop and support ministries of health care, community development, education, reconciliation, advocacy,
and disaster aid.

3. Accompany
Walk with other churches in mutual respect
Assist with leadership development
Enhance ecumenical cooperation in mission
Facilitate exchanges between companion churches in other countries

4. Receive
Receive the witness of the global mission community
Foster relationships and encounters between global companions

More here.

Monday, July 07, 2008

Lost Themes of Mission - reconciliation...

This speaks of a reconciliation beyond singing 'bind us together' and takes the church to a place where it has to position itself within issues where true reconciliation makes sense.

"Whereas the model of mission most common in the 19 Century was one of expansion, and the model most common in the second half of the 20th Century was one of accompaniment, the model of mission most needed at the beginning of the 21 Century is that of mission as reconciliation"
Shreiter (1997) quoted in Landmead, R. (2008) Mission Studies 25:5-20

His argument being that reconciliation is the form within which the good news of Jesus Christ is most appropriate at this time of history.

On one hand it seems a little too obvious an to think about reconciliation as key to mission, but as with many of these kind of terms I wonder if it all to easy to have a single dimensional grasp of the concept.

Landmead in his article gets us to think deep into what being reconciled to God means; to how we make an understanding of that reconciliation through looking towards being reconciled with ourselves, with each other and then with creation.

This speaks of a reconciliation beyond singing 'bind us together' and takes the church to a place where it has to position itself within issues where true reconciliation makes sense. Issues of justice, shalom, peacemaking are where the church needs to work out its grasp of reconciliation.

If reconciliation is to be potentially a governing metaphor of mission for the church - how is the church speaking of reconciliation into the fragmentation we see daily on our news programmes? How is it speaking into the brokenness we see in families, into disintegrating community? How does to the church speak reconciliation into world poverty beyond wearing a white wristband and marching around Edinburgh? What language can the church speak into political fear and oppression on the world stage. It makes you think!

I'm not sure reconciliation as a central metaphor for the church exists. Perhaps as a by-product in some of what we do and as a healthy aspiration, but as the governing principle for mission it probably is still crowded out by missional models of expansion and accompaniment.

------------

Lost Themes of Mission - Gospel...

Lost Themes of Mission - Judgement...
Lost Themes of Mission - Worship...
Lost Themes of Mission - Holiness...
Lost Themes of Mission - Righteousness...
Lost Themes of Mission - Agape...
Lost Themes of Mission - Jubilee...
Lost Themes of Mission - Salvation...
Lost Themes of Mission - Shalom...
Lost Themes of Mission - Compassion...

Sunday, July 06, 2008

The week that was...

That's the end to Commissioning week; The latest session God's Fellow Workers are now fully commissioned Lieutenants!

There is something emotional about seeing those you have journeyed with coming to the end of their residential training and preparing to move on to their new appointments.

That You should run to meet me.
That You should hold me in Your arms.
That You should call me, clothe me, give me Your work to do.
How can I not love You?

Each session has what is their dedication song - I was particularly drawn to this years 'That You Should...'; it reminded me of Nouwen's reflection on the prodigal son.

Lord, for pride in what is seen, forgive us:

If we have lived for ourselves, and not for You;
but now we are Your new creation, reconciled,
made righteous by Your blood; our lives hidden in You.

That You should run to meet me.
That You should hold me in Your arms.
That You should call me, clothe me, give me Your work to do.
How can I not love You?


Holy Spirit, by Your grace, come fill us,
To follow, make us ready, Christ, we plead,
Please Father, place Your will to love within us,

Oh God, we ask that You might be in every deed.
Lord, for this appointing we now thank You, as Your ambassadors to our fallen race;
our ministry of reconciliation,
an echo of Your holy love and greatest grace.

P A Knight - October 2007

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

The question of evil... (1)

I just want to be a good evangelical, do the exegesis and not be immature, unprofound and certainly not glib!!!

On the fly cover of NT Wright's Evil and the Justice of God - there is a statement that has stuck with me...

"The question of evil demands a theological resolution that is mature, profound and never glib..."

- Glib -
1. Performed with a natural, offhand ease
2. Showing little thought, preparation, or concern

So a fire alarm goes off part way through a seminar on spiritual warfare - to me the merest suggestion of 'dark satanic forces' pulling a well put together and thought provoking lecture to bits is ....er .... glib.

Tyranny... racism .... sexism ... exploitation ... trafficking ... poverty ... abuse ... child labour ... terrorism ... intimidation ... world trade ... addiction ... oppression ...

... A fire alarm... allowing 60 people to get to coffee early is hardly up there for me - so no dark sinister forces at work for me - just a fire alarm.

So am I being cynical or am I wanting to get to grips with all that is the antithesis of what God intends for us? Hopefully the latter, I just want to be a good evangelical, do the exegesis and not be immature, unprofound and certainly not glib!!!

Anyway I've added a new label as I mull this one over.

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Economics, Politics and the People of God...

When I was in Canada I spent some time with Geoff Ryan in a book shop and he bought some Jaques Ellul - now I know why! The 614 network are hosting the third bi-annual Urban Forum.

FYI

The third, bi-annual Urban Forum takes place in Cleveland, Ohio next January under the theme of Economics, Politics and the People of God. You can register online at: www.theurbanforum.com.

The Urban Forum is organized and sponsored by The Salvation Army, though delegates from other denominations, organizations and agencies are welcomed. The Cleveland Forum will be the third such gathering.

The previous two Forums were held in Atlanta, Georgia with the themes: Doing Church in the City: Incarnation and Transformation (2005) and Racism and Reconciliation: Melting Pot or Mosaic? (2007).

The Urban Forum is an event that combines the rigorous thought of a theological symposium, the benefits of intense discussion and great networking, and the camaraderie of a gathering of like-minded practitioners. We attempt to achieve this through a framework of plenary sessions, paper presentations, workshops and discussion sessions.

If you have any questions, queries or simply wish further information from what you can get off the website, please feel free to connect directly with Zoe Fay at: zoefay614@gmail.com

Animoto...

Animoto looks like it could be a fun resource to play with. Here's what they say about themselves.

"Animoto.com is a web application that creates MTV-style videos with the click of a button.

Users simply choose a song and images. Animoto then automatically generates a unique video for them. No two videos are ever the same.

Many of the post-production techniques that the founders used while working as producers for MTV, Comedy Central & ABC are used in Animoto's patent-pending Cinematic Artificial Intelligence developed to think like an actual editor and director. The resulting video is produced in a widescreen format, containing the visual energy of a music video and the emotional impact of a movie trailer."