Up-down theologies of domination have not served the world well.  Even the more liberal and entirely post-modern theologies of “stewardship” are still stuck in that up-down schema that inordinately privileges the human being in an anthropocentric hierarchy.  All this points to the need for a serious rethinking of the one, cosmic, male creator god who rules all things.  Talk of creation and the single creator it implies is not possible for those of us who take seriously the collateral-egalitarian balance and community-ist living.

Buffalo Shout, Salmon Cry” Tink Tinker, 178,179.

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Subversive Table Fellowship

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In just under a week, Noel Moules, co-founder of the Anabaptist Network in the U.K. will be joining us in Abbotsford to share 2 days of teaching and fellowship.  He wrote a very provocative book last year entitled “Fingerprints of Fire… Footsteps of Peace.”  Below is a wonderful excerpt on what subversive table fellowship is, and more importantly he provokes us into thinking what it could look like in our particular time and place.  Important words, as it is easy to speak that Jesus shared a meal with prostitutes and other such lowly first century Palestinian folk, and not invite those similarly ostracized by our society to our tables.  Myself included.

Needless to say, it is going to be a wonderfully provocative time with Noel Moules here in the Fraser Valley.

Much of his teaching took place during a shared meal; among other things he used its imagery as a picture of the future.  He scandalised public opinion by regularly ‘eating with tax collectors and sinners’, shattering social boundaries, affirming access to God without intermediaries and revolutionising the popular ideas of holiness and purity.

One Jewish scholar has noted that this activity above all others is what marked Jesus out from his contemporaries: ‘He took his stand among the pariahs of his world, those despised by the respectable.  Sinners were his table companions and the ostracised tax collector and prostitute friends.

To sit at table with someone is an expression of intimacy and fellowship, to invite someone to a meal is to honour them and express trust and acceptance.  In this way prostitutes find forgiveness; tax collectors are liberated from their ill-gotten wealth and inspired to distribute it to the poor and the hungry are fed.  this is our example.

What would subversive table fellowship in your neighbourhood look like?

Noel Moules, “Fingerprints of Fire… Footsteps of Peace: A Spiritual Manifesto from a Jesus Perspective” page 168.

 

Love the Sinner, Hate the Sin… ?

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The Christian world is over saturated with clichés!  Overly simplistic statements that are often injected into deeply complex situations.  They can be brutal.  One such statement, and there are many, is “love the sinner, hate the sin!”

Case and point.  The conversation with the LGBTQ community, wherein this ‘cliche’ could carry innocent, if not ignorant, intentions, but horribly ventures into the realm of dehumanization and reveals a posture of judgementalism. 

At the risk of quoting the whole book, which is a temptation, I think Andrew Marin gets it right here in his important book “Love is an Orientation: Elevating the Conversation with the Gay Community.”

Among gays and lesbians, “love the sinner, hate the sin” is the most disdained phrase in the Christian vocabulary. If behavior equals identity, then hating gay sexual behavior is the same thing as hating the gay person. The most common rebuttal they use to counter that slogan is Jesus’ words regarding judgment in Matthew 7, where he speaks about the plank in our own eye and the speck in our brother’s. “How can Christians pick this one sin and make it greater than all the rest? The Bible also says not to [for example, “eat crab”]. Straight people and yet are still accepted.” As the Barna Group discovered in research commissioned by the Fermi Project, this logic has earned Christians a reputation for being extremely hypocritical and unrightfully judgmental.

The easiest way we can start to change these negative perceptions is to remove “love the sinner, hate the sin” from our vocabulary. Clever catch phrases that try to make Christianity accessible to the masses don’t translate to all different populations. As soon as we drop the notion of loving the sinner and hating the sin, the pressure is then off of us to drag a GLBT person from their current “corrupted state” to our “holy state,” just as the pressure is off of the GLBT person to continually build up their defenses to try to guard against the slogans that hurt them time and again.

Andrew Marin. Love Is an Orientation: Elevating the Conversation with the Gay Community (Kindle Locations 457-465). Kindle Edition.

Which clichés, or common multi-use Christian phrases have been used or offered to you in complex situations?  Have you ever made the connection that ‘love the sinner, hate the sin’ is, or could be judgemental?

The LGBTQ and Church Disconnect

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Abbotsford just held it’s first Pride parade for the LGBTQ (Lesbian, Gay, Bi-sexual, Transgender, Questioning) community this past Saturday.  In Winnipeg, the Little Flowers community, a group of Jesus followers near and dear to my heart are again apologizing at the Pride parade in Winnipeg this coming summer.  Yet, in the messy world of church relationships there is still significant disconnect between the LGBTQ community and the church.  It is a disconnect that is, frankly, dehumanizing!  The reality is, for anyone open about their sexuality willing to engage the church in any kind of conversation, there are some very real fears which the church will need to quench through a ‘ repentant, grounded in shalom’ hospitality.

The excerpt below, from Andrew Marin’s fantastic book, “Love as an Orientation: Elevating the Conversation with the Gay Community” is a must read (seriously, get your hands on it).

Believers are convinced they know what gays and lesbians think, but actually, GLBT people’s real thoughts and fears are totally different. This is exactly where the systemic disconnect begins. There are nine main concepts that both the secular and religious GLBT communities think and fear regarding conservative evangelical Christian churches and people.

1. How can I possibly relate to Christians in a church environment?

2. Will Christians always look at me as just gay?

3. Will I be able to be like everyone else in church activities and groups?

4. Do they think that homosexuality is a special sin? 5. Do they believe that I chose to be like this?

6. Do they think that I’m going to hit on them?

7. Do they think that I’m going to abuse their children?

8. Are they scared that I’m going to infect them with an STD or HIV/AIDS?

9. When will I be rejected and kicked out?

There is a striking belief in the inevitability that one, if not all, of these nine reactions will happen at some point if GLBT people were to involve themselves with Christendom.

Andrew Marin. Love Is an Orientation: Elevating the Conversation with the Gay Community (Kindle Locations 291-297). Kindle Edition.

How do you feel when you read these fears and concerns?  How could you offer a ‘grounded in shalom’ hospitality in light of these debilitating fears?

Structures are Theological Statements

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Structures are theological statements. If our structures mirror “the way of the world,” they will shape us powerfully and unknowingly.  Structures must be developed with the theological intent to be a sign of God’s coming Kingdom.  I’m not saying that we are unable to learn from organizational dynamics in other fields of study.  But we must scrutinize our methods, realizing that the means are just as important as the ends, for the means shape us to a particular end.  It has been said that Christianity started out in Palestine as a fellowship, moved to Greece and became a philosophy, went to Rome and became an institution, spread to Europe and became a government, and finally crossed the Atlantic where it became and enterprise.  What will it take for us to return to fellowship?

JR Woodward, “Creating a Missional Culture,” page 94.

Often our structures were put in place for life giving reasons.  Yet things change.  Often as things change, or as people become more and more grounded in God’s movement in a particular time and place, structures can become a hindrance to activity if they are solely anchored in the past.  Structures end up becoming fused with tradition just because ‘that is always the way things have been done.’  Part of missional activity becomes ‘scrutinizing our methods and realizing that the means are just as important as the ends, for the means shape us to a particular end.’ 

The unfortunate reality is, that when our missional practitioners, based in praxis, engage the impotence of some of these ‘fused with tradition’ structures the practitioner becomes marginalized… laid to waste on the outskirts of traditions and communities.  All this because they dare ‘challenge’ structure that may not be functional anymore.

Our structures are theological statements!!  The way we navigate them as community is intimately linked with our faithfulness to God and to one another.

What are some healthy ways in community to scrutinize structures?  Have you seen some successful ways in which this has happened?

Leonardo Boff on The Eucharist and Love of Neighbour

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Forgive me, the language in this quote is a bit more academic ‘like’ than I am usually comfortable sharing on anabaptistly, but the gist of it is well worth it… and Boff is awesome!

There is a deep connection between love of God and love of neighbour.  Jesus explicitly speaks love God, love neighbour as the greatest commandment.  Boff wonderfully interprets the importance and functionality of the Eucharist (communion) in light of this divine reality.

We must love our neighbour with the same sweeping movement with which we love God.  After all, there is really only one commandment: the commandment of love.  Love of God is ‘veri-fied’ – ‘made true’ in love of neighbour.  Any celebration pretending to center on God, to the exclusion of mending broken relationships will fail in its quest for God. After all, it has effectively blocked the road that infallibly leads to God: the path of love of neighbour.  Camilo Torres, the priest who lived the searing truth of the Gospel to the hilt and then died that that truth might live in history, exhorted his friends as follows, on June 24, 1965, in an effort to create the necessary concrete conditions for an authentic Eucharistic worship: ‘The Christian community cannot offer the sacrifice in an authentic form if it has not first fulfilled in an effective manner the precept of ‘love thy neighbour.’  In terms of exigencies of the Gospel, in order to guarantee the Christian authenticity of the Eucharist, it will not be enough that the Eucharist be put together according to dogmatic principles and ritualized according to the disciplinary and liturgical canons.  In all respect for ecclesial value of dogmatic determinations and canonical discipline, the church must still honour and observe the spirit of Jesus. In the spirit of Jesus, true worship of God is realized more in the concretization of Justice and the building of a community of sisters and brothers than in the formalities of a symbolic celebration.

Leonardo Boff, “When Theology Listens to the Poor” page 97

How does this way of thinking impact the manner in which you take communion?  In what ways to you experience communion as personal?  In what ways do you experience communion as communal?

Richard Twiss on Indigenous Liturgy

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As Mennonite Church Canada works toward reconciliation with the Indigenous people of Canada in light of the Residential School brutality, these words by Richard Twiss are all too important.  This video is 4:30 long and well worth your time! 

Click on the link below.

http://www.theworkofthepeople.com/indigenous-liturgy (sorry, it appears that wordpress doesn’t like this embed code… annoying, but the consequence of free blog hosting I guess).

Here is another important video to take a look at in light of the above, it’s about 3 minutes long.

What a great man, and a gift to our generation.

What is unique about your culture, and how your community worships?  What could it look like for multiple cultures to participate in worship together?