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.
When I get my hands on a new book I take 20 minutes to do a quick initial read through of the whole book. I look at chapter headings, and the sub-headings within the chapters to get a sense of what direction the book takes. When I come across a section that I find compelling, I’ll spend some time reading a paragraph or two.
In my initial read through of “the Power of All: Building a Multivoiced Church” I was compelled to read a section on ‘communities of disciples.’ During my reading I came across this helpful paragraph.
In our complex and evolving culture, no preacher or church leader, however gifted, has all that we need. Those who have expertise in biblical interpretation and who have been theological trained bring precious resources to the community, but we cannot expect them to be experts on the diverse social, economic, political, scientific, cultural, family, neighbourhood, organizational, and ethical issues we face. Theologians pontificating on scientific or economic issues they barely understand are no more deifying than scientists or economists with little or no theological education sounding off about theological matters. What we need, if we are to develop creative and thoughtful responses to the many issues that confront us day by day, is the shared experience, knowledge, expertise and wisdom of the whole community.
Sian and Stuart Murray Williams, “the Power of All: Building a Multivoiced Church.” pg, 133
What does it look like to develop communities predicated on this type of mutivoiced engagement? What are your expectations of a pastor?
I believe in the sermon. I really do. But…
Sometimes sermons fall dead in the pews. This is not me saying “WE NEED TO LISTEN TO SERMONS BETTER.” I am wondering, why do we preach the way we preach?
I am a veteran of sermon listening. I’ve been going to church for the majority of my life and have been exposed to a TON of sermons. During those sermons I have fallen asleep, I have experienced a boredom that is physically painful, I have felt an awkward pity for many preachers and have, from time to time, been fully and completely enthralled.
Sermon’s are just something we do in churches. We gather. We sit. We sing. We pray. We listen to someone talk for 20 – 40 minutes. We go home. Maybe we talk about the content of the sermon on the way home, or at the restaurant, or maybe even in care group. But that’s it.
I must confess. As a veteran sermon listener and now, pastor, I spend anywhere from 10-25 hours prepping a sermon. Sometimes I come off the stage after preaching asking ‘why?’ Then the questions start piling up…
Was all the prep time worth it? Are people really being transformed? Did I do a good enough job? Do people actually listen or is this a habitual ‘going through the motions’ thing?
Sermon’s need engagement to come alive. They need engagement by the individual, and engagement by the larger church community. This is particularly foundational for Anabaptists. I wonder if the way we preach facilitates a long, brutal death within the pews.
How can we engage sermons in a larger community? How can a sermon transformative?
One of the scribes came near and heard them disputing with one another, and seeing that he answered them well, he asked him, ‘Which commandment is the first of all?’ Jesus answered, ‘The first is, “Hear, O Israel: the Lord our God, the Lord is one; you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.” The second is this, “You shall love your neighbour as yourself.”
I once asked a group of Jr. High students where their t-shirts were made. I asked them to check the t-shirt tags of the people they were sitting beside and report to the larger group.
Not surprisingly, the answers spanned the globe. China, Taiwan, South Africa, Canada, Mexico,Thailand, etc…
We are connected to many places in our world just by the clothes we wear. Even further, the price we pay for those clothes directly impacts those who make them. This reality brings people who are thousands of kilometers away directly to our doorstep and shopping malls.
The pollution we pump into the air impacts the entire globe. We contribute to our warming planet which we share with people ten and ten thousand of kilometers away.
Loving our neighbour means we pay attention to the choices we make that have global consequences. Our choices need to be creative and purposeful as we hold in tension our local neighbourhoods and the global ‘village.’
What are the implications on your neighbourhood if you take a global view of who your neighbour is? What are some creative and purposeful ways to love neighbours that hold in tension both local and global?
Walking is simple. It’s slow. It is a different pace than the feverish speed of our North American culture.
I drive to work. It takes about 10 minutes. When I have appointments, meetings, hang out time and other pastoral awesomeness I am jumping into my vehicle to save time. The one time I did walk, it took me half an hour and I was out of breath, sweaty and gross by the time I arrived my destination. I was so stressed at the prospect of being late that I missed everything that I was walking by.
I was also basting music through my headphones which made me oblivious to the sounds of my walk. It was an audio disconnect.
This past weekend at our annual church retreat I was reminded of the beautiful simplicity of walking. We heard the story of a wonderful couple who walked everywhere for 5 years. Imagine everything that you do with your car, every task that it enables you to do, and get rid of the car and replace it with walking. Amazing. Counter-cultural for some, yet a requirement for others. But with all the hype and wonder of a real deal story like this one dynamic still remains…
Walking is simple. It’s slow. It facilitates the opportunity to connect with the sights, sounds and relationships of a neighbourhood not fully known to the cars that speed on past.
Jesus walked. He likely walked everywhere. In walking he was fully present in his particular time and place.
To be present in your neighbourhood take a walk. To slow down the pace of your crazy life, go for a walk. I was thankful for this reminder.
Where are your favourite places to walk? How do you slow down the pace of your life?