Stairs Are Annoying & 4 Other Mini Rants

Here are 5 mini rants in no particular order.

1. Half marathon training is annoying.  Well, starting any new discipline is actually quite annoying.  Like yesterday whilst half marathon training I came across a massive staircase in my neighbourhood.  It was horrible running up those stairs, yet in the back of my mind I knew it was good for me in the long run.  It’s funny how knowing that is NOT HELPFUL AT ALL.  My legs still hurt and I had a massive cramp in my calf at 2:30am last night.  #oldfart

2. It’s discipleship, not volunteerism. Volunteerism is too self congratulatory.  It screams, “look I am giving up my time for this good thing.”  Sure, that may be the case, but discipleship assumes kingdom building activity.  Discipleship assumes giving up your life (which qualifies as all the time you will ever have… EVER) and being transformed by Jesus.  Dear pastors and people looking for people to help…  announce you have a kingdom building activity and you need help. What you are asking help for may not be cool enough for volunteers.

3. The serpent in Genesis isn’t Satan.  Go ahead.  Read it.  It’s actually just an astute serpent.  That sneaky snake.  The narrative offers us no more, and no less.  Somehow, somewhere we good hearted Christians added it to the biblical story.  We really shouldn’t.  Consider your mind blown.

4. Unity in the midst of diversity is worth it.  Sexuality is on the forefront of much conversation in Mennonite circles these days, both in Canada and the US.  It offers a stunning opportunity to practice love and respect.  Unfortunately some use it as an opportunity to dehumanize and complain.  We often neglect the relentless pursuit of peaceable alternatives… which is dumb because we are peace loving Menno’s.  The reasons for unity and community are much deeper and life-giving even if there is disagreement.  The world is watching.  We need to repent and embody a living alternative.

5. I love my son unconditionally.  I must.  I played baseball with my son in front of my townhouse.  I hate baseball.  He loves baseball and I still love him anyway. I think that means I am a father of the year candidate.  Ha.

What are you ranting about these days?

Participants in Reconciliation: Shut up and Listen

residential school

So from now on we regard no one from a worldly point of view. Though we once regarded Christ in this way, we do so no longer. Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here! All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation.  We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God.  God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.

2 Corinthians 5:16-21 (NIV)

Paul’s text in 2nd Corinthians is a classic.  It is a call to embody the message of reconciliation.  It is a call to be God’s representative here on earth.  The assumption in the text is that we be reconciled with God through the saving life of Christ.  This reconciliation gives us new eyes to see glimpses of the new earth amidst the old.  It’s like the famous line in the hymn Amazing Grace; “I was blind, but now I see.”  Reconciliation in Christ gives us a divine imagination.

Lets imagine for a second that this text collides with our context similar to that of an asteroid hitting the surface of the earth…

The Residential Schools of Canada, the places in the 1900’s which sought to “Kill the Indian” by way of assimilation into white Christendom society are a dark spot in the history of the Church.  The Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) is a group that has said this is important for us to work toward reconciliation of First Nations people and the country that has deeply violated them.  For us Canadians, in my opinion, it’s like God dropped this right on our doorstep.

And it’s time to shut up and listen.

Littered within the history of Christianity is racism.  Christianity it seems, facilitated racist government systems still being felt to this day.  The Residential Schools are a result of such a system.  It carries with it an enduring consequence.  This reality offers us a tension between the bad and the good of the Christian story.  It is easy for us to claim the glory of our Christian past and invite it to inform our future.  In stride however is the need to claim with humility the pain, anguish, and death by injustice as part of our Christian story.  To be agents of reconciliation is to recognize, repent, shut up and listen, and strive for right redemptive relationship with a people who have fallen victim to the ‘dirty’ of Christianity and government systems.  God is at work, as God always is and it is a matter of discernment to find the place wherein we are called to participate.  Participating means that where reconciliation is happening, that is where we be.

The TRC is a place to start.  Like the people from the TRC say, it will take generations.

I would imagine an asteroid hitting the earth would be a fairly messy reality, with a whole lot of clean up.  So too, as we see in this particular place and in this particular time, is reconciliation.

There are many stories to be found on youtube about the Residential school experience, but this one was done in partnership with Mennonite Church Canada so I offer it here.  If you have about 17 minutes, it is worthy or your attention.

Where are the places in your neighbourhood, or broader context that scream for reconciliation?  How can you participate?

Peace To This House: A Theology of Guest

Peace To This House

“When you enter a house, first say, ‘Peace to this house.’  If someone who promotes peace is there, your peace will rest on them; if not, it will return to you.  Stay there, eating and drinking whatever they give you, for the worker deserves his wages. Do not move around from house to house.

Luke 10:5-7

Much is said about Christians offering hospitality. The call is very strong for Christians to be wonderful hosts to all people, no matter skin colour, gender, age, socio-economic background, etc…

The reality of a post Christian world is such that the vast majority of people do not know the message of Jesus.  The Jesus story is not common place.  People walk by churches not knowing what the cross symbolizes.  This amplifies the need for hospitality to be foundational in Christian practice.

If Christians dare to venture into the post Christendom landscape, they WILL very well find themselves depending on the hospitality of those who do not have any connection to the Christian faith.

The early church depended on hospitality of others. When Jesus sends out the 72 in Luke 10, they become dependant on the hospitality of people in the towns which they visited.

The missional practitioner within a Post Christian context needs to know how to accept hospitality from others.  The missional practitioner needs to hold and embody a deep understanding of guest.

The implications are far reaching. A theology of guest means we respect ‘the other.’  It means we find comfort in the homes of other people.  It means we pay attention to, and partner with organizations that may not be Christian.  It means we bring ‘peace to’ the house in which we find ourselves.  We enter into the place of ‘the other’ embodying a message, representing a tribe of Jesus followers, a tribe of peace.  A theology of guest assumes that people, even non-Christians (sarcastic “GHASP”) have something to offer.

A post Christendom missionary will find him or herself depending on, and needing to accept gracefully, hospitality from ‘the other.’

Where do you find yourself accepting hospitality from others?  What differences do you find between hospitality from non-Christians (I hate that term, any other suggestions?) and Christians?

Preaching: Brueggemann On Hope and Yearning

hope

I am a fan of Walter Brueggemann.  In fact, every time I read some of his stuff I breakout into an silent, yet stunningly awkward chant… ‘Brueggy, Brueggy, Brueggy.’  I did so again upon a quick glance through his book “The Prophetic Imagination.”

The task of prophetic imagination and ministry is to bring to public expression those very hopes and yearnings that have been denied so long and suppressed so deeply that we no longer know they are there.  Hope, on the one hand, is an absurdity too embarrassing to speak about, for it flies in the face of all those claims we have been told are facts.  Hope is the refusal to accept the reading of reality which is the majority of opinion; and one does that only at great political and existential risk.  On the other hand, hope is subversive, for it limits the grandiose pretension of the present, daring to announce that the present to which we have all made commitments is now called into question.  Thus the exilic community lacked the tools of hope.  The language of hope and the ethos of amazement have partially been forfeited because they are an embarrassment.  The language of hope and the ethos of amazement have been partly squelched because they are a threat.

Walter Brueggemann, “The Prophetic Imagination” page 65.

I cannot help but think that one task of preaching is to offer the divine hope of an alternative community unafraid to contrast the reality which is of ‘majority opinion.’  Preaching needs to give us hope-filled language offering this alternative, yet also offer a critique of our context. This would be a language that would dare to point us in the direction moving sharply against the grain of our cultural dreams and expectations and into the Kingdom of God.

It takes a distinct courage for a pastor to be so daring.

What happens when you hear something that challenges your comfortable status quo?  How do you respond?

The Cynic: Why Do We Preach the Way We Preach?

preacher-silouetter-300x362

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?