N.T. Wright on Scripture

I could listen to N.T. Wright for hours.  There are some places where I find tension with his theology, yet it is because of those tensions I find tremendous value in his words.  The words he offers in this video are important.  Very important! It’s 7 minutes long.  If you only have a couple minutes check it out, it is well worth your time.

Do you read the Bible in little chunks?  What is the difference you find when you read the Bible is smaller chunks as opposed to larger sections?  How is scripture formative to you?  

Tomorrow I will be dropping my review of part 3 of JR Woodwards book, “Creating a Missional Culture.”

Three: Walter Brueggemann on Word and Sacrament

 “To have missional energy, and all of that, preaching is the pivot point for all of it.”

-Walter Brueggemann

The everything pastor is the kind of pastor that, you know, does everything.  Maybe you have one in your church, maybe you overwork them, maybe you don’t.  The point is pastors do all sorts of things.  Many tasks are included within the complexity of job descriptions, many are not.  Walter Brueggemann is asking us the question; can our pastors point us to a divine, alternative reality if they are exhausted?

As a pastor myself, this is a fundamental question.  Has the art and importance of preaching and teaching been lost?

(A tip of the hat to Marco Funk, talented pastor at Gretna Bergthaler Mennonite Church, for pointing me to this vid a few months ago)

God is near: Hebrews 10:19-22

Therefore, my friends, since we have confidence to enter the sanctuary by the blood of Jesus, by the new and living way that he opened for us through the curtain (that is, through his flesh), and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us approach with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. Hebrews 10:19-22

wizard_oz_behind-curtain

Do you remember the movie ‘the Wizard of Oz?’  Do you remember the encounters that Dorothy and company had with the actual wizard?  If not, here is the quick refresher.

After a long arduous journey, Dorothy and company finally find themselves in the presence of the Wizard of Oz.  Interestingly, he was a big giant green head who had a loud voice and was engulfed in smoke like a rock band in the 80’s putting on a concert.  Dorothy and co approached the giant green head with a request for help.  In return for that help, the giant green head demanded the broomstick of the Wicked Witch of the West.

The thing is, with the smoke and the loud voice the big green bald head was very distant.  It did not let anyone come close, only to talk to it from a distance.

So they bring back the broom of the witch who had just melted.  A conversation with the giant head ensues, and good ol’ Toto runs over to a curtain nearby and opens it up.  To the surprize of Dorothy and co, it is a man hiding behind the curtain controlling everything.  The giant head was a complete fake.  No wonder this ‘god’ like entity was so distant.

“pay no attention to the man behind the curtain.”

curtain

When Jesus died, the gospels tell us that there was an earthquake and that ‘the sun stopped shining.  And the temple curtain was torn in two.’

In the temple, the Holy of Holies was a place that nobody other than the High Priest could enter.  It housed the ark of the covenant, and the mercy seat which on day of Atonement the High Priest would enter the Holy of Holies to pour lambs blood on it.  It was such a Holy place that only one very distinguished person could enter.  The curtain separated the Holy of Holies, the place nobody could enter, from the rest of the temple.  Thus it was a very distant place for the rest of 1st century Palestine.

God who was distant, due in large part to the cultivated legalism of 1st century Judaism, was now near.   That which separated a humanity from it’s God was no longer present due to the saving life of Jesus.  It no longer took a High Priest to come to God on behalf of the rest of humanity.  Jesus, the new High Priest took on that role as saviour of humanity.  Jesus reconnected us to God in the most intimate of ways.  God wasn’t revealed to be some balding old man pulling levers, rather God was exposed to be very accessible.

The original audience of the book of Hebrews were people facing persecution.  For them the message in Hebrews 10:19ff is clear. God was near.  May we be reminded that God is not some distant fraudulent giant green head.  But rather, God is near in the ups and downs and mundane that life gives us.

Holy Spirit pt2: “the assembly, potlucks and sexuality”

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I was not present at the Mennonite Church Canada Assembly in Kitchener-Waterloo Ontario this past July.  However, in hearing a report back I am beginning to wish that I had been. I understand that in the next coming years there will be significant discernment on the matter of sexuality as it relates to the church, the bible, and our world. The obvious ‘white elephant in the room’ when we talk about sexuality and the church at the moment the Lesbian, Gay, Bi-Sexual, Transgender and Questioning community and it’s interaction and participation within the greater body of Mennonite Church Canada.

Good!  It’s about time we roll up our sleeves and talk about this… like really talk about this. Dare I say that I think it is coming about 20 years too late?

Jack Suderman wrote a brilliant paper called “Being a Faithful Church: Testing the Spirits in the Midst of Hermeneutical Ferment”which makes a strong case for the consistent necessity of good ol’ fashion communal believers church discernment on the places and spaces where the Holy Spirit is and moving toward.  The dream of believers church discernment would be a community interpreting scripture and it’s own immediate cultural context on a continual basis in an effort to, hopefully, incarnate the hope of the gospel as the Holy Spirit leads. This discussion my friends is one place in which we find the Holy Spirit in Anabaptist/Mennonite theology.  The thing is, it’s all grounded in a people gathered in faith.  I don’t know about you, but when I think of gathering and Mennonites I think of potlucks.

And I love potlucks.  I love going down into the church basement and finding tons of similar looking salads, cold farmer sausage, jello with the fruit in it, and chilli. The even better part about the whole thing is the opportunity to connect with other members of the community who, in an ideal Menno world, brought food too. It’s a beautiful picture seeing a bunch of people, sitting together, partaking in a common meal, who are wholly gathered in the name of the great “I AM.” It’s but one picture of a community incarnating unity. Its a unity grounded in the unifying grandness of a worthy to be worshipped God.

This doesn’t just happen at potlucks.

The beautiful part about this whole discussion is the assumption that the Holy Spirit is present where the few or many are gathered (Matthew 18:20 is an interesting text to take a look at, particularly in light of this discussion… read it here). This includes potlucks and nitty gritty discernment gatherings. It really is a back to the basics moment in Mennonite/Anabaptist praxis. Here is an opportunity before the Anabaptist/Mennonite community to participate with the Holy Spirit in the discernment of a fundamental issue as it relates to something that is incredibly human.  It presents an opportunity to strive to be in touch with the active God of the past, the future, and the here and now.

I have been part of discussions on the topic of human sexuality before. Some were positive and others were not. But, even though this communal discernment thing is daunting I take hope in the God of hope. I take hope that it will be done in respect and mutual understanding and being ok to disagree. I hope that a community of people who are united in faith can find room for all
people with various thoughts and wonderings and count them as valuable for the discernment of this topic.  But I would also like to see this conversation move into a more tangible reality, rather than the pure talk that can dominate and castrate issues like this.  Ultimately making it impossible to move into the practical.

The trick then will be to make this discernment full of respect and understanding.  Which means no ‘us’ vs ‘them language.’  If there is some of that language in this post, it is most certainly not intentional.  It is a tough road to navigate, however it is also a prime opportunity for a community to discern the Spirits moving.  What does the ideal discussion and discernment look like if we are to be in tune with the Holy Spirit?  How does the Spirit of God manifest itself in difficult times like this?  Other denominations have tackled this conversation and the implications have been mixed.  I hope that we can push forward on this without any division, which is a common hope of many.  But, before we think of that I can’t help but wonder if the most important elements moving forward with this discernment on human sexuality is connecting wholly and completely with a God who is bigger than that which could divide.  Let’s be getting our ‘discernment on’ over a good ol’ fashion Mennonite potluck and talk life and God which would be a back to the basics of Mennonite/Anabaptist praxis.  Can you imagine, different people with different points of view, coming from different places and different life experiences gathered together sharing a common meal?

(for other posts in this series)

Holy Spirit pt 1 “the crazy uncle nobody talks about”

Holy Spirit pt 3 “where you are present matters” 

John 17 (the message)

John 17

Jesus’ Prayer for His Followers

1-5 Jesus said these things. Then, raising his eyes in prayer, he said:
Father, it’s time.
Display the bright splendor of your Son
So the Son in turn may show your bright splendor.
You put him in charge of everything human
So he might give real and eternal life to all in his charge.
And this is the real and eternal life:
That they know you,
The one and only true God,
And Jesus Christ, whom you sent.
I glorified you on earth
By completing down to the last detail
What you assigned me to do.
And now, Father, glorify me with your very own splendor,
The very splendor I had in your presence
Before there was a world.

6-12I spelled out your character in detail
To the men and women you gave me.
They were yours in the first place;
Then you gave them to me,
And they have now done what you said.
They know now, beyond the shadow of a doubt,
That everything you gave me is firsthand from you,
For the message you gave me, I gave them;
And they took it, and were convinced
That I came from you.
They believed that you sent me.
I pray for them.
I’m not praying for the God-rejecting world
But for those you gave me,
For they are yours by right.
Everything mine is yours, and yours mine,
And my life is on display in them.
For I’m no longer going to be visible in the world;
They’ll continue in the world
While I return to you.
Holy Father, guard them as they pursue this life
That you conferred as a gift through me,
So they can be one heart and mind
As we are one heart and mind.
As long as I was with them, I guarded them
In the pursuit of the life you gave through me;
I even posted a night watch.
And not one of them got away,
Except for the rebel bent on destruction
(the exception that proved the rule of Scripture).

13-19Now I’m returning to you.
I’m saying these things in the world’s hearing
So my people can experience
My joy completed in them.
I gave them your word;
The godless world hated them because of it,
Because they didn’t join the world’s ways,
Just as I didn’t join the world’s ways.
I’m not asking that you take them out of the world
   But that you guard them from the Evil One.
They are no more defined by the world
Than I am defined by the world.
Make them holy—consecrated—with the truth;
Your word is consecrating truth.
In the same way that you gave me a mission in the world,
I give them a mission in the world.
I’m consecrating myself for their sakes
So they’ll be truth-consecrated in their mission.

20-23I’m praying not only for them
But also for those who will believe in me
Because of them and their witness about me.
The goal is for all of them to become one heart and mind—
Just as you, Father, are in me and I in you,
So they might be one heart and mind with us.
Then the world might believe that you, in fact, sent me.
The same glory you gave me, I gave them,
So they’ll be as unified and together as we are—
I in them and you in me.
Then they’ll be mature in this oneness,
And give the godless world evidence
That you’ve sent me and loved them
In the same way you’ve loved me.

24-26Father, I want those you gave me
To be with me, right where I am,
So they can see my glory, the splendor you gave me,
Having loved me
Long before there ever was a world.
Righteous Father, the world has never known you,
But I have known you, and these disciples know
That you sent me on this mission.
I have made your very being known to them—
Who you are and what you do—
And continue to make it known,
So that your love for me
Might be in them
Exactly as I am in them.