On the blog...

As my blogging has slowed for the summer, it's interesting to see what people are reading who find there way to my blog. Here's a sampling of what's being read:

 

"Gift of limitation"

Within North American Christianity, successful leaders are often described in certain terms: confident, independant, charismatic, driven, etc...

It's similar in generalizing about successful churches: growth, sustainability, clarity, virbrance leadership, etc...

None of these characteristics are bad or incongruent with faithful Christianity. Unless they become an end unto themselves. In the drive for success, Christians can forget and neglect the role of perceived weakness - failure even - as an accepted part of faithfulness. Such a concept can seem counterintuitive in our North American leadership context, but it's essential.

In the context of their discussion on the importance of a physical place for the church to inhabit, the authors of The New Parish summarize the role of accepting limitation in the context of a local neighbourhood (parish), a thought I think applies to our faith in general as well:

"God has given you the gift of limitation and responsibility. Limitations are a pointing to your need of the other, while responsibility reveals the other's need of you. What the phyiscal body is to a human person, the parish is to the body of Christ. The limitation is glorious. It is God's gift of enabling you to see and live into your need for others."

Praxis - The Video

Here`s a promotional video for Praxis - spread the word!!!

"Don't be afraid"

Some wisdom and good news for you and for our world...

Do you know what the most frequent command in the Bible turns out to be? What instruction, what order, is given, again and again, by God, by angels, by Jesus, by prophets and apostles? What do you think - 'Be good'? 'Be holy, for I am holy'? Or, negatively, 'Don't sin'? 'Don't be immoral'? No. The most frequent command in the Bible is: 'Don't be afraid.' Don't be afraid. Fear not. Don't be afraid. 

The irony of this surprising command is that, though it's what we all really want to hear, we have as much difficulty, if not more, in obeying this command as any other. We all cherish fear so closely that we find we can't shed it even when we're told to do so...Every one of us has something on her or his mind about which we badly need a voice to say: 'Don't be afraid. it's going to be all right.' As the Lord said to Lady Julian: 'All shall be well, and all manner of things shall be well.' Let's make no mistake about it: until you learn to live without fear you won't find it easy to follow Jesus.*

From "The God Who Raises the Dead" in Following Jesus by N.T. Wright. 

*This quote comes from an advance proof of the book`s updated edition and may not be exactly as published.


A prayer for the church on Canada Day

I've reflected a few times on my ambivalence as a Christian to gleefully endorse my country around patriotic holidays (see here and here). I read a prayer this week that aligns with much of what I think the church should be focused on when it comes to faith and nationalism:

God of Reconciling Love,

We thank you for your reconciling mission, which is always inviting us to live in our mutual need of one another even before we recognize it. Teach us to love and to receive one another as Christ receives us.

Amen. 

Towards Hospitality

Some insightful thoughts on hospitality from the Center For Parish Development:

Contemporary images of hospitality—and of community—tend to be shaped by an “ideology of intimacy.” Such an approach emphasizes sameness, closeness, warmth, and comfort. Difference, distance, conflict, and sacrifice are to be avoided at all costs. A facade of harmony is maintained by eliminating the strange and cultivating the familiar, by suppressing dissimilarity and emphasizing agreement. Those who are strange—“other than we are”—must either be excluded or quickly made to be “like us.” The image is of homogeneous communities of retreat where persons must be protected from one another—and from outsiders—and where reality is suppressed and denied due to fear and anxiety...

It is true that the stranger represents an unknown and sometimes dangerous figure. Yet three key events in the New Testament—Christmas, Easter, and Pentecost—all recount the coming of a divine stranger. In each case the newcomer brings blessings and gifts which both disorient and transform. “The child in the manger, the traveler on the road to Emmaus, and the mighty wind of the Spirit all meet us as mysterious visitors, challenging our belief systems even as they welcome us to new worlds.”  The stranger plays a central role in biblical stories of faith and for good reason. “The religious quest, the spiritual pilgrimage, is always taking us into new lands where we are strange to others and they are strange to us. Faith is a venture into the unknown, into the realms of mystery, away from the safe and comfortable and secure.”

Don't try so hard

My sporadic blogging has come with a change of pace as I'm out of the office until August, doing some construction and spending time with my family. In the midst of this shift a theme has emerged a few times as I've reflected on this past year in my new job and adapting to life in a new-old community (I grew up here in Abbotsford, but have been away for a few years). The theme is around striving, or trying too hard. A line from Ecclesiastes that comes to mind is "chasing after the wind." The poet concludes that a life characterized by striving is, quite simply, "meaningless."

So in our family we trying to slow down and stop trying so hard, exploring what a meaningful pace is in day-to-day life. I'll leave you with a few passages from the Message translation that highight this theme well:

“Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.” (Mt. 11:28-30)

But what happens when we live God’s way? He brings gifts into our lives, much the same way that fruit appears in an orchard—things like affection for others, exuberance about life, serenity. We develop a willingness to stick with things, a sense of compassion in the heart, and a conviction that a basic holiness permeates things and people. We find ourselves involved in loyal commitments, not needing to force our way in life, able to marshal and direct our energies wisely. (Gal. 5:22-23)

 “If you decide for God, living a life of God-worship, it follows that you don’t fuss about what’s on the table at mealtimes or whether the clothes in your closet are in fashion. There is far more to your life than the food you put in your stomach, more to your outer appearance than the clothes you hang on your body. Look at the birds, free and unfettered, not tied down to a job description, careless in the care of God. And you count far more to him than birds.
 

“Has anyone by fussing in front of the mirror ever gotten taller by so much as an inch? All this time and money wasted on fashion—do you think it makes that much difference? Instead of looking at the fashions, walk out into the fields and look at the wildflowers. They never primp or shop, but have you ever seen color and design quite like it? The ten best-dressed men and women in the country look shabby alongside them.

“If God gives such attention to the appearance of wildflowers—most of which are never even seen—don’t you think he’ll attend to you, take pride in you, do his best for you? What I’m trying to do here is to get you to relax, to not be so preoccupied with getting, so you can respond to God’s giving. People who don’t know God and the way he works fuss over these things, but you know both God and how he works. Steep your life in God-reality, God-initiative, God-provisions. Don’t worry about missing out. You’ll find all your everyday human concerns will be met.

“Give your entire attention to what God is doing right now, and don’t get worked up about what may or may not happen tomorrow. God will help you deal with whatever hard things come up when the time comes. (Mt. 6:25-34)