Friday, October 26, 2007

what is worship?

I got this great email from my friend Ryan and wanted to pass it along. These are helpful thoughts that further an understanding of church, and the worship life of church, that is more driven by the way individuals and communities embody the message that they so desperately seek to articulate and embrace. These words are at the heart of an emergent expression of church and the way it seeks to order its life through worship, and faith active in love. Enjoy!

"The conversation continues. I was just thumbing through "Love and
Living" by Thomas Merton and came across the following on page 181...

"The West has lived under the sign of will, the love of power, action,
and domination. Hence, Western Christianity has often been associated with a spiritual will-to-power and an instinct for organization and authority. This has taken good forms, in devotion to works of education, healing the sick, building schools, order and organization in religion itself. But even the good side of activism has tended toward an overemphasis on will, on action, on conquest, on 'getting things done,' and this in turn has resulted in a sort of religious restlessness, pragmatism, and the worship of visible results. There is another essential aspect of Christianity: the interior, the silent, the contemplative, in which hidden wisdom is more important than practical organizational science, and in which love replaces the will to get visible results."

The idea of "worshiping visible results" grabbed my attention. We discussed this before in regards to doing church a new way. Having visible results as top priority makes church into self-worship, right? Then self-worship deafens us to hearing God.

The new way puts the focus back on God. The less time spent looking for visible results, means more time available for listening."

Thanks again Ryan for these insightful thoughts.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

holy communion?

On Saturday night I was invited by my friend Dahamane (to the right of me) to their end-of-Ramadan feast. It's always a joy to learn from and talk with my Muslim friends around great food, a cultural invitation, that I don't often get to engage in. I'm in the company of newfound friends from Yemen, Cameroon, Mali, Pakistan, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, and Iraq. It was one of those special evenings where, as you sit and listen, you feel...well, holy, a 'set apart' time, to cross the boundaries of cultures and religions for the sake of acknowledging that we are, all of us, held by God, that God has come all too close to us, united us in him in a strange way we may never completely understand.

So...for all intents and purposes we could go around and articulate, through our various doctrines, how we have come to hold God and realize that there may be some differences, but the reality is we are created in God's image for the sake of reflecting his love and life to the world. Was this meal holy communion? It certainly was a 'set apart' event, a communion feast, a meal where the alien outsider (me) was invited to the table. Not in the same way theologically that many have come to speak of...or is it? This meal was not consecrated in the name of Christ by whose very death the fear of death has been vanquished forever and in whose resurrection presence we celebrate until he comes again (whatever that means). Could we say that Christ was present? Could we say that the Christ who died to reconcile people one to another was present incarnationally embodying that very belief in the way we shared a meal with one another? Would it be true that this is the very kind of community that Jesus came to constitute through his very death on and resurrection from the cross? The very hope into which God's future is unfolding?

For me, the evening was an expression of my new, favorite phrase I've come to enjoy from my new mentor Miroslav Volf: this night was an experience of the "anticipated eschatological community of God."

Monday, October 15, 2007

casual update

hello everyone. needless to say, life has been very crazy. i was looking forward to a slower schedule when the summer came to an end, being the primary parent and having no other responsibilities than the pursuit of my dmin at luther and starting this emerging church. as it turns out, an opportunity came to help out a struggling local congregation here in flag as the interim pastor, part-time, 30 hours a week. so, that's the story. now i've got the craziest schedule when my wife kacey has been called full time as pastor for lutheran campus ministry and me, the part-time everything role.

it's good work helping out a church, one of those traditional types, helping to ground them in the missional church stuff, really helping me personally to bulk up on some of my own leadership skills and biblical/theological reflections in an adult community once again. it certainly is a breath of fresh air for me.

so that's it. i'll start blogging more when my 20-30 page paper is done for's our missional ecclesiology paper; great stuff, this is precisely why i joined the program, for the rich theological engagement and the practical integration of it all. so keep me in your prayers as i continue with this venture.

also, i got sick and tired of waiting to start this emerging community. SOOOOO, this last thursday we met for the first time with seven of us in attendance. it was good conversation, great probing questions from legitimately suspicious folks (we have a lot to repent for in this church that segregates and delineates in too many exclusive ways creating an idol out of every newtonian segment of church). this is what gives me excitement and passion for doing the things that i'm doing. the interim is fine, but this is great! the challenge. the 'out there' aspect of our faith, alongside of those who believe, those who don't, those who question, those who are cynical and those who just want something real.

i'm going this friday to the episcopal convention down in phx as i've been invited to do a workshop on emerging churches. i look forward to it and hope they don't kick me out! i figured out what my handout will consist of...two images, that for me, encompass this missional church expression known as emergent church. one an icon, rublev's icon of the communal nature of God and the other which has become an icon to me, Kissing the Face of God, the window through which reflects God's embrace of all humanity. nothing else, no fancy powerpoints (thx tamie!), just me, Christ's church created, reflected, and brewed in me. a shot or two i suppose, of God's brew filtered through me with the grounds of emergent friends like karen, tamie, chris, richard, mike, morgan, bob, ryan and cecilia and so many more. Thank you God for this perichoretic community!