A Tale of Two Books

Yesterday was an exciting day!  Two packages came in the mail.  Both from publishers.  I was pretty sure they were both books.  And, I love books.

The first one came from Baker Publishing Group, the parent company for my publisher Brazos.  So, I must admit I opened that package first.  And sure enough – there it was.  Something I’d been dreaming of for a long time – my book in tangible, turn-pageable form.  The title, “Generous Spaciousness” all in lower case (an intentional choice) and my favorite colour green (a happy surprise).  Super cool!

World Vision – A Drama in 5 Acts

In stark public detail where social media blurs geographical boundaries and the world congregates, we have had a drama played out with disappointing, frustrating, and far-reaching consequences.

Act 1:  On Monday, World Vision US made public their decision to honour churches who affirm marriage equality by indicating that committed gay Christians who were married would be welcome to join them in Jesus’ mission to eradicate global poverty.

Level Ground Film Festival

It’s funny sometimes how connections happen.  With the world of social media, a friend of a friend of a friend can become a new contact and sometimes the sense of resonance is powerful and exciting.  This is a gift to celebrate in what has often become a fragmented and individualized reality.  But let me back up…..

Fuller Seminary is in Pasadena, California.  It’s an Evangelical Seminary with a reputation for engagement with matters of culture and the arts with a certain openness.  Richar Mouw, recently retired president, wrote extensively on the need for Christians to engage in a winsome manner in our pluralistic contexts in his book, “Uncommon Decency:  Christian Civility in an Uncivil World.”

Serving Two Communities

Navigating tension is a normal every day aspect of trying to serve well through the ministry of New Direction.  It shows up in all sorts of ways, but I think one of the most significant underlying factors is that we seek to respond to two primary audiences.  In speaking about money, Jesus said you can’t serve two masters.  And on some days, I wonder if our efforts to serve two communities gets us into more trouble than its worth.  Through the years there have been those who have suggested that this is an impossible task.  So maybe I’m dumb, or stubborn, or foolish…… but then I remember the folks who are straddling both communities – and I remember that this is our unique calling, and as challenging as it sometimes is, we’ll do our best to persevere in discerning God’s leading to serve both. 

NALT and working for Justice

A new initiative launched yesterday called, “Not All Like That Christian Project”.  Modeled after the “It Gets Better” campaign, which I participated in years ago, NALT is intended to provide a platform for Christians to express their love and affirmation for LGBTQ people.   I shared it on my facebook page and will create and submit a video.  Along the way, a regular reader of this blog, Jarred, posted another article on facebook that raised some critiques about the initiative.  My basic take-away’s from that article were:

  • Don’t perpetuate a gap between LGBTQ people and Christian people by failing to draw attention to the reality of LGBTQ Christians.
  • Don’t launch an initiative addressing an issue of diversity with a group of majority status folks (white cis-gender men).
  • Talk without action is cheap.  People can post a video, feel good about how loving they are – and not really count the cost of actually doing in-the-trenches work for equity and justice.

Frequently Asked Questions

Here are some of the questions we get asked by church people:

  • Do you believe homosexuality is a sin?
  • Do you support gay marriage?
  • Do you think gay people need to repent?
  • Do you think gay people should be leaders in the church?
  • How can we love gay people even though we believe gay relationships are sinful?
  • How can we welcome gay people when our denomination has clear statements about marriage being only for heterosexuals?

Some of these questions are really unhelpful – mainly because they shut down conversation rather than open it up. The first five in the list are considered “close-ended” questions.

Exchanging Anxiety for Rest

Reading

Luke 10:38-42

Reflection

Many who hear this story of Mary and Martha feel confused.  It can feel like a no-win story.

Martha is not only busy, but she is anxious about ensuring there is practical hospitality to offer to Jesus.  Someone has to clean the house.  Someone has to butcher the goat.  Someone has to bake the bread.  It won’t just magically happen on its own.

Mary sets the bustle of the household aside.  She sits at Jesus’ feet to listen with rapt attention to his teaching.  She wants to receive all the life, encouragement and hope that comes through Jesus’ words.

We need and want both.  We want to serve and offer excellent hospitality.  And we want to be spiritually nourished and challenged.  So when Jesus says that Mary has chosen the better way, sometimes it can feel like hospitality is being relegated to lesser importance.

The Call to Radical Inclusion

Reading

Luke 10:25-37

Reflection

The story of the Good Samaritan is one of the most well-known and loved Bible stories.  Many children learn it in Sunday school as a wonderful example of how to be kind and caring to others.  And indeed, in the story we see the priest and temple helper fail to show compassion to the badly beaten man.  But we see the Samaritan go above and beyond the call of duty to ensure the beaten man has every chance of recovery.

What we may not have realized, however, is that the priest and temple helper were actually prohibited by the law of Moses to go and touch the beaten man.  Because he had been left for dead, if these servants of God had touched him, they would have been made unclean and incapable of fulfilling their roles in the worship at the temple.

The Power of Powerlessness

Reading

Luke 10:17-24

Reflection

When the 72 disciples return they are ecstatic.  As they walked in freedom, giving and receiving peace, and investing in relationships, they saw the Kingdom of God break in.  In simple trust, they obeyed Jesus and discovered that they were used to heal people and to cast out demons.

Jesus is full of joy.  He had given power and it had brought life.  Then he says something curious.  “I am grateful that you hid all this from wise and educated people and showed it to ordinary people.”  As much as God’s power had flowed – it had flowed through very ordinary vessels.

So often, God’s strategy is the power of powerlessness.

God uses the weak.  He uses the broken.

God redeems the world by taking on the must humble, vulnerable form – an infant born into impoverished conditions.  He absorbs all that is sinful and broken – through a bloody, painful, shameful death by state-ordered crucifixion.

Freedom, Peace & Relationship

Reading

Luke 10:1-16

Reflection

The sending out of the seventy-two is a beautiful model of sharing the love and life of Jesus with a neighborhood.  Jesus equips his followers with some key guidelines.  The first is freedom.  He instructs them to go without the trappings of self-sufficiency.  While to our ears it might be scary to head out without money or extra supplies, Jesus is preparing his followers to learn the discipline and rhythm of relying on God.  Such reliance means the freedom to respond to unexpected opportunities.