On November 29th we met as a congregation to talk about a move to a new location. We together affirmed that we will move to Castlegreen community center for the month of December, as a trial in the new location. I think it will suit us well, and will likely become our home on Sunday mornings for the foreseeable future. Join us there for our first gathering on December 6 at 10:30 AM.
“I am the true vine, and my Father — is the Gardener.”
What if that little phrase tells us something deeply true – about God, and about God’s purposes? In this sermon I am working on the second part of John chapter 20, the disciples first experience of the risen Lord of creation. John’s theme is new creation – and he works in layers. Or maybe, like a composer, working from a musical phrase and adding variations and texture until the work he is doing brings even the discordant notes into one harmonious whole.
Evangelicals by and large still separate the world into compartments: sacred and secular, Saturday and Sunday, physical and spiritual. This spiritual and social imaginary impacts the way we read Scripture, the way we do mission, and the way we live in God’s kingdom.
Moreover, we tend to be sin-focused and the cross dominates our vision. Yet it wasn’t so for the early church. There are no images of the cross in early Christian art; instead, Jesus is pictured in paradise. Have we missed something? There are clues in the gospel of John to a different vision, beginning in John 1 and culminating in John 20. Can we learn a new practice of resurrection?
“This is about the ontology of Westerners squaring up to the ontology of the church, and church people and leaders squaring up to what we are facing.
First, Western culture increasingly believes the fundamental problems of life are systemic and social, and are to be resolved through social progress and most especially through social engineering in public education. The Christian school movement, in other words, seems to be every bit the same theory: the way to “fix” society is by social engineering but through Christian education.
Second, Western culture tends to believe in the inherent goodness of humans and that society and systems corrupt that original goodness. The idea of original sin has fallen off the map for most social theorists, which implies as well that importance of regeneration unto transformation has as well.
Third, Western culture believes its laws are created by the people, they are for the people, and when the people shift the laws will need to shift with them. Laws then are not simply some kind of moral inscribing of what is proven to be true and right by nature but are instead the expressions of the will of the people..
Fourth, Western culture then increasingly locates authority in the people, in fact, all the way down to the individual person. The locus of authority is the people, not the truth and not the leaders and not the laws. Congregationalism then is an ecclesial mirror arrangement to the Western sense of “we the people.”
Fifth, one’s commitment to society, to state, to the authorities, to the institutions, or to the establishment is voluntary and the moral authority of the laws of that society is good only so long as the individual person can believe in and commit themselves to those institutions. This means people have “rights” on the basis of laws they have created and with which they agree.
Sixth, the leaders of Western societies are the will of the people and need to change if the will of the people changes. The authority of the leader is given to him/her by the people and for the people.
Now this leads me to say this about commitment to a church: since authority has shifted over time from monarchies to democracies and therefore to individuals in those democracies, individuals form their own commitment levels to churches on the basis of their own lights. Each individual then forms a kind of church contract based on whether or not and the degree to which the individual agrees with that church’s “laws.”
HT to Jesus Creed
“It seems to me that every human life has the elements of a sea voyage, of a journey and an arrival. That every human life is also like a vessel that contains innumerable other lives for which we have a deep responsibility. That this vessel journeys from one unknown sea to another as we go through important epochs of our lives, and that every soul’s journey in the world is like a captaincy — that is, an identity which is necessarily attentive, powerful, and responsible, but not fixed more like a meeting place of the elements in which the unknown vessel and the unknown sea must join in vital conversation. Out of this conversation we create a directional movement in the world that no only ensures our survival but creates exhilaration, the wind in our face, an immersion in the present whilst we simultaneously experience the joy of speeding toward our destination.”
On the Camino de Santiago there are three distinct categories of participants: pilgrims, walkers and tourists. The tourists are the ones who are mostly there to visit the quaint villages and enjoy the beautiful landscapes of France and Spain. The pilgrimage represents a nice holiday for them, with all the benefits of spending time outdoors as well as enjoying the slower pace of life that the Camino affords.
The walkers are those who are mostly out for the exercise. The idea of hiking 30-40km a day, to them, represents a satisfying athletic challenge. They are goal-oriented people for whom the Camino offers an opportunity for personal achievement that brings satisfaction to their lives.
But the pilgrims are those who have recognized and embraced the personal transformation that the Camino offers. In life too, we can be walkers, tourists or pilgrims according to the degree of control we assume over our lives. In choosing to be pilgrims we automatically choose poverty over power, and trust over control. We sacrifice our assumptions of self-management in the hope of glimpsing something of the more mysterious hand of providence. We make ourselves available to the whims of God by allowing the day to shape us more than presuming it is we who shape the day. And we choose simplicity in order to better appreciate the countless gifts that each day brings as we receive it more directly from the Lord’s hand.
rob des Cotes
I returned from Hong Kong on October 1st – and its tough to summarize the experience of this dense, Asian, multi-cultural city that sits between – both physically and socially – East and West.
Hong Kong is a city built in layers. Physically the city is like a cake – it has a lower (underground) layer (at least in the downtown core of Kowloon), a middle street level, and an upper level of walkways that cross streets and travel through buildings to other buildings. But Hong Kong is also layered – or stratified – in other ways, and that makes it both complex and interesting.
Hong Kong marks the transition between Eastern and Western culture. It is also a liminal place – a place that is situated in between and so is a kind of nowhere land. It is both a city and a state. It is both a hybrid, and something else. At times it feels like a unique blending of factors, at other times cultures and ideas are held simultaneously, alongside each other without mixture, like parallel tracks. It’s not always easy to figure which is which.
But the mixing, and density and fluidity make Hong Kong a city of cruciality. It’s a term sociologists use to describe the tension of these unique settings, where you can see that these things exist side by side, and the pressure is on to figure out where you fit — who you are here, and what do you believe? Are you eastern or western? Are you Confucian, Buddhist or Christian? Are you trying to generate a unique blend of these things so that you can more easily exist in this plurality? Are those believers who meet at Island ECC in the downtown on Sunday trying to just look and sound like one another, like some Western export of faith, or are they bringing their unique cultures to the Cross – to the Jesus who was born and lived as an Asian?
As an outsider and visitor, one feels displaced. It’s disorienting. But that experience of discomfort allows for the perspective of an observer. Even though I never quite lost the feeling of looking through a window pane or a display monitor, I was still amazed by the unique expression of this peculiar and very modern city, sitting on the edge of the world’s oldest empire.
The religious scene is changing rapidly in Canada, and it is changing uniquely – unlike that of any other country, and particularly different from that of the USA. Yet most Canadian pastors and leaders have their eyes on American churches and American models. Could it be that it’s time to listen and respond uniquely to our context, and engage in kingdom ways that are uniquely Canadian?
Reg Bibby is one of Canada’s leading experts on religious and social trends. He holds the Board of Governors Research Chair in Sociology at the University of Lethbridge. For more than three decades, he has been monitoring Canadian social trends via his well-known “Project Canada” national surveys of adults and teenagers.
He believes that his most recent book in his “gods” series, Beyond the Gods & Back (2011), is easily his most important to date, with the findings having significant implications for the country’s religious groups. A New Day is his attempt to make the heart of those findings and implications widely available.