Hope for the world

Our hope is not in this life only, as the Apostle Paul said. Yet our hope IS for this life. How can we live without hope – today, tomorrow, and the next day?

What hope do we have that this earth we inhabit will continue to be habitable in coming generations? The climate crisis is not a political issue, but a spiritual and moral one. It is not a conservative or liberal issue. And it is not debatable.

The gospel gives hope for abundant life – here and now. Life is a gift, and we are called to live it wisely and responsibly. Caring for God’s creation is one responsibility. I have come to this late in life, unfortunately, but my wife and I have many grandchildren, and we want them to be able to live in a world – together with all people – which is still good and beautiful.

This post is my first public commitment to this calling. To learn more about how you can live responsibly in this area, visit this site: http://www.creationjustice.org/ and fespecially or American Baptists like me – https://www.creationjusticenetworkabc.org/.

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Why go to church

We do not go to church to prepare for another life.

We go to church to live well in this life.

For 1,500 years, the Church has focused on the first.

Today changing churches focus on the second.

Life Here and Now

Jesus taught and showed us how to live in this world. The hope of life beyond this world is implicit, sometimes explicit, but it is never primary. The gospel is good news for this world, this life, today and tomorrow and each day to come. To be “saved” is to be healed, set free, made whole, empowered for the life given to us through the Spirit.

Long ago, I studied James D. Kennedy’s Evangelism Explosion which taught us to ask the question, “If you died tonight and stood before God and he asked you ‘why should I let you into heaven,’ what would you say?” I was never comfortable with that, but now I abhor that approach to being a Christian.

If we don’t die tonight, and we continue to live among people tomorrow, how will we live? What will we do? That’s the question. Jesus taught us to live with people and with God in love. As long as we in this way, we are “saved.”

 

 

 

To be like God

Vibrant churches with spiritual energy are filled with people who understand the true nature of our creation and calling – to be like God. To be like God who is love, who shows grace and compassion, who is not violent, who gives everything away so that all may live abundantly.  (See Genesis 1 and Ephesians 4)

These churches are learning to live with freedom and hospitality, where all are welcome and included. Constraints of institutional demands and of inherited doctrines and traditions are re-examined with humility and love. These are changing churches.

In a Diverse World

From Richard Rohr’s daily commentary today ….

Cross-cultural Discipleship
Wednesday, June 5, 2019

If God is always Mystery, then God is always in some way the unfamiliar, beyond what we’re used to, beyond our comfort zone, beyond what we can explain or understand. Many first learn to love and know God through the familiar, human face of Jesus and from there come to recognize God’s presence everywhere. Similarly, there are times and places to gather with people who are like us, but if that’s all we’re doing, we’re not growing and love is not growing in the world.

Christena Cleveland, a social psychologist, theologian, and professor at Duke University’s Divinity School, brings this concept close to home, to our local parishes and communities.

Cultural differences in the body of Christ enable different types of people to draw near to the heart of Jesus. . . . Jesus did a fantastic job of knowing his audience and speaking directly to their hearts. For example, Jesus talked sheep to shepherds, fish to fishermen, and bookish theology to bookish theologians. He was all things to all people. I think that our differences enable us to speak richly and directly to the hearts of all types of people. . . .

Culturally homogeneous churches are adept at targeting and attracting a certain type of person and creating a strong group identity. However, attendees at such churches are at a higher risk for creating the overly simplistic and divisive . . . labels that dangerously lead to inaccurate perceptions . . . as well as hostility and conflict. What often begins as an effective and culturally specific way to reach people for Christ ends up stifling their growth as disciples. Perhaps this is because we often fail to make a distinction between evangelism and discipleship. People can meet God within their cultural context but in order to follow God, they must cross into other cultures because that’s what Jesus did in the incarnation and on the cross. [I, Richard, would add that Jesus crossed “into other cultures” quite consistently in his entire public ministry. This is rather hard to miss!]

Discipleship is cross-cultural. When we meet Jesus around people who are just like us and then continue to follow Jesus with people who are just like us, we stifle our growth in Christ and open ourselves up to a world of division. However, when we’re rubbing elbows in Christian fellowship with people who are different from us, we can learn from each other and grow more like Christ. . . .

For this reason, I believe that churches and Christian organizations should strive for cultural diversity. Regardless of ethnic demographics, every community is multicultural when one considers the various cultures of age, gender, economic status, education level, political orientation and so on. Further, every church should fully utilize the multifaceted cultural diversity within itself, express the diversity of its local community, expertly welcome the other, embrace all who are members of the body of Christ [which is everyone] and intentionally collaborate with different churches or organizations in order to impact the kingdom. And churches situated in multiethnic communities—I’m not letting you off the hook—should absolutely be ethnically diverse . . . seeing culturally different others as God’s gift to us.

Gateway to Presence:
If you want to go deeper with today’s meditation, take note of what word or phrase stands out to you. Come back to that word or phrase throughout the day, being present to its impact and invitation.

Christena Cleveland, Disunity in Christ: Uncovering the Hidden Forces That Keep Us Apart (InterVarsity Press: 2013), 20-22.

Image credit: Pure Diversity (detail), Mirta Toledo, 1993. Art Collection of TCU University, Fort Worth, Texas, USA.

Did Jesus Say….?

From Brian McLaren:

For many people, to be Christian only one thing matters: correct beliefs. Based on the priorities of many Christian leaders and institutions, we might conclude that Jesus said, ‘By their beliefs you shall know them,’ or ‘This is my command, that you believe the right doctrines,’ or ‘Behold, a new systematic theology I give unto you.’

Or that Paul said, ‘Though I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not the right theory of atonement, I am a noisy gong or clanging cymbal.’

Or that James said, ‘True religion is this: to have the right concept of spiritual authority.’

Or that John said, ‘God is a doctrine, and those who have the correct beliefs know God and abide in God.’

(pp.21-22 – The Great Spiritual Migration)

[A fantastic book – well worth having a copy of your own.]

 

Shine in the Darkness

Christians “shine” when the light, life, and love of God reflects through them into the world. Judging other beliefs and other behavior give way to a sense of belonging together in the love of God. Here’s my sermon from Sunday – the notes – and a link to the audio.

 

TEXT: “How to Really Shine”
TITLE: Exodus 34:29-35   
THEME: To glorify God is to really shine in the midst of darkness,  death, and fear.

Introduction

  • As a teen and young adult, I was embarrassed by my face. It certainly was not “radiant.” It did not shine – although I tried hard to do that. … I had severe acne as a teen, black heads and all, and it left pock marks (which you could still see today if I shaved my beard. )J – I never felt that my face could “really shine.”
  • Little children sometimes have shiny faces, radiant, beaming at us. We describe people in love that way at times. – Our stories today speak of both Moses and Jesus that way. … Moses’ face was radiant. And the appearance of Jesus’ face changed, it says, and then says his clothes were dazzling white.  – Radiant, dazzling, brilliant – full of shining light. – Moses and Jesus knew how to really shine. J

 Scripture

  • Moses had been in God’s presence, talking with God, receiving from God what the people needed to know. God had told Moses who he was – compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness – a description heard throughout the Psalms and the Prophets and revealed in the words and actions of Jesus. – Wherever God is present, we experience compassion and grace, love and faithfulness. No wonder Moses was radiant and came off the mountain “really shining.”
  • The story of Jesus’ transfiguration – his appearance clothed in the shining light of God – was only one moment of time. Yet his whole life revealed that shining light. He said, I am the light of the world, and then said to the disciples – and to us – You are the light of the world. Let your light shine so they will glorify your Father in heaven.

 Conclusion

  • So how can we “really shine”? How can we be radiant and dazzling, not so much in physical appearance but in who we are and how people experience us?
  • These stories offer us one answer. Moses was in God’s presence and experienced the compassion and grace, love and faithfulness of God, and had heard God’s “word” to him. Jesus was the embodiment of all that and revealed it to us – and by the Spirit, Jesus has given it to us. We are the light of the world.
  • We sing that song – “This little light of mine; I’m gonna let it shine.” But do we understand the meaning of it? God’s light shines in our hearts, and so we are called to reflect God’s shining light into the darkness of this world. How? … Through compassion and grace, love and faithfulness – by being for others who God is for us all.
  • In another scripture for today – 2 Cor. 3 – Paul refers to this story of Moses’ radiant face and then says: We all, who with unveiled faces reflect the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into God’s likeness with ever-increasing glory.
  • An early saint – Irenaeus (about 200 a.d.) – said “The glory of God is a person fully alive.” Alive with the brilliance of God’s light and life within and expressing itself in the world.
  • People have different ideas about the meaning of “the glory of God.” I believe it almost always refers to the brilliance of God’s presence, dazzling light shining in the darkness – true life in the face of death – unfailing love in the midst of fear and hate.
  • To glorify God – to give God the glory – is to be a shining light – to really shine in this world – in the darkness, in the face of death, in the midst of fear and hate – to let God’s light and life and love within us shine forth in all we do, in who we are.
  • We won’t go up a mountain to meet God as Moses did. We won’t be transfigured as Jesus was. – We can, however, experience God’s presence, and listen to God’s voice, and experience compassion and grace, love and faithfulness. – Then as God’s light and life and love shines in our hearts and fills up our whole being, we can go out into the world and “really shine.”