Thursday, March 31, 2005

being a pastor at easter

Opawa as a church gives a lot of life away at Easter
a) we run the Easter Journey, an interactive art installation. It involves about 60 volunteers setting up, welcoming, offering hot cross buns and cups of tea. This year over 1,000 people walked the journey. It’s a very significant outward, mission event. (Some photos of previous years are here. Other photos are on the front cover of Dan Kimball’s, Emerging Worship).
b) we encourage our young people to attend Easter Camp and they do.
c) Opawa folk help behind the scenes at Easter Camp. Providing meals for 2,700 people is a huge task and the camp kitchens are full of Opawa people. It’s a gift of love and service for the people of God in their (youth) mission of God.
d) and then there is the simple fact that Easter in New Zealand is the last big holiday break before winter. So a lot of Opawa people who work really hard Monday-Friday, need the grace that is the encouragement of Sabbath rest, of taking a break to refresh and recharge.

So all in all, a lot of energy goes out of the church.

And it means that on Easter Sunday morning I, and the only 2 musicians still around, struggle to inject Risen, Christ life into our worship. And the 3 young adults, visiting for Easter Sunday, look around. And with our youth group away for Easter, it’s like “hmmm, not many people like me in this place.”

Part of the pastor in me wants to say, “folks, Easter is like the high point of the year. Stick around. Make it a priority.” The other part of the pastor in me wants to cheer and go, “wow, so much life given in mission.” Such are my Easter dilemnas.

Posted by steve at 01:56 PM

Wednesday, March 30, 2005

Why I am Southern Baptist, bible believing and into the emerging church

(Or a Biblical word of encouragement to tallskinnykiwi and a Biblical word of admonition to the notion that the Emerging Church is a threat to the gospel).

OK, I pastor a Baptist church and I live in in Southern Hemisphere. This clearly makes me a Southern Baptist and able to enter the debates here and here. I note the following Biblical texts, that have converted me to being a Southern Baptist emerging church disciple.

Firstly, (we are post-Easter after all), take Luke 24 and the Emmaus Road story. Jesus preaches, and the disciples don’t get revelation. Jesus preaches the Prophets and the Law. I mean, that is one BIG expository sermon. And still the disciples don’t get it. It is not until they are in community with Jesus, eating supper, that Revelation occurs.This Biblical text calls for repentance from expository preaching and a commitment to finding God in community. (Don’t get me started on Biblical scholarship that suggests the two disciples were husband and wife and thus woman were equal participants at the table of Jesus.)

Secondly, take Colossians 1:15. Christ is the Image of God. Move over word-bound, propositional theologies. Christ can also be revealed in images. This Biblical text calls for repentance from solely word-bound, propositional theologies and a commitment to image-based, multi-media worship.

These Biblical texts have converted me to being a Southern Baptist emerging church disciple. I have repented of my expository preaching. I am seeking a Bible based ministry of multi-media worship, sharing food among a community of friends.

Posted by steve at 11:09 PM

Sunday, March 27, 2005

flowering cross on sunday


laid on New Zealand stone,
made from local bedding plants,
surrounded by shell and paua,
laid in love on Friday
also surrounded by bulbs,
to be taken on Sunday as a commitment to Resurrection Life

Posted by steve at 02:26 PM

Saturday, March 26, 2005

with Easter love


in love, we wrap
the body of Jesus

in love
we lay petals

Posted by steve at 08:12 PM

Friday, March 25, 2005

the Friday of Easter week

On the Friday of Easter Week, in the easter egg the colour is black. We break a black (painted) piece of polystrene, to find inside a red heart. Easter Friday is the saddest day, a day of darkness.


We will gather around and wrap the cross. We will sprinkle our rose petals. We will express love for a heart of love, broken for us.

Note re atonement: I have really struggled to include the more cosmic and wholistic dimensions of the atonement at this point. God died for the whole world, for the integration of people and planet. A red heart speaks of God’s love for individuals. There are hints of relational connectedness, as Christ restored relationships on the saddest day, so we are offered hearts of love which include restored relationships. But the central metaphor remains individual, and I have struck a creative brick wall.

Posted by steve at 04:02 PM

Thursday, March 24, 2005

re-releasing the passionate response to the passion

With Easter, movie theatres in various countries are re-screening Mel Gibson’s movie, The Passion of the Christ. In May last year I wrote an article for Reality magazine on the movie, exploring various film and theology angles in the movie, including the place, or otherwise, of redemptive violence in Christian theology. It’s proving a popular read again, being no. 1 at the moment on Reality website. I got a fair bit of flack for it at the time in Letters to the Editor. Anyhow, it’s located here if you want to read it.

Posted by steve at 05:46 PM

the thursday of easter week

On the Thursday of Easter week, in the Easter evangeegg, the colour is blue. Often we talk about having a blue day, a sad day.


Wrapped inside blue cellophane in the Easter evangeegg is a lolly, sweet on the outside, sour on the inside. On Thursday Jesus disciples said sweet things, but by nights end, their actions left a sour taste. Sucking the lolly becomes a reflection on what walking with Jesus means for us this Easter week.

Note re interactivity: By this stage in this Easter evangeegg, people have used taste, touch, smell, sight and sound. We are made whole people, in the image of God, and so an ideal is that worship is multi-sensory. When I first came across the alt.worship movement, I marvelled at their video loops. Over time, I have tried to use technology less, and everday tactile objects more. It takes less time, it beds God in a different part of everyday life and it often opens up more senses.

A few weeks ago their was a surprise at church. The service was “hi-jacked” and the congregation took time to celebrate my being at the church a year, and to express thanks for all the change. There was space for people to share and a common theme was people talking about how interactive tactile symbols – sheep, flowering the cross – had been vehicles of help and inspiration.

Posted by steve at 05:35 PM

Wednesday, March 23, 2005

the coolest thing

Dear Steve,
Your text will be published in the book about Sieger Köders life and works.
The book will be published on the German speaking market. We will send you
one copy in July/August.

I have no idea how I’m going to find the time to write this piece but this is like the coolest thing, being asked to input into a different culture about an artist who has shaped me theologically.

Posted by steve at 09:39 PM

loss of punctuation

there were 230 people at church on Sunday weve gained about 60-80 people in a year the church really needs another staff person now in the last 24 hours I’ve had emails accepting an article I’ve written for a US magazine, final drafts for me to check of a denominational newspaper interview, a publishing company seeking a book endorsement, a letter from Germany asking me to contribute to a “festchrift” for a German artist these are all so cool but there’s only one of me oh, did I forget to mention this is Easter week, with daily services and the Easter Journey underway at Opawa?

Note: the loss of punctuation was a deliberate move to indicate the inner-state of my head.

What does it mean for me to smell perfume and love Jesus today?

Posted by steve at 12:54 PM

the wednesday of easter

On the Wednesday of Easter week, in the Easter evangeegg, the colour is purple. Purple is the colour of royalty and inside the Easter evangeegg, a purple coloured card is perfumed.


Today at our 7 pm service, we will reflect on perfume, the act of expensive love, as what was likely a family hierloom was poured onto Jesus head. This costly act of love invites us to reflect on how we are loving Jesus this week of Easter.

Note re colour: It was Olive Drane who helped me find colour in ministry. We sent her some of our Pentecost Spirit cards (for examples see here and for explanation of the missional context go here and read the side-bar, titled Practicalities at the bottom). Olive and John had a worshipping group who met at their place. They showed them the cards and one woman was stopped dead by the colour red used in one of the cards. Colour alone evoked powerful connections.

This week my 5 year old is navigating the Easter evangeegg by colour – today is …..

Posted by steve at 10:36 AM

Tuesday, March 22, 2005

tuesday of easter week

On the Tuesday of Easter Week, in the postmodern evangeegg, the colour is brown. Why brown? Because during Easter week, Jesus announced that unless a seed falls into the ground and dies, it can not produce many seeds.


Today, at our 7 pm service, we break open a brown (painted) piece of polystrene. Inside is a seed, which we plant in the earth. And we reflect, as we walk with Jesus toward Easter … What needs to die in our lives this week? What needs to planted in our lives this week?

Note re environment: This is a very organic image. It reminds us that what Jesus did at Easter, the atonement, is more than Jesus dying for individual sin. Jesus journey connects us with our environment, with the cycles of birth and death. As we feel soil and seed tonight, we are earthing ourselves with God the Creator, and Jesus the Re-Creator, dying for planet as well as people.

Posted by steve at 02:53 PM

Monday, March 21, 2005

the monday of easter week

Today, the Monday of Easter, in the postmodern evangeegg, the colour is red. Inside a folded red card is a coin. Why red? Because on Monday (in Mark’s gospel), Jesus got angry, red-faced, and trashed the money changers in the temple.

Today, at our 7 pm service, we lay down a coin, as a prayer, that as we too walk with Jesus toward Easter, we will walk with a similar passion for speaking and acting with justice.

Note re Maggi: Maggi Dawn reminds us that historically, traditionally, this week is Holy Week, not Easter Week. My problem is that in New Zealand, a cultural memory of “holy week” is absent. I can either use the term “holy week” and know that it does not connect, or I can use a term followed by an explaination of the term, which makes publicity more clunky.

Or I can make what I think is a logical connection in the minds of the public – that this is the week of Easter ie “Easter Week.” It’s an interesting issue — when does a church surrender what is potentially out-dated in the task of trying to communicate?

Posted by steve at 04:11 PM

Sunday, March 20, 2005

postmodern evangeegg?

Part of our commitment to being an inter-generational community at Opawa is “Take a Kid to” services, in which we all, adult and children, explore the Jesus story. We had over 190 people in attendance, including 50 kids, a good number from the community. At the risk of being called a postmodern Ned Flanders, by the tallskinnykiwi, as part of our walk to Easter, I unveiled this today.


Inside each “egg” is something to open, break, suck, for each day of Holy week. I’ll post about each one as we go through Holy Week. Our kids got the “egg” after the service and are invited to open it each day of Holy Week, sharing the story with their families.


So why, tallskinny, might I not be more cheesy than Ned Flanders?

1. This is designed to let people enter the story, for families to sit together and tell the Jesus story. I know a church that did something similar, but all the activities were focused on inviting people to church. This is the opposite. It invites families to enter the story amid the fabric of their own lives.

2. It is tactile and experiential – there are things to break and suck and smell.

3. It is integral to the life of our community. We are having a short service each day of Holy Week that takes the same symbols and the same readings. Together, we walk the Scriptures with Jesus.

4. Help me ….

Updated note re evangelism: I like the distributed nature of the postmodern evangeegg. An egg has gone for use in a school class in Auckland, for a school class in Christchurch, and to give to a family of migrants in the community.

Posted by steve at 04:28 PM

Friday, March 18, 2005


(Further on here). The expresso leadership team met last nite. 5 of us gathered to talk about how we are finding God spiritually, what is church and what a new congregation at Opawa could look like.

Excellent discussion. My summary:
– We’ll meet weekly; with a cycle of 3 weeks of discussion, 1 week of mission, 5th week of fun.
– Looking at Tuesday nites, 8-9 pm, in a local cafe.
– Discussion nites will have an opening ritual and a closing multi-sensory prayer. In between is discussion, with the group choosing the topic/question and different people taking turns to “kick-start” each evening discussion.
– We’re not yet sure about how often we should do communion.
– This will be a congregation of Opawa, seeking to offer a complete church experience, yet seeking to develop it’s own life that could look very different from existing ways that Opawa is church.
– We talked about the tension between small group and being church. How good can a conversation be amongst more than 12 people? If we talk around tables, will that still give us good conversation with a growing mix of one yet many, big yet small? (Any thoughts out there? Can you experience good community in a cafe with 50-70 people clustered around tables talking about one “kick-start”?)

We have gone away, with different individuals working on opening and closing rituals, others on logo’s, others on “group guidelines for a healthy learning experience.”

Posted by steve at 01:40 PM