Tuesday, July 12, 2005

the images say it all

I’m kicking off the conversation at our espresso congregation tonite. I’ve been handed the question “what does postmodern mean when applied to theology.”

I’m tired of words, so for fun I thought I’d google “postmodern” under google images. The first 20 images visually say it all really; the art, the language and the language games, the commerce, the architecture.

Now take those 20 images and think about how theology (God talk) is applied to seeing God and speaking of God and connecting God…

Posted by steve at 05:39 PM

Saturday, July 09, 2005

but what do you do when Jesus is attractional?

One of the big dualisms offered by some in the emerging church is that of attractional as against incarnational (here for instance). We are told that the church is attractional in Christendom and so a move beyond Christendom necessitates a commitment to incarnational.

So what do we do with Jesus and the gospels? I’ve been pondering Luke 15 today. Three things are lost – coin, sheep, and two sons. Twice the Jesus response is to go look – for a coin or a sheep. Sounds incarnational. So far, so good.

But once – for two sons – the Jesus response is to prepare a hospitable welcome and wait. Not to “Incarnationally” leave the house or the building, but simply wait. And in time, to find that outrageous love and hospitality will become mission.

The mission to one lost son is to offer love. The mission to the other lost son (the churchgoers who have never left) is to challenge them to join the joyous party happening in their building. Sounds like attractional mission to me. Sounds like mission to those using the building to me.

For a sermon I preached on the prodigal son last year go here.

Posted by steve at 05:45 PM

Friday, July 08, 2005

written for church newsletter

I write on Friday and the events of the last hours in London have left us shocked and numbed. Once again our world is rocked by a terrible act of violence. It can be hard to know what to say and how to pray.

At such times, when I am looking for words to express my feelings, I turn to the Psalms. There we find prayers for all of life. There are prayers for happy days, when life is good and makes sense and we feel on top of our game (like Psalm 1 or 8 or 133). There are prayers for surprising days, when God turns up in totally unexpected days (like Psalm 40 or 93).

And there are prayers for sad days. At such times, Psalms like 13 or 137 allow us to be honest with God and ourselves, to voice our feelings of hurt, suffering, death and loss. To express our longing for justice and peace.

Posted by steve at 11:44 AM

Thursday, July 07, 2005

a poorly paid writer

Today I got paid to write. I am doing my first ever commissioned piece of writing. It feels very strange.

Today I have learnt that I won’t make my fortune as a paid commissioned writer. I would need to do 10 of these commissions a week and to work a whole lot faster than I have today.

Posted by steve at 05:30 PM

Wednesday, July 06, 2005

women and the emerging church

Excellent post by Dan over at signposts, reflecting on women and the emerging church. After a thoughtful and sensitive reflection on a range of issues, she concludes:

I think that we probably have a lot more work to do with the role of women (and men) in the church, and in the new missional church particularly. I am encouraged by the fact that there seems to be a recognition that more work is needed. I am sometimes discouraged by the types of initiatives that are put into place. I am discouraged by the fact that women when they seek to encourage and mentor leadership seem reluctant to adopt and celebrate our most accomplished female leaders. I am discouraged by the way that discussion is often hamstrung by political correctness and the unwillingness to evaluate women in the same way as men.

Posted by steve at 03:20 PM

Tuesday, July 05, 2005

the spirituality of dissent with poise

“It takes a while to dissent with poise.” A very elegant sentence. Spoken by Duncan, who describes the Forge flavour as one of antagonism; “antagonism towards ‘attractional’ church … There’s not a lot of interest in the engagement with postmodernity found in other quarters. Alternative worship is seen as just a tinkering with the gathered worship model.”

And then the profound sentence (which adds balance and nuance to what is perhaps the negative side of the positive strength in the prophetic gift that is Forge?) Anyhow, the sentence has become for me a breathe prayer for the week;

God, help me become better at dissent with poise. Amen.

Posted by steve at 03:12 PM

getting a [preaching] life #2

Jordon posted a great comment about the freedom people have to walk out of movies in contrast to church. The irony is, someone did walk out on Sunday.

It happened like this:
I start speaking by giving out pipe cleaners – Make what you like with them during the sermon, but at the end, I will ask you to twist it into a prayer for your future.

I start reading from Book of God - I will give a candy bar to the person who 1st guesses who “my Bibical hero is”.

The answer is Nehemiah, so I talk for about 5 minutes about how Nehemiah has faith in a hard place – exile, pluralistic, influential. I give a contemporary example and then ask – so how do you sustain faith in a hard place?

Silence as people shuffle and think.

Tobacco, a visitor in the front couch announces. Tobacco. And gets up and walks out.

So, all you who judged me harshly/told me I was rude for playing with my email; do you extend the same judgement to this person?

For me, I think it takes real guts to do that, real character to be different from group norms. Surely the person should be honoured for showing real courage.

Posted by steve at 10:36 AM

Sunday, July 03, 2005

get a [preaching] life

Preachers take themselves far too seriously. I was at a conference, sitting at the back, listening and clearing my email. The visiting speaker tells me “I hope no-one ever treats you with that much dis-respect.”

It’s like get a life. It’s like have you never seen the back row of a youth service and watched everyone texting. It’s like have you never watched the way people watch TV, the way they tune in and out. Welcome to a culture in which people multi-track.

It might not be ideal, but it’s life. Get high and mighty, or work out ways to enculturate and participate in our multi-track culture. Earn the right to subvert.

Posted by steve at 08:59 PM

Friday, July 01, 2005

preaching as the engaging of multiple stories

I was interviewed about how I prepare to preach today and I suddenly realised how different my preaching preparation is now than say 4 years ago. I have also been following chris erdmans blog, and been increasingly uneasy about the text centred approach being advocated.

Today clarified some things. But first, some of my unique context
1. I’m by nature a theologian. (Update. It’s a discipline that works in a matrix of text, experience, tradition, culture, reason, revelation). It’s in my training and perhaps its in my personal makeup and approach to life. So I do a lot of reflecting.
2. I’m fairly busy. I used to put a lot of time into exegetical preparation. I just don’t have that time now. But that need not mean I am not preparing, for ..
3. I have done quite a bit of study and reading in the last few years, doing a masters and a PhD. So could their be some opportunity to draw on the theological reflection and resources of the last few years? And …
4. I work in multiple job/s, as pastor and lecturer and speaker. So I am constantly in multiple conversation with people and spirituality and life. So could these engagements in fact be gifting me reflections and insights?

So it is my sense that one of the spiritual disciplines of this season of my preaching journey is to trust God by doing less preparation and spending more time intuitively drawing on the learnings from the past few years and from multiple conversations. I don’t find this easy. It requires a greater need for inner centredness and willingness to trust my creative intuition.

What does this mean practically?
Tuesday I sit with the text. Without commentary or exegetical rationalisation I contemplate the Spirit of God among the text.

Wednesday-Friday I sift stories; in the lives of people, in my life, in the culture, I search for the stories that challenge, amplify, de-stablise Tuesday’s text. This is based on the belief that the Spirit of God is among the people of God. If this text is a-live by the Spirit, then I dare to believe that the a-liveness is not just with my individual preparation, but is among the community and in the world. I contemplate the angles and the jarring juxtapositions.

Saturday I write. Often I am surprised by what I have written, as if from deep within something has opened. This is not a mindless process, but somehow the written words capture a more intuitive knowing.

Sunday I speak. I don’t take myself too seriously, but offer some stories, some reflection on a week of sitting with text and people.

I dare to believe that the gospel might be for all people, inside and outside the church, that all people are broken and talented, busy and searching and that the gospel will engage with all of life. It is a text for all, offered not only for me, or for my community, or for society, but freed among many stories and entrusted to the ongoing resonnance to the goodness of the Spirit.

Posted by steve at 09:08 PM