Thursday, May 17, 2007

what ascension day means for my faith

Today is Ascension Day, when the church remembers, and affirms, as it says in the Apostles Creed:

I believe in Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord …
He ascended into heaven
and is seated at the right hand of the Father.

Practically, today, I am glad that

God in Jesus is present through all time and space. The Jesus of the Gospels was bound in a Jewish body and timezone. After the resurrection we catch glimpses of a change of mode, for the Resurection body is a bit of a shape-shifter. Jesus can defy space by moving through walls and can defy time by moving quickly from place to place. The Ascension suggests this movement through time and space is now complete and that the Jesus we worship is now present at all times and in all space. He is both outside time, yet inside time. (This is speculative, but I wonder if this might be why many cultures narrate pre-Christian encounters with Jesus-type images and figures. Could it be that the resurrection body of Jesus appeared not just in Galilee and Judea, but also in pre-Christian New Zealand etc?)

A human body now live with God. Jesus, born as a baby, was God en-flesh, choosing to limit his divinity in order to endwell humanity. This gives dignity to our bodies, our armpits and our noses, our sweat glands and our bottoms. The Ascension of Jesus has no record of the human body of Jesus folding up like a sack of skin on the ground. Instead we have the nail scarred hands been taken to heaven. This means that human sweat glands and bottoms are seated with God, caught into a Trinity of love. God has embraced humanity. The celebration of human bodies is complete.

Faith without sight is now the normal way to follow Jesus. We are called to walk with no God in visible sight. We are called to believe in the guidance of God’s Spirit, to humbly seek discernment, to trust our intuition and seek wisdom through the body of God. Faith without sight, flying blind in some sort of fog, is our normal Christianity.

God’s people are the primary hermeneneutic of the Gospel. Into the gap left by the loss of Jesus, comes the infilling Spirit of God, who forms us as the new Body of God. All the gospels record Jesus commissioning his disciples (Matthew 28:18-20, Mark 16:15, Luke 24:48, John 20:22-23. Why the church has chosen to prioiritise Matthew 28 is a matter for another post). We are now the hands and feet of Jesus. God has no body on earth but ours.

The end of the Matrix movie captures this best. Neo soars into heaven, leaving the message that the freedom he has won now needs to be completed. The church as the body of God, has transcended time and culture and countries in a way that no one human could ever do. On Ascension Day I renew my commitment to embody Jesus.

Posted by steve at 02:38 PM

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

coming back to earth

Sorry the blog has been a bit quiet. I’ve been in Aussie for 8 days, so internet access was a bit hit and miss.

And I never know what to blog when I am away speaking. I like to connect and talk with people. But how much do I blog about what is actually said? How much of what belongs in the room, in that unique environment, should stay in the room? I often post the bare details prior because some people who read this blog like to pray for me (Although I still remember posting such details once and getting this really rude comment in response about how I was obviously a bit up myself. Arrggh the joy of lurkers:)!).

Anyhow, overall, I had a great time and felt very well hosted and appreciated. The feedback from various punters in Adelaide was most helpful in terms of helping my communication.

For those who came up asking for more information on various resources:
the soundtrack meditation of Saint Brendan comes from here – 7meg; Bodge plants a seed is here; the images of 40 are available here; Richard Pierce, Conversion in the New Testament; Alan Jamieson, A churchless faith.

Finally, here is my host being nice: “steve was great to work with and very selfless in his service to us. I said to the synod on the saturday that we appreciated hearing from someone with a southern hemisphere accent and someone who could ‘practice what they teach’. I thought it was great that steve was able to mess with people’s preconceptions of mission and church by not fitting any of the local categories for such things. his Opawa journey connected very well with what many folk here are facing. through his stories, metaphors, insights and analysis he was able to communicate at a whole range of levels. the evidence was that people from across the spectrum commented on how they had been encourage and challenged… thanks steve for your generosity of spirit and great leadership over the week.”

Posted by steve at 03:26 PM

Sunday, May 13, 2007

a missional church?

I arrived home at midnight Saturday, after 8 days speaking in Melbourne and Adelaide, looking forward to being with family. I was also looking forward to being with my Opawa church family, just sitting among them, enjoying others lead and preach.

Sunday was Mothers Day here in New Zealand. In today’s world of widely varied family shapes and experiences, it’s a service that needs to be handled with care. Part of the Sunday service included this wonderful prayer written by my partner, plus the giving of flowers to all the women in the congregation, as a way of acknowledging the fact that mothering is as much an action as a title, that we can all mother in a variety of ways.

Just before the sermon, 2 men walked down toward the front and grabbed the remaining flowers. It was so well co-ordinated that at first I thought it was a scheduled part of the service. But no. On the way back, past me, one of the men stopped.

“Are these flowers going to be used for anything else? If not, can we take them and give them out to the homes around us.”

And off they headed, to knock on doors, and give a flower to people in our local and surrounding community, in the name of the church. They returned with stories of welcome and of relationships that will be followed up.

After the service, the person who secured the flowers was ecstatic. She had felt really strongly that rather than get 100 flowers, this year she should get 150 flowers. “That’s the Spirit of God,” she exclaimed, as we told her what had happened.

I am honoured to be part of a community where worship flows so spontaneously and naturally into mission, where the future of the people of God is indeed among the people of God.

Posted by steve at 05:41 PM

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

a most interesting adelaide day

The Adelaide part of my trip kicked off today. I was surprised, and enriched, by the diversity of people in the room. Resources that I (can remember) mentioning during the Leadership and the emerging church seminar in various conversations included:

- Richard Pierce, Conversion in the New Testament

- Alan Jamieson, A churchless faith

Really appreciating people’s hospitality and interest.

Posted by steve at 08:03 PM

Monday, May 07, 2007

may in melbourne

I’m fried. Caught up with Mark Pierson on Friday nite, after teaching for 4.5 hours on Emerging Church blockcourse at Bible College of New Zealand. Staying with Phil and Dan McCredden, which is always fun, dodging dog slobber, dodging “the lodger” farts and Kiwi jokes.

Saturday, spoke 4 times at Unfreeze 3. Seemed to go OK; then caught up with Al and Deb Hirsch for Thai. Al spent the night looking cute and sweating his currie! Then spoke 3 times on Sunday at Doncaster Church of Christ.

The sweetest thing happened at Doncaster. They are using the Opawa Red Seat idea. I shared about this last time I spoke at Unfreeze two years ago and it is amazing to see an idea take root in another community, with another accent.

Off to see Andrew Menzies tomorrow then having lunch with Forge. Fried. Fried. Fried.

Posted by steve at 01:18 AM

Friday, May 04, 2007

do they speak English also?

These are my Australian details. A lot of work over the last week, preparing materials and organising myself. I am really looking forward to it and to see what conversations emerge around what I do.

Saturday 5 May
Morning “Take no sandals (a missional leader); Unfreezing imagination (a missional church); Practices for the table (a missional spirituality); When the Kingdom of God is near, is that far? (a missional intentionality).” A conversation between life, mission and Scripture, all in grounded life among a 96-year old church.

Afternoon – On the couch: Panel on church and missional change

Afternoon – Spirituality2go. A workshop on resourcing Christ followers outside gathered church”

Sunday 6 May
9 am;5 pm – Finding our story in Elijah’s story. Preaching at Doncaster Church of Christ

Tuesday 8 May
10.00 am – 3.00 pm “Leadership in The Emerging Church” – seminar for ministers and lay leaders
7.00 – 9.30 pm “Alternative Worship” session at Parkin-Wesley

Wednesday 9 May
12.15 – 1.00 pm Chapel Service at Parkin-Wesley
2.15 – 3.30 pm Colloquium on “The Emerging Church” at Parkin-Wesley
7.30 – 9.30 pm “Alternative Worship” session at Parkin-Wesley (repeat of Tues. evening)

Thursday 10 May
6.30 – 9.00 pm [re]generate pub conversation about fostering new and fringe faith communities.

Saturday 12 May
9.00 am -12.45 pm Keynote Speaker at Presbytery meeting.

Posted by steve at 08:37 AM

Thursday, May 03, 2007

code-sharing emerging church

Today was the first day of a 2 day block course I teach at BCNZ introducing the emerging church. It involved 3 groups: BCNZ students; Praxis (community youth orientated training programme) and 4 visiting Americans interested in the emerging church as it applies to their Church of the Brethren Denomination.

Each of these 3 groups wanted to have time with me and so I suggested we all meet together, rather than me repeat myself 3 times. It certainly made for a much richer classroom interaction.

It was great to see a visiting American returning from having lunch with some of the BCNZ students, proudly showing off his L&P (iconic Kiwi) drink bottle.

(The course finishes at 12:30 tomorrow and I have to be at the International Airport at 1:30 pm to catch my flight to Melbourne.)

Posted by steve at 11:45 PM

dumb tech question

I am off to Aussie tomorrow, to speak at various things in Melbourne and Adelaide. I have a video clip that I really want to play at each of these gatherings (it sort of stirs up my Aussie mates you know). It is on Youtube and I can not presume that all the 12 places I am speaking have wireless. Is there a way for me to download unto my laptop a Youtube video?

Update: Hey thanks heaps everyone. All sorted. For those who are interested, this is the video that I, as a Kiwi, am keen to use in Aussie :). It’s called – Someone always wants to steal your stuff.

Posted by steve at 09:10 AM

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

leadership in zones of change

I spoke for about 2 hours recently to a group of ministers. My topic was “Mission with a Kiwi accent” and I explored a number of mission stories as they have emerged for us at Opawa, mixed in with some reflection on Scripture and change dynamics and cultural engagement. It seemed to go well, with a good deal of energy in the room and some good interest in some of their churches entering into the Missional Leadership Coaching course I run.

Toward the end I showed them this diagram; view image – 96K from Al Roxburgh and Fred Romanuck.

The diagram describes the life of an organism from one of rapid development (green zone), to organisational efficiency (blue zone), to death. This is a healthy and natural life cycle and can be applied to church life.

Each zone requires a different type of leadership to move to the next stage of the life cycle and it normalises and legitimises all stages of life. On the spur of the moment, without really thinking, I asked the group of gathered clergy to self-identify. How many were in a green zone church? And a show of hands. A blue zone? And another shows of hands. Red zone? And a further show of hands.

It was an interesting exercise to do, and a way of gaining insight into a group of churches. And then on the way home for me to reflect on the different leadership and change challenges generated, say, if the grouping was mainly green, or mainly blue, or mainly red.

Posted by steve at 10:39 PM

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

new zealand music month

Today is 1 May, the launch of New Zealand music month. Some of the church staff came dressed appropriately.


A quick poll of “favourite New Zealand musician” at the staff morning tea revealed, in no particular order the following:
: Tim Finn
: Shihad
: Salmonella Dub
: Martin Setchell (Christchurch Town Hall organist)
: Roy Phillips (formerly of the Shadows)
: Brooke Fraser

So; who’s your favourite New Zealand musician/band?

Posted by steve at 02:38 PM