Sunday, March 06, 2011

mission in a quakezone

My current vocation in life is to reflect on the shape and nature of the church’s mission. I primarily do that in South Australia, which involves a lot of thinking about appropriate mission in the suburbs of ease and affluence which dot Adelaide.

But my heart remains firmly in Christchurch, in which suburbs that were formerly affluent now lie broken and twisted by nature’s force. What might be the shape and nature of the church’s mission in that city?

The dilemna is that I am now an outsider. I think from afar. So I risk being like the two old men in the Muppet Show, nothing more than a empty voice.

But I also have some space and distance and so perhaps one of the few things I can do is think. So when we discovered that the church we turned up to visit today, which according to their website was open, was actually meeting at another time and somewhere else, I tried to capture some thoughts. (more…)

Posted by steve at 04:45 PM

Thursday, March 26, 2009

preaching Christ in a credit crunch

Blog question: If you had the opportunity to teach a four-week sermon series to a congregation that would help them sift through some of the current economic issues, what would your topics be? (And just to be clear, I’m not talking about a giving or money management series, but something that reflects a biblical mindset towards economics in general).

My response: Hi, I’m working on this very question, down here in New Zealand, as my seminary has called a conversation (tonight) between business and community leaders and theologians (and I’ll be preaching on Christ and the credit crunch this Sunday at our Harvest Festival). Here’s my suggestion:
Week 1 – creativity – co-creators with God in 21st century – Genesis 1, Psalm 8, Parable of sower, parable of talents
Week 2 – justice – distribution of resources – Old Testament, host in Luke 14, Zaccheus, Joseph of Arimathea
Week 3 – sustainability – how to live within ourselves individually, communally, nationally
Week 4 – how then should we live – stories of how Kingdom is being earthed in local communities in response to credit crunch.

thoughts? comments?

Posted by steve at 11:29 AM

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

will someone please charge the father too!

Rant begins.

So a few days ago, this really sad things happens – a newborn baby is found alive, in a rubbish bin, on an airplane. As events unfold, it is revealed that the plane has flown from Samoa to New Zealand and during the flight, a woman has given birth, and has then tried to abandon the baby. Today comes the news that she is now being charged, first with abandoning the baby girl and second, with assaulting her.

So what about the father? It takes two parties to conceive. If the mother is to be charged with abandonment, then surely the father must be as well. He has abandoned this baby just as much as the mother has. Where is he when the going gets tough? Cowardly males, taking the easy option, getting off scott-free!

Rant over.

Posted by steve at 09:23 PM

Friday, October 10, 2008

needing an economic saint. but who?

This post, by friend Andrew Menzies got me leafing through my deck of economic “saints”. I offered these economic “saints” at Opawa last year, as part of a series on money. At the door, everyone was given a 5 cm by 7 cm cardboard card. There were 7 different cards in total; four Biblical characters – Micah, Joseph of Arimathea, Zaccheus, the sower of seed in Matthew 13; and three historical figures – William Wilberforce, Mother Teresa and our church treasurer. On each card was a bit of information about the person. (So, here for example is Zacchues (click to enlarge): zacchaeus.jpg).

For that service, we explored a contemporisation of the Parable of the Talents – 3 people who used their talents differently; one who used their talents to trade sweat shopped goods, one who used their talents but lost them when the share market collapsed, and one who invested their talents in retirement (full story here).

And together, as part of the sermon, we wondered what Jesus, and what these economic “saints” would say to these contemporary usages of talents.

(Updated): That was a year ago, but the scenarios all seem quite deja vu today. And got me wondering, which “saint” do we most need to guide us now:
- Denounce injustice with Micah who denounced injustice, and probably would do so again on Wall Street
- Restore confidence by investing now, like Joseph of Arimathea who carefully kept assets (a tomb) and used them to care for another in crisis,
- Refuse to seek profit from other’s demise, like Zaccheus who repaid ill-gotten gain,
- Take risks, like the sower of seed in Matthew 13 who cast seeds (credit?) wholesale and willynilly
- Pray for politicians, like William Wilberforce, salt and light, in corridors of power in difficult times
- Live more simply with less clutter, like Mother Teresa, living simply and in piety
- Encourage church treasurer’s, seeking to balance budgets as investments returns fall?
What wisdom might any of these ancient characters offer us in these troubled times?

Posted by steve at 02:41 PM

Sunday, April 20, 2008

where was God in the Mangatepopo River tragedy?

Church services today gave time for people to process the Mangatepopo River tragedy. One of our artists offered a painting, titled “What becomes of the brokenhearted?” People were invited to write a one word response on a bandaid and place it on the artpiece, and/or to sign a card. Sermonically, I wrestled with the topic of Where was God in the Mangatepopo River tragedy? I got lots, and lots, of grateful comments. So I place my thoughts here, in case others find it useful.

For those who like the highlights, I point out that we are not the first people to face grief. I worked through Psalm 69. Where is God?
- in the love of the community
- in honesty
- in those who honestly examine their own lives
- in the gift of free will
- in our willingness to take action

And I conclude that God acts not by stopping suffering … but by stepping into our suffering.

(more…)

Posted by steve at 11:59 PM

Friday, April 18, 2008

Sunday services as New Zealand mourns

This week has been an incredibly sad week for all New Zealanders. We have been saddened by the loss of 7 lives at the Mangatepopo River. This includes Tony McClean, son of one of our Baptist pastor’s, John and Jeanette McClean. We have been saddened and angered by the discovery of the body of teenager Marie Davis here in Christchurch.

“If one part suffers, every part suffers with it.” 1 Corinthians 11:26

Our Sunday morning service will allow time for us to pray together in the light of the events of this week. We will explore the question that must be on many lips – “where is God?” by using the Psalms of the Bible. We will have two large cards, for any who want to sign, and to send to John and Jeanette McClean and to Elim Christian School.

On Sunday evening, when more of our teenagers are present, we will allow time to pray together for the family of Marie Davis. Similarly, we will have a large card for any who want to sign, and to send to her family.

Steve Taylor, for Opawa Pastoral team

Posted by steve at 03:31 PM

Thursday, November 29, 2007

where is God today? reading everyday culture

I have on my desk 3 post-graduate assessments. One is titled “Theology of Desperate Housewives.” Another is exploring the extent of Incarnation and community in Second Life. A third is exploring re-enchantment in contemporary film. All are from Universities and are demanding my marking attention. All are part of a new discipline, that of the relationship between theology and popular culture.

All this is important given the discussion going on in the comments in relation to my post on the theology of U2/Bono, questioning both the validity and how one might go about reading popular culture. I have found three resources useful in my thinking.

Understanding theology and popular culture, by Gordon Lynch, suggests three potential approaches to reading Bono or TV or a film. One is to focus on the author, much as I have done with Bono, using his explanation of the song Waves of Sorrow. Another is text-based and this would involve exploring the lyrics and words. Another is an ethnographic approach, to ask people what they are hearing as they listen and engage.

Everyday theology, by Kevin Vanhoozer, has chapters with titles like The Gospel according to Safeway, A theological account of Eminem, The Business of Busyness, Welcome to the Blogosphere, Weddings for Everyday theologians. It has an excellent introduction and then 10 examples. Quite practical and accessible.

Thirdly, there is an excellent article by Gordon H. Matties titled “On Movies as a Spiritual Discipline,” which offers five sets of questions, which can help structure the way we engage with popular culture. These are:

1) Where are we? What kind of world does the movie depict and do I identify with it?

2) Who are we? What does it mean to be human and in relationship?

3) What is wrong? How does the movie portray the human condition?

4) Is there a remedy? Is there hope, a better future? Can problems be solved? By whom?

5) What time is it? How are we to read the times? Is it like our past, present, future? Are we running out of time, or gaining on it?

I am constantly using these three resources, whether in Gospel and film classes, or when exploring how emerging church is engaging gospel and culture issues, or when helping leaders become listeners (good exegetes of culture). They give me frameworks to think by.

Posted by steve at 10:00 PM

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

guiding boy racers or How Would Jesus Drive

Following yet another high profile road death over the weekend here in New Zealand, and yet another “boy racer” headline, I got to wondering: If you were doing a Bible study for boy racers, what Bible stories might be a helpful guide?

And HWJD? Not What Would Jesus Do, but How Would Jesus Drive? What would your print on the HWJD bracelet that you could give to a young male when they got their license? Here’s my first draft:
1. drive as if your father in heaven owned the car
2. drive as if your mother Mary was sitting beside you
3. drive as if your kid brother James was in the car seat
4. drive as if the Spirit was always clocking your km’s.

What about you? Does the Bible have any resources that might shape the way young people drive?

Posted by steve at 07:03 PM

Thursday, September 07, 2006

a PR day

Today has become a PR day; 2 media agencies rang requesting interviews. One was interested in the place of religion and spirituality; the other in the emerging church.

And then the phone call from a government social service agency. Ringing to compliment Opawa on the way it cares for one of it’s parishioners. “It must be great to be part of a church like your’s”. Well. Thankyou!

You can’t timetable media and PR work. You just have to push aside your appointments and your lecture prep. You just have to pray that soundbites will indeed become a “true and accurate record.”

Posted by steve at 02:34 PM

Sunday, May 22, 2005

ouch :)

At the door of our Sunday morning congregation, as my hand is shaken. “I pray for you every day pastor. I pray that God would deepen your teaching ministry among us, so that we can hear the Word.”

Ouch. So amidst all the change, there is (inevitable) unease.
Ouch. Isn’t this the use of prayer as a Trojan horse to deliver a message to a person, not to God?

Posted by steve at 02:45 PM

Wednesday, April 06, 2005

living theology and boundaries

The focus of my PhD research was on living theology (what an emerging church was actually praying and preaching) in relation to boundaries (relationships between society).

Today I am working with a group of 40 chaplains. I said yes, because it seems to me that chaplains are a fine example living theology in relation to society. I’ve been asked to nourish them with some biblical metaphors that will help them better process their boundaries.

I was going to haul the “pastoral ministry” books of the shelf when I suddenly thought, “what are the biblical images that nourish me.” They are not pastor as prophet or preacher, but minister as midwife, gardener, storyteller and DJ. So I’m going to see how they “fly” in a chaplain context.

I’m really looking forward to it. The downside is that it’s 5 hours of input (not all talk, there’s group work and art and case studies and storytelling and creative prayer stations), and then I have my usual Bible College of New Zealand lecture – gospel and film - 2 hours. 7 hours will be a long day.

Posted by steve at 08:59 AM

Wednesday, January 19, 2005

what are the theological models that guide chaplaincy? Steve Taylor will lead a workshopping seminar to identify one’s theology of chaplaincy, reflect on one’s theological bottom lines and how to walk with others of different faiths and persuasions.

beyond religious trappings – Chaplaincy course. Wednesday, 6th April, 4 hours, Community of sacred name, Christchurch.

Posted by steve at 03:22 PM

Friday, September 10, 2004

blah blah blah

i am spending more and more of my life talking to groups of people. i often wonder if there is any point … you speak to groups who say nice things, but does anything change … is it worth the energy … how to bring about change … is it worth the cost to family and to personal time spent smelling the roses.

today is my 5th day of speaking in a row. i am speaking on a theological response to the foreshore and seabed issue. it is a hugely explosive issue in new zealand today, with big implications for identity and culture and reconciliation. i am nervous.

i get out of the car and a person walks over. “i have a bone to pick with you” he announces, “from the talk you did on future church last year”

“oh dear” i think.

“that talk changed our life” he says, and shares some of his story. oh well, going blah, blah, blah has been useful for at least one person.

update: while I do appreciate all the nice comments, I wish to emphasis that this post was done with a note of glad surprise, not a depressed funk seeking pats on the back.

Posted by steve at 10:47 PM

Monday, August 23, 2004

Destiny marches and some questions need asking

On Monday a new church group in New Zealand, Destiny Church, marched in protest against the Civil Unions Bill. They marched in black, they shouted in unison, and they caused a lot of media attention. For a report on the march, go here. I would not have marched in the march and my views on the Civil Unions Bill are expressed here and here.

However the march did raise for me the following questions;

does the fact that most of Destiny are Maori alter one’s views on the march? are people not actually concerned about angry, black men, but about angry, black, Maori men? are there in fact some levels of racism involved in responses to the march?

is it inconsistent for the counter protest-marchers to talk on the news about tolerance and diversity, when in fact any protest march should be applauded as an expression of diversity? or does tolerance only mean certain types of tolerance?

similarly, was not the shouted statement by Georgina Beyer; “your hatred is intolerable” also a contradiction? again, does tolerance only mean certain types of tolerance?

is it inconsistent for the news media to express concern about the use of children in the march, and then for the media to then ask children why they marched? did the news media gain parental consent? or are their different rules for media using children than religious groups?

Posted by steve at 12:13 PM