Friday, October 23, 2009

turning points: key moments in Christian history

  • Benedict and Monasteries, Sunday 10:30 am, October 25
  • Luther and Reformation, Sunday 10:30 am, November 1
  • John Smith and Baptists, Sunday 10:30 am, November 8, complete with Anabaptist communion
  • Wesley and faith for all of life, Sunday 10:30 am, November 15

(All at Opawa Baptist, cnr Hastings St East and Wilsons Road). The intention is that Opawa catches a bigger picture of God in history. For a church in transition, knowing our back story helps shape our future. The hope is that I can be clear enough and sharp enough to relate history to life today.

Each Sunday will feature a song, a “saint”, some history and some contemporary application. This Sunday, Benedict and Monasteries, will include
– the facebook monks quiz
– honouring of three monks – Anthony, Benedict and Clare
– an analysis of the impact of the monastic movement on Christianity.
– finally, I want to reflect on what we can learn from the monastic movement for Christian life today. This will include how we imagine church, how we live our lives 24/7 and the shape of our Christian growth.

(The title of the series is borrowed from Mark Noll’s fabulous Turning Points: Decisive Moments in the History of Christianity.) Other books I’ve been reading have included:
Radical Hospitality: Benedict’s Way Of Love
The Rule of Benedict for Beginners: Spirituality for Daily Life
A Public Faith: From Constantine to the Medieval World, AD 312-600
Emerging Downunder
New Monasticism: What It Has to Say to Today’s Church
St Benedict for Today.

All in all, it’s been a rich week of sermon reflection.

Posted by steve at 02:06 PM

Thursday, April 09, 2009

finding God with flax as Easter spirituality

For the last 10 years, the Easter Journey, has been a feature of ministry at Opawa. However, for the last year or so, there has been a growing feeling that it is time for something new to emerge. Opawa is changing and so are Pete and Joyce. While the Journey has been a tremendous blessing, we have to be sensitive to the moving, changing winds of the Spirit. Too often, good things for a season become institutions the church feels compelled to keep propping up. Letting things go is an essential Christian discipline.

To help us let go, and to start the process of dreaming again, we are starting with an Easter Saturday day of paper making. April 11, 9:45 am for coffee. Bring lunch to share. Together we will turn flax into paper, both for individual journals and for use in the church at Pentecost.

Why paper making? Well this is what I said on radio recently. (more…)

Posted by steve at 09:16 AM

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

colour my world: seeds and sustainability

I used to wander the vegetable aisle at my supermarket and feel, well, bored. The gently misted vegetables looked appealing, but the selection seemed so same, same. There was little seasonal variation, the beans were constantly green, the vegetables were similar. There never seemed anything new, different, mysterious. At the risk of being theologically irreverent, was this the best that God could do?

It seemed such a churlish reaction (especially for a vegetarian), so I walked on feeling both guilty and bored.

Over the last few months, we’ve been enjoying the fruits our spring garden extension (5 new raised bed gardens). Last night’s meal included peas, beans, courgette, parsley, cherry tomatoes, boysenberries, raspberries. The pumpkins, potatoes, tomatoes, corn and peppers are due for harvest any day, and with winter coming, I needed some seeds. Last night I went surfing and stumbled upon Kings Seeds. (Postage is $4, order more than $40 and you get 2 seed packets free.)

Today I’m neither guilty or bored, simply excited and angry, because the supermarket has been ripping me off!! Last night I found out that beans don’t only come in green. They also come in red and white. Imagine what Borlotto Fire Tongue beans, or Cannellino beans will look like in a salad. Think of a winter brightened by green cauliflower and purple cabbage (Palm Tree di Toscana). What about the bell pepper mix, in seven different colours. There are so many different types of vegetables to colour our world. Yah!, The palate of my sustainable spirituality horizons have just been enriched.

Tangential thought: It might just be me, but gardening seems to be back in. Lots of people around Opawa are talking about their new gardens, lots of magazine and media coverage. Makes me wonder if its time to bring back the old-fashioned harvest festival? A few years ago, a harvest festival seemed to have little connectivity in an urban environment. But I wonder if times, they are a changing, and if so, what a 21st century harvest festival would look like. I’d certainly me keen to offer God a salad that included Borlotto Fire Tongue beans, Cannellino beans and seven different colours of peppers!

Posted by steve at 09:31 AM

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

sustainable spirituality: beyond missional

“You have a hard act to sell” he said. I looked puzzled, so he explained. Your essential message is “You don’t need to be here. That’s the opposite of most churches, which involves getting more involved with their vision.”

I could interpret this conversation, held in a sunny spot a few days ago, in missional terms. I could take it as a compliment, an acute and accurate summary of my preaching and my commitment to Kingdom trumping church, to sending over coming, to life in the world over life indoors.

But what might this thinking look like in sustainable spirituality terms? You see, a person might not need to be here at church. They could be missional in their workplace or home.


But, in order for that to happen, they will need sustaining, when their energy leaks, when the season is winter, not summer.

What’s more, they will need connecting. What are the already networks, existing and present that they could plug into, serve with and among.

What’s more, they will need community, like minded people to share stories among, theologise with. Such community could be in the missional network. It could equally be a smaller grouping of likeminded people, a collective committed to the shared missional context. It could equally be the multi-form already existing gathered community, the “here”, the ordinary Sunday service, in which liturgy and preaching are formed and pre-formed, by questions of God’s mission.

At times, they will need resourcing. This could be as simple as a shared library. Or by dipping into a specific course, weekend or block.

And along the way, there are people who have no idea, yet, of what it means to partner with God in God’s world, to live missionally “there.” They’re broken – by debt, by marriage, by mental health. They are scarred – by unforgiveness and sickness and addiction. They need a gathering point, and a wide range of relationships to provide nurture and healing.

In other words …
Sustainable spirituality says “you don’t need to be here”, but some of us will be here, to connect and resources and sustain. Sustainable spirituality will celebrate church as ordinary, singing as everyday and faith as regular. It knows that these situations are findable, and can be hospitable, and become agents of healing. Sustainable spirituality will work hard at creating constant and multiple pathways by which the “out there” is connected and resourced.

Posted by steve at 08:48 AM

Saturday, January 03, 2009

sustainable spirituality

While in Australia, we enjoyed a trip up the Coorong. It’s a vast mix of saltwater, lagoon and freshwater, a beautiful and peaceful place where the Murray River meets the ocean. It’s also a scar on Australia, as the entire place is basically dying. Irrigation demands upstream combined with human manipulation and drought mean that Australia’s largest river lacks the fresh water strength to flow out to sea. Mile after mile of the mouth is basically salinising. Birds are leaving and fish are dying and dredges are working non-stop to stop the river mouth silting up.

As part of the day long tour, we walked over some sand dunes. Suddenly our guide bent down and started digging. In a few minutes, he offered us fresh water. In the middle of these desolate sand dunes, there was water. A bit further on, he showed us the piles of cockles, and the eating place of the Ngarrindjeri people, who have been the traditional custodians of these sand dunes for over 6,000 years.

I stood there astounded. Put me in that place, amid those barren sand dunes and I would die. Yet other humans have learnt to live within this environment.

I pondered the implications for spirituality. If the church is declining in the West, then could at some point, the way we do church actually be killing the fresh waters of faith? If Australians can live out of sync with their environment and in so doing, begin to kill the Murray, then are there ways that Christians and churches are living that are actually killing faith?

I thought of middle-class families, rushing kids from one learning opportunity to the next, too busy rushing to spend time enjoying.

I thought of churches who live in older buildings, when so much energy simply has to go into window repair and the manse roof, rather than into nourishing faith and vision.

I thought of denominations I have consulted with, and the way that their understandings of full-time ministry warp and shift their vision of what it means to be missional.

I thought of smaller missional communities, often younger people, keen, radical. They don’t need a building nor a full-time minister. Yet without these structures, and in times of flux and change, they can lack wise, older heads to lead and guide. How are such communities networked and resourced?

Sustainable agriculture integrates three main goals: environmental stewardship, farm profitability, and prosperous farming communities. What might be the shape of sustainable spirituality? Here’s a list of starters.

1. It would honour the faith of ancestors, glad that historical resources have proven lifegiving in the past.

2. It would be sensitive to contemporary culture, acknowledging that this is our environment and needs to be read respectfully and lived in sustainably.

3. It would make formation and discipleship of the next generation a priority.

4. It would network widely and broadly, aware that only in collective knowledge can one small part make sense of a wider whole.

What else? Does the analogy work? What might a sustainable spirituality collective look like?

I’m actually wondering about making this a major blog theme over the next while. I’m even wondering about blog rename – sustainable Kiwi, in order to capture some of the nuances of the above, which “alternative” and “emergent” and “missional” seem to have failed to mobilise around.

Updated: some challenging links – Earth abbey; sustainable spirituality wiki.

Posted by steve at 10:11 AM