Saturday, September 11, 2010

icons as theological treats

Some theologies use words, a hard, exact and careful reflection regarding the best words to use to articulate limited human perceptions of God. In contrast, icons use pictures, not words. This is not a creatively free-flowing task, but a careful task, aiming to faithfully pass on Christian thought.

I’ve found myself tremendously enriched in recent days by two of Rowan Williams books: Ponder These Things: Praying With Icons of the Virgin is a theology of the Incarnation, while The Dwelling of the Light: Praying with Icons of Christ, offers a theology of Resurrection. Both utilise Orthodox icons as their starting points. I love this explanation of icons:

the art of making icons is often termed “writing” rather than “painting”; an icon presents the figures and events of the Bible and church history in paint rather than ink.

Icons for me do three things extraordinarily well. They help me think theologically. They help me think visually and in colour. They remind me that theology is about relationship with God.

It’s been a joy to sit with these two books on that explore icon’s theologically by Rowan and realise just how deep these three wells can go. With Rowan’s gifts, the theological depth is extraordinary. The invitation to prayer and contemplation is artful. They have been such a helpful gift for me in the last month or so, reading until a sentence or two captures me, and then using that for prayer and God-focus during the day.

Posted by steve at 07:16 PM

Tuesday, May 04, 2010

mission that’s out of the valley 3: evangelism as mission

  • being a mate – sharing with friends
  • having a yarn – announcing the good news
  • crossing the ditch – incarnational mission

(These are highly Aussie phrases and they came to mind while reading Darren Cronshaw’s most excellent Credible Witnesses, Companions, Prophets, Hosts and Other Australian Mission Models, Urban Neighbours of Hope, 2006, and that give shape to the most useful Picturing Christian Witness: New Testament Images of Disciples in Mission)

Being a mate – sharing with friends
Look at how people find Jesus in John 1. It’s through friends – Andrew, Philip – who simply invite people to “see.” So mission that’s out of the valley starts with inviting people to see lives changed. It’s not words, but seeing lives changed.

And so a discussion question: How were you evangelised? How do you feel about that now? A chance to remind ourselves that overwhelming the gospel is transmitted through relationships. Equally a chance to share negative stories and so detox ourselves from

Having a yarn – announcing the good news
The book of Acts is interesting, for a third of the content is public speeches. There are 20 speeches in total and grouped together, give us a window into how the early church had a yarn/announced the good news.

An extremely useful exercise can be to place them alongside each other. Take Peter in Acts 2, Paul and Barnabas in Acts 14, Paul in Acts 17. Look at what resources they use in announcing, consider their punchline and analyse the response.

What do we learn? That there is no one way to announce the good news. The content changes, the resources used range from Scripture to creation to contemporary culture.

In other words, having a yarn is not about dropping a body of content on someone, it’s about starting with what makes sense in their world. This for me is where the gates of the cross becomes so useful.

For discussion: Does any gate make sense of how you find God? Or do you need another, 11th gate? Share that with the person beside you.

On Saturday a great burst of noise arose, as people shared how God found them. And I had great joy in giving them feedback: I see a whole bunch of people announcing the good news, in ways uniquely appropriate.

Crossing the ditch – incarnational mission
When I read the Zaccheus story I realise that mission happens in Zaccheus house. It is so easy to get caught up in thinking that mission is about people coming to us and our (church) space.

Mission as crossing the ditch is about going to Zaccheus home. Hang out with Zaccheus mates. We form a church at Zaccheus place, not our place. This changes the way be a mate – We join Zaccheus youth group. This changes the way we announce the good news – we start with what God is doing in Zaccheus world.

And if you want a contemporary example, check out the work of Richard Passmore, working with young people outside the church. (Hat tip Jonny Baker). He depicts mission as crossing the ditch in 5 stages:

  • A Contacting Community – Through detached youth work
  • A Growing Community- Through ongoing contact and residential
  • A Connecting Community – Through undertaking a rite of passage committing to journey together
  • An Exploring Community – Through connecting stories and life
  • An Ecclesial Community – Through living together with a missionary DNA

And for a powerful example of announcing the good news in this context, check out his story of Abs and Flow. It’s a superb example of post-Christendom, Western, contextualisation.

My next post is about how this works in an ordinary congregation ..

For earlier posts in this series on mission that’s out of they valley, go here

Posted by steve at 08:23 AM