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Monthly Archives: July 2007

In case you’ve forgotten how to have fun on a rainy day…

I get so “caught up” in what my part is in the kingdom that I worry about who I’m working for. Is it me and my own selfish desires? Is it for God and a deep desire to do His will? When I run across statements like numbers 5 and 6 below it causes me to stop and listen. I pray that we all consistently ask for His guidance in all we do so that in the doing we remain faithful to His purposes and not our own. Practically speaking how do we find ways to help us keep this focus using the forms of community available to us here and now? How does the community itself work this out so that it does not become so institutionalized that it forgets the purpose for which God has revealed to them?

Reading part 14 of “Missional Jesus” on the Jesus Creed blog (www.jesuscreed.org) reveals the following today:

Now we enter into a self-identified passage of missional intent and direction by Jesus, often called the “missionary discourse.” Matthew 9:35-11:1 is our passage, and we’ll break it down into manageable units for a few days. I begin with 9:35-10:4.

1. Missional Jesus participates in the mission of God.
2. Missional Jesus therefore prays to God for “extenders” of his mission-working kingdom of God.
3. Missional Jesus prays because missional Jesus is moved by oppression and the need for mercy on so many.
4. Missional Jesus not only prays but, after hearing from God (isn’t this implicit?), he specifically identifies 12 workers for the kingdom and appoints them as his personal representatives (apostles) in the kingdom missional work.
5. Missional Jesus appoints his “extenders” (”missioners” is a nice word) to do what he has been doing in Matthew, chps 8 and 9: they are therefore extenders of Jesus and not doers of their own mission. Missional work is Jesus work.
6. Not all of Jesus’ “extenders” follow Jesus faithfully.

Jesus went through all the towns and villages, teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the good news of the kingdom and healing every disease and sickness. When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.”
Jesus called his twelve disciples to him and gave them authority to drive out evil spirits and to heal every disease and sickness.
These are the names of the twelve apostles: first, Simon (who is called Peter) and his brother Andrew; James son of Zebedee, and his brother John; Philip and Bartholomew; Thomas and Matthew the tax collector; James son of Alphaeus, and Thaddaeus; Simon the Zealot and Judas Iscariot, who betrayed him.

One of my students and another former student are members of a really cool Austin band. Check them out at http://www.drumjamaustin.com/ and then go to famecast.com and vote for them in an online contest. They are unique and creative and full of life! Take a look…maybe get inspired to get off the couch. 

Found this quote from his new book “Everything Must Change”. Not sure when the book is released…

community of people who begin to wake up to the covert curriculum in which they swim each day would want to band together to share their insights about it. They would help one another not be sucked in, not be massaged into passivity, not be malformed by the powerful educational process occurring in a multimedia classroom without walls or vacations. They would remind one another of the alternative framing story they had come to believe was good, beautiful, and true, and they would seek, together, to live by this alternative framing story, the radical good news. They would develop practices of spiritual formation so they and their children for generations to come would be able to learn, live, and grow as part of the solution, not part of the problem; as agents of healing, not as carriers of the disease; as revolutionaries seeking to dismantle and subvert the suicidal system, not as functionaries and drones seeking to serve and preserve it.

 

I read the following post this morning and it helps to clarify my ambiguity and confusion on what and how the local expression of the church means to people like me. Here is a sample…

Lately, I have been reading Bill McKibben’s fine new book, Deep Economy: The Wealth of Communities and the Durable Future. McKibben argues that growth—based on “hyper-individualism”—does not create human happiness, health, and wholeness. Rather, local community and close connections make us happy. We must shift away from a Wal-Mart economy to what he calls a “deep economy,” defined as “the economics of neighborliness.” Less stuff, he suggests, will create more connections by transforming the human economy and makes a “durable future” for the planet.

Although McKibben writes of economics, his argument carries over to faith. Successful American churches are Wal-Mart type congregations, built on the idea that bigger-is-better, hyper-individual faith, and entertaining programs meet an infinitely expanding religious market. That vision creates a culture of religious sameness across the country—indeed, across the globe—that subsumes local cultures in its wake. Want your church to grow? Attend the latest pastors conference offered by a celebrity minister. Do 40 days of purpose or seven steps toward mission. Put on a dazzling Christmas spectacular. Buy Vacation Bible School in a can. You, too, can have a successful church if you lay out the cash.

My mother is nearly 70, has had two heart attacks, and is slowing down. When I think of her—as I do a lot these days—I remember sitting in the piles of scraps, creating biblical worlds together. I remember making the Virgin Mary out of a sock. I remember the deep economy of being Christian, of practicing our faith in the living room with scissors and glue, not the size or success of our congregation. I remember our neighborhood church, small and quirky, where we produced our spiritual lives with our hands and from our hearts.

I no longer want to belong to an efficient church, a big one, or even a successful one. I just want to be part of a good sock-puppet church. And, as I have traveled this year, and spoken to many thousands of Christians, I had heard them, too, longing for sock puppet church, a deeper congregation, a community that stitches memory from scraps, one that (as McKibben says) “rebalances the scales” of our religious economy—and, in the process, may well transform the world.

I am torn between the people and place I love and where I live and work. I feel called, I feel a reason for devoting my life, my family to downtown Austin and the university. But, I live 20+ miles away in Cedar Park and work out west of town near the lake. I’ve been reading “Breaking the Missional Code” and it’s a little formulaic for my tastes. For example, when it brings up the need to love the people to which you want to minister, it says you must learn to love the people first. I agree, but I’m asking the question, “Am I following God’s will if I’m forcing myself to learn to love a people?” I have nothing against the people of Cedar Park and think I could learn to love them and to love what they love, but as the Bass article points out I have a real struggle with this “hyper-individuality” and consumerism that seeps into the core of life here in the suburbs. It effects me just as much as it does my neighbors.

So, what do I do? Do I follow my heart and devote myself fully to the people of downtown and the university area? At what cost? I so long for the mess of life lived in tight community with the other and don’t know where to throw my hat.

“Preparing for St. John’s VBS took weeks—with pieces of the Bible, in the form of yarn, paint, colored paper, and sugar cubes, scattered all over the house. It was a glorious theological mess and I loved it.” —Bass