According to some Christian outlooks we were made for another world. Perhaps, rather, we were made for
this world to recreate, reclaim, and renew unto God's future aspiration by the power of His Spirit. - R.E. Slater
Secularization theory has been massively falsified. We don't live in an age of secularity. We live in an age of
explosive, pervasive religiosity... an age of religious pluralism. - Peter L. Berger
Exploring the edge of life and faith in a post-everything world. - Todd Littleton
I don't need another reason to believe, your love is all around for me to see. - anon
Thou art our need; and in giving us more of thyself thou givest us all. - Khalil Gibran, Prayer XXIII
Be careful what you pretend to be. You become what you pretend to be. - Kurt Vonnegut
Religious beliefs, far from being primary, are often shaped and adjusted by our social goals. - Jim Forest
People, even more than things, need to be restored, renewed, revived, reclaimed, and redeemed; never throw out anyone. - anon
... Certainly God's love has made fools of us all. - R.E. Slater
An apocalyptic Christian faith doesn't wait for Jesus to come, but for Jesus to become in our midst. - R.E. Slater
Christian belief in God begins with the cross and resurrection of Jesus, not with rational apologetics. - Eberhard Jüngel, Jürgen Moltmann
Our knowledge of God is through the 'I-Thou' encounter, not in finding God at the end of a syllogism or argument.
There is a grave danger in any Christian treatment of God as an object. The God of Jesus Christ and Scripture is
irreducibly subject and never made as an object, a force, a
power, or a principle that can be manipulated. - Emil Brunner
Ehyeh Asher Ehyeh means "I will be that who I have yet to become." - God (Ex 3.14)
Our job is to love others without stopping to inquire whether or not they are worthy. - Thomas Merton
The church is God's world-changing social experiment of bringing unlikes and differents to the Eucharist/Communion table
to share life with one another as a new kind of family. When this happens we show to the world what love, justice, peace,
reconciliation, and life together is designed by God to be. The church is God's show-and-tell for the world to see how God wants
us to live as a blended, global, polypluralistic family united with one will, by one Lord, and baptized by one Spirit. - anon
The cross that is planted at the heart of the history of the world cannot be uprooted. - Jacques Ellul
The Unity in whose loving presence the universe unfolds is inside each person as a call to welcome the stranger, protect animals
and the earth, respect the dignity of each person, think new thoughts, and help bring about ecological civilizations. - John Cobb & Farhan A. Shah
If you board the wrong train it is of no use running along the corridors of the train in the other direction. - Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Forgiveness, by Peter Enns

 

Forgiveness

http://www.patheos.com/blogs/peterenns/2012/10/forgiveness/

by Peter Enns
October 22, 2012
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Followers of Jesus are commanded by him to forgive others, even those…especially those…who have wronged us. He commands us to do so, because, when we forgive, especially those who have wronged us terribly, we are most like God.
 
Forgiveness does not mean that we make believe the injustice never happened, or make light of it. It does not mean we leave ourselves open to abuse. It means we cease harboring ill against the other. We let it go.
 
Forgiveness does not depend on our ability to bring the other to the same realization. Our forgiveness must commence regardless of the other. We can only make the decision for ourselves to move to the center. We cannot force the other to take that same step. We cannot control the other. We can only control ourselves.
 
Forgiveness is not for the weak, for it means letting go of our need for justice. It is easier to forgive if we feel some guarantee that justice will be delivered in the near future. But that is not forgiveness.
 
Forgiveness looks only within, what we can do. It does not think of what should be done to the other.
 
When we focus on the injustice that has been done, it will become the dominant thought, and so we might be tempted to be God’s instrument of justice, to help things along. That makes forgiveness impossible.
 
If we call upon God to bring justice, he will begin with us, not with the other. So, we should not call down justice upon the other. The role we have been given is to forgive. Justice is what God will do, mercifully.
 
When we forgive, we are reminded of the mercy that has been shown to us. When we forgive even the most malicious of acts, we begin to see–only then can we see–how we have been forgiven.
 
When we forgive, we know God more clearly.
 
Even when the wrong done to us carries with it such an overpowering sense of malice, when we are filled with disgrace, humiliation, isolation–even then we forgive. Especially then.
 
Because,
 
When we feel this way, we have the privilege of experiencing something of what Jesus felt–disgrace, humiliation, isolation.
 
 
Jesus forgave, and when we forgive, we are most like him.
 
Following Jesus means forgiving.
 
Forgiveness is about deciding what kind of person you want to be, what path you will walk, what kind of life you want to live. It is a decision to conform to the image of Christ. That decision is before us moment by moment, and more often than we might think.
 
 
 

10 Suggestions for Spirit Borne Revival of the Church

Today's blog by Tom is a perfect lead-in to the several postings I've presented here recently these past several weeks. Here is yet another voice (in this case, a Nazarene voice) crying in the wilderness for change in the Church of God. Change that can only be Spirit-borne and Spirit-led when illuminated to the magnitudes that must occur if God's people are to share Jesus with the rest of the world beyond their own numbers. At heart the Church must be missional and without missional acts of charity and kindness the Christian faith is hollow. A social club and no more. But when one enacts the words of Jesus to the communities around them then, and only then, does Jesus become interesting, borne of the wings of prayer, good works, faith, and the Gospel's call to missional discipleship. Let us take care to enact the voice of Jesus today in all that we say and do.
 
R.E. Slater
October 23, 2012
 
 

Open the Windows of the Church
 
by Thomas Jay Oord
October 8, 2012
 
Fifty years ago this month, Pope John XXIII initiated the Second Vatican Council. He said it was time to “throw open the windows of the church and let the fresh air of the spirit blow through.” It’s time to throw open the windows again!
 
The Roman Catholic Church has changed in dramatic ways in the last fifty years. Many people say they’d like to have seen even more change, however. No matter what one’s views, it seems clear that the Catholicism today is significantly different thanks to the Second Vatican Council.
 
The task for renewal in the Church never stops, of course. But there are some moments when the need for renewal seems more palpable, more urgent, more real. We live today in such a moment.
 
I’ve been thinking about the church globally, including its denominations, groups, and movements. Some amazing things are occurring, as creatures cooperate with the work of our Creator. But there are also reasons to seek change.
 
Change in the Church of the Nazarene
 
I want to step out on a limb in this short essay. I suggest ten ways the windows of the church might be thrown open so that the wind of the Spirit might blow through.
Much of what I propose applies to the Church generally. But because I know my own denomination -- the Church of the Nazarene -- much better, this essay is aimed at this collection of about 2.5 million Nazarenes across the world.
 
Here, then, are ten ways the windows of the Church of the Nazarene might be thrown open to let the Spirit blow through the church. I could probably write a book on each one, but I’ve limited myself to a few sentences.
 
I list these in no particular order:
 
1. Engage contemporary theology. Theological scholars in the colleges and universities sponsored by the Church of the Nazarene explore a variety of theological ideas. Theology in the denomination is significantly different today than it was fifty years ago. And that’s to be expected. Unfortunately, however, pursuing new forms of Wesleyan-Holiness theology in dialogue with these contemporary theological ideas is not encouraged as it should be. I believe the Spirit intends to do new things and guide the denomination in new ways theologically.
 
2. Embrace the wisdom of the wider Christian tradition. The Church of the Nazarene is but one small part of a much larger Christian family. And that family has much to teach Nazarenes. Sometimes Nazarenes forget their indebtedness to the wider Christian tradition. The result is impoverished liturgy, worship, theology, and practice. The Church of the Nazarene can embrace the wisdom in other Christian traditions without losing its identity.
 
3. Reexamine what makes the Church of the Nazarene unique and affirm elements helpful for today. The denomination’s own history offers a rich resource. Of course, there are also aspects in its history better left in the past. I know of no one, for instance, who thinks we should return to the practice of forbidding members to attend baseball games. But other elements in our history can help us live faithfully today. As a denomination, we must do the hard work of gleaning wheat and leaving chaff.
 
4. Support the poor, powerless, and deprived. From its beginning, the Church of the Nazarene has felt especially called to help those most in need. Such help can be financial, emotional, intellectual, etc. I find many young Nazarenes wanting to affirm this history of helpfulness, although today these issues typically are called matters of “social justice.” The wind of the Spirit in the Church seems to be calling us to renew our resolve to act for the good of the least of these.
 
5. Embrace knowledge offered in the sciences, humanities, and arts. As important as the Bible is for Nazarenes, we have never been a “Bible only” people. Leaders from the beginning understood, for instance, the importance of liberal arts university education. Unfortunately, however, those who embrace the knowledge found in the sciences, humanities, and arts are sometimes deemed as “liberal” or concerned with peripheral issues. The windows of the Church are not opened wide for the Spirit if we ignore some portions of God’s truth.
 
6. Create space in positions of leadership for non-North Americans and minority voices. We’re already behind the curve when it comes to having good representation in leadership of non-white Nazarenes. The denomination is growing fastest outside the U.S., and many more Nazarenes live outside North America than in it. And yet our leadership at denominational headquarters – top to bottom – is by far dominated by white males. Perhaps embracing diversity will require decentralization, but it at least involves diverse representation at the leadership level.
 
7. Promote an evangelistic/missional strategy of love toward nonChristians. Unfortunately, some act as if befriending those of different religious traditions -- without the relentless goal of converting them -- is unwise. But we are called first to love, and that may or may not involve inviting others to embrace the Christian faith. In a world of increasing religious diversity, we should affirm the universality of God’s prevenient grace toward all peoples. And this affirmation need not lead to pluralism or extreme relativism.
 
8. Reestablish the power and number of women in leadership. Many members of the Church of the Nazarene happily note that while the Roman Catholic church has not embraced the Spirit’s move to establish women in the highest positions of leadership, Nazarenes have affirmed this throughout their history. And yet a very small percentage of Nazarene pastors are women. And leadership in various denominational sectors is dominated by men. Steps must be taken to encourage Nazarene members to promote women into positions of leadership.
 
9. Change the leadership General Superintendent structure. Since its early days, the Church of the Nazarene has elected beginning with three and then six leaders to the highest position of leadership: General Superintendent. When the denomination numbered a few hundred thousand, this was a sufficient number of leaders to fulfill the tasks assigned the position. While the denomination has grown ten times bigger in the last sixty years, the same number of general superintendents is called to govern. We either need a single bishop with dozens of key leaders under her to fulfill the tasks of leadership, or we need 18-20 general superintendents located in and representing various parts of the world. The denomination cannot function well in its current leadership format.
 
10. Engage culture rather than simply condemn it. I recently read the Pew Research Center study of religion among the American “millennial generation.” I was struck by how young people think about issues of religion and culture. In particular, most younger Americans think differently than their parents about abortion, evolution, the influence of Hollywood, homosexuality, and the proper size of government. This, of course, doesn’t mean that their views are better or should necessarily change the positions of the denomination. But it does mean that the Church of the Nazarene must engage culture – American and other cultures – to discern what should be embraced and what should be rejected. Besides, it’s quite clear that the denomination changed its views on many issues – e.g., dancing, wearing rings, movies, sports – as cultures changed in the last century.
 
Conclusion
 
One of the theological presuppositions of Pope John XXIII’s statement about “throwing open the windows of the church” is that what we do influences what the Spirit does. That’s a presupposition that fits well in Wesleyan theology. And it rightly puts responsibility on our shoulders to cooperate with what God might want to do in our world today.
 
I remain optimistic about the future of the church, in general, and the Church of the Nazarene, in particular. My optimism is grounded in God’s grace. But I also believe we as a church and as individuals must heed the call for a fresh anointing of the Spirit in our lifetime.