What do we own?

038 038 Christ Ordaining The Apostles

For those who are on up their Catholic networks, we have a network in Canada called Salt and Light Media (similar to EWTN in the US). I picked up a free copy of their magazine today; it was a special issue to commemorate the election of Pope Francis earlier this year. I was reading the article about where Francis came from before his election, etc. One pericope caught my attention in particular:

. . . the Pope is Peter’s successor, the Church’s shepherd and a living example of charity, the guardian of a treasure that does not belong to him: the depositum fidei which it is responsibility to pass on to others . . . 

I thought this was such a great description, that I rewrote it to make it apply more generally to all Christians:

Christians are called to be living examples of charity, guardians of a treasure that does not belong to them: the depositum fidei (deposit of the faith) which it is their responsibility to pass on to others.

That’s a fantastic description of our responsibility and a wonderful reminder that the Gospel we hold so dear, that is so precious, is not ours to hold onto, but it is a gift to be shared, given away; it is the greatest responsibility we can ever take upon ourselves.

Losing Christ and finding Jesus

Losing Christ and finding Jesus

I have modeled my life not after the celestial spirit whom many Christians believe sacrificed himself for our sins, but rather after the illiterate, marginal Jew who gave his life fighting an unwinnable battle against the religious and political powers of his day on behalf of the poor and the dispossessed – those his society deemed unworthy of saving.

This is an interesting take on how one man is following Jesus as man but not divinity.

Read the rest here.

Change wisely

Mountain Church Lisri

This is great article that outlines much of what the struggle I’ve been having with church these days. While I am eternally grateful for my current church for introducing me to Jesus, I crave more. I want deeper, more sacramental, more mystery and majesty, more awe and wonder than my current church can provide. Right now I find the answers in the ancient churches that aren’t so concerned with being hip and with it. If a movie theatre works for you, that’s wonderful, but I think they’re ugly, dark and a bit depressing (a friend recently described it as oppressive going to church in the dark of a theatre), I want beauty, stained-glass, and a crucifix to focus on when I worship, and solemnity and reverence. Then, when that’s over and I’ve been filled with Christ and renewed for the week to come, send me out, put me in the game, I’m ready to serve the world around me.

Andrea Palpant writes:

For more traditional congregations that struggle to keep youth in the pews, take heart. The old model isn’t necessarily lost. Praxis and churches like it have a place — they draw people who would otherwise never set foot in church, people who have a legitimate contemporary aesthetic that appreciates informality and mainstream music. But your church has a place, too.

Consider the changes that people go through between age 22 and 32. Consider that some of us in time renew our appreciation for the strengths of a traditional church: historically informed hierarchy that claims accountability at multiple levels, historically informed teaching that leans on theological complexity, and liturgically informed worship that takes a high view of the sacraments and draws on hymns from centuries past.

You can read the rest here.

Nationalism Remixed

nationalism_20100901083816

Nationalism Remixed

Back in Colossians Remixed Sylvia Keesmaat and I called (in the tradition of Wendell Berry) for an ethics of secession. There are all kinds of ways in which we need to secede from the empire, and refraining from nationalist celebrations would be one of them. You see, not only does nationalism have no biblical merit, any doctrine of ‘exceptionalism’ – whether American, Canadian, Israeli or any other sort – is a decidedly demonic doctrine that will always bear the bad fruit of violence.

Read the rest here.

Given that Canada and the USA are celebrating their respective birthday’s this week, this is a timely post. I’ve often struggled with this notion. On one hand I want to believe it with my whole heart and have refrained from celebrating Canada Day or other national holidays (thanks for the day off with my wife though). On the other hand, I don’t see Christians running to renounce their earthly citizenship. And why should we? The Apostle Paul clearly made use of his Roman citizenship [Acts 22].

So, the real question is this: how do we balance the need to recognize our newfound reality as citizens of the Kingdom of God first and perhaps alone, while still holding an earthly citizenship and apparently not being called to give it up. Do we engage in politics and if so how? If I am a citizen of another country, to what extent do I have the right to critique another country’s policies? How much do I work to change them? Should I? Lots to ponder this week.

When silence speaks louder than words

Pope Pius XII  the people of Rome

Jamie Arpin-Ricci has written a great post about the absolute need to not remain silent in the face of evil. He writes: “what truly stains our hearts is our consistent failure to stand for what is right, in word and in deed.”

He makes an especially important point near the end: “I know that silence has its place and the speaking out can be inappropriate in certain contexts.”

We often forget this.

Occasionally in its history, the church and its leaders have chosen subversive action or overt words in order to accomplish its task. During World War II Pope Pius XII chose refrain from outright statements, while working intensely behind the scenes to save Jews from extermination. At the time he was loudly praised for his actions, but later in more contemporary times came under attack for not issuing more public denials (though he certainly spoke up at times). These attacks are largely understood to be fabrications of Germans and Russians.

“The voice of Pius XII is a lonely voice in the silence and darkness enveloping Europe this Christmas. He is about the only ruler left on the continent of Europe who dares to raise his voice at all.” – Editorial, The New York TImes. Dec 25,1941.

He didn’t issue them because when he did people died in retaliation. He once sent a letter to read in German church to an Archbishop in Germany (forget which one), and it was immediately destroyed by the Archbishop who sent a reply back saying: if we read this, people will die. In the end his actions saved countless Jews by hiding them in churches, monasteries, and even the Vatican itself. All this with Nazi’s on its doorstep waiting to kidnap him. The Church issued baptismal certificates to Jews so they could claim to be Catholic and they were taught liturgical practices so they wouldn’t “look” too Jewish to the authorities.

This isn’t to say all the actions were appropriate and historians will forever be debating whether he did all he could, but speaking out loudly and vociferously does not seem to have been a useful tool at the time.

“There probably was not a single ruler of our generation who did more to help the Jews in their hour of greatest tragedy, during the Nazi occupation of Europe, than the late Pope” – The Jewish Post. Nov 6, 1958.

The truth must out, but sometimes speaking is not the only way to promote the truth. The Lord Jesus Christ certainly was not afraid to speak up, but he also used actions as well as words. When he was being arraigned in front of the Jewish council, he barely spoke a word. When He raised people from the dead, it was His actions more than His words that raised eyebrows. When we consider our call to promote peace as ambassadors and witnesses of the King of kings, we must consider that we were given a body with multiple ways of engaging with the world. We are also given creative capacity which when we engage it, can produce incredible good or incredible evil.

Whichever way you feel led to promote the cause of peace – do promote the cause of peace. Never remain silent against evil, whether it be with your voice or your actions.

The self-flagellating church: When repentance goes wrong

Image

It has become de riguer these days for the church to apologize for all its various sins, usually the mistreatment of others and to recognize how these actions have set-up walls against evangelization. This is good and necessary work, we’ve brought it on ourselves, but I fear it comes with a dark side.

There are at least three potential downsides that I see:

  • We do it just because it has become culturally expected of us, even if we don’t actually believe we need to repent of anything, and thus we become hypocrites;
  • We repent of something we do acknowledge we have done wrong, but then feel a sense of pride at our actions, thinking we’ve done something extraordinary that deserves accolades; and
  • We see repentance as a one time event and move on never giving it a second thought. Rather, we should see it as a process and the very work of Christ is too lead others to repentance by using our brokenness as an example. Not because we are enslaved by it, but because we are freed by it.

So, yes, we have much to repent of as a church, but we must not wallow in either the misery of it or the pridefulness of doing it. There is work to do.

My wife didn’t like Star Trek: What this teaches us about how we do church

Star Trek movie poster

 

My wife has never been into sci-fi which is heartbreaking because I love it. After hearing of several woman I know who generally didn’t like sci-fi, but did like the 2009 Star Trek reboot, I convinced my wife to watch it with me. My wife was a trooper. She didn’t complain, she didn’t whine, she didn’t say a thing. There was just one consistent question throughout the film: where are we now? There is an awful lot of planet hopping and time travel, not to mention two different Spocks’.. All of this can be very confusing to someone who has no real exposure to the Star Trek original series franchise. I tried to explain to my wife and keep her caught up with the plot, but it was pretty much a loosing battle. Now, my wife is very intelligent woman, but she didn’t have the interest, experience, or insight to know how to understand and interpret what was going on in the movie. Some might say, she didn’t have the hermeneutical key.

I’m sure you can understand how this applies to the church. Are our services decipherable to the newcomer? The unchurched or the lapsed-whatever?

Often times we think these problems are relegated to our brothers and sisters who are a part of the more liturgical traditions. Nay, says I! We all have “issues” in this regard. A young man once walked into the theological bookstore where I work and asked to buy a bible. But, he asked, are the old and new testaments two separate books or one? He had no clue. He didn’t know the first thing about the Bible, Jesus, etc. It was heartbreaking really (this anecdote actually happened to my wife).

Having said that, there are two tensions at play. A church that is really good at handling new comers with kid gloves and introducing them to the faith, in my experience, is often poor at helping those same people, or the people who have lots of experience, go deeper and feel stretched. This is the twin challenge of church. How do you help introduce someone to Jesus and then help those who have long walked with Him, to go deeper in their relationship with HIm and His people.

So, that’s our challenge: How do we introduce my wife to Star Trek, while keeping it interesting for a long time fan like myself?

Hey World, thank you for rejecting ugly Christianity

Hey World, thank you for rejecting ugly Christianity

I have often struggled with the way the world rejects Christianity, historically and to this day. I ask myself why does the world not see beyond the sins of Christians and simply focus on Jesus. Surely, if they were to do that they would be able to step into a love and peace that is beyond their hopes and dreams.

 

I don’t completely agree with some of Steve’s statements, but I think he does hit on something important here.

Christians, don’t blog angry…

Don’t blog angry…

Despite the connections made and lessons learned online, controversy remains the lifeblood of the blogosphere. Indeed, polemics have a long, grand tradition within church history. But when Martin Luther called heretics “asses,” his motive of upholding doctrine wasn’t mingled with the side benefit of driving traffic to his site through sensationalist headlines and reader outrage.