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Monthly Archives: April 2011

Royal Wedding: Bishop of London’s Sermon

“Be who God meant you to be and you will set the world on fire.” So said St Catherine of Siena whose festival day it is today. Marriage is intended to be a way in which man and woman help each other to become what God meant each one to be, their deepest and truest selves.

Many are full of fear for the future of the prospects of our world but the message of the celebrations in this country and far beyond its shores is the right one – this is a joyful day! It is good that people in every continent are able to share in these celebrations because this is, as every wedding day should be, a day of hope.  

In a sense every wedding is a royal wedding with the bride and the groom as king and queen of creation, making a new life together so that life can flow through them into the future.

William and Catherine, you have chosen to be married in the sight of a generous God who so loved the world that he gave himself to us in the person of Jesus Christ.

And in the Spirit of this generous God, husband and wife are to give themselves to each another.

A spiritual life grows as love finds its centre beyond ourselves. Faithful and committed relationships offer a door into the mystery of spiritual life in which we discover this; the more we give of self, the richer we become in soul; the more we go beyond ourselves in love, the more we become our true selves and our spiritual beauty is more fully revealed. In marriage we are seeking to bring one another into fuller life.

It is of course very hard to wean ourselves away from self-centredness. And people can dream of doing such a thing but the hope should be fulfilled it is necessary a solemn decision that, whatever the difficulties, we are committed to the way of generous love.

You have both made your decision today – “I will” – and by making this new relationship, you have aligned yourselves with what we believe is the way in which life is spiritually evolving, and which will lead to a creative future for the human race.

We stand looking forward to a century which is full of promise and full of peril. Human beings are confronting the question of how to use wisely a power that has been given to us through the discoveries of the last century. We shall not be converted to the promise of the future by more knowledge, but rather by an increase of loving wisdom and reverence, for life, for the earth and for one another.

Marriage should transform, as husband and wife make one another their work of art. It is possible to transform as long as we do not harbour ambitions to reform our partner. There must be no coercion if the Spirit is to flow; each must give the other space and freedom. Chaucer, the London poet, sums it up in a pithy phrase:

“Whan maistrie [mastery] comth, the God of Love anon,

Beteth his wynges, and farewell, he is gon.”

As the reality of God has faded from so many lives in the West, there has been a corresponding inflation of expectations that personal relations alone will supply meaning and happiness in life. This is to load our partner with too great a burden. We are all incomplete: we all need the love which is secure, rather than oppressive, we need mutual forgiveness, to thrive.

As we move towards our partner in love, following the example of Jesus Christ, the Holy Spirit is quickened within us and can increasingly fill our lives with light. This leads to a family life which offers the best conditions in which the next generation can practise and exchange those gifts which can overcome fear and division and incubate the coming world of the Spirit, whose fruits are love and joy and peace.

I pray that all of us present and the many millions watching this ceremony and sharing in your joy today, will do everything in our power to support and uphold you in your new life. And I pray that God will bless you in the way of life that you have chosen, that way which is expressed in the prayer that you have composed together in preparation for this day:

God our Father, we thank you for our families; for the love that we share and for the joy of our marriage.

In the busyness of each day keep our eyes fixed on what is real and important in life and help us to be generous with our time and love and energy.

Strengthened by our union help us to serve and comfort those who suffer. We ask this in the Spirit of Jesus Christ. Amen.    

— Dr. Richard Chartres, Anglican Bishop of London

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Posted by on April 30, 2011 in Uncategorized

 

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We are the Queer. We are the Whore.

This is a powerful post I came across by Tamara Lunardo… worth reflecting upon. I would love to hear your thoughts:

 

If you have no inclination to hear punk music or to consider the realities of a screwed up nation, then I cannot recommend against NOFX’s The Decline EP strongly enough– it would be far too jolting. But should you hazard a listen, you will be rocked hard for 18 minutes and 20 seconds.  And what may rock you hardest is hearing this: We are the Queer. We are the Whore.

I don’t know that I could be more religiously misaligned with this band that I so enjoy, and yet these words of theirs pierce me. No matter how many times I listen, I cannot help but break this line out of its political context with a Christ-imprinted grip: We are the Queer. We are the Whore.

I have friends who identify themselves as “queer,” and what they mean is, first, to strip the word and its wielders of lashing power, and, also, to say, I am different, perhaps peculiar; I am not ashamed.

But that’s not all it means to be queer. It often means not to be accepted, not to be “gotten.” Not to be welcomed by the mainstream; worse, not to be loved by the Church. To be berated, defamed, accused. Rejected by the ones most dearly loved.  

Jesus knew what it was to be the Queer. If I am in Him, then I know it, too. We are the Queer.

And having followed after Him all these years, so desperate, so broken, so full of hurt and shame, I know what it is to be the Whore.

I once heard a man share that he had happened to ride in an elevator with a prostitute. He said he knew the types of looks she was used to getting from men, and out of his love for Jesus, he was determined not to look at her that way. So he looked up to the floor numbers. He did not look at her at all.  

And my heart broke hearing this story, because even though the man said the woman in the elevator thanked him, my own whore heart guesses at what she really craved. She didn’t want averted eyes. She wanted eyes that looked at her and shone compassion. The opposite of lust isn’t abstinence; it’s love. We are the Whore.

I think the man who told the story loved the best way he knew how, and truly, it may have been enough for that woman. But I am grateful, soul deep, that Jesus doesn’t avert His eyes from me. We are the Queer. We are the Whore– He looks me straight on and His eyes shine compassion.

And, so blessed with that love, I am different, perhaps peculiar; I am not ashamed.

 

 
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Posted by on April 29, 2011 in Uncategorized

 

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High Commitment Church

Generally speaking, churches can fall into two categories: high commitment and low commitment churches.

Low commitment churches tend to have one expectation: you show up when you can, when you want.pastor,

High commitment churches vary in their expectations, but it often includes giving, serving, participating in a small group, etc.

Perhaps counter-intuitively, there is a lot of research that suggests high-commitment churches grow much faster than low-commitment churches.  Quite intuitively, research also shows that high-commitment churches are healthier, more involved with their community and demonstrate a stronger commitment to missions and outreach.

As a pastor, I found these things to be true.

The interesting question is “what are your expectations?” when it comes to high commitment churches.  Is it just showing up at lots of stuff, or is it actually about spiirtual growth and maturity? Are we encouraging busyness or discipleship? Exhaustion or sanctification?

The church I am a part of is a high-commitment church.  One of the core values of the church is a serious commitment to spiritual practices.  I really like that.  This sense of high commitment is reflected in the Membership Covenant, that covers seven commitments:

  1. Regular personal prayer and bible reading.
  2. Regular Sunday attendance for corporate worship.
  3. Participation in a Small Group for fellowship, prayer, bible study and accountability.
  4. Using your gifts/SHAPE to serve within the church.
  5. Serving outside the church.
  6. Giving financially to the church.
  7. Following Biblical conflict resolution principles.

Even as a fairly mature believer, I am excited about making those basic commitments — and following through on them. And I am excited to be part of a community that challenges me and those around me to more fully pursue spiritual practices like these.  I think it will produce a really healthy church as we grow, and creates an atmosphere of growth and discipleship.

Some questions for you:

  •  Do you attend a high commitment or low commitment church?
  •  What does your church expect of its members? attenders?
  •  What would you add to the seven above?
 
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Posted by on April 28, 2011 in Uncategorized

 

Becoming A Baptist

I never thought it would happen, but I am becoming a baptist — that is, I am becoming a member of an American Baptist Church.

The church I have been attending is affiliated with the American Baptists and I have decided to become a member because (a) a Christian not part of a church is like an orphan; (b) I want to be able to serve and use my gifts at the church more; (c) I believe in the vision and mission of the church; and (d) I am drawn to and excited by the work of church planting.

But as I have learned more about American Baptists, I can honestly say that it is about as close to who I am theologically as any denomination I have seen and I excited by their history and to be a part of the movement.

For those not familiar with American Baptists, here are ten facts about them:

1. American Baptists believe that Jesus Christ is Lord and Savior, and that the Bible is the divinely inspired word of God that serves as the final written authority for living out the Christian faith. 

2. For American Baptists the local church is the fundamental unit of mission in denominational life. Baptists always have maintained the need for autonomous congregations. 

3. American Baptists partake of two ordinances or sacraments: believer’s Baptism and Holy Communion. 

4. American Baptists believe that the committed individual Christian can and should approach God directly, and that individual gifts of ministry should be shared. They have rejected creeds or other statements that might compromise each believer’s obligation to interpret Scripture under the guidance of the Holy Spirit. 

5. American Baptists take seriously the call to evangelism and missionary work. 

6. American Baptists support religious freedom and respect the expressions of faith of others. This includes support for the separation of church and state. 

7. American Baptists acknowledge that God’s family extends beyond our local churches, and that God calls us to cooperative ministries. That outreach extends worldwide through our relationships with the Baptist World Alliance, the National Council of Churches of Christ, the World Council of Churches, and other groups. 

8. American Baptists have been called to be Christ’s witnesses for justice and wholeness within a broken society. As Part of that wholeness American Baptists support the Civil Rights Movement and the role of women to minister in the church as equal partners and servants with men. American Baptists have ordained women to ministry for 125 years! 

9. American Baptist Churches USA celebrate the racial, cultural and theological diversity witnessed within its membership. American Baptist Churches USA is the most racially inclusive Protestant body. 

10. American Baptists heed the biblical call to renewal and the need for a vital witness in a new millennium. 

When we first planted a church in Storrs, we actually wanted to affiliate with a denomination but could find none that worked.  We didn’t look closely at American Baptists because there was already an ABC church in town.

All American Baptist churches are independent and congregationally governed, led by am pastor/elder.  I think it is a strong governance model.

The ABC denomination is one of the most diverse in America — both in terms of ethnicity/race and in theology.  Some churches are quote liberal, others quite conservative.  The church I am joining is a socially progressive evangelical church — something pretty unique on the church landscape. It is a church I am excited to be a part of.

 
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Posted by on April 27, 2011 in Uncategorized

 

Denying the Resurrection

Peter Rollins:

?Without equivocation or hesitation I fully and completely admit that I deny the resurrection of Christ. This is something that anyone who knows me could tell you, and I am not afraid to say it publicly, no matter what some people may think.

I deny the resurrection of Christ every time I do not serve at the feet of the oppressed, each day that I turn my back on the poor; I deny the resurrection of Christ when I close my ears to the cries of the downtrodden and lend my support to an unjust and corrupt system.

However there are moments when I affirm that resurrection, few and far between as they are. I affirm it when I stand up for those who are forced to live on their knees, when I speak for those who have had their tongues torn out, when I cry for those who have no more tears left to shed.?

 
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Posted by on April 26, 2011 in Uncategorized

 

The Centrality of the Empty Tomb to Christian Faith

?I find that Holy Week is draining; no matter how many times I have lived through his crucifixion, my anxiety about his resurrection is undiminished?I am terrified that, this year, it won?t happen; that that year it didn?t. Anyone can be sentimental about the nativity; any fool can feel like a Christian at Christmas. But Easter is the main event; if you don?t believe in the resurrection, you?re not a believer.

?If you don?t believe in Easter,? Owen Meany said. ?Don?t kid yourself?Don?t call yourself a Christian.?

John Irving, A Prayer for Owen Meany

 
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Posted by on April 25, 2011 in Uncategorized

 

Sunday’s Coming

 
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Posted by on April 23, 2011 in Uncategorized

 
 
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