Sunday, March 1, 2015
Dr John Stott, an Anglican evangelist who preached publicly for the final time a few years ago asked this question :
Why is it, you must have asked, as I have, that in many situations our evangelistic efforts are often fraught with failure? ...
One main reason is that we don't look like the Christ we are proclaiming.
The most effective preaching comes from those who embody the things they are saying. They are their message.
Christians need to look like what they are talking about. It is people who communicate primarily, not words or ideas. Authenticity gets across.
Deep down inside people, what communicates now is basically personal authenticity.'”
“Is Christ-likeness attainable?”
He concluded: “In our own strength it is clearly not attainable but God has given us his Holy Spirit to dwell within us, to change us from within ... God's way to make us like Christ is to fill us with his Spirit.”
This phrase from the Gospel reading sticks with me and came from the shadow of the clouds covering Peter, John, James and Jesus. "This is my Son, the Chosen One. Listen to Him"
The Transfiguration shows us the two sides to Jesus, His divinity as Son Of God and the future human suffering he is to face as Son of Man as he leaves the mountain and sets his eyes resolutely " like flint" on Jerusalem and the cross.
We see our first glimpse of The Cross and the Resurrection.
Along the way to the cross, we will see whether the disciples really do listen to Jesus.
Time and again throughout the Gospels we hear that the disciples had a very difficult time listening to Jesus. Their human condition always gets in the way.
The same thing applies to us. We have a very difficult time listening to the contradiction of the resurrected Christ and the cross of Christ.
My prayer is :
Please God let me keep my eyes focused on you and keep listening to you all my life even if you seem lost in the clouds covering me from time to time.
Lyrics to The Transfiguration
When he took the three disciples
to the mountainside to pray,
his countenance was modified, his clothing was aflame.
Two men appeared: Moses and Elijah came;
they were at his side.
The prophecy, the legislation spoke of whenever he would die.
Then there came a word
of what he should accomplish on the day.
Then Peter spoke, to make of them a tabernacle place.
A cloud appeared in glory as an accolade.
They fell on the ground.
A voice arrived, the voice of God,
the face of God, covered in a cloud.
What he said to them,
the voice of God: the most beloved son.
Consider what he says to you, consider what's to come.
The prophecy was put to death,
was put to death, and so will the Son.
And keep your word, disguise the vision till the time has come.
Lost in the cloud, a voice: Have no fear! We draw near!
Lost in the cloud, a sign: Son of man! Turn your ear!
Lost in the cloud, a voice: Lamb of God! We draw near!
Lost in the cloud, a sign: Son of man! Son of God!
Saturday, February 28, 2015
‘Thank you, Steve Jobs.’
Gosh, I never thought I would say those words.
For decades, I have been both infuriated and seduced by the man; alternating between curious and angry, enamored and resentful. I idolized and villainized him. His products have both helped and hijacked my career and personal life – devouring my time, my attention and my bank account. For all of his grand invention, he was at the core just a ‘dealer’, feeding society’s ‘more, please, now’ addiction. By blurring technologies with toys, he hooked billions with a ‘shiny new, faster, more colorful’ lure.
Ironically, he considered himself Buddhist but masterminded products that disconnect us from our minds instead of settling us deeper into them.
Like many, I grew tired of his rhetoric and bravado, his secrets and sweatshops. But when I watched the now famous 60 minutes interview where he rejected his birth father as a mere sperm bank – and vowed to never meet the man, I was actually sad. Here was the man responsible for helping billions connect and he couldn’t (wouldn’t) connect to the one man with whom he shares DNA.
So when it comes to Mr. Jobs, I have felt many things – but grateful? Never. Not until last week. The week that my own father turned 83.
A poet named David Whyte writes about asking the ‘close-in’ questions; the important inquires we want to – need to – long to – make. The ones we trip over while falling into mundane chit-chats like, ‘how is the weather? or ‘how’s your hip?’
So I asked my father a very close-in question: Is there something you want to do before you die?
When he was 70, I bought plane tickets to Sweden and we journeyed to the small northern-most island (Oland) from where his ancestors emigrated. It was our first venture into creating a new relationship that is present and erases history by creating new memories. As we stood side by side in front of the old red barn where his grandparents were born and married, a stones throw from the sea, we were connected to each other, our DNA, our genetic birthright. And in that one moment, the world got much smaller.
These were the days before iPads, iPhones, WI-FI, Facebook or Facetime. The days when you said, ‘You had to be there’, and you really meant it.
More than a decade later, he said there’s only one thing he wants to experience. As a volunteer driver, he transports veterans and handicapped folks to hospital and medical appointments from the small town where he lives to the big city. For a dozen years, he has been traveling the same stretch of country road, a few miles west of Portland Oregon, watching glider planes soar through the air, thinking: I want to do that. So for his birthday, his kids, the five of us, gave him a gift certificate to take the glider ride. He was moved by the gesture.
But on the actual morning of his 83rd birthday, over coffee at the local Starbucks, he confessed that there was something else he wanted.
For some reason, this frightened me more than the plane ride. He could have asked to go nude skydiving while getting stoned and it would have felt safer and more sane than this. But it was his day. So we set off in search of the device.
Where I live in Los Angeles, the city is littered with apple products. They’re ubiquitous. But in the small coastal blue collar-farming town where I grew up, I wasn’t even sure we would find one. As it turned out, partially because of Apple’s impending announcement of the new product launches and because farmers, loggers and truck drivers don’t seem to connect to the apple brand, there were plenty of iPads for purchase; they were even on sale.
An hour later, we sat at Starbucks, a half-cup of luke warm coffee and an unopened factory sealed iPad between us.
He stared at it. Would he fail at this? Was he too old? Would his inability to do this be the true indicator of just how old he was, proof that he was outdated, his mental operating system too old or slow to upgrade?
I stared at him and wondered, what must it feel like to have raised five kids, dozens of grandchildren, been married 56 years to the same woman, driven over a million miles in a freightliner delivery truck, retire, then spent the next 17 years delivering thousands of ailing and elderly people to doctor’s appointments? What must it feel like to see friends and family members fade and fail and fall and be hauled off to homes that are not their own homes because they can’t seem to remember their name or address?
I realized that for him, this product was not a luxury or a toy; it was about survival. An impulse to thrive. He had a clear choice: to sit in his La Z Boy and stare out the window while the world he used to be a vital part of passes by or to gaze into a virtual new world on a lightweight 9 x 7 screen. Newly retired from his post retirement volunteer gig – he knew he was going to have a lot of time on his blue-collar hands.
His hands are big and worn, beautifully stained with decades of hard, physical work; non iPad work. He has first generation immigrant fingers. They had never touched an Apple product until that day.
They fell heavy on the delicate glass. A thud almost.
At first, he couldn’t find the right touch. He was pushing everything; smearing the screen with his fingerprints and with one poke opening every single app on his home page. iTunes started to play when all he wanted was to send an email. The Reader’s Digest app open when he pushed Sports Illustrated. I heard him say to himself, ‘What the hell is a Safari and what do I need that on here for?’
He was frustrated.
‘Where the hell did it go? I lost my google. I can’t find my goggle.’
The joy of anticipation disappeared as quickly as it had flooded in.
This was going to suck. For both of us.
But then something happened.
His big, thick fingers found just the right touch. They found a groove and slid intuitively across the screen; soaring and gliding up and down and across. It was as if someone from the other side had taken over and was guiding his old mans’ fingers.
‘I can’t believe this is happening.’ He exclaimed.
My father spent his whole birthday Facetiming, e-mailing and Facebooking dozens of people – his children, friends, brothers and sisters. He connected to the world. He learned something new.
His brain was activated.
Then we rested.
Friday, February 27, 2015
On February 4th I was informed by Covenant leaders that they were terminating their partnership with me as a church planter and Christ Church: Portland as an official church plant of the Evangelical Covenant Church. The reason: my personal convictions and advocacy for the full inclusion and participation of LGBT Christians in the church at all levels of membership and leadership, receiving the same call as any other Christian would to discipleship and faith, community, fidelity in relationships.
In terms of my position on human sexuality, I agree with the arc of the Covenant’s position, which: upholds celibacy in singleness and faithfulness in heterosexual marriage as the Christian standard. I only differ in my convictions that the call to celibacy in singleness and the call to Christian marriage be extended to both “straight” and “LGBT” followers of Jesus in our churches.
In 2004, the ECC’s Board of the Ordered Ministry offered this word, which stood as Covenant policy on human sexuality matters, with the caveat that "The following is a report from the Board of the Ordered Ministry to the 119th Annual Meeting in 2004. It represents what we have discerned thus far.”
For more on the Covenant’s position, read: http://www.covchurch.org/…/Human-Sexuality-Guidelines-for-M…
In the run-up to that official 2004 declaration, and all along the way since then in my licensing and ordination conversations, church-planter’s assessment, and in private consultation with ECC leaders at all levels of local, regional (Conference) and denominational leadership I shared that I believed the policy statement was incomplete, and the call to continued discernment, as inferred by the Board of the Ordered Ministry, was a good word that we should continue to reflect on. I was urged that the Covenant was a safe place for me to hold these personal convictions and that discernment would be, of course, an ongoing matter as we rooted ourselves in Christ, dwelled deeply in the Scriptures, listened with pastoral ears to our local communities, and followed the movement of the Holy Spirit.
I, in no way whatsoever, believe that LGBT inclusion is an essential matter of faith. For me, it comes down to my pastoral sensibilities and concern for my local community and broader ministry context. It's my pastoral convictions that undergird my advocacy on such matters, as they have in my advocacy around poverty, racism and global health.
Let me be clear: There are wonderful, faithful Christians who seek to include LGBT persons in their local ministry contexts and congregations, stopping short of Christian marriage. They are doing wonderful work on anti-bullying and other such challenges that the LGBT community face every day.
I count such congregations and their leaders as companions and colleagues in the great journey with Jesus we’ve each been magnificently gifted by a God who loves us with a love we can barely comprehend. We're better together.
My sincere hope and desire was that we, in the Evangelical Covenant Church, could maintain our historic ethos of Christian freedom on such matters.
In recent months, as I heard the testimony of faithful Christians who happened to be gay, the narratives were immensely similar: experiences of exclusion, alienation, with many suffering from clinical depression or suicidal thoughts. Hearing these stories happened during a season in which I was pigeon-holed by Covenant leaders to articulate my personally held convictions once again. I could no longer keep fully silent on these matters. In fact, I heard God calling me out to speak faithfully on such matters.
As a result, we lost not only our faith family support system in the Covenant church, we lost the next two years of funding. Curiously, I remain ordained in the Evangelical Covenant Church and will have a meeting with ECC leaders in March or April to further understand the parameters of such an ordination, serving a former Covenant church plant.
I share this testimony, an open letter to my Covenant friends, to live in the light of my convictions. I share it out of a spirit of love and unity, not hostility or division. I share it in the hope that in the end love and faith triumph over conflict and fear.
I’m also excited to share that you’ll hear from members of Christ Church’s core team a week from now, about who they are and why they’re excited to be part of our brand new congregation, taking root in Portland. Stay tuned.
Wednesday, February 25, 2015
'Esau held a grudge against Jacob because of the blessing his father had given him. He said to himself, "The days of mourning for my father are near; then I will kill my brother Jacob."' Genesis 27:41.
How slow we sometimes are to see our own faults and acknowledge our own responsibility for the situation we find ourselves in. What Jacob did was wrong, but Esau had proved himself unworthy of his father's blessing in two ways.
1. Previously, Esau had failed to value his birthright or give any thought to the eventual blessing that being the firstborn would entitle him. He sold it for a bowl of stew (25:34). How easy it is to allow immediate pressing demands to lead us to unwise decisions, to allow our appetites and feelings to control our judgements, only to live with regret later.
2. Esau had little care about the grief he would cause his parents by marrying Hittite women, (26:34&35), women with no connection to Abraham's God, and for whom God's promise to Abraham would mean nothing.
Yes, Esau was wronged and deeply hurt by his brother but, instead of acknowledging his own foolishness in all that led up to it, he harboured a grudge which resulted in hatred of his brother.
Sadly, whilst we might not wish those who have harmed us dead, how often have we had more in common with Esau than we have with Jesus who taught us, 'Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who ill-treat you,'? (Luke 6:27&28).
THE KING’S MUSICIAN
A TRIBUTE FROM THE SECULAR BRASS BAND WORLD
The whole of the brass band moment - both religious and secular, has been mourning the death of composer Lieutenant Colonel Ray Steadman-Allen. He died on December 15th, aged 92.
Born in Clapton in 1922 to Salvation Army parents, as a teenager he worked as an office boy to General Evangeline Booth, daughter of the Salvation Army’s founder, at the organisation’s headquarters.
Largely self taught, he later joined the Music Editorial Department of The Salvation Army, and following a short post-war period as a trombonist with the International Staff Band he became the highly respected Bandmaster of the Tottenham Citadel Band.
During his Royal Navy service he was examined for a Trinity College Diploma by Sir Granville Bantock, who invited him to work with him after the Second World War. However, on Bantock’s death the opportunity never materialised, and he became a Salvation Army officer in 1949, and in 1951 he married Joyce Foster.
Over 200 works
He went on to write over 200 brass band works, many regarded as progressive and ahead of their time within the Salvation Army, where he headed the International Music Editorial Department between 1967 and 1980. He also worked for over three years in Australia.
His highly regarded book entitled, ‘Colour and Texture in the Brass Band Score’ gained many admirers and has subsequently been reprinted on numerous occasions. He was also the respected editor of ‘The Musician’ and undertook the completion of the Salvation Army’s 800-tune hymn and song book.
As well as completing his Doctorate in Music, Ray Steadman-Allen held several honorary fellowships, and was a former President of the National College of Music, Vice President of the National Association of Brass Band Conductors and a patron of the London Musicological Research Society.
Affectionately known as 'RSA’, in 2003 the Royal School of Church Music awarded him its ARSCM (Associate of the RSCM) and in 2005, The Salvation Army admitted him to its Order of the Founder - the highest honour that it can bestow on a member.
In 2012, a suite of articles about his life and works was published by Shield Books under the title of 'History, Harmony and Humanity'.
In 2005, The Salvation Army admitted him to its Order of the Founder - the highest honour that it can bestow on a member'