Saturday, May 07, 2011
Mike Deodato Jr.
John Romita Jr.
Friday, May 06, 2011
Sorta Tracking A Series
For some time now, I have been frustrated with what has been happening in the area of spiritual formation. Yes, I've read lots of the literature and especially benefited from the works of folk like Henri Nouwen and deeply appreciate some of the things Richard Foster has been trying to draw our attention to, in the Church Fathers for example.Boy is there a boatload of discussion there. - I agree with almost all of it, most especially the using feelings as a barometer of spiritual formation and how narcissistic current spiritual formation discussion is. Of course, there is a lot of interrelation between those two points as well.
My unease has been caused by several factors: 1) monastic models of piety frankly don't work for busy normal Christian people. They are not only too demanding, they require too much time away from the very things God in fact most needs them to be committed to doing; 2) I have also been disturbed by the individualistic and frankly self-centered nature of much of this literature which ignores that the dominant place where spiritual formation does and should happen, according to the NT itself, is when the body of Christ comes together, not when I go off alone into the woods. This is not to say there is not a place for spiritual retreats from time to time. There is. But it is not the stuff of day to day spiritual formation; 3) the connection between spiritual formation and sanctification, or spiritual formation and conversion or spiritual formation and ecclesiology, or spiritual formation and ethics, is too seldom explored. Rather, we get models of spirituality that are disconnected even from religion in general and Christian worship in specific. At least in the Christian tradition, this ought not to be the case. 4) As a Wesleyan person I have also found much of the spiritual formation literature too quietistic, by which I mean, too disconnected from things like works of charity, and even from things like Communion, which Wesley saw as perhaps the major means of grace for all Christians, the major means of spiritual formation. 5) The way the Bible has been used in the spiritual formation literature is often painfully wrong. The Bible in itself has lots of 'spiritual' content. It does not require a sort of gnostic spiritual reading of the text to get this, and it certainly doesn't require an anti-historical anti-academic reading to get at this. And lastly, 6) too much of the spiritual formation literature is indebted to modern psychology with its fixation on human feelings. Feelings, however, as Eugene Peterson once said, are no good barometer of where your relationship with God really is. Spiritual formation, in the primary sense, is what God does in and for us in the person of the Spirit. And that Spirit is a spirit of holiness.
I the rest of the series, Witherington goes on to track through some of this stuff. I intend to walk with him for the next few posts here, though not exactly in his footsteps. But for now the overwhelming question in my mind is how do we pull ourselves out of ourselves? I'd like to start by looking at Witherington's first point on monasticism. I agree that is not the model for this age, but consider this throw away he made, "They are not only too demanding,...."
That chilled me - the demands that true spiritual formation makes on us are total. We really must give up everything, not perhaps physically to the church, but we must let go. We cannot eliminate any consideration based on demand or else the result will be less than full formation. One of the root problems is, I believe that we do not demand enough of those that come to be disciples. We do so to keep them as disciples because if we demand too much they walk away.
So let's ask ourselves why the apostles did not walk away from Christ? In the end Christ asked their very lives of most of them. I would respond by saying it was Christ's winsomeness. They were not attracted by ideas or wealth, they were attracted to Jesus.
So, the place to start when it comes to spiritual formation is with ourselves - how do we become so winsome that people will follow us when we demand "too much?"
Not sure I know the answer, but I do know where to start - on my knees in humble confession of how very ugly I am at this point.
Thursday, May 05, 2011
The Worship Wars Continue
Worship is autochthonous, by which I mean it is native to the worshiper(s). In other words, people worship in a certain way because of who they are, where they are, what they've experienced, etc... Worship is simply our individual and/or collective response to God's initiating work in our lives. God acts. We respond - always in that order.Firsdt of all, as I said yesterday - worship does not have a style, worship is a style a lifestyle.
Secondly, this is relativism dressed up in church clothes. The objections raised yesterday were not about music choice, they were about life choice and therein lies the problem - the line between the two. It would be longer than a blog post to try to define that line, but there are two points that I think are worth making.
God seeks to stretch us beyond our comfort zone. Worship should be uncomfortable, becasue it is asking us to look into the face of GOD - if that feels comfortable then we are not doing it. Think about that for a minute. If you think you will feel safe and warm and fuzzy walking into the presence of God, then there is something miserably awry with you concept of self and/or God. Knowing God will not condemn you for your sins is a very different thing than feeling safe in God's presence.
Secondly, evangelism is not worship. Let me repeat that - other than in the sense that to obey God is worship, evangelism is not worship. Evangelism is something an unbeliever does with a believer. Worship is something a believer does with God. The instant we make our focus of worship the unbeliever is the minute we transform worship into evangelism. Without the genuine worship of the believer there can be no evangelism for it is only in the maturity bread of genuine worship that we can become strong enough to do genuine evangelism. Should the church be evangelistic - absolutely, but that is not worship.
Related Tags: Illuminated Scripture
Wednesday, May 04, 2011
Well Spoken Advice
- Just sing the song.
- We don't sing La-La-La
- Open your eyes.
- Stop singing in the key of "Tomlin."
- We only know 4/4 time.
- Plan the transitions.
- Turn up the lights.
- Dress like it is worship that matters.
- Love Jesus more than music.
Good Stuff - I'll just add one note. Leading music is leading music; it is not leading worship. You do not stop worshipping to pray, or listen to the word. You do not stop worshipping when you leave the sanctuary (excuse me, meeting room, multi-purpose room, or whatever it is these days) and go out into the world to obey the word.
Worship is not an act, it is a lifestyle - telling God He is King matters far less than acting like God is king - all Sunday and all week.
Tuesday, May 03, 2011
Christmas in May II
Sometimes I think that such a struggle may be a root sin. It is, in a sense an effort to be God - to try and have a "God's eye view" of how things work. It should be a place where we learn our limitations, and yet we work so hard to overcome.
I wonder what is to be learned from simply saying, "I don't know - I can't know," and focusing instead on the marvelous fact that regardless it still all works.
I could write a long time describing the dual nature of Christ's being, but sometimes, in fact I wonder if not all the time, it should be enough to simply say - "It's true."
Monday, May 02, 2011
Christmas In May
Bruce Epperly wrote at Patheos:
We pastors need these feelings of wonder, beauty, and holiness. We need a "halo over an ordinary moment." This is the surprising wonder of incarnation that makes all of us mystics.Well, done! Christmas, and all other miracles should remind us that we worship a supernatural God and that part of our walk with Him is to embrace the supernatural.
And, we need to be mystics -- Mary encountered an angel, Joseph had a dream, and the magi followed a star. We can find Christ as we check our e-mail or make hospital visits. In the midst of the darkening days and the equally darkening prognostications about the church and the world, we need to be "surprised by joy" as we go about our daily tasks and come home to our families and friends.
Without the mysticism of incarnation, life loses its zest and ministry loses its inspiration.
I disagree with Dr. Epperly's conclusion that rationality leads to certain stances on issues political and economic, but I do agree with him that rationality can lead us to ungrace.
Those of us prone to approaching all with our powers of reason and our mind lose touch of the fact that God comes to us on ALL levels. Hence the incarnation itself - God reached out to us on the physical, emotional, spiritual and rational level. When we limit ourselves to the rational, we place ourselves in a box and do not experience the whole glory of God.
We are now in "ordinary time" - no miracles place themselves in heavy rotation in the church calendar, but that does not mean we should forget them, or the lessons they teach us. We must open ALL that we are to God every day.