A media frenzy! 😉 Here’s a CBC news clip on the sermon/service.
How can that ending not be a foretaste of future glory? Josh Donaldson being fully himself, taking the risk of playing on the edge, hitting a ball just right, with all of the physics coming together perfectly, on the cusp of being named league MVP, in the last home game of the season, perfectly executing a walk off home run to win the game! #bluejays #sportisamicrocosmoflife
All week long I’ve been reading these words as part of my morning devotional (and feeling a bit disingenuous); “I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.” Psalm 139:14
I suppose I’ve always struggled with the passage, at times thinking it had nothing to do with me, and at other times being okay with the first half, but then generalizing the second (your works in all of creation are wonderful, I know that full well). Who can really say, “Your work that is me is wonderful I know that full well”?
And so I’m struggling with this passage once again this morning when I recall the feeling I felt toward a few of my students on Thursday as they did their cultural exegesis presentations. It was a sense of overjoyed exuberance at the connections they were making, at the the hard work they’d done, at how the Spirit had moved in their lives, and at how they were getting a bigger glimpse of God’s revelation in his world. I don’t know these students that well, but I felt quite proud of them, a kind of love for them, like I was seeing more of the fullness of them as they were being what they were made to be.
And then it occurred to me that perhaps God felt that same teacherly joy when I first made the connection, working hard at it, his Spirit moving in me, giving me a huge glimpse of his revelation in the world. Could it be that all of those times I was more fully me, sitting in my sermon writing chair, weeping at the way something in creation illumined something from the bible, that God was weeping with joy too? If I could feel the wonderfulness of a few students I barely knew, could the God who made me not feel the same toward me?
And for all I know he feels it all the time. What would it mean to let more of that in?
Over the past six months we’ve noticed that Edward has developed a continuum of gratitude when it comes to pre-meal prayer. When he hates what’s being served he’ll hold his hands behind his back and refuse to even close his eyes (salad). When he’s disappointed he’ll let us touch his elbows but will not allow any hand to hand contact (any rice based meal). When he’s happy with what’s being served he’ll hold our hands and actively pray with us (pasta or burgers). And when Fran brings home take out pizza he’ll reach out and grab both of our heads and passionately draw them to himself like this!
For the past week I’ve been preparing a course that I’ll be teaching at Ambrose University on ‘evangelism’. There I said it… even though I strongly dislike the word (and all of its attendant baggage and stereotyping) this is what I will be teaching – but in a new way hopefully, a more two-book kind of way, a being-witness-to-the-fullness-of-who-God-is-in-the-world kind of way.
So I’ve been asking myself how a two-book worldview (experiencing God everywhere through his revelation in both the bible and creation) changes the witness of a person of faith. And I think witness is the word I’m going to go with this fall. Of course, part of being a Christian witness is the conveying of that one piece of the gospel that speaks of forgiveness and atonement in Christ. But what about all of the other gospel good news…that the world and everything in it was made through Christ… that all things are now held together in Christ… that God reveals himself through creation, human nature and cultural products at home, work and play, and that we can hear his creation words through Christ… and that everything you are and do as a human being can be transformed by knowing God through Christ in all of these ways?
Over the past few years I’ve known intuitively that engaging God’s world in a two-book way has changed what it means for me to be a witness, and I’ve felt the power of it, but I’ve never really sat down to articulate how.
Until this morning. Here are a few ways that a two-book worldview has shaped and redefined what it means for me to be a witness (they all kind of hang together);
I’ve been struggling a lot lately – wondering what God is calling me to do going forward. In the context of our potential church merger with Hillside I’m trying to discern my role in maintaining New Hope’s vision while stewarding a fuzzy sense of being called to more involvement in things outside of New Hope. I sense that I need to make more room to write more books. In two weeks I’ll begin teaching (for the first time), a course on being church in a changing world, at Ambrose University. I also have this long-brewing passion to get more involved with helping preachers preach creation texts (I drafted two chapters of a book on the topic 6 months ago and haven’t revisited the manuscript since). So how does this all fit? Can it all fit?
And then this afternoon happens.
Sitting in a class, with a bunch of theology professors learning how to develop a syllabus, I start to feel at home. I feel like I fit in. As this is playing out I get an email that repairs what I thought was a rift in the church merger conversation. It left me thinking that I will have more room for more stuff. Then I get an email from my publisher. We haven’t spoken for months but now he’d like me to get on with some pre-marketing for the next book. Then I meet a lecturer who’s a good friend of a New Hoper and as we speak I feel like the two worlds of school and church can easily co-exist. And then I bump into the seminary dean on the way out of the lecture and he says he’d be very interested in exploring the idea of me teaching a one week spring course in 2016 on preaching two book sermons. And then, as I sit in the school foyer for a few minutes to write this post, three professors from the lecture come up to me and offer ideas on how a newbie can structure their first class. Each had been a pastor in their previous life.
And then I think, there is a way forward for all of this.
Tomorrow will be our last church service in the West Hillhurst Community Centre (on August 30th we move, on September 6th we ‘church picnic’ and on September 13th we’re in our new digs at the former Rocky Mountain College).
So much of what NHC is has happened here… desperately trying to remove the bingo smoke smell from the auditorium in the first year, adding dry ice ‘smoke’ for the Metallica service years later, building a 200 foot long runway for ‘fashion show Sunday’, meeting so many people at the back of the gym for the first time, saying goodbye to some, sharing so many potlucks, watching and hearing kids run around the gym after church (and sometimes during), seeing that guy stand on his chair and wave his bible and scream at me during my ‘seven card texas hold’em’ sermon, watching the congregation’s faces change when they realized this wasn’t a planned drama or skit, seeing all of those volunteers, for over 15 years!!!, set up and take down chairs, lights, speakers, video and projection gear, play-school walls, carpets, et al, consuming all of those Sunday morning bagels (10’s of thousands!), being crammed into other community centre spaces as the gym floor was replaced (twice), seeing all of the beautiful imagery that’s been projected on those two big screens, tasting honey, hosting a huge catered feast, watching an artist paint on a huge canvas while I preached (twice), hosting so many congregational business meetings, taking in so many movie clips, hearing the band practice and then play (on Arcade Fire Sunday, Rush Sunday, Supertramp Sunday, The National Sunday, Mumford Sunday, Florence and the Machine, Coldplay, U2 and so many more), feeling that profound sense of sacredness on Christmas eve as the place was filled with flickering candles and we sang Oh Holy Night, seeing the faces of so many souls over the years as we were all caught up in a God moment, watching tears come down their faces, hearing the laughter.
I could go on and on and on right now… so many good memories… so much holiness… all in an ugly old community centre gym. I’ll miss it.
Over the past few months I’ve been thinking a lot about the vision and values of NHC. What is it that uniquely makes us who we are? Why are we this way? As I’ve thought through these questions I’ve come to realize that ‘a lot of what we do we used to do for one reason and now do for another’.
1. Engaging culture – When New Hope started, as a ‘seeker-oriented church’ 20 yrs ago, we often used movie clips, contemporary songs, sports stories, science as relevant relational bridges to the culture (as mere illustrations). Now we use them as creational words of revelation spoken by God.
2. Language- When NHC started we excised as much ‘Christian-ese’ from our lexicon as possible so that those new to church would not get lost. Now we use the language of the culture with the belief that this is the language God is speaking in the world today.
3. Seeker sensitivity – Where we used to be (almost inordinately) oriented to and sensitive to how a new person would respond to an experience of church, we now thoughtfully attend to them with the understanding that they bear the image of God and that God is present through them (plus its always good to be hospitable!).
I’m sure there are a few more… but I find it interesting how God took one thing and transformed it into another. Reading this post over I’ve also come to realize how easy it is for those outside of the community to view our church and think ‘they’re just trying to be relevant.’