Posts Tagged 'grace'

Sunday Devotional: Sara Miles – Jesus Says GO!

In the midst of all the (well-deserved) hoopla surrounding the release of Brian’s A New Kind of Christianity, it is literarily crucial not to lose sight of another, equally-important book that released this month: Jesus Freak: Feeding/Healing/Raising the Dead by Sara Miles. I really think that both of these books could well define Western Christianity’s soul-searching in the second decade of the 21st-century.

I’m not going to do a full book review today – this week, God-willing! – but for now I’ll just say that Sara’s book works on the reader in a whole different way than Brian’s; whereas Brian’s adeptly takes you on a journey through Scripture, church history, and the genealogy of ideas, Sara’s book is hyper-local (rarely, if ever, venturing outside of her home city of San Francisco) and deeply embodied – it’s story after story after story, driving a central theme home: God lives in us, and Jesus gives us the authority to feed, heal, forgive, and practice resurrection. Here is Sara reading an excerpt from Jesus Freak (this is what inspired the non-technological part of my KedgeForward Theology After Google Preview Talk):

The blogosphere has been positively abuzz about Sara’s infectious story and embodied spirituality. Here are some of the highlights…and again, my take is coming soon!

Bill Dahl

Carl McColman

Faith Matters

Father Jake

In Touch Magazine (In Touch?? Isn’t that Charles Stanley’s magazine?? Wow!)

Journey With Jesus

Matthew Paul Turner

Next-Wave

Reiter’s Block

Rhodes Network

Sarx

Spirituality & Practice

Through A Glass Darkly

Walking With God

Whatever

Weary Pilgrim

Why Is Marko

Wrecked for the Ordinary

Wounded Bird

Yearns & Groans

Left-wing Lesbian author comes out as a Jesus freak and claims power to feed the hungry, heal the sick, and raise the dead – Religion Writers. Now that’s an attention-grabbing headline!

(My previous posts about Sara are here and here.)

Blessings Not Just for the Ones Who Kneel – the Promiscuous Love of God

Want to read this post? I don’t blame you – it’s one of my finest. 🙂  But it’s been moved, to my new blog at MikeMorrell.org! Please update your subscriptions and bookmarks – we’d love to have you there!

House Churching: Where I’m at Now

https://i0.wp.com/web.ku.edu/%7Erusscult/visual_index/images/orthodoxy/rublev_trinity.jpgUpdate: I’ve written more, in response to some thoughtful comments below. If you’ve already read my original post, scroll down…

So: I’ve been house-churching for a decade now. I thought I’d share a little bit about how I’ve gone from being an ardent member of the house church’s self-described ‘radical wing’ to something of a house church moderate. I’ll begin with a comment I left on Late Emerger’s blog:

I agree with the Stuart Murray book recommendation. I’d like to see you blog more about Reimagining Church – if the ideas aren’t ‘new’ to you due to your Brethren background, what do you find helpful (or not) about them, regardless of their relative novelty?

As a decade-long house-churcher, I wrestle with these questions a lot. (I blogged about Reimagining a bit here). In light of my recent posts, I should share where I’m headed today, albeit briefly: I still enjoy the house church emphases of the direct leadership of the Trinity in our gatherings (‘direct’ being a rather tricky word; I fully acknowledge the problem with language, immediacy, and analogy that postmodern theologians grapple with) and the priesthood of all believers for the ‘open-sourcing‘ of the Church. That said, I like the anabaptist emphasis on the political and social dimensions of the gospel, and I’ve gotta say, I’m more and more drawn to High Church smells & bells too – what’s a 21st-century friend of Jesus to do? For now, I think ‘what to do’ in my decidely low-church (basement church!) expression is to compost church expressions, give expiring institutional models the dignity to die well, and let something organic grow from its decay; liturgy is ‘the work of the people‘ after all and can work, even thrive, in an open-source setting.

Update Starts Here

Thanks for the feedback, all!

Monasticism Old & New

https://i2.wp.com/www.geocities.com/tjbd/Waldenser-Wappen.jpgKevin, you’re absolutely right. Had I written A Somewhat Less Brief Post on House Churching: Where I’m at Now, (Oops! It looks like I am!) I would have certainly included the insights from both monasticism and the new monasticism as key influencers in my sensibilities-shift. One thing I like about the ‘wing’ of the house church movement we come from is the attempt to locate ourselves historically beyond ‘the first century church.’ Through the influence of books like The Torch of the Testimony and The Pilgrim Church, hagiographies though they may be, we were  able to see (an amusing little essay I wrote ages ago) lines of spiritual continuity with many minority movements that went before us, some of them heterodox. These included Montanists, Donatists, Waldensians, Lollards, Anabaptists, Quakers, and ‘post-Brethren’ movements like the Little Flock in China. Similarly, the New Monastic folks, coming from more ‘mainstream’ evangelical backgrounds, took a look at our equally-neglected heritage of the Desert Mothers and Fathers, Catholic mystics and activists (including Oscar Romero, Liberation theologians, African and Latin American base communities, Catholic Worker houses), the rich tapestry of monastic movements, and again the Anabaptists – our two streams share them in common inspiration! So they take all of these groups and personalities for inspiration, but also feel free to retain the best of their evangelical backgrounds too, remix, and stir with a sensitivity to contemporary culture – both where it needs to be affirmed and prophetically critiqued. Hence they move the monastery back to the city, ‘relocating to the abandoned places of empire.’ I love it.

Ten-Year Itch

Marion, I understand where you’re coming from. Why, in you perception, exchange the Substance for mere types and shadows? I get it. First off, a question: How long have you been actively involved in house-churching? I only ask because a wise older brother, who had been living in an intentional house church community that I began gathering with early on, said to me – a young buck house church zealot – “Before you commit to anything for life, give it ten years. Let’s talk in ten years.” At the time I thought he was trying to be a downer, but you know what? It’s been ten years. And my perspective has changed.

Leadership: What Is It?

As to your thoughts on hierarchical leadership: I’m no fan of hierarchy per se. And in case I was unclear, what I meant by

I still enjoy the house church emphases of the direct leadership of the Trinity in our gatherings and the priesthood of all believers for the ‘open-sourcing‘ of the Church

sermons

…is that I’m still a huge supporter of participatory gatherings open to all to share. But I’ve also come to realize that leadership is not a dirty word. It’s certainly been misused and abused in some bricks-and-mortar church settings, but I think we house church folk can sometimes romanticize what ‘the headship of Jesus Christ in our midst’ means in actual practice. To be specific: I think we’ve sometimes sold ourselves a bill of goods in the idea that New Testament churches just kind of magically got together without direction or leadership, and their gatherings just ‘came together,’ magically and marvelously. In my experience, some people are just naturally more gifted at motivating the rest of us to practice our own priesthood in a variety of ways. These people either arise after awhile in a house church setting, or the overall house church experience ends up being pretty sub-par. Don’t get me wrong: I still bristle when I visit house churches that are trying to re-create Big Church Sunday Morning Worship in a living room; they’re just getting started and they seem to already have a Pastor, Worship Leader, and Greeter all picked out! It’s annoying. At the same time, I can’t throw stones. I’m way less judgmental as to how that occurs in each particular group, fellowship, or congregation.

The Work of the People

Regarding liturgy: Believe it or not, there is a growing segment of people who are now ‘doing’ liturgy without hierarchy. Many of them are on your side of the pond, in the UK. (See this section of zoecarnate.com for some extensive links, photos, videos and stories) It’s known as ‘alternative worship’ or ‘fresh expressions.’ For some, it’s following more or less a traditional liturgy, though sometimes simplified for smaller groups or acapella singing – creating a rhythm of regularity around which spontaneity can be supported. For others – like the Ikon community in Belfast, Grace in London, or the late, lamented Vaux (it’s really worth going here and here and here to see all that the Spirit wrought with the Zeitgeist in their day) – it’s a bit more community-created from the ground up, more creative and elaborate…though these groups typically meet on a monthly, rather than weekly, basis, their worship takes so much time and energy. And I don’t think most of ’em wear robes! Though I’ve gotta say, I’ve lightened up on this count too. I’ll never forget earlier this year when Jasmin and I met up with our friend Sara Miles (and Paul Fromberg) at St. Luke’s Episcopal in Atlanta. Sara and Paul were talking about various aspects of their life together at St. Gregory’s in San Francisco, including the food pantry they started from their altar. It was an informal chat with about 40 people present, and lots of interaction. Then came a transition point where they were teaching us St. Gregory’s uniquely homegrown style of alt.worship liturgy, which is a blend of Anglican and Byzantine sensibilities, open-sourced so the whole congregation can genuinely participate. It’s all a capella, with just some hand chimes and a Tibetan prayer bowl for accompaniment. But the part I won’t forget is how I was chatting with Sara and then she nonchalantly said “Excuse me a sec while I slip into something less comfortable,” and voila! Five minutes later, Sara had donned a – I don’t even know what you call it, a robe with some a tie-dyed stole. It’s wasn’t pompous, it was festive! And then we all began dancing around a table, arm in arm, hugging and kissing, and eating holy bread and wine. It was one of the most open, participatory gatherings I had been to in awhile – all in an ornate downtown Atlanta cathedral. While the setting was unfamiliar to me, I sensed the unmistakable aroma of Jesus.

I don’t know if this responds to all of your (very well-stated) concerns. I’m particularly curious to hear others weigh in on what ‘poor and ordinary’ people think of liturgies versus house church gatherings. I’ve heard anecdotal corroboration that both people from more ‘roughneck’ backgrounds appreciate the beauty and poetry of good liturgy, and that sometimes seekers feel more at home in cathedrals than in living rooms. Of course I’ve heard/seen the reverse to be true as well. Jesus was certainly ‘everyday’ in many respects, but he was also seen as a sage. His parables involved everyday objects and concepts, but turned them on their heads. Paul was a master of rhetoric (despite his protests to the contrary) and the prophets, not to mention authors in apocalyptic and Wisdom genres, were skilled poets. So I think we see every level of discourse in the Bible as well as everyday life. I agree with you, though, that sisters and brothers in Christ don’t need to be eloquent or profound to share real spiritual depth. But they also don’t have to not be those things.

Where Do We Go from Here?

I don’t think I’ve mentioned this on my blog before, but Jasmin and I are leaving our beloved house church community here in Raleigh in late March 2009. We’re moving back to the Atlanta area to be closer to family – our little girl’s grandparents in particular. What does this mean for us spiritually, and church-wise? I honestly have no idea.  We’re not quitting ‘house church’ – or as its increasingly referred to nowadays, ‘organic church’ – per se. At the same time, I’m not sure if that’s where we’re headed again immediately when we return. My wife and I are amazed by what we see the Spirit working in the ATL; it really seems like Kingdom movement if afoot in many streams and tributaries of the household of God – ‘house church’ included. I’ve told Jasmin that I’m wide open to whatever – house church, Episcopal Church, Mennonites, Quakers, Vineyard or East Orthodox or one of those start-up emerging churches – Oh my! It might just be the season of life I’m in, looking at age 30 – but I’m more concerned about our rhythms of everyday life than where and how we worship. I’m learning to see my house church heritage, like any other set of cousins in the family of God, as a particular tradition. And insofar as I continue gathering for fellowship, action, and encouragement in homes, I’m committed to seeing her as a living tradition, for her own health and well-being.

Related posts:

Open Gatherings and Life’s Wisdom

I May as Well Admit It…I’m a House-Churcher

House Church: Ready for Prime Time? Pt. 1

House Church: Ready for Prime Time? Pt. 2

Sin Boldly! Free Audio Download

https://i0.wp.com/www.sinboldly.com/sincover.jpgI had a great dinner the other night here in Raleigh (at Bogarts, mmm) with my friend Mark from Zondervan/Symtio, a new audio/eBook hybrid platform launching to serve the Big Z and several other houses. We had a great conversation about Foresight@Regent, ministry, and the future of publishing in all its technological and authorially-empowered glory.

One cool thing I learned about is a little-publicized full audiobook giveaway of Cathleen Falsani’s incendiary tome Sin BoldlyFalsani is a Wheaton grad and religion Chicago Sun Times, Huffington Post, and Religion News Service. I haven’t read (or listened) to the book yet, but with a dual background in evangelicalism’s heartland and those godless liberal media (grin), I’m sure it’s interesting.

In case you take umbrage at the title (and it’s not the book on the left, by the way), here’s the back story: Martin Luther said it. Here it is in some kind of context, from a 1521 letter from Luther to Melanchthon:

If you are a preacher of mercy, do not preach an imaginary but the true mercy.  If the mercy is true, you must therefore bear the true, not an imaginary sin.  God does not save those who are only imaginary sinners.  Be a sinner and sin boldly, but let your trust in Christ be stronger, and rejoice in Christ who is the victor over sin, death, and the world. (Source)

https://i1.wp.com/images.barnesandnoble.com/images/27760000/27769491.JPGAh, Lutherans – such a way with words! Because I’m kinda New Perspective-y, I wrestle somewhat with Luther’s late Medieval psychologized reading of Paul and texts discussing grace. I think Luther equated 1st century Jewish folk with his contemporary Catholics, and Hebrew Law with Canon Law and his own conscience, and well…things got complicated. But! Let me be the first to sing Amazing grace, how sweet the sound! We interpret the meaning and scope of grace differently from age to age, but I think any person of faith, hope, and love rejoices in God’s compassionate grace revealed in the face of Jesus.

So back to Lutherans for a sec. From Nadia Bolz-Weber (whose own book, Salvation on the Small Screen, is just delightful) to Robert Farrar Capon – who isn’t technically Lutheran but I’d like to say Episco-Lutheran in a way that’d make Karen Ward proud – some of favorite grace theology, practice and storytelling comes from Lutherans. I have no idea if Falsani is a Lutheran.

And on that note, please, download the audio book here while it’s still available (and then go buy a truckload if you like it – its the only way publishers will have their fears assuaged and keep trying these nu-media experiments). And check out this short YouTube interview with Falsani.

Grace & Peace…

Tom Davis: Why Christians Suck

For the past year or so I’ve had the privilage of getting to know Tom Davis, a no-nonsense friend of Jesus and humanitarian rabble-rouser. He can be gruff-around-the-edges sometimes, but he has a heart of platinum and is loads of fun to hang out with.

Tom has started loads of wonderful initiatives, including Children’s Hopechest, the Red Letters Campaign, and 5 for 50.

If you like readin’ books, you can check out a few of his that have come out in the past couple of years: Fields of the Fatherless, Confessions of a Good Christian Guy, and Red Letters: Living a Faith that Bleeds.

https://i1.wp.com/ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/21SHHU0CCgL._SL160_OU01_SS160_.jpg

And if you like coffee, you should treat yourself to Saints’ Coffee, which is https://i2.wp.com/ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/51GJNB7gFdL._SL160_OU01_SS160_.jpgorganically grown, fair trade, and directly supports oprhans worldwide! It doesn’t get any better than that, folks. (Seriously…cancel your Gevalia subscription and try some Saints. You’ll be glad you did.)https://i1.wp.com/radicallybalanced.typepad.com/radicallybalanced/images/2007/09/10/red_letters_large_2.jpg

So: Tom is no stranger to controversy, and this past week he’s been setting this here internet a-buzz with his article entitled (as my blog entry title suggests) Why Christians Suck. Except Beliefnet censored it, reading instead “S**k” throughout. Which somehow feels far more salacious and tawdry, y’know?

Anyway, here’s some of what Tom has to say:

“Each Sunday, millions of Christians in America gather to worship the God who commands us to “love our neighbor as ourselves.” We belt out praises to the God who tells us that “pure and undefiled religion is caring for widows and orphans in their distress.” We kneel in pious prayer before the Almighty God of the universe who describes Himself as loving, gracious, merciful, and generous.

Then, we walk out the back door of the church, step into a world in need, and proceed to withhold the love, grace, and mercy that’s extended to us.

We might as well give God the middle finger. Outside of a tiny minority of Christians, we have become a self-centered group of priggish snobs.

In short, we s**k.”

Well come on, Tom! Tell us what you really think! He does this, unpacking his prognosis right here. But Tom doesn’t leave us hanging – oh no. He shows us a remedy to Christian suckishness in his companion piece How to do What the Bible Says.

So how is it that the brewer of Saints is so keen on the Church’s sins? A few years ago, I would have said “Now wait just a minute, Mister!” After growing up in guilt-inducing religion, I was refreshed to find teachers who explicated the refreshing nature of grace; that no matter how sucky Christians behaved, Paul (for instance) always addressed the churches as “holy ones” in the New Testament. Holiness is the core reality of the new creation, regardless of the more external trappings. So my thinking on this has been kinda like John Eldredge’s, pointed out in this 2004 Christianity Today interview:

[Eldredge] challenges Christians who apply Jeremiah 17:9 (“The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure”) to their post-conversion hearts. “Not anymore it’s not,” he writes in Wild at Heart. “Read the rest of the book. In Jeremiah 31:33, God announces the cure for all that: ‘I will put my law in their minds and write it on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people.’ I will give you a new heart.”

And what about the seemingly humble assertion that Christians are just sinners saved by grace? It’s a Big Lie, Eldredge writes in Wild at Heart, adding: “You are a lot more than that. You are a new creation in Christ. The New Testament calls you a saint, a holy one, a son of God.”

I believe so much in the gratuitous holyfying nature of God’s manifestation in Christ that I have an entire section of my links directory dedicated to it. I believe it, saints. But at the same time, I can’t camp out here any longer. That I am beloved by my divine Abba before I lift a finger and no matter how sucktastic I am is a core reality that helps me get out of bed in the morning. But the Gospel, as Brian McLaren helped point out to me, transcends justice-avoidance. It isn’t Thank God Jesus died for me so now I can live for myself. The transforming energies of death and resurrection are dedicated to our new creature-ship, to seeing heaven’s reality more and more on God’s beloved earth.

These two vital realities must be held in creative tension. We shouldn’t be guilt-trippin’, but neither should be sitting around like slugs on a log. In my Bible, Paul and James aren’t enemies. Both are friends of the God found in Jesus Christ, who has given us every grace and enablement to live a life marked by transformative good deeds.

Grace & Justice to you this day,

Mike

Covenant Expiration Dates & Perpetual Renewal – Where I’ve Been Part 3

The trip down doctrinal memory lane continues here…

Actually, it continues here, on my new blog, MikeMorrell.org! Please follow me there, and update your subscriptions & bookmarks accordingly. Thanks!

God’s New Deal – Where I’ve Been Part 1

So I’m finishing a paper today about “subversive biblical leadership” for my MOL601 class. In the process, I have returned to something I’ve found endlessly fascinating and a meaningful spiritual reservoir for a decade now–God’s new deal, or (more precisely in theo-speak) New Covenant. It was my involvement in PCA Presbyterian circles that introduced me to Covenant Theology as opposed to the unconsciously native Dispensationalism of my Baptist and Pentecostal youth….

I’m now blogging at MikeMorrell.org! You can read this post in all its glory right here. Please update your subscriptions & bookmarks. Thanks!


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