Open Book on COLOSSIANS REMIXED

20110531111214_00013Over the last three books, we’ve explored the importance of our bodies and imagination in forming kingdom habits (Desiring the Kingdom), ways of integrating our faith and everyday work (Kingdom Calling), and the importance of community in growing up in Christ and reaching out in mission (Community & Growth). Each fortnightly gathering we’ve shared in the combination of rich liturgy (Taize songs, Northumbrian prayers, creative Bible reading), open discussion, reflection on art, and the designing of rich practices and habits to reinforce our identity and calling in Christ. In our second cycle for 2016 (starting Thursday 28th July), and as we descend into the long winter of our Australian political discontent, we ask some tough questions of how our Christian faith should rightly relate to worldly regimes:

How should we live our Kingdom story as ‘true’
in an age of conflicting Empires?

20110531111214_00023Ever since Constantine’s ‘vision’ of the Chi-Rho–‘conquer by this sign‘–on the eve of his victorious battle at Milvian Bridge, 312 AD, Christians have understandably confused the cross of their crucified Saviour with the Labrum of the ascendant Emperor. It’s far too easy in our politically charged contemporary existence to hitch powerful agendas to the way of Jesus … a way that challenged exclusive mono-cultural identities, and worship of money and violence. We need to tease apart the competing stories and imaginaries of Kingdom and Empire.

This challenge is not, however, new. The Apostle Paul dealt with it head on as he wrote to the mixed community in Colossae, a Roman outpost. He offered wisdom to re-narrate their identity and action as an alternative community under the humble reign of the slain lamb. In turn, this posed a challenge to the superficial ‘peace’ offered by power brokers (Pax Romana).

Yay for Paul.

Still, what might this look like today, in the post-Christendom western context?

Colossians Remixed CoverEnter Brian Walsh and Sylvia Keesmaat with their provocative commentary, Colossians Remixed. They fuse indepth theological and cultural analysis, creative dialogue, and bold Targums that interpret Colossians and translate this ancient text into our contemporary political and economic context.

Over 8 sessions we will dialogue with these authors, learning to pray for the Empire, and live faithfully and subversively as an alternative kingdom culture in the midst of competing stories and conflicting powers.

Check out the calendar below for key dates, and pdf links to carry you through until you get your own copy of the book.

We have a soft-start from 6:30pm–feel free to rock up early and eat your dinner or share a cup of tea. At 7pm sharp we get into the night, finishing each night by 9pm with supper together and an unrushed chat over coffee. OPEN BOOK includes some basic spiritual practices and prayer, before unpacking the pre-reading scheduled for that night.

For each week, it helps to think through how the reading provokes you in 4 ways:

1) Questions: what didn’t make sense?

2) Challenges: what did you think was wrong?

3) Implications: if this is true, what does it mean for being the church today?

4) Applications: what does it look like for you to live out of this vision as part of the community of God?

OPEN BOOK, THURSDAYS 7PM:

July 28 | Colossians Remixed [CR] #1: Placing Ourselves: Globalisation & Postmodernity … pre-read CR 7-37 (Preface + Ch 1) + Col 1:1-2

Aug 11 | CR #2: Placing Colossae: In the Shadow of Empire … pre-read CR 38-76 (Ch 2-4) + Col 1:1-14

Aug 25 | CR #3: Subversive Poetry & Contested Imaginaries  … pre-read CR 79-114 (Ch 5-6) + Col  1:15-2:23

Open Table dinner on Friday September 2 … Theme of HOPE

Sep 8 | CR #4: Truth, Lies & Improvisation … pre-read CR 115-144 (Ch 7-8) + Col  2:1-3:4

Sep 22 | CR #5: An Ethic of Secession … pre-read CR 147-168 (Ch 9) + Col 3:1-17

Oct 6 | CR #6: An Ethic of Community … pre-read CR 169-200 (Ch 10) + Col  3:1-4:1

Oct 20 | CR #7: An Ethic of Liberation … pre-read CR 201-219 (Ch 11) + Col 3:18-4:9

Open Table dinner on Friday October 28 … Theme t.b.a.

Nov 3 | CR #8: A Suffering Ethic … pre-read CR 220-233 (Ch 12) + Col 4:7-18 … series integration as we look toward Advent

Feb 2017 | Restart semester 1 with a new book and theme … t.b.a.

Hope to see you there!

Maiorina-Vetranio-siscia_RIC_281

Open Book on Endō’s SILENCE

3b68cd92e1547d20e2cb8a84580d9daeOver the last four books, we’ve explored the importance of our bodies and imagination in forming kingdom habits (Desiring the Kingdom), ways of integrating our faith and everyday work (Kingdom Calling), the importance of community in growing up in Christ and reaching out in mission (Community & Growth), and how we should live our kingdom story as ‘true’ in an age of conflicting empires (Colossians Remixed). Each fortnightly gathering we’ve shared in the combination of rich liturgy (Taize songs, Northumbrian prayers, creative Bible reading), open discussion, reflection on art, and the designing of rich practices and habits to reinforce our identity and calling in Christ.

In our first cycle for 2017 (starting Thursday 2nd February), and making a long awaited switch from argumentative essays to a sweeping narrative, we turn to explore the struggle for faith in a world marked by suffering and God’s silence:

How can we imitate Christ as witnesses
in a culture rejecting Christianity?

silence-high-quality-book-cover

Order the Picador 2016 edition online here.

Our conversation partner is Shūsaku Endō (1923-1996), arguably the greatest Japanese novelist of his time, and author of one of the twentieth Century’s most renowned books, Silence. The impact of this book reverberates into the present, challenging, inspiring, infuriating and humbling countless modern writers (see here for nearly 50 such reflections).

fumie2Endō, a Japanese Catholic, was no stranger to occupying the place of the Other: too foreign, too Oriental, to be understood by the West, and too Christian, too iconoclastic–not to mention insufficiently Buddhist–to be accepted at home. His work of historical fiction is set in 1635 as Portuguese missionaries seek to proselytise the Japanese during a time of extreme persecution. Following rumours of their leader (Ferreira) abandoning his faith, two younger Jesuits (Fr. Rodrigues and his companion Fr. Francisco Garrpe) head to Japan to uncover the truth and shore up the struggling converts. How will this collision between cultures resolve, as each grapples with the other? Will Rodrigues and Garrpe, too, betray their Lord, trampling his crudely formed icon (fumie) underfoot and committing the sin of apostasy?

For Dave’s thoughts on why Silence is so timely to read in Open Book 2017, read on.
For the key details and dates, skipping the essay, scroll down below the second +++!

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This book is timely for two reasons.

japanese-martyrs2First, our times increasingly resemble the novel’s setting, thus posing questions that we must answer in our own missional context. This is not to play the victim and suggest that Aussie Christians experience persecution akin to Japanese Christians during the Edo Period (1603-1868). This was a time when Japan turned inward to forge a unified national identity set over and against the colonising other, especially its religious symbols which challenged ultimate allegiance to the Land of the Rising Sun. To be sure, most Aussie Christians barely feel a twinge of persecution, largely disconnected from the pain in the global body of Christ as it faces widespread “Christianophobia“.

Nonetheless, this anti-Christian sentiment has settled into the western church’s heartland. Our once familiar home is turning “hostile“, with anti-Christian bias increasingly prevalent. Many followers of Jesus are lost for how to respond to their faith coming under attack. The “Christian Century” of peacefully coexisting with and playing chaplain to the elites, appealing to the cultured despisers, is long gone. Instead, leading thinkers call the church to “prepare” for persecution–to follow Jesus outside the gates of institutional power, and to embrace the ignominy of being the misunderstood Other who yet speaks truth to power and leads with sacrificial love (Heb 13:12-16). Facing political protectionism and resurgent nationalism (think Brexit, Trump, One Nation) and a supposedly unified “secular” identity that marginalises faith as the populace “loses [its] religion” (even amidst unprecedented plurality), the “disappearing church” of contemporary Australia must change goals, “from cultural relevance to gospel resilience”.

Nothing in this would surprise Endō or other such wise students of mission’s history. Fr. Francis Xavier, Jesuit missionary extraordinaire, ushered in what looked like an Oriental Christian Century, with his inquisitive welcome by Japan’s elites in 1549. And yet, within fifty years, under feudal warlord and Shogun strong man Toyotomi Hideyoshi, Christianity–with its foreign religious icons carried on “black ships” of commerce, backed by military force–was anathema, understood as a threat to fledgling national identity. Missionaries now risked ridicule, even torture and martyrdom, and indigenous believers retreated as “hidden Christians”. Should they just give up on Japan? Does the gospel simply not grow in this soil? And yet, the incarnation and way of Jesus models that God can take on flesh in every time and place, embracing its particularities–contextualisation without compromise (Mt 28:18-20). “If Christianity cannot be true in every culture, then it cannot be true at all.” How Portuguese and Japanese believers responded was a test of Christianity’s integrity as a whole.

silence-endoWe must, however, count the cost. Incarnation always leads to the cross.

As Alissa Wilkinson writes in her powerful review of Silence, “For Endō, there are no easy routes to salvation; a person’s body—its ethnicity, its weaknesses, its susceptibility to pain and desire—is as much his link to the life and sufferings of Christ as a person’s soul.”

This is the paradox of faith: to save your life, you must first lose it (Mt 16:25). How, then, can fallen Christians imitate the incarnation, and witness to a culture rejecting Christianity? Can we do so without suffering? Will our efforts end better than Peter, or Judas?  And how will we be sustained for this impossible mission when the God who sends us apparently stands by, watching in silence?

Endō will not allow us to see this as a “culture war”, a battle between them and us. Surely, there is much that the story’s antagonists and inquisitors, especially former Christians like Kichijirō and Inoue, rightly reject in Christianity as a religion and colonial power–as Japanese Pastor Marre Ishii explores in his review of Silence? It is difficult to distinguish to what degree they would have us wrongly trample underfoot Christ himself as rebels idolatrously set against the Lord of All (Ps 2; Mt 5:10-12; Lk 10:16; Jn 15:18-25), and rightly destroy our crude images of Christ reified in broken institutional religion that is prone to hypocrisy, “cross[ing] land and sea to make one convert, and then turn[ing] that person into twice the child of hell you yourselves are” (Mt 23:13-15). Like Jesus himself, Endō is calling the church to “cleanse the temple” (Mt 21:12-17) by evicting what truly is not of God. Only in humility can we witness to a post-Christian culture.

silence-978144729985101Recapping this first point, then, our times increasingly resemble the novel’s setting. Christianity, once popular and even powerful, is on the outer, and a nation “come of age” is prone–with some good reason–to marginalise and even persecute the Church as a threat to the common (read “secular”) good. As missiologist Lesslie Newbigin argues powerfully (see Truth to TellFoolishness to the Greeks, and The Gospel in a Pluralist Society), however, most Christians have not yet recognised that we are the other, the foreigner, in our own home. We, the increasingly “hidden Christians”, are missionaries to a post-Christendom culture. And, as such, the novel Silence is a poignant conversation partner, raising questions of witness, power and colonialism, suffering and doubt, persecution and apostasy. Given that Christ’s Pieces is called to explore what it means to faithfully follow Christ at this cultural cross-road, this book is ripe for our reading together.

Image result for silence movieMercifully shorter than my first rationale, a second reason this book is timely to discuss is that the much anticipated movie rendering of Silence by Martin Scorsese has come! Thirty years in gestation since first reading, this master director describes its production as his own “pilgrimage”. It’s set to be released in Brisbane on February 16, 2017. God willing, we’ll watch it together on Thursday March 2. Obviously watching the movie, mid cycle in Open Book, comes with a complete “spoiler alert”! That said, his adaptation is receiving critical acclaim by the religious and secular alike, and will stimulate great discussion as these tortured characters lift off the page, at once enfleshing and challenging the images in our mind’s eye.

With this movie release (synopsis here; trailer here) has come great interest and a flurry of responses. There have been occasional detractors, such as Roy Peachey from First Things. He questioned both Scorsese and Endō’s telling as rationalising an escape from the suffering of the cross in the name of contextualisation and protection of fellow believers. Most reviewers, however, have praised their constraint, avoiding preaching and instead raising pivotal issues for our at once secular and religious age. As Stephanie Zacharek from Time commented, this story “maps the space between faith and doubt …. Silence makes no clear value judgment between belief and doubt. It’s a movie in the shape of a question mark, which may be the truest sign of the cross.” Personally, this story of cross-shaped witness in a post-Christian context reminded me of Brendan Gleeson’s 2014 characterisation of Irish Priest, Fr. James, in the similarly celebrated and poignant movie, Calvary (Trailer here).

If you’re wanting to delve deeper, these are the best reviews of Silence I’ve read:

  • Alissa Wilkinson on Vox: “Silence is beautiful, unsettling, and one of the finest religious movies ever made. Martin Scorsese’s film keenly understands Shūsaku Endō’s novel and challenges believer and nonbeliever alike.”
  • Simon Smart (from Australia’s Centre for Public Christianity [CPX], on ABC: “How the pain of Scorsese’s Silence mirrors the ‘hard and bitter agony’ of Christmas.”
  • Brett McCracken on Christianity Today: “Scorsese’s Silence asks what it really costs to follow Jesus.”

The particular version of the novel we’ll use is the 2016 edition by Picador (available on Amazon.com here), translated by William Johnston, with a foreword by movie director Martin Scorsese. Their discussion guide is most helpful, posing piercing literary and theological questions with which we will grapple. The companion reflections from nearly 50 authors, responding to Silence, are likewise profound.

We will also draw from a companion book that closely follows Endō’s novel, written by the wonderful Japanese artist and theologian, Makoto Fujimura, with a foreword by Philip Yancey, entitled Silence and Beauty: Hidden Faith Born of Suffering. Fujimura’s companion website has interviews, art-work, and his own discussion guide. For Yancey’s chapter on Shūsaku Endō (“A Place for Traitors,” in his Soul Survivor: How My Faith Survived the Church [London: Hodder & Stoughton, 2007], 261-279), see here. Yancey shares how Endō’s attention to the suffering image of Christ–“the Jesus of reversal” (268)–restored Yancey’s faith, after rejecting the unreality of Christian triumphalism from his fundamentalist youth.

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Over 9 fortnightly Thursday sessions (Feb 2 – May 25) we will dialogue with Endō and each other, learning how to realistically imitate Christ’s incarnation as his witnesses, in our post-Christendom (post-Christian?) Australian culture.

Check out the calendar below for key dates, and pdf links to carry you through until you get your own copy of the book (purchase asap on Amazon.com or via Picador).

We have a soft-start from 6:30pm–feel free to rock up early and eat your dinner or share a cup of tea. At 7pm sharp we get into the night, finishing each night by 9pm with supper together and an unrushed chat over coffee. OPEN BOOK includes some basic spiritual practices and prayer, before unpacking the pre-reading scheduled for that night.

For each week, it helps to think through how the reading provokes you in 4 ways:

1) Questions: what didn’t make sense?

2) Challenges: what did you think was wrong?

3) Implications: if this is true, what does it mean for being the church today?

4) Applications: what does it look like for you to live out of this vision as part of the community of God?

OPEN BOOK, THURSDAYS 7PM | Shūsaku Endō’s SILENCE (S)

Feb 2 | Silence Part 1, pp. vii-10 (27pp): Scorsese’s Foreword (vii-ix), Translator’s Preface (xi-xxiv), Endō’s Prologue (1-10)

[Yancey’s chapter on Shūsaku Endō, “A Place for Traitors,” pp261-279 in his Soul Survivor: How My Faith Survived the Church (London: Hodder & Stoughton, 2007), is also great introduction.]

Feb 16 | S Part 2, pp. 11-47 (37pp): Ch 1 (11-21), Ch 2 (22-29), & Ch 3 (30-47)

*Wednesday* Mar 1 | Silence Movie

Open Table dinner on Friday March 10 … Theme of LOVE

Mar 16 | S Part 3, pp. 48-83 (36pp): Ch 4 (48-83)

Mar 30 | S Part 4, pp. 84-107 (24pp): Ch 5 (84-107) [cancelled due to Debbie’s Cyclone 😦 ]

Apr 13 | S Part 5, pp. 108-128 (21pp): Ch 6 (108-128) + revisit pp. 84-107 (Ch 5)

Apr 27 | S Part 6, pp. 129-164 (36pp): Ch 7 (129-164)

May 11 | S Part 7, pp. 165-189 (25pp): Ch 8 (165-183), & Ch 9 (184-189)

May 25 | S Part 8, pp. 190-212 (23pp): Dinner celebration/remembering of all practices (ppnt/pdf recap) and consolidation of our response to the central question of the series: “How can we imitate Christ as witnesses in a culture rejecting Christianity?” (Ch 10 (190-204), & Appendix (205-212). We’ll provide soup & bread (7pm sharp); bring dessert if able.

Open Table dinner on Friday June 9 … Theme of TRUTH (7 for 7:30pm start)

July 27 | Restart semester 2 with The Benedict Option on the question, “What practices preserve our witness [& identity] in a post-Christian context?”

Hope to see you there!fumie

Open Book 2016: Community & Growth

The old has gone, the new has come! Okay, Christ’s Pieces isn’t as exciting as the eschaton! Still, we hope that through this experimental Christian community at Open Book, faith is deepening and you are discovering a foretaste of the transformation God has in store for all of his creation.

2015 laid a great foundation with book studies of Desiring the Kingdom and Kingdom Calling. Together we’ve explored how to leverage our everyday habits to align with and experience the reign of God. We’ve also discovered how to reframe our daily grind as a God-given vocation through which we seek first the Kingdom.

Each fortnightly gathering we’ve shared in the combination of rich liturgy (Taize songs, Northumbrian prayers, creative Bible reading), open discussion, reflection on art, and the designing of rich practices and habits to reinforce our identity and calling in Christ. In our first cycle for 2016 (starting Thursday 4th February) we follow up with a natural and pressing question:

Beyond solo efforts, how do we grow together in Christlikeness and grow up in mission as the community of God?

Forming new life-rhythms and integrating our faith and work is not meant to be an individualistic pursuit. Jesus came to redeem and reconcile humanity as a family. He brings disparate members and even enemies together in one body. This is the “church”. 

And yet, today we are seeing vast numbers of Christians leaving institutional expressions of the faith, and setting out on their own spiritual voyage of discovery.

That’s why we’re taking a semester to sit at the feet of a sage. Jean Vanier , an internationally celebrated humanist, philosopher and theologian, formed the L’Arche community in 1964. It was a simple and yet revolutionary expression of Christ’s love, as people with and without an intellectual disability lived together in genuine, reciprocal relationship. (You can hear him share this vision here and here.)

Jean crystallised his thoughts in his book Community and Growth, expanded upon in the 1989 edition which is available on amazon.com here. Over 10 sessions we will dialogue with the work of this wise writer. We will re-imagine what it means to be the church–the community of God–in terms of unity, commitment, mission, growth, nourishment, authority, gifts, welcome (inclusion and hospitality), gatherings, rhythms, and celebration.

While few of us have a diagnosed intellectual impairment (I’m counting myself in on this, where PhD means ‘permanent head damage’!), we are each special in our own way. We each must learn to love and be loved precisely in our difference, weakness and even pain. In so doing, we may together grow and become more fully human, bearing God’s image collectively in our community.

Check out the calendar below for key dates, and pdf links to carry you through until you get your own copy of the book.

We have a soft-start from 6:30pm–feel free to rock up early and eat your dinner or share a cup of tea. At 7pm sharp we get into the night, finishing each night by 9pm with supper together and an unrushed chat over coffee. OPEN BOOK includes some basic spiritual practices and prayer, before unpacking the pre-reading scheduled for that night.

For each week, it helps to think through how the reading provokes you in 4 ways:

1) Questions: what didn’t make sense?

2) Challenges: what did you think was wrong?

3) Implications: if this is true, what does it mean for being the church today?

4) Applications: what does it look like for you to live out of this vision as part of the community of God?

OPEN BOOK, THURSDAYS 7PM:

February 4 | Community & Growth [CG] #1: Restart Open Book … Exploring the theme by sharing our stories of the good, bad and ugly of Christian community. We’ll bounce off the pre-reading from CG xiii-12 (Preface + Introduction)

February 18 | Community & Growth #2: UnityCG 13-60 (Ch 1)

March 3 | Community & Growth #3: Commitment and Mission … CG 61-83 (Ch 2) + 84-103 (Ch 3)

March 17 | Community & Growth #4: Growth … CG 104-164 (Ch 4)

March 31 | Easter celebration meal and open conversation … perhaps we could tie in with the Brisbane chapter of L’Arche here?

April 14 | Community & Growth #6: Nourishment … CG 165-204 (Ch 5)

April 28 | Community & Growth #7: Authority and Gifts … CG 205-239 (Ch 6) + 240-264 (Ch 7)

May 12 | Community & Growth #8: Welcome and Meetings … CG 265-283 (Ch 8) + 284-296 (Ch 9)

May 26 | Community & Growth #9: Rhythms and Celebration … CG 297-312 (Ch 10) + 313-328 (Ch 11)

June 9 | Community & Growth #10: Integration toward transformed lives … CG 329-331 (Conclusion)

July 28 | Restart semester 2 with a new book and theme … t.b.a.

Hope to see you there!

Let’s forget communion?

Thought you might find this blog post interesting. It’s by Caleb Trimble, called “Let’s Forget About Communion“.

As Caleb writes in his blog:

We don’t gather to make church cool.
We don’t gather to make the unchurched feel welcomed.
We don’t gather for an awesome worship experience.
We don’t gather for a sermon that makes us think.
We don’t gather to spend time with our friends.

We gather for communion. Because in communion, everything begins to make sense. In communion, friends and enemies come together. In communion, Christ’s Kingdom is experienced. In communion, the church finds its hope. In communion, Christ is present and exalted.

It is time to bring into focus this sacrament.

Open TableA great read, passed through to me by Noel Payne–thanks mate. Fits in really well as stimulus for our next Open Book discussion on Thursday June 18 at our place, called “Hospitality & Home-Bake”. Check out the Ana Maria Pineda 12 page chapter on Hospitality here. The big question: “What does hospitality look like in my life, and how can I extend God’s table grace to others?” This week will give a taste of “Open Table” which we hope to start later in the year.

So, bring some food to share, and a story to tell at the heart of your experience of giving and receiving hospitality. And let’s enjoy together God’s eucharist, courtesy of Christ.

Blessings, Nik and Dave

Are Practices Passé

desiringkingdomFrom the get go, we’ve built Christ’s Pieces around a conviction: Christian practices matter.

As we’ve explored in Open Book, working through James Smith’s Desiring the Kingdom, it’s not enough to be informed and have all your beliefs in order. Plenty of people believe right in the cognitive sense, but their lives are functionally unredeemed. Instead, we need to train, to discipline, to form our bodies. Only then will we be transformed. Paul’s teaching in Colossians 3 about “putting off” the old and “putting on” the resurrected life may come to mind.

What, then, are Christian practices?

Toying with dozens of definitions, here’s how we’ve characterised it for Christ’s Pieces.

Christian practices are

… rich and repetitive actions we do,
over time and often together,
which engage our senses and imagination,
reminding us of God’s presence
and aiming us at His Kingdom

heshenThus far we’ve experimented with scented oil, signing the cross to symbolise Christ’s full ownership of our lives. And, last week, we cut out hessian squares, representing the rough garb of St. Francis who traded down to find transformation. My heshen square sits in my wallet, on top of my visa card. Each time I open my wallet to spend, it reminds me to pray. “God, this money is yours. Help me live simply. What would you have me leverage this money for?” (Thus far it’s saved me a tidy sum, going for the standard latte over the coffee drinking bowl with scones on the side!)

But, let’s be honest. Practices are somewhat passé today. They’re inconvenient. They threaten my autonomy, training me by submitting to some higher rhythm. (Put your hand up if you put something aside this lent?) For Protestants, they raise flags of legalism, works righteousness, and that kind of hocus pocus reliance on ritual that went out with the Reformation.

At root, though, I suspect our reluctance to experiment with practices boils down to a chronological snobbery. They seem so old fashioned. Haven’t we moved past the dark ages of disciplining desire? Why not just be “free” and follow my feelings? Why constrain my worship to particular ways of being?

With all of this in mind, I was interested to see Q Ideas post this week’s conversation.

(Q Ideas is an American outfit of evangelicals, led by Gabe Lyons–author of both “UnChristian” and “The Next Christians: Seven Ways You Can Live the Gospel and Restore the World”. But, before you dismiss it, they’re asking the right questions, and are explicitly oriented to engaging culture rather than fleeing or taking it over for Christ. Their driving desire is to work from today’s most pressing questions to find common ground and ideas that truly serve the common good. So, perhaps worth a look.)

Here’s their conversation starter for Easter 2015:

historic practicesLooks like they’re exploring some similar themes. How timely.

Rather than steal their thunder, it may suffice to note that at each turn, they’re convinced that practices like gratitude, simplicity, Sabbath and rest, even solitude, silence and stillness, are *crucial* in a crazy world like ours. We have all the freedoms in the world, and yet we lack the forms which channel our energy toward liberation and wholeness.

We’re like modern artists more concerned with expressing ourselves than patiently sitting at the feet of a master and learning the artist’s way, imitating one brush stroke after another. Lacking any “rules” or bounds within which to paint a kingdom vision, we splash our immature selves onto the canvas, calling it “witness” and yet confusing an onlooking world.

Could it be that we need:

Less anarchy, more life?Indigenous art, available at link

Less information, more transformation?

Less me, more we?

Less independence, more interdependence.?

And, perhaps, in our low commitment, novelty-addicted and somewhat narcissistic culture, we need

less flexibility, more love.

Perhaps practices are not so passé after all?

What “rituals” and “liturgies” do you lean on in your everyday? How do these bodily practices form habits that aim your heart toward God’s Kingdom?

Post away! I’m keen to hear about your experiments, so we might truly be a community of practice.

Transforming Work

This is more of a plug than a post, but anyway!

How does the following quote from Mark Green, at London Institute for Contemporary Christianity (LICC), strike you?

Here in the UK, the church’s primary mission strategy has been:

‘To recruit the people of God to use some of their leisure time to join the missionary initiatives of church-paid workers.’

LICCIt’s a strategy that has yielded much fruit – in evangelism, in social action among the poor, the young, the old, the disadvantaged, as well as in reaching out to the rich, the adult and the privileged. Praise God for the ability of church leaders to mobilise their communities for such mission. Still, this is mission that most Christians can only participate in during their leisure time. What about the rest of their time?

The reality is that 98 percent of Christians – i.e. those not in paid church work – are not properly envisioned or equipped for their mission in the 95 percent of their waking time that they aren’t involved in church activities, wherever that might be – workplace, schoolplace, clubplace. And that is a tragic waste of the church’s missional potential. Too few Christians have eyes to see what God might be doing in the places they already naturally spend their time, and where they already have relationships with those who don’t know Jesus.

Pastoring is tricky business. It’s natural to give the most energy and attention to what we are invested into. For many pastors, this means that the Sunday gathering typically points back to what God is doing in and through the church gathered. This is all good stuff. But, it leaves many people wondering how their faith relates to their every working life.

But what if the tables were turned? What if the main stories we tell, the big wins we celebrate when gathered, are first and foremost about God’s work in our mundane existence? God’s love expressed through our labour? God’s creativity pulsing through our common work of cultivating the world?

It’s these kind of questions that drive Malyon College’s Workplace Centre.

On Saturday 20 June, they’ve put together a really varied group of speakers from across Australia, and a fantastic diversity of workshops, all aimed at one thing:

How do we Transform Work, bridging the Sunday–Monday gap?

I’ll kick it off by laying a theology for work—that all of life is ‘sacred’ to God, so we can serve Him fully in our so-called ‘secular’ lives. From there you’ll hear from experts in the marketplace who live their faith, helping others to do so as well, through their career. There’s also some great stuff for those in ‘church/parachurch’ ministry, to help turn the focus outwards.

Enough said. Check out Transforming Work, and hopefully I’ll see you there!