Treading Lightly @ Open Book

9781741148749In our third cycle for 2019Treading Lightly“–we humbly posture ourselves to learn from the hidden wisdom of the world’s oldest people.

With four decades under my belt as an Aussie, I confess to shame over hardly having a sense of the history and heart of my country’s Aboriginal peoples. It improved a tad after visiting Uluru and blogging on “Tjukurpa versus the Tourist,” letting go of my inner drive to ascend every peak; my formation as part of the respectful ninti (those knowledgeable about nature’s law), however, is unfinished business. As the saying goes, I must stand under my neighbour’s way of seeing the world in order to under stand.

2010_sept_uluru-307Moving forward into post-Christendom times where our fast-paced consumeristic “Church Inc.” has reached a dead end, we do well to slow down and live at God’s speed, considering a more grounded indigenous spirituality sensitive to the place Where Mortal’s Dwell. (Some call this a Patient Ferment courtesy of Slow Church, which suits our Quarry family just fine!)

I suspect that this may well speak to what it means to follow Christ as those living in God’s good world, yet displaced as exiles, looking for a humble way to bless God, neighbour, nature and self as an ecological whole: that is, seeking the holistic flourishing that is shalom.

Some may wonder what Christians have to learn from those our colonial forebears framed as a ‘primitive’ people, awaiting enlightenment courtesy of science and the Holy Spirit. And yet, we have reason within the Scriptures to expect wisdom from those who have discovered how to live in tune with God’s creational song-lines (also here), whether or not they knowingly call on the Messiah.

For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. (Romans 1:19-20; cf. Psalm 19:1-2)

In the past, God let all nations go their own way. Yet he has not left himself without witness: He has shown kindness by giving you rain from heaven and crops in their seasons; he provides you with plenty of food and fills your hearts with joy. (Acts 14:16-17)

Jesus is, after, the Logos who created the world in wisdom, and gives light to all people (John 1:9). Eternity is hidden in indigenous and Christian hearts alike (Ecclesiastes 3:11). Every culture reflects the very good of creation, the brokenness and idolatry of the fall, and tells redemptive analogies (cf. Don Richardson’s work, e.g. Peace Child) foreshadowing healing action as a sign of when Christ sets everything right and God is all in all (1 Corinthians 15:28).

To be sure, when a community encounters Jesus, the divine, devilish and human may better be distinguished, relativising what once was sacred (Philippians 3:8-10). And yet, whatever is genuinely true, good and beautiful will be affirmed and enhanced through this synergy. We do well, then, to recognise and call out these gifts in the here and now, awaiting the day when the glory of the nations (including that of Indigenous peoples) is brought into the New Creation’s city of peace, for the praise of God from whom every good thing derives (James 1:17; Revelation 21:26). And on first glance, it would seem that traditional Indigenous worldviews share much more in common with biblical wisdom than that of colonial Europeans–this chart from Noel Payne’s academic work in 2019:

An ATSI v Euro worldview comparison handout-page-001.jpg

Dhiiyaan-Northside-Church-NEWThis series, then, is an amazing opportunity to grow together, listen and learn–to embrace gifts from a people at once different to us and yet the same as image bearers tasked with cultivating God’s world, finding grace to heal our brokenness. With the help of friends like Brooke Prentis from Common Grace, and Billy Williams from the Dhiiyaan mob, we will celebrate our shared humanity, and seek GABANMA-LI. Meaning? We’re looking to heal, restore, and make whole, working together as one.

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This series is animated by these questions:

What can we learn from the traditional Aboriginal way of life to create real Christian community and a sustainable society in modern Australia?

What stories and symbols help us tread lightly and flourish in relationship with God, neighbour, nature and self?

crane-and-crowChrist’s Pieces pillar, Noel Payne, is the driving force behind this series. He first discovered this book, Treading Lightly, while studying Social Work; Noel loved the conversation between the two authors: Karl-Erik Sveiby, a Scandinavian knowledge management professor, and Tex Skuthorpe, an Aboriginal cultural custodian and artist. Through their friendship, we are taken on a unique journey into traditional Aboriginal life and culture, finding a powerful and original model for building sustainable organisations, communities and ecologies–a compelling message for today’s world.

The book focusses on the Nhunggaburra peoples of Northern New South Wales, but references a wider spectrum of Indigenous peoples and culture.

In Noel’s words, he wanted Open Book to consider Indigenous Australians because:

  • As a child I grew up with Indigenous kids and neighbours and enjoyed many friendships. My interactions with them disappeared as I grew older
  • I struggled to understand why my father was quite derogatory of them, though they were still our good neighbours
  • Many false historical understandings of them and their culture have been challenged by contemporary research
  • In exploring my own connection with the Celtic Tradition of Christianity, I have seen many parallels with Indigenous spirituality
  • Australian Aboriginal cultures have been on this land for 60,000 plus years, from which our society can learn wisdom.

u116_1_cover_image_1As we journey through this series, you may find the following sites and sources helpful to deepen your understanding:

Details below, and all welcome, whatever your faith commitment, tradition, or none.

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Over 5 Thursday sessions (August 29 – October 24) mostly at Noel & Deb Mostert’s house (66 Fiona St., Bellbird Park; call Noel on 0412156772 if lost) we will dialogue with Sveiby and Skuthorpe’s Treading Lightly [TL] and each other, discovering ancient Aboriginal wisdom to walk and work together in harmony.

Check out the calendar below for key dates, and pick up your paperback or kindle version of TL here, with a temporary PDF here.

{Want to join us virtually? We’re experimenting with Zoom so you can listen in, and share your thoughts, live streaming the experience. Download the pdf of the powerpoint slides (on schedule below, e.g., click link for TL1) to play on your computer, and then see what’s happening through a basic web-cam capture of the group. We’ll have a shared microphone so the sound won’t be great, but you should be able to hear what we’re each saying, add your own voice when you ‘unmute’ your microphone, and participate in the practices as best as we can short of teleporting materials to your living room! … https://zoom.us/j/396017392 … Log in around 7:00pm on the fortnightly Thursday to test your sound, then start the conversation with us around 7:20-9:10pm. New to Zoom? 50 second meeting joining video  here, and more detailed directions, especially for problem shooting, here.}

We have a soft-start from 6:30pm—feel free to rock up early and eat your dinner or share a cup of tea. (Park up top, on the left-hand side of our circular driveway.) 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.

IVPPraxis-mobile

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: what wisdom does this offer for harmonious existence?

4) Applications: how might this help us live sustainably together toward shalom?

 

OPEN BOOK, THURSDAYS 7PM | Sveiby and Skuthorpe’s Treading Lightly: The Hidden Wisdom of the World’s Oldest People (TL)
(Click session # hyperlink for liturgy/ppnt slides–e.g., TL1 below–and page numbers for the next reading. Virtual/Zoom participation via https://zoom.us/j/396017392.)

August 29 | TL I: At Nik & Dave Benson’s (152 Tanderra Way, Karana Downs), watching the 60 minute 2018 Tinsley Lecture with Indigenous leader, Brooke Prentis, on “Reclaiming Community: Mission, Church and Aboriginal Wisdom” (videotranscript).

For the 4 remaining sessions we’ll get into the book, Treading Lightly: The Hidden Wisdom of the World’s Oldest People by Karl-Erik Sveiby and Tex Skuthorpe (pdf, though buy your copy here), all held at Noel and Deb Mostert’s place, 66 Fiona St., Bellbird Park here.

2010_sept_uluru-402September 12 | TL IITreading Lightly pp. xv-40 (Intro-Ch. 2): In the Beginning + The Country Is a Story. We drew maps to capture our places and connections, finding our identity in the landscape.

September 26 | TL IIITreading Lightly pp. 40-95 (Ch. 3-5): The Knowledge is in the Story + Learning the Story: The Education System + Knowledge Economy. Includes ‘Dadirii‘, practicing deep listening and observing creation as a gateway to connection with our gracious Creator. Tree bark served as a sign of our layers, protecting life, but shed to allow growth.

October 10 | TL IVTreading Lightly pp. 95-162 (Ch. 6-7): Leadership: All Have a Role + The Fourth Level. Includes ‘Unity amongst Diversity Leadership Practice‘.

October 24 | TL VTreading Lightly pp. 162-209 (Ch. 8-10): The Spirit of Death Arrives … + The Nhunggabarra ‘Recipe’ for Sustainability + Sustain Our World!

Hope to see you there!

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Blessed are the Peacemakers at Open Book

PalestineIn our second cycle for 2019 (starting Thursday 23rd May), we stare a half-century long wicked problem in the face. How should we understand and engage the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, which lies at the heart of so much Middle-Eastern political unrest?

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This bloody disagreement is so complex, and the perspectives so disparate and propped up by alternate facts, as to make it impossible to understand–let alone agree over–precisely what is going on. (Vox and Crash Course in History, however, offer a good start, as does the 6-part video history by Dr. Jonathan Kuttab).

A protester holds a placard as she stands next to Israeli soldiers during a protest against Israeli settlements in Beit Fajjar town south of the West Bank city of Bethlehem

A protester holds a placard as she stands next to Israeli soldiers during a protest against Israeli settlements in Beit Fajjar town south of the West Bank city of Bethlehem December 27, 2014. REUTERS/ Mussa Qawasma

At one level, and drawing on Neil Postman’s memorable phrase from Amusing Ourselves to Death, this seems like “impotent information”; it streams through our screens from such a distance that we are powerless to do anything with these horrible images of looming walls, water shortages, firing rockets, territory occupied, dismembered children, shouting voices, guttural cries and clashing flags. So, why bother studying such a contentious and seemingly intractable topic, from the relative safety of the antipodes?

Jesus at checkpointAt another level, it behooves any Christian who claims to follow the Prince of Peace as part of his beatitude community (exemplified here) to both pray for the shalom of Israel (Psalm 122:6), and to stand against injustice, irrespective of the perpetrator. And yet, this dual vocation exposes a fault line running through the heart of modern evangelicalism.

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TOPSHOT – A man walks past graffiti depicting US President Donald Trump on the controversial Israeli separation barrier separating the West Bank town of Bethlehem from Jerusalem on August 25, 2017. / AFP PHOTO / THOMAS COEX (THOMAS COEX/AFP/Getty Images)

Prominent American voices say that supporting Israel is a “big deal“, forging an interfaith partnership with pro-Israeli forces to carve out “Christian Zionism“. This both supposedly fulfils unconditional Abrahamic and Mosaic covenants permitting occupation of this land as a Jewish gift from God, and secures Jerusalem as the global centre for Christ’s rule from a rebuilt Temple initiating the second coming.

6205594305_119800573e_bAnd yet, a growing number of Jews and Christians, even conservative evangelicals, have recognised human rights abuses by the modern Israeli State in the name of religion; in place of ill-defined and ever expanding territory, they call for a two-state solution that protects both a formerly and currently displaced people group.

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While we must be careful to avoid anti-Semitic beliefs that the Church has replaced Israel, it would seem that popular evangelical support for the modern state of Israel is premised on some poor theology and questionable history, failing to sufficiently grapple with the plight of the Palestinians, including many oppressed Christian brothers and sisters.

Israel-Palestine-Ben-HeineHow, then, can we take sides when both Israelis and Palestinians love Jesus, and each party has blood on their hands? Is there a path forward?

Following the true and better Joshua, before we justify any siege on today’s “Jericho”, we do well to ask our Saviour who alone is just to bear the sword:

Are you for us or for our enemies?”
“Neither,” he replied, “but as commander of the army of the Lord I have now come.”
Then Joshua fell face-down to the ground in reverence. (Joshua 5:13-15)

Tensions Remain High At Israeli Gaza Border

SDEROT, ISRAEL – JULY 18: An Israeli reservist troop prays near the Israeli-Gaza border on the morning of July 18, 2014 near Sderot, Israel. Late last night Israeli forces escalated their operation with a ground offensive, sending troops into Gaza. More than 250 Palestinians have lost their lives since Israel began operation ‘Protective Edge’. (Photo by Andrew Burton/Getty Images)

This series, then, is a poignant case study in a re-tribalising and polarised age, drawing us into deeper questions that we must all face:

Blessed are the peacemakers! Yet where is Christ in ongoing global conflict? How might his church wisely serve as agents of reconciliation, healing rather than exacerbating historical wounds?

B3-AA668_ISPAL_P_20180412134543Over four fortnightly sessions starting Thursday 23rd May (schedule below), editors Manfred Kohl and Munther Isaac will guide our conversation, having selected pivotal papers across various “Christ at the Checkpoint” conferences, hosted by Bethlehem Bible College in Palestine. Who comprises this conference?

We are a community of evangelical Christians who believe that following Jesus with integrity means that our lives are formed by our love for God, the teaching of the Bible and a fearless life of discipleship in the complexities of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. We believe that one of the first hallmarks of discipleship is love for both our own community and for our enemies. We wish to find Jesus at the center of everything we do and to make his life our life. Which means finding courageous love for Palestinian Arabs and Israeli Jews alike.

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Christ at the CheckpointWe’ll grapple with their 2018 book, Christ at the Checkpoint: Blessed are the Peacemakers (CCPwebsite; videos), chosen by Liz and Andrew Nichols. It gets into the complexities of following Christ as agents of reconciliation amidst very divided situations such as daily experienced by Palestinian and Jewish residents of “the holy land”.

In Andrew’s words, here’s why they thought this book was timely to explore:

Prison cities, refugees, targeted killings, arrests of children and demolitions of houses of families of activists, shooting of demonstrators, destruction of orchards, settlements, illegal occupations and annexations. Surely Christians would condemn this and support sanctions against such a nation … like they eventually did with Apartheid in South Africa. … But no! Christians, and in particular Evangelicals, seemingly suspend their faith when it comes to such acts committed by Israel.

Why is Israel singled out for this special treatment by the followers of Christ, and is it really justified by Scripture? Are we just not the worst hypocrites?

I discovered the material of  Bethlehem Bible College some years back, on line. They are dedicated to spreading the Kingdom of God in reconciliation between Jews and their Palestinian neighbours, but they do not shy away from engaging with and calling out injustice, and showing how Christians can no longer turn a blind eye to it.

bethlehem-wall-880x495Clearly, this book amplifies the less heard voice of Palestinian Christians. This shouldn’t, however, be taken as a one-eyed view of the world. No less a scholar than Old Testament Professor and former theological chair for the evangelical Lausanne global evangelisation movement, Dr. Chris Wright, offers this endorsement:

Having participated in two Christ at the Checkpoint conference in past years, I found them greatly challenging and informative. I was impressed with the range and balance of speakers and the desire to listen respectfully to voices from radically different perspectives, theologies and locations. I was also deeply moved by the willingness to share one another’s pain on both sides of “the wall,” and the profound longing for biblically rooted and defined justice, reconciliation and peace. For those of us who stand “outside” the realities of life in Israel-Palestine, there is so much to learn, so much to re-think, and so many dear brothers and sisters in Christ, both Arab and Jewish, to help us understand. We need to hear Christ in and through them.

In preparation for this series, you may find of interest my Malyon Theological College Chapel Talk on Exclusion and Embrace unpacking Genesis 16 and 21 from Hagar’s perspective (Aug. 22, 2018: video; slides), the Lausanne Movement’s “Larnaca Statement” (Aug. 2016) composed by Messianic and Palestinian Christians together (press release; introduction; statement), and from an internationally respected inter-religious scholar and theologian arguing for an ongoing biblical concern for the people and land of Israel (though still challenging fundamentalist Zionism), see the work of Gerald McDermott, in particular his books Israel Matters, Returning to Zion and Covenant and Hope, with a taste in his interviews herehere and here.

leesmith_041712_620px.jpgUltimately this is not about choosing sides. Whatever our view, we need to skirt both the Scylla of supercessionism (where Israel is replaced by the church and is ignored in the rest of the Bible) and the Charybdis of unthinking Christian Zionism (where the modern and largely secular nation-state of Israel is conflated with the ancient ethnic group of Jews, thereby baptising all they do and offering unconditional support to their possession of modern territory that unethically displaces and harasses Palestinians).

No easy task, but a crucial dialogue nonetheless!

Details below, and all welcome, whatever your faith commitment, tradition, or none.

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201404-2Over 4 Thursday sessions (May 23 – July 4) at Andrew and Liz Nichols’ house (155 Burbong St. Chapel Hill; call Liz on 0415624982 if lost) we will dialogue with Kohl and Isaac’s Christ at the Checkpoint [CCP] and each other, discovering what it means to work as peacemakers amidst intractable conflict.

Check out the calendar below for key dates, and pick up your paperback or kindle version of CCP here.

{Want to join us virtually? We’re experimenting with Zoom so you can listen in, and share your thoughts, live streaming the experience. Download the pdf of the powerpoint slides (e.g. on schedule, e.g., click link for CCP1) to play on your computer, and then see what’s happening through a basic web-cam capture of the group. We’ll have a shared microphone so the sound won’t be great, but you should be able to hear what we’re each saying, add your own voice when you ‘unmute’ your microphone, and participate in the practices as best as we can short of teleporting materials to your living room! … https://zoom.us/j/396017392 … Log in around 7:00pm on the fortnightly Thursday to test your sound, then start the conversation with us around 7:20-9:10pm. New to Zoom? 50 second meeting joining video  here, and more detailed directions, especially for problem shooting, here.}

We have a soft-start from 6:30pm—feel free to rock up early and eat your dinner or share a cup of tea. (Park up top, on the left-hand side of our circular driveway.) 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.

IVPPraxis-mobile

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: what difference does this make for peace-making in a polarised world?

4) Applications: how do we live as a be-attitude community, brokering shalom?

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OPEN BOOK, THURSDAYS 7PM | Kohl and Isaac’s Christ at the Checkpoint (CCP)
(Click session # hyperlink for liturgy/ppnt slides–e.g., CCP 1 below–and page numbers for the next reading. Virtual/Zoom participation via https://zoom.us/j/396017392.)

May 10 | Pre-series Open Table dinner, on the theme of “Wisdom of Our Elders“. Who has impacted your life the most as a mentor? We’ll explore stories of ageing, what we’ve learned from those who’ve lived well and also would rather forget from our grumpy forebears. Generally, we’ll trade hard earned wisdom that gave many their grey hairs! Location at Nathan and Melissa McConaghy’s place (69 Sunset Rd., Kenmore, 4069).

May 23 | CCP 1, pp. 5-63: Introduction/About/Manifesto (5-13), and Part 1: Voices of Palestinian Christians: Ch. 1 “A Testimony to God’s Faithfulness” (15-20), Ch. 2 “The Arab-Israeli Conflict: A Palestinian Perspective” (21-30), Ch. 3 “The Delegitimization of Palestinian Christians” (31-44), Ch. 4 “A Testimony of Palestinian Women in the Midst of Conflict” (45-50), Ch. 5 “Transforming Hearts through Non-Violence” (51-63).

June 6 | CCP 2, pp. 65-119: Part 2: Biblical Response to Christian Zionism: Ch. 6 “What Can We Tell When We Return Home?” (65-74), Ch. 7 “A Biblical Response to Christian Zionism” (75-92), Ch. 8 “Abraham in the New Testament” (93-104), Ch. 9 “Christian Zionism as Imperial Theology” (105-119).

June 20 | CCP 3, 121-193: Part 3: The Gospel in the Face of Religious Extremism: Ch. 10 “The Gospel and Religious Extremism” (121-132), Ch. 11 “Jewish Extremism and a Gospel Response in Israel-Palestine Today” (133-142), Ch. 12 “My Jewish Neighbor” (143-152), Ch. 13 “Religious Extremism: Radical Islam and Violence” (153-178), Ch. 14 “A Christian Response to Radical Islam” (179-193).

July 4 | CCP 4, 195-250: Part 4: Blessed Are the PeacemakersCh. 15 “Evangelicals and Peacemaking” (195-206), Ch. 16 “Christ, Violence and Peacemaking Today” (207-222), Ch. 17 “Jesus, Muslims and Violent Extremism: Five Commands for the Road to Peace” (223-238), Ch. 18 “The Kingdom of God” (239-250).

July 19 | Open Table dinner, theme and location t.b.a.

Hope to see you there!

Vox

Enneagram Self-Discovery at Open Book

In our first cycle for 2019 (starting Thursday 14th March), we consider a conundrum. Jesus said it is by our love for each other that the reality of God is made known to the world (John 13:34-35). Love is the church’s greatest apologetic in this post-Christian culture that cares little for religious dogma and commitment. And yet, how can our community demonstrate this kind of love, if we don’t even understand our neighbour? Her drives and core motivations? His fears and insecurities? Crystallising these questions, I’m wondering:

How might accurate self-knowledge shape the way we love each other and our witness to a watching world?

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Over four fortnightly sessions (schedule below), Ian Morgan Cron and Suzanne Stabile will be our conversation partners. We’ll dive deep into their book, The Road Back to You: An Enneagram Journey to Self-Discovery (Downers Grove, IL: InverVarsity Press, 2016).

Speaking frankly, I find most personality tests frustrating, even as I can see their purpose, like the Meyer-Briggs/16Personalities and the Gallup Poll’s StrengthsFinder. It may well be my personality type (!), but I’m suspicious of how they compartmentalise your identity into fragments like introvert vs. extravert, thinking vs. feeling, sensing vs. intuition, and judging vs. perceiving. Personally, I’ve changed a lot since my early days in youth work, later losing my head in the books, and now lecturing in higher education.

But what’s largely remained constant is the core motivation driving my decisions, and my strong tendencies, whether healthy and relaxed or stressed and under pressure, to adopt certain patterns of behaviour in dealing with a complex world and confusing people therein.

That’s where the beauty of this repackaged ancient wisdom in the Enneagram is apparent. The deeper I’ve looked, and the more conversations with devotees I’ve had, it keeps life together and is the most powerful tool I’ve found to truly understand both myself and my neighbour, thus learning to love as a witness to a relationally dysfunctional wider world. A model for healthy relationships may be one of the greatest gifts the church can give a post-Christian culture. That is, of course, if it’s a gift we already possess.

17-03-31-Road-Back-to-You-Intro

True, we could have read any one of the experts on this tool, whether Don Richard Risso and Russ Hudson’s The Wisdom of the Enneagram (text here) with their precursor Personality Types and simple follow-up Understanding the Enneagram, or Franciscan contemplative Richard Rohr’s book alongside countless talks and videos on the topic. And you might find it helpful to browse some key sites and organisations like The Enneagram Institute and The Enneagram Academy, taking free tests (herehere and here) or paying for a more accurate assessment (here and here). After getting my results, it’s somewhat helpful to know I’ve been placed as a Type 1 Reformer–closely followed by a Type 5 Investigator–with an equally strong Type 9 Peacemaker and Type 2 Helper wing (1w9/2). But, frankly, I’m more interested in discovering this through conversation and dynamics among friends, rather than being boxed by a survey. (Again, perhaps my personality type aversion to imperfect systems!)

Thus the beauty of Cron and Stabile’s book. They synthesise many of these frameworks into an accessible and engaging read, seeing the non-reducible person at the centre, and placing this informative schema within a Christian theological frame. Each type is considered from childhood to adulthood, at work and play, alone and in relationship, when healthy and unhealthy, in terms of strengths and weaknesses, even mapping a path toward transformation guided by prime examples.

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To give you a jump start into the 9-types of personalities and core drivers, listen to an interview with them on the Liturgists podcast (page/youtube), check out their web site and original podcast, and see what it looks like relationally through interviews on Ian Morgan Cron’s Typology podcast or  by reading Suzanne Stabile’s The Path Between Us (2018). I’ve also enjoyed listening to the band “Sleeping at Last“, with their Atlas Album featuring 9 Enneagram songs (e.g. Type VIII Challenger here) and lyric videos (also here).

All of this encouragement aside, we also need to critically assess some questionable ties between the Enneagram and Kabbalistic mysticism/New Age syncretism, such as examined here and here. Studying this book shouldn’t be read as a whole-hearted endorsement of all the authors say and do; rather, it’s recognition that there’s something worthy of further exploration, even if–as Augustine aptly said in City of God–we must “despoil the Egyptians” to repurpose pagan tools for godly ends.

All of this will come out over four weeks of dialogue, as you discover your type with its infinite varieties, and learn how to love those different to you.

Even so, here’s a snapshot of the nine (ennea in Greek) personalities. The figure (gram) depicts arrows away from a type showing how your personality shifts to take on unhealthy aspects of another core motivator when stressed (as a Type 1, I become sullen like a depressed and jilted Romantic Type 4 when my ideals are endangered), and arrows toward your number indicating the positive energies you draw from another type when feeling secure (when happy I ride my motorbike way too fast, climb mountains, incessantly socialise and seek risky adventure like a Type 7 Enthusiast).enneagram-map

There’s a more detailed summary both here and here (click hyperlinks for more), and the following hyperlinks to pictures come from Derek Bruff’s @doodlinginchurch here.

Here’s the lowdown. At a glance, which seems most like you, and your core motivation?

TYPE ONE: THE PERFECTIONISTEthical, dedicated and reliable, they are motivated by a desire to live the right way, improve the world, and avoid fault and blame.

TYPE TWO: THE HELPER. Warm, caring and giving, they are motivated by a need to be loved and needed, and to avoid acknowledging their own needs.

TYPE THREE: THE PERFORMER. Success-oriented, image-conscious and wired for productivity, they are motivated by a need to be (or appear to be) successful and to avoid failure.

TYPE FOUR: THE ROMANTIC. Creative, sensitive and moody, they are motivated by a need to be understood, experience their over-sized feelings and avoid being ordinary.

TYPE FIVE: THE INVESTIGATOR. Analytical, detached and private, they are motivated by a need to gain knowledge, conserve energy and avoid relying on others.

TYPE SIX: THE LOYALIST. Committed, practical and witty, they are worst-case-scenario thinkers who are motivated by fear and the need for security.

TYPE SEVEN: THE ENTHUSIAST. Fun, spontaneous and adventurous, they are motivated by a need to be happy, to plan stimulating experiences and to avoid pain.

TYPE EIGHT: THE CHALLENGER. Commanding, intense and confrontational, they are motivated by a need to be strong and avoid feeling weak or vulnerable.

TYPE NINE: THE PEACEMAKER. Pleasant, laid back and accommodating, they are motivated by a need to keep the peace, merge with others and avoid conflict.

“A humble self-knowledge is a surer way to God than a search after deep learning.”
Thomas à Kempis 

Details below, and all welcome, whatever your faith commitment, tradition, or none.17-04-01-Road-Back-to-You-True-Stories

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Over 4 Thursday sessions (March 14 – April 25) at Nik & Dave’s house (152 Tanderra Way, Karana Downs; directions here) we will dialogue with Cron and Stabile’s The Road Back to You [RBY] and each other, teasing apart our Enneagram types and their inter-relationship, en route to discovering how to love each other for the sake of the world.

Check out the calendar below for key dates, and pick up your paperback or kindle version of RBY here.

{Want to join us virtually? We’re experimenting with Zoom so you can listen in, and share your thoughts, live streaming the experience. Download the pdf of the powerpoint slides (e.g. on schedule, e.g., click link for RBY1) to play on your computer, and then see what’s happening through a basic web-cam capture of the group. We’ll have a shared microphone so the sound won’t be great, but you should be able to hear what we’re each saying, add your own voice when you ‘unmute’ your microphone, and participate in the practices as best as we can short of teleporting materials to your living room! …
https://zoom.us/j/396017392 … Log in around 7:00pm on the fortnightly Thursday to test your sound, then start the conversation with us around 7:20-9:10pm. New to Zoom? 50 second meeting joining video  here, and more detailed directions, especially for problem shooting, here.}

We have a soft-start from 6:30pm—feel free to rock up early and eat your dinner or share a cup of tea. (Park up top, on the left-hand side of our circular driveway.) 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:

IVPPraxis-mobile1) Questions: what didn’t make sense?

2) Challenges: what did you think was wrong?

3) Implications: what difference does this make for loving each other and being a communal witness in a divided world?

4) Applications: what does it look like for us to live out of this vision, making God known by the life of our community together?

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OPEN BOOK, THURSDAYS 7PM | Cron & Sabile’s The Road Back to You (RBY)
(Click session # hyperlink for liturgy/ppnt slides–e.g., RBY 1 below–and page numbers for the next reading. Virtual/Zoom participation via https://zoom.us/j/396017392.)

March 1 | Pre-series Open Table dinner, on the theme of “Superheroes“. Who did you always want to be? What’s your superpower? Or your kryptonite? How do these strengths and weaknesses travel together in a purpose-full life lived to “save the world”? At Andrew & Liz Nichols’ house (155 Burbong St. Chapel Hill; call Liz on 0415624982 if lost!).

March 14 | RBY 1, pp. 9-62: Ch. 1 “A Curious Theory of Unknown Origin” (9-20), Ch. 2 “Finding Your Type” (21-39), and Ch. 3 “Type Eight: The Challenger” (40-62).

March 28 | RBY 2, pp. 63-128: Ch. 4 “Type Nine: The Peacemaker” (63-89), Ch. 5 “Type One: The Perfectionist” (90-109), and Ch. 6 “Type Two: The Helper” (110-128).

April 11 | RBY 3, pp. 129-187: Ch. 7 “Type Three: The Performer” (129-147), Ch. 8 “Type Four: The Romantic” (148-166), and Ch. 9 “Type Five: The Investigator” (167-187).

April 25 | RBY 4, pp. 188-230: Ch. 10 “Type Six: The Loyalist” (188-204), Ch. 11 “Type Seven: The Enthusiast” (205-225), and Ch. 12 “So Now What? The Beginning of Love” (226-230).

May 10 | Open Table dinner, on the theme of “Wisdom of Our Elders“. Who has impacted your life the most as a mentor? We’ll explore stories of ageing, what we’ve learned from those who’ve lived well and also would rather forget from our grumpy forebears. Generally, we’ll trade hard earned wisdom that gave many their grey hairs! Location at Nathan and Melissa McConaghy’s place (69 Sunset Rd., Kenmore, 4069).

Hope to see you there!Enneagram artistic

 

“Deep Church” at Open Book

In our third cycle for 2018 (starting Thursday 30th August), we dive deep into the identity and flow of the church by asking

How can we both listen to the wisdom of ages past and be open to the ongoing creative work of God today?

changing current

While studying at Regent College in 2006, in super-natural British Columbia, Maxine Hancock offered a vivid image in her lecture on “Following the Lord Jesus Christ in a Pluralistic Culture.” Picture a wild mountain river. A group of intrepid explorers are kayaking downstream, in search of ever greater vistas. If you are wise, where do you typically position yourself? Well, by and large, you should stick to the middle.

To the inexperienced, the river’s middle sounds boring. Surely there are more interesting things to see close to the banks? Isn’t the centre reserved for staid and afraid fundamentalists who resist the passionate swirl? Actually, it’s quite the opposite. The further you drift from the centre, the shallower the water, the more turbulent the current–the greater chance you’ll founder on underlying rocks or get caught unawares in eddies sending you back from whence you came. In the greatest rivers, however, the best flow is most always in the centre. It’s deep, fresh, rich, and has its own drive carrying you from the source to its telos in the wide ocean.heber-river-split-shot_Eiko Jones

The point? In the turbulent post-Christendom and pluralistic West, it’s tempting for Christians to seek novel solutions on the sides, splashing in the shallows. And yet, for the historically aware and well formed, you soon realise that many of our celebrated emerging church movements have simply settled for a simplistic vision and practice of the church, at best playing in the muddy banks of faith replicating the kind of consumerism and addiction to novel experiences that sank many an independent ecclesial vessel. The real action, though, is in the centre. Emerging from its divine wellspring, its source being Spirit baptism at Pentecost, the church is a mighty river propelling the adventurous toward divine union in the New Creation, when God is all in all and his glory covers the earth like the seas (1 Corinthians 15:28; Habakkuk 2:14).

apostles creed myersWe rediscover the centre in our common creeds (cf. Ben Myers’ excellent exploration, The Apostles’ Creed: A Guide to the Ancient Catechism), our shared stories, and our richest practices that have flowed across time, place, and tradition. This renews the church in its identity and mission. In the words of Australian historian Stuart Piggin, at its best this was the well spring of evangelicalism, a powerful synergy of “Spirit, Word and World” immersing us in the life of Christ. How tragic, then, that modern evangelicalism is often experienced as an unthinking conservatism, politically driven fundamentalism, or a superficial set of techniques and formulas channelling the Spirit to serve my personal health, wealth and prosperity.

With prophets of old, I believe God is confronting the church today:

You have abandoned me—
    the fountain of living water.
And you have dug for yourselves cracked cisterns
    that can hold no water at all!
(Jeremiah 2:13, NLT)

In short: leave the shallows, and locate your community in the deep, rediscovering the life-giving flow of church through the ages.

book coverWhat better conversation partner, then, than the DEEP CHURCH group? Remembering Our Future: Explorations in Deep Church (ed. Andrew Walker and Luke Bretherton, Wipf & Stock, 2007) has its origin in an ecumenical seminar, each chapter representing a call back to the historic centre of our faith which may paradoxically propel us forward in rocky and turbulent times. Each author invites us to ride the fast-flowing current that is Christian orthodoxy. “Mere Christianity“–far from fundamentalism, childish belief, or simplistic replication of shallow expressions of church, as C. Lewis challenges here, justifying his call to alternate the reading of popular contemporary books fixated on the controversies of the moment, with old books which are tried, true, and tested–is where the greatest adventure is found.

chesterton quote orthodoxy

Emerging from diverse charismatic traditions–Catholic, Anglican, and Evangelical–“the Deep Church conversation is helping [us] to re-imagine the Church of Christ and its task as we re-engage with the life of the public square in post secular Europe” (xiii). This is helpful, for sociologically, our culture in Australia and attitude to religion shares more in common with Europe/UK than we do with the American context, despite our penchant to copy trends from this foreign continent.

Series editor, Andrew Walker, launches our journey with these words:

Many are exasperated with what they perceive as the fad-driven, one-dimensional spirituality of modern evangelicalism and desire to reconnect with, and be deeply rooted in, the common historical Christian tradition as well as their evangelical heritage–welcome to what C.S. Lewis called ‘Deep Church’.

Deep Church is far more than an ecumenical dream of coming together across the barriers of ignorance and prejudice: it is predicated upon the central tenets of the gospel held in common by those who have the temerity to be “Mere Christians”. This commonality in the light of post-Enlightenment modernism is greater and more fundamental than the divisions and schisms of church history. … Deep Church, as its name implies, is spiritual reality down in the depths–the foundations and deep structures of the Faith–which feed, sustain, and equip us to be disciples of Christ.

deep church jim belcherWhatever your church background and denomination, interacting with this book should enrich all streams of our shared Christian life, for we are truly better together. We must remember our past to wisely face our future.

[Other books in close competition to serve much the same purpose included Brian McLaren, A Generous Orthodoxy, Alan Hirsch, The Forgotten Ways, Robert Webber, Ancient Future Faith: Rethinking Evangelicalism for a Postmodern World, and Jim Belcher, Deep Church: A Third Way Beyond Emerging and Traditional.]

Across five sessions, we will raft-up with some great thinkers–theologians, pastors, and practitioners–renewing the church with a fresh hermeneutic that makes meaning and forms a confluence at the juncture of the tributaries of Scripture and tradition. Again, our driving question is this: “How can we both listen to the wisdom of the ages past and be open to the ongoing creative work of God today?”

Details below, and all welcome, whatever your faith commitment, tradition, or none.

confluence

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Over 5 Thursday sessions (August 30 – October 25) at Nik & Dave’s house (152 Tanderra Way, Karana Downs; directions here) we will dialogue with the Deep Church Group and each other, returning to the well spring of our faith which propels our community forward in God’s mission.

Check out the calendar below for key dates, and pick up your paperback version of Remembering Our Future: Explorations in Deep Church (RF) here.

{Want to join us virtually? We’re experimenting with Zoom so you can listen in, and share your thoughts, live streaming the experience. Download the pdf of the powerpoint slides (e.g. on schedule, click link RF1) to play on your computer, and then see what’s happening through a basic web-cam capture of the group. We’ll have a shared microphone so the sound won’t be great, but you should be able to hear what we’re each saying, add your own voice when you ‘unmute’ your microphone, and participate in the practices as best as we can short of teleporting materials to your living room! …
https://zoom.us/j/165382785 meeting ID 165-382-785 … Log in around 7:00pm on the fortnightly Thursday to test your sound, then start the conversation with us around 7:20-9:10pm. New to Zoom? 50 second meeting joining video  here, and more detailed directions, especially for problem shooting, here.}

We have a soft-start from 6:30pm—feel free to rock up early and eat your dinner or share a cup of tea. (Park up top, on the left-hand side of our circular driveway.) 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:

IVPPraxis-mobile1) Questions: what didn’t make sense?

2) Challenges: what did you think was wrong?

3) Implications: if this is true, then what does it mean for how we bring Christian tradition into dialogue with our contemporary context and church practice?

4) Applications: what does it look like for us to live out of this vision, “remembering our future” as deep church, journeying where the current is strongest?

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OPEN BOOK, THURSDAYS 7PM | Deep Church’s Remembering Our Future (RF)
(Click session # hyperlink for liturgy/ppnt slides, and page numbers for the next reading. Virtual/Zoom participation via https://zoom.us/j/165382785.)

August 30 | RF 1pp. xi-xx, 1-58: Front Matter (Preface, Foreword, Introduction: “Why Deep Church?”) + Ch. 1 “Recovering Deep Church: Theological and Spiritual Renewal” by Andrew Walker (1-29) + Ch. 2 “Beyond the Emerging Church” by Luke Bretherton (30-58). PRACTICES: Church Calendar & ADVENT (with Lectio Divina) pdf.

September 13 | RF 2pp. 59-107: Ch. 3 “Deep Church as Paradosis: On relating Scripture and Tradition” by Andrew Walker (59-80) + Ch. 4 “Reading Scripture in Congregations: Towards an Ordinary Hermeneutic” by Andrew Rogers (81-107). PRACTICES: CHRISTMAS & EASTER (with Lectio Divina) pdf.

September 27 | RF 3pp. 108-149: Ch. 5 ” Deep Calls to Deep: Reading Scripture in a Multi-Faith Society” by Ben Quash (108-130) + Ch. 6 “Holding Together: Catholic Evangelical Worship in the Spirit” by Christopher Cocksworth (131-149). PRACTICES: LENT (with Lectio Divina) pdf.

October 11 | RF 4pp. 150-206: Ch. 7 “God’s Transforming Presence: Spirit Empowered Worship and its Mediation” by Ian Stackhouse (150-169) + Ch. 8 “Baptism and Catechesis as Spiritual Formation” by Alan Kreider (170-206). PRACTICES: PENTECOST (with Lectio Divina) pdf.

October 25 | RF 5pp. 207-252: Ch. 9 “Education, Discipleship and Community Formation” by Mark Wakelin (207-226) + Ch. 10 “Mundane Holiness: The Theology and Spirituality of Everyday Life” by Luke Bretherton (227-252). PRACTICES: ORDINARY TIME (with Lectio Divina) pdf.

Restart Open Book on Thursday 22nd November and December 6, with a short series on “The Power of Poetry”, with various options of stirring voice and bringing your own favourite poem. If you’re wanting to join us virtually, then use the same link from the “Deep Church” series: https://zoom.us/j/165382785.

Emily Dickinson's Envelope Poems

Thursday 22nd November (slides)  this time held at Andrew & Liz Nichols’ house (155 Burbong St. Chapel Hill; call Liz on 0415624982 if lost!) and facilitated by Noel Payne. Bring your own powerful poem, and pre-read to bounce off one of these three:

  • A short poem A278 from Emily Dickinson’s Envelope Poems [(c) 2016 by New Directions];
  • LOOK back on time with kindly eyes,
    He doubtless did his best;
    How softly sinks his trembling sun
    In human nature’s west!
  • Or a medium length poem (1 page) by Sufi Poet, Hafiz: “Several Times in the Last Week” [From I Heard God Laughing: Renderings of Hafized. Daniel Ladinsky, (c) 1999];
  • Or, a long poem (19 pages) excerpting T. S. Eliot’s 1934 pageant/play “The Rock” (Choruses I-X).

Thursday 6th December … this time held at Noel & Deb Mostert’s (66 Fiona St., Bellbird Park [Ipswich], call Noel Payne on 0412156772 if lost!), and facilitated by Jo Hargreaves. No pre-reading, but on the night I’ll distribute print-outs of this classic, with background character notes:

  • Dorothy Sayers’ 1941-1943 Christmas play “The Man Born to Be King” (Play 1 “Kings of Judaea” pp 35-52 … we’ll read this out loud together on the night).

Looking forward to exploring the impact your favourite poems ) have had on you. (And if you want to grow in this space, join the Brisbane based “Deeper Rhythms” facebook group here.)

Hope to see you there!

 

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“Divine Sex” at Open Book!

loveIn our second cycle for 2018 (starting Thursday 24th May), we tackle the vexed question of sexuality. Unless you’ve been hiding in a closet since the 1960s, it’s pretty evident that a lot has changed when it comes to sex. All our mores and most every moral has come up for scrutiny, from the taken-for-granted (though rarely practiced) Christian line of no sex before marriage and life-long complementary union “until death do we part”, to the norm of nuclear families purposed for bearing children. We live in the age of no-fault divorce, friends with benefits, sexting in schools and “torture porn” on TV (think “Game of Thrones”), Tinder hook ups, LGBTIQA+ multiplying identities, safe schools and gender education normalising dysphoria, gay pride and homosexual marriage, surrogacy, contraception and over-the-counter abortifacents, partner swapping, and the sexual revolution rolls on.

This is not to prejudge any of these phenomenon. Few issues are as close to home, or as central to our identity, as one’s sexual identity, orientation, and practice. And yet, amidst these swirling currents of change and claims of liberation, what does our Creator think? With the gnostics, do we see matters of the body as irrelevant, given that God is only interested in saving our souls? Or does God have a plan for sex in his divine economy, albeit fractured through cultural idolatry in a broken world, requiring us to participate wisely in his mission with healing action?

iStock-537294788-1024x575What a travesty to treat “sexuality” as a problem, when it was one of God’s foundational gifts to those bearing his likeness. And yet, we must step back, looking with fresh eyes at both the culture and the Scriptures, to discern how God may be at work in this particularly turbulent period where religion is taboo and confined to one’s private quarters, while what was hidden in the bedroom is now public politic.

Our central question for this series calls for a positive exploration of sex … one that discerns a more beautiful and comprehensive purpose in God’s economy for singles, marrieds, divorcees, widows and widowers, gay and straight, young and old and inbetween.

How do we follow Christ and image God as sexual beings?

book coverOur conversation partner is Jonathan Grant (ThM, Regent College, Vancouver), the leader of St. Paul’s Symonds Street, one of the largest Anglican congregations in Australasia, located in the heart of Auckland, New Zealand. Out of his work with young adults, Jonathan pursued this thesis and developed it into a book, to guide a church struggling to speak wisely to young adults disoriented by what he terms a “hypersexualized world”. While many of us at Christ’s Pieces fantasise of returning to our fully functioning twenty-something body, the book is still incredibly relevant as this demographic is facing unprecedented pressures at the centre of sexual storm. Their struggle is an intensification of all our experiences in this brave new sexular age.

Here’s Jonathan’s synopsis (online here, alongside contents):

The digital revolution has ushered in a series of sexual revolutions, all contributing to a perfect storm for modern relationships. Online dating, social media, internet pornography, and the phenomenon of the smartphone generation have created an avalanche of change with far-reaching consequences for sexuality today. The church has struggled to address this new moral ecology because it has focused on clarity of belief rather than quality of formation. The real challenge for spiritual formation lies in addressing the underlying moral intuitions we carry subconsciously, which are shaped by the convictions of our age.

In this book, a fresh new voice offers a persuasive Christian vision of sex and relationships, calling young adults to faithful discipleship in a hypersexualized world. Drawing from his pastoral experience with young people and from cutting-edge research across multiple disciplines, Jonathan Grant helps Christian leaders understand the cultural forces that make the church’s teaching on sex and relationships ineffective in the lives of today’s young adults. He also sets forth pastoral strategies for addressing the underlying fault lines in modern sexuality.

TreeRoots2

We’ve chosen this book for Christ’s Pieces, as it moves beyond the typical treatment of sexuality as a problem to construct a desirable imaginary more compelling and coherent than contemporary alternatives. That said, it draws on the best of philosophy and sociology to get to the root of today’s sexual confusion. It also augments the common emphasis on doctrine and right belief (orthodoxy) with the kind of narrative, imagination and practices necessary to form a community of belief characterised by right loves (orthopathy) and right action (orthopraxy). And by ‘right’ I’m not thinking of some moralistic ‘in or out’ set of rules and boundary markers; rather, I’m talking about wise action that serves the holistic flourishing of all in a pluralistic post-Christendom context where the church doesn’t call the shots, and perhaps our society is better for it.

back coverFor some excellent reviews of Divine Sex (DS)–if the wide-ranging commendations on the back-cover don’t cut it for you–check these out:

 

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It’s always a hard call choosing a single book on such a complex topic. Running a very close second was Glynn Harrison’s A Better Story: God, Sex, and Human Flourishing (ably reviewed by Nathan Campbell, St. Eutychus himself, here). Equally winsome is Ryan Messmore’s part theological-philosophical dialogue and part romantic memoir, In Love: The Larger Story of Sex and MarriageIf I was to go with a brutally heavy hitting theological exploration, I would inflict the brilliant work of Cambridge Professor Sarah Coakley on you, especially God, Sexuality, and the Self: An Essay ‘On the Trinity’ (youtube interview here), followed by The New Asceticism: Sexuality, Gender and the Quest for God(Sarah’s 3 part series with ABC Religion & Ethics on “Rethinking Sex and the Church”–I, II, III–delve down to the fundamental question of desire, love, and the human telos, offering a way forward out of our binary traps and culture wars … well worth a read.)

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To these more detailed treatments, I would add 3 grace-filled and yet grounded sermons by Aussie pastor turned creative New York church planter, Jon Tyson, from his Controversial Jesus series on “A Theology of Singleness“, “Sexual Formation“, “Jesus and the Gay Community,” and “Jesus and the Trans Community“. And in terms of my own writing/thinking in this space, check out from Malyon College Module 9 from Worldviews on “Body, Sex & Marriage”, Module 9 from Everyday Theology on “The Body: Discipline and Play”, and Module 11 from Apologetics on “Moral Relativism, Nihilism & Existentialism”. See also the discussion guide for a practical/public theology of (homo)sexuality entitled, “Everything’s Bent,” which developed my two-part blog “Everything’s Bent: Rethinking Normal” here and here.

on the meaning of sex

Whatever your beliefs and practices sexually, it’s clear that we cannot have a meaningful conversation until we pause long enough to dialogue about what sex is for, and who–if anyone, divine or human–has the right to say. (For great wisdom from J. Budziszewski, aka Professor Theophilus, on precisely this point and the meaning of sexual powers, see here, here, and here.) Perhaps, then, all our desires to be “in love” will point back to their transcendent source. So, let the conversation begin.

Details below, and all welcome, whatever your faith commitment, tradition, or none.

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Divine+Sex+Pic+2

Over 5 Thursday sessions (May 24 – July 19) at Nik & Dave’s house (152 Tanderra Way, Karana Downs; directions here) we will dialogue with Jonathan Grant and each other, learning how to live in faith-full community as sexual beings who image God and follow Christ as disciples who desire rightly.

Check out the calendar below for key dates, and pick up your paper or kindle version of Divine Sex (DS) here.

We have a soft-start from 6:30pm—feel free to rock up early and eat your dinner or share a cup of tea. (Park up top, on the left-hand side of our circular driveway.) 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:

IVPPraxis-mobile1) 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 how we live as sexual beings following Christ in community?

4) Applications: what does it look like for us to live out of this vision, as disciples imaging the loving interpenetration of Father-Son-Spirit (to use heated Trinitarian language of coinherence!)?

OPEN BOOK, THURSDAYS 7PM | Jonathan Grant’s Divine Sex (DS)
(Click session # hyperlink for liturgy/ppnt slides)

May 24 | DS 1, pp. 9-53: Foreword + Ch. 1 “Adjusting Our Vision: Christian Formation and Relationships in a Sexualized Age” + Ch. 2 “Seeking the Truth Within: Love, Sex, and Relationships within the Culture of Authenticity”

June 7 | DS 2, pp. 54-95: Ch. 3 “Three Paths to Freedom on the Road to Nowhere: The Dead End of Modern Liberty” + Ch. 4 “We Are What We Acquire: Consumerism as a Corrupting Dynamic”

June 21 | DS 3, pp. 96-130: Ch. 5 “The Hypersexual Self: Sex and Relationships as Happiness Technologies” + Ch. 6 “Churches without Steeples: The Loss of Transcendence and the Atomistic Worldview”

July 5 |DS 4, pp. 133-187: Ch. 7 “Searching for Truth that Transforms: Introducing a Christian Social Imaginary” + Ch. 8 “Seeing the Good Life and Becoming What We See: The Role of Vision within Sexual Formation” + Ch. 9 “Getting to the Heart of Things: Redeeming Desire and Becoming Our True Selves”

July 19 | DS 5, pp. 188-238:  Ch. 10 “Living the Gospel Story: Narrative Discipleship within the Narrative Community” + Ch. 11 “Becoming What We Do: The Formative Power of Practices” + Epilogue “Melodies of Heaven”

Hope to see you there!

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Open Book on “Faithful Presence”

In our first cycle for 2018 (starting Thursday 8th March), we tackle the church! What is the church, and what’s it for? In the economy of God’s mission and peace-full reign, how is Christ’s body to engage, even change, the world? In other words:

How might the church’s life of worship when gathered together serve its work in the world when scattered and sent into a post-Christian culture?

9941Our conversation partner is Professor David E. Fitch, missiologist and founding pastor of Life on the Vine Christian Community and Peace of Christ Church, both in Chicago. The book? Faithful Presence: Seven Disciplines that Shape the Church for Mission (2016)

The title borrows from James Davison Hunter’s landmark 2010 book, To Change the World: The Irony, Tragedy, and Possibility of Christianity in the Late Modern World. As summarised here, Hunter dismantles prevailing political theologies and popular wisdom concerning how the church is to engage and change the world. Most strategies founder on triumphalism (evangelicalism & radical orthodoxy) that tries to take over the culture one individual at a time, or pietistic escapism as a counter-culture on the margins (anabaptists) that largely leaves the culture to rot. Instead, Hunter calls for a different paradigm of Christian engagement with the world, that being “faithful presence”—an ideal of Christian practice that is not only individual but institutional; a model that plays out not only in all relationships but in our work and all spheres of social life.

quote-if-christians-cannot-extend-grace-through-faithful-presence-within-the-body-of-believers-james-davison-hunter-86-64-59

Unfortunately, as critiques here and here demonstrate, Hunter at times caricatured these communities, ignoring what they look like at their best. And more importantly, for our purposes at least, his proposal was largely abstract and theoretical, hinting at a strategy but never mapping out the path. Does this call for cultural persistence constitute a program, a project, or a reworking of the church itself geared up for mission? Hunter leaves us wondering.

14DavidFitch-420Thank God, then, for Fitch. He steps in with a more embracing theological vision of God’s faithful presence across biblical history. He presses back on Hunter, revealing that the church itself, in its very inner life and rhythms when rightly constituted, is a counter-politic embodying God’s peace-full reign. And that’s all by Chapter 2. (For a 3 minute grab of why Fitch thinks we must move “from gospel presentation to kingdom presence” see here. This emphasis on “faithful presence” as seen in Luke 10, the sending of the 72, gives us a poignant image of “eucharist on the move, extending the presence of Christ into the world.”)

vintage-faithful-presence21217-2-638

The rest of the book is dedicated to outlining seven disciplines/practices through which we are formed to host God’s faithful presence, and recognise/call-out this presence in the wider culture in a non-coercive way, through which our Triune God changes the world. (For a slick graphical summary of the book, see Vintage Church’s slide-show here.)

vintage-faithful-presence12917-1-638

The practices?

  • The Lord’s Table (hospitality)
  • 41Cv1F8+gJLReconciliation (peace-making)
  • Proclaiming the Gospel (preaching the Word)
  • Being with the “Least of These” (care/compassion)
  • Being with Children (nurture/education/discipleship)
  • Fivefold Gifting (shared non-hierarchical leadership)
  • Kingdom Prayer (intercession)

(You may notice close parallels with Mike Frost’s B.E.L.L.S. (Bless, Eat, Listen, Learn, Sent) in his excellent little 2015 book, Surprise the World: The Five Habits of Highly Missional People. Simple summaries and resources herehere, and here.)

Fitch corrects the maintenance mode of a church turned inward on itself (where the world serves the church and thus the church is irrelevant to the world), and equally addresses the exhaustion that comes from a missional church pressing every act as in service of outreach (thus making the church merely an instrument, undermining worship for the end of God’s glory, and tiring out members as they leave the church to serve the world). Instead, he offers a seamless missional ecclesiology … a way of being the church that is itself a witness in the world. (For a meaty dialogue between David Fitch and Scot McKnight, highlighting some points of difference in theology and practice, listen to this mp3 podcast from Northern Seminary here.)

vintage-faithful-presence22617-14-638

It puts flesh on much of what we do in Christ’s Pieces. God hosts us in the “close circle” of Christian fellowship (much like Quarry, practicing the disciplines every Sunday, and Open Book, going deeper in formation). We then make space to host God’s faithful presence around the tables of our homes (like Open Table). In turn, this mixed community is formed to recognise and carry/bear God’s transforming presence as our wider post-Christian culture hosts us, whether in their homes, at work, study or play (our mission as church scattered). God’s transcendence and immanence unite in this Spirit-filled community. Mission and incarnation work in synergy, rather than dividing a fellowship down the middle to either serve home base or go it alone on the margins.

vintage-faithful-presence2517-19-638_orig

So, this book is timely for us. Whilst it’s American in origin, the illustrations map easily onto our Aussie context and especially our intentional Christian Community. Studying Faithful Presence and putting these disciplines into practice is a brilliant opportunity to grow together, and see our communal life opened for the peace and transformation of our local community.

Details below, and all welcome, whatever your faith commitment, tradition, or none.

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Over 5 Thursday sessions (March 8 – April 26) at Nik & Dave’s house (152 Tanderra Way, Karana Downs; directions here) we will dialogue with David Fitch and each other, learning how to host God’s faithful presence for the sake of the world.

OPEN BOOK, THURSDAYS 7PM | David Fitch’s Faithful Presence (FP)
(Click session # hyperlink for liturgy/ppnt slides)

March 8 |FP 1, pp. 9-43: Intro + Ch. 1 “God’s Faithful Presence” + Ch. 2 “To Change the World” [n.b. FP 2 is only one week later, not fortnightly]

IVPPraxis-mobileMarch 15 |FP 2, pp. 47-92, 189-195: Ch. 3 “The Discipline of the Lord’s Table” + Ch. 4 “The Discipline of Reconciliation” + Appendix 1 “What Formation Looks Like Around the Table” + Appendix 2 “The Indispensable Role of the Dotted Circle in the Disciplines”

March 29 |FP 3, pp. 93-129, 197-205: Ch. 5 “The Discipline of Proclaiming the Gospel” + Ch. 6 “The Discipline of Being with the ‘Least of These'” + Appendix 3 “Extending the Presence: An Alternative Basis for Ecclesiology and Mission”

April 12 |FP 4, pp. 131-165, 207-209: Ch. 7 “The Discipline of Being with Children” + Ch. 8 “The Discipline of Fivefold Gifting” + Appendix 4 “Where Is the Church? A Closer Look at Matthew 25”

April 26 |FP 5, pp. 167-185, 211: Ch. 9 “The Discipline of Kingdom Prayer” + “Epilogue: How God Changes the World” + Appendix 5 “A Simple History of the Disciplines from New Testament Church to Christendom”

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PS – originally we had planned to study Sam & Sara Hargreaves, Whole Life Worship: Empowering Disciples for the Frontline (buy here; accompanying website here with extra resources here) … promo video hereThough we’ve opted instead for Fitch’s Faithful Presence, this book is still excellent for a focus on the nature of worshipping God as arguably the central purpose of humanity (theologically understood). But what is worship? Is it just singing songs? And how does what we do on Sunday as the Church Gathered, relate to our worldly work Monday to Saturday as the Church Scattered? Similar to the focus for this series, our core question was to be: What does it mean to worship God with our whole lives, where Sunday’s liturgy is a springboard to every day’s worshipful service?

(If you’re after some meaty stimulus, check out my compiled interactions and a couple of blog posts from others on the ‘worship wars’ in evangelical circles … this heated argument raises the questions well, even as it reduces ‘worship’ to simply singing of songs and what we do on Sunday together … which is part of why we opted for a practices driven exploration of the church as a whole via Fitch.)

 

Open Book on “Laudato Si’: Care for Our Common Home”

In our final Open Book cycle for 2017 (starting Thursday 19th October), we go green! How does Christian faith relate to ecology? Does the Christ care about climate change? If we love the Creator, how should this affect the practices of his church? In short:

How would the Creator have us see and steward the gift of Creation?

Our conversation partner is the Argentinian, Jorge Mario Bergoglio. You likely know him better as the 266th Sovereign of Vatican City, Pope Francis (or Papa Francesco as Italians fondly call him), who took his name from the nature loving Saint Francis of Assisi.

Pope Francis’s 2015 Encyclical, Laudato Si’ (“Praise be to You”) establishes an expansive theological frame of a creational “common good” and “ecological citizenship”, within which our lives and work can be situated. As the subtitle suggests, it’s on “care for our common home”–where humans are entrusted with a unique care-taking role from within nature, rather than dominating fellow creatures for our anthropocentric ends.

(This human-centred assumption is both amusingly and disturbingly exposed by animators Steve Cutts in “Man” and Dr. Seuss’s The Lorax in the song “How Bad Can I Be?”;  Prince Ea’s spoken word pieces “Dear Future Generations: Sorry” and “Man vs. Earth” are a tad more melancholic.)

That is, our Genesis 1:28 authority to “rule” and have “dominion” (kabash and radar in the Hebrew), as God’s image bearers, empowers the Genesis 2:15 purpose of this call to “care for” and “keep” creation (abad and shamar), in the same way God tends and cares for us, expressed in the Aaronic blessing of Numbers 6:24-26:

Tillers_MakoHoranaiThe Lord bless you and keep you;
the Lord make his face shine on you
    and be gracious to you;
the Lord turn his face toward you
    and give you peace.

There has been a world-wide growing sense that unconstrained human activity and over-consumption has damaged God’s very good gift of Earth, becoming in Bill McKibben’s words Eaarth–an irreversibly changed and tough new planet on which we must make our way forward, humbled for having spoiled our home.

And yet, living out of a Greek/neo-Platonic legacy, many Christians have ignored the memo. Perhaps worse, in ecologist Lynn White’s classic 1967 essay, “The Historical Roots of Our Ecological Crisis” here, our western reading of the Bible may itself be uniquely to blame for the mess we’re in. We have a tendency to spiritualise the nature and purpose of humanity. You know, where God will burn up all physical things bright and beautiful in the end, taking the “real me”, my disembodied essence, to heaven for eternity … so cut the greeny talk and just get on with preaching and saving sinking souls off our Titanic planet. But is this who we truly are and what we truly believe? This precarious ecological moment may be reawakening an at once more ancient and future-looking reading of the Bible and framing of faith.

Many churches have missed the missional logic of resurrection, and struggled to see that “creation care is a gospel priority.” As the Lausanne Cape-Town Commitment II.2.6 says here, “We are also commanded to care for the earth and all its creatures, because the earth belongs to God, not to us. We do this for the sake of the Lord Jesus Christ who is the creator, owner, sustainer, redeemer and heir of all creation.”

(For more, see their Creation Care Issue Network, their Occasional Paper on “An Evangelical Commitment to Simple Lifestyle“, the Jamaica Call to Action, and the excellent essays in Colin Bell and Robert White’s (eds) volume, Creation Care and the Gospel: Reconsidering the Mission of the Church [2016]. The leading light in combining best theology and ecological practice is A’Rocha [international here; Australia site here; fb here; led by Roger Jaensch]. See also “Green Christian”, “Common Grace”, Mike Pope’s 2013 Tinsley Annual Lecture “Preaching to the Birds?”, and Byron Smith’s facebook posts on environmental activism. For some solid theological underpinning, see Richard Bauckham’s The Bible and Ecology, and Living with Other Creatures.)

The National Church Life Survey in Australia’s numerous reports on faith and the environment (here; podcast here) reveal that only 28 percent of Christians believe that “caring for the earth is an essential part of mission”, despite nearly 7 in 10 believing that “nature is sacred”. Only 22 percent disagree with the belief that “plants and animals exist primarily for human use”. (This is a radically different attitude to our Indigenous forebears, in “The Uluru Statement” asserting our integral connection to the land.) Not surprisingly, then, only a quarter of Jesus’ followers in Australia are very active in caring for the environment as part of their responsibility as disciples–roughly the same proportion of Christians who are even aware of Papa Francesco’s illuminating ecological encyclical Laudato Si’. Which is why it’s high time we delve into this gem.

(For commentary on Laudato Si’, see here for a Catholic introduction, here and here for A’Rocha’s Protestant take, here and here for secular commentary, and here for a taste of how the National Council of Churches in Australia have responded with an “Eco-Mission” project, drawing on the work of its member Clive Ayre. I’ve written about “Shalom and Sustainability” from an educational/curriculum perspective, in Clive’s ecological edition of the Australian Journal of Mission Studies here, December 2016, pp. 60-67.)

Thankfully, changing our habits isn’t rocket science, whether at the civic/political, local community and church, or consumer level! Churches have recycled, planted trees, hosted community gardens, celebrated environmental days or seasons, run children’s activities, worshipped outside in nature, worked on a project in their community and participated in advocacy campaigns for the environment in the last two years, according to NCLS Research.

Well, there’s always more to say. You can read my worldview notes on Creation here, or watch a stirring talk by celebrated Brazilian politician and environmental activist Marina Silva, for her work in saving the Amazonian forest here.

destroying-nature-is-destroying-life-surachai-puthikulangkura-robin-wood-8-2

You could also explore global climate change responses after the Paris accord here, and what this looks like in Oceania here. And for an artistic angle, see Robin Wood’s powerful images for the “Destroying Nature Is Destroying Life” campaign here.

Of the posting of links, there is no end, and too much reading just makes one tired! So, as the pointy end of this blog, can I simply invite you to join us in conversation as we consider a new way of being creaturely, stumbling imperfectly forward as we work in love for the care of our common home?

OPEN BOOK, THURSDAYS 7PM | Pope Francis’s Laudato Si’ (LS; website here)
(Click session # hyperlink for liturgy/ppnt slides)

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October 19 | LS 1, pp. 1-44: Intro + Ch. 1 “What Is Happening to Our Common Home?” (§1-61)

November 2 | LS 2, pp. 45-101: Ch. 2 “The Gospel of Creation” pp. 45-74 (§62-100) + Ch. 3 “The Human Roots of the Ecological Crisis” pp75-101 (§101-136)

November 16 | LS 3, pp. 103-148: Ch. 4 “Integral Ecology” pp. 103-120 (§137-162) + Ch. 5 “Lines of Approach and Action” pp.121-148 (§163-201)

November 30 | LS 4, pp. 149-180: Ch. 6 “Ecological Education and Spirituality” (§202-246).