Open Table on LOVE

banksy-girl-and-balloon-london-2002

Friday 10 March 2017 | Open Table
on the theme of the third theological virtue, LOVE

Art: Leunig’s animated cartoon “Heart on a String” (from his DVD, Whimsy)
Also Banksy’s “Girl and Balloon“, from his 2002 East London stencil. (We’ll also bounce off his 2014 reworking, “Syrian Balloon Girl“, as part of the “Stand with Syria” campaign: video here.)

Image result for smith "you are what you love"Scripture: John 15:9-17, as Jesus drops the “Great Commandment” on his disciples, bracing them for persecution and passionate mission after he departs

(And if you’re really wanting to delve deep into this topic, check out Jamie Smith’s 2016 book, You Are What You Love: The Spiritual Power of Habit.)

Friday June 9 2017 | Open Table, on the theme of the first transcendental, TRUTH.

Since 2016, we’ve been hosting semi-regular Open Table gatherings. So far we’ve explored HOSPITALITY, before getting into the theological virtues of FAITH, HOPE & LOVE. From there, we’ll launch into the transcendentals, TRUTH, GOODNESS & BEAUTY. Paul’s advice has led the way:

Whatever is true, whatever is honourable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things (Philippians 4:8).

All welcome from 6:30pm onwards, but officially we’ll kick off at 7pm, and be done around 9pm. It’s pretty informal, but coming on time helps the group hang together.

XP is obviously Christian! That said, it’s not “religious” in the sense that you can only come if you’re a churchy kind of person.
This night in particular is a community event.

Everyone has a story. And God’s story interweaves with our own, often in ways we can’t even see.
It takes a face-to-face encounter with those who are different from us to draw it out.

So, this night is open to everyone. Bring a friend.

There is no r.s.v.p. That said, it’s a massive help if you bring something small to contribute to the meal.  Bring something for a main dish that you would enjoy eating, and if you’re feeling lavish, bring a bottle too! We’ll provide dessert and some extra drinks. And if you forget to grab something, don’t let that stop you. Come anyway!

Sgreenso, what exactly is OPEN TABLE?

Imagine communion as a true meal, sharing stories around a central theme, and seeing how our stories tie into God’s story of mission to redeem (and reconnect) a broken world.

The themes are as deep and varied as life itself: love, hate, work, pain, hope, reconciliation, creativity, evil, wisdom, healing, purpose, violence, confusion, destiny …

Whatever the theme for that week sparks in you is fair game. You can even bring along a song, a piece of art, a movie clip, a photo, an artifact … bring whatever helps you tell a scene from your personal story.

We will typically post one passage from the Bible alongside that theme. No preaching, but picture an open dialogue about how this story resonates with your own. Perhaps together we’ll see how in God we really do live, move, and have our being.

Feel free to post your ideas for themes and passages also

… we’re keen for this to become an authentic/real community.

Looking forward to hosting you in our house, as strangers become friends.

Open Book on KINGDOM CALLING

The first cycle of Open Book for 2015 is largely done and dusted. For those who have journeyed with us, it’s been a rich time of reading James Smith’s book, Desiring the Kingdom.  Together we’ve explored how to leverage our everyday habits to align with and experience the reign of God. Through the combination of rich liturgy (Taize songs, Northumbrian prayers, creative Bible reading), open discussion, reflection on art, and the designing of rich practices, we’ve each been in the process of forming a new habit that helps us follow Christ in the fullness of life he offers. We have two sessions (June 4 & 18) before we take a month-long break.

In our second cycle for 2015 (starting July 23) we get down to brass tacks.
Here’s our big question:

How can I seek first the kingdom
through my everyday vocation?

We’re talking about vocation. Whatever you do with the majority of your time can become a vocation, situated within your call to follow Christ.

kingdom-calling-coverThe book is Amy Sherman’s Kingdom Calling: Vocational Stewardship for the Common Good. It’s far more practical than Smith’s book, which is good news if that was a hard slog for you! Her companion web-site here gives you a feel for its scope. Whether you’re a business person, a bar tender, a builder, a teacher, or an artist; whether you’re a student, a retiree, a mum, or looking for work, there’s lots of great stuff here to discuss. … How do you restrain sin and promote shalom in your everyday “work”?  What does it mean to be a “righteous” person who works for the common good?

Check the calendar at the bottom of the page for key dates, and pdf links to carry you through until you get your own copy of the book (presently $10 on kindle!). Also, you might consider registering for Malyon College’s “Transforming Work” conference on June 20, or auditing “Principles of Vocational Stewardship” at Malyon Tuesday nights if you want to go even deeper.

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 how the church follows Christ today?

4) Applications: what does it look like for you to live out of this vision?

Following are the dates when we’ll meet. I’ve also included pdf links for the readings if you’re not able to get the book in time–just click the KC references below. That said, give credit where credit’s due, so do buy the book preferably by the first week.

If you want to get an overview of Sherman’s book, listen to her one hour talk at Q Ideas on “Seeking the Prosperity of Our Neighbours” here.

OPEN BOOK, THURSDAYS 7PM:

June 4 | OUTDOOR MOVIE NIGHT & SUPPER – We’re either watching The Intouchables or The Way (email us with your preference!), following up the theme of embodied worship. … Bring an outdoor chair, a blanket to keep warm under the stars, and a snack or drink to share … We’ll provide the hot chocolate! (Indoors if bad weather.) … The movie *starts* at 7pm, so arrive from 6:30pm as always.

June 18 | “HOSPITALITY & HOME-COOKED DINNER” – Bring some food to share for a pot-luck dinner, eating at 7pm. This night is a fusion of Open Book with Open Table … so, have a read of the 12 page chapter on the practice of hospitality (Ana Maria Pineda “Hospitality”), and join us for a really relaxed night of eating, discussing, laughing, and sharing in communion. It’s open to anyone. The key question is this: “What does hospitality look like in my life, and how can I extend God’s table grace to others?” 

[On this theme, you might find these other articles/chapters stimulating:
Yancey (1997) on Babette’s Feast
Dorothy Bass on “Eating”
Wendell Berry on “The Pleasures of Eating”]

Then, we’re into the new cycle on KINGDOM CALLING [KC] from Thursday 16 July.

July 23 | Kingdom Calling #1: KC 1-23 (Foreword + Intro)

August 6 | Kingdom Calling #2:  KC27-44KC45-63KCAppA235-241(Ch. 1, 2 + Appendix A)

August 20 | Kingdom Calling #3:  KC64-75KC77-86(Ch. 3, 4)

September 4 | Kingdom Calling #4: KC91-100KC101-115 (Ch. 5, 6)

September 17 | Kingdom Calling #5: KC116-128KC129-140 (Ch. 7, 8)

October 1 | Kingdom Calling #6:  Open Week Sharing + watching either a session of LICC “Fruitfulness on the FrontLine” or Regent College’s “Reframe” series … Read KCAppB-D (Appendices B, C, D)

October 15 | Kingdom Calling #7: KC143-150KC151-168 (Ch. 9, 10)

October 29 | Kingdom Calling #8: KC169-182KC183-198 (Ch. 11, 12)

November 12 | Kingdom Calling #9: KC199-222 (Ch. 13)

November 26 | Kingdom Calling #10: KC223-234 (Conclusion/Afterword … Integration/Application)

December 10 | END OF YEAR CELEBRATION – details t.b.a.

Hope to see you there!

mad-farmer-5-we-are

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 +++!

+++

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.

+++

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 Table on FAITH

hqdefaultincredulity-of-saint-thomas-1602_caravaggioFriday 28 October 2016 | Open Table
on the theme of FAITH

Art: Leunig’s animated cartoon “Cardboard Box” (from his DVD, Whimsy)

Also Caravaggio’s 1603 painting,
The Incredulity of Saint Thomas

Poem/Song: Lauren Daigle “I Will Trust in You” (lyrics here) in response to a prophet’s impassioned prayer while awaiting his city’s destruction, in Habakkuk 3:1-2, 16-19.

Scripture: John 20:24-29, as Thomas–the patron saint for skeptics–is confronted by the call to put his faith in the crucified Christ.

Friday January 2017 (date tba) | Open Table, on the theme of the third theological virtue, LOVE.

Since 2016, we’ve been hosting semi-regular Open Table gatherings. So far we’ve explored HOSPITALITY, before getting into the theological virtues of FAITH, HOPE & LOVE. From there, we’ll launch into the transcendentals, TRUTH, GOODNESS & BEAUTY. Paul’s advice has led the way:

Whatever is true, whatever is honourable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things (Philippians 4:8).

All welcome from 6:30pm onwards, but officially we’ll kick off at 7pm, and be done around 9pm. It’s pretty informal, but coming on time helps the group hang together.

XP is obviously Christian! That said, it’s not “religious” in the sense that you can only come if you’re a churchy kind of person.
This night in particular is a community event.

Everyone has a story. And God’s story interweaves with our own, often in ways we can’t even see.
It takes a face-to-face encounter with those who are different from us to draw it out.

So, this night is open to everyone. Bring a friend.

There is no r.s.v.p. That said, it’s a massive help if you bring something small to contribute to the meal.  Bring something for a main dish that you would enjoy eating, and if you’re feeling lavish, bring a bottle too! We’ll provide dessert and some extra drinks. And if you forget to grab something, don’t let that stop you. Come anyway!

Sgreenso, what exactly is OPEN TABLE?

Imagine communion as a true meal, sharing stories around a central theme, and seeing how our stories tie into God’s story of mission to redeem (and reconnect) a broken world.

The themes are as deep and varied as life itself: love, hate, work, pain, hope, reconciliation, creativity, evil, wisdom, healing, purpose, violence, confusion, destiny …

Whatever the theme for that week sparks in you is fair game. You can even bring along a song, a piece of art, a movie clip, a photo, an artifact … bring whatever helps you tell a scene from your personal story.

We will typically post one passage from the Bible alongside that theme. No preaching, but picture an open dialogue about how this story resonates with your own. Perhaps together we’ll see how in God we really do live, move, and have our being.

Feel free to post your ideas for themes and passages also

… we’re keen for this to become an authentic/real community.

Looking forward to hosting you in our house, as strangers become friends.

Anchor icon art

Dear open-bookers,

Enjoy Claire’s artwork from our previous weekly practice, ‘drawing the anchor icon’ (in the tradition of first century christians).

Especially love the north Queensland version 🙂

Thanks for sharing, Claire!

Nikki

photo 1      photo 2 (2)

Practices

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.

Here are some we’ve experimented with over the various cycles with Open Book

(We will continue to add to this list over time so you may wish to periodically revisit!)

Daily Needs Prayer Tool:

XP vessel and spongeAction: in prayer, pour water into a cup until it overflows onto a dry sponge.

Reflection: We are called to overflow all that we receive from God. What do you plead God for in the mornings? Patience? Wisdom? Solutions to problems? The whole world is thirsty for these things. As you fill the cup, pray for your needs but don’t stop at yourself; continue to pour as the cup overflows, pray for those same things for colleagues, family and friends who can all be blessed to be a force for good in the world today!

 

Pottery reflection:

clay pot 2Action: Form a clay vessel with air-dry clay

Reflection: as you mould and pinch and smooth, consider how God has formed you and will continue to form you.

Optional: Paint the inside metallic, representing God’s kingdom. You could even use the pot as your cup in the cup and sponge prayer practice.

 

Seedling Prayer
seedlingAction: Plant a seedling; daily pray the Lord’s Prayer with your seedling. Finish with “Lord, help us to cultivate a love for your kingdom’s coming”

Reflection: Consider how God cultivates/grows the earth and how you might participate with him in this. Place your seedling in a prominent place as a reminder of your mission in the world – to serve his vision for all things.

 

Relinquishing Prayer

xp balloons IIRelinquish imageAction: release helium balloon (or reflect on similar image) as a prayer tool.

Reflection: What would the Lord have me relinquish in my work today? eg. power, resources, time, worries or frustations.

 

 

Children’s Bible stories

beatitudes children's story tutuAction: Daily reflection using children’s bible eg. the Jesus Storybook Bible

Reflection: A good children’s bible is a wonderfully simple paraphrase of the truths that may have become too complex and heavily laden in our minds.

 

Night sky listening

Night Sky listeningAction: Spend 5 minutes nightly, prayerfully admiring the night sky

Reflection: In an attitude of humility and readiness to listen, ask God “what should I be seeing and hearing around me at the moment (ie. in my current workplace/context)?”

 

Plaiting

Plaiting CordActivity: plaiting hair or cotton

Reflection: pray for unity and strength in your family and in your relationship with God. “A person standing alone can be attacked and defeated, but two can stand back-to-back and conquer. Three are even better, for a triple-braided cord is not easily broken” (Ecc 4:12)

 

 

Aromas

anointing oilActivity: anoint yourself with oil during your morning time spent with God

Reflection: Just as the Jewish people leave spice on the tips of their tongues at the conclusion of the Sabbath to allow the ‘aroma’ of this special time to linger, anointing oil can help remind you of God’s presence as you continue throughout your day.

 

 

Hessian 

hessianActivity: place a square of hessian in your wallet to remind you of the principle of simplicity in your consuming

Reflection: Consider your purchases carefully as you remember the inspirational life of Saint Francis of Assisi (and many other giants of the faith who have chosen lifestyles of simplicity in order to more faithfully follow Christ). Remember our responsibilty in caring for the cosmos and our fellow human beings.

 

Baking Bread

breadActivity: Bake bread at home

Reflection: consider our food, the earth and the work that goes into cultivating and processing the food that we eat. Contemplate the role that God has given us in ‘arranging’ the natural world. Consider how food is a daily reminder of our dependence and the truth that no matter how capable or well resourced we are, we are not self sufficient.

Sign of the Cross

basic_celtic_cross_knotActivity: Mark yourself with the sign of the cross before crossing the threshold of your home to enter your day.

Reflection: A very old practice used to demonstrate and remind yourself that you belong to Christ; bought at a price. Bonhoffer used the sign of the cross throughout his time in prison. Though there are several variations, one example is to use the thumb to mark a small cross on the forehead, lips, heart and shoulders. You may wish to add a prayer such as: “Lord, I am yours, be glorified in what I think, in what I see, in what I say, in what I desire, in what I do, and in where I go today”.

Gratitude Journal

writing-1240442Activity: record 5 things you are grateful for at bedtime nightly or do verbally with family over dinner. Prompts to get you started: opportunities, nature, food and drink, places, our bodies, dreams and hopes, memories, art, animals, people, happy and challenging experiences.

Reflection: Studies show increased happiness, sleep, decreased depression and anxiety and improved blood pressure are associated with performing this task regularly and scripture instructs us to give thanks (1 Thess 5:18, Ps 92:1-2).

Placing a Stone in Water

stone in waterAction: place a stone in water and position somewhere visible throughout the day.

Reflection: borrowed from monastic traditions, this practice is a symbolic reminder of our commitment to Christ through baptism and daily commitment to live for Him. It also reminds us of Rev 2:17 which makes reference to God giving us a new name, written on a stone.

Jelly making

Jelly heartAction: make red jelly (in heart shape mould for added effect!)

Reflection: Pray Ezekiel 36:26 for yourself, that you will remain open, vulnerability and sensitive to those who are hurting. That you will become more like Christ in sacrificial love for others.

Ez 36:26 “Moreover, I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; and I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh”

Pop art

pop art exampleAction: apply ‘pop art’ effect to a photo of yourself. Display or use as bookmark

Reflection: there is light and shade in all of us. Ask yourself: what are my blocks, jealousies, prejudices, hatreds and ways of comparing myself with others? Consider Jesus own teaching about forgiveness (Matt 18:21-35).

 

Earplug activity

earplugsAction: use earplugs during your designated prayer time.

Reflection: with earplugs in, pray for your needs and those of your known friends and family. Then, remove the earplugs and ask God to help you hear ‘the voices from the margins’ before praying for those with whom you have no immediate contact or natural compassion for. Finish by reading ‘the beattitudes’.

 

Silent Meal

mealAction:  silent thanksgiving while eating the evening meal or breakfast

Reflection: consider the ‘sources of nourishment’ in your life eg. relationships, beauty, nature, music, rest, interests.

 

Hand Spelling

hand spellingAction: with your index finger in the palm of your opposite hand trace the letters to spell out a message of gratitude such as “Life is Gift”

Reflection: Ann Sullivan, Helen Keller’s teacher, used this technique to ‘unlock’ communication for her student. Anne’s service was a gift  of enormous proportions to Helen. Consider how God has nourished and enabled you through others and give thanks.

Hugs

hug

Action: whenever giving a hug as a greeting, remember God’s ‘open arms’ posture to you.

Reflection: Consider the components of a hug and how they parallel having an open heart.

 

Washing & Drying the Dishes

washing-up

Action: sing the hallelujah chorus while washing the dishes (you may want to post the words nearby)

Reflection: give thanks for the everyday ordinariness of serving Christ in the mundane.  “when you did it for the least of these, you did it for me” Matt 25:40

 

Drawing the anchor 

anchor icon

Action: practice drawing the anchor icon daily as an act of meditation during a break or quiet time.

Reflection: consider the early Christians and the persecution they faced from the Roman empire. Consider how our faith is the same, whilst faced with the ‘empire’ of Global Consumerism.

 

Reef Reflection

reefAction: Hold and reflect upon your piece of bleached coral as you confess the ways that you have bought into the cares of the world, removing the power of the cross from your life. Contrast the image of the thriving reef and remind yourself of Jesus’ path to true flourishing – justice and sacrificial faithfulness. Over the course of one week, read Matthew 5, 6 and 7 for a reminder of how Jesus instructed us to live. 

bleached coralReflection: Consider how God’s idea of fruitfulness, thriving, shalom is like a reef. Rising sea temperatures and pollution bleach and kill the coral. How has our culture’s image of ‘the good life’ similarly ‘bleached’ the vibrancy of our faith.

 

Lives well lived

letter to diognetus

Action: Daily reading of portion of ‘letter to Diognetus (Nn. 5-6; Funk, 397-401)

Reflection: “only the non-ideological, embracing, forgiving and shalom-filled life of a dynamic Christian community formed by the story of Jesus will prove the gospel to be true and render the idolatrous alternatives fundamentally implausible” Colossians Remixed p114

Preaching to Creation

dsc_0002-1

Action: Sing with, pray with or preach to a living thing around your home or on your way to work each day eg. a pet, tree, insect, bird.

Reflection:

“God wrote, “I love you” – he wrote it in the sky, and on the earth, and under the sea. He wrote his message everywhere! Because God created everything in his world to reflect him like a mirror – to show us what he is like, to help us know him, to make our hearts sing. The way a kitten chases her tail. The way red poppies grow wild. The way a dolphin swims.” (The Jesus Storybook Bible p12).

In Psalm 19 we read of the heavens singing and the mountains shouting.

In a friend’s dog, Lil, we see a faithful companion ever-present in painful times.

In Francis of Assisi we see precedence for preaching to creation in his famous sermon to the birds.

The gospel is good news to all of creation. In declaring (singing, praying/lament or preaching) the story of God to creation, we remind ourselves of the story in all of its detail and grandeur!

 

Turning to face the Sun/Son

skyAction: Whenever advertising catches your attention, look to the heavens and remind yourself “Enough”. Keep a sunflower in a prominent place to remind you of your practice.

Reflection: Just as a sunflower always turns to face the sun; we must constantly look to ‘the Son’ to remind ourselves that competing frames of reference, like consumerism, should have no power over us, the people of the cross. The narrative of Christ says “Enough”: “Enough” stuff; you are “Enough” in that you image Christ; and God is more than “Enough”. In Ephesians 5:5b “a greedy person is really an idolater who worships the things of this world.” Our contentment is a sign of the kingdom when we direct our addictions/our affections toward God and we are ‘FOUND IN HIM’

 

Inclusive Hospitality

lindsays-resurrection-paintingAction: Ask God for someone in your daily work to whom you should be actively listening; preferably someone without a voice. Listen. Include. Pray. OR next time you have friends for dinner, invite someone who is often excluded.

Reflection: ‘Table Benediction’ by Darryl Johnson, http://www.theworkofthepeople.com/table-benediction

 

Ethical Consumption

ethical-consumption-iiAction: Download an ‘ethical shopping’ app to help you make informed decisions about the impact of your purchases on the environment and people living in relative poverty OR simply avoid products from high risk processing zones (China, Philippines, Bangladesh, Indonesia, Sri Lanka)

Reflection: “Who pays the price? the human cost of electronics” http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ns-kJ5Podjw

 

Advent Candles

advent Action: lighting of the advent candles and reflections leading into Christmas with 5 minutes of silence and stillness.

Reflection: An ethic of suffering. “Nature trembled and said with astonishment: What new mystery is this? The judge is judged and remains silent; the invisible one is seen and does not hide himself; the incomprehensible one is comprehended and does not resist; the unmeasurable one is measured and does not struggle; the one beyond suffering suffers and does not avenge himself; the immortal one dies and does not refuse death. What new mystery is this?” (Second-century bishop Melito of Sardis).

 

Tracing Silence

silence-symbolAction: Trace the Japanese symbol for Silence. Pray “God, speak to us in the silence”

Reflection: Sometimes God is silent, at times, when we are most desperate for him to speak. Remember the persecuted Christians such as the Japanese in the 16th century. Pray that God would work something good in you through the times of silence in your own life.

 

 

Pumice stone

pumiceAction: During your daily bathing ritual, use a pumice stone to remove callouses from your feet. Ask God to bring to mind the name of someone who you are tempted to despise or protect yourself from. Plan to take steps toward them in love (listen to them, help them, pray for them, attend to them).

Reflection: we protect ourselves from the difficult, the needy, the awkward, the risky.    A pumice stone removes callouses to make the feet sensitive once again. Use the stone to remind yourself daily to be vulnerable and sensitive to the most difficult, even though it may involve risk (word of caution: of course, there are many situations where vulnerability can be abused and we may need to seek counsel when we are unclear about this boundary).

 

Crushed flowers: prayer for the persecuted

drying-cherry-blossoms-in-the-oven-2

Action: Crush a flower in your hand and smell the aroma released. Begin and end your prayer time with “Our pain is not wasted; our hope is in Christ”. Use a guide such as Voice of the Martyr’s global report at https://vom.com.au/countries/

Reflection: “this path is narrow; its difficult to walk here”(p80, Silence, Shusaku Endo). Just as the two men sang “we’re on our way to Paradise” as they endured the pounding of the waves during Japanese water torture, there is no one answer to suffering, trauma and betrayals. We have to be comfortable with ambiguity and see through the pain.

 

The Golden Rule and ‘Reverse Evangelism’

gold leaf IIAction:  Ask someone, who is not a Christian, about their beliefs. Listen attentively with love and respect, not as an opportunity to evangelise. Ask how they perceive Christianity. Listen, empathise, don’t defend. Thank them for their honesty. (‘Reverse Evangelism’ , The Evangelism Project, Peter Rollins, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XDd4G22zrOI )

 Reflection (Using the gold leaf  to remind you of God’s glory in all of humanity – valuable yet fragile): It is important to anthropologise ourselves as a starting point for loving and respectful relationships. Take some time this week to consider your own ‘tribal’ boundaries eg. family, nationality, your church family, the ethos of the place you grew up in or the school you attended. How do these “loyalties” play into your perception and judgments about others? Imagine your attitude as a physical ‘posture’ toward the world and the many and varied people who you meet on a daily basis. Picture the position of your head, body and limbs. Be honest. In light of how your neighbour has experienced Christianity, imagine how you might change your posture toward ‘the other’. Sketch it.