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Tuesday, April 30, 2002

I've been re-reading stuff by William Stringellow. Not well known today. Died in 1985, but for me he serves as a mentor on several fronts - (1) he wasn't ordained and wasn't theologically trained, not that I'm against either, but he reminds me again and again that the so-called "laity" can be widely and deeply read; the "laity" can think and reflect deeply on the world and the ways in which the Word helps us understand and speak to our world, and finally the "laity" should not abdigate their responsibility to do so, relying instead upon the "clergy" and those who pursue academic theological training. I'd rather have 100 widely read, theologically, biblically, and culturally literate "lay" people who're engaging with their worlds, than 1 person with a theological degree; (2) His active resistance in the world on behalf of the gospel - the ways in which he 'incarnated' and lived out the implications of the gospel in the world: his involvement in social justice, the peace movement, the legal representation of the so-called 'down and outs' etc. and (3) His practical and experiential understanding of the "powers" and the ways in which their 'fallenness' works to diminish and reduce life. His views on how we practically subvert these influences are as profound as they are simple. Why do I have such a high regard for William Stringfellow? I'm still learning why, but he's certainly talking my language and helping me articulate my view of the world in which I live. He's helping me make sense of it. Finally, though, he serves to remind me of the importance of reading. He's been dead since 1985 and if it hadn't been for his writing coming across my path in October 1997 (Interpretation Journal, "Principalities, Powers, and Preaching: Learning from William Stringellow" by Charles L. Campbell), I'd have no other way of allowing his life and perspectives to significantly touch, inform, and shape my life nealy 20 years after that death. My life would be the poorer as a consequence. How many people miss the opportunity to profoundly enrich their lives because they don't read and explore beyond the so-called current retail "Top 20" titles (excuse my cynicism). Yet, reading has always been one of the "spiritual practices" of the church. Pity it's so neglected. Here's a link to a short Stringfellow article, "No Priesthood, No laity." Enjoy.

Paul Fromont 4/30/2002 12:35:00 PM
Sunday, April 28, 2002
I like this prayer with its empasis on 'community' Be our Freedom by Terry Falla

Lord, we come before you not alone, But in the company of one another
We share our happiness with each other, And it becomes greater
We share our troubles with each other, And they become smaller
May we never be too mean to give, Nor too proud to receive
For in giving and receiving, We learn to be loved
We encounter the meaning of life, And discover You. Amen

Paul Fromont 4/28/2002 01:32:00 AM
Read a really thought provoking article, by Don Posterski about churches which focus on soul care and social care. Well worth a read. This bog site belonging to Vineyard Church of Palm Beach Gardens is well worth checking in on from time to time. From it you will also find a link to their website. Kevin Raines' site (Vineyard Central) is also worth adding to your favourites. Finally, check Jonny Baker out in England. All provoke my thinking and my journey.

Paul Fromont 4/28/2002 01:02:00 AM
Incarnation” is taking on a whole new importance. Most importantly for me “Incarnation” talks about how we give flesh to the significance and consequences of Jesus’ life, death, resurrection, and glorification. How we live matters – it always has, but somehow we’ve bought into the notion that Christianity is more about what we think and believe than who we are and what we do. Jesus said, “if you don’t believe on the basis of anything else, believe on the basis of what you have seen, and experienced” (Jn.14:11). We show what the gospel is about when we live it. What people see and don’t see in the life, relationships, and ‘acts’ of the church tells them a lot about the truthfulness and significance of what the church says. On the other hand, we also incarnate the relevancy of God’s gospel in Jesus Christ when we meaningfully communicate his story within our cultural contexts. What we communicate, how we communicate it, and the medium’s through which we communicate it are important for a church that takes seriously the ultimate incarnation – God becoming flesh. Art and the arts are becoming much more important in a multi-sensory world. Authentic, loving community is very important. Incarnating the gospel by means of practically engaging with the wider social context of which church is a part – church acting as advocates against injustice, caring for the refugee, the widow, the orphan, the aged, the sick, and the dying. All of these things and more are critically important if we are to take God’s incarnation seriously.

I really like what Ched Myers has written on the subject:

'The best way to persuade others of our reading of scripture, of course, is not by telling it, but by showing it. True biblical interpretation is about convictions, not abstract opinions. "Opinions are the stuff of debate and discussion," writes James McClendon. "They may require thought, but they require no commitment. Convictions, on the other hand, are less readily expressed but more tenaciously held.... They are our persuasions, the beliefs we embody with some reason, guiding all our thought, shaping our lives."

This means our conversations about scripture should focus on our actual practices and what we are willing to live by, and steer away from theoretical imperatives or what people in general ought to do. A classic statement of this "epistemology of embodiment" is found in the Lukan exchange between Jesus and the lawyer referred to earlier. Twice the scribe gives Jesus the "right" theory (Luke 10:27, 37a); twice Jesus responds with an invitation to practice: "You have answered correctly; do this and you will live" (10:28); "Go and do likewise" (10:37b).

Postmodern America hardly needs more shrill opinions—we have popular talk radio for that. The Bible invites us to join Jesus in making the Word become flesh (John 1:1ff), exegeting the text with our lives. "No one has ever seen God; the Son...has made him known (Greek exegesato)" says John 1:18. "Unless Christian communities are committed to embodying their scriptural interpretation," write Stephen Fowl and Gregory Jones, "the Bible loses its character as scripture." How does one argue that Jesus meant what he said about love of enemies, or the last being first, or the way of the cross, except by trying to experiment with such truth with our own lives?'


Paul Fromont 4/28/2002 12:39:00 AM
Friday, April 26, 2002
Our church is thinking about changing physical locations, so I've been trying to gather my thoughts around the themes of "space" i.e. the kind of space, the shape of the space, the size of the space, how the space might 'feel', what 'messages' might this space send about who we are, the ways in which we communicate the gospel, and the ways in which the gospel is real , i.e "how does this 'space' reflect the significance of the gospel to our 'worlds' beyond the four walls of the building?" I remembered some good questions I read in the Jan/Feb 2001 edition of Worship Leader Magazine. The article was entitled, "Doorways to the Kingdom: Finding Openings for the Visual Arts" by Lin Sexton. She asked these questions under the heading "what is your Artistic DNA?" (1) How much do we value beauty [and how is this 'valuing' reflecting in our worship space]?
(2) What does the architecture say about us? (3) Are we so practical that our building and spaces are generic? (4) Do we consider colour, light, shape, [feel] and acoustics in our worship space? [How does it reflect our approach too, and our valuing of symbol], and do we incorporate symbols (e.g. the cross), banners, paintings, sculptures or other art in our worship space? Does our worship space have special lighting for theatrical performances? I also added questions, like, is this space conducive to intimacy (especially important for "quiet and reflective" gatherings) and a sense of community? and, What other uses what we have of the 'space'? Good article Lin! Another couple of articles I've found useful are,
Church Architecture for the 21st Century by Leonard Sweet (I just read this one last night),
Space and Worship by John Albiston, Refreshing Your Church Atmosphere:Are You Repelling or Refreshing? by Ben Wong, and Teaching Stones: The Art of the Cathedral by Bob Mamrak. Oh yeah, put theOoze in your favorites. They have lots of creative and thought provoking articles on-line


Paul Fromont 4/26/2002 01:20:00 PM
Thursday, April 25, 2002
I went to a "Quiet" Service at Cityside Baptist Church last Sunday evening, and I was reminded again of the importance of multi-sensory 'engagement' in worship - of being deeply 'engaged' at the levels of both mind and heart by the environment - word(s); images; sounds (in this case little fountains, and the sound of running water); music (I loved the use of Moby's song, God moving over the face of the waters); cushions (and being able to lie down); Scripture (John 4); and symbol. Artwork from Cityside's Easter Art installation ("Stations of the Cross: Contemporary Icons to Reflect on at Easter") still hung on the walls. Incidentally, the whole night was curated around the theme of Jesus at the Well of Life.

The word 'mystical' seems to be used a lot more commonly to describe this 'experiential' dimension of our worship - of our experiencing of God. Andrew Jones in his article, Postmodernism and Global Worldviews talks about the increasingly predominant mindset which which has as one of it's 'strands' the experiencing of God. It's no longer enough to rationalise God - to know about God - there is an increasing longing for encounter with God revealed supremely in Jesus Christ. Worship 'leading' is (and I'm not just talking about singing songs) more and more becoming about the curating of space within which worshippers can potentially encounter God. If you haven't read "The Prodigal Project" by Mike Riddell, Mark Pierson, and Cathy Kirkpatrick, you won't find a better place to begin to grapple with the implications for worship in the Western world of today.

I finished reading The Art of Soul-Tending for Youth Ministry by K. C. Dean and Ron Foster. (Thanks for the loan, Geoff). Incidently, this is reviewed in REFRESH (Winter 2001), the journal of Spiritual Growth Ministries Trust, New Zealand (Aotearoa).The authors reinforced my belief that the balance between 'experience' and 'mind' needs to be weighted more heavily in favour of 'experience', which has unfortumately languished in the life of the church over the last 100 years. They write, "transforming worship sensitizes us to the reality of the vastness of the universe, the immensity of God, the complexity of the world, the intricacy of self, and the sacredness of our souls." When was that last your experience? Worship transfigured can transport us into the very presence of God - move us - change us! Leonard Sweet writes that worship in the 21st century will be described by the acronym EPIC. Worship will Experiential (Ask Kathryn, Louise, Kaylene, Tracey, and Bernie about recent experiences of God), Participatory, Image Driven, and Connected (i.e. it will be experienced through community - the communion of explorers and prodigals).


Paul Fromont 4/25/2002 01:37:00 PM
Wednesday, April 24, 2002
Hey, I forgot to put Dallas Willard on my list of "Invisible" friends, and he's published a new book, Renovation of the Heart : Putting on the Character of Christ. Contents of the book:

Chapter 1 Introducing Spiritual Formation: The "Beyond Within" and The Way of Jesus
Chapter 2 The Heart in the System of Human Life
Chapter 3 The Radical Evil in the Ruined Soul
Chapter 4 Radical Goodness Restored to the Soul
Chapter 5 Spiritual Change: The Reliable Pattern
Interlude
Chapter 6 Transforming the Mind: The Thought Life
Chapter 7 Transforming the Mind: Sensation and Emotion
Chapter 8 Transforming Will and Character (the "Heart")
Chapter 9 Transforming the Body
Chapter 10 Transforming the Social Context
Chapter 11 Transforming the Soul
Chapter 12 The Children of Light and the Light of the World
Chapter 13 Spiritual Formation in the Local Congregation

Book Description

We aren't born again to stay the way we are. But how many times have we looked around us in dismay at the lack of spiritual maturity in fellow believers? It is evident in the rising rate of divorces among Christian couples. We find it in the high percentages of Christians, even pastors, who regularly view pornography. And we face it each time a well-known leader in the Christian community is found in sexual sin or handling finances dishonestly. Perhaps you have struggled with your own character issues for years, even decades, to little avail.

There's good news. You can experience significant growth in your Christian walk, shed sinful habits, and increasingly take on the character of Christ. In Renovation of the Heart, best-selling author Dallas Willard calls it "the transformation of the spirit"––a divine process that "brings every element in our being, working from inside out, into harmony with the will of God or the kingdom of God." In the transformation of our spirits, we become apprentices of Jesus Christ.

Willard suggests that many Christians today are crying out, "Lord, I want to be a Christian in my heart." If that is your heart's cry, this book is the tool to take you to the next level in your quest for true, inward Christlikeness.


I'm looking forward to reading it. I so want to get beyond casual Christianity I love the way that Dallas Willard describes Discipleship

A “disciple” is…a person who has decided that the most important thing in life is to [become progressively more like Jesus]; to do what Jesus said to do. A disciple is not a person who has things under control, or who knows a lot of things. Disciples are people who are constantly revising their living in order to carry through on their decision to follow Jesus, [and to take seriously and gratefully the fact that God has chosen them and called them].”

Paul Fromont 4/24/2002 11:09:00 PM
"Invisible" or "Distant" friends are those who remain at the distance unaware of any connection with us. These are the people, living and dead that inspire, teach, and encourage through the example of their lives, their writing, their art, their music, or their teaching. Some continue to deeply influence us our who lives. Others serve as companions and significant influences during particular periods or seasons in our lives. "Distant friends" who have, and who continue to have significant input into my attempts at faithfully following Jesus Christ include: Eugene H. Peterson; Thomas Merton; Gordon Fee; Tom Wright; Gerard Kelly; Mike Riddell; Michael Casey; Michael Frost; Andrew Jones (inspired me to get a "blog"); Sally Morgenthaler; Mark Pierson; Tom Sine; Robert Webber; Paul Stevens; Robert Banks; Alan Jones; Richard Foster; Jonny Baker; The Desert Fathers; and the Puritans

Paul Fromont 4/24/2002 08:49:00 PM

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