- Prodigal -

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Thursday, October 31, 2002

Advanced extracts from a forthcoming chapter on the late American lay theologian and lawyer, William Stringfellow - Talking Nonsense to Power: the mission of William Stringfellow by Simon Barrow. Thanks Simon.

"...A most obstinate misconception associated with the gospel of Jesus Christ is that the gospel is welcome in this world. The conviction – endemic among churchfolk – persists that, if problems of misapprehension and misrepresentation are overcome and the gospel can be heard in its own integrity, the gospel will be found attractive to people, become popular, and, even, be a success of some sort. This idea is both curious and ironical because it is bluntly contradicted in Scripture and in the experience of the continuing biblical witness in history from the event of Pentecost unto the present moment. (1977:109-12)..."

Paul Fromont 10/31/2002 10:03:00 AM
Wednesday, October 30, 2002
Some useful background about, and press reports with regards to Mike Riddell's first play, "Jerusalem, Jerusalem: a tragedy in two acts" completed specifically to mark the 30th anniversary of NZ's James K. Baxter's death.

"......a man who was probably New Zealand's best poet, just as probably its best literary critic, certainly as astute a social observer as we have had, and in a fuller sense than any other of our writers, constantly engaged with the daily life of his country - how that man could move as naturally through the ageless configurations of myth as through a city street, could turn the existential privacy of being a modern Christian into his most absorbing and most public literary theme, could adopt social values that set him apart from most of his contemporaries, and yet do these things in a way that made him as national a figure as a successful politician or a well-known sportsman..."

From, Vincent O'Sullivan, "The Two Baxters - or Only One?," 75-85 in The Two Baxters: Diary Notes by Pat Lawlor, ed. Pat Lawlor (Wellington: Millwood Press, 1979). A book I bought in early October to mark the 30th anniversary of Baxter's death.

Also, a lecture by Chris Marshall, "Grounding Justice in Reality:Theological Reflections on Overcoming Violence in the Criminal Justice System" - published in J. Roberts (ed.), Overcoming Violence in New Zealand (Wellington: Philip Garside Publishers, 2002), 81-95. (NOTE - If the link doesn't work, you may need to manually enter the web address).I personally find Chris' work very challenging and discomforting in terms of what it might mean to be a Jesus-follower in New Zealand at this juncture of time.

Paul Fromont 10/30/2002 10:43:00 AM
Tuesday, October 29, 2002
I really enjoyed this article on "Orthodox Monasticism" linked from James Ferrenberg's great blogsite, Paradosis. Great photographs too.

Paul Fromont 10/29/2002 10:56:00 AM
Monday, October 28, 2002
I’ve been interested to note over the last week or two the number of occasions when the issue of “time” and our attitude toward time has appeared in my reading. The first significant consideration was Mike Riddell’s article, “The Long Now" and the latest ‘encounter’ was with comments made by Rowan Williams in the course of an interview in the latest (# 76) issue of Zadok Perspectives.
In response to this question, “What are the things we have lost, our cultural bereavements as you call them in [your book] “Lost Icons”? Williams responded:

“…If there is a focal idea there it is something to do with patience – the digestion of experiences that haven’t been sought or planned gradually moulds the sense of human maturity and dignity and capacity [Movies, daily life, prayer, and literature are the experiences that most “mould” in me “the sense of human maturity etc – my comment]. This is part of what I mean by patience, and that we see eroded by the haste of reaction and response that we are so often seduced into…we have lost certain ways of experiencing the passage of time…”

In response to the question, “…Thinking in terms of the loss of the church year, have we adopted a very secularised view of time and how can we provide an alternative perspective on the passage of time?”

“…Certainly the church year offers a structure for that, but even in smaller ways the church in Wales has a couple of days of structured pilgrim experience…we had [during] holy week and Easter retreat for young people. It took them from Maundy Thursday to Easter morning and involved a walk up in the mountains on Friday and an all night vigil [over the night of Saturday/Sunday]. The point was there were things you will know at the end that you didn’t know at the beginning just because of the time you have taken, the stages you have passed through…the Easter morning [worship] is something they won’t forget in a hurry…

Unless we have a sense of the difficulty of growing into the knowledge of God we don’t understand what it is to know God, we treat knowing God as bits of information scattered around. All of us need to recover the time it takes to understand God, to structure those times…”

Perhaps I'm hearing a call to "slow down" and to establish a more God-centred / God attentive rythym to life...?

Paul Fromont 10/28/2002 09:45:00 PM
Sunday, October 27, 2002
A comment by Ian Foster (Coach of the Waikato NPC Rugby Team) in the Weekend Herald caught my attention:

“…This union (the Waikato Rugby Union) has been built on a lot of tradition and it’s important to have that strong foundation because it gives your team soul…”

Putting to one side, the potential meanings he associates with the word “soul,” I found myself intrigued that he chose the word “tradition” and linked it the themes of “strength” and “foundation.” Has he caught in his statement something we could use to talk about church? Where does “tradition” ‘fit’ in the life of a ‘church’? What is ‘christian’ tradition in the context of my experience of church? Why might ‘tradition’ be of any value to church? I’m certainly aware of churches where ‘tradition’ has taken on a ‘dry,’ ‘lifeless,’ ‘inflexible’ formality that has all but eliminated the ‘wind’ of the Spirit, but here’s some initial ‘positives’:

(a) Tradition both enriches, broadens (from East to West), and deepens the ‘praying’ of the church. Being able to draw deeply from the ‘well’ ‘carved’ out over time by the great ‘mystics’ and ‘prayer-guides’ of the church – Teresa of Avila, John of the Cross, Ignatius, the Benedictines, the Celtic saints, the Puritan’s, Thomas Merton, St. Dimitri of Rostov, Theophan the Recluse, Salesian Prayer, Liguorian Prayer etc.
(b) We’re ‘companioned’ by those who have faithfully gone before us – those people whose insights and experiences of both God, and the ‘lived-out’ experiences of following Christ continue across the years to shape, and inform, with often a wonderful ‘freshness’ both our sense of identity and our ‘calling’ in 2002 – think of those person’s who’ve shaped and participated in your formation?
(c) The classical “spiritual disciplines” and the ways in which God uses them to form “deep people” and to “liberate” and “free.” I’m thinking of the way that Richard Foster’s wonderful introduction to “Celebration of Spiritual Discipline” articulates this.
(d) Tradition and our encounter with the past humbles us.
(e) Tradition resources us on our journey’s…
(f) Tradition ‘connects’ corporately and locates us amongst the “communion of saints.” It reminds us that we are not alone. It gives us hope and ‘anchors’ that hope in the lived experiences, and shared insights of God’s faithful “children” in earlier generations.
(g) Tradition and the ranges of “voices” represented across the breadth of Christian tradition broaden our hearing of Scripture, and free us from the ‘prison’ of narrow-mindedness.
(h) Tradition charges us to be both responsible ‘stewards’ and ‘innovators’ in our generation and contexts. We have in our ‘hands’ something very precious to share. I’m thinking at this point of the “parable of the talents” (Matt. 25:14-30).

Paul Fromont 10/27/2002 06:15:00 PM
Friday, October 25, 2002
A friend and I are thinking of 'curating' a movie club next year to explore the idea of "movies as parables" - to interact with movies as ways of both talking about the gospel and the ways popular culture both 'reveals' the gospel, and is itself critiqued by the gospel.. Should be a fun learning and growing experience. It's been an interest of mine for quite some time.

Interesting article/discussion entitled "Movie Club" from RELEVANT magazine - thanks for spotting it Geoff.

Paul Fromont 10/25/2002 02:25:00 AM
Wednesday, October 23, 2002
I’ve been mulling over a statement from James Houston’s book, "The Transforming Power of Prayer", which I featured on the handout at our last SPACE gathering (the theme was “growth”). He writes:

“…If we believe that our spiritual growth lies in the opposite direction of our natural temperament, then we can begin to anticipate how the Holy Spirit will change us…”

I hadn’t quite grasped what he was saying, hence the extended reflection, when it dawned on me during my Spiritual Formation class earlier in the week that Robert Mulholland is was saying a very similar thing when he writes; …spiritual formation, while not the sole means, is an integral and essential part of the recovery of our human wholeness – to the healing of our brokenness – to our becoming more truly human after the example of Jesus Christ – less imbalanced. Houston and Mulholland seem to me to be talking about “holistic spirituality” and saying that my/our being re-formed as persons is about ‘counter-balancing’ the ‘pull’ of my natural ‘strengths’ and ‘preferences’ by allowing the Spirit – by means of the spiritual disciplines and every ordinary circumstance of life - to bring growth in those areas of my life, temperament, personality etc. which I have less of a natural tendency to nurture and develop. Majoring on ‘strengths’ and ‘sowing’ only to natural preferences it seems can become “destructive” or at the very least a hindrance to “spiritual” wholeness. Phew, I’m pleased I got that, now to “anticipate how the Spirit will change/grow me!” As Mulholland emphasises in his book, “Invitation to a Journey,” “…holistic spirituality nurtures our whole person and not simply our preferred ways of operating”. Seems to me to be an important and potentially subversive thing to say to those of us in the Western church today…

Paul Fromont 10/23/2002 11:20:00 AM
Monday, October 21, 2002
I've got a few things 'churning' around from the Spiritual Formation course I'm doing as a student each Monday evening - might get them down on 'paper' later today. Meantime, a plug for Kiwi musicians Mark Laurent and Brenda Liddiard. I purchased a copy of their CD, "Stations of the Cross" - was recorded for the Easter art installation of the same name at Cityside Baptist Church in Auckland. It’s an ambient, meditative series of soundscapes, based on Jesus’ passion. Great background as I prayed my night office last night. I'll never forget a time of confession at Cityside when Mark stood up and led that time of reflection built around the theme of him having thrown his bible and broken it's binding - very moving!

Paul Fromont 10/21/2002 11:52:00 AM
Sunday, October 20, 2002
For anyone who has read and enjoyed, Kathleen Norris' "The Cloister Walk," here's another book you might enjoy. I've haven't finished it yet but it's got my attention - a very personal and insightful book which 'flows' from author Paul Mariani's experience of conducting a 30 Day Ignatian Retreat. It's called "Thirty Days: On Retreat with the Exercises of St. Ignatius" (published Feb. 2002). I'd strongly recommend it on the basis of what I've read, and it would be especially useful and insightful for anyone who is exploring the contemplative life of prayer, and the engagement with Scripture...

Paul Fromont 10/20/2002 11:54:00 AM
Wednesday, October 16, 2002
Tom and Christine Sine teaching at the Bible College of New Zealand Henderson campus next year. Short course (audit or non audit) entitled "Mustard Seed vs McWorld: Shifting the Church into the Future Tense" - March 13-15, 2003.

Also, two interesting essays by Stuart Murray whom I mentioned in my post of 14th October. Essays courtesy of "Postmission.com - An International Forum on Mission in Postmodernity"

"Christendom and Post-Christendom" (pdf file) - "...So much of what we do as a Church, including in evangelism and mission, is subconsciously based on Christendom presuppositions that are no longer valid in the 21st Century. Murray suggests we need to learn from those parts of the church (present day and historical) that operate(d) from the margins." Read here.

"Church Planting in a Post-Modern Context" (pdf file) - "...this article looks at the context faced by Christians working in the western world, and suggests ways forward for more effective church planting. The paper, originally presented to an Anabaptist gathering, ends with a challenge to (re)discover some of the anabaptist heritage which has new relevance in today's context..."Read here

Paul Fromont 10/16/2002 10:42:00 AM
Tuesday, October 15, 2002
For you if you need something to read. Short, thoughtful articles from, "CATALYST Online: Contemporary Evangelical Perspectives for United Methodist Seminarians"

Relevance of the Book of Revelation by Richard Bauckham (1996)

Methodology and Theology in the (Visual) Arts by William Dyrness (Feb. 2002)

In Search of a Theological Foundation for Youth Ministry by Kenda Creasy Dean (2000)

Should all Churches be Big? by William Willimon (1996).

The Relevance of the Book of Revelation by Richard Bauckham (1996)

Spiritual Formation in the Seminary by Robert Banks (1992)

Preaching from the Psalms: Proclamation Particular and Extreme by Walter Brueggemann (April, 2002).

Enjoy. Stretch.

Paul Fromont 10/15/2002 11:56:00 AM
Sunday, October 13, 2002
We have lost our astonishment. The Good News is no longer good news, it is okay news. Christianity is no longer life changing; it is life enhancing...We have become tourists rather than travelers.” - Dangerous Wonder, Michael Yaconelli, 23, 25

This is a question that really pushes my ‘button’ - “What will the ‘Good News’ mean in our community?”

“…Can we tell the Jesus story in a way that connects with people - fresh, sharp, challenging? “It is our conviction that we live in a society that is heartily sick of Christianity and of the institutional church but that has yet to encounter the radical Jesus. New ways of being church need also to be new ways of telling the story of Jesus and helping people to encounter him.

The form in which Christians communicate the gospel is another aspect of the use of power. Monologue presentations of the gospel may be perceived as an exercise of a church that is used to speaking without expecting anyone to contradict or challenge. Other ways of sharing the faith, from informal discussions to formal debates, may be more appropriate and even more effective. Perhaps the church could follow the example of Jesus in asking searching questions rather than always giving answers

” Read more, here.

(Taken from the September 2002 edition of “On the Road” (newsletter of the Anabaptist Association of Australia and New Zealand) “Mission with an Anabaptist Twist.” Stuart Murray, Key Speaker – his book, Church Planting: Laying Foundations).

Paul Fromont 10/13/2002 11:34:00 AM
Saturday, October 12, 2002
Have been reading / reflecting on the chapter on Matthew's gospel in Rowan William's, "Christ on Trial: How the Gospel Unsettles our Judgement." He writes the following, under the sub-heading, "The Language of Faith:"

"...What do we expect the language of Christian doctrine to do...?...The job of doctrine is to hold us still before Jesus. When that slips out of view, we begin instead to use this language to defend ourselves, to denigrate others, to control and correct - and then it becomes a problem.

A recognition of this inspired Dietrich Bonhoeffer's great challenge to 'religious' language in the meditation he wrote for his godson from prison in May 1944.

Reconciliation and redemption, regeneration and the Holy Spirit, love of our enemies, cross and resurrection, life in Christ and Christian discipleship - all these things are so difficult and so remote that we hardly venture any more to speak of them. In the traditional words and acts we suspect that there may be something quite new and revolutionary, though we cannot as yet grasp or express it. That is our fault. Our church, which has been fighting in these years only for its self-preservation, as though that were an end in itself, is incapable of taking the word of reconciliation and redemption to mankind and the world.

It's not that the words are mistaken, or that they are - in the glib modern sense - irrelevant, so that we need clearer and simpler ideas. Far from it. The problem lies in the speakers. There is not enough depth in us for the woreds to emerge as credible; they have become external to us, tokens we use while forgetting what profound and frightening differences in the human world they actually refer to. If the point of traditional doctrinal forms is to hold us still, it is also, we could say, to create a depth in us, a space for radical change in how we think of ourselves and how we act..."

Paul Fromont 10/12/2002 07:14:00 PM
Friday, October 11, 2002
Very well said Jason

"...Church planting in the 21st Century should NOT be about starting churches or redefining of the subject, instead it should primarily be about redefining how we live as Christians and this, I believe, will force us to redefine how we start churches...[and are churches]" (addition, mine).

My take - If we faithfully follow Jesus in our respective contexts, what might church where we are look like, and what might the 'radical', 'cutting edge' of the story of Jesus' life, death, resurrection, and glorification sound like...?

Paul Fromont 10/11/2002 10:50:00 AM
Thursday, October 10, 2002
I've been developing a renewed sense of appreciation for Evelyn Underhill of late. Todays "Quote / Reflection for the Day" is taken from her book, "Abba, Meditations Based on the Lord's Prayer," (pp. 33-34) addresses dating from 1934. Book first published in 1940.

"...the coming of the Kingdom is perpetual. Again and again, freshness, novelty, power from beyond the world break in by unexpected paths, bringing unexpected change. Those who cling to tradition and fear all novelty in God's relation with his world deny the creative activty of the Holy Spirit, and forget that what is tradition was once innovation; that the real Christian is always a revolutionary, belongs to a new race, and has been given a new name and a new song. God is with the future..."

Also, a very thought provoking article by Mike Riddell, a fellow observer of, and interactor with the world, from the bottom of the world - "The Long Now" - From the Sept. on-line Seven Magazine . I discovered that listening to Nick Cave's album, "No More Shall We Part" while reading 'words' by Mike is an uplifting combination.


"...I suspect there are not too many Christians who are willing to plant acorns, with the recognition that fruition of their work will not come within their lifetime. Church 'programmes' are scrapped if they haven't achieved measurable results within five years, let alone a century. We have a multitude of advisors of the 'ten easy steps' variety, but few of the 'long obedience in the same direction' wisdom..."

A related subject to what Mike writes about, can be found here in Gerard Kelly's "Unsung Heroes," published in the March 2002 edition of the UK Magazine, "Christianity and Renewal."

Paul Fromont 10/10/2002 11:27:00 AM
Wednesday, October 09, 2002
Was looking for material by Darrell Guder - has written the really excellent book, "The Continuing Coversion of the Church" and came across this site yesterday - Missional Church - "..The Center for Parish Development exists to be a dynamic resource for God's people on a journey of continuing conversion. On this journey churches - enter anew into the reality of the good news; become formed by the Holy Spirit in the practices of Christian community; and engage a changing cultural context with the gospel..." They produce a journal called "Transformation" (Latest copy here - pdf)...here's the "letter" which has a reflection by Darrell Guder - "Designing the Missional Church: God’s Letter to the World" (pdf) by Raymond C. Schulte

This will be in my next book order - "The Incarnation and the Church's Witness (Christian Mission and Modern Culture)" by Darrell Guder (pub. 2000)

Paul Fromont 10/09/2002 12:00:00 PM
Tuesday, October 08, 2002
"...As Evangelicals, we can remain so caught up with our theology and the way we come to Christ that we exert little or no energy on discovering how we may deepen our relationship with him..."

Joyce Huggett

Paul Fromont 10/08/2002 11:47:00 AM
Monday, October 07, 2002
It took me a while to find but here's an interview with Eugene Peterson I hadn't seen before - "How to Keep the Beat and Stay in the Rhythm of Life." I liked the 'casual' photographs as well. Someone was also asking me whether Eugene was writing any books at the moment. Seems that he's writing a five-book series on spiritual theology, but has no deadline: ''When I finished 'The Message' I thought, 'Never sign another contract with a deadline in it,'' said Peterson.

Paul Fromont 10/07/2002 09:57:00 PM
Saturday, October 05, 2002
Sue Wallace's new book published by Scripture Union and now available from Scripture Union (UK)

Multi-Sensory Church

"...Over 30 innovative ready-to-use ideas

Following on from the success of Multi-Sensory Prayer, this great photocopiable resource book has new ideas for prayers using more than just reading and writing. It contains two labyrinths for use at Christmas and Easter to take you on a symbolic prayer journey to meet with God; with drama scripts, stories, hints and tips to help use the different senses in worship. The multi-sensory activities can enhance meetings and services, and enourage people to experience prayer in a new way..."

Paul Fromont 10/05/2002 08:37:00 PM
A friend, Brian Jackson drew my attention on Monday evening to St. Thomas’ (Anglican / Baptist) church in Sheffield, England, and the way in which the life of the parish/church is organised around three foci (see below). Reminded me of the Church of the Saviour (Washington D.C.), but also seems to me to succinctly capture the ‘heart’ of church, around which we build the ‘skeleton’ (structural & organisational), and provide content which actually facilitates and encourages the growing of disciples and which helps facilitate the tri-directional ‘movement’ of the church as it engages in worship/spiritual formation, discipleship, community building, and shalom-creating mission.

It seems that in focusing on the ‘heart’ of why we are church we create and nurture the kind of ‘space’ and life that encourages creative responses to the very broad and practical question, “what will help form and grow us upwardly, inwardly, and outwardly?” It opens up so many possibilities, but keeps the ‘heart’ and it’s ‘health in focus. Think about what you’d list as being important under each of those three headings.

“…Up: In: Out are the three dimensions of our life together, guiding everything we are and do. We are committed to pursuing our Up-ward relationship with God; our In-ward relationship to one another and our Out-ward relationship in evangelism and mission to all and all creation…”

Also, some useful resources at "Tribal Generation".

Paul Fromont 10/05/2002 12:10:00 PM
Friday, October 04, 2002
I enjoyed the article linked below - nice to have my thinking and reflection 'stimulated' - part of my continuing reflection on some of the recent things that Steve Taylor (Oct. 1, 2 and 4) has been saying. Not something I've thought alot about. Thanks Steve!

"Responding to the Crying of the Earth - An Eco-spirituality for City Dwellers." (pdf) by Mary Grey, December 2001

Paul Fromont 10/04/2002 12:11:00 AM
Thursday, October 03, 2002
Two articles of interest from the NZ Herald newspaper - one from the weekend on "Friendship" (sourced by the NZ Herald from the British "Guardian Observer"); and the other from yesterday's edition on recent foreign policy announcements by the United States -

(1) "I'll be there for you" by Victoria Harper

"With divorce rates soaring and families drifting apart, it's our friends who are now providing us with the love and support we need. Or are they?..."

(2) "Hawks push righteous giant role for US" by Paul Buchanan.

No offence intended by me to our American friends - I just found it an interesting perspective - one which I hadn't seen laid out, as Paul Buchanan has....

"...The switch of the US national security strategy towards unilateral pre-emption not only reverses decades of relative restraint on committing troops to overseas conflicts; it also speaks to an attempt to remake the world in the US image..."

Paul Fromont 10/03/2002 12:34:00 PM
Wednesday, October 02, 2002
New Gary Thomas book, Authentic Faith

Paul Fromont 10/02/2002 12:42:00 PM
"Embodying the Gospel in Community" by Richard Hays, published in the Mennonite Quarterly Review, Oct. 2000.

"...Our life of discipleship is not a lonely, individualistic project. To be called to follow Jesus is to be called into community. The Radical Reformation tradition wonderfully exemplifies this truth, which must shape our understanding of all Christian doctrines and practices. For example, baptism is not merely a rite conferring forgiveness of sins; rather, it is an incorporation into the eschatological community of God's people. In Anabaptist tradition, the Body of Christ is not only a theoretical doctrine; it is the daily experienced context of life together in a community of mutual love and accountability. The Anabaptist emphasis on mutual admonition and church discipline is deeply faithful to the New Testament picture of the church, and it is an emphasis that the wider Christian church desperately needs to recover if we are to survive and bear witness with integrity in the post-Christendom situation. The rest of the church is only now starting to realize the truth to which the Radical Reformation communities have patiently witnessed for more than four hundred years: the ekklesia is a peculiar people, called out of the world to embody a different politics..." READ THE WHOLE ARTICLE

Found this and some other interesting essay's at the "Kingdom Now.org" site. Includes articles by Hauerwas, Willimon, Yoder....Kevin Rains ('"Resonding to Violence")....Happy reading.

Paul Fromont 10/02/2002 11:39:00 AM

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