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Velvet Elvis Book Group

Welcome to the Velvet Elvis online book group! You have found your way to the right place. Our time together will be primarily online  - though if you want to get together for some face-to-face time, no one is stopping you!

Beginning Wednesday, June 22, 2011 Christa, will start each discussion off with some responses to a chapter in the book and may even ask some questions for you to respond to. There are 7 chapters in Velvet Elvis - so if we start with Chapter 1 on June 22 we should finish with Chapter 7 the week of August 3.

This is first time we have tried anything like this in Regina, so if you have suggestions about how to do this better, please share.

Again, welcome!

Welcome to the Velvet Elvis online book group! You have found your way to the right place. Our time together will be primarily online  - though if you want to get together for some face-to-face time, no one is stopping you!

Beginning Wednesday, June 22, 2011 Christa, will start each discussion off with some responses to a chapter in the book and may even ask some questions for you to respond to. There are 7 chapters in Velvet Elvis - so if we start with Chapter 1 on June 22 we should finish with Chapter 7 the week of August 3.

This is first time we have tried anything like this in Regina, so if you have suggestions about how to do this better, please share.

Again, welcome!

Title Posted Type Comments Last comment
Chapter 1 Discussion Starter - Re-posted 3 years ago
by CGEidsness
Group Post 2 3 years ago
by Sacred Artist
Checking things out 3 years ago
by CGEidsness
Group Post 1 3 years ago
by Focus
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Wandering Woman's picture

Wandering Woman

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who is good news for?

If we lived in a fair and just world, then I could wholeheartedly agree with Bell, that good news must be for everyone.  

 

But we live constantly bombarded by the realization that equity is not the norm. And so, good news for the poor, is not necessarily good news for the rich.  While having enough is  a wondrous miracle for some, having enough for most of us would require a lowering of our standard of living.  

 

And deep down inside, I don't want to be poor.  I don't want to merely have enough.  I want to be comfortable.  And that is my dilemma in trying to be a faithful person in an imperfect world.   Who do I stand with?  I do not live out Christ's "preferential option for the poor".

 

How is it that we can support each other in trying to give up our addition to "not enoughness" for the sake of the world?  How can we support each other in doing this.  I'm not likely to do this without a lot of support, a call to accountability, and honestly talking about what it looks like to live in our part of the world, and society.

 

I want to go back to the first chapter or so, where Bell talks about action.  A church without action, I think is a church, reflecting the people, without faith.  And if this is what the church is, then is it worth our time and effort; or what would be?

Thanks for the opportunity Christa,  I think that the work for the moderator is harder than those of us who simply respond once in a while.

 

WW

 

Sacred Artist's picture

Sacred Artist

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Everybody Matters - All Are Neighbors

This week I was struck by Bell's desire to move away from a mission of exclusion..that there IS good news for those OUTSIDE the church walls also-- moving away from the theology of some who are primarily concerned with those who are “saved/in" and "lost/outside" --the mentality of pastors such as the one he mentions in his Epilogue where the way of Jesus is not a destination of exclusion but a “journey of inclusion", loving one's neighbor, inside and outside my church.
I don't think my church has always been consistent in this area either. We say all are our neighbors, and all are welcome, but make many that don't act like us uncomfortable. I pray for the day that we truly see ourselves as partners with “all our relations" in the created world, and when all are TRULY seen as “saved" without acting as we do in our church. All were originally full of goodness and blessed by g-d and all are loved unconditionally by our S/He who we journey with! The Spirit offers good news to everyone, or Rob is right, it is not good news to anyone, ever!
I have enjoyed this reading/ book study very much. I can completely relate to the powerful story he tells at the end of this book, and understand what a profound journey Rob Bell has been on and what a courageous prophet he is really is for all kinds of churches. He is truly pointing to a new way..one that moves beyond theological differences, and what is a journey in the way of Jesus. I too have seen the church at its worse and have often felt a loss of belief not in g-d but in the
church. Still.. I was in a church last summer in San Francisco where I
saw for REAL what I hear as Bell's vision-- certainly mine! They were the church at it's best and I cried most of the time I was in that church. I felt the presence of g- d in such a profound way..in the place, the people, the love for all. I do believe g-d can be met in the chuch, yes I do, but I know g-d is met everywhere and in everyone, outside the church!
But even though I have enjoyed this book study, I struggled doing it during my holiday times, lthough I would still consider doing it again next summer. I love the way it brings us together by the Internet!
I have been glad to be back in WonderCafe which I love but m not sure it wouldn't have been easier outside it. At times I felt it lacked editing tools I wanted!
Thank you Christa, my friend. Good choice of book. It was fun to read Bell again, and light enough for summer reading!

CGEidsness's picture

CGEidsness

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Chapter 7 Good

I was part of a conversation last week in which someone was talking about the challenges two United Churches would have working with each other because of theological differences. later, someone asked me to explain what that meant. In thinking about the theological differences we have debated amongst ourselves over the years and also thinking about what little I know about the under 30 crowd, I wonder if we, as a United Church, have gotten caught up in believing that a well argued point will persuade people better than anything else. I don't think it has always been this way. My recollection of why we have an open table in the United Church is because some people in the 1970s believed that the children of our church were capable of experiencing communion before they truly understood what it meant or was. But these days my more common experience is about having the right idea and knowing how to argue to support it. Strangely enough, the bits of anecdotal evidence I hear are that the theological differences we cling to as congregations are often about things that are non-issues for people under 30.

 

Part of what I heard in this chapter was a call to be aware of the society we interact with. I appreciated the way Bell drew out the connections/similarities between Caesar in the Roman Empire and Jesus among the new Christians. It is somewhat easy to forget the rebelliousness of Jesus and his followers, since the Christian church as I have known it for most of my life has been part of the establishment. Which then gets me wondering, how do we move from being an established institution to being a community of people who offer selfless service? Or maybe the question is not how, but can we?

 

Two other things jumped out at me in this chapter. The first was the reminder that when God created the land, God empowered the land to create vegetation. God did not create the vegetation. While I have read this before, this was a detail I had always missed. I appreciate the connections Bell outlines between us and God, us and the earth, us and one another. I am not always aware of the connection, but when I read about the earth being empowered to create vegetation, I can see how we could be empowered to live out God's dream for all people.

 

The other thing that jumped out at me was "If the gospel isn't good news for everybody, then the gospel isn't good news for anybody." (p167) I liked Bell's description of how the gospel is good news for the street - not because everyone else becomes Christian, but because of the lifestyle the person takes on and the new choices the person makes.

 

This is our last official week. Please feel free to offer feedback - how did this process work for you? Would you try an online group like this again? Is there another format you can suggest?

 

Thank you for being part of the discussion.

 


 

Christa

Wandering Woman's picture

Wandering Woman

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Heaven or hell?

It is so easy to see hell on earth.  Really easy.  And maybe the problem is that I know, or think I know, or can empathize with the absence of g-d, or with hell.  I'm not entirely sure I know what heaven looks like.  I'm not sure I could ever recognize it as a place, a time, or an event.

 

If heaven is a place of intimate relationship with g-d, tapping into oneness with the divine, then any time, any place, any circumstance can be heaven, and can be hell.

 

While watching starving children is hell, one hand, holding the face of another and offering a cup of clean cold water, can be life-giving.  I can catch a glimpse of heaven.

 

As wealthy people, which I believe we are when we have more than basic staples to eat, and a safe place to live, it is so hard to remove ideas of heaven from capitalistic ideology.  Media images are of heaven being lack of responsibility or worry, fly fishing after winning 649, vacationing in a tropical paradise, partying at a casino.

 

I love watching the food channel.  ingredients I would never buy, and some I  never even heard of.  Basic survival is so beyond my world.  Food has become art, not sustenance.  There is something really wrong with one half of the world starving, and the other on a merry-go-round of diet fads.

 

And yet, there is a call to hospitality, to generosity that is strong.  How is it that my heartstrings can be pulled hard enough, my empathetic muscles called out enough, to want to change the inertia and paths of my life to do something new, to care for people I do not know, to even journey into neighbourhoods in my own city which make me feel afraid?

 

For me, the blocks against walking the paths of faith include fear of inadequacy, or "not enoughness".  I'm not enough.  I do not have enough.  Anything I do is not enough.  I'm thinking way too much.  Weighing outcomes against effort.

 

So, I stop offering what I can offer.  Begin to look inwards, and for affluent people, I think we squander the gifts of heaven on earth because we are oblivious to them--we miss them completely, looking for something more, something else.

 

How much richer my life would be if I could remember that g-d is here, that heaven on earth is here, and that each day we walk on this lovely planet with one foot in heaven and one foot in hell, and that g-d calls us to bridge the two, to love extravagantly, to be filled to overflowing with such gratitude, that all that I currently think I have control of can be given away?

 

It would be easier if I didn't love my friends, my family, and myself more than I love strangers.  Love calls us, trips us up, picks us up, and sets us back on the path again. 

 

If we don't know what heaven on earth looks like, how will we know that we stand in it, and celebrate, rejoice, and love it further into expanding hope and joy and justice?

 

 

Sacred Artist's picture

Sacred Artist

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Choosing to Trust I Am Who God Says I Am

After watching pictures of the slaughter in Norway and hearing again in Bell 's words how Rawanda was "hell on earth", I, a reformed fundamentalist, continues to believe we need look tonofar off place to find hell. We, as human beings, obviously seem to be able to create a he'll on earth for ourselves! I agree wholeheartedly with Bell's words: “the goal for Jesus isn't to get into heaven. The goal is to get heaven here." But with an attitude of scarcity and the fears that consumerism brings with it, we people of the west seem incapable to believe in the love and grace that we call g-d. So many,including myself sruggle to believe , truly, truly believe, that, as Bell says, “we reflect the beauty and creativity and wonder of the God who made us" ..that we “need you to be you" ! That is the most important treasure we can own in this consumeristic society: know that in my Real Self I am totally, unconditionally, loved as I am. For me, theclosest I have been to heaven on earth is places where I have felt totally loved as I was. I have been in a few communities where Ifelt this briefly,and it was bliss ..but mostly I feel like I am living between two cities, as Augustine called them, or in two realms as Bell writes.

Today I attended a church where the story was told about a holy man who gave a man a stone he found, a diamond the size of hail in Wascasu! And the man put his huge diamond under his pillowbutcould not sleep all night, and in the morning he went back to the holy man, and said, “here is yourstone, your diamond ...what I really want is your ability to give it away to me so easily". We can only be instruments to bringing heaven to earth when we know we are
unconditionally love as we are,and therefore our neighbor is
too,contrary to consumerist philosophy, AND if we want what allowed the holy man to give the diamond away, instead of needing to hoard -
out of fear- the diamond for myself.

CGEidsness's picture

CGEidsness

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Chapter 6 New

Maybe because it's because I was preaching about the Kingdom of Heaven last week, or maybe it's because watching what happened in Norway last week and the images from Somalia of the famine brought hell to mind, but one of the things that resonated with me in this chapter is the idea of bringing heaven and hell to earth.

 

In looking at the kingdom of heaven last week I was reminded that it wasn't something Jesus described as a future possibility for after we die, but that he actually taught us to pray "your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven." Jesus was handing us tips on how to create heaven on earth and apparently thought we are up to the task. I hear that same sense of hope and faith in parts of this chapter. I appreciate the fact that Bell doesn't get up on a high horse and tell us that we are all worms in the dust below God's feet, especially since I don't believe that. I do believe that God has dreams for us - as individuals and as a world. And I can see how living into the potential of who we already are as God's beloved children would be a step in the direction of bringing God's dreams for the world into being.

 

All of this, of course, brings home the point that how we live is a choice, and it is our choice. While I no longer watch Dr. Phil, when he first appeared on TV I liked his no-nonsense approach. When someone came to him complaining because they just couldn't get their life together he would say something like, "So you keep doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result?" The person would nod and Dr. Phil would ask, "How's that workin' for ya?" His theory was that how we live is our choice - and I hear that coming through this chapter too. Am I good at choosing to live as the person God already knows I am? Not always. But I have come to trust in God's forgiveness of me, which I then try to pass on to others.

 

One of the key things I hear Bell calling Christians to in this chapter is action - which is what I have been moving toward for quite a while now. I want to be able to express my faith in actions that help the world around me, that make life here a little bit closer to God's dream for us.

 

What about you? What resonates for you in this chapter? Are there places you already see heaven present on earth? What about hell?

 

Christa

Sacred Artist's picture

Sacred Artist

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Not Much Dust on My Own Alb

Hi again. We are on holidays so this might be brief. But I love Rob Bell's chapter, and video's, on what he calls the Dust of the Rabbi. Lately friends, anxious to have a progressive theology, tell me that we don't need to read the stories of Jesus since we follow the Spirit within each of us. We are told that abusive commands, violence, cruelty, etc. in the biblical stories mean that we should stop reading the biblical text! And I agree that some of the ancient text is abusive. And that oten the best I seem to be able to do is be the best Tour Guide I can be. And that I too have more questions than answers, it seems. But the bible also includes the wonderful teachings and stories by who Bell calls “rabbi Jesus", and talks about the "yoke" of Jesus.
I understand why some would not want to follow Jesus, and would follow "the Spirit within us" instead of Jesus, if they said to me the teachings of Jesus are not always easy and his “yoke" is not always easy. That I agree with. I have moments when I think following rabbi
and mystic Jesus is too hard, and my discipleship leaves very little dust on my alb, I am afraid. I am “not-good-enough“ indeed!
I too have been watching television that tells me Clearly that I cannot dance, and that there is a difference between “stars" and
“regular people". And I am not one of the “stars". For now I continue to also give my life to the Spirit of Christ seeking -to my surprise- to find a little more of the rabbi's dust on my alb.
Ps. I had to memorize lots of scripture as a child and for confirmation: where indeed memorized all the right answers for my confirmation which I repeated back to my Pastor publicly to be confirmed. It certainly gave me a biblical basis, of the literal text, but I don't think I remember much now.
Pss. Go Adam Hadwin!

CGEidsness's picture

CGEidsness

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Chapter 5 - Dust

This spring I watched as a computer named Watson played Jeopardy. It was hailed as a technological breakthrough. But looking back on it, I don't think Watson would actually make a very good disciple. The point of Jeopardy is to ask the question that goes with the given answer and there were many times when Watson just couldn't come up with the right question.

 

The thing that interests me about Watson and Jeopardy is Rob Bell's comment that "Rabbis had no interest in having the student spit back information just for information's sake. They wanted to know if the student understood it, if he had wrestled with it." Clearly computers can't wrestle with information - they live in a binary world of yes or no. But in the past 15 years they have had such an impact on our society that I wonder if sometimes we think there should be a definitive answer for every question out there. I find it helpful to be reminded that there are still mystics in the world asking unanswerable questions. For me it is also good be reminded that Jesus asks questions, not expecting answers from us, but expecting more questions. I can ask lots of questions, but I admit that sometimes I want clear answers rather than more questions. Many times I wish the path ahead was simple and direct, though it almost never is.

 

I wonder what kind of scripture influences your life. If first century Jews had the Torah memorized by age 10, because it was so integral to life, what is it that you have memorized? My children and I have many, many songs memorized - but almost none of them are helpful in a difficult situation or useful for figuring out life. While I have read the 23rd Psalm many times, I know I can't recite it by memory. Even my recollection of the story arc of the Torah is rather hazy and for details I would have to go back to the text.

 

The final point I want to highlight is the idea that Jesus chooses the "not-good-enoughs." The young kids that didn't make it past the first round of Rabbi training. Summer time TV viewing is pretty sparse, but what our family has noticed is the profusion of shows that have some kind of judging involved - America's Got Talent, The Voice, So You Think You Can Dance. All of these shows and many more are set up to choose the best every time - judges criticize everyone and sometimes America gets to vote on who stays and who goes. In a world where being number 1 means getting the ultimate prize it is still shocking that Jesus comes along and says to the first person eliminated, "Come, follow me." because Jesus believes the person is up to the task of being a disciple.

 

On a side note - I have known for years that Mary (Jesus' mother) was quite young to have a child, at least by our standards, since a typical age for engagement was about 13. It had never occurred to me that the disciples Jesus called might also be quite young - 16, 18, 20? I just assumed they were grown men, perhaps as old as Jesus. But maybe they weren't. Maybe they were still trying to find their way when Jesus called.

 

What jumped out at you this week?

 

CGEidsness

 

Sacred Artist's picture

Sacred Artist

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Focus on being Tour Guide

CGEidsness, I too have felt the weight of the whole church on my hurting shoulders. When I became aware for the first time that I had what I then called a “messiah complex", I was still following what I saw as my vocational Calling, wondering why anyone would do any other work. - or, I love these words: “written deep in the fibre of my being"! I, a non-native, student minister, was in Native ministry and trying to “save them" from all the injustices and abuses they have endured. It is almost laughable, but I felt so called to the work, and spent every minute I could spare in justice work, until one day when I was already drinking quite a bit, my Native neighbor, who was also very invested in justice work, stood by his fire burning sweetgrass and praying, asked me where my fire was? Where MY fire was? I was so busy "saving" the Native world? And a Non-Christian Tour Guide said to me, here is where I meet my g- d each evening in this forest, by my fire, and where is yours? Of course I had already learned that as a Church Leader I had no time left for prayer or for being a Tour Guide!
That was my realizing I was trying to please everyone, and being a “successful" ...well, my “super whatever" moment!
So, this, amongst other experiences this Spring, amongst rereading this excellent study- thank you CGEidsness - I think the key for myself as a Church Leader is to focus on where my “fire" is, point others towards the presence of g-din my life, asking them where they find g-din their lives.
I too am concerned about friends, who are Church Leaders, busy running the institution - often better at it then I am- but have forgotten, it seems to me, how to name where g-d is in their lives, and often retire having become more and more efficient at running the
institution!
Do we wonder that g-d may no longer be present in that institution? Yes, that is why I speak of a vocational calling today to not to being a
Minister, but to being called, with real passion, to being a Tour Guide, as a Minister.
Finally, I want to add that: I find accepting who I am, warts and all,
broken and filled with the goodness of g-d, not allowing myself to be defined by who I am not, is an on- going journey. And all of this does take courage! And, it means, I believe, that all Church Ministers, need their own Spiritual Directors, Therapists, and Supervisors, if possible. So I agree with Rob wholeheartedly, on this point also.
Sacred Artist

CGEidsness's picture

CGEidsness

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Chapter 4 - Tassels

I've read about the beginnings of Mars Hill Church before and what I've always remembered about it is "Rob Bell started a church and a ton of people came the first week - even though they didn't do any advertising." So what struck me at the beginning of this chapter is that, yes, Rob Bell started a church, but he didn't do it alone. He writes, "My wife Kristen and I and several others started this church called Mars Hill..." (p096)

 

While I have never found myself in a broom closet trying to figure out how far away I could get before the start of the next service, I have certainly had the experience of feeling wrung out with absolutely nothing to say. There have also been times when I have felt like the weight of the world was resting on my shoulders or that the fate of a congregation was dependent on my "wisdom" or lack thereof. So it's helpful to be reminded that even the "successful" Rob Bell did not do things on his own.

 

I took some time off from ministry for a while and during that time discovered that I, like many people, have some junk in my trunk that needs dealing with. The bits of Bell's approach to salvation that I like in this chapter have to do with his invitation for people to deal with the stuff that is holding them back. I think I hear him inviting us to let go of the "superwhatever" - parent, pastor, friend, spouse, child, that we think we HAVE to be and learn to live as who we really are. Not to live defined by what we are not (p115), but to live defined by what we are. To relentlessly pursue the person God made us to be. (p114)

 

One other thing that really jumped out at me: "I cannot lead people somewhere I am not trying to go myself." (p119) This may just take us back to the tour guide discussion - but I find it interesting that a church leader who has never studied church planting or growth can lead a congregation that grows by leaps and bounds while others who may be experts in the field find themselves struggling at times. I attribute this, at least in part, to the fact that Bell was willing to name what he wanted in a church. It sounds like he spent a lot of time dreaming and talking about what a church could be and then he went out to put those dreams into action.

 

Some questions for consideration:

What is the thing that is written into the fibre of your being so deeply that you simply have to do it because if you don't you will be violating someone or something? And what is holding you back?

 

Do you have a superwhatever rattling around in your head? And how do you plan to get rid of it?

 

If you had the opportunity to re-invent church, what would it be like?

 

CG

CGEidsness's picture

CGEidsness

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Reply to Problems with being a Tour Guide

Of course you may call me CG.

 

Sacred Artist,  I agree that when we do see it we need to be courageous enough to name it, but I sometimes wonder if we get into church and get so involved in the daily tasks and business that we forget why we ever got into church in the first place. (This is shades of Chapter 4, but I'll proceed anyway.) I have had conversations with colleagues who, when asked, can't name where/what God is for them and that worries me. Perhaps I shouldn't assume that ministers are tour guides - but if the people who have dedicated their lives to serving God through ministry can't be tour guides, which makes me wonder: do you think the tour guides we have can recognize what they see? And if not, what hope do we have as a church? CG

Sacred Artist's picture

Sacred Artist

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Problems with Being a Tour Guide

CG (if I may call you that) , I think one of the real problems these days when people have decided that the church no longer defines what they experience spiritually, is that there both a blindness to what they are seeing, and, a loss of language for their experience of g-d/the spiritual. I don't mean this in any way judgementally, but just what I see around me.
And so they experience wonder, for example, with a maybe a thankful heart, but they would never dare think they were thankful "to g-d", nor would they even realize ,at times, I find, even that what they are experiencing is spiritual. Some are so sure they have no “soul", and are left with no language to define what is Real. That is the reason why the Emerging thinking may allow people to recapture words, symbols, and metaphors that can give new language when the old language seemed uncomfortable and even abusive at times?
Therefore, CG, I think our communities need Tour Guides more than ever, but we, here ismy problem, need to have the courage to offer some insight to what “we see", asking what they “see", walking beside them, and offering them to some “testimony" ..to use an old and scary word!
Sacred Artist

CGEidsness's picture

CGEidsness

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The blessing of Tour Guides

Thank you Wandering Woman and Sacred Artist - both of you helped me see an even fuller image of what a tour guide can be.

 

I like being reminded that when I act as a tour guide, I discover more about my own surroundings. Growing up just outside of Toronto, the first time (and just about only times) we went to places like the CN Tower or the Museum or even Centre Island was when my grandparents came to visit from the west coast.

 

Of course, I also like the idea that a tour guide walks beside someone - offering advice, but letting them discover the hidden (or not-so-hidden) beauty and gifts of their surroundings. I especially like the openness of this in terms of connecting with God. I sometimes wish that connecting with God was a bit clearer for me, but Wandering Woman you have reminded me that my experience of God will not be exactly like anyone else's - so I cannot really expect anyone to say "this is how God is" and experience that exact same thing in my own life.

 

 

 

Sacred Artist's picture

Sacred Artist

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Discipleship Being a Tour Guide

I love Rob Bell's use of image and metaphor and I like this one too. When I am in Spiritual Direction or in Ministry I am like a "tour guide". I have no doubt that is what I do. I think sometimes though it is like when I was on a tour of Israel: the tour was going by pretty fast, and before I could be "aware" of what was in my presence, we were whisked off to another tourist sight, missing not only the beauty around us, but also the beauty within the people we were encountering. Most of the time I encountered through a "camera" and not my own eyes. That is another metaphor I could explore later.

  I did a thesis on C.S. Lewis and one of the things Lewis said in my favourite essay, called "The Weight of Glory" is that the greatest sacrament of God's presence it people, their love, their sacrifice for others. I agree. But the weight of glory was the weight that places upon us of seeing the glory of god in other human beings. We can miss it so easy due to our human doubts, frailty, and just being too busy to notice how glorious people can be!

  Another image Lewis used was that of putting on "glasses" so that we can see what is really there; I loved Lewis use of images and metaphors. Bell sometimes reminds me of him. Often we don't put on "glasses" that give us the "awareness" of what is there. What do I mean by that? Well I will return to that after pondering over it a little more. I don't want to write a "homily", like Wandering Woman. But I guess the wandering part says it all.

    Sacred Artist

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Wandering Woman

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Tour Guide continued

I can't remember who it was --I'm thinking it might be Rabbi Kushner--who distinguished between the questions, "where is God" and "when is God".  I like the second better--trying to distinguish when I perceive the presence of God.  When I slow down enough to pay attention.  When love is enacted.  

 

I, too, love the image of the tour guide.  And it offers so many possibilities.  We never truly see everything around us--neither do we hear everything around us--subsonic, ultraviolet  (don't we wonder what dogs can see and hear?), and I'm guessing that we never truly--except for those occasional mountain top moments, are fully aware of the sacred in our everyday lives.  So...there are many different kind of tours: there are armchair tours, there are tours that point out wildlife and birds, there are museum tours, there are mystery tours or haunted tours, there are political tours, tours of grand buildings, old buildings, tours of interesting architecture.  And sometimes we have some expertise and can comment on history, or the development of something, or the genus and species of a particular form of wildlife.

 

But sometimes the tour guide just helps us to slow down enough to notice what we could easily see ourselves if we shifted our perspective.  And sometimes when we are tour guide to someone else (how many times, did I, when in southern Ontario, visit with others to Niagara Falls, Casa Loma, CN Tower etc)...we also see something new, or receive the gift of the joy that another feels when they see something or notice something for the first time.

 

As parents, many people are thrust into the role of tour guide even if they feel totally inadequate.  Because simply by being alive, we have more experience than younger people--and yet they are often the ones to point out the obvious miracles in the world: a crack in the sidewalk, a handful of dandelions, the joy of bubbles in the bathtub, the wonder of a double rainbow, sunset, or rough yet gentle tongue of a dog.

 

I think the best kind of tour guide is one that will listen to the experiences, and hopes of those who want to be guided, and help them make their own discoveries.  I don't think anyone experiences the holy in exactly the same way...and yet...I love hearing the stories of others who are willing to share them:  Moses and the burning bush, Pentecost, the dying man who talks to Jesus, the sudden stillness and quietness of gorillas as they reach the mountain peak and see the crater lake below them, the love as we look across to our beloveds--whether human, adult, child, or part of the created world.

For me, prayer is a response, an outward, visible (or is it audible?) response to God's grace, to the spirit's urging, to the love, anger, injustice, mercy, compassion, hope, disbelief, etc. that we experience in the world.

There are times when life is a chore, a bore, a drugery.  But there are times when we are privileged to glimpse that which is so much more.  Hurray for tour guides who are willing to experience and articulate what's they see in the moment, in the time when the sacred is so very clear.

 

WW

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Believing in the Bible

In my earlier theological education and church attendance, “believing in the bible" was a big deal. People would say to me, “Don't you believe in the bible?" Or, you just need to “get back to the inerrant, infallible Word, the bible"; just teach “the bible"...I had forgotten those days, until Rob Bell, reminded me a out how people around me used to sound - to me- like their Almighty god and their “almighty, infallible bible" were the one and same thing. Now I, like Bell, realize that when pastors would share “their yoke", with the “authority of the infallible bible" as their authority, and I would give up my life savings thinking they were speaking for god, believing then in the inerrancy of the bible, I was right to question. It seemed too simplistic but created in me the desire for “awareness" as Bell says on page 55, which to me is the key to my understanding of the bible today. Awareness of what I bring to my interpretation will help me escape some of the toxic and warped interpretations that I have personally, and painfully, encountered as young man! Sacred Artist

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Chapter 3 I want to be a Tour Guide!

On p088 Bell says, "Perhaps we ought to replace the word missionary with tour guide, because we cannot show people something we haven't seen."

 

Throughout this chapter I have felt both affirmed and challenged. I feel affirmed in that I have never thought things with the label "Christian" were the only way to find God. But I also feel challenged because I am aware that in many ways I keep my faith relegated to my work life and I often miss out on connecting where I see God in other places.

 

I grew up in a minister's family and for us faith and church were the same thing and it was the family "business" - we didn't talk about what we believed, I think we just assumed we all knew. I didn't know anything about the spiritual lives of my parents and it was rare for either of them to talk about God and faith and the world in the same sentence. I learned more about prayer and finding God in the world from my grandparents - but even that was sketchy. So I am often left feeling like I can point to where I think I see the truth of God, but I'm never completely convinced that I'm actually seeing it or if I'm just going through the motions and faking it.

 

I would like to have the confidence in my faith to be a tour guide - to share freely with people what it is I think I see, but I'm just not there yet.

 

What about you? Do you have a sense of God being everywhere? Are there only certain places you find God? Do you ever struggle with making the deeper connections?

 

Christa

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reply to Yokes continued

I think that for me Spirit simply is - the way God is, whether we are aware of it or not. This is not something I've thought a lot about really, it's more of an instinctive thing, so I'm not sure that whatever I articulate here is what I might articulate in another week or two or three, but we'll see.

 

I'd like to say we can't work without Spirit as people of faith because while my sense is that Spirit is around us all the time, I also sense that Spirit is one of the ways God nudges us, whether we're aware of it or not (and I can't explain why/how I distinguish between God and Spirit - in many ways they are one and the same AND YET there are two different names for them, but the whole trinity thing is a different discussion). There have been moments in my life when I have sensed "more" than what I see and hear physically and I suppose I think of some of those moments as Spirit. Which is where it comes back to my preaching. The moments of inspiration when I am totally blocked I have come to name "Spirit moments" - I can't imagine that the ideas have actually come from me, so they must come from somewhere and I name that Spirit. As you say, this is probably more of growing awareness than anything new.

 

And I suppose that in some ways, a growing awareness of Spirit is how my "velvet Elvis" is being repainted. Fresh out of theological school I was very determined to have all the "right" answers - or at least an answer that came from a book. Now I am more aware of mystery and I know that I will never truly have full understanding of faith or Biblical texts or Spirit.

 

Christa

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Yokes continued

So...this brings up the question to me of how it is the Spirit or spirit, works in our lives--whether we acknowledge, credit or don't credit.  Does the spirit's existence make any sense for human beings outside the realm of human experience?  I suppose it's the same question about is there love without one to receive or give it?  Does the spirit exist as an abstract being, or does it need to be attached, or embodied somehow in creation?

Can we work without the Spirit?  Is this a credible discussion for people of faith?  And what do you mean when you say you have come to heavily depend on the presence of the Spirit in preaching?  (was it less so before, or is it a question of conciousness?)

For me, also, the Bible is part of the tools with which I work...and occasionally I feel deeply engaged with the stories.  More often, though, I feel like a scientist looking through a microscope, trying to make sense of what is being said.

 

WW

 

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Yokes

Yes, WW, it is an interesting question to consider which yokes we live with, isn't it? I don't always think about them in terms of my interpretation of scripture, but you're right. We are all heavily influenced by our society, upbringing, culture, and experiences. I am, perhaps, not as cautious as I should be about what I say. You are the second preacher in the past few months to have named the difficulty of interpreting scripture in an authentic (to the original) way. But then, if we struggle with it now, they must have struggled with it then as well.

 

I think I have come to heavily depend on the presence of the Spirit in preaching - and often credit the Spirit with the inspiration for putting the sermon together, rather than anything I did. And I too, have had the experience of someone commenting on something I know I have not said.

 

I would like to say that the Bible plays an important part in my spiritual life - and there have been times that has been true. The experience of praying through Ecclesiastes several years ago gave me many "aha" moments. But right now the Bible is more of a foundational tool for planning worship and while I learn lots from the study of scripture, I'm not sure that I'm truly engaging the stories or experiences of the authors at the moment.

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Yoke

What I find interesting is that rarely are we asked to name what our yokes are...that is, in what way is my interpretation different than someone else's?  I suppose that I do try to understand the social, economic, cultural context in which a passage was written/compiled/constructed.  And then try to make links with today.

If it has thoughts with which I do not agree in it, then either I preach on it, or it isn't read.  (At least, if I've looked far enough ahead to notice).

 

The questions which often frame my thinking run along the lines of this:  is this life-giving, or death-dealing and if so for who?  A passage, I think doesn't speak to everyone in the same way.  Our own culture, class, upbringing make a difference in how we hear and experience scriptures re-articulated.  I begin to question whether or not we can accurately interpret words shared thousands of years ago.  I think, whether we admit it or not, all of us are prooftexting, with our own particular cannons.

 

When I preach, sometimes it's a word or a though which catches my attention.  

 

And I definitely know, as many of us do, of how the spirit works not only through the words read, but also the words experienced.  How many times have we heard people say, "Thanks so much for saying such and such"...when we know that we never said anything remote close to it.

 

It's amazing to me that the spirit works to us, through us, for us...whatever...and however beyond our understanding.

 

WW

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Chapter 2 - Yoke

The question I started the chapter with is the one Bell ends with: "what do we do with the Bible?" And by "we" I mean people in the United Church of Canada.

 

At Rosemont we've been trying something new over the past few weeks - inviting the congregation to break into small groups of 3-5 people and take a few minutes after hearing the scripture reading to talk about the gaps and the details they've heard as well as what questions the passage raises for them. (The idea came from David Lose who writes at www.workingpreacher.org) What has surprised me is the level of conversation - people seem to be engaged in the conversation. Of course, they are a bit shy about telling the large group what they've taken note of.

 

My own understanding of the Bible has developed over the years - a re-painting of my own velvet Elvis, I suppose. I don't know that I ever believed it literally, but I have come to understand it as a library and in the past few years there have been many times I have described it as a book written by people in community about their experiences of God. I like the way Bell says that what happened still happens (p058) which is one of the reasons the Bible is a living document.

 

In reading the chapter I realized that when I approach a text for preaching I may have a certain insight, but if I don't hear it reflected in the reading/research I do then I will often let it go - assuming that I must be wrong. The books I read and the websites I visit have become part of the community that helps me interpret scripture. And there are always some that I simply dismiss because I know they are coming from a different perspective and not one that I agree with.

 

What about you? How do you approach the Bible?

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In the end, on Sunday i asked

In the end, on Sunday i asked some questions, in a totally unrelated way...and maybe i'll talk a bit more about asking the questions, and what our fears and trepidations are about that.  But more than likely it's the time of the year when few people want to think.  Is thinking a winter occupation?

So, while I don't doubt G-d's presence, I do always wonder where G-d is working, and through whom and when.  And sometimes it's within the church, and sometimes it's not.  G-d's ability to make a difference, I think is really centred on our spirit-filled abilities, and how much we take them seriously.  Is it Borg who calls it participatory eschatology?

And at the same time I also agree that this is stuff that people have made up, in a way to try to explore, identify, name that "something more".  And I think the reality of the importance of G-d comes from outcomes: Tutu's vision of a world without Apartheid, King's vision of children walking hand in hand, vision of women who sought the vote.  As long as there are those who dream dreams, have visions, and seek a just world, I know there is g-d.

In the final analysis, I'm not so interested in the dogma of a person, but rather their core values.  And if they link up with mine (which arrogantly I imagine is what my g-d also treasures), then I will support them. 

 

WW

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Musings on a Tuesday

Wandering Woman - I like your comment about our experience of God being experiential (even if you aren't sure exactly what you are saying!) I have been pondering the experience of God recently - in particular when thinking about how I talk to people who don't necessarily believe in God about what it is that I believe. For me faith has come to be a melding of experience and thought. I can point to times in my life when I very clearly felt the presence of God. At the same time I listen to the stories of my ancestors in faith and hear the witness of other people and dip my toe into the deep waters of science and think, "of course there is something more in the universe." This is, no doubt, a re-painting of my faith.

      As for the question service - I think we all have questions, I'm just not sure I would voice them. I tend to think that I am the only one wondering about my questions or that others would think my question is stupid. What did you do with the service?

 

The Things I would name for a Doubt Night

I sometimes feel like God is very far away and in those moments I feel like I'm just imagining the whole God thing. I buy into some of the atheist talk I've heard that says, "it's all just stuff people have made up to feel significant in the world and there's nothing to it." I look at the world and wonder how we could have messed up the planet so badly and how we can treat each other so poorly and why doesn't God do something MORE than what is happening. Which leads me to doubt 1) God's presence and 2) God's ability to make a difference.

 

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My Velvet Elvis - from Sacred Artist

I am trying to live my life according to Rembrandt's Return of the Prodigal Son. But I grew up within a pairing that would be more like a picture of the people at Mt. Sinai. God be the terrifying Almighty and Judge! In the the story of the prodigal son, the basis for my Velvet Elvis, or Rembrandt's pairing, Father Mother (seen in the painting by the feminine and masculine hands) God lovingly welcomes his lost son home gently forgiving him and allowing his son his mistakes, his wandering, his searching for his own way. I too fell at home in the loving heart of this loving and compassioate God, my God!
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questions

Wandering Woman aka faithkogirl, here.

I'm in ministry in the prairies.  Enough background?

So...chapter one...I like how Bell distinguishes what is not God in the trampouline metaphor...not the springs, not the surface, but something other, beyond.

Maybe it's not about anything, but the experience, the thrill, the fear, the paying attention in the middle of the jump.

If our experience of God is not experiential (not sure what I mean really, here)...then is it just a mental exercise?  And if we don't reflect on these experiences (theology), then is it just self-delusion and where does community fit in?

On a totally unrelated topic from chapter 1:  this week we had planned a questions service.  It had been publicized for over a month...and...no questions!  Not a one!

So does that mean that no one has questions??? Really???  No doubts???  Or are we not training ourselves mentally to think that we can generate questions.  Is it just too much trouble to engage in a faith struggle?  Is there not enough passion--or is it fear that stops us from asking questions out loud.

WW

 

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Brickworld

I am actually Sacred Artist - some may remember I had a blog on WonderCafe a few years ago. I live with faithkogirl, and being her "better half" will contribute as a "shadow 4th member"! I love the way Rob Bell has a mind for metaphor. But my favorite in this chapter, or at least the one that connected most deeply within me, was the world of bricks.

I grew up in a fundamentalist church, and went to a fundamentalist bible school. I knew teachers there that spoke like this seminary president. Great leaps of logic in defense of "almighty god" and in "defense of the wall", as Rob put it. What disturbed me most is that after a while we had walled out everyone except the few that were right. Thankfully I found myself in the little walled world of the few chosen, or  "right people".  I got tired of the idea that most of the world were not within "the wall"; tired of the "brickworld" itself; and tired of "defending the wall"! The result was that I left and thought my faith was gone, until  someone else invited me to join them on their "tamporine"! I surprised by joy!

I will consider my "painting of faith" and get back to you about that one later!

 

Sacred Artist

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Chapter 1 Starter

I love the idea of a trampoline – the flexibility of the springs, the need to take your feet off the surface to jump, the joy, AND that what you do with a trampoline is invite someone else to jump on it with you. The whole metaphor points me towards the embodiment of faith. For many years it seemed I kept running into the message that church was about ideas and that having the “right” idea (which was probably not the same “right” idea that Rob Bell’s church had) was vital.  This was probably related to a need to have the “right” belief. But what I hear Bell saying is that faith is about the way we choose to live – it is an embodiment of what we believe. We build some brick walls or we can go jump on a trampoline...I know which one I would choose.

 

Now it’s your turn. What struck you in this chapter? Was there one particular idea that made you say “Yes!” or "Absolutely not!" to an empty room? What questions do you want to ask the rest of us?

 

Other questions for consideration (I’ll come back and post my own answers later in the week):

 

From the Introduction p011-013:  What painting of faith did you inherit in your life? How are you repainting the faith?

 

Who or what have you put your faith in? (p019)

 

What doubts would you name for a Doubt Night at your church? (p029)

 

What questions would you ask God?(p031)

 

Housekeeping:

It would be good to know a little bit about who we are writing to – so if you’d like, take a minute to post a sentence or two about yourself.

 

If you are having trouble getting a membership on Wondercafe, but still want to participate in the discussion – send your comments in an e-mail to me at Rosemont and I will post them under your name.

 

Check back throughout the week to see what other people have posted –let's see if we can get some good discussion going.

 

Christa

 

 

 

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how can both of us sign on from the same email address?

There are two of us who want to join at this address, faithkogirl and sacred artist.  eom

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Group Wall

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who is good news for?

If we lived in a fair and just world, then I could wholeheartedly agree with Bell, that good news must be for everyone.  

 

But we live constantly bombarded by the realization that equity is not the norm. And so, good news for the poor, is not necessarily good news for the rich.  While having enough is  a wondrous miracle for some, having enough for most of us would require a lowering of our standard of living.  

 

And deep down inside, I don't want to be poor.  I don't want to merely have enough.  I want to be comfortable.  And that is my dilemma in trying to be a faithful person in an imperfect world.   Who do I stand with?  I do not live out Christ's "preferential option for the poor".

 

How is it that we can support each other in trying to give up our addition to "not enoughness" for the sake of the world?  How can we support each other in doing this.  I'm not likely to do this without a lot of support, a call to accountability, and honestly talking about what it looks like to live in our part of the world, and society.

 

I want to go back to the first chapter or so, where Bell talks about action.  A church without action, I think is a church, reflecting the people, without faith.  And if this is what the church is, then is it worth our time and effort; or what would be?

Thanks for the opportunity Christa,  I think that the work for the moderator is harder than those of us who simply respond once in a while.

 

WW

 

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Everybody Matters - All Are Neighbors

This week I was struck by Bell's desire to move away from a mission of exclusion..that there IS good news for those OUTSIDE the church walls also-- moving away from the theology of some who are primarily concerned with those who are “saved/in" and "lost/outside" --the mentality of pastors such as the one he mentions in his Epilogue where the way of Jesus is not a destination of exclusion but a “journey of inclusion", loving one's neighbor, inside and outside my church.
I don't think my church has always been consistent in this area either. We say all are our neighbors, and all are welcome, but make many that don't act like us uncomfortable. I pray for the day that we truly see ourselves as partners with “all our relations" in the created world, and when all are TRULY seen as “saved" without acting as we do in our church. All were originally full of goodness and blessed by g-d and all are loved unconditionally by our S/He who we journey with! The Spirit offers good news to everyone, or Rob is right, it is not good news to anyone, ever!
I have enjoyed this reading/ book study very much. I can completely relate to the powerful story he tells at the end of this book, and understand what a profound journey Rob Bell has been on and what a courageous prophet he is really is for all kinds of churches. He is truly pointing to a new way..one that moves beyond theological differences, and what is a journey in the way of Jesus. I too have seen the church at its worse and have often felt a loss of belief not in g-d but in the
church. Still.. I was in a church last summer in San Francisco where I
saw for REAL what I hear as Bell's vision-- certainly mine! They were the church at it's best and I cried most of the time I was in that church. I felt the presence of g- d in such a profound way..in the place, the people, the love for all. I do believe g-d can be met in the chuch, yes I do, but I know g-d is met everywhere and in everyone, outside the church!
But even though I have enjoyed this book study, I struggled doing it during my holiday times, lthough I would still consider doing it again next summer. I love the way it brings us together by the Internet!
I have been glad to be back in WonderCafe which I love but m not sure it wouldn't have been easier outside it. At times I felt it lacked editing tools I wanted!
Thank you Christa, my friend. Good choice of book. It was fun to read Bell again, and light enough for summer reading!

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Chapter 7 Good

I was part of a conversation last week in which someone was talking about the challenges two United Churches would have working with each other because of theological differences. later, someone asked me to explain what that meant. In thinking about the theological differences we have debated amongst ourselves over the years and also thinking about what little I know about the under 30 crowd, I wonder if we, as a United Church, have gotten caught up in believing that a well argued point will persuade people better than anything else. I don't think it has always been this way. My recollection of why we have an open table in the United Church is because some people in the 1970s believed that the children of our church were capable of experiencing communion before they truly understood what it meant or was. But these days my more common experience is about having the right idea and knowing how to argue to support it. Strangely enough, the bits of anecdotal evidence I hear are that the theological differences we cling to as congregations are often about things that are non-issues for people under 30.

 

Part of what I heard in this chapter was a call to be aware of the society we interact with. I appreciated the way Bell drew out the connections/similarities between Caesar in the Roman Empire and Jesus among the new Christians. It is somewhat easy to forget the rebelliousness of Jesus and his followers, since the Christian church as I have known it for most of my life has been part of the establishment. Which then gets me wondering, how do we move from being an established institution to being a community of people who offer selfless service? Or maybe the question is not how, but can we?

 

Two other things jumped out at me in this chapter. The first was the reminder that when God created the land, God empowered the land to create vegetation. God did not create the vegetation. While I have read this before, this was a detail I had always missed. I appreciate the connections Bell outlines between us and God, us and the earth, us and one another. I am not always aware of the connection, but when I read about the earth being empowered to create vegetation, I can see how we could be empowered to live out God's dream for all people.

 

The other thing that jumped out at me was "If the gospel isn't good news for everybody, then the gospel isn't good news for anybody." (p167) I liked Bell's description of how the gospel is good news for the street - not because everyone else becomes Christian, but because of the lifestyle the person takes on and the new choices the person makes.

 

This is our last official week. Please feel free to offer feedback - how did this process work for you? Would you try an online group like this again? Is there another format you can suggest?

 

Thank you for being part of the discussion.

 


 

Christa

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Heaven or hell?

It is so easy to see hell on earth.  Really easy.  And maybe the problem is that I know, or think I know, or can empathize with the absence of g-d, or with hell.  I'm not entirely sure I know what heaven looks like.  I'm not sure I could ever recognize it as a place, a time, or an event.

 

If heaven is a place of intimate relationship with g-d, tapping into oneness with the divine, then any time, any place, any circumstance can be heaven, and can be hell.

 

While watching starving children is hell, one hand, holding the face of another and offering a cup of clean cold water, can be life-giving.  I can catch a glimpse of heaven.

 

As wealthy people, which I believe we are when we have more than basic staples to eat, and a safe place to live, it is so hard to remove ideas of heaven from capitalistic ideology.  Media images are of heaven being lack of responsibility or worry, fly fishing after winning 649, vacationing in a tropical paradise, partying at a casino.

 

I love watching the food channel.  ingredients I would never buy, and some I  never even heard of.  Basic survival is so beyond my world.  Food has become art, not sustenance.  There is something really wrong with one half of the world starving, and the other on a merry-go-round of diet fads.

 

And yet, there is a call to hospitality, to generosity that is strong.  How is it that my heartstrings can be pulled hard enough, my empathetic muscles called out enough, to want to change the inertia and paths of my life to do something new, to care for people I do not know, to even journey into neighbourhoods in my own city which make me feel afraid?

 

For me, the blocks against walking the paths of faith include fear of inadequacy, or "not enoughness".  I'm not enough.  I do not have enough.  Anything I do is not enough.  I'm thinking way too much.  Weighing outcomes against effort.

 

So, I stop offering what I can offer.  Begin to look inwards, and for affluent people, I think we squander the gifts of heaven on earth because we are oblivious to them--we miss them completely, looking for something more, something else.

 

How much richer my life would be if I could remember that g-d is here, that heaven on earth is here, and that each day we walk on this lovely planet with one foot in heaven and one foot in hell, and that g-d calls us to bridge the two, to love extravagantly, to be filled to overflowing with such gratitude, that all that I currently think I have control of can be given away?

 

It would be easier if I didn't love my friends, my family, and myself more than I love strangers.  Love calls us, trips us up, picks us up, and sets us back on the path again. 

 

If we don't know what heaven on earth looks like, how will we know that we stand in it, and celebrate, rejoice, and love it further into expanding hope and joy and justice?

 

 

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Choosing to Trust I Am Who God Says I Am

After watching pictures of the slaughter in Norway and hearing again in Bell 's words how Rawanda was "hell on earth", I, a reformed fundamentalist, continues to believe we need look tonofar off place to find hell. We, as human beings, obviously seem to be able to create a he'll on earth for ourselves! I agree wholeheartedly with Bell's words: “the goal for Jesus isn't to get into heaven. The goal is to get heaven here." But with an attitude of scarcity and the fears that consumerism brings with it, we people of the west seem incapable to believe in the love and grace that we call g-d. So many,including myself sruggle to believe , truly, truly believe, that, as Bell says, “we reflect the beauty and creativity and wonder of the God who made us" ..that we “need you to be you" ! That is the most important treasure we can own in this consumeristic society: know that in my Real Self I am totally, unconditionally, loved as I am. For me, theclosest I have been to heaven on earth is places where I have felt totally loved as I was. I have been in a few communities where Ifelt this briefly,and it was bliss ..but mostly I feel like I am living between two cities, as Augustine called them, or in two realms as Bell writes.

Today I attended a church where the story was told about a holy man who gave a man a stone he found, a diamond the size of hail in Wascasu! And the man put his huge diamond under his pillowbutcould not sleep all night, and in the morning he went back to the holy man, and said, “here is yourstone, your diamond ...what I really want is your ability to give it away to me so easily". We can only be instruments to bringing heaven to earth when we know we are
unconditionally love as we are,and therefore our neighbor is
too,contrary to consumerist philosophy, AND if we want what allowed the holy man to give the diamond away, instead of needing to hoard -
out of fear- the diamond for myself.

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Chapter 6 New

Maybe because it's because I was preaching about the Kingdom of Heaven last week, or maybe it's because watching what happened in Norway last week and the images from Somalia of the famine brought hell to mind, but one of the things that resonated with me in this chapter is the idea of bringing heaven and hell to earth.

 

In looking at the kingdom of heaven last week I was reminded that it wasn't something Jesus described as a future possibility for after we die, but that he actually taught us to pray "your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven." Jesus was handing us tips on how to create heaven on earth and apparently thought we are up to the task. I hear that same sense of hope and faith in parts of this chapter. I appreciate the fact that Bell doesn't get up on a high horse and tell us that we are all worms in the dust below God's feet, especially since I don't believe that. I do believe that God has dreams for us - as individuals and as a world. And I can see how living into the potential of who we already are as God's beloved children would be a step in the direction of bringing God's dreams for the world into being.

 

All of this, of course, brings home the point that how we live is a choice, and it is our choice. While I no longer watch Dr. Phil, when he first appeared on TV I liked his no-nonsense approach. When someone came to him complaining because they just couldn't get their life together he would say something like, "So you keep doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result?" The person would nod and Dr. Phil would ask, "How's that workin' for ya?" His theory was that how we live is our choice - and I hear that coming through this chapter too. Am I good at choosing to live as the person God already knows I am? Not always. But I have come to trust in God's forgiveness of me, which I then try to pass on to others.

 

One of the key things I hear Bell calling Christians to in this chapter is action - which is what I have been moving toward for quite a while now. I want to be able to express my faith in actions that help the world around me, that make life here a little bit closer to God's dream for us.

 

What about you? What resonates for you in this chapter? Are there places you already see heaven present on earth? What about hell?

 

Christa

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Not Much Dust on My Own Alb

Hi again. We are on holidays so this might be brief. But I love Rob Bell's chapter, and video's, on what he calls the Dust of the Rabbi. Lately friends, anxious to have a progressive theology, tell me that we don't need to read the stories of Jesus since we follow the Spirit within each of us. We are told that abusive commands, violence, cruelty, etc. in the biblical stories mean that we should stop reading the biblical text! And I agree that some of the ancient text is abusive. And that oten the best I seem to be able to do is be the best Tour Guide I can be. And that I too have more questions than answers, it seems. But the bible also includes the wonderful teachings and stories by who Bell calls “rabbi Jesus", and talks about the "yoke" of Jesus.
I understand why some would not want to follow Jesus, and would follow "the Spirit within us" instead of Jesus, if they said to me the teachings of Jesus are not always easy and his “yoke" is not always easy. That I agree with. I have moments when I think following rabbi
and mystic Jesus is too hard, and my discipleship leaves very little dust on my alb, I am afraid. I am “not-good-enough“ indeed!
I too have been watching television that tells me Clearly that I cannot dance, and that there is a difference between “stars" and
“regular people". And I am not one of the “stars". For now I continue to also give my life to the Spirit of Christ seeking -to my surprise- to find a little more of the rabbi's dust on my alb.
Ps. I had to memorize lots of scripture as a child and for confirmation: where indeed memorized all the right answers for my confirmation which I repeated back to my Pastor publicly to be confirmed. It certainly gave me a biblical basis, of the literal text, but I don't think I remember much now.
Pss. Go Adam Hadwin!

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Chapter 5 - Dust

This spring I watched as a computer named Watson played Jeopardy. It was hailed as a technological breakthrough. But looking back on it, I don't think Watson would actually make a very good disciple. The point of Jeopardy is to ask the question that goes with the given answer and there were many times when Watson just couldn't come up with the right question.

 

The thing that interests me about Watson and Jeopardy is Rob Bell's comment that "Rabbis had no interest in having the student spit back information just for information's sake. They wanted to know if the student understood it, if he had wrestled with it." Clearly computers can't wrestle with information - they live in a binary world of yes or no. But in the past 15 years they have had such an impact on our society that I wonder if sometimes we think there should be a definitive answer for every question out there. I find it helpful to be reminded that there are still mystics in the world asking unanswerable questions. For me it is also good be reminded that Jesus asks questions, not expecting answers from us, but expecting more questions. I can ask lots of questions, but I admit that sometimes I want clear answers rather than more questions. Many times I wish the path ahead was simple and direct, though it almost never is.

 

I wonder what kind of scripture influences your life. If first century Jews had the Torah memorized by age 10, because it was so integral to life, what is it that you have memorized? My children and I have many, many songs memorized - but almost none of them are helpful in a difficult situation or useful for figuring out life. While I have read the 23rd Psalm many times, I know I can't recite it by memory. Even my recollection of the story arc of the Torah is rather hazy and for details I would have to go back to the text.

 

The final point I want to highlight is the idea that Jesus chooses the "not-good-enoughs." The young kids that didn't make it past the first round of Rabbi training. Summer time TV viewing is pretty sparse, but what our family has noticed is the profusion of shows that have some kind of judging involved - America's Got Talent, The Voice, So You Think You Can Dance. All of these shows and many more are set up to choose the best every time - judges criticize everyone and sometimes America gets to vote on who stays and who goes. In a world where being number 1 means getting the ultimate prize it is still shocking that Jesus comes along and says to the first person eliminated, "Come, follow me." because Jesus believes the person is up to the task of being a disciple.

 

On a side note - I have known for years that Mary (Jesus' mother) was quite young to have a child, at least by our standards, since a typical age for engagement was about 13. It had never occurred to me that the disciples Jesus called might also be quite young - 16, 18, 20? I just assumed they were grown men, perhaps as old as Jesus. But maybe they weren't. Maybe they were still trying to find their way when Jesus called.

 

What jumped out at you this week?

 

CGEidsness

 

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Focus on being Tour Guide

CGEidsness, I too have felt the weight of the whole church on my hurting shoulders. When I became aware for the first time that I had what I then called a “messiah complex", I was still following what I saw as my vocational Calling, wondering why anyone would do any other work. - or, I love these words: “written deep in the fibre of my being"! I, a non-native, student minister, was in Native ministry and trying to “save them" from all the injustices and abuses they have endured. It is almost laughable, but I felt so called to the work, and spent every minute I could spare in justice work, until one day when I was already drinking quite a bit, my Native neighbor, who was also very invested in justice work, stood by his fire burning sweetgrass and praying, asked me where my fire was? Where MY fire was? I was so busy "saving" the Native world? And a Non-Christian Tour Guide said to me, here is where I meet my g- d each evening in this forest, by my fire, and where is yours? Of course I had already learned that as a Church Leader I had no time left for prayer or for being a Tour Guide!
That was my realizing I was trying to please everyone, and being a “successful" ...well, my “super whatever" moment!
So, this, amongst other experiences this Spring, amongst rereading this excellent study- thank you CGEidsness - I think the key for myself as a Church Leader is to focus on where my “fire" is, point others towards the presence of g-din my life, asking them where they find g-din their lives.
I too am concerned about friends, who are Church Leaders, busy running the institution - often better at it then I am- but have forgotten, it seems to me, how to name where g-d is in their lives, and often retire having become more and more efficient at running the
institution!
Do we wonder that g-d may no longer be present in that institution? Yes, that is why I speak of a vocational calling today to not to being a
Minister, but to being called, with real passion, to being a Tour Guide, as a Minister.
Finally, I want to add that: I find accepting who I am, warts and all,
broken and filled with the goodness of g-d, not allowing myself to be defined by who I am not, is an on- going journey. And all of this does take courage! And, it means, I believe, that all Church Ministers, need their own Spiritual Directors, Therapists, and Supervisors, if possible. So I agree with Rob wholeheartedly, on this point also.
Sacred Artist

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Chapter 4 - Tassels

I've read about the beginnings of Mars Hill Church before and what I've always remembered about it is "Rob Bell started a church and a ton of people came the first week - even though they didn't do any advertising." So what struck me at the beginning of this chapter is that, yes, Rob Bell started a church, but he didn't do it alone. He writes, "My wife Kristen and I and several others started this church called Mars Hill..." (p096)

 

While I have never found myself in a broom closet trying to figure out how far away I could get before the start of the next service, I have certainly had the experience of feeling wrung out with absolutely nothing to say. There have also been times when I have felt like the weight of the world was resting on my shoulders or that the fate of a congregation was dependent on my "wisdom" or lack thereof. So it's helpful to be reminded that even the "successful" Rob Bell did not do things on his own.

 

I took some time off from ministry for a while and during that time discovered that I, like many people, have some junk in my trunk that needs dealing with. The bits of Bell's approach to salvation that I like in this chapter have to do with his invitation for people to deal with the stuff that is holding them back. I think I hear him inviting us to let go of the "superwhatever" - parent, pastor, friend, spouse, child, that we think we HAVE to be and learn to live as who we really are. Not to live defined by what we are not (p115), but to live defined by what we are. To relentlessly pursue the person God made us to be. (p114)

 

One other thing that really jumped out at me: "I cannot lead people somewhere I am not trying to go myself." (p119) This may just take us back to the tour guide discussion - but I find it interesting that a church leader who has never studied church planting or growth can lead a congregation that grows by leaps and bounds while others who may be experts in the field find themselves struggling at times. I attribute this, at least in part, to the fact that Bell was willing to name what he wanted in a church. It sounds like he spent a lot of time dreaming and talking about what a church could be and then he went out to put those dreams into action.

 

Some questions for consideration:

What is the thing that is written into the fibre of your being so deeply that you simply have to do it because if you don't you will be violating someone or something? And what is holding you back?

 

Do you have a superwhatever rattling around in your head? And how do you plan to get rid of it?

 

If you had the opportunity to re-invent church, what would it be like?

 

CG

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Reply to Problems with being a Tour Guide

Of course you may call me CG.

 

Sacred Artist,  I agree that when we do see it we need to be courageous enough to name it, but I sometimes wonder if we get into church and get so involved in the daily tasks and business that we forget why we ever got into church in the first place. (This is shades of Chapter 4, but I'll proceed anyway.) I have had conversations with colleagues who, when asked, can't name where/what God is for them and that worries me. Perhaps I shouldn't assume that ministers are tour guides - but if the people who have dedicated their lives to serving God through ministry can't be tour guides, which makes me wonder: do you think the tour guides we have can recognize what they see? And if not, what hope do we have as a church? CG

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Problems with Being a Tour Guide

CG (if I may call you that) , I think one of the real problems these days when people have decided that the church no longer defines what they experience spiritually, is that there both a blindness to what they are seeing, and, a loss of language for their experience of g-d/the spiritual. I don't mean this in any way judgementally, but just what I see around me.
And so they experience wonder, for example, with a maybe a thankful heart, but they would never dare think they were thankful "to g-d", nor would they even realize ,at times, I find, even that what they are experiencing is spiritual. Some are so sure they have no “soul", and are left with no language to define what is Real. That is the reason why the Emerging thinking may allow people to recapture words, symbols, and metaphors that can give new language when the old language seemed uncomfortable and even abusive at times?
Therefore, CG, I think our communities need Tour Guides more than ever, but we, here ismy problem, need to have the courage to offer some insight to what “we see", asking what they “see", walking beside them, and offering them to some “testimony" ..to use an old and scary word!
Sacred Artist

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The blessing of Tour Guides

Thank you Wandering Woman and Sacred Artist - both of you helped me see an even fuller image of what a tour guide can be.

 

I like being reminded that when I act as a tour guide, I discover more about my own surroundings. Growing up just outside of Toronto, the first time (and just about only times) we went to places like the CN Tower or the Museum or even Centre Island was when my grandparents came to visit from the west coast.

 

Of course, I also like the idea that a tour guide walks beside someone - offering advice, but letting them discover the hidden (or not-so-hidden) beauty and gifts of their surroundings. I especially like the openness of this in terms of connecting with God. I sometimes wish that connecting with God was a bit clearer for me, but Wandering Woman you have reminded me that my experience of God will not be exactly like anyone else's - so I cannot really expect anyone to say "this is how God is" and experience that exact same thing in my own life.

 

 

 

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Discipleship Being a Tour Guide

I love Rob Bell's use of image and metaphor and I like this one too. When I am in Spiritual Direction or in Ministry I am like a "tour guide". I have no doubt that is what I do. I think sometimes though it is like when I was on a tour of Israel: the tour was going by pretty fast, and before I could be "aware" of what was in my presence, we were whisked off to another tourist sight, missing not only the beauty around us, but also the beauty within the people we were encountering. Most of the time I encountered through a "camera" and not my own eyes. That is another metaphor I could explore later.

  I did a thesis on C.S. Lewis and one of the things Lewis said in my favourite essay, called "The Weight of Glory" is that the greatest sacrament of God's presence it people, their love, their sacrifice for others. I agree. But the weight of glory was the weight that places upon us of seeing the glory of god in other human beings. We can miss it so easy due to our human doubts, frailty, and just being too busy to notice how glorious people can be!

  Another image Lewis used was that of putting on "glasses" so that we can see what is really there; I loved Lewis use of images and metaphors. Bell sometimes reminds me of him. Often we don't put on "glasses" that give us the "awareness" of what is there. What do I mean by that? Well I will return to that after pondering over it a little more. I don't want to write a "homily", like Wandering Woman. But I guess the wandering part says it all.

    Sacred Artist

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Tour Guide continued

I can't remember who it was --I'm thinking it might be Rabbi Kushner--who distinguished between the questions, "where is God" and "when is God".  I like the second better--trying to distinguish when I perceive the presence of God.  When I slow down enough to pay attention.  When love is enacted.  

 

I, too, love the image of the tour guide.  And it offers so many possibilities.  We never truly see everything around us--neither do we hear everything around us--subsonic, ultraviolet  (don't we wonder what dogs can see and hear?), and I'm guessing that we never truly--except for those occasional mountain top moments, are fully aware of the sacred in our everyday lives.  So...there are many different kind of tours: there are armchair tours, there are tours that point out wildlife and birds, there are museum tours, there are mystery tours or haunted tours, there are political tours, tours of grand buildings, old buildings, tours of interesting architecture.  And sometimes we have some expertise and can comment on history, or the development of something, or the genus and species of a particular form of wildlife.

 

But sometimes the tour guide just helps us to slow down enough to notice what we could easily see ourselves if we shifted our perspective.  And sometimes when we are tour guide to someone else (how many times, did I, when in southern Ontario, visit with others to Niagara Falls, Casa Loma, CN Tower etc)...we also see something new, or receive the gift of the joy that another feels when they see something or notice something for the first time.

 

As parents, many people are thrust into the role of tour guide even if they feel totally inadequate.  Because simply by being alive, we have more experience than younger people--and yet they are often the ones to point out the obvious miracles in the world: a crack in the sidewalk, a handful of dandelions, the joy of bubbles in the bathtub, the wonder of a double rainbow, sunset, or rough yet gentle tongue of a dog.

 

I think the best kind of tour guide is one that will listen to the experiences, and hopes of those who want to be guided, and help them make their own discoveries.  I don't think anyone experiences the holy in exactly the same way...and yet...I love hearing the stories of others who are willing to share them:  Moses and the burning bush, Pentecost, the dying man who talks to Jesus, the sudden stillness and quietness of gorillas as they reach the mountain peak and see the crater lake below them, the love as we look across to our beloveds--whether human, adult, child, or part of the created world.

For me, prayer is a response, an outward, visible (or is it audible?) response to God's grace, to the spirit's urging, to the love, anger, injustice, mercy, compassion, hope, disbelief, etc. that we experience in the world.

There are times when life is a chore, a bore, a drugery.  But there are times when we are privileged to glimpse that which is so much more.  Hurray for tour guides who are willing to experience and articulate what's they see in the moment, in the time when the sacred is so very clear.

 

WW

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Believing in the Bible

In my earlier theological education and church attendance, “believing in the bible" was a big deal. People would say to me, “Don't you believe in the bible?" Or, you just need to “get back to the inerrant, infallible Word, the bible"; just teach “the bible"...I had forgotten those days, until Rob Bell, reminded me a out how people around me used to sound - to me- like their Almighty god and their “almighty, infallible bible" were the one and same thing. Now I, like Bell, realize that when pastors would share “their yoke", with the “authority of the infallible bible" as their authority, and I would give up my life savings thinking they were speaking for god, believing then in the inerrancy of the bible, I was right to question. It seemed too simplistic but created in me the desire for “awareness" as Bell says on page 55, which to me is the key to my understanding of the bible today. Awareness of what I bring to my interpretation will help me escape some of the toxic and warped interpretations that I have personally, and painfully, encountered as young man! Sacred Artist

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Chapter 3 I want to be a Tour Guide!

On p088 Bell says, "Perhaps we ought to replace the word missionary with tour guide, because we cannot show people something we haven't seen."

 

Throughout this chapter I have felt both affirmed and challenged. I feel affirmed in that I have never thought things with the label "Christian" were the only way to find God. But I also feel challenged because I am aware that in many ways I keep my faith relegated to my work life and I often miss out on connecting where I see God in other places.

 

I grew up in a minister's family and for us faith and church were the same thing and it was the family "business" - we didn't talk about what we believed, I think we just assumed we all knew. I didn't know anything about the spiritual lives of my parents and it was rare for either of them to talk about God and faith and the world in the same sentence. I learned more about prayer and finding God in the world from my grandparents - but even that was sketchy. So I am often left feeling like I can point to where I think I see the truth of God, but I'm never completely convinced that I'm actually seeing it or if I'm just going through the motions and faking it.

 

I would like to have the confidence in my faith to be a tour guide - to share freely with people what it is I think I see, but I'm just not there yet.

 

What about you? Do you have a sense of God being everywhere? Are there only certain places you find God? Do you ever struggle with making the deeper connections?

 

Christa

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reply to Yokes continued

I think that for me Spirit simply is - the way God is, whether we are aware of it or not. This is not something I've thought a lot about really, it's more of an instinctive thing, so I'm not sure that whatever I articulate here is what I might articulate in another week or two or three, but we'll see.

 

I'd like to say we can't work without Spirit as people of faith because while my sense is that Spirit is around us all the time, I also sense that Spirit is one of the ways God nudges us, whether we're aware of it or not (and I can't explain why/how I distinguish between God and Spirit - in many ways they are one and the same AND YET there are two different names for them, but the whole trinity thing is a different discussion). There have been moments in my life when I have sensed "more" than what I see and hear physically and I suppose I think of some of those moments as Spirit. Which is where it comes back to my preaching. The moments of inspiration when I am totally blocked I have come to name "Spirit moments" - I can't imagine that the ideas have actually come from me, so they must come from somewhere and I name that Spirit. As you say, this is probably more of growing awareness than anything new.

 

And I suppose that in some ways, a growing awareness of Spirit is how my "velvet Elvis" is being repainted. Fresh out of theological school I was very determined to have all the "right" answers - or at least an answer that came from a book. Now I am more aware of mystery and I know that I will never truly have full understanding of faith or Biblical texts or Spirit.

 

Christa

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Yokes continued

So...this brings up the question to me of how it is the Spirit or spirit, works in our lives--whether we acknowledge, credit or don't credit.  Does the spirit's existence make any sense for human beings outside the realm of human experience?  I suppose it's the same question about is there love without one to receive or give it?  Does the spirit exist as an abstract being, or does it need to be attached, or embodied somehow in creation?

Can we work without the Spirit?  Is this a credible discussion for people of faith?  And what do you mean when you say you have come to heavily depend on the presence of the Spirit in preaching?  (was it less so before, or is it a question of conciousness?)

For me, also, the Bible is part of the tools with which I work...and occasionally I feel deeply engaged with the stories.  More often, though, I feel like a scientist looking through a microscope, trying to make sense of what is being said.

 

WW

 

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Yokes

Yes, WW, it is an interesting question to consider which yokes we live with, isn't it? I don't always think about them in terms of my interpretation of scripture, but you're right. We are all heavily influenced by our society, upbringing, culture, and experiences. I am, perhaps, not as cautious as I should be about what I say. You are the second preacher in the past few months to have named the difficulty of interpreting scripture in an authentic (to the original) way. But then, if we struggle with it now, they must have struggled with it then as well.

 

I think I have come to heavily depend on the presence of the Spirit in preaching - and often credit the Spirit with the inspiration for putting the sermon together, rather than anything I did. And I too, have had the experience of someone commenting on something I know I have not said.

 

I would like to say that the Bible plays an important part in my spiritual life - and there have been times that has been true. The experience of praying through Ecclesiastes several years ago gave me many "aha" moments. But right now the Bible is more of a foundational tool for planning worship and while I learn lots from the study of scripture, I'm not sure that I'm truly engaging the stories or experiences of the authors at the moment.

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Yoke

What I find interesting is that rarely are we asked to name what our yokes are...that is, in what way is my interpretation different than someone else's?  I suppose that I do try to understand the social, economic, cultural context in which a passage was written/compiled/constructed.  And then try to make links with today.

If it has thoughts with which I do not agree in it, then either I preach on it, or it isn't read.  (At least, if I've looked far enough ahead to notice).

 

The questions which often frame my thinking run along the lines of this:  is this life-giving, or death-dealing and if so for who?  A passage, I think doesn't speak to everyone in the same way.  Our own culture, class, upbringing make a difference in how we hear and experience scriptures re-articulated.  I begin to question whether or not we can accurately interpret words shared thousands of years ago.  I think, whether we admit it or not, all of us are prooftexting, with our own particular cannons.

 

When I preach, sometimes it's a word or a though which catches my attention.  

 

And I definitely know, as many of us do, of how the spirit works not only through the words read, but also the words experienced.  How many times have we heard people say, "Thanks so much for saying such and such"...when we know that we never said anything remote close to it.

 

It's amazing to me that the spirit works to us, through us, for us...whatever...and however beyond our understanding.

 

WW

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Chapter 2 - Yoke

The question I started the chapter with is the one Bell ends with: "what do we do with the Bible?" And by "we" I mean people in the United Church of Canada.

 

At Rosemont we've been trying something new over the past few weeks - inviting the congregation to break into small groups of 3-5 people and take a few minutes after hearing the scripture reading to talk about the gaps and the details they've heard as well as what questions the passage raises for them. (The idea came from David Lose who writes at www.workingpreacher.org) What has surprised me is the level of conversation - people seem to be engaged in the conversation. Of course, they are a bit shy about telling the large group what they've taken note of.

 

My own understanding of the Bible has developed over the years - a re-painting of my own velvet Elvis, I suppose. I don't know that I ever believed it literally, but I have come to understand it as a library and in the past few years there have been many times I have described it as a book written by people in community about their experiences of God. I like the way Bell says that what happened still happens (p058) which is one of the reasons the Bible is a living document.

 

In reading the chapter I realized that when I approach a text for preaching I may have a certain insight, but if I don't hear it reflected in the reading/research I do then I will often let it go - assuming that I must be wrong. The books I read and the websites I visit have become part of the community that helps me interpret scripture. And there are always some that I simply dismiss because I know they are coming from a different perspective and not one that I agree with.

 

What about you? How do you approach the Bible?

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In the end, on Sunday i asked

In the end, on Sunday i asked some questions, in a totally unrelated way...and maybe i'll talk a bit more about asking the questions, and what our fears and trepidations are about that.  But more than likely it's the time of the year when few people want to think.  Is thinking a winter occupation?

So, while I don't doubt G-d's presence, I do always wonder where G-d is working, and through whom and when.  And sometimes it's within the church, and sometimes it's not.  G-d's ability to make a difference, I think is really centred on our spirit-filled abilities, and how much we take them seriously.  Is it Borg who calls it participatory eschatology?

And at the same time I also agree that this is stuff that people have made up, in a way to try to explore, identify, name that "something more".  And I think the reality of the importance of G-d comes from outcomes: Tutu's vision of a world without Apartheid, King's vision of children walking hand in hand, vision of women who sought the vote.  As long as there are those who dream dreams, have visions, and seek a just world, I know there is g-d.

In the final analysis, I'm not so interested in the dogma of a person, but rather their core values.  And if they link up with mine (which arrogantly I imagine is what my g-d also treasures), then I will support them. 

 

WW

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Musings on a Tuesday

Wandering Woman - I like your comment about our experience of God being experiential (even if you aren't sure exactly what you are saying!) I have been pondering the experience of God recently - in particular when thinking about how I talk to people who don't necessarily believe in God about what it is that I believe. For me faith has come to be a melding of experience and thought. I can point to times in my life when I very clearly felt the presence of God. At the same time I listen to the stories of my ancestors in faith and hear the witness of other people and dip my toe into the deep waters of science and think, "of course there is something more in the universe." This is, no doubt, a re-painting of my faith.

      As for the question service - I think we all have questions, I'm just not sure I would voice them. I tend to think that I am the only one wondering about my questions or that others would think my question is stupid. What did you do with the service?

 

The Things I would name for a Doubt Night

I sometimes feel like God is very far away and in those moments I feel like I'm just imagining the whole God thing. I buy into some of the atheist talk I've heard that says, "it's all just stuff people have made up to feel significant in the world and there's nothing to it." I look at the world and wonder how we could have messed up the planet so badly and how we can treat each other so poorly and why doesn't God do something MORE than what is happening. Which leads me to doubt 1) God's presence and 2) God's ability to make a difference.

 

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My Velvet Elvis - from Sacred Artist

I am trying to live my life according to Rembrandt's Return of the Prodigal Son. But I grew up within a pairing that would be more like a picture of the people at Mt. Sinai. God be the terrifying Almighty and Judge! In the the story of the prodigal son, the basis for my Velvet Elvis, or Rembrandt's pairing, Father Mother (seen in the painting by the feminine and masculine hands) God lovingly welcomes his lost son home gently forgiving him and allowing his son his mistakes, his wandering, his searching for his own way. I too fell at home in the loving heart of this loving and compassioate God, my God!
Wandering Woman's picture

Wandering Woman

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questions

Wandering Woman aka faithkogirl, here.

I'm in ministry in the prairies.  Enough background?

So...chapter one...I like how Bell distinguishes what is not God in the trampouline metaphor...not the springs, not the surface, but something other, beyond.

Maybe it's not about anything, but the experience, the thrill, the fear, the paying attention in the middle of the jump.

If our experience of God is not experiential (not sure what I mean really, here)...then is it just a mental exercise?  And if we don't reflect on these experiences (theology), then is it just self-delusion and where does community fit in?

On a totally unrelated topic from chapter 1:  this week we had planned a questions service.  It had been publicized for over a month...and...no questions!  Not a one!

So does that mean that no one has questions??? Really???  No doubts???  Or are we not training ourselves mentally to think that we can generate questions.  Is it just too much trouble to engage in a faith struggle?  Is there not enough passion--or is it fear that stops us from asking questions out loud.

WW

 

faithkogirl's picture

faithkogirl

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Brickworld

I am actually Sacred Artist - some may remember I had a blog on WonderCafe a few years ago. I live with faithkogirl, and being her "better half" will contribute as a "shadow 4th member"! I love the way Rob Bell has a mind for metaphor. But my favorite in this chapter, or at least the one that connected most deeply within me, was the world of bricks.

I grew up in a fundamentalist church, and went to a fundamentalist bible school. I knew teachers there that spoke like this seminary president. Great leaps of logic in defense of "almighty god" and in "defense of the wall", as Rob put it. What disturbed me most is that after a while we had walled out everyone except the few that were right. Thankfully I found myself in the little walled world of the few chosen, or  "right people".  I got tired of the idea that most of the world were not within "the wall"; tired of the "brickworld" itself; and tired of "defending the wall"! The result was that I left and thought my faith was gone, until  someone else invited me to join them on their "tamporine"! I surprised by joy!

I will consider my "painting of faith" and get back to you about that one later!

 

Sacred Artist

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CGEidsness

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Chapter 1 Starter

I love the idea of a trampoline – the flexibility of the springs, the need to take your feet off the surface to jump, the joy, AND that what you do with a trampoline is invite someone else to jump on it with you. The whole metaphor points me towards the embodiment of faith. For many years it seemed I kept running into the message that church was about ideas and that having the “right” idea (which was probably not the same “right” idea that Rob Bell’s church had) was vital.  This was probably related to a need to have the “right” belief. But what I hear Bell saying is that faith is about the way we choose to live – it is an embodiment of what we believe. We build some brick walls or we can go jump on a trampoline...I know which one I would choose.

 

Now it’s your turn. What struck you in this chapter? Was there one particular idea that made you say “Yes!” or "Absolutely not!" to an empty room? What questions do you want to ask the rest of us?

 

Other questions for consideration (I’ll come back and post my own answers later in the week):

 

From the Introduction p011-013:  What painting of faith did you inherit in your life? How are you repainting the faith?

 

Who or what have you put your faith in? (p019)

 

What doubts would you name for a Doubt Night at your church? (p029)

 

What questions would you ask God?(p031)

 

Housekeeping:

It would be good to know a little bit about who we are writing to – so if you’d like, take a minute to post a sentence or two about yourself.

 

If you are having trouble getting a membership on Wondercafe, but still want to participate in the discussion – send your comments in an e-mail to me at Rosemont and I will post them under your name.

 

Check back throughout the week to see what other people have posted –let's see if we can get some good discussion going.

 

Christa

 

 

 

faithkogirl's picture

faithkogirl

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how can both of us sign on from the same email address?

There are two of us who want to join at this address, faithkogirl and sacred artist.  eom