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Exploration

In the process of doing research for school, I have been surprised by the number of times I have come across the diverse history of biblical interpretation and theology that boggles my mind. It isn’t so much the content of the discoveries, but it is that I have not heard of them before. I wonder what kind of service we think we do in church by only feeding the information and selective history that meets our own theological and cultural agenda (the concept of indoctrination rather than education).

Whether it is our interpretation of the book of Revelation or the historical struggle in theology between the transcendence and immanence of God, I wonder why I haven’t heard of the fuller picture before. It isn’t that I want to be a scholar, but it almost seems as if we have edited the historicity of theology and biblical interpretation to meet our own ends and, dare I say, agenda. Maybe that is the tendency of every culture (whether church or national). I don’t think it is someone’s fault, rather I think it is more a result of the overall church culture of our time.

My research for school has been a good exploration of this new territory that I had not expected to find or even knew existed.

Why I don’t talk politics in public.

With our recent election in Canada I have been in several situations in which I have had to avoid talking politics. Not that I feel it isn’t an important topic, and to some degree I am more than willing to talk about my opinions on public policy, but politics I avoid.

I avoid it for several reasons:
1) As a pastor I want people to make up their own minds about who to vote for. I have my personal opinions but they are just my opinions. There is no such thing as a Christian political party and all are an important voice in the political arena of Canada where we value free speech and democracy. As well, in my opinion, we shouldn’t just be “one issue voters.” Each party has their particular views on centralization of government, taxation methods, priorities for spending, etc, which make up the greater landscape of Canadian politics. By this I mean there are so many issues facing Canada and often people zero in on one or two issues. Tunnel vision sets in and they can forget there are a lot of other issues out there that are important as well.

2) I know enough to know what I don’t know. In other words, I have had enough experience with government (sitting on a government committee and attending a national policy conference) that these issues are much bigger and more complex than most people realize. Thus for me, in a position of influence, I need to be careful that I know the issues before I make my opinion known or if I want an opinion known (the later is what I normally opt for).

3) I love my country and at the same time I want to express a positive attitude towards it. Let’s face it, we have enough negativity towards authorities and government. As a pastor, I want to be an example of a positive outlook and so I embrace the diversity of opinions, encouraging people to be informed and involved, and most of all to vote for who or what they think is best.

4) I believe strongly in the separation of Church and State for the mutual benefit of both. I don’t want the State telling me what to do, nor is it the place, in any democracy, for the Church to tell the state what to do. I believe and strongly encourage people (whether Christian or not) to be involved with politics and community action groups, to run for office and most of all to vote. But I don’t believe it is the Church’s place to endorse, support, campaign, or lobby the government.

So please don’t ask who I voted for, and please understand my silence on matters of politics, just know that I voted in my great country as a citizen, with both the right and responsibility to do so.

The Rhythm of the Kingdom

Can you hear it in the distance? Like the sound of a distant drum.

There is something about the melodic rhythm of music that envelopes us, inspired us, attracts us and draws us in. As a musician I am very aware of the beauty of being in rhythm and the violence (I use that word deliberately) of being out of rhythm.

In speaking of the Kingdom of God, I wonder if a good analogy is looking at it as the rhythm of God. Inspired by Water Brueggemann’s book, Cadences of Home: Preaching among Exiles (I book I would recommend for anyone, especially preachers), I think we need to hear and be reminded of the rhythm of the Kingdom.

I think in essence, reading scripture is like that, as we move in that same rhythm, following the music, we being to move in the rhythm of the Kingdom – the rhythm of Jesus. But the opposite is also true, when we move out of sync with the rhythm and at times against the rhythm, it begins to destroy the beauty of the kingdom.

The rhythm of the Kingdom is beating in the distance…it is a beautiful sound…a counter-cultural sound…can you hear it…is it making you move?

Epiphany Continued

This last Sunday, I preached on Epiphany and want to continue that theme. Epiphany is part of the church calendar that many Evangelicals don’t even know exists, taking place between the church seasons of Advent and Lent.

Epiphany literarily means “manifestation” and centers primarily on the Magi narrative in Mathew 2:1-12 (but can also include the events from the Magi to Jesus’ baptism). It has been a meaningful passage in the life of the church for hundreds of years, signifying Christ as the prophesied King of the Jews and that his Kingdom (Reign) is available to all including the Gentiles.

The point I want to draw attention to and build upon, is about of the Kingdom of God and what it means for us to be subjects, ambassadors and builders of the Kingdom. Just as we have become unaware of the traditional meaning of this story in our time and culture, we have also become unaware of the concept of the Kingdom (Reign) of God. And as a result, have lost focus of the fact that we are called, as followers of Jesus, to be builders of the Kingdom.

I think part of the issue exists because our country has a great social system and social net. We have left the Kingdom values of feeding the poor, clothing the naked, caring for the sick, helping the widows, etc. up to the government and have gradually become apathetic towards them. But in doing that, we have also missed something, and as a result are missing out on part of what we are called to do. The church, you and I, as followers of Jesus are called to care for the poor, the helpless, the marginalized, the disenfranchised as a core value of the Kingdom Jesus spoke about and lived through his example. But I think for many different reasons, we remain apathetic towards it.

The problem is that our apathy has turned into atrophy. And not just any atrophy, but “epidemic atrophy.” This state of atrophy has somehow become the cultural norm. But just because it is accepted as normal, doesn’t mean that it is right.

The result of this atrophy is that we often don’t even know how to respond or care. So many of us walk by people of the street and aren’t filled with compassion and even if we are, that compassion (unlike Jesus’) doesn’t lead us to action. Or, we watch news stories of children or adults dying of starvation or AIDS and we are left unmoved. We hear of injustice and instead of being filled with righteous anger like Jesus (example of Jesus clearing the Temple), we ignore it. Our apathy can’t be the way of Jesus… can it?

I think that Epiphany is a reminder of our role in the Kingdom – to be ambassadors, subjects and builders of the Kingdom of God. This reminder to us may not be easy, and it may be difficult to once again begin moving and exercising those atrophied muscles. Like any physiotherapy, it happens through small, and sometimes painful, steps. This physiotherapy isn’t an overnight cure, but as we remain committed to the building process, God will help to bring us there, one step at a time.

I invite you to join me this year and begin the process of physiotherapy as we fight the epidemic of apathy and grow as healthy and productive subjects, ambassadors and builders of the Kingdom of God.

incipiosermo change

As you may have noticed, this site has drastically changed. After doing an evaluation and review, most participants of this site have stated that they would rather read than contribute. So I have decided to consolidate the old www.incipiosermo.com site and my personal blog.

If you are interested in the archives from the previous version of incipiosemo.com, I have put them together in pdf format and you can download it here:

www.incipiosermo.com/pdf/July-Dec2005Archive.pdf

Thanks for all those who particiapted and please feel free to participate on my blog both by reading and making comments.