Moved Mountains

Banner - Mt Trio, Stirling Range National Park, Western Australia - (c) 2007

Friday, September 19, 2008

Opportunities for Action

I'm pretty excited about tomorrow. A week or so back the Bunbury City Council contacted me to see if Alternate[Or] Community could provide volunteers for a graffiti art "installation" in a council car park. A bunch of local young people have spent the last few weeks learning some of the finer points of street art and are going to now have the opportunity to do their thing on a council wall.

The council is making a day of it - there's gonna be food and stuff for the kids etc. Finding volunteers can be difficult and the council was struggling in this regard. While we may not be eliminating all their volunteer problems, 5 of us from the Alternate[Or] Community crew are going to be helping out.

This is another great opportunity to show the community that followers of Jesus are interested in the same things they are, particularly when it comes to improving our community, for our crew to work together for something other than ourselves and to show our kids our faith in action in the community.

We also have our Social Sunday this Sunday and have a visitor from the South West Environment Centre coming to talk about local environmental issues. If you are in the area and would like to come and hear what they have to say you are welcome to drop by. We'll be hanging out at the Jetty Baths park and play ground and having a BBQ dinner. It all starts at 3.45pm.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Emerging, Emergent, Emerged?

The Blind Beggar posted a link to this blog post from Brother Maynard, who takes a critical look at the use of the word "emerging" (and it's variants) to describe alternative and new forms and expressions of Christ centred faith and faith communities.

While I have never fully understood the difference between the "emerging church" and "emergent" (this might have something to do with the fact I'm an Aussie), BM reiterates comments made by TSK on the way the term "emergent" (or should that be "Emergent") has been franchised by Emergent Village and turned into something of a marketable brand name. To the point in fact that TSK is now going to stop using "emerging" to describe any aspect of his own involvement in the movement.

Raises the question, if we abandon "missional", as some have suggested we should, and we throw out "emerging" and its variations, how are we going to end up describing ourselves? Maybe we should just go back to calling ourselves "the church"?

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Blessing of the fleet

On Saturday I performed the annual blessing of the Binningup recreational fishing club "fleet". This represents one of those rare times our community actually seeks out a "religious" person. It's a good opportunity to talk about Jesus in a specific, but non-threatening way and, as I see it, to help make the link between the real world and the things that matter to people (like fishing) and the way of Jesus.

This year I focussed on "creation care". Recreational fishermen have just had a new load of changes imposed on them by the powers that be, for the simple reason that our fish stocks are at incredibly low levels.

Most recreational fishermen do the right thing. They realise the importance of looking after what we have if we are going to keep it. What I wanted to point out was that this is also the way God wants it.

Back in Genesis God gave the first humans two clear commands; 1) Procreate (i.e. have sex and kids) and; 2) Manage the created universe on God's behalf.

I assumed most of those gathered (especially given the number of kids running around) weren't having too much trouble with the first point, and so focussed on the second.

At a time when the government is making it harder to catch fish for fun and at the same time is going to build a polluting desalination plant not more than a kilometre from where I was standing on Saturday afternoon talking about caring for the environment, the creation care message seemed particularly relevant.

Even for people who probably don't consider themselves to be terribly spiritual, the act of looking after our environment is a spiritual act. To look after the world is, at least in part, to fulfil something of the role we were created for. I wanted those gathered to consider the point that when they were looking after the world, the were partnering with God.

Monday, September 01, 2008

Cluster bombs and Australia

I posted on this a couple of days ago. Since then I've done a bit more research and found that Australia has signed the "Convention on Cluster Munitions" treaty and has therefore agreed to not produce, use or proliferate cluster munitions.

Australia did baulk at signing at first because of a recently purchased cache of "smart bombs" worth $14 million, which could possibly have been classified as cluster bombs. Apparently they don't and so we are among the 107 signatories.

The treaty will be officially closed and ratified in December at the Oslo Conference after which time the treaty's clauses will be introduced into legislation by the participating countries.

Here's an SBS news report on the signing of the treaty, including Australia among the signatories.

We have met the enemy ... Them & us in the institutional church

I've been speaking on John 17 for the last few weeks. We're working our way through the whole chapter, which is actually an amazing, inspiring, information packed prayer of Jesus'.

Somewhere between the upper room and the last supper and the Garden of Gethsemane and his arrest, Jesus prayed this prayer in the presence of his disciples. In the precious last minutes of his life with his beloved friends Jesus poured out his heart to God.

A few years ago I was asked to speak at a church camp on the subject of evangelism. One thing that came out of the workshop's I ran over that weekend was the way so many of those gathered viewed those who were not fellow Christians. It was clear that, for the most part, non-Christians were seen as the enemy.

Yet when it comes to fellow, clean, middle class people with similar ethics and values, to those of the predominantly middle class, evangelical church it was easier to let the thoughts of "enemy" pass. But what about people of other religions, or other socio economic or racial groups (especially those with a different culture to our own)? Or people who are quick to point out the failings of Western Christianity? Or homosexuals or atheists? Or people who criticise the church? With these "kinds" of people many are quick to draw a line in the sand. They may even say, these people are wordly, and we are not. They are the enemy, they are not God's!

In John 17, as Jesus prays for his disciples, he makes a subtle, but interesting point. It's so subtle that it could easily be overlooked - I had to point it out during our discussion at yesterday's gethering.

Jesus says "I have manifested your name to the people whom you gave me out of the world. Yours they were, and you gave them to me, and they have kept your word."

Where did the disciples originate? Jesus says they came from "the world". Jesus also says, at this time, before they were "given" to him, they belonged to the Father. I think this says something about the people who are not yet aware of Jesus or are yet to join him as a disciple. It says that even though we like to draw lines and put people in boxes and find enemies to excuse our lack of action, God doesn't. Before these guys were taken from the world they were the Father's.

If we look at what Jesus is saying here about the disciples, and if we make the (reasonable) assumption that the disciples where no more or less special than you or I or anyone else then, I think, it becomes clear that there is no one on the planet who isn't already God's. There is no enemy among the people of planet Earth.

When we look at people through the framing story of God's love, even people who exist, day to day, without an understanding of God or his love, we see things differently. A world of action opportunities. Not opportunties to preach or coerce or manipulate, but opportunities to serve, and stand along side and love and support and befriend. Opportunities to share in the work of the "Word", which was passed to the first disciples by Jesus and which has been handed down through the generations and over the centuries to us, today. It is a work that goes something like this;

The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor.
As Walt Kelly's comic strip character Pogo once said, "We have met the enemy, and he is us"!