For Advent this year our Advent Series was entitled “Hope Rising”, because we believe that in the darkest of times whether it be historical, spiritual, emotional, or mental – Hope Rises with the belief that with the Advent of Jesus he brought hope with Him. Hope of a new way to live that leads to the best possible life. This is the final sermon of our series that wraps up the series and introduces our new series for 2008. Click on the link to listen it might take a few seconds please be patient We’ve Only Just Begun
I just started reading Brian McLaren‘s newest book, Everything Must Change and I am loving it. For the past several months this blog has acted as more of a message board than anything that even resembles an actual attempt at a conversation. So in an attempt to write with more substance I am going to start writing about what I come across in Everything Must Change.
I thought the format for this discussion might have three sections: (1) Excerpt from book, (2) Dialogue, mostly with myself, (3) Questions. My hopes are that we can dialogue together.
“Eventually I realized something. I had never heard a sermon that addressed these realities(i.e. death, hatred, distrust, poverty, suffering, corruption, injustice). Did God only care about our souls going to heaven after we died? Were our hungry bellies unimportant to God? Was God unconcerned about our crying sons and frightened daughters, our mothers hiding under beds, our fathers crouching by windows, unable to sleep because of gunfire? Or did God send Jesus to teach us how to avoid genocide by learning to love each other, how to overcome tribalism and poverty by following his path, how to deal with injustice and corruption, how to make a better life here on earth-here in East Africa.” (19)
DIALOGUE. When I read this I was using the stationary bike at a local gym, and I had to stop just so that I could process this. What I have observed of the Christianity of the Western World is that it has become nothing short of a self serving life philosophy. We look for churches that fill our needs, and when that church no longer meets our needs we move on to the next one (and sometimes as pastor’s because we have at times been fooled into thinking that numbers are important we keep trying to fill those needs and in doing so perpetuate the never ending cycle of self-serving Christianity). The thing is that if that is the case, that we are always looking for a church that meets our needs, or rather “feeds us spiritually” we will not have any time to look beyond ourselves, unless we are forced to. I think that it is only when we look beyond ourselves that Christianity becomes real and authentic. When I read the above section, and tried to put myself in that situation hearing the crys of children and the sight of mothers hiding it was terrifing to me. It wasn’t so much that the visual of this happening was terrifing, but rather that this was and is happening in the world, while I have for the past several years enjoyed my white chocolate lattes, supersized meals, entertainment on the silver screen just to be distracted from the hustle and bustle of our everyday.
I have a sneaking suspicion that if we were the ones experiencing the above mentioned, our first responses would be to pray. We read the narratives of scripture, like Daniel in the lions den, Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, and we read ourselves into those narratives because we believe that God cares. For them their prayers is a sign of hope and faith, but for us in the western world their prayers have become our permission to wash our hands of any responsibility to help. Because after all if they have prayed then God will handle it. The words, “What can I do about something happening half way around the world” become our non spoken motto. Our Christianity must be anything but that. I write about his because I see what is happening and I cannot help but feel helpless. What can I do, a pastor of two small parishes in the desert? What can we do? Seriously I could use some answers!
QUESTIONS. If our Christianity doesn’t have an effect on the society around us, does it even matter? What is a Christianity that doesn’t affect society, really about? What is our personal hope for heaven at some point in the future, if people are experiencing hell every single day all around the world?
A few weeks ago I met with the Clean Air Coordinator for the American Lung Association for the Imperial Valley. I found out during our meeting that the Imperial Valley has the highest rate of hospitalization in the state of California for kids with asthma. Asthma doesn’t really hit home if you’ve never experienced it. But just imagine not being able to breathe very well and wanting to badly. When I heard about this issue here in the valley the words of Jesus came to mind “Love your neighbor as yourself”. We feel that loving our neighbor’s is to provide for them a better way of life . Medically as a church, we can’t do anything about the problem, but we can contribute to find a solution. So what we are doing is participating in the Asthma Walk organized by the American Lung Association in San Diego this coming Sunday Morning. There is a group from the church driving over to San Diego for the Asthma Walk. If you live in the Southern California Area and you want to join us or want to find a walk near you click HERE to learn more. If you want to donate click HERE. Our team name is “El Centro SDA Church”.
If you are from the Imperial Valley we are starting a new teaching series at our Seventh-day Adventist churches, in Brawley (Worship Service at 9:30 AM) and El Centro (Worship Service at 11 AM). The series is called “Learning to Live Well” – we will be looking at what it means that Jesus was resurrected, and what it means that we are a “resurrected” c0mmunity. “Learning to Live Well” will go back to the message of Jesus and what it means for us to day.
I came across the Electric Angel blog a few days ago and found this project this group of graphic designers just finished working on. It’s called the Mount Project. They designed seven typographic posters based on the Sermon on the Mount. Each poster is a “re-phrasing” or interpretation of a key passage from the sermon. These posters are simple yet they are powerful.
Finding these when I did was perfect timing. In the fall we are starting a sermon series on the what it means to experience life as a resurrected community. Along with the sermon series we are also putting together ways that we can engage our community. And I thought the sermon on the mount would be a good starting point. You can download these posters in pdf from their site. We are thinking of getting these printed in postcard size and handing them out to everyone that comes to our gatherings every weekend to remind them of the words of Jesus. I can use any ideas and suggestions anyone might have.
Raising awareness about something doesn’t always mean that this awareness raises a sense of caring. It seems that from the time I can remember, Christianity has been something that at times, is worn on a sleeve or carried around like an accessory. One of the things that I have learned over the years is that Christianity should be less about what we call ourselves and more about the actions that come from us. In much of the literature that is emerging about authentic Christianity is that our Christianity must be one that is “incarnate”. The words of Jesus in John 20:21 are “As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.” This is our churches first step in our journey of discovering what it means to live an incarnate faith.
We know we did not change the world in one afternoon by handing out lunches with other goodies, but we felt like it was the beginning of something that extended beyond ourselves. Raising awareness about the homeless in our community is nothing new, and it doesn’t mean raising a sense of caring. For a faith to be incarnate, it means that we must care, not just about the homeless but also those that have homes, but are emotionally in need, physically in need, and spiritually in need. Everyone must begin somewhere.
(I don’t know how to use flickr to show the entire set of pictures from this day so the pictures below are the best I could do).
I am an Adventist pastor writing from the land down under. Except its not the place you might be thinking about. I am writing from El Centro, California that contrary to its Spanish translation is not “at” the center of, nor “is” the center of anything. On second thought, if we consider the center as the middle, then I am in the middle of the desert. Being as it may, I find myself so far outside the conversation going on in the blog-o-shpere that this is where I begin, to post my thoughts on God, life and culture (in other words-everything).