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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

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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.

EXCERPT (the following excerpt was spoken by Claude a peace activist from Burundi, to a group of other peace hungry citizens from around the region of East Africa, Rwanda is one of those places)

“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?

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…they will support courage where there is fear, foster agreement where there is a conflict and inspire hope where there is despair.” (Nelson Mandela announcing the formation of the Elders. You can see a video introduction by Mandela here.)

This is an amazing thing that is happening. A formation of leaders, and past “official” leaders working toward making lasting change in an ever needing world. A group of influential people without a hidden agenda. In Mandela’s transcript of the announcement he says that the Elders will work towards,

“…assuming the essential interdependence of all human-kind. We call this the spirit of Ubuntu – that profound African sense that we are human only through the humanity of other human beings.”

Ubuntu truly is profound. In Christianity we might call it “creation”. The sense and consequent reality that we are all an essential part of God’s creation. We find our value first and foremost in that we were created to bear the image of the God, and secondly in the human-“ness” of others. We can only truly relate to God, when we consciously and purposely take the time relate to one another.

I wonder if there could ever be an Adventist version of “the Elders”? A group of Adventist leader’s committed to making our communities of faith, vibrant places of hope, refuge, and reconciliation. Not just for our own sake, rather in order to embrace and engage our world. To be a part of the world we live in. I know this is what our community of faith’s are intended to be, but how many churches have you been to that feel like that? For fun what would an Adventist group of “Elders”(of course not elders in the traditional church setting) look like? Would it even be possible? Perhaps this is how the Blogosphere is functioning. Could we be stronger together. Meeting together, in person every once in a while. Maybe this is already happening and I just didn’t know about it.