I resign!

I’m challenged by these three resignations from Ty Grigg at the Vine Christian Community in Long Grove, Illinois.

1. I resign from protecting people from pain
The pastor is like a personal bodyguard.  We know that we cannot protect people from pain.  For example, when we encounter death or loss, we know to let our words be few.  We are aware that we are not in control and ultimately there is nothing we can do to take away the pain.  We provide support, comfort, and presence. 

However, the temptation comes when we are faced with a situation where it seems we can do something.  We can come to a person’s defence; we can minimise the consequences of people’s own actions; by not saying ‘no’ to someone, we can protect them from the pain of rejection.  But I am learning to not do something just because I can.  I am learning not to shield people from pain for pain can be holy ground where God is at work in powerful ways. 

My efforts to “protect” might short-circuit the work of God in a person’s soul.  Instead, I am called to walk and pray with people in the path of pain, which requires far more courage and vulnerability than simply protecting. 

2. I resign from squelching disagreements
The pastor is like a referee trying to resolve all disputes.  Reconciliation is important, a place where we find Christ to be present (Matt. 18:20).  However, unity does not necessitate conformity.  There are plenty of issues where it should be okay to disagree and to live out of different convictions without threatening unity.  Around the disagreement about whether it was okay to eat meat sacrificed to idols, Pauls says:  “Those who eat must not despise those who abstain, and those who abstain must not pass judgment on those who eat; for God has welcomed them.”  (Rom. 14:3).

If Paul was okay with difference on such an important issue as eating meat sacrificed to idols, maybe we can be a little more okay with differences of convictions within our own churches.  Then we can quit the business of enforcing conformity on every single issue.  This level of conformity does not capture the complexity of real life and it’s not even healthy.  Instead of squelching disagreements, I invite people to listen to God, to their own conscience, and to their posture toward others in the community.  Another way to say it:  to invite people into the messy lifelong process of discerning our discipleship.   

3. I resign from telling people what to do
The pastor is the vending machine which, when pressed, will reliably dole out the right answer or the perfect advice.  He is seen as the one who can pull back the curtain and reveal God’s will for any difficult decision.  Most of us would not want to be that person.  The problem is that we often are not aware when we are being the vending machine.  We know we don’t have all the answers but we want to be helpful.  It feels good to be helpful.  And what is more helpful than giving some practical steps that will fix what needs fixing? 

There is a fine line between being a resource and being a fixer.  A fixer often is blind to the importance of questions and unknowns in a person’s walk with God.  The questions are not always to be answered (or answered quickly) but lived with and in living with them by faith, the kingdom can put down deep roots that will sustain long-term growth and productivity.  A “resource” tends to the questions – nurturing, cultivating, fertilizing.  A “fixer” pulls them up as if they were weeds.  Instead of being a fixer that tells people what to do, I am called to be a gardener of the questions.

Kingdom Matrix

Jeff Christopherson argues that the Kingdom of God advances only through the counter-cultural faith steps of allegiance to the King. The masters to whom we pay allegiance clearly indicate the Kingdom we advance at any given moment. In the battle of good and evil, there clearly is no demilitarized zone. We are for Him or we are against Him. We are never undecided.

I’m rather partial to a matrix, so I like this Kingdom one from Christopherson:

  Self Kingdom
Seeker The Self Seeker The Kingdom Seeker
Expander The Brand Expander The Kingdom Expander

1. The Self Seeker: "A lover of myself"
2 Timothy 3:1-4 describes this group. Where the dominion of darkness intersects with the secular, we will always find a narcissistic, self-absorbed person. This segment of any society, by virtue of their actions, unconsciously considers loving themselves as the greatest good.

2. The Brand Expander: "A lover of my truth"
2 Timothy 3:5 describes this sacred version of the Self-Seeker. He is any one of us who uses the church of Jesus Christ to insulate us from the expectations of the Kingdom of God and ultimately from our personal accountability to its King.

3. The Kingdom Seeker: "A lover of ideals"
Ecclesiastes 3:11 speaks of residual wiring that recognises things of eternal significance. While the Brand-Expander chooses to value temporal effects that bring more comfort or prestige to its cardholding constituency, Kingdom Seekers believe that people are of paramount importance and will personally sacrifice for the bona fide needs that they discover. They look with suspicion at those who claim to speak for the Almighty but who live lives of perpetual unconcern with what any God of love should value. They are the greatest audience for a Kingdom advancing church.

4. The Kingdom Expander: "A lover of Christ"
The Kingdom-expanding leader lives his life with the unshakable conviction that the improbable ways of God are the only paths to accomplish the eternal purposes of God. It is the Christian life living out the full intention and expression of both Ephesians 2:8-10 and James 2:14-19. A life of both orthodoxy and orthopraxy. Christ living His life out through a submissive and obedient community of faith.

Life worthy of our calling

Front Cover

There are as many ministerial roles as there are members of the body of Christ, and that means that more than half of them belong to women. The transformation that Paul’s vision calls for would not be to let a few more especially gifted women share with a few men the rare roles of domination; it would be to reorient the notion of ministry so that there would be no one ungifted, no one not called, no one not empowered, and no one dominated. Only that would live up to Paul’s call to ‘lead a life worthy of our calling.’”

Are Food Banks the British equivalent of the LA trolley wars?

Apparently, the City of LA has been cracking down on the homeless by confiscating the shopping carts they used to hold and transport their belongings. The City found these carts to be an eyesore so, to preserve appearances, they started taking the carts away. How could they legally do this? The City claimed that the shopping carts were stolen property, taken from local grocery stores.

Of course that wasn’t the real reason for taking the carts away. The real reason had to do with the fact that the shopping carts made the homeless visible. That was the real crime of the homeless. Being seen. And taking away the carts would help vanish the poor on the streets of LA.

Without shopping carts people could drive around the city and not see poor people. Shopping carts broke the illusion by making the homeless visible. 

Knowing what was going on the LA Catholic Worker community decided to help their friends. They bought their friends their own personal shopping carts. No longer stolen property the City couldn’t take the carts away. But that didn’t stop them from trying. What ensued was The Shopping Cart War between the City of LA and the LACW.

Does not the growth of our UK Food Banks make visible the growing poverty in our society? 

No wonder some people would like to keep them out of sight: http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/2013/01/03/tory-councillor-chris-steward-food-banks-criticised_n_2402631.html?utm_hp_ref=uk-politics?ncid=GEP.  To be fair the man in question withdrew his remarks, but he wont be the last to express them, me thinks!

Where do we live?


Here’s a thought from Richard Beck:

Bonhoeffer begins his little book Life Together in a most provocative way:  The Christian cannot simply take for granted the privilege of living among other Christians. Jesus Christ lived in the midst of his enemies. In the end all his disciples abandoned him. On the cross he was all alone, surrounded by criminals and the jeering crowds. He had come for the express purpose of bringing peace to the enemies of God. So Christians, too, belong not in the seclusion of a cloistered life but in the midst of enemies. There they find their mission, their work.

This seems to be Christianity at its most basic: Renouncing the "privilege of living among other Christians" and rejecting the "seclusion of a cloistered live" to live "in the midst of enemies."

What strikes Beck is how little Christians talk about "loving our enemies." This was, one could argue, the most distinctive aspect of Jesus’s teaching and ethic, the foundational principle of the Christian way of life. We should be pounding this point home Sunday after Sunday. It should be our guiding light, the standard and goal of all our spiritual formation efforts. Love your enemies. Forgive your enemies. Bring peace to your enemies. This is our mission and work.

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