The Call To True Freedom

Grievance wall at Wild Goose Festival

Grievance wall at Wild Goose Festival

This morning I posted this prayer on facebook

God you have called us into freedom,
May we use it to follow you with our whole hearts,
May we use it to serve one another in love,
May we use it to grow your kingdom of peace and wholeness.

It came out of my struggle with the whole concept of Independence Day and our assumption that because we live in America that we are free. To be honest I struggle with the very word Independence because God calls us to interdependence and not independence. Now don’t get me wrong – I don’t see anything wrong in a nation celebrating its independence. It is when Christians celebrate with the same fervour as though independence is a part of our faith that I struggle.

I also struggle with what we mean by freedom. Even in America there are many who have very little freedom.

Yesterday I signed up for International Justice Mission’s Recipe for Change  initiative which highlights the plight of tomato pickers in Florida. I talked about this last year in a post The Price of Tomatoes – Keeping Slavery Alive in Florida.  Then I read this article by Greg Valerio who together with his wife Ruth is a great advocate for fair trade – especially jewelry. Purity of Fair Trade Gold at Risk

Then I read Chris Smith’s article Let’s Celebrate Interdependence Day

And I rounded it up with watching this video by Micha Bournes – When America Dies

watch?v=3ctXPDwLlwk&feature=player_embedded

These issues make me very aware of the fact that our freedoms are so often dependent on the enslavement or exploitation of others. It made me more than ever aware of the fact that none of us are truly free until all God’s children are free and also that the only true freedom is what we find in our relationship to God. What do you think?

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Ascension Day is Coming – Do You Know What it Means?

Christ Ascended into Heaven - Dome of Monastery in Mirozh Russia, Public Domain

Christ Ascended into Heaven – Dome of Monastery in Mirozh Russia, Public Domain

Thursday is Ascension Day the day on which we remember Jesus ascension into heaven 40 days after he rose from the dead.  What I did not realize until recently is that for many this is also a celebration of the new creation that God brought into being by the ascension of Jesus.  What beautiful imagery to carry with us for the rest of the season until Pentecost.

This is not a celebration that I grew up with, nor is it one that I have taken much notice of in the last few years.   I was amazed this morning therefore at the beautiful and enriching prayers and scriptures I came across from many different traditions and thought that I would share some of them with you. I have posted some of these in previous years but have refreshed the links and added more resources.

I love the exultant note of this prayer from Rev. Marilyn E. Thornton the Lead Editor for African American Resources at the United Methodist Publishing House

One: Let us gather as they gathered on the Mount of Olivet.
Let us remember the teachings of the law, psalms, and prophets.

Many: Ride on King Jesus, no one can hinder you!

Read the entire prayer

Here is another from the reformed tradition With A Shout

And this by David Diephouse who teaches history at Calvin College

Our God goes up with shouts of joy!

Our Lord ascends to the sound of trumpets!
All: Sing praises to our God, sing praises!
Sing praises, sing praises to our King!
The Almighty rides in triumph.
The Almighty leads captivity captive.
Who shouts for joy? Who blows the trumpet?
The hosts of heaven sing the honor of his name;
they praise him with an endless alleluia.

Read the entire prayer

And this prayer from the Catholic service for Ascension Day

God our Father,
make us joyful in the ascension of your Son Jesus Christ.
May we follow him into the new creation,
for his ascension is our glory and our hope.
We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Read the entire service.

John Van de Laar at Sacredise.com always has great resources for the seasons including suggested hymns, prayers and video media resources. Check out the ascension day resources here

I particularly enjoyed this video The Ascension and Jesus Christ  on The Work of the People (love their work).

Here is another good set  of videos/loops from re:Worship

And as always textweek.com has a very comprehensive list of resources for celebrating Ascension Day

Obviously there are lots of other great resources out there too so if you have found something that is particularly helpful please leave a link in the comments below.

Jesus resurrection is amazing, the fact that he acts as advocate for us before God is awe inspiring and reassuring because we know that every time we mess up (and all of us do) Jesus is there pleading for us before God.  And how I feel about that could not be better expressed than in the words of Psalm 47 written three thousand years ago

Come, everyone! Clap your hands!

Shout to God with joyful praise!
2 For the Lord Most High is awesome.
He is the great King of all the earth.
3 He subdues the nations before us,
putting our enemies beneath our feet.
4 He chose the Promised Land as our inheritance,
the proud possession of Jacob’s descendants, whom he loves.
Interlude

5God has ascended with a mighty shout.
The Lord has ascended with trumpets blaring.
6 Sing praises to God, sing praises;
sing praises to our King, sing praises!
7 For God is the King over all the earth.
Praise him with a psalm!
8 God reigns above the nations,
sitting on his holy throne.
9 The rulers of the world have gathered together
with the people of the God of Abraham.
For all the kings of the earth belong to God.
He is highly honored everywhere. (via Biblegateway.com)

And last but hopefully not least a prayer/poem I wrote some years ago that I think is appropriate for this season.  I have frequently been told it should be put to music so if anyone feels inspired to do that let me know..

God whose glory fills our world

God whose life is closer than breath

God whose love is stronger than death

God, this God of life and love

Has sent an advocate to save us

Jesus Christ the righteous, now at the right hand of God

Not to condemn but to bring full life

Not to accuse but to redeem

Not to reject but to draw close

God, this God of life and love

Has sent an advocate to save us

Jesus Christ the righteous, now at the right hand of God

God who hears the cry of our seeking souls

God who sees the pain of our suffering bodies

God who feels the loss of our grieving spirits

God, this God of life and love

Has sent an advocate to be with us forever

The Spirit of truth abides with us eternally

Before us to teach and lead,

Within us to comfort and heal,

Around us to shield and protect,

God, this God of life and love

Has sent an advocate to be with us forever

The Spirit of truth abides with us eternally

Does Love Overcome Violence?

In the last few days I have posted several articles about the love of God and prayer. I also posted one about the riots here in Seattle on May Day. Guess which one got the most traffic?

It saddens me to see how much more easily we are drawn towards violence than towards love – not the mushy love of lust that is so often portrayed on the TV screen – but the enduring self sacrificing love that is at the core of who God is and who God wants us to be.

Violence saturates our society and we seem to accept it especially here in America. When I set out to get statistics on violence and media consumption this morning, I could find the results of little research done in the last 7 or 8 years. And the statistics from back then are rather sobering.  Evidently the average child, from 2004 figures, will see at least 8,000 murders on TV before they finish elementary school and 200,000 violent acts by age 18. And if you want to follow the statistics SCMS Canada is well worth a visit.

Yet many people do not believe that watching violence creates violent behaviour and unfortunately much of the research produces inconclusive results as this article shows. In fact the most quoted research, though it concedes that watching violence increases aggression, states the startling fact that:

We find that violent crime decreases on days with higher theater audiences for violent movies….  Overall, we find no evidence of a temporary surge in violent crime due to exposure to movie violence. Rather, our estimates suggest that in the short-run violent movies deter over 200 assaults daily.

So should we encourage the watching of violence hoping that it will actually decrease the incidence of violent crimes? Or is there another solution like teaching both children to love and care for each other rather than competing with each other.

Fortunately there are many organizations that are more concerned with peaceful rather than violent solutions to violence. Those involved in conflict resolution have grown remarkably in the last few years. Here are a few organizations worth checking out.

Eastern Mennonite University has a great list of resources on peace and conflict resolution, though of them deal with more global issues of violence.

Alternatives to Violence Project is another group that seems to take this issue seriously.

As you can see this has only been a very quick research project this morning and I would love to hear your input. How do you think the viewing of violence on TV and the interacting with violence in video games impacts behaviour? and probably even more important – How should we as Christians respond?

Lord Jesus Christ Draw Close – A New Advent Video for 2011

This year’s Advent video focuses on our need to draw close to our Lord Jesus Christ during the Advent season. The music is “In Toto Corde ~ Lament” from the CD, ANTIPHON by the Coram Deo Ensemble.

Below is a low quality preview, which you are free to use. The high quality version is now available for download ($15) from our Mustard Seed webstore.

Also available are the videos from the past four years for immediate download or on DVD.

Music by Janet Chvatal, Jeff Johnson & Brian Dunning
℗© 2011 Sola Scriptura Songs / ArkMusic.com
Used with permission. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

Lord Jesus Christ Draw Close

Draw close, Lord Jesus Christ
Draw close, lead us with you light
Teach us the wonder of your love
Show us the glory of your saving grace
Draw close, God’s beloved son
Born to be redeemer of our world
The promised saviour of all creation
Draw close, shine for the world to see
Ignite in us your flame
Prepare us for a world of justice
Prepare us for a world of peace
Prepare us for a world of righteousness
Draw close renew our lives
Until our hearts ache for freedom
Our minds long for holiness
Our spirits seek for unity
Draw close we long for your coming
God of compassion and mercy
God of might and power,
God beyond imagining
Draw close, transform all things
Fill us with you love
Draw close, shine for the world to see

Soft-wired for empathy – Rifkin on the Empathic Society

A couple of days ago Scott Hackman left a comment on my post On Line Community: Does It Work.  He included a link to this video by Rifkin on the Empathic Society.  Evidently we are all soft wired for sociability, attachment, affection and companionship.  This I thought was particularly encouraging though in some ways it just confirms what Jesus has always told us. Love God & love your neighbour, befriend them, care for them, respond to their needs, recognize you are all part of the same family.

On LIne Community – Does It Work?

Yesterday I posted statistics on how social media is shaping our lives .  It is interesting to see the response to this and recognize the different ways in which we grapple with deluge of social media in relation to our faith.  There are lots of resources emerging to help us maintain a strong and vibrant faith in the midst of this.  I wanted to highlight a couple that I have found very useful

This interview of Mennonite Pastor and author of “Flickering Pixels“, Shane Hipps by Rob Bell is a great place to start.

For a more in depth interview you may like to check out this post on the Mustard Seed Associates blog

Lynne Baab’s latest book Friending: Real Relationships in a Virtual World is another great resource

Of course virtual communities are springing up all over too.  In light of that I thought that this post by Neal Locke was another interesting twist on the conversation:

Technology changes things.  But technology is a part of God’s Creation, and a gift:  We can use it for good, twist it to evil, or ignore it.  The last option, while always popular, has rarely been successful.  Gutenberg’s printing press changed the world, paving the way for the Renaissance and the Scientific Revolution. Because it made possible the Reformation, it also brought drastic changes to the church, changing almost every visible aspect of Christian worship and theology in just a few generations.   In our generation, the internet and digital communication have already brought about drastic changes, and will continue to transform the church in sweeping and dramatic ways in a short span of time.

In the past few decades, church participation in our culture has been in steep decline.  And yet, as millions of people leave behind behind their communities of faith, millions more are finding community online, in places that a few years ago wouldn’t have even qualified as places.  Worshiping communities of Christians are also beginning to appear online, especially taking root in 3-dimensional synthetic interfaces known as Virtual Realities, or Virtual Worlds.  The writers of this confession are among them.  Read the entire post

And my question once again – What do you think?  Does social media and our interaction on the internet strengthen or weaken faith?  Are we deluding ourselves by thinking this is a God given medium or are we appropriately taking advantage of the cultural tools God has made available?

 

Carrie Underwood Sings How Great Thou Art

Back from Connecticut and feeling a little overwhelmed by all I need to accomplish before heading to Australia in 2 weeks.  Stopped to listen to this and it certainly made me feel a lot better.  I hope you enjoy it too.