A Liturgy for Pentecost

This coming Sunday is the celebration of Pentecost when we commemorate the outpouring of the Holy Spirit and the formation of the church. To me the imagery of Pentecost is always one of the family of God – a multicultural, multinational family in which all barriers of race, creed and culture are broken down, a family in which the misunderstandings and divisions of Babel are reversed and we once more understand each other – not becoming blended together as an amorphorous group, but blended together as a diverse family in which the uniqueness of each branch is appreciated and celebrated.  I have tried to represent this in the litany below which is also adapted from one of the litanies in my book Light for the Journey 

To God above us, creator of life and love

To Christ all around us, revealer of truth and justice

To Spirit deep within us, transformer of darkness into light.

To God above, around, within, the three in One, the One in three

All praise and glory to you forever  

To the One you sent your spirit to lead us into all truth

To the One who has sealed us with this sign of your ownership

To the One who unite us into one family from every tribe and nation and culture

To God above, around, within, the three in One, the One in three

All praise and glory to you forever 

 

(Silence)

 

For the busyness that has distracted us

God forgive us

For the anxieties that have burdened us

Jesus forgive us

For the selfcentredness that has isolated us

Spirit forgive us

Holy Three who would unite us

Have mercy on us

Pardon and deliver us from our sins

Draw us into your eternal family

 

(Adapted from Psalm 72:1-10, & Amos 5:24)

God let your justice and fairness flow like a river that never runs dry 

Please help those of us who are rich to be honest and fair just like you, our God.

May we who have such abundance be honest and fair with all your people, especially the poor.

Let peace and justice rule every mountain and fairness flow as a river that never runs dry.

God let your justice and fairness flow like a river that never runs dry (Amos 5:24)

May we your people defend the poor, rescue the homeless, and crush everyone who hurts them.

May we be as helpful as rain that refreshes the ground, to those who are treated unjustly.

Let the wholeness and fairness of your kingdom live forever like the sun and the moon.

God let your justice and fairness flow like a river that never runs dry (Amos 5:24)

Because you our God rescue the homeless and have pity on those who hurt

May we who are rich stand up for the poor and let peace abound until the moon fades to nothing.

Let God’s kingdom of justice and fairness reach from sea to sea, across all the earth.

God let your justice and fairness flow like a river that never runs dry 

 

God your world is broken and in pain

Broken by hunger that kills our brothers & sisters

Broken by injustice that enslaves and oppresses our friends

Broken by disease that deprives us of our loved ones

Forgive us God for our complicity and the times we have been indifferent to its cries

Forgive us for the times we could have shared our food 

Forgive us for places we should have spoken out 

Forgive us for acts that have polluted and destroyed immunity

Cleanse our hearts and wash away our sins

Fill us with your Spirit and restore our joy in your salvation

Make us willing to count the cost of our responsibility to our neighbours near and far

May we enter your kingdom of peace and justice for all

 

Isaiah 11: 1-9

John 14:21-29

 

We believe and trust in God the creator

Who made us to be family together 

People from every tribe and nation and culture

We believe and trust in Christ the redeemer 

Who saves us from self-centeredness and isolation

To be joined together as parts of a body that loves and cares for each other

We believe and trust in Holy Spirit the enabler

Who calls us into community 

With the rich, the poor, the disabled, with the young, the old, the oppressed and despised

We believe and trust in the triune God – 

Perfect community, perfect relationship

The three in one and one in three,

Whose kingdom of justice and fairness and unity will have no end

We believe and trust in God.

Amen

 

Our Father in heaven…

 

God we want to share life together,

Enable us to break down the barriers dividing us from our brothers and sisters around the world

Lord have mercy,

God we want to share life together

Help us move beyond our prejudices to live in unity and peace with those who are different

Lord have mercy,

God we want to share life together

Restore our vision to see and respond to those who suffer and are in need

Lord have mercy,

In a world divided by war and strife may we be your reconcilers

And share life with all who are torn apart by violence, oppression and dissension 

Christ have mercy,

 In a world that kills and maims may we be those who care for our enemies

And share life with all who are divided by race, culture, disabilities or gender

Christ have mercy,

In a world of indifference and despair may we be those who heal and restore

And share life with all who live in poverty, sickness and injustice

Christ have mercy,

God through the power of your spirit we can be your image bearers

Unite us in that great community of sisters and brothers from every nations that is Christ’s body

Lord have mercy

God through the power of your spirit we can be your image bearers

Bind us together with the love, peace, mutual concern and cultural diversity that represents you

Lord have mercy,

God through the power of your spirit we can be your image bearers

As one family living and serving together under the lordship of Christ and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit

Lord have mercy

 

Pause for a time of intercession and prayer for our broken world 

 

God hear our prayers,

By the power of the spirit which is present in all of us,

May your river of love continue to flow,

Over us, in us and through us,

And out into the world you love.

God be in our heads and in our understanding,

God be in our eyes and in our looking

God be in our mouths and in our speaking

God be in our hearts and in our thinking

God be in our end and in our departing

 

The blessing of God be upon you.

The blessing of the God of life.

The blessing of Christ be upon you.

The blessing of the Christ of love.

The blessing of the spirit be upon you.

The blessing of the spirit of peace.

The blessing of the triune God be yours, today and evermore.

Amen

The Brain That Changes Itself

You can probably tell that I have started on an orgy of summer reading but the book I wanted to talk about this morning is one I picked up at a friend’s place during my recent visit to Australia.  The book The Brain That Changes Itself by Norman Doidge so intrigued me that I have ordered it from Amazon and am eagerly awaiting its arrival.  Listen to this description from the excerpt on his website

This book is about the revolutionary discovery that the human brain can change itself, as told through the stories of the scientists, doctors, and patients who have together brought about these astonishing transformations. Without operations or medications, they have made use of the brain’s hitherto unknown ability to change. Some were patients who had what were thought to be incurable brain problems; others were people without specific problems who simply wanted to improve the functioning of their brains or preserve them as they aged….

In the course of my travels I met a scientist who enabled people who had been blind since birth to begin to see, another who enabled the deaf to hear; I spoke with people who had had strokes decades before and had been declared incurable, who were helped to recover with neuroplastic treatments; I met people whose learning disorders were cured and whose IQs were raised; I saw evidence that it is possible for eighty-year-olds to sharpen their memories to function the way they did when they were fifty-five. I saw people rewire their brains with their thoughts, to cure previously incurable obsessions and traumas. I spoke with Nobel laureates who were hotly debating how we must rethink our model of the brain now that we know it is ever changing.

What particularly intrigued me was Doidge’s discussion of the difference in the way Asians and Westerners think.  It made me realize that Westerners don’t even understand what Asians mean by holism, a view reinforced in Richard Nisbett’s The Geography of Thought.

Even when we talk about holism, Westerners think individualistically.  When we look at a picture we don’t tend to see the whole picture but rather focus on one object.  When we see that object in another context we can still recognize it.  Asians on the other hand tend to see the picture as a whole.  No one object stands out and if an object is presented in another context they may not be able to recognize it.

I feel that this understanding has huge implications for our faith and understanding of God.  We Westerners like to take God out of context.  We think that God can be understood outside the cultural context in which God is presented.  As a result we get very uncomfortable when people of other cultures start to worship the God revealed in Jesus Christ in very different ways from how we worship this God.

But when we look at God in the context of a culture and see God as integral part of that culture we get a totally different view.  God doesn’t get lost, God, the Lord of the Universe infuses the whole picture, the whole culture becomes permeated with God and so what we see as worship changes.

Knowing that God is able to change our brains and our worldview so that we can have a more truly holistic way of looking at life is very heartening for me – but boy is it hard and it suggests to me that we need to totally reinvent the way that we do discipleship and teach spiritual practices.  What do you think?

Religious Pluralism – How Will It Shape Christian Faith?

Well I have finally finished my article for the upcoming Seed Sampler on What Will Shape Our Spirituality in the Coming Decade? It has been an interesting and somewhat daunting challenge as I do believe that we are at a major pivotal point in Christian history – what Phyllis Tickle in her important book The Great Emergence, calls the 500 year rummage sale.

In the last couple of days I wrote posts on two important trends that I believe will shape Christian faith in the coming decade:

The third trend I want to talk about here is religious pluralism.  Muslims in Europe, Sikhs in the US, Christians in Africa.  It is not just the geographic centre of Christianity that is changing.  So is the geographical centre of all religions.

In the last four years, the Muslim population in Britain multiplied 10 times faster than the rest of society increasing from 500,000 to 2.4 million.  In the same period the number of Christians in the country fell by more than 2 million. (read the entire article).   There are now an estimated 1.5 million Hindus in the United States, prevalent in Texas, New Jersey, and Ohio.  Worldwide Islam, Bahai, Sikhism, and Hinduism are all growing faster than Christianity. (Read more)

Interfaith dialogue will become increasingly important in the future as we grapple with both the gifts and conflicts of our changing world religious profile.  This, of course is not new for followers of Christ in India, Indonesia, the Middle East and many other parts of the world where Christianity has always been one faith amongst many.

We will see a growing recognition amongst some Christians that God is to be found outside the boundaries of Christian faith as well as inside.  However it could also result in growing conflict and misunderstanding as fundamentalists in all religions retreat behind the barriers of what feels safe and secure.  According to the rabbis of old, one of the ways the creation continues is through spirited conversations in which we are in a disagreement – the highest form of discourse. ( Samir Selmanovic in Its really All About God)

Discipleship and spiritual practices in the future will need to help us rediscover this art teaching us to listen to the voices of those who believe very differently from us.  We need to help all followers of Christ identify where the spirit of God is at work outside as as well as inside faith communities.   We need Muslims, Jews, Hindus, Buddhists, Atheists and others to stretch and remold our understanding of God and of what it means to be a follower of Christ.

If God is confined to our way of believing and understanding then we believe in a very small God.  The God who create the vast expanses of space, is too big for any of us to fully understand.  In fact when I look up at the stars in the heavens I am awed at the immensity of God and my own inability to comprehend.  We all see through a glass darkly and believe we have the corner on truth then I think we miss out on much of who God is and what God wants us to become.

I would love to hear from others who have discovered creative ways of relating to this and other trends that they feel will shape our faith in the future.  Part of what we do at Mustard Seed Associates is help to connect people to creative responses to the challenges of the future.  If you are involved in a creative response, or if you feel that there are other trends that are more impacting on the future we would love to know and be able to share your ideas.


What Will Shape Our Spirituality: Future Church #2

Yesterday’s post on What will shape our spirituality in the coming decade has sparked quite a bit of interest and as I have far more to say than can fit into my article for the upcoming MSA Seed Sampler I will share some more of my thoughts here.

Yesterday I talked about the impact of social media and how have moved from consumption to immersion.  Today I wanted to talk about the impact of the changing geographical centre of Christianity.  In 1900 80% of all Christians lived in Europe and North America, but by 2005 that had dropped to under 40% and by 2050 will probably fall below 30%.

In the next decade, this trend will have profound implications for theology and spiritual practices as voices from Latin America, Africa and Asia contribute their perspectives to a discussion that has been dominated by Western thought for a thousand years.  What many of us in Western cultures are oblivious to is that much of our theology has been shaped by a Eurocentric viewpoint that arises from the place of power and privilege that our cultures have held.  It does not have universal validity and is often shaped more by our positions of privilege than by the gospel message.  In a post colonial, post Eurocentric Christian world those of us from European backgrounds will need to become listeners and learners.  We will not only need to listen to voices from other cultures we will need to allow the theological perspectives of other cultures to shape our theology too, humbly seeking forgiveness for the wrongs of the past  and working for reconciliation and justice.

In Foolishness to the Greeks, Lesslie Newbigin states:

The fact that Jesus is much more than, much greater than our culture-bound vision of him, can only come home to us through the witness of those who see him through other eyes.

To fully understand Jesus and embrace the entire gospel message we will need to reinvent discipleship so that it to compels us to give up our positions of power and invites us into a journey together with sisters and brothers from around the world.  It should embrace our need to learn from believers in different cultures who emphasize distinct aspects of the gospel message based on questions that have arisen within their history and context.   Often their theologies have been shaped by the pain and suffering inflicted by Western colonialism and domination.  Liberation theology for example, grew out of a culture of oppression.  It places high value on not just individual repentance but on creation of a new community with structures that promise justice and wholeness for all.  In Africa and Asia there is strong emphasis on issues of poverty and racism, and Australian aboriginal theology grapples with concerns about displacement from their native lands.

God’s family is drawn from every culture and tribe  and nation.   In this coming decade we will need to recognize that all of us are on a journey together learning to understand and walk together in partnership with our sisters and brothers from around the world.  When we know we are all part of God’s family, we will willingly seek for understanding, reconciliation and new ways of sharing life so that we all become one as God intended.

Boundary Breaking Books

Thanksgiving and Christmas are fast approaching and there is much to do & much that I want to say over this next week.  One thing I realized is that I have not blogged much about the books that I am reading at the moment, partly because there are so many that I get a little behind with writing them up.  However I realize that this is the time that most of us are putting together our Christmas lists (unless you are determined to make this a buy nothing Christmas)  so I thought I would give you my suggestions.

The approach of Christmas seems a good time however to reflect on some the boundary breaking books that I am reading – those books that push my thinking outside the boundaries of the usual ways I think about faith

Top of the list is The Boundary Breaking God: An Unfolding Story of Hope and Promise, by Danielle Shroyer.  I think that this is a must read for all of us who are grappling with what it really means to be a follower of Christ in today’s world.  God’s people were always those being pushed to the margins – the outsiders who are moving towards an unknown yet hopeful future.  I love the way that Danielle stretches our thinking beyond the familiar ways of interpreting bible stories.

I love her telling of the story of the Magi – “these very un-Jewish, pagan astrologers” far from home yet acknowledging Christ as king.  Danielle’s comments seem very appropriate at this season.

“Though God’s activity in the world began with one family, Jesus’ kingship begins with one world.  Christ’s birth marks the beginning of the promised Kingdom of God on earth.  And that Kingdom as we see in Epiphany reaches far beyond Jerusalem.

From the very beginning of jesus life on earth, God makes it clear this Messiah is going to muddy the lines between who is in and who is out.  The story of the astrologers is the story of God’s expanding love from the viewpoint of the unexpected outsiders.

The second book I want to recommend is a new bible that arrived in the mail a few days ago.  It is called Mosaic and combines the New Living Translation with reflections for the seasons of the church year.  Tyndale has drawn together authors from a rich array of backgrounds and cultures to share reflections, poetry and art.  The trouble is that I wanted to read all the reflections on the first day.

I love the New Living Translation – it is very readable but as a translation not a paraphrase which is great.  I also love that proceeds from the bible go to support the work of Wycliffe Bible Translators.  So again this is a gift that I would heartily recommend – and with that feel good sense that you are doing something to spread the word of God into other cultures too.

The third book I want to recommend is one that I actually have not read as yet (I am expecting to receive a review copy in the next couple of days).  It is Samir Selmanovic’s: It’s Really All About God: Reflections of a Muslim Atheist Jewish Christian. Even the title is enough to make my mouth water. I will probably blog more about this after I get into the book but here are some reviews that are definitely enticing me to want more.

His aim is to embrace the diversities and even the mutually exclusive mysteries of the three Abrahamic faiths and atheism to gain a new perspective that is not about ourselves but about God.  Read the entire review here

Through his personal stories and engagement with the stories of  Christians, Muslims, Pagans, Atheists and more, author Samir Selmanovic points the way to a life with God and each other that is bigger and better than most of us have ever dared to dream.  Read the entire review

How Do We View God?

I am busily getting ready for my last day here at WorldView and reflecting on how we all view God.  I think that there is no better way to see how others view God than to look at the art with which we depict God.  I know that I have done something like this before on my blog but then I find that repetition never hurts.  In fact no matter how many times we repeat an exercise there is still something more to learn about God.

Two websites I would heartily recommend that help us do that.

Matt Stone’s blog – as I have mentioned before Matt has the best collection of multicultural Christian art I have come across.  Matt even has some alien Christian art which I first laughed at but then realized that this too represents many people’s view of God.

Another site that has a rich collection of more traditional art in an A – Z catalogue is textweek.com This site also has other resources that connect to the weekly lectionary readings.

Here are some of my favourites which give very different views of Christian faith.  I suggest that you spend some time reflecting on these and what you can learn about God and Jesus as you meditate on them.  Would love to hear what your reflections teach you.

Jesus washes feet

Jesus washes feet

Adbusters cover

Tibebe Terffa Ethiopia

TheRisenLord

Latin tiles 001-1

jesus heals blindman

Varghese - calming the storm

Jesus heals paralized man

Cultural Protocols as Spiritual Practice

Today’s post comes to us from Hannah Haiu in New Zealand.  Hannah comes from Maori and Irish heritage.  She works with iEmergence iEmergence which was conceived as a way for indigenous youth/young adults and their families to engage in culturally appropriate holistic transformational development opportunities while training next generation leaders.  I had the privilege of meeting Hannah, her husband Leon and their three children recently at the NAIITS symposium in Langley BC.  At the end of her post I have included a performance of a traditional Maori haka.

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More than just smoke – Cultural protocols as spiritual practice

I’ve been wondering about God lately – Where is He?  And what can I learn about Who He is from where I find Him?  I’ve been intentional about ‘going deeper’ into the places I go, with the people I meet, the moments I experience.  This means I have to admit ignorance and ask questions, which in itself could be described as a spiritual experience – dying to oneself in the quest for Truth.

There is a deep longing in my soul to remove my woefully narrow and constricting cultural blinders, that I may recognise Jesus in other people, their places and in their ways of being – ways of spirituality that are new to me.

When a Hawaiian woman dances the Hula, the Grace of God moves in her; when Maori men and women do a Haka, the fearless strength of His spirit commands; when the smoke rises and the aroma of Sage permeates when a First Nation’s person of North America does a Smudge, he or she is ushered into a place of solemnity and meditation with our Creator.  And it goes on…

God has embedded himself in culture and in creation. I just need to learn to recognise Him where He is; recognise that in my primitive humanity, God is so much more glorious, creative and beyond my thinking than I could ever begin to imagine.

Many indigenous cultural protocols are a means to connect with and worship the same Creator that Western folk seek to connect with and worship through their Sunday Church programmes.  It isn’t a matter of either/or, it’s both/and.

The Psalmist said, ‘The Heavens declare his majesty” – a declaration which resounds with indigenous people the world over.  There is no concept of ownership of land, plant or creature – we are all created by God.  Therefore, respect and honour of the Creator and the created is embedded in cultural protocol – prayer, song, thanksgiving, as we all participate with Him in His creation.

Part of my journey of recognising Jesus where He is, is also learning what He is not.  I’m not an academic person, and I view the gospel through a rather simplistic lens. 1 Corinthians gives us a clear description of what love is, and even states that God IS love.  And if God is also truth, then where there is love and where there is truth, there is God.

So, when a Lakota or Blackfoot or Cree man plays his drum and sings his song to the Creator in his language, he is using the treasures given and inspired by God as an offering back to Him.  It is an expression of worship.  God is there.  When we use traditional knowledge passed down over generations for the cultivation of plants and their application for medicinal purposes, we honour the One who created the plants with those medicinal properties.  God is in it.  Carvings on a Maori Meeting house and Ta Moko (traditional Maori tattoos) serve to remind us of our ancestors, where we have come from, who we are, much like photographs or a family tree.  We honour God in remembering our history, and who He created us to be.

What a frightening privilege it is to be on this intimate journey of the world outside my own; to perhaps learn more of our Creator, more of His design and His intentions through others and their ways of being; to face my own narrow-mindedness and cultural arrogance.  The more I explore, revel in and grapple with the incredible creativity of our Creator and His expressions of love for us, the more I realise that there is so much more that He delights in than what we are aware of.  And personally, I want to see it and share in His delight.  To Jesus, I’m sure, that this is all so much more than smoke.