Shalom and the Community of Creation – Randy Woodley

cover-shalom-and-the-comm5

Over the last few weeks I have been enjoying reading Randy Woodley’s wonderful book Shalom and the Community of Creation: An Indigenous Vision. As many of you know, the study of shalom has woven through my life in the last thirty years. Working in the refugee camps on the Thai Cambodian border in the mid 80s’ transformed my life and started me on a quest for a deeper understanding of God’s worldview. Shalom is the best word that describes this for me. I put some of my own thoughts together in the booklet Shalom and the Wholeness of Godand you would think that after 30 years there could be nothing new for me to learn. Randy’s book teaches me that this is not so and will probably never be true.

Understanding the shalom of God and the desire of God to see all things restored and made whole again should, I think, be a never ending journey for all of us. Ancient Semitic constructs of biblical shalom have parallel constructs among other indigenous peoples, sometimes referred to as the Harmony Way. Jesus, Randy explains is the shalom restorer of justice and dignity. So often he came to those who had dignity, no rights in society. Like the shepherds whose testimony was unacceptable in a court of law.

Randy is a Keetoowah Cherokee  and brings the richness of his First Nations’ perspective to the discussion. I learned so much from his invitation to view scripture, humanity and all creation through the indigenous lens. One comment that particularly challenged me is:

As people of faith, we should view every drop of oil, every diamond, every lump of coal and every source of water with a theological eye. We should try to see our world through the eyes of the One who created it. All the earth is sacred. It seems quite foolish that only after we have gone too far will we realize that no amount of capital gains, no particular economic system, no modern convenience will be worth the price that we will be forced to pay. Attributed as a Cree Indian proverb, around Indian country they say “Only when the last tree has died and the last river been poisoned and the last fish been caught will we realize we cannot eat money.” I sometimes wonder if modern humanity will drive itself to extinction over greed. (52)

Randy beautifully weaves the story of indigenous peoples in North America and their understanding of the Harmony Way into his narrative. God is not just revealed in the Hebrew scriptures. God’s ways are powerfully portrayed in the beliefs and stories of all cultural groups. Often their traditional beliefs are closer to the ways of God than the capitalistic, creation destroying ways of Western cultures. The atrocities done to natives peoples in many lands has broken God’s shalom not just destroying them and their cultures, but the very land that was taken from them.

God speaks through all cultures and if we only listen to the theologians from our own culture, our understanding of God will be stifled. This is a compelling and challenging book that expresses a different cultural worldview. I highly recommend it to anyone seeking a deeper understanding of the truths of God’s shalom world.

You may also like to check out this article I wrote some years ago on theological diversity in a globalized world 

Greater Than the Bible

I am currently rereading E Stanely Jones‘ The WayIt is one of my favourite devotionals and I find myself coming back to it time and time again. This week I am working through a section where Jones talks about Jesus as being greater than the Bible, greater than the Ten Commandments, greater than the Creeds,  and even greater than faith itself. It is a challenging and thought provoking series of devotionals.

Jesus is greater than the Bible, there is only one mediator, ( 1 Tim 2:5) and one way to God. All scripture, all creeds, all revelation must be viewed and judged through the filter of Jesus Christ – his life, death and resurrection. Eternal life is not in the pages of the Bible, it is in Christ who is uncovered through the scriptrues. The Word is not made printer’s ink, says Jones, The Word was made flesh, not a page buta person.

It is true that we would know little about Christ if it were not for the Bible. The Old Testament is the period of preparation for Christ, the New Testament is the revelation of Christ. We need to remember however that the New Testament is the report of various people’s impressions of Jesus, it is not Jesus himself. Yes it is divinely inspired and it has caught the essential meaning of who Christ is but as Jones says: we always have the feeling that they were trying to tell the untellable and express the inexpressible.

All of life is an ongoing revelation of Christ. We see him revealed in the face of friend and stranger. We see his presence in God’s wonderful creation. We see his miracles in our daily provision, in our healing from illnesses and more than anything in loving acts towards one another. He existed before the Bible was written. His presence fills all things, and holds all creation together (Colossians 1:15-20). It is good for us to remember this and give thanks.

Living Christ I give you thanks for what you reveal,
Something fresh each morning, something new each evening.
You are a constant surprise to me,
I hold my breath as new things unfold in every moment,
My soul tingles with expectancy and I thank you.

I would love to know your thoughts on this.

Life As Prayer by Roy Goble

This morning’s post is the first in the series Lord Teach Us To PrayIt is written by Roy Goble the owner of the family real estate investment firm Goble Properties.  He is also the President of PathLight International, which serves at-risk youth by providing educational opportunities that integrate faith and learning.  Roy is a Trustee of Westmont College, Chair of the Board for The SOLD Project, and is founder of several non-profit organizations.  He and his wife D’Aun live in Pleasanton, California.  You can read more about Roy at www.junkyardwisdom.com where this post first appeared and follow him on twitter at @roygoble.

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Many years ago, when I was far younger than today, I was interviewing a person for an important leadership position at a ministry. He was about my age and I asked him to describe his prayer life. He answered, “My life is a prayer.”

That’s all he said. I sat there waiting for him to elaborate. He didn’t.

Curious, I asked the typical follow-up questions. How do you do that? What does it look like? Are there exercises to follow? How can you attain such intimacy with God at such a young age? I wanted an answer that helped me understand how it was even possible. But he basically shrugged and said, “It just is. I can’t really explain it.”

Frankly, the answer made me nervous about this candidate. A conversation with wiser friends calmed me as they explained how different faith traditions view prayer in different ways. Eventually we hired him and he worked for many years with the organization.

But I still think about his response. Or more accurately, I think about living a life in such a way that it is pure prayer. How is it that every thought, action, and breath reflects such a spiritual richness?

A simple poem by Fr Gilbert Shaw sets up the question:

Prayer
is the turning of our whole mind,
our whole being,
towards God.

I want that, of course.  It sounds wonderful. But how do you get it? The idea of a life that is prayer sounds great but seems impossible. A part of the mosaic within my brain understands that there is no definitive methodology, but my linear side is completely frustrated by that.

This is very Western of me, I’m told.  And I agree that it is. But that doesn’t answer my question.  Besides, the Western faith tradition has a long history of mystics and poets who found great joy in struggling with the incomprehensible idea of living a life of prayer.  Brother Lawrence and his pots and pans comes to mind. Learning from those who walked down this path before me has been helpful … to a point.

Shaw also writes:

The purpose of living is not to learn to make prayer,
but to become prayer; to live in and for God
according to the divine call, wholly surrendered to
the Spirit’s activity in the soul for the glory of God.

That’s somewhat more helpful because it equates the idea with something we become. It’s an action. But what action? I keep coming back to the desire for something tangible. It all seems like hard mental work to figure this stuff out, and I would rather just not think about it.

But then that’s the point where I stop and smile. I have learned that we need to be thinking about it. God likes it when we wrestle with such things.

Over time I have come to understand that this struggle to understand is exactly what God wants. My life is prayer only when it is a life of longing for God. The mental sweat that comes from striving to grow spiritually is part of connecting with God’s heart. And God considers it pure joy to meet us in that place.

Or said another way, what we find to be work may well be what God finds to be praise.

Why Do I Believe in the Resurrection?

From head to heart

Do you believe in your heart?

Yesterday I received an email from a friend who told me they were not sure that they believed in the physical resurrection of Jesus. I was surprised because this person has a strong Christian faith. And I know that if I scratched the surface of many of my friends I would find the same doubts and struggles. In fact I struggle with this myself sometimes.

Why then do I (at least most of the time) believe that Jesus did in fact rise from the dead and that because of that I want to commit my life and future to him? As a young Christian my belief in the resurrection was a purely intellectual belief. I believed because I read it in the bible and because theologians I respected told me it was true. I knew in my head that Jesus had risen from the dead, believing it in my heart was another matter.

There came a point in my life when this intellectual faith was not enough. As I struggled to make sense of my experiences in refugee camps and in communities of poverty where kids died every day from malnutrition and easily treatable diseases, I needed a dimension to my faith that intellectual knowledge just did not provide. That was when I cam across the writings of Henri Nouwen, Thomas Merton, Richard Foster and others whose deep heart centred faith inspired and enriched mine.

Part of what they helped me see was that heart knowledge is far more profound than head knowledge. Heart knowledge comes not in the place of discourse and reason but in the place of silence and contemplation. I started to see that unless I intentionally took time to draw aside and immerse myself in the presence of God, my doubts and uncertainties would grow and my faith would eventually crumble. My confidence in the resurrection of Christ has grown over the years, not because I have immersed myself in theology but because I have learned to immerse myself in God an allowed the resurrected to Christ to take up residence in a bigger and bigger part of my heart and my life.

Something else that has rooted my faith in the resurrection of Christ in recent years is my growing connection to the story of God as it lived out in the garden. At my seminars on spirituality and gardening I always tell participants We read about the death and resurrection of Christ in the Bible, but experience it every time we plant a seed and watch it burst into life. I think that one of the reasons that God entrusted the stewardship of creation to us is because it is in tending what God has made that we most intimately connect not just to the creator but to the creator’s story.

More than that God’s story of life, death and resurrection is lived out in the very fabric of our being. Our bodies are constantly living and dying and rising again. When astronauts first went into space, one of the problems they faced was the sloughing of their skin cells as the epidermal layer of their bodies rapidly died and replaced itself.

It is good for us to doubt the foundations of our faith. These doubts however should not move us away from God but encourage us to explore those deep and inner places in which we are assured once more of God’s faithfulness and love. Trust in the story of God, though founded on intellectual knowledge will never survive on that alone – the wisdom propounded by the people of this world is totally inadequate to understand the holy creator of our universe and the story that is being lived out in our midst through the power of the risen Christ.

So my question today is: How do we move from head knowledge to heart certainty? How do we encourage each other to move our understanding of God from intellectual assent to indwelling presence?

April Synchroblog – What If Jesus Did Not Rise

resurrection of Jesus

Resurrection of Jesus

For the April 2012 Synchroblog, we are exploring the question,“What if the resurrection is a lie?”

Make no mistake, we are not challenging the historical fact of the bodily resurrection of Jesus. We firmly believe in the historical reality of the death, burial, and bodily resurrection of Jesus.

But we also know that soon after the resurrection of Jesus, Christians were accused of inventing this story. Some critics claimed that Jesus never died. Others said that the apostles stole the body of Jesus from the grave. Today, there are countless millions of people who still believe that the resurrection is a hoax.

Here is a list of bloggers who contributed to this month’s Synchroblog. If you participated, please include this list of links on your blog!

U2’s Easter Anthem Window in the Skies – post by Lee Wyatt

Easter is coming

Easter is coming

This morning’s post comes from Lee Wyatt. It was first posted on her blog Marginal Christianity 

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U2 gave us our Lenten anthem this year with their song “Walk On.” It seems appropriate to let them lead us into Easter as well. Their beautiful song “Window in the Skies” is a Resurrection ballad that extols the wonders of “what love has done” from God’s raising of Christ from the dead to the manifold ways God’s love raises us to new life today.

This song was recorded at Abbey Road where the Beatles recorded their hit song “All You Need Is Love.” The cover for this song has the four members of U2 crossing Abbey Road. It is eerily reminiscent of the famous album cover of the Beatles crossing that road with Paul out of step with the rest of the band giving rise to all sorts of speculation about his demise.

It is worth picking up on this comparison. The Beatles were cheerleaders for the sexual revolution/free love movement of the sixties. We believed then that human love could overcome all barriers and obstacles and lead us to the promised land. U2’s “Window in the Skies” preaches a different gospel: a more than human love, indeed divine love itself, has come to us, we did our worst to despise and reject that love, yet it proved itself more powerful than any grave into which we could cast it. Jesus’ resurrection from the dead has opened forever a “window in the skies” through which streams freely and forever breathing healing and new life into all our relationships. The Beatles and U2, though recording at the same place, preach very different gospels, one of which is no gospel at all but merely a new name for slavery. U2’s gospel, however, it truly good news. God has acted to do what we cannot, even at our loving best – grasp the genuine humanity and vocation for which we created!

The first verse stakes the claim that freedom and peace have come because death itself has been undone and life, true life, flows among us again. Indeed, “the rule has been disproved.” Death is not the final word, the last chapter of human life. “The stone it has been moved,” and forgiveness and new life are given to us all!

“The shackles are undone
The bullet’s quit the gun
The heat that’s in the sun
Will keep us when there’s none
The rule has been disproved
The stone it has been moved
The GRAVE is now a groove
All debts are removed

Oh can’t you see what love has done
Oh can’t you see what love has done
Oh can’t you see what love has done
What it’s doing to me”

Resurrection love, contra merely human love, creates strange bedfellows with its enemy-loving, hate-destroying, relationship renewing ways. The genius, the power of this love, is that is gets us “out of our heads” and into God’s “heart”. And from there our attention is wholly captured by the passion to share that love that we have found (or better, has found us) with all we meet – “Oh can’t you see what love has done, what it’s doing for me”!

“Love makes strange enemies
Makes love where love may please
The soul and its striptease
Hate brought to its knees
The sky over our head
We can reach it from our bed
You let me in your heart
And out of my head

Oh can’t you see what love has done
Oh can’t you see what love has done
Oh can’t you see what love has done
What it’s doing to me

Oh oh oh oh
Oh oh oh oh

Please don’t ever let me out of you

I’ve got no shame
Oh no, oh no

Oh can’t you see what love has done
Oh can’t you see
Oh can’t you see what love has done
What it’s doing to me

I know I hurt you and I made you cry
Did everything but murder you and I
Our love left a window in the skies
And to love I rhapsodize

Oh can’t you see what love has done
To every broken heart
Oh can’t you see what love has done
For every heart that cries”

And this is all due to the powerful reality that “Love left a window in the skies.” Jesus’ resurrection opened the world to God’s love in a way that it can never be shut out again. Indeed, this love, God’s death-defeating resurrection love, will bring us to the promised land.

“Love left a window in the skies
And to love I rhapsodize

Oh can’t you see”

It’s this kind of love that enables us to “Walk On” as we make our way to the kingdom of God. Have a most blessed Easter!

Prayers for the Journey

This is a summary of the prayers that I have posted on facebook and twitter in the last couple of weeks

Still my mind O God, calm my spirit,
Draw me to a place where my soul finds solitude,
May I listen to the sounds of silence,
And hear your quiet whispers.

_____________________________

God transform us

May our blindness become sight,

May our zeal become faith,

May our hate become love.

_______________________________

God we are hungry to see your face,

Jesus we are thirsty to hear your words,

Spirit we are longing to know your presence,

Feed us, quench our thirst, dwell within us today.

________________________________

May the gospels be ever new to us

May the word of God be ever fresh

May our eyes and ears be ever open

To the Christ revealed as we walk the road with him

____________________________________

When Jesus says don’t be afraid, may we listen

When Jesus says I am with you always may we believe

When Jesus says in me there is no condemnation

May we be set free.

________________________

Let us breathe in the wonder of this moment

Let us look at its beauty and savour the essence of God

Let us touch its glory and know the love of God

_________________________________________

May we seek to know the will of God

And listen to all the voices through which God speaks

May we walk forward without fear into God’s kingdom ways

___________________________________________

Let us sit in the presence of God

Confident of his goodness and mercy

May his love surround us

His Spirit fill us

His truth guide us

_________________________

God is good and loving and kind,

May we share God’s goodness,

And celebrate God’s love,

Till the whole earth shines with God’s glory

__________________________

The beauty of the snow covered landscape outside my window reminded me of this prayer I wrote last year:

Beauty beyond words, creativity beyond imagining

God bathed, son drenched, spirit infused

May we dare to believe

God is here, transforming, redeeming,

Making all things new.

____________________________

A prayer for Martin Luther King Day

 

May we dream of a world made new,

Where together we shout for justice,

And as one we fight against oppression.

May we dream of a world made new,

Where together we seek God’s righteousness

And as one we sing God’s praise.

May we dream of a world made new,

Where together we climb God’s mountain,

And as one we enter the promised land.

May we dream of a world made new,

Where together we proclaim the good news of God’s kingdom,

And as one we enjoy its peace, and abundance and love.