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Posts Tagged ‘Osawatomie Kansas’

Dove of the Holy Spirit (ca. 1660, alabaster, ...

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I enjoyed writing these prayers after reading very helpful commentary from  The Interpreter‘s Dictionary of the Bible vol. 2 “Holy Spirit”  and The Lord of Life:  Perspectives on Constructive Pneumatology David H. Jensen Editor and specifically chapter five “Guests, Hosts and Holy Ghost: Pneumatological Theology and Christian Practices in  World of Many Faiths” by Amos Yong.

 

 

CALL TO WORSHIP:

Leader: Some say that faith, in the larger world,  has lost its tact.

People:  Our parents always told us to mind our manners.

Leader:  Minding manners allows individuals to arrive at shared understanding and behavior.

People:  Even in Jesus’ day there were a diversity of beliefs and this required etiquette and manners.

Leader:  There was no Emily Post, but there was and is attunement to the Holy Spirit.

All:  Let us reconnect with the Holy Spirit who inspires bold tact, as we worship the God of Jesus.  Amen.

 

PRAYER OF PRAISE:

Holy Host, you are not an ethereal ghost but a salient connector.  When we have a need to be loved, you connect us with those who need love from us.  When we need adventure, you connect us with demanding individuals and circumstances that build stamina.  When we are in need peace, you present us with people in need of comfort that only we can give.  Hear our praise that when you connect us though we seem to be meeting the needs of others, our own cup runneth over.  Continue to come and connect our lives o Great and Hospitable Spirit.  Amen.

 

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My indoor cat is a window warrior.

Her confidence is unshakable.

Daily she stalks her prey

And dissuades would be trespassers.  (Never mind the window is there).

Her throne window might even have the dogs persuaded.

I am not unlike my indoor cat.

So much of my life is as a window warrior.

But some say that God, at times, opens windows as if they were doors.

Who does the window warrior become when there is no window to protect them?

 

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Star of Bethlehem, Magi - wise men or wise kin...

I am jumping ahead to what are traditionally the epiphany readings.

Call to worship:

Leader: Expectation is such a difficult experience from which to recover.

People:  It has been, at least, weeks of expectation.  For some of us our expectations linger on.

Leader:  When Mary is no longer expectant she is surprised by what arrives into her life.

People:  Gift-bearing wisdom makes its way.

Leader:  Wisdom is a warp in time.  A place where past and future are conjoined in the present.

All:  Let us worship our God of wise men and women. Amen.

PRAYER OF PRAISE (easily adapted to become a prayer of confession if that is what is needed)

Holy Spirit of intuition and initiative, we praise you for the Christmas offerings of gold frankincense and myrrh presented to the Christ child and thus to us.  May gold remind us of our priceless place as your disciples and thus servants to the world.  May frankincense keep us mindful of our world ever holding others in prayer.  May myrrh leave us courageous enough to give our life and energy into our community for your glory.  May the wise men’s gifts symbolically guide our own lives into the fullness of Christ.  Amen.

 

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Calvin’s Institutes were not a solitary brainstorm or revelation.  Calvin began as a student of Luther and Augustine.  When we consider the issue of God’s grace and how we receive God’s grace, we are essentially considering our own human limitations and how much intention we bring to the development of our faith. The Calvinism that systematized Calvin asserts that we are so completely limited or depraved that we have no real ability to receive what God has to offer and so God provides an irresistible grace that cannot be refused.    In the systematizing of Calvin, Calvin’s own attention to our tenacity and continual striving was neglected.  Charles Partee, in this work The Theology of John Calvin quotes  Calvin’s Institutes (Book II.3.13)  “The grace of persisting in good….is given us in order that we may will, and by will my overcome concupiscence (physical desire or craving)….The original freedom was to be able not to sin;  but ours is much greater, not to be able to sin.” This is not ‘a perfection to come after immortality,’ but connected with human will and God’s grace.'” (133).  Partee invites us to hold a tension that Calvin held.  We are both wonderfully created and profoundly limited.  Wonderfully created by God and profoundly limited in our ability to make our response to God.  But our inability is not overcompensated for by our Creator.  Rather the grace of which Calvin spoke was like a gentle envelopment by the Spirit that allows us to try again to  make a response through the church and worship and is appropriate to the wonder of our God-given nature.

Bruce Epperly in his most important work, Process Theology: A Guide for the Perplexed, has been cited in this short blog series for his critique of Calvinism.  My hope is to distinguish Calvinism from a true appreciation for Calvin’s original intent that there is a place for Calvin’s followers in the world of Process theology.   Essential to process theology is the idea that God’s love and grace is not coercive and manipulative.  Rather God’s grace is persuasive.   Note Epperly’s contrast between John Wesley the individual and Calvinism apart from John Calvin.  “While the impact of inherited sin can never fully be eliminated in an interdependent world, it can be transformed through acts of reconciliation and affirmation.  Although we cannot erase the results of decisions that cause pain for ourselves and others, we can open to the grace that is constantly moving in our lives, seeking in each moment “the best for that impasse.” (Whitehead,  PR, 244)  In the spirit of John Wesley, process theology recognizes the transforming presence of God’s grace in every situation, prior to any efforts on our part.  Unlike the Calvinist tradition, God’s grace is not irresistible and coercive but persuasive and inspirational.  Still, grace is constant in its intimate invitation to claim God’s healing and loving care, inviting people in undramatic and dramatic ways to say ‘yes’ to God’s ‘yes’ over and over again.” (91).

If Calvin is considered distinctly from Calvinism we note that there is much in common with process theology.  The sense that we are created wonderfully but that our responses are sinful and limited.  Additionally there is essential denominator….we are in process with a loving and grace-giving God that does not artificially blanket us with grace.  Rather God provides God’s love and interest into a space [grace]space in which we can strive to be faithful in a way that is at least congruent with God’s original aims and possibilities for our life.  Such grace/space is irresistible!

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It is important to say that throughout all Christianity, there has been very little substantive agreement on the doctrine of atonement.  Take for example, an excerpt from an article in Wikipedia which provides some definition and demonstrates how Calvinists, themselves, can disagree about the particulars of atonement.

The doctrine of the limited scope (or extent) of the atonement is intimately tied up with the doctrine of the nature of the atonement. It also has much to do with the general Calvinist view of predestination. Calvinists advocate the satisfaction theory of the atonement, which developed in the writings of Anselm of Canterbury andThomas Aquinas. In brief, the Calvinistic refinement of this theory, known as penal substitution, states that the atonement of Christ pays the penalty incurred by thesins of men—that is, Christ receives the wrath of God for sins and thereby cancels the judgment they had incurred.

The Calvinist view of predestination teaches that God created a group of people, who would not and could not choose him (see total depravity), to be saved apart from their works or their cooperation, and those people are compelled by God’s irresistible grace to accept the offer of the salvation achieved in the atonement of Christ.

The Calvinist atonement is called definite by some because they believe it certainly secures the salvation of those for whom Christ died, and it is called limited in its extent because it affects salvation for the elect only. Calvinists do not believe the power of the atonement is limited in any way, which is to say that no sin is too great to be expiated by Christ’s sacrifice, in their view. Among English Calvinistic Baptists, the doctrine was usually known as particular redemption, giving its adherents the name Particular Baptists. This term emphasizes the intention of God to save particular persons through the atonement, as opposed to mankind in general as General Baptists believe.

With an atmosphere of general disagreement, a careful consideration of assumptions is required.  Charles Partee’s attention to Book II of the Institutes proves an excellent and careful examination of Calvin’s confession on Christ’s work….further systematized to a doctrine of atonement by Calvinists.  Partee notes that one assumption at work when developing a doctrine of atonement is an artificial separation between God-the-offended and Christ-the-redeemer.  Of great significance, for those who appreciate Calvin apart from Calvinist systematizing, is that Calvin never separated the two.

Rather, Calvin strives to join the two together.  Christ’s work, for Calvin is at least three-fold.  Christ works as  prophet, king and priest.   “Christ as prophet presents God to us; as king Christ rules over us; and as priest he represents God to us.”(163)   Thus, Calvin  has a reconciling emphasis rather than a theory of atonement.  Again, Calvin’s priority, Partee notes, is union with Christ not Christ’s work apart or on behalf of human beings.

As stated in previous blogs, there is a difference between the unsystematized Calvin who is comfortable with tensions and even contradictions and the systematized Calvinist school that rose up out of appreciation for his teachings.   It is not only Partee that believes that Calvin himself offers no real doctrine of atonement.   Kristine A. Culp, in her work, Vulnerability and Glory, attends in detail to Calvin but does not mention the doctrine of atonement in those details.    Instead she explicates Calvin’s belief in the process-oriented work of the church that can be transformational for the person of faith.   Culp hones in on Calvin’s notion of divine accommodation which happens through the vulnerable and imperfect church that faithfully strives to exemplify the work of Christ.  I wonder can her emphasis be brought together with Partee’s?   So, rather than a doctrine of atonement, perhaps Calvin was really presenting a trajectory of reconciliation from the Creator to Jesus to Christ to the church to the seeking individual.  The trajectory may even become a cycle when individuals return energy and praise  to their Creator.  Trajectory implies process.

Process theology is offended by both words “limited” and “atonement”.   We process theologians believe not only in the value of all humanity regardless of denomination or religion, we also believe in the value of all creation. Thus the word limited will not do. Process theology refuses the Calvinists idea of election that God chooses some by privilege or by lottery (this was discussed in “The 2nd Petal of TULIP: Whose Going to Heaven” blog).

Additionally, process theologians do not believe in the substitutionary or satisfaction theories of atonement.  As Epperly notes:  “Contrary to much “orthodox” Christology, process theology contends that God did not want Jesus to die, but desire that the world might believe his message of God’s reign of shalom.  ….Process theology asserts that God truly suffered with Jesus on the cross.  God envisaged a different future for Jesus than rejection and brutality.” (Process Theology:  A Guide for the Perplexed, 73)    Let me close by saying that not only do Calvin and process thought have a common disinterest regarding a doctrine of limited atonement.  They also have a common interest.  This common interest invests in a transformation of the human experience to know a unity with Christ.

Process theology provides a specification to Calvin’s writings on the work of Christ.  “God does not operate from outside of the universe, violating its rules and suspending its laws to achieve God’s purposes; rather God works within all things, joining order, and novelty in achieving God’s vision for the universe and humankind. Process theology affirms that ‘God was in Christ reconciling the world’ (2 Corinthians 5:19).”  (Epperly, 64).   Creative transformation is the term given to process theology by one of its premiere theologians, John Cobb.  Creative transformation is the joining of order and novelty lived out by Jesus of Nazareth emanating throughout the universe in a search for wholeness.

I believe that behind the idea of limited atonement lies a reformer and teacher’s original intent that all would experience unity within the scriptural record of Christ.  Beyond the reformer and teacher, lies process theology’s continue to reform our thinking for greater relevance and faithfulness to God today!

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To see and be seen.

See a sitting President while sitting pretty.

A President sees while sitting from a distance.

Seeing is not observation.  Observation kindles.

A town observes their importance.

A President observes a hodge podge of poverty and middle class.

A town observes their history and future.

A President observes an enduring main street.

A town observes one another anew.

A President observes unlikely people’s readiness.

A presidential call can turn the seeing eye inward.

Spectating becomes insufferable…..

Seeing inward releases adrenaline seeking action.

In this way, a presidential visit becomes an important visit.

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,., decision making

Image by nerovivo via Flickr

When considering which church to go to, we often consider where our friends go.  It is not uncommon in a town, suburb or city, that there are certain churches that are hotspots of activity where folks attend because it is the popular thing to do (social proofing in Whitsitt’s chapter).  We trust our friends because they have listened to and understood us.   They have seen us at our best and our worst.  They have been patient with us as we have struggled to explain and discover who we are.   In my experience, friendship is a very effective gateway for people to examine various churches in which they might begin or restart a faith journey.  However most do not end up committed to a church because it is where their friends go.  Once a person actually commits to a church it is because they experience the church as a trusted friend where discovery of self and purpose is an ultimate value.

From an organizational perspective Whitsitt, in  chapter four of his book Open Source Church, addresses  decision-making from its outer recesses to its inner recesses within the organizational church.  He begins by imagining a risk-avoidant approach to the church as people begin to explore the organized church as hot spots or places of associations.  Then he takes us to the inner sanctum.   As if he were in any one of our board rooms, Whitsitt imagines exceedingly rational participation (cascades of decisions) that bore the most committed participants.  In the end, he suggests forfeiting both reliant and sequential decision-making.  Instead, he encourages an organic and rich decision-making process that allows individuals to discern a robust direction for community.    This decision-making process or method is well-known as the mutual invitation method.

  1. The subject is introduced in a way that everyone in the room has the ability to address it or discuss it.
  2. After the presentation another group member is invited to speak.
  3. That group member invites another….who invites another….who invites another until all have spoken.

The mutual invitation method is known for its ability to build trust in organizations and families.  And a need to trust was the reason we approached the church in the first place.   It is a great example of the  way that the organized church both does its business and allows friends to become family.  The mutual invitation method will ask a lot of leaders because it is not result driven.  Rather it produces clues or  road map for traveling through the great adventure of Christian faith.   I think people STAY committed to church because it remains and adventure and discovery of a living God who knows all about mutual invitation.

Thanks Landon for the reminder,  sometimes forgetting what we know can impede an open source church.

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