Monthly Archives: March 2010

Spiritual Practices 6 — Guidance

Guidance and Grace

Acts 15.1-21
John 15.26 – 16.4a; 12-15

We’ve been talking about spiritual practices for a few weeks now as a series for Lent. A spiritual practice is something we do intentionally to make space to keep company with Jesus and learn to know him better. Today, we’re talking about guidance or discernment as a spiritual practice. If you look at Richard Foster’s book Celebration of Discipline, you’ll see he has grouped some spiritual practices or disciplines as ‘Corporate Disciplines’.

Corporate disciplines are things we do together. Worship is a corporate discipline; that’s pretty easy to see. But Foster labels the last two spiritual practices that we’ll look at as ‘corporate’. They are guidance and confession.

How are they corporate? Let’s look at that as we come to them. Today, it’s the corporate spiritual practice of seeking God’s guidance.

We need God’s guidance. Sometimes the direction we should take in life just isn’t clear. Perhaps you think of seeking God’s guidance as more of an individual thing. I’d invite you to consider what Foster says: we need to have more direction on searching for God’s guidance in partnership with one another.

We’ve done this already, when we discerned he way forward for our strategic plan, and our vision statement. We sought God’s guidance to come up with priorities for our life, things like increasing a sense of community with the fellowship and reaching out to the neighbourhood outside our walls. We formed our Vision Statement:

Living God’s mission
as disciples of Jesus
united in the Spirit

There’s another obvious case in point for us right now. Is worshipping in the round a good thing or not? Should we continue with it beyond the six month mark?

How do we determine that? Do we listen to the most deafening supporters, or to the loudest complaints? Do we end up doing what we’ve always done? This is often how decisions are made by congregations.

My genuine hope is that whatever we decide about worship in the round, we’ll have learned a great deal about discerning God’s will together through this exercise.

You know, if the people of the early Church had decided on controversial things the way we often do it today, the Christian faith may not have lasted.

We read Acts 15 today. It’s a pivotal New Testament passage which—amazingly—is not in the Revised Common Lectionary. Let’s set the scene. Five chapters earlier, in Acts 10, poor unsuspecting Peter has a vision from God. Oh oh… Three times, a sheet comes down from heaven with all sorts of unclean animals on it. Things like pigs and prawns and oysters. ‘Arise Peter, kill and eat!’ comes the voice from heaven. Peter wouldn’t. He’d never eaten those things before, they were unclean. Then the punch line came: ‘You must not call unclean what God has called clean.’

Then three Gentiles came, people who Peter had always considered unclean. Coincidence? I think not. Peter goes with them to the house of the Roman centurion Cornelius. The Holy Spirit doesn’t even have the manners to wait until Peter has finished proclaiming the good news about Jesus before it falls upon the Gentiles and they speak in tongues and praise God. There’s nothing for it but to baptise them and welcome them into the family, just as we welcomed L and R today.

It was never a foregone conclusion that Gentiles like us would be admitted into the Church of Jesus Christ without first becoming Jews. People were going about saying just that:

Unless you are circumcised according to the custom of Moses, you cannot be saved.

If these people had had their way, the Gospel would never have got to Britain, let alone Australia and Samoa! It wouldn’t have gone there because this was not the Gospel.

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Friday fragments — 12.03.10

How the read the Bible

An excellent downloadable pdf resource from the Uniting Church Working Group on Doctrine, available here.

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Starbucks: lousy coffee, and guns too

At least in most states of the USA.

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‘The God of the philosophers does not exist’

Giles Fraser in an interesting article on faith and atheism, suggesting (correctly in my view) that Christians have been wrong to argue on the basis of philosophy.

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Drive through prayer

When I first saw this article, I thought it was another of those ‘drive-thru communion’ outfits. But people stopping for a few minutes of prayer—that I can see!

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Black deaths in custody

Too, too many.

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‘An atheism you can believe in’?

Ben Myers (of the Faith and Theology blog) has written a very good article on atheism’s role in Christian thinking. It is for Questions of Faith, a blog that Radio National has established to follow the Global Atheist Convention which is starting in Melbourne soon.

In it, it seems to me that he is he speaking about the humility required to discuss ultimate issues — whether one is speaking from a position of faith or unfaith. Often, the picture of God that both sides bring to the discussion is a projection of human fantasies. We need to be delivered from our attachments to this false god, so that we can catch glimpses of the true.

While you’re there, why not subscribe to the RSS feed? It’s a discussion that the followers of Jesus need to be aware of.

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Why not take a seat… somewhere different

We’re in the early weeks of a six-month trial of worshipping in the round. It’s not a radical change; it’s mainly meant bringing the Table forward and moving the side seats around so they face inwards. And rather than being on the platform, the musicians and singers are on the same level, completing the circle. (Why worship in the round? See here.)

Some people have changed where they sit as part of the trial, or are sitting in a variety of places. Genikwa Williams has written about changing where you sit in church; she found it one of those ‘breakthrough’ times. Such a simple thing to do, yet one we resist so often!

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Spiritual Practices 5 — Study

Studying the Scriptures

Acts 17.1-3; 10-12
Luke 10.25-28

I’ve been introducing the sermons in this lenten series on spiritual practices in a similar way for the past few weeks. I told my family I was milking the introduction for all it’s worth. Their feedback suggests I’ve been milking it for more than it’s worth! So all I’ll say by way of introduction is that if you’re putting the spiritual disciplines into practice, and you’re still succumbing to crippling cynicism or to terminal grumpiness, we may need to talk.

Today, we’re talking about study as a spiritual practice. In particular, we’re talking about making room for Jesus as we study the scriptures. We’re talking about our minds and our very selves being remade in the image of Jesus Christ. Continue reading

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Church leaders voice concerns over wellbeing of asylum seekers on Christmas Island

The Uniting Church President, Al Macrae, and the Anglican Archbishop of Perth, Roger Herft, have just returned from a visit to asylum seekers on Christmas Island:

Rev. Macrae described the facilities as “basic but adequate for short-term needs. Accommodation overcrowding was clearly evident.” Rev. Macrae said, “It is disturbing to approach the detention centre, which is surrounded by a high fence topped with electrified wire. It looks like a high security prison.”

“Asylum seekers being processed at a reasonable speed appeared to be happy enough,” said Rev. Macrae, “however there is a high level of anxiety amongst those whose cases have taken longer to process. Those most distressed have been detained on Christmas Island for seven to eight months and more.”

The Uniting Church in Australia is a strong advocate for closing the detention centre on Christmas Island and processing asylum seekers on the mainland. While recognising the Detention Centre is unlikely to be closed in the short term, Rev. Macrae called for families and unaccompanied minors to be immediately transferred to the mainland for processing. “There is no reasonable justification for vulnerable children to be held in such a remote facility,” he said.

Read the full article at UnitingJustice Australia.

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Friday fragments — 05.03.10

Mosque helps out local church

A church in Ilford, Essex, had its £600 Christian Aid Week collection stolen. The money was replaced by members of the neighbouring mosque, who had already donated to the cause.

I love this kind of story; pity it doesn’t get wider coverage.

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Global Atheist Convention

Andy Hamilton confesses that he is looking forward to the Global Atheist Convention in his town, Melbourne,  ‘with the same tempered gloom that would descend upon me if an international convention of Christian evangelists came to town’. He has written an interesting and thoughtful piece, in part saying

The wellsprings and justification for religious faith, and for other foundational views of life, are to be found in qualities of human experience that are not susceptible to large, knockdown and narrow arguments. Faith in God and in humanity, is rooted in experiences of wonder, questioning, desire and invitation that are delicate and not easily framed in simple argument.

Powerful arguments can and should be built for faith, but the experience on which they are built needs clarification, not codification; amplification, not reduction; ruminative conversation, not assertion.

In conversation we can tease out the subtleties of our intuitions, and the ways in which we account for the beauty and the complexities of our world. We can explore why people find religious faith persuasive, and also come to see how people put together their lives and their world without it.

Go and read more at Eureka St.

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Over 99.9% of young people don’t use heroin

I’m impressed by the young people I see around me.  ASBO Jesus agrees; see this fabulous cartoon.

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Stations of the Cross for the rest of us

Lent is well under way, Holy Week a few weeks away. This is a helpful article as we journey on the way.

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Levitical Law for the home

Hilarious. Here’s a taste:

Of the beasts of the field, and of the fishes of the sea, and of all foods that are acceptable in my sight you may eat, but not in the living room. Of the hoofed animals, broiled or ground into burgers, you may eat, but not in the living room. Of the cloven-hoofed animal, plain or with cheese, you may eat, but not in the living room. Of the cereal grains, of the corn and of the wheat and of the oats, and of all the cereals that are of bright color and unknown provenance you may eat, but not in the living room. Of the quiescently frozen dessert and of all frozen after-meal treats you may eat, but absolutely not in the living room. Of the juices and other beverages, yes, even of those in sippy-cups, you may drink, but not in the living room, neither may you carry such therein. Indeed, when you reach the place where the living room carpet begins, of any food or beverage there you may not eat, neither may you drink.

h/t Seven Whole Days

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