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Posts Tagged ‘holy’

Sometimes we experience some unplanned things. That describes how I met Gwendolyn. I suspect our relationship is over, in all, it lasted about twenty minutes. It was about 9:30am on Thursday morning. I had just walked out of FedEx on Paxton Street and was busy plugging my phone into the cigarette lighter when there was a knock on the window. I rolled the window down and could hear her already talking. Unable to catch everything she was saying, I heard her apologizing for upsetting me and messing up my day. At the same time she was saying something about being pregnant and getting out of the hospital and hitching a ride to get here.

I stopped her to ask what she wanted. She said she wanted to go home. I asked if she needed a ride to the train or to the bus station. She said she lived in town and I told her to jump in.

She did and I introduced myself. She told me her name was Gwendolyn and repeated she was pregnant, had been in the hospital, and had hitchhiked this morning. She then told me she hadn’t eaten and asked for a couple of dollars. I told her I don’t usually carry cash but we both noticed that I used the cigarette lighter as a change holder. I told her she might find a couple of dollars there.

She did not waste time and by the time we turned onto her street she had a hand full of change, claiming there was almost fifteen dollars there. She asked if we could turn around and go to the bank. At this point I am not believing Gwendolyn’s story and thought strongly about saying, “No, we agreed I would take you home” and “I thought we agreed on a couple of dollars.”

But there she was, in the car, hands full of change, and I’ve been reading I Thessalonians. This is a letter that strongly encourages love. This letter encourages living with a holy heart. I remember thinking that might have something to do with Gwendolyn.

Twenty minutes from the time I met her, it was over. We met on Paxton, stopped at a bank on Thirteenth Street, and I dropped her off at a place that I suspect was not really her house. As she climbed out, Gwendolyn turned to say “Thank you Randy, you are an angel.” And I begin to think this short friendship was not for Gwendolyn’s benefit at all – but for mine. Probably because God wants me to have a holy heart.

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Missio Alliance is an ecumenical group that does not want to avoid the challenges of living as the church in the twenty first century. Because of that, they continue to make a serious effort to host conversation about how the church can engage in mission in a postmodern world. Many things are worth repeating following their recent gathering “Awakenings: The Mission of the Spirit as the Life of the Church.” Some of them are included below.

The conference began with conversation on “The Holy Spirit: Our Forgotten God.” The reasons we could forget the Spirit may be numerous but Todd Hunter suggested these reasons may include the explicit gospel we grew up with does not mention the Holy Spirit. And he thinks we equate the Spirit with weirdness and try to separate ourselves from that. Hunter reminds us the Spirit could be grieved by wacky excess or by being ignored. He concludes by telling us it was Jesus who said “it is better that I go away…” And that to be the people of God is to be connected to the Spirit.

Over the course of the gathering we were encouraged to look at the Spirit from different angles and through the lens of different traditions. This was a helpful exercise. Throughout we were in agreement that the Spirit intends to strengthen the church by the gifts of the Spirit and the fruit of the Spirit. The Spirit has no interest in promoting individual advancement. The Spirit is not interested in hierarchy, but unity. Not celebrities or heroes but community.

We cannot reduce the Spirit to mere gifts. To reduce the work of the Spirit to individual gifts is to miss the point. The Spirit is always about the Body. And the Holy Spirit is not only about the Holy Spirit. This is about God. And God in relationship. Trinity gives us a fuller picture of God. It was N. T. Wright who mentioned the Spirit weaves us into God’s poem. Some of us may be sonnets or haikus or limericks to help the world imagine His new creation. We are his workmanship, the masterpiece of the Spirit.

Other things I find scribbled in my notes include;

-There is a vast difference between believing something and living in the narrative of the people of God.

-From the day of Abraham it is evident that the people called to provide the solution are part of the problem.

-God gave the church the bi-vocation of worship and mission.

-The church is not the manager of the guest list, but the welcome committee.

-Church cannot be reduced to a utilitarian tool, it is a relational entity.

-The tabernacle is a small working model of new creation. God dwells here. We are the tabernacle people, the Spirit dwells within us.

-God is shaping the church to be someone who will show the world what Jesus is like.

-The church is following Jesus into the future, no matter what is out there.

A big thank you to Missio Alliance for this conversation!

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We know the church was created by a holy hand. Yet we look around on any given Sunday and it is easy to overlook the holiness. Can we say this gathering is better behaved than those outside? Are they better looking? Do they possess more skills? Are they more likely to succeed? How then, are we to ever remember this is a holy people?

This collection of people may not look like much. They may not be thinking they shake holy hands on the way through the door, or that their own hands are holy. They may need reminded again of the sacrifice that gives them life. They may not remember they are dripping grace into their bodies when they eat the bread and drink the cup. They may not recognize the image of God shining from the faces of others or be aware it shines from their own.

Yet here we are again, gathering to be in the presence of a God who hides in the bush until He sets it afire so that we may find Him. We are gathering in the presence of a gusty God who blows where He wills. We are gathering in the presence of a God who hides swaddled in a stable to catch us unaware.  We are gathering in the presence of a holy God who knows what it is to hide in flesh, the place we try to hide each day.

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It is safe to say that no one expected what happened on Pentecost Sunday. This reminds me of something I recently read. God’s name is often Reliability. Yet, according to Walter Brueggemann, “God’s other name is Surprise.” Perhaps on Pentecost Sunday we could say that God’s name is Holy Surprise.

The name Pentecost suggests “fifty” and makes certain that we are aware this day is connected to other parts of the story. This is not a stand-alone day in history, it occurs precisely fifty days after the previous holy day. Pentecost pulls us into an unpredictable, yet ongoing adventure that is guaranteed to be full of surprise.

It is of interest that the first thing that happens is a sermon. Peter preaches from a text that claims children will prophesy, the old will dream, and the young will see visions. The Spirit, according to the text, will be poured on anyone and everyone who calls on the name of the Lord. It is safe to say that no one expected this interpretation of the words of the prophet in this place and on this day. The one thing that does not surprise us is that so many times we explore things that matter and we find that a prophet has already been there.

The very nature of Pentecost reminds us that we cannot forecast God’s next move. We know we are waiting for something; perhaps instruction, courage or closure. And then we get violent winds, tongues of fire, and a language miracle. We cannot think we now have God figured out, we do not know what He may do next. I am somewhat surprised we do not fortify our worship structures or wear hard hats or safety goggles or have the fire department on standby. After all, it is Pentecost Sunday and we may be in for Surprise.

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Another lap through Holy Week and we are here at Easter.  We cover the spectrum of emotions during this week.  Walking through the Gospel we may experience confusion, misunderstanding, fear, despair, heartbreak.  The Gospels do not edit out emotions of sadness.  Those who felt them, those who said the words, and those who committed the deeds all remain part of the story.  Enemies, betrayers, deniers, and executioners are not glossed over.  The Gospel hands us a palm branch, bread and cup, and a view of the cross.  Holy week is meant to evoke emotion.  The Gospel desires that we experience them all.

We also experience joy and hope.  At Easter we experience the empty tomb.  We experience His return to life.  We experience His victory over death.  We experience His presence with us.  Sometimes when we think of following Jesus we try to pick and choose the emotions that are part of the story.  The Gospels already give us a full gamut of emotions involved.  We may be tempted to think that we should feel only the ecstasy of Sunday morning, but the Gospels want us to experience a week’s worth of emotion.  To do anything else is to fail to take the story seriously.

Whether you worship in the shadows with somber readings and increasing darkness on Good Friday or in the cemetery on Easter Sunday by blowing the shofar and declaring again that He is risen, may you experience the whole story.

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