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Posts Tagged ‘Emergence’

Change is hard today and I doubt it was any easier at the height of the Roman domination over Judea. After all, codified Judaism had been around for 1250 years since the time of Moses. And Jesus wanted to do what? Build a new structure? A new type of temple? No way.

I Peter 2:5
[Come] and, like living stones, be yourselves built [into] a spiritual house, for a holy (dedicated, consecrated) priesthood, to offer up [those] spiritual sacrifices [that are] acceptable and pleasing to God through Jesus Christ.
[Amplified]

I have written about this before, but it keeps coming up in the epistles. When it finally dawned on the disciples what Jesus was offering, what he was asking of them, it was hugely shattering to their world. One of the reasons the priests and scholars were in an uproar sooner than later was probably due to the fact that they understood exactly what Jesus was proposing. And they would have none of it: blasphemy!

The temple structure would be torn down under the new way. Animal sacrifices would no longer be necessary (the entire commerce that was wrapped around this procedure would fail). The authority of priests would be diminished, their extended families and tribe would be undermined. The temple was a huge operation; it kept a lot of people working and fed.

Jesus, as the cornerstone of a new and “living” way, was rejected for a lot of reasons. It was not about “dullness” of mind or a hard heart.

So, now, it’s been 2000 years plus, and all this time, those who have followed Jesus and spread his message of a new structure, a new way, were supposed to be getting people into the building of spiritual houses where spiritual sacrifices were being made daily. Is this happening? Did we get off the road somewhere?

I look around and it appears to me that we’re building a lot of brick and mortar, just as expansive as the temple of old. Huge budgets, salaries, and programming. People in these settings would be equally reticent to “change.” I’m pretty sure these structures are not particularly necessary to building a spiritual house.

Here’s a list of the types of spiritual sacrifices that are mentioned in scripture (copied from a sermon outline website):

TYPES OF SACRIFICES TO BE OFFERED BY CHRISTIANS…
1. Our bodies, as “living sacrifices” – Ro 12:1-2
2. A lifestyle characterized by sacrificial love – Ep 5:1-2
3. Praise and thanksgiving, which we do in prayer and song – He
13:15
4. Doing good and sharing with others – He 13:16; Php 4:15-18
5. Even in the way we die for the Lord! – Php 1:20; 2:17; 2Ti 4:6

There’s nothing in here about building buildings or huge organizational structures. It’s about our personal behavior, our commitment, our giving of time and energy to God. Now, I know, some people consider their contributions to a local church as the expression of these sacrifices and may be it is.

But I think that’s a bit of a cop-out. So much is put on the leaders of these organizations while the “body” merely pays for it. We are losing our real roles as priests and builders of the structure within.

There are a lot of young and exuberant believers (see tags) who are calling for the same revolution that Peter espoused: to rebuild our spiritual houses on the cornerstone of the Christ.

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Acts 7:33
Then the Lord said to him [Moses], ‘Take off your sandals; the place where you are standing is holy ground…’ [Stephen to the Sanhedrin]

I have always thought Moses was told to remove his sandals because they defiled the ground. But today, as I read this passage, I see something new: it was important for Moses to actually feel that holy place with his feet. There was strength and truth and power that would touch him through the ground, that holy earth spot.

I don’t have much experience, background or tradition of holy places outside the church or in various para-church settings. But I think there would be more experiences if I would open myself to them. I too often cocoon myself away from seeking out holy places.

In the same way that Moses stepped onto holy ground initially in sandals, I clothe myself in tradition and limiting expectations. It’s time to take off my shoes…. again.

Some years ago, I was on the cutting edge of worship. I was listening to the Vineyard and Hillsong and even Maranatha before that. I was standing on the charismatic bandwagon and riding up front. I was dancing and praising and jumping and shaking and laughing. I was speaking in tongues and singing in the spirit. I was prophesying and interpreting. I was on fire.

But I don’t think I was standing in bare feet on holy ground. Not really. I was going through the motions (and emotions) of what it might mean to touch holy ground. Actually, all I did was put on a different pair of shoes than the more traditional churches were passing out to their congregants.

Today, there is another generation of believers who is trying to take off their shoes and experience God’s holiness. For some of us, it’s too different. They are getting their feet very dirty. They are slopping through some weird stuff, but they are persisting through the swamp and on to higher ground. They are loving God and loving Christ Jesus and loving their neighbors. They are emergents like the Emergent Village, they are Christianity 21, they are Catalyst, they are in “conversation.” They are connected virtually and face to face. They are Solomon’s Porch, Apex, House of Mercy, Ooze, Axxess, Sublime Remix, Boaz, Headspace, Cedar Ridge, Water’s Edge, Tribe, Resonance, Three Nails, Mars Hill, and ReIMAGINE, to name just a few. They are embracing Christ in our culture and sharing His relevance with those who have long since worn boots in all the holy and unholy places.

For the naysayers against this new brand of followership, I remind them of Gamaliel, “So in the present case, I say to you, stay away from these men and let them alone, for if this plan or action is of men, it will be overthrown; but if it is of God, you will not be able to overthrow them; or else you may even be found fighting against God.” [Acts 5:38-39]

Lord, take my shoes this day and help me touch holy ground. Give me insight and transforming power. Give me courage to walk in this new place. And maybe, just maybe, I’ll dance again.

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Acts 5:38-39
“Therefore, in the present case I advise you: Leave these men [the apostles] alone! Let them go! For if their purpose or activity is of human origin, it will fail. But if it is from God, you will not be able to stop these men; you will only find yourselves fighting against God.” [Gamaliel speaking]

There are really two messages here. One is for the believers, to trust that projects and plans, if truly within the will and anointing of our God, will remain. They will survive and even thrive. But if not, then it’s important to let go. There are plenty of good things to do. There are plenty of ideas. Move on.

Years ago, I had developed two shows that I toured to churches and para-church organizations. They were a labor of love but somehow, not of the right time. In that era, churches were not set up well for theatrical performances. Both of my pieces had to be adapted constantly in order to make them work in a traditional sanctuary setting. Just the idea of having theater lights was foreign to most church goers or to ask that everything be stripped from the altar area. Those who saw the shows, were moved by them, but it was an uphill battle to find churches willing to open their doors. In today’s more modern settings, my shows would have fit in perfectly. It was simply not the right fit and in the end, I retired them.

When I let go, it was hard. I felt I had failed and totally missed God. But, now, in hindsight, I think they achieved what they were meant to achieve. I learned so much from that process and my immersion in the scriptures during the research and preparation time has served me continually.

The second message of this story about Gamaliel and the Sanhedrin is critical for everyone. An anointed person or group cannot be stopped by “human” pressures or verbal attacks. An authentic faith and presence of God in a life is a bulwark and will prevail. Faith of this magnitude sustained people like Mother Teresa among India’s poor, Elie Wiesel in the concentration camps, Hudson Taylor in China, David Livingstone in Africa, and Martin Luther King, Jr. and Billy Graham in the U.S., to name a few.

But this is also true for well-meaning Christians who try to silence the voices of others in the name of “protecting” the faith. The Sanhedrin also felt they were protecting Israel from heresy.

Currently, there is a movement rising up called Emergent Worship and post-modern thought … some are flaying against these trends. Most of the people who are involved with these movements are under the age of 45… they are of a generation that needs and wants to ask questions, to have their faith be an intrinsic part of their culture and their lives. Personally, I think it’s a good thing. This same kind of ground swell happened when the charismatics and Pentecostals started up 20 and 30 years ago in the face of great consternation. And yet, those movements have been integrated into many churches and church traditions.

My message is simple: be wise and remember Gamaliel’s advice: “…if it is from God, you will not be able to stop these men; you will only find yourselves fighting against God.”

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Act 4:32
All the believers were one in heart and mind. No one claimed that any of his possessions was his own, but they shared everything they had.

This line makes a lot of people uncomfortable. They go to a lot of trouble to explain it away (that was then, this is now). Others go off and start communes and do their best to live in community. In some cases, these communities are successful, but most are not. There has been a resurgence of interest in communal living through the growth of the emergent movement and the next generation of believers.

In any event, it is clear that in New Testament time, that time after Jesus’ resurrection, living and sharing and being of one heart and mind was the norm. This is what people wanted to do. I don’t believe it was mandated, it just happened. It evolved from that moment in their lives. The message of the time was simple: Jesus Christ, the son of God, died on the cross and was raised up. They expected him to return soon as well.

But, in the same way that Jesus was not the Messiah everyone expected, he didn’t return within anyone’s timeline either. At this point in the story, there were upwards to 5,000 believers. What did that look like? How did they really operate in one heart and mind? How did they really live “in community?”

Being in one heart and mind is not easy. There must be trust, sacrifice, compromise, flexibility, cooperation, and love. There must be a rallying point… something everyone can agree upon.

I think it’s our first priority in any relationship: find the parallel. Look for the sphere of agreement, the commonality before addressing any of the differences. With every relationship, there will always be at least one congruence. Let’s start there.

Shakespeare’s Shylock said it most ably:

I am a Jew. Hath not a Jew eyes? hath not a Jew hands, organs, dimensions, senses, affections, passions? fed with the same food, hurt with the same weapons, subject to the same diseases, healed by the same means, warmed and cooled by the same winter and summer, as a Christian is? If you prick us, do we not bleed? if you tickle us, do we not laugh? if you poison us, do we not die?

Perhaps the person is saying: I am a Muslim. I am an African. I am poor. I am gay. I am physically challenged. I am old. I am alone.

Today, I seek oneness in heart and mind.

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Mark 13:34
It’s like a man going away: He leaves his house and puts his servants in charge, each with his assigned task, and tells the one at the door to keep watch.

What is my assigned task? I have been a Christian for 30 years and yet, I’m still asking this question. That’s a bit absurd, I think. I know there are tasks that are assigned to all of us as believers: the great commission and all that. And apparently, I’m not alone in wondering about my particular task or Rick Warren wouldn’t have been able to build an empire on a similar question, “What on Earth am I here for?” and the Purpose-Driven Life.

But I want to play with the house and servant metaphor a little more. It’s important to remember that each servant cares for certain aspects of the house and yet, if properly trained, also pays attention to the “big picture” of the house as a whole. If a servant only tends to one small area and never lifts his/her head to look around, things could get off balance, areas of the house may go unattended for a long time. Who will notice?

And the one at the door? The one whose role it is to watch. What exactly is the watchman watching for? Certainly, the watchman is looking for signs of the returning Master. And the watchman is looking for signs that signal coming danger like the Robot in Lost in Space).

And yet, I am wondering if the watchman has even a greater role: not just to look out on the horizon but also to look inside. Sometimes the danger is within the house when the servants are falling behind in their tasks or become lazy or worse, they become unwilling to come out of the house.

If we never come out of the house, we may not realize that the house could use a refresh… new curtains, updated furniture, a paint job, or a more efficient way to use energy. Without coming outside, we may miss the other people who could help work inside the house, those who could do some renovating and expansions. But of course, that means change. And so often, if we’ve stayed inside the house too long, change is frightening. We get so comfortable inside our house and like it “just the way it is.”

Am I a watchman? Sometimes, I think I am. Or maybe, I’m just a regular little servant girl who has heard the watchman calling… “Come look! Change is coming to the House.”

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