Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Prayer & The Body

I've been thinking a lot lately about our bodily posture in prayer and worship. Most of the people that I talk to tend to think that our posture doesn't matter in these actions, but I'm beginning to think otherwise. It seems to me that this devaluing of our posture in prayer and worship is simply another aspect of our devaluing of the Body in general in our culture. It is another detrimental aspect of our dualistic cast of mind. Position and posture seems very important in other traditions - I'm wondering if we may be missing something here. What do you think? Does our position and posture in prayer matter? Does this reflect our general attitude toward the body? Just thinkin'...until next time - Blessings in Christ ~ RLS

Thursday, June 21, 2007


I've been doing a lot of reading by and about T. F. Torrance lately. I thought I would offer a couple of quotes that struck me, coming mainly from his sermon material, rather than the intricate academic work that he's most known for. These quotes come from T. F. Torrance: An Intellectual Biography by Alister McGrath.

“Why is it then that the cross has become the dearest and the most sacred emblem of the Christian faith, the religion of love? Why does it produce saints, when, it seems, it ought to produce skeptics? This is the fact of the matter: – Put God in heaven and Jesus on the cross allowed to die, and you destroy your faith, for you cannot believe in a God who allowed that. On the other hand, it makes us utterly despair of man, for if that is what we have done, what hope is there of the world ever living in love and brotherhood after this war? But (and this is the Gospel) put God on the cross and you alter the whole situation, for then the cross is not the picture of God’s unconcern or careless disregard. Rather it is the picture of God’s utmost concern, nay, a picture or his actual intervention in the affairs of men, for it means that God Almighty has come down into the midst of human sin and shame, not only to bear our sin, but to destroy it for ever. That is the incomprehensible cast and design of his glory, that in the cross we have the invasion of God striking in desperate anguish at the heart of evil.” This comes from a sermon he gave as a military Chaplin during WWII.

“There are too many people in the church who are only religious. Their religion consists simply in a belief in God – and in the end it doesn’t matter very much what God they believe in. Theirs is simply a bare religion with not much room for Jesus Christ in it. Why is it that so many people are apt to be content with a bare religion with only a creator for their God? Why is it that so many people in modern times are apt to be Unitarian, whether in explicit faith or in virtual practice? It is because in Jesus Christ, God comes too near them – and they only want a God that is far-off and distant. It would spoil their selfish enjoyment; it would mean a radical alteration in their way of life; it would cost too much; hurt too much, to have a God so close to them that he had come down into the world and become man.” This is from a sermon given during his parish ministry at Alyth.

I'm afraid that this is still a major issue in Western Protestant churches these days. We are not Christocentric in practice and we have yet to fully grasp the significance of the Incarnation. To this day we continue to separate the Person and the Work of Christ and don't really have a Christocentric and Trinitarian vision. Lord, have us in our weakness. "Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight and the sin that clings so closely, and let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus the pioneer and perfecter of our faith, who for the sake of the joy that was set before him endured the cross, disregarding its shame, and has taken his seat at the right hand of the throne of God." Until next time - Blessings in Christ ~ RLS

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Ark Almighty

The movie isn't out yet so we have to wait to see how the modern day Noah story is portrayed. It is interesting to me how the biblical narrative is still deeply ingrained in our collective conscience - even though we live in a generally biblically illiterate society. One illustration of this - as Leno was interviewing Wanda Sykes about her role in this movie he called the main character in the story Moses and even though it was probably an accident, no one corrected him. I wonder how many people actually noticed the mistake. Kind of ironic that he makes fun of people for not knowing similar things in his "Jay Walking" bit. Reminds me of a Campolo story, but I'll save it for another day. At least the movie makers recognized the inherent comedy in the story of Noah's Ark that we often overlook or ignore.

Anyway, a friend shared this new site with me that is a online board for posting needs within your congregation - the idea is to pair the needs with someone who might be able to meet those specific needs. Check it out The interesting thing is that John Goodman is their spokes person (I didn't even know that Goodman was a Christian) and then there are advertisements for the Evan Almighty all over the place. It seems like a good resource...would you use it in your church? And do these things indicate any general shifts in our society? If you go to see the movie, let me know what you think about it. Until next time - Blessings ~ RLS

N.B. I just noticed that Mike King was invited along with other KC area pastors to preview the movie early and he gave it a pretty high review on his blog: Evan Almighty Review

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Simple Isn't Easy

Some folks have the misguided notion that simple = easy. I can see how one might become confused because of the semantic range of these words in the English language, but in reality nothing could be further from the case...simple is anything but easy, especially when we're talking about the simple life or the simple church.

Simplicity is closely connected to beauty, purity, and truth - these concepts do not necessarily relate closely with "ease". The centrality of simplicity is recognized in both science and theology - which is essentially our knowledge and articulation about the empirical world and our knowledge and articulation of the Lord God as He has revealed Himself to us, respectively.

A Wikipedia article on simplicity talks about its importance for science, epistemology, and theology:

"According to Occam's razor, all other things being equal, the simplest theory is the most likely to be true — hence the importance of the concept of simplicity in epistemology. According to Thomas Aquinas, God is infinitely simple.

Members of the Religious Society of Friends (Quakers) practice the Testimony of Simplicity, which is the simplifying of one's life in order to focus on things that are most important and disregard or avoid things that are least important."

The reality is that simplicity requires acute attention, meditation, and focus. These qualities are becoming increasingly difficult in our ADHD world. Our thought and attention is torn in various directions and we're left with complex fragmentation. The same phenomenon has taken place in many modern congregations. We've allowed so many things to divert our attention that we begin to forget who we are and why we exist as a body - we are, then, easily broken apart, which only reflects the brokenness of sin and death.

We must return to the simplicity of our being and activity that we might become authentic expressions of beauty and truth - living icons of the Kingdom. As the famous physicist, Richard Feynman, once said, "You can always recognize truth by its beauty and simplicity." I wonder how many see the truth in our various Christian communities today?

The difficulty comes in maintaining an appropriate vision and focus...not only for oneself, but with the entire community. In leadership, another difficulty is disappointing people by having to say "No" quite a lot because their great idea or program would simply distract us from our real reason for existence. Ultimately, we are trying to help people understand that we're shaped by an eschatological vision embodied in the Living Christ...that is, we are constantly pointing away from ourselves toward Him. Focusing on Christ may be simple, but it's certainly not easy.

How then do we keep this simple focus? What are other ways that we might become simple or maintain simplicity within the Christian community today? Those aren't rhetorical questions, I'd really like to hear your thoughts. Until next time - Blessings in Christ ~ RLS

Tuesday, June 5, 2007

Simple Church

Change seems to be the only constant in this world. Heraclitus determined this long ago when he said, around 500 BC, that "you can't step into the same river twice." He believed the basic principle of the world was "fire and flux" or as he said, "Everything flows and nothing stands still" - constant change.

That certainly seems to be the case these days. Change is happening at a faster rate than at any other time in history. This rapid change tends to make life rather complex and convoluted. On top of that, we're confronted with vast amounts of information coming at the speed of light - all at our fingertips. The world is becoming smaller, by that we mean that we are more aware of things going on all over the world. We're forced to process more and more and more information. At times, it is almost enough to make you want to yell at the top of your lungs, "Stop!! Stop, for a second and let me catch my breath."

Sometimes we just want to get off of the information take a find peace and true Sabbath rest. I've discovered that there is a strong desire among many in these complex days to find a sense of simplicity again. This is a reaction against our all consuming culture, and the church should be leading the way. However, it seems that more often than not, life in contemporary Christian community only complicates things further - rather than bringing focus, direction, and simplicity to our lives.

It seems to me that the primary purpose for the tangible Christian community is to carry out God's mission as the Body of Christ by being/becoming Christlike disciples and inviting others to join us in the journey. We are supposed to be an authentic expression of God's Kingdom - bearing witness to our true identity and the real reality. But, we tend to get easily distracted...I think we've got a bad case of ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder). We need to refocus on Christ and return to simplicity.

How do we do that? What does it look like?

That is the conversation that we're having these days, in response to the simple church movement, which is closely related to the emergent church, organic church, and house church movements. There is a good wikipedia article on the simple church here. Our staff is reading this book together as one foray into that conversation. But, I'd also like to hear your feedback. What's your response to these movements or to the state of Christianity in the United States these days. Should we return to simplicity...if so, what does that look like? Until next time - Blessings in Christ ~ RLS