This morning in chapel at the seminary, I was struck by one of the hymns we sang. It’s “Rejoice! Rejoice, Believers”, an Advent hymn which makes reference to the Parable of the Ten Virgins in Matthew 25. The second verse of the song begins “See that your lamps are burning, replenish them with oil.” As we sang, I realized that replenishing, restocking, is an essential part of waiting in expectation for the coming of Christ’s reign. While we are called to be busy going about the work and mission of Christ, we are also called to take time to replenish the oil of our lamps, that we may burn brightly, and not burn out.
Similarly, in this morning’s lectionary readings, Titus 1:7 jumped out at me because it says that church leaders are not to be “self-willed” (NASB95). The Greek is authades, and other translations render it “arrogant” or “overbearing”. Self-willed is an accurate translation, though, because the word refers to the action of seeking what pleases oneself, by implication at the expense of others. How often do pastors and other church leaders burn out because we are too authades? To be a “self-starter” may be a good characteristic in other jobs, but it always becomes dangerous when we are motivated by our own desires. What more appropriate remedy to both self-motivation and burn-out than sabbath rest – the deliberate cessation of all self-willed activity? I want to take this Advent season (and Christmas break) to dwell on this because I’m constantly growing more aware of the places where I operate out of my own desires and where I ignore my need for rest. Thank God that there’s freedom to rest in trusting that Christ is coming.
“Our hope and expectation, O Jesus, now appear!
Arise, Thou Sun so longed for, over this benighted sphere!
With hearts and hands uplifted, we plead, O Lord, to see
The day of earth’s redemption that brings us unto Thee.”
-Laurentinus Laurenti 1700, trans. Sarah Findlater –
Eileen and I led music at The Open Door last night. I was especially excited to help choose songs last night because I wanted to introduce a new song from the Songs for a Revolution of Hope cd. The song was Let Your Kingdom Come, by Brian McLaren and Tracy Howe. I love this song for several reasons: (1) It is a song calling for God to establish justice and peace – not just a song about inward devotion or about pleasant feelings, but about genuine Kingdom life; (2) It is a holistic picture of justice and peace: the lyrics of the verses address poverty, economic sin, violence, war, and care for the earth as God’s creation; (3) it climaxes with a plea for the Kingdom to come and let “every knee bow to the One who was, will be, and is now, and let justice roll, as rivers run, and let death give way to resurrection.” What an amazing blend of Philippians 2 and Amos 5 – both high Christology and holistic salvation!
After the service I told BJ that I don’t really care if people liked how well we sang the song – I just want people to understand and sing passionately songs like it about justice and faith. I hope it will catch on, both at Open Door and at other places, and I pray that God will continue to bless musicians with the ability to write more songs like this.
Last night at Open Door, we were blessed and challenged by an amazing work of art, film, and dance called “Flip the Script”. Stephanie Thiel was inspired to choreograph Flip the Script after first learning about The Invisible Children – children in Northern Uganda who have been abducted and forced to fight for a madman’s rebel army. When I was a senior in college, I wrote a paper for my Religion and Human Rights class about Joseph Kony and the LRA, and the horrific things they do to children. But, last night’s presentation by Stephanie and the other dancers coupled with the clips they showed from the Invisible Children film broke my heart. Seeing an artistic representation of such real pain brings the terror of it home in a way that simply writing a research paper can’t.
If you haven’t seen it yet, get the movie here. Also, on top of supporting Invisible Children , look at SOS Children’s Villages as another organization that’s doing a lot to help the rescued child soldiers. And because we know that prayer is our first step in battle against such evil (2 Cor 10:3; Eph 6:10-20), please pray for these children! Pray: 1) that Joseph Kony would be freed from the demonic influences that have brought led him to do these things, that he would be arrested, and that the LRA would cease in its war against the Ugandan government; 2) that the children who have been abducted and forced to fight for the LRA would begin the process of healing psychologically, physically, and spiritually; 3) that God would bring peace to northern Uganda!
At 3:30 AM last night, I got back from the Association of Presbyterian Mission Pastors Conference in Louisville. Don Dawson took five students from the seminary to this event and it absolutely blew me away. The best part of all was the chance to hear honest voices from the “majority world” – the world outside of western privilege and modernism. Bishop David Zac Niringiye from Uganda challenged us as Americans to seek to do mission in the Spirit, rather that in the flesh. Fleshly mission is when we (i.e. privileged American Christians) barge into other countries, assume we know what they need, throwing money at problems, importing our own western culture instead of respecting the culture of our brothers. Mission in the Spirit, Bishop Zac said, is “finding our brethren.” Instead of typical mission trips, Bishop Zac said Americans should go on “cross-cultural experiences” to listen to the voices of their “co-heirs” in the gospel, their brothers and sisters in Christ. This is was the Associate Anglican Bishop of Kampala speaking honestly, bluntly even, from a post-colonial perspective out of love for his brothers and it was a blessing.
Other highlights and quotes: Tim Dearborn of World Vision saying “We are utterly dangerous in mission if we do not know who we are.”
Bishop Zac: “When I came to America, I could not understand how it’s possible to be an American and a Christian. You are all too comfortable.”
Steve Hayner: “We need fearless humility.”
Karen Sloan and I also got to promote Presbymergent at lunch and dinner on Thursday, and I got to share for three minutes in front of the whole group about what Presbymergent is and how it can help missional pastors and new church developers. When Bishop Zac got up to speak soon after I did, he said with a huge smile “We need a word for emergent Anglicans. Count me as an Emergican.”