Friday, March 25, 2011


It's ironic that I am finally finishing Rob Bell's Velvet Elvis just as the controversy over his new book Love Wins has gotten everyone's attention. It seems that every day I am hearing another person (or group of people) react to Bell's thoughts on reconciling God's love and God's judgment (also ironic, don't you think?) . I can't wait to read it for myself.

At the close of Velvet Elvis, Bell reflects on the early church's role in continuing the renewal (the "putting things back together") that Christ began in his time here on this earth. I was particularly challenged by these words:
"It is important to remember that we rarely find these first Christians trying to prove that the resurrection actually occurred. ...They [early Christians] understood that people are rarely persuaded by arguments, but more often by experiences. Living, breathing, flesh-and-blood experiences of the resurrection community. They saw it as their responsibility to put Jesus' message on display. To the outside world, it was less about proving and more about inviting people to experience this community of Jesus' followers for themselves." (Velvet Elvis, 64)
Those early Christians certainly lived in a different time and place, but I imagine that we faced some of the same challenges. There were competing theologies, cultural oppositions, and enormous obstacles to the reception of their message. What challenges me about these early believers is the evidence that their focus was not on arguing or persuasion, but rather was on living as a resurrection community - on letting the life of Christ determine how they lived together and how they invited others to join in new life.

All of the debates over Bell's new book have really gotten people's attention, but I can't help but wonder how many of the arguments will just end up being distractions (although, I do think many transformative conversations will be had over this book!). As Christ-followers, when will we get it? Arguing about whose right or wrong, in or out, can be great distractions from living out the life and ministry of the One who came to put things back together. What would it look like if we followed the way of these early believers and were ruthlessly dedicated to putting things back as they should be? How much better would the invitation be heard and received?

May it be so in our lives as Christ-followers and in our communities who gather in Christ's name!

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Here we go (again)!

On Sunday night, eighteen of us gathered to participate in our newly forming faith community's first gathering. We met for dinner, prayer and scripture exploration. We talked, we shared concerns, we ate, we listened, we watched as children shared their artistic interpretations of the text. There were also some significant questions asked as we sat at the table together...What drew you to this neighborhood? Where do we go from here? How do we invite people into something that has no definite shape yet? There was enthusiasm mixed with uncertainty.

Tonight at Hendricks Avenue Baptist Church, we gathered to begin another journey. We heard scripture, we sat in silence, we sang, we left with black crosses drawn on our foreheads. There were significant questions asked as we worshiped together...What will be given up in order to make room for new life to take root? How do we remember that we are dust and that to dust we will return? Where do we go from here? There was anticipation mixed with uncertainty.

While we who confess Christ acknowledge our belief in God's ultimate love and care, the ways of God remain a mystery. On Lenten journeys, new church ventures and life's many ebbs and flows, uncertainties abound. Sometimes the best we can do is to live fully into each moment of our lives and to trust that God is with us as we journey on. And, if we are lucky, we can also recognize that all around us are fellow travellers - - and we can begin asking our questions together - -and we can listen, and learn and encourage and wait together in anticipation mixed with uncertainty, in enthusiasm mixed with doubt until we watch as something new and needed begins to emerge.

I hope I am ready for what lies ahead because here we go (again)!