Wednesday, December 31, 2008

200 Words #5: Inwardly Digest his Holy Scriptures

DNA of a Maturing Church:

200 Words #5: Inwardly Digest his Holy Scriptures:
Anglicans use great verbs like ‘Hear’, 'Read’, ‘Mark’, ‘Learn’, and ‘Inwardly digest'?

The Bible says a lot about itself, but not for itself. It claims to be living, like your heart. And infallible, making the believer wise for salvation. It is more life-giving than bread. It’s a torch (guiding feet); a scalpel (dividing soul from spirit); rain (yielding crop). It is narrative; history; poetry; prophecy; each announcing (and sometimes questioning) bold truth. It is Revelation, from cover to cover revealing Jesus.

God doesn't merely dictate the Bible. He breathes it. It is Spiritual Food to be digested, sometimes bitter; sometimes sweet. If God removed his Prophetic Word, it would be worse than a sub-Saharan food crisis.

It is a risk from God: open to misinterpretation and twisting. It is ‘Christianity’s Dangerous Idea’. So we need to read it, more and everywhere. But most of all, in Church. Old and New Testaments. Psalm. Gospel. (Do we shamefully read it less than liturgical liberals do?)

The prayer is that the Word might dwell among us, richly.

Tell me, is 'inwardly digest' tautology? Is it possible to 'outwardly digest’? Perhaps the Ancients chose tautology as the only way to push past stubborn hearts.
Discuss.

NEXT: Promote Preaching with Gravitas.

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Scripture references, either click on the yellow links, or by clicking HERE.
(Hebrews 4:12, 2 Timothy 3:15, Deuteronomy 8:3, Psalm 119:105, Hebrews 4:12-13, Isaiah 55:10-11, Habakkuk 1:1-3, John 5:37-40, 2 Peter 1:19-21, 2 Timothy 3:16-17, Hebrews 5:12, Revelation 10:9-10, Psalm 119:103, Amos 8:11-12, 2 Peter 3:15-16, Deuteronomy 6:4-9, Colossians 3:16.)
Pics on Flickr by YanivG.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Movie Review: Slumdog Millionaire.

Please see it. Now.

Thank you.

(P.S. I must send you to my friend Brandon Fibb's Review of Slumdog on Christianity Today, and also his own Movie Review website.)

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Sermon Audio: A Sword will Pierce Your Soul (Simeon)

CLICK HERE (or right click to download) a Sermon from yesterday on Luke 2:22-38. My friend Jim does the reading, and then John Mason leads a creed, and the sermon starts 4 minutes in.

In that text, Simeon says to Mary, almost as an afterthought,
Behold, this child [Jesus] is appointed for the fall and rising of many in Israel, and for a sign that is opposed (and a sword will pierce through your own soul also), so that thoughts from many hearts may be revealed.
"A Sword will pierce your soul". Heavy. I explore those words. And hear why Comfort comes through Conflict; Peace through Pain, and Resurrection through Death.

Oh, and here is Frederick Buechner on Simeon in 'Peculiar Treasures':
Jesus was still in diapers when his parents brought him to the Temple in Jerusalem ‘to present him to the Lord’ (Luke 2:22), as the custom was, and offer a sacrifice, and that’s when old Simeon spotted him.

Years before, he’d been told he wouldn’t die till he’s seen the Messiah with his own two eyes, and time was running out. When the moment finally came, one look through his cataract lenses was all it took. He asked if it would be all right to hold the baby in his arms, and they told him to go ahead but be careful not to drop it.

‘Lord, now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace, according to thy word, for mine eyes have seen thy salvation,’ he said, the baby playing with the fringes of his beard. The parents were pleased as punch, and so he blessed them too for good measure. Then something about the mother stopped him, and his expression changed.

What he saw in her face was a long way off, but it was there so plainly he couldn’t pretend. 'A sword will pierce through your soul,' he said.
He would rather have bitten off his tongue than said it, but in that holy place he felt he had no choice. Then he handed her back the baby and departed in something less than the perfect peace he’d dreamed of all the long years of his waiting.
Tidy.

Listen HERE.

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Sunday, December 28, 2008

200 Words #4: Proclaim and Promote his Holy Gospel.

The DNA of a mature church in 200 Words:

#4: A Church that Proclaims and Promotes his Holy Gospel.

They say one must 'preach the gospel to yourself’, since the ‘eu-angel’ removes my guilt through Jesus my Saviour, evoking in me both humility and confidence. ‘We are more sinful than we imagined, more loved than we dreamed’.

However, the Scriptures reveal a Gospel about Jesus, not me. The earliest preachers preached thus: ‘This Jesus (whom you crucified) has been raised as Lord’. This is eu-angelion: Grand News. Jesus (not Caesar) is Lord and Judge of the quick and the dead. He is the image of the invisible God, through whom and for whom all things were created and will find their sum.

What makes this grand news, good news? There will be peace and justice. What makes this grand news, personal news? That in love, this Messiah died for me, to bring me to God. Yes, the one to whom I submit loves with an everlasting love.

Not everyone is an Evangelist, but the global plan is that the Church spreads this evangel. She hopes in Jesus, preaches him crucified, declares him Lord, calls for repentance. She prays and pays its way. She walks worthy of and acts in line with its truth.

Try preaching that only to yourself.
Discuss.

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Scripture references can be read by clicking on the yellow links, or on one page by clicking HERE. (Acts 2:36, Colossians 1:15, 1:16, Ephesians 1:9-10, Isaiah 9:7, Galatians 2:20, 1 Peter 3:18, Jeremiah 31:3, 1 Timothy 1:1, 1 Corinthians 2:2, Colossians 4:3, 1 Timothy 5:17-18, Philippians 1:27, Galatians 2:14.)
Pic on Flickr by SeenyaRita.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

200 Words #3: Born of and Empowered by the Spirit.


The DNA of a mature church in 200 Words:

#3: A Church Born of and Empowered by the Spirit.

Go outside, and feel the wind against your face.

What happened? Chances are you felt a breeze and saw trees swaying. But you neither saw the wind, nor had any power over it.

Let’s be bold: If you do not belong to Christ, then that breeze is as close to the Holy Spirit as you are ever.going.to.get.

That’s how Jesus explained ‘The New Start’ to Nicodemus. Alluding to Ezekiel, Jesus declared God as the agent of salvation: breathing life into the dead; giving new starts to sinful lives; bringing hope to those ‘cut off’. You can’t see him, nor control his grace, but his work is evident.

The Spirit is God, and yet he proceedeth from the Father and the Son. God does not orphan children. So he convicts. He intercedes. He comforts. He teaches. He empowers. He slices the heart. He decants God’s Love in Christ.

Consider another wind-like moment: Pentecost, the birth of the Church. There, typical of the Spirit, the crucified Jesus is proclaimed ‘Lord’, sinners convicted and called to repentance.

If a church is not empowered, proclaiming Christ as Lord, then it should meet outside. The breeze will be as close to God as it will.ever.get.
Discuss.

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Scripture references can be read by clicking on the yellow links, or on one page by clicking HERE. (Romans 8:9, John 3:1-8, Ezekiel 36:22-32, Ezekiel 37:8-10, Ezekiel 37:11-12, Ezekiel 37:23, 1 Corinthians 2:9-11, John 14:16-18, John 16:7-11, Romans 8:26-27, Acts 9:31, 1 Corinthians 12:11, Ephesians 6:16-17, Romans 5:5, Acts 2:1-3, Acts 2:36-38).
Pic on Flickr by Ben.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

200 Words #2: Love and Serve Jesus.

The DNA of a mature church in 200 Words:

#2: A Mature Church will grow to Love and Serve Jesus.
'Decisions are made by those who show up.' Presence, according to Jed Bartlett, counts.

From ancient times, God promised to 'show up', (with gravitas, naturally: 'The LORD your God will come.')

God promised to come to his temple; to ‘bare his holy arm, bringing salvation’; and that his feet would 'stand on the Mount of Olives'. The ancients believed that God would come to his temple, but not on an actual donkey. Nor that his holy arm, bared, could have actual hands. Nor that he his feet, standing, could be pierced.

Jesus prayed for the Father’s will to be ‘done on earth, as in heaven’. It turns out that Jesus is God’s will embodied ‘on earth, as in heaven’. He preached the Kingdom, bound the brokenhearted, and promised wrath for the faithless.

Like Father, like Son.

John says God ‘pitched his tent among us’. But we are not happy campers: ‘he came to his own, and his own disowned him’.

And yet there is method in the madness: In giving his life, he beat the path to an impossible door: His Kingdom, with justice met and grace received.

And raised as Messiah, he requires one thing: YOU. (And your knees!)

:)
Discuss.

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  • Scripture references can be read by clicking on the yellow links, or in one page by clicking HERE. (Isaiah 35:4, Malachi 3:1, Isaiah 52:10, Zechariah 14:3-4, Matthew 6:10, Matthew 4:17, John 3:36, John 1:11-14, Mark 10:23-27, Philippians 2:8-11)
  • Pic on Flickr by Yousef Al-Asfour

Friday, December 19, 2008

200 Words #1: Glorify and Fear the One True God

Just some kite flying on what the DNA of a mature church might be. So in 200 Words:

#1: A Mature Church will grow to Glorify and Fear the One True God
Jesus doesn't tell us what the Pearl of Great Price actually is. All we know is that when a merchant saw one 'of great value’ he put all his eggs into one basket. We are not told if the merchant is God (who gave his son), or one of his followers. But we know that the Kingdom is made up of those who sell everything when they witness great value.

God is of supreme value.

God is Father, Son and Spirit. We worship one God in Trinity, and Trinity in Unity, and he invites us into this relationship. God is fierce; you’d be smart to fear him who can bring hell to both body and soul. God is tender, healing legs, and teaching his people to walk. God is Spirit, and will be worshiped in Spirit and in Truth.

No one in John's Heaven is bored day and night singing: Holy, holy, holy. No one joining the myriads of myriads of angels complain that the Lord God (and not them) is worthy to receive glory, honour and power. And there is one reason: They did not create Heaven and Earth.

We are not the Pearl of Greatest Price.

God is.
Discuss, with reference to the church.

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  • These are 200 words about God, and his church in his world. As I said before, these posts are not about not about cultural engagement, and this is not a vision statement for York St. I'll need to touch down in Sydney before I start that!
  • Scripture references can be read by clicking on the yellow links, or in one page by clicking HERE. (Matthew 13:45-46, Romans 8:32, Matthew 10:28, Matthew 11:5-6, Hosea 11:3-4, John 4:24, Revelation 4:1-11).
  • Pic on Flickr by Will Humes.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

200 Words: What's in the DNA of a healthy Church?

I have been thinking, and talking, and praying. And now I wish to start blogging about a possible way forward for the northern end of the city of Sydney, for those who live and work somewhere near York St. That way, my gentle readers might help me in my planning and praying for this stunning city. Some may even wish to join us in this adventure.

I'm calling the series: 200 Words. You can read the series as it unfolds HERE.

And think of these posts like kites: let's just see if any fly.

First, if you are out of the loop, then read my post about moving from über-urban Manhattan to downtown Sydney.

Now, I know that no one really can, but I would like to start a vision from scratch. I'd like a Tabula Rasa if ever one existed, so that we could write only new and fresh things on it, trying to reach the lost as we love the city.

But (and here is a trustworthy saying and worthy of full acceptance), none of us start from scratch. Not even the church planters. None of us have a Tabula Rasa. The slate is not blank. Jesus has already written on the slate in his gospel. It is his church, not ours. And he has revealed his will in the Holy Scripture.

And more, the saints who are already serving in York St have been planning, and praying, and serving and reaching the city long before I will arrive, and long after I go (God willing). And so I will need to listen closely to those who are already serving Jesus from York St.

And even more, though some of my readers struggle with this, many of you are not a blank slate denominationally either: you are Anglican. And York St is Anglican, and I am one too. There are things we do, and its worth embracing what we have been given.

That having been said, I am beginning to conceptualize what a mature and vital church might look like and be like in the city of Sydney. Partly for my own benefit, and partly so that I will have good things to discuss when I arrive in Sydney.

I want to start my thinking, though, not with pragmatics, nor with a plan, nor with a profile of a city worker or dweller. This is not yet about cultural engagement. And this is not a vision statement for York St, or anything so specific.

I want to start with the broad vision of truths that matter.

I scribed these 20 points fairly quickly a few days ago. It's not exhaustive, and there is overlap. And I'll want to bring them down to only a few things in the end.

But this is kite flying, right?

I plan to write 20 posts (200 words a post) on the following 20 matters in the lead up to Christmas. Would that interest you? Would that be worth a read?

So, my question: what needs to be in the DNA of a church like York St? I'd say that a mature church needs to:
  1. Glorify and Fear the One True God
  2. Love and Serve Jesus.
  3. Be Born of and Empowered by the Spirit.
  4. Proclaim and Promote his Holy Gospel
  5. Inwardly Digest his Holy Scriptures
  6. Promote Preaching with Gravitas.
  7. Provide for both Sacraments
  8. Build and Serve Christ's Body
  9. Have a outward Kingdom Orientation
  10. Passionately Worship God.
  11. Appreciate Historic Anglicanism
  12. Submit to Discipline and Holiness
  13. Be Informed by Hope
  14. Love and Engage God's World
  15. Take Joy in Creation
  16. Live Generously and Hospitably
  17. Bind the poor and brokenhearted
  18. Express Joy
  19. Value Art, Literature, Music and Creativity
  20. Promote Productivity and Work
I know prayer isn't explicit there (but it is implicit). But then I liked what Packer said about prayer.

Discuss.

What's missing? What should be taken out? Say your piece now, before I write on each topic.

You can read the series as it unfolds HERE.

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Friday, December 12, 2008

Hubble Space Telescope Advent Calendar

It's been busy season for us, as you can imagine: hence my cut'n'paste Blog posts. But I want my gentle readers to know that we are still here. So, in that spirit, I offer you the Hubble Space Telescope Advent Calendar 2008.

Click HERE.

How majestic is our God? And how kind, that he would notice a man at all?
3 When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers,
the moon and the stars, which you have set in place,
4 what is man that you are mindful of him,
and the son of man that you care for him?
And more on Advent: From Whistling in the Dark, writer Frederick Buechner shares his idea of Advent -
The house lights go off and the footlights come on. Even the chattiest stop chattering as they wait in darkness for the curtain to rise. In the orchestra pit, the violin bows are poised. The conductor has raised his baton. In the silence of a midwinter dusk, there is far off in the deeps of it somewhere a sound so faint that for all you can tell it may be only the sound of the silence itself. You hold your breath to listen. You walk up the steps to the front door. The empty windows at either side of it tell you nothing, or almost nothing. For a second you catch a whiff of some fragrance that reminds you of a place you’ve never been and a time you have no words for. You are aware of the beating of your heart…

The extraordinary thing that is about to happen is matched only by the extraordinary moment just before it happens.

Advent is the name of that moment.
There you go.

H/T Lent and Beyond.

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Pic if from the Boston Globe.

Saturday, December 06, 2008

Thursday, December 04, 2008

HIM: For YOU


Micheal Jensen wrote the book YOU: An Introduction.

Jensen is now writing a book about HIM. Its all about God.

He'd appreciate your thoughts -- just click HERE.

Who knows? Your comments may end up in a book.

Pic is a score to Handel's Messiah. I couldn't think of a Graphic to describe the one 'who alone has immortality, who dwells in unapproachable light, whom no one has ever seen or can see'.

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Wednesday, December 03, 2008

ADVENT: 'I do wish Jesus would come back, preferably in a massive ball of fire through the ceiling of the church.'

Tucker Carlson, American political commentator, once said on his Sunday church experience:
You'll never meet nicer people. If you needed someone to hold your wallet, or if you were lost in an unfamiliar neighborhood and had to duck into a stranger's house to use the bathroom, you could do a whole lot worse...No one has better manners.

And that may be the problem. There's a notable lack of urgency...Jesus may have promised he'd come back someday, but in [my church] you don't get the feeling he really meant it. Nor do you hear a lot about sin. Lust, hatred, gluttony, pride, envy -- those are dramatic emotions. ...

The typical sermon leaves the impression that all would be well in this world if only people could manage to be reasonable with each other. Gentlemanly. Thoughtful.

There's nothing necessarily bad about any of this. (I remain [a member], with no plans to change.) But every once in a while, as I shift in my pew listening to one of our unusually well-educated preachers expand on the Aramaic understanding of discipleship, I do wish Jesus would come back, preferably in a massive ball of fire through the ceiling of the church.

Spiritually, I'm nowhere near ready to face something like that. But it'd be worth it for the shock value....Dead religions don't give people the creeps...But Christianity still does. What a relief. It's nice to see that our faith still scares people.
He is an Episcopalian, apparently.

H/T My new friend and colleague at Christ Church NYC, Clifford Swartz. Clifford quoted this in his sermon on Sunday night, and I thought: that's totally worth stealing. :)

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Sermon Help: The (subversive) Parable of the Whistle-blower



You may already know this reading of Jesus' Parable of the Talents. But I came across it first about 2 years ago: That the Parable upholds as a hero a man who creatively subverts the systemic injustices in a corrupt society by burying his talent, rather than making it grow. He is a Whistle Blower.

I'm preaching on this text on Sunday. I'd like your help. Because I can cut'n'paste it, here is the Wiki entry on the alternative reading:

William Herzog offers an alternative interpretation of the parables of Jesus. According to his interpretive scheme, Jesus employed parables in his verbal engagement with his contemporaries for the purpose of getting them to think about God's justice and their social responsibility. His stories expose the social inequities in Palestinian society that violate the teachings of the Torah and motivate the hearers to live and work for peace and justice.

Herzog's analysis of the parable of the talents focuses on the fact that the "man" of the story is not described as an exemplary person. Much rather, this wealthy man does not deny the claim of the third servant: "thou art an hard man, reaping where thou hast not sown". The parable suggests that he is an aristocrat, a rapacious absentee-landlord, whose sole interest is maximizing his financial gain. Only the third servant refuses to participate in the game of increasing his lord's financial wealth "at the costs of the poor."

When he upbraids the third servant, the aristocrat's remark shows that he himself is in violation of the Old Testament laws that Jesus seeks to defend: the third servant has willfully refused to invest the money, which would have resulted in the aristocrat regaining his capital "with interest" (Matt. 25:27). This kind of financial transaction is forbidden in the Torah; see the biblical teaching on usury.

The servant's frank remark shows him to be a 'whistle-blower'. He calls the aristocrat harsh and merciless (which are not God-like qualities). He exposes the sham of what has occurred: the other servants have allowed themselves to be used for exploitative purposes, for which they will also be rewarded by the wicked aristocrat.

According to Herzog's reading, the point of the parable is to show how much it can cost for an underling to expose the truth about injustice in society. Jesus' hearers, for the most part poor villagers, would have asked themselves the difficult question about how they would behave toward an aristocrat's former helper who had become a whistle-blower and had been thrown out of rich man's household ("wailing and gnashing of teeth"). They would also learn from the parable the necessity of not isolating themselves, so as not to play into the hands of the ruling elite.

That is, the parable is not, as it is often read, a parable about doing something positive with what has been given to you, nor even an indictment on the scribes who buried what was given them (the word of God). On those traditional readings, the man who buries the talent is a scoundrel who deserved his punishment.

But on the alternative reading, the servant is a hero, the master a scoundrel, and the 'punishment' a further injustice for any who oppose the evil inherent in the system. The servant stands up, by sitting down. He does something, by doing nothing.

I'm not agreeing with the alternative reading. But I want to hear from you as to your thoughts. So...

  • Discuss.
  • And if you disagree, why?
  • What, then, is the parable about?

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YouTube is Monty Python's Constitutional Peasant. I am in no way disparaging the view by posting the skit. I just laugh very loudly every time I see this. :)

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Kingdom Ethics 101

This exchange took place today between Dr Laurel and The Little Man (4):
The Little Man: "I just prayed to God that He would bring the Kingdom of Fast. So, now this world is the Kingdom of Fast. Look how quickly I can walk now."
[He walks very quickly away]

...[about an hour later, Dr Laurel is getting him to clean the bathroom mirrors with Windex, which is not going so well]...

The Little Man: "Look how fast I can spray Mommy." [very fast spraying with maximum Windex and mess]
Dr Laurel: "That is fast, but it might be better if we did it slow and steady, like this [demonstrating effective wiping of bathroom mirrors].

The Little Man: "There are no snails in the Kingdom of Fast." [fast spraying and wiping continues]
Love Kingdom ethics.

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Sunday, November 30, 2008

Joern Utzon (of Opera House fame) dies.

The Opera House is right near where we will live and minister (God willing). It is just over a kilometer (under a mile) -- I guess about a 10 minute walk. You can see it via Google Maps HERE. We will be walking to the Opera House regularly with all our visitors who come from New York City. (You want to come. You know you do.)

Just so you can get a snap of the story of the area, you can read a little about the Danish designer of the Opera House HERE. His name was Joern Utzon, and he died in over the weekend.

The story behind the building -- a tustle between artist and bureaucrat, designer and owner -- has always been interesting since Utzon left the project, going back to Denmark 7 years before the building was opened. He never returned to Australia to see his most famous work.

(And, as an aside, I was there in the city the day it opened on 20 October 1973. My earliest memory.)

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Pic on Flickr by Linh_rOm.

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Everything's Amazing, Nobody's Happy.



Thanks for all your notes in my last post. I have some thoughts coming, but it has been, as you can imagine, a busy week.

In the meantime, H/T Byron, watch the YouTube above...

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Sunday, November 23, 2008

News: We are moving from über-urban Manhattan to urban Sydney

We are moving again. As of today, we are planning another Trans-Pacific schlep from über-urban to urban. From the city of Manhattan, to the city of Sydney. That is, we are swapping the Lower East Side for Downtown Sydney. From New York to York St.

And, as you can imagine, it is bittersweet.

The Bitter part of this is that we are leaving New York City. We have loved living in this city. Christ Church NYC has been a great church in which to serve. We have seen the church grow and change its shape and culture over three years, and we will miss Christ Church. We love how this church loves Jesus. We will miss our friends. We tried to imagine how to stay in New York City, but I have been thinking for some time that I need and would like to be a Senior Minister (Rector).

The Sweet part of that we have accepted the Archbishop of Sydney's invitation to be Rector of St Philip's Church Hill on York Street in Sydney. We have prayed diligently. And we believe that this is of God in the power of his Spirit.

The Parish of St Philip is the original parish of the Anglican Church in Australia. The first Christian services were held nearby in 1788. The present building has been in use since 1856. In other words, the parish is the birthplace of Christianity on the continent. It is, you could argue, Ground Zero for the spread of Christian faith in Australia. It is a short walk to the Sydney Harbour Bridge, Circular Quay and the Opera House. You can see a Google Map HERE, and zoom in and out to see where we will serve Jesus.

The people at St Philips are keen for the next stage in their ministry. They are a small church, with an eye on the city. I'll need to check the histories here, but I'm fairly sure that I will be one of the youngest rectors of St Philip's, and the first with a family of toddlers in the last 50+ years.

Why the city?

Leaving Manhattan has not dampened our enthusiasm for the city. Sydney and New York are different, but the city is still where extraordinary things happen. It is where people live and come to work and play, day and night. The city is where the homeless find anonymity and perhaps shelter. The city is where government sits and art is displayed. There are 38,000 people who live near St Philips. There are more men living there than women, and the average age is 29. From this central place, there could be a central faith.

This will be neither church planting, nor missionary service, but at times it may feel like both.

I will be producing some literature soon with some early thoughts about the way forward, with some things that God has placed on my heart, and that I hope will be worth discussing with those in the parish, and those interested in serving there.

We'll need your help. No one is telling us that this will be easy. If you live or work nearby, or if you want to talk about ways we can partner, then email me by clicking HERE.

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Pic 1 is inside the Sanctuary (to use a US term)
Pic 2 is of St Philips and the rectory from York St.
Pic 3 is a picture a plate glass negative (1884-1917) from the Powerhouse Museum.
Pic 4 St Philips from above by Adam and Tennille.
Pic 5 of Bridge on Flickr by Wellingtonwidebrow.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Man tries to pay bill with spider drawing

Hmmm. It's been more than a week since posting. In the interests in keeping your interest, I thought that THIS series of emails was a fun distraction for the afternoon.

H/t Seapea.

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Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Lady Perth

And this one is by a gentleman I haven't met, Dave E, who writes of Lady Perth:
Perth
She swims in from the shore - long legged and golden brown
she is aloof from the world and looks a lot at her own reflection.
men of iron and and men of gold have tried to claim her.
Her eyes reflect the great blue expanse of sky and sea.
beauty.
she owns a lot of pretty things
intoxicated by wealth and self.
cruelty.
For the record, I was born in Perth.

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Pic on Flickr by Beaumitchell.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Gentleman New York

I described New York City as a woman in THIS POST. Give it a go on your own Blog, or in the comments on mine. Describe your city as a woman. The forth is from Mrs. W, ex-NYC, now Vancouver, Canada.
NYC
He stood transfixed, silenced by what
sprawled above his head, pushy and
unruly as a junior high classroom.

It shoved him numbly from here to there,
Central Park: Harlem: Times Square. The wet
wind blew snow and umbrellas in his eyes as
he shivered.

But the old ladies always gave a dollar to the
crumpled man with leukemia when
he sang the song that requires no teeth between
subway stops and there was
always a seat available for the fragile, well-wrinkled gentleman with his
pert cap and clear, dripping nose.

Traveling is hard on the bones.
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Pic on Flickr by Saint Roch.

Christ Church Centenary...

Not Christ Church New York.

Christ Church St Ives -- in Sydney.

I received this note from the organizer of the centenary celebrations:
Christ Church St Ives (in Sydney, Australia) will be 100 years old on 30th January 2009. We will be celebrating with a dinner on Friday 30th January and special services on 1st February 2009. We are attempting to contact ex members of Christ church who have moved away and we need your help. We have no records of forwarding addresses. If you know of anyone who we should contact, could you get them to take a look at the information on the website HERE. More importantly, can you simply EMAIL Judy Hughes and let her know if you'd like to keep updated for more information.
And I'd add something -- email the this post to everyone who you know who has been a part of Christ Church St Ives over the years.

Thanks.

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Pic is from 1909 -- Corner Cowan Rd and Mona Vale Rd.

Friday, November 07, 2008

The Obama Victory: Impressions from New York City

I was asked today to comment on three things to do with the election.
  1. What was my impression of the election coming from New York City?
  2. What do I think is the impact of this election?
  3. What do you think we ought to be praying about?
Here are some of my answers:

Impressions from New York City

The noise that erupted outside my 4th floor apartment at 11PM after the California polls closed told me that this was an historic moment. Something happened in California, and I could hear people celebrating on 1st Ave in NYC! Senator Obama had become President-Elect Obama.

Now, you should know that Jesus is my president: my personal hope and my agent of change.

I serve Him in New York City, the capital of a so-called ‘blue state’, which last voted for a Republican in a Presidential election in Reagan’s landslide of 1984. Many of the new, young voters in this election were not yet born in 1984, and care little for the ‘Reagan Revolution’. The students I know at New York University predominantly voted for Barack Obama. That is true of many Christian students too. Young voters here were generally excited about Obama and ‘change’, and it is worth saying that in their minds, it is not fashionable to say that you voted for McCain!

I know some conservatives – of all ages – who felt very ‘small’ here in New York City. This is very different, perhaps opposite, to my wife’s home state of Georgia.

The interesting shift from my perspective is the movement of the younger (predominantly white) evangelicals away from the views of their parents and pastors. The older voices tended to run on specific moral issues (like abortion), on protecting the fabric of society (traditional family values) and on a specific economic platform (Small Government etc). The younger voices – many of whom would agree with their parents on the personal moral issues – are concerned also about social and ethical issues: was America unjust in going to war? Do we as a society care for the needy and the poor? Is our society marked by inappropriate triumphalism?

Impact of this election:

An African American winning the White House is monumental in and of itself. We woke our 4-year-old son up to witness Obama’s acceptance speech. I woke him not because of any political persuasion (which I won't say here), but because of the symbolic nature of the moment. I wanted him to remember this moment in history.

The impact is hard to tell at this stage. One of the things that people regularly note is that Obama is relatively unknown – he is young, and voters were basically informed by his short voting record and what he said on the campaign trail. I spoke to one young man about this who said: ‘Yes, I know, but I took a risk and voted Obama anyway.’

Obama has moved closer to the center during the campaign, as Clinton did in 1992. Obama’s Presidential campaign was more centrist than his more left-wing Senate voting record. So what will happen on his watch remains to be seen. But obviously the Republicans and the media will watch his administration closely.

One of the big concerns that conservatives have is the appointment of what they call ‘activist judges’ – judges who they say ‘impose ideology’, rather than simply interpret the law.

Matters for Prayer:

Do our prayers change from one President to another? Aren’t we always meant to pray for ‘all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way.’ (1 Tim 2:2). I will be praying that President-Elect Obama will govern wisely and justly.

That having been said, the three big things that come to mind are: First, that more people would know that Jesus is the Messiah who gives Hope and Change, as opposed to any American President. Second, that the Middle East finds peace, and does not descend into further chaos. And third, that many in America continue to fight for the rights of the unborn.

At times, the language of change and the desire for hope sounded like the foundation for a gospel message, albeit without Jesus’ name being on the ballot. The campaigns at times sounded like they were going to bring peace on earth – something promised only in Jesus. My biggest prayer is that those who hope in a president would hope instead in Jesus.

Did I misread the moment?

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Thursday, November 06, 2008

Taskers and their godson

Nathan and Cassie spent some time with us, singing at our new Evening Service, and spending time with their godson, Junior. Above are some pics...

And click HERE to read a summary of their time in NYC and Nath and Cassie's Blog.

We had a great time with you all.

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Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Question...

Is Mike Winram watching? And is James Beasley watching? Hope so...

Give him the vote!

They should give him the vote!

For the record, we took the following YouTube in 3 takes. And The Little Man declared Obama the winner on 1 take, and McCain the winner on 2 of them. So he is a true independent. A swing voter.



Today, he is declaring Obama the winner. When asked by his mom why he was favoring Obama, he replied:
I don't know, Mommy. [pauses] I don't know what it is about him. But I just like Barack Obama.
It appears that he qualifies the vote.

To all of you that have the vote, I'm sort of jealous. But in part, I do not envy the choice you have to make. Take care.

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Tuesday, November 04, 2008

VOTE: The Politics of Marriage

OK. So Dr Laurel can vote tomorrow. I can't. And she's not telling me who she is voting for.

That ain't right, right?

So, a make your voice heard on November the 4th:

If your brother sins against you...

Click (or right click 'save as') HERE to listen to one of the best sermons I've heard in a while. It is by my friend Andrew Katay, of MoMA fame, on Matthew 18:15-20. Andrew is the rector of Christ Church Inner West Anglican Community in Sydney.

Here is Matthew 18:15-20:
“If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother. 16 But if he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, that every charge may be established by the evidence of two or three witnesses. 17 If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church. And if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector.

18 Truly, I say to you, whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven. 19 Again I say to you, if two of you agree on earth about anything they ask, it will be done for them by my Father in heaven. 20 For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them.”
Andrew deals with at least these three questions:
  • How am I to handle sin Christianity? (He mentions some sub-Christian ways of dealing with sin.) The answer, in case you were wondering, is to cut it out.
  • How do I distinguish between psychological sins (which need forbearance), and actual sin (which needs repentance). This is a great distinction.
  • How do I reconcile with someone who has wronged me?
If anyone is in a tough relationship issue right now, I urge you to listen. It may change your life.

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Pic on Flickr by Crowolf.

Monday, November 03, 2008

Driscoll's 300, Where Art Thou?

I know this three months old, but Church Planting is vital, and Shane got me thinking. The 5th Obstacle for evangelism in Driscoll's 18 was about Church Planting. Mark said:
No less than 300 men have walked up to me and said ‘I want to plant a church and I can’t. What do I do?’ They need to be assessed and trained and only those who are fit should be released, but they have to be released.
Yes! My questions: has anyone tried to gather these 300 men? Can anyone account for this number? Has any gone looking for them? Does Acts 29 know who they are? Are you one of them? Do you know someone who spoke to Mark about wanting to plant, but can't? Has anyone asked Mark about this yet? Can they be gathered for prayer and initial planning/dreaming?

Man, that's Gideon's whole army!

If it's true, you can change a nation with that many people.

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Sunday, November 02, 2008

I bought YOU today for a mere $US10:99


YOU was quite cheap.

Am I the first person in the US to buy YOU?

I wonder if my US readers might by YOU too?

Buy it in HERE in the United States. (Or HERE in Aus).

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Saturday, November 01, 2008

My friend wrote a book about You...

This is the first time anyone of my close friends wrote a book. Check out this photo from 1987.

I feel like I've come of age.

Join the Facebook Group HERE.


COMING IN NOVEMBER FROM MATTHIAS MEDIA/Good Book Co UK:

YOU: An Introduction is a book about being a human. It is not as easy as it looks, being a human person. Each chapter addresses a different facet of human life – being a child, owning stuff, being male and female, having and being a body, dying, death and what comes after. What is like to be one of these things in the contemporary world? And what does the Bible say about this, especially in the light of the life of the best human who ever lived? A unique feature of the book is that it contains comments, questions and discussion that came from originally blogging the material – comments which take the argument in often unexpected directions.

YOU: An Introduction is a book that will be of interest to anyone – and it should challenge them/you, whether they are Christian or not, about what having a human life means.

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Friday, October 31, 2008

Best Steak in NYC?


My New York readers are relatively silent. But a friend who is visiting town wanted to know where is the best place to get a NYC steak.

Suggestions?

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Pic on Flickr by DazeGoonBoy.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Sermon Audio- Psalm 89: WHY CHRISTIANS SING.

Read Psalm 89:1-4, 19-37, the text I was given for Sunday 10/26.

Then download Sermon Audio: Psalm 89: WHY CHRISTIANS SING. (20 min)

"We’ve done some singing tonight, and we’ve heard Nathan Tasker sing. And if you come here each week, you'll notice we sing, and then we sing some more: we are a singing community. At Christ Church NYC, we don’t overdo it; we may not be stylistically what you like; no one, of course, is compelled to sing; some of us – me included – know that we can’t really sing.

But singing is one of the things we do.

Here is what I want to do in the next 20 minutes: I want to explore why becoming a follower of Jesus is vital to living life and living. And I want to do it by looking at faith through the lens of song; through the eyes of singing community.

Let me ask two questions:
  1. Why do Christians sing?
  2. What do they have to sing about?
Our society rarely sings. I wonder if that’s because we do not have a whole lot to sing about. Or that singing is risky. Or perhaps even more seriously, that we have no one to sing to.

Where can you find people singing in New York City?
  • At the 7th Innings stretch of a baseball game: you are united in a love for sport.
  • At all events where they sing the National Anthems: you are united in a love for country.
  • At concerts and bands. I’ve sung myself horse at more than one U2 concert. We are united in a love for a band.
  • You can be found singing in choirs. Which is interesting – united in their love of singing.
But all across churches on this day in this city Christians are gathering to sing! Christians are singing people.

Let's discuss why.

Download (or right click, save as) HERE.

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Pic on Flickr by Scherbis.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Bring it on...



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Monday, October 27, 2008

I wonder if I'll still have a job tomorrow.

This morning, at home, this exchange took place:
The Little Man: Daddy, when I grow up, I want to be a sermon.
Me: Really? So what do you think a sermon actually is?
The Little Man: It's a person who tells people about Jesus.
Ah, too true. On so many levels.

But at Church, I did the kids spot up the front. I had some things in a bag: some things kids need, and some they don't. My point was that God gives us what we need. The Little Lady was the last to put her hand in the bag.
Me (in front of Church): What is it?
The Little Lady: It's a kid's Bible.
Me: Is that something a kid like you needs?
The Little Lady (clear into a microphone): Noooooooooooooooo.
Oh dear. I wonder if I'll still have a job tomorrow.

Guess which kid is getting supper tonight!

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Saturday, October 25, 2008

Looking forward to Nathan Tasker at our Church...

This Sunday Night at 6PM at 111 East 87th St, New York.

Our Music team will be playing, Nathan singing, and I will be preaching a short gospel message on why Christians have a lot to sing about from Psalm 89:1-4, 19-37.
I will sing of the steadfast love of the Lord, forever; with my mouth I will make known your faithfulness to all generations. For I said, “Steadfast love will be built up forever; in the heavens you will establish your faithfulness.”
So -- question for you to help me with in the comments:

-- Why do Christians sing so much?

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Friday, October 24, 2008

Sermon Audio on 2 Samuel 7: WHY JESUS?

CLICK HERE (or right click, 'save as') for Sermon Audio for a message on 2 Samuel 7:1-17.

In this sermon, I hope to give helpful answers to one question:

Why Jesus?

It’s a question we get regularly, here in NYC and everywhere: "I’m OK about God, but why does it always have to be about Jesus? Why can’t it just be about God?"

For spiritual people, religious types and theists, to say that Jesus is 'the Way, the Truth, and the Life' may seen very odd to them. We need as a church to acknowledge that for many, it feels discordant whenever that claim is made.

This question is not new. It happened in Jesus time: Jesus calls himself a ‘stumbling block’ to many. A 'Scandalon'. (Matthew 11:6); an offense; a stone -- in the way -- that people trip up on. People were attracted to Jesus, but only to a point. People in Jesus’ day wanted God and his Kingdom without Jesus and his Kingship. And he was killed for that very reason. In John 11:50-- the high priest basically says: “Lets save God and his nation … by getting rid of Jesus.”

It was a valid question in the early Church: Paul makes the point in 1 Corinthians that sophisticated people rarely receive Jesus. He just seems so foolish. So weak. So weird.

This, of course, puts them in stark conflict with the claims of the worldwide Christian church, which is 'Jesus this', and 'Jesus that'. and 'Jesus all day every day and twice on a Sunday'.

So in this sermon, I want to offer, especially from 2 Samuel 7: A reason for Jesus.

And the answer, ironically, is specifically and inextricable tied to Judaism.

For sermon, CLICK HERE.

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Pic on Flickr by Midiman.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Transcending Borders

On a bus ride today, I read THIS New York Times article about friendships at the US-Mexico border at San Diego/Tijuana. It is a very interesting piece about friendships made at this border crossing:

I draw your attention to the following photograph: it is a minister's weekly communion, which he offers through the border fence. Technically, the minister is breaking the law by passing the bread through the fence, but the US border guard does nothing because "arresting a clergy person for passing a communion wafer through the fence would be a public relations nightmare".

I am moved by this picture. I am moved about how Jesus transcends man-made borders. The fence feels invisible (Although not, I'm sure, to those participating!)

I am reminded, even as through a glass darkly, of these verses in Ephesians 2:13-18:
For Christ Jesus himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility by abolishing the law of commandments expressed in ordinances, that he might create in himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace, and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby killing the hostility. And he came and preached peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near. For through him we both have access in one Spirit to the Father.
Some other captivating pictures HERE.

Has anyone been to Border Field State Park?

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Photo: Sandy Huffaker for The New York Times

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Lady Sydney Again...


I described New York City as a woman in THIS POST. Give it a go on your own Blog, or in the comments on mine. Describe your city as a woman. The third is from Dan Anderson, who lives in Sydney:
coool, an online poetry slam!
This might be a bit obscure :-)

Rainy Morning, A woman in the City

I can’t hear myself.
Clouds crowd the top of the buildings.
Red hair a flare down the grey street.
Beats, too many beaten, asyncopation.
"Your Journey Begins Here", Go!
around, around the block,
It ends.
Clouds shroud the New Jerusalem
Tidy.

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Pic on Flickr by Eric K Veland.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

An Ecclesiology of the Cross

Ah. Tim Chester and Steve Timmis with a great insight. These guys don't just ask 'what is the gospel?', and not only 'what does it mean to preach the gospel?', but what does it mean to a a church that is 'consistent to the gospel of Christ crucified.' Here:
The church is always tempted towards a church of glory, whether that takes the form of grand buildings, political influence, global structures, charismatic personalities or mega-churches. But an approach to the church consistent with the gospel of Christ crucified and discipleship shaped by that gospel is an ecclesiology of the cross. That means power in weakness, wisdom in folly, and glory in shame. It means we must put our confidence in Christ’s little flock and the sovereign rule of God. It means we must put our energies into the church of the cross even if that means obscurity.

The problem is that ‘power made perfect in weakness’ is so counter-intuitive and counter-cultural that we do not believe it. We believe that God will use the powerful and important and impressive. But he does not. We need a radical change of perspective. We need to ditch our worldly notions of success. We need to ditch our modernistic preoccupation with numbers and size. We need to turn our notions of success upside down so that we align them with God’s kingdom perspective.

Tim Chester and Steve Timmis, Total Church, p.194-5)
May it be so.

H/T Stephen Murray.

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Pic on Flickr by echoesofstars.

How to Gain Power and Keep Control

Here is how to gain power: Lose it.
And here is how to keep control: Lose that too.

Of course, Jesus says the same thing here:
Mark 10:28-31 Peter began to say to him, “See, we have left everything and followed you.” Jesus said, “Truly, I say to you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or lands, for my sake and for the gospel, who will not receive a hundredfold now in this time, houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and lands, with persecutions, and in the age to come eternal life. But many who are first will be last, and the last first.”

And here: Mark 8:34-35 And calling the crowd to him with his disciples, he said to them, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel's will save it.
But I've often pondered how this is true. How does the paradox work?

I realized today that we actually know from experience exactly how this works in normal domestic life. Here, I think, is how it works:

It is only when you have to have something that the having starts to own and control you. You have to have a successful life; you have to have a loving spouse; you have to have that status, that house, that car, or that promotion, and you have to have it now (or pretty soon at least).

But isn't it true that at that very moment, you have lost power? And, in that instant, you have lost control? For you are not free to have (or not to have) the successful life; you are not free to have (or not to have) a loving spouse; you are not free to have (or not to have) the house, the car or the promotion. It matters so much to you. And so it controls you.

Dr Laurel and I were talking about this over dinner.

It is only when you give up your controls that you gain them back. If you give up your desire to control outcomes, then you are free at that moment. That is, you cannot be controlled. If you give up your rights and your power, then at that moment, you become incredibly powerful, for you have nothing to lose.

So, with deep apologies to Messiah Jesus and his profound beatitudes, I offer you these domestic examples of how this paradox can be true:
  • Woe to you if you have to make influential friends and be seen in the right places, for you will burn out protecting your reputation.
  • Woe to you if you seek 'success' in ministry, for you will always be thinking about yourself.
  • Woe to you if you cannot be satisfied with what you have, for the moment the salesman sees the deep hunger of your heart, you will always be charged at a greater price.
  • Woe to you if you try to control your partner, for you will lose the one you love.
But...
  • Blessed are you if you come to a job interview with a heart that is content whatever the outcome, for in your freedom, you will more than likely be offered the job.
  • Blessed are you if you love the 'unsuccessful', for the ones who can help your ministry to 'succeed' will take careful notice.
  • Blessed are you if you come to buy something without the uber-desire to gain said item, for you will not let your heart be driven to a higher price.
  • Blessed are you if approach relationships without a heart of control, for you will simply be a more pleasant, happy and joyful person to be around.
Any blessings that I missed? And any other curses worth mentioning?

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Pic on Flickr by Bitzi.