A Vow Of Poverty…

When I was a kid in the Catholic church I remember that the priests and nuns took a vow of poverty. That is they put their obedience to God above monetary gain. That seemed like a noble thing to me. Of course I have come to realize that this vow of poverty did not mean that the Catholic clergy lived a lifestyle of the poor around them. They were provided a handsome house with a housekeeper/ cook to provide for them and when they retired there was a rather comfortable living arrangement for them to live out their lives.

A vow of poverty was just not the same as living in poverty. Even that being the case they are giving up much of the luxuries that are common in this world. I do admire them for that. I’m not sure if this vow is exclusively Catholic or if other denominations follow suit. I do know that the clergyman of the Lutheran church which I used to belong to was very well compensated for his efforts. His salary and benefits exceeded most in the congregation he served.

Maybe that is one of the problems that churches have when it comes to ministering to the poor. Many just have no idea what being poor is really about. A vow of poverty kind of makes sense for those who are teaching us that we are only visitors in the world and that our true home is in the next.

Living The Message….

Emergent congregations are especially well equipped to live creatively in the newly post-Western Christianity. They are careful not to confuse the life and message of Jesus with the “Western” elements in which it has been packaged. They try to assign equal weight to both the message and the context so that a new version of the old story can take shape. They strongly underline “living the message” rather than simply proclaiming it. They experiment with settings, like cafes, in which two-way exchange rather than one-way preaching is possible

The Future of Faith (Cox, Harvey)

The words above are one of the reasons I have such hope for the emergent movement currently taking place in Jesus’ church throughout the world. After studying the history of the church it has become obvious to me just how much of Jesus’ message has been twisted into man’s messages.  We need to strip away the worldly cultural part of the message so that its true heart can once again be glorified.

I am part Native-American and have read what the Christian missionaries did to that population. To me it was abominable how they tried to force their culture on the native population in this country at the same time strip their native culture away from them. It just wasn’t good enough to these early american missionaries to try to meld the two cultures together. They shamefully deemed their culture superior and determined to eradicate the other.

The message of Jesus Christ is what it is all about; the context from which the message is communicated is secondary in nature. Why didn’t these early missionaries understand that? But even how the message is delivered is not as important as living it in your life. If you don’t do that then you are rightly proclaimed to be a hypocrite.

“Doing church” is something that I have often been critical of in this blog because I believe it is often the same as putting the context above the message. I still quite clearly remember when I suggested that the Lutheran church where I was a very active member do a second different format service on Sundays. I remember the immediate and adamant opposition to the very idea coming from the clergyman and many of the long time members.  That was maybe the beginning of my separation from that group.

I admire many emergent churches for trying different setting for “doing church”. Cafes, two-way exchanges in place one-way preaching and thousand year old liturgy, just might be a better way to present Jesus to a new generation. Why are so many resistant to that idea. When the method of delivery becomes more important than the message of Jesus it is time to step back and take a thoughtful look at how you are doing church.

Being Afraid of God…. (Part 2)

This is a continuation of the previous post about being afraid of God. It is a precursor to undertanding the underlying message of the book we are reviewing:

If Grace is trueOf course, her final question reveals the deeper issue hidden in any discussion of ultimate human destiny. Who is God? Is God a gracious, loving father waiting long through the night, with the light lit and the door open, confident his most defiant child will one day come home? Or is God a harsh judge eager to pass sentence, eager to punish and destroy all who do not satisfy him?

I hope you will consider the possibility that God is gracious beyond your expectation. I hope that in reading this book you’ll have an experience with God that will transform you. I hope you’ll hear God’s voice. I hope you’ll believe the very best about God. I hope you’ll not be so afraid you’ll shut this book and read no further.

I assure you that since I have come to believe in the ultimate triumph of God’s grace, no lightning bolt has struck me, no plague has cursed my children, and no earthquake has destroyed my home. But then, the God I’ve experienced never does such things.

Gulley, Philip; Mulholland, James (2009-03-17). If Grace Is True: Why God Will Save Every Person (Plus) (pp. 46-47). HarperCollins. Kindle Edition.

The idea of universal salvation strikes fear in many clergy leaders in the church today. They believe that if you take away God’s anger and replace it with his love that they will lose control of their congregations.  So, to me much of this fear is the fear of humans losing power over others.  Being afraid of God is so endemic in too many churches.

I read the words of Jesus on a daily basis and in those words I see God’s love  much more so than His wrath. As Mr. Gulley states in the end it comes down to who is God?  I will put my eternity on the line to align with the God of love who wants us to experience his grace first-hand. He has an agape love for all of us and I do mean all. I believe the very best of God.

While I am not done with the review of this book I think I have given you enough to pray that you get a copy and consider the idea of universal salvation. It is not as radical as some of your clergy will try to convince you it is. God doesn’t take pleasure in cursing his children but in loving them. If agape love and grace is true then why wouldn’t God have a plan to save every person?

Many mock the idea of universal salvation but I think maybe they do that out of fear rather than sincerity. God clearly said he loves all of us and wants all of us to be saved. I am beginning to understand that he is capable of doing just that if we humans quit trying to put conditions on him.