Sunday, April 28, 2013

Connecting with Irvine Pres Using Twitter

Whether you've come to this page in response to a personal invitation or you stumbled upon it, thank you and welcome! This post will help identify ways in which you can become a part of the social media team and community that is now emerging organically at Irvine Pres.

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Infinite Grace 3

Bernilli blooms in the Garden of Grace
Indeed I heard Ephraim pleading: "You disciplined me and I took the discipline; I was like a calf untrained. Bring me back, let me come back, for you are the Lord my God. For after I had turned away I repented; and after I was discovered, I struck my thigh; I was ashamed, and I was dismayed because I bore the disgrace of my youth." Jeremiah 31: 18-19.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Infinite Grace 2

The phrase "grace in the wilderness" jumped out at me, today, from my Old Testament lectionary reading (Jeremiah 31: 1-9). Jeremiah 31st chapter is about The Joyful Return of the Exiles.

Thus says the Lord: The people who survived the sword found grace in the wilderness; 
when Israel sought for rest, the Lord appeared to him from far away. 
I have loved you with an everlasting love; therefore, I have continued my faithfulness to you.  

It is in the depths of my sin and desolation that I found God; grace (divine and human) in the wilderness is something to which I can totally relate.

Wilderness is a metaphor used by the prophets of Israel for the time of exile. For me, wilderness is a place to which I don't want to go; I don't even like to watch the Survivor reality game show! I often find wilderness is an apt metaphor for my day-to-day life many times. A clear path seems impossible to find because people and relationships are so messy. Then, there's all the realities of living in the world with "elemental spirits" as the Apostle Paul called them. I struggle against cultural and worldly odds to live, reborn, new, in Christ, focused on pleasing God. Yet, it was in the wilderness, Israel experienced God's grace, in no small measure. As do I. What does grace in the wilderness mean to you, today? And, head over to my new Tumblr site to see a picture of my "grace in the wilderness" for today if you need a bit of inspiration :).

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Six Dimensions of Discipleship: Peter's Perspective

Discovery, Disappointment, Denial, Delight, Disgrace, and Deliverance are Peter's perspective (and experiences) of the Six Dimensions of Discipleship, Pastor Scott's sermon yesterday.

Scripture: John 21: 15-19 (NIV) - Jesus asks Peter three times "do you love me more than these?"

Discovery is the 1st dimension of discipleship.
Jesus offers more than a livelihood or a career, a better, grander purpose than we can ever imagine.
 
Disappointment is the 2nd dimension of discipleship.
Following Jesus includes suffering and disillusionment by the fine print of discipleship.

Denial is the 3rd dimension of discipleship.
When the suffering gets too much we sometimes deny our discipleship, deny following Jesus.

Delight is the 4th dimension of discipleship
Impulsive Peter runs half naked through the ocean to greet the risen Jesus, now, perhaps, dimly understanding the suffering.

Disgrace is the 5th dimension of discipleship
To the questions, will you live into the name, the person God created you to be, love him, tend and feed his sheep we often reply "I friend you, Jesus."

Deliverance is the 6th dimension of discipleship
Devoted love to Jesus precedes our commitment to acts of service.

Important: 
It's ok be at any one of these dimensions of discipleship. God is faithful to be with us at any point. Jesus, the risen Savior, has restored our relationship with God and he asks us over and over, just as he does with Peter, "Do you love me? Follow me."



Audio file of the Sermon is available in the Irvine Pres C Sermon Archive, by clicking here.

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Infinite Grace 1

420 is Hitler's birthday anniversary. In more recent years, the week of April 15 - 20 has been sheer horror, filled with deadly wounds: Waco Seige, Oklahoma City Bombing; Columbine; Virgina Tech shootings; and Boston Marathon terror. Rather than dwell on these dark events, led by the Holy Spirit, I have decided to focus on grace. God's grace is ever present. The Bible tells us that Divine Grace is infinite. Also, God's illimitable grace fills us with peace, much needed.

Grace is a very meaningful word and rich in theological significance. It comes from French/Latin gratia, gratus for pleasing, used to denote thankfulness. The Greek word for grace is charis meaning unmerited mercy and blessings. Grace is central to Christian theology. 100 of the 154 occurrences of the word charis in the New Testament occur in the Pauline Epistles, in all thirteen of them, and most often found in Romans and Corinthian letters.In Hebrew, the basic sense of charis is favor and loving kindness. God and Jesus Christ act in loving-kindness and undeserved favor toward humanity. This is divine grace, including the grace of salvation. There is also human grace, as Paul makes clear when he writes about thanksgiving, giving to a collection, offering, or in greetings of grace, and gracious, encouraging words towards others that are of spiritual benefit. Some scholars have gone further and suggested that charis, when used by Paul, isn't just an attribute, it means God himself.

Today, I was able to capture, with my camera, a moment of grace among The Borage and the Bees.

Please click on the link above to see the full photograph. Borage is a herb, plant growing in my garden, 3 feet tall and almost as wide. Ponderous with stalks of flowers ready to bloom, it is a magnet for honey bees, amazing pollinators and critical eco-system managers, that concerned folks tell us are on the verge of disappearing. Yet, here they are, alive, happy, busily buzzing away bees, and filling me with hope and joy. I didn't know borage attracts bees! Nor did I know that borage re-seeds itself every season; a total grace now that I am unable to garden. How on earth are the bees finding my urban garden? Where do they come from?

The borage in my garden and the bees grow by grace. May we too grow in the grace and knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ. (II Peter 3.18 NRSV).

Monday, April 15, 2013

Bivocational Lay Ministry, Part 2

In my last post, Bivocational Lay Ministry (I guess I should have called it part 1), I shared my excitement about God's calling to us: beyond the "livelihood" part. I further wrote:

These are what excite me about bivocational ministry becoming a possible model for not just leadership development but also discipleship, mentoring, and reaching out, in large, mainstream denominational churches.

1) What if together they molded a handful of laypeople, building the same kind of close, honest relationships within a larger group? They’d teach practical ministry, biblical theology and Christianity’s Jewish heritage in an organic, group setting.
2) The idea would be to empower laypeople with clergy-level vision and skills, incubating their sense of calling prior to seminary training -- or possibly instead of it.

Today, I flesh out the word bivocational. The word vocation meaning calling (a strong feeling of suitability for a particular occupation or career) comes from the Latin noun vocatio from the verb vocare meaning to call. Somehow through the years calling came to be reserved for special people, called by God, those who went on to become priests/pastors. Other Christians who were also  called by God came to feel that their vocatio was not inherently service to God and thus the corruption began. The result, nowadays, is that most Christians feel that their vocational calling and their Christian calling are two different things but are they? I don't think so.

In The Hard Sayings of Jesus, F.F. Bruce expounding on Jesus sayings in Matt 6.24 and Luke 16.13 (You cannot serve God and Mammon) writes: "Service of mammon and service of God are mutually exclusive." (p. 184). We cannot do both.

Christians need a way to earn their living. God is not opposed to that at all; in fact his gifts of special abilities for work are indeed a calling in that sense, but there is a deeper and stronger calling - our true calling - beyond making a living to which Jesus calls us, to trust in God to provide (See the lilies). It is in this sense, we are called to be faithful 24/7 followers of Jesus Christ, loving God first, using our talents for His glory, living in his kingdom even while here on earth, spreading his good news, making disciples of others, denying ourselves daily, and serving others. And, we follow this calling - vocation, even as we work in business, academia, or as a pastor. It is in these two senses of vocation then, that I am excited about bivocational lay ministry. What do you think?

Related: 

Bivocational Lay Ministry, Part 1

Robert Austell's What is a pastor?


Monday, April 8, 2013

Bivocational Lay Ministry

Does bivocational lay ministry have a future in the church? Two United Methodist Church pastors in San Antonio think yes, and have invested themselves in a broad-based training program of lay leaders called the Quarry. Below is an excerpt that explains the heart of this program

Two pastors at a UMC church in San Antonio have created a new model of training they call the Quarry, which has developed into a creative community of leaders
...
A few years ago, the protégé, the Rev. Scott Heare, challenged his spiritual father with a proposal: What if together they molded a handful of laypeople, building the same kind of close, honest relationships within a larger group? They’d teach practical ministry, biblical theology and Christianity’s Jewish heritage in an organic, group setting.
The idea would be to empower laypeople with clergy-level vision and skills, incubating their sense of calling prior to seminary training -- or possibly instead of it.
Three years ago, the idea took off.
Called the “Quarry,” it started with 16 people and grew without formal advertising to more than 50.

Can you imagine what it would be like if more churches did this? There might certainly be less isolation and greater connection in our communities! Congregations too may get to know their fellow pew mates, beyond sharing worship to participating in authentic community rather than superficial fellowship. Most churches have small group Bible studies and the like, whereby people get to meet others, and make friends. Ultimately, these folks might even serve together. In my humble opinion, this small group model, while good, does not put God's calling to us at the center. After all, God has called each Christian to ministry. So, what if the model were reversed?

Bivocational ministry is typically defined as one where God calls a person to ministry even as they work in another profession to supplement their income. Some examples from the Bible are: Daniel, Amos, Luke, Aquila and Priscilla and Paul. That's why bivocational ministry is sometimes called tent-making ministry; it derives from Paul's tent-making jobs that enabled him to earn a living while he shared the Gospel. More recently, I had the privilege of being a part of the ordination of a bivocational minister, the Rev. Erin Dunigan, Los Ranchos Presbytery, PC (USA), several years ago. Erin is on Twitter @edunny and shares her photos, writing, and sermons on her blog edunny.com. A "photographer. writer. somewhat nomadic but planting fruit trees in Baja. ordained evangelist and pastor of Not Church" Erin ministers to expat nones in the Baja; you've surely heard of The Rising of the Nones? If not, follow the link to learn about this demographic, some of whom Erin serves and many of whom you and I know.

In the Quarry, however, a couple of things seem different beyond the "livelihood" part. These are what excite me about bivocational ministry becoming a possible model for not just leadership development but also discipleship, mentoring, and reaching out, in large, mainstream denominational churches.

1) What if together they molded a handful of laypeople, building the same kind of close, honest relationships within a larger group? They’d teach practical ministry, biblical theology and Christianity’s Jewish heritage in an organic, group setting.
2) The idea would be to empower laypeople with clergy-level vision and skills, incubating their sense of calling prior to seminary training -- or possibly instead of it.

What do you think? To read the entire article about the Quarry please consult the Source below.

Source: Levy, Abe. Everything is possible. Faith and Leadership. Available online. http://www.faithandleadership.com/features/articles/everything-possible

References:

Bickers, Dennis. The Tentmaking Pastor: The Joy of Bivocational Ministry. Baker Books, 2000. Link to Amazon. Bickers also maintains a blog, Bivocational Ministry, A community for all bivocational ministers and the churches they serve. Bickers was working in a factory most of the time after he accepted a call to serve at Hebron Church, Indiana. Bickers, while being honest about the frustration attached to bivocational ministry, is positive and upbeat about the joy of serving in this way.

Dorsett, Terry. Developing Leadership Teams in Churches. Crossbooks Publishing, 2010. Link to Amazon. The challenges and stigma attached to bivocational ministry are also highlighted.

Monday, April 1, 2013

Picture This: God's Immanence


 "The immanence of God is a very precious and glorious truth," wrote Percy Ainsworth in his sermon titled Star Counting and Heart Healing based on Psalm 147: 3,4: He heals the broken-hearted...He determines the number of the stars (NRSV). God is not only God of the countless stars, he is very much present with each individual broken heart too, healing it.

A little more than a month ago, February 24th to be exact, as Lisa reminded me after Easter worship yesterday, I posted Spiritual Patriotism. That post included quotes from another Ainsworth sermon, The Pilgrim Church. I shared how worship at my church never fails to point me to God and His Kingdom. Well, on Easter Sunday I took a few pictures of our magnificent Easter worship, to help illustrate this experience of our Immanent God.

When I entered, the sanctuary was ablaze with light and color. Flowers and people dressed in all the colors of Spring vied with each other. My eyes opened wide with wonder as I sensed God among us. Sensing God's immanence - inherent presence in everything - and responding with joie de vivre, the Chancel Choir and musicians - especially the trumpets and trombone - out-did themselves in proclaiming the resurrection and victory of our Lord Jesus Christ, the unparalleled Conqueror of Death! It wasn't all peaks, there were valleys too. As when we remembered the sufferings of many people and prayed for the Mario family in our sister church community at El Nino, Mexico. On Saturday, they had just buried their little girl Leila who'd lost her tragic fight with bacterial meningitis. Pr. Scott's sermon "No Idle Tale" (Luke 24, ESV) was practical, nourishing and inspiring. How do we believe that Jesus resurrection is real, true? Pr. Scott would stake his life on it. Do I? Do you? Peter might have dismissed Mary's vision as an idle tale, but he still ran to the tomb because he wanted to believe it. "Fairy tales are more than true - not because they tell us dragons exist, but because they tell us dragons can be beaten," Scott reminded us, quoting G.K. Chesterton. Jesus has beaten death and so have we.

The vibrant colors, stirring music, and thoughtful sermon were an experience of God's mysterious grace, presence, and kingdom among us. It was also an experience of his immanence in the ordinary, if only we have eyes to see and minds to understand. What followed after worship, thanks to Suzanne and Andy and their helpers, layered it in, in another sense, the sweet taste of foodie love :). Doughnuts and pastries from French's Bakery were lovingly served on beautifully arranged platters; disappearing in record time, they were continuously and seemingly never-endingly replenished :). I loved seeing the different generations together, such a common sight when I was growing up that doesn't happen quite so often nowadays; children, parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles, hanging out, everybody enjoying the treats. Pam's artificial flower posies, made out of paper napkins and pinned on a paper white lace doily, and table flower pots caught everybody's eyes, as much as the pastries, but I will have to post them separately; those pictures didn't come out well at all because I forgot to turn off the auto flash function on my camera. Which turned out to be a good thing because Pam is now going to teach me how to make them!

How do you experience God's immanence?


References: The Percy Ainsworth book I am reading is titled The Pilgrim Church and Other Sermons. London: Kelly, 1909, 1913. I am reading the electronic version which is freely available from The Open Library (previously called Archive.org). Pr. Scott's sermon "No Idle Tale" and other sermons of his are available from the Irvine Pres. Sermons Online media archive.