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» Posted on 20 Feb 2015 • Sunday Preview
This Sunday…Last week’s talk on spirituality was ‘big-picture’ and a bit theological. All things are sustained and held together by God’s power (His Spirit), so our being (and the existence of all created things) depends totally and utterly on God. This is our starting point for what we are talking about when we talk about spiritual matters. (By the way, to say God is in all things is not to say all things are God, e.g. while God holds the trees together, the trees are not God.)
This week we will be asking, ‘if God is in all things, how might we expect to experience him?’ I intend to use less 'theological' language and speak to issues common to us all. I want to explore how God is at work through situations we know God has opinion on, but somehow forget that God is also conspiring within them to speak and shape and achieve his purposes.» Posted on 20 Feb 2015 • Pass the Salt
Giving up for good (but not forever)
If you are a member of Chapel Hill, you need to read the following. It describes part of a vision for Christian discipleship at Chapel Hill.
Once upon a time there was something called the church calendar, which divided the year into two main parts: six months around the life of Jesus (anchored by Christmas and Easter), followed by six months of ‘ordinary time’.
The calendar affirmed two important things:
the centrality of Jesus and His church to a life of true Christian discipleship. During this time, Christians practiced times of feasting and celebration, and times of fasting and prayer, all focused around the life of Jesus.
the goodness of ordinary life; of planting and harvesting, of spring cleaning and home maintenance; of holidays in the sun.
Given the healthy rhythm the calendar worked to, it’s not surprising that northern hemisphere churches are re-discovering and introducing it again...but it’s not that easy for us, for lots of reasons.
For instance, agricultural rhythms do not shape our lives these days. Our lives are almost seasonless and we are trying to be as remorseless as the modern machines we use; we simply keep going, hot or cold, light or dark, early or late. No wonder we burn out like light-bulbs. Also, being in the southern hemisphere, our seasons clash with the usual calendar: Christmas time competes with our desperation for a summer break.
All this to say we need to find a way to restore/refresh our Christ-fashioned souls with a Christ-centered life.This life will include healthy engagement with church, and a healthy rhythm of work and rest.
What we need is a church calendar that works in our age, in our society, at our place and I’ve been working on one for a wee while now.
For instance, we have our church camp in winter these days. Why? Well, most of us are not taking a holiday (or suffering post-holiday whiplash), families aren't reeling from the time/financial pressures of getting back to school, and we all need to fend off the winter blues with the warmth of Christian community.
But our calendar (in my head) starts with Lent - the five-week, 40-day journey leading up to Easter. Lent is a preparation practice - it gets us ready for Easter. Often people give something up because Jesus gave up his life at the cross, such as chocolate, coffee, TV, food (for instance fasting one day a week for each five weeks). Often a new activity is put in its place. Instead of eating a meal, you can read scripture. Instead of watching TV you can have dates with loved ones, see friends, enjoy the mental space the peace and quiet offers. Instead of spending money at your favourite cafe, you can invest it in a good cause.
I urge you to consider engaging in Lent this year. What might you give up? What new thing might you do? You can easily engage children in this. I have found a great resource of ideas. Check our Kids section under sub-heading ‘Discipleship at home’.
» Posted on 13 Feb 2015 • Pass the Salt
We were blessed to have Graeme Chamberlain join us this summer as pastoral intern. Here is his 'last word'.
Graeme’s really cool summer
It’s crazy how when you are at the start of a journey it feels like it will take so long to get to the end. But somehow when you look back over the journey it feels the opposite - the time has gone too fast. Suddenly there isn’t much more of the journey to relish in.
When I first got a call from Alex Shepherd about the possibility of doing my summer placement here at Chapel Hill it was hard to contain my excitement. Now that I am into the last few days of my time at Chapel Hill it’s still hard to contain my excitement of how great of a placement it has actually been.
I have seen Jesus in various places this summer that have ranged from intense joy to deep grief. I’ve been allowed to come alongside you in these situations and journey with you, which has been my great honour and privilege. I find it incredibly sad I was only able to be here with you for three months, as I would have loved to continue journeying with more of you. You have given me treasured memories that I’m so grateful to God for.
There are many experiences and stories that have impacted me over the past three months but none more than the deep kindness of everyone towards me. Coming into a church with a big leadership role is quite an intimidating thing to do but you have all helped with the smooth transition by warmly welcoming me into the Chapel Hill family. This is definitely one of your greatest strengths in making people feel a sense of belonging and being welcomed very quickly. Please don’t lose this identity of yours.
Paul’s words to the Philippian church resonate in my heart for you, “And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ—to the glory and praise of God.”
This has been a deeply enriching experience for me and I hope you will continue to abide in Jesus Christ through the power of the Holy Spirit and in doing so glorifying the Father.
Graeme» Posted on 13 Feb 2015 • Pass the Salt
Are you a mystic?
“The day is coming when you are either a mystic or an unbeliever.”
At least, that’s what a chap named Karl Rahner thought. Rahner was a prominent theologian and Jesuit priest who lived through most of last century. In his time he saw the dying of western civilization as being essentially Christian, and the birth of today’s agnostic, unbelieving generation.
What he observed was a shift from an age when people all saw the presence of God in their lives, to an age when God was absent if he existed at all.
When he speaks of being a mystic, he is speaking of that age when people were alive to the presence of God in all things, and anyone who becomes a mystic today enters that world again. Such a person does more than attend a church; they enter the vision of reality the church has inherited, lives out and passes on. That itself sounds a bit mystical but is anything but.
To desire to feel better by wearing certain clothes or driving a certain car or living in a certain suburb is a mystical quest which we call ‘consumerism’. Consumerism is the modern-day equivalent to the quest for the Holy Grail: seeking an object considered to be of great significance, believing that if we obtain it, it will confer on us significance too. What no one stops to ask is whether that is really true. Is a cup that Jesus drank from actually precious, and does getting it make us precious in turn?
Apparently we think so. A classic example is the case of Ford versus Holden. These are now two distinct tribes, with badges, mottos, uniforms, and a distinct dislike for one another. And yet, they are merely cars. In a consumerist society, it is natural to expect to see people forming their identity around the things they buy (or don’t buy), and where they shop (or don’t shop), and indeed what they use when they buy - platinum card anyone? But who stops to ask whether any of these things have the power to truly bring us the significance we desire?
A mystic quite naturally does not form their identity around such things. A mystic has embraced the church’s vision of reality, believing that identity flows from a person, Jesus Christ. We are his. We are ‘little Christs’. He is our picture of reality. That’s why mystical people seem strange today (not all strange people, and not all people who do strange things, are mystical by the way - sometimes people are just strange and do strange things). And it’s not true, I don’t think, that being mystical is strange at all - the thesis would be that the mystic is in their right mind, seeing life as it really is: governed by God, flowing from God, flowing back to God, and a gift to be enjoyed, not a project to be completed...among other important things.