When Black & White Turns to Shades of Grey: Examining the #MeToo Movement and Fifty Shades Series

As a Christian leader I have followed the developing story of the #MeToo movement with great interest and with some degree of hope. I have counseled and listened to similar stories over the course of my years in ministry, and have seen first-hand the devastating effects of sexual abuse. I am deeply saddened by the number of women who have experienced sexual abuse and harassment and I applaud their courage for calling out their abusers. I am inspired by women like Rachael Denhollander, former Olympic gymnast and the first woman to publically accuse Larry Nassar, former team physican for USA gymnastics, of rampant sexual abuse. By coming forward, she created a platform for scores of female sexual assault victims to bravely share their stories. As a believer in Jesus and at great personal sacrifice, she stood in that Michigan courtroom and faced her abuser. She spoke with fierce and Spirit-filled resolve as she advocated on behalf of little girls and young women everywhere and gave them a voice. She called out the atrocity of Nassar’s long term abuse and the injustice of the systems that protected him. Rachael Denhollander communicated the gospel with vibrant clarity, and because of her courage. Something holy happened in Lansing that day.

Not surprisingly, the #MeToo movement continues to fuel the courage of women everywhere to speak up. In fact, Time Magazine honored as Person of the Year the “Silence Breakers: The Voices that Launched a Movement” and tells the stories of well-known movie stars who, like so many other women, have experienced sexual abuse and harassment. By speaking up, these women have given voice to “a very real and potent sense of unrest.”[1] As immediately as this sense of unrest unfurled—women united. According to Time,

Women have had it with bosses and co-workers who not only cross boundaries but don’t even seem to know that boundaries exist. They’ve had it with the fear of retaliation, of being blackballed, of being fired from a job they can’t afford to lose.…they’ve had it with men who use their power to take what they want from women. These silence breakers have started a revolution of refusal.[2]

Revolution indeed. Whether in mainstream news, social media, or the local gym the sense of unity is palatable.  Just a few days ago a woman I work out with was wearing a t-shirt that read “Strong is the New Pretty.” Every woman in that gym—all sorts of ages and from different backgrounds—gave her a knowing nod and a high five (including me). The line has been drawn, it’s clear, it’s a black and white issue. Sexual harassment, assault, and abuse is wrong.

Black & White Turns Fifty Shades

So, why is it that so many women are eagerly anticipating the release of Fifty Shades Freed? Fifty Shades Freed is the third installment of a series of films described as “American erotic romantic drama” glorifying the very thing the #MeToo movement stands for. In the name of entertainment the very thing Hollywood decries as reprehensible is the film “everyone’s talking about.”  Why on earth, just weeks after Hollywood actresses, Rachael Hollander, Judge Aquilina and some 164 women broke the silence and elevated the worth of little girls and young women everywhere, why would we “Make a Date” or “Take a Daughter” to see Fifty Shades Freed? Suddenly the black and white line of morality has dissolved into fifty shades of grey.  

Our Response

So, how do we as Christian leaders respond in the face of these inconsistencies? First, it is imperative that we recognize and critically analyze the cultural relativism at work in our society today. Clearly, based upon the events outlined in this article, people recognize the need for some kind of moral compass a place to orient between right and wrong, yet without a divine center relativism leaves us confused and disoriented. As believers in Jesus Christ, as children of the most-high God, we have access to his authoritative and unchanging revelation. The Bible describes in graphic detail our shared problem of sin and introduces the only One who can make straight the crooked and restore the broken. We must remain vigilant and allow the Scriptures to speak into the currents of the day.

Secondly, I believe that God is providing Christians an opportunity to play a prophetic role in the public square. Paul G. Hiebert affirms, “The gospel serves a prophetic function, showing us the way God intended us to live as human beings and judging our lives and cultures by those norms. Where the gospel has lost this prophetic voice, it is in danger of being wedding to beliefs and values that distort its message.”[3] For too long the gospel has been privatized and sanitized, it is time to follow the Rachael Denhollanders of our day. She provides for us, the church, a vivid example of what it means to stand up for the harassed and abused and marginalized, to call for dignity and justice, and at the same time to proclaim with boldness the cross of Jesus Christ.

Finally, while the effects of sin outlined in this article are egregious, it is imperative that followers of Christ we willingly engage with people who have suffered the effects of sexual sin. This is a problem that seeps into all the nooks and crannies of the church and is not easy to talk about and requires we take shift our gospel posture. We need to first listen and seek to understand, which might take a long time. Then carefully, lovingly, and confidently share a better story—the true story of God’s redeeming love.

This post was first featured here on February 11, 2018.

[1] Stephanie Zacharek, Eliana Dockterman and Haley Sweetland Edwards, “The Silence Breakers: The Voices that Launched a Movement,” Time.com, Dec. 18, 2017 (http://time.com/time-person-of-the-year-2017-silence-breakers/ (accessed February 11, 2018), np.

[2] Ibid., np.

[3] Paul G. Hiebert, Anthropological Insights for Missionaries (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 1985), 56.

Confessions of a Middle-Aged White Woman, Part III: Our Journey to The Repentance Project–An American Lent Introduction

The issue of ethnic diversity is something we really care about at Cru. My colleagues and I have taken purposeful steps to listen to our staff of color, to lament with them, and to ask their forgiveness on behalf of our organization for wrongs committed. Personally, I am grateful for the ways in which these deep discussions have changed me, for the ways in which the vulnerability and honesty of my ethnic brothers and sisters has enriched my life and helped me to understand the gospel in deeper ways. And, while I firmly believe we have made some progress, I recognize the fact that we have a long way to go.

A few years back, as we began to actively seek to understand on an even deeper level, several of us had an opportunity to attend a "Race & Reconciliation" gathering in an Atlanta. In the midst of a very frank and honest discussion, a pastor of color warned us, "This is going to get a lot harder before it gets better." And, it has. Today I have more questions and sometimes feel more confused than I did when I entered the conversation, but the Spirit within keeps prodding me forward. My team with Cru continues to link arms with friends and colleagues, pastors and leaders to seek healing and restoration.

Lately, as I try to engage with the Lord and with others, the truths of Ephesians 2:13–22 stand out:

But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. For he 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. 

The essence of the gospel is powerful–through the sacrifice of God's son on the cross we are all brought near by his blood. His Incarnation, Crucifixion, and Resurrection breaks down the dividing wall of hostility that separates us from God. The reverberating effect of the gospel breaks down the dividing wall of hostility that separates you and me. In a powerful and transforming way he has created (because he is the Creator) in himself one new person in the place of two. In Christ we find peace and reconciliation with God and with each other through the cross. Hostility is destroyed. 

For through him we both have access in one Spirit to the Father. So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone, in whom the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord. In him you also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit.

Somehow, in the complex and mysterious way of the Spirit, I reach out to touch this deeper meaning of identity and unity. What eludes my grasp now in my experience has already occurred in Christ. In him the dividing wall of hostility crumbled and at the very same time a new foundation formed–this time on resurrection ground, and Jesus Christ provides plumb. In him a whole new and living structure began to take shape from Jerusalem, to Judea, to the uttermost parts of the earth. I imagine living and breathing walls of faces joined together from every tribe, tongue, and nation giving shape to a holy, vibrant temple–a living house where God by the Spirit dwells. We, the holy temple of God's Spirit are fellow citizens, members of the same household of God, The living, breathing body of Christ, the dwelling of God by the Spirit, is by its very nature unified in its diversity.  

As a white follower of Jesus, I realize I have a role to play in helping to sweep away some of the debris that made up the dividing wall of hostility in our country, and I have a responsibility to love and understand my brothers and sisters. One way I am continuing to learn is by joining my colleagues as we engage together in The Repentance Project: An American Lent Introduction. Here is a description of the project's purpose.

The Repentance Project was born out of grief and desire.

The grief comes from knowing that the wounds inflicted both by centuries of slavery in America and a century of Jim Crow laws are not barely healed, and that many systems of racial oppression are still in place as its diabolical legacy, affecting millions of lives both Black and White.

The desire comes from knowing that those wounds can be stopped and healed, that there really is hope and possibility for the “Beloved Community” of which Martin Luther King, Jr. so often spoke.

This possibility, however, requires that we reckon with the long history of racial oppression in America and are able to recognize the legacy of slavery that still persists.  When cities like Los Angeles in the early 90s and more recently Ferguson, Baltimore, Dallas, Charleston, and Charlotte erupt in protest and flames because of racial tensions, it’s not without context and a long history.  While America was founded on some noble principles, it must also be said and grieved, and repented of, that for centuries explicitly and decades implicitly, America was founded on the attempted genocide of one group of people and the oppression of another.

Join us....

 

Confessions of a Middle-Aged White Woman, Part II: Lessons I've Learned From History

In honor of Black History Month I thought I would include a few more posts that reflect some of the ways in which I, a middle-aged white woman, have grown in my understanding and appreciation of the African American Church. A couple of years ago I posted my first "Confessions" article, which you can read here, in which I describe some initial steps I took with the help of some dear Cru colleagues to grow in awareness.

As I mentioned in the article, the more I exposed to the topic of diversity and the more I interacted with people of color, I was humbled. "You don't know what you don't know" and I knew so little. So, I began taking advantage of writing assignments for certain seminary courses to learn more about the growth of the Church in the north and antebellum south, and marveled how the message of the gospel spread among slaves in the midst of often inhumane and horrific circumstances. Although my research barely scratches the surface, it helped me understand something I knew very little about. 

So, this week's post will provide a brief history of a handful of men used by God to plant and grow the African American church in the North including: Lemuel Hayes, Uncle Jack, and Lott Carey. Let me state, at the outset, these brief histories, although by no means comprehensive in scope, hopefully provide insight into the ways in which God used the adversity of our black brothers and sisters to spread the gospel and to build the church. 

The African American church was birthed as a result of the African slave trade that brought some ten million Africans to Britain and North America between 1500 and 1820. The captives, often viewed as less than human, were rarely exposed to the gospel until the 18th Century, and even after a slave believed and was baptized, slaveholders struggled to see their value as human beings. Historian Bill Leonard explains, “Baptism threatened to make the slave “so nearly a person that no Christian could hold him in slavery.””[1] Despite captivity and oppression these faithful followers of Christ began to form their own congregations in New England and across the frontier as early as 1805.      

During the Revolutionary War, particularly in the north, black believers began to cry for freedom and emancipation. Lemuel Haynes (1753–18330, a black pastor fighting in the War of Independence provided a strong, anti-slavery voice. Haynes, abandoned by his African father and white mother, grew up as an indentured servant in what historians describe as a “hospitable environment.” He received a Christian education as a child and, after serving in the Revolutionary War, studied theology. Thabite Anyabwile notes, “[Haynes] was licensed to preach on November 29, 1780 and five years later became the first African-American ordained by any religious body in America. In 1804 Middlebury College awarded Hayes an honorary Master’s degree—another first for an African American.”[2] Haynes, a Calvinist and “New Light Moderate” became a model for church leaders. He often taught and preached on the importance of a pastor’s character and calling. Remarkably, he pastored an all-white church for 30 years until the onset of the Civil War when he stepped down from the pastorate due to racial tension among his congregants.

During this same period under much different circumstances, celebrated folk preacher, Uncle Jack (c.1750–1843), arrived on American shores as a nine-year-old slave. He converted to Christianity at the age of forty, and although he never attended school, eventually learned to read the Bible and to preach the truth. Biographer, Rev. Dr. William S. White notes: “He became so full of the spirit and knowledge of the Bible that he was recognized among whites as a powerful expounder of Christian doctrine, was licensed to preach by the Baptist Church, and preached from plantation to plantation within a radius of thirty miles.”[3] Uncle Jack was never vocal on the topic of emancipation nor influential in the broad scope of African American church growth, but “[f]or over forty years, and until he was nearly a hundred years of age, he labored successfully in public and private”[4] and walked with God with an influence that reaches into the twenty-first century.

Lott Carey (1780–1828), another fascinating figure, influenced the growth of the African American church in America and became the first American missionary to the continent of Africa. Born to slave parents, Carey was baptized in Richmond, Virginia in 1807 while working as a tobacco laborer. Although never formally educated, he quickly learned to read and write and demonstrated a supernatural ability to preach and teach. In addition, Carey was instrumental in garnering attention among black believers in Richmond for the country of Africa.[5] Carey’s burden, shared by fellow preacher Collin Teague, resulted in the establishment of the African Missionary Society. Carey initially contributed to the mission by raising considerable funds and eventually by relocating as a missionary to Liberia where he and other missionaries to Africa endured great hardship and loss in the midst of evangelizing and baptizing many Africans. Carey’s heart and passion for missions is revealed in a letter dated Dec. 20, 1827:

I do not know what to say, but I must say, O American Christians! Look this way! come this way! and help, if you cannot come! Send help for the Lord’s sake! help Africa’s sons out of the devil’s bush into the kingdom of God; the harvest is already white.[6]

Carey died in Liberia in 1828 after having given considerable leadership in the country and on behalf of Liberian believers in the face of colonization. 

I believe these men continue to have an influence in the twenty-first century. We can learn a great deal personally from their perseverance, calling, and dedication, and corporately as we consider the power of the gospel and the mission of God. 

 

 

Excerpts of this blog are taken from a research paper by Cas Monaco for SEBTS dated 2013.

[1] Bill J. Leonard, Baptist Ways, A History (Valley Forge: Judson Press, 2003), 263.

[2] Thabiti M. Anyabwile, The Faithful preacher, Recapturing the Vision of Three Pioneering African-American Pastors (Crossway, Wheaton, 2007), 18.

[3] Phil Zukerman, DuBois on Religion, (Walnut Creek: AltaMira Press, 2000), 76.

[4] Ibid, 77.

[5] (Taylor 1998, 16)

[6] (Taylor 1998, 82)

 

Harriet Tubman: The Moses of Her People

I wrote this piece a few years ago for a PhD seminar. We were instructed to write a brief biography of a theological influencer, and I found myself intrigued and humbled by the profound influence of Harriet Tubman. Although thoroughly  uneducated, her "applied theology" reverberates across U.S. history, and reveals a God who refuses to be limited by academic definition. At the outset let me say, this brief biography does not capture all there is to know about Harriet Tubman, the footnotes at the end provide access to more information if you are so inclined. 

Araminta Harriet Ross, born as a slave in eastern Maryland sometime in 1820, suffered under abusive owners for most of her young life, and eventually escaped slavery in 1849. Not satisfied with her own freedom, Tubman went on to make 19 heroic trips to the South, and delivered some 300 slaves to freedom on the notorious Underground Railroad, thereby earning her the nickname, “Moses.” She boasted, “I never lost a passenger.” Known to carry a gun, Tubman threatened to kill reluctant escapees, but fortunately, never had to pull the trigger. Over the years, she fought the hardest to free members of her own family from the bonds of slavery.

Tubman’s remarkable faith in God developed during her years of captivity, and under the influence of Samuel Green, freed slave, Methodist Episcopal preacher, and Underground Railroad agent. Many admired her incredible courage in the face of great odds, and attributed both to her strong faith.

During the Civil War Tubman actively participated in the fight against the Confederacy sometimes as a nurse or a laundress, but most notably, as the first woman to plan and execute an armed military expedition. Additionally, she often led rescue missions to liberate slaves “deep in enemy territory.” Fellow Abolitionist, John Brown, described Tubman as “one of the best and bravest persons on this continent—General Tubman as we call her.”[1]

In addition to aligning with Abolitionists, her political life included campaigning for civil and human rights, and challenging the inferior political, economic, and social roles of women and African Americans. “Harriet Tubman maintained an unblemished record of vigilance, creating a legacy of sacrifice and struggle that carried into the twentieth century. She never grandstanded on any particular issue and made all her public pleas for the benefit of others.”[2]

Eventually, with the help of Secretary of State William Seward, she purchased a home from which she ran in informal shelter; and with the help of her church it eventually became a charity institution: The Harriet Tubman Home. Sadly, despite numerous honors, she spent her last years in poverty. 

As we celebrate Black History Month, I am moved once again by Harriet Tubman's bravery, sacrifice, and strong sense of purpose and freedom. I am also moved by the truth that I am her sister-a few generations removed-but nonetheless part of the same family. As followers of Jesus, it is increasingly important that we recognize that in all of our differences and similarities, we share the same heavenly Father and are eternally bound by the shed blood of Jesus Christ. I look forward to meeting Harriet someday in the Kingdom. 

 

 

[1] Christian History: Harriet Tubman   Online: http://www.christianitytoday.com/history/people/activists/harriet-tubman.html?share=%2fTuWMGFAojusPLzvXsW8GRAxqirtjccA. Accessed May 29, 2016.

[2] Clinton, Catherine. Harriet Tubman: The Road to Freedom. New York, NY: Hachette Book Group, 2004.

 

 

The Intersection of Right & Wrong

I think it is safe to say that this past year has been pivotal with regard to our awareness of the complexity of politics and morality. Whether we mean to or not, we engage with a vast community in conversations covering an array of topics in unprecedented ways. This week we have unwittingly become privy to a banal tit-for-tat between Megyn Kelly and Jane Fonda. In the same week, on a different feed, we find a three minute video of a weeping little boy who has been bullied at school. Somehow we wonder why bullying is a problem. The 24/7 social discourse often splashes fuel on already raging fires. Acerbic responses passed on in sharp bytes of judgement lay bare a widening cultural divide.

Remarkably, however, there is something this ongoing discussion has revealed: we hold in common, at least in certain scenarios, a sense of right and wrong. 

For example, until a few weeks ago I had never heard of Logan Paul, a twenty-two-year-old “social media influencer,” video vlogger and entrepreneurial entertainer of millions of mostly teenage YouTube subscribers, Twitter and Instagram followers. Paul, began vlogging as a young kid, and has been feeding his followers with his maverick style and daring antics. Paul’s name burst onto my screen a few weeks ago after he reportedly posted a video of himself discovering a suicide victim in Japan’s Aokigahara or “suicide forest”. In that instant he stepped over the line, a line he did not know was there, by the way, until his outraged followers condemned his lack of judgement and glib reaction. It was unanimous, he was wrong. And, immediately he removed the video, thankfully, apologized for his actions, and retreated from the public eye to reflect on his actions.

What was it about Logan Paul’s cavalier display of disrespect that got our attention? Perhaps it was the combination of his casual treatment of a deeply disturbing scene or his lack of awareness surrounding the issue of suicide. Personally, I was distraught by the fact that most of the millions of Logan Paul’s faithful followers include kids, vulnerable kids, many of whom fight for the will to live every day in our country. Did you know that suicide is the third leading cause of death for 15-to-24 year olds? Statistics reported by the American Association for Suicide Prevention indicate suicide as the tenth leading cause of death in the U.S. And, on average, 123 people commit suicide every day, which means that for every person who succeeds twenty-five more make an attempt.  I am close to families who have experienced the death of a loved one by suicide, and the deep sorrow and pain from such a loss is inexplicable. 

I learned just yesterday that Logan Paul returned from his social media hiatus, choosing to use his platform of influence to raise suicide awareness; additionally, he donated $1 million to suicide prevention organizations. And, while I appreciate his attempts to make things right, I hope and pray that his own understanding of suicide and the organizations committed to preventing it will serve to heighten his awareness of the real struggles people out there face. I also hope he has learned something of the value of life-including his own.

Then, earlier today, like many of you, I read the news that Larry Nassar, former U.S. gymnastic team doctor, was sentenced to up to 175 years in prison for sexually abusing at least 150 young female gymnasts. The abuse he inflicted on these women is wrong, and I applaud the bravery of the young woman involved. I can only imagine the courage it took to break the silence and the cycle. I pray their willingness to speak out will bring a deep sense of healing for all of them, their families and friends. While I am astounded that Nassar's behavior went unchecked for so long and affected so.many.women I pray this disturbing event, in tandem with the message of the #metoo movement, will further heighten awareness of the reality of sexual abuse and provide necessary education and tools to break the cycle. I have known women who have been scarred by sexual abuse and exploitation, and the road to recovery and healing is a long one. 

I blog about these issues tonight because I think you and I need to critically consider and courageously engage in our culture and the issues at hand. The common sense of right and wrong emerging in discussions like these, is embedded in us by our Creator. The cry for justice and mercy, the longing for acceptance and dignity is evidence--we are Imago Dei. You and I have the opportunity, in the neighborhood or in the cubicle, on the bus or on Facebook, to validate the significance of every life because we know the Creator of all life.

We have the opportunity to interject truth into the nasty and sometimes nonchalant narrative of the day and tell a better story—a story of sacrifice and healing, of love and forgiveness, acceptance and value and hope. In today’s culture gospel opportunities begin by listening to the stories of the people with whom we work and play, squeezing into their shoes even if we feel the pinch. We can bear the load of emotional and physical pain and abuse, and share the gospel of Jesus—one conversation at a time. 

I'm reminding myself as I remind you, we are called to engage in gospel conversations under the authority of the Lord Jesus Christ. The gospel is not just one of many religious stories, it is the true story of the whole world, historically bound by the only true God who is like no other. 

Source: Photo by Denys Nevozhai on Unsplash

Creative Maladjustment: The Fog

San Francisco, the City by the Bay is also known as the City of Fog. The past two mornings I awoke, somewhere on Nob Hill, to a neighborhood wrapped in a dense grey mist that looked and felt and smelled something like a damp wool sweater. As I’d move along toward my meeting place, people would sort of emerge from behind the mist—some, going places, hurried, intent, unaffected by the heavy fog; and others, going nowhere, weighted down by the chilly mist as if fastened to the dirty ground, enveloped in the damp wool sweater.

Creative Maladjustment, a phrase inspired by the late Martin Luther King, means, in short, that we should guard against being "well-adjusted," we should beware of becoming dismissive of or unaffected by those fastened down by the fog, the easy to ignore. During yesterday’s morning session we met the directors of City Hope, a non profit serving their community—a community with turbulence painted all over it. We learned that one of the ways they serve in their neighborhood is by performing funeral services for people, so many people, who die without a home and without a family...under that damp wool sweater. 

You know something? I have never stopped to consider that people are dealing with death at such a raw level. I have no categories. More and more I find myself asking, what does being a follower of Jesus, what does being part of his church look like in these turbulent times? 

In addition to the stark reality of death and dying, a few other things stood out to me from the sessions I attended: first, the basic idea of building trust in these days of suspicion though the simple act of hospitality, the everyday act of sharing a meal. Second, the call to live the cruciform life. To live as the new creation that we are in Christ Jesus. To go about our days in the same upside down way that Jesus did when he lived and died for us. Third, the need to develop and embrace a solid theological framework to help navigate the dense fog so prevalent in this chaotic season. 

Also, within a short time of my being there, it became apparent that I was one of a handful of participants not from the Bay Area; and, quite likely the only conservative among progressives. Furthermore, as the Lord would have it, I had (and still have) laryngitis. Go figure. So, I squeaked out a few sentences and made a few raspy comments here and there over a delicious Thai lunch at Lers Ros and a comfort food dinner catered by Rusty's Southern, but for the most part I simply listened and observed. I did not always agree with what I heard, to be quite honest, but I did gain a deeper appreciation for what the church is up against in cities like San Francisco. And, although we do not agree on important issues facing the church today, I looked for and found common ground, built a few bridges and crossed a few, and hopefully gained some trust for future conversations. 

So here I sit, crammed into my seat by the window high above the fray and the fog, experiencing just enough turbulence to cause me to hang onto Hope; praying for opportunities to engage in gospel conversation and an eager readiness to proclaim Hope’s excellencies—he delivers us from darkness and transfers us to the kingdom of his beloved Son. I’m also begging for the grace to see past myself, to reach through the fog and remove the damp wool sweater from the shoulders of imago Dei and if necessary, replace it with the coat off my back. 

What about you? How are you engaged in "Creative Maladjustment," or navigating the fog of turbulence today?

 

Source: Photo by Axel Antas-Bergkvist on Unsplash

On My Way to A Colloquy Sponsored by Newbigin House of Studies

Creative Maladjustment: Pastoral Leadership for Turbulent Times

I must admit, they had me at the title. "Maladjustment" aptly describes what I feel almost every day as I navigate 'gospel in culture' during these "turbulent times." 

This particular colloquy is sponsored by Newbigin House of Studies, a relatively new and growing seminary set in the heart of San Francisco. I became acquainted with Dr. Peter Choi, Director of Academic Programs for NHS, this summer at Cru 17. One of our staff members had just wrapped up "The Newbigin Year" and was eager to share his experience. I was impressed by the seminary's commitment to "seek the good of the city by developing leaders through theological education." My personal and professional ministry experience convinces me that navigating meaningful ministry in the twenty-first century requires a solid theological foundation, and what better place to start than "the city by the bay." 

NHS takes as its namesake missionary statesman Lesslie Newbigin (1909–1998). He served as a missionary, evangelist, and apologist in India for many years, but, as many would agree, his most profound work and influence began upon his return to England where he was shocked to discover that the West had become its own mission field–in urgent need of attention. My own studies have been profoundly influenced by his work as a missiologist and public theologian, and I have enjoyed reading several of his books, such as Foolishness to the Greeks, Signs Amid the RubbleThe Gospel in a Pluralistic Culture, and The Gospel As Public Truth. This is one of my favorite Newbigin quotes:

"The Gospel is a public truth for all people of all times and all places."

 

So, if you are looking for "Creative Maladjustment" like I am, stayed tuned and I'll drop in some notable notes and quotes here as I engage in meaningful conversation, sip some coffee, and grab a few tasty meals with fabulous people along the way. 

 

Source: Photo by Ramiro Checchi on Unsplash

Hanging in the Balance

Ring out, wild bells, to the wild sky, The flying cloud, the frosty light: The year is dying in the night; Ring out, wild bells, and let him die. Ring out the old, ring in the new, Ring, happy bells, across the snow: The year is going, let him go; Ring out the false, ring in the true.                  Alfred Lord Tennyson

Today marks the 363rd day of a wild year that flew by in a sluggish sort of way.  With only a few days left of 2017, a profound quiet all around reminds me that we are hanging in the balance between the end and a beginning. Whiling away the final days of a year gone mad. 

Ring out, wild bells, to the wild sky. The flying cloud, the frosty light: The year is dying in the night; Ring out, wild bells, and let him die.

Hanging in the balance between the end and a beginning, I wrap up this year with more questions than answers, eager to brush away tiny shards lingering from 2017's confusion and complexity. I am tempted to believe the press--the fake and the flippant, the audacious and the cowardly. I am tempted to step into a new year wringing my sweaty hands with worry.

Ring out the old, Ring in the new

So, as I teeter on the precipice between what was and what will be, I am reminded to take a deep breath, and to steady myself with the Truth. His name is Jesus, the Way, the Truth, and the Life, the One who was and is and is to come. When little else is sure and steadfast, Jesus is the Anchor for my soul.  

Ring, happy bells, across the snow

Maybe you are like me, hanging on for dear life between the end and a beginning. Try setting aside a little time of quiet, and read the Word over the next few days and listen for his voice. Try ending and beginning with a gleaming sliver of truth everlasting.

I read this passage today and found solid ground: 

"Have you not known? Have you not heard? The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He does not faint or grow weary; his understanding is unsearchable. He gives power to the faint, and to him who has no might he increases strength. Even youths shall faint and be weary, and young men shall fall exhausted; but they that wait for the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint" (Isaiah 40:28–31).

The year is going, let him go; Ring out the false, ring in the true.