Kingdom Discernment, Discipleship and Art – Part 1

I have no idea how many parts this series of posts will eventually include. This is the beginning of a journey that has started here, here, and here. The first link got me thinking about discipleship as conspiracy. The second is my attempt to elaborate on the subject against the notion of empire, and the third link was my proposal that every follower of Jesus is a conspiring artist and that art is a way for the church to express who God is and where he is at work in our neighbourhoods.

Today is the summary of the first experience of moving toward liberating the artist in the course of discipleship for the purpose of kingdom discernment and mission.

But I need to clarify my motivation here a bit more before I dive in….

A fundamental part of my proposal is the recognition that the artistic is not taken seriously in missiological discourse in the church because of its open ended nature. Much of the ecclesial imagination in the West is held captive by the empire's language of market capitalization (read strategy) and as a result becomes anxious about the mystery of art. Whereas market language deals with notions of “how”, the artistic can express notions of “who” and “where” in mission. The artist can evoke an alternative vision expressing who God is and where he is located, while at the same time forming criticism of injustice embedded within the status quo. Where there is predictability and strategy there is no room for art. In this equation dominated by “how”, art is airy-fairy and at a loss to contribute toward God's Kingdom advancing. These questions of “how” grip the imaginations of God's people toward utilitarian ends in a negative way.

But I don't need to hash that out further at this point. I want to share an experiment with art that our mission group engaged yesterday.

I was asked to lead our worship time last night. Although I love playing the guitar, last night I wanted to draw the artist out of people. We did that by building up toward an exercise of each of us writing a four line poem.

I started by asking for a show of hands for the following questions.

    • How many of you feel you are creative?
    • How many of you consider yourselves an artist?
    • How many of you consider yourselves a leader?

About half saw themselves as having some creative impulse, less than a quarter as artistic and about the same as a leader. Then I asked the following questions.


    • How many of you think God is creative?
    • How many of you believe God is an artist?
    • How many of you believe you were made in God's image?
Everyone put their hand up for each of these questions… not surprising. The point of this exercise was to draw a parallel between God and his imaged creation sharing the same potential for creativity and the artistic. Art is ultimatley the ability to say something in a creative way through a transformative experience that leads to expression though whatever medium. I want everyone to consider themselves uniquely artists that can first listen, then discern and interpret their experiences of God and life in a creative fashion. Creativity is even simply conjuring up the words of this transformative process in a way that is evocative and beautiful.

We then entered a time of prayer and listened to a Steve Bell song. I thought it important to give the group something to anchor this experience in. So, I guided the group to consider their life without God while we reflected in the song. I wanted people to consider the emotions, color, and details of this. Then we transitioned to reading Isaiah 65:17-25 as a way to encounter poetry that summarizes the nature of the hope we have in Christ in vivid ways. This served to contrast the experience. Again, I asked that people consider the emotions, color and details of this.

We then began our process of writing a four line poem. There was no pressure to share it with anyone else. This would hijack the experience by introducing anxiety about what others think. I challenged people to work through the feeling of difficulty by going over their words and making it as good as they possibly could. I offered for people to share only if they wanted to. One person did share and the words were beautiful…encouraging. The rest were encouraged to keep their poems in their hearts as an expression of prayer in the spirit of the psalmist.

The night was a good opportunity to grow as artists in the Kingdom. More to come as the journey continues.

Kingdom Discernment and Art

I think there is much that needs to be explored about the place of art in kingdom discernment and mission. If we maintain the theological conviction that the church exists for the world, then it makes sense that the church is led by the Spirit into Civic discourse as partners on the journey. This is the realm where I believe the artist can contribute meaningfully. I'm in discovery mode with these ideas and have rested initially on the following questions to guide me further.

  1. Can artists in the church participate in civic conversations in a way that identifies the work of God (the who) in a specific locality (the where)?
  2. Is there potential for the theologically formed creative artist to move us away from an agenda of church growth and strategy as is too often is the case with the church on mission (getting away from 'how')?
  3. Is theologically inspired art a way to dialogue and partner with communities to realize new civic possibilities and transformation (…on earth as it is in heaven)?

My questions clearly revolve around the nature of the civic partnership and conversation. Is it always an academic conversation? Is it a practical needs-oriented conversation? Is it a challenge in the spirit of the prophetic? I think it can be all of the above and I think art is a valid medium for dialogue.

If we think about art for a moment, it can generally be defined as the ability to say something creatively. Creative expression is important within culture because art, at is core, evokes reaction and proposes a vision for something. Art is emotional and subversive through its display. Art serves to build culture, nurture vision, and transform perspective.

The artist is important in this equation because the artist is first a listener and then an interpreter. When the task of listening is complete, the interpretation of the experience begins for the artist. Then the artist can express their voice through artistic means. The result can lead to the advance of culture, a challenge to the status quo, an alternative vision for society, and many more possibilities. After all, isn't listening the enabler/first step of discernment? And isn't discernment the prerequisite to discovering the work of God in our neighbourhoods, both where He is already working and where the church can partner? I think so, and as such, artists deserve a bigger voice at the table. I would argue that artists are discerners and can should lead this civic conversation at times.

The place of Art in the church has not been neglected per se throughout her history, but in evangelicalism, I think it is not underscored in a way that it should be. Often the impulse toward the practical and instrumental tends to squeeze the mystery of the artistic to the margins of the church's life together. In other words, it's not taken as seriously as it should be because the artistic process is too open ended and unpredictable, making the traditional approach of strategy evangelism (that is based on certainties) anxious.

Another note to mention on the topic is leadership. All artists are leaders in their own right. They lead because they say something unique as a result of a transformative process they undergo. Unfortunately not all people see themselves as artists, or at least creative. This is tragic because if all God's people understood themselves as artists, things could be different. What if every follower of Jesus felt like they had a voice inspired by God in them and actually spoke with that voice through image, song, paint, poem, story, creative conversation, etc? This would be a form of leadership through creative expression that could awaken many possibilities for Kingdom discernment and life.

Every person has the ability (via divine imaging by their creator) to express themselves artistically. They can say something with conviction as a result of being stirred by the Spirit of God. Unfortunately most rely on a consumeristic posture in their faith that surrenders their potential to ordained leaders as the inspired ones feeding consumers spiritual information. The consumer/believer in this situation is devoid of imagination, discernment, artistic impulse, and (I would say) life potential. In many ways we have reduced the experience of God to a cerebral process devoid of creative expression. This, I think, is tragic as it resists the theology of the Missio Dei; the church's identity as co-creators with God in his project for creation through the Spirit's sending. This understanding demands that – at least in a loose sense, but yet a very real sense – all followers are creative artists.

It's becoming clear to me that theological formation and discipleship should be less averse to embracing the creative potential of people; or, fostering the artist in every disciple. Even in the life of Jesus we see a vivid imagination in his stories about the Kingdom. In this way Jesus was an artist. We can also interpret the creative demonstration of his signs and miracles as artistic expression of God's rule. In vivid, subversive and powerful ways (all the things art can be), Jesus painted a reality picture for us that not only pointed to him as creator come in the flesh (the 'who'), but also to God's Kingdom arriving in power locally to make things new (the where). His promise that the church will be capable of even greater things (John 14:12) makes me wonder at the possibilities while at the same time challenging my faith.

Our church has mission groups that are intentional about doing the above. We are trying to discern a “mission focus” for our group. My imagination is running wild with the possibilities of engaging though art. I'd love to facilitate a conversation in our group that could help us say something together about God's kingdom showing up in our neighbourhood. Artistically.

More to come on the journey as it unfolds…..

An evening of covenant….

Communion.Gif (Gif Image, 289X269 Pixels)Tonight our mission group met around the theme of Passover. How God delivered the Israelites from the hand of Pharaoh, but also from their complacency and sin, spoke vividly to us as we shared openly and honestly about how we are both trusting and not trusting God in our lives. The symbolic imagery of leaven and how the Israelites were to remove it completely in their homes before the Passover was in a sense what we did with the telling of our stories. We confessed and prayed for one another before responding in song and taking communion together. We heeded Paul’s exhortation to the Corinthians to examine themselves and we further examined ourselves. We felt this was in the same vein as the “leaven” imagery and we all committed to searching our hearts and following through on some “make it right” conversations if they were needed. We saw this as a way to deeply root our faith in the practical outworking of relationships in our life and take seriously that which we so easily confess to believe.

Our evening was one marked by a spirit of discipleship and as a pastor this encouraged me greatly. That people in the group I lead are willing to be held accountable is both counter cultural and a sign of maturity in Christ. My hope and prayer as a pastor is to encourage people toward unity in Christ. If we can learn to pay greater attention to God in our lives and nurture intimacy with him in a spirit of discipleship, then from that resulting love will emerge the passion to fuel mission and to be the people we were created to be. There were tough conversations tonight, but they were the most remarkable blessing…

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A Covenant Evening…

Tonight we kicked off our 07/08 mission groups. Since we found out who we will be sharing life with, we have been eager for this night so we could dive into a rhythm of life together again. The structure of our groups are predominantly geographic and are centered around mission. This year we are approaching the discernment of mission for our group through the Ingnatian practices of Examen and discernment. We really want to recognize what God wants from us by listening intently to how He is working in our own lives and where He is already at work in our community. Such an approach is exciting because we get to discover each step of the way what surprising adventure the Lord invites us into. It puts us in a posture of responsive faithfulness as we seek to tease out of life the workings of God.

We began the evening by sharing what our hopes and dreams are for the year ahead. Person after person desired a greater intimacy with God and maturity in their faith. It’s wonderful to stumble upon the realization that at the heart of each of our desires is a longing to share the life of the Trinity. Twas good to hear.

We then went over our mission group covenant. At the start of each year, in our first meeting, we remind each other of our commitment to be shaped by a set of biblical practices and values that can guide us toward faithfulness. Rather than a burden or standard to live up to, our covenant is an invitation to each of us to live deeply within the story of God that is being orchestrated in our lives as followers of Jesus. It was affirmed how living into the covenant is a good way to realize our expressed hopes for the year. We followed this with ample scripture readings about love and community, music, communion together, and prayers.

After communion, we practiced the Examen on our day and then shared how God had been working in our day through our experiences and desires. The discussion was amazing and all had a sense that the Lord was speaking. I love those moments, when you just know that God is in the room. It makes for a very sacred time and served to bind us together significantly on our first night. When I think of it, we are not normal Christians by mainstream, Western standards, as there is evident in us an ethos that we are not here for ourselves, but for each other and for the sake of the world through mission. How else should we be in response to the love that God lavishes onto us?

All contributed to the discussion tonight and that was a source of encouragement. There is great anticipation among us as the journey unfolds.

Here is a good link to help you get started with the Examen. May this practice bless you.

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A Community in my face…

Poverty 10 06.Jpg (Jpeg Image, 445X296 Pixels)

Each morning I get up in the wee hours, prepare myself for work and make my way to the train station where I park my car before the 40 minute trip into downtown. I park on the street beside a vacant lot that is a smattering of trees and unkept grass. Upon first glance, anyone will realize this is an abandoned lot. On an adjacent street, one riddled with syringes and roaming prostitutes, there is the local food bank which is frequented often by the needy. This is the marginalized centre of Whalley, in the city of Surrey. It is wrought with discomfort, brokenness, and violent crime. The people here are considered by societies standards, the dregs. Although I live in an somewhat well kept neighbourhood, this place is a five minute drive from home.

Since the summer weather is nicely lingering and offering mild days, lately I have noticed a community forming in the vacant lot that I park next to. There are about 15 people that call this abandoned lot home. I am confronted by them daily, not in a ‘harassing’ way (perhaps only harassing to my comfort), but in a way that has troubled me since I have begun exploring how God works in each moment of my day. The simple question, “What are you saying, God?“, if offered to each situation in life, can have serious implications for faithfulness.

People ignore the humans (that’s right, humans) that struggle through life in this park. Some pass them by thinking “You’ve made your own bed, you deserve this.” How Karmic such statements are. Others don’t even notice that these are someone’s earthly and heavenly children. As I pass, always in a rush to get to work on time, these sentiments make their way out of my heart as well. Then I realize that were Jesus here today in person, these would be the ones he would wake up beside to the sunshine, or rain, of the morning. They are the “least of these” Jesus talked about. These are the ones who would jive to hearing that he too didn’t have a place to rest his head. These are the ones that would be drawn to the one who identified with them through the incarnation.

Where does that leave me today? Troubled. Why? because I know that as Christians we are to implement the plan of reconciliation that Jesus fulfilled and instigated on the cross. To say the least, I am challenged. I am challenged to the point where I want to shake myself (or be shaken) out of this slumber of day-to-day getting along, and make my life here a reflection of God. Because I know he cares for those I tend to sheepishly pass by.

I am also inspired. Our mission groups are gearing up for a journey into discernment as well. Through this we want to eagerly hear God’s invitation to us to act justly and love mercy in our neighbourhood. My question of; ‘How is God inviting us to embody his love here?‘, is lingering as I write.

Perhaps my discomfort is a sign of God’s attempt to reach send me?

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A busy week, late summer cleaning, and a new blog…

Toward the Intelligent Enterprise

‘Tis been a busy week at work and at home so far, so apologies for the blog slowdown. In fact, blogging has not slowed down but increased, just not on this site. As part of an initiative at work to strengthen customer relationships, I’ve decided to start a blog related to Business Intelligence. It’s called “Toward the Intelligent Enterprise: Excerpts from Experts on all things Business Intelligence”. Go figure with the name heh?…I had to get the ‘toward’ in there to be consistent. Check it out if you want to learn what I do for a profession. A part of me longs to be able to live full time in the missional conversation, but for now, the mission field for me is equally in the office.

Tonight we gathered at our campus to offer the building some much needed TLC. We started with a BBQ and then all got busy fixing up the place. Many hands do make light work. Thanks for all who showed up to help…your faithfulness and servant-hood was much appreciated. There is an increasing sense of community among us, even though we’ve gone through a tough time the last number of months. The Lord is good.

I used this cool new program called Skitch to create the banner for my BI blog. Check it out, it’s pretty good.

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Loving a Neighbourhood: Chronicles of Incarnation Pt 3

Last Wednesday night our mission group offered to team up with another group in our area to help them with a BBQ in a local apartment complex. The complex houses many who struggle economically and a few valuable members from our congregation call that place home. Our group supplied the buns and and helping hands for dinner. All were appreciative of the free meal. In little conversation huddles we sat on the grass in shade protected patches , talking and eating. The people there are wonderful and much good conversation was had by all.

In a way, this apartment complex is its own little tucked away community within this neighbourhood. Separated by a stone’s throw from ‘home owners’ bumping up against the diminishing middle class stratosphere, this community seems less guarded, perhaps less jaded, than the many who keep to themselves around us. One would think that the poor among us should be the ones protecting and alienating themselves from others, as one could generally say that more suffering comes with the lot of economic challenge. But perhaps community is fostered more easily in such a complex because there is less distraction from materialism’s lure. As I sat and watched people, ordinary folk, mingling and sharing a meal, I began to dream how through a gathering like this a grass roots people movement could take shape. I imagined what it would have been like sitting on the hill as Jesus taught while we shared bread.

Tonight our mission group had our bread night. We bagged all the bread in our friend’s carport and then invited people to come and have some juice and bread for free. A few of us also went out to people we knew and dropped bread off at their homes. Surprisingly there were some who just said “no, we don’t want any free bread”, which was kind of surprising. I think this confirms a little for me the reality of suspiciousness in our culture. It seems hard for people to receive a gift without strings attached. Some might wonder if there is an agenda and that’s a good question. A resounding ‘NO’ is the answer, unless one calls loving others an agenda. How does a group of people that love a community work through the element of suspicion in a neighbourhood? I guess it takes time.

I did meet a family that is new to our neighbourhood tonight. It was a nice change as they were open, welcomed me in, and exchanged information with me to set up a lunch. A blessing indeed.

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More partying…

Tonight our mission groups is getting together on our deck to bbq some burgers. It is intentional eating together with the people we love and serve this neighbourhood with. So here’s to good burgers, watermelon, and potato salad, here’s to the conversations that will be had, and hearts that will be made glad, here’s to the sunshine and warmth that will remind us that we are in the presence of the one who inspires and makes us want to party in the first place.

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Loving a Neighbourhood: Chronicles of Incarnation Part 1

Consider this the beginning of the first “post series” at Toward Hope. I’ve decided to do this in conjunction with a project for the Centre for Spiritual Formation that focuses on working with our local church leadership team and mission groups to cultivate an attitude of discernment for the purpose of deeper missional engagement. So, “Loving a Neigbourhood: Chronicles of Incarnation” will consist of stories of neighbourhood engagement that are related to this project of discernment we will be journeying through. For the one or two out there that wish to follow along, you can read the project proposal to get a better sense of what is involved.

The premise behind this series and project is a desire to incarnate the gospel into our neighbourhood. Our desire is to reflect the image of the Trinity as a community of followers, not only seeking to win souls for the Kingdom, but seeking to act justly and love mercy here on earth as it is in heaven. This is an experiment in learning to listen to the work of the Spirit in our lives personally and in our community. If we are to appropriately discern how God is moving in our community to engage in mission, we must first learn to listen how He is working in us personally. I am convinced that culturally we are not taught to pay attention and as a result are socialized into a deadly state of apathy that overlooks the most important elements of God’s law and heart. It goes without saying that this ubiquitous cultural passivity has in part pitched its tent among the faithful in the church.

The main practice we will use to cultivate an attitude of discernment in our community is the Prayer of Examen. Made popular by St Ignatius of Loyola in the 16th Century, this prayer consists of listening to our experiences carefully and discovering how God is present in each moment through some directed meditation. The most popular format is to ask two questions while reflecting on your day, season, community, etc. What gave me life today? And, What took life from me today? Through these questions ( and they can be asked several different ways), situations can be brought to our awareness that can help us to live in greater freedom as we discover God’s work in us and invitation to us. Applied communally, a corporate attentiveness and awareness can be fostered.

We will begin the project in the fall with the mission groups, but during the summer I will be on reconnaissance in the community gathering information and talking with people on the street to hear the narratives they are living. It’s important to hear the stories of people as they are the playground where echoes of Kingdom seeds can begin to germinate. My hope in this is to get a sense of what the community’s fears, struggles, and hope’s are. Since part of this project will include teaching the practice to leaders, I will use the summer months to cultivate it further in my own life.

One such narrative already emerging is one of suspicion, mistrust, and alienation. I feel this when out walking with the family and when we have our monthly bread night coffee shops in a friends carport. We will often chat with people we meet on our walk and the exchange is congenial. However, there seems to be a resistance to taking it to the next level of relationship. It is as if people are only comfortable keeping neighbours at arms length where it is safe from the unpredictability of human relationship. This narrative is one that is destructive as it strips people of a life of freedom the Kingdom gives as gift. It is a form of oppressiveness and injustice among us. It somehow conforms people into a life something less human than the one we were intended for.This is perhaps a very common narrative, especially in the West, but the question needs to be asked in my context specifically. What does it mean to live God’s justice and love into this specific situation?

This will be the focus of my prayers for a time.

Should you have any suggestions that may help this experiment, please leave a comment below.

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A motley bunch of followers [Updated]…

Tonight our leadership team gathered for a BBQ to celebrate the year. Nothing formal, just being friends all sharing in the joy and struggle of leadership together. We gathered in the evening and joined our voices in worship. As we were singing, I couldn’t help but stop and look around the room where twenty-something leaders were lifting their hearts up to God in reverent praise. As I watched, it dawned on me. This rag tag bunch of people are the ones that God wants to use to change the world. From ex-cops, to ex-drug dealers, from housewives to business people, from blue collar workers to graphic designers, I realized tat this bunch of believers are all unique vessels that reflect God’s love and truth into the world. It is not that I didn’t already know this, but it dawned on me in a special way tonight. What a marvelous realization… that we are called to be a people that proclaim the Lordship of Jesus as we act justly and love mercy. What a mission. What an adventure.

Bread Night in our Neighbourhood

Our Mission Group had about five bins full of Cobb’s Bread tonight.  We met at 7pm to bag it and to pray at Bill and Cheryl’s house; members of our group.  As the weather was not cooperative, instead of the usual community coffee house as a means to distribute the bread, we headed out in our separate ways to give it away to neighbours.  The goal was to bring bread and share conversation in our neighbours living rooms. 

I met one of the guys who leads the community group in the area as he was walking along the road (I had left a couple of loaves at his doorstep).  The community group is quite active in lobbying for the preservation of this neighbourhood and ensuring that it remains a heritage community.  We spoke of ways to bring the community together and one idea was a block party with a BBQ in the summer to promote community spirit.  He was stoked when I mentioned I can get some bouncy castles and live music (Craig, you reading?). 

Some of what it means to be Missional is going out among the people on their turf and getting to know them; no agenda, just love.  It is amazing how people react when we practice the act of giving bread away for free and for no reason.  They are taken aback and find it hard to believe at first; but are welcoming of it.  I wonder how people received the bread the 72 disciples brought when Jesus had sent them out.  The gifts they brought, healing and such, were a different kind of bread and I bet a similar reaction was realized.

I dropped some bread off to the lady who lives with two kids right across the street (I can see them watching TV as I type).  While there I mentioned that it’s really a waste for everyone to be cooking dinner every night, so I suggested they come over on Thursday for dinner.  She and her kids were willing.  As I was walking away from her place, the single mom our Mission Group sponsored at Christmas time was walking her dog right by my house, so I just had to give her some bread as well…

It’s amazing how the Lord works out his will for the good even when at the beginning of the night things seemed very discouraging and bleak…but that’s another story.

May the name of the Lord be praised forever.


A busy night of preparation

Our mission group gathered Wednesday night with a packed agenda to plow through as we prepare for the various acts of worship we will engage in this Christmas.  As we are a local group based on geography, not affinity, we seek ways of enacting God’s presence in the neighbourhood and look at this community where we are planted through a redeeming/restorative lens. 

Drink5_1We began by planning the bread night coffee house we have once a month. For those unfamiliar, I posted about the bread night HERE a while back.  We prepared Bread__loaf_1invitations for the neighbourhood and all the necessary logistics to make the carport we use for the coffee night hospitable.  Those who come by to meet their neighbours, have free bread, drink coffee and eat snacks are encouraged to bring a donation to the local food bank. 

As there are plenty of needy families in our neighbourhood, part of our evening was used to plan the  food hamper for our sponsored family that we intend to deliver the night of our Christmas Xmastreepresentsparty, which we also planned.  Each of us bucked up to make fat the little bit of budget we had coming from the Church for this purpose. 

The final thing we worked through was sorting out the tickets that we each need for the Christmas play "On the Doorstep" we are hosting.  We’ve all decided to use this opportunity to strengthen relationships with our neighbours and offer them an evening of drama, dessert and coffee on Sunday night.

In the midst of a busy two hours and a busy weekend coming up, I feel energized and excited about the opportunity this time of year affords to living large for the Kingdom.  It’s fun to be part of something wonderful, creative and redeeming…

Bread for the masses…

Bread_2_1 Tuesday night our mission group embarked on building community in our neighbourhood with the launch of our monthly bread night cafe.  We served coffee, tea, snacks and invited people to come and take a loaf or two of freshly baked bread that we get from a local bakery once a month for free.  What was interesting was how people responded to ‘free bread’.  Those that came were intrigued at why we would give bread away and conversation was plentiful.  One lady walking her dog by the house we met, just didn’t want anything to do with bread when we offered.  We also had a bin for donations to the food bank that we included in our invitation (in the form of flyers) that we sent out the night before. 

The goal of this ‘mission’ is to learn what it means to love our neighbours.  With free bread we meet and get to know people in our midst who may be struggling and in need.  Bread_3 There is no agenda but to love them the way God loves us.  There is no church sponsorship (outside of us, the group which is the church, sponsoring it) and we don’t mention that we are from the church down the road.  We let them figure it out for themselves as our desire is to love without making people feel like projects; they’re not.

Bread_1 All in all, it was a great night and seeds of future relationship possibilities have been planted with our neighbours.  It was a blessing to see the group move outward and participate as a team to serve the neighbourhood.  A joy indeed!   

An interesting evening of discussion…

This evening we met as a mission group and were looking at the topic of "what motivates our faith".  Specifically, the motivators of gratitude and rewards.  The discussion around gratitude was pretty straight forward as we all agreed on the fact that because God loves us the way he does, it motivates us to love others.  However, the discussion around rewards proved interesting. 

The idea of heavenly rewards as a motivator made people feel a bit awkward as form our culture’s perspective working, or acting, for rewards has at it’s core a predominately selfish motivation, for example; I do good because of the reward that will come.  The reality is that there will be heavenly rewards and all our actions will be judged and tested with fire.  Our resolve in the discussion was an agreement that the actions motivated out of love for God will stand the test and the eternal reward henceforth is the by-product of the initial action of loving God.  Everything else will burn up. 

The discussion took an interesting turn towards what it means to love neighbour as self.  It stemmed from the idea of being judged for the times that we’ve had inklings to act out of God’s love in a practical meaningful way, but didn’t.  It was a dialogue that challenged us in the way we treat people in light of all that Jesus stood for.  The context of the discussion mostly focused on the issue of poverty and homelessness and how we should respond when we encounter people defined by these realities.  Some of this has been stirring in me as a result of Shane Claiborne’s book, Irresistible Revolution and some conversations I have been having with my friend Jeff at Worlds Apart.  A revelation for us as a group was that when we fail to act towards someone with love (when we have inklings to do so), it is in reality a lack of trust.  Our culture is one driven by fear and we are taught to think the worst possible scenarios and we (almost always?) talk ourselves out of taking the necessary risks to realize the reality of the Kingdom enacted by Jesus.  What if I invite the homeless guy into our home?  Will he steal my stuff?  Hurt my family?  It seems that self preservation is often what we live for rather than God’s Kingdom.

The story of Les Miserables came to mind when the priest gave shelter to the traveler/fugitive.  The priest gets a beating and his silverware stolen.  A wonderful picture of grace is realized when the cop returns the crook and the priest heaps more of his valuables upon him insisting they were gifts.  The resolve; grace requires trust; loving neighbour requires trust.  If God considered all that would be done to him before he came to us and decided not to act, his love would not be what it is.

As you can imagine, we were challenged to the core of our faith and striving for ways we to practically respond.  We’ve realized that this is an area of unfaithfulness in much of the Church and it makes no sense to have hungry people in our neighbourhoods and in our churches when we have full cupboards of food. It makes no sense to have spare bedrooms when people are living on the street (Claiborne).  The question in light of the discussion is simply this.  How can we learn to take the risks necessary to realize the vision God has for this world? 

I’d like to hear your input.