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Friday, 3 January 2014

Atheists, Pastor John Hagee, and me: forever connected

A few weeks ago a small group of staff and church members gathered around a table to talk about how we might promote a conversation about the use, for good and ill, of technology and especially social media by our children. We decided that, over the course of 2014 we would like to engage people in the congregation as well as the broader community in thinking about how these things affect our lives. What is good and faithful and ethical about our connecting with others through social media, and what is destructive and harmful about it.

This Sunday, as we explore the Gospel of John, chapter 1 --"The Word became flesh and dwelled among us..... full of grace and truth," I hope to help us begin this conversation.

One thing I am realizing as I read and reflect in preparation for Sunday, is that we have become, in this world of internet, "networked" people. We don't see ourselves in the kind of atomistic way that has been so characteristic of Western society until the quantum and computer age came along. For good and ill we are seeing ourselves in more connected ways.

Dwight J. Friesen, in a good book called "Thy Kingdom Connected: What the Church can learn from Facebook, the Internet and other networks" suggests that understanding ourselves as "networked people" my help us be agents of reconciliation. Here is how he talks about it:

"A networked person embraces conflict with the faith that hidden inside every conflict is an opportunity for the reconciling gospel to be made visible; the greater the conflict, the greater the opportunity for the gospel to be manifest. If reconciliation is the gospel in action, then every time a networked person encounters an 'enemy,' they see an opportunity for grace to transform a relationship. In God's networked kingdom, reconciliation is the eschatological hope embedded within enmity.

"The networked person embraces their need for others, including their enemies..... Relationships with other people who differ in profound ways provide a unique opportunity for the networked person to reflect, forgive, repent, or differentiate in hope of encountering the other. In many ways, the transformational process of being formed in the image of God as seen in Jesus Christ by the Holy Spirit happens best when we have the privilege of being in relationship with those who differ from us or even those who consider us their enemies (p.70-71)."

In San Antonio last week, my brother in faith and fellow clergyman Pastor John Hagee preached a sermon in which he suggested that atheists should just hop the next flight to somewhere else and leave the good ol' USA to those of us people of faith who understand and appreciate that this nation was founded ON faith.

Thursday, 2 January 2014

Turning back and moving forward

The New Year always seems to put me in a quandary. Is the arrival of a new year a time for looking back at the year that has concluded, or is it a time to make new commitments for a year that is beginning to unfold? I am sure it is both, and equally sure one is of no use without the other.

To look back is an important act of contemplation. The pace of life often distracts us from valuable remembering. The events of our lives shape us and if we do not take time to remember them we will be shaped but we may not know what our shape is. To remember is also to savor --to taste again what was beautiful about a moment, a conversation, a learning, a deepening relationship, an accomplishment, a surprise. This savoring is to remember what God has done for us in the many facets of our lives.

To remember may sometimes mean to regret. As people of faith, we can experience regret, even guilt without fear that it will control or dominate our existence. This is because the One who continues to arrive in our midst, is a bearer of forgiveness and a healer of our deepest wounds.

To remember may also be to grieve. Our year may have had loss --of a loved one, of a job or an ability, of a cherished idea or dream. To grieve is to honor the important place something or someone has had in our lives. It is to give time to the recognition that life has been shaped by what has been, as well as recognition that life is now changed forever. To ignore, suppress or dismiss this grief is to pretend that life goes on unchanged, unaffected--to present a false self to the world.