Imagination and Creativity Can Change the World

Imagination and Creativity Can Change the World by Lisa Hunt-Wotton

In the Beginning ….. God.

Creation

‘Before the beginning there was silence.

There was no song. No whisper. There were no hues of blues and greens, no blends of color, no child’s laughter and no aromas, no yellow flowers, no buzzing black bumble bees, not even red sky at dawn. There was no fire and there were no rhythms. There was no work, no ice cold drink on a hot day, no flow to the center, no far and no near, for there was nothing to be measured. There was no structure, no system, no birth and no moonlight dancing on the evening tide. There was no bitter and no sweet and there was no breeze on the face. There was no texture, no form and no early morning fog. The darkness was not black for there was no color.

But there was hope.

‘Hovering there in the silence was the One’ (Source).

Hovering there in the silence was ‘the one’, Elohim. The Hebrew word Elohim is plural and it is the Hebrew word for God. The first recorded activity in the ancient texts is ‘creativity’. In the beginning, God CREATED. Genesis chapter one. He created something out of nothing. He is God the omnipotent one. Omnipotent is Latin meaning, all potent or full of potential. It means, having unlimited or universal power, authority and force.

‘I am the one who made the earth and created the people to live on it. With my hands stretched out heavens. All the stars are at my command’. Is 45:12
You can sense God’s creativity in this verse. He describes how He created the heavens with His own hands. The universe was His canvas, and His love for creation is his passion. He is the Lord of all creation. He is the one who placed the stars in the sky; who commands the morning to appear, who has storehouses full of hail and snow and who knows where the gates of death are located.

Created in His Image.

God said in Genesis 1:26 ‘let us make man in our image’.

This means we too are ‘full of potential’. Our ability to create is a direct reflection of the one who gives us life. We are Gods’ masterpiece. He created us so we could do all the amazing things He has planned for us (Eph 2:10). Of the entire world and all things in it, we are His greatest work of art ever.

In her book ‘Mind of the Maker’, Dorothy Sayers asks:

‘How then can we be said to resemble God? What is it about us that looks like God?.. The characteristic common to God and humans is apparently… the desire and ability to make things’.

James Romaine calls our creativity ‘a ringing echo of his image within us’. American author Joseph Chilton Pearce says, ‘We must accept that this creative pulse within us is Gods creative pulse itself’.

We are all created in His image, therefore, we are all creative. We may not be artists: a person who has applied decades of patience, discipline and practice into their craft. Yet we are all creative. Creativity is the capacity to take a new idea and make it come to pass.

In the book ‘Orbiting the Giant Hairball’, writer and artist Gordon Mac Kenzie describe his frequent visits to schools to speak to children. He would usually begin these sessions by asking, “How many of you are artists?”. In kindergarten and early primary school, every single hand shot up in the air. The percentage declined to half when he addressed children in middle schools. When he met with fifth and sixth graders only a couple of children tentatively raised their hands.

‘To live a creative life, we must lose our fear of being wrong ‘- Joseph Chilton Pearce.

kids art
The fear of being wrong is what consumes us as adults. We are afraid of being shot down or made to look silly. Children don’t think like that, they are happy in their own thought bubble. They are generally encouraged and applauded. How many times have we looked at a piece of indecipherable art and declared, “Oh that is so beautiful’. Kids just think it and do it. We could all learn from that. They are outrageously confident. How sad that we start out knowing we are creative but somehow along the way it is knocked out of us. Many of us believe only the genuinely gifted are creative but this is a myth.

Alex Osbourne, the author of Your Creative Power, says.

“An analysis of almost all the psychological tests ever made, points to the conclusion that creative talent is normally distributed. That is, that all of us possess this talent. The difference is only in the degree; and that degree is largely influenced by effort”.
Imagination

Albert Einstein claimed that ‘Imagination is more important than knowledge”. Imagination is the ability to form mental images. It helps provide meaning to experience and to understand knowledge. It is a fundamental facility through which people make sense of the world.

Your imagination is like a canvas. You can paint on it any kind of picture you chose through your thoughts attitudes and what you decide to focus on. If I say the words ‘small white cat’, you don’t simply hear the words, your mind shows you an image of that animal. We are visual beings with incredible imaginations.

God told Abraham that he was going to be the father of many nations. In the natural that was absurd. He was old, his wife was barren. God gave Abraham some unusual directions.

“Go outside and look up at the stars, for as many stars as you can see, that is how many descendants you will have. (Gen 15:5)
God had already told Abraham what was going to happen, but he also needed visual reinforcement. Every night that Abe went outside to look up at the sky he was reminded of Gods promise to him. Even though he did not have a child until 20 years later, Abraham saw himself as the father of many nations. He heard it, he saw it and it happened.

God has said that He is able to do above and beyond all that we can hope or imagine. God knows all about the power of imagination. In the story of the tower of Babel in Genesis 11 he says ‘and now that they have imagined, nothing that they plan to do will be impossible for them’.

Ralph Waldo Emerson said,

“That which dominates our imagination and our thoughts will determine our lives and out character. Therefore, it behooves us to be careful what we worship, for what we are worshipping, we are becoming”.

thinking

That which dominates our imagination and thoughts is what we will become. What is the constant movie real going through your mind? Is it healthy? Is it creative? Is it positive? Is it building something, creating life, creating a positive change? We have the power to create change for good and also for bad.

Some of us can imagine a world at peace where everyone has enough to eat, but few of us will do anything about it. We can imagine a world where there is no injustice, but how do our actions and our words match that vision. We can imagine a community where everyone is loved and accepted but what are we doing to build that community?

Imagination must partner with creativity to make ideas happen.
Does our thought life and our character match up with what we are creating? We will create something, there is no doubt about that. It is in our DNA. We can create life, hope, joy, beauty and wonder. We can also create darkness, indifference and discord. In our families, in our communities and in our Nations.

We are full of potential. We are creative beings. Whatever we plan or imagine we can create. The real question then becomes what is it that we will create and what impact will it have on those around us?

we create

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Patreon allows me to get support for the work that I do on this blog.    Patreon allows people to financially pledge to support artists, writers, musicians, and other creative people. Sunday Everyday has been online since the first of February 2015.  Since that time I have been doing this in a volunteer capacity.  For the blog to continue I need your support.  You may want to give the amount you would spend on a coffee and muffin once a month or you may wish to pledge $50.00 a month or more.  Every bit helps.

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Definition of Pastoral Care and Historical Context

Definition of Pastoral Care and Historical Context
by Lisa Hunt-Wotton
Introduction

This paper will look at the nature and definition of pastoral care. It will examine its foundations and will take into consideration historical context and contemporary application. Pastoral care has at its very core the love and concern for the dignity of humanity.  Its ultimate goal is the formation of Christ into each person. Therefore the greatest mode of pastoral care is Christ himself. As we grapple with an ever changing society which is fragmented and sprawling. More than ever we need a theology that embraces the idea of being connected to community and to small groups where people can find healing and guidance.

The Nature of Pastoral Care

To understand the nature of pastoral care it is important to remember that we are created in the image of God. A pastor is therefore called to respond in away that reflects accurately the nature of God (Arnold, 1982: 15). Fundamental to pastoral care is the understanding that ‘God cares for humanity in Jesus Christ’ (Oden, 1985: 36). Pastors embody the care-giving, care-receiving process. They are also the ‘listeners and interpreters of stories’(Dykstra: 2005). They assist in the understanding and refitting of our stories which, especially in times of crisis, are often fragmented and dissociated. They relate the word of God to specific needs and life experiences in a ‘relationship of loving service’(Aden, 1988: 40).

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Biblical Foundations

In considering the biblical foundations of pastoral care in the bible we see that the care of Gods people began with the Patriarchs. The Old Testament portrays the pastoral images of prophets, priest, wise men, kings and judges who God appointed for the care of His people. It is from the pastoral images of rural settings like sheep and shepherds that we get the term ‘pastor’ (Dykstra,2005: 54).

We see in the Twenty-third Psalm a text that characterises the pastor/shepherd ministry as one who ‘offers presence and guidance toward the restoring of the soul’ (Patton, 2005: 3). Although shepherding is a vivid image of a pastor it is not the total function of a pastor. Everything ultimately needs to be interpreted through Jesus. Jesus is the focus, the lens through which we understand pastoral care. Jesus is the Good Shepherd, He is the gate, He secures, He protects the sheep and He is the one who ultimately gave his life for his sheep (Jn 10: 7-11 TNIV). He instructs us to care for one another, to love one another, and to care for his sheep. (Jn 21: 15-17).

The overall goal of pastors should therefore be ‘the formation of the character of Christ within his people’ (Benner, 2003: 15).

Pastoral Care Definitions

It is helpful to look at some well known and respected definitions of pastoral care. This gives us a guide by which we can apply care, sustenance and healing to those in need. Literally defined, pastoral care may be seen as ‘the function of providing spiritual…orientated leadership’ (Everly,2008). Clebsch and Jaekles state that:

‘The ministry of the cure of souls, or pastoral care, consists of helping acts, done by representative Christian persons, directed towards the healing, sustaining, guiding, and reconciling of troubled persons’  (Jaekles, 1975, 1983: 4).
Another solid definition which gives us an eternal perspective is expressed by R. Hurding where he suggests that pastoral care is:  ‘The practical expression of the church’s concern for the everyday and ultimate needs of both its members and the community.’ (Hurding,1992: 45).
helping

Care Implementation

When looking at the implementation of care in the church, there are historically four primary functions of ministry for pastoral care. These have been the centre of the life and assignment of the church (Arnold, 1982: 78). These are the elements of healing, sustaining, guiding and reconciling which sit as the overarching template of appropriate care.

  • Healing: involves the idea of moving through an injury toward wholeness (Benner, 2003: 15).
  • Sustaining:refers to the support and care of the hurting person where the cure or healing is unlikely.
  • Reconciling: involves the restoration of damaged relationships including broken relationships with God  and with people.
  • Guiding: assisting people to make wise and prudent choices (Benner, 2003: 15). There are two elements to the function of guiding.
    • Inductive guidance which refers to what is taught or instructed and educative guidance which involves listening and drawing people out and helping them to find their way. Each of these functions ‘has as its aim the maintenance and strengthening of people’ (Arnold, 1982: 78).

These functions will all take on a different emphasis and strength depending on our world view, our gender, age, generation and culture. As you look at the different stages of church history, different eras had more dominant themes.

Church History

The Dark Ages (400-1200).Culture during this time was an oral one, and remained so even as Britain entered the twelfth century. Text was translated at the whim of male Christian monks who had little interest in the colloquial speech of the day creating a vast gap between the church and its people. This meant that the people relied solely on the church for education, liturgy, practical and pastoral care. Acknowledging this deficiency, King Alfred commissioned the translations of six books into Anglo-Saxon: the Dialogues and Pastoral Care of Pope Gregory I, moving society into an era of inductive guidance.

IMG_9045The famous Pope Gregory the Great provides a fascinating example of pastoral care in the early stages of this period (Pfaff,2009) . As a pastor, a teacher and a theologian, Gregory was a leading example for us today (Oden,1985: 36, 37). He wrote one of the greatest treatises in the history of pastoral care namely, Gregory’s‘Liber Regulae Pastoralis’, also more commonly known as the ‘Pastoral Care’or ‘Pastoral Rule’(Ogg, 1907, 1972). It received favour throughout Europe, Spain and Britain and had an influence for good upon the clergy of the day.

sick-dying‘Pastoral Rule’ very practically instructed the clergy on the work of the church, the care of the flock and the care of the pastor.

He called the clergy to the image of the shepherd over the sheep, encouraging them to live a life of example, uprightness, humility and purity (Ogg, 1907, 1972). Pastoral models today have built upon this foundation which has given us a more integrated insight into pastoral care. This period of church history contributes most significantly to pastoral care and continues to have a positive influence on pastoral care today (Oden, 1985: 42).

 

Reformation and Renewal

(14th and 15thCentury).

During this time abuse was widespread in the Catholic Church and there was high level of corruption in the papacy (Sommerville, 2009). A poorly educated and underpaid clergy provided most people’s pastoral care. There needed to be a reconciling of people to God and of the people to the church. There was widespread concern over corruption in the church. Put simply, the breakdown of the church and its failure to reform caused a revolution. The renaissance of thought concerning how society could be newly formed, sparked an unprecedented need for academic freedom, and distress at the misuse of power of the church (Wikepedia, 2090).

The Protestant Reformation was sparked by a Martin Luther (Reformation , 2009). Luther shockingly declared that the Pope had no special powers and that the church consisted of all Christians (Reformation , 2009). Luther believed in depriving the clergy of much of their power and placing it in the hands of secular authorities (Sommerville, 2009). Luther agreed with Augustine theology concerning the grace of God for salvation which provided for all men to come to God and eroded the rigid institutions of the church (Wikepedia, 2090). This revolutionised the common mans way of thinking about God.

Luther wrote books on pastoral care and proper conduct in the life of a Christian as well as guidance for ministers and their behaviour (Reformation , 2009). His passion for the people came from his own battles with despair (Thompson, 1994: 32); and it was with compassion that he addressed the ill and the bereaved in purely human terms and on their level. The message of Luther and of the reformation is still relevant for us today as we resist the mysticism attached to church appointments and focus instead on the needs of the people.

Contemporary Australia

The church throughout history and from its very beginnings has been intrinsically interested in caring for others as Christ cares for us. Each era of church history has struggled ‘imaginatively to understand what the mediation of Christ’s care means, and how it can be embodied, appropriated, and improved in every new historical circumstance’ (Oden, 1985: 39). Today in our present culture where the village life and parish community is not sociologically available, small groups are a highly successful model of pastoral care.

jeremy

Small groups actually have their origin in the early church in Acts 2:42-47 where believers met both in the temple and also in house to house. Some of the most effective healing comes from the support of community. Small groups offer personal relationships, meet needs, and offer a practical span of care. Done well they can be the foundation of good soul care, offering networks to establish friendships and support groups whose primary focus is to care for the needs of the group, offering support, care and encouragement, ‘reaching out to one another in relationships of pastoral care’ (Benner, 2003: 17, 20).

In larger churches small groups provide the greatest forum of pastoral care. However, if a need arises within the group that can no longer be met by the small group, the person is referred to an area or network pastor who will be able to provide specialized care. This may at times mean that the troubled person is referred into the care of other health professionals.
Traditional and historical pastoral care began to change in the early twentieth century with the development of psychotherapy and psychological counselling. As communities and people needs changed, a tension was created between the need for historical pastoral advice and psychological help (Benner, 2003: 13). Some pastors relied on purely biblical based spiritual help and others turned to modern psychotherapy.
There is however a middle road where pastors can learn from other traditions and utilize health resources whilst retaining their own discipline of theology. Paul Pruyser a clinical psychologist puts it this way:
‘I have the growing conviction that people turn to pastors – correctly –because they want to have the opportunity to look at themselves and their problems in the light of their faith and their religious tradition, with the help of an expert in just this perspective’ (Hunsinger, 1995:3).
A pastor at some time will be confronted with the challenge of an acute psychological and or spiritual crisis (Everly, 2008). A pastor at this time will then benefit by being an advocate of comprehensive care where a diagnosis is initiated and where the pastor continues to partner in the treatment process (Hunsinger, 1995: 7), advocating a holistic approach to physical, mental and spiritual health. All the while reinforcing the fact that the person means far more to God than the problem that he or she presents (Patton, 2005: 118). This knowledge and ability to connect people to the appropriate resources and other health professionals in the community is vitally important should the need for referral arise (Arnold, 1982: 138,139).

Conclusion
The role of pastoral care in the community cannot be underestimated. In an era of unprecedented responsiveness and need the pastor is often the first point of reference and front line advocate of the love and care of Christ. This role has changed over the years to incorporate an element of diagnostic skills and a cache of referral tools. However the basic model of healing, sustaining, reconciliation, and guidance remain. We build upon a rich foundation of Christ, upon the legacy of biblical and church fathers and move forward with a mandate to care and feed His sheep.

 

 

Bibliography
Aden. (1988). Pastoral care and the gospels.Grand Rapids: Baker.
Arnold, W. (1982). Introduction to pastoral care. Philadelphia, Pennsylvannia: Westminster Press.
Benner. (2003). Strategic pastoral counselling. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Publishing.
Browning. (1976). The moral context of pastoral care.Theology Today, 134 – 136.
Dykstra. (2005). Images of pastoral care. St Louis, Missouri: Chalice Press.
Everly. (2008, February 17). Pastoral Crisis intervention: Toward a definition. Retrieved March 20, 2009, from Special Articles: Http://www.icisf.org/Acrobat%20Documents/Pastoral%20Care/Pastoral%20crisis%20int.h…
Hunsinger, v. D. (1995). Theology & pastoral counseling. Grand Rapids, MI: Wm B.Eerdmans Publishing .
Hurding. (1992).The Bible and counseling.London: Hodder and Staughton.
Jaekles, C. W. (1975, 1983). Pastoral Care in historical perspective. Northvale, London: Jason Aronson.
Oden. (1985). Pastoral care and the unity of theological education.Theology Today, 42, 34-42.
Ogg. (1907, 1972). A source book of mediaeval history. New York: Cooper Square Publishers.
Olson, P. D. (2009). Collating Caedmon The rare book & Manuscript library. Retrieved April 2009

If the work here is meaningful to you, you can partner with me in a very real way through Patreon.com.

Patreon allows me to get support for the work that I do on this blog.    Patreon allows people to financially pledge to support artists, writers, musicians, and other creative people. Sunday Everyday has been on line since the first of February 2015.  Since that time I have been doing this in a volunteer capacity.  For the blog to continue I need your support.  You may want to give the amount you would spend on a coffee and muffin once a month or you may wish to pledge $50.00 a month or more.  Every bit helps.

Please help support my ministry and magnify my voice by pledging.

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Love Lisa

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Forty Years in a Narrow Space

Every now and then you meet someone or you come across something that is life changing.  This article ‘Forty Years in a Narrow Space’ was this for me.  Finally someone had put into words everything that I had been feeling, experiencing.  Someone else had walked the same road as me and was a little further down the track.   I was not alone.  

I was not alone was the resounding Ah Haaaa moment for me.  I thought that I was lost, alone and possibly going a little crazy.  Then along comes Leonard and puts language to my experience.  Gives me a road map for the new landscape.  There are so many amazing words of wisdom in this piece that I recommend,  like me, that you print it off and have it close by you.

Forty Years in a Narrow Space is posted with permission from Leonard Hjalarson.

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“I am an author, pastor and missional navigator living in the Thunder Bay region of Ontario. My wife and I are pastoral elders at First Baptist Church in Thunder Bay, Ontario, a hopeful community.

My particular interests are in leadership, spirituality, mission and semiotics in the context of postmodern culture. I am an adjunct professor at Northern Baptist Theological Seminary, and also adjunct at Tyndale Seminary, Torontoand at George Fox Evangelical Seminary in Portland. I am an advisor and mentor in the Leadership in Global Perspectives program at George Fox.

My page on Academia.edu.

Forty Years in a Narrow Space Leonard Hjalmarson

Sometimes the best map will not guide youYou can’t see what’s round the bend,sometimes the road leads through the dar placesSometimes the darkness is your fiend.1

One April Sunday my family and I visited a young church community in our town. On the way to the meeting we noticed two very different restaurant signs. The first invited, “Come in from the cold; warm food and hot drinks.” The second proclaimed, “Swing into spring. Escape the heat with our smoothies and frappacinos.”

 

Contradiction is one of the elements of liminality. Is it winter, or spring? When the seasons are in transition, and the old season hasn’t quite given way to the new, we don’t know quite what kind of weather to expect or even how to dress on a given morning. When we walk out the door it might be hot, or it might be cold. Worse, it may start out warm then shift to cold while we are on the road. We are plunged into uncertainty.

 

When the church is in transition, the same kind of confusion surfaces. Even casual conversations can become complex, with people using language in very different ways. “Church” and “evangelism” and even “Christian” carry baggage they didn’t once possess. We struggle for definition, even reacting against it. Moving from a Baptist gathering to an E Free gathering becomes an experience in cultural shift, even within the same town.

 

Liminality is a place in between. It is emptiness and nowhere. Adolescence is the liminal space between childhood and adulthood. But liminality is more than a point along the way to somewhere else. It represents anti-structure to structure, chaos to order. The place between two world views is a liminal place. It is a place of dying and rebirth, even of metamorphosis, the place where the caterpillar spins its cocoon and disappears from view. Liminality is Israel in the desert, Jesus in the tomb.

Reality is that place between the sea and the foam. Irish Proverb

The Latin word limina means threshold. Liminality is where all transformation happens. It is when we are betwixt and between, and therefore by definition “not in control.” Nothing new happens as long as we are inside our self-constructed comfort zone. Much of our day to day effort at life is toward maintaining our personal little world. Richard Rohr comments that,

“Nothing good or creative emerges from business as usual. This is why much of the work of God is to get people into liminal space, and to keep them there long enough so they can learn something essential. It is the ultimate teachable space.. maybe the only one. Most spiritual giants try to live lives of “chronic liminality” in some sense. They know it is the only position that insures ongoing wisdom, broader perspective and ever-deeper compassion. The Jewish prophets… St. Francis, Gandhi, and John the Baptist come to mind.” 2

Liminal space tends to be counterintuitive. In liminal space we need to walk in the opposite direction. We not eat instead of eat – we remain silent instead of talking. We search for emptiness instead of fullness. In liminal space we descend and intentionally do not ascend; “status reversal” instead of status-seeking. We indulge in shadow boxing instead of ego confirmation.

Few of us choose liminal space. Instead, God usually has to engineer the journey. Someone we trusted fails us; a job we counted on suddenly ends; a child or spouse dies; we are struck blind on the road to Emmaus. Once we arrive there, we are disinclined to call it home. This is why spiritual directors and counselors are often sought in times of transition.. we need outward support and encouragement to endure liminal space. On our own we tend to run for security, back to the familiar gardens of Egypt.

In order to arrive at what you do not know

You must go by a way which is the way of ignorance.

In order to possess what you do not possess
You must go by the way of dispossession.
In order to arrive at what you are not
You must go through the way in which you are not. And what you do not know is the only thing you know And what you own is what you do not own
And where you are is where you are not.3

Four years ago my wife and I stepped out of an organized faith community (the pond), into the large ocean. The ecology of the pond is highly structured. Roles are set and the rules for changing them are well established. Expectations, traditions, even meanings are non-negotiable. When you swim in the same pond every day for a year or two, you learn the names and the language, and you know who you are. The world closes in; the pond is all there is. There is a high degree of predictability, and that contributes to comfort and security…and boredom and self-deception (Rohr: “the mind only takes pictures using the film with which it is loaded.”)

It ain’t the same in the ocean. Have you ever experienced tidal waters? Or large predatory fish? How about a storm at sea? Do you know how deep the waters get in the Laurentian Abyssal? Forget the scuba gear, it won’t take you there.

We left a secure place where we knew the rules for uncharted waters where nothing was certain. That process launched us into an emotional and spiritual journey that we did not expect, and barely knew how to articulate. We had to learn to see in new ways, to listen in new ways, and then learn a new language to describe what we were seeing. We thought we had been using a good lens; it turned out our professional camera was a $49 Wal-Mart special with fixed focal length, 35mm and f4. What had been a predictable and understandable world became unpredictable and mysterious. We had embarked on an unplanned journey with an unknown destination, without maps and with little light. We didn’t have any recent stories to guide us, and no friends or mentors to emulate.

About the same time we left one community, we visited another. A woman was sharing from the early life of that community, and she quoted from a sermon titled, “Going, but not knowing,” based on the life of Abraham.

If you haven’t looked into the book of Hebrews recently, I encourage you to do so. It’s difficult to grasp what a life of hope and faith is like while living in our security focused culture. Elizabeth O’Connor, one of the founders of the Church of the Savior in Washington, DC writes that, “Our chance to be healed comes when the waters of our life are disturbed.”

Risk.. faith.. moving ahead into the unknown.. Which of us really embraces such a journey? We prefer the well worn pathways. And besides, we are “found” and not lost, right? We know the Bible has all the answers, right? 4

 

Outside the Comfort Zone

The more you see, the less you know,

The less you find out as you go,

I knew much more then than I do now…5

What happens when an entire culture moves into liminality? It isn’t just language and philosophy that is shifting, the entire culture is on the move. As a result our individual identities no longer seem secure. Identity is referenced to particular communities and worldviews, to the broader socio-economic and cultural realities. When the context itself is changing rapidly, our individual identities experience similar fluidity. Suddenly the question, “Who am I?” takes on new poignancy, producing personal anxiety and feelings of pain and loss. 6

German sociologist Ulrich Beck describes this shift in his book, “Risk Society.”7 He discerns three phases of modern culture, culminating in the most recent phase of “reflexive modernity.” This is a world which no longer trusts institutions or employs them to anchor personal identity. Instead of placing a high value on loyalty to corporations and structures, the forces of individualism and the power of knowledge have generated a class of people who maximize their personal power of agency for their own benefit. Self is now the primary agent of meaning.. a tenuous meaning that has resulted in a new search for community and for something larger than the self.

 

Gone are the days of the Beverly Hillbillies, where roles and relationships were set in stone. I recall one episode where Jethro, the nephew, is sitting on the step of the mansion in Beverly Hills, elbow on knee, head resting on his elbow, looking as thoughtful as Jethro can look. Granny comes out the door, carrying a storm of feeling with her.

“Jethro, what in tarnation are you doin settin here?” “I is bein a angry young man.”Her hard face looking suddenly puzzled, Granny asks, “What in tarnation is a angry young man?”

“Oh, you sets around an asks yourself questions, like “Who am I?

Where am I goin? What am I doin?”

New clarity having arrived, Granny responds, “Well, I is an angry old granny, an you is Jethro Bodine, an you is goin into the kitchen to wash the dishes.”

Hmm, not exactly spiritual direction. Things were so simple then.

If this kind of shift is a problem for those choosing it, consider those simply being swept along in the tide. Pastors and elders attempting to lead traditional communities may have been exposed to Leonard Sweet, but they haven’t had time to read Ulrich Beck, or New Zealand sociologist Alan Jamieson (“Ten Myths About Church Leavers”) or even Reggie McNeal. They feel responsible to hold together dying or fragmenting communities, but they have no framework to understand the tidal forces around them and no tools with which to shore up crumbling foundations. Raising questions about accepted methods or values can rattle the cage of other leaders around them, who may respond with defensiveness or fear.

At the ALLELON forum in Eagle, Idaho in September, 2004, Alan Roxburgh presented a story that remains definitive to the life and identity of a tribe of nomads. (Nomads are better than most of us at change and insecurity, because they wander in the wilderness without maps).

Alan pointed out that Israel was called out of bondage in Egypt, and called toward the land of Promise. But they had to first pass through the desert. In that place, their greatest desire was not to move forward, but to return to the life of predictability they had known.

Alan noted that scholars maintain that these stories were written down while Israel was in captivity in Babylon. While living in exile in a foreign land, Israel was doing theology.. rehearsing stories that shaped them as a people, and talking about issues of faithfulness. Israel’s most creative work was done when they were a marginalized people, no longer a dominant force in the nation, no longer setting the pace.

This is one of the benefits of liminality.. we let go of the old answers and begin to ask new questions. We return to the ancient text looking for clues. Liminality is a tremendously creative place, a formless place of possibility where the Spirit of God hovers over the waters. We ask new questions, because a faith that no longer connects with experienced reality no longer makes sense. The answers while wandering in the desert are different than the answers that work when settled in the city. What worked while framed in modernity can get you killed in postmodernity. A theology of hegemony, when the church is at the center, will not be useful when the church is on the fringes.

“I will carry the Ring to Mordor.. though I do not know the way.” 8

I am fascinated with Israel’s paradigmatic story. For forty years Israel wandered in the desert, neither at home nor at rest, not having reached the land promised to them since Abraham, or to Joseph or Moses. We see some of the tension in the story itself.. Moses is accused of bad leadership, God is accused of not caring. There is dissension and confusion. Quick answers (unhelpful) are tossed about. Old idols are resurrected.

When the church on the corner stopped making sense for my family, and in fact generated more peril than promise, we left it and entered a liminal place. Our personal sense of identity was called into question, by ourselves and others. Were we still believers? Were we rebellious? Were we better than everyone else? Were we proud and divisive? Was God involved in our journey outside the walls, or were we deceived?

We wrestled with guilt and grief, and sometimes depression and anger. We found ourselves avoiding old friends, because our questions and actions were upsetting to them. We needed a safe place to process, but it was difficult to find one with people of faith. The Christian monoculture we knew had no place for us. We were calling into question too many things that were simply “givens.” While the crowd was settled in a temple based culture, we were wandering in the desert in tents.

To develop a broader vision we must be willing to forsake, to kill, our narrower vision. In the short run it is more comfortable not to do this – to stay where we are, to keep using the same microcosmic map, to avoid suffering the death of cherished notions. The road of spiritual growth, however, lies in the opposite direction. We begin by distrusting what we already believe, by actively seeking the threatening and unfamiliar, by deliberately challenging the validity of what we have previously been taught and hold dear. The path to holiness lies through questioning everything. 9

We found ourselves bothered by the certainty of those around us. “Surely everything is just fine,” sounded a lot like “Peace, peace, when there is no peace.” If everything was fine, then the problem was indeed with us. Or was it? Was the problem systemic, and not really personal at all? Was the “problem” a part of something that God was doing? Were the growing numbers of Christians who named no “church” as their home representing a general shaking and awakening to a whole new set of issues? Was there a cultural disconnect occurring, and was God opening our eyes to see it? Why did our large church have so little impact on the community around? And was the exodus of believers from the corner fortress God’s plan to reconnect us with our neighbors? Was the old church dying as a new church was being imagined?

Certitude itself became a problem. We found ourselves in arguments about learning and change with those who claimed to be disciples (followers and learners). Walter Brueggemann writes,”

We all have a hunger for certitude, and the problem is that the Gospel is not about certitude, it’s about fidelity. So what we all want to do if we can is immediately transpose fidelity into certitude, because fidelity is a relational category and certitude is a flat, mechanical category. So we have to acknowledge our thirst for certitude and then recognize that if you had all the certitudes in the world it would not make the quality of your life any better because what we must have is fidelity.”10

We were shaken loose from our answers, to seek a deeper connection with truth. We turned away from propositions to a Person. When we left our faith community we heard a new voice calling us to “Follow Me.” We forsook certainty for covenant faith, and a settled place for a journey.

Some years down the road I had a dream. I was standing on the shore of what looked like a great river. I looked up, and towering over my head I saw the span of a huge bridge. But this bridge was unusual.. it stopped in mid stream. It was a bridge to nowhere, and I was intensely puzzled when I saw it.

But as I gazed at the span over my head, suddenly the bridge spanned the river and grounded on the other side. It was a miraculous act of God. It didn’t require human ingenuity or invention. It required the intervention and power of God, and then the connection was complete.

The dream is both hopeful and problematic. There is a need for a bridge to connect the old culture and the rising culture. There is a need for a bridge to connect the last generation with the rising generation, and established leaders with new leaders. There is a need to bridge the gap between people of faith and seekers. There is a need to connect old knowledge with new. Many of us feel caught in the collision between the new culture and the old, stuck with old maps, caught between the need for security and familiarity and the need for change.. and we are searching for a way to move forward. We need to find ways to rest and wait on the Lord in confidence that He is at work, listening for His voice as we imagine new ways of being the church.

Margaret Wheatley, discussing the poetic wisdom of TS Eliot, captures the paradox and pain of liminality as “the opposing poles of paradox.” 11

If you would save your life, you must lose it. If you would thrive in the new world, you must dissolve your old form. Letting go is the only path to safety. Surrounded by so much truth, it’s a puzzle how we ever came to deny it. Did we ever really believe we could proceed through life by growing all the time, new and improved at every turn? How did the shadow disappear from our pursuit of the light? When did we forget that “there must be opposition in all things.” When did we stop acknowledging the great space for discovery that is created by the opposing poles of paradox?

 

I said to my soul, be still, and wait without hope for hope would be hope for the wrong thing; wait without love
For love would be love of the wrong thing; there is yet faith

But the faith and the love and the hope are all in the waiting.

Wait without thought, for you are not ready for thought:

So the darkness shall be the light, and the stillness the dancing.12

 

Stumbling Forward: Disciplines of Readiness

 

One day a disciple came to his master and asked,

“Master, what can I do to become enlightened?”
The master replied, “As much as you can do to make the sun rise.”

Confused, the disciple replied, “Then of what use are all these disciplines?”

The Master said, “So that when the sun begins to rise, you do not miss it.” 13

Most of us are experiencing the dynamics of transition. We no longer know what the church is.. and as a result we aren’t sure who we are either. We don’t know what that building on the corner is supposed to do or to mean. We aren’t sure we want to support large mortgages or even professional leaders.

We have questions about the nature of community and belonging. We have questions about form and freedom and intentionality. We are trying to escape the dualism of Christendom, and discover the meaning of a whole life in relation to God, instead of a Sunday or meeting centered life. We are trying to rediscover the Gospel Jesus preached.

In his book “The Search to Belong,” Joseph Myers talks about “transitional phases” in chemistry. Water is in a transitional phase when it is becoming ice, or heated to become steam. For a while it has the characteristics of both stages, but is truly neither.

We are not who we were, and not yet who we will become. It is a time of great awkwardness as we seek for a way to move forward, but sense we are traveling in circles.. no longer at home in the church and not at rest in the world. And this transitional place is complicated by the reality that so many are at different stages of comfort in the journey.. some beginning it with pain and anxiety, possibly feeling very alone or grieving what they left behind, even defending their right NOT to change; others have stepped outside their comfort zones and are asking new questions about culture, change, and the kingdom of God. Some are more comfortable than others with uncertainty and are discovering a new sense of belonging in a new kind of community.

 

In the introduction to “A New Kind of Christian” Brian McLaren presents a very simple diagram of transition. Picture an hour glass on its side. It is wide at both ends, and narrow in the middle. The space in the middle, the place of the pressure, is the place of transition. We begin in a wide place, a comfortable place, journey through discomfort, and arrive again at a new place.

It gets more complex than this, however, because in one sense liminality is the place we all arrive in these days. We arrive less certain, less secure, and with more questions than when we started. And we realize suddenly that this is not going to be a quick journey; it might take forty years. But our hope is to arrive in community. In fact, if we do not make this journey toward community, there is no real hope that liminality will result in transformation.

Friendship .. and community .. are critical pieces in the journey forward. In order to embrace the new we have to grieve the loss of the old. Few of us are capable of doing that work alone: grief requires community and friendship.

Likewise imagination and learning require friendship. One of the wonderful things about the Internet is the way it allows people to connect in relatively non-threatening environments. As we discover that we are not alone on this insecure journey, we become more ok with insecurity. This increased level of comfort actually empowers us to explore transitional places more deeply. We increase the power of our learning and discovery, even as we multiply it among friends. Anxiety pushes us into conditioned responses (fight or flight); safety allows us to move forward and explore the unknown with open hands and open hearts.

 

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Photo:  jens johnssonGagnef, Sweden

Our ability to move forward requires us to embrace diversity of thought and imagination. We need forums and safe places where people can shed their roles and identities and need for control, in order to become learners together. Rosemary Neave comments on the power of networks that,

“Networks move us beyond isolated bursts of creativity and life to see patterns emerging, and perhaps inspire others to make links and get involved. Many [emerging] groups are small and fragile.. networking helps them see themselves as part of a larger picture..” 14

Victor Turner, in his classic study of initiation, The Ritual Process, says that some kind of “shared liminality” is necessary to create what he calls communitas, or what we generally call church. Communitas in a spiritual sense does not come from manufactured celebrations or events. Attending lots of meetings won’t do it. Even parties and prayer meetings won’t cut it. They depend on artificial stimulants of food, drink, music, shared common space and energy: lovely and probably necessary, but not transforming. True communitas comes from having walked through liminality together — and coming out the other side — forever different. It happens in AA groups all the time.

Our ability to create these places will in part determine whether we are transformed and move forward as the people of God in this time.

“We have nothing to attain or even learn. We do, however, need to unlearn some things.

“To allow that unlearning, we have to accept what is often difficult, particularly for people in what appears to be a successful culture. We have to accept that we share a mass cultural trance, a hypnotic trance. We’re all sleepwalkers. We human beings do not naturally see. We have to be taught how to see.” 15

The questions most of us are asking are both simple and complex, depending on our gifts and interests. They range from the personal, “How do I survive in this in between place?” to “How do I help this community move forward from a closed fortress to a missional vision?” or, “How can our community connect with the emerging culture?”

More foundational questions surround both theology and practice: what does leadership look like in this in-between place? What kinds of structures will facilitate authentic transformation in this community? What sorts of disciplines are necessary to help us prepare for the changes we will face in the next decade? How can we facilitate the kinds of environments necessary for healthy and sustained growth in the kingdom of God in this city? How can we become a people that welcome Spirit?

Perhaps we can make this transition in less than forty years. For Israel, the years in the desert were necessary to shed their memories of foreign gods. Like Israel, we accommodated so much to modernity, the hope of technology, and the doctrine of progress that we all but lost our distinctiveness as God’s people.

We worshiped the idols of rationalism, power, and wealth. We, like Israel, have oppressed weaker people for the sake of our own benefit. The Gospel became a means of protecting ourselves from the fallen world, instead of a means to invite the fallen world to His table. While we claimed to be concerned for the lost and for the redemption of the world, we isolated ourselves into comfortable clubs and fortresses.

The problem is that when people come to church, expecting to find God, they often encounter a religious club holding a meeting where God is conspicuously absent. It may feel like a self-help seminar or even a political rally. But if pre-Christians came expecting to find God — sorry! They may experience more spiritual energy at a U2 concert or listening to a Creed CD.” 16

We sacrificed the heart of the gospel in order to build and maintain religious temples and empires. We didn’t really challenge people to live transformed lives. We were content to commission a few missionaries while most of us lived at rest in a land of plenty.

The answers that made sense in the old context no longer work. In the heat of the desert, we are rediscovering who God is and who we are. Religious idols are beginning to crumble as we break free of our addiction to the culture and our addiction to power and control.

Now, however, the church is moving from the center to the margins.

Marginalization is a blessing. When we had a vested interest in the status quo, we could not see that the Emperor had no clothes. “Marginality, in short, leaves the church free, if it is faithful, to cherish its absurdity; establishment just makes it fall in love all over again with the irrelevant respectability of the world’s wisdom and power.” 17 In times of great unrest, margins are places of immense creativity.

This sense of homelessness – this exilic experience – plays a large part, I believe, in the recent phenomena of the growth of interest in intentional Christian communities within North American, European, and Australian cultures.

Their critically suspicious verve is directed not simply toward the institutional church, but toward the whole social-symbolic order of modern, Western Christianity. 18

This history makes understandable the theological suggestion of Miroslav Volf that “the center is not the place where Christian faith should be anyway: it was born on the margins to serve the whole humanity … social marginality is not to be bemoaned but celebrated.” 19 We do not celebrate our loss of influence, but that the influence we have will be more authentic, based on lived example and not rhetoric. We do not celebrate that we have lost our political power, but we celebrate that the weakness of the Cross is our strength. We recognize that a faith that exists on the margins contains a stronger resonance with apostolic faith, and that a witness from the margins, freed from the hegemony of the empire, is more likely to be free from the temptations of our culture and more true to the character of Jesus who stepped away from power and status to establish communitas.

 

Featured Image by
Ashim D’SilvaEastern State Penitentiary, Philadelphia, United States

 

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References:

 

 

1 Bruce Cockburn, “Pacing the Cage.” From The Charity of Night, 1995. Golden Mountain Music Corporation. BMI.2 Richard Rohr. “Days Without Answers in a Narrow Space.” National Catholic Reporter, Feb. 2002

3 T.S. Eliot, “East Coker III,” in Four Quartets (San Diego: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1971) http://www.nextreformation.com

4Within Christian thought two large theological traditions exist: kataphatic and apophatic theologies. Kataphatic theology characterizes the Western Roman Catholic and Protestant traditions where theology is constructed along the lines of propositional affirmative statements about who God is. Apophatic theology characterizes the Eastern Orthodox traditions where theology is constructed with less emphasis on cognitive affirmations (though they are not negated), and more on the wonder, awe, ineffability of God.5 U2, “City of Blinding Lights,” from How to Dismantle an Atom Bomb (London: Universal Music Publishing, 2005)6 See Walter Brueggemann’s note on ministry and grief at the end of the end of the revised edition of The Prophetic Imagination (Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press, 2001)7 Ulrich Beck, Risk Society (London: Sage Publications, 1992)

8 Frodo in Peter Jackson’s “The Fellowship of the Ring.” (Wellington, NZ: New Line Productions Inc. 2001)

9 M. Scott Peck, source unknown.
10 Walter Brueggemann, quoted at the Emergent Convention, Atlanta, Georgia, September 16, 2004.

11 Margaret Wheatley. “Consumed by Either Fire or Fire,” Journal of Noetic Science, 1999.
12 T.S. Eliot , “East Coker III,” in Four Quartets (San Diego: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1971)13 Frederic and Mary Ann Brussat . Spiritual Literacy (New York: Touchstone Books, 1998)

14 Rosemay Neave. “Reimagining the Church.” Study Leave Report for the Women’s Resource Center. Waipu, NZ, 1996.15 Richard Rohr. Everything Belongs (New York, NY: Crossroads Books, 2000)

16 Reggie McNeal. The Present Futur ( San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass, 2003) 59.17 Robert F. Capon. The Astonished Heart (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans, 1996) 64.
18 Ibid. 103.
19 Miroslav Volf, “Theology, Meaning and Power: A Conversation with George Lindbeck on Theologyand the Nature of Christian Difference,” in The Nature of Confession. Evangelicals and Postliberals in Conversation, ed. Timothy R. Phillips and Dennis L. Okholm (Downers Grove, Illinois: InterVarsity Press, 1996) 64.

 

 

 

 

 

Job, His Friends and Disappointment

There can be no deep disappointment where there is not deep love. 
– Martin Luther King, Jr. –
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Job, His Friends and Disappointment by Nicole Conner
You can follow Nicole on her Blog Reflections of a Mugwump 
The book of Job has always fascinated me. One of the oldest books in the Old Testament and most celebrated pieces of biblical literature, it is dominated by two main characters: Yahweh and a wealthy man called Job, who faced utter devastation. The book is loosely divided into five parts: the prologue, the symposium, the speeches of Elihu, the nature poems, and the epilogue. It is a book that raises questions about suffering and directly challenges the idea of karma – that people are rewarded or punished according to their merits.
It is a book of poetic and philosophical depth and beauty. It is a book of suffering and grief. It is also a book that provides an example of how to be a really annoying friend. After Job loses everything, his friends come to ‘comfort’ him. They do well at first because they shut up. However, when Job begins to speak they never really hear him or seek to understand. They simply pontificate their opinions on his suffering and try to fit him into their little boxes of comfortable reasoning. Nothing much has changed … humans just don’t evolve that quickly 😃
Eliphaz is convinced that Job has done something sinister to deserve this pain. Bildad suggests that maybe his deceased children were guilty of evil. Zophar really has no idea but is convinced that God has a plan and is on the throne (sound familiar?). Elihu, the zealous youngster, thinks that maybe Job is just a tad arrogant and that his pain is God’s way of humbling him and he will be a better person because of it. In summary, this is a group of Shit Friends or ‘worthless physicians’ as Job refers to them. People who practice triumphant monologue, provide unhelpful answers (accusations) or cliches, and are in on the ride because they cannot cope with the existential angst of not knowing why bad stuff happens to good people. Yes, we have all been in the presence of Job’s friends. We all have been Job’s friends.
Job1
Disappointment is the cousin of grief. Disappointment is tied to our expectations. Our expectation of people, of events, of God, that is if we happen to be someone who holds a faith. When they do not ‘behave’ the way we expect, we become disappointed. Job was disappointed because he had spent his life in faithful devotion to God, expecting God to protect him, and yet disaster and suffering entered his life. He was disappointed in his friends because in the time of his greatest need they were … well they were just shit friends.
There are many lessons we can draw from Job. One would be that the questions we often ask about theodicy seem to have no satisfying answers. Another is that suffering is part of the human existence and disappointment is part of life. We can also learn how not to be a friend!
We will all face disappointment in our life time. If we happen to be one of the people to walk alongside another as they face disappointment, here are a few suggestions:
  1. Let’s stop pretending that we know exactly what they are feeling. We don’t. We  may be able to empathise to a certain degree, but we have not lived their life, walked a single step in their shoes, and we have no idea how exactly they are processing the disappointment that they are facing.
  2. Let’s learn to shut up and listen. If we are genuine about being an ‘alongsider’, then let’s be a sounding board. Don’t let’s use our friend’s pain as a soapbox to practice our philosophical or religious ideals. It’s like rubbing salt on a wound. The greatest gift we can give at that moment is to listen deeply.
  3. We are not the Messiah – and that really is good news. There is an innate urge in each of us to ‘fix’ things and people. The reality of life is that there are some things we can ‘fix’ and many things that we can’t. Mindfulness, kindness, practical expressions of love are most helpful to those facing disappointment. Job’s friends failed at these. Like Christopher Pyne, they were ‘fixers’ – and both Job and Yahweh grew weary of them.
  4. Walking alongside needs us to deal with our ego. People facing disappointment will be angry, grieving, sullen, and maybe rude. If we are in a support role and have not done some serious shadow-work we will find ourselves ‘hurt and offended’. Then the person who is facing crisis now has to deal with our wounded egos … Nicht Gut.
  5. Let’s practice our theology at these times, not preach it. Love in action is the best sermon we will ever preach. The day may come when we will be facing disappointment and will discover how annoying it is when someone, oblivious to our heartache, gets all “God-is-on-the-throne-and-has-a-wonderful-plan-for-your-life” on us. In moments of deep disappointment we won’t really give a crap about anyone’s ideas about God, rather make “me a cup of coffee and feed me chocolate”.
Job faced bitter disappointment. We will also have to handle our fair share in our short life. And when we are comforting those who are disappointed let’s not add to their burden by being shit friends like those of Job.  Bake that cake, cook that meal, mind those children, and let’s learn to listen …

Worship and Lament by Dr Jehan Loza

Worship and Lament: Risking it all for Uncertainty

As we continue to look at the topic of Lament,  I’ve asked Dr Jehan Loza if she will share her thoughts on ‘Worship and Lament’.  This is just a small part of her research but it a fascinating and informed article.  I will be posting more from Jehan in the coming weeks.

Dr. Jehan Loza – Director Research

lozaJehan is the Research Director of Social Compass and its original Founder. She holds a PhD in Sociology (Deakin University),  a Masters of Vocational Practice – Church Practice at Tabor and has nearly 25 years experience undertaking qualitative evaluation and research with a range of stakeholders both in Australia and internationally.

Jehan has worked across diverse cultural and geographical contexts including with Indigenous communities. She has intimate knowledge of community and organisational capacity building processes and has applied this knowledge both practically and theoretically in her work.

Introduction

It has been argued that within the Western church, lament in worship has become virtually non-existent. However, lament is fundamental to deepening and maintaining one’s relationship with God. The question emerges, therefore, If lament has been stripped from church worship, how are members to express an authentic relationship with God; being, the genuine covenant interaction of people and God as seen in the Old Testament? Important too, is that research notes that the expression of lament is linked to emotional and psychological well being and, in the Church context, its expression or not can potentially make the difference between staying in church or leaving it; holding onto ones faith or losing it.

Lament has been systematically removed from most forms of worship within the Western Church, specifically the Western Pentecostal Church, to the point that it is no longer legitimate to offer a challenge, protest or complaint to God in worship.

When lament is lost from the church, the church either falls into the trap of behaving like Job’s friends, arguing that if God allows us to suffer then it must be the result of our own sins or, it accepts uncritically – I would argue – the distorted teachings often found in the Pentecostal church, which implies that our unanswered prayers are due to a lack of faith.

The essential problem in the loss of lamentations, of course, is that although it does not generally exist with the church, pain, grief, crises and suffering all exist in the individual lives of church members. The contradiction of this is almost laughable. Forgetting that lament is such a foundational aspect of the Old Testament, and only drawing on the gospel, the Church as a community of followers of Christ should surely be characterised by lament since lament was such a salient part of the life and works of Christ?

To truly fulfil its role the Pentecostal church must provide the platform for the flourishing of an authentic relationship between God and his people. This can only occur when lament is integrated into church life and among the people. However, the challenge is mammoth – particularly for a Church that is famous for its expressions of prosperity and blessings, where currently the focus is on performance and program and theological nuances such as ‘being in the presence of God’, ‘encountering God’, ‘the supernatural God’, ‘the healing God’, ‘the good God’ and dare I suggest, a whole heap of other catch-cries, which I call, ‘pop theology’ or to give it another name; ‘self-help theology’.

Worship and Lament: A Seeming Contradiction

Worship (based on the old English word – weorthscipe) means the quality of having worth or of being worthy. To worship means to “attribute worth, to value or to respect someone” (Hestenes 1999:3).

This highlights the fact that worship is a relationship between a person and an Other – whether a thing or being. Ultimately worship is the “act of expressing profound love, appreciation, reverence and devotion to a thing, person or God” (Collins cited in Hestenes 1999:2) and in this respect, worship is a verb (Webber 1985).

In Hebrew and Greek, there are two major words for worship. The first means to bow down, to kneel, to put one’s face down as an act of respect and submission. The other means to serve. Roughly half the time these words are translated as worship, and the other half as serve. Worship carries the idea of doing something for God — making a sacrifice or carrying out his instructions. To elaborate on this: consider the word liturgy (meaning the set of forms for Christian public worship). Liturgy has secular roots and historically signified ‘work done in the interest of the people’ or ‘the work of the people’. Therefore if we call a service liturgical we are saying that everyone present takes an active part in it (Hestenes 1999; White 2000).

According to Webber (1985) the primary work of church is worship. That is, the church is first and foremost a worshipping community. Worship is a central source of spiritual formation and renewal. In fact, worship is the source for spiritual renewal. In worship God is speaking and acting, bringing one into the benefits of redemption. Through worship God works on our behalf, repairing and renewing our relationship with Him. Yet worship is an active experience. It is participatory. For Webber (1985), the God who acted acts and in worship He is present. This calls for a response to Him and others from the worshipper. However, Webber is clear that worship also calls for a balance between the Word of God and the Table of the Lord that is; between belief and experience, word and symbol, head and heart.

For Hestenes (1999:3) celebration is an essential part of worship. It means to go to a place in large numbers but it also has to do with the mood of the service of worship. It is the activity of God’s people “when they assemble to celebrate God’s self giving to the world”. Celebration occurs in all “the activities and occasions that proclaim or express the Christian faith” and we assume that this is at the exclusion of any other type of emotion. More importantly, argues Hestenes (1999), we assume that if we bring other emotions to God, then we are demonstrating little or no faith.

What happens then during times of grief, suffering, pain and crises – how are we meant to express our lamentations during these times? And what role does/should the Church play in this?

What is Lament?

First, a definition of lament: Lament means ‘to feel or express sorrow or regret for: to lament his absence; to mourn for or over; to feel, show, or express grief, sorrow, or regret; to mourn deeply; an expression of grief or sorrow; a formal expression of sorrow or mourning, especially in verse or song; an elegy or dirge.

Both the Old and New Testaments demonstrate the importance of lament to and for God’s people – individuals and the nation of Israel – and therefore for God himself. The most profound lament of David is found in Psalm 13 and what Christian has not also called out privately to God asking how long will they be forgotten by God. Hard to imagine any song for the Director of Music in the modern church commencing with:

How long, O Lord, Will you forget me forever, How long will you hide your face from me, How long must I wrestle with my thoughts, How long will my enemy triumph over me? (Psalm 13: 1-2, NIV)

Indeed, the Psalms present with emotions and ‘conversations’ with God that deal with isolation, shame, despair, danger, physical impairment and death as causes for lament (Witvliet 1997).

Jeremiah – the weeping prophet – also hardly provides inspiration for modern church worship with “Cursed be the day I was born! May the day my mother bore me not be blessed, cursed be the man who brought my father news…”. And surely if Jesus can call out to the Father feeling forsaken, should there not be a place within our corporate expression for lament?

Praying Hands

Webber (2008) claims that the modern church is market-driven and argues that in many of our churches today, a shift has taken place toward a focus on therapeutic or inspirational preaching and to the rise of entertainment or presentational style workshops.

Worship, he asserts has become a program.

Webber is most concerned with this model of worship and asserts that contemporary churches claim that worship does not need to present the whole gospel (since the purpose of worship is to get people through the door) and while this might be an effective marketing strategy, it fails to understand the Biblical purpose of worship. Biblical worship claims Webber, “gathers to sing, tell, and enact God’s story of the world from its beginning to its end” (Webber 2008:40). Indeed, as Trueman (2013) notes, the problem with the Pentecostal Church lies not in its focus on entertainment (characterised by beautiful people, stand-up comedy and upbeat rock music) but for its neglect of the classic form of entertainment that tells us that “in the midst of life we are in death”. The Pentecostal church neglects tragedy and death, yet death and tragedy are central to true Christian worship. He claims:

Christian worship should immerse people in the reality of the tragedy of the human fall and of all subsequent human life. It should provide us with a language that allows us to praise the God of resurrection while lamenting the suffering and agony that is our lot in a world alienated from its creator (Trueman 2013:19).

In early Pentecostalism lament took the form of ‘praying through’ and ‘tarrying’. McQueen argues that this form of lament refers to seeking for salvation and has largely disappeared from the Pentecostal Church. According to Brueggeman (1995) Pentecostalism has an experience-based theology but, ironically, it has increasingly denied an important set of experiences of God – being the experiences of God as silent and hidden during times of need (and of which the Old Testament is very familiar). In fact, the argument made here is that lament has been systematically suppressed and removed in the prayer language and worship of the church to the point that it is no longer legitimate to offer a challenge, protest or complaint to God in prayer and worship (Ellington 2000).

In the midst of suffering and unanswered prayer, such suppression can make it virtually impossible to express anger toward God, to protest his silence or to question his justice (Ellington 2000). In Ellington’s (2000:52) words:

“The prayer of lament becomes scandalous for a theology that guarantees God’s presence and any experience that does not affirm such a theology can become unwelcome in the language of the church”.

For McQueen (1995) the loss of lament in the Pentecostal church is a result of the loss of eschatological focus, replaced with a consumerist ideology which drives the Church’s proclamation. It is also a result of the increased effects of institutionalisation upon the Pentecostal church which reflects its seduction by modernism. The result is that prayer and dialogue has been replaced by pragmatism and expediency and the communal counter-cultural identity of early Pentecostalism has been replaced by political control (McQueen 1995:94). Furthermore, argues McQueen, charisma has been routinised by the focus on priestly leadership rather than a prophetic pastoral leadership which fosters freedom of spiritual experience and is more inclined toward tension and ambiguity.

Lament is also absent from the majority of public testimonies within the Pentecostal church, where they tend to end with a ‘happy ending’. Ellington (2008:129) concludes that “any speech that attempts to bracket out the experience of suffering in the name of objectivity and dispassion is false speech”.

It is indeed strange that the modern church would find lament so difficult, and would unwittingly deny the space for its people to dialogue in relationship with God. This is particularly so when one considers how integral as an expression lament was to the worship of Israel and indeed how characteristic it was of much of Jesus’ own life and ministry. The notion, therefore, that the alter or throne is only a place of praise is not aligned with the worship of Israel or even the early Pentecostal movement.

 

Featured Image by Matt Lawson Photographer

If the work here is meaningful to you, you can partner with me in a very real way through Patreon.com.

Patreon allows me to get support for the work that I do on this blog.    Patreon allows people to financially pledge to support artists, writers, musicians, and other creative people. Sunday Everyday has been on line since the first of February 2015.  Since that time I have been doing this in a volunteer capacity.  For the blog to continue I need your support.  You may want to give the amount you would spend on a coffee and muffin once a month or you may wish to pledge $50.00 a month or more.  Every bit helps.

Please help support my ministry and magnify my voice by pledging.

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References

Beck, R., (2006), ‘Communion and Complaint: Attachment, Object-Relations, And Triangular Love Perspectives on Relationships with God’, Journal of Psychology and Theology, V. 34, No 1.

Brueggemann, W., (1995), ‘The Costly Loss of Lament’, in Miller, P., (ed), The Psalms and the Life of Faith.

Burger, C., (n/d, reading 1), ‘What is Liturgical Service’, Unpublished Dissertation in Practical Theology.

Ellington, S., (2000), ‘The Costly Loss of Testimony’, Journal of Pentecostal Theology. V. 16.

_____ (2008), Risking Truth: Reshaping the World through Prayers of Lament, Pickwick: Oregon.

_____ (2011), ‘Can I get a Witness: The Myth of Pentecostal Orality and the Process of Traditioning in the Psalms’, Journal of Pentecostal Theology, V. 20.

Exline, J., and Martin (2005), ‘Anger toward God: A new Frontier in Research’, in Worthington, E., (ed) handbook of Forgiveness, Routledge, New York.

Exline, J., Park, C., Smyth, J., and Carely M., (2011), Anger Toward God: Social-cognitive Predictors, Prevalence and Links with Adjustment to Bereavement and Cancer’, Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, V. 100.

Gleddiesmith, S., (2010), ‘My God, My God, Why?: Understand the Lament Psalms’, Reformed Worship, http://www.reformedworship.org/article/june2010/my- go-my-god-why

Gray, K., and Wegner, D., (2010), ‘Blaming God for Our Pain: Human Suffering and the Diving Mind’, Personality and Social Psychology Review, V.14.

Harrington, H., (2009), ‘Lament or Complaint? A Response to Scott Ellington, Risking Truth: Reshaping the World through Prayers of Lament’, Journal of Pentecostal Theology, V. 18.

Hestenes, M., (1999), First Steps in practical Theology, UNISA. Jackson, W., (2014), ‘Lessons from Lamentations’, Christian Courier,

http://www.christian courier.com/articles/1493-lessons-from-lamentations Landstrom, E., (), ‘Postmodern Worship Needs, http://www.ovrlnd.com/

GeneralInformation/Postmodern_Worship.html

Lewis, C.S., (1940), The Problem of Pain, Collins, Great Britian.

Lockhart, P., (n/d), ‘The Spirit, Christ and Worship’, Theological Forum Online, http://www.atf.org.au/papers/essays/spirit.asp

Marty, M., (1997), A Cry of Absence: Reflections for the Winter of Our Heart, Eerdmans, Grand Rapids.

McQueen, L., (1995), Joel and the Spirit: The Cry of a Prophetic Hermeneutic, Sheffield Academic Press, Sheffield.

Morgenthaler, S., (2007), ‘Worship Evangelism’, Rev! Magazine, May/June.

Pargament, K., Koenig, H., Tarakeshwar, N., and Hahn, J., (2001), ‘Religious Struggle as a Predictor of Mortality Among Medically Ill Elderly Patients: A 2- Year Longitudional Study’, American Medical Association, Vol 161, August 13/27.

Reissman, K., (2008), Narrative Methods for the Human Sciences, Sage, USA.

Pluss, J., (1988), Therapeutic and Prophetic Narratives in Worship: A Hermeneutic Study of Testimonies and Visions; Their potential Significance for Christian Worship and Secular Society, Frankfurt am Main; New York.

Sawa, M and Pierson, V., (2012), ‘Relgiious Strenght and Posttraumatic Growth: Examining the Effect of Alcohol Consumption in College Students’, https:// kanakotaku.files.wordpress.com/2012/08/ sawa_pierson_taku_mompublication_20122.pdf

Snow, K., McMinn, M., Bufford, R., and Brendlinger, I., (2011), ‘Resolving Anger Toward God: Lament as an Avenue Toward Attachment’, Journal of Psychology and Theology, V. 39, No. 2.

Srivastava , P., and Hopwood, N., (2009), A Practical Iterative Framework for Qualitative Data Analysis, International Journal of Qualitative Methods, V.8, No.1.

Taylor, D., (1992), The Myth of Certainty, Intervarsity Press, Downers Grove. Trueman, C., (2013), ‘Tragic Worship’, First things: Opinions, June/July,

http://www.firstthings.com/article/2013/06/tragic-worship

Webber, R., (1985), Worship is a Verb, World Books Publisher, Texas. ____ (2008), Ancient-Future Worship: Proclaiming and Enacting God’s

Narrative, Baker Books, Michigan.
White, J., (2000), Introduction to Christian Worship, Abingdon Press, Nashville.

Witvliet, J., (1997), ‘A Time to Weep: Liturgical Lament in Times of Crises’,

Reformed Worship, http://www.reformedworship.org/article/june-1997/time-weep- liturgical-times-crises

____ (2003), Worship Seeking Understanding: Windows into Christian Practice, Baker Academic, Michigan.

The Trouble with Lament by Lisa Hunt-Wotton

The Trouble with Lament by Lisa Hunt-Wotton

Lament is messy, its awkward, it’s uncomfortable, it needs a response, it needs to be comforted.  It requires time, silence, listening.  Much too confronting.  Happy is much easier.  In this world of pain and conflict, who is doing the comforting?

Earlier this year I attended a leaders breakfast at the MCG on the eve of The Justice Conference Melbourne,  Ken Wystsma the key note speaker was talking about how lament is a fundamental part of acknowledging justice.  We can’t work for justice and ignore lament.  How can we have compassion and relate to suffering if we do not know how to lament.  Ken then opened up the floor for questions.  I nervously raised my hand.  My question:  “My life experiences have made me lean into lament.   Suffering and trauma take you there.  However, how do we raise the focus of the need for lament in a pentecostal space.   I mentioned how difficult this is to do  in the pentecostal space where the leaders want up, up, up”.

Everyone at the breakfast looked at me very strangely.  Needless to say I was one of two pentecostals in the room.  Stumped for words he replied, yes I’m sure it would be hard to move into a time of lament with a rock band and spotlights blaring.

AWKWARD……..

This was the catylst that led to me digging deeper into the topic of lament.

I don’t believe that this is just the problem of the pentecostal church of course, it is deeper than that.  It is related to societies disconnection from grief, pain and death.  These are contrary to our ‘successful, powerful and blessed’ images.

  • Let’s not go there.
  • Let’s just stay happy and pretend that everything is okay.
  • Let’s avoid awkward situations.
  • It’s too uncomfortable and we don’t know what to say or do.
  • And gosh,  are you STILL sad?
  • Aren’t you OVER that yet?
  • Come on, clap clap clap, shake yourself out of it.
  • Think happy thoughts?  Its not that bad.  Up, UP, UP……
5473556370_141df32439_z

Photo by Atilla Siha

  • Why have we lost our tradition of tears?
  • Why are we so disconnected from pain?
  • Why do we get uncomfortable with lament and reflection?
  • Why do we seem to be on a quest for happy and boppy?
Don’t get me wrong,  I love a good strong back beat, but sometimes, or if its all the time, its like nails down a blackboard.  Especially when you are in a tough space.
I absolutely love this thought by Richard Rohr.
He talks about the ‘tradition of tears’.
“Other than the vestige of Celtic and Oriental spirituality, with their rich emotional component, most of our tradition of tears has been lost, all of our grief seems to turn to anger and accusation…
When the mourning that Jesus called “blessed” (Matt 5:4) is lost, we move instead into the fix – it, blaming, and controlling mode.  I am afraid much of the church is there now, accusing instead of grieving.  Healing and grieving services would help us a lot more that dispensations, annulments, suspensions and ex-communications”. Richard Rohr
This also explains a lot of the anger that people feel at times toward the church.  Jesus said that there is actually a blessing in mourning.
“Blessed are they that mourn for they will be comforted”.

Who is doing the comforting?

Believe me, when you are going through the valley of the shadow of death, you need all the blessing you can get.

Too often we are robbed of this blessing in our up tempo spaces.

We need time to process, time to grieve, time to soak up the presence of God, time to sit with our grief.  We don’t always need to be prayed for or over, or told to be positive or told any other number of cliches.

It is what it is and we just need to rest in the presence of God and be held in that space of lament.  It’s okay to be sad, it’s okay to be angry, it’s okay to be disillusioned, to plead and cry and question.  It’s okay to shake our fist at the sky and be furious at God.

Concept of businessman and tension at work

These responses are healthy and part of the healing process.  We should allow each other the time and space to do this.  Otherwise we internalise and repress these feelings and its a very unhealthy space to be in.  I believe that a lot of the anxiety and depression that we are seeing in our communities today is because of the lack of recognition of the need and the space to lament.

Incorporating lamentations into our public worship is risky business. It is as Ellington  asserts, risking the ‘Truth’ by threatening our identities, robbing our sense of securities, of the goodness of life and of the justice of God.

It is to admit that things have gone horribly wrong, to enter into the unknown and possibly find oneself rejecting the standing answers.

Lament reaches toward the hiddeness of God, rejecting every pious platitude that insists that everything is as it should be and raising fundamental questions about God’s faithfulness and justice (Ellington 2008:x11).

When the Biblical writers lament, they do so from within the context of a foundational relationship that binds together the individual members of community of faith and that community with their God.

Lament has a public aspect to it. Prayers of lament are offered out loud, standing up, and in church. Community that presents its cries before God and it is the covenant relationship between people and their God that provides the context for prayers of lament. The covenant relationship with God is the foundation on which to stand in approaching God for answers. It is also the place to explore the dynamic of the covenant relationship, as it seeks to recover communion with God. Lament, therefore, is a cry over a relationship in crises (Ellington 2008).

The journey back for the Church is mammoth and requires much courage. As Ellington notes:

Lament must often go against the majority voice and in so doing leads to a deeper isolation for the one who prays it.

Lament compels us to turn loose of support systems and the framework that we use to make sense of our world, for though they offer a degree of security, in the extreme moments of life such systems prove to be dysfunctional (Elington 2008). Lament is also, though, an act of hope. In a courage born of desperation, those who lament create a space for the possibility of newness. Such newness is not achievable as long as denial is maintained and the status quo guarded.

Lament is offered in the conviction that the silence of God can be broken (Ellington 2008: 185-186).

 
Recommended Reading:
Risking Truth: Reshaping the World Through Prayers of Lament
By Scott A Ellington

To purchase just click on the book image.

If the work here is meaningful to you, you can partner with me in a very real way through Patreon.com.

Patreon allows people to financially pledge to support artists, writers, musicians, and other creative people.Sunday Everyday has been on line since the first of February 2015.  Since that time I have been doing this in a volunteer capacity.  For the blog to continue I need your support.  You may want to give the amount you would spend on a coffee and muffin once a month.  Every bit helps.

Please help support my ministry and magnify my voice by pledging.

Thanks for considering.

Love Lisa

https://www.patreon.com/SundayEveryday

Ellington, S., (2000), ‘The Costly Loss of Testimony’, Journal of Pentecostal Theology. V. 16.
_____ (2008), Risking Truth: Reshaping the World through Prayers of Lament, Pickwick: Oregon.
_____ (2011), ‘Can I get a Witness: The Myth of Pentecostal Orality and the Process of Traditioning in the Psalms’, Journal of Pentecostal Theology, V. 20.

The Nature and Definition of Pastoral Care

The Nature and Definition of Pastoral Care by Lisa Hunt-Wotton

Introduction

This paper will look at the nature and definition of pastoral care.  It will examine its foundations and will take into consideration historical context and contemporary application.  Pastoral care has at its very core the love and concern for the dignity of humanity and the ultimate goal of the formation of Christ into each person. Therefore the greatest model of pastoral care is Christ himself. As we grapple with an ever changing society which is fragmented and sprawling, we need more than ever a theology that embraces the idea of being connected to community and to small groups where people can find healing and guidance.

Nature of Pastoral Care

To understand the nature of pastoral care it is important to remember that we are created in the image of God.  A pastor is therefore called to respond in a way that reflects accurately the nature of God (Arnold, 1982: 15).  Fundamental to pastoral care is the understanding that ‘God cares for humanity in Jesus Christ’ (Oden, 1985: 36).  Pastors embody the care-giving, care-receiving process.  They are also the ‘listeners and interpreters of stories’ (Dykstra: 2005).  They assist in the understanding and refitting of our stories which especially in times of crisis are often fragmented and dissociated.  They relate the word of God to specific needs and life experiences in a ‘relationship of loving service’ (Aden, 1988: 40).

images

Biblical Foundations

In considering the biblical foundations of pastoral care in the bible we see that the care of Gods people began with the Patriarchs.  The Old Testament portrays the pastoral images of prophets, priest, wise men, kings and judges who God appointed for the care of His people.  It is from the pastoral images of rural settings like sheep and shepherds that we get the term ‘pastor’ (Dykstra, 2005: 54).   We see the Twenty-third Psalm as a well loved text that characterises the pastor/shepherd ministry as one who ‘offers presence and guidance toward the restoring of the soul’ (Patton, 2005: 3).

Although shepherding is a vivid image of a pastor it is not the total function of a pastor.  Everything ultimately needs to be interpreted through Jesus.  Jesus is the focus, the lens through which we understand pastoral care.  Jesus is the Good Shepherd,  He is the gate, He secures, He protects the sheep and He is the one who ultimately gave his life for his sheep (Jn 10: 7-11 TNIV).  He instructs us to care for one another, to love one another, and to care for his sheep. (Jn 21: 15-17).

The overall goal of pastors should therefore be ‘the formation of the character of Christ within his people’ (Benner, 2003: 15).

Pastoral Care Definitions

It is helpful to look at some well known and respected definitions of pastoral care.  This gives us a guide by which we can apply care, sustenance and healing to those in need.  Literally defined, pastoral care may be seen as ‘the function of providing spiritual…orientated leadership’ (Everly, 2008).  Clebsch and Jaekles state:

‘The ministry of the cure of souls, or pastoral care, consists of helping acts, done by representative Christian persons, directed towards the healing, sustaining, guiding, and reconciling of troubled persons whose troubles arise in the context of ultimate meanings and concerns’ (Jaekles, 1975, 1983: 4).

Another solid definition which also gives us an eternal perspective is expressed by R. Hurding where he suggests that pastoral care is:

The practical expression of the church’s concern for the everyday and ultimate needs of both its members and the community.’ (Hurding, 1992: 45).

pastoralcare_header2

Care Implementation

When looking at the implementation of care in the church, there are historically four primary functions of ministry for pastoral care.  These have been the centre of the life and assignment of the church (Arnold, 1982: 78).  They are the elements of healing, sustaining, guiding and reconciling which sit as the overarching template of appropriate care.

Healing:  involves the idea of moving through an injury toward wholeness (Benner, 2003: 15).

Sustaining:  refers to the support and care of the hurting person where the cure or healing is unlikely.

Reconciling:  involves the restoration of damaged relationships including broken relationships with God, the church and with people.

Guiding: assisting people to make wise and prudent choices (Benner, 2003: 15).  There are two elements to the function of guiding.  Inductive guidance which refers to what is taught or instructed and educative guidance which involves listening and drawing people out and helping them to find their way.

Each of these functions ‘has as its aim the maintenance and strengthening of people’ (Arnold, 1982:78).  These functions will all take on a different emphasis and strength depending on our world view, our gender, age, generation and culture.  As you look at the different stages of church history, different eras had more dominant themes.

Church History

The Dark Ages (400-1200).

Culture during this time was an oral one, and remained so even as Britain entered the twelfth century. Text was translated at the whim of Christian monks who had little interest in the colloquial speech of the day creating a vast gap between the church and its people.  This meant that the people relied solely on the church for education, liturgy, practical and pastoral care.   Acknowledging this deficiency, King Alfred commissioned the translations of six books into Anglo-Saxon: the Dialogues and Pastoral Care of Pope Gregory I, moving society into an era of inductive guidance.   The famous Pope Gregory the Great provides a fascinating example of pastoral care in the early stages of this period  (Pfaff, 2009) . As a pastor, a teacher and a theologian, Gregory was a leading example for us today (Oden, 1985: 36, 37).  He wrote one of the greatest treatises in the history of pastoral care namely, Gregory’s ‘Liber Regulae Pastoralis’, also more commonly known as the ‘Pastoral Care’ or ‘Pastoral Rule’ (Ogg, 1907, 1972).

It received favour throughout Europe, Spain and Britain and had an influence for good upon the clergy of the day.  ‘Pastoral Rule’ very practically instructed the clergy on the work of the church, the care of the flock and the care of the pastor.  He called the clergy to the image of the shepherd over the sheep, encouraging them to live a life of example, uprightness, humility and purity (Ogg, 1907, 1972).  Pastoral models today have built upon this foundation which has given us a more integrated insight into pastoral care.  This period of church history contributes most significantly to pastoral care  and continues to have a positive influence on pastoral care today (Oden, 1985: 42).

Reformation and Renewal (14th and 15th Century).

Abuse was widespread in the Catholic Church and there was high level of corruption in the papacy (Sommerville, 2009).  A poorly educated and underpaid clergy provided most people’s pastoral care.   There needed to be a reconciling of people to God and of the people to the church.  There was widespread concern over corruption in the church.  Put simply, the breakdown of the church and its failure to reform caused a revolution.  The renaissance of thought concerning how society could be newly formed sparked an unprecedented need for academic freedom, and distress at the misuse of power of the church (Wikepedia, 2090).

The Protestant Reformation was sparked by  Martin Luther (Reformation , 2009).   Luther declared that the Pope had no special powers and that the church consisted of all Christians (Reformation , 2009). Luther believed in depriving the clergy of much of their power and placing it in the hands of secular authorities (Sommerville, 2009).  Luther agreed with Augustine theology concerning the grace of God for salvation which provided for all men to come to God and eroded the rigid institutions of the church (Wikepedia, 2090).  This revolutionised the common way of thinking about God.  Luther wrote books on pastoral care and proper conduct in the life of a Christian as well as guidance for ministers and their behaviour (Reformation , 2009).  His passion for the people came from his own battles with despair (Thompson, 1994: 32); and it was with compassion that he addressed the ill and the bereaved in purely human terms and on their level.  The message of Luther and of the reformation is still relevant for us today as we resist the mysticism attached to church appointments and focus instead on the needs of the people.

Contemporary Australia

The church throughout history and from its very beginnings has been intrinsically interested in caring for others as Christ cares for us.   Each era of church history has struggled ‘imaginatively to understand what the mediation of Christ’s care means, and how it can be embodied, appropriated, and improved in every new historical circumstance’ (Oden, 1985: 39).  Today in our present culture where the village life and parish community is not sociologically available, small groups are a highly successful model of pastoral care.

Small groups actually have their origin in the early church in Acts 2:42-47 where believers met both in the temple and also in house to house.  Some of the most effective healing comes from the support of community.  Small groups offer personal relationships, meet needs, and offer a practical span of care.  Done well they can be the foundation of good soul care, offering networks to establish friendships and support groups whose primary focus is to care for the needs of the group, offering support, care and encouragement, ‘reaching out to one another in relationships of pastoral care’ (Benner, 2003: 17, 20).

In larger churches small groups provide the greatest forum of pastoral care.  However, if a need arises within the group that can no longer be met by the small group, the person is referred to an area or network pastor who will be able to provide specialised care.  This may at times mean that the troubled person is referred into the care of other health professionals.  The main goal of this process is the return and reincorporation of the person back into community (Browning, 1977: 135).

Traditional and historical pastoral care began to change in the early twentieth century with the development of psychotherapy and psychological counselling.  As communities and needs changed, a tension was created between the need for historical pastoral advice and psychological help (Benner, 2003: 13).  Some pastors relied on purely biblical based spiritual help and others turned to modern psychotherapy.  There is however a middle road where pastors can learn from other traditions and utilise health resources whilst retaining their own discipline of theology.

Paul Pruyser a clinical psychologist puts it this way:

‘I have the growing conviction that people turn to pastors – correctly – because they want to have the opportunity to look at themselves and their problems in the light of their faith and their religious tradition, with the help of an expert in just this perspective’

A pastor at some time will be confronted with the challenge of an acute psychological and or spiritual crisis (Everly, 2008).  A pastor at this time will then benefit by being an advocate of comprehensive care where a diagnosis is initiated and where the pastor continues to partner in the treatment process (Hunsinger, 1995: 7), advocating a holistic approach to physical, mental and spiritual health whilst reinforcing the fact that the person means far more to God than the problem that he or she presents (Patton, 2005: 118).  This knowledge and ability to connect people to the appropriate resources and other health professionals in the community is vitally important should the need for referral arise (Arnold, 1982: 138,139).

Conclusion

The role of pastoral care in the community cannot be underestimated.  In an era of unprecedented responsiveness and need the pastor is often the first point of reference and front line advocate of the love and care of Christ.  This role has changed over the years to incorporate an element of diagnostic skills and a cache of referral tools.  However the basic model of healing, sustaining, reconciliation, and guidance remain.  We build upon a rich foundation of Christ, upon the legacy of biblical and church fathers and move forward with a mandate to care and feed His sheep.

 

If the work here is meaningful to you, you can partner with me in a very real way through Patreon.com.

Patreon allows me to get support for the work that I do on this blog.    Patreon allows people to financially pledge to support artists, writers, musicians, and other creative people. Sunday Everyday has been on line since the first of February 2015.  Since that time I have been doing this in a volunteer capacity.  For the blog to continue I need your support.  You may want to give the amount you would spend on a coffee and muffin once a month or you may wish to pledge $50.00 a month or more.  Every bit helps.

Please help support my ministry and magnify my voice by pledging.

Thanks for considering.

Love Lisa

Enter your email address to follow this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

 

Bibliography

Aden. (1988). Pastoral care and the gospels. Grand Rapids: Baker.

Arnold, W. (1982). Introduction to pastoral care. Philidelphia, Pennsylvannia: Westminster

Press.

Benner. (2003). Strategic pastoral counselling. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Publishing.

Browning. (1976). The moral context of pastoral care. Theology Today , 134 – 136.

Dykstra. (2005). Images of pastoral care. St Louis, Missouri: Chalice Press.

Everly. (2008, February 17). Pastoral Crisis intervention: Toward a definition. Retrieved March

20, 2009, from Special Articles: http://www.icisf.org/Acrobat%20Documents/Pastoral%20Care/Pastoral%20crisis%20int.h…

Hunsinger, v. D. (1995). Theology & pastoral counseling. Grand Rapids, MI: Wm B. Eerdmans

Pubilshing .

Hurding. (1992). The Bible and counseling. London: Hodder and Staughton.

Jaekles, C. W. (1975, 1983). Pastoral Care in historical perspective. Northvale, London: Jason

Aronson.

Oden. (1985). Pastoral care and the unity of theological education. Theology Today , 42, 34-42.

Ogg. (1907, 1972). A source book of mediaeval history. New York: Cooper Square Publishers.

Olson, P. D. (2009). Collating Caedmon The rare book & Manuscript library. Retrieved April

10, 2009, from Editing old engligh texts & evolution of anglo-saxon in print: http://www.library.uiuc.edu/rbx/PDFs/2009_Collatin_Caedmon_.pdf.

Patton. (2005). Pastoral care. Nashville, TN: Abingdon Press.

Pfaff. (2009). History 106: The medieaval church. Retrieved March 20, 2009, from

http://history.unc.edu/courses/descriptions/pfaff106.html

Reformation . (2009). Retrieved April 10, 2009, from Martin Luther:

http://www.boisestate.edu/courses/reformation/reformers/luther.shtml

Sommerville, J. (2009). J.P. Sommerville. Retrieved April 10, 2009, from The causes of the

English Reformation: http://history.wisc.edu/sommerville/361/361-08.htm

Thompson, T. (1994). Biographies of Luther: Converging on a whole man. Concordia 

Theological Quarterly , 25-35.

Wikepedia. (2090). Protestant Reformation. Retrieved April 10, 2009, from Wikepedia:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Protestant_Reformationpedia

Empowered by the Holy Spirit

Empowered by the Holy Spirit by Lisa Hunt-Wotton

Jesus went to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, and on the Sabbath day he went into the synagogue, as was his custom. He stood up to read,  and the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was handed to him. Unrolling it, he found the place where it is written:

 “The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s .”

Then he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant and sat down. The eyes of everyone in the synagogue were fastened on him. He began by saying to them, “Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.”

Luke 4:16-21NIV

The New Testament reveals that through Jesus the promises and hope of the Old Testament people was to be fulfilled (S. Grenz). The Old Testament is full of accounts of the Spirit of God preparing men for special service (Agnew).  In this passage Luke portrays Jesus as the man anointed with the power of the Spirit.  After his baptism Jesus returns to Galilee full of the Spirit which is the distinguishing mark of His ministry and signifies his preparation for service.

Jesus begins His ministry in Luke by identifying Himself as the fulfilment of Isaiah 61.  Jesus revealed as Christ the Messiah, the anointed one (Grenz).  He then declares His divine mission to Earth to bring salvation to the world (Congdon).  It was His destiny to bring deliverance to all men and women, in partnership with the Holy Spirit (Chant).

Years back when I was doing volunteer work at Varanasi, we rescued these kids from a local incense factory. HWA Varanasi (NGO in Varanasi) is working on the betterment of street children by offering education, accommodations and all basic necessities - India.

It is also a distinguishing mark of His ministry that  He welcomes the poor the broken and the marginalised (McGrath).

His concern for the poor and the oppressed is central to the mission of Christ.

Jesus was anointed to liberate the most vulnerable people in society, bringing them justice and freedom and ushering a new social order (Hoek).

Francis Assisi puts it this way;

‘When we touch the poor or are touched by them, we are touching God Himself’.

Debate around His divinity. 

There are two distinguishing features around the debate of the ‘anointing or divinity’ of Christ which bring us to a clearer understanding about this debate.

  • They are the act of incarnation and the act of inspiration.

Incarnation is God the word becoming flesh.  Inspiration is where God the Spirit comes upon a person (Work).  At His baptism Jesus is the divine incarnate Word made flesh, conceived by the Holy Spirit who at His baptism is empowered by the divine inspiration of the Holy Spirit and inaugurated for his mission as Messiah to save and empower the world.  These events give evidence of His divinity (Young).

John Calvin asks the question.  Why did the Spirit who had once dwelt within Christ now descend upon Him?  He answers it by reading Isaiah 61 and summarises this way.  The Spirit of God did dwell in Christ, but when it was time for him to ‘discharge the office of redeemer’ He is anointed and empowered once more.  This was so that others might understand and consider ‘His divine power’.

When Jesus declares that the Spirit of the Lord is upon Him, it confirms that Christ has been sent by God to bring salvation to man and does nothing by human advice but only by the confirmation and anointing of the Spirit (Calvin).

Graffiti with red heart

There is tension in comprehending the hypostatic union of Jesus as ‘divine saviour’, both ‘very God and very man’ (Bloesch).

It is confusing at times to look myopically at a particular Gospel scriptures that speak of Christ as either human of divine.

Augustine’s teaching on the Holy Trinity and his description of the dichotomy and tension of the written accounts of Christ as human and Christ as divine have helped bring clarity to these nuances.  He is not human one minute and then divine the next, He is both and we need to look at the whole picture.

The whole Lukan nativity is dominated but the Holy Spirit (Bruce).  Christology (the study of Christ) and Pneumatology (the study of the Holy Spirit) converge in Jesus who was conceived by the Spirit, inaugurated and empowered for ministry by the Spirit, ministered in the Spirit and finally was raised from the dead and made alive again by the Spirit (De Colle).

Luke certainly wants us to understand that there is a strong outworking of the Holy Spirit in the partnership, life and work of Jesus (Bruce).  It would seem consequently that the Holy Spirit and the son work together and have coordinated missions.  This is contrary to some who believe that incarnation is the primary work of God and that the inspiration of the Holy Spirit is separate and secondary (Coffey).

The challenge to us all is Luke’s successive writing in Acts where the mission of Christ is then passed on to the church with the same prerequisite of empowerment of the Holy Spirit (Luke 24, Acts 1). This challenge applies to all of us in this part of history. More than ever we need the inspiration and empowerment of the Holy Spirit so that we can partner with Christ to do his mission and work on the earth today.

Lisa Hunt-Wotton

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Agnew, M. (1966).  The works of the Holy Spirit.  Wesleyan Theological Journal.

Bloesch, D. (1997) Jesus Christ.  Downers Grove:IL: Intervarsity Press.

Bruce, F. (1990). Lukes presentation of the Spirit in Acts.  Criswell Theological Review 5.1, 15-29

Calvin, J. (1845).  Calvin’s commentary on Matthew, Mark and Luke (Vol1). (W.R.Pringle, Ed.) Grand Rapids: MI.

Chant, B. (2002). Walking with a limp.  Adelaide:SA.  Openbook Publishers.

Coffey, D. (1997).  The common and the ordained priesthood.  Theological Studies, 209-224.

Congdon, D. (n.d.). Missional Theology: A Primer.  Retrieved March 22, 2011, from Academia.edu: Princeton Theological Seminary.

De Colle, R. (1994).  Christ and the Spirit.  New York: Oxford.

Grenz, S. (1996).  Created for community.  Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic.

Hoek, M. (2008).  Micah’s Challenge.  London: Paternoster Post.

Work, T. (2003).  The Humility of Christ.

Young, J. (1805-1881).  Christ of history.  New York: Robert Carter and Brothers.

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Love Lisa

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