Sunday, January 30, 2011
Friday morning a blind man opened my eyes to see the Lord. Ken Medema, jazz musician and composer(remember "Our God is an Awesome God"?), led the worship team for the morning service and there was so much love in the room that I felt like he gave us all this huge embrace! The whole service seemed to be like a musical as he sung narrative lines to move us through the different "spaces" of worship, like confession and response. There was this incredibly mutual collaboration between Ken and the dancer, it was unbelievable that he couldn't see her. I think he could see her though, with his heart and mind. If you're a musician, maybe you even know what I mean, when you are sensing the other musicians to the point that you become one voice despite your different lines and timbres of sound. He didn't need to see her, because they were working together as one. We were singing "O Come, O Come Emanuel" and as we reached the chorus, Ken rose and gestured for us to stand at "Rejoice, Rejoice, Emanuel." It felt almost as if he had lifted us all into the presence of God, and I truly encountered Jesus. As I stood there with tears streaming down my face in fear and trembling, amazed at the glory of God, I said, "Oh, I get it, it was never about me, it was always about you." Then Jesus said to me, "No, Kati, it was always about you, each and everyone of you. I love you each so much that I want you to know me and I want you to know and love each other in the same way I love you." The love was so strong, it still makes me tear up to think about it. It was like a slap in the face, as if I was Paul, standing in the middle of the road, blinded by the light and given a vision of the Lord all at the same time. "Know my love for you, that you might know how to love others," Jesus was saying to me.
As we continued to reflect on Philippians, I suddenly understood what it meant to "Be of the same mind, after Christ Jesus." It doesn't mean sharing the same ideas and preferences, and it especially doesn't mean sharing all of the same opinions and gifts. These are the reasons that Jesus loves us individually and in our eccentricities. Being of the same mind, simply means to love each other, as Christ loves us. And it's that love that unifies us in the presence of God. By loving the "otherness" of others, we come to love ourselves and we are all held in God's love.
This love displacing our fear of those who are different from ourselves showed up later in the workshops as well. I attended a workshop reflecting on one congregation's journey to becoming intentionally inclusive of people with intellectual disabilities. It began with the simple education of the congregation about what one child with autism experienced in worship. The child would make strange noises or outbursts during the service, and every time people would turn and look or sneer. One day the pastor approached the family, and asked if they wouldn't mind if he said something to ease the congregation about the behavior of the child. "How might I describe her disability?" he asked. The parents educated the pastor, and from that conversation, he was able to educate the congregation. The next Sunday, after the child's first outburst, the pastor paused and commented on her response in the worship. The next time she did something, no one turned around. Suddenly her behavior was accepted. They showed her love by recognizing that this was her experiencing and taking in God's love during worship. This confrontation with "otherness" in the worship service led them to the inclusion of many new freedoms as they became a multicultural congregation. The worship that created a space which was not disturbed by outbursts also opened up space for new kinds of music and other forms of response in the worship like testimony. By embracing the brokenness in others they were able to embrace the brokenness in themselves. "We all have a special need," one lady said. "We just have to recognize that we're all in it together," like we're all in the same boat…same mind…seeing others as better than ourselves…
Later I went to a worship service where the leadership fully embodied this idea of collaboration. There were three sermonettes which served as the backbone of the service, while incorporating the other elements of the service(ie. gathering, confession, proclamation of the word) in a fluidity led by music and images . The call to worship evoked an array of senses and learning styles. Most worship services use only two types of communication: music and language. Howard Gardner says that we have at least 6 other ways of learning: personal reflection, spatial or visual, interaction with others, movement of the body, interaction with nature, and logical reasoning. This service involved them all. There were beautiful paintings which suggested some kind of fire extending from the table. The bible and other images began on the ground, and during the call to worship they were lifted and raised to be placed on the table. At one point in the service we were invited to imagine and play with a ball of clay which resembled our bodies. All of these examples point to many things and simply create space for God to speak and for us to hear God's message for us. The whole service was more about "encountering" rather than absorbing information or giving our gifts. We met with God, we met with others, and we even met ourselves.
I discussed with one of the worship leaders, Ron Reinstra, about the sermon writing process. We ended up in a discussion about the collaboration of the whole worship experience. Everything was intertwined and when it happens like this, everything keeps changing or adjusting a little as it goes on. Everyone joins in and contributes as one mind, not because they think the same way, but because they trust and lift each other up in a way that values the gifts of all. This kind of thing doesn't happen over night, but overtime as the group grows together and learns from each other, all trusting in the Spirit to lead and move.
Imitating Christ’s Humility
If then there is any encouragement in Christ, any consolation from love, any sharing in the Spirit, any compassion and sympathy, make my joy complete: be of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility regard others as better than yourselves. Let each of you look not to your own interests, but to the interests of others. Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus.
More reflections to come about the conference later in the week...now to sleep;)
Thursday, January 27, 2011
Everyone goes to conferences looking for new ideas. Here's what I learned today: leaders provide the space and the people bring the ideas. We spent most of the day in a seminar on worship renewal. Several churches requested grants which would essentially motivate a congregation to focus on some aspect of worship for one year. They all said, "We didn't really need the grant, but the grant gave us the motivation to do what we felt God was calling us to do." One church focused on different imagery for the Holy Spirit, another focused on intergenerational ministries, another multicultural worship, another interactive preaching. In every instance, however, the leadership didn't dictate what was going to transform the congregation, they merely said, "Okay, here's our theme, how should we do this?" They made space for everyone's gifts to be shared and experienced. The pastor igniting a new spirit for the Holy Spirit found new artistic gifts in the congregation which united the people around art which ignited a fire in the hearts of the youth and drew all generations into active participation in the worship and sermon series. In each case, the leadership excercised an amazing sense of humility as they acted as facilitators to enable others to live out their vision. What humility to trust others with your own dream and vision for the ones you love…loving them enough to let them do it their own way…letting go of your dream to see God's dream for you and others.
This week we're looking at Paul's letter to the Philippians, which talks a lot about humility and unity. And for me, I think this is the key to this text. It is through humility that we are united, through the discovery of one another's gifts that we are all gathered together and lifted up as one body of Christ. Thought our history as Christians, we have allowed humility to separate us from each other as we translate this spiritual practice as one of self-hate and even self-mutilation to the point that we see others as so much better than ourselves that we see ourselves as nothing, with nothing to contribute. But the humility that Jesus exudes is one that draws people together. Humility is a solidarity with the oppressed, rather than a form of oppression. Humility reaches out and lifts up the brokenhearted, rather than continuing to breakdown our own broken selves. Humility, in the case of worship renewal, is answering God's call by calling others to join in seeking God's movement among us, then being open to God's movement, even when you're surprised and especially when you are surprised.
We worshiped twice in this amazing round chapel. Worship in the round. It had me mesmerized . The sound was so different; it actually sounded round. You could see people as you worshiped; we were singing to each other and hearing each other. It was multidirectional rather than one/bi-directional worship as in most churches. I know this isn't the only space like this, but this was my first experience with such a large group worshiping in a completely circular space. Above us some banners hung in a circular shape, and they swayed slightly from the air, accenting the presence of a wind…a spirit…The Spirit. It was like the visual representation for me of what I had been thinking about all day: leading worship as creating space for the Spirit to move and gifts to be shared. Here the space was literally at the center. It recalled to my mind God's creation of space at the beginning of time, "Let there be light", "Let the waters separate", "Let the waters gather allowing for the land to appear", "Let the days, nights and seasons have separation", "Let there be space, so that life can appear and swarm and be within."
Humility that induces a unity in diversity…something to ponder over the next few days...
Wednesday, January 26, 2011
This weekend I'll be attending the Calvin Institute for Worship Symposium in Grand Rapids, MI with my mom, a fellow worship renewal enthusiast. If you are interested, I'll be posting some daily highlights and pictures as a way of journaling for myself and the Columbia Theological Seminary community.
You can also experience the worship first hand by watching some of the services on live streaming(click here). This is one of the joys of us living in a technological world. Here we are, going to an international conference with 1400 people from all over the world and our worship services will be broadcast all around the world.
Over the course of the next three days we will have a "feast" of eight worship services, fellowship with people from over 40 countries and representing a diverse array of denominations, attend seminars focusing on preaching and worship renewal, and discover new ways to look at worship and particularly the letter to the Philippians, all while trudging through snow with the promise of enjoying the Hotel's waterpark at the end of the day;)(Oh, the glories of the Northern Midwest!) Other than that, I'm not sure what to expect, so stay tuned!
Monday, January 24, 2011
Disclaimer: This blog has never been overtly religious, with a point to include my friends who are not Christians. Although, I've taken a more religious front lately, I still feel like I'm simply commenting on culture in general and I hope that you will continue to enjoy this blog with reflection on your own religious affiliation.
This morning I read an incredibly intriguing article which applauds and critiques Steve Job's insistence on providing technological hope despite the struggling economy and even in the midst of human falleness, flaunting the bitten apple as a logo(something which had never even occurred to me).
"But the genius of Steve Jobs has been to persuade us, at least for a little while, that cold comfort is enough. The world—at least the part of the world in our laptop bags and our pockets, the devices that display our unique lives to others and reflect them to ourselves—will get better. This is the sense in which the tired old cliché of "the Apple faithful" and the "cult of the Mac" is true. It is a religion of hope in a hopeless world, hope that your ordinary and mortal life can be elegant and meaningful, even if it will soon be dated, dusty, and discarded like a 2001 iPod." Andy Crouch at Christianity Today, "The Gospel of Steve Jobs"
I have to admit, that even though I refuse to think that my iphone gives me "hope", it does make me feel like I have a grasp on my existence(my calendar and email), connection to my family and any information in the palm of my hand. Andy goes on to say, "A friend of mine says that human beings can live for forty days without food, four days without water, and four minutes without air. But we cannot live for four seconds without hope." Ironically, how long can we live without our devices? What senses of false securities do we allow ourselves to take out of our laptops and smart-phones? When was the last time we took comfort in knowing that God has control over our calenders and connects us with others? When was the last time we hoped in God's promise to save us from a fallen world? When was the last time we rested in the knowledge that God continues to reveal that which we could never find on the internet or in our email?
Picture: my iphone placed on my snuggie, another one of my cherished false comforts. Yes, a snuggie is merely a backwards robe, but when I wear this one, I feel like a snuggly little kitten.
Friday, January 21, 2011
I love sci-fi and today as I was reading a book for class, I began to realize why I like some sci-fi films and abhor others. Parker Palmer referred to one of humanities deepest fears as "having a live encounter with alien 'otherness'." The other authors reflected on how some films encourage this fear of otherness, like Alien and Independence Day, while other films encourage playful and transformational encounters with alien-like beings, like Star Wars, ET and I would also suggest Battlestar Gallactica(my favorite sci-fi series:). I think this would even shed some light onto the culture of the "Con" community(those who attend events such as Dragoncon and Comicon, etc.), which find a home in the freedom to express yourself in a diversity of ways and play with different roles in a world which exists within our own. I just had to giggle at the complexity of how this approach to sci-fi seeks to destabilize the norms in our society of what it means to be human. Do we fight against that which is alien to us? Or will we seek to discover each other's gifts and live together in community? Thought for the day...
Saturday, January 15, 2011
Read this paragraph this morning in a book of Prayers for the Common Good, ed. By A Jean Lesher. THIS is why I love Jesus, put to prose. The passage focuses on gender, but I think it applies to all of humanity. Jesus treats us like no other and helps us to find who we are without making us become someone else. We don't forget ourselves as we follow Jesus, we remember our true selves, who we were created and formed to be.
"Perhaps it is no wonder that the women were first at the Cradle and last at the Cross. They had never known a man like this Man--there never has been such another. A prophet and teacher who never nagged at them, never flattered or coaxed or patronized; who never made arch jokes about them, never treated them either as 'The women, God help us!' or 'The ladies, God bless them!'; who rebuked without querulousness and praised without condescension; who took their questions and arguments seriously; who never mapped out their sphere for them, never urged them to be feminine or jeered at them for being female; who had no axe to grind and no uneasy male dignity to defend; who took them as he found them and was completely unselfconscious. There is no act, no sermon, no parable in the whole Gospel that borrows its pungency from female perversity; nobody could possibly guess from the words and deed of Jesus that there was anything "funny" about woman's nature.
But we might easily deduce it from His contemporaries, and from His prophets before Him, and from His Church to this day…"
--Dorothy Sayers, 1890-1957
Wednesday, January 12, 2011
I have grown to hate the power imbalances involved with many social programs where one group is always giving and the other group is always receiving. It merely reinforces the gaps between those with power and those without power. This church empowers the homeless as moral agents as they care for one another. I went expecting to serve soup, but instead I was served alongside others. Everyone had their role: washing dishes, singing, serving soup, or just being there. The only sense of status is found in our common identity as children of God. One guy makes the coffee every time the church is open(he's done this since they started the church) and he made sure to find me a clean mug so I could try it. Nice and strong like I like it. Strong like the rush of joy I still feel in my blood, just from being with these people and seeing mercy in the flesh. And I got all this from just hanging out there...didn't get to experience the actual worship service. They invited me for Sunday's service, and I can't wait!
Monday, January 03, 2011
Over the last few years, I've tried different formats and attempted to start other blogs. Lately I've been looking back over this blog and wanting to get back to my favorite time in blogging. It occurred to me that I still feel like I'm constantly encountering other cultures and new places, just like when I was traveling in Europe. So, the Blog has gone from Expedition English Camp, to Expedition Enigma: Trial by Seminary, and now will change to Expedition Life.
For it's in the everyday life that we encounter those sacred moments that turn our heads, make us think and change how we see the world. When Moses walked past that burning bush it was probably the most normal day of his life. Finally he had settled into a routine, taken on a normal existence, without worrying about political struggles or survival, just taking care of the sheep. Then he took notice of a bush that was not so normal. When Moses took that step to notice the peculiarity of the bush that burned without getting burnt, he didn't know what he was getting into. He just saw something amazing and paused to see what he could learn from the tree. What if he had just gone on by? What if he had said, "Strange," and just kept tending the flock? What if I had just let the tree pass from my attention? Well, who's to say what God would have still used to deliver a message to us. And, yet, a life full of this kind of noticing the peculiar sacred moments, heightens our awareness to the voice of God and awakens us to the presence of God in our midst.
So join me in this journey, noticing life and taking notes on the peculiarities of ordinary life: Expedition LIFE