Wednesday, February 27, 2008

"Missionaries as Tour Guides"

I have to admit, I am late into reading Rob Bell. I had heard of the pastor of Mars Hill Church in Grandville, Michigan but I had never really felt like delving into his books. Now I am about halfway through his book Velvet Elvis and it has really been speaking to my spirit.

Some people might say "I am buying what he is selling." But that phrase is such a loaded statement. It assumes a consumer mindset that believes everything is a product that is meant to be sold and demand will determine whether it is true or not. I am not buying what Rob Bell is selling, but rather the truth that his perspective and story is telling is resounding in my being.
Rob Bell would say that Jesus is behind that. Jesus, the architect of truth. Jesus, the creator. Jesus, the primary actor in the story of the world. I think Rob Bell is on to something. He is struggling with the story of God and is struggling to see how his story and our story fit into that grand story (metanarrative). One paragraph really stuck out as I read it. Bell writes:
Missions then is less about the transportation of God from one place to another and more about the identification of a God who is already there. It is almost as if being a good missionary means having really good eyesight. Or maybe it means teaching people to use their eyes to see things that have always been there; they just didn't realize it. You see God where others don't. And then you point [God] out. (Rob Bell, Velvet Elvis (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2005), 87-88)
Bell then goes on to tell stories and share his insight into how as Christians really we are tour guides. We see the world through a story; the story of God and point to that living story to others who might not see it. God is already there. God is already present. Often we just don't see God.

But how do we become a tour guide? To be a tour guide; to be able to point things of importance out we ourselves have to see. We have to be able to recognize the story in the lives of others. Our best source of that story is the metenarrative of Scripture. The starting point where we read the story of God's people and how God interacted with them. By learning that story we are able to see how the story continues on today in our lives and the lives of others. We have to know the story in able to point to it and share it with others. To me that is profound. Rob Bell has spoken truth. He has pointed me to a reality of God that I had an inkling for but never could put fully into words.

I thank God this evening for working in the life of Rob Bell and speaking through him to me.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Reflection: Prayer and Dependence

Our Father, who art in heaven,
Hallowed be thy name.
Thy kingdom come.
Thy will be done,
On earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread.
And forgive us our trespasses,
As we forgive those who trespass against us.
And lead us not into temptation,
But deliver us from evil.
For thine is the kingdom,
and the power,
and the glory,
for ever and ever.

The Lord's Prayer has always been a part of my life. I can remember saying it as a young child and have continued to recite it in the life of worship. However, when I really meditate on the Lord's Prayer I really cannot help but focus on the formation it calls for. Focus on the RED words highlighted above in the Lord's prayer. The possessive nouns and the verbs highlighted really call us to be formed by God. God's kingdom come. God's will be done. God give us this day. God forgive us our trespasses. God lead us not into temptation. God deliver us from evil. For God's is the kingdom.

God is the focus of the prayer, and the focus is on dependence upon God. Their is a realization that God is the primary actor in creation and the world and calls for the reciter to realize this and depend upon God.

Today I went to a meeting in which Rufus Campbell, a District Superintendent in the Minnesota Annual Conference, framed this thought in yet another way. In conversing with a lady who was posing a question, Rufus reminded us that often the church to often "depends" on its own skills and resources rather than depending on God. Easy to diagnose and say, but man is that a hard truth to change. It is hard to depend upon another person. That means that control is ultimately out of your hands. That is scary! But should that be scary? I mean we are talking about God here. God who created us. God who loves us. God who gave up God's own Son so that we could have life. God who suffered and died on the cross for us. Is there anyone or anything that could be more trustworthy and dependent? Yet often we are overcome by fear. It is easier for us to trust that we can get things done. It is less scary when we are in control, or at least that is what we think. But more and more I am coming to realize that self-dependence is just an illusion of security. Looking back on my life, it is pretty obvious to me that I screw things up. God doesn't screw things up. God mends the broken hearted. God takes me as a screwed up individual and walks with me trying to show me the way. Now only if we, or maybe I should really say "I", can remember that and really submit to God's will being done in my life and the life of the church.