loren Eric Swanson: April 2008

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

The Celtic Knot of Spiritual Journey

Last August Liz and I journeyed with some good friends to Ireland and Scotland taking a class called “The Celtic Trail.” Of course it was a great time of learning, discovery and surprise. Before and since the class I’ve read several books on early Celtic Christianity—introduced through Patrick in the early 400’s. Celtic Christianity thrived, almost as an entity unto itself until the leaders were reigned in by the Roman Church leaders at the Synod of Whitby in the mid 600s, but being island communities the Celtic Christians adopted but never lost their unique flavor of the faith. For the Celts, Christianity did not have the pomp of the Roman Empire. Christ was personal. Jesus met them in the smallest and most routine task of life. They were very much Trinitarian in their beliefs and there is strong evidence that Patrick did indeed use the Shamrock to help explain the mystery of the Trinity.

Quoting from Ian Bradley in The Celtic Way, “The Celts saw the Trinity as a family…For them it showed the love of that lay at the very heart of the Godhead and the sanctity of family and community ties. Each social unit, be it family, clan or tribe, was seen as an icon of the Trinity, just as the hearthstone in each home was seen as an altar. The intertwining ribbons of the Celtic knot represented in simple and graphic terms the doctrine of perichoresis—the mutual interpenetration of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

I think, for most of us, our Christian training has been of the 101, 201, 301 stair-steps of spiritual maturity. As we mature we just become better and better. Other Christian faith traditions portray the Christian life to be more like a journey. A couple of years ago, a Lutheran pastor, Peter Morin (Faith Lutheran in Golden, CO) shared that the one thing he remembered from his seminary training is (and then he drew the infinity sign) “the journey inward and the journey outward.” That resonated with me. The Christian life is not so much about getting better and better (after all, who could really stand us then!??!?!?) but rather a journey inward to renew and the journey out to expend ourselves on a world in need.

Here’s where I’m going with this; I’d thinking Peter’s diagram could be well-augmented with the help of the Celtic knot—simply because our journey also includes people! So now let’s think of three words—Contemplative…Community…Cause. Our “contemplative” life is our devotional / reflective life where we connect with the living Jesus. “Community” are those like-minded souls with whom we journey. “Cause” is our mission in the world. So we journey between contemplation, community and cause—renewing ourselves in Christ, refreshing ourselves in community and expending ourselves on the world. This was indeed the flow of the Celts. Unlike other monastic communities who were big on contemplation and community, but lacking in mission, the Celtic church sent out missionaries to spread the gospel from their monastic communities like Iona and Lindesfarne. But the blessing as they went forth implied that they would return—“May he bring you home rejoicing at the wonders he has shown you.” Christ would always be on their left and on their right, above and below them, in the heart of all they spoke to. Yea, I guess their lives were magically delicious.

I think the diagram to express this journey is uniquely Celtic. When I was thinking about this last week, I sketched a Venn (three overlapping circle) diagram…but it was all wrong. It was three separate entities. It was static. There was no journey. The Celtic knot represents the three-fold journey inward, withward and outward.

One more thing—a couple of years ago Geoffrey Hsu, Campus Crusade guy who was part of our global learning community shared his thoughts that, in this age, Crusade’s missional tactics of Win, Build, and Send should be supplanted or at least augmented with three other watchwords—Believe, Belong and Bless (Genesis 12:3). I like that! In some ways they mirror the three “C” words, but it also gives everyone outside the faith different entry points. The discussion goes beyond, believing before belonging or visa versa, but “Blessing” can also be the entry point to the faith journey as all people are invited to serve in our world. So again there is a flow…a journey…inward / upward…withward…outward…inward / upward…outward…withward.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

The Worst Day in the Life of a Calf--Boulder Roundup

This morning, Liz and I took Gentry to the Boulder Roundup--an annual event where the spring-born calves are wrestled to the ground, castrated, vacinated and branded--all within a couple of minutes. Life can only get better after a day like today. Little wonder that cattle seem to be so contented grazing grass on the hillside. Life got very good after the Boulder Roundup. Mostly those who do the calf-wrestling are teenagers but it is open to all and this year, John Lamb, his son-in-law, Brian and a church-planting friend, Mike, all got in the arena. It's quite a scene and a rustle of activity wherever one can see.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Fellow-worker = Synergy

I wish I could remember my source for this but did check it out for myself using some Greek tools on the Web. Some of you might recall that my Greek is limited to agape and baklava, which equips me for talking about my unconditional love for Greek pastry...but little else. However, check this out....the word translated 13 times in the NT for "fellow worker" is the Greek word, "synergos," from which we get our word synergy. Now, to me, that is a big idea! I think of synergy as the force where we play off of and maximize all the strengths that are in the room. I often say that the best learning environment is one where the least qualified person, with the least tenure can make the greatest contribution because their ideas and contribution are weighed against the mission. None of us, as individuals, can ever be as smart as all of us...and that is why "fellow workers" are so important in our missional undertakings! When synergy occurs 1+1=3. When we work with fellow-workers we not only become workers but better people.

Romans 16:3 Greet Prisca and Aquila, my fellow workers in Christ Jesus
Romans 16:9 Greet Urbanus, our fellow worker in Christ, and Stachys my beloved.
Romans 16:21T imothy my fellow worker greets you, and so do Lucius and Jason and Sosipater, my kinsmen.
1 Corinthians 3:9 For we are God's fellow workers; you are God's field, God's building.
2 Corinthians 8:23 As for Titus, he is my partner and fellow worker among you; as for our brethren, they are messengers of the churches, a glory to Christ.
Philippians 2:25 But I thought it necessary to send to you Epaphroditus, my brother and fellow worker and fellow soldier, who is also your messenger and minister to my need;
Philippians 4:3Indeed, true companion, I ask you also to help these women who have shared my struggle in the cause of the gospel, together with Clement also and the rest of my fellow workers, whose names are in the book of life.
Colossians 4:11a nd also Jesus who is called Justus; these are the only fellow workers for the kingdom of God who are from the circumcision, and they have proved to be an encouragement to me.
1 Thessalonians 3:2 and we sent Timothy, our brother and God's fellow worker in the gospel of Christ, to strengthen and encourage you as to your faith,
Philemon 1:1[ Salutation ] Paul, a prisoner of Christ Jesus, and Timothy our brother, To Philemon our beloved brother and fellow worker,P
hilemon 1:24as do Mark, Aristarchus, Demas, Luke, my fellow workers.
3 John 1:8Therefore we ought to support such men, so that we may be fellow workers with the truth

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Eyes Wide Open

This morning while taking a walk on the open space near our house I was listening to the book of Matthew on my iPod. One verse in particular caught my ear—a passage I had caught my eye a couple weeks ago when I was reading this gospel--Matthew 13:15:
For this people's heart has become calloused; they hardly hear with their ears, and they have closed their eyes. Otherwise they might see with their eyes, hear with their ears, understand with their hearts and turn, and I would heal them.'

Most everyone wants to get well…and wants the Lord to heal them but not surprisingly Jesus tells us that we have a part in our own development. We go through life…I go through life with closed eyes, plugged ears and a heard heart. But Jesus offers something better; if we open our eyes, our ears and our hearts we will “turn”…we will do something differently and Jesus will step in and heal. I think this is what it means to say “yes” to life and “yes” to God. This got me thinking about how open, observant and responsive Jesus was. His observations led to him “turning”—being available for a different agenda that day because he was living in the dynamic response to life as he walked through it. So I googled (generic term for “looked up”) some key words regarding what Jesus did when he saw, heard or learned.
Matthew 8:18: When Jesus saw the crowd around him, he gave orders to cross to the other side of the lake.
Matthew 9:2: When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, "Take heart, son; your sins are forgiven."
Mark 2:5:When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, "Son, your sins are forgiven."
Mark 9:25: When Jesus saw that a crowd was running to the scene, he rebuked the evil spirit. "You deaf and mute spirit," he said, "I command you, come out of him and never enter him again."
Mark 10:14: When Jesus saw this, he was indignant. He said to them, "Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these.
Mark 12:34: When Jesus saw that he had answered wisely, he said to him, "You are not far from the kingdom of God." And from then on no one dared ask him any more questions.
Luke 5:20: When Jesus saw their faith, he said, "Friend, your sins are forgiven."Luke 7:13: When the Lord saw her, his heart went out to her and he said, "Don't cry."
Luke 13:12: When Jesus saw her, he called her forward and said to her, "Woman, you are set free from your infirmity."
John 1:47: When Jesus saw Nathanael approaching, he said of him, "Here is a true Israelite, in whom there is nothing false."
John 5:6: When Jesus saw him lying there and learned that he had been in this condition for a long time, he asked him, "Do you want to get well?
John 11:33: When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who had come along with her also weeping, he was deeply moved in spirit and troubled.
John 19:26: When Jesus saw his mother there, and the disciple whom he loved standing nearby, he said to his mother, "Dear woman, here is your son,"
Matthew 4:12: When Jesus heard that John had been put in prison, he returned to Galilee.
Matthew 8:10: When Jesus heard this, he was astonished and said to those following him, "I tell you the truth, I have not found anyone in Israel with such great faith.
Matthew 14:13:When Jesus heard what had happened, he withdrew by boat privately to a solitary place. Hearing of this, the crowds followed him on foot from the towns.
Luke 7:9: When Jesus heard this, he was amazed at him, and turning to the crowd following him, he said, "I tell you, I have not found such great faith even in Israel."
Luke 18:22: When Jesus heard this, he said to him, "You still lack one thing. Sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me."
John 2:3: When the Lord learned of this, he left Judea and went back once more to Galilee
John 5:6: When Jesus saw him lying there and learned that he had been in this condition for a long time, he asked him, "Do you want to get well?"
I think the point Jesus was making is this—life is happening all around us. Hear, see, learn and respond. Responsiveness matters.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Serve Columbus

Today over a thousand folks from Vineyard Columbus went into the community and lived out what they had been hearing about the past couple of days. 50 projects were selected--schools, shelters, streets. I had the pleasure of working alongside Rich Nathan. It was a great morning. Rich worked w/ some of the men who have been part of his men's group for the past few years--quality men and disciples.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Justice Revival Leadership Lunch

Vineyard Columbus Church is part of the first Missional Renaissance Leadership Community. This is a great group of ten communities from around the country that are convening for two years. Ideally, each church brings the senior pastor, another church staff, a city official, CEO of a business and Executive Director of a major non-profit.

Today, during the Justice Revival, 100 cross-sector leaders from around Columbus and Ohio including Gov. Ted Strickland, Mayor of Columbus Michael Coleman, city council persons, community business and social sector leaders. In many way this event epitomizes the goals of the Missional Renaissance--convening cross sector leaders to work on problems they commonly care about. Jim Wallace, once again gave a great address.

While we were waiting for the luncheon to begin Evangelism Pastor, Stephen Van Dop showed me around Vineyard's Community Center, which opened last year and served 5000 people in the community each month w/ free medical, dental, after school programs, sports programs, etc. Over 100 community ministries / initiatives are led by lay people at Vineyard. They're really doing a great job.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Justice Revival in Columbus

This afternoon I arrived in Columbus and drove over to Vineyard Columbus (http://www.vineyardcolumbus.org/) for the second day of the Justice Revival. It was a great evening listening to the Raise Mass Choir, Shane Claiborne and Jim Wallace (Sojourners)...not to mentioon Bishop Timothy Clarke who MCd the evening. Last night was a great night also with 3,500 in attendance (http://www.dispatch.com/live/content/local_news/stories/2008/04/17/justice.ART_ART_04-17-08_A1_7V9V116.html?sid=101). Pastor Rich Nathan gave an invitation at the end of the evening and scores came forward.

Tonight there were two more "alter calls." This may be modeled after a little known fact re Charles Finney, who Jim Wallace says pioneered the alter call by asking people to come forward to trust Christ and sign the anti-slavery petition. Wallace urged the people from the 40 churches that had come together to adopt Columbus as a parish and create a kingdom movement of social justice.