Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Vol 3: 12 Missional Journey: Lent – The Reorientation of Sabbath Rest

As a Mennonite community, the community I pastor, we are on a journey throughout Lent in which we seek to focus on Psalms of Disorientation and Reorientation.  Walter Brueggemann is the one who gives voice to this understanding of the Psalms (cf. Praying the Psalms, Spirituality of the Psalms) and expresses that the Psalms of Lament are meant to disorient us.

Last week was a hard week – in fact preaching through Lent on this theme of disorientation and reorientation has been difficult – it has taken much from me.  I am deeply engaging what it means to be reoriented, but every week in preparing for Sunday has involved some disorienting event or experience – this is not only a series I am preaching on, it is something I am experiencing as well.  In fact, last week one of the members of my community approached me and asked, “I bet you can’t wait for Easter to get here.” 

Yes, Easter in focusing on Resurrection is the ultimate act of reorientation.  As I reflected on the statement that was made, I am reminded of not just waiting for Easter for reorientation, but to receive the gift of rest, the gift of Sabbath, that the Spirit gives in the midst of our days – a gift that is deeply reorienting amid our being disoriented. 

And just now, in the midst of writing this – the Spirit brought about such an experience of rest and reorientation.  A young man just came through the door of our Mennonite Ministries office struggling with his life being turned upside-down.  What was reorienting in this was realizing that this was a serendipity of the Spirit for both him and me.  In our sharing together, he was being encouraged to stop crying out “why God,” and begin again to be open to walk with God who is already walking with him, to give thanks to God in the midst of his life and circumstances, to notice what God is doing and seeking to do in his life – and for me, this gift of being able to listen to someone lost on their way, to be used of the Spirit to help guide them along their journey, reminded me of what God is doing in me and desires to do through me.  I was reminded by the Spirit that I need to slow down to be aware of the leading of the Spirit in my life.  It is in such moments of being reoriented, given rest, that I am realigned to see that my life is not about me, but what God is about in the world in making all things new – renewing lives, reconciling people, healing brokenness, setting people free. 

Lord, may I never lose sight of seeing who you see and how you see them.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Vol 3:11 Missional Journey: Lent – The Disorientation of Worshiping God

As a Mennonite community, the community I pastor, we are on a journey throughout Lent in which we seek to focus on Psalms of Disorientation and Reorientation.  Walter Brueggemann is the one who gives voice to this understanding of the Psalms (cf. Praying the Psalms, Spirituality of the Psalms) and expresses that the Psalms of Lament are meant to disorient us.

This past week our community focused on Psalm 19 addressing how our relationship with God affects how we hear God.  This has caused me to reflect further on how disorienting worshiping God can be in our lives.

Psalm 19, expresses three movements of our relationship with God.  Verses 1-6 explore the handiwork of God’s creation in which God is addressed as El – more or less a generic name for God.  Verses 7-10 address God more personally, as one who encounters us, using God’s name YHWH – meaning “I AM,” “I will be what I will be,” or “I am with you” – bearing strong similarity to the Hebrew verb for “Being.”  And verses 11ff, express God in a term of endearment – YHWH, my Rock and my Redeemer in which not only is God personal, but we are personal to God.

The more personal God becomes to us – from one who creates, to one who encounters us, to one with whom we are in an endearing relationship – the more our ears and lives are open to hearing God – even when God speaks that are difficult for us to hear.

That got me to thinking how disorienting worshiping God can be.  We already recognize that living our lives cognizant of God involves metanoia (repentance) as Jesus expresses regarding the present and coming reign of God at the outset of his ministry – “Repent, for the kingdom of God is at hand.”  In living our lives in relation to God, we undergo a paradigm shift, a change of direction in our lives (what is what repentance means), where we no longer live for ourselves, but our lives are being shaped and directed for God’s purposes and participating with God in bringing about God’s purposes in all creation.  When we are turned around to God in such a way, we cannot help but be worshipers of God, of YHWH, of YHWH who is our Rock and Redeemer.

As we worship God, our lives are never the same again – we are radically disoriented from the ways of being with which we have become comfortable in order to be reoriented to a new way of being human through Jesus Christ.  And lest we become comfortable in taking charge of our new orientation – the Spirit of God always is about re-orienting us as we become more and more like Jesus Christ. 

I remember when I first became a follower of Jesus in the days of the Jesus People movement of the 70s in Canada and I became associated with a charismatic community of new believers in Christ. I remember how disorienting worship was – how I was afraid to let myself express how much I deeply loved God.  But as I came to realize how deeply I mattered to God, I was set free to express how deeply God mattered to me, to express my love for God in worship – and I was set free to worship God in ways that were very disorienting to the way I had worshiped growing up in a church.  This reorientation to God was deeply disorienting, but it was a disorientation that was brought about by being re-oriented – which filled me with a deep sense of God’s presence, God’s grace, God’s mercy and love.

I have discovered that worship is able to be continually disorienting and reorienting.  And this continual process of being re-oriented is foundationally disorienting. 

Such disorientation can create havoc in our lives, unless we develop the practice of learning to “walk in the Spirit.” When we try to shape God’s reorienting work in our lives by somehow taking charge again of our own spiritual journey, we will always struggle with our being disoriented.  However, in learning to “walk in the Spirit” we learn how to give space to the Spirit to be set free in us to do God’s creative work in us, enabling us to focus more on the reorienting activity of God going on in our lives – which, in my experience, is a very peace-creating, rather than anxiety-inducing place to be. 

In being worshipers of God, we will always be disoriented when we try to make this journeying with God our own, yet, when we are open to the Spirit, who comes alongside us to walk with us, to direct our journey, we find ourselves walking with the Spirit, walking with the community of Christ Jesus, participating with what God is doing in the world, and we become more adept to living in the flow and the serendipities of the Spirit because the Spirit is taking hold of our lives to live in the ever re-orienting presence of God.

So, next time as we are in worship, let go of grasping our old orientations – be open to being disoriented by the re-orienting work of the Spirit, as we are set free to express our love for God who loves us.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Vol 3:10 Missional Journey: Lent – The Disorientation of Walking with God

As a Mennonite community, the community I pastor, we are on a journey throughout Lent in which we seek to focus on Psalms of Disorientation and Reorientation.  Walter Brueggemann is the one who gives voice to this understanding of the Psalms (cf. Praying the Psalms, Spirituality of the Psalms) and expresses that the Psalms of Lament are meant to disorient us.

In being a missional people seeking to participate with God in what God is up to in the world, we are deeply disoriented from our take-charge-of-our-own-lives way of living.  To live our lives guided by the leading of the Holy Spirit requires a paradigm shift in our way of thinking, doing, and being that can only be described as a constant disorientation of our lives, a constant turning-around or repentance in our lives – which is what repentance means.  Such repentance disorients before it reorients.

Learning to walk with God is a disturbing thing – it is meant to disturb us.  Too often we want God to embrace us on our terms, our walking with God to be comfortable – for God to “baptize” the way things are in our lives with a modicum of godliness that enables us to feel good about ourselves and what we are doing.  We do not have to surrender anything we do not want to, nor take on anything with which we are uncomfortable, and so God is able to fit neatly into the space we provide for God. 

Yet, being missional requires a complete turn-around from this kind of attitude and behavior.  In sensing a calling in our lives to participate with God in God’s mission, it is not a calling for God to fit in with us, but rather a calling for us to fit in with God and what God is up to in the world.  This requires a letting go, a surrendering, a dying to our ways – and dying is always deeply disorienting. 

To be raised up or reoriented to the ways of God in our lives, to live being aware of what matters to God, to engage in what God is engaged in, to speak what God wants us to speak is something that may excite us, but in my experience is something we do not to do very well – since too often we still try to do it in our ability.  We catch a glimpse of what life with God is like and then we say to God, “okay, I think I got it, I can get it from here.”

Rather, to live in ways being oriented to God’s ways requires a daily dying or a daily disorientation from with what we are comfortable.  And rather than trying to create a new set of comfortable ways, what we are being called to involves us in the disorienting reorienting ways of walking with God, the disorienting reorienting ways of being led by the Spirit of God. 

Perhaps, we must never become comfortable with walking in/with the Spirit – but to develop the discipline of daily giving ourselves to be open to the discomfort of being disoriented by the Spirit. In this way, we are reoriented to the ways of God, to living as disciples of Christ Jesus, to the mission of God, to walk in new ways of being human – as we depend utterly on the Spirit to lead us – to lead us in a dance of the rhythms of God’s ways.

To continue this metaphor, we may get better at dancing, but we can never take the lead if we are to remain in the Spirit – we are always partnering with the Spirit, who is continually leading us into new ways to dance, new places to dance, to dance alongside different people in different life contexts – because the Spirit is always leading us into some new thing partnering with God who is always doing a new thing. 

The focus then for us in walking with God, is not how great we become at dancing, but how well we follow the lead of the Spirit in dancing with the Spirit. 

The only way that we do not become overwhelmed with the disorienting reorienting ways of God, is to take our focus off of how uncomfortable our being disoriented is, and instead develop an attitude and way of being that continually gives ourselves to the Spirit to lead us in ways in which we are continually being reoriented in the ways of God.

Dare we give ourselves to the disorienting reorienting ways of God as we participate with God in God’s mission.