Tuesday, April 26, 2011

The Morning After

by Dr. Tony Cartledge

Every year I wake up on Easter Monday morning and wonder how the people closest to Jesus felt on the morning after the most shocking event of their lives. Did they finally get a good night's sleep after such a restless weekend, or had they stayed up all night debating the meaning of the resurrection? Were they confident of seeing Jesus again, or still caught by surprise every time he showed up? It's hard to imagine what those first couple of days must have been like for them.

And what are they like for us? Does the passing of Easter mean nothing more than freedom from our Lenten pledges, or the end of a holiday, or a chance to try new recipes with boiled eggs before they go bad?

I hope we'll spend some time on the day after Easter thinking about what resurrection means on every other day. How is my life different because Christ arose? How are my hopes for the future different? How does the reality of Easter impact my present actions, my state of mind, my decision-making?

If we are resurrection people, how can others tell?

How long will the flowers last?

Tony Cartledge is the contributing editor for Baptists Today, and also teaches Old Testament at Campbell University Divinity School. This post originally appeared on his blog at http://www.baptiststoday.org/cartledge-blog/.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Compassion: “Always Ask the Turtle”

By Rev. Gerald Thomas

The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed... – Jesus the Christ, Luke 4:18

A part of preparing to travel to Guatemala with our North Carolina mission team has been to consider the implications of compassion, that well worn admonition to “live in another person’s skin.” I keep hearing the words of an aboriginal Australian woman, “If you have come to help me, you are wasting your time. But if you have come because your liberation is bound up with mine, then let us work together.” These words from another continent pursue me on the way to Central America, making me hope that it can be true, that there will indeed be those who will offer to our group the gracious gift of working alongside. Then perhaps faith will be made to increase, together.

“Together” reminds me of a story from the life of Gloria Steinem, who relates an incident from her days as a geology student:

On a field trip, while everyone else was off looking at the meandering Connecticut River, I was paying no attention whatsoever. Instead, I had found a giant turtle that had climbed out of the river, crawled up a dirt road, and was in the mud on the embankment of another road, seemingly about to be squashed by a car. So I tugged and pushed and pulled until I managed to carry this heavy, angry turtle off the embankment and down the road. I was just putting it back into the river when my geology professor arrived and said, ‘You know, that little turtle probably spent a month crawling up that dirt road to lay its eggs in the mud beside the road, and you just put him back in the river.’ I felt terrible. But in later years, I realized this was a most important lesson: Always ask the turtle.

Knowing little of Guatemala, I look forward to asking a lot of questions and being helped by those whose lives are, in ways I am yet to understand, bound up with us all in our daily move toward liberation. Then I may know if I am ready for the “implications of compassion.”

Gerald Thomas is the pastor of Lamberth Memorial Baptist Church in Roxboro, North Carolina (http://lamberthmbc.tripod.com/) . This article originally appeared in their newsletter, Lamberth Lantern.

Monday, April 11, 2011

The Great Emergence – A Review

by Rev. Laura Barclay
The Great Emergence, by Phyllis Tickle, is a fascinating endeavor to explain the changes that Christianity is experiencing and attempt to guess at what will define the next epoch of human history. Tickle’s thesis is that Christianity undergoes a major shift every 500 years, and that we are in the midst of one today. From the advent of Christ, to the fall of the Roman Empire and rise of monasticism, to the Great Schism between the Roman Catholics and Eastern Orthodox Churches, to the Great Reformation and Catholic Counter-Reformation, to the present “Great Emergence,” Christianity has adapted and restructured in order to produce new and more relevant forms of religion.
Tickle uses the history of the Great Reformation to relate the anxiety of that time to the current age. In the 16th century, religious battles and church corruption led to fractures in the church that sought new forms of authority outside of papal authority. Sola scriptura emerged, with Protestants affirming the Bible and the priesthood of all believes as the new foundation.
Flash forward to the past century. Wars with religious overtones, church corruption, new discoveries in science, people working and living in urban areas with people of all faiths and no faith, women and LGBT persons rising to positions of authority in the church are just a few emerging realities that all call this 500-year-old form of authority into question. New interpretations and questions arise from the global and post-modern experience. Historical analysis informs us of edits and changes made to scriptures over the ages, resulting in numerous translations and versions of the Bible. For several decades, the emergent movement has seen Christians form into new communities of faith and shift the foundation of faith from sola scriptura to both scripture and community. Scriptures, faith experiences, and theology are now discussed in these communities, as well as online social networks and blogs. Theological views can be refined, molded, and evaluated amongst vast networks of Christians like never before. This broad sharing of faith and ideals is both renewing and challenging our religious structures like never before. Tickle urges us to learn more and try to anticipate the trajectory of this new movement, both embracing and closely examining its progress.
This book is exciting to me because of the possibility—we are living in a time of great change, both in our faith and society. I know many persons in my generation are weary of listening to battles over proof texting certain verses, and yearn for a lived faith of justice and mercy that comes from a community of people actively seeking to follow Jesus. A shift to seeing the Bible as one of several powerful tools in our faith, instead of the only tool, seems like a freeing prospect. This doesn’t seem to lessen the importance of the text, which is being studied in these emergent communities through vibrant discussion. Rather, it seems to elevate God in our discussions that have been marred by so many exhausting scriptural battles.
Tickle notes that great shifts are taking place in other faiths, especially Judaism and Islam. We have seen this play out the Middle Eastern drive for democratic reforms, which unified Abrahamic faiths in Egypt as Christians and Muslims linked arms and cried out for freedom. As a Christian who is fascinated with the Reformation Era, I am both curious and hopeful for what this next century will bring to our different faith traditions. How exciting to work for the Kingdom of God in new and collaborative ways!
If you'd like to learn more, check out the website for the book: http://www.thegreatemergence.com/

Monday, April 4, 2011

When the Last Laugh Is Not Yours

by Dr. Greg Rogers

Editor’s Note: Oakmont Baptist Church voted to purchase a neighboring apartment complex in order to be on mission in the community. Since then, they have been engaged in and continually discerning how best to use this property for the good of the community and Kingdom of God.

Since we purchased Oakmont Square Apartments in August 2007, I have heard countless people make the same statement and then ask the same question, almost in the same breath: “I know we didn’t buy those apartments to be in the ‘apartment business,' but I really do think God wanted us to have them for some purpose. So what’s the purpose for our owning them?"

If you had been a fly on the wall during our first Oakmont Square Apartment (OSA) Vision Team meeting on February 6, you might have reached the same conclusion that this team is reaching: perhaps God’s ultimate purpose for our owning them is already being seen in how we are using them now.

This Vision Team idea was birthed during our last coaching session on January 9 with CBFNC Church and Clergy Coach Eddie Hammett as a way of continuing the conversation on future next steps for our church to build more “go to” structures into our community. It is composed of 11 lay persons and three ministers, who either volunteered or were suggested by other people to serve on this team following our January 23 church-wide prayer meeting.

Our coaching sessions with Eddie led us to identify three target groups – at risk families, college students, and senior adults – for whom we might seek to address their educational, vocational, medical, and spiritual needs. The Vision Team dreamed about what is already happening and what could happen when we viewed the apartments as a “hub” of missions and ministry into our local community. Here are just a few of the possibilities the Vision Team considered:

  • medical clinics staffed by Oakmonters skilled in the healing of the body.
  • creating an Intentional College Community where a college intern (divinity school student) would work with college students, and develop them into leaders focused on spiritual growth and missional service to the community and world.
  • after-school tutoring for children, a ministry that is already occurring at the apartments under the capable leadership of a gifted team of Oakmont members.
  • providing affordable housing for at-risk families and/or senior adults.
  • a host of programs to grow a person spiritually as a follower of Jesus.

An interesting thought occurred to us all as we envisioned the possibilities: being in the “apartment business” may accomplish some or all of the above possibilities, placing us exactly where God wants us after all. If that’s the case just slightly, then God has a funny sense of humor and may have the last laugh on us before it’s all over.

Greg Rogers is the pastor of Oakmont Baptist Church in Greenville, NC. This article originally appeared in their church newsletter, “Connections.”