Dream Discovery Process Notes 05292012

Group listened to John 14, and then came up with the following theme words:

Son; promise; prepare; way; believe; helper; life; ask; love; peace; presence; arise; obey; know; keep; father; recollection; spirit; word; teach; go; come; hear; commanded; glorify; say; do; lord; Jesus; truth

Ken introduced a group meeting process called GROW:

G – goal/objective – what do we want to accomplish
R – Reality check – strengths & weaknesses
O – options – ideas
W – What will you do?– action steps

The group revisited the previous action steps of:

  • Back to basics study plan for the 2012-13 school year and
  • Member care and newcomer integration (As CK & CA had outlined several weeks ago)

Some discussion led to the decision to resume the study conversation on Tuesday, July 10th

O – Options: For now, the group will work next week on ideas for member care, and then invite those called forward by the nominating committee for the Member Care ministry area, and open the conversation to whoever in the congregation would like to participate. Some of the member care ministry ideas included:

  • Meals
  • Visitation
  • First friends
  • Prayer
  • Spiritual feeding

W: What will you do?– The group will be thinking about the needs of the congregation and how to address them so that when we reconvene next Tuesday, 6/5 @ 6:30, we will be ready to discuss. The group members were asked to be praying for the congregation participants by going through the church directory person by person and thinking about what each one may need.

A key take away is that we need to be caring for the folks who are here – responding to one another’s spiritual and relational needs – even while we are discerning and addressing the needs of the community and world around us.

A thought about the state of politics in Collin County

(This is actually drawn from a thread of my Facebook posts)
Why does it seem as though every politician in Collin County claims to be the most conservative and have the most conservative endorsements? Is that really the best credential for an office, that you have the most rigid, narrow view on everything, and that all your friends do too?
The opposite would be just as bad, but isn’t it sad that we’ve been reduced (again) to a short-hand nomenclature that really doesn’t say anything of substance.
Aside from meeting the candidates (check) and listening to them at a forum (check) and reading their policy statements on their websites (check) and reading what the local papers have to say about them (check) what else can you do but follow knee-jerk labels?
Some say: Run for office.
I say: Don’t tempt me.
And we ask: What does it say about the state/communities we live in?
I think it says that only reactionary arch-conservatives are vocal enough to get the attention of candidates. The candidates conclude that all voters are Tea Party toadies.
Alongside the Tea Party, we should have the Coffee Party, which would focus on a fair wage and ownership for labor; and the Lemonade Party, which would empower entrepreneurs the way parents underwrite their kids’ lemonade stands; and the Milk Party, which would recognize that we are mutually dependent on the natural non-human world
And the Eucharist Party, which would live out the tenets of Jesus’ teachings, regardless of the impact they might have on our notions of capitalism, property rights, individuality, democratic process or any other notion of what’s “American” in the context of a post-modern, post-colonial era of global community, 24/7 information media and economy. What if the Kingdom of God were our focus rather than protecting our small fiefdoms that we have deceived ourselves into believing that we built on our own strength and cleverness alone, rather than on the good will of our ancestors and on the backs of underpaid and unpaid labor of generations of indentured servants, company town “employees” and slaves.
OK, rant over…. for now.

Notes from Tuesday night’s DDP meeting…5/22 – by SJ

A good vision for FGCC, that we have had around us, but didn’t name and recognize until now, goes something like this :

“FGCC is a part of the body of Christ,
gathered together, growing disciples
from curious onlookers
towards spiritually mature ministers.”

As a foundational part of this vision, we see creating a scope and sequence of growing disciples at FGCC through teaching, preaching, and open discussion inclusive of diverse opinions.   Where scripture speaks we speak, and where scripture is silent we will  prayerfully with love and conversation embrace our diversity together.

This means we support inclusive coverage of scripture (entire OT and entire NT) in sermons in tandem with guided group studies.

Suggested topics for the “back to basics” which is envisioned as the first part of the scope/sequence –  basic faith foundation kinds of topics:  for example, if Ken could take some of the creeds and preach a series on each thing mentioned there – not as a statement of faith for us, but as a guide for a topic list, and we could also in tandem study them in SS.  Also, interpretation of scripture, and an overview of the Bible were mentioned.

After we cover the basic faith foundation topics, moving on to difficult topics is desired as an additional part of scope/sequence. We feel guided, small group discussions/studies done in tandem with the sermons are a necessity (or highly recommended) – We do not want to tiptoe around difficult topics (based in 2 Tim 4:1-5), and we seek a deeper prayer life together.   An authentic, shared prayer life that is spiritually stirring is desired.

Suggestions:

Let’s let the topic of spiritual gifts rest for awhile.  The group feels that topic has been covered more fully than other topics in recent memory.
For summer, and perhaps longer, maybe a year? – basic belief sermon series and guided study series
After that – move to advanced topics built on the basic beliefs, inclusive of difficult topics that are pervasive in our culture.
Additional suggestions for next week’s agenda:
Revival in the fall?
CA and CK to continue to work out details of their ideas for hospitality, etc. so we can implement those soon.

Pentecost – the gift of the Spirit and its meanings

The resurrection Spirit dwells within us. This is the power from on high that Jesus had promised would come from the Father (Luke 24:49; Acts 1:8). Jesus had previously bestowed power to the 12 (Luke 9) and later the 70 (Luke 10), the same power that he had demonstrated in Nazareth (Luke 4).

The Spirit in Luke: As he writes Acts Luke says “the Holy Spirit came UPON them…” (Acts 1:8; 10:44; 11:15; 19:6). Indeed, scripture talks about being “baptized with the Holy Spirit” (Mark 1:8; Acts 1:5; Acts 11:16) and baptism is an external image. A parallel metaphor used by Paul is to “put on Christ” (Romans 13:14) and in Galatians he even links the two ideas – baptism and being clothed in Christ (Gal 3:27). The phrase “in Christ” appears over 90 times in the New Testament, primarily in Paul’s letters. So the Holy Spirit we can envision washing over us, covering us and saturating us as the waters of baptism – an all-consuming experience whether one is immersed or has the waters poured over. We can thus consider that the Spirit is BOTH on us and in us. These are not different realities but different viewpoints of the same reality. The phrase “filled with the Holy Spirit” is less about the ongoing presence of God’s Spirit within us than descriptive of a momentary experience of inspiration and empowerment to speak and act according to God’s direction. This, again, is a phrase unique to Luke in his gospel and acts (John Luke 1:15; Elizabeth Luke 1:41;Zechariah Luke 1:67; the disciples Acts 2:4; Peter Acts 4:8 NRS; Stephen Acts 7:55 NRS; Paul Acts 13:9 NRS).

The Spirit in Paul and beyond: Paul further says this to the church in Ephesus: 16 I pray that, according to the riches of his glory, he may grant that you may be strengthened in your inner being with power through his Spirit, 17 and that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith, as you are being rooted and grounded in love. 18 I pray that you may have the power to comprehend, with all the saints, what is the breadth and length and height and depth, 19 and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, so that you may be filled with all the fullness of God. (Ephesians 3:17-19). And the New Testament also includes the notion of being “in the spirit” which again seems to be a reference to being overwhelmed by a sense of God’s immediate presence while in prayer, worship, or other spiritual discipline or experience (Paul Acts 19:21; believers pray Ephesians 6:18 & worship Philippians 3:3; John Revelation 1:10) Paul states clearly the connection when he says, “you are in the Spirit, since the Spirit of God dwells in you.” (Romans 8:9). Our faith tells us that this God dwelt fully in Jesus of Nazareth (John 1:1-14; Colossians 1:19). And further that this God dwells in us through the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 2).

Notice the fluidity of these images – Christ dwelling in us, us dwelling in Christ. God’s fullness in us, us in God. The Spirit in us and on us, while we are in the Spirit. All of this, I conclude, demonstrates God’s refusal for us to codify or neatly systematize the divine and holy. Rather, we are invited into the complexity of this dynamic experience that is a convergence of multiple seemingly incongruous realities. It is, as has been said elsewhere, another example of the “already-not yet” of the Kingdom of God. Any box in which we attempt to contain God simply fails. And this failure is a gift of immeasurable grace – for who would want to worship a God containable by humanity? Rather, God is the all-consuming above, below, beside, before, behind, within, without, past, present, future, beginning and end of human experience. As temporal and flesh-bound creatures, we have a limited and finite experience of the limitless and infinite God.

The Spirit (Ruach) of God moved over the surface of the waters when God began to create. It was also the breath of life (ruach chayyim) which God breathed into Adam (Genesis 2:7) and into all the other living creatures (7:15). There is again a fluidity in our theological understanding between the Spirit/Breath of God and that life-giving spirit/breath from God given to humanity and all other living creatures. In Job, Elihu speaks of the breath and the spirit, and uses the two words interchangeably between that of God and that of man, and indicates that they are the source of wisdom, and that should God choose to withdraw them, we would cease to exist: 32:8 But truly it is the spirit in a mortal, the breath of the Almighty, that makes for understanding….34: 14 If he should take back his spirit to himself, and gather to himself his breath, 15 all flesh would perish together, and all mortals return to dust.

The Spirit in All Creatures – So, we can comfortably say that all living creatures share the gift of a spirit/breath from God. This truth humbles us from triumphalism of misreading Psalm 8, or from misinterpreting God’s covenant as one of domination over, rather than a caretaking and stewarding dominion over our non-human fellow living creatures who share the God-given spirit/breath (ruach chayyim).

So, with that background, what is it that happens at Pentecost?

What does this giving of the Spirit mean that is distinct from all these other instances? Let me suggest at least a partial answer. The giving of the Spirit to the Church at Pentecost seems to have several simultaneous meanings.

A Continuation of the Ministry of Jesus – The Holy Spirit continues that empowering work for ministry demonstrated in the Gospels, particularly Luke 9 & 10, wherein Jesus commissions the 12 Apostles and then the 70 Disciples for evangelistic work that included healing and exorcism – i.e. a continuation of his work proclaimed in Luk 4 (quoting Isaiah 60) empowered by the Spirit of the Lord (i.e. the Holy Spirit) – 18 “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, 19 to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”

Good news to those who lack sufficient resources to sustain life
Freedom to those who are bound
New vision to the blind
Freedom to the oppressed
The Jubilee Year – a reordering of the economic, social & political world

A New Relationality – An expression of God’s connection to humanity through a peculiar people – a work that began with Abraham and Sarah. This connection was for the purpose of blessing humanity – not for the primary purpose of blessing the chosen people. In order for the work of Jesus to continue, his presence needs to continue, but not through the physicality of his Nazarene body but through His Body, the Church. Therefore the Spirit that descended on Jesus at his baptism is the same Spirit that descended on the Church at Pentecost, creating and confirming the unique role of the church as the continuation of the incarnation – enabling both the divine presence WITH the church and the divine presence THROUGH the church IN the world.

A Renewing Force – Because this is the life-giving resurrection Spirit, the Spirit which raised Christ from the dead will also give NEW life to our bodies – i.e. not victory over the entropy common to natural things, but over the spiritual self-destructive narcissism unique to humans. So though “the outward self is perishing, the inward self is being renewed day by day” (2 Corinthians 4:16).

A Down payment on Eternity – The Spirit is a “first installment, a down-payment” from God to us on the promise of everlasting life and the redemption of our whole self – body, mind, spirit & soul, and with us all of creation (2 Corinthians 1:22; Ephesians 1:14; Romans 8:19). As we are being made new (sanctified, re-born, re-created) in this life, a process which will see its fulfillment in the life to come, so too will all of this creation experience the same renewal – as John described in the received Revelation (21:1). The presence and work of the Holy Spirit is our assurance that God is not through with us and that the final consummation of all things means restoration and renewal with God dwelling here among us in fullness and glory.

Pentecost expresses God’s desire to be with us, to bless us and work with us to bless others.

We Are Beloved: It enables us to hear with Jesus the words of God at our baptism “You are my beloved child, with whom I am very pleased.” (Luke 3:21-22)

We Are Called: It enables us to say with Jesus the words from Isaiah 60: “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me because he has anointed me a proclaimer of Good news.” (Luke 4:18-19)

Kingdom Power: Pentecost is the initiating of the church, a continuation of the Kingdom of God on earth as it is in heaven, for which we pray, and thus for which we work. It is our call to action in the world, among each other and among our neighbors – it is both our empowerment and our ordination to Christian Ministry.