len on July 3rd, 2017

In 2007 David Fitch offered an overview of the work that Mark Lau Branson is doing around appreciative enquiry. Alan Roxburgh likewise applauded the benefits of using”appreciative enquiry” in local congregations as part a transformation process. Alan suggested AI as a tool which enabled people to be “listened into speech.”

Mark’s book is Memories, Hopes, and Conversations: Appreciative Inquiry and Congregational Change. After an afternoon reflecting on the potential of narrative therapy as a healing process, and making the further connection to memory, and hope, and salutogenesis – I was ready for some further reflection on processes of communal healing and growth.

Here’s what David wrote:

“Mark Lau Branson presented a workshop where he talked about the work of leading transformation in congregations. It described the contrast between typical church “problem solving”, (i.e. go into a church, study the problems, talk solutions and then propose a plan to implement solutions) – and Appreciative Inquiry — asking questions about where God has been at work and then stoking the imagination as to how to further participate in these ways as a body. He called the latter interpretive leadership. He said the deadest churches he had been had still been places where God had been wonderfully at work, but there were no witnesses. Read the rest of this entry »

len on June 5th, 2017

Why are there so many fewer imaginative resources dedicated to the feast of Pentecost as opposed to Christmas and Easter? My guess is that its partly that our cultural context (primarily commercial) supports the latter two, and so the church finds it simpler to engage them in response.

I also wonder if Pentecost has been so “owned” by the tribe and label that it has been Christianly politicized to an extent that the remainder of evangelicalism has avoided it. So here’s the bigger question —

How do we begin to engage in the same rich theological reflection that we dedicate to our other high days? How do we learn to live in the reality of Pentecost as thoroughly as we do in the reality of incarnation and resurrection? How do we let Pentecost form our faith and practice to the same degree?

len on June 5th, 2017

len on May 20th, 2017

len on April 15th, 2017

Cast from sleep on the edge of a March dawn
(Brain as empty as a beach
The arch above our bed dark as the firmament)
We lie and listen to the birds
Seeking in the garden outside the glass:
“Light, Light, who let there be light ?”
“We are glad for the light and the worms in the grass/’
But it was only we who heard their chirp as words:
Their praise was wordless as their wonderment;
Our task was still like Eve’s and Adam’s all day long
To speak the light of language to the universe.

The late light flakes blown by the dawn wind
In the garden are stars of ice and air and sparkle
In the dark-branched shrub of my lung.
In alveolar lace there iron rusts and rushes
Blood-borne to my body’s billion fires
Whose fuel is the heavy ash of stars,
Scattered from the novae of their pyres:
Carbon, and the ferrous rust that pushes
Wordless blood to my unbound tongue
To praise: that the God of the cosmos
Let the heavens come to speech in me.

Pouring from the west the sea-wind batters the town,
Strews branches like the wrack of tides
And warms the land with sea-smell.
The sea beats louder through the salt of my blood,
Whispers in my pink bones basinning basalt.
O You who wove me in the depths of earth and ocean,
Who at the birth of light and stars foresaw the far result
Of the wind of your spirit quickening my mud:
Let deeps of sea and continent rise up in me and tell
That the whispering in the earthquake and the surf
Is the shout of your life in we who are water and dust.

Standing on the thrusting grass by the choked pear-tree
The gnarled gardener is older than the trunk he tends.
The tendrils of the weed he strips from the limb
Have wrapped round both its twigs and his
And link the laddered acid of his seed
Back down to planet and to plant.
His fingers tend the garden’s need:
Yet the transpired breath of the garden is
The respired breath of his work, which is the hymn
Of his soul and the grown voice of the soil rejoicing:
That dropped and rotting seeds may blossom yet from the dirt.

Now in the darkening afternoon
The animals watch from the garden’s verge,
Shaped like versions of myself in the forests
of my sleep (Though I wake to kill them and eat).
Caught by their horns in our thickets they thresh
To escape us, the birds and the beasts.
And still through the ripped veils of their flesh
We enter with trampling feet
The violent sanctum of our unkept Keep:
And no slain lamb or ram nor any blood of bull
or dove Can give back the peace of our lost first task.

Image of God, we say, and image of the world:
Eve, sorrowing, and blest-for-all-of-mankind, Mary
(Ruth-like in the fields, hopeful in the reaped wheat
To glean the grace of her promised pain),
And Jesus, like a mother at the town’s dark side
Stretched with pain of making, and of making Man,
Who taught us how to be crucified
(We who would rather be slayers than slain);
He whom the Magdalene only could greet
At first as the gardener: Exactly the image of God—
Christ, who returned us the gardener’s task.

Creation waits now for the gardener to speak:
And the eager weeds await their release
From the bondage of being weeds.
Eden and Zion lie far apart
But atom and ocean, beasts and plants
Wait for the one who will grant them peace.
Then the planet will spin in a sabbath dance
(And the dancing place will be the heart).
Fruit will burgeon from scattered seeds
And garden and town be clean as a fleece
Early in the morning, on the first day of the week.

Loren Wilkinson
The Reformed Journal, no 4 Ap 1987, 10. 37.

len on April 14th, 2017

“If heaven and earth are already joined in the ascension, with part of “earth” — the human body of Jesus — now fully and thoroughly at home in “heaven,” then they are joined again in the opposite direction, as it were, in Acts 2, when the powerful wind of the divine Spirit comes upon the disciples. This is one of the New Testament equivalents of the tabernacle with the cloud and fire or of Solomon’s Temple with the glorious shekinah.” Wright, 162

“We have Platonized our eschatology (substituting “souls going to heaven” for the promised new creation) and have therefor moralized our Anthropology (substituting qualifying examination of moral performance for the biblical notion of the human vocation), with the result that we have paganized our soteriology, our understanding of “salvation”(substituting the idea of “God killing Jesus to satisfy his wrath” for the genuinely biblical notions…” Wright, 147

Both citations from The Day The Revolution Began, 2016

len on March 17th, 2017

People in any organization are always attached to the obsolete—
the things that should have worked but did not, the things that
once were productive and no longer are. ~ Peter Drucker

Management expertise has become the creation and control of
constants, uniformity, and efficiency, while the need has become
the understanding and coordination of variability, complexity, and
effectiveness. ~ Dee Hock

len on March 15th, 2017

“Tell of it, you who ride on tawny asses,
you who sit on rich carpets,
and you who walk by the way.
“To the sound of musicians at the watering places,
there they repeat the triumphs of Yahweh,
the triumphs of his peasantry in Israel.” – Judges 5:10-11

Walter Brueggemann comments on the verses above:

“These verses are in the old Song of Deborah, thus a model of Israel’s earliest self-awareness as being linked to this odd God. They invite a conversation of saturation that continues while riding, sitting, and walking – that is, all the time. There is to be much talking and telling and bearing witness. The talk is to happen at the watering places, at the oases, at the village wells, while the community does its most mundane, daily routines, where the women gather to gossip, to sing while the buskers play and entertain and enjoy.

“In that context, Israel is to talk endlessly about Yahweh, about Yahweh’s victories, about Yahweh’s acts of making things right, about Yahweh’s solidarity with the peasants who, without Yahweh, are hopeless and helpless. Israel is to repeat these exhibits of Yahweh..

“… the subject was ‘the triumphs of Yahweh..’ except those deeds are also ‘the triumphs of his peasantry.’ Thus the singing and telling is about the acts of courage whereby Yahweh’s people have run risks for an alternative life in the world… This is not a courtroom, but it is nonetheless a context in which competing versions of reality are in play against each other. And those who speak while they ride and sit and walk are advocates for a particular, peculiar Yahweh-world.” Cadences of Home, 50

* * *
“He came to a town in Samaria called Sychar,
near the plot of ground Jacob had given to his son Joseph.
Jacob’s well was there, and Jesus, tired as he was
from the journey, sat down by the well.
It was about noon.” John 4

In this encounter we are going to see new triumphs at the watering places, the real-life dusty road places where ordinary people congregate and tell their stories. We will hear a new song from this tired Singer, and we will hear a response of deep hunger from the hopeful daughter of Israel. And then she in turn will sing a new song and become part of the story of God’s mighty acts in Israel. What a beautiful interweaving of threads in the garment of salvation!

And the political reality, in the face of the liturgical and cultic life of Israel, is also stunning. There are two dangerous dreams here.

First, Jesus asks the woman to imagine an alternate world where access to hope and to God’s future are not determined by location or ethnicity.

Second, Jesus asks the woman! He shapes new imagination not merely by picturing an alternate reality, but by inviting her into the drama – the new story that he is authoring moment by moment in this god-forsaken place by an ancient watering hole.

He asks the woman! A Jewish teacher contradicts the rabbis and crosses a religious and cultural boundary, thereby affirming for all time that this new Song is not about religion at all – but about something much Larger that God is doing in the world. He challenges the narrow frame of cultic life in a remote corner of Palestine and replaces it with the Big Story – the coming of God’s just kingdom where there is no slave or free, Jew or Gentile, male or female….

len on March 14th, 2017

So many years sanding language smooth
only to learn and relearn that mystery
resists finished edges.

Karen Connelly. “April, on coming to the island”

len on March 6th, 2017

“The synoptic gospels present the Last Supper as a “new Temple” moment… Like all Passover meals, it was not just a signpost, but a means, through the sharing of food and wine, of partaking in the event about to be accomplished. When Jesus wanted to explain to his followers the meaning of his death, he didn’t give them a theory, he gave them a meal.” NT Wright, How God Became King, 238