The task of prophetic theology today includes dismantling whiteness and following the Jewish Jesus who is leading an intercultural movement of love and justice. While the colonial imagination viewed white Europeans as God’s elect in the New World, the Scriptures repudiate this hierarchical racial logic and ground Christian identity in the election of the Jews. Israel, understood as the covenant people of God, offers the roper horizon of Christian self-understanding because it roots identify in the God of Abraham, instead of the modern state apparatus that was forged through the flourishing of the white masculine ideal. God’s covenantal history with the Jews offers a robust theological alternative to modernity’s narrative of progress.
-Peter Goodwin Heltzel, Resurrection City: A Theology of Improvisation.
I’m just a chapter into the book and already considering who I’ll recommend it to. Heltzel is drawing here from Cater’s Race, a book I worked hard to understand, though a large percentage of it surely went right over my head.
I’m preparing a series of talks for an upcoming retreat on the topic of life transitions. I’ve been mulling this word – transitions – over in my head for the past month or so and two observations have consistently come to mind. First, I don’t like transitions. In many ways the past three years of my life have been characterized by a series of three major life transitions that happened within the span of a year: adopting our son, buying our first home, and helping plant our church. Clearly these were all really important, good transitions but I’d be fine with never again experiencing that much transition in such a short period of time.
Secondly, despite my allergy to them, transitions are normal. The word itself gives a sense of impermanence but life is really just a series of transitions, one after another. Accepting this is tough, especially within a cultural milieu built on moving past transitions. The reasons for this are fairly obvious: transitions are times of vulnerability and uncertainty, undesirable traits in a society that values strength, stability, and savvy. What passes for political discourse betrays these negative sentiments; our country is meant either to return to an idealized past or evolve to an enlightened future. In both cases the point is to arrive; transitions are to be transcended.
Christians, without downplaying their challenges, are those with the spiritual resources to acknowledge the persistence of transitions while also thriving in the midst of them. The transitions of career, family, and the many others brought on my opportunity and, more often, crisis are simply the stuff of life for the Christian. More accurately, the stuff of the abundant life promised by Jesus. We don’t wait to make it through the in-between times in order to live well; the good life, when defined differently than the American dream, is available now, regardless of which transition(s) we currently exist within.
2013 Multi-ethnic Church Conference
On Sunday afternoon I met with a leader from our church over coffee and our conversation turned to an upcoming sermon about worship. This African American woman and I discussed the many different levels of complexity when it comes to worship in a multi-ethnic church. She pointed out some of the generalizations that are often made about the worship preferences of different cultures and ethnicities; I wondered about the potential for spiritual formation when we submit to forms of worship that are not initially comfortable. As we left the coffeeshop I mentioned how grateful I am to belong to a church community that expects these kinds of discussions, questions, and sermons.
In fact, I’ve come to take these conversations for granted though they are probably rare for most pastors and churches. Despite the many challenges of a young, diverse church, such conversations – and their applications – are surely one of our greatest gifts. Pastors and church leaders who serve in less diverse circumstances must look elsewhere for the theological agitation that is necessary for forming churches that faithfully reflect Gospel reconciliation.
Thankfully, the upcoming Mosaix Multi-ethnic Church Conference will provide one such forum. With sessions on theology, church planting, sociological trends, best practices, and more and with seasoned and competent leaders like John Perkins, Choco DeJesus, Michael Emerson, and conference organizer Mark DeYmaz, the conference will be full of thoughtful information. But as I look at the list of speakers and consider who else will be attending I know that it will be the conversations, like the one this past Sunday, that will make those days in Long Beach so fruitful.
The conference is November 5-6 so you’ve got plenty of time to register.
A couple of my favorite Chicago buildings as seen from Wabash and Congress.
On Sunday our church celebrated our third anniversary. There’s a lot that could and probably should be said about this significant marker but, to be honest, I’ve run out of words. God has been good. That’s more than enough to capture the spirit of our celebration, but these photos may fill in some details. To those of you who have been tracking with our church’s journey over the past few years, thanks for your prayer and support. It means a lot.