Is There Something Sacremental About This?

Posted by Jared Siebert on July 05, 2013
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I picked this video up via the Atlantic.

This video is a beautifully and poetically shot musing on the people who travel to Abbey Road to re-enact the iconic Beatles’ album cover.  For the record I have nothing against the Beatles.  I think their great.  However, I can’t help but notice the sacramental nature of this simple act.  Being photographed walking across Abbey Road, means following in the footsteps of “incredible men”.  It points to a desire to communally participate in some sort of transcendent greatness.  Is this a modern day form of worship?

I have been reading James K. A. Smith’s “Desiring the Kingdom” lately.  He has been opening my eyes to the way in which consumer culture erects alternative churches, liturgies, and sacraments to harness our desire and point us toward consumption.

“We are shaped by material bodily practices that aim or point our love to ultimate visions of human flourishing— to particular configurations of what “the kingdom” should look like.”

Here is a quick break down of his version of the liturgy of the shopping mall:

1.  I am broken therefore I shop – the mall’s rituals— its own construal of the brokenness of the world, which issues not in confession but in consumption. One might say that this is the mall’s equivalent of “sin” (though only superficially).  The point is this: implicit in those visual icons of success, happiness, pleasure, and fulfillment is a stabbing albeit unarticulated recognition that that’s not me.

2.  I shop with others – After all, it does seem that going to the mall is often a social phenomenon, something one does with others, even in order to be with others. However, just what vision of human relationships is implicit in the rituals of the market? While we might participate in the mall’s liturgies in pairs or groups, what model of human intersubjectivity is implicit in the story it’s selling us? It seems to me that, despite being a site of congregation and even a venue for a certain kind of “friendship,” its practices inculcate an understanding of human intersubjectivity that fosters not community but competition; it inscribes in us habits of objectification rather than other-regarding love.

3. I shop (and shop and shop), therefore I am – Though its stories and images point out to us our blotches and blemishes, they are not pessimistic; to the contrary, they hold out a sort of redemption in the goods and services that the market provides. The mall holds out consumption as redemption in two senses: in one sense, the shopping itself is construed as a kind of therapy, a healing activity, a way of dealing with the sadness and frustrations of our broken world. The mall offers a sanctuary and a respite, where we can count on sales clerks greeting us with friendly smiles, where we can lose ourselves in the labyrinth of the racks and find new delights and surprises that— at least for a time— cover over the doldrums of our workaday existence. So the very activity of shopping is idealized as a means of quasi-redemption. In another sense, the goal of shopping is the acquisition of goods and the enjoyment of services that try to address the problem, that is, what’s wrong with us— our pear-shaped figure, our pimply face, our drab and outdated wardrobe, our rusting old car, and so forth.

Have you noticed any other versions of these kinds of sacramental acts?

UPDATE:  (Thanks to my friend Josh Lyon for the link)  If you’d like to watch the worship in action you can see it live right here!

Hampton Free Methodist Update

Posted by Jared Siebert on June 07, 2013
Free Methodist Church in Canada, Travelcast / 1 Comment

Hampton Free Methodist Update from Jared Siebert on Vimeo.

Greg Ford – National Board of Administration

Posted by Jared Siebert on April 29, 2013
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We talked to Greg Ford, board chairman, about our latest board meeting this weekend.

Shiloh in Sealey’s Bay, ON

Posted by Jared Siebert on April 21, 2013
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Shiloh in Sealey’s Bay.  A vital ministry in the community.

Rustle Free Methodist Church

Posted by Jared Siebert on April 21, 2013
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A Church that is peace on earth in a neighbourhood that could really use it.

Rodney Peterson – Centennial Free Methodist

Posted by Jared Siebert on April 20, 2013
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Rodney talks to us about some of the great things that are going on at Centennial these days.

Mark Dynna – Arlington Beach Regional Gathering

Posted by Jared Siebert on April 15, 2013
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We talked to Mark Dynna from Northview Community Church about his experience at the Regional Gathering held at Arlington Beach Camp.

Greg Pulham – Foundational Course Instructor’s Meeting

Posted by Jared Siebert on April 10, 2013
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We talked to Greg Pulham about the meeting of the Foundational Course Instructors at the Ministry Centre.

Can Preaching Lead to Christianity as Merely Information

Posted by Jared Siebert on March 14, 2013
Free Methodist Church in Canada, The Christian Life / 1 Comment

A few weeks ago I had the privilege of hearing Stuart Murray Williams, via a webinar broadcast from Winnipeg, talk about creating a Multi-Voiced Church.  Stuart shared a lot of great incites on deepening body life.

Something that wasn’t exactly the main point of his talk has stuck with me over the past few weeks.  Stuart suggested that there is a problem in our current practice of weekly preaching; especially if we as preachers want our people to respond in a life altering way to our preaching.  The challenge for most hearers of our sermons is that the things that we want them to consider, change, or rethink usually take longer than 7 days to consider, change, or rethink.  And yet, like clock work, we are up there 7 days later offering other new things to consider, change, or rethink.  Just as our congregation starts to respond we are moving on to something else.  The problem is further compounded by good preaching which is even more compelling and suggests even deeper changes.  Stuart suggests that we consider only preaching once a month to compensate.  The other 3 weeks of the month would be spent allowing the congregation time and space to publicly reflect, respond, and flesh out what was suggested during the sermon.

A radical suggestion?  Perhaps.  It would certainly do a lot to free pastors of the hours they invest each week putting together a sermon.  I know pastors that feel compelled to spend 15 to 20 hours per week preparing a sermon.  What other pastoral capacities could be unleashed if we spent less time on preparing and preaching?  But would that option be attractive to pastors?  Would some of us want the job if our weekly sermon were reduced to monthly?  Would congregations even want us to do this?

What are some less radical options?  Well, I suppose you could preach on the same passage for a month or more so that people have time to soak in it.  Alternatively, you could spend more time planning out your preaching theme so that your sermons formed one larger thought rather lots of new thoughts

All of this was interesting of course but this wasn’t the stuff that has really stuck with me.

As I mentioned in my last post I have been trying to address some gaps in my development as a pastor.  Given my tendency to live from the mind I frequently find myself needing to push back against the spectre of Christianity as information.

Christianity certainly contains and requires information. What I think about Jesus matters.  How I view the Bible matters.  My beliefs and doctrines matter.  And yet the reality is these aren’t the only things that matter.  If Stuart is right, and I think he is, then what he is describing is a disciple-making system that reduces Christianity to information.  In this system the response I am really looking for from my preaching isn’t really life change.  If it were I would create enough space for people to actually respond.  I would check in with people to see how it was going.  I would watch for signs that changes were taking place and then and only then would I move on to something else.  But that isn’t the norm is it?  In the current system the only REAL responses people have time for are:  agree, disagree, or some form of performance evaluation (ie – “Good job preacher, I really liked your sermon”).  David Fitch has a great post about his desire to have people respond to his preaching with something more along the lines of “God used you to destroy my world today“.  I would love to hear that sometime myself but I’m not sure a weekly diet of world destroying sermons would improve the current situation much.  The current system promotes what we in the industry call “functional atheism”.  Functional Atheism is when a person would identify with the idea of Jesus – would call themselves a Christian – and yet live as if God did not exist.  They would give intellectual assent to the idea that Jesus matters but nothing about their lives would indicate that they believed that to be true.  They would say with their mouth that Jesus was Lord – but their bank account, calendar, relationships, life decisions, and value system would largely remain untouched by that truth.

I’m not sure what to do with all of this quite yet.  Something tells me preaching harder isn’t the solution.  I’m not even sure preaching a sermon on this phenomenon would help either.  But the wheels are turning…

What do you think?  Is Stuart way off on this one?  Any ideas what we could do differently?

Vern Frudd – Culture and Missional Church

Posted by Jared Siebert on March 06, 2013
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Vern Frudd talks to us about his experience at this week’s Culture and Missional Church course taught in Harrison Hot Springs BC.  Vern suggests that this course has a lot of valuable things to offer long tenured pastors.  We may need to change the way we advertise for the course to reflect that!