Table Talk

table talk

Take time to talk at the table.

In this year when we celebrate the 500th anniversary of the Reformation, it is good to us to remember some of the practical, everyday components of Martin Luther’s life that we can apply to our lives today.

One of those is the idea of Table Talk. Luther would regularly gather around the dinner table with friends, family and students of his for dinner and for conversation. The topics of these conversations would range from religious doctrine and history to instructions regarding government, church, and the academic university. Many who were there took notes on what Luther and others said at these Table Talks, which were eventually compiled into a book called Table Talk

The idea of gathering together for a daily meal and talking around the dinner table for hours has been gradually falling out of practice in our homes over the years, unfortunately. It is time for us to reclaim and prioritize that practice.

Make an effort as much as you can to eat together as a family. And then use that time to discuss important matters of faith. There are few other times when we are in a comfortable enough environment to talk about such things with those we love around us. It is important to give everyone a chance to share their insights on their faith in Christ and their experiences with him in their lives. And it is important that people’s words are valued.

So much can happen in a given day that we all need time to process what occurred and reflect on things with others. Sometimes it is those very conversations around the dinner table that give us the perspective we need and the vision to see that God is doing in our lives.

For many years now I have been a part of what we call “lunch bunch,” when I gather at a table at a nearby coffee shop after church with fellow brothers and sisters in Christ to talk about our week. It is an uplifting and encouraging time to reconnect with each other and remind each other of our faith and Christ’s central role in our lives through all the ups and downs that we encounter.

Christ recommended gathering together, of course, when he said, “Wherever two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them” (Matthew 18:20).

Christ is a guest at every table we gather around. Let him always be a part of the conversation!

Lectio Divina

praying handsIn the last few years there has been a resurgence in the concept of Lectio Divina (Latin for divine reading) in religious literature. It is a structure of meditative prayer that has four parts: read, meditate, pray, contemplate. It is a way for people to focus on a word, phrase or verse from Scripture and then let Christ speak to them through that Word. Lectio Divina has been likened to “feasting on the Word”: first, the taking of a bite (lectio); then chewing on it (meditatio); savoring its essence (oratio) and, finally, “digesting” it and making it a part of the body (contemplatio).

The practice was first established by St. Benedict for monks in the 6th century, and was even a recommendation to the general public as part of the Vatican II reforms in the Catholic church.

Why this new appreciation for this ritual? I think it has something to do with how busy and cluttered our minds can be in this technological age. People are craving a moment of quiet, a time of pure reflection and holy revelation. In Lectio Divina, the participant is forced to become peaceful, uncluttered with other thoughts and focused on Christ and his Word.

We all need to be open to listening more to what Christ is saying to us, and Lectio Divina is a way for us to do that. It makes it possible for us to let the Word come to us and not put any of our own parameters or preconceived notions about the Word onto it. We are like an open vessel or cupped hands when we practice Lectio Divina, ready simply to receive divine comfort.

Why not try setting aside some time for Lectio Divina in your own life and schedule?

Guidelines for how to practice Lectio Divina are found here:

 

 

http://www.beliefnet.com/faiths/catholic/2000/08/how-to-practice-lectio-divina.aspx

As the Bible says, “And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body” (Colossians 3:15). 

If Lectio Divina is not for you, then simply take time to draw closer to Christ in some specific way this week. It will do a world of difference when you return from a time of quiet with the Lord to the clamor of life.

Legacy Narratives

legacy narrativeThere is a big trend happening now in what is currently being called legacy narratives.

Legacy narratives are the stories you tell of the events of your lifetime that you wish to pass on to future generations.

Many people are using their later years to write their legacy narratives often with the help of self-publishers who can print their writings in a professional format as a beautiful keepsake for children and grandchildren.

I know that my grandmother was ahead of the curve on this one, and wrote Gramma Speaks Her Piece more than 30 years ago, and we in our family still often refer to something that she mentioned in that book.

Why is this so popular now? My feeling is that people are sensing that younger generations are not as aware of their pasts as they used to be, and there is a driving urge to leave something of meaningful value to others that can help them in their lives.

We as Christians can jump on the legacy narratives bandwagon in a special way by relating stories of how Christ has brought us through struggles and difficulties in our lives and how Christ has shown us God’s will and way for us when we often were not even looking in that direction.

I am reminded that the Gospels themselves are a kind of legacy narrative. They tell the story of how Christ came into the lives of four different people: Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. And they tell what each of them wanted future generations to know about the Lord and Savior of their lives.

I always love these verses from John 20:30-31:

Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book;  but these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.

We don’t need to tell everything in our own legacy narratives, but we do need to tell the things that are most important in life so that all may believe in Christ and see him as the center of their own life stories.

Consider starting work on your legacy narrative today.

 

Boundaries

personal boundariesToday marks the 1-year anniversary of this blog. Thank you, dear readers, for joining me on the journey this past year, and I look forward to the holy journey yet to come.

For today’s post I would like to focus on another new reality of communications from Pastor Matt Peeples that we need to be aware of in the church:

Personalized Boundaries

Even though we have more ways to interact with each other than ever before, we also all have an abundance of options to control at what level we wish to interact with one another. We can set up controls to limit the amount of information shared on any given platform (Facebook, LinkedIn, etc.) and we can choose to block people or hide posts.

In general, we have much more control over the timing of our communication as well. We can delay our response or choose not to respond. That is seen as our right and an acceptable personal preference. We don’t want to be pressured or bothered to get back to people immediately.

All of this comes into play in the church in the ways in which we interact with our members and the ways in which we reach out to prospective members or anyone who communicates with us on our various sites and platforms.

An awareness of people’s personalized communication boundaries is key to understanding how to approach members to serve in various capacities in the church. The old ways of phone trees and mass emails to elicit responses are almost gone. Instead, it is reaching out in simple noninvasive ways to individuals in the ways that they prefer that will bring a more positive reaction toward your call to action and your congregation in general.

Jesus knew about personal boundaries as well, and was sensitive to them when he encountered them. Think about Zacchaeus. Jesus spoke to him while he was still sitting in a tree. Think about Nicodemus. Jesus made himself available to speak to him at night. And he spoke to the woman at the well at what were essentially the “off hours” of gathering water.

But Jesus was also not afraid to cross boundaries either. He ate in plain sight with “tax collectors and sinners” when no one else would. He touched the eyes of a blind man to heal him. He put his hands on unclean lepers to cleanse their disease.

Jesus, therefore, gives us a good model of when and how to address boundaries. Abide by them when it behooves you to build a positive personal relationship with others. But be willing to walk across boundaries when necessary to bring hope and healing and love to people who are being bound by their boundaries.

Now and Not Yet

open tomb

Jesus celebrated on E-Day.

Living in this time between Christ’s resurrection and his return can be difficult for us as Christians. This period is often called the “now and not yet.” It is hard to see the light at the end of the proverbial tunnel when you are dealing with problems and trials in your present situation.

Ed Stetzer, in his book, Sent: Living the Missional Nature of the Church, helps us to visualize what is going on here. “Think of it like this,” he says. “At the end of World War II, there were two historical dates. The first date is remembered as D-Day—June 6, 1944. The Allied Powers stormed the beach at Normandy and secured the victory, and it was just a matter of time until the war was over. However, the official war continued on until May 7-8, 1945, when the Allied Powers accepted the unconditional and full surrender of Germany. Then the fighting stopped completely” (p. 36).

Christ won the war with sin, death and the devil when he rose from the dead on Easter Sunday. (E-Day, if you will). But battles and skirmishes continue until Judgment Day (J-Day, let’s call it), when Christ will return to declare victory over sin, death and the devil, and all battles with them will cease.

So we wait in this time between E-Day and J-Day, knowing the war is over, but the battles continue. But we know the outcome is certain. Christ won and we are winners because of it forevermore. Praise the Lord!

Sailboats

sailboatsWe as Christians often struggle with the concept of “works” and “living in the Spirit.” We know that our works do not win us righteousness, but at the same time we are called to live in the Spirit in word and deed in response to God’s love for us in Jesus. It is often tough in our limited humanness to differentiate between the  two. Isn’t living in the Spirit “work” too?

Thankfully, Michael Kelley, in his book Holy Vocabulary: Rescuing the Language of Faith, gives us a picture of how this works by comparing our lives to different types of boats.

Our lives are not to be like rowboats, he says, “where the result depends exclusively on our muscles” (Holy Vocabulary, p. 93). Neither should our lives be like a bass boat, where “no effort is required on your part; all you do is hold onto the steering wheel for dear life” (p. 93).

The best analogy for the Christian life, Kelley says, is a sailboat. “The forward motion of the sailboat is based exclusively on catching the wind. No wind, no motion,” he explains (p. 94). But you as the sailor do not sit idly by. “Your job as the sailor is to tie the sail correctly. You point the boat in the right direction and raise the sail up the mast. You judge the conditions around you and make the necessary effort so that when the wind does blow, you’re ready to sail” (p. 94).

The wind of the Holy Spirit moves us, but we need to be ready to receive it. How do we do that? By readying the sails, so to speak: praying, reading God’s Word, obeying his commands, listening to what God is saying to us. All these things give the Holy Spirit more opportunity to move us forward and give our faith momentum.

So ready your sails this week, and let the Spirit move you so that the Spirit can work through you! That is what being filled with the Spirit is all about. And that is how work that brings glory to God operates.

Visual Storytelling

picturesIn an article entitled “Go Social” in the November 2016 issue of Living Lutheran, the writer encouraged Christians to open an Instagram account. Why? To be a visual storyteller for Christ.

The article explained that in the Middle Ages, it was stained-glass windows that told the story of salvation to those in the pew who were mostly illiterate.

Today there has been a resurgence of telling a story visually, most notably through social media sites like Instagram. The whole goal of Instagram is to share photos of your life with others. In essence, as a Christian, then, your Instagram site can serve as the stained-glass windows to the world of your life in Christ.

So what images are you sharing? What can people tell about you only from the pictures you put up on your Instagram or Facebook page? Take a quick look at your image posting history. Is there any way that people can tell that you are a Christian from these images? If so, then great! If not, then what can you include in future image postings that can reveal your commitment to Christ and the central role that Christ plays in your life?

So much of social media imagery can be about me, me, me. But our role as Christians is to say he, he, he is the one we should follow by pointing to Christ in our pictures.

Post an image from when you are at church. Tell in imagery what you are doing there.

Post an image when you pray.

Post an image when you read the Bible or have a devotion.

Post an image of you wearing a cross necklace or lapel pin.

Post an image when you are gathered with your fellow Christians to study the Bible.

Let these images tell your story in Christ.

Let these images be your continuous stained-glass windows for all to see.

 

 

Evangelism 101

Jesus centerIn the Fall 2016 Concordia Journal, Prof. Glenn K. Fluegge focuses on the role of evangelism in the article, “The Dual Nature of Evangelism in the Early Church.” He explains that the two goals of evangelism then and now are: spreading the gospel and preserving the gospel.

That second goal of preserving the gospel struck me as something that we don’t often associate with evangelism, but is so vital in our world today.

In today’s world, in our effort to please and placate everyone, the gospel can become so watered down that it can often lose its core concept: Christ crucified for us.

The Gospel is not just love; it is sacrificial love found only in God’s Son, undeserved from our God.

The Gospel is not just hope; it is confident hope in the resurrection of the dead that we will one day experience because of Christ’s resurrection for us.

The Gospel is not just forgiveness; it is the permanent removal of the power of all sin through the blood shed by Christ on the cross.

Anything else that claims to be the gospel is not the gospel truth.

We need to keep that in mind as we spread the gospel message, always keeping Christ at the center of every discussion of our salvation.

We love, we hope, we forgive only because of Christ. And we serve as the witnesses God wants us to be when we show that in word and deed to those who are desperate for meaning and acceptance and purpose in their lives.

Jesus is the heart of the Gospel. Without him, the message is only nice-sounding words.

With that in mind, go out and spread the Word!

 

 

 

 

 

Connection

connectionPastor Matthew Peeples has identified 16 new realities of communication that we as Christians need to be aware of as we are in the business of communicating the message of the Gospel. I will be touching on these new realities in several posts throughout this year. Here is the first new reality:

We are simultaneously connected and disconnected.

I do find it interesting that we have an ever-expanding range of ways to connect with each other, but we seem more disconnected from each other than ever before.

We can “connect” with people online, but still be alone in our homes. We can have hundreds of “friends” on Facebook, but still have no one to talk to face-to-face.

The key for us in our Christian communities is to use the technological capabilities that connect us to a point. But then rely on the physical and personal interactions to build relationships with people.

Our goal as Christians is to connect with people, but then engage them in the real life of Christ, not a virtual world. The methods of communication that are most effective are still the ones that Jesus himself used: sitting with a woman at the well, talking to strangers on the road, dining with leaders of the community, inviting himself to the homes of tax collectors and sinners. If we don’t connect people with Christ on a face-to-face, one-on-one basis, we will remain faceless to them and the face of Christ will not be seen by them through us.

Open your doors, open your calendar, open your heart to be present with people and share your precious time and personal space and Good News with them.

Missio Dei

mission roadThe term missio Dei has come up more often as of late in religious literature I am reading, so I have done a little research into it.

It is a Latin Christian theological term that literally means “the mission of God” or “the sending of God.”

It is a term first coined by German theologian Karl Hartenstein in 1934, but had a resurgence in the late 20th century with the rise of the missional church movement. Popular modern theologians Timothy Keller and Ed Stetzer have been instrumental in increasing its use and visibility in Christian circles.

At the heart of the missio Dei is the concept that mission is not just something the church itself does, but something that is the result of God’s initiative and his desire to restore and heal creation. The church serves as a tool in the larger purpose of God to reach all nations with the message of the Gospel and to bring glory to Father, Son and Holy Spirit. In other words, the church is not the mission of God, the spreading of the Gospel to the world through the church is the ultimate mission.

In the missional movement the church is defined as a community of God that organizes itself around the purpose of being an agent of God’s mission to the world. In the missional movement, when the church is in mission, it is the true church.

The missional movement itself may not be as pervasive as it once was, but its principles remain strong in the language of the missio Dei we hear in our churches. There is more emphasis overall on the church being a sending place for God’s purposes—a launching point for the people of God going out into the community on servant events and going on mission trips to locations near and far. There is more emphasis on purpose. There is more talk of outreach. There is an expansion of forward-movement expression.

There is a good distinction embedded in the missio Dei that the mission is not from the church, but from God. And the mission is not just the church; it is beyond the church. We as members of the church are not the end result of God’s plan; we are part of the plan that God is enacting through us to bring more people to him.

St. Paul explains this overall missio Dei well in 1 Timothy 2:1-4: “First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way.  This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.”

God wants all people to be saved, and he is using us through the power of the Holy Spirit to make the saving message known to them. Have a missio Dei kind of day today.