Monday, February 26, 2007

Adding to Christ II

I want to return to a question I put forth a couple posts ago, that of adding to Christ. I quoted Barth in Church Dogmatics concerning the Christian that as part of their vocation as witness they are to bear witness to Christ and not to the benefits that one gains as a Christian. I want to add a few more quotes and expound on this idea in areas I've found personally challenging.

1. Barth makes this distinction:
"It must be noted rather than proclaimed that liberation has come to [the Christian] too, and to [the Christian] specifically.(CD IV.3.2 p. 676)
This is interesting. The personal liberation of the Christian is not to be ignored, but it is not the basis of the message. As Christians, we are not necessarily to bear witness to what Christ has done in our own lives, per se, but to what God has done in Christ as an objective reality. We are not necessarily to hide or obscure the benefits we have received, but again, this is not the central message we are to proclaim.

2. This frees us to be witnesses:
"In [the Christian's discipleship and witness of/to Christ] he/she is impressed into service irrespective of his/her personal qualification, fitness or ability."(CD IV.3.2 p. 677)
If the message is not us, not our holiness, our blessed life, our changed life, the benefits we have received, we are free to point to Christ. We are not required to look perfect, to be perfect. This is an amazing freedom. This is not to say that we are to live lives of wretched debauchery.

For me, this is both a troubling and freeing idea. I think so much of "evangelism" in the past has been some kind of attempt to either win someone to the cause or explain the benefits of the Christian life and the infusion of the Holy Spirit, somehow weaving one's story into THE story as if to legitamize our witness. But that is not, as Barth explains what we are to do. If we try to win someone over, we inevitably add to the gospel, the good news of Christ. If we try to explain our story as THE story, how Christ has changed us, we become that which we are witnessing to, even if we do not mean to. Our witness becomes an infomercial for God. We cease to bear witness to God and try to sell God as a product for the human predicament.

This is troubling in that it seems many of the "tools" and "methods" of historic and contemporary evangelism are called into question. It is freeing in that we are enabled to be who we are, in process, enroute, incomplete pilgrims and still witnesses because we bear witness to that which is outside ourselves, that which has happened and that which we too are called to, and to bear witness to...

Sunday, February 25, 2007

Not today Europe, not today...

Some of you may know that I had aspirations of spending a year abroad, somewhere in Western Europe, somewhere that spoke English - 'cause that's the extent of my language skills. Well, on Wednesday, I got a delightful letter from the Dean of Student Life here at Princeton, through which I had applied for a Fellowship that would fund a year overseas. Part of that letter included "I am sorry to inform you..."

In all honesty, it wasn't as much of a blow as it might have been a few months ago. I don't know if that was because I'm getting a little tired of school and itching to get back out into fulltime ministry, or whether it was because God was preparing me, or simply I was not wanting to do all the logistical stuff like passports, storing belongings, finding a home for our cat... That was probably the #1 thing. I know it was much more difficult for Bridgette to take. She was getting so excited and interested in multi-cultural stuff, especially since she's been working at Princeton's Woodrow Wilson School for Public & International affairs. Maybe someday down the road we may cross the pond for a few months or a year, a sabbatical or something, but it doesn't look like that's in the cards right now. Hopefully, this passion will be fulfilled where we end up next - like in mission trips or something like that.

The big prayer now that this seems to be a no go, that is unless we hear back from Oxford and not only do they invite me over, but somehow find $50,000 to fund me for a year... is that Bridgette & I be on the same page about our future & the church we go to. Yes, it's technically my call, the church extends the call to me and they pay me... but we can't go somewhere that Bridgette isn't excited about, somewhere Bridgette doesn't feel like she can fit into the culture and feel like she can pursue her dreams alongside mine. I don't want, nor does she, to feel like I'm dragging her around to places where she has no say in things.

Right now, I'm just sending out my PIF (resume) and doing some interviews here on campus. Bridgette is looking at the different churches and if things get serious, she'll get a little more into it. In the meantime, we'll just keep talking & praying and we'll covet the prayers of our family & friends too...

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Ashes to Ashes

My ears had heard of you
but now my eyes have seen you.
Therefore I despise myself
and repent in dust and ashes.
Job 42:5-6

Today is Ash Wednesday, the beginning of Lent, and it's a great time to reflect on some things, like where we don't measure up, what we may be called to give up. I'm not much for giving up stuff for Lent, or at least never have been. But I think by the end of the day I'm going to come up with some stuff. I know there are things in my life, distractions, that are occupying a lot more of my time than should be alotted for them. So, during this season of reflection, I think I'm going to give some of them up, and I have a few hours to figure out what they are...

By the way, Thanks to Mark D Roberts for the photo. He's also got a really great post from a couple years back on Ash Wednesday that is definitely worth the read, check it out here.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Adding to Christ...

It's been nearly a week since I posted. We've been traveling in NY, celebrated Bridgette's Birthday @ Olive Garden and generally been feeling under the weather. But through it all I've been reading & contemplating Karl Barth's theology of vocation, on which I am doing an "independant" study (with my friend Wes, over at the WB). Anyway, I've not had time to write my thoughts, but I thought I'd throw out there a couple quotes and let them resonate a bit, then comment.

"Hence the concept of the witness and his speech and action, whenever it is implicitly or for the most part explicitly used in the New Testament in the theologically relevant sense, refers to a man who bears witness to Jesus in word and act and attitude. He does not bear witness abstractly to benefits and gifts which he may point out to those around as one who knows and has received them, but concretely to Jesus as the Lord, the Son of God, the Messiah, the Savour of the world, in short, as the Subject, source and fulness of the grace which God has manifested to the world and all men and which includes as such all the benefits and gifts which may be seriously regarded as such." (IV.3.2, 71.4)

What do we add...

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Happy Vallent-ICE Day!

Classes were cancelled today because of the weather. Which didn't make much of a difference for me because I don't have classes on Wednesdays anyway. But it did throw a kink into my plans to get to my internship, since the shuttle wouldn't be running either. But then I found out our internship meeting would also be cancelled.

So I'm home all day today, with a little boy who refuses to eat what he mowed down just two days earlier in favour of bananas, which he is also squashing between his fingers. It's an interesting time. He's so happy - but we just worry about whether he's eating enough. And of course he's woken up the last two nights at 1:30 & 2:30am respectively for what reason - we have no clue. And this is just in time for our little trek tomorrow up to Speculator, NY, where we'll be spending time with a dozen of our friends for the weekend. Brennan will be sleeping in his pack-n-play, not his crib. Which has sometimes proved problemmatic. At least he'll have his own room, 'cause the place is a compound, not a cabin. And of course, if you look at the picture, it is dead center of all that white - its expected to have 3ft of snow between yesterday and today. Provided we can arrive safely and Brennan sleeps, it's going to be a blast! We'll see...

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Time to stop messing around

I'm done my Final Assessment, Spring semester has started, I've submitted my applications for the long-shot overseas opportunities and I have T-minus 5 months before PTS kicks us to the curb. I think it's high time I get my PIF (Personal Information Form, aka Resume) done, so I can start officially looking for a call. Really, it's about 4 questions of no more than 1500 characters, that I have to write. My plan is Sunday at the latest to send them off to my liason for input, so that by next weekend it's up and I'm sending it out.

Currently, I'm thinking about Associate Pastor positions (Youth, Education, Young Adult, Discipleship, etc) with an eye toward the NE quarter of the country (West to Chicago, South to DC and everything North & East of that) with wild cards such as CA, WA, AZ, CO, NM, VA, TX and Atlanta. We're fairly open. Last I checked there were about 80+ opportunities that fit those descriptions. Of course, we only need 1 - the right one. It's an interesting thing too, this whole "job search/call" process. There are so many variables - but you've got to remember that this is about a call, about God's leading. I believe there's one place out there that fits us, that fits me and Bridgette & Brennan, our family, our personalities, gifts, talents. As of yet, we're a long way from figuring out where that is. And if you feel like praying for us, we'd appreciate prayers for discerment, and that Bridgette & I would be on the same page - hear the same things, be open to the same things, and have our desires met in God's call to the same place. Of course, I need to get the ball rolling a bit and finish this PIF thing...