Tuesday, January 26, 2010

In Praise of Providence

In the waning days of Epiphany, the season of light, we do well to hear the story of a wonderful Christian woman whose life-long journey toward and in that light has not been easy.

Aware as we all are that life has a dark side, few of us have likely experienced it as personally as Sarmita Peterson and her family. As a child she and her mother and brother had to flee for their lives from Nazi and Communist oppression in their native Latvia. For years following they moved from one Displaced Person's Camp to another, having next to nothing and uncertain of their future. Yet for all that and more they have clearly been led and sustained by a light that no darkness has the power to overcome.

"In thy light,' Scripture says of God, 'we see light.' So also, no matter how sombre life may seem at times, do we see that light evidenced in his people. Listen to the patterns of God's providential care in Sarmita Peterson's early and ongoing experience, and let your own faith in that providence be both awakened and renewed.

Sarmita Peterson's Story from rooted wings on Vimeo.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Don't Worry, but Be Advised!

The last Sunday of this month we will be asked once again to ponder God's call to Jeremiah. A hesitant young man, the soon to be prophet protested vigorously God's summons ("Ah, Lord God, I do not know how to speak, for I am only a boy," 1:6), only to be simply told, gazing on the branch of an almond tree (shaqed) "you shall speak whatever I command you" (1:7b). In other words, don't worry and fret over whatever you aren't yet. Just be who you are, and the Lord will provide.

In the interesting play on words that follows he was also told, no less clearly by God, "I am watching (shoqed) over my word to perform it." In other words, just as the Lord God will be there to give him what to say (shaqed), so the Lord will be watching (shoqed) to make sure that what he says what the Lord tells him to say. No more, no less.

I have no doubt that in ways appropriate to us in our time and place God calls each of us in a similar way. We are not to worry about ourselves and our inadequacies when he calls. He will supply whatever we need and guard us in all our ways. But be advised that he will also be watching those he calls, to make sure that what we do and say in his name is what he gives us to do and say. No more, no less.

In other words, just trust and obey. That's all there is to it, everything required. Be both assured of his presence and advised of his presence. It's not about you or me. It's all about him, his word, and his will. Nothing can stand in the way of the Lord's anointed when he or she is true to the Anointing One. But the Lord himself remains sovereign in the process. "I will be with you," (shaqed), "and I will also be watching (shoqed). Don't worry, therefore, but don't run off on your own either.

We will be tempted, as Jeremiah himself was, to protest on occasion, sometimes out of frustration and sometimes out of sheer weariness. But he who calls will sustain us, re-stoking the the fires he first kindled in us until what he wants done is accomplished.

Welcome to ministry 101, the core course on responding to God's call that needs continually to be revisited.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Identity and Mission

The Christian Century for January 12 carries an interesting book review on The Missional Church and Denominations: Helping Congregations Develop a Missional Ministry (Eerdmans, 288 pp). The reviewer, Anthony B. Robinson, president of an organization called "Congregational Leadership Northwest," catalogues what others have pointed out and most people surmised, that denominations generally are not doing well missionally these days.

The obvious challenge as he and the book see it, is "to refocus their lives and resources on joining God's mission in the world rather than simply promoting or maintaining themselves."

At the end of his review of the book, Robinson writes, "One denomination that has found resources for innovation is The Evangelical Covenant Church. Historically a church of Swedish immigrants, it has in recent decades caught the wave of the new immigration. New church starts for immigrants from many countries have transformed the denomination and made it to grow."

Especially worth noting and pondering, I believe, is Robinson's concluding query: "Will other denominations prove capable of arriving at the clear sense of identity and purpose that fosters flexibility and innovation. Time will tell."

Many in our time are convinced that growing requires one to abandon the traditions from which we have come. Strip the church of all its churchiness. Free your imagination from bondage to questions of identity. How refreshing to have someone recognize that in our case as Covenanters, it is the strong sense of identity we have inherited from our forebears that has in fact freed us to welcome and receive others so different and diverse. And, for their part, trying to find their way in this new time and land often prejudiced against them and fearful of them, they are grateful for an open and safe-enough community of faith that provides them with a sense of family and common identity in Christ.

Clearly Christ's body must always be missional. But only when each part of it continues to affirm and celebrate its own experience in that body will it be free enough to keep opening its doors to others and serious enough to commend without apology what it has been given by God to be and do.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

A Treasured Colleague and Friend

Keith Fullerton, here pictured with his wife Viola, died suddenly Sunday evening, just after their moving from Surrey, British Columbia to Norquay, Saskatchewan December 30.

A Facebook note this morning from Andy Sebanc, senior pastor at Surrey, indicates that they are creating a weblink to the Memorial Service Friday at 2:00 p.m. in Norquay. Though absent in person, many will want to be attending via the Green Timbers weblink in Surrey, details of which are posted at: http://www.facebook.com/n/?event.php&eid=237301333100&mid=1ae1ea4G4ca85d82Gbcf956G7.

The Fullerton family, not unlike the Petersons, Ericsons, Wendell Andersons, Josephsons, and so many others before them are legend in Canada and the broader Covenant. Their devoted ministries and spirit have perpetuated Covenant life, thought, and spirit in places all over the denomination, and we are in great debt to each of them.

Keith was a unique leader among us, at local church, conference-wide, and denominational levels throughout his considerable lifetime in ministry. What drew me espacially to him was a certain sense of reserve, an intuition that there was always more to him than appeared in any given moment, waiting in the wings to further bless and resource you . Gentle and thoughtful in presenting himself, he was no less firm in his convictions for all that, and fiercely loyal to our family of faith.

May God bless and hallow his memory among us, and may he give special comfort to his grieving wife and family in the sure knowledge that we will see and be with him again. May he also surround them with our love and the prayers rising now from the many to whom they have minsitered in Christ's name.