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Following Jesus and Busy

Last night at our community vision night our speaker Tyler Miley taught us that the sense of stress & anxiety grows as the distance between our responsibilities and our  capacities grow.  Finding the right balance for life in order to reduce that space and to find our individual and even seasonal balance is essential.

I was reminded me of another reflection I had on the growth of the church in Philippi. In Acts 16 we hear about a business woman named Lydia:

13On the Sabbath we went a little way outside the city to a riverbank, where we thought people would be meeting for prayer, and we sat down to speak with some women who had gathered there. 14One of them was Lydia from Thyatira, a merchant of expensive purple cloth, who worshiped God. As she listened to us, the Lord opened her heart, and she accepted what Paul was saying. 15She was baptized along with other members of her household, and she asked us to be her guests. “If you agree that I am a true believer in the Lord,” she said, “come and stay at my home.” And she urged us until we agreed.

 

Lydia was a business woman.

She ran a household. And was clearly influential  — she created the space for others to hear the Gospel and respond.

Her expensive purple cloth business was likely quite successful and connected her with the upper levels of society.

As there was not a synagogue in Phillipi (it required 10 Jewish men) they had a place of prayer.

 

Lydia was probably a busy person. But her pattern of life created the space for thoughtful engagement with God. Her pattern of life was influenced by the Sabbath and she created space for rest. Her pattern of life included her extended family and community so she created space for support. Her pattern of life had margins so she was able to extend hospitality.

 

And now God had opened up her heart to Jesus and brought salvation to her and her circle of influence. She says, “I am a true believer in the Lord.”

 

I wish we could observe in the Scripture what the pattern of her life looked like in the days following her baptism. But this thought remains with me: to think I’m too busy for Jesus misses the mark.

You and Your City

On our 10,000 KM journey from Vancouver and back we went through a lot of cities: Seattle, Portland, Las Vegas, Santa Fe, Odessa, Phoenix, Los Angeles, San Francisco.

From the road its difficult to appreciate them. To know them and enjoy them one has to exit and stay a while. It helps too to meet someone in the city and find out what they enjoy. The longer one stays with the “real city people” the more possible it becomes to get into the “flow” of that city.

During our holiday I read through the book of Acts. Its possible to map the movement of the Gospel via people as they left from Jerusalem and went to cities all around the Mediterranean.  When they “landed” in those cities people like Luke and Paul got into the flow of commerce and accepted cultural dialogue. It seems that they kept a positive posture toward the city and its inhabitants. Here’s what it was like when they landed in Philippi (Acts 16:11-13):

11We boarded a boat at Troas and sailed straight across to the island of Samothrace, and the next day we landed at Neapolis. 12From there we reached Philippi, a major city of that district of Macedonia and a Roman colony. And we stayed there several days.

13On the Sabbath we went a little way outside the city to a riverbank, where we thought people would be meeting for prayer, and we sat down to speak with some women who had gathered there. 14One of them was Lydia from Thyatira, a merchant of expensive purple cloth, who worshiped God. As she listened to us, the Lord opened her heart, and she accepted what Paul was saying. 15She was baptized along with other members of her household, and she asked us to be her guests. “If you agree that I am a true believer in the Lord,” she said, “come and stay at my home.” And she urged us until we agreed.

What’s your posture toward the city or the community you live in?

Love it? Hate it? Avoid it? Live it?

Here’s a recent tongue-in-cheek- commentary on what its like to get into the flow of Vancouver.

If its not social, its not green.

This is my new internal setting on the sustainability conversation.  “If its not social, its not green.”  Social sustainability must become a balancing value to the math required for sustainable buildings and neighbourhoods.  Our green ambitions become moot when the humans who inhabit those spaces are not able to be healthy in relationships and communities as they live, work, and play.  Yes the ecological footprint of rooms large enough to accommodate community assemblies of 150 to 350 people are bigger, cost more, and ruin the green math.  But without these kinds of spaces in our urban and campus communities, humans will not live well.  Raising the social sustainability value will bring some sense to the whole sustainability conversation.  If its not social… its not green!

How to talk about religion… at school.

Teaching about the world religions made the news in Canada a few months ago as the Supreme Court upheld the Quebec public school system’s requirements for its students to take an ethics and world religion course.  I like the concept and idea and believe that we should continue to develop a curriculum that encourages public discourse in our schools of religious ideals and ethics.  The pluralistic nature of our urban communities and universities guarantees a growing need to equip students with skills for understanding another person’s worldview–even if its a religiously informed view.

My friend Mark Chancey posted Robert Kunzman’s article, “How to Talk About Religion.”  He calls for “civic multilingualism” to be nurtured within public schools:

In recent years, the call has increased for U.S. students to study foreign languages. In an interconnected, global society, the argument goes, Americans must be able to communicate effectively with a diversity of peoples and cultures, whether for purposes of commerce, research, or national security. But given the prevalence of religion talk in today’s world, another form of fluency is increasingly needed: Civic multilingualism is the ability to converse across different religious and ethical perspectives in search of understanding, compromise, and common ground. At home and abroad, this may represent the greatest social challenge of the 21st century.

To meet this challenge, public schools cannot sidestep the influence of religion in society. Nor should they cultivate a model of citizenship that avoids religion talk altogether.

My experience in Vancouver is that we have difficulty with this vision of civic responsibility in part because of our virtue of “tolerance” based on ignorance.  Kunzman believes that  “tolerance” without “knowledge” actually creates citizens who lack “respect.”  He writes,

Public schools often see their role as promoting tolerance of diversity, and this is certainly important. But tolerance can be entirely ignorant—students don’t have to know anything about other beliefs or ways of life to tolerate them. Respect, however, requires an appreciation for why religious adherents believe or live the way they do. Students who have this understanding of their fellow citizens’ religious commitments will be better equipped to thoughtfully discuss those commitments, especially when conflicts arise in the public square.