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Sameness vs. Individuality

DSC00542It is a healthy development to see growing concern for community and life together in the West. At the same time the hunger for life together can, and does, create some deep problems that are rarely talked about in the right way. My friend Monte Wilson recently captured my concern in a post that I believe is very important for Christians who have experienced deep brokenness and desire to be enfolded into a deeply Christian family or small group/church.

Ultimately everything depends on the quality of the individual, but our fatally short-sighted age thinks only in terms of large numbers and mass organizations…
― C.G. Jung, The Undiscovered Self

Sameness – Where every one looks alike, talks alike, believes the same (what they are told to believe), goes along to get along; is brought about by the belief that the judgment of others is more important and more valuable then his or her own evaluations; lives based on fear and self-distrust. Synonyms – Cookie-cutter, boring, mindless, asleep at the wheel, dishonest, robots

Individuality – The product of a relentless pursuit of truth; the result

A Special Season in the Desert – A Journey into Deeper Ecumenism (3)

UnknownWhat God gave to me in the late 1990s, and into the early years of this present century, was a settled assurance that he would go with me into a desert. There I would feel abandoned at times but he would always be with me. In the desert he would provide for me, heal me, teach me and prepare me for a very different future. Though I did not know what that future would look like precisely what was revealed to me was that when he placed me in my new role I would have power and true freedom to exalt him openly. I had no idea what this meant in my wildest dreams. I did know, beyond any doubt in my soul, that this new mission was “from the Lord” and that every blessing would be his alone. One year I preached twice all year, at least in Sunday services. When my wife asked me this question, about how many times I had preached in a certain year, I was stunned to answer her since I

A Special Season in the Desert – A Journey into Deeper Ecumenism (1)

The mission of ACT3 takes me to many cities and communities, to meet with leaders in private as well as large and small groups of earnest Christians from many churches. Some of my most enjoyable work is building relationships with some of the most interesting and mission-focused leaders that I’ve ever had the pleasure of sharing my life-journey with as partners. Such was the case again because of a visit to the Phoenix area, January 16-21. Over the next few days I plan to share this mission with friends by means of these blogs. I ask you to share in the joy of what Christ is doing and to pray for me as I seek to be faithful to God’s John 17 call upon my life.

On Saturday, January 17, I spoke at a Phoenix-area John 17 Movement meeting hosted by Catholic Renewal Ministries of the Diocese of Phoenix. Catholic Renewal Ministries (CRM) is a ministry organization that provides a variety of services to parishes and prayer groups across the Phoenix diocese, including: seminars, retreats, conferences, healing masses, praise nights and other devotional resources. CRM can best be

God Loves Me in My Muscular Dystrophy: A Guest Blog

526786_423216014368093_1079195861_nGod wants to show us his love for us in the circumstances he providentially arranges for our lives to be lived in. When all is right and rosy in our lives, it is quite easy and natural to arrive at this conclusion. God has blessed me; he must love me. Yet, as all of us who live in this world know, life is not always lived in the Big Rock Candy Mountains. We have troubles and they are never in short supply. If pleasure and ease are the barometers of goodness, it is far from evident in our natural sight that a good and benevolent God rules the universe when there is so much pain and suffering in it for the creatures he has made. By faith, however, we are shown the sufferings of One Man as the very content of God’s love for us. This is Jesus Christ, who through his suffering and resurrection offers to unite us to the life of God. In and with our Lord Jesus Christ, then, God demonstrates his mighty love

Cardinal O’Malley: ‘If I were founding a Church, I’d love to have women priests’

Cardinal_OMalley-140x156I was in Boston for three days last weekend working in a number of exciting missional-ecumenical contexts. Boston is best known, in terms of its Christian leadership, for the work of Cardinal Sean O’Malley. I pray for Cardinal O’Malley, a leader who represents Pope Francis and his vision as well as any American leader in the Catholic Church. Let me explain some of what I mean by sharing about my recent experience in Boston.

On Sunday evening (November 16) I met with twelve ecumenical leaders from the city. Included among those at the table were some wonderful folks such as the leader of the Massachusetts Council of Churches, the newly appointed dean of the Orthodox Cathedral, the evangelical catalyst for overseeing the joint efforts of ten seminaries in the greater Boston area, a lay leader in the office of ecumenism for Cardinal O’Malley and various religious leaders, both clergy and non-clergy. We were Catholic, Orthodox, charismatic, evangelical, mainline Protestant. We were Asian, white, black and hispanic. We were male and female, young and old. It was quite a

A Gospel Call in Montreal (4)

The Gospel Call renewal event that I shared in Montreal two weeks ago has four specifically stated goals:

  1. To deepen our Christian sense of identity and solidarity with one another.
  2. To enable the co-sponsoring congregations to envision their mission differently.
  3. To identify concrete ways that congregations can act together in the future.
  4. To increase awareness of the biblical call to unity in faith, worship and mission.

Gospel Call is a ministry under the oversight of the North American Paulist Ministry Center in Washington, D.C.. Further information is available at the Paulist site.

DSC_6805On the last day of our Gospel Call mission in Montreal Fr. Tom Ryan and I led a “follow-through” event at the Lutheran Church. After a meal we invited leaders from the nine participating churches to come together as a group for prayer and one more symbolic expression of our oneness. In this instance the liturgy was quite simple and did not include a sermon. We placed an open Bible before the congregation and offered prayers.

Following this opening time of gathering we broke into six small groups around various ministries within the

A Gospel Call in Montreal (3)

DSC_6743 copyThe final Gospel Call worship celebration in Montreal (October 28) was the last large event that Fr. Ryan and I led together. This evening event was also the last of three preaching times. The focus was on the word “Sent.” Fr. Ryan and I again preached as a team, taking turns and both speaking for about five minutes and then stopping to allow the second person to speak. Back and forth the flow went as we challenged the people to go out into the world as God’s “sent” people to be the missional people of Christ. What is different about the charge that we gave  is that the context called people and churches to specifically cooperate, collaborate and  practice unity. We are not asking Catholics to stop being Catholic or Protestants to cease to be Protestants. We are calling everyone to realize that we are all part of the same Christian family. As fellow members of the one body of Jesus Christ we can share in his mission better as those who are “sent” in unity into

The Moravian Daily Texts and My Contemplative Practice in 2014

1533855_571338782944849_238247196_nA dear friend, Gerald Stover (PA), gave me a lovely gift at the Luminosa Award ceremony in June. I have used this gift, The Moravian Daily Texts, regularly in 2014.

Most historians agree that the Moravian Church, which began as a renewal movement within the Catholic Church, was started through the work of a Catholic priest named Jan Hus (the English is John Hus) in the early fifteenth century. The Moravian movement was a reaction to some of the practices of the Roman Catholic Church. Hus wanted to return the Church in Bohemia (the homeland of my wife’s family line) and Moravia to the practices of early Christianity. His reforming efforts sought a liturgy in the language of the people, the allowance of the lay people to receive both the bread and the cup during communion, and the elimination of Papal indulgences and the idea of purgatory.

Interestingly, some (but not all) of these practices were altered, five centuries later at Vatican II. The Moravian movement gained royal support and a certain independence for a while, even spreading

Christian Unity Week @ Judson University, Part Three

IMG_4199We ended Christian Unity Week at Judson University on Friday, October 10. The final message was given by one of my dearest friends on earth – Fr. Wilbur Ellsworth. Fr. Ellsworth, pastor of Holy Transfiguration Orthodox Church in Warrenville, Illinois, has been my friend since the 1980s. He came to Wheaton, from a pastorate in Kent, Ohio, to serve as senior pastor of the First Baptist Church. We have shared many times of ministry, and growing friendship, over the last twenty-five plus years.

Fr. Ellsworth and I have built a relationship over meals, prayer, conversations about theology and church, as well as special family events. We have celebrated birthdays, weddings and times of grief. We have given unique gifts to one another that we both value deeply. The intimacy of our friendship is something I treasure very, very profoundly. When Fr. Ellsworth began his private journey toward the Orthodox Church some years ago I knew of his direction long before it was made public. We entered into much healthy and engaging dialogue. Both of us learned a great

Christian Unity Week @ Judson University, Part Two

IMG_4165On Wednesday, October 8, I introduced Fr. Thomas Baima to the Judson University community. I do not know if Judson has ever had a Roman Catholic priest speak as a primary preacher in their chapel but on this gorgeous fall day it happened. The anticipation and prayer was palpable to me. A lot had gone into this service behind the scenes, including dialogue over many months, a meal that we all shared together, and much planning about details and liturgy. Music was provided by my friend Aaron Niequist as well. Aaron is a fellow-traveler and shared in the Lausanne Catholic-Evangelical Conversation in September.

This particular chapel began on a very sad note. A great trial touching the entire Judson family was shared with the students at the beginning. But we proceeded by asking God to meet with us in our prayers and worship. Fr. Baima ended by offering a rich and pastoral response on behalf of the Judson community through his closing prayer.

Many have said to me, for an entire lifetime, “I have never heard a Catholic priest