Saturday, December 2, 2006

The Cross vs The Sword

Drove past the scenic White Bear Lake today to visit Woodland Hills Church, the megachurch which Greg Boyd pastors... Wearing jeans and T-shirt, he is an awesome communicator and formidable theologian - able to reach people in everyday language with big ideas. Not too long ago, 1000 members left the church partly due to his series of sermons on The Cross & The Sword, in which he called the church to keep some 'prophetic distance' from politics (mainly conservative politics) But the church is still doing well, and I experienced first-time what redeemed 'hip hop worship' feels like, expressing the racial diversity of that community. He said, We all agree that the church should be diverse but we also expect others to come together on our own terms (the cultural baggages). And I wonder what a racially diverse Malaysian church which alternates between hymns, hillsongs, dikir barat, hindi chants, mandarin tunes look like.

Since he just came back from a busy schedule in Europe this week, I was fortunate enuff to say hi! Overall, I loved the sermon he preached though keeping some reservations expressed by Justin Taylor here. As a witness for Jesus, I get tired and frustrated when my colleagues, friends and parents have the wrong perception that the war on Iraq is a religious crusade waged by christians. We need to speak prophetically on political issues, but not let the faith be co-opted by political parties.

Then he said the church cannot pick up the sword and the cross at the same time. Even a 'just war' is ugly, when our calling is to show forth the beauty of Christ. I'm not sure if Greg is a pacifist...

I have read his stuffs while he was a professor at Bethel University, where he was embroiled in open theism controversy with John Piper. His works on Oneness Pentecostals, apologetics (Letter to a skeptic) and historical Jesus are first-class, but his views on the problem of evil (god at war), open theism (God of the possible) etc are more problematic. I told him that and he said I have the right to be wrong :)

In his sermon, Greg also shared his conversation with Rick Warren who believes that we're at the threshold of a new dawn - a Second Reformation:

"The first Reformation was about belief; this one's going to be about behavior"

It came out in the news last week that Hybels and Warren are mobilising enormous resources to help the church combat HIV/AIDS and help victims in Africa and other places! It's just fantastic, i thot. Maybe these megachurch leaders (who bore the brunt of criticisms from both right and left) are not so bad after all, eh? :)

When I managed to catch Greg for a photo after service, we also talked a bit about essentials - how accepting JWs, Mormons or OPs as who they are, in love, to come as friends in the church is different from accepting them into positions of leadership in the church and sharing ministry in the gospel. In that, I'm glad to see the convergence here.

After that, I stopped by a German-Catholic Church St Peter's, admiring the elegant architecture. Grabbed a bite at the sandwich store across the street and head towards the Science Museum for the BodyWorks exhibit, showcasing the 'inside' workings of our body. (but full house!)

Recommended by Sivin, I went to Solomon's Porch pastored by Doug Pagitt at 5 pm (Imagining myself as a yet-to-be-christian stepping into the church for the 1st time...) He gave me a book - "Church Reimagined" - increasing my luggage weight dillema but it was so nice of him to chase after me when I decided to wait for him downstairs as he seemed busy talking with others. The church was arranged in a circle of sofas, chairs (very laidback) with the swirling stool in the center for the speaker. Lots of songs and sharing of music today. Music was great, lots of artistic collaborators there it seems. But I felt the worshippers were a bit 'passive' but then, maybe there were lots of 'guests' :)

Oh ya, I've been gathering news that Ravi Zacharias, the stalwart apologist, has been doing a lot of good in Malaysia... If u missed the spectacular message he gave, check it out here (thanks to Bohtea!) and a lil' bonus on "doubt and certainty" here

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