Monday, March 06, 2006

Sunday night

We had our first interns dinner on Sunday night. And I must say, what an amazing bunch. I am sure we will continue to grow together, and really enjoy the fellowship this year.

We had Tom and Fiona who are doing some church planting type stuff in St Kilda

Tim who is doing a church plant around a community garden in Preston

Krystal who is doing some outreach work with young people and children in the north

Gareth who is doing a church plant through a card game network

Naomi who is doing schools work with young people

Sarah who is doing community developement and discipleship stuff in the east

Jono who is re-imagining youth ministry with a church in the west

Anthony who is going to work with us here in Footscray and Ascot Vale

For those of you who are comitted to prayer, please do your best!!!

It was a great night, where we debriefed the intensive, got to know each other a bit, shared some pasta, and grappled with a few questions. I gave the group a little encouragement I had gotten at the start of my ministry years and years ago. Do not doubt in the dark, what God told you in the light. When we begin a journey we are so full of excitement and expectation, but any journey worth going on will have its tough bits, its uphill climbs, its adversaries. It is in these times we are tempted to think we have made a mistake. But we must remember, the greater the journey the greater the trials and tribulations. We must remember God's call, and forge ahead (bad pun sorry) with a resolution and a holy tenacity.

I pray that we will all grow closer to the kingdom of God together this year.

the rev


Gareth 'LovesTha' Pye said...

It was a great evening, it always surprises me just how valuable a casual chat with peers can be.

PS: I prefer to spell Gareth with just 1 R :)

john jensen said...

I only see one r what are you talking about?

the rev

Anonymous said...

"For those of you who are comitted to prayer, please do your best"

So you think if people pray hard enough or in the right way, it will influence God's will? Can we mortal humans get God to change her mind? Even if we could, how would anyone know?

But then hasn't God already perfected his plans? So prayer might just be a means of getting to know the will of God. I'll leave it as an exercise for you, Rev, to critique this one.

john jensen said...

I believe our actions affect things eternally. As to prayer, I think that we can pray for people allowing them to effectively walk in effectiveness in the spiritual battle.

the bible says the prayers of a righteous man availeth much.

the rev

Anonymous said...

So God is acting as a conduit by passing on all that "prayer power" from the praying believers to the person being prayed for. Except that he doesn't do it mechanically, does he, but somewhat whimsically - sometimes he just doesn't pass it (all) on which keeps the praying faithful continually guessing as to whether their prayers "availeth much".

I don't think anyone really knows what God is up to, do they? This prayer business is like blind and deaf people in a dark room.

It's not like anyone has done some scientific studies to demonstrate time and time again the working out of God's will in the world.

And yet you base your entire life on this sort of vague nonsense.

Anonymous said...

That was my comment above.

john jensen said...

Wow, I never would have guessed that was you!

so can you explain how calling what I believe vain nonsense is appropriate or constructive?

And as to what I base my life on, its living like Jesus. Exactly how prayer works is not a major concern of mine, Jesus prays, so I pray. What I base my life on is a vision of a better world brought about by the truth of Jesus and his teachings. A world of love, justice, mercy and community. A world of beauty and admiration. You think you can find it outside of faith, I do not.

the rev

Anonymous said...

I recognise that your way of living does bring good results on a limited scale. And your wordview does act as a "salt of the world" and a counterbalance to the desctructive lifestyles and mindsets of the majority.

You base this lifestyle of yours on patterns in the Bible as exemplified by the way Jesus lived. But you take the whole package without, it seems, critically examining what is really happening, whether the entirety is equally useful. Maybe some aspects of what Jesus said and did are complete nonsense. Like prayer.

Don't believe everything that Jesus said or did. He was only human, after all, and to suppose otherwise is merely unprovable belief.

john jensen said...

well if you don't mind, I will make up mind own mind about Jesus thanks.

And I have seen miraculous answers to prayer many times in my life. Ofcourse there were no double blind scientific studies arranged at the time, so you would not accept my experience, but I cannot discount them none the less.

Ofcourse it may just be an coincidence. But then when I stop praying, the coincedences stop happening.

The primary goal of prayer to me is to reflect and be inspired. To center my spirit and hear Gods voice, not to ask for stuff. But there are times when spiritual realities are dealt with. And this effect the literal world even if you don't believe in miracles or spiritual reality.

A missionary I met from Spain was imprisoned by Castro in Cuba. After years he was sent with his entire family to Spain, where they could not work as they were not citizens. Castro made the family suffer horribly. The man said he hated Castro. But he committed to praying for Fidel everyday. After twenty years he told us, "I don't know if Fidel has changed at all... but I know I have"

the rev

Anonymous said...

Praying to hear God's voice? This is one difference between your run-of-the-mill normal human to human relationship and the one that people allegedly have with God. Human to human relationships can be observed by others - other people can see the conversation taking place, can see the questions and responses, statements and reactions. We can record the conversation and play it back later.

But the person to God relationship is strictly non-obervable by others. It's all hapenning within your head. People might hear your side of the conversation, but they can't observe God's responses. A recording of this conversation would just look like someone talking to himself.

Hmmm - I wonder whether it's not just your imagination, trained as it is, by years of church attendance and prayer practice.

I know you've convinced yourself, Rev, that you are talking to God. Maybe you are just talking to yourself.

john jensen said...

and maybe I don't exist and you are talking to yourself!!!

the rev

Anonymous said...

Oh, by the way, you mentioned that you work in Footscray. Have you tried the Vietnamese restaurants there - great food at cheap prices. When I'm over that side of town, my wife and I like to have lunch in one, if we can. She's from Vietnam (Chinese heritage) and introduced me to the food. It's still a favourite.

Anonymous said...

I can't be talking to myself - I couldn't do those sarcastic responses you do so well, Rev. Sarcasm mixed with insight - a fascinating mix.

urbanmonk said...

The Philosopher Iris Murdoch, an avowed athiest, in a paper on prayer, art and morality, concluded that she could not discern any empirical evidence in favour of prayer, but none the less had to admit that it did seem to make a difference to peoples lives. (As a good objective Philosopher)

I find myself in a bit of a paradoxical situation, I find myself wrestling with the same questions as Kieren, but in the end, I have to agree with the Rev... I am by no means a prayer warrior, but as i have stumbled down the road, over many years, my personal testimony is that prayer DOES make a difference. It is like breathing clean air in a smog filled city.

And Keiren, I'm intersted inyour comments about imagination. I think imagination does play a part in prayer. It is the one capacity hunmans have that enables us to connect observable reality with invisible realities. All the worlds great art can do this. connect everyday reality with higher meaning. This after all is what Iris Murdoch was interested in exploring.Prayer does this too, creating space to connect heaven(invisible reality) with earth ( everyday reality) - thus the reason we christians, cling so tenaciously to Jesus teaching on prayer,

"Your will be done, on earth, as it is in heaven" Our experience tells us, that on those occassions when the invisible is connected to the visible, transformative, redemptive power ( miracles) is present To my mind, its not something that science will ever be able to quantify, science will always be baffled by prayer, because as good empiricists, they cant dissmiss it totally, nor can it be quantified conclusively. it lies in Mystery.

As for me, I find myself continueing to pray... "Your will be done on earth ( my heart) as it is in heaven." in spite of my rational mind, i just cant help but savour a fresh breeze..

Sorry for ranting Rev... The bees in my bonnet can sometimes be good, I hope...

Anonymous said...

Urbanmonk, you make prayer sound like a relaxation technique. Are you referring to more substantial "differences"? Do you think prayer really is contact with a disembodied spirit, as the Rev does?

urbanmonk said...

Keiren, I certainly dont mean to express my attitude to prayer as a relaxation technique, but I do agree that it is contact with a Spirit ( a being ) that is intimately conected/longing to be connected to us. ( some might call it the Spirit of Christ) I dont believe this is something we can manipulate ourselves.

Not really sure what you mean by substantial differences?

I dont mean it to sound trite or cute, but to be honest, there have been times in my life when prayer(reaching out for the divine presence) has been the 'difference' between hope and despair. Life and death. I have been faced with many perlexing difficulties in life, and i think that prayer (not the act in itself, but the fruit of the connection I make with this "disembodied Spirit) has been the difference. Of course I cant quantify it. You are right, to an outsider, it probably looks like I am just talikng to myself.

My guide in prayer has mostly been the book of Psalms in the Bible and the teaching of Jesus to "Pray with simplicity" - these are really poems written to God (Art seeking to connect visible reality with eternity)

And it came as a great surprise to me that they express the full range of human difficulties, experience and emotion, not just reverent piousness. They even express disappointment with God,

I think to pray is to be completely human. It has been an instinct in us for thousands of years. I think there is a yearning in us to connect with something beyond ourselves, a deeper reality. Isnt this the goal of Art, science, and philosophical inquiry? Perhaps all the world is praying? in all its endeavours?

sorry, keiren, I think Im ranting again...

Anonymous said...

Praying to a separate entity is substantially different from prayer as a relaxation/centering/calming technique.

I have some doubts about whether we can ever know for sure if an independent entity is involved, however. How do you know that your brain is not just playing neurological tricks. The relationship with the alleged spirit does not have the same features as our everyday interpersonal relationships (as commented previously). You may have read about studies that show when certain parts of the brain are magnetically stimulated, the person experiences an other-wordly presence, for example.

urbanmonk said...

I guess I dont know anything for sure...

Anonymous said...

Let's not use the phrase "for sure", then. Can you still extract some meaning from those statements if we drop this phrase?

urbanmonk said...

I'm not that smart... Maybe my brain is playing neurological tricks. I dont know. if thats the case, what harm can be done? if it drives people to such Altruism as it has for so many in history.

One thing I know for sure, my impulse to pray is unlikely to vanish. I can only say, that I see a difference, not just in me, but many great figures in history, aswell as ordinary unknown great figures. Like the spanish missionary the rev mentioned...
My original comment was that even avowed athiests, and bright scientific minds, ( like Iris Murdoch) are sometimes forced to admit that prayer "availeth much"

I appreciate your healthy doubt and intellect though. I think it was the Monk and theologian Thomas Aquinas ( correct me if Im wrong somebody) that said, by doubt, we come to enquiry, and by enquiry, we come to the truth. Its out there somewhere...

urbanmonk said...

Keiren, reflecting on your comments about prayer being blind and deaf people in a dark room... I think you are right.. We are blind and deaf people in a dark room, (What else could cause such suffering on this planet)But I believe that occasionally, sometimes often, sometimes every day, the light shines in the darkness of our blind prayers. And for a moment,( which maybe enough to guide us for a lifetime) our darkness is illuminated, and we see. "the light does seem to shine in the darkness..

BTW - there is a lecture being given by a renound N.T.Scholar on the topics of evil and justice, ( thurs 23rd March) and Art and Christianity in post modern world... or something like that.., Beauty and Justice ( Fri 24th march)

Maybe some or you arty Footscrayites might be interested..

Hawthorn Town Hall
360 burwood Rd Hawthorn

andrew said...

I've enjoyed reading this dialogue. Thankyou for your honest, humble and engaging comments. In a world which idolizes proof, rationality, control and knowledge I think it is great to be able confess our own uncertainty and trust in God's goodness and truth. One of the ways this trust can be expressed is in the relational mystery of prayer.

Anonymous said...

amen brother