Rituals Define Reality

Charles Kiser —  November 20, 2014 — Leave a comment

Baptism

[This is a guest post by Paul McMullen, a fellow leader in the Storyline Community.]

I was fortunate to take an intensive theology course this summer. The title was, Theology as a Way of Life, and it focused on the ways in which liturgical and ascetic theology spiritually form the community of God’s people. If that sounds a little heady, it was a bit beyond me, especially since it was taught out of the Anglican/Episcopal tradition, which I’m unfamiliar with.

One of the big takeaways I did have is that God has gifted us with (at least) two rituals filled with power and mystery: baptism and communion. As followers of Jesus, these rituals form us. They define reality. Another way to say this is that, in a mysterious way, these rituals connect us to God’s story on the cosmic level.

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Vancouver, B.C.

[This is a guest post from Paul McMullen, a new co-worker in the Storyline Community. Paul is a pastor with a missionary’s heart.]

Over a year ago, my family visited a Storyline worship gathering at the beginning of a three-month period of travel and discernment. We’d left our belongings in a 10X15 storage unit sitting a few hundred feet off of Vancouver Harbour. That harbour sits in the shadows of the North Vancouver mountains. As we pulled into the parking lot where Storyline met that Sunday, it was hard not to notice the contrasts between our previous home and our new setting. No mountains in Dallas, for one. No one saying, “Eh,” but plenty of “y’alls!” Returning to the south, part of me felt back home and part of me felt completely disoriented.

We learned at least three lessons in our transition from Vancouver to Dallas.

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I’d like to flesh out this dream we’re pursuing in Storyline to become a “red hot center of mission.”

The inspiration for the metaphor comes from a series of posts written by Mike Breen on missional communities, where he explores the red hot center of the early church, the three elements of a red hot center, and what happens when “torches” of red hot centers gather together and make a “bonfire”.

flywheel

This is a powerful metaphor and a great vision for the church in North America, especially in a time when the fire of mission sometimes seems to have burned down to embers.

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Beloved

– Henri Nouwen, in Life of the Beloved (pp. 25, 26, 30-31), writes to his friend Fred, a secular Jewish man from New York who asked Nouwen, “Why don’t you write something about the spiritual life for me and my friends?”

Ever since you asked me to write for you and your friends about the spiritual life, I have been wondering if there might be one word I would most want  you to remember when you finished reading all I wish to say. Over the past year, that special word has gradually emerged from the depths of my own heart. It is the word “Beloved,” and I am convinced that it has been given to me for the sake of you and your friends….

Yes, there is that voice, the voice that speaks from above and from within and that whispers softly or declares loudly: “You are my Beloved, on you my favor rests.” It certainly is not easy to hear that voice in a world filled with voices that shout: “You are no good, you are ugly; you are worthless; you are despicable, you are nobody — unless you can demonstrate the opposite”….

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Penguin Leadership

I have given you an example to follow. Do as I have done to you. – Jesus (John 13:15)

I am the firstborn in my family. When I was a kid, one of my parents’ mantras for me was “set an example”. There were three younger siblings watching what I did, they said. And whatever I did, they’d be likely to follow.

It just so happens that they would pull that mantra out whenever I wasn’t setting a good example – and it worked on some level. I received it as an honor and a responsibility to set an example for my brother and sisters. Not that they always did – or that I always set a good example. But that mantra stuck with me.

I didn’t realize it at the time, but my parents were developing me to lead people.

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