Pastor John Van Sloten's Blog 2001-2007

John Van Sloten's Blog 2001 - 2007

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a church full of preachers

Oct 30, 2006

The most exciting part of my job right now is seeing how the idea of God being already at work in the world is impacting the hearts and lives of fellow New Hopers. This past Sunday I announce that we’re preaching on seeing God through disabilities and a schizophrenic young man comes up to me, filled with passion, and begins to tell me how the divine can be seen. Two months ago a group of Johnny Cash fans come to my house to watch, Walk the Line, and then talk through the outline of a sermon on the singer’s life. One of those sermon researchers came up to me a week later and excitedly asks, “When can we do that again?” Last Thursday a friend comes over and can’t wait to tell me how this Architect he’s reading about has a message that powerfully equates to our understanding of God’s nature. Today I get an email from one classical pianist saying she’d love to help me exegete (read into and understand) God’s movements in the music of J. S. Bach. Another woman has already put me in contact with her former music professor in Edmonton; he wrote his thesis on the topic. She sees God’s finger prints all over Bach’s keys!...
Two days ago another architectural designer sent me the suggestion that it might be kind of neat if he actually designed a house on his CAD (computer aided design) system; during the entire service! An urban planner says I need to read these two other books.

The stories go on and on and on… the community of God writing the messages of God. In order to preach the creation text (God’s work in the world) we need an army of exegetes; all specialists in their fields. The whole priesthood of believers preaching this amazing gospel message; it’s really quite exciting.


being a father

Oct 28, 2006

Sitting in a sun filled living room, on the edge of beginning to relax, my son Edward briskly walks in with a small doll wrapped in a blanket. I said, “Hi,” and asked, “What’s your doll’s name Edward? Looks like a boy. Does he have a name?” Eddy doesn’t really get the question, so he engages in some kind of diversionary activity… shakes another toy, or looks in the other direction in an animated, exaggerated, kind of way. I just stared at him for a few moments; he kept re-swaddling the doll, caressing it, kissing it, taking care of it.

The thought then hit me that he’ll never get a chance to do that with his own child (DS boys are sterile – God’s way of keeping a lid on the extra-chromasonal party I guess).
Edward will never know the feeling that a father feels when he holds his own child. For a second I’m sad for him; like the sadness I felt when I first realized that he’d never drive a car, graduate high school (legitimately), or be totally self supporting.

Holding your own child… What an amazing gift that is! You feel a profound sense of pride. You’re enabled to live and experience the other side of belonging; not the feeling that you belong per se (though you do) but more the fact that you are giving belonging to another. You provide all that is required so that another can rest secure, can know who they are, can be loved. It’s like God has given us this amazing God-like attribute.

Which makes me think that Edward doles out that particular trait quite often… to me. When he holds my head, I often feel like God is holding me, when he looks at me with that one particular look, I feel God’s gaze.

Authored by: Anonymous on Thursday, November 02 2006 @ 07:14 PM PST
I loved when I became a mother but I also couldn't believe what I had done. I remember the moment I realised what I had actually brought my most precious little beloved into.

There is something about innocence, how I long for the day before we ate from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil and I see that in some friends with DS. They miss out on some of the "privledges" but also some of the knowledge that is so painful.



Freddie Mercury Preview - CJ92 FM and John Van Sloten

Oct 27, 2006

Pastor John previews the upcoming message, "What Freddie Mercury can teach us about God's love" with the CJ92 FM morning crew, "Forbes and Friends".

Listen to the interview in mp3 audio.


Chapter Three - Some more pushback

Oct 26, 2006

I received an email with some more questions about what we're doing at New Hope. Here it is, along with my response...

"I was reading John's blog, where he talked about what he believes. I found it a bit confusing in places and because of that I am not sure I agree or not.

It says: "I believe that the face of God can be seen in their very human being."
Somehow I think I am misunderstanding something he is trying to say.
The way I am reading him it looks like he is saying that we are the physical likeness of God. Yet God has no physicality.

He said:
"I believe that we also reflect God in the things that we do as human beings; that our communities, our creativity, our ideas, our science, our sport, our music, our fashion, our work and our rest all bear his finger prints."

I know you might think I'm being too 'picky' but I'm really not. To some degree I agree with you. However, not everything all humans do in these areas can be said to reflect God. The 'Gay' community, thier creativity and ideas, evolutionary science, ungodly conduct in sports, music, fashion, work and rest do not bear God's finger prints. Perhaps a clarification would help.

I know a few other Christians, who have read it and they agree with me that it is too vague to know if they agree or not."

And my response...
Some clarification… "I believe that the face of God can be seen in their very human being." You’re right in asserting that God is not a physical being… I was using a bit of poetic license there, that’s all.
The whole concept of bearing the image of God (first mentioned in Genesis 1:27, and in a few other places in the Bible) has been a difficult one to nail down. Over the years various thinkers/theologians have defined it as reflecting/modeling God’s rationality, creativity, earth stewarding capacity, abstract thinking/cognitive objectivity capacity, and communal tendencies… those are some of the definitions I’ve come across. I’ve come to believe that a composite of all of these reflections might be the best answer. Who really knows though?

To your more important comment re: the validity of ‘everything all humans do reflecting God,’ I both agree and I disagree with your assertion. I think all human beings have the potential to reflect God’s image, whether they’re gay or heterosexual; believers in evolution or not, believers in God or not. All of us fall short in bearing that image; the sad and all pervasive result of sin. But this does not mean that all of us will always fall short all of the time. Even though we’re iunevitably going to mess up, glimmers of that divine image remain, in both our beings/natures and, I believe, in the things we create. Things created will contain glimmers of God’s image bearing reflection (in a tertiary kind of way) and they’ll also fall short (the ugly side of sport, fashion, work and rest).

The way I see it, it’s not an either/or kind of thing. Good and evil aren’t that clearly delineated. Both are at play in all things…


Chapter Three - Pushback

Oct 10, 2006

“John, you better listen to these phone messages,” said our office administrator, “These people sound pretty upset with you!” Two callers; each incensed at the fact that I would mention Metallica and God in the same sentence. Both threatened me with Divine wrath if I went ahead with the church service that Sunday. Both (eerily) quoted the same obscure scripture passage - from the Old Testament prophet Ezekiel - as a judgment on our church. And one of them ended his message by blowing some kind of ram’s horn into the phone! (Honestly, you can’t make this stuff up!) “John… some guy with a Shofar on line one…”

Little did I know that this was only the beginning of the push back we would get to experience on this journey. Evidently people of faith (which is where most of the concern is sourced) can feel pretty threatened when you start to engage creation/culture the way we do. A guy stands up in the middle of my message on Seven Card Texas Holdem’, on his chair waving a bible, and screams on about how I’m a false prophet and Satan’s spawn. An intern from our church’s seminary tells me that several students, once they heard that he was headed to Calgary for the summer, told him to tell me to stop messing with how sermons should be preached. Over the years many letters have been received from those with concerns. Over the years more than a few people have left New Hope Church because of their concerns.

It really tests your resolve when the concern gets close to home. Witnessing the departure of good, faithful souls, can be both disconcerting and disheartening. But it can also be positive. It can force you, if you’re honest, to re-evaluate, to question, to let ‘the idea’ go for a while and see if it comes back home to you.

This is never a bad thing to do. If what’s happening at our church really is God’s good idea, then it should be able to withstand a few tests here and there right?

To that end, I’d like to open up the discussion once more. Following is a succinct summary of the theological rationale for what we do. (It may look familiar. I posted on this blog a year or so ago… this version is slightly enhanced and modified.) This line of reasoning is the basis for what we’re doing here at New Hope. Pick it apart, dismantle it, question it, whatever… and post your comments if you would. This might lead to an interesting dialogue.

OK, here’s the theological statement…

Ok, this is what I believe...

I believe in God.
I believe that everything that exists belongs to him.
I believe that God cares deeply about the things that belong to him.
I believe that the primary job of both Christians and the church is to help others come to know this fact.
I believe that the best way to do this is by showing people where God is already at work in their lives.
I believe that God (the Spirit of Jesus Christ) is already at work in their lives; in more ways than most people could ever imagine.
I believe that God's work in people's lives can be seen, discerned, known and shown.
I believe that the face of God can be seen in their very human being. Every person is made in God's image and reflects something of the divine nature. It's built in to our very essence.
I believe that we also reflect God in the things that we do as human beings; that our communities, our creativity, our ideas, our science, our sport, our music, our fashion, our work and our rest all bear his finger prints.
I believe that any truth that exists in any of these activities, or anywhere else for that matter, is God's.
I believe that this 'God truth' carries God's full revelatory authority.
I believe that knowing this fact blows my mind away.
I believe that the face God can also be seen in the rest of the created order (beyond humanity). I'm talking the natural world.
I believe that God can be known through his book of creation just like he can be known through his book; the bible (in some ways the same and in other’s not).
I believe that we can most clearly see God in the created world once we've seen him in the Bible. (we need “faith glasses” in order to focus)
I believe that one of the most powerful experiences a human being can have is seeing both at the same time (God's truth in his creation and God's truth in his bible)
I believe that when Christians (who've got the faith glasses) tell others where God is already at work in their lives, an epiphany can happen.
I believe that this is one of the most gracious, unimposing, see the good in others, non-condemning, incarnational ways to help people know God.
I believe that God might want to open us up to using this approach more in the future.
I believe that his Spirit (the Spirit of Jesus Christ) may be opening our eyes to his truth in the created world for this very reason.
I believe that if the church really grabbed on to this idea, the world would change.

The following comments are owned by whomever posted them. This site is not responsible for what they say.

Chapter Three - Pushback
Authored by: Anonymous on Wednesday, October 11 2006 @ 11:23 AM PDT
So what you are saying is that God is probably sitting at a 1-2 No Limit table at the "Pearly Gates Casino" while sporting long hair, leather wrist bands, and a black Metalica T-shirt?

Ha! You have done it once more. I again applaud your bravery and eagerness to challenge the more traditional ways of looking at faith and the church. Do not let the dogmatic fundamentalists get you down. As Ralph W. Emerson once said "foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds."

Keep up the good work.


Chapter Three - Pushback
Authored by: Anonymous on Thursday, October 12 2006 @ 08:42 AM PDT
Wow and I thot the "no-one under 16 is allowed in the gym without a parent" sign in our Church was kicking up dust........

we have a long way to go to really rile feathers.

Chapter Three - Pushback
Authored by: Anonymous on Thursday, October 12 2006 @ 10:44 AM PDT
OK folks... now back to the idea :)

pick it apart some more... when does this kind of preaching cross a line in your estimation?

How valid is it to believe that we can even see God's truth, his fingerprints, his actions in our world?

How much weight can we give to what we think we can see?


Chapter Three - Pushback
Authored by: Anonymous on Thursday, October 12 2006 @ 01:25 PM PDT
I think it crosses a line when you redeem the truth from something but stop there so that people feel they can accept what they have already.

Can't we find God and redeem the truth from perversion so that people can feel met where they're at and accepted and so that Christians can think outside of their box but also, at the same time, offer something radically different from the perversion and the box? Find the treasure in the weeds but also offer the treasure in its purest form? Sometimes I think as much as people want to find God in the common they are also craving something radically different -- a break from common culture. Quiet meditative music instead of more loud. Just Jesus words without being entertained.

If we redeem truth from something and leave it at that, people may think that many of the bad things being poured into them are okay even though a lot of the damage is not worth the bits of goodness. Don't you think?

Do you ever wonder if, as Christians, we're so busy trying to be relevant that we're looking awfully similar to the world instead of radically counter-cultural?

Chapter Three - Pushback
Authored by: Anonymous on Friday, October 13 2006 @ 10:26 AM PDT
“Sometimes that's a very fine line that you walk - sometimes it's too subtle and it looks like you're doing nothing, and as much all the great teachers have espoused that less is more, sometimes less is just less. And sometimes less is not enough or less is nothing. It's a very fine line.” Thomas Hayden Church

How do we know if we’ve gone too far… if we’ve crossed that line? Is it the scathing words (or horn blowing even) of an anonymous phone call… a lambasting by an unknown blogger…a finger wagging by a faithful parishioner? Are these the means God will use to knock some sense into us? I don’t think He works like that.

If we are truly walking in the Spirit and trusting God to guide us, to direct us, to give us a discerning heart…and if something we choose to speak or do or preach ‘seems’ like the right thing to do, isn’t that enough? Does it matter where the proverbial line lies? Let’s face it, we live in a blurry world…and sometimes all we want to do is retreat to a quiet cave where we can just be alone with God, and so we need to do that sometimes. But, He didn’t make us to live in a cave just basking in His glory. He made us to be with people… He put us right here, right now, in a messed up time in history. And He has told us that He is our God, and that we are His children, He has told us to love Him, and He has told us to love whoever crosses our path. And, He has told us that we are all a reflection of Him. Sometimes.. the only way we are going to see God in a new way, see a reflection of Him we had always missed…from a particularly bizarre or beautiful angle, is if we lean over that line...sometimes even boldly step right over that line, if it seems like the right thing to do.

That said… I also think we need to live in balance. If our goal is simply to push limits and be a $#%^ disturber…then we’re missing the point. If it becomes about us…about getting a reaction…about rebellion or ego…we are definitely missing the point. But…if our goal is to see God for all that He is, if we truly believe that He is as big as we say He is and can then believe that He can (and will) reveal Himself in unimaginable ways…then maybe we’re on the right track. If we truly long to know Him more, and reveal Him more and help His kids find their place of resting in His arms, and can balance the truths of the worlds we walk in… then maybe we’re doing exactly what we’re supposed to. It seems that way to me.

Chapter Three - Pushback
Authored by: Anonymous on Friday, October 13 2006 @ 10:54 AM PDT

You mentioned your beliefs above, but what about your goals? What are the church's goals? What are God's goals?

It seems to me that you cross the line if and when your actions run counter to those goals. As long as you are striving to fullfill those goals, and are not operating to hinder the acheivement of them, you cannot cross the line.

Are God's fingerprints on our world? God is in every molecule, piece of DNA, and yes, even Metallica songs.

Chapter Three - Pushback
Authored by: johnvs on Friday, October 13 2006 @ 01:08 PM PDT
I thought I posted this yesterday... but got rejected by our spam filter (I'm trying not to read too much into that!). This are my comments on the 'crossing the line' concern...

Good points. I agree that redeeming truth in the culture and stopping there is problematic, it leaves people short, and vulnerable to accepting “what they have already.” I’d add that it might also lead them to think that the balance of the content of ‘what they already have’ has received some kind of Divine tacit approval; ie: when I preach about the gospel message in Crash, am I then giving implied/tacit approval to the lewd, violent, racist content of the film. (re-reading your note I think you’re also saying that… I’ll respond to this issue after I respond to your first comment!)

When you talk about wanting a ‘break from common culture’ I’m hearing you say that common culture itself, is not of God, which I don’t agree with. One of the primary premises that I live with is that everything on this earth belongs to God (Psalm 24:1). Even though it’s messed, it’s not messed beyond redemption; nor is its originally created goodness obliterated. I think that the radical, outside of the box, pure message of Jesus Christ, looks like all kinds of common things made holy again, reclaimed, renewed, resurrected. What’s ordinary, boring, normal is in fact way more than that… the most ordinary human being – were you to see them in their future state – would cause you to fall down and worship (C. S. Lewis). Jesus didn’t do what he did to simply redeem human souls, he did it to redeem all of creation… culture included. (Rev 21:5 “I am making all things new”)

The key thing, as we engage culture the way New Hope does, is identifying where the Spirit of Jesus Christ is already working in redemptive ways in this world (in all kinds of places - often places we wouldn’t imagine), and then showing that ‘being redeemed’ world what we’ve discovered – and showing them how what Jesus is doing now connects to what he did then (in the bible). Using the clarity and perspicuity that only faith can bring, we’re letting others see what we’re seeing! Saying, “Hey, the central premise of this film is very much akin to the gospel of Christ... no, it is the gospel of Christ playing out via the plot, the leadership of the director, and maybe even the writer of the score (whether they know it or not!)” I think the profound and powerful truth of Crash is the message of Romans 3 (See on why I’d say that) I think that its very possible that the Spirit of Christ led the musical score writer of Lord of the Rings to use the first seven notes of an old hymn as the first seven notes of his main theme song. (“This is my Father’s world” is a hymn that speaks of God’s mysterious, powerful presence in all of creation - an interesting tune to apply to a fictional story who’s main good/evil subplot mysteriously references a powerful force for good in behind the all too present evil. Listen to sermon one of that series for that point.)

Anyways, my point is that I think the radical new, counter cultural, life that Jesus calls us to is one where we see him moving on every street corner, in every bar, in the cathedral that echoes in every human beings’ eyes. Seeing him making all thing new, in all of his creation and getting on with what he’s doing; following instead of leading, submitting to what’s already playing out , instead of playing out some “we’ll save them” agenda.

The purest form of living this faith may involve getting very dirty, close to the edge, incarnated. This might be where all the kingdom of God action is happening!

And regarding the issue of relevance, I think what we’re doing is quite a bit different (while appearing to be the same). When we identify the treasures in the weeds, and call them God’s treasures, we’re believing that as God’s treasures, they carry the full revelatory power and truth of God. There are all kinds of churches that attempt to preach in a relevant way; some call it moving from ‘relevance to revelation.’ What we’re doing is moving from ‘revelation to revelation.’ John Calvin once wrote that we show contempt toward the Holy Spirit when we don’t call those truths that we find out there in the ‘secular’ world, God’s!

And to the point of tacit approval… yeah, it’s a risk (and I think we’ve erred on having the right balance in a few of our messages – growing pains!). But by not showing the world where they are tacitly worshiping God (via the treasures planted in their ‘secular’ pursuits) we also accrue a huge kingdom loss!

What do you think?


Chapter Three - Pushback
Authored by: Anonymous on Sunday, October 15 2006 @ 07:55 PM PDT
Pondering the discussion, a few things come to mind...
Of course mistakes will be made, especially if you are trail blazing to places no one (or very few) has gone before. It takes courage to go into new places.
The blurry areas are why church leaders and members are needed to hold the pastor accountable. discernment comes in to see which or how much of comments to listen too. when I have spoken to John (as a member and a leader), he always listens (he does not always agree with me, but I beileve he sincerely takes it into consideration what I have said).
second, it would be good to mention that the creeds of the CRC (the church's denomination) are also believed and confessed in this church. these theological beliefs in discussion are in addition. A special direction this church believes God is calling them to.
a concern some have had is in dealing so much with culture as a bridge to others (and to ourselves) that this church is negecting their own sacred text. But this is where you can also see the pastor and church being held accountable, as they are listening to the voice of attenders adressing this concern and are doing something about it. just look at the new budget, which includes a whole section on more Biblical literacy.
My final ponderings (for those who have cared to read so far) is actual from my professor, that God's spirit works just as much outside the written word as He does in the world. God is not limited to the Word (nor does he contradict it).
You cannot limit the spirit of God to the subculture of the western church. The subculture of the Western church has neglectful tried to confine it there. I believe God is too big to fit in that box.

There are many examples of the larger Church dealing with the paradigm shift going on in our culture. New Hope is one expression.

Chapter Three - Pushback
Authored by: Anonymous on Tuesday, October 17 2006 @ 02:28 PM PDT
I have been amazed and have wrestled with much of what New Hope has and is doing. But more and more I am coming to see more clearly that this is good stuff. Philippians 4:8-9 talks about thinking upon the praiseworthy and excellent. New Hope does that. They pick up what Article 2 of the Belgic Confession points out. One of the books of knowing God is creation. The other is Scripture. In Scripture we find the story of salvation. The story of our ancestors who were picked out of every nation and were placed into a covenant relationship. It wasn't their doing. But that is where they ended up.
Paul picks out the point that no one can deny not knowing God because all creation speaks about Him.
Many of us CRC Reformed folk - who are great thinkers and contemplators and loyal to the creeds and confessions - have forgotten Article 2 and Romans 1 and Calvin and Saint Francis of Assisi. We have missed out on Philippians 4 and we have neglected hearing Kuyper. And we have followed the Evangelicals, cutting ourselves off from society and culture - because it is bad. It is evil! We must separate ourselves from sinners and sinful things... like movies, books, and thinkers.
John has the guts to stand up and say "Wait a minute." God is the Creator. Everything belongs to God. Every square inch of creation belongs to God! Paul says that people are without excuse. Whatever is good, pure, lovely, admirable... consider these things. Because they point to God!
That includes the words of Metallica or some other band. I said that off the pulpit on Sunday in my church (John you would be pleased with that... I'll talk to you at Classis about it). It also means that there is something that points to the good of God in Harry Potter, LOTR, Narnia, etc.
New Hope is working it hard. They are finding that there is something in creation that can help point out God to others. To others - the wandering sheep - who now have their eyes open to see this stuff. Something many of us mainline CRC people don't have going for us.
Many younger and some older and some isolated CRC folk have forgotten about the Reformed world and life view. Something that comes out at New Hope... in a newer and more exciting manner.
Is New Hope unbiblical? No! Are they on the edge? Yes! Like the OT prophets... they do some unorthodox things. Not un-Christian, just Reformed, non-evangelical.
I look forward to the next step by New Hope... when they come out with new tunes for the hymns in the PH. The hymns that articulate our theology so well... better than some of the ditties we see floating around today.
Keep up the good work. Trust me, if you become unbiblical I'll speak up. I just wish I had more time to listen/read/look at your sermons on a regular basis. Rather than gorging myself with a few in a short amount of time.
Blessings in your cutting-edge ministry. I am one who stands up for you in this Classis, often quickly in public. But vocally in my congregation.

Chapter Three - Pushback
Authored by: johnvs on Tuesday, October 17 2006 @ 05:05 PM PDT
For those readers who might not be familiar with some of the foundational thoughts of reformed theology (theology that preceded and was borne out of the 16th century church reformation), here are some of the quotes eluded to by Richard in the previous post. I’ve also added a few more (seeing as the ‘adding clarifying quotes’ door is now open).

The Belgic Confession, 1561, Article 2: The Means by Which We Know God
• We know him by two means:
First, by the creation, preservation, and government of the universe, since that universe is before our eyes like a beautiful book in which all creatures, great and small, are as letters to make us ponder the invisible things of God: his eternal power and his divinity, as the apostle Paul says in Romans 1:20.
All these things are enough to convict men and to leave them without excuse.
Second, he makes himself known to us more openly by his holy and divine Word, as much as we need in this life, for his glory and for the salvation of his own.

“There is not a square inch of the entire creation about which Jesus Christ does not cry, 'This is mine! This belongs to me!'" Abraham Kuyper, Theologian and Dutch Prime Minister, 1837-1920

“But God shows his anger from heaven against all sinful, wicked people who suppress the truth by their wickedness. They know the truth about God because he has made it obvious to them. For ever since the world was created, people have seen the earth and sky. Through everything God made, they can clearly see his invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature. So they have no excuse for not knowing God.” The Apostle Paul in Romans 1:18-20

And just a few quotes from John Calvin, Big Dog Theological thinker, 1509 -1564…

“Thus confronted with the ‘signs of divinity’ and ‘sparks of glory’ everywhere on display in this ‘dazzling theatre’ of creation, and with the ‘seed of religion’ and ‘sense of divinity [sensus divinitatus]’ engraven indelibly on our very way of human being, ‘men cannot open their eyes with being compelled to see him.” Institutes, 1,5,1

“Shall we count anything praiseworthy or noble without recognizing at the same time that it comes from God?” Calvin, Institutes, II,2,14-16, II 3,3

“The Holy Spirit authors all truth” Calvin again

“The Holy Spirit of God blows where it wills among peoples and nations, and often the Spirit blows outside the congregations of the faithful” Neal Plantinga in Engaging God’s World, p114

C.S. Lewis parallel to Kuyper >> “There is no neutral ground in the universe: every square inch, every split second, is claimed by God and counter-claimed by Satan.” "Christianity and Culture", in Christian Reflections (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans 1995), 33

There… “cannot be a nature in which there is no good” Augustine, quoted by R. Neibuhr, p211, Christ and Culture

“Even though I am free of the demands and expectations of everyone, I have voluntarily become a servant to any and all in order to reach a wide range of people: religious, nonreligious, meticulous moralists, loose living immoralists, the defeated, the demoralized whoever. I didn't take on their way of life. I kept my bearings in Christ but I entered their world and tried to experience things from their point of view. I've become just about every sort of servant there is in my attempts to lead those I meet into a God saved life. I did all this because of the Message. I didn't just want to talk about it; I wanted to be in on it.” The Apostle Paul in 1 Corinthians 9:19-23

“The earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it...” Psalm 24:1

Chapter Three - Pushback
Authored by: Anonymous on Thursday, October 26 2006 @ 12:04 PM PDT
I think we’re having this dialogue at the start of the 21st century because the church has been more wrong than right over the past 20 centuries about what being a follower of Jesus is all about. Having just climbed the 550 steps to the top of St. Peters in Rome, I got an interesting view of the catholic church and some of the pre-reformation activity of the church. It’s not a very pretty picture. I also had some conversations with Italians about their views of evangelical Christianity and the similarities they see with Islamic fundamentalism - again not a very pretty picture.

We’re not alone in this dialogue. The “emerging church conversation” (apparently they don’t like to be called a movement) is a response to the failure of the church especially in a postmodern culture. Books like a New Kind of Christian and Velvet Elvis come from this perspective. The Banner recently did an article on the “emerging church” ( ) .

I’m not bringing this up so that we start calling ourselves an emerging church. I don’t think we need to start reading every emerging church book and start attending conferences. I do however think its healthy to recognize there are quite a few Christians who think it is time for a change.

I like the fact that our dialogue and John’s “I believe” statements are happening within the CRC reformed perspective and emphasis the need for scripture. I also like it that our small community of New Hope is doing this on our own. I think this is a pretty good picture.



A CBC Radio 1010 Calgary Interview - Coffee Shop Spirituality

Oct 06, 2006

The other day John was interviewed on CBC radio regarding the spirituality of specialty coffee houses. An interesting dialogue ensued. The first of half of the discussion stayed on topic, but then the interviewer threw him a curve ball. She took John's assertion re: God being at work in the world and used it as the logical basis for posing a very difficult question.

Listen Here (mp3 audio)
A CBC Radio 1010 Calgary Interview - Coffee Shop Spirituality
Authored by: Anonymous on Friday, October 06 2006 @ 11:57 AM PDT
I agree, Donna's question was a real zinger. Maybe its when we are sharing a coffee with someone that we have time to unravel the tough questions. If you order the double expresso you should be ready for anything.


Chapter Two

Oct 02, 2006

I can still recall that queasy feeling in my gut when the call came that Saturday evening at around 7:00 pm. “Hi, is this Pastor John Van Sloten of New Hope Church?,” a woman asked. “Yeah,” I hesitantly replied, “What can I do for you?” “My name is Lisa from Warner Music Canada, and I represent the heavy metal group Metallica. Is it true that you’re going to be preaching on the band tomorrow morning? And are you really planning on using some of their music in your church?”

I didn’t know how to respond. This must be some kind of joke call from someone at the church; knowing how stressed I was about the risk of sermonizing on such a crazy topic. Or maybe it was a prankster pastor/ friend of mine in town; setting me up - Geoff probably got his wife to call.

“Who are you again?,” I asked. “I represent Metallica and the band has asked if we could come to your service tomorrow with a camera crew; we’d like to tape the event.” “Are you serious?” I asked. “We’d just like your permission,” she responded...

“Oh no,” I thought, “Metallica is going to sue us!” They were the band that recently took down online file sharing pioneer Napster when it first started illegally distributing Metallica’s tunes. And now they’re going after us churches!” My heart started to race, and I asked, “What for? Why in the world would Metallica want to get a video tape of one of our church services? What are they going to do, sue us?”

She must have pulled the phone away from her ear at that point, stared at it, and wondered what kind of an idiot she was dealing with. “No, they don’t want to sue you. All they’d like is to see the service for themselves. The band left Calgary this morning and is already in Regina for its next concert, so they obviously can’t be there tomorrow morning.”

Still dazed and confused, but a little more convinced, I told her that she had my permission to come.

Sure enough, the next day, three Warner Reps showed up at church, video camera in hand. And we did what we always do, we followed our regular Sunday am. order of service; a call to worship that consisted of 4 popular Metallica tunes (complete with dry ice and concert lighting), a half hour talk comparing the message of the band to the message of God, a few closing church tunes and a parting blessing. Standard church fare!

OK, it wasn’t all that standard. But it was interesting! I’d estimate that an extra 200 metal heads showed up that Sunday morning. Many came in response to the nearly two days of hourly advertisements a local rock station was making regarding the service. No joking. CJAY, every hour or so was announcing something like, “This weekend New Hope Church, here in Calgary, is going to be preaching on Metallica. This news story has gone around the world. If you’re not doing anything this Sunday morning, then you’ve got to get yourself out to church!” I can still remember how stunned I felt when I heard that announcement in the ‘upcoming concerts’ segment of CJAY’s rock report the Friday afternoon before the service. Freakin amazing.

I found out later how the band ended up hearing about the church service. Tuesday of that week I had called the Calgary Sun to see if they were interested in doing a story on what we were preaching. They said they were and they ended up writing this short article.

That article then got read by a DJ at CJAY named JD. JD, while having a beer with Metallica Drummer Lars Ulrich, after their Thursday night concert here in Calgary, slid the Sun piece under the musicians’ nose. After reading it Lars reportedly exclaimed, “I think this is f*$&*#@ amazing!”

When I heard that part of the story, I couldn’t help but smile at his reaction. I imagine that for most part of the two decades of their existence, this band has received more than its share of condemnation from the church. Rarely, if ever, would someone have drawn a positive faith connection to their lyrics. Who would ever imagine or think that Metallica’s angry cries could be in line with God’s?

God might.

I can still remember how this whole Metallica thing came together. I had just finished preaching a sermon one Sunday morning, several months earlier, when a young teenaged boy came up to me. Figuring that we’d already preached on a few other music genres at New Hope, he wondered whether I’d be open to talking about heavy metal. His favourite band was, of course, Metallica.

“Metallica!,” I thought, “never in a thousand years, I hate heavy metal, and I’m 99% positive that there is nothing redeemable in their lyrics.” Knowing I had to deal with the boy honestly - the way us pastor types always do - I told him I’d pray about it (this is how many of us give our parishioners the spiritual brush off! Who can ever argue with God’s call on things?) Only problem was, I did think and pray about it that night.

The next day, a newbie to the church, someone who couldn’t possibly have known any better, a faith filled neophyte, called me at home. “Hey John, how you doing? Listen I’ve got two tickets for the Metallica concert on Thursday night (Yeah, the band came to Calgary twice that year) and I was wondering if you and your wife Fran would like to go? They’re on the floor and you’ll be right up on the edge of the stage.”

I laughed out loud, smiled at myself inside, and politely accepted his offer. Three days later I was wearing an old black concert t-shirt and heading off for some serious metal with my 39 year old head-banging wife. (I brought ear plugs) There was an energy that filled the swelling crowd as we entered the stadium. The place came alive when the opening band, Godsmack, did their set; and it exploded when Metallica took the stage. For two hours they did their thing, on a rotating platform, no more than 10 feet away from where Fran and I were standing (it’s OK, you can picture me screaming out, “Lars… Lars!”). At one point Lars threw a drumstick to the girl on my left. I thought about tackling her for it.

The young couple on my right were equally awestruck. They knew the words to every single tune and their devotion was totally unfettered. For two hours they risked the distinct possibility of neck injury. For the most part, the concert was loud and indecipherable. I enjoyed it. But I found myself caught between two poles; on the one hand I wanted to just take the concert in (exegete the text via my own personal experience), on the other hand I wanted to watch others take it in (exegete via observation). I found myself turning around often; just to watch those 17,000 souls get into the music.

Near the end of the show something profound hit me, as the band was wrapping up with an acoustic ballad entitled, “Nothing Else matters.” Distinctively quieter than the rest of their repertoire, this song seemed to strike a deep chord within everyone’s heart. Boyfriends put their arms around girlfriends, many joined lead singer James Hetfield singing out loud, the whole place seemed to be swaying back and forth to the music. As I stood there, looking at all these people, I couldn’t help but think, “This feels like church.” It felt like a lament service; like this community was voicing a deeply felt, despairing cry to God.

“So close, no matter how far
Couldn't be much more from the heart
Forever trusting who we are
and nothing else matters

Never opened myself this way
Life is ours, we live it our way
All these words I don't just say
and nothing else matters

Trust I seek and I find in you
Every day for us something new
Open mind for a different view
and nothing else matters

never cared for what they do
never cared for what they know
but I know…”
Nothing Else Matters, Metallica

I can still feel what I felt in my heart at that moment; a deep sense of compassion and love for all of these angry, despairing, messed up, beautiful people. And I was one of them.

Feeling, what I could only interpret in retrospect as, God’s heart for this mass of humanity, I then knew I had to preach on the message of Metallica. I was sure of it. But knowing that you have to do something is quite different from knowing how.

The first thing I did was go online and read the lyrics of every single Metallica song ever written. And I did that reading with John Calvin whispering in my ear. A couple of quotes from this 16th century reformer and theologian gave me permission to read the band’s lyrics in a certain way; with a certain expectation.

“All truth is inspired by the Holy Spirit…,” Calvin once wrote. All truth! Where that truth is really the truth; you can trust that it comes from God. Where else could it come from? And you need to know that that truth can present itself in a multitude of ways; as aesthetic beauty, as psychological wisdom, as mathematical formulae, or as a passionate search for justice. It was in this last vein that I began to find a theological basis for preaching heavy metal.

Filling my head with Metallica’s angry rants I found myself saying, “Hey, this sounds familiar… and so does this… and so does this!” God’s truths in Metallica’s text were resonating with other God truths from the biblical text. My knowledge of the Christian scriptures was allowing me to see God-truth in other parts of his creation. Knowledge of the word gave me more to see Him with in the world. Calvin called the bible a lens through which we can see God’s glory in the created order. He also said that that this divine glory is everywhere, “…Wherever we cast our gaze’ we can spot signs of God’s glory, disclosed in ‘the whole workmanship of the universe.” John Calvin, Institutes

The phrase “whole workmanship” carries an interesting interpretation in the original Latin. It means - get this - ‘whole workmanship!... everything… all of it!’ For me that definition was big enough to include a band like Metallica.

So, back to those passionately angry lyrics; what exactly did I discover?

“Die by my hand, I creep across the land, Killing first born man, Die by my hand, I creep across the land, Killing first born man” Metallica in Creeping Death, Ride the Lightning, 1984

“His anger flared, a wild firestorm of havoc, An advance guard of disease-carrying angels to clear the ground, preparing the way before him. He didn't spare those people, he let the plague rage through their lives.” God’s wrath in Psalm 78:49-50, 3000 BC

“Justice is lost, Justice is raped, Justice is gone, Pulling your strings, Justice is done, Seeking no truth, Winning is all, Find it so grim, So true So real” Metallica in “And Justice for All”, 1988

“You wicked people! You twist justice, making it a bitter pill for the poor and oppressed. Righteousness and fair play are meaningless fictions to you.” GOD via the prophet Amos 5:7 NLT, 750 BC

“Who are you? where ya been? where ya from? Gossip is burning on the tip of your tongue You lie so much you believe yourself Judge not lest ye be judged yourself”
“Holier than Thou,” Metallica, 1991

"You snakes! You brood of vipers! How will you escape being condemned to hell?” Jesus to the hypocritical Pharisees in Matthew 23:33, 30 AD

“Curse the day I was born! The day my mother bore me, a curse on it, I say! And curse the man who delivered the news to my father: "You've got a new baby--a boy baby!" (How happy it made him.) Let that birth notice be blacked out, deleted from the records, And the man who brought it haunted to his death with the bad news he brought. He should have killed me before I was born, with that womb as my tomb, My mother pregnant for the rest of her life with a baby dead in her womb. Why, oh why, did I ever leave that womb? Life's been nothing but trouble and tears, and what's coming is more of the same.” Nope, not Metallica! Ancient Hebrew Headbanger; the prophet Jeremiah 20:14-18, 600 BC

“Nothing else Matters…” Metallica

With more than enough information for a good sermon introduction, I was well on my way to writing that message. I won’t preach the whole thing right now, but if you want to take it in go to click on ‘listen in’ and go to ‘top ten.’ That sermon has been listened to over 2000 times since.

And in my estimation the gospel, God’s good news, was preached. Starting with God’s truth as it finds itself in his created order - believing that it really is there, in all of its glory – allowed this to happen. And not so strangely, when a preacher starts in this place – starts with where God is already at work in people’s lives – he is able to connect deeply. From glory unto glory… what an amazing concept God! Something very, very old, made new again.

And to me, when I see it happen – when I see a teenaged boy keenly relating to and interested in what his pastor preaches about; when I see people who would never darken the door of a church come to church one Sunday morning; when I see media from around the world report on a sermon topic (affirming that the gospel really is both good and news); when I get email from a metal loving teenager in Great Britain thanking me for preaching on his band (he heard an interview on Irish National Radio); when a band like Metallica gets closer to going to church than they’ve ever been; when an ‘image of God’ bearing drummer like Lars Ulrich gets excited about being connected to God’s passion for justice; when stuff like this happens I think the church is doing what the church is supposed to do. And I think God is glorified.

The following comments are owned by whomever posted them. This site is not responsible for what they say.

Authored by: Anonymous on Monday, October 02 2006 @ 11:36 PM PDT
Musicians and artists are gems... the few folks that speak their mind and are
not afraid to feel, and then speak freely about it.
Alot can be learned from that type of honesty. Opinions, thoughts, feelings,
musings, all shared without rules or concern of what the next person might
think. Sure, there can be a lot of darkness in there (just like anywhere), but
as Bono (U2) said... "Don't believe the devil, i don't believe his book, but the
truth is not the same without the lies he made up..." ("God Part II) You
can't appreciate the true light if you don't dig into the honesty of humanity.
Kudos John, you seem to see God in the "strangest" places. I agree with Lars
about your sermon choice that sunday: "$^%#ing Amazing!!"



Interdependent Revelations

Sept 27, 2006

Last night I was part of a class where we were talking about seeing God in creation. The discussion was stimulating and most numinous for me when we considered the idea that God’s truth, in the various places he speaks it, illumines itself. There is a synergy that occurs when we connect God’s truth in one place, to God’s truth in another. A bit abstract I know.

It really hit me when I tried to apply this idea to God’s truth as it reveals itself in concept of interdependence...
In 1 Corinthians 12, the apostle Paul uses the truth of interdependence in the human body (all the parts need all of the other parts to function fully/maximally) as an illustration of how things ought to work in God’s church. “You can easily enough see how this kind of thing works by looking no further than your own body. Your body has many parts—limbs, organs, cells—but no matter how many parts you can name, you're still one body.” 1 Cor.12:12

Interdependence is all about the humility of knowing that you need others and the honour of knowing that they need you! Anyways, Paul saw the human physique containing a part of the body of God’s truth. Interdependence (always understood as being beneath some sort of divine Head) is a God-like principle.

And it can be seen all over the place. In our immune systems, macrophages, t-cells and lymphocytes all work in the same interdependent way. In our ecosystems, trees, human beings, and all of subsets of nature work the same way. In our universe, solar systems, galaxies, and black holes all work the same way. In the quantum idea of string theory, bringing all the major scientific theories together under one, interdependent roof, we see it (or at least we see an attempt to see it). In our ideological and philosophical systems as they all endlessly intertwine… etc…

All of creation reflects God truth of interdependence. It echoes out in all that he made – which only makes sense when the Creator himself is an interdependent being (think Trinity).

The thought of all of this blows me away!... I can barely stand contemplating it. Is God’s revelatory presence this powerfully true and real? Has his Godness so powerfully imprinted this created order?

And then to think; this is only one small truth, seen in a few small places.
Thank God he chooses to veil his presence to us. Were we to ever really grasp or glimpse the glory of his gradeur, we’d be undone.

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Interdependent Revelations
Authored by: Anonymous on Wednesday, September 27 2006 @ 11:20 PM PDT
It would be so refreshing to hear someone speak about God who didn't sound so confused. Why do so many of us choose to stand apart from God, while making such a grand statement about "interdependence"?

The only reason that we can see God in the world - which includes mankind - is because He is in it. He is in you and He is in me. Without this simple fact, we could not be "like" Him. Without part of my Dad in me, genes, I could not be like him in any way.

The "interdependence" hinges on, first and foremost, the awareness of God, which God himself created in us - for His sake. In other words, without our awareness of Him, He would not exist, even if He did. That is His part of the "interdependence" thing.
Now here is the good stuff: without the power we receive by following the instructions He conveys through His "spirit" for our own perpetuity, we will surely undergo a steady "demise".

This is why "if we believe in Him" way shall not perish but have everlasting life. God is as self-serving as we are - and the other way around is also true. The concept of interdependence is simple: without Him we cannot exist, and without us, neither does He.


Starbucks Spirituality

Sept 25, 2006

Ok, I need some sermon research help. This Sunday I'm going to preach a message entitled, "Starbucks Spirituality.' I'm hoping to talk about the different ways that God expresses himself through this unique part of his creation. (Remember the math that we're working with here at New Hope... The world belongs to God - including coffee shops... human beings reflect the image of God in terms of 1. Who they are as coffee lovers, 2. What they pursue in frequenting joints like Starbucks, and 3. What they create in terms of a coffee shop business model or in the designing of a vanilla bean frappe...)

In straight up terms - What does the whole Starbucks phenomenon teach us about who we are, and about who God is?

Honest, I need some help with this one. What do you think?

How did it turn out? Link to audio of this message.

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Starbucks Spirituality
Authored by: Anonymous on Wednesday, September 27 2006 @ 02:58 PM PDT

Sometimes there's this beautiful thing that happens when you stop for coffee and get not only the balm of a peaceful moment over a hot cup... but when you also get this sense that someone poured a little of themselves into the cup as well. It doesn't happen all the time... especially in our current labour crunch. But, when it does... it really is wonderful. Sometimes you get a glimpse of someone who truly loves what they do... they love owning and running a coffee shop/a meeting place, they love creating new intriguing beverages, they love drizzling the perfect caramel crosshatch, they love presenting a latte with a perfect flourish of foam and espresso on top. I can't help but see God in that... in a heart that loves what it is doing. In hands that really care about what they are creating. There's nothing like ordering a Caramel Macchiato and having your Barista say ' I LOVE making these!!' and seeing in their eyes and hands that what they are doing is so much more than just a job to them. It's in these moments that I can't help but think of the God I know who delights in presenting me with a stunning cloud formation, a brilliant starry night or the beautiful face of a friend. And He doesn't have to...He could just hand me life and be done with it, but He makes it beautiful.

Starbucks Spirituality
Authored by: Anonymous on Wednesday, September 27 2006 @ 06:15 PM PDT

The first word that comes to mind when I think about coffee shops is community. In communities everywhere the 'coffee shop' is often a gathering place where people gather to talk about everything under the sun over a good cup of jo. The quote you mention from the founder of Starbucks is very appropriate - coffee shops are often a third place where people can get a sense of belonging or place to shed the worries of the outside world - if only for 15 minutes - and sit in quiet contemplation; a sactuary of sorts.
Without getting into a rant on Starbucks vs the independent coffee shop, there has to be something other than the $5 coffee and sanitized, sterilized environments found in many Starbucks that draws so many people in. Aside from the fact that a Starbucks is usually never more than several hundred feet away from you in any given city, people find community there and are drawn to the relationships and fellowship that grow there - with the staff, with the patrons.

I do not think that it is a coincidence that God is using at least one coffee shop as a place where people can be and feel His presence in the community. Right now, a small coffee shop in Santa Monica LA exists for the sole purpose of being the light of God in that community (okay...shamelss plug for my brother and sister in law check it out at The CRC set out a number of years ago to use this coffee shop as a church plant (for lack of a better word) tasked with bringing the presence of God into that community. Afterall, what better way to get plugged into the fabric of a community than though their sanctuary of all things coffee? Their story is pretty cool and definately can testify that there is MUCH more to the coffee shop culture than dark roast, foam, and perhaps a little caramel.
Darren Clark

Starbucks Spirituality
Authored by: Anonymous on Friday, September 29 2006 @ 06:03 AM PDT

I think a major draw for Starbucks specifically is the "guarantee" of getting the same thing every time. Their brand is built on you being able to place your order (once you learn how of course...) and get the same result EVERY time at EVERY location. This is a guarantee that we just don't ever get in real life from relationships. We can control the result at Starbucks. We know what to expect and that alone is worth the price tag and the language aquisition required to order. The initiation is worth it. I know that I depend on them to give that to me. This is also true of our relationship with God - we know he is there - no matter what, no matter where we go, we know we are His! Safe, but costly. To know this peace we must submit ourselves to and place our trust in him. I've often thought how comforting it was to know that I could trust that my money was well spent at Starbucks - it wouldn't be wasted - they would always come through (for my caffeine fix anyway). I know this to be true of God as well. My trust is well placed, my investment is safe and He will always be there when I need him. I depend on that...



The thin line between good and evil

Sept 20, 2006

Following is an editorial I wrote for the Calgary Herald.

Last week I came across this photograph of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. It was more gracious than most – less demonic. For a split second I thought I was looking at a picture of George W. Bush. Weird. . Perhaps it was the unending, ubiquitous stream of news images of both men that led to the mis-transposition. Or maybe it was the eyebrows. Ahmadinejad had one of those ‘W-like’ compassionate looks on his face. Whatever the reason, I quickly snapped out of my delusion. These men couldn’t be more unalike! Clearly one is evil and the other is good!

Then I wondered about that assertion...
In many ways they’re more alike than we might think. Both are certain that the other is the epitomy of evil. Both take that charge, fuel it with fear, and use it to fan into flame certain fundamentalist elements of their societies. Both seem to think the UN ought to be defending their view of things. And, to be fair, both seem to be operating from a genuine desire to protect and secure their nations.

And yet the differences between these two men seem stark. Seeking the annihilation of an entire people group is evil personified; desiring the ability to wield weapons of mass destruction - demonic. Surely one is more evil than the other.

But which one? The answer, now and throughout history, depends on which side you’re on. Often, what should be a very complex, grey, and complicated matter – discerning morality in a global community - gets overly simplified. We demonize, stereotype and tribalize. By creating disparate camps we then proceed to judge and condemn. It’s easier to justify our actions this way.

Watching Lebanon desperately burn this summer, I found my asking, “Will this ever stop?” Unending violence and retribution; always based on unquestioned accusations and self righteousness. How can we always be so sure of ourselves? Why is it always the other guy’s problem? Is the human condition really this clearly quantifiable?

Part of me wants to believe that it is; that there really are good guys who are totally good, and bad guys that are totally bad, and we just need to get on the right side. Another part of me – the cynic, the skeptic, the sinner – knows that life isn’t that neat and tidy. Often there is good and bad on both sides of the battle. Solzhenitsyn was right; the line dividing good and evil doesn’t run between nations or tribes; it runs down the middle of every single human heart.

So, how do we get out of this mess? Is there any way to break the cycle? How do you get a world leader – a nation – to own their own hearts?

I imagine the first step would be a brutally honest self assessment. Instead of, so readily, starting with the evil in others, pick up a mirror instead.

It’s already happening; Bush humbly confessing his culpability regarding mistakes made in Iraq - history indicting him for his haughtiness, Ahmadinejad softening his overly-theatrical stance on the issues - the global community pushing him into a corner, forcing him to get real. Now we’re getting somewhere.

But the challenge lies in getting there sooner; before being indicted or coerced. Is it possible to possess the self discipline to factor our culpability into the process earlier? Might that then cause us to act in ways that are less black and white, less clearly right, more empathetically patient, wise and understanding?

Imagine a first world nation saying, “We’re not behaving all that well. We consume far too great a proportion of the world’s resources, and we don’t do enough to help those in poverty. We’re hoarding! The children of other nations are dying of aids, families eke out their existence; millions can’t get access to basic health care. We’re not wielding our power and wealth in a globally just way. If we don’t change, global disparity is going to kill us; destroying both our hearts and our long term security.”

Then imagine several western democracies acting on their realization; planning and implementing a huge pre-emptive strike, and committing sacrificial proportions of their wealth and resources to others. The move would totally undermine the status quo. Soon the entire global economic picture would begin to equitably shift. Fear would no longer grow like a weed. The anger of seeing your brothers and sisters needlessly suffer and die would begin to be diffused. The formerly impoverished soil in which terrorism, dictatorships, and war so readily flourished would begin to bear a new kind of fruit.

As they witness the good in us, enemy hearts will soften. While they may not understand our language or culture, and may not agree with everything we believe or do, they will know -unmistakably know- that there is some good in us.

That goodness will beget trust. Soon, hotspots in the 2/3’s world will begin to change in a lasting way. Radical leaders will lose political support because the enemy has disappeared. No need to be hostile to a people who treat you this way.

Yeah it’s just a dream. But surely the good in each of our all too human hearts would want this to happen. The hard part will be accepting and believing that the enemy feels the same way.


folk faith

Sept 18, 2006

I just came off another cool church experience this past Sunday. Once again, we brought something from the broader culture into our community center - into our community - and we looked at it, exegeted it; read it. We did this looking for signs of God’s presence, attempting to discern some divine truth, listening for the echoes of his voice.
Audio & Video Links

This weekend Juno award winning folk singer Cara Luft and accompanist Hugh McMillan (from Spirit of the West) did a gig in lieu of our “traditional” Sunday am. get together. The worship service became a folk music concert (complete with a short intro to set it up, a brief dialogue with Cara between sets, and a closing blessing). And it turned out wonderfully… beyond my very unclear expectations...

Yeah, for weeks I’d been unsure about doing this. I kept asking, “And what are the outcomes we’re hoping for from this again?” And yet I knew it was right for some reason. Part of me thought, “Having a fun concert on a Sunday is worth it; just for the fun of it all… a break… a community builder.” A church staff member said, “The benefit of Cara’s coming might be all about the song writers’ workshop she’s going to do for our musicians.” (She was right! It was a huge success. We’ve unleased the bard in a few of our artists!) Both are good reasons for doing the concert, and besides, if we really do believe that all folk music (and folk musicians) belong to God, perhaps God might have something to say there that we might not be able to anticipate.

I think that is what happened on Sunday (listen to the podcast once it’s posted to get the details). During the songs, through Cara’s setup words, and via our dialogue, there were several affirmations of the vision that our church is living into. Very cool.

But do you know what the most meaningful moments were for me; where I felt the greatest sense of reason that morning? They occurred the three times I was talking to Cara about how her work paralleled the biblical story (first, about Folkies being like Psalmists, second, about how her songs dealing with relationships read like the biblical book Song of Songs). Looking to Cara’s eyes in those two moments, you could see that a real communication was happening; like the stuff I was saying really mattered to her. It felt like the words were giving context to her story, filling out her raison d’etre.

The content of many of her songs dealt with pain, lostness, and inner turmoil. The encouragement of our dialogue seemed part of an ongoing healing and perspective that God was bringing to her life; her life!

What was our church going to get out of this? Maybe it wasn’t really about us? Maybe one big reason God brought Cara Luft to New Hope Church, was for Cara? Hmmmm.

I felt it most when I was looking into this artist’s eyes at the end of our talk, having just asked her why she figured she was on this planet, and I said, “I think you’re a preacher Cara, a prophet.”

At that moment she lowered her face a bit and shook her head with that kind of "no not really" shy embarassment a person feels when someone says something that's positively important about them.

And yet I sensed that she knew it was true.

folk faith

Authored by: Anonymous on Tuesday, October 17 2006 @ 12:24 PM PDT
I listened to the service with Cara and it was really good. It's not what you expect in a Church service but I guess that is how wonderful God is. He always brings the unexpected to us. I love the fact that God is at work in places that we would often never think of looking. I guess He did that when He sent His Son into the world - sent Him to a place where no one would have thought of looking.

Glasgow, Scotland



Sept 16, 2006

Yesterday I heard a radio report on speeches made at the UN by actor George Clooney, and Nobel prize winner and activist, Elie Weisel. Both men impassionately pleaded with the world body to do something about the impending genocide that is so horrifically immanent in that region. The truth that they spoke was deeply moving.

As I listened in, I found myself overwhelmed with the thought that the Holy Spirit was inspiring their words...
Even as these two men spoke words from their own hearts, from a piece of paper that their teams most likely helped them script, from a religious or non-religious conviction, I felt that God was speaking. The prophetic edge, that carried their “love your neighbour as you love yourself” call, was piercing. They were being truly human in voicing their pleas; reflecting their Maker in making their points, doing His will in getting in our faces.

Read CNN’s coverage on the speech, watch the newscast on the story, listen for God’s heart for the poor, the needy, the lost, the dying. And then pray that we do the right thing.

Here’s the link

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Authored by: Anonymous on Saturday, September 16 2006 @ 01:21 PM PDT
We definitely need to pray... act also...but pray... for discernment, wisdom, boldness...a miracle maybe? Why the UN and we, the west, have waited this long is beyond me...we seem to be living in this global community where far too many are obviously viewed as expendible...oil, we will fight for...people are another question! What the UN is now faced with is a militia who has absolute control...who are volatile, unpredictable and absolutely without any moral sense. Regardless of that though, the house is on fire... and we have to, somehow, find a way to get in.


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