Monday, June 15, 2009

saying grace

That previous post prompted an observation that I had meant to post last month - but forgot. When I was in Thailand a couple of Cambodian pastors at the seminar really wanted to go out for ice cream. A bit of a novelty for them.

So we did.

We took the ice cream cones and sat down at a table ... and then they bowed their heads, closed their eyes and 'said grace'. I've never done that just for ice cream before!

Two reflections linger from this incident for me.

(a) The impulse to be thankful was just below the surface. And I guess when you do not have a lot, you are thankful for a little.

(b) The willingness to live a different life in the public world. When I go out to eat with someone - almost always - if I don't take the initiative then 'saying grace' won't happen at all. Why? "It is a meaningless ritual that has no biblical warrant anyway." (blah, blah, blah).

I wonder if there is a deeper issue going on here. Are we not in an era where we are looking to diminish the differences between us and the world around us as we live the mission life? The overheated desire to be relevant often comes from this impulse. It is a common assumption lingering behind the philosophies of both mega-church and emerging church. 'Minimise the difference so that people feel at home.' Of course - to a point this is true ... but it ain't no doctrine to die for.

As I read the New Testament I sense the call on the people of God is far more to maximise the differences between them and the world around them, but to do it with grace, with integrity, with quietness, with courage and in a way that intrigues people. It is not about being stupid or weird - but it is about there being a seamless consistency between our private and public worlds.

And as I heard an Indonesian leader say in a presentation two days ago on 'nominalism' ... "The church tends to look like the world so that the world is not attracted to the church".

So I am committed to 'saying grace' in public places. Always have. Always will. It is a simple and quiet part of an overall missional strategy where I ask God to help me live an an integrated life with integrity, a distinctive life with distinction.

nice chatting


Paul

4 comments:

georgenz said...

a great post Paul and one that will provide thought and reflection during my day.

tks

Dale Campbell said...

Great post sir,
I must admit feeling the 'relvancy' pressure. Appreciated your balanced comments re: quietness, etc.
Thank you.

-d-

Mark Maffey said...

I keep going back to Romans 12 vs 1-8 the challenge to not conform but rather be transformed by the renewing of our minds is an ever present challenge in the midst of a "wicked and perverse generation" we also have a challenge to work out our faith by our actions and the motivation which undergirds who we are. Romans 12 helps us to understand that each of has motivational giftings. Put simply For me it is to encourage, love, care and prayers for others, with the love of Christ.

We are challenged to be relevant, without becoming syncretistic and mopping up what our world seek us to indulge in or accept. We need to do it with GRACE and have a clarity in what we do believe.

As you seek to provide the basis by which preachers can b enthused, educated,and enhanced in their abilities may God continue to help you learn from what you see in the examples of fellow pilgrims whilst still acknowledging the richness of your heritage and understanding

Anonymous said...

I always remember an observer of Martin Luther King's marches commenting on how he thought their stopping mid-march to kneel and pray was a bit of flashy grandstanding, and only later did he realize that it was just "normal" - how they lived their lives.
We have this debate in our family (often), and am aware that saying grace is associated with a whole lot of old-time conservative images that aren't helpful (you half expect someone to be clipped around the ears for being caught with their eyes open ;-) ).
On the other hand, when we see a Muslim pray or a Hindu doing puja in a public place (like the middle of the lane with live in), we tend to have respect for their sincerity, rather than think anything negative......
NCD