In many churches the prayer of invocation begins the worship service. We begin worship by asking God to be with us. It makes sense.
In the past few weeks, I have encountered my first argument against the prayer of invocation: God is already here among us, so why are we implying otherwise with a prayer of invocation? Much better suited to beginning worship, the argument concludes, would be to begin worship with a prayer of acknowledgement.
This argument/practice also makes sense. Indeed, I think it is appropriate to begin a worship service with a prayer that acknowledges God’s faithful presence. However, this leaves me wondering about the prayer of invocation. Before we agree to scrap it, I think it is worth taking a closer look at it. After all, people of the covenant, old and new, have often called out for God to be present. What positive things are going on when we do so? What do we risk losing if we stop? Continue reading What is a prayer of invocation?
Though it is incomprehensibly popular, the idea that the Christian God is a God who ensures that all that happens on earth fits into a divine plan and is according to God’s will is also unaccountably stupid. Such a view, briefly, makes a mockery of the immense amount of senseless tragedy and suffering that this earth experiences far, far too often. It robs us of any sort of agency. And it also denies the reality of any sort of evil or sin (all events actions must be perfectly good because they are exactly as God intends them to be). And such a view is alien to Scripture, which continually emphasizes the importance of human choice, the reality of corruption and evil, and presents a God who is often quite dissatisfied with events as they are. Not all that happens on earth is just (obviously!); and there is no plan that everything fits into.
Of course, I am far from the first to see many of the gaping pitfalls in the image of God. Continue reading God in our lives: control freak or aloof?
It seems to me that much current academic energy goes into two broadly contradictory tasks. The first attempts to unearth violences in texts of all sorts, to deconstruct them. The second (after showing the utter violence in all other ideas, interpretations, and approaches) moves on to present itself as the movement or position free of all problems and finally offering a truly final solution. Some have seen fit to critique the former approach. However, though I can see a potential for such a task to become pedantic or overly dismissive, I tend to find such work both judicious and important. The latter approach, on the other hand, is one that I am quickly becoming tired of. It is one thing to enthusiastically promote a good idea; it is another to dismiss all others out of hand, renounce critical self-reflection, and triumphantly present an idea as both untried and sure to success.
With that I want to present my final solution to non-violent Christian mission. I get it from a sermon preached by Lydia Harder at the Mennonite Church in Montreal around a year ago. She took three paradigms of Christian mission and worked with them, with congregational singing in between. She briefly described each, talked about their benefits and virtues, and then critiqued them, showing the ways that they can turn violent. And then we sang.
Continue reading The Final Solution to Non-Violent Christian Mission