2017 Fall Retreat Speaker

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Joe Ho, Vice President of Focus Ministries

The Problem of Race and the Power of the Cross

The tragic events that unfolded in Charlottesville over the summer are a vivid reminder that racism and racial tensions are alive and well. Senseless violence and hate is leaving us at a loss desperate for answers. But what are we to do – and what can the Church do during these heart wrenching and incredibly difficult times?

During this year’s annual retreat, we will confront these difficult questions head on thanks to our special guest speaker – Joe Ho, the Vice President of Focused Ministries. Since 1993, Jo has worked at Focused Ministries in a number of capacities taking the Gospel of Jesus Christ to cultures of all backgrounds.

Having earned an MA in Religion from Reformed Theological Seminary, Joe is well equipped to talk about race, race relations and the redemptive power found on the Cross.

Joe is planning to bring a convicting, heartfelt and inspirational message to our congregation:

There is good news for Christians. God hasn’t left us to figure this out on our own. The Bible does indeed speak to the issues of ethnic differences and conflict. Following the Biblical art of creation, fall redemption and renewal, we will consider the Bible’s Good News about race and ethnicity, in hopes that we as a church can offer this good news to the world.

The time to register for this fall’s retreat is fast approaching, but there is still time to sign up and gather as our church listens to Joe Ho, and his message about race and the power of the Cross.

Sign up here: http://restoration.formstack.com/forms/fall_retreat_2017

Financial aid to cover all or a portion of the expenses is available upon request. Please contact a staff member for further details.

Contending for Shalom

I am sitting in IAH–  the Houston airport–  waiting for a flight to Austin.  I have been asked to serve on the steering committee for a conference in February 2016 called The Anglican Justice Gathering:  contending for shalom.  I am joined by my good friends Cliff and Christine Warner, Bill Haley, and Sami DiPasquale.

We are meeting to pray, talk, and build out this purpose statement for our time next February:

The purpose of this gathering is to identify those in the ACNA who would like to be part of this conversation, gather them together, consider together our unique contribution to the Kingdom of God in our North American context as Anglicans, dream together, pray together, and begin discerning together how the Lord might be leading our denomination to engage the systemic brokenness of our country.

It is a conversation that is always close to my heart and one that is increasingly a part of our life together at Restoration.  As we take concrete steps to provide immigration legal aid; as we partner in the good work of Casa Chirilagua;  as we pray and give and contend for the end of human trafficking; as we think about how to leverage our pastoral staff for building of God’s Kingdom in places like Phnom Penh and West Asia.  We are beginning to grow as a church that contends for shalom.  And we have so much more that we could do.

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Last week, I had the immense privilege to participate in a different conversation that was also contending for shalom.  13 men and women from places like Minnesota, Florida, Atlanta, and Washington DC gathered to talk about America’s original sin:  chattel slavery and the trafficking of Africans for economic gain.  We were almost evenly divided between white and black.  We considered how to name the awful legacy of racial oppression in the US for the past 375 years in various forms and to recognize the ongoing effects in the black community.  We mourned the general lack of recognitioin, awareness, and ownership of this reality in the white Christian community.  We considered concrete ways the white Christian community might be able to make a meaningful statement recognizing this reality and the ongoing injustice across racial lines.  We talked about reparations.

In the middle of our day, we walked to a slave cemetery that is on the property of Corhaven.  It had been neglected for 150 years and just recently Bill and Tara Haley had begun the work of cleaning and restoring it. 

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On this day, we went to remember the lives of those buried there and to repent of the evil conditions in which they lived.  As we looked walked amongst the grave stones, depressions, and vegetation, there was a sweet, soft breeze.  It was very comfortable.

One of our fellow conversationalists lead us into prayer by telling us the story of Israel being delivered out of slavery from Egypt.  That story begins with God telling Moses to take off his shoes because he is standing on holy ground.  Max, our prayer leader, invited us to take off our shoes before we started praying.  

Inwardly I groaned.  I was wearing boots.  We were standing in the woods.  I didn’t want my feet to get dirty.

And as I was thinking those things, Max added, “It’s time to get uncomfortable.”  I agreed. 

Standing in bare feet, in crisp leaves, broken sticks, and broken rocks, Max talked through the story of the Seder and the Passover and all the experiential elements that God provided for Israel to remember that they were delivered from slavery.

Then Bill told the story of spending a day clearing brush from the cemetery, piling it up, and burning it.  And how– INCREDIBLY-  a stump that was 30 feet away from the fire started to smoke and then burst into flames.  Seemingly by itself.  As if something was spiritually being released.

David, a black man from Richmond, was the first to pray.  As he started, I could hear what sounded like wind increasing in the distance, but I soon realized that it was approaching rain.  We were holding hands, standing barefoot, praying in the woods in the midst of slave graves and it started to rain—  gently.  David started to cry as he gave thanks for the lives of these men, women, and children and as he mourned the reality of their lives—  that they had to be buried at midnight because their masters would not give them time to do it during the day.  As David closed and others began to pray, the rain increased.  We were soon soaked.  Normally, etiquette would require ending the prayer and getting to shelter.  But there was an unspoken agreement that God was doing something profound:  

  • He didn’t want us to forget this conversation and these prayers so he was giving us a tangible reminder.
  • He was demonstrating his tears over this evil institution
  • He was washing us in our repentance.
  • And a deeply tangible sense that through fire and rain, God was saying, I am with you in this.  Keep going.

Yes.

Here is the incredible part.  As we finished praying, the rain stopped.  A specific grace for a specific task.  We walked back to our meeting room in sunlight and heat that dried our wet shirts and pants.  What a day. 

The conversation will continue.  God is with us in it.

Contending for shalom.  I love that Restoration is beginning to figure out the unique ways it will be part of God’s Kingdom work for justice.  I hope you are listening, making space, and asking how your gifts and talents will be used in this work as well.

Time to get on my plane.

-David

Spiritual Formation for Kingdom Action

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June 28, 2015 – Rev. Bill Haley

Galatians 2.17-21 : Psalm 8 : John 20.19-23

Listen to the songs here.

Bethany Hoang

Bethany Hoang

As promised…  When we began this series, I mentioned that we would have a few ‘experts’ who would take the pulpit and talk to us about justice.  On May 17, we will hear from Bethany Hoang who is one of the premier voices in North America on the theology of justice.  From her bio…

Bethany is an author and speaker who is passionate about helping others live the connection between justice and spiritual formation. She serves as special advisor and founding director for International Justice Mission’s (IJM) Institute for Biblical Justice

She has been profiled for her leadership in the justice movement by Christianity Today (one of “50 Women to Watch”), Outreach! and Relevant magazines, the White House, Fuller Seminary, as well as organizations such as Catalyst, Q Ideas, The Justice Conference, Urbana, Lausanne, and Ideation.

Bethany has published two books:  Deepening the Soul for Justice (IVP, 2012) and forthcoming The Justice Calling: Where Passion Meets Perseverance with coauthor Kristen Deede Johnson (Baker, 2016).  In addition to these longer works, she has written numerous essays and articles, as well as notes/commentary on Zechariah for the “God’s Justice” global Bible project (Biblica, 2016).

Bethany holds a BA in religion and history from Miami University of Ohio, and an MDiv from Princeton Theological Seminary, where she received the distinguished Fellowship in Theology. Born and raised on the East Coast, she now lives with her husband, two kids, and a puppy in Minneapolis.

I like to say that Bethany Hanke Hoang is ‘the famous one’ in our family.  She is an incredible speaker with a compassionate heart who is living these things out in her one, small life on a big, influential stage.  You don’t want to miss this.  I’m a huge fan and a proud big brother.

-David

Ascension Day

Songs_of_Innocence_and_of_Experience,_copy_F,_object_38_-HOLY_THURSDAY-And when he had said these things, as they were looking on, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight.  And while they were gazing into heaven as he went, behold, two men stood by them in white robes,  and said, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into heaven? This Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven.” (Acts 1:9-11 ESV)

Forty days after Easter we remember Christ’s ascension into heaven – with his promise that he would send the Holy Spirit. And so today marks the end of Eastertide, we extinguish the paschal candle and  we wait in eager anticipation to celebrate Pentecost on May 24.

As I thought about the ascension and looked for poetry that would help me pray, I came across the William Blake poem ‘Holy Thursday’ (from his Songs of Innocence and Experience) which tied in so well with  this season where we are exploring the ‘Justice and generosity of God’. An expressive reminder that we are in the ‘now and the not yet’ of the Kingdom of God.

And so today, we pray with gratitude and expectation this collect (BCP, 226)

Almighty God, whose blessed Son our Savior Jesus Christ
ascended far above all heavens that he might fill all things:
Mercifully give us faith to perceive that, according to his
promise, he abides with his Church on earth, even to the end
of the ages; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and
reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, in glory
everlasting. Amen.

 

~Liz

 

 

a pastor more than an activist

congestion

 

How’s it going?  Feeling congested in your soul?

This post is a little longer than most, but I want to bring you up to speed with what God has been doing in my heart and the hearts of the people at Restoration.  Thanks for reading.

We just finished our 4th week in a sermon series about Justice and the Generosity of God.  Each week I gave you an invitation to go deeper into what God is saying to us.  Here is a summary if you need to catch up…

Week 1  We began by defining ‘the justice of God’.  It is grounded in his never-ending steadfast love.  God’s justice rectifies wrongs and distributes rights.   The prophet Jeremiah tells us

“Let not the wise man boast in his wisdom, let not the mighty man boast in his might, let not the rich man boast in his riches, but  let him who boasts boast in this, that he understands and knows me, that I am the LORD who practices steadfast love, justice, and righteousness in the earth.  For in these things I delight, declares the LORD.”

Jeremiah 9: 23-24

If we want to know God and be a part of the things He is doing, we will do justice by practicing these things as well.  I invited you to consider 4 categories that might define your posture as you come to this topic of God’s justice:  the sentimentalists, the suspicious, the frayed, and the hardened.  What have you decided regarding the state of your heart?

Week 2  We recognize that all of us are maxed out.  We have a hard time coming to this justice conversation because we are so pressed and working constantly.  It makes us get so caught up in counting ‘what we deserve from our work’ that we don’t notice ‘what we have received by grace.’   I invited you to make space for justice by practicing the disciplines of gleaning and sabbath–  gifts that God gave to His people so that their lives would look different from everyone around them.  How is it going making space?  

Week 3 I invited you to own what you have been taught about who is on the outside of God’s justice.  We must recognize that each of us learned in our families, our homes, and the places where we grew up–   the people it was ok to leave on the outside.  None of us comes to this conversation with clean hands or completely open minds.  Everyone has their personal criteria for determining who is in or out:  race, social class, level of education, work ethic, place where you live.  We must be vigilant in searching our hearts and admitting our assumptions that this person or group of people do not deserve the steadfast love, justice, and righteousness of our Lord.  How is it going with your searching confession of the criteria you use?

Week 4  I invited you to own what’s been done to you.  It is difficult to have compassion for others when you are bitter about the injustice that’s been done to you.  “Why should I care for someone else when no one cared for me?”  It’s almost impossible to do justice unless you have experienced justice.  It is almost impossible to extend grace unless you have experienced grace.  Our experience of justice often releases us to do justice for others.  So, I carefully, tenderly invited you to remember your injustice:  The things you have done.  And the things that have been done to you.

Walking into the memory of injustice will push you to this question:  Do you believe that God will vindicate the just?  Vindication is the experience of being made right in the eyes of others.  It is the opposite of shame, which is the experience of being exposed as guilty in the eyes of others.   We looked at the heart wrenching story of Abraham, Sarah, and Abimelech in Genesis 20.  For those who have perpetrated injustice like Abraham, there is the hope of forgiveness.  For those who have been placed in the way of harm like Sarah, there is the hope of vindication.  How is it going walking into your memory of injustice?

Hard Work

If you have accepted these invitations and engaged these questions, then God has been doing a lot in your heart over the last month.  These are inquiries that probe the depths of our soul and shake our foundations.  It’s hard work.

Why?

Some of you may be asking, ‘David, why are you doing this series this way?  Why start with us rather than the systems and cycles of injustice in the world?’

It’s because I am more of a pastor than an activist.  There are activists who are excellent pastors and teachers (people like Soong-Chan Rah or Shane Claibourne or Brenda Salter McNeil).  But my calling is to create, nurture, and pastor a community of people who will be transformed by the Holy Spirit and be sent out into the world to do the work God has given them to do.

And so, in a sermon series on justice, my first priority is to expose and heal the stuff that is broken in US.  I do that first because I love the people of Restoration.  My heart is crushed by so much wrong, harm, evil, and pain that is in the world–  that comes from broken systems and broken people.  But (and!) out of all the injustices that I want to see God change by His power through His people, the place where I bring all the prayer, love, intellect, and creativity I can muster is the church gathered and scattered on Quincy Street each week.   I am called to you.

We’ll get to some of the big topics.  But we had to start with the place in which we have the most visibility and ability to change–  our own hearts.  How’s it going?

See you soon.

With love,  David

Reading about Justice

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As we run, jump, shuffle, walk, tiptoe, hop, skip or leap  into this series on justice we are already starting to encounter some great big ideas; certainly I’ve realized there are quite a few ways I need to face up to my patterns of behavior and some perhaps pretty deeply-held previous convictions. Processing these things in small group is amazing (we had a wonderful discussion last night about Sabbath – I hear others did too), but sometimes it’s simply time to read….

We don’t have a library (yet!) at Restoration – but if you buy any of these why not lend them to others in your small group, order them through your library, read them in your book clubs or give them as birthday presents. Feel free to donate old copies to Restoration if you have them! Perhaps we can start a little lending book area?

So to start with some of the books David has been referencing include:

I haven’t read all of them yet… so I’m looking forward to working through the list.  When you’ve read all of  these – come back to us and we’ll suggest some more 🙂 or perhaps you’ve got suggestions of your own to add to the list? Please add comments below. Happy reading!

~ Liz

critical moments

critical moments

Jesus was never afraid to ask the hard question.

In fact, sometimes that seems like the sum of his entire work…  a ministry of hard questions.

On Tuesday night, our Tri2 Small Group Leaders got together for a bit of training as we head in to this trimester.  We spent our time talking about the well-resourced young man in Mark 10.  It is such an encouragement as we think about the critical moments that God gives us with all kinds of different people.

It begins with this man, who seems to have everything (financial wealth, moral obedience, good standing in society) running after Jesus to ask him a question.  And what a question!  “What must I do to inherit eternal life?”  It gets at our core longing to know peace and security, to be right with our Maker.  It picks up on our ubiquitous insecurity–  have I done enough.  Everyone asks it in one way or another…  and it is especially poignant coming off the lips of one who seems to have all the answers.

Everyone has an entry point to hear about Jesus-  no matter how much they appear to not need him.

In response to the most important question this man could ask, Jesus says the most difficult thing he could hear—  sell everything you got and come follow me.

The guy balks.  Then walks away in the opposite direction from Jesus.  The answer was too much.  He had too much of his worth, identity, and security invested in his stuff…  and Jesus was not compelling enough to make him leave it.

In between the most important question that one can ask and the most difficult thing that one can hear, Mark notes that Jesus looked at the man and loved the man.  These details of seeing and loving are almost ‘asides’ but they hold the key to the entire interaction–  Jesus says this most difficult thing because he loves him and he sees what he most needs.  Critical moments become life-changing moments when the difficult answers to the hard questions come from a posture of being seen and loved.  

As followers of Jesus, we are called to regularly speak REALLY difficult things.  And, like Jesus, we may very well experience the rejection of others in response.  It happened to Him.  It will happen to us.  Regularly.

Love is how we share in the cost of what is difficult to say.

Our obligation is to say things from a posture of knowing/seeing the person and loving the person.  Love is what allows us to share in the cost of what is difficult to say.  And love is what turns critical moments in to life-changing moments.

We have 2 critical moments on the horizon for our church:

  1. Tonight at 7pm, Dan Allender will begin his To be told conference at Restoration.  Over 350 people will get to consider the critical moments in their story when Jesus intervened to change their life.  It’s happened for all of us–  the invitation is to live God’s story as one who has been restored by grace.
  2. On Sunday we start a new sermon series:  Justice and the Generosity of God.  This is one of those watershed series where almost every part of our private and corporate life comes under the scrutiny of the Gospel of Grace.  As we will see, we can’t escape that ‘doing justice’ is a central (maybe the central?) part of being the people of God.  ‘Doing justice’ is how God expected Israel and then the church to be known.  And the way God described ‘just’ will challenge us every week.  I hope you won’t miss a Sunday between now and the end of June. And I hope you are in a small group during the week to wrestle through the consequences of these passages.

None of us wants to miss the critical moments that Jesus brings in our life.  All of us want to know we are loved.  Some of us will put it together and run after the author of life who loves us more than we ever hoped.

Grateful to be running with you,

-David

The space between #restocambo 3

Carolyn continues our series of reflections on our time in Cambodia.unnamed

While I was in Cambodia, I thought a lot about living in the “space between”. That’s what I call the gap between what we know and what we experience.

What I mean is this. I know that God is faithful. The Scriptures are full of stories of God’s faithfulness throughout history. And I’ve experienced that faithfulness in several unmistakable ways in my own life. But when I look around, I see a lot of darkness that calls that faithfulness into question. Where was God’s faithfulness in the killing fields of Cambodia? Where is Jesus in the brothels there, among kids forced into prostitution? Or among the brick factory workers, hopelessly burdened with insurmountable debt? Or in the midst of so much dehumanization and desperation?

During our trip, we visited the International Justice Mission office in Phnom Penh. Restoration committed all our church’s 2014 Holy Week offerings to IJM Cambodia, and we wanted to learn more about their work. And just yesterday, I happened to visit the IJM office in Washington, DC, and I participated in their regular 11 am office prayer.

I almost fell out of my chair when someone stood up to tell the story of a call they received about two weeks ago. The call was from a Cambodian government official. All of a sudden there was significant progress on a matter IJM had been waiting on for years.

So here is the thing: during our trip to Cambodia two weeks ago, our team broke into two groups to prayer walk. One team walked the red light district, the other team walked with young ones through the more kid-friendly government corridors. At the time I was disappointed not to be on the more adventurous team, but Hunter and I walked with our kids through wide gardens from the Independence Monument to the Royal Palace. I prayed disjointed and distracted prayers for those we saw and for government leaders (praying with a six and eight year old for an hour involves constant interruption). We prayed for the King and Prime Minister and for the leaders in Parliament. As we passed the Justice Department, we prayed for judges, investigators and police. Ours weren’t the prettiest or most eloquent prayers, but we offered them up anyway.

Yesterday, when I heard the story of the recent progress and realized it coincided with our time in Cambodia, I couldn’t help but smile at the thought that our feeble prayers may have found the ear of God.

Out of the mouth of babies and infants, you have established strength because of your foes, to still the enemy…. Psalm 8.2

Let the little children come to me and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of heaven. Matthew 19.14

The challenge of the space between has more to do with my poor eyesight than the real and transforming presence of the living God.

~ Carolyn Weimer

 

From our Cairo Correspondent

Working in Cairo this week, I got back to my hotel room late Tuesday evening, I found a large bouquet of flowers and a bowl of fruit, and wondered why the hotel had given me that? The card that came with the flowers told a different story: it was a welcome gift from the Stephen’s Children ministry: I had arranged to meet one of them on Friday, to hand over the check representing Restoration’s Easter collection. I thought of King David when three of his warriors fought their way into Bethlehem to fetch him some water (2 Samuel 23), and David was awestruck by the generous spirit of these men, putting themselves at risk to bless David. Perhaps not quite the right analogy, but such a generous gift from a ministry working with the poor – I almost cried, and felt very humbled!

Today, I had the privilege of visiting of the many ‘garbage cities’ on the outskirts of Cairo– of the 90 or so locations where the Stephen’s Children ministry runs schools for the poorest of the poor. This ‘city’, home to perhaps 900 people – predominantly Christians – is in a dusty, stony hollow away from the road. Nothing grows there – there is no soil. None of the buildings has more than one level: the materials they are made from would not really support more. There is no electricity. Running water was made available about a year ago (this has attracted more people to move in). In the school room perhaps 40 girls aged 6 to 15  sat in rows on benches, learning the alphabet with great excitement. Nearby, I visited a study group for boys. Half a dozen squatted in the shade of a rusty corrugated iron gate as myriad flies buzzed around, and listened to the story of the cripple who had sat by the pool for years, waiting for a miracleThe back yard was buried in rubbish – plastic bags mostly, which are burned down to produce a hard black mass that can be sold for recycling (an adult and four children scavenging can earn perhaps $1.50 a day doing this).

Stephen’s Children employs around 1,500 staff to run kindergartens, and now one school, for some 30,000 children, visiting them weekly in their homes to support a holistic ministry of education, teaching on basic health and hygiene, and the bible. Many of the children, and some of their parents, are not officially registered, through ignorance and discrimination.

This was not a miserable place to visit. The children were happy as they learned. A little girl smiled broadly as the teacher washed her feet (this is done to teach hygiene, and to check for cuts and infections in little feet that at best have flip-flops to wear). Adults were welcoming. The ‘motto’ of the ministry is: I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” (phil 4:13). The children and their families are being given hope, not just once or in theory, but day by day, week by week, year after year. I am lost for words, but full of admiration, and very blessed to have seen God at work through his people in such a way.

Simon G.

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