Friends 2007: Quick Musings Continued

I’m off to the seminary soon. So, I’ll post up more pictures during my own posts. For now, another round of applause for Dr. Alex Tang for his quick musings (which aren’t random at all *smile*)

From QROH: Session 3: Discipleship

“Sorry. Would have posted last night but my internet access went kaput.

It has been a long day. This session starts at 8pm and it is heartening to note that the hall is still filled with people. Brian entitled his talk, “Spiritual Formation in Emerging Churches.”

Spiritual formation is defined by Brian as the development of people be, think, feel, work, relate, serve, play…in the way of Jesus. Brian made an emphasis on the play aspect. Living in the way of Jesus.

Brian then tells a story about making violin. BTW, Brian is an excellent story teller. Apparently great violin that produces the best music can only be made from certain wood. These are from trees that have survived a cold season at a certain time period. That is why master violin maker will visits houses built in that period and look for such wood in the attics. This will be the wood from these trees. A master violin maker will be able by touching, feeling and smelling the wood, to judge whether the wood will be suitable to make a violin. His apprentice will be following him and observing him for many years. One day, the master violin maker will turn to his apprentice and says, “You make the violin.” Spiritual formation is like that. We follow Jesus closely until one day we find that we are like Jesus. Like the violin maker’s apprentice, we “unconsciously pick up the art”. This is called “elbow knowledge”, that it has become instinctive. Brian mentioned that his understanding of spiritual formation as “elbow knowledge” is influenced by Michael Polanyi.

He also mentions that spiritual formation is the art of loving in Jesus. This is especially important in a community where must be constant exposure of modelling and exposure to loving in Jesus.

I am impressed by Brian’s stamina. After a 30 hours jetlag, he is still functioning coherently. At least I think he is. Either he is full of grace or he is zoned out. But the fact that he is coherent and still able to tell stories make me think that it is by grace.

Sivin is the facilitator and the conversation partners are Dr. Voon Choon Khing, Dr. Tan Soo Inn and yours truly. The range of conversation covers a large area of spiritual formation and discipleship. It started with an exploration of spiritual formation approaches in the modern context, postmodern, and Asian context. Confucius was included. Then one conversation partner shared about brokenness and formation and another shared about the “dark side” of the church.

This leads to an exploration of being in a church where one has been hurt. A written question about a person who has been hurt in or by a church wonders what he or she should do. The conversation partners were careful to point out that context is important and it is hard to give advice without knowing the context. However, they commented that the person should first talk with someone, talk to God, try to resolve the conflict, and only as the last resort leave the church. At this point, Brian mentions the value of confession in the church. It was an interesting session.

Father Jojo Fung, a Jesuit priest is invited to sum up the session. He gives an excellent summary with an interesting reflection, ‘I am because we are.'”

And one more, from QROH: Session 4: World

“Session 4 on world starts at 2pm on a Sunday afternoon. Brian says that he is sharing materials from a book he will be publishing soon. He also mentions that he has been thinking about this issue about the world and the church for many years. Unlike previous sessions, there are no stories but a straight forward presentation.

Brian started with the many organisations and projects which are working hard to identify the problems of the world today. There are about a list of about 11 problems/issues that needed to be addressed.

However, Brian presents his view of the problems facing the world as he sees it. In his conceptual, societal structure, prosperity is an important factor. Equity is the way wealth is created and thus equity is another factor. Unfortunately prosperity and equity makes the rich richer and the poor poorer. This makes the poor discontent. They then either migrate, turn to crime or revolt. Security for the rich becomes the next factor. Brian shows a diagram where prosperity, equity and security are circles which intersections. The centre area where all three circles overlap is what he calls “framing story”. Often the framing story is religion. Religion is often used by the rich and powerful to keep the poor underfoot. Religion is used to justify why the rich are rich and the poor should remain poor.

Therefore, the framing story is a metanarrative. A metanarrative is a story that erase all other stories and replace it with its own. Brian gives Caesar’s framing narrative:

Equality, prosperity and security come from a powerful leader (Caesar) who concentrates the means of violence and imposes peace through domination. The empire of Caesar is at hand.

Jesus confronts the system by reframing Caesar’s narrative:

Equality, prosperity and security come from a sacrificial people who embody reconciliation and bring peace through justice and love. The kingdom of God is at hand.

Later, Brian makes a comment about narrative.

Metanarrative as mentioned above wipes out other stories and replace them with its own.

Local narratives are your story, my story, their story etc. Unfortunately they are easily wiped out by the metanarrative.

Brian mentions a redemptive narrative which calls people to live with one another in peace and not wipe out others’ narrative.

In conclusion, Brian mentions four possible responses to “my neighbour (of another religion)”
(1) convert and assimilate
(2) persecute and marginalise
(3) ignore or isolate
(4) love and know…serve and protect.

The last response should be our response.

The facilitator is Tricia Yeoh and the conversation partners are Father Jojo Fung S.J., Dr. Hermen Shastri, and Steven Wong. The discussion started with Hermen informing us of his work with the World Council of Churches, the national CCM, interfaith committees and dialogue with the government. He ended his introductory remarks with a poem and shows us a metal cross made out of a bullet cashing. He says that the artist used to be a boy soldier in Liberia who becomes a Christian and now works as an ambassador of peace for the UN.

Steven mentions NECF’s work and Father Jojo explained the Roman Catholic Church involvement in Malaysia. Father Jojo also shares about his work with the Orang Asli and the Muruts in Sabah. He also raises two important points in reflection on Brian’s presentation; one is where does the smaller religions fit into the framing narrative, and how does the ancient civilisations, like Confucianism and Brahmanism affects the framing narrative. After this reflection, he concluded by considering a pig, a lowly creature allowing itself to be consumed. He sees himself as a pig to be consumed by others so that others may live a better life. Father Jojo quotes Gandhi, “We have to live simply that others may simply live.”

Then the discussion went onto to politics in Malaysia and what should Christians do about it. Here the conversation partners were divided. One suggests that politics should be left to the “experts” while another calls for more Christians to be involved in vigil, protest, etc.

This is the last session and it concludes by all participants standing in a circle, breaking bread and passing around a lighted candle.

Much has been said, much reflection needs to be done.”

Once again… Terima Kasih, Dr. Alex Tang 🙂 We will have further conversations after I get some sleep 🙂

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