by Sam Picard on December 24th, 2017

​We come together tonight to remember and grieve. In a few minutes we will read the names of more than fifty men and women who died this year on the streets of Pinellas County. Collectively we knew many of these people and we mourn their loss. Some of the women and men whom we remember tonight were basically alone in the last years of their lives and others were well known in the community.
What everyone whose name we read had in common is that they were a child of God and they were homeless. Each person had a story. Some of the deceased grew up in loving, supportive homes, some grew up in troubled families exposed to trauma too young. Some of the people we remember tonight grew up in Florida; others came from far away following family or opportunity. Each person had their own story and way of looking at the world.
Each person landed on hard times for one reason or another: an abusive relationship, a lost job, medical bills, an addiction or mental illness for which they couldn’t find adequate treatment.
Each of the people we have lost had unique possibilities, special gifts to offer to the world if the world had been ready to received them. Some of the people who died on the street this year could have written a book or mentored a child. Many of the people who died this past year were important friends who helped someone else make it through the year. Every person who died on the street was a precious child of God who deserved a better ending than they got, so we remember and we grieve.
 As we remember those lives lost we celebrate the beauty in each life. We celebrate the small moments of connection, a kind word they said to us when we needed encouragement, a memory of working together, of cleaning a kitchen or serving a meal together. We celebrate all that was holy and precious and good in the lives we remember tonight.
We remember too that this season of Christmas is about the story of God becoming human. Becoming human not as a mighty king or a wealthy landlord, but as a poor, immigrant child. We remember that at Christmas the mother of Jesus couldn’t find space at and inn, so she delivered her child in a barn. We remember that God couldn’t find a home when God reached out to us in love.
We also celebrate the beauty and holiness in each of us. Each one of us is a beloved child of our creator. Each of us has unique gifts to offer the world. No matter what we are going through, no matter what anyone says to us or how anyone treats us, we have the divine spark inside us. We celebrate God’s love for us and we seek to trust that love more deeply. We seek to build lives of beauty on the foundation of the divine love that fills and surrounds us.
And we rededicate ourselves to work for a better world. God has given gifts to each of us. Each of us has unique abilities, unique experiences that have shaped us to make a difference in the world. We resolve not to take those gifts for granted.
We resolve that we will not be complacent with the status quo. We will seek to follow God’s love in action. We refuse to be OK with our sisters and brothers dying on the street. We refuse to be OK with the wealthiest nation in history leaving the poor to suffer. We refuse to believe society’s version of what matters: wealth and status and power.
Instead we resolve to believe that all people, ourselves included, are precious children of God. We resolve to value ourselves and to value others. We resolve to put our faith into action by feeding the hungry, by working together to make the world a little bit more gentle and beautiful and loving. As a community we can do better than we are doing right now, and by God’s grace, we will.
Today we look around. We remember the lives of those who died outside. We remember them and we mourn their loss. We remember and we celebrate their lives. We remember and we dedicate ourselves to love in action. Love is our calling and love is our charge, today and for the rest of our lives.

by Mary Ann Holtz on January 3rd, 2014

Find the summary of the 4th installment of holistic. missional. christian. COMMUNITY here: 0 talk.pdf

by Mary Ann Holtz on January 2nd, 2014

I have summarized Joe's talk on the 3rd part - Christian from our series on holistic. missional. christian. community.

See the document here: talk.pdf

by Mary Ann Holtz on November 18th, 2013

September 8, 2013,  we began a four week conversation dealing with what we hope will be the DNA of Missio Dei. There are four interwoven strands: Holistic, Missional, Christian, Community.

Here is a recap of Joe's talk on the second strand: MISSIONAL.

 “Missio Dei” is a Latin term meaning “mission of God”.  (The phrase was coined in the early 20th century by a theologian in the field of “missiology”, and has been used more recently by a number of theologians.)

This is the story of God’s expanding mission to include more at the table by invitation.

Some imagine that mission is God’s response to sin.  That mission is God’s hope to right what has gone wrong. And while I agree that mission includes at least this much, I believe that this is too limited an understanding of mission. If you believe that mission is simply a response to sin, you then have to hold that:

Mission has a distinct beginning and an end.  In responding to sin, once God conquers sin, mission ends.  God’s nature is not missional since mission has a beginning and an end.
Mission serves a purpose (often understood to ‘get people saved’), and is not itself the purpose (as in an eternal mission of love between humanity and God and vice versa).

However, many of the early mothers and fathers of the faith held with Iraneus that “Jesus would have become human even if Adam did not fall”.  

This is not mission as response to sin.  This is mission without end.  This is mission that includes response to sin and death, but is not encompassed by it. This is mission that invites all of creation to move into the infitinite depths of God…not by any merit of our own, but by sheer gratuitous invitation.  

What then is mission?

Mission in God , the life of the Trinity; 3 persons, one substance.  A community of outpouring  (“kenosis”) of one into another, in a Divine dance (“perichoresis”) of Love. 
“Ubuntu”. Archbishop Desmond Tutu from South Africa writes: ”Ubuntu is a concept that we have in our Bantu languages at home. Ubuntu is the essence of being a person. It means that we are people through other people. We cannot be fully human alone. We are made for interdependence, we are made for family. When you have ubuntu, you embrace others. You are generous, compassionate. If the world had more ubuntu, we would not have war. We would not have this huge gap between the rich and the poor. You are rich so that you can make up what is lacking for others. You are powerful so that you can help the weak, just as a mother or father helps their children. This is God's dream.” 

Further, creation itself is a Missional act of love.  Creation is not God, but is upheld at every moment by God and given its being by God.  God makes space for the other.

God is Missional by nature, inviting us to become by grace what God is by nature: Love. And this is truly the ground of all being.  “For in God we live and move and have our being.” Acts 17:28.

Let’s hit the pause button for a sec.  Why does any of this matter?  Because we become like the God that we see.  Our practices, our hands and feet as it were, will be informed by the way we understand our relationship to God, and by who and how God is in the world and in Godself.  So…pay attention because this stuff really matters.

God includes humanity in God’s mission.  But we don’t have a mission, we participate in God’s own mission.  

This is the story of God’s expanding mission to include more at the table by invitation.

Call of Abram—blessing in order that…all the nations of the world will be blessed. Genesis 12:1-4  

In fact, Missional love marks Jesus’ disciples as his:  

John 13:34-35 34"A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. 35By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another." 

We are all in agreement that we should love one another (“allelon” – one another – us here in this room – we disciples – those who are attempting to follow the Way) as Jesus has loved us.

That is, we disciples should put one another ahead of ourselves.  We shouldn’t exercise your own rights at the expense of the other.   We should care for those in our midst who don’t have the means or capacity to do so for themselves.  

Indeed, we make room for those who are not like us (We sing together - It’s so easy to bless the people who reach out to me, The harder thing is loving those my instincts say reject. So Center my heart…)  

If you ‘throw a party and invite those who can never repay you with their own party’-- Luke 14: 13-14 – this is what the kingdom of heaven is like.  (I.E. – this is what I have done for you!)

But is that it?  Does mission love only extend to “allelon”? Oh, right…we are also called to love our neighbor as ourselves…so does that change the game? In what way?

Do not seek revenge or bear a grudge against one of your people, but love your neighbor as yourself. I am the LORD. (Leviticus 19:18, NIV) In the Hebrew scriptures, however, neighbor did mean just those in my camp.  It did not include ‘enemies’.

So Jesus spends some time correcting and fulfilling the law: "You have heard that it was said, `Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.' But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be sons and daughters of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? And if you greet only your brothers, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect." (Matthew 5:43-48, NIV)

Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect?  WHAT COULD THIS MEAN?  Perfect in what?   In love.  And what does that look like?   I would suggest that it looks an awful lot like Philippians 2. 

But Jesus has to take this even further doesn’t he? Jesus corrects and fulfills the law again: Mark 12:25-37, the story of the man robbed and beaten on the road to Jericho and the Samaritan who took care of him.  So, now how far does mission extend?  Love your neighbor…who does that include?  It extends to the person in your neighborhood that is most unlike you.

Why mission?

John 20:19-21  19On the evening of that first day of the week, when the disciples were together, with the doors locked for fear of the Jewish authorities, Jesus came and stood among them and said, "Peace be with you!" 20After he said this, he showed them his hands and side. The disciples were overjoyed when they saw the Lord.   21Again Jesus said, "Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you." 22And with that he breathed on them and said, "Receive the Holy Spirit.   [Metaphorically this is very poetic—at creation, how does God create humanity? He breathes into the dirt…and so it is that Jesus goes about breathing new creation wherever he goes once risen.]

Holistic, Missional—holding these together: Holistic (all of creation - Spiritual/Material bound up together)  with Missional (love).

So we set out to stumble forward together in the way of Jesus - toward being a missional community.  And let me assure you that this is a messy endeavor.  

This is the story of God’s expanding mission to include more at the table by invitation.  

Unity in diversity
Radical Hospitality
Caring for the fragile
Loving our neighbors – which extends well beyond “allelon”—even encompassing those that are most unlike us.

Why would we do this?  

We believe that God is at work doing reconciling all things.
We believe that God is working to bring all people to God’s table.
We believe that we are invited to become by grace what God is by nature and therefore, God’s work is also our work – by invitation.
We believe that ‘we are not yet who we will be in Christ’.
We believe that we follow after the One who showed us a different way.  A way of love. In antithesis to the normal ways of being in the world (which means we have to learn this way in part by unlearning the ways and habits of the world).
We believe that we are blessed in order to be a blessing.
We believe that we are elected in order to elect others (see Barth for more on this ;)!

Bottom line for me?  We are not yet who we will be in Christ.  But we are invited to become it.  And we cannot become ourselves without our neighbors becoming themselves too.  The undeserved love of Christ compels us.  The sheer gratuity of undeserved invitation demands that we extend the invitation far beyond our comfort zone.  

This is the story of God’s expanding mission to include more at the table by invitation.

So, I invite you to chew on this for a bit and take it with you for your week:

For the kingdom of heaven is like throwing an awesome party – and inviting people who you know can never repay you by inviting you to their awesome party. That is what the kingdom of heaven is like. So, now, how do we do everything we can to imbibe, extend and enable the kingdom on earth as it is in heaven?  That is the work we have been invited to.  So let’s step into the messy, difficult, rewarding and awesome work of co-conspiring and co-creating a future filled with the fullness of God’s love.

by Mary Ann Holtz on September 17th, 2013

Missio Dei is a “Holistic, Missional, Christian,  Community.”  

September 8, 2013, at worship we began a four week conversation dealing with what we hope will be the DNA of Missio Dei.  There are four interwoven strands:  Holistic, Missional, Christian, Community.

The first of the four strands is Holistic.  We read and listened to the two creation accounts in Genesis (Genesis 1:26-31 and Genesis 2: 7-9).  Several themes that Joe invited us to explore:

Here's a play by play in case you missed it:

Genesis—God creates the world.  Then God makes humanity out of the world.  Humanity is not created out of nothing, but out of the good earth.  Then God breathes his Ruach (Hebrew word meaning breath, wind, or spirit) into humanity.   (We might be reminded of Jesus breathing on the gathered disciples after the Resurrection, in John 20, and saying “Receive the Holy Spirit”.)

The narrative uses a repetitive rhythm of creation, observance, reflection and pronouncement.  God creates, God looks and reflects on the creation and only then pronounces—it is good.  One might even say this is a conversational approach to creation.

Yet, once everything had been created, and observed together as a whole, God pronounces it very good.  So while each of the parts are good, the whole is even better than each part.  

Joe then outlined the Greek vs. Hebraic Understanding of Persons.

Greek: Dualism (splitting into two) emerging out of a philosophy which held that matter is evil and spirit is good.  Belief in an eternal soul that is separate from the body, that the good soul is essentially trapped by evil matter until death releases it.

Hebraic: Psycho-Somatic Unity, soul-body wholeness.  Nothing is eternal except God.  Indeed, death marked the end of existence.  The relatively new belief in resurrection held by some Jewish people at the time of Jesus was one of the sources of conflict between the Sadducees and the Pharisees.

At Missio Dei, we are holistic in that we recognize that persons are both material and spiritual beings and therefore we attempt to integrate faith with all of life and not merely into a spiritual or other-worldly sphere.

One way this plays out: We are the church, we don’t go to church.  You can only be in church once a week in the latter formulation but the former understands that we are the church every moment.  That is, there is no separation between our spiritual life and our "normal" life.  Think integration.  Think whole.  

Here’s another way to think about this.  When you think of how you might define the word belief, what do you think of?  The Greek worldview would lend itself to understanding belief as a “philosophical commitment”, a verbal statement of some dogmas, doctrines.  However, the Jewish worldview would lend itself to a definition closer to: “whatever it is that you do, that is what you believe”.  

Which one of those would be a holistic understanding and why?

Romans 8:18-25 The Scope of Salvation is the Whole Creation…

Rev 21:1-5 “ Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God.......I am making all things new.” 

We are holistic because we attempt to engage the whole person and seek to practice the way of Jesus for the benefit of all of creation, not simply ourselves.

Luke 13:18-19 The Mustard Seed 

Heaven is like a seed you plant, the tiniest of seeds, expecting to get a bush, even one that spreads like a weed—taking over the whole garden—but what you get is a tree, larger than anything else in the garden, bigger and better than you would have ever expected.   So not only does it take over the garden, but it grows so much larger than you ever expected.  

Luke 13: 20 The Yeast and the dough. 

The kingdom of heaven is like yeast.  It makes it way through every bit of dough or else it is not yeast at all.

Quote from Jon Irvine, one of co-founders of Missio Dei: We are holistic “in that we believe the gospel encompasses all of life, not just our belief system. By that I mean calling yourself a follower of Christ will extend far beyond a time that one finally accepted Grace. It will redeem relationships, personal finance, the environment, the arts, politics (or lack thereof), personal health, and anything else on this earth given by God. It's about time that the Church is known for more than upholding mere morality and instead be seen as an answer to redeeming all of what encompasses life.”

And from John Wesley: “I resolved to dedicate all my life to God, all my thoughts and words, and actions; being thoroughly convinced there was no medium; but that every part of my life (not some only) must either be a sacrifice to God or myself, that is in effect to the devil.  These convinced me more than ever of the absolute impossibility of being half a Christian; and I determined through his grace…to be all devoted to God, to give him all my soul, my body and my substance.”

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