Saturday, November 5, 2016

For the Life of the World: Letters to the Exiles | Introduction and Episode 1: Exile Review of Notes and Quotes

Emmaus City Church Worcester MA Soma Acts 29 3DM Christian Reformed Church Transcultural Kingdom Multi-ethnic Church Network of Missional Communities

All is Gift | For the Life of the World Episode 1: Exile

For Emmaus City, we want to see our city flourish in the areas or "economies" of art, education, charity, business, community development, etc. If God is the Creator the One through whom and for whom all things beautiful and innovative and flourishing come from – then we need to continue to become more like Him in showcasing His Story of creation, fall, redemption, and restoration authentically, and with understanding, wisdom and compassion in the city of Worcester where He has placed us. We want to be a city renewing church.

As a helpful voice in considering this, enter Evan Koons. His website describes him as a "storyteller + catalyst." While his career seems to be just getting started, the collection of his YouTube videos altogether have hit 1 million+ views. As a sidenote, one of my favorites of his comedic videos is "Church Appropriate Dance Moves," which plays like a "Christian" workout video that thankfully no one has tried to make. He's also a pretty stellar writer. His article, "Three Reasons I Will Never Set Out to Save the World," is a wonderfully witty essay that plays out his implications of that statement. I think his greatest accomplishment thus far is his "For the Life of the World: Letters to the Exiles" video series. Andy Crouch, author of Culture Making: Recovering Our Creative Calling and Playing God: Redeeming the Gift of Power, calls this series of episodes "The best treatment of faith and culture ever put on screen." The series is worth checking out whether you are a follower of Jesus or not. Koons has some of the filmmaking sensibilities and scene setting of Wes Anderson ("Rushmore," "The Royal Tennanbaums," "Moonrise Kingdom," etc.) combined with the warm conversational tone of Cameron Crowe ("Jerry Maguire," "Almost Famous," etc.). If you know me, those two directors are a bit of my cup of tea in the world of drama, comedy, and quirk in cinema. Check out the official trailer for a taste of what I'm getting at.

These next couple of posts are meant to provide you with some golden nugget images, teasers, and quotes from each episode. But these posts are in no way a replacement for the humor, artistry, or whimsy of a single episode or the entire series. To experience that, you should go purchase the DVD series. They're worth a blind buy. I took the plunge and I don't regret it. Or, if you don't have the $25, you can borrow them from me if you're in the Worcester area. Why? So you can learn how following Jesus is more than what He saves you from (though that is important, too), and is so much more than how you can be religious in a Christian way. It's about living in His ways for the sake of everyone and everything around you. "For the Life of the World" explores the bigger, more scandalous picture of how following Jesus impacts a person's relationship with God and others, and inspires a deepening responsibility for what God has created in light of everything Jesus has done, is doing, and will do for the life of the world through those who follow His lead

For the Life of the World: Letters to the Exiles Episode 1: Exile Official Teaser, Quotes, and Clips

Emmaus City Church Worcester MA Soma Acts 29 3DM Christian Reformed Church Transcultural Kingdom Multi-ethnic Network of Missional Communities

"'Dear everybody. I have a confession to make. I'm sick of how we Christians deal with the world. ... ' Ok, Ok, maybe that's too harsh. 'Dear everybody. I think we need a new perspective, a wider view of what it means to be 'in the world, but not of it' (17:15-16; Romans 12:2). There must be a better way.'" – Evan Koons

"'What if for too long we've been looking at our salvation only as a means of personal atonement? God's plan for all things is a grander story than that. What if there's a bigger question like, 'What is our salvation actually for?' ... We see responses to culture play out in three ways. The first response is 'fortification.' We put up walls. Shut the world out. It's a bunker mentality. The second common response is 'domination.' This approach engages in culture and condemns it. Fights against it. This is the 'culture warrior' mentality. Finally, there is 'accommodation.' And this is a response to the 'warrior' mentality. People engage and accommodate culture but completely lose their identities. To keep the boat from rocking, people in this group jettison the gospel. ... The key is 'What is our salvation actually for?'" Dr. Amy Sherman

"A common theme in the three responses to culture is 'urgency.' 'If we don't act now, we're going to end up in some crisis and something awful, or irreversible, is going to happen.' But what we have to do is take a totally different view of culture. Deep-rooted cultural change takes about a generation, which in biblical times, is about seventy years. And I don't think very many of us have the patience for that today. We're all, at points estranged from God, but we're trying to find our way home in accordance with His purpose. ... Jeremiah 29 is the prophet's final instruction for Israel as well as a promise of restoration before the Babylonians take them into captivity. Jeremiah 29:7 is the key and what do you think he told them to do? 'Seek the welfare of the city into which I have placed you. And in seeking that welfare you will find your own welfare.' What this means is the way we evaluate everything – our success, our purpose, all that big picture stuff – changes because it's all about the welfare of the places into which we've been placed. Jeremiah has hope in the promises of God, so he's unafraid to enter into that Babylonian captivity because he has faith that God will realize His purposes even if this generation is not around to witness it. ... Maybe what God asked of the Israelites in captivity, He's asking of us today. Just like John the Baptizer pointed to Jesus and the future coming of the Kingdom, so we are pointing to a new reality that's off into the future even if it's somewhat present right now. We're not the Messiah. We're people that prepare the way. Are we willing to do that hard work for something we ourselves might not be able to even envision? Can we allow ourselves to do the humble work of sowing and tilling and allow another to reap? Can we be so bold as to declare that that work is preparing the way of the Lord? ... I have one word for you. 'Oikonomia.'" Dr. Stephen Grabill

The Oikonomia Network: Faith, Work, and Economics Complementary Video

Emmaus City Church Worcester MA Soma Acts 29 3DM Christian Reformed Church Transcultural Kingdom Multi-ethnic Network of Missional Communities

"'Oikonomia': house management; stewardship. See 'economy.' 'Economy' from the Greek 'oikonomia:' the management of a household; the arrangement or mode of operation. So there's God's plan and our part in God's plan. God's house and our house management. God's purpose and our work in the gritty. Ok, so let's call God's big purpose, the plan for His whole household of creation, let's call that 'oikonomia' and all the specific areas and modes of operation, the ones that He's designed us to work in – like our families, our jobs, our governments, charities, schools, institutions – let's call those our economies, our house management. ... (For example) All instruments (ex. xylophone, banjo, violin, trombone, upright bass, acoustic guitar, snare drum, kazoo) have their own rules, their own economies, and they can make beautiful music by themselves. But what if they're meant to be played together? What if they're meant for something bigger? Something like a song? This is God's plan for all creation. This is how we see God's activity in the world and this is what we'll call 'oikonomia'." – Evan Koons

"'All is gift.' In the beginning, the triune God was flipping and dancing and spilling all over Himself and He said, 'Let there be light.' Gift! Darkness. Gift! Earth. Sky. Animals. It was all pure gift. But in all that goodness, there was nothing in the material world that reciprocated. There was nothing that could respond to God. Then enter a gift better than anything else, crafted in God's own image, breathed in with His own breath, crowned in glory and honor. Us. And in that same abundance, He blessed us and said, 'Go, explore my world and unwrap the gift of my creation. Bless the world with your own gifts.' But then there was that tree. And a funny thing about that tree – it wasn't a gift. But we took it anyway. And there was death and confusion and it was like we forgot what life was all about: being gift-givers. And then taking what God didn't offer, we severed our relationship with Him and all creation suffered. Then there came that day when God gave us another gift. God Himself becomes a man. And the gift He offers to the Father is the gift of Himself. And all of creation is in tow behind Him. Once and for all He restores the way of our purpose. He restores our priesthood. We can once again offer to God our lives, our work, our knowledge. Everything. We join our gifts with Christ and offer the world to the Father in love and for the life of the world. And that is the purpose of our salvation, that's what it's for for the life of the world." – Evan Koons

"All is Gift" For the Life of the World: Letters to the Exiles Video Clip

"A single sky lantern. Rice paper. A bamboo frame. A bit of wax. A wick. All built from stuff of the earth, but made for fire. Made for the heavens. Made in order to be let go. Who are we to be? How are we to be? Are we to hide? To fight? To blend in? Or can we, even in the everyday things, see our work as a gift to heaven by working for the life of the world, for the good of the city into which we've been sent? For all our work in this world is made of the stuff of the earth. Our families. Our labor. Our governments, and charities, and schools, and art forms. All of it takes place here below, but all of it is pointed towards heaven. ... Imagine if all of us offered our work for the good of the cities around us. How might we be able to change those cities? What would it look like if we only understood that our humble work is a heavenward offering. What would our city look like then?" – Evan Koons 

"Dear everybody. The Psalmist writes, 'The earth is the Lord's and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it.' ... Now listen to the words of Jeremiah, 'Pray to the Lord for it, because if it prospers, you, too, will prosper.' This is our economic responsibility. And our families, and our work, and our communities, and every broken place – each of these economies is designed to work as a humble part of God's 'oikonomia,' His economy of all things. All of our work is designed to bring flourishing to the world, to be an active priesthood, to be an active blessing. An offering. This priesthood was our original calling. It has been restored to us through the gracious blood of Jesus. His song in the world is 'gift' and we are called to play this song in all we do. So go, live in your true nature. With the work of your hands, your every day work, with the words of your mouth, your very breath that you breathe, bless and sanctify the world. Make it a gift and offer it back to God for His glory and for the life of the world. Yours, Evan."          

Review of "For the Life of the World: Exile" Terms    

Fortification, Domination, Accommodation: These are approaches to the world the church has often adopted out of fear rather than love. Instead of embracing the long view – seeking the welfare of the inhabitants of the land we're in – we panic and take the short view. We hide, fight, or blend into our surroundings. The short view is rooted in fear, a reaction to crisis with a sense of urgency.

Babylonian Exile of Israel and the Current Exile of the Church: Israel's exile in Babylon is instrumental in teaching the church how to live in the world but not be of it. The history of Israel and the church reminds us that God's ultimate purpose is restoration.  

Oikonomia: This is a Greek term meaning "house management or stewardship." It also helps us understand how each sphere of life – family, work, government, art, education, charities, and more – has its own arrangement or mode of operation. When these spheres blend and interact, it's a grand collaboration that reflects God's economy of all things. Oikonomia involves gift exchange in our creative stewardship of culture.

The Song of Gift: We are made in the image of God, called to be gift-givers of the Gift-giver. If we we pour out our lives, using our gifts to bless others, we will be blessed in return (though not necessarily in material ways). This communal blessing produces abundance and flourishing.

The Welfare of the City: The Israelites were commanded to seek the welfare of the city in their place of exile. The church is also called to seek the welfare of the earth's inhabitants during our pilgrimage here. This is our priestly calling as gift-givers in God's economy of all things.

Review of "For the Life of the World: Exile" Verses

Isaiah 55:11: " ... so is My Word that goes out from My mouth: It will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it."

Psalm 24:1: "The earth is the Lord's ... "

Jeremiah 29:7: "Seek the peace and prosperity of the city ... "

Jeremiah 29:11: "'For I know the plans I have for you,' declares the Lord, 'plans to prosper you ... '"

Hebrews 11:1, 13: "Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see. ... admitting that (you are) foreigners and strangers on earth."

1 Peter 1:17: " ... live out your time as foreigners here in reverent fear."

Ephesians 2:10: "For we are God's handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works ... " 

Review of "For the Life of the World: Exile" Prayers

1. Thank you, Jesus, for the gift of your life, for restoring our communion with God and renewing our calling as gift-givers. Through your perfect sacrifice you have given us the power to love and bless others with our gifts. My heart rejoices.

2. Father God, I need wisdom to know how to use the gifts you have given me, for the life of the world. You promise to give wisdom to all who ask. Knowing that your ultimate purpose is restoration fills me with hope and expectation. Thank you.

 – Sully

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