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Walking in the Sacred Way: Ojibway Prayer

In a prayer offered by an Ojibway elder, themes of brokenness, restoration, and balance with all of creation are present. From a North American First-Nations/Native American perspective, we can begin to see these themes in a new light within our own communities.

Grandfather,
Look at our brokenness.
We Know that in all creation
Only the human family
Has strayed from the Sacred Way.

(more…)

José y Maria: Still No Room

In the United States, it is typical to rent a room temporarily while traveling. Mary and Joseph were not looking for a room for the weekend, as we are accustomed to doing around the holidays. They were looking for temporary lodging, to fulfill whatever obligations of the census and to be ready in case Mary went into labor. In a town that would have been filled with Joseph’s kin, none were willing to make room for him and his pregnant fiancee. Think less about a “No Vacancy” neon sign and more of being told that there are no guest rooms, no rollaways, no couches, no air mattresses, no floors that you are welcome to. “That girl” is not welcome in our town.

Illustrator Everett Patterson has an image that strikes this chord in scene preceding the nativity we are accustomed to decorating our homes, lawns, and churches.

José y Maria, by Everett Patterson

José y Maria, by Everett Patterson

In his commentary on the piece, he writes, (more…)

World Cup of Theologians: Netherlands – Henri Nouwen

The World Cup of Theologians is a blog series that coincides with the 2014 World Cup Tournament. Each team in the round of 16 has an entry with the biography of a noteworthy theologian or leader from that same country.

NouwenHenri Nouwen (1932-1996) was a Dutch priest whose extensive written works and participation in the L’Arche communities contributed to a profound influence upon both Catholics and Protestants. Writing from a background of both psychology and theology, Nouwen’s insight upon Christian spirituality repeatedly drew on themes such as inner rejuvenation and the contemplative life of faith. His most popular work, The Return of the Prodigal Son: A Story of Homecoming explores the spirituality of plumbing the depths of the Jesus’ parable (Luke 15), borne from a captivating encounter with Rembrandt’s painting of the same.

…But the father couldn’t compel his son to stay home. He couldn’t force his love on the Beloved. He had to let him go in freedom, even though he knew the pain it would cause both his son and himself. It was love itself that prevented him from keeping his son home at all cost. It was love itself that allowed him to let his son find his own life, even with the risk of losing it.
Here the mystery of my life is unveiled. I am loved so much that I am left free to leave home. The blessing is there from the beginning. I have left it and keep on leaving it. But the Father is always looking for me with outstretched arms to receive me back and whisper again in my ear, “You are my Beloved, on you my favor rests.” (44)

The parable of the prodigal son is a story that speaks about a love that existed before any rejection was possible and that will still be there after all rejections have taken place. It is the first and everlasting love of a God who is Father as well as Mother. It is the fountain of all true human love, even the most limited. Jesus’ whole life and preaching had only one aim: to reveal this inexhaustible, unlimited motherly and fatherly love of his God and to show the way to let that love guide every part of our daily lives. In his painting of the father, Rembrandt offers me a glimpse of that love. It is the love that always welcomes home and always wants to celebrate. (108)

As inspiring as his books have been, his participation in the L’Arche communities to restore the dignity of people living with intellectual disabilities brought awareness to how differently-abled people are excluded from society and the church. Though the dedicated work in communities around the world, a new way of life is imagined and lived based on mutual respect, recovering a valued identity, and each person discovering their giftedness and intrinsic worth.

Michael Shepherd is the editor of GlobalTheology.org. He is a graduate of Fuller Theological Seminary and Hope International University in southern California, USA, where he lives with his wife and son.

Revelation in Creation – Seeking the Harmony Way

Photo Credit: Prism Magazine

Photo Credit: Prism Magazine

One of the strengths of many theological perspectives outside of the Western tradition is attentiveness to the revelation the comes from creation. This is especially evident in the viewpoint of North American indigenous peoples (also called, generally, First Nation or Native American; or by their specific lineage association) who are Christian.

Prism Magazine, an online publication of Evangelicals for Social Action, published an article with Randy Woodley, founder of Eagle’s Wings Ministry, Inc., a largely Native American community in Newberg, OR, USA, in which he expands on how he finds the value in the revelation of creation. (more…)

Biblical Maternal Images for God

Farid De La Ossa Arrieta: God, the Mother (2002)

Farid De La Ossa Arrieta: God, the Mother (2002)

Mother’s Day makes me think about God’s maternal side. Christianity has been guilty of a patriarchal history that has been oppressive of women. Our conception of God as masculine, e.g. God as Father or King, certainly contributes to our slide into patriarchy. Although written in patriarchal contexts, the Bible itself does not refer to God exclusively in masculine metaphors. There are, albeit few, feminine metaphors used to describe God in the Bible. In this post, I want to highlight the maternal or motherly metaphors used.

God as Mother Bird & Mother Bear

One of the common images is God as a mother bird sheltering her children under her wings. We see this in Ruth 2:12 – “May you be richly rewarded by the LORD, the God of Israel, under whose wings you have come to take refuge.” (All references are from Today’s New International Version.) The Psalms used this imagery a number of times:

“Keep me as the apple of your eye; hide me in the shadow of your wings.” (Psa. 17:8)

“… I will take refuge in the shadow of your wings until the disaster has passed.” (Psa. 57:1)

“He will cover you with his feathers, and under his wings you will find refuge …” (Psa. 91:4)

Jesus picks up these images when he laments over Jerusalem: (more…)

Postmodern Theology: Immanence and Forgiveness

I have always liked this song for its simplicity. The band (mewithoutYou) is one whose use of imagery and lyricism  is pregnant with meaning and the connection toward the spiritual.

There is much hand wringing in the western church over the growing margins of people who consider themselves “spiritual” but not “religious” or specifically “Christian”. This song speaks to this strata of people looking for spiritual significance in a world that is increasingly distant.

The song makes no explicit mention of Christ or salvation, yet a cursory glance at the lyrics makes several theological declarations. (more…)

Ask an Indigenous Theologian (Link)

On her blog, Rachel Held Evans has had a fascinating series called “Ask A…” in which her followers supply the questions they would like to have answered by an “expert”. Ask a Feminist, Egalitarian, Messianic Jew, Funeral Director, etc…

This week, the perspective is of an “indigenous theologian”, synonymously called Native American or First-Nation.

Dr. Randy Woodley, a teacher, a writer, a missiologist, an activist, a poet, an historian, a former pastor, a Cherokee, a Christian, and a missionary.

A legal descendent of the United Keetoowah Band of Cherokee Indians, Randy has been active in service among America’s indigenous communities since 1984. Randy and his wife Edith (E. Shoshone/Choctaw) lead a local Native American gathering at their home in Newberg, Oregon under the auspices of Eagle’s Wings Ministry.

From Travis: How has your ethnic heritage shaped the way you see the Gospel?

(more…)

La Familia

How do you experience love, acceptance, and belonging? We may not express ourselves as well as these men, but our need for community is the same.

This is a poignant and intimate look into the lives of men in Central America who have found identity among each other.

Is your church community honest and inclusive enough to respond to the human need for intimacy and belonging? (Click to Tweet)

What associations exist in your community, besides the church, that respond to the need for identity and belonging?

Forgiveness and Fambul Tok

After years of civil war, the people living in the country of Sierra Leone returned to communities in which neighbors had experienced trauma at the hands of one another. The fabric of community had been torn apart and the reunification of these areas was vital to resettling and restoring peace. The relational ties that form the foundation of local culture needed to be restored and one way that the people engaged in forgiveness and “peace-building” was through a ceremony called Fambul Tok.

Fambul Tok, or “family talk” is a sacred bonfire that creates a space for victims and perpetrators to tell their story, ask for, and receive forgiveness from the people they had wronged. Following the bonfires, victim and perpetrator will join in planting crops or playing games together as a sign of forgiveness and restoration.

How can the church learn from this example of radical forgiveness of deeply personal and traumatic grievances?

Tim Høiland has a wonderful article in a current issue of PRISM magazine about the ceremony, its impact upon the community and lessons to learn regarding forgiveness. (Read the full article at PRISM)

Westerns struggle to understand forgiveness without retribution. This is true even for Christians, who believe we have been reconciled to God through Christ while we were still his enemies. The grace and forgiveness we have received is completely unmerited, and we’re instructed to go and do likewise, laying down our lives for others.

But when it comes to those who have wronged us, it doesn’t always follow that we automatically forgive. After all, shouldn’t the perpetrator be made to pay for his crime? (more…)

African Theology Countdown

The Global Theology Countdown breaks down a large topic into more easily accessible parts, linking to other sites for those who would want to go deeper.

  • 4 Keys to Understanding
  • 3 People to Know
  • 2 Blogs Worth Reading
  • 1 Book to Read Immediately

This post covers Contemporary African Christianity and African Theology and we welcome contributors to share on a different context or more information regarding Christianity in Africa. Enjoy! (more…)

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