The Thin Place Trend Continues

The contemplative trend continues to surface in Mennonite publications, as recently shown by a two part article called Moving thinward[1] in the Canadian Mennonite by Troy Watson[2]. It’s about ‘thin places,’ believed by some to be places where we can feel God’s presence more readily because the barrier between the spiritual realm and the material is thinner than in other places. Another article about ‘thin places’ was recently published in the MB Herald, called Find Yourself a Thin Place this Christmas[3].

Could this growing interest in Celtic spirituality and thin places be the fruit of a concern back in 2007 about Lilly Endowment grants that were being given to congregations and their pastors? These grants for pastors to go on sabbaticals with contemplative/emerging overtones have been as recent as 2012.

“. . . according to the Lilly Endowment document that lists the winners of the 2012 grants, pastors will:

. . . seek to regain spiritual vitality through the ancient Christian practice of walking as pilgrims in several countries—the path of Jesus in Israel, the path of the Exodus, some or all of the 500-mile Camino de Santiago (the Way of St. James) in Spain, the missionary journeys of the Apostle Paul in Greece, Turkey and Italy—and making retreats in Benedictine monasteries, walking the labyrinth at Chartres Cathedral, and living in sacred space on the Isle of Iona and other Celtic spiritual destinations.

Winners represent various denominations including Southern Baptist, Independent, Presbyterian, Reformed, Episcopal, United Methodist, Lutheran, Nazarene, Evangelical Free, and Mennonite.”

SOURCE: Question to the Editor: What’s Up with Lilly Endowment – Funding Pastoral Sabbaticals with a Contemplative Agenda
http://www.lighthousetrailsresearch.com/blog/?p=11280

Whether or not Troy Watson’s recent visit to the contemplative community of Iona was due to a grant, he writes that he’s always been drawn to environments that evoke ‘a sense of sacred space.’ In part two of Moving Thinward he says that “…for Abraham, Jacob and their descendants, Bethel was a thin place” and of Mount Sinai, “This mountain was clearly a very thin place.”

Are there such places to be found today? We know from the Bible that the holy place (the temple) was the only place on the entire earth that God dwelt after sin and death entered the word and man was separated from God. Sacrifices ceased in the Temple in Jerusalem when it was destroyed in 70 AD, but access to the Holy of Holies, where God met man, was already no longer available by then because Jesus was the final sacrifice, once and for all, and the veil to the Holy of Holies was torn.

“Having therefore, brethren, boldness to enter into the holiest by the blood of Jesus, By a new and living way, which he hath consecrated for us, through the veil, that is to say, his flesh” Hebrews 10:19,20

Because Jesus is the only way to enter God’s presence, any so called sacred space we now make or attempt to find in order to enter that realm is idolatry. There can be no places on earth where the veil between us and God’s presence is ‘thinner.’ Where ever there are efforts to find thin places where God meets man, such as the contemplatives making their sacred spiritual spaces to sense God’s presence, or the practice of the presence of God through prayer techniques – it is idolatry. The God of the universe already made a way to dwell within each believer, by the power of the Holy Spirit, whom Jesus sent after His ascension. Those who believe are now called the temple of the Holy Spirit. No place on earth is worth making the effort to find. He lives in us. Praise the Name of the LORD!

Endnote:

1] This is part one:

Moving thinward (Pt. 1)
By Troy Watson
Feb 25, 2015
Viewpoints
I’ve always been intrigued with “thin places” long before I ever heard the term “thin place.”
Since childhood, I’ve been curiously drawn to old churches, temples, cathedrals, monasteries, ruins, holy sites, natural “wonders,” remote wilderness, solitary night skies—anywhere that evokes a sense of sacred space. Part of the appeal has been the beauty and mystery I so often find in these environments, but occasionally I’ve been so overwhelmed by divine energy in these places it was as if I’d stumbled upon holy ground.
I’m not the only one. Countless people have experienced God in places like these. Sometimes in exactly the same place.
Almost two years ago, I had the privilege of visiting the Island of Iona. Iona has long been considered a thin place by people from various religious and spiritual backgrounds. . .
*More here:
http://www.canadianmennonite.org/stories/moving-thinward-pt-1

Here is part two:

Moving thinward (Pt. 2)
By Troy Watson
Mar 25, 2015
(Volume 19 Issue 7 Canadian Mennonite):
http://www.canadianmennonite.org/stories/moving-thinward-pt-2

2] Troy Watson is pastor of Avon Mennonite Church (www.avonmennonite.com/troywatson.htm) in Stratford, Ontario. He is the founder of the Quest Christian Community (www.questchristiancommunity.ca), an alternative faith community in St. Catharines, ON. (a Mennonite Church of Eastern Canada affiliated initiative) whose aim is ‘Christ Consciousness.’ Pastor Watson recently reviewed The Naked Now, a book by Franciscan priest Richard Rohr that explores the lost tradition of mystical Christianity. Of this book, Watson said “I highly recommend this book to anyone who has been reading spiritual authors such as Eckhart Tolle.” (See: http://www.mcec.ca/content/naked-now-richard-rohr)

3] Find Yourself a Thin Place this Christmas
https://mennolite.wordpress.com/2014/12/08/should-you-find-yourself-a-thin-place-this-christmas/

*Photo of Altar in The Chapel The Chapel at Iona Abbey by James Denham

Advertisements

Mennonite Brethren still okay with Brian McLaren

It appears that the Mennonites are still praising the false teachings and ‘beautifully poetic moving’ ideas of Brian McLaren. In the Cross Currents section of the February 2015 issue of the MB Herald is a book review of the newest Brian McLaren book called We Make the Road by Walking: A Year-Long quest for Spiritual Formation, Reorientation and Activation. The review is written by Brad Sumner, regular writer for the MB Herald and pastor at a Mennonite Brethren church plant (Jericho Ridge, B.C. Canada). A mixture of light criticism and praise, the review leans toward applause and affirmation of the book’s commendable emphasis on spiritual formation among many other things – McLaren’s approach to scripture, emphasis on justice and nonresistance that resonates with the Mennonite Brethren, caring for creation, and enough ‘skillfully phrased’ family/child inclusive questions to sustain conversations for a year. The following excerpt is from the review:

Concerning reorientation toward the Bible

What will likely create some tension, however, is the elasticity with which McLaren treats the Bible itself. For him, Scripture seems to be an allegory of possibilities where factual truth and actual truth become interchangeable and sometimes intermingled.
McLaren has a tendency to denigrate biblical authority to make a contemporary point. For example, when discussing violence in the Old Testament, he indicates that “in the minds of the originators of these stories, God as they understood God did indeed command these things.” He goes on to suggest that what is truly important is how we understand God, not necessarily how the original writers or hearers heard or understood him…
As Mennonite Brethren, we have a very different outlook, as expressed in Article 2 of our CCMBC Confession of Faith: “We accept the Bible as the infallible Word of God and the authoritative guide for faith and practice.”

Community emphasis on activation

For those with an already firm view of biblical authority, the book holds wonderful benefit for personal contemplative reading…I could see the material being used as a post-Alpha learning circle that meets weekly to journey deeper into the themes of Scripture.
…on the whole, the book is pithy and full of vitality and worthwhile topics for conversation along the road.

Source:
http://mbherald.com/we-make-road-walking/

Why recommend ANY teacher who does not submit to the Bible as the inspired Word of God? Why promote the ‘skillfully phrased’ (some might say “hissed”) questions of a false teacher as a good source for teaching children and new Christians?

This review by Pastor Sumner, an avid reader and prolific blogger, is also posted at his blog Leadership Confessions, where admiration for Brian McLaren, whom Sumner calls “a sometimes controversial author and public theologian,” is expressed more than once. Previous book reviews and author promotions on his blog include (among many others) many such “controversial” authors. Such as Danny Silk of Bethel Church, Henri Nouwen, Parker Palmer, George Fox, Kathleen Norris, Ann Voskamp, Leonard Sweet, Gary Thomas, and Larry Crabb. Sumner also refers to “The Emotionally Healthy Church”, by Peter Scazzero, and Shane Claiborne’s “Common Prayer – A Liturgy For Ordinary Radicals” as ‘helpful’ books. Also included among his many postings is a quote from Understanding the Ennegram (“Psychology without spirituality is arid and ultimately meaningless, while spirituality without grounding in psychological work leads to vanity and illusions”). Many of these are authors are leaders in the emerging church and contemplative spirituality movements. The Ennegram, which quite a few of them also promote, is an occult tool.

There is an old quote by Oscar Wilde, whose life turned out to be a tragic mess, that goes like this: “It is what you read when you don’t have to that determines what you will be when you can’t help it.” Sadly, many of today’s pastors and Christian leaders read more books off the shelf than they do the books of the Bible.

“And further, by these, my son, be admonished: of making many books there is no end; and much study is a weariness of the flesh.” Ecclesiastes 12:12

It is time to weep and pray for the pastors.

“But we will give ourselves continually to prayer, and to the ministry of the word.” Acts 6:4

__________

Related:

*Find out more about Mennonites and McLaren’s book here:

McLaren’s New Book – A New Kind of Year Long Church Curriculum
https://mennolite.wordpress.com/2014/05/16/mclarens-new-book-a-new-kind-of-year-long-church-curriculum/

*Learn more about McLaren’s Bible interpretation methods and plans to influence children, here:

Muddy Emerging Convergence in Sunday School Curriculum
https://muddystreams.wordpress.com/2014/05/16/muddy-emerging-convergence-in-sunday-school-curriculum/

Note: to read previous articles on this blog about Mennonite and their enchantment with Brian McLaren, enter his name in the search box.

Why Lent?

Once again the Mennonite Brethren are promoting their new ancient tradition of Lent. In the February 2015 issue of the MB Herald[1] are two plugs. The first is an article by Norm Funk, founding pastor of Westside Church, Vancouver, B.C. (Canada). He begins with a very good question . . .

Why Lent, why Now?

There were certain traditions in my Mennonite Brethren upbringing; Lent wasn’t one of them.
So why Lent, and why now?
I’ve wrestled with this. Here’s my answer: my main motivation is birthed out of what I see as a lack of preparation and thoughtfulness connected to the Easter season.
Lent helps battle that tendency. Lent doesn’t just remind us of the cross; it prepares us for it.
Lent invites people to join Jesus on the way to the crucifixion. Fasts – one or many – assist in that process. Obviously, the joy of Good Friday comes because the tomb was empty Sunday; however, in the sacrament of communion we are called to remember Jesus’ death. . .

More here:
http://mbherald.com/lent-now/

[Note: The comment thread following this article at the above link is quite informative.]

We also discover in this same MB Herald issue that the MB Biblical Seminary Canada has produced a devotional resource for the MB family this Lent and Easter called “Waiting for the Resurrection: A Collection of Readings for Lent and Easter”.[2]

Turning toward the resurrection

“The resurrection changes everything,” says Jeff Peters, director of advancement at MB Biblical Seminary Canada. “Christians should spend time contemplating and celebrating this pivotal event.”
The seminary has produced a devotional resource for the MB family this Lent and Easter.
Available for download, “Waiting for the Resurrection: A Collection of Readings for Lent and Easter” contains forty-one 300–400 word devotionals reflecting on a Scripture passage.
For each of the six Sundays of the Lenten season, a poem, song, reflection or prayers from the history of the Christian church foster excitement about the coming resurrection.
Contributors are Canadian pastors, scholars and leaders from MB and other traditions.
The seminary resources the MB family in Canada with training and special initiatives like this devotional. A limited number of hard copies will be sent to churches and supporters. Donations to cover costs are welcome.

SOURCE: http://mbherald.com/turning-toward-resurrection/

The Mennonites who download the recommended devotional will now be taught through a collection of meditations about the new traditions of Lent (Lenten Season, Ash Wednesday, Maundy Thursday, Holy Saturday). The contributions of these Lenten Devotionals are from various Mennonite Brethren pastors and seminary leaders, and a few surprises, including one by Rachel Twigg Boyce[3], Pastor of House Blend Ministries in Winnipeg, Manitoba.

Why Lent? The answer appears to be obviously simple. The spread of ecumenical yeast seems to have spread through the whole lump of Mennonite dough.

____________

Endnotes:

[1] http://mbherald.com/february-2015-issue/
[2] http://www.mbseminary.ca/devotional
[3] For previous blog posts on Rachel Twigg-Boyce, see:
WHY IS THE MB HERALD FEATURING “A RADICAL PRAYER GATHERING” LED BY RACHEL TWIGG-BOYCE?
https://mennolite.wordpress.com/2011/01/19/why-is-the-mb-herald-featuring-a-radical-prayer-gathering-led-by-rachel-twigg-boyce/
Is the MB Conference Knowingly Condoning Ecumencial Inter-spiritual Practices?
https://mennolite.wordpress.com/2011/03/03/is-the-mb-conference-knowingly-condoning-ecumencial-inter-spiritual-practices/
More House Blend
https://mennolite.wordpress.com/2011/03/22/more-house-blend/
MB Herald promotes Ecumenism, New Monasticism
https://mennolite.wordpress.com/2011/01/10/mb-herald-promotes-ecumenism-new-monasticism/

____________

* Related blog posts on Mennonites and Lent:

Bent on Lent
https://mennolite.wordpress.com/2011/03/19/bent-on-lent/

Mennonites, Lent, and Spiritual Direction (Updated)
https://mennolite.wordpress.com/2011/03/21/mennonites-lent-and-spiritual-direction/

Lent, the New Mennonite Tradition
https://mennolite.wordpress.com/2014/03/05/lent-the-new-mennonite-tradition/

Also of interest:

The pagan goddess behind the holiday of ‘Easter’
http://www.timesofisrael.com/the-pagan-goddess-behind-the-holiday-of-easter/

Mennonites and a Bridge too Far?

Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. Amen. Matthew 28:19,20

Did Jesus instruct his disciples to go into all the world as peace catalysts, building bridges, making relationships and finding similarities with those who worship other gods?

In the January issue[1] of the MB Herald, a book review called A guide to following the Prince of Peace[2] by J Janzen[3] paves the way for Mennonites to cross the ‘peace catalyst’ bridge. But is this peace building the way of the Prince of Peace? In his review of Rick Love’s Peace Catalysts: Resolving Conflict in Our Families, Organizations and Communities, Janzen writes:

“In recent years, attention to peacemaking has been reinvigorated among North American Mennonite Brethren. Rick Love’s Peace Catalysts is a timely resource for two important reasons.
First, Love, who serves as associate director of the World Evangelical Alliance Peace and Reconciliation Initiative as well as president of Peace Catalyst International, which promotes peacemaking between Muslims and Christians, writes out of the evangelical tradition. Love combines Mennonite and Reformed resources to present long-standing Anabaptist convictions in a language that many Mennonite Brethren will appreciate.”

Janzen continues to describe Rick Love’s foundations for peace catalysts which among other things include the holistic approach of pursuing harmony and the eight pillars of peacemaking, concluding that . . .

“church leadership teams, pastors and business people among others will want to have this helpful resource on their shelves… teachers and Sunday school facilitators will find this book to be an excellent discussion starter.
In a pluralistic society in which the church experiences tension with other groups – homeless people, Muslims, the LGBT community, to name a few – Peace Catalysts sparks one’s imagination to consider how God might be inviting Mennonite Brethren into a deeper experience of the Prince of Peace.”

The concern with the MB Herald publishing this recommendation of such a resource is deeper than Janzen’s review delves. Inside Peace Catalysts, Rick Love acknowledges his many influences on his road to peace building. One of these is Miroslav Volf, the Founding Director of the Yale Centre for Faith and Culture and Yale Divinity School. Love writes in the first chapter of his book how he helped prepare for Miroslav Volf’s Common Word Conference at Yale University in 2008.[4]

“This unprecedented global conference was a turning point in my life. I have never met so many Muslim scholars, sheikhs, grand muftis and princes. More importantly, learning about Islam directly from these Muslim leaders and getting to know them personally over meals impacted me profoundly. I began to devote myself to becoming a full time peacemaker and to breaking down barriers between Christians and Muslims. God was calling me to be a bridge builder.” Rick Love, ch. 1, Peace Catalysts

Another influential leader in this bridge building movement is Lynne Hybels, married to Bill Hybels of Willow Creek Church. In her endorsement of Rick Love’s book, she says: “In my life and ministry, I need this book!” Many may not know that she is a Palestinian advocate who often speaks at church conferences. Jim Fletcher, editor of the Balfour Post, writes:

“At Catalyst Atlanta, in 2012, Hybels spoke, and the title of her talk, “We Belong to Each Other: Americans, Israelis and Palestinians for Peace,” implied a non-violent form of protest of the “occupation,” yet she decried the presence of the IDF in the territories, spoke of the negative impact of the security fence, and alleged that Palestinians lack water sources. Her slide titled “1967 Six-Day War” stated: “Israeli Military Occupation of the West Bank and Gaza begins.”
All standard PLO fare.”
– Jim Fletcher, Creeping Anti-Israelism in the Evangelical Movement[5]

This anti-Israel position of Lynne Hybels was also mentioned in an Israel Today article that states. . .

Hybels is close friends with Nora Carmi of Sabeel, an organization that pushes vitriolic anti-Israeli propaganda in the name of “peace and justice.”
All of this eclipses Hybels’ attempts to become a neutral peacemaker. While certainly not an anti-Semite, she is guilty by close association with those who accuse Israel of everything from genocide to deicide. Perhaps unwittingly, she is carrying on Christianity’s awful anti-Semitic legacy.[6]

Also a contributing editor for Jim Wallis and Sojourners magazine, Lynne Hybels was appointed to President Obama’s faith Council, and has partnered with Tony Campolo and Brian McLaren at “Christ at the Checkpoint”.[7] For her to say that she really needs Rick Love’s book in her life and ministry should be quite telling.

Today Rick Love is an internationally recognized expert in Christian-Muslim relations and leads Peace Catalyst International.[8] On his website is a video called Conversations with an Imam: Similarities and Differences in Christian-Muslim Friendship[9], the message of which boils down to the bottom line that – “we can be friends.”

But is this even possible? One defender of biblical truth says it is not. . .

“Muslim clerics know that from Muhammad’s time until today Islam has always viewed each and every non-Muslim as “infidels” and members of the “House of War.” It is, in Muslim tradition and doctrine, perfectly acceptable to deceive any and all infidels (non-Muslims) if it is for the furtherance of Islam”
-Eric Barger, Evangelical MELTDOWN [10]

If this is so, from a Christian point of view, what would be the sense of participating in such bridge building campaigns? What eternal benefit is there in seeking similarities between two opposing religions? Without prayer and preaching of the truth about the Prince of Peace (to ANY group the church experiences “tension” with), is bridge building on common ground and/or integration even possible (or biblical)?[11]

“The ultimate goal of befriending Muslims should be, for the Christian, to present the gospel of Jesus Christ to them. Those who are true disciples of Jesus were, at one time, “God’s enemies, but have been reconciled to Him by the death of His Son” (Romans 5:10).” – Got Questions[12]

Bible believing Christians (and Mennonites) would agree that Jesus instructed his followers to preach the good news to every person who is eternally lost, and make disciples. Perhaps this is the sincere objective of many peace bridge builders. However, another very important concern needs to be addressed in this case – what about the anti-Zionist names involved with Rick Love in this peace catalyst process?

Jim Fletcher recently wrote:

“Rick Love, I have no doubt, is very sincere in his efforts to build bridges with Muslims. I found it incredibly interesting though to check out whom he “follows” on Twitter. A sampling:
Porter Speakman Jr. (director of the Christian Zionist-mocking film “With God on Our Side”); David Neff (editorial vice-president for Christianity Today); The Economist (left-leaning European news magazine); Catalyst; Cameron Strang; Mark Driscoll; NPR News; Al Zazeera English; Alan Hirsch; Joshua Dubois (who until recently headed Obama’s Office of Faith Based and Neighborhood Parterships); Rob Bell; Lynne Hybels; World Vision; John Ortberg; Rachel Held Evans; Gabe Lyons; Christ at the Checkpoint; Tony Campolo; Ed Stetzer; Shane Claiborne; Donald Miller.
The list goes painfully on, but you get the idea. Each of the people/organizations listed above would either be overtly hostile to Israel, or they hobnob with those who are. Hence, Rick Love’s view of Israel is, I can safely presume, similar to that of Mahmoud Abbas.
That is, Middle East peace would flourish were it not for the “occupation,” etc.”
–Jim Fletcher, Israel Watch[13]

In conclusion, a ‘peace building’ book recommendation in a Mennonite magazine may not be noticed by many, but it is an important issue in light of what is going on in the world today. It is only one of many examples where good intentioned Mennonites get involved in interfaith dialogue with other religions, be it Islam or Catholicism. The list would be too extensive to add to this blog. One such Mennonite has endorsed Rick Love’s book:

“This book is Christ centered and biblically grounded…Those committed to local and global mission will find this book to be a necessary resource in these tumultuous times.” (David W. Shenk, global consultant for Christian/Muslim relations, Eastern Mennonite Missions)

As Jim Fletcher concludes in his message to the many evangelicals who are willing to go far in building bridges with Muslim leaders . . .

“Well, then I say to them: go on and try to build your bridges, though I am certain it is a bridge too far.”[14]

_______

End Notes:

[1] http://mbherald.com/january-issue-2015/
[2] http://mbherald.com/peace-catalysts/
[3] J Janzen (former interim MB Herald editor) serves as pastoral elder at the Highland Community Church, Abbotsford, B.C., a Mennonite Brethren affiliated church which leans toward contemplative spirituality. (See: Disappointment in the MB Herald
https://mennolite.wordpress.com/2011/04/25/disappointment-in-the-mb-herald/)
[4] Read: A Biblical and Historical Rebuttal to “Loving God and Neighbor Together: A Christian Response to a Common Word Between us and You.” By Eric Barger http://www.ericbarger.com/muslim.rebuttal.htm
[5] Jim Fletcher, Creeping Anti-Israelism in the Evangelical Movement
http://www.frontpagemag.com/2015/jim-fletcher/creeping-anti-israelism-in-the-evangelical-movement/
[6] The Impossible People: Lynne Hybels: http://www.israeltoday.co.il/NewsItem/tabid/178/nid/24218/Default.aspx?archive=article_title
[7] See: “Christ at the Checkpoint” and Lynne Hybels: http://standtoministry.com/2012/02/18/christ-at-the-checkpoint-and-lynne-hybels/
[8] http://www.peace-catalyst.net/
[9] January 7, 2015 http://ricklove.net/?p=3009
[10] Eric Barger, Evangelical MELTDOWN
http://www.ericbarger.com/emailers/2008/update8-7-2008.htm
[11] Danish Psychologist: ‘Integration of Muslims in Western Societies is Not Possible’ by FELIX STREUNING http://www.familysecuritymatters.org/publications/id.5905/pub_detail.asp
[12] http://www.gotquestions.org/sensitive-Muslim-culture.html
[13] Jim Fletcher, Feb, 18, 2013, Dupes: Part 786, Israel Watch
https://www.raptureready.com/jim/rap15old24.html
[14] Ibid.

*Final note: Incidentally, although the word ‘bridge’ does not appear in the Bible, Jesus is the only One who bridged the gap between us and the Father. It is Him we must direct people to, not the so called bridges of common ground beneath opposing religions.

RELATED ITEMS:

*Interfaith Peace – Mennonites and Muslims
https://mennolite.wordpress.com/2014/03/15/interfaith-peace-mennonites-and-muslims/
*Mennonite Palestinianism
https://mennolite.wordpress.com/2014/02/21/mennonite-palestinianism/
*Mennonites and Muslims Meet
https://mennolite.wordpress.com/2013/10/03/mennonites-and-muslims-meet/
*Mennonites and Muslims Merge?
https://mennolite.wordpress.com/2011/09/22/mennonites-and-muslims/

Find Yourself a Thin Place this Christmas

In an article called Have a “thin” Christmas in the December 2014 issue of the MB Herald, readers are encouraged to find God in the ‘thin places‘ this Christmas.

God comes near

In North America, with the endless noise and rush of life, it’s often difficult to find places where we can steal a glimpse of heaven . . . we all long for places where the veil of eternity becomes slightly more transparent, awareness of God’s presence is heightened and intimacy with Jesus grows. . .
The ancient Celts called these “thin places.”
Whether thin places are actual geographical locations, or simply moments when we allow ourselves to be more aware of Jesus’ presence in our lives, they’re essential to our spiritual well-being.
New York Times writer Eric Weiner says thin places make us feel disoriented – in a good way. “They confuse. We lose our bearings, and find new ones. Or not. Either way, we are jolted out of old ways of seeing the world.”

“Thin places” at Christmas

The Christmas season offers ample opportunities for us to discover “thin places” in our world. They allow us to become disoriented for just a moment. They open the door for God to show us new ways of seeing things – to renew our hope and faith, and to reorient our spiritual compass.
Perhaps it’s a stirring performance of Handel’s “Messiah,” reminding us again of the majesty and grandeur of our Saviour. Perhaps it’s a quiet evening spent by the fire reading God’s Word, seeking his direction for the new year. Perhaps it’s a smile and an embrace from an old friend in the form of a Christmas card, allowing the joy of community to warmly enfold us.
Or perhaps it’s an unexpected faith conversation with a stranger on the subway after a hectic day of Christmas shopping, jarring us out of the ordinary and reminding us of what’s really important.
Wherever the thin places are for you this Christmas season, I wish you many moments discovering the nearness of God in this world.
After all, more than creating a thin space, Jesus’ birth on earth tore the veil in two. On the first Christmas, he emptied himself to dwell with his people, so we might truly see God face-to-face.

SOURCE – Have a “thin” Christmas by Laura Kalmar
http://mbherald.com/thin-christmas/

Are thin places a biblical way to meet God? Does the Bible teach us to seek God through the concept of thin places?

Before the answers to these questions are explored, one important point must be addressed. In the article, MB Herald editor Laura Kalmar refers to New York Times writer Eric Weiner as one of her information sources on thin places. In the Weiner’s NY Times article, called Where Heaven and Earth Come Closer, he calls thin places “locales where the distance between heaven and earth collapses and we’re able to catch glimpses of the divine, or the transcendent or, as I like to think of it, the Infinite Whatever.” Weiner is also an author of Man Seeks God: My Flirtations With the Divine. In the writing of this book, Weiner describes . . .

“… a wild ride that takes me to Nepal, where I meditate with Tibetan lamas and a guy named Wayne; to Turkey, where I whirl (not so well, as it turns out) with Sufi dervishes; to China, where I attempts to unblock my chi; to Israel, where I study Kabbalah, sans Madonna; to the Bronx, where I volunteer at a homeless shelter run by Franciscan friars; and even to Las Vegas, where I have a close encounter with Raelians, followers of the world’s largest UFO-based religion.
Along the way, I learn that I am not alone in my spiritual restlessness. The latest studies find that nearly one in three Americans will change their religious affiliation at some point in their lives. We are, more than ever, a nation of God hoppers.
I am willing to do anything to better understand faith, and to find the god or gods that speak to me. I maintain an open mind, leaving judgment at the door…”

It is unfortunate, if not shocking, that the editor of a Christian magazine would draw from the spiritually restless Weiner as a source for an article on how Christians might experience God.

This isn’t the first time that Christians have looked to other religious sources and extra-biblical spiritual means to experience the presence of God. On page 26 of his book called Letters to a Young Evangelical, well known Christian author Tony Campolo writes that every morning “I am able to create what the ancient Celtic Christians call “the thin place.”” This term is the thin line between spirituality and panentheism, implying that God is in all things. The thin place is also considered the gap between God and man where everything thins out and ultimately disappears in meditation.[1]

When Jesus and the power of the gospel is not enough for some people, they often turn to such concepts of ancient spirituality, like Campolo, who says:

“Believing the gospel was never a problem for me, but during times of reflection I sensed that believing in Jesus and living out His teachings just wasn’t enough. There was a yearning for something more, and I found that I was increasingly spiritually gratified as I adopted older ways of praying–ways that have largely been ignored by those of us in the Protestant tradition. Counter-Reformation saints like Ignatius of Loyola have become important sources of help as I have begun to learn from them modes of contemplative prayer. I practice what is known as “centering prayer,” in which a sacred word is repeated as a way to be in God’s presence.
… I’ve got to push everything out of mind save the name of Jesus. I say His name over and over again, for as long as fifteen minutes, until I find my soul suspended in what the ancient Celtic Christians called a “thin place”–a state where the boundary between heaven and earth, divine and human, dissolves. You could say that I use the name of Jesus as my koan.”
-Tony Campolo[2]

Campolo’s friend Samir Selmanovic[3], who has participated in the emergent conversation with Shane Claiborne and Brian McLaren, says of thin places:

“Celtic Christians sought after ‘thin places,’ spots where the membrane between mere physical reality and the reality of God’s presence thins out and becomes soft and permeable. For them, thin places are locations in space or time where God’s world (‘reality as it really is’) intersects with our world (‘reality as we happen to experience it’) so that it can be seen, touched, tasted, or sensed in some unmistakable way. They believed that at places like shorelines, fjords, rivers, and wells, the veil was so sheer, one could almost step through it. . . . A thin place could be a conversation, a dream, a room, a tree, a dawn, a shore, a dance, a person, a scientific lab, a Sabbath, a Eucharist, an early morning meal before the Ramadan fast begins.” 
— Samir Selmanovic in It’s Really All About God, Reflections of a Muslim Atheist Jewish Christian

It appears that, like contemplative spiritual formation, this is all part of a progression of (un)belief that leads people towards universalism. Like the labyrinth, a thin place appears to be another spiritual tool or means where people seek a supernatural experience or feeling. But what exactly is a ‘thin place’?

A thin place is a place of energy. A place where the veil between this world and the eternal world is thin. A thin place is where one can walk in two worlds – the worlds are fused together, knitted loosely where the differences can be discerned or tightly where the two worlds become one.
Thin places aren’t perceived with the five senses. Experiencing them goes beyond those limits.
Fascination with the “Other world” has occupied our human minds since early recordings of history and likely before that. A thin place pulsates with an energy that connects with our own energy – we feel it, but we do not see it. We know there’s another side – another world – another existence. To some it is heaven, the Kingdom, paradise. To others it may be hell, an abyss, the unknown. Whatever you perceive the Other world to be, a thin place is a place where connection to that world seems effortless, and ephemeral signs of its existence are almost palpable.
Mahatma Ghandi in his Spiritual Message to the World in 1931, speaks of this.
“There is an indefinable, mysterious power that pervades everything. I feel it, though I do not see it. It is this unseen power that makes itself felt and yet defies all proof, because it is so unlike all that I perceive through my senses. It transcends the senses”

Source – What is a Thin Place?
http://www.thinplaces.net/openingarticle.htm

The practice of trying to find the doorway connecting to the other world is definitely not a concept from biblical origins, as an excerpt from thinplace.net explains:

The Celts were a culture of people that arrived in Ireland after 500 BC. The idea of thin places or doorways to the Otherworld were solidly a part of the Irish culture long before the Celts came. …The thin places concept was a part of the pre-Christian or pagan charism and these beliefs or sensitivities – existed prior to the Celts. The concept is rejected by many of the present day Christian communities, often being linked to “new age” heathenism. …These pre-Christian Irish people believed the thin place itself had the mystical or spiritual power. One didn’t create a thin place simply by moving into a state of contemplation or spiritual trance. The site itself was thin and that made spiritual contemplation more powerful.[4]

Christianizing the concept of thin spaces is simply another a new blend of spirituality that is not taught in the Bible, if not forbidden. Attempting to sense a spiritual energy or presence through the supernatural veil is an occultic practice. If ‘occult’ means ‘hidden’ spiritual mysteries and the supernatural, those who attempt to peer through the veil between the realms in order to ‘steal a glimpse of heaven’ to hear or see or feel God may be practicing a form of occultism. Occult methods involve seeking the hidden realm beyond rational reason to find a supernatural experience. Such an attempt outside the word of God might be compared to a soldier stepping into enemy territory without his sword. If Satan masquerades as an angel of light, why take the chance of being deceived by the prince of the power of the air (Eph 2:1-2) while looking for a nice supernatural experience in a ‘hidden’ thin place?

While the spiritually restless and misinformed seek supernatural experiences in the thin spaces, it is only in the Bible that the deepest truths can be found. In its pages we read how the Creator of time and space stepped into this darkened world at the perfect time to fulfill prophecy and die for our sins to reconcile us back to Him. His death (not his birth) tore the veil in two, because He was the High Priest who made the final sacrifice (Himself), once and for all (Hebrews 10:10). When our resurrected Lord ascended in heaven, He sent His Holy Spirit to help, teach and comfort us with His presence that indwells and empowers every believer. We don’t need to seek a doorway or experience, we only need to seek and abide in Him. He is the door (John 10:9). Instead of looking to discover “thin places” in our world this season, believers in Christ need only to draw near to God and abide in Him, every day of the year.

“Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded.” James 4:8 ESV

_______

[1]Campolo Crosses Bridge to Celtic Thin Place
http://muddystreams.wordpress.com/2010/05/05/campolo-finds-the-thin-place/
[2] 
http://www.beliefnet.com/Faiths/Christianity/2006/02/Mystical-Encounters-For-Christians.aspx
*NEW: Note: Tony Campolo’s pathway of choice had led him to accept homosexuality in the church:
Tony Campolo Comes Out of Closet in Support of ‘Full Acceptance’ of Homosexuality in Church
http://www.submergingchurch.com/2015/06/10/tony-campolo-comes-out-of-closet-in-support-of-full-acceptance-of-homosexuality-in-church/
[3] Selmanovic is the founder of “Faith House Manhattan”, an interfaith community of Christians, Muslims, Jews and humanists/atheists (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Samir_Selmanovic)
[4] http://www.thinplace.net/2011/03/richard-rohr-celts-didnt-invent-thin.html

Related:

*Read more about the thin places of Celtic Spirituality and which so called Christians promote them, in this article:

In Touch Magazine Draws Readers to “Celtic Spirituality”
http://www.lighthousetrailsresearch.com/blog/?p=9485

*What are Celtic thin places?

Where will the Same-Sex Conversation Lead?

The same-sex issue has been brewing from some time now in the Mennonite church. The following article in the December 2014 issue of the MB Herald is about a play that is bringing people into the same-sex conversation. But will it bring them into the truth?

One-man play calls audience to hear another story

Can fiction create a conversation where study has led only to argument? Some 20 MB and Mennonite church members sponsoring a presentation of Ted Swartz’s play on relationships, sexuality and the church at Mennonite Brethren Collegiate Institute, Winnipeg, Nov. 11, 2014, hope the audience will come to listen.
Listening for Grace: Variations on a Theme of Struggle and Hope is created and acted by the U.S. Mennonite actor and humourist. Swartz plays five different characters, based on interviews and stories from same-sex attracted individuals and their families. Swartz’s play does not promote an agenda, explains the show’s website, but “teaches the transformative power of listening.”
The Mennonite Brethren conference has heard theological teaching on homosexuality at the board of faith and life’s “Honouring God with the body” study conference Oct. 16–18, 2013, and will continue to explore the subject at the “God, Sex and Church” study conference in 2015.
Swartz’s format isn’t a theological study or discussion. “Plays touch on the emotions,” says Manitoba MB conference pastor Keith Poysti. The conference is not endorsing the play; however, “It’s good for us to listen and hear respectfully,” says Poysti.
John Unger, retired pastor of Fort Garry MB Church, Winnipeg, who is part of the sponsoring group, see the play as “a way to help the church begin to listen to one another. . .”

SOURCE: http://mbherald.com/play-hear-another-story/

***

***

What other Mennonites are saying about this play:

Ted Swartz’s New Play May Have Just Scared Me Back onto the Straight and Narrow, in the Funniest Possible Way and for Probably Not Quite the Right Reason
http://www.oldsouthhigh.com/2014/05/08/ted-swartzs-new-play-may-have-just-scared-me-back-onto-the-straight-and-narrow-in-the-funniest-possible-way-and-for-probably-not-quite-the-right-reason/

Playwright and actor Ted Swartz brings music, comedy and storytelling to conversation about sexuality, faith and family
http://emu.edu/now/news/2014/10/playwright-and-actor-ted-swartz-brings-music-comedy-and-storytelling-to-conversation-about-sexuality-faith-and-family/

Voice of grace
Actor brings music, comedy and storytelling to conversation about sexuality, faith and family

http://mennoworld.org/2014/11/03/voice-of-grace/

***

What God says about the same-sex issue:

“Is it possible to be a gay Christian?”
http://www.gotquestions.org/gay-Christian.html

What does the New Testament say about homosexuality?
http://www.gotquestions.org/New-Testament-homosexuality.html

What does the Bible say about gay marriage / same sex marriage?
http://www.gotquestions.org/gay-marriage.html

What does the Bible say about homosexuality? Is homosexuality a sin?
http://www.gotquestions.org/homosexuality-Bible.html

If homosexuality is a sin, why didn’t Jesus ever mention it?
http://www.gotquestions.org/Jesus-homosexuality.html

***

What the facts say about same-sex relationships being harmful:

Homosexual activity harms no one
http://carm.org/homosexual-gay-sex-harms-no-one

Misery and the “Gay”
http://moriel.org/MorielArchive/index.php/discernment/church-issues/various/misery-and-the-gay

***

RELATED:

More Mennonites Licensing Same-Sex Pastor
https://mennolite.wordpress.com/2014/10/29/more-mennonites-licensing-same-sex-pastor/

Same Sex Marriages in Mennonite Church
http://mennoworld.org/2014/07/14/after-ban-is-lifted-same-sex-couples-wed-at-germantown/

‘Wisely’ Revised Mennonite Perspective on Sin
https://mennolite.wordpress.com/2014/06/20/wisely-revised-mennonite-perspective-on-sin/

Mennonite Leaders Concerned about Recent Same-Sex Issues
https://mennolite.wordpress.com/2014/03/19/mennonite-leaders-concerned-about-recent-same-sex-issues/

Will Mennonites Make Space to Welcome Sin?
https://mennolite.wordpress.com/2014/01/28/will-mennonites-make-space-to-welcome-sin/

Mennonite University Considering Policy Change to Allow Homosexual Faculty
https://mennolite.wordpress.com/2013/11/26/mennonite-university-considering-policy-change-to-allow-homosexual-faculty/

Mennonite Church USA Same Sex Marriage Symposium
https://mennolite.wordpress.com/2013/11/15/mennonite-church-usa-same-sex-marriage-symposium/

__________

NEW RESOURCE:

NEW BOOKLET TRACT: 6 Questions Every Gay Person Should Ask
http://www.lighthousetrailsresearch.com/blog/?p=16535

NEW: Also see:

A Public Service Announcement Regarding Goshen and EMU.
https://mennoknight.wordpress.com/2015/08/19/a-public-service-announcement-regarding-goshen-and-emu/#more-5371

Lent, the New Mennonite Tradition

Today is Ash Wednesday, the first day of an ancient but relatively new tradition that the Mennonites have taken on, as the following examples from the March 2014 issue of their Mennonite Brethren Herald magazine[1] confirm.

Example #1

What I like about Lent
by Dora Dueck

Lent was not part of my experience growing up in a Mennonite church. It was something that “others” did (read: Catholics), and when one is young, what those others do often seems vastly inferior to what one’s own people do. We celebrated Good Friday and Easter and that was enough. Lent had an aura of gloominess and “works righteousness” about it, and we were beyond all that striving and uncertainty and climbing the stairs to heaven on our knees. (I speak as a child.)
But in the meanwhile, many Mennonite churches, including my own, have adopted various practices of the liturgical calendar, and I’ve come to appreciate Lent’s invitation to reflection, to deep consideration of Christ and the cross, to give up or to take on. To see oneself as one is: as in the words of Thomas Merton, “I walk from region to region of my soul and I discover that I am a bombed city.” To hear oneself named “Beloved” in the midst of that desolation.
One can do this any time, of course, but Ash Wednesday with its formal beginning and the six Sundays leading up to Easter with their liturgies and sermons and reminders are helps along the way.
So it’s a good time. But one of the things I like best about Lent is that it’s not a big deal in the wider culture. It’s not commercial. Having ashes imposed (I love that word for this ritual) to mark repentance and awareness of being “dust” seems by now, in fact, the strange activity of a strange minority . . .

From here: http://mbherald.com/what-i-like-about-lent/

Note: Thomas Merton is thought to be the greatest popularizer of interspirituality and said “I see no contradiction between Buddhism and Christianity … I intend to become as good a Buddhist as I can.”[2]

Example #2

The Season of Lent

The church has historically focused the 40 days leading up to Easter (mirroring Jesus’ 40 days of temptation in the wilderness in preparation for his ministry) on three aspects of discipleship: prayer, fasting, almsgiving.
Prayer:
Commit to a specific exercise for these 40 days; a predetermined time of day, a written or memorized prayer, the use of the Psalms, connecting prayer with a specific activity.
For example, what if you vowed to pray for “feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace” (Ephesians 6:15) every time you put on your shoes?
Fasting:
Commit to a specific discipline of self-control; abstain from a particular food for the duration, regularly give up one meal, avoid one of your regular leisure activities.
For example, what if you let the drama of your favourite TV shows unfold without your observing eyes for 40 days?

From here: http://mbherald.com/the-season-of-lent/

Note: Mennonite churches have not historically focused on the man made religious rituals in the 40 days leading to Easter.[3]

Endnotes:

[1] http://mbherald.com/march-issue-2014/
[2] http://www.lighthousetrailsresearch.com/merton.htm
[3] For further research into the history behind these traditions, see:
Nimrod Part 9: The real meaning of Ash Wednesday and Lent http://biblepaedia.wordpress.com/2012/02/24/nimrod-part-9-the-real-meaning-of-ash-wednesday-and-lent/
Nimrod part 15: Lent and Tammuz the Solar god http://biblepaedia.wordpress.com/2012/03/11/nimrod-part-15-lent-and-tammuz-the-solar-god/

Related:

What is Ash Wednesday? http://www.gotquestions.org/Ash-Wednesday.html

What is the meaning of Lent? http://www.gotquestions.org/what-is-Lent.html

Bent on Lent https://mennolite.wordpress.com/2011/03/19/bent-on-lent/

Mennonites, Lent, and Spiritual Direction (Updated) https://mennolite.wordpress.com/2011/03/21/mennonites-lent-and-spiritual-direction/

For research purposes:

Exploring a Lenten practice of sabbatical http://www.themennonite.org/bloggers/timjn/posts/Exploring_a_Lenten_practice_of_sabbatical

Christian Calendar
http://gameo.org/index.php?title=Christian_Calendar