This week I am going to share some of my most faith-forming moments. There are many moments in life that shape us. Some of those moments we recognize the significance of in the moment; and others we realize the impact only after. I share these moments as an expression of deep gratitude.
As a pastor (but mostly as a follower of Jesus), April of 2008 was a life-changing month. I purchased and read through N.T. Wright’s Surprised by Hope. Then I read it again. And then again.
I have joked many times it was the moment I was truly “saved.” In many ways it’s true. It saved me from abandoning my faith roots. It pointed me to Jesus. It cultivated a love for scripture I never had before. It salvaged my commitment to the Church. But at the same time so much of what I had caught growing up (and was taught in bible college/seminary) had to be tilled under in order to receive the planting of a new seed. A kingdom seed.
If I was writing a faith-formation syllabus for those of us who grew up in church life but have never truly owned the Faith…Surprised by Hope would be at the top of the reading list. Here are a few of my favorite words…
“The point of the resurrection…is that the present bodily life is not valueless just because it will die…What you do with your body in the present matters because God has a great future in store for it…What you do in the present—by painting, preaching, singing, sewing, praying, teaching, building hospitals, digging wells, campaigning for justice, writing poems, caring for the needy, loving your neighbor as yourself—will last into God’s future. These activities are not simply ways of making the present life a little less beastly, a little more bearable, until the day when we leave it behind altogether (as the hymn so mistakenly puts it…). They are part of what we may call building for God’s kingdom.”
“the work of salvation, in its full sense, is (1) about whole human beings, not merely souls; (2) about the present, not simply the future; and (3) about what God does through us, not merely what God does in and for us.”
“Jesus’s resurrection is the beginning of God’s new project not to snatch people away from earth to heaven but to colonize earth with the life of heaven. That, after all, is what the Lord’s Prayer is about.”
“…left to ourselves we lapse into a kind of collusion with entropy, acquiescing in the general belief that things may be getting worse but that there’s nothing much we can do about them. And we are wrong. Our task in the present…is to live as resurrection people in between Easter and the final day, with our Christian life, corporate and individual, in both worship and mission, as a sign of the first and a foretaste of the second.”
― N.T. Wright in Surprised by Hope: Rethinking Heaven, the Resurrection, and the Mission of the Church
Then, another ME AND N.T. moment. In October, 2012 the community (NEW Beginnings) I pastor within, sent me to a pastor’s workshop in Chicago where NT Wright was presenting on “Paul in His Culture and Ours.” It was there I realized my love for theology. It was there I answered the call again to be pastor. A true calling to the heart of what it means to pastor…to study scripture, faith and culture.
And I’ll never forget the moment at the close of the workshop when I asked NT Wright if he would send a word of greeting back to New Beginnings…check out his words in the video below. I will forever cherish that moment.
Thanks, N.T. Wright, for helping me love God, His Church, and His mission.