The Glory and the Grief
Bishop John and Bishop Wright reflect on the power and great cost of following Jesus.

In his second report from the National Pastors Convention, David Swanson describes how two Anglican bishops helped him recognize Christ's presence among all the convention glitz and kitsch.

May I confess something? I've experienced a bit of cynicism at this conference over the past few days. Everywhere I look, I see another Christian item for sale. I'm writing this post in front of a TV showing the latest installment of a hip teaching series. Off to my left is a display for the new Narnia movie, and to my right is a recruiting station for Army chaplains.

My cynicism is probably not helpful. But I have nevertheless found myself wondering, "Where is Jesus in all this stuff?" One answer to that question has come in the form of addresses from two Anglican bishops.

The main session on Tuesday evening featured Anglican Bishop John Rucyahana. "Bishop John" became took leadership of a diocese in northwest Rwanda in the aftermath of the genocide. A Rwandan refugee who spent most of his life in Uganda, Bishop John was "accepted by Jesus" when he was 21. His journey as a leader in the Anglican Church began shortly thereafter.

Bishop John spoke to us of our calling into God's glory and excellence from 2 Peter 1. I would imagine that most of us in the grand ballroom that evening have had very different experiences in our ministries. Surely few, if any, of us have preached to a congregation filled with those who have known both sides of genocide.

In his sermon, Bishop John repeatedly assured us that he does not follow a distant Jesus, a Jesus who is trapped in history. Rather, he pursues the Jesus who is present now: "I now preach to those who have lost their families and to those who are guilty of killing the families of others. And Jesus is there!"

I couldn't help but wonder if those of us whose lives and ministries have been easier, in so many ways, could say the same thing with the same conviction. Certainly Jesus is present in our lives and churches, as He is for Bishop John. But do we experience that presence with the same clear-eyed conviction as our brother from Rwanda?

This morning I attended the early bible study with N. T. Wright, Bishop of Durham, England. Bishop Wright is widely known for his historical Biblical scholarship, including the "new perspective" on Paul. This morning he led the two hundred or so of us in the room through the book of Acts. Like Bishop John, Bishop Wright continually pointed us to Jesus. Encouraging us to come to Acts with first-century eyes and 21st-century questions, he showed how the story in Acts is all about the risen Jesus establishing the Kingdom of God through the power of the Holy Spirit.

February 28, 2008

Displaying 1–7 of 7 comments


March 31, 2008  4:25pm

Shopping For God. 'Nuff said.

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March 04, 2008  11:01am

I left the institutional church and pop-Christendom behind back in 1994. It wasn't out of anger or discontent; I simply didn't have time for it once I really began getting involved with helping people outside of the Church's sphere of influence. But I came back for a number of years when that situation changed and I could not believe the difference from when I had left. It was as if no one could any longer find Jesus without the latest videos, music, seminars, concerts, t-shirts...Having been so removed from it for so long, my senses were not dulled by the subtle marketing of pop-culture into the church. About the same time I came back to church, I was asked to perform with a Christian artist for a CD release party at a large Christian Bookstore. I joked that I was looking for Rod Sterling hiding behind a corner with a video camera, because it seemed like something right out of the twilight zone. While I was away, they had begun to market Jesus like a cabbage patch doll. All I could wonder was how were we ever going to meet the needs of the poor and oppressed, or for that matter, reach anyone outside of the 4 walls (or 20 or 30 walls) of our extravagant "Christian Centers" when we had everything we need there without going out and risking becoming "polluted" by the world. While I was away, pop-Christendom had created a perpetual activity trap for believers–one which was sucking every last extra penny they had in order to keep them entertained. I'll never forget the looks I got at a youth group meeting after we had been to a youth seminar where table after table of expensive teaching material was offered for sale. The others were making the case to the pastor that it was imperative for the future of the youth group that we purchase around 1700 dollars worth of that material. I opposed the idea, saying that if our own relationship with Jesus was so instable, that after all this time we were still incapable of reaching our own kids without relying on the latest Christian fad being marketed, what kind of a message was that sending to the youth. They thought I was nuts. But the kids didn't. That's why they are leaving the Church in droves. It's not that they don't believe, but they just can't make the connection between Jesus and this whole consumer-based Christendom their parents have bought into. Perhaps in time that will prove to be a good thing. I pray so.

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Kevin Derr

March 03, 2008  1:08pm

Thanks for the update, I often experience a similar feeling when I walk into my local Christian bookstore, lots of stuff imprinted with Jesus or biblical images or words, but I can't help but feel like there is something wrong with the whole picture. Would Jesus be pleased with my t-shirt and new bumper sticker?

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March 03, 2008  8:15am

I want you to know that your blog is source of strength for me As i read of the time you had a conference and what the Lord continues to do in your ministry I am encouraed and built up. I want to thank you for building me up brother and I pray God's continued blessings on your ministry. In Him, Kinney Mabry

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March 02, 2008  6:07pm

I was at the NPC and felt it was an excellent experience. For myself - it was refreshing and wonderful. The seminars were terrific and the main worship gathering a blessing. I also appreciated NT Wright but also many others. Thanks to all the staff and leaders who served us so well & put this all together.

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David Swanson

February 29, 2008  2:12pm

Mike- Bishop Wright has mentioned a few times in different talks the "rise of the new secularists", or something to that effect. He's pointed out that secularism is surprised that religion has not gone away like it was supposed to. On the other extreme is the rise of religious fundamentalism in different forms. I believe it is these two realities that Wright has in mind when he refers to a "strange and dangerous world." OK- now back to the x-box.

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mike rucker

February 28, 2008  3:49pm

david - thanks for the post. could you expand a little on this statement: Bishop Wright claims that the Western church is moving into a "strange and dangerous world" where we, too, will experience this collision. looking forward to your answer when you get a minute or two. try to tear yourself away from the "jesus clears the temple while samson brings down the house" xbox game you just bought... mike rucker

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