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Why I am bloggin

How Easter Makes Me Yearn for Church Unity

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The Light of Christ

Thanks be to God

And with the lighting of the fire, my Easter had began as I attended my first Easter Vigil in an Episcopal church near my house. It was still dark outside as we processed to the sanctuary reciting the words above. We then held candles which was our only source of light for the first 40 minutes of the service. Passages were read, hymns sang and prayers offered until the light of the building was lit just as the first gleams of sunlight appeared outside.

I did not grow up in a liturgical tradition and it has been only in the past years that I have fully immersed into the Anglican/Episcopal tribe. This was a new experience that re-affirmed my connection to God through structured liturgy. Yet, I sensed something amiss.

Later in the morning, we went as family to our Anglican-Vineyard home church to celebrate the Easter service. The contemporary worship drew us into reflection on the great event of the day. The message was poignantly relevant connecting the text to our context. The Eucharist nourished our spirits so we could once again face the world with humble courage

Yet, something was missing.

Afterwards, when de-briefing with my wife who had also grown up in the same church environment I had, we were able to point out the missing piece.

As some of you know, my faith journey started in the Pentecostal/  Charismatic branch of Christianity. At its best, this tribe is known for its vibrant worship and a belief that nothing is impossible. While I cherished this part of my home tribe, with time I started sensing the call towards liturgical worship. That led me into mainline denominations and eventually into Canterbury. This was not an over-night shift but long process of searching, prayer and much conversation. I am confident I am where God wants me and my family to be at this point.  Yet, this Sunday I missed my Pentecostal/Charismatic roots.

The grandiosity of the Son of God’s resurrection can only aptly be celebrated with a loud exuberant party. In my liturgical Sunday, where order and reflection prevailed, my confined spirit wanted to jump out and break into dance. 

I missed some pandemonium, loud disorderly expressions of 

revivals past. I missed the out-of-sync tambourines, the sweaty movement of bodies, the loud cries of Hallelujahs and the persistent banging of African drums. I even missed the unashamed worshiper, the one who is so fearless in lavish worship that makes all the “proper” worshipers around them uncomfortable. I cannot see resurrection without these holy noises, and without them its reality seem to ring less true.

Obviously, this is not to say that I am now ready to return to my original tribe. Part of the reason why I have left was the lack of space for reflection and intellectual engagement that our loud service could not accommodate. My past years have taught me the wonderful rhythms of the church and I cherish them. It is not one being better than the other but about my longing for more integration.

To me this realization makes me yearn for church unity. We have diminished the glory of God by keeping ourselves apart from each other.

Why we need church unity? We are missing out when we stay in one place. The body of Christ is richer and fuller when we celebrate what each tradition does best. In this Easter season, I hope take a cue from Pentecostals and declare the kingdom here reality of God. This is the time to believe in miracles, to live like heaven was in earth again and declare that the coming kingdom is already here.

When Lent and Advent comes again, I’ll take a cue from mainliners, learn to suffer the path of the cross and sit in quiet. It is only when we fully enter into these two that we get a genuine taste of the body of Christ.

The good news is that the church calendar does not limit the reality of Easter to one Sunday. Instead, it extends it for 50 days so there is still time to worship God in exuberance, not just in our Sunday services but also with our lives. Our pastor encouraged us to take on new habits, sing a little louder, dance a little more unhindered and enjoy the fruits of the resurrection. It is time to live out now what we hope to come in the future.

I pray for the day when we can gather with our different tribes and learn to live these different seasons with each other. That is the beginning of living out the oneness we are called to be.

Oh, what beautiful sight would that day be! Yearning is the voice of heaven calling us to itself.

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The Good Wall

Some wise words…

The Conciliar Anglican

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“Catholic doctrine and discipline may be walls; but they are the walls of a playground,” wrote G.K. Chesterton in his 1908 book Orthodoxy. “Christianity is the only frame which has preserved the pleasure of Paganism.” Countercultural as Chesterton’s observations often are, perhaps none would be so quickly and derisively dismissed by the modern western world as this one. Western people today know almost nothing about Christianity. This is especially true amongst the privileged classes who have spent time in the university and have been taught to believe that they are too smart to fall for anything as daft as the idea that a man rose from the dead. If we modern westerners know anything, we know for sure that Christianity is a killjoy. Christianity exists to stamp out pleasure wherever pleasure can be found, whether in the bedroom, the classroom, or the barroom.

My Way or the Highway

Behind this false understanding…

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End Times Paranoia

Graphic images of Christians being martyred in Libya are harrowing reminders that this world is constantly threatened by evil. With the power of social media, these acts gain a wide audience which was not possible in the past. Confronted with such realities, our tendency is to despair clinging to fear and paranoia. That is when we must be reminded of our Christian hope.

It is fitting that at this time I am taking a class on eschatology (the fancy word that means study of the last things). Honestly, this was not a topic I looked forward to. Growing up in an environment saturated by dispensational theology (Left Behind series – you get the picture), I have grown increasingly skeptical. There was a time I literally wished that Revelation was not in the Bible so I would NOT have to deal with the wacko stuff that gets passed as legitimate interpretations of the book. In the last weeks, I came to learn that this was not just a theological debate but deeply personal and something that evoked a number of emotions from passion, mistrust to anger (It was interesting to learn that I was not alone but the Luther himself had questions about Revelation’s place in the cannon).  However, I have now gained a renewed appreciation for this topic and maybe formed some opinions that may be helpful to this discussion.

First of all, I continue to deplore the dominant dispensational approach this topic gets in evangelical circles. By this I mean the approach that tries to read Revelation literally as a “play-by-play” description of the events leading to the end times.  I’ll spend the rest of this blog laying out my case:

1) It mostly leads to paranoia, fear and inaction – As I have seen this pattern a lot in the past, when you tend to emphasize this play-by-play view, a topic that should bring hope ends up bringing fear. I know that the intended message was to say: “these signs are pointing Jesus return.” This should bring us hope yet because the focus was so much on impending doom, that left little place for thinking of hope.  It is also disheartening because it feels like there is nothing one can do about it. Some might say that this should be an incentive to evangelize and by doing so we are hastening the Lord’s coming. That is possible, yet when so much energy is focused on painting a picture of destruction, the evangelism part gets downplayed.  We already have Fox News, CNN and radio talk implanting fear and paranoia in our society. Do we need the church to join the bandwagon?

2) It lacks historical reflection on the topic– How many times have I heard statements like: “this could be THE generation that sees the Lord’s coming” ? It is like we throw 2,000 years of church history and claim that the NT was all about 21st century world all along. It certainly sounds pretentious and self-serving. Even if the statement is correct, a bit of humility and historical reflection would do us a lot of good. We are NOT the first generation to think that. In fact, one could argue that even the apostles’ generation  (and they had much more reasons than we do) thought they were it. Then you had a number of movements in Christian history that made the same assumption, all of them to be proven wrong. Is it really wise to walk in this line of thinking without at least entertaining the possibility that we are wrong?

3) It portrays itself as the only “biblical” approach– I suspect that some of you may even wonder about my eternal fate given my questioning of this topic. This is especially true in Neo-Pentecostal circles where the prophetic is overemphasized and end-times thinking is a regular staple of their preaching. Churches like IHOP  and Morning Star tend to be big on the topic. Given their influence, and the prowess of the left-behind industrial complex (yes, the whole thing: books, DVDs, video games, etc.), one would think that is the only “biblical” approach to the topic. Well, I am glad to inform you that there are other ways of interpreting Revelation that are not “play-by-play” oriented. Certainly, the weight of church history is not on the side of dispensationalism but more on thematic approach (one that I will explore in a future blog).

4) It claims to provide a framework to understand news while it merely reflects a reactive Anglo-American right-wing political perspective of the world –This is probably one of my biggest realizations in recent years, namely how closely tied end-times thinking is with right wing (and even conspiration theory) thinking.  They tend to share the same enemies. What is even more intriguing is how these “play-by-play” systems never quite know what to do with the United States. That is a bit ironic that the most powerful nation on the Earth would not have a role to play in Armageddon. If it does role a play, it is usually a positive, and one in which it stands for the truth of the Bible. Hmm, that sounds like civic religion to me. Sometimes I wonder whether end-times fixation is less about the end of the world and more about the end of the North American empire. Just some food for thought….

5) It is a questionable evangelism tool (in fact it may lead people away from the faith) – That people have come to Christ because of it, I have no doubt. The God of the Bible have spoken through a donkey, assassins, heathens, terrorist, liars and the list goes on. Also bad theology has saved many throughout the history of the church. That is not to the approach’s credit but to the ever-loving God who will use whatever means possible to reach the lost. Now, let us now take a “means-justify-the-ends” approach here and justify this approach in its effectiveness of bringing people to Christ. It should stand on its own.  For every case of people that have come to Christ I can also tell of many who left the church because of it. I almost did. I suspect that to continue to emphasize this approach will most certainly lose the ear of the millennial generation.

David Luiz’ Public Christianity

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I have not had much time to blog in the last weeks. I am back to taking two classes in the summer quarter and also have been a bit distracted by a small event called the World Cup. This is a time when men become boys and re-connect with their secret dream of being a footballer. This is especially true for this boy who grew up in the soocer-crazed nation of Brazil. So, most certainly I could not let this opportunity past without a blog (or a few blogs).

I write this as we (the Brazilian nation) have just reached the semi-finals after a grueling and agonizing game against Colombia. The biggest news was the unfortunate injury of Neymar after receiving a UFC-like knee kick to the back. Yet, this should not take away from the biggest name of the game: David Luiz. The guy was a giant on the field. A defender that not only did his job but also scored, helping Brazil advance. If you know anything about soccer you know that defenders are not expected to score – their primary job is to keep others from scoring. His footballing performance would be enough to gain acclaim. Yet most important than his performance is how this formidable athlete has behaved inside and outside the pitch.

It is not uncommon to see athletes thanking God for their triumphs. This is not just only common in the US but more and more in places like Brazil. His words, however, are only limited to the audience that bothers to listen to after-match interviews. His actions on the field have spoken louder than words. In the beginning of the game, at the end and after each goal celebration you can see David kneeling with his eyes closed pointing to the sky. His body language is un-mistakable – he is praying.
So a great athlete that performs well, gives glory to God and publicly prays. Again, that would be more than enough to catch our attention. David went a step further. After the game with Colombia, he took upon himself to console James Rodriguez, the Colombian forward. He asked his Brazilian crowd to applaud his effort. Then, he just held him in his arms as the young player sobbed the pain of his defeat.

In a few weeks, the Cup will be over and life will be back to normal. But inspired in David’s example, I wonder how I have live the gospel within the soccer field of my life. Do I always give glory to God when I perform well? Do people know that the source of anything good in my life is the time I spent with God in prayer? Above all, do I show compassion to adversaries and lend them a shoulder for them to cry? Let life imitate sports and let visible athletes teach us again what it means to follow Christ in a public way. David has showed us that at time the gospel of Christ can be best displayed not by what we say but how we live. This is not borne out of a conscious effort to “spread the gospel.” Instead, is the fruit of a life surrendered to God and attentive to the neighboor.

Internal Mazes – One world, two realities

Wonderful work from some missionary friends from Brazil.

A God Colored Girl in a Grey World

“Continuous effort – not strength or intelligence – is the key to unlocking our potential”  –Winston Churchill

I am pleased to announce that the first trailer to our new feature-length film, “Internal Mazes” is now uploaded on YouTube. The English subtitles are up and all you have to do is activate the captions in the bottom right corner of the YouTube screen. This film was birthed with the desire to combat human sex trafficking, prostitution and tourism, being that the World Cup will be held this year in Brazil and the Olympics just two years from now.

Synopsis:

It tells the story of Beto, a well-respected man in his community, who married a former prostitute named Suzana. After their wedding, wanting to forget Suzana’s past, they move to a small town in the country to rebuild their lives. Soon enough, however a number of events happen that bring Suzana’s…

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Chamada para adoradores brasileiros – louvem a Deus com a sua cultura

Nesse periodo estou numa classe chamada “Fazendo Teologia em Contextos Globais” aqui na Fuller. A classe tem literalmente revolucionado minha teologia me forçando a entender quem eu sou e de onde eu vim. Para aqueles que não me conhecem, nasci e morei no Brasil até os 15 anos de idade quando me mudei para os Estados Unidos. Mesmo aqui por muito tempo, ainda carrego dentro de mim essa identidade brasileira. Acima de tudo, na questão da fé, sou filho da igreja evangelica brasileira – a quem eu devo muito.

Uma das grandes descobertas nesta classe tem sido a prevalencia do colonialismo dentro da igreja. Deixe-me explicar. Quando paramos para pensar, nossa cultura, economia e politica continua enraizada no processo colonial. Isso se manifesta em várias formas mas principalmente na mentalidade: “Se vem da Europa ou dos Estados Unidos então é melhor.” Isso nos faz uma sociedade de copiadores ao invés de criadores. Não que não haja originalidade no Brasil mas a tendencia para copiar é sempre mais forte do que a tendencia de querer criar algo novo, nativo, emergindo da realidade brasileira.

O mundo evangélico segue esse modelo a risca. A literatura que lemos vem de fora. Os métodos que usamos também vem de fora. A teologia que domina, com certeza também vem de fora. Na mentalidade evangélica, com tanto que algo seja “bíblico” não interessa a sua providencia (aliás isso em si em pensamento que também vem de fora). Porém poucas áreas sofrem mais com esse problema do que a música evangélica. A maioria das músicas cantadas em nossa igreja são traduzidas. Até as músicas compostas no Brasil, soam muito parecido com Hillsong. Isso é simplesmente trágico, roubando nossa igreja do novo som oriundo de nossa cultura.

Isso não é só um problem de ser relevante. Não precisamos de uma música que louva a Deus em sons brasileiros só com o objetivo de alcançar mais pessoas para Cristo. O problem é bem mais profundo. Ao propagar uma arte importada, nós rejeitamos nossa própria identidade e perdemos a oportunidade de louvar a Deus com tudo que temos. Acima de tudo perdemos a oportunidade de enriquecer a igreja mundial com sons vindo da amazônia, nordeste, morros do Rio e as calçadas de Salvador.

Pois então, aqui vai uma proposta. A pergunta que pode surgir é por onde começar? Esses hábitos estão tão entrenhados que é difíci começar com algo novo. Aqui vai algumas sugestões:

– Primeiro – Pare de ouvir música evangélica estrangeira. Faça um experimento e fique um mês sem ouvir o tipo de música que você ouve normalmente.

– Segundo – Entre num compromisso de oração com outros artistas pedindo a Deus por novos sons e novos ritmos.

– Terceiro – Volte a os salmos. Leia-os diariamente e medite em suas palavras, emoções, linguagem, etc. Não se limite a interpretaçõe imediatas mas permita o Espírito Santo lhe falar através destas palavras.

– Quarto – Busce novos sons e novas música. Explore instrumentos diferentes. Pesquise na Internet, fale com amigos, vá aonde Deus te mandar. Aqui tenho que enfatizar algo: não fique limitado a música que fala de Deus somente. Explore TODAS as músicas (sempre com discernimento mas também com coragem que o verdadeiro autor da música é o Deus vivo). Ouça pagode, funk, samba, frevo, o que estiver a sua volta. Volte a suas origens e procure por sons que expressam a relidade da comunidade em volta de você.

Há alguém aí disposto a tomar este desafio? A criação espera por esses novos gemidos e canticos de louvor a Deus vivo.