Monday morning at the One Project in San Diego, session speakers concluded the sequential examination of Jesus "Manifesto on the Mount." There were four presentations (Reflections) in all, with two half-hour discussions around the attendees' tables (Recalibrations) – after every two Reflections.
The afternoon was different. John Ortberg, Senior pastor of the Menlo Park Presbyterian Church, and author of multiple books on Christian living, presented two reflections, with the individual tables having discussions after each one.
Karl Hafner, senior pastor of the Kettering Seventh-day Adventist Church, spoke first.
What is the Prescription for Worry? Jesus gives a three step program:
1. Trust God: He knows what we need. We forget that and trust ourselves. 2. Seek first the Kingdom: Self-seeking, even if adulation comes to us, is not sustainable. 3. Live one day at a time: Karl asked everyone at the close to “write a letter to God,” where we hereby resign as general manager of the universe. God will surely accept our resignations. ☺
Michela Lawrence Jeffery, chaplain of Advent House at University of Tennessee, Knoxville, spoke next. Disagreement is not the equivalent to rejection. This section of Jesus’ sermon has the famous illustration of the speck vs. the log in one’s eye. We like to “speck”-ulate, to seek the speck in others. We hear Jesus talk about plank removal so, even if we conceded it might apply to us, once the plank is out we’d then be free to judge, right? But planks aren’t that simple. We have plank buildup. We can even think that a plank in one eye still lets us see. But the depth perception is lost with only one eye. And we minimize such partial blindness until it feels just about normal. Jesus calls us to focus on Him. If our objective is instead to “do right,” to “win” the sin battle, we will live with a fake sense of righteousness.
Dilys Brooks, associate chaplain at Loma Linda University, continued after the first of the Recalibration breakout session concluded and we had a half hour break. Can God be Trusted? She began by singing “Sweet hour of Prayer.” Soon all 1000 listeners in the room joined her – a capella. “Jesus,” Dilys said, “was a contemplative.” The room erupted with laughter. People know The One Project has been accused of heresies such as Eastern mysticism. Of course, “contemplative” here is totally different. Jesus was connected to the Father. But those hearing his sermon thought they needed an intermediary. Intermediaries existed back as far as Moses. God was not approachable, not personal. Now Jesus tells them to: ask, seek, and knock.
Ask: Well, we all know about asking. Our “ask” prayers are like a national hierarchy of need. About us! But instead we need to ask God – for God. Prayer isn’t something you do; it’s someone you are with.
Seek: In our world too many of us have “daddy” issues. Our father images often are terrible. Daddy is an epithet not an endearment. We have a big trust problem.
Knock: what if that door is a barrier that we have erected? God doesn’t ask us to open the door – He opens it.
Dwight Nelson, senior pastor Pioneer Memorial Church at Andrews University, provided the final reflection of the morning. 2 Ways, 2 Trees, 2 Groups, 2 Builders. Matthew 7: 13-27 concludes the sermon. Jesus saves the punch line for the end. There will always be exactly two choices – a bold challenge to post-modernism with its many options. There is a lot of “Lord, Lord” calling among Christians. We have the “in your name” part down cold. But is the name enough? Apparently not. There’s something deeper. Only the one who does the will of the Father will enter the Kingdom. This is Radical Obedience. And Jesus chooses this idea as climax. Maybe He knows our hearts – what we really need to take away. Dietrich Bonheoffer wrote: “only he who believes is obedient, and only he who is obedient believes.”
The majority of the afternoon was spent with John Ortberg. Open Doors. How do we become an “open door” person? When God opens a door He is often fuzzy about the details. Abraham was just told “Go … to the land I will show you” (Genesis 12:1). Trust me. Leave your comfort zone. An open door is never about just us. We are all blessed to be a blessing. The purpose of an open door is to go through and bless, which means to add, to enhance life. This is not optional for a Christian.
Open doors are about opportunities, not guarantees. God is more concerned with the person I become than the specifics of the path, so decision making is an indispensable part of the journey. We don’t like this. We sometimes pray for guidance to put the burden of choice – on God. We want to be spared the anxiety.
It’s also a mistake in decision making to obsess with whether we “feel peace” about the choice. When in the Bible did the doors God opened result in peace for the one He led? We also tend to think about Big Doors. But we need to practice on small ones. Every moment can be a potential door.
There is a myth: if you choose the wrong door you will then be on God’s “Plan B.” No. We can be distracted by regret for what we didn’t do. The series of doors doesn’t end at retirement. There is no retirement in the Bible. If you’re not dead, you’re not done!
John Ortberg, in his second presentation talked about: The Soul. What does a soul consist of? John suggested that the ancients understood soul like a set of 5 concentric circles:
1. Innermost – our will, the core of ourselves, the ability to choose. 2. Surrounding the will – our mind: thoughts, feelings. 3. Surrounding mind – our body. This is our little kingdom. But here is where there is appetite. If sin invades then the will no longer controls the body but becomes ensnared by it. Will is important but limited. Habits can eat willpower for breakfast! And it can be a terrible struggle to overcome embedded habits. 4. Surrounding the body – the social sphere: family, friends, community. 5. And the final outside surrounding circle – the soul. The full package, that which integrates all functions into a single life. Soul meant – to live in harmony with myself, others and God. This is why the word “soul” in the Bible is often referred to in the third person (e.g. Psalms 103:1).
Sin dis-integrates the soul. We use our bodies to hide what is going on in our minds. Children haven’t yet learned to do this, but adults have acquired these masks. J.R.R. Tolkien in The Lord of the Rings named his character Gollum for a word in the Bible that means: a soulless slave serving his master with resentment. And the ring--his “precious”--does not bring satisfaction to a lost soul. Souls are needy – they need rest. The one act a soul can do without being exhausted is surrender. Jesus leads, I follow. God renews my mind and transforms my body. I humble myself and He heals my soul.
One Last Activity The presentations and discussions done, there was one more part to our experience together – communion. Japhet de Oliveira provided context and led us in partaking the emblems. Then, around every individual table, each of us in turn gave a blessing to the one adjacent: May Jesus bless you with gentleness and a heart that is tender. May Jesus bless you with strength against all principalities. May Jesus bless you with compassion and care. May Jesus bless you with courage, daring to be who you are. May Jesus bless you with openness, understanding and respect. May Jesus bless you with power to make Jesus. All.
Photos: Jared Wright / Spectrum
Rich Hannon is the Spectrum website Columns Editor and a member of the Association Forum board.
This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at http://spectrummagazine.org/node/6620