Sunday, October 07, 2007

an absolute joy

It was an absolute joy to welcome Bob Tuttle to our church today. Bob teaches world Christianity at Asbury in Orlando, and we had talked at annual conference, and then reconnected at the Oxford Institute this summer. He preached on the general idea that God's spirit precedes our mission in the world (prevenient grace), and he gave a lecture on the encounter between Christianity and Islam in the 21st century. His witness was enthusiastic and contagious; in addition, he provided a little "anti-structure" to our ordinary liturgical practice, which was fine. We are at our most faithful when we are both evangelical and catholic. We also read a letter from Bishop Innis of the United Methodist Church in Liberia to our congregation (PUMC is blessed with several wonderful Liberian members), and celebrated the sacrament of baptism. A great morning. Perhaps the African church will help in the renewal of the United Methodist Church in the U.S.? (For an interesting observation on the African/Anglican experience, listen to Barbara Bradley Hagerty's piece that was on NPR today--it can be accessed at their site).

I really do think that two of the most interesting conversation partners at our doorstep, as North American Christians, are African Christians and Muslims. Interestingly, neither is interested in most of the issues that preoccupy most mainline Christians. Bob Tuttle's presentation on Christianity and Islam can be accessed at the Oxford Institute link to the right; follow the trail to the 2007 papers. It was great to have him here; a young man from our church is one of his students, and that must be fun. I have also been reading an autobiography of E. Stanley Jones, in my search for someone who can speak authentically to a multi-faith world with love and integrity, and I did not know that Tuttle had served as a kind of intern with Jones. Somehow I think Jones can help me to sort out a way of engagement with Islam, particular Muslim friends.

People in our congregation seemed genuinely grateful for Tuttle's thinking on this issue.

In addition to all of this, our younger daughter is home for fall break. Yet another occasion of absolute joy. We went out to eat tonight---the service was mediocre, slow and negligent and the wrong food, this was a nice restaurant, we ended up taking it to go, I told the waitress it really didn't matter, and we weren't angry...I even gave a slightly more than fair tip. The day had just been too good for it to matter.


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