Wednesday, March 25, 2015

“Two Dolls”

A Compassionate Theology: Creation

This conversation, or one very similar, took place between my daughter and I when she was in year 5 at a public primary school. I truly cherish Rachael and her beautiful heart.

Daughter: “Today, my teacher was telling us about how it took billions of years for the world to be made. Why doesn’t she believe in God? How can she believe in Evolution? Can’t she see that God made the World?”

Dad: “There are many people who believe in God and Evolution.”

Daughter: “But God made the world in six days!”

Dad: “Why do you say that?”

Daughter: “Because that’s what the Bible says.”

Dad: “Actually, there are two stories in the Bible about Creation. Things are created in different orders in the two stories. And, one story mentions days while the other story doesn’t. The two stories are back-to-back in Genesis 1 and 2.”

Daughter: “How can they both be in the Bible if they are different?”

Dad: “Good question! What do you think?”

Daughter: “Because one is right and the other is wrong?”

Dad: “Hmmmm. What if they are both right?”

Daughter: “What? How can they both be right?”

Dad: “Maybe the Bible presents two Creation stories so we can choose the one that speaks to us most clearly?”

Daughter: “I guess. But what does that have to do with Evolution?”

Dad: “Let me ask you a question.”

Daughter: “OK.”

Dad: “Pretend your birthday was today and you got a present from Mum – a beautiful hand-crafted doll. You say thanks and hug the doll. You ask Mum where she got the doll and Mum explains how she searched everywhere yesterday at the shops to find just the right gift and when she saw it, she knew it was for you! How do you feel about the gift?”

Daughter: “Amazing! I would love it!”

Dad: “Now let me change the story. You unwrap the present and it’s the same hand-crafted doll. You thank your Mum and hug the doll. You ask where she got the doll and she laughs and tells you she spent months making it, each night after you went to bed. Which doll would you like more?”

Daughter: “The second one!”

Dad: “But, you wouldn’t know the other story.”

Daughter: “Oh, I guess not. If she bought it at the store, I wouldn’t think about the doll she made. I guess I would like them the same because I would only know the one story.”

Dad: “Now let’s look at it from your Mum’s perspective. What difference is there in the two stories? Do both stories show that your Mum loves you?”

Daughter: “Yes. Because she got me a beautiful gift.”

Dad: “Which story do you like best?”

Daughter: “The one where Mum makes the doll.”

Dad: “Why?”

Daughter: “Because my mum made it for me and she was thinking about me for all that time!”

Dad: “What do these two doll stories and the two Creation stories have in common?”

Daughter: “I guess that there are different ways to provide gifts for your children.”

Dad: “Good point! Now think about the Christians who believe God took a long time creating the universe for them rather than doing it quickly in six days. How could the beauty of nature be just as meaningful to them as it is to those people who believe in a quick creation?”

Daughter: “Because God took so much time doing it, like the Mum who made the gift slowly rather than buying it quickly.”

Dad: “So, now what do you think about Christians who believe in Evolution?”

Daughter: “I think maybe they love God lots because He was thinking about them for billions of years before He gave them the gift He was making for them!”

Dad: “And what about Christians who believe God made the Earth in six days? Do they love God, too?”

Daughter: “Of course! Because God made the perfect place for them to live!”

Dad: “Which story do you think is true?”

Daughter: “I don’t know. I wasn’t there!”

Dad: “You’re funny.”

Daughter: “Maybe God put two different Creation stories at the beginning of the Bible because He knew about the Evolution story and wanted people to be ready.”

Dad: “Ready for what?”

Daughter: “To love each-other anyway.”

Dad: “That’s a good thought. I think you are right!”

Daughter: “Hey Dad, I just had a weird thought. Maybe my teacher does believe in God. I thought she didn’t because she teaches Evolution. But, maybe she does!”

Dad: “Well, there’s one way to find out.”

Daughter: “I’m going to ask her tomorrow.”

Dad: “That’s wonderful.”

Daughter: “But first, I’m gonna tell her the story of the two dolls.”

Dad: “Good idea! You’re a great storyteller, just like Jesus.”

Daughter: “Thanks, Dad!”

Friday, March 13, 2015

Moving on in the Spirit

Today we had our regional chaplaincy gathering. Sharing a meal and training with fellow chaplains is inspiring. I was asked to lead in a 20 minute worship time. As I was planning my worship, I realised what a long time it has been since I’ve been asked to lead a worship among fellow ministers. And then I realised a reality that I have been struggling to admit.

My ministry has moved house. My colleagues are a new group of ministers – school chaplains. We have our local communities, our ministry plans and strategies and our hearts deeply embedded in Christ. Today, breaking bread with them, praying with them, telling God’s stories to them… I realised it is time to accept reality.

In January of 2014, due to a indiscretion for which I take complete responsibility, my ordination as a Seventh-day Adventist minister was withdrawn, my role as an Adventist pastor was cancelled (I was fired) and my involvement as a church member was censured. For all of 2014, I was not allowed to participate in any form of leadership in any Adventist church – sermon, Sabbath school lesson, singing with a mic, or Children’s story. I apologised to the local conference president part way through the year because a Sabbath school teacher asked me to close in prayer. (I couldn’t figure out a polite way to say no!)

After the year finished, I asked for the Conference leadership’s will for my future church involvement. They responded that I can now be an active member but I may not preach from behind the pulpit in a Seventh-day Adventist church for the next 5 to 7 years. When probed, it was agreed that I can take Sabbath school lessons, children’s stories, sing with a mic, and lead in prayer. But not from behind the pulpit between 11 and 12 on Saturday mornings.  This decision, it was explained to me, is the will of the Victoria Conference leadership and Australian Union leadership. This stipulation was revealed to me in December 2014 - at the end of my time of censure.

I’ve now had nearly 3 months of being an almost active Adventist. I’ve lead one Sabbath school class (which was great fun!), sang with a mic a couple of times and have the children’s story tomorrow. I’m happy because I am with my family at church. I have so much fun worshiping with my wife and kids!

I also got back into my old habit of writing a Sabbath school study guide for group leaders to use in generating an active discussion. But, I've come to realise, this pseudo-pastoring is an exercise in false hope. Who am I to be telling Adventists what to talk about?

When I want to use my gift of preaching, I must go elsewhere. And that’s my primary gift. So, I preach in various churches on the occasional Sunday. It hurts to have my spiritual giftedness refused by the church I grew up in, got married in, brought my children up in and love ministering in. But I’m not supposed to, now. I accept, this is a response to a reality that I have brought on with my own actions. I know this. I do find it desperately sad that the Adventist church has no clearly stated restorative process for fallen ministers. 

Spiritually, I am closer to the heart of Jesus than I have ever been. Being thrown at His feet was a humbling and healing experience. I understand, like never before, Paul’s comment “Where sin abounds, grace abounds all the more.” It’s not about how much sin you’ve experienced but about how much grace you’ve needed and received. Only the shattered recognise the excruciating joy of being made whole.

So, I’ll still be at church on Sabbath. For family. For friends. For God.

But, I need to stop thinking like an Adventist pastor. Leading the Adventists is no longer my vocation or calling. Time to move on. So, I have a wonderful new prime directive: I will only be doing what the Holy Spirit leads me to do. And it looks like He’s got plans for me in chaplaincy and the many churches that support state school chaplaincy. No more Sabbath School Starters and no more hoping for church leadership to reconcile with me. My ministry, from now on, will be based on the Holy Spirit’s prompting rather than a sense of duty or pride.

Check my blog now and then. I’ll still be writing when inspired to do so.

Keep changing the World!


Dave Edgren ~ Story: Teller, Author, Trainer ~

BOOK DAVE NOW! Dave Edgren is passionate about creating a values-based storytelling culture. In his engaging and often hilarious way,...