Friday, September 18, 2015

"Me and My House" (Reconciliation Sermon)

I recently preached on Reconciliation at a youth church in Sunbury, Victoria.

Rather than spend a lot of time pontificating on the topic, I explained it through story.

My Dad wanted to be at the service but he was in California
So I did the next best thing, I filmed it and popped it up on youtube!


The Useful Christian

The easiest way to put flesh on the bones of theology is to bring it to life in action. This is what Paul does in his letter to Philemon. He demonstrates his overall mission and message in the action of writing this short letter and in the request he makes in the letter, thus demonstrating his theology in both his personal practice and the action he expects from the recipient of the letter.

Read Philemon as a group. (ask someone with a strong compelling reading voice)
What is going on in this letter?
What is the point?
What do we know about Philemon?
What do we know about Onesimus?
What is Paul hoping for? Why?

Small Group Time

Group 1: “Letters of Recommendation”
Read 2 Corinthians 3:1-6
What is Paul saying?
How are Jesus’ people like Letters of Recommendation?
What are they recommending? To Whom?
How are they inked? (written on)
What is the difference between a cold-stone letter-of-law and this new kind of Spirit Letter?

Compare Philemon 1-7
What is it about Philemon that brings Paul such joy?
Comparing this to 2 Corinthians 3:1-6, what is Paul saying about Philemon?
Knowing what Paul is about to ask, how is this opening statement important?
Is Paul setting Philemon up? Or is he setting him free? How so?

Group 2: “Ministry of Reconciliation”
Read 2 Corinthians 5:17-21
What is Paul saying?
What does “being in Christ” mean? What is “being a new creation”?
What steps are present in Jesus’ reconciliation of the world to God?
How do those steps become ours? What is required of us?
What does the “Ministry of Reconciliation” look like?

Compare Philemon 8-14
How is Paul modelling the Ministry of Reconciliation?
How is Paul hoping Philemon will apply the Ministry of Reconciliation?
What is it about Onesimus that brings Paul such joy?
How has Onesimus been ‘useful’ to Paul and Philemon?
How is Onesimus ‘useful’ in applying the Ministry of Reconciliation?

Group 3: “Attitude of Christ Jesus”
Read Philippians 2:1-11
What is Paul saying?
What does it look like to have the attitude of Christ Jesus?
What are we to do in “the same way” as Jesus?
What did Jesus’ humility entail? How does this compare to ours?
What role does self-importance play in Christian life?

Compare Philemon 15-21
How is Paul demonstrating the attitude of Christ Jesus?
How is Paul expecting/hoping Philemon will show the attitude of Christ Jesus?
How is Paul a “partner in the work” with Philemon?
Why is Paul so confident of Philemon’s response/reaction?
How will Onesimus belong to both Philemon and Paul “forever”?


Ask for each group to report a summary of what they discovered particularly focusing on how the mission and message of Paul was revealed.

Review Questions:
Where do you see yourself as a Letter of Recommendation for the Kingdom of God?
Where do you see the need for the Ministry of Reconciliation in your world?
Where have you seen the Attitude of Christ Jesus recently?

Conclusion: “A Changing Spirit”

Read 2 Corinthians 3:12-18

The Spirit is changing us from our selfish Glory to His perfect Glory. In the same way that Paul challenged Philemon, we are to make visible, in our every action, the Image of God as revealed by His Son through the work of the Spirit in our lives.

While Paul does not tell Philemon to become a Letter of Recommendation for the Kingdom of God, the letter he has sent, both in printed word and action, invites Philemon to live as a representative of the new Kingdom and leave the old one behind.

While Paul does not use the word reconciliation or the phrase Ministry of Reconciliation, he demonstrates it repeatedly in this letter. First in his original treatment of Philemon, second in his prison treatment of Onesimus and third in his call to Philemon to demonstrate the Ministry of Reconciliation in his treatment of his slave, Onesimus. Overall, it is as if Paul is standing in the posture of the Cross, reaching from one person to the other, from one Kingdom to the other, making things right.

While Paul does not preach a sermon calling for Philemon to have the Attitude of Christ Jesus, he models it by being both strong and gentle, humble and purposeful, merciful and just. Paul’s attitude, like Jesus’, invites imitation.

As true letters of recommendation of Jesus to the world, we are to be making things right between people and God, people and each other and even people and themselves through the Ministry of Reconciliation. And in doing this revealing and reconciling work we are to be humble in our every word and action, revealing the attitude of Christ Jesus.

This is, in both theology and practice, the mission and message of the Apostle Paul.

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Melbourne Schools Ending Bullying

Working everyday as a chaplain I get to see kids at their best and worst. Bullying is a consistent problem, primarily fueled by a lack of others-awareness.

Alongside chaplaincy, I also present a cultural awareness program for Cultural Infusion called the "Intercultural Citizenship Ambassador Program." The 8-week or 16-week ICAP program allows me to see the growth kids go through as they expand the borders of their identity from multicultural to intercultural.

And I'm noticing something. In classrooms where I teach ICAP, precursors to bullying (like interrupting, talking over the top of others, and emotional outbursts) are largely absent by the end of the program. Not because I'm making them better individuals but because they are realising (and fascinated by) the uniqueness of every other person in the room.

The primary message I repeat every week during ICAP is the difference between multicultural and intercultural. Any kid who has been through ICAP with me can tell you the difference. So what is it?

Multiculturalism is when people come from other countries and build little versions of 'home' in the new place - little China, little Italy, little England - where they can live, shop, interact and speak as if they are still in the old country.

Interculturalism is when people from various places come together for a common purpose and create a new culture to accomplish that goal as an inclusive group. I say to the kids, "Your class is a perfect example of intercultural citizenship. There are 30 of you from different cultures, religions and families and you all work together with the common goal of education."

And this is where it gets interesting. Bullying comes from the lack of a meaningful relationship.

While multiculturalism can raise awareness, it often raises preconceptions and stereotyping as well. If you see me from across the street, you don't know me but you will notice I look different, sound different and even act different than you. This can make it easy for you to make fun of me - laughing at me, imitating me, making cartoons about me. I'm only a caricature of myself in your eyes.

Interculturalism is only possible where a new culture is created. A place where nobody fits better than anyone else. Everyone is treated equally. And to solidify the culture, a shared purpose is required. This is what happens in a classroom. One school I just finished with had 27 different cultures represented in the combined year 5 class I was working with. That is intercultural citizenship!

Melbourne is a multicultural hotbed. There are people from all around the world who, within the past 3 or 4 generations, have made this their home. Some refugees are brand new. And our schools are the answer to why Australia is a country with an excellent future. The schools are intentionally taking the multicultural population of Melbourne and creating new cultures of intercultural kids one classroom at a time. Some of these students are now graduating and becoming the worlds workforce.

Perhaps Australia can lead the way in recreating workplaces as they have in classrooms. Working together with a common purpose bridges divides and has to potential to expunge bullying from our global mindset.

Wednesday, September 02, 2015

The Mud Puddle

Life is like a “choose your own adventure” book. At the end of each event you get to choose where the story goes next.

Elly and Jane got to school early and were the only two kids on the playground. Elly slipped and fell in a mud puddle. Jane ran over, jumped in the puddle, laughed and said, “You look better now than before!” Then she ran away laughing.

Option 1: As Elly was brushing herself off, the bus arrived. Rose, May and Sarah asked Elly what had happened. Elly told them about Jane. If you want to see what happens next, turn to page 12.

Option 2: Elly stood up and brushed herself off. She saw the bus pulling in and went to meet her friends. Rose, May and Sarah said, “Elly, you’re covered in mud! What happened?” Elly said she fell in a puddle and needed to go to the bathroom to clean up. Her friends said they would come with her. If you want to see what happens next, turn to page 26.


Page 12 – Rose, May and Sarah were angry. They told Elly some things that Jane had done to them in the past. They all decided that it was time for Jane to pay for her bullying. They came up with a plan to embarrass Jane…


Page 26 – At recess, Elly found Jane in a corner of the playground. Elly explained how sad it made her that Jane didn’t help her up when she fell down. Elly said, “Jane, the things you said and did made me sad. I want you to be my friend.” Jane looked at the ground and said, “Yeah. I’m sorry, Elly. I did the wrong thing.” The two returned to the playground together…


We all can write the next part of both stories because we’ve seen them. One leads to healthy friendships, the other leads to more hateful words and actions that go on and on. The best option is to talk to the person who hurt us, tell them what hurt and that we want to be their friend. It’s not always the easiest way, but it is the best way.

As kids, you also have teachers, parents and chaplains to help. You can ask a grown up what you should do and they will help you turn to page 26!

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For more parenting pondering, 
see the "Parently" section of this blog.

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,...