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Free2Rock for Not for Sale

Free2Rock for Not for Sale. Not there’s a mouthful!

The fact is that one of the greatest blights on humanity is the ongoing reality of slavery and human trafficking in 2012. And, things are being done about it.

Several years ago David Batstone founded the Not for Sale Campaign. If you listened to my podcast interview (see my January 4, 2012 posting) with Kevin Austin of the Not for Sale Campaign then, you already know a bit about the Not for Sale Campaign and Kevin Austin’s related work with faith communities around the world.

In my opinion one of the most commendable characteristics of the Not for Sale Campaign is their unwillingly to be satisfied with what they’ve already done and with what they’re already doing. Here’s an example of Not for Sale’s ongoing innovation on behalf of the millions of enslaved children, women, and me who can’t act on their own behalf.

Free2Rock from Not For Sale Campaign on Vimeo.

Now, let’s pass the word along. And, check out this coming Wednesday’s blog posting on National Human Trafficking Day (January 11, 2012) for the second part of my three-part interview with Kevin Austin. Be sure to return on Wednesday, January 18th for the final part of my interview with Kevin Austin. Discover how your congregation can get engaged with Freedom Sundays and a whole lot more.

Seldom will we hear of better change. All change begins with awareness; involvement follows. The Not for Sales Campaign is about worthy change; and without a doubt these stories alert us to wisdom for a change.

From Bethlehem to Left Behind 4

Following from Part 3 of Darrell Harris series From Bethlehem to Left Behind

Today, we’re sharing Part 4 of this podcast series with our guest, Dr. Darrell Harris.

Length – 16:08

Re-use Notice and Info

In keeping with the spirit of Darrell’s willingness to freely broadcast this series on Wisdom for a Change and with applicable copyrights, if you share this posting somewhere else please point others back to this site using a Permalink or a Trackback. If you prefer to obtain the rights to include one or more of the podcasts in this series in your own electronic publication, please contact Darrell directly at:

Dr. Darrell A. Harris
Pastor, The Stonebridge Community
Dean of the Chapel, The Robert E. Webber Institute for Worship Studies
615/525-6330 or by e-mail at harrisda1@comcast.net

The Prophetic Voice and Change

Some people tend to think of prophesy as foretelling. Often in Scripture prophets did indeed foretell future events through the enabling of the Holy Spirit.

A review of prophecies in scripture shows each prophecy is purposeful; either calling people away from something or calling people towards something… warning them metaphorically of lower ground or redirecting them to high ground. Whichever is the case, prophesy always calls people to change! A prophetic voice calls out warning or invitation in the context of hope.

God speaks to give hope, newness, and deep renewed relationship.

Change agents who follow Jesus and seek to work for his purposes must ask God for discernment about when to speak and when not to speak. They must also distinguish between when to warn of error and when to encourage to new life. Often, the two options work in tandem.

I leave you today with several quotes from Walter Brueggemann’s extraordinary book, The Prophetic Imagination: 2nd Edition (Minneapolis, MN: Augsburg Fortress, 2001).

“Prophetic imagination as it may be derived from Moses is concerned with matters linguistic (how we say things) and epistemological (how we know what we know) – all of which may be to engage simply in verbal distinction. But I stress the point for two reasons; first because the prophetic purpose is much more radical than social change; and second because the issues that concern the Mosaic tradition are much more profound than the matters we usually regard as social action.”  (p.21)

God always has ontological (the nature and relations of our being or existence) purposes in mind when he acts among and on behalf of his people. He cares deeply about us not only as beings, but cares about us in our being. God cares about the totality of our lives; even parts we cannot see but know exist. Part of this totality is the language we use, as well as how we think of abstract things such as love, justice, and mercy. How we enter into these things is an integral part of who an individual is. Prophecy doesn’t involve just a tweak here or there or a spiritual version of a chiropractic adjustment. Prophecy speaks to deep things and as a result ultimately nurtures hope. In other words, when God brings change we can see what is being changed, yet God is working change at much deeper levels for much higher purposes.

Brueggemann refers to ‘inversions’ (i.e., an act or result of turning inside out or upside down or a reversal of position, order, or relationship). Inversions don’t result in ‘five degrees to the starboard‘; inversions flip things upside down and when God creates the inversion things go right side up. Sometimes as in the book of Habakkuk the ‘right side up’ was going to devastate. Yet God’s ultimate purpose was the renewal, regeneration, and right relationship of a people.

When God places a spark in people for change, it’s not unusual to hear prophetic sounds. I am not speaking of a mystical experience. Prophecy simply rings true for those who have open hearts and minds to hear messages of hope. When God intends for people to experience his newness and people (whether leaders of laity) resist, what will emerge is a tragedy. Brueggemann cautions  ”…a kind of hopelessness emerges because little or prospect of change is on the horizon.” (p.74)

I acknowledge I am using these quotes somewhat out of context,. which is something I typically seek painstakingly to avoid. In these instances, I do not believe I am implying anything contradictory to the centrality of what this brilliant theologian communicates through the fullness of this work.

From Bethlehem to Left Behind 2

Following along from Part 1 of  Bethlehem to Left Behind with Dr. Darrell A. Harris…

Today, we’re sharing Part 2 of this podcast series with our guest, Dr. Darrell Harris.

Length – 13:30

Re-use Notice and Info

In keeping with the spirit of Darrell’s willingness to freely broadcast this series on Wisdom for a Change and with applicable copyrights, if you share this posting somewhere else please point others back to this site using a Permalink or a Trackback. If you prefer to obtain the rights to include one or more of the podcasts in this series in your own electronic publication, please contact Darrell directly at:

Dr. Darrell A. Harris
Pastor, The Stonebridge Community
Dean of the Chapel, The Robert E. Webber Institute for Worship Studies
615/525-6330 or by e-mail at harrisda1@comcast.net

From Bethlehem to Left Behind 1

From Bethlehem to Left Behind, Sermon 1 with Dr. Darrell A. Harris

Today, I am pleased to introduce you to Dr. Darrell Harris.

Darrell has willingly given me the privilege of presenting his short-sermon series, From Bethlehem to Left Behind, as the first ‘Guest Podcast Series’ here on Wisdom for a Change.

I’ve known Darrell for close to a decade now. During that time I’ve heard him speak many times. I’ve also visited with Darrell often. We’ve become good friends. I trust Darrell’s words. I value his insights.

None of this makes me unique at all. Darrell’s got friends by the score. He’s the kind of guy people want to spend time around. Talk to anyone who knows Darrell and you’ll find others feel the same way I do.

Length: 15:02

A few may wonder what this podcast series has to do with change. That’s not an unreasonable question. I deeply believe the more we get to know Jesus the better we’ll understand change the way God intends.

Who ever made a greater change than Jesus? The Great Author of Change took on change himself. He left heaven; was begotten not made; became flesh, introduced a Kingdom no one could see; lived, died, rose, and ascended; and remains the reason for the greatest changes anyone ever experiences. If we want to know change better – we’ve got to know Jesus better.

A Bit More About Dr. Darrell Harris…

Darrell says about himself…

i am
a lover, not a fighter,
a husband and a father,
a poet and a pastor and a friend.
i listen and don’t leak.
i try to hear before i speak.
i am who i am,
and i serve the great I Am.

When you meet Darrell you quickly discover several more things about him. He always seem to be smiling. He likes to laugh – a lot! He’s an encourager of others. He admits freely, “words are my drug of choice” and he uses them with extraordinary skill and ease. And yes, as you can gather Darrell Harris loves – absolutely loves  - Jesus Christ; and he loves talking about Jesus – especially in word pictures that make Jesus wonderfully vivid.

I hope over these six, short sermons you’ll get to know Darrell Harris a bit. Yet, Darrell and I both hope even more that you’ll get to know Jesus a whole lot better. Why not sit down and have a coffee while you listen – or download each podcast and go for a few walks with Darrell? Either way, don’t be surprised if you end up feeling that you’re sitting or walking with Jesus. That’s really our hope and prayer.

Re-use Notice and Info

I appreciate Darrell keen and willing response when I asked his permission to share this sermons series here on Wisdom for a Change. His reply was quick and simple; “absolutely! honored for them to be used”.

In keeping with the spirit of Darrell’s reply and with applicable copyrights, when you share this posting somewhere else please point others back to this site using a Permalink or a Trackback. If you prefer to obtain the rights to include one or more of the podcasts in this series in your own electronic publication, please contact Darrell directly at:

Dr. Darrell A. Harris
Pastor, The Stonebridge Community
Dean of the Chapel, The Robert E. Webber Institute for Worship Studies
615/525-6330 or by e-mail at harrisda1@comcast.net

A Day-After-the-Day-After Reflection

One more Easter thought…

During this past Sunday service, I was reflecting upon Matthew 27:59-61:

And Joseph took the body and wrapped it in a clean linen shroud and laid it in his own new tomb, which he had cut in the rock. And he rolled a great stone to the entrance of the tomb and went away. Mary Magdalene and the other Mary were there, sitting opposite the tomb.

Further in Matthew 28-17 we read:

Now after the Sabbath, toward the dawn of the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to see the tomb. And behold, there was a great earthquake, for an angel of the Lord descended from heaven and came and rolled back the stone and sat on it. His appearance was like lightning, and his clothing white as snow. And for fear of him the guards trembled and became like dead men. But the angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid, for I know that you seek Jesus who was crucified. He is not here, for he has risen, as he said. Come, see the place where he lay. Then go quickly and tell his disciples that he has risen from the dead, and behold, he is going before you to Galilee; there you will see him. See, I have told you.” So they departed quickly from the tomb with fear and great joy, and ran to tell his disciples.

I was struck by several things:

  • Neither an earthquake nor Roman guards were about to thwart the Marys’ desires to go to where they Jesus was. Mary Magdalene and the other Mary had seen where Jesus was laid. Three days later, their fully functioning human recall told them where to find Jesus. Yet, recall was an inappropriate faculty to experience Jesus as he was and where he was. The realities regarding Jesus simply defined logic.
  • Something inexplicable had happened. Jesus would not be confined to a tomb then and today he won’t be confined by our constructs about him. He freely defines our senses at will. He refuses to be boxed in to our mind-maps just as he wouldn’t be constrained by a cold stone tomb.
  • The Marys demonstrated great discipline propelled by great certainty when they went to the tomb. Yet, in light of new evidence they encountered and the supernatural testimony they heard, they changed their plans and their approach. They did what they were directed to and departed quickly to tell other disciples.

None of these observations is new. We all know the story.

Yet, how many of us unwittingly have locked God in a box? How many of us have become so certain about where we’ll find him, the condition he’ll be in, or the responses we’ll have to him that we can no longer experience him as he is? Today he’s alive, bursting forth with newness, functioning completely beyond our puny constructs, and totally ‘other’ from what we have become conditioned to expect.

Are we willing to acknowledge that Jesus may no longer be where we’ve found him before, doing what we’ve always known him to do? Even more, are willing to leave our safe, sensible mind-maps for the new uncharted paths Jesus has for us when he calls us to a place or purpose we have not expected?

Such willingness is what it means to be a disciple and to be missional.

Easter Truths

He is risen!

He is risen indeed!

May you experience daily in your life His resurrection power, as you “Go forth to love and serve the LORD”.

Response #2 – The Empty Chair

Today, we’ll examine the second response I received to my December 11th posting, in which I posited the notion of Social Prayer. One man’s comment began with, “very interesting. BUT…”

If I may take some editorial license, I believe his expressed concerns could be summarized as:

1. Why do we infer specific physical postures or vocal adjustments are necessary when we pray?
2. Couldn’t such behavioral modifications seem disingenuous to others and perhaps even hypocritical to us?

This faithful reader of Wisdom for a Change also recommended a prayer practice. When a group of people gather to pray, he recommends ensuring one chair remains empty. Then, he uses the empty chair to remind himself and others that ‘He [Christ] is here with us. He is listening. He will speak, if we make room and have open ears and hearts!’

To this gentleman’s concerns and his suggestion, I say a hearty, “I agree!”

God-pleasing prayers do not require us to bow our heads, close our eyes, or change our tones. In Matthew 22:18, and elsewhere in Scripture, we are reminded that God knows our thoughts and even our intentions. God hears, God sees, and God knows everything, regardless of our physical postures or vocal characteristics. Our omniscient God sees the unseen. So what would be the point of assuming a holy posture if one had an unholy heart? For years now I have encouraged small groups, choirs, congregations, and others to examine the ‘posture of our hearts’ in preparation to pray.

Yet – or should I say and… we would err if we believed our physical posture or vocal tones were meaningless when praying. Two reasons come quickly to my mind.

First, while prayer is prayed to God, prayer is often heard by others and almost always heard by ourselves. Why is this significant? Because as with all forms of engagement with God, prayer is not only reflective; prayer is formative. We hear what we pray. We are affected by what we pray and so are others when they hear what we pray.

Some of the greatest influences in my life to this day are the memories of seeing and hearing my parents pray as I grew up. While they were not praying to me, their fervent prayers were indeed formative in me. Not only did their prayers reach the throne of heaven; their prayers were heard by me and God often used them to touch my heart. They were indeed effectual. In a variety of postures and tones I recognized my father and mother were speaking to a God who was (and is) alive and with whom they each had a personal relationship.

Secondly, when a person prays aloud, leading others in prayer whether intentionally or unintentionally, the individual figuratively is ushering others into the presence of God. Throughout Exodus, Leviticus, and Deuteronomy we read many examples of Moses leading the congregation – all Israel – through prayer. Postures and tones mattered. Similarly, it is unimaginable to believe that the Psalmist’s prayers of praise sounded the same as prayers of lament or the familiar prayer of repentance in Psalm 51.

There are times for conversational prayer, times for soaring oratorical prayers, times for whispered prayers, and times for groaning prayers. Relational prayers to Abba are not confined to casual conversations or to monotone, emotionless murmurs. Like life, earnest prayer will cover the spectrum of human experience and emotion. And because of this, the empty chair may be reserved for the Gentle Shepherd or the Lion of Judah. He is there and he will listen to the one who draws close in sincerity.

As we introduce more prayer in our social settings, we might expect our social lives will increasingly manifest something of the tremendous depth and range of what it means to be fully human in full communion with Elohim, our Creator. Nowhere is such a change needed more today than in change-related matters.

Three Comments on Social Prayer

After my December 11th posting entitled, Social Prayer, I received three e-mails that I’d like to share with you. Each comment is rich with insight and possibilities.

I encourage you to consider the focus, likely contexts, and hopes inherent in each comment.

1. This [social prayer] “may be a brand new idea for some and what a wonderful idea!”
2. “Very interesting, Alan! BUT why is it that we always seem to have to limit ‘prayer’ to bowing our heads and closing our eyes and speaking in tones that usually are not represented in genuine conversation? Personally, I, as often as possible when in a small gathering especially, like to call attention to an empty chair in our room and say. ‘He is here with us. He is listening. He will speak, if we make room and have open ears and hearts!’”
3. “Excellent. I like the phrase ‘unaffected prayer’. Natural would be a good adjective, unhurried, unpurposed. 99% of my exposure to public prayer is from a pulpit, in meetings, and at Tuesday morning prayers – all structured, purposeful, and often ‘affected’. Very few can do it [pray] naturally – most of us are not comfortable sharing our prayers with others. Everyone fears being judged. So weird, so wrong, but its the culture we are in.”

I appreciate each comment for two reasons. First, as different as each comment is from the other two, I believe all the comments point toward a common purpose. Secondly, I happen to know each commenter. I love, respect, and appreciate each of them. So, am I biased? Maybe… okay, likely!

Over the next few days I intend to share some personal thoughts on each comment. Then, on Friday we’ll proceed to a topic I introduced well over a month ago – Social Constructs. The implications are significant.

Now, consider Eugene Peterson’s preface to James, in which he refers to James who was a prayer warrior. “…prayer is foundational to wisdom. Prayer is always foundational to wisdom.” (Thanks to our friend, Jonanne Fenton, for pointing me to this Peterson passage.)

Social Prayer

Last evening my wife and I had friends in our home for dinner. Janice had done her usual Christmas magic-making. Every room was festively decorated, the Christmas tree was brightly lit, carols both old and new played appropriately in the background, and gastronomical delights were plenteous. Dinner conversation was free-flowing and natural.

Time passed quickly. After a time of table talk, we retired to the living room. Conversation continued and soon, someone mentioned prayer. The four of us pondered aloud how prayer seems curiously absent from our lives, not only in our culture, but in church life.

As a church leader recently to me and a few others, “So many of our prayers seems perfunctory; obligatory verse at the beginning and frequently tacked on at the end of many church-related meetings. Shouldn’t prayer be more?”

Last evening, we affirmed our already common perspectives and agreed with the leader’s opinion. A bit later as our guests prepared to leave, I asked if I could pray before they left. My male friend interjected and suggested his wife pray first.

She prayed slowly and thoughtfully, speaking in the personal overtones of one who lives in close relationship with her Lord. When she finished, before I could begin to pray, my friend began to pray unhurriedly. My wife followed in similar fashion. Finally, in an atmosphere of great reverence I prayed.

When we all said amen, we sat in a sanctuary of sacred time and sacred space;- hushed by the presence of the Holy One. My friend lifted his head and said quietly, “You know, I can’t recall praying with friends like this for at least the past six years or so. I miss this.” One by one, we agreed. The best part of our beautiful evening was the 20-30 minutes we spent together in unaffected prayer.

As we seek to better understand change in light of God’s character and purposes, we need such times of social prayer – prayer that occurs, often spontaneously in times and prayer not assigned for prayer. Prayer need to be given a more prominent place in our lives. Prayer needs to be brought back from the Sunday sanctuaries to the sanctuaries where we live, and move and have our being.

In Two Ways of Praying (SPCK Publishing, 1995) Paul Bradshaw, esteemed Professor of Liturgy at the University of Notre Dame, wrote of Cathedral Prayer and Monastic Prayer. Perhaps, we should consider a third way of praying: Social Prayer; prayer that occurs among God’s people – anytime, anywhere, and much more frequently. For, where two or three are gathered in His name, there He is in the midst of them – even in social settings.

Praise be to God for prayer and for His Presence!

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