The latest e-Bulletin from the Center for Progressive Christianity is titled “Why Do We Dare to Have Hope?“–a somewhat tepid title variation of Barack Obama’s well-known book The Audacity of Hope. In the newsletter we thus have articles dealing with the role of HOPE in the Progressive Christian path. We have President Fred Plumer talking about “hope” as an action of creative transformation, SBNR Pastor Ian Lawton arguing that being filled up with “hope” is a choice, and a book review about how “hope” brings beauty to the Christian journey.
But as is so often the case when it comes to “hope,” none of the writers seem compelled to seek out their answers in the Gospels and teachings of Christ. The reason so many Progressive Christian writers omit the Gospels when writing about “hope” is because the Books teach not hope but the trappings of hope misdirected. The disciples in their longing for Jesus to become an earthly messiah who rules over Rome become poster children for those who place misguided expectations on others.
Throughout the Gospels, Jesus preaches not the audacity of hope, for hope is as common as a lack of hope: they are natural human reactions to the events around us. What he teaches (which truly is unusual) is the audacity of acceptance. To accept God’s Kingdom “at hand” even when the hand we are dealt is hard or painful. Jesus calls us not to pray for future wants but for simply “our daily bread,” because God already knows what we need before we ask him.1
Some will say, “But won’t this steal the zest from living? Won’t this allow evil to thrive without opposition? Won’t this halt the progress we all so long to see?” The answer is No, No, and No. For the audacity of acceptance should not be confused with the lassitude of resignation. Acceptance means to accept the challenge of life today, without injecting the future with our personal desires: To work with love and diligence at whatever job is at hand, no matter how small or insignificant: To embrace the skills that God has blessed us with and put them to use for the joy and benefit of others: To speak the truth, regardless of the consequences: And to forgive abundantly.
When we do this successfully, the future will take care of itself, and his Kingdom will have indeed come–and that is the only hope that matters.
Let God Almighty rule eternity. My precincts are the minutes and hours of every day. And as long as people have hopes and dreams, well then, I will have work to do. – The Devil in The Book of Life by Hal Hartley.
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- God, your Father, knows what you need before you ask him – Matthew 6:8 [↩]
In news, the website SBNR.org was launched in April in Grand Haven, Michigan. The new organization aims to serve the world-wide population of people that describe themselves as spiritual but not religious (SBNR). It is estimated that in the United States alone over fifty million people are SBNR. The company was founded by Ian Lawton, an independent spiritual teacher and the former Vicar of St. Matthew in the City (Auckland, New Zealand). Today he leads an emerging group of Progressive Christians at Christ Community Church (C3) in West Michigan, which has a sizeable population of church alumni.
SBNR.org offers spiritual services to individuals that find little or no connection with traditional religion. “As humanity evolves so too should the way we experience spirituality,” explains Ian Lawton. “Living impassioned, ethical and spiritual lives outside of organized religion is part of this evolution. It’s not surprising that spiritual people seek to be affirmed outside of the dogmatic traditions. Our purpose is to promote wonder and the rapture of truly being alive.”
SBNR.org provides written, audio and video content using the most recent technological advances. Daily affirmations, weekly sermons, spiritual articles and other content are delivered for free via the Internet and email. Recently the company launched Today’s SBNR Affirmation, a website that delivers short spiritual but not religious (SBNR) affirmations Monday through Friday. “Our purpose is to promote wonder and the rapture of truly being alive,” says Ian Lawton. “These short affirmations are designed to remind the SBNR community that the Divine is accessible in all the ordinary moments of our day.”
The company expects to launch its SBNR Facebook presence in May. Over one hundred million people log onto Facebook each day. Ian Lawton believes Facebook is a great place for spiritual people to interact and affirm their experience of God. “Wherever people meet they can celebrate the Divine. Meeting on Facebook is just as good as meeting in church,” proclaims Lawton.
Income for the company is provided solely from monthly contributions made by the community. “Our business model is simple,” says CEO Steve Frazee, “We focus on serving the SBNR community and in return we ask the community to affirm us by providing monthly contributions. It is a beautiful symbiotic relationship.”
The Living Hour welcomes SBNR.org and Ian Lawton to the online community of spiritual progressives and wishes them all the best in their work.
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