Reconciliation in 3-D


the-door-of-reconciliation-by-dahon-creative-commons
The Door of Reconciliation. Photo taken by dahon, flickr.com, creative commons

Sermon for my ordination service as Commissioned Pastor in the role of Editor of the Banner, at Fellowship CRC, Nov 27, 2016.

Texts: 2 Corinthians 5:17-20; Ephesians 2:13-16; Colossians 1:19-20

In St. Patrick’s Cathedral, in Dublin, Ireland, there is a door hanging on display called the “door of reconciliation”. Legend has it that in 1492, two Irish families (the Butlers of Ormonde and the FitzGeralds of Kildare) were involved in a bitter feud over which family should hold the position of Lord Deputy. This feud became violent with bloodshed between the two families.

When the violence got out of control, the Butlers took refuge in the Chapter House of Saint Patrick’s Cathedral. The FitzGeralds followed them into the Cathedral and asked them to come out and make peace. Afraid they would be slaughtered, the Butlers refused.

As a gesture of good faith, the head of the Kildare family, Gerald FitzGerald, ordered that a hole be cut in the door. He then thrust his arm through the door and offered his hand in peace to those on the other side. Of course, that was a huge risk. Because the Butlers could have chosen to cut his arm off. But instead, they shook hands through the hole. The Butlers emerged from the Chapter House and the two families made peace.

Apparently, this is where the British phrase “to chance your arm” gets its meaning: to chance your arm means to take a risk. And that door through which the two families shook hands and made peace is that door of reconciliation on display in St. Patrick’s Cathedral, to this day.

Well, we live in 2016, not in 1492. But I think we live in a world that is in as much need of reconciliation as ever. We live in a deeply divided and polarized world. Even though we interact with different people more than ever – from rubbing shoulders with people who are different at school or at work to interacting with people from across the planet on the internet and social media – so, despite that, we are actually increasingly divided into ideological tribes. People don’t seem to know how to disagree civilly on social media. It’s either you are my friend for agreeing with me, or you are an idiot for disagreeing and I will make sure you know that you are an idiot!

Continue reading “Reconciliation in 3-D”

Becoming a World Changer


My fifth and final teaching video for now, Becoming a World Changer, lists out five major themes for Christians to be a Christ-centred agent of change.

I believe that Christians are called to join in God’s mission to not only “save souls,” so to speak, but also to reconcile “all things” to God, to bring about God’s shalom in the world.

Below the video is a PDF handout for group discussion.

Becoming a World Changer by Shiao Chong

To download an accompanying pdf discussion handouts suitable for a short workshop or a small group, click here: Becoming a World Changer

 

God’s Big Story and You


My fourth teaching video, God’s Big Story and You, is my attempt at giving a panoramic summary of the Bible’s grand narrative. I am trying to summarize it into a worldview story that can help us make sense of our world, and find meaning and purpose for our lives. And I am using the concept of “shalom” as the lens through which I summarize the bible’s story. May you find it helpful and encouraging.

Below the video is a PDF handout for group discussion.

God’s Big Story and You by Shiao Chong

To download an accompanying pdf discussion handouts suitable for a short workshop or a small group, click here: God’s Big Story and You

Story-Making as Shalom-Making


(On October 24, 2015, I delivered this keynote address at the Christian Courier Story-maker’s Symposium, celebrating that Christian newspaper’s 70th anniversary. Give and take some spur of the moment revisions and minus introductory remarks and the power point slides, this is the presentation I gave.)

I am going to show a music video as part of my talk today. But before I do that, I am going to read three passages from the Bible. There are well known Bible passages. And then, I will give some background info so that you can appreciate the video better, then show the video. And after that, I will try and tie them all together in my talk, somehow.

Read Genesis 11:1-9; 1 Corinthians 13:1-13; Proverbs 14:12.

I am going to show you a music video by Sinead O’Connor. Sinead O’Connor, if you don’t know, is an Irish singer, raised Roman Catholic.

Sinead O'Connor By Pymouss (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
Sinead O’Connor
By Pymouss (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons
There are a couple of things you need to know about her in order to fully appreciate the music video I am about to show you. First is that Sinead became an international music star in 1990 when her hit song Nothing Compares to You hit No. 1 in several countries including the UK and the USA. Nothing Compares to You, which I think is still the song that most people remember Sinead for, is basically a song about a woman lamenting the departure of her lover, as nothing is the same without him in her life because, well, nothing compares to him. Its accompanying music video also became iconic, where the video comprised almost entirely of a close up of Sinead’s face as she sings the song. Remember this iconic close up shot (for the video).

A note about Sinead’s shaven head – she originally shaved it as a protest against traditional views of women, it became her trademark but also became part of her identity. She once said, “I don’t feel like me unless I have my hair shaved. So even when I’m an old lady, I’m going to have it.” [Barkham, Patrick (20 February 2007). “The Bald Truth”.The Guardian (London).]

One other thing that Sinead O’Connor is (in)famous for is her appearance on Saturday Night Live in 1992, where during her performance, she presented a photo of Pope John Paul II to the camera and ripped the photo to pieces and said, “Fight the real enemy.” Sinead, throughout her career, has, shall we say, a testy relationship with the church? She has often criticized organised religion although she has said before in interviews that she still considers herself a Christian. She is an outspoken feminist and had spoken against child abuse in the church.

That’s what you need to know to more fully appreciate the music video (embedded below). Continue reading “Story-Making as Shalom-Making”

Hearing God in Heavy Metal?


I am not a heavy metal fan. Normally, I don’t listen to heavy metal music. But inspired by John Van Sloten’s book, The Day Metallica Came to Church: Searching for the Everywhere God in Everything (Square Inch, 2010), my York students and I decided to dialogue on the topic of music in one of our Thursday night “Theology over Pizza” sessions. Students were invited to share some of their favourite music pieces – whatever genre – and share a little of why they liked that music, and how it may touch them on a spiritual level.

Continue reading “Hearing God in Heavy Metal?”

Rethinking Salvation and God’s Mission


Dr. Timothy Keller, author and pastor of Redeemer Presbyterian Church in New York City, once said that his church’s mission is not to create a great church but to create a great city. This is borne out by the church’s tagline on its website: Seeking to renew the City Socially, Spiritually and Culturally. These three foci align very nicely with my three-dimensional gospel, by the way. I am beginning to lean towards naming the three dimensions of the 3D gospel as the communal, confessional and creational/cultural dimensions. (See my post on the Total 3D Gospel.) But the point I am making here is that I think Keller has it right. I believe that God’s mission or plan of salvation is not to create a great universal church but to create a great world. Continue reading “Rethinking Salvation and God’s Mission”