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Ode To Aztecs

Posted on May 29th, 2005

Wow. What a day.

Today I had the opportunity to see Brian McLaren, author of several books that I have enjoyed in the past couple of years. In fact, I am currently reading one of his books. He is such a compelling writer and has very, very engaging and challenging ideas about Christianity on today’s day and age. The things that he have written are things that I have thought, but to have them articulated and developed brought them to a whole new plane.

The event today was a conference put on by The Brethren in Christ, Mennonite Brethren, and Mennonite Church Eastern Conference. Apparent in my ability to go is the fact that it was open to anyone, and churches from near and far were represented there. He was to talk about postmodernity as anabaptists and, despite having only a rudimentary understanding of postmodernity and no prior knowledge about anabaptists, I still figured that it would be a good idea to attend.

A few of us from Embassy/Elevation went to the event: Brandon, Sarah, Sarah’s mom, Chris, Matt, and myself. We arrived early to get good seats and, before the morning session started, we were greeted by the man himself. Brian (as if I’m on a first name basis with him… ha!) seemed quite interested in our activities, and expressed his liking toward the name of “Elevation.”

I really wish that I brought a recorder of some sort, because there was just so many things said that were noteworthy. I jotted some of it down, but my scribbles did not come anywhere close to doing the discussions justice. Furthermore, I found that I often pondered about things that were just said so that I’d miss part of the next thing. Curses to my thought process!

I’m not going to journal about everything that was discussed because I don’t have several hours before I head off and, frankly, I can’t remember all of it. What I would like to do, however, is share a bit of his introductory remarks. They set the flavour for most of the morning session, and it was really, really cool.

He started out by saying something like this: “Asking someone to become Christian today is like asking them to become an Aztec.” Then he used a very clever analogy to illustrate what he was trying to say. After admitting that he’s a bit of a Weather Channel nerd (I instantly thought of Jasmine’s former place of work here in Waterloo), he went on to describe a hurricane that struck Honduras in the late 1990s.

Hurricane Mitch dumped something on the order of a hundred inches of rain over a course of five days. That’s roughly 8 feet. Given Honduras’ average annual rainfall of maybe 40 inches, it was an absolutely incredible event to have so much rain in such a short period of time. He showed a picture of the aftermath. There was a river flowing and, to the left of it, stood a bridge. At one point, the river ran beneath the bridge but, after the hurricane, the land formations had changed so that the position of the river shifted. He pointed out that the Japanese engineers must have been patting themselves on their backs for building such a sturdy (albeit useless) bridge.

He likened all of this to the world. Change is always happening, just as rain always falls. Those who say that we are in a world of change are correct, and they always will be. But, there are times when a lot of change happens in a very short period of time, just like the extreme precipitation brought by Hurricane Mitch. He contended that we are in one of those times now. What happens during one of those times? Well, monuments of the past no longer serve their purpose; bridges no longer traverse rivers. Instead, they become tourist attractions.

When he made his point, I was just so struck by the brilliance of the analogy. It’s one thing to read his works and get a sense of his intellect, but it was a whole different thing to experience it in person. I just sort of shook my head. Brandon and I exchanged looks of “oh my goodness.” Brilliant.

During the afternoon session, he stressed how important it is (and will continue to be) for pastors to faithfully guide the church during times of change. He admitted that new pastors will face a lot of challenges because they probably won’t be able to satisfy those who endorse change and those who fear it; there doesn’t seem to be a happy medium. Roles are changing, and the going won’t be easy.

I felt that he was speaking to me, challenging me. Before I came to university, I considered going into ministry. Since then, the idea has come up from time to time, and I have flirted with it. This week, I’ve been experiencing a resurgance of those thoughts and feelings. It started on Thursday night when I chatted with Sarah for a while after a book discussion. Then it came up a couple of times during the conference. Then again later in the day as I was walking. I’ve recently felt that I should be doing God’s work hands-on; I don’t think I will be happy with a cushy job and just financially support a church or something like that. I’ve been feeling that I need to jump into the deep end.

The winds of change are blowing. Their gusts are getting stronger and, before long, I think there will be a hurricane. I still don’t know whether I should be retreating into a storm shelter and wait until the aftermath, or if I should go run out ahead of it and spread the word about it. The scale of this decision is enormous. I’m scared. What on earth is happening to me?!

3 Responses to “Ode To Aztecs”

  1. Jasmine Says:

    Dude! I’m excited to see where God is leading you! Your life is going to be cool, and I’ll be glad to kinda be on the inside. God is going to do awesome things with you. You have great potential.


    (you are not allowed to say anything bad in response to my exuberant post. no putting yourself down, boy.)

  2. Rodney Says:

    Interesting – I could definitely see you in the ministry. Wow, that’s quite the opposite of what your program is :). God is using you Justin; you never know where He’s going to take you.

  3. Justin Says:

    Yeah it’s pretty crazy… *pensive*

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