Posted on Thu, Mar 2, 2017
Pastor Bob Norton
Recently our Session granted me a five-day continuing education spiritual retreat which blessed my life immensely. We shared the cost for my attending Fuller Theological Seminary’s CULTURE CARE SUMMIT: Creating Beauty in Exile led by Christ-ian artist and author Makoto Fujimura who is the director of Fuller’s Brehm Center for Worship, Theology, and the Arts.
I drove over to Pasadena, California, on Wednesday and our first day together featured a variety of outstanding speakers helping us to understand our culture and how the Christian community can communicate the relevance of Christ and create beauty in the exile. The Babylonian exile created an opportunity for God’s people to bless the culture in which they were held captive (Jeremiah 29:4-23). The Jews cried out “How can we sing the Lord’s songs in a foreign land?” (Psalm 137) But that is exactly what they were called to do. We, too, are called to bless our culture.
On Thursday we heard many powerful testimonies of people who had gone through pain and trauma and had learned to thrive as they sought to create beauty and bring healing to their culture. We learned that beauty lifts people to experience the glory of God and pain enables us to trust God in the most adverse circumstances. In the afternoon, I drove across the city to Westwood Village, the home of University of California Los Angeles. It was at UCLA that I became a Christ follower. My memory walk of 15,000 steps enabled me to enjoy the beauty of the UCLA campus and give thanks for God’s faithfulness in my life. I was able to get a ticket for the UCLA versus Oregon basketball game in the beautifully remodeled Pauley Pavilion where I had watched legendary coach John Wooden lead the Bruins to five national championships while I was studying at UCLA. UCLA won 82-79! Go Bruins!
Friday’s rich fare began with Fuller’s president Mark Labberton inspiring us with a powerful presentation on the Old Testament motifs of Exodus and Exile and then sharing contemporary examples of God’s people creating beauty in challenging situations. One of my favorite authors, Philip Yancey, then brought several talks which were timely and insightful. Yancey is an award-winning writer and author of many notable books, including What’s So Amazing About Grace? His books have sold over 14 million copies. He spoke at a church planter’s luncheon deepening our faith. Also, he spoke at an evening worship service at Lake Avenue Church’s 5,000 seat sanctuary led by a dynamic worship team called Urban Doxology. Yancey’s message focused on how we can serve the Lord so that “no one misses the grace of God…” (Heb 12:15)
Saturday’s charming guest was British composer and conductor John Rutter. I have sung and enjoyed Rutter’s music for many years. What a delight to meet him and listen to his musings on the role of music in the spiritual life. I watched and listened to his rehearsing a 200-voice children’s choir for the Festival of Worship at the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels. He was so winsome. We gathered in the evening for creative worship and a beautiful experience of Holy Communion. What a day!
Heading out of town on the way home, I stopped for worship at Lake Avenue Church and then drove up to Saint Andrew’s Abbey in the high desert town of Valyermo to worship and share lunch with friends from long ago. The Mass was beautiful and the chapel was packed with standing room only.
Driving home to Flagstaff Sunday afternoon and evening, I was so grateful for a spiritual journey of learning and living which brought refreshment and renewal. Thanks for the opportunity to grow in grace through this continuing education event. When is the last time you had a spiritual renewal?
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