God Has Died…And He Has a Wonderful Plan for Your Life

Engaging great content at Christianity21. (Courtney Perry)

I’m at Christianity21 this week, a gathering produced by Doug Pagitt, Sarah Cunningham, and Your Favorite Blogger. We’re one day in, and it’s been awesome. One of the great things about this event is that there’s no theme, and there are 21 gifted speakers, so we never really know what magic will happen in the chemistry between the talks.

They don’t all agree, but they do tend to dovetail with one another. Yesterday, Jonathan Merritt led off the opening session with a challenge to follow God’s call and listen to the unlikely ways that God speaks. Paul Raushenbush went next with a call for conservatives and liberals to rediscover the social gospel. Noel Castellanos told us five things we can do to engage with people and the gospel. And Nadia Bolz-Weber told us ten things she’s learned about being a pastor and church planter.

In the next session, Kent Dobson gave an amazing reflection on the absence of God, Sarah Lefton challenged us to engage Christians in biblical literacy in the way that she has challenged Jews, Mike Foster reminded us how everyone needs to be loved, and Romal Tune told us that the church needs to compete with gangs for the youth of LA.

In between, we had a couple dozen 7-minute talks by attendees from around the country. Today more talks. And tomorrow, even more, including my call to recover apocalyptic language for the church. Check back here for updates.

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Christianity21 is a ground-breaking gathering of leaders who want to fashion the future of the Christian faith. 21 Talks, 21 Big Ideas, 21 Minutes Each. Plus, over forty 7-21 Talks by amazing people just like you. Join us in Denver, Colorado, January 9-11.Click here for $50 off.

Progressive Youth Ministry is a first-of-its-kind conference for those who do student ministry and care about progressive Christian theology. With the three themes of theology, faith formation, and sexuality, this gathering will chart a new course for youth ministry. Join us March 19-21 in Chicago. Click here for $50 off.

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Our Trip to Italy

It wasn’t so much this:

 

It was more of this:

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St. Francis: “I Know What the Fox Says”

The Hermitage of St. Francis (c) Courtney Perry

We’re in Assisi, home of St. Francis. Today Courtney and I hiked up the mountain outside of town to Francis’s hermitage. Built into the side of the mountain, it’s an amazing complex of cells and chapels and doorways I could barely squeeze through. I’m guessing that Francis was a small man — most Umbrians are.

Like Mother Teresa, Francis was recognized as a very special and holy person during his own lifetime. Only two years after his death, he was canonized, and the basilica in his honor was started in Assisi. That basilica, which we also visited today, is breathtaking, with frescoes by Giotto, Cimabue, and others. In the crypt below the lower basilica, Francis is buried in a simple stone sarcophagus. Fronted by a small chapel, about a dozen pilgrims sat today in the presence of the saints tomb. Several openly wept.

There’s more myth than fact about Francis’s life. Some scholars think that he didn’t actually write the “Canticle to the Sun,” and all agree that he didn’t compose the “Prayer of St. Francis.” Nevertheless, the life — and myth — of St. Francis still moves people to tears. Nikos Kazantzankis addresses this wonderfully in the prologue to his historical novel, Saint Francis:

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