Engage: Introduction

Living in a New Awakening means living in a time of disorder. [1] The twisting and turning leaves us hopeful some days, and discouraged on other days. It helps explain the two aspects of faith the writer of Hebrews wrote about– “the conviction of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen” (11:1). The rest of the chapter describes the disorder Christians were experiencing.

To live well in such a time requires courage and community. [2] The book of Hebrews sought to offer both to the early Christians. The “Engage” component of Oboedire begins today, with the aim of assisting in the formation of both these attributes today.

Community will occur through common reading, a formative practice used in Christianity and other religions for a long time. Courage will be fostered by reading books that look realistically at the time in which we live, looking at this time with hope, and looking at it with the intent to (as John Wesley put it), “engage ourselves unto the Lord.” [3] He meant an engagement rooted and enacted in relation to the two great commandments with the increase of personal and social holiness in our lives.

The book we will read together first is Richard Rohr’s ‘What Do We Do With Evil?’ It is exactly the way I want “Engage” to begin, for it asks the question we are all asking, and it provides wise counsel in response to it. It increases our courage for living well.

The book can be ordered directly on the Center for Action and Contemplation website (cac.org), via Amazon Books (not Kindle Books), or through an independent bookseller near you. [4] With postal delays increasing, order the book soon to insure it arrives in time for us to begin reading it together on May 30th.

Between now and then, I will add some additional “Engage” posts. From May 30th onward, I will post a brief weekly guide for each week’s reading.

Community will also happen through occasional Zoom meetings while we are reading the book, occasions where we can share insights, ask questions, and practice the means of grace called holy conferencing. I will announce these meetings in advance and provide the link for joining the 40-minute meeting. I plan to offer the them at Noon (Eastern Time). Through each one we will experience what Eugene Peterson called “the ministry of small talk.”

Everything on Oboedire is voluntary. You do not have to register to be part of the “Engage” group. But if you would like me to know you are joining the journey, send me an email: oboediresite@gmail.com. It would be nice to have an idea as to who and how many of us are on the journey.

My intent is to follow our reading of Rohr’s book with Walter Brueggemann’s ‘Tenacious Solidarity.’ He expands on many things we will discover from Richard Rohr, with applications to economics, racism, climate, and religion. Reading these two books together will be a rich experience for us. The two books will lay a good foundation upon which we can build. And more, they will give us a place to stand in our respective ministries of engagement.

The “Engage” journey is more of a marathon than a sprint. “Engaging ourselves unto the Lord” is not an event or a program; it is an ongoing commitment we make. And it is one facilitated through a “life together” practice. I hope the “Engage” experience will be a means of encouragement and education to that end.

You can read more about “Engage” on the top of the Oboedire home page by clicking on the “Engage Group” icon

[1] Richard Rohr describes the journey in his book, ‘The Wisdom Pattern’–the transformative process of moving from order, to disorder, to reorder.

[2] The Courage Renewal movement begun by Parker Palmer years ago offers a wealth of resources for cultivating courage and enacting it through nonviolent resistance.

[3] This phrase was part of the invitation extended to worshippers in the Covenant Renewal Service of early Methodism. It was an annual means to keep the flame of long-haul discipleship burning. It is still used today. Magrey deVega’s book, ‘One Faithful Promise’ is an excellent exploration of the Service and the importance of covenant living faith.

[4] On some sights, the book is entitled, ‘The World, the Flesh, and the Devil: What Do We Do With Evil?”—which moves the original subtitle to the main title.

About Steve Harper

Dr. Steve Harper is retired seminary professor, who taught for 32 years in the disciplines of Spiritual Formation and Wesley Studies. Author and co-author of 45 books. He is also a retired Elder in The Florida Annual Conference of The United Methodist Church.
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