John Meunier

Author's details

Name: John Meunier
Date registered: March 3, 2012

Latest posts

  1. John Meunier: My problem with pluralism — July 28, 2014
  2. John Meunier: Power in prayer — July 25, 2014
  3. John Meunier: Gospel & obedience #LukeActs2014 — July 25, 2014
  4. John Meunier: Christ, doctrine, & holiness — July 24, 2014
  5. John Meunier: Learning to talk about God — July 22, 2014

Most commented posts

  1. John Meunier: DeLong covenant document criticizes UMC — 6 comments
  2. John Meunier: Bishop Schol affirms loving, committed same-sex relationships — 5 comments
  3. John Meunier: You win or lose as a team — 3 comments
  4. John Meunier: If we die, we die — 2 comments
  5. John Meunier: How do you respond to Ms. McEwen? — 2 comments

Author's posts listings

Jul 28 2014

John Meunier: My problem with pluralism

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On Friday, I attended afternoon prayers at the local Islamic Center with my colleagues from CPE. After the prayers were over, one of the Muslim gentlemen came over to our group and started to evangelize us with stories about how the Quran explains that Jesus did not die on the cross.

I appreciated his efforts, even if they were a bit of an embarrassment to our host. Our host tried to get us away from our evangelizer and apologized for his brother in the faith’s tactics. As it turns out, many advocates of interfaith pluralism find evangelism awkward and uncouth.

This is a big part of why I find pluralism so difficult to embrace.

I find it difficult because I live in a culture that wants to put claims on people that are inconsistent with the gospel. And here, when I speak of the culture contrary to the gospel, I do not mean people like my Muslim evangelizer. I mean majority American culture.

Pluralism is the watchword of that culture. It says what we believe about God does not really matter, so long as we keep it to ourselves. As long as what we believe stays locked up inside our own heads and behind our church doors, everything is fine. The culture wants us buying Big Macs and paying our taxes on time. Religion gets in the way of that, and so our culture tries to keep religion a private matter, something best not shared or discussed in mixed company. Our culture uses the word “preach” as a pejorative term. “Don’t preach at me.”

Preaching itself is a struggle against the notion that every American has a God-given right to decide for himself or herself what the truth is and to live the life that they think best suits them. Opening up a Bible and saying the God revealed in its pages is the one who should determine who we are and how we live crashes head long into much of the value system promoted in American culture.

This message goes under the cover of saying Christians should not try to convert Jews or Muslims, but there is no reason at all why the logic of the message is limited to fellow monotheists. Americans have a lot of beliefs and practices that run counter to the gospel.

If we think it is wrong to try to evangelize Jews or Muslims or Hindus, then why should we consider it okay to evangelize pagans or materialists or those who are vaguely spiritual but not religious?

In other words, I have a hard time with pluralism precisely because I believe the people in the churches I serve need Jesus Christ. If I thought they could be just as well off with any set of beliefs that they happened to find suitable for themselves, then I would not bother to preach. But if I am convinced that preaching Jesus Christ and his gospel is good for the people who show up in the pews where I serve, then I should think it is good for people who worship other gods as well.

Or that is how it seems to me.

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Jul 25 2014

John Meunier: Power in prayer

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A reader posted this comment and question on a previous post. I thought it was interesting enough to put it out here to see if any of my readers wanted to share their stories:

There’s a great story by the priest who does the Alpha series. Early in his ministry a parishioner asked him to pray for healing of a serious illness. He was very uncomfortable doing this but did anyway, not really expecting anything to change, perhaps the person would “feel better” but nothing more. He was hesitant to inquire at any time over the next few weeks about the condition not expecting to hear any good news and not sure what he would say at that point. Interestingly, the question of the parishoner’s illness did come up as a side issue some months later and the response was something like, “Oh, that problem went away right after you prayed over me”. The priest was shocked and chagrined at the same time and learned first-hand about the power of prayer.

At least this is the story as I remember it. I wonder if readers of this blog have had similar experiences.

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Jul 25 2014

John Meunier: Gospel & obedience #LukeActs2014

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My trip to Israel and this summer in CPE derailed my participation in #LukeActs2014. So, here I am jumping back on the bandwagon.

Peter and the other apostles replied: “We must obey God rather than human beings! The God of our ancestors raised Jesus from the dead — whom you killed by hanging him on a cross. God exalted him to his own right hand as Prince and Savior that he might bring Israel to repentance and forgive their sins. We are witnesses of these things, and so is the Holy Spirit, whom God has given to those who obey him. (Acts 5:29-32, NIV)

As I was reflecting on this gospel message, I was struck by the depiction of Jesus’ work as ongoing. Here we do not get the emphasis on the cross as the place of forgiveness. Jesus was killed, but when Peter starts talking about forgiving sins, he is speaking of what sounds like in this English translation an ongoing activity. He brings us to repentance and forgives our sins because he is the Prince and Savior of the world.

I am reminded of all those sins he forgave before he was crucified.

Peter does not seem to be operating out of any of our widely discussed atonement theories here.

I note as well in this passage how Peter begins and ends with obedience to God. We must obey. Only those who obey receive the Holy Spirit.

It sets my heart to wondering exactly what that obedience looks like. In Acts 5, we certainly get some powerful indications of what apostolic obedience looks like. We get Ananias and Sapphira opening the chapter and the persecuted apostles returning again and again to the temple courts to teach in the name of Jesus despite floggings and arrests. We get the report that the apostles rejoiced that they were worthy of suffering for the name of Jesus.

That is just a taste of what obedience looks like, but how mighty a challenge it is to my frail resolve.

I got some bad news this week about my future ministry plans. It was nothing like being flogged or thrown in jail, but it put me in low spirits. It got me down. I was not celebrating and rejoicing because I was worthy to suffer.

I need the apostles before me to remind me what it looks like to be the church.

Day after day, in the temple courts and from house to house, they never stopped teaching and proclaiming the good news that Jesus is the Messiah. (Acts 5:42, NIV)

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Jul 24 2014

John Meunier: Christ, doctrine, & holiness

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Joel Watts writes that matters of sexuality are not about Christ or doctrine, but holiness.

For me, the via media focuses on Christ. As a subset of this, it focuses on orthodox doctrines of the Church. For most of us, the issue of homosexuality is not a doctrinal matter (i.e., Trinity, baptism, episcopal authority) but is a matter (in Wesleyan terms) of holiness. That is why I can focus on episcopal authority even while arguing for inclusion. I can focus on orthodoxy, hold to prima scripture, and attempt to be a part of the Great Tradition while arguing for inclusion.

The way his words flow here, it reads to me as if he is saying orthodox doctrine is “a subset” of a focus on Christ but that holiness is not. Perhaps he is merely saying holiness is a different subset of the focus on Christ. Or maybe he is saying holiness is a subset of doctrine. I’m not entirely sure.

In any event, he has me puzzling a bit about the relationship between doctrine and holiness. I’ve always taken holiness — which is another word for sanctification which for Wesley is another word for salvation — to be itself part of the doctrine of the Christian Church. Holiness is what it means to live out our baptismal vows. It is what it means to be saved.

I don’t see how we can disagree about what it means to be holy and say we agree on the doctrines of justification and sanctification, for instance. Furthermore, if pressed, I’d argue that holiness comes before doctrine.

First, we focus on Christ. In this focus, what we notice overwhelmingly is his holiness. It is only after this that we begin to develop the superstructure of doctrine that gives shape and stability to our beliefs and practices. The Church was the church when all it had before it was the holiness of Christ. It did not have to wait for Nicea to become the church. All we needed was Christ and his holiness.

This is why questions about food laws and circumcision were existential issues for the church. They cut to the meaning of holiness.

Which is all a way of saying that I find matters of holiness more important than doctrine when it comes to Christian unity. And I think Wesley would agree.

This has little to do with the main point that Watts was trying to make about United Methodism and schism and so on, but it his post got my gears moving.

When it comes to questions of doctrine vs. questions of holiness, which do you think is more crucial for the unity of the church and the life of the Christian?

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Jul 22 2014

John Meunier: Learning to talk about God

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One of the things I have noticed while taking Clinical Pastoral Education is how difficult it is for so many people talk about their faith and about God.

I’m not sure if people lack the vocabulary, the experience, or the comfort needed to converse about matters of the spirit, but for so many people the awkwardness of it all is profound.

Ask them about family and the words come easily. As them about work, and no problem. Ask them about their illness and they can give you details about their symptoms, their diagnosis, their treatment, and their hopes.

Ask about God, and most people are reduced to babbling cliches or sitting in silence.

It makes me see the value of those class meetings where people not only were invited each week to talk about their spiritual life but were able to hear others do the same. It must have built up a vocabulary. It meant that people could answer the question, “Do you know Jesus?” without stammering.

Recovering this ability to talk about the life of the spirit without empty cliches or stammering silence would help bring life to the church.

What are some ways we can do that?

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Jul 21 2014

John Meunier: Covenant: Crown or curse?

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Have you ever read the full statement from which the Covenant Prayer in the Wesleyan Tradition is adapted?

Directions for Renewing Our Covenant with God

In the second section of the pamphlet, Wesley lays out the choice in clear terms:

Turn either to the right-hand or the left; lay both parts before you, with every link of each; Christ with his yoke, this cross and his crown; or the Devil with his wealth, his pleasure and curse: and then put yourselves to thus: “Soul, thou sees what is before thee, what wilt thou do? Which will thou have, either the crown or the curse? If thou chose the crown, remember that the day  thou take this, thou must be content to submit to the cross and yoke, the service and sufferings of Christ, which are linked to it. What sayest thou? Hadst thou rather take the gains and pleasures of sin, and venture on the curse? Or will thou yield thyself a servant to Christ, and so make sure the crown?

Suffice it to say, Wesley was not schooled in seeker sensitive ministry.

Read the entire pamphlet for the full scope of the meaning of covenant in the Wesleyan tradition that is suggested and hinted at in the prayer from the United Methodist Hymnal.

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