For as much as I love writing, you might think I’d be doing more of it while in seminary. I have plenty of moments of losing myself in thought, to be sure. But, somehow there’s always something of a logjam between me and the writing. I don’t mean papers or assignments – I mean this blog, where I theoretically work out *stuff*. Ah well. It does more good to just be thankful for a moment that drives me back here. And, I just had a couple thoughts…..
I just got back from Emergence Christianity, a conference that was just held in Memphis. More about that later. But the main thing I want to say here is that I am a disciple of Jesus Christ. It feels really odd for me to say that, maybe because I’ve spent time as the outsider rejected by the church. Or maybe it’s because I’ve heard churches harp on it, so obviously we’re failing, right? Or maybe it’s something about that old Adam vs. new Adam thing, that actually leaves us feeling like we could never be disciples of Jesus.
Well, in the end, it feels strangely empowering to me to be able to make this statement to myself. A declaration of who I am under God, and within the church – the body of Christ. I have much reflection to do on this. But in any case, I just want to declare this for myself, because I sense it’s important, and something is changing in my thinking that I don’t yet perceive.
It has taken me since May to finally realize just this single thought. Mission is realizing that we are the in-breaking of the kingdom of God, and not just observers being convinced that it’s happening and feeling joy because of it.
I understand “post-Christian” in these times to mean that Christianity is not the only game in town. It doesn’t make good citizens, necessarily. I work with atheists, Hindus, and I’m sure plenty of other faiths each day. Yes, atheism is a faith. The old assumptions no longer apply, that everyone automatically knows what I’m talking about. When I realize I just asked my Hindu colleagues what they’re doing for Christmas – that’s me forgetting that we’re post-Christian, and falling into old, dead patterns.
In Sunday worship, we’re reminded that we are witnessing the in-breaking of the kingdom of God. It defies conventional wisdom, and stretches into a justice, equality, and peace that we otherwise cannot perceive. When we allow our imaginations to blossom, we can believe that we see it, and it becomes our reality. The kingdom of God has become real in our hearts.
But then, the big leap is to connect ourselves to that very in-breaking. To self-identify as being a part of it. Missional thinking is that self-identification, and letting it inform our actions.
It’s me reflecting on what I see and hear in my own congregation, and naming where I see us embodying self-centeredness. I may be right or wrong, but the resulting tension I feel and that drives me to question is me acting in a missional way. It’s that impelling pressure perceived by others that embodies me living out my missional calling within the body of Christ. And allowing my faith to imagine that it takes seed where it might (thinking the Parable of the Sower). As more of us become missional, we collectively push on the institution of the Church as it is, keeping in mind that we sometimes misinterpret or apply our own biases inappropriately, but still pushing nonetheless.
Much as we depend on retelling each other the Gospel, we depend on each other being missional.
To be concrete – it’s me reflecting on where I see self-centeredness. It’s me serving my congregation to offer intercessions or Sunday School classes that engage the idea of how we are the in-breaking of the kingdom of God. It’s not something “over there” just to give us hope. Beyond that, it’s us here and now. We are the in-breaking of the kingdom, and the acting required for that is our action.
As the people were filled with expectation, and all were questioning in their hearts concerning John, whether he might be the Messiah, John answered all of them by saying, I baptize you with water; but one who is more powerful than I is coming; I am not worthy to untie the thong of his sandals. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. His winnowing fork is in his hand, to clear his threshing floor and to gather the wheat into his granary; but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire. So, with many other exhortations, he proclaimed the good news to the people. – Luke 3:15-18
Wow, so what the heck kind of Advent reading is this? With a friend like you, who needs a…. fill in the blank.
Sometimes I get so angry. I live with someone’s alcoholism. I didn’t know about it until two years ago, when the lies and secrets started rearing their ugly heads before me. And then they just grew. And grew. And I went through so many stages. Controlling. Snooping. Grieving. Raging. Crying. One after the other. And back again like a big loop. Found Al-Anon (the 12 steps for us who deal with another’s alcoholism). Discovered on-line forums where I was blown away to discover I’m not the only one. That was good for me because I figured out that at least I’m not crazy.
…. and it was scary and exciting. It’s scary because I worry whether people will be interested, or whether I’ve got enough stuff planned for the time, or whether anyone will even show up.
But I figured out that it’s bad scene to try and ask people if they’ll come back. So I didn’t.
And I decided to get one of those Post-It easels this week. It will be helpful to stick the sheets on the wall as we fill them out, so that we can all see just how much we’re extracting from the Scripture reading.
And it shows me that I make so many assumptions. I figure that everyone grew up with all these stories, and that I’m in perpetual catch-up mode. I’d hate to retell something obvious. But maybe I don’t have to worry….
This is a reworking of my earlier Crossing analysis, done with very helpful feedback from my Pastor….