Saturday, July 12, 2008

the institution must die to be reborn, part 3

but, while we grieve over the church in the west, we must also stand fast in faith. that is, while we experience this pruning, this marginalization and this institutional death that leaves us in chaos, we still must diligently seek to be faithful to the living christ.

this may seem an easy proposition, but, with the loss of our plausibility structure, the challenges to our faithfulness will mount higher and higher. as peter berger once said: “in a world of people it is very difficult to believe anything by oneself.”

to be faithful, then:
  • we must go old, ancient. we must re-discover and return to the rhythms and cadences that christians practiced when they were a minority like we are now. this means we must produce a serious (i.e with passion and consistency) re-learning of how to live out all aspects of that ancient canon (e.g. bible, liturgy, communion, kergyma, calendar, prayer-practices and even the people) bequeathed to us by the first three centuries of christian ritual
  • we must we look to the text as a gift, as an act of imagination, by which to visualize a new future (walter brueggmann from here)
  • we must stiffly resist the final death-grip of christendom’s official agents who will consistently tell us that we are heretic and liberal. believe me, there are worst things to be
  •  we must move beyond the divisions of denomination and even the macro categories of christianity, seeking instead to heal those old arguments and cooperating where we can
  • we must study to incarnate ourselves within the post-christian community context, abstaining from the seduction of the american dream, while at the same time working for a renewal of the common good. this point must not be taken as giving us a task of cultural maintenance or chaplaincy, or in any way seeking cultural acceptance. instead, this movement toward incarnation is meant to create a communal space where the kerygma can be heard and seen and practiced
  • and, finally, we must most especially ground this faithfulness project within a new theological perspective, one that intensely understands that the person and work of the christ includes not only forgiveness, but a theology of the cross that offers an example of sacrifice, and particularly the building of a new community as well.
in short, knowing that we ourselves will not live to see the new wineskins, we must be faithful to clear the way for those who will come after us. this is actually a very serious warning to those who think that because they are young, and because they do church differently, that they have produced the new form church will take.

as the bard of the 60’s told us, “the wheel's still in spin.”

i remember in the 70’s being part of the church renewal movement. ever heard of it? no? well, that’s the lesson. back in the day we too were sure that we were on the cutting edge. but we learned that christendom, although very sick even back then, still owned extremely sharp teeth, even if they were in a glass by the bed. those of us who experienced how christendom outlasted church renewal were taught a very keen sense of humility. not a bad thing to have when you’ve lost your way.

we see the same biblical warning when we remember that, even when the children israel were freed from the slavery of egypt, the slavery mindset still resided deep within them. so deep was it, in fact, that the original generation was kept from the promised land. the point here is that christendom, like egyptian slavery, has polluted us all.

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