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Your Kingdom come, your will be done on Earth…

March 26, 2008

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The Other:  Postmodern shorthand for anyone differing in any way from “us,” born of the reality that in an era of radical pluralism and globalization, we are constantly confronted with people who are indeed different from us.

Tony Jones, The New Christians:  Dispatches from the Emergent Frontier

Jesus and the Kingdom, Brian McLaren

Can you imagine a community that is willing to live in the way of Jesus–to live in such a way that radically invites relationship with the Other? 

Who is the Other (whom we are called to love)? 

Is it the jobless, shiftless young male who is fathering children, but takes no responsibility for helping support them?  Is it the unwed teenage mother who is not prepared to sacrifice–the cravings of cigarettes…the late-night vagabond carelessness of youth–to care for a totally dependent baby. 

Is the Other the gay or lesbian co-worker?  Am I able to see this person as one whom God loves?  How do we make visible the love of God as we relate to the Other in this person? 

Are we willing to make visible the love of God to the Other?  Can we make room for relationship with the Other in our communities?

Can we make room for the single person who challenges the value system and priorities of a communal narrative slanted towards marriage and family?

Can we make room for the person from the Other political party?  Can we engage in conversation with them and together seek answers that arise out of a careful reading of the Gospel in the covenanted Community of Jesus?

Can we image a people who allow themselves to trust that God is at work in the world?  What would it look like if this people would enter the world looking for ways God is at work–redeeming, transforming?  What if we would be willing to look at the whole world–not just the parts that validate our story, our lifestyle, our ideas?

What would happen if a community would be so shaped by Gospel that they could trust God’s Spirit to guide them as they encountered Jesus in the Other–no matter who that person is?  What would happen if we acknowledged our fears and insecurities?  What if we confessed these fears as shaping the way we engage with the Other?

How would this kind of Community engage with the Other?  What kind of people might we have occasion to be in relationship with?  What if we could acknowledge the way such a posture would threaten our nice little bounded-set cultures of people who predominantly look like me, talk like me, think like me, vote like me, etc.? 

What if we would truly live in such a way that expressed the petition of the Lord’s prayer–that God’s Kingdom would come on Earth as it is in heaven?  What if we would truly believe that God’s mission is primarily about the Kingdom of Jesus–the neighbor-serving, peace-making, righteous-acting, enemy-loving, justice-doing Kingdom–coming on earth.  That the Good News is not primarily about getting people “saved” so that they can go to heaven when they die…

What if a community would be willing to let the difficult questions be voiced?  The ones that are unsettling to our airtight perspectives.  What if the way we related to Truth was made visible more by a way of living than by a set of beliefs.  A way of living in relationship with the Word made flesh…a way of living among a people seeking to uncover the way of Jesus.

What if Truth seeds were let out of airtight packets–containers?  What if truth seeds were allowed to take root in our lives–in whatever condition the soil exists.  And then, what if those seeds would scatter inadvertantly as the wind of the Spirit blows through our lives.  Can we image that they might sprout and grow in all kinds of places outside the “greenhouse” of “Christian sub-culture”?  Do we believe that the seeds of Gospel can sprout and grow amidst the sulferous stench of rusted, delapidation?  

What if a community would be willing to wrestle with God, with Scripture, and with each other in such as way that uncovers the essense of truth, love, and community that is present in the life of the Trinity?  A community of conversation and inclusion.  A community of encounter and manifold beauty.  A community of embrace and inclusion–not coercive “power over.”  A cosmic community that is inseparably bound to the whole of creation because of the Incarnation.  

What if a community was willing to risk loving the Other–seeing the Other as Jesus?  How would this kind of engagement with world change us?  What if we saw this as central to what it means to be Church?   

Can you imagine?

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15 Comments leave one →
  1. March 26, 2008 3:27 pm

    Yes!

    You ask, “What if . . . What if . . . What if . . .”

    I ask, “When will we . . . How long . . . ?”

  2. snailguru permalink
    March 26, 2008 5:13 pm

    Good questions!! What if we…? When will we…?

    What about “when will I…?”

    Loving the Other as I love myself. Loving myself because I love God. Loving God because he loved me first.

    1+1=2, and so forth.

    This way of love that we speak of is a painful road and there needs to be the hope of great joy at the end of it in order to endure it.

    What if we really believed that the community we long for, that the kingdom come, has indeed come?

    It starts with each of us…

  3. just an apprentice permalink
    March 26, 2008 5:44 pm

    snailguru,
    Such a good word! Nobody else can seek the Kingdom for me. And we don’t seek the Kingdom privately, independently from relationships.

    If I want to be a part of the Community of the Kingdom, I begin by seeking Jesus and his Kingdom. It happens as I engage the Other…as I make room for relationships…as I walk the painful road with the hope of great great joy. If I am not experiencing this level of authentic (Eucharistic, missional) Community, I must begin by asking how I am ordering my life.

    The Kingdom has come. And we pray for it to continue to come. And we orient our lives accordingly.

  4. March 26, 2008 7:09 pm

    “If I am not experiencing this level of authentic (Eucharistic, missional) Community, I must begin by asking how I am ordering my life.”

    What do you mean by this? Is this a fair question when community really does depend on WE not just I? I would say, If I am not PARTICIPATING in this level of . . . community, I must begin by asking . . . well, I’m not sure what to ask. Maybe your question is valid. I’d rather ask, “why?”

  5. just an apprentice permalink
    March 26, 2008 7:28 pm

    Dawn,
    Community does depend on WE not just I. I guess I am thinking about the mutuality of Community. I can’t just lay all the blame on the doorstep of those who I am desiring to be in community with–if somehow my experience is not living up to my expectations. Perhaps I am so busy that I do not have time for deeper expressions of community to develop. Perhaps I am content with the familial relationships and don’t sense a need to pursue the primacy of Church family. Perhaps my priorities are toward career, education, my social set, whatever…to the degree that there is little left to find a communal rhythm of spirituality, table fellowship, and missional practices. It certainly takes more than ME to uncover this kind of community, but it cannot exclude the responsibility that each individual, each household, each social set, has in preserving a healthy order–a rule of life that is balanced.

    I would also say this about Community. True community is not something we “create.” True community always grows out of communion with the Trinity. Anything else is usually a flat replica–a synthetic fabrication, a house of cards.

    True community (centered around the worship of God–Father, Son and Holy Spirit) uncovers a mutual submission that gives up place for other. There is an outward focus–sacrificial love for world, Incarnation. A Kingdom community will make visible this same movement, this same openness to Other. The Trinity reveals unity and diversity–I and WE related in a synergistic dance of love and beauty. Any true expression of human community, I believe will reflect this reality–I and WE…unity and diversity…synergy of love and beauty.

  6. March 26, 2008 9:05 pm

    I do not disagree with what you have just said though I think you are making some assumptions that could be offensive . . . and I will choose to ignore those right now. I guess what discourages me is how do you get from these words to the reality you speak of. And I suppose there is no simple answer.

  7. just an apprentice permalink
    March 26, 2008 9:21 pm

    Dawn,
    You sound less than convinced. I await to hear the needed correction you might offer to my offensive assumptions. I really mean that.

    The Gospel is offensive, but I do not wish my assumptions to be offensive if they are not being informed by the Gospel.

    To me this kind of conversation is only possible within a mutually accountable community that is seeking to be oriented by the already present reality of the Kingdom of God.

  8. March 27, 2008 2:23 am

    We get so passionate about this. Relationships are so important. Our hopes, dreams, fears and frustrations all seem to collide at once.

    Having gone through a pretty tough journey, one in which great joy was at the end (and there’s more to come), I end up longing for this thing we dream of – community. As it stands, I feel God leading me, as you say, further into true community with the Trinity. The clear message to me is that it’s the Lord that builds the house and anything else I try to do outside of that is in vain.

    So right now I just live out of the journey God has led me on and get beside those along the way based on the love that God has shown me and the love that I am able to give. Once you learn the ways of the kingdom, then you cannot help but be an influence on the community around you.

    Again, 1+1=2. God does the multiplication.

  9. March 27, 2008 10:28 am

    I cannot begin to express all my thoughts related to this in a comment box. But I will say this, I believe you are thinking backwards. You do not get people to think missionally by asking them to give up everything to become community first. You start with a calling God gives to the Body. When people feel a calling, I think people then will see what the calling will entail and lifestyle adjustments will happen automatically as they rally around that call. Out of all of that, then, is how community is formed — which may be a bit what you were trying to say. Community is purely a by-product of cooperation around something common, not a means in and of itself. HOWEVER, it is the entity that sustains a Calling and maintains unity in the Body. I look at it like how you always say, Christ doesn’t invite only those who already have their act together, rather those who are broken. Don’t ask people to drop everything without a Call. Help them discern the call and then they will realize how to act.

    I think the reason people invest in “other” things is because they are aimless and don’t really know what God is calling them to. When people are focussed and clear, a lot of discontent and complaining and frustration disappears because suddenly everyone is in the same boat together. And those who have been “on the fringes” looking like they are not committed are suddenly aware that they don’t want to be left out. They will join in too. I think you would be surprised what changes people would be willing to make if only they felt a call to something rather than expected to figure it out and then announce it in church one day.

    Living missionally CANNOT be done in a Body that expects everyone to change their lifestyles for something “I feel God calling ME to.” That is exclusionary and divisive. It does not promote community. You are right, community in that sense is man-made and a cheap replica.

    And furthermore, even if someone is in tune with the Spirit’s voice and recognizes the call of Jesus, there are very few people like Darryl and Janice who are going to be brave enough to voice what they are feeling “called” to. Who is brave enough to venture out on their own on something. We NEED each other more than we realize. And what is most frustrating to me is that we need each other more than people are willing to admit. The world does not need more Lone-Ranger Christians. Does not the message and very example of the Trinity tell us so?

  10. March 27, 2008 10:50 am

    And to continue the idea of needing one another – it is because of just what you said! We have other commitments, we have families, we have personal needs and problems. WE ARE HUMAN! Why do we measure a person’s commitment by how many DIFFERENT things we are involved with at church? Why do we try to “do it all” even as a congregation?

    Dependence is a hard lesson, but it is essential to teamwork and ultimately, community. It is great to see the BoH team at church gradually see and become comfortable with the fact that we each cannot “do it all” rather we DEPEND on one another to pick up different parts of the whole “call” in ways that are humanly possible for each of us.

    So we write a book about all the things that are important to us about worship. Why don’t we do that for what we see as important to us as far as mission? Why don’t we take the time to hash that around, pray for discernment, sense God’s priorities for us? If we want to build community, then out of our corporate worship, I believe, needs to also come a corporate mission. And your mission cannot just say, “go!” That is assuming people will know what to do. We need to be sent together and work together and hold one another accountable together. Living missionally is no different than being sent on a mission. Your whole life changes, centered around that Call and the One who called you.

  11. just an apprentice permalink
    March 27, 2008 11:14 am

    Dawn said: “We need to be sent together and work together and hold one another accountable together. Living missionally is no different than being sent on a mission. Your whole life changes, centered around that Call and the One who called you.”

    I am in total agreement with what you are saying. Perhaps I did not clearly articulate what I was saying about Community. Community is not something we create as we pursue it. Rather, it is the mission of God that gives us a common cause, an identity. The gathered worshiping community helps us to discern God’s mission and the call on our lives.

    It was not my purpose in the original post (or in any subsequent comment) to emphasize the participation of ME over and against a sense of WE. Without WE there is no ME.

    The Trinity reveals three distinctive persons. However, they are one. This is a mystery. So it is in the Body of Christ. Though we are many (interdependent) parts, we are One.

    Dawn said: “Why don’t we take the time to hash that around, pray for discernment, sense God’s priorities for us? If we want to build community, then out of our corporate worship, I believe, needs to also come a corporate mission.”

    I believe these are good questions. I am convinced that they are core questions that should be at the heart of how we understand our identity and vision. I believe that under the umbrella of an overaching vision and ethos of mission–the expressions of this on the ground will be many and varied. As the Spirit calls and equips in a variety of ways, we respond. No, we cannot do it all. Nor should we try to. But I believe each member of our Community should be on a journey of discerning call and vocation that connects in some way to the ministry of reconciliation that we have all been given in Jesus Christ.

  12. March 27, 2008 1:44 pm

    I really can’t keep continuing this conversation, though the weight of the ensuing questions have burdened me for a long time. I do appreciate your perseverance.

    But your ending comment restates your assumptions that I question . . . and perhaps it is an issue of wording or semantics.

    First you allude to journey of discernment. How long does that take? While I am grateful for the concept that the “journey” language has afforded, I think it can become jargon that excuses complacency and lack of desire for accountability. I say this in contrast to the concept of “call” that becomes a vehicle of discernment. I really think this question of “culture of call” is an important one to consider.

    I wonder how much Jesus took into consideration the individual spiritual journey’s of each disciple before he “called” them to be disciples and to “go” and extend the Kingdom! They were called together whether they were ready or not and they went together and grew together and some were pretty surprised afterward at what they were able to do and just what Jesus’ call entailed.

    The second thing you mention that reveals an individualistic assumption is “. . .that connects in some way to the ministry of reconciliation that we have all been given in Jesus Christ.” The ministry of reconciliation is Christ doing it, not us. Thus it is a communal thing by means of the Body. Again, I question the personal discernment part you keep mentioning. I think discernment should be “what is God calling the BODY to” then “who is going to do what in that calling.”

    I’m not diminishing the importance of identifying personal vocations – but I question whether the vocations are the call. Rather they are merely a tool/vehicle to help us work within our call.

    Sorry to keep this going – but I again I appreciate your willingness to open up the discussion.

  13. just an apprentice permalink
    March 27, 2008 2:37 pm

    Dawn,
    As I have read your comments throughout this post I find myself saying nothing but YES! That’s right!

    I think you are familiar enough with my commitment to the communal dimension of being the Body of Christ–my consistent critique against the dangers of Western individualism–to know that I am not pushing for a more individualistic vision of Call, of mission, of uncovering Community.

    Perhaps there are assumptions I still hold that I am blind to. I pray that they are exposed as I continue to walk in the Community of Christ. Thanks for your patience in helping me grasp the nature of Community–shaped by the mission of God.

  14. just an apprentice permalink
    March 27, 2008 2:53 pm

    I would add one more caveat. It is not mission alone that creates Trinitarian community. We are called by God. Our response is worship. We worship and we rehearse the story of God’s saving work in history–uniquely revealed in Jesus Christ. God has acted and we have graciously been invited into his ongoing work in creation.

    The Church–the community built on the foundation of Jesus and the apostles is a living, breathing Community–birthed by water and the Spirit. Again it is not the Individual who is at the center, but God and the people of God–the Church. We are graciously invited into this Story–into this people. It is in the midst of this Community that we discover what God is up to in the world–not on our own. It takes humility to take our places within this Community.

    The seeker-sensitive, consumerist model of Church has not uncovered this depth of fellowship, this depth of common life oriented around missio dei. The very ethos of Western individualism has domesticated the Gospel into a package that focuses on getting individuals into heaven–and beyond that living a good life and being happy.

    I must be honest about the inconsistencies in my own life–lest I sound like a judge who is somehow worthy. I have not, by and large, lived a cruciform life.

  15. Sonal permalink
    June 28, 2010 2:13 pm

    There are too many if and buts in this discussion. I think we all need to just on with doing the will of God and start thinking that his Will will get done on this earth as it is in Heaven and therefore we should start looking at the earth not as a place which we just pass by but a place which will remain and which we need to take care of and the people in it.
    Therefore the need to care of the environment apart from taking care of people, loving and supporting those in needs, those in distant places like Cambodia, India, Congo and all those remote places where life is difficult and things are just not looking like God Kingdom has come there.
    Sonal

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