News, Connections and Photos from the life of the faith community at CAPC Oakland
Somehow along the way we all get lost in the journey of faith. In a sense we mistake either or for both and in the invitational commands of God for us to become new in Christ. And then we seem to aim lower, settling for faith based on neither nor, because of fear of loss, fear of change or fear of failure. We witness this circuitious path in the history of the Church and the unfolding story of missions. Somehow we end of cheapening the community of faith in Christ from one formed from a faith-based experience of mutual forebearance, life-giving interdepency and radical inclusivity to one of rigid hierarchy, brittle dogmatism and blinding self-concern. In the early centuries and the Common Era this was first seen in the life of the desert hermits, Christian mystics in Egypt (primiarly) who saw withdrawing from the world (the distrortions of culture, society and the subsequent accomodation of the Church) to the loneliness of the desert where was was utterly dependent upon God for susteance, life, sanity and peace.
A few centuries later we again see this desire to reconnect with the original spirit of the Gospel good-news: the teaching of Jesus. This time it’s in the British Isles: Britain is Roman and “Christian” whereas Ireland has never been romanized or evangelized. In the Empire romanization and Christianisation have come to be the same thing, interchangeable. Those who are romanized or citizens of the Empire seem unworthy. And yet Patrick, of St. Patrick’s fame, returns to Ireland, where he first went as a slave, to share the good news of Jesus Christ in a culture to which Jesus is foreign, and whose notions of ethics, wisdom and values are diametrically different from those of the Mediterranean World, the Empire, which has become officially and legally “Christian.” Martin of Tours, Patrick in Ireland, later Columba in Scotland, Brigid of Kildare, and Francis of Assisi, along with Mother Teresa in Calcutta, Shane Claieborne in Philly, and countless others, work to live the faith, to try on the life of Jesus – and find that it fits like a glove, better than what the insitutional church has been offering and that they thrive and know God in a new depth, immediacy and intimacy.
We’ve talked about the mission journey statement in Acts 1, being witnesses for and of Christ from Jerusalem, to Judea, to Samaria, to the ends of the Earth. I interpret that to mean from where we are, to those we call our own, to those on the margins of our world, to those outside of what we imagine. All are part of God’s plan, and to whom we are invited to share the gospel by loving them as God has first loved us.
So how do we do that in an age that is distrustful of institutions (specifially the Church), anti-hierarchical in terms of commands, open-sourced regarding new ideas, and struggling to speak a coherent message with a vocabulary (church-ese) which is loaded with diverging and divisive levels of meaning? An example is someone I spoke with this week who refuses to be idenitfied as a Christian, and yet affirmed that God is love and we know Love because of God, and that we make God known when we love.
The selection from 1 Corinthians is part of a letter written to a church community that has become rigidly codified. They seem to be basing all of their decisions about worship, community and ministry from the point of view of a classificiation of who is better and best in the church community based on their social status, and “spiritual prowress”. Paul recenters them, reminding them of the true nature of the community created through the experience of Christ. He writes about the radical inclusivity and transformative mutual forebearance of the gospel – as Love being the great gift, power, the end and the means.
1 John is a letter written to a church polarized by infighting. They are paralyized by the opposition thinking faith and orthodox belief, or loving as Christ loved or ortho-praxis (correct doing). They’ve become so self-focused, that they’ve forgotten their misison to be other-focused: to love as God first loves us. John writes to recenter them, composing a word that most likely inspired the prophetic voices of those who changed the church and refocused the mission of the Church over the ages.
Question for Going Deeper:
1. What grabs your attention in these texts?
2. How are you – or we as a church – stuck in neither/nor thinking?
3. What does the word mission(s) mean to you? For you?
4. How is following Jesus a question of doing?; being?; becoming?
5. Do you have a mission? Or do we as a church have a mission?