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In this first chapter of the book Phyllis Tickle lays out her thesis that every 500 years or so the Church has a giant rummage sale, getting rid of things (practices, structures, strategies) that it no longer needs in the changing world. She asserts that approximately every 500 years human civilization makes a big jump in terms of the way we think, analyze the world, see ourselves and understand our place in the world (in other words the way we approach theology, philosophy, economic theory, political stability, scientific discovery and technological advancement).
She asserts that these changes don’t happen overnight, but rather take several centuries to bubble up, be discerned and decided and finally adapted to. Rather than being terrified of them, we should notice that each time this has happened history shows us that at least three consistent results or corollary events emerge: (p. 17).
The study guide lays this out with a helpful chart (pictured below)
Questions for discussion:
1. Tickle specifies three consistent results of the Church’s rummage sale every 500 years. What are they? How have these results transpired in past rummage sales?
2. If is notable that all three results Tickle describes are, upon completion, positive ones. This may be true at bird’s-eye-view, but are there less positive results at ground level? How can congregations effectively handle the bumpier results during the transition?
3. Does Tickle’s assertion that rummage sales do not entirely destroy old structures reassure you or cause you concern?
4. How do you respond to the idea of your ecclesial tradition being rummaged and perhaps sold in its current form?
5. For some, the metaphor of a rummage sale may seem too demure When the vestiges of faith you have known your entire life are being questioned, and changed, and perhaps even denounced, it can feel more like a wrecking ball coming through the walls of your house to make way for a new upstart development. In what ways does the metaphor of a rummage sale ring true? In what ways does it feel more like a wrecking ball? In what ways does it feel like both, or neither?
6. Does the author’s assertion that the previous “Greats” have led to a broader expansion of God’s story provide you hope?
7. How so, or why not?
As part of our discussion around the ideas of the book we agreed to reflect back what we’re hearing in terms of Scripture. How have the way we read scriptures (these 3 keys ones we’ve chosen) changed, be re-formed or impacted by the Great Church Rummage Sales occurring every 500 years?
Scriptures to Reflect Back Upon in our Discussion about Emergence Christianity
“16 Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had directed them. 17 When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted. 18 And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”
2. Paul on the Church as a Body with Diverse Members & Leaders
“12 For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. 13 For in the one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—Jews or Greeks, slaves or free—and we were all made to drink of one Spirit. 14 Indeed, the body does not consist of one member but of many. … But God has so arranged the body, giving the greater honor to the inferior member, 25 that there may be no dissension within the body, but the members may have the same care for one another. 26 If one member suffers, all suffer together with it; if one member is honored, all rejoice together with it. 27 Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it. 28 And God has appointed in the church first apostles, second prophets, third teachers; then deeds of power, then gifts of healing, forms of assistance, forms of leadership, various kinds of tongues. 29 Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Do all work miracles? 30 Do all possess gifts of healing? Do all speak in tongues? Do all interpret? 31 But strive for the greater gifts. And I will show you a still more excellent way. 13 1 If I speak in the tongues of mortals and of angels, but do not have love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. 2 And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. 3 If I give away all my possessions, and if I hand over my body so that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing. … 12 For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then we will see face to face. Now I know only in part; then I will know fully, even as I have been fully known. 13 And now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; and the greatest of these is love.”
1 Corinthians 12:12-13:13
3. Paul on the Church as a Body Justified by Faith
“23 Now before faith came, we were imprisoned and guarded under the law until faith would be revealed. 24 Therefore the law was our disciplinarian until Christ came, so that we might be justified by faith. 25 But now that faith has come, we are no longer subject to a disciplinarian, 26 for in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith. 27 As many of you as were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. 28 There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus. 29 And if you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to the promise.”