Wednesday, February 13, 2008

What is Christian Spirituality - Part 3 - Living Jesus in Community

One of the primary goals of
Spirituality for the Christian

is an actual embodiment and
lived expressions of Jesus –

living Jesus.
Such a concept will
of learning Jesus.
And, learning Jesus
is ultimately impossible

outside of community.

The Distinction of Spirit

First, without a living and resurrected Jesus, it is inconceivable to consistently demonstrate the professions of our faith. It is the resurrection and the indwelling of the Holy Spirit that enables us to live such a life. It is possible to have a mental consent of doctrine and professions that declares Jesus alive, yet a life that shows not proof of such resurrection. The empowering presence of the Holy Spirit within the followers of Christ to live out their professed convictions is the very essence that distinguishes Christian Spirituality from all others.[1] When we fail to learn what it means to “walk in the Spirit” (Galatians 5:25) a significant severing takes place and our Spirituality loses its Christian distinctive; it is not longer Christian.

The Reality of Community

We are to be conforming into the image of Christ. To do so we must understand one of the first dimensions disclosed to us in Scripture regarding God’s image. From the onset of Scripture, we see God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit working together and in unison. This divine community is seen throughout the rest of Scripture, even until the closing of the last chapter. This divine expression is designed by God to serve not only as an expression, but a model imploring us to join in. “The life of God is a life of self-giving and other-receiving love,” writes Miroslav Volf. “Father, Son, and Spirit are so close that Jesus could say, ‘The Father is in me and I am in the Father.” The ancient Greek word for this “mutual indwelling” of the Trinity is perichoresis, which is related to the word choreography. “The Trinity exists,” writes John Ortberg, “as a kind of eternal dance of joyful love among Father, Son, and Spirit.”[2]

Humanity was created in God’s image. “The LORD God said, ‘It is not good for man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him.”[3] This is God’s declaration, not Adam’s. Why was it “not good”? It was not good, because as long as Adam was alone, it was impossible for him to demonstrate one of the essential characteristics of God’s image – to live in community. Without community, Adam could not express one of the very things he was designed to express – God’s image. The same is true for us, we cannot express God’s image on the earth without living in community. It is in such community that Jesus is more fully “known and loved.” He is the actual “presence and sustaining power” of the community of faith. [4] Deplorably, our Western world has elbowed community to the margins of society in favor of individualistic and privatized expressions of faith. It is imperative that we rediscover this reality if we ever hope to experience ongoing transformation into the image of Christ and live Jesus in our present world.
The Process of Communal Learning

Christian Spirituality has been shaped by the biblical narrative, the development of the canon of Scripture, its creeds, God’s direct interactions with people throughout history, movements, cultures, various expressions and liturgies implemented through the ages and the myriad of experiences of those who have given their lives to the pursuit of Christ and His ways. As such, each member of the community comes with a story to share and something to deposit. Likewise, each should be postured in such humility to learn, be challenged and transformed by the stories of others.[5]

The modern world and Western church models have glamorized the sage on the stage at the expense of the dignity of the people.

The following is not necessarily commentary on a particular church, rather reflections regarding the Church at large and the ensuing thoughts and questions that I'm now wrestling through...

  • How might our modern church communities and worship services look, if there was space for organic community interactions, stories and improvisational input?

  • When was the last time a question was actually raised during a Sunday morning sermon? Do we believe that each person really “has a hymn, or a word of instruction, a revelation, a tongue or an interpretation”[6] to be integrated into our gatherings?

  • If Sunday morning is when most communities of faith gather, how much “community” is actually being experienced and expressed?

  • How much learning from one another is transpiring?

  • Could the gap between pulpit and pew, clergy and laity, and void of community interactions actually be serving to debilitate personal expressions of Christ-likeness by community members, thus creating a breach between what is confessed with the mouth and what is demonstrated with one’s life? (Note: I don't necessarily perceive the aforementioned gap to be intentionally erected by those in the pulpit or pew, rather more of an aftermath and residual ethos and culture still lingering from the systemic church structures forged during the Age of Enlightenment and into the Modern Era.)

  • How churches of the Western world respond to these questions and others may very well serve to connect us to the sustaining power of our past, propelling us into the present-future with authentic relevance and power or render us paralyzed and detached from the rich traditions found in the biblical narrative and the history of the Church.

[1] Luke Timothy Johnson, Living Jesus, (New York: HaperCollins, 2000), 46.
[2] John Ortberg, Everybody’s Normal Till You Get to Know Them, (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2003), 35-36.
[3] Genesis 2:18.
[4] Ibid., Living Jesus, 23.
[5] Ibid., Living Jesus, 28.
[6] 1 Corinthians 14:26.

1 comment:

Hermi said...

I can't believe you haven't had any comments on this yet. Are people emailing you or something?

Anyway I think that as long as churches continue to use only a few good men to teach and preach they continue to perpetuate the problem you are describing here.