My latest in the Christian Courier…
We are more divided than ever, almost unable to share meaningfully across differences of opinion. Whether on vaccine mandates, covid restrictions, gender identity, freedom of expression or a myriad of other issues, we have become far too comfortable in our echo chambers.
Our relentless non-engagement with one another is reinforced, today, by increasingly predictable patterns of discourse. Here I want to pick up on one such pattern – specifically, our deployment of fear to dismiss others and confirm what we already know must be true. My point isn’t that we deploy fear in the sense that we want others to be afraid. (That is relatively rare, I think.) Rather, I’m referring to our tendency to accuse our ideological opponent of being motivated by fear.
Fear is, of course, a powerful motivator. If you see flames shooting up in your kitchen, you will either run toward the fire with an extinguisher in your hand or dash out of the house toward safety. It’s fight or flight, with your heart pounding and your pulse racing.
In this short blog series I’ve been exploring this question: What is the aesthetic profile of your congregation. Otherwise put: What do the artwork and architecture and liturgical accoutrements of your congregation reveal about its faith and identity? And how do they shape your faith and discipleship?
In my first post I explored how we might respond to the artistic heritage passed down to us from earlier generations. In the second post I considered the importance of contemporary, artistic expressions of faith in our worship and community spaces. Now in this final post I want to push us out of the church building, into the wider community.
Too often the church has thought of itself in terms of a fairly strict separation from the world. The church has failed to identify with the world – it has failed to live for the world, in the world.
While we have to think about these issues carefully (theologically speaking), I’m of the view that we can and must conceive a much more porous boundary between church and world. This doesn’t mean watering down faith convictions, but it will require transforming mindsets and structures and programs – and in ways we may not yet be able to imagine. Such transformations must be defined precisely by our life for the world and in the world, since this is the only life that we can possibly embody in faithfulness to the one who is our life – Jesus Christ.
In many ways this seems like a simple story. It’s a familiar story, and it all feels so straightforward:
Jesus is travelling with is disciples.
He stops at a well to drink and meets a woman.
They have a conversation about living water.
Eventually she comes to believe he’s the messiah.
Straightforward. Most of us have heard it before. We know the shape of this story.
But something we might miss – or something that we might neglect – is the fact that everywhere in this story there are moments of tension. We can say there is a kind of heaviness that appears in the narrative here and there. I’d like to start out this morning by simply naming a few of tension, or places of heaviness in the story. Continue reading