Sunday, November 6, 2011

Maybe we've been thinking too narrowly.

Matthew 5:3-12

New International Version (NIV)
   3 “Blessed are the poor in spirit,
   for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
4 Blessed are those who mourn,
   for they will be comforted.
5 Blessed are the meek,
   for they will inherit the earth.
6 Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness,
   for they will be filled.
7 Blessed are the merciful,
   for they will be shown mercy.
8 Blessed are the pure in heart,
   for they will see God.
9 Blessed are the peacemakers,
   for they will be called children of God.
10 Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness,
   for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
   11 “Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. 12 Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.

"ROYSTER TEACH-UH!"  I heard my name called with such enthusiasm that I couldn't help but translate it in my head to mean, "Oh my gosh, I'm so excited to see you!  I love seeing you!"  I looked up in time just to see a couple of my more familiar students running off the soccer pitch of the English Academy next to the school where I teach.
"Royster Teach-uh!  Hi!"
"...Water?  Please?"
I smiled.  This was one of those few moments that I didn't feel like their excitement had been merely a ploy to get something from me, but, even if it was, I'll never be one to refuse a child water.  The two boys quickly downed half of my 1.5 liter bottle, smiled, chatted through one of their memorized dialogues with me, and then gave the standard, abrupt, "Okay, byeee!" and ran back off to play more soccer.
I continued my walk to the bus stop, and looked back over my shoulder as I rounded the corner.  The sight that greeted me this time left me in a state of mild self-argument.  One of the boys, having grown tired of the soccer game, had climbed up on top of the goal netting, and was lounging there, using it as a hammock.  My first instinct was to call out to him to get down, but the more I looked at it, the more I realized that it was not going to break under his small body weight, so I just laughed and enjoyed it.

Later, I got to thinking about the instance.  This boy wanted to be close to his friends and close to the action, but was too tired to still be in the thick of it.  He came up with a creative solution.  He could even still contribute to the game, calling out helpful warnings to the goalie beneath him.

What if we've been thinking too narrowly about our walk with Christ?  What if, when we rest, we don't need time out from the battle?  What if we just need a different position?  What if we need to create a new position?

Jesus brought about revolution, but He did not do it in the way that anyone else revolted, he created a new position, a new type of King, a new type of leader.  After all, who has ever heard of a peaceful revolution before or after?  Nonetheless, this is what He brought.  He left us instructions for how to continue it too.  Philip Zimmerman, pastor of the KiA Mainz church (I attended Project:Camp in 2008 [see the article linked to Phil's name] and interned there in 2009), often speaks of how the Kingdom of G-d is not some far off place, it's in us now, and it's our job to spread the Kingdom through everything we do.  Dr. Nathan Kerr adamantly agrees with him (and I'm going to quote Nate here, even though his writing is on such a high level, but what he has to say makes it worth deciphering):
What has become increasingly apparent to me is the way in which the ecclesiocentric approach short-circuits the practice of theology as a specifically dogmatic task. There are several dimensions to this short-circuiting. On the one hand, the ecclesiocentric construal of the church as a distinctively Christian culture renders a certain ecclesiological natural theology unavoidable. Whether one is speaking of the need for a “Christian social imaginary” as the condition for hearing and carrying out the task of the gospel (as does James K. A. Smith ); of the need to render an account of Christianity as a “habitable world” and to witness to a given Christian culture’s “particular way of structuring the whole” as requisite to the “intelligibility” and “truth” of the gospel proclamation (as we find in the work of Stanley Hauerwas and Bruce Marshall ); or speculatively, of the need to consider the church as its own historically “cultural” entity, as in God’s intention “antecedent” to (and so historically a condition of) the gospel (as does Robert Jenson ), the result is for all intents and purposes the same: the positing of a Christian culture or worldview as the real Anknüpfungspunkt (point of contact) required for the hearing of the gospel and thus the virtual identification of Christian mission with enculturation, or what John Flett would call propaganda.  
 (Incidentally, when Googling to find the correct interview with Nate, I'm pretty sure I stumbled across the blog of a good friend of mine from my freshman year of college.  If you understood and liked what Nate had to say, you'd like what Nathaniel Maddox says too.)

So, now that you're probably entirely overwhelmed, let me just write one question for you in big, bold letters so that you know what I've been asking myself today:

Have I been approaching this peaceful revolution from the sidelines or from the goalposts?

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