Sunday, March 28, 2010

Grasping at the Wrong Thing

From a discussion on another board, a brother was talking about what he sees in house churches. He said:
As for the early church, initially their meetings were patterned after the synagogue, which gave them a good framework from which to be able to develop their own meeting style. Today we're kinda having to rediscover that pattern, as the modern church has become so event-oriented, being driven by the whole pastor/layman division within the church that has made "churchianity" into a spectator sport. So we're kinda having to rediscover a more relational way of gathering together as the body of Christ.

Here was my take:
This is a great challenge, because the mere fact that we are trying to rediscover an old pattern locks us into that which is foreign to us, no less than the clergy/laity pattern may be foreign to us. Many denominations spring from finding dead-end practices and responding with the idea that, "Let's try to figure out how to do this right".

It is the "doing this" that hampers our search for relational Christianity. Rather than doing what is in front of us, we try to create something religious to do. It's dangerous to point out even the most benign of recorded practices, as we tend to latch onto any positive example like a Rottweiler on a rib-eye. And in so doing, we adopt the result, instead of grasping what created the result.

Take the Jerusalem church, for example. These folks continued to do just what they had been doing all their lives-- getting together to eat, going to the temple, praying together, hanging out together, giving to the poor. This was not a "form", it was life they already knew. The advent of Messiah simply gave them a new focus that touched every part of their lives. Eating at the neighbor's house was now saturated with talk about Jesus. Almsgiving developed a new level of organization, probably because the local synagogues were not so keen to care for those heretical Jesus-following widows. Learning the will of God became much more than weekly Torah-reading, and centered around learning from Jesus' most experienced followers-- the apostles. Wanna guess who was speaking in the temple courts to all those believers?

This was not a change in practices, but a change in meaning! We continue to try to change practices in an effort to find more meaning. But that's like trying to find a cure for meningitis by studying the effect of aspirin on a fever.

I would suggest that this is much more simple, and far more difficult, than we suspect. Do you have friends? Eat with them! When everyone talks about his own life, your contribution to the conversation will be about what Jesus is doing. Rather than starting with how to "have a group" or "hold a meeting", just start relating to the people in front of you, without the artificial expectation that they will accept an invitation to your "meeting". (That kind of artificiality always sounds like some sort of sneaky Amway recruiting to me, anyway.) Jesus said that people would recognize Him as we love one another. Loving one another is not the product of a meeting, whether in an ancient cathedral or a tiny apartment. If we find ourselves struggling with how to express love for one another outside the dynamic of a meeting, then that's a clear sign the meeting is actually a problem, not a solution. And a different format won't change that.

If I were to advise a course of action, I would say to put someone's feet under your dining table several times a week and love them and feed them. Keep doing this until WE are changed, until those people become part of us, and we need no meeting or address or title to identify ourselves as such.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Closed circuit to my Texas friends

5,000 years from now...

Archeologists continue to unearth a series of small ancient west Texas towns of the American period, and find an unusually consistent commonality among them. Each and every one of these villages had, as its largest edifice, a central temple of worship for what appeared to be local deities. All the temples had a central arena of precisely the same size, the only variation being the amount of seating provided for worshipers. Other finds include ancient calendars which depicted armored warriors and virginal priestesses of these local gods along with paens of praise to the gods, paid for by various merchants. Some gods were represented by animals such as Lions, Buffaloes and Badgers, while other temples featured monoliths at their north ends dedicated to weather phenomena, bearing titles like Golden Tornadoes and Blizzards, as well as ancient heroic archetypes such as Cowboys and Matadors. One great temple, referenced often in ancient archives of newsprint rolls, was supposedly located near the city of Odessa, where the great Panther was evidently worshiped by tens of thousands, but scholars who have examined the extreme reports of dedication of that city's citizens to their god still consider the tales too exaggerated to be anything other than legend.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Today's quote:

"They will not let us help them. They have chosen cunning instead of belief. Their prison is only in their own minds, yet they are in that prison; and so afraid of being taken in that they cannot be taken out." -- Aslan in The Last Battle, by C.S. Lewis

Man, that'll preach.