spirituality

God is Ordinary

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I don’t know if you’ve ever been lucky enough to experience one of those crazy vortex machines. You know, the ones that spin round and round while you’re trapped inside. As they spin you find gravity having less and less of a hold on you until you’re climbing up walls, chilling upside down… But as the vortex starts to slow you’re aware that your time of freedom is coming to an end. If you don’t get off the wall you’ll end up crashing down on your head as the normal rules of life (and gravity) come back into play. You’re forced to become grounded again.

As I begin a new stage of my journey it’s hard not to see some comparisons. 2014, my year as a Haerenga Intern, was full of new experiences and fruitfulness in terms of growth in my self, my knowledge and my relationship with God and others. It was in no way an easy, ‘gravity-free’ ride but I could see God working through the challenges, shaping me as I was forced to rely on him.

And then there’s this year. Don’t get me wrong, I’m really enjoying my transition back into medical studies but… there is that element of heaviness, as gravity takes hold and everything slows down. As I settle back into Kiwi life, with my clothes snug in drawers not a suitcase, surrounded by people who look and speak like me, I’m rather terrified of getting too comfortable and becoming stagnant in my faith. I’m afraid of routine and apathy. Overseas in the unfamiliar, away from normal support, it’s relatively easy to see a need for dependence on God. Here … well, I could go a whole day without giving God a second thought. It’s a bit like that feeling – I’m sure you’ve all experienced it in one way or another – after a church camp or a timely sermon, when you leave pumped about God and ready to change the world. You cling onto this for a week or so before life gets in the way. What was that camp about again?

God, I don’t want a bar of this. I don’t want to sideline the things I’ve learnt for a rainy day. I want to still be hungry, to have that restlessness in my heart, a longing to be a part of your mission. But how?

I think often we’re caught in this waiting zone. Waiting to finish study and start a ‘real’ job. Waiting for more responsibility in the job we’ve got. Waiting for the next step in a relationship. Whatever we’re waiting for, perhaps that’s when life will really start. That’s where I’ll be able to do big things for God

I’m waiting for the time when I might actually have useful skills to offer, to perhaps fulfil some fantasy of clambering, khaki clad across mountains to deliver medical aid. For now I am the ‘curtain puller,’ drawing curtains around a patient’s bed to at least give a vague impression of privacy while the medical team discuss their medical problems. At best I am a smiling face in the corner, at worst a plain annoyance. It’s a rather humbling place, knowing that no one will notice if I’m not present – the cogs will keep turning, the curtains will still get drawn. It’d be very easy to treat this time as a gap filler, a wee blip before my ‘proper work’ and ‘real mission’ begins. But if there’s one thing I’ve learnt from my year out it’s that mission isn’t something you can step in and out of. Mission is always here and now. In our transitions, in our routines and norms there are always opportunities to step out. It’s just a matter of looking.

I know that our God is a God of the ordinary. Often it seems like he’s intentionally picked the most plain, unremarkable, unqualified people to partner with him in his plans. So we have every reason to expect God to be moving in our ordinary. Today I’m going to draw the curtain with purpose and flare, knowing that God has put me in this hospital at this time, for a reason.

 

THE MUSE

What aspect of your ‘ordinary’ does God want to transform?

 

THE MOVE

Be intentional to look for God in your ordinary today and for the next week.

Missional Spirituality – Seven Habits of a Lifeless Church

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Let us say that a church alive is marked by Christlikeness among the people, worship of God, love and compassion and mission toward others … and other such marks. Let us also say it is marked by the church’s classic marks: one, holy, catholic and apostolic. And we must root this all in gospel and Trinity. Our culture works against a church alive and if we let culture shape us we can create a lifeless church, though any church that is lifeless is a sick contradiction. The themes of our culture, however, work against the life of God in a church.

What are they? What cultural trends challenge the church/faith? What trends intrude on missional spirituality?

In their new book, Missional Spirituality, Roger Holland and Len Hjalmarson, sketch seven cultural habits that grow in Westerners naturally and which, at the same time, counter what the gospel aims to do in our midst.

1. Disenchantment: borrowing from Charles Taylor and others, the argument is that prior to the Enlightenment (at least) it was difficult not to believe in God, while in the modern world it is difficult to believe in God. The world prior to the Reformation and especially before the Enlightenment was enchanted — alive with the presence of God and signs of his presence. The Enlightenment’s rationality and empiricism and dualism created a world in which it was easy/ier not to believe in God. Christians who buy into the Enlightenment project counter the gospel’s world of enchantment with God.

2. Excarnation. They speak here of disembodiment or the diminishment of embodied spirituality. It’s about ideas, not rituals and acts and form.

3. Abstraction. We separate ideas from objects and subjects and rationalize and theorize. The faith becomes a system of beliefs instead of a Person in whom we trust and in whom we hope.

4. Consumerism. I don’t think they get to the bottom of this one, though they touch on themes and symptoms of consumerism. Ownership is normal; obsession with ownership, status, and the dopamine rush of purchasing … these are at work in consumerism, as is a culture in which everything is comodified. Consumerist Christianity, at the ecclesial level, is about attending a church because of what you can get from it instead of worshiping God and serving our brothers and sisters. With consumerism, I think of Clement, of St Anthony, of Augustine, of St Francis, of some in the monastic tradition… of Ron Sider … of the neo-Monastics, etc..

5. Entitlement. A society marked by consumerism and self-image education feels entitled to a church meeting needs and to what it offers and to participating in decisions and authority etc..

6. Extraction. Their point is a simple one: we too often draw non-Christians out of their culture into a church culture in order to Christianize them. We plug them into a pre-set forms and roles and routines and deprive some of their natural giftedness.

7. Mutant Pietism and Programism. They will look at Pietism later, but pietism has been diminished and it has been connected to easily to church programs. Mutant pietism is inner world individualism and insufficiently missionally-shaped piety. The original pietism, esp that of Francke, was missionally minded.

 

Re-blogged from www.patheos.com/blogs/jesuscreed with permission.

Scot McKnight is a recognized authority on the New Testament, early Christianity, and the historical Jesus. McKnight, author or editor of forty books, is the Professor of New Testament at Northern Seminary in Lombard, IL. He’s also a veteran blogger. Scot’s passion is to see the church embrace the mission of God in the 21st century. For more from Scot visit www.patheos.com/blogs/jesuscreed