Pastoral Musings from Rain City

it's about 'what is church?' it's about whether 'emergent' is the latest Christian trend or something more substantial. it's musing on what it means to live the city, in America, in community, intergenerationally, at this time in history...

Thursday, September 15, 2005

Breakdown as a Portal of Hope

What a decade. We’re only halfway through, and already we’ve been hit, globally, by more tragedy than we’re able to digest. The towers fell and ushered in the age of global terrorism, with Spain and London tragedies following the same path. The rise of China as an economic superpower has led to a large increase in global oil consumption, straining resources and pushing costs. North Korea and Iran are rapidly acquiring the capacity to produce, and sell if necessary, nuclear weapons, even as the threat of dirty bomb, easily made by acquiring directions on the internet, becomes more real. And let’s not even get started on the habits of genocide and the tragedy of AIDS, both of which are conspiring to destroy an entire continent. Did I mention the threat of bird-flu… national bankruptcy (read Running on Empty if you want a reality shock – it’s written by a former Republican Secretary of Commerce, and addresses the debt crisis with hard facts)?

It would be easy to stop reading right here, because "Richard is talking about things ‘unrelated to church’". Keep reading and you will find that nothing could be further from the truth, for it is always the context of the times that determine the forms in which the gospel will be expressed. And these days of darkness call for serious consideration of where we will place our allegiances, for careless drifting will inevitably lead us towards darkness.

There have been numerous times in world history when the church has functioned as a bastion of generosity, education, hope, beauty, and healing, in the midst of a world gone mad. Perhaps that’s too strong a statement. Most of those ‘eras of madness’ were addressed by two different churches. The church of the status quo always sought, along with the weight of prevailing culture, to do anything necessary to keep the ships of commerce afloat and preserve things intact. If things remained intact, they were, at least in the eyes of the world, ‘the winners’. But always, there was a church that was marching to the beat of different drummer, a church that was storing up spiritual resources for impending famine. Those resources included a cultivation of simplicity, community, generosity, and peaceable relationships. It happened with the Celtic church in the early days of the dark ages as they stood apart from the powerful Roman culture and Roman church. It happened in among the Waldensians during the days of Catholic corruption in the 11th century. And it happened with the confessing church in Germany during the Nazi reign. There have always been a few who have stood against the prevailing winds of greed and power, offering a different vision for the future, a vision more in keeping with the kind of kingdom Christ had in mind.

As we begin a new ministry year, my heart is burning with the sense that addressing the future realistically, and responding properly are high priority issues. And just what will that proper response entail? We will, no doubt, need to take seriously our calling to seek the kingdom first, which means making priorities of assessing and responding as Christ speaks to us about:

  1. Our relationship with the King – love relationship, spiritual formation, ethics
  2. Our relationships with each other – community, honesty, reconciliation and grace
  3. Our relationships with our world – servanthood, stewardship, celebration, hope

These are the three issues I’ll be addressing in the coming weeks in the Isaiah series at Bethany. For now, I trust that you will join with me in praying that God would raise up testimonies of hope for the days ahead, and that Bethany will be one of those places as we listen to the voice of the King and follow Him wherever He might lead us. Challenge, change, adventure and blessing await us!


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