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, October 12, 2006


I've been pondering this reality that 'the Word became flesh' recently because it seems to me that the Word is still becoming flesh in so many ways, in so many lives, all around me each day. The Word is made visible in caring for the homeless, and in helping one's neighbor, and adopting a child, and cleaning up a salmon stream, and giving dignity to the elder, and caring for aging parents, and praying for world leaders, and spending time with children, and walking the streets of Seattle at night in order to be a safe person for those in need, and making beautiful art. So many seems.

We who are given gifts of teaching to share with God's people are, when we are at our worst, mere journalists. We dig into the text, pick it apart, look for profound meanings, and then look around our sphere of relationships to find stories from real life that illustrate what it is we're trying to say. I say we're at our worst in this posture because unless we're actually living it ourselves, it's far too easy to take the Word which has become flesh and reduce to mere word again.

It's because of this, that the teacher of Jesus' truth needs to be especially careful. The goal of this kind of teaching is entirely different than the teacher of, say, world history. To fill listeners with facts or ideas about Jesus is pointless. Real Bible teaching is more like teaching a musical instrument, because the goal is help the gathered community learn to actually play the music of Christ's reign. Mere mental assent won't cut it. And I don't know any worthwhile piano teacher who doesn't delight in playing, and who also carves out time to play... regularly. If that teacher is teaching all the time - and in between lessons is busy working on all the adminstration attending to the piano studio, then eventually the whole point gets lost.

That's why Paul said to young Timothy, who was called to teaching and leadership - be absorbed in these things, so that your progress might be evident to all. Paul exemplified this in his ministry. His teaching was biographical - and that's what made it live, made it powerful.

We're good here in the west at reducing Christianity to a set of concepts. We learn them, defend them, and affirm them verbally. Meanwhile, when we're at our worst, we continue to ignore the environment, and our neighbors, and the AIDS crisis, and the crisis in our own circles of intimacy. The Word became flesh - but we who teach are in danger of making it mere words again, and this, my friend, is the worst possible thing!


At 12/10/06 10:49, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The Word was also how God created the world, so every act in Jesus' name/by his power is an act of new creation.

I'd say the converse of your statements above are also true -- if we as a church are so busy doing things that we don't have time for Biblical study we may forget where it is that we come from, or who we're really representing when we do these things. The greatest danger for this may be in staff who are kept so busy minstering and counseling that they never do their own exegesis anymore. And the Bible study needs to be communal/together, not just individual, with the aim of seeing how the instrument was played in the past (and where the music came from!).

There's something here similar to how J.R.R. Tolkien wrote that his Middle Earth universe was created by the singing of Iluvatar, but that's another text entirely, ain't it?

-- Ben Mc.

At 16/10/06 12:12, Anonymous Anonymous said...

A great reminder, Richard... As one who is wrapped up in the midst of religious studies at this time, I know the temptation to reduce my faith to a series of propositions! I pray that BCC (and the entire body of Christ) will continue growing into a community that embraces the Word in all its forms, as Christ speaks to, in and through us.



Post a Comment

<< Home