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...

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Living in Ziklag

What a great story is found here in I Samuel 27 and 29. It’s this section where David, the famous one, the ‘man after God’s own heart’ runs to Israel’s enemies for safety. While there he tells the Philistine king that he’s spending his days fighting Israel’s allies. But the reality is just the opposite; David’s out fighting Israel’s enemies, and to make sure word doesn’t make it back to the king of the Philistines, he kills everyone he conquers – man, woman, and child.

Hmmm… what do you make of this? Because there’s no prophet confronting him, and because the earth doesn’t open up and swallow him, we’re left to ponder the meaning ourselves. Commentators are split right down the middle, in categories Eugene Peterson calls “moralizers” and “secularizers” in his book about David. The moralizers chasten David and point out that if David had simply continued to trust God, rather than taking things into his own hands, he wouldn’t have suffered such dire consequences. And those dire consequences?... er… hmm… surely something. Ah yes. God doesn’t let David build the church building that God never wanted built in the first place – that’s it. That’s the punishment. Nice try moralizers.

The secularizers have a different spin: David’s just doing what you need to do in order to get on in this world. After all, this isn’t heaven. If we don’t compromise a little bit, and play by the rules of the world, we’ll end up either dead or out in the cold. On the other hand, make a way for ourselves, and we can use the gains we’ve made for God’s glory. Sounds good? Sure. Buy some slaves. Take over some countries like India, or Congo, or Rwanda, or Bolivia, or the home of Native Americans, and as long as you do it, ‘in the name of God’ all’s well. Thus have crusades, degrading slavery, sexism, racism, materialism, and environmental degradation all been justified in the name of Christ down through the millennia. Is this the way to represent Christ? I don’t think so.

So what’s left between moralizing and secularizing? I think I’ll save the bulk of the answer for Sunday’s sermon, but in the meantime, let me just say that both the secularizing and moralizing visions for faith fall destructively short of God’s best. Which model, secularizing or moralizing do you see in your church (or the one I lead)? How about in your own life? What are your leanings?


At 19/2/07 09:20, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Pastor Dahlstrom-

I know that this isn't exactly related to your post, but I didn't know the best way to contact this will have to do.

I recently was talking to a handful of SPUer's who were all recently graduated and making the usually rough transition out of college and into "the real world." The thing that all of them craved was a community similar to that which they had there, one filled with vulnerability, brutal honesty, and intimate friendship. Going to UW, I didn't experience the community aspect of a smaller, Christian school such as SPU, but I did experience Christian community there in similar ways to how I've heard it described at SPU.

So, I guess I have a bunch of questions. What does it mean to "be in community" when you're not in college anymore? What's the role of a person in my shoes, who's in that awkward time of trying to establish themselves in the world but also does not have an immediate family to invest in and a community to support them? And finally, what does BCC have for young people like myself craving community similar to what we've experienced in the past?

I think the answer to all the above questions might be "small groups," but I am also wondering about your greater vision for the continually growing demographic at BCC that is young, unmarried, post-college men and women.

Davey Williams


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