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...

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

All the lonely ants marching

I'm in the midst of preparing to teach on the subject of hospitality this Sunday, and it struck me once again: for all the piles of verbiage regarding post-modernity, emergent Christianity, and the new thing God is doing among those who are hip enough and enlightened enough to be relevant, the reality is this: VERY LITTLE HAS CHANGED.

Oh yes, I know that there's a new epistemological crisis, and that the linguistic deconstructionism of Derrida has changed how we view reality - what we trust, who we trust, and how we take steps of faith.

But step away from all of these mounds of philosophical rubbish (too kind? too mean spirited? you decide), and the fact is that people are still lonely. People were lonely when David wrote the Psalms. They were lonely when Jesus walked the earth and broke the barriers of isolation by talking with women, forgiving the condemned, and touching the lepers. And 1900 years later, they were lonely still, when the Beatles sang about isolation. Simon and Garfunkle did too. And so has Dave Matthews. This is why, I believe, intergenerational ministry can both work, and is so important: when you evaporate the philosophical fog, your still left, in every generation, with the same thing: a longing to both love and be loved - and an ambivalence towards relationship.

That's why hospitality is a radical, profoundly counter-cultural practice that needs to be rediscovered by the church as a means of making the invisible God visible. It's why small groups in churches need an empty chair. It's why we can never close our hearts and say, "that's it - I'm finished meeting people - my relational quota is filled." Instead, we need to change the way we think about relationships, which is something that I hope to address on Sunday.

In the meantime, maybe this little section from a favorite book of mine, will help you see why a commitment to the practice of hospitality is so vital in this age of isolation. In this passage our friend is finally getting out to meet his neighbors, moving from chimney to chimney as he sees smoke:

"The next smoke signal came from Eaton's Landing....I made another half dozen stops - including the local grocery store, cafe, gas station and library - and it trying to give away flies, fish and fishing tips I got a free oil change, applie pie and coffee, pamphlets and books on Tamanawis Valley and county history, two quarts of pop and a huge bag of corn chips. I had found my people...When I returned to my cabin it had undergone a subtle transformation: I'd left behind a solitary structure on a lonely river; I'd returned to the home of some the locals called, "Gus the Fisherman" - a home just up the road from Ernie and Emma's, not far from the candle-makers, Cradad Benson, Eaton's Landing, the "Fogged in Cafe", and all those folks that made the valley and town a valley and town full of folks..."

Loving our neighbors... always been central to the gospel...always been challenging...and always been far more rewarding than we could imagine, as stories unfold and life blesses life. What are we waiting for?


At 27/6/07 15:12, Anonymous Anonymous said...

A hearty amen to preaching on hospitality. Not simply the idea of having folks over for dinner, but the value of openness and extending grace to others, and making them feel welcome in our presence. Maybe this is the question for some of us to wrestle with: Are we willing to step outside of our comfortable circles to initiate and develope friendships with those whose beliefs are different than our own? Seems like when we do, we start acting like Jesus himself, the man who welcomes sinners and eats with them.

At 30/6/07 16:36, Anonymous thomas said...

It's really interesting that you mention Derrida in your discussion of hospitality. Deconstructionism has led to skepticism and contributed to a fracturing of traditional conceptions of truth he was also fundamentally concerned with hospitality. The orientation of deconstructionism is one of openness - true, this involves a challenge to whatever happens to be the dominant interpretation of truth at the time - but the challenge is given in order to make space for other interpretations and voices that have previously been opressed. I think Derrida very much sees deconstruction as an act of hospitality to the others we exclude from a unfied monolithic truth. This isn't to say there aren't serious problems with deconstruction (for Derrida this opening up to new voices continues without end, often leading in practice to either stalling in total uncertainty and confusion or continuing on into completely absurd interpretations), but one thing that deconstruction does do well is illustrate how we have been so eager to exclude and in doing so crushed those weaker than us. I think there is hope for some of that "philosophical rubbish" ;)


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