Friday, February 23, 2007

an oozeletter: 'lighting matches in a light bulb world'

This is an article from the February 2007 issue of the Oozeletter by Spencer Burke. I think it definitely raises some curious questions as to context and how to approach others 'in light' of where we find ourselves today in our thinking and way of living, i.e. culture. The intro really captured me as I'm beginning the process of developing such a community here in Flagstaff, AZ and still have those within the modern church (not that there's anything wrong with that.) wondering 'now, why would you go and do that? hang out at coffee shops and bars? you've got to be kidding me?' Of course the answer, as Spencer describes it, is because that's where, at least some, of the social networks exist. I, for one, am interested in being the light of God in those places too.

The first portion of Burke's article reads as follows:
"When Jesus invited his followers to be 'the light of the world," what do you think went through the minds of the disciples? It only would have been natural for them to think in terms of the resources available in their day - spark, wood, oil, flame, and fire. But how much has changed since the first century? Even more radically, how much has changed in the last 150 years?

If Jesus were to pose the same invitation today, would we think of matches or altnernating current? Wood or filament? Oxygen or vacuum? Therein lies the tension.

We - the Church - have the job of being truth in an ever changing world. Yet the reality is often that the church has over romanticized matches, wood, and oxygen.

The invitation of Jesus is not to remain captive to things that held true in the past, but to transcend, to evolve, to discover new ways of embodying the things that held true in the past. I find it fascinating that when we mapped the human genome, it was called genius. When we explored the mechanics of quantum physics, it was a step forward. When we democratized communication through the internet, we called it revolutionary. Yet when we dream of a socially networked church, without walls or the one-hour event, it is perceived as the destructive of the Church." You can find the rest of this February article at Oozeletter.

A couple things come to mind as I read this article by Spencer. While he raises some fun and curious questions at least two things come to mind:

The first is a comment I posted after this article where I mentioned the following:

I wonder if the light isn't associated so much with matches that need to be struck, but rather the light that comes from a completely other source...the sun. And I wonder if that same light refracted/reflected many and various ways as thorugh a prism is the life of God. I may be red or green or blue. Can I choose what color I reflect to the world? Can I really even help what color I happen to be or is that already determined by the make-up of who I am in relationship to others within the prism? I wonder whether we are even initiators of the light but rather those who merely reflect it, albeit 'in a mirror dimly' and probably quite imperfectly, to a world that needs to know its own efforts aren't what sustain it.

The second comment that goes through my mind is in relationship to the ways our world changes and how then our particular human constructs will 'change' the way we talk of God. I find it a bit dangerous however when we begin using mechanical descriptions of God and God's work in our world that removes a sense of the natural order for things because we no longer are speaking about living, breathing human beings in relationships with the vast array of compexities that come along with that and instead substitute simplistic notions like 'matches' or 'wood'. I am one who believes the Spirit of God Jesus describes and was heard, or not as is the case quite often with his disciples, is the same one that we have access to in powerful ways through the ways we engage one another in real relationship that drives us ever deeper into what it really means to be human.

1 comment:

tamie said...

thanks for these words, dave. i appreciate your reflections on spencer burke's writing.

a few thoughts on my part:

1. the issue spencer burke seems to be addressing is making 'church' (ie. historical christian faith) 'relevant' (ie. packaging the message in such a way that this generation can hear/understand it). an issue worth address

2. the issue it *doesn't* seem like he's addressing is the massive theological shift that writers like peter rollins (and yours truly) is advocating. this is the shift from believing that we orthodox/catholic/non-heretical christians are the possessors and carriers of the light of the world (be it woodfire or nuclear) to the belief that all things are aflame with divinity, and that our collective joy will be increased to the degree that we can recognize this, and bow to the divine in everyone and everything we encounter.