Monday, April 28, 2008

Can people MAKE time for God anymore?

I am amazed at the frantic pace of people these days. The church I'm serving is filled with over-worked, stressed out, over-programmed, dysfunctionally-driven and under-attended people strangled by these social knots. I often wonder if the exasperation I feel is connected to what is coming at me (of course my own stuff too, not to minimize that) through the parish...a people who are deeply depressed, tired, disconnected and numb. And then I think, how is church life really set up? Is it set up to allow people to thrive in what God would have us receive as REAL LIFE? I suppose at some level this is the constant juggling act of life itself, the balance of work and play, rest and responsibility. But is the church helping or hindering a full life in God? No wonder people hesitate getting involved if its all about perpetually serving on some committee until Jesus returns. What in the world have we made church into?

Where is the space to be silent? Where is the space to allow God to speak to us and communally wonder together as God seeks to address us, without commentary from the expert? Is there another way for people to MAKE time for God that isn't consumed, or better yet, constipated by an institutional framework? Certainly God in God's almighty power can and does work through such institutional structures to be sure. There are even people who grow and flourish in such systems. I'm just wondering about another way that God might be wanting to connect not only to the non-confessional, but even more importantly to the confessional, who need to be jolted in new and fresh ways for listening how God is speaking and engaging in the world.

Perhaps we're losing, if not already lost in many ways, the essence for how God seeks to encounter us rather than how we, egotistically-driven or otherwise, want to engage God. What if God really wants to use difference and diversity as a lens for speaking more clearly to us for what he desires to create within and out of us? Today, how is this embraced and even practiced within the Christian faith short of elitist dialogues that happen in some aloof space far from daily living? And then, what are we to make of all of our differences denominationally? If difference again is key to the reconciling work of God, how are we in the life of church embracing this truth in such a way that we allow it to work on us? I'm not suggesting that we deny who we are, collapse our identities or differentiated expressions into some ecclesiastical homogeneity as the non-denoms do. What of allowing the differences to co-exist and allowing them to engage one another in a joint effort/effect of living out a faith in Jesus that celebrates these differences without trying to minimize them? What could it be for a community to embrace the idea that 'we shouldn't be surprised that we will come to different conclusions about the bible, faith, church and God, and that it does not disturb God as much as it does some of us'? What of a post-denominational community of God? Could this happen? And what could it look like?

What about an ancient way, a contemplative way...the monastic way.

This might be a viable option alongside the pantheon of others available. In fact I saw a glimpse of it when I recently visited the community of Taize, France last month. This monastic community prides itself on being an ecumenical community, living life together grounded in prayer seeking reconciliation and peace.

What would it look like for these denominations to come together in prayer, like the Taize community, to allow God to address all of us together in one setting? What would it look like from the stand point of a supposed 'outsider' to see people gathering who are not seeking to convert the outsider, but rather to be converted itself by the difference of each other, to learn this way of reconciliation by, with and alongside the other through prayer?

So, this is my newest, emerging (pie-in-the-sky) create an abbey, a Flagstaff abbey. I hope in the near future to invite and involve interested parties to the table for a conversation. Included are American Baptists, Episcopalians, Lutherans, Methodists and Presbyterians to start.

Well, we'll see how it all goes and what God wants to do through it all...oh yea, and in the process, through me too.


jWinters said...

Hey Dave,
Quite the vision you have there to build a new monastic community modeled after Taize. If you are serious about this (I'm wondering what "pie-in-the-sky" means), then you might want to start by leading retreats that focus on the contemplative side of faith.

That way you could actually start doing this before you have 50 acres of land to start doing it with. In fact, now that I mention it - this may be a way to make this vision of yours more mobile and accessible.

in Christ,

Sabina said...
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