Wednesday, August 08, 2007

broken and becoming

During July 2006, in Products and Packaging, I blogged about containers, boundaries, judicatories and church buildings. To segue into this blog, here's a bit from that blog:
My intro paragraph referenced Container Corporation of America, and with bounded, boundless, contained, and uncontained I'm thinking sacraments and authority, too. One of the classic descriptions about sacraments cites them as evidence of the capacity, capability – capax – of the finite to contain the infinite. Contain. This is fire season in Southern California, reminding us a contained fire is not an extinguished one, but nonetheless, containment often leads to a beneficial outcome.

...permeable. I'm writing about containers, containment, vessels, thorns, briars, roses, fruit and a long list of acquisitive concepts. Here in Alta California we live constantly aware of the permeability of the borders, the legal boundaries and sometimes the cultural ones between this territory and Baja California, but I want to compare the containers, boundaries and borders of ecclesiastical life with boxes, jars and envelopes where the content doesn't leak or scatter beyond the bounds, but the container exudes heat, or cold, or some kind of aura one can see or smell, maybe even taste. ... At a later time I'll say more again about brokenness, shards, tatters and splinters, ruins and rubble: bread and lives, pottery, vessels, buildings, cities and civilizations, broken yet blessed and distributed ultimately to enable living as a result of that once un-wholeness.

Church buildings, and in many cases...what we call a campus, with "country" as a possible connotation. Those buildings in some sense contain and in-clude the Church, the body of Christ, which is called to freely function as a living organism. In teaching and writing, often I refer to the Jerusalem Temple with its containerized deity, so remote from the free, elusive and infinitely faithful to creation Yahweh of the Exodus; frequently I talk about the Jerusalem Temple, so distant from God's self-revelation in Jesus of Nazareth. Jesus Christ shows us the Divine not in formal structures and intricate liturgical rites, but in fully real presence alongside creation and in total response to creation's needs. ...

Containers, etc.: [as I keep observing,] the PCUSA, UCC and the ELCA are splintering seriously because "a human institution cannot contain that much diversity!" Of course the flip, the B side is "a human institution can contain only so much diversity." By definition, any institution has limits. However, logically, if something cannot be accessed, in some sense claimed and contained, it's not worth much to us. How about "God-moments" some people talk about? Are there times we can recognize God's presence while we're thick in the experience or situation, or is that acknowledgment possible only in retrospect?
I've titled this blog broken and becoming...a few days ago I was talking with one of Left Right in the City Church's pastors, who asked me if I'd checked out Beachfront Church; I replied I sort of had and even gotten involved in their Lenten Wednesday evenings worship and discussion series several years in a row, but that congregation as a whole couldn't work for me, because it's "far too slick," and admittedly, by design I've decided not to be (though I could be, of course). I explained I far preferred Old Condo Shadows and Left Right in the City, because both of those congregations are "broken and becoming." As I said that I knew it was a cool turn of phrase but even more, excellent theology, so I'm blogging it today. Simply regarding physical properties, one of the Left Right in the City pastors complained to me about the relative disrepair of their buildings, and I asked if she'd noticed Old Condo Shadows' needed even more repair?

I've finally started mentioning to people I'd seen my own life and ministry scattered in humanly irretrievable splinters, tatters and shards, and despite the fact the best ministry is done by broken people, there's a level of brokenness that cannot yield fruit. In the ANE they called pottery shards "ostraca," from which the English "ostracize" derived because of the pottery scraps on which they recorded votes to cast out people from community, yet aside from that use, they found the broken pieces useful and retrievable for many other purposes. They'd often inscribe scriptures or songs the pottery chunks, which after all, were more durable than papyrus, so in many ways could travel and circulate more easily.

Especially in the mainline, in recent years we've been talking, writing and reading a lot about the Church in Mission, the Church as mission. The Church in the Power of the Spirit of Pentecost indeed needs to be a sent, missional entity...

New, closely related topic: a young, home-schooled high school-age woman at a church I attended for a while told me she'd always wanted to socialize with kids in her neighborhood and also longed to attend Sunday School, but her mom, a PK (believe it!), had insisted Sunday School was for heathens, people of the heath, (people names Heather?) and Christian parents were supposed to be the teachers and catechists of their own kids. I love Walter Brueggemann's Biblical Perspectives on Evangelism: Living in a Three-Storied Universe and I need to read it for the fourth time and blog specifically about the book. Delineating the Three Stories, WB insists we need to teach and reach adults already part of the churches, their kids and grandkids and our outsider, outlander neighbors, friends and others. Vis-à-vis the Way of Jesus and the Church's Mission, are all of us heath-dwellers in some sense? Regarding dwelling on the heaths, of being on the other side of the side of the river where the baptized reside, of course we do and are!

Over the past 123120938 (more like 5) years, I've been writing and reflecting about domesticated gods, the God of the bible, of the prophets and of Jesus Christ, about culturally congruent vs. prophetic liturgy, about colonized Christianity and counter-cultural congregations. There are so many churches, people and places I could blog about, but when a community, a person or a situation is torn and broken, isn't that exactly the easiest time for the HS to make inroads, to breathe and blaze new life and renewed possibilities the fractured, fragmented, unwhole old? The once-whole loaf of eucharistic bread springs to mind—we actually call the presider's liturgical action in breaking the bread the "fraction." Check out the song, What is this Place? I included in a blog last winter. I'll write lots more later on all of this, I trust.

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