Monday, March 01, 2010

on the alien ship or home

During October 2005 I posted a slightly different version of this on my currently inactive testimony blog.

"On the alien ship or home?" Theologically, both on the alien ship and home at one and the same time. Did I ever mention ambiguity anywhere? Maybe I need to blog about aliens and homecoming yet another time... As usual, I'm thinking about the meaning, feeling, reality and necessity of that prized and elusive state known as "home."

A handful of recent and all-too-fleeting experiences of being and of feeling myself fully included have left me pondering, and very grateful, too. But on that always there other hand, the opposite experiences have kept on keepin' on too, but I'm a theologian so I'm supposed to do ambiguity well. In fact, I do ambiguity very fleetly, but in some cases which it were not so necessary. How little it takes to make me sense I'm finally home, but what a plethora of non-inclusions I've been through during the past dozen years!

I'm feeling silly, or maybe closer to creative, and "alien ship" in this blog title brings to mind our dual citizenship as Christians, which includes the familiar bible-speak of resident alien/sojourner. Our double-identity encompasses our call to live out our discipleship in the community of the church while living out our baptism in the excitement and challenge of the world outside the church. This two-pronged church/world is a form of dual citizenship - or citizen ship - too. In sojourning stranger terms, again I'll cite my referring to Abraham's being an Ivri, one from the other side, and Jesus of Nazareth's enfleshing God, One from the exceedingly other side. There's the sort-of dualism in the gospel narratives (especially Mark) of Jesus' taking a boat ride from one side over to the other side, the occasional nautical and very persistent water imagery throughout scripture, and the representation of the Church as a ship—probably you know the classic church architectural pattern of an upside-down ship? Whatever the building's design, it's appropriate to refer to the central part of the sanctuary where the congregation sits as "nave," from which (of course) the word navy derives. In addition, Noah's Ark (Noahic Ark, parallel to Noahic Covenant?) comes to mind.

Paul S. Minear, in Images of the Church in the New Testament, suggests boat/ship is not particularly central in NT imagery! I just linked to the 2005 edition of the book, but I'm quoting from the original edition published in 1960, so I won't indicate page numbers:
Is there an intended analogy between the boat in the storm and the church in the world? ...If this association of church and boat were certain, we might discern allusions elsewhere, as, for example, in those varied occasions when Mark pictures Jesus as teaching the crowd from a boat. It is probably that the first readers of the NT found multiple implications in all these episodes, but it is improbable that modern readers will ever agree on what those implications were. Though the stories suggest certain things about the church, it would be unwise for us to place much weight upon them.
Professor Minear also considers the Ark a minor NT image and includes only a single page about it. Here's a quote:
Thus when Jesus compared the days of the Son of Man to the days of Noah he wanted to emphasize the suddenness, the unexpectedness, and the inclusiveness of God's judgment, together with the urgency of immediate and alert watchfulness. ...

Like the water, Baptism is a means of salvation; like the ark, the church carries the elect through the waters of eschatological crisis. This is because Baptism involved total reliance of the community upon Jesus' death and resurrection...but the NT itself is remarkably free from the vagaries of later typological fantasies. ...the OT antitype had not yet received the power to dictate or to dominate thoughts about the church. So the analogy appears both rarely and marginally in the NT. Even this limited use, however, reflects a communal mind that could see itself in the multiple mirrors of Scriptural tradition.
It's probably the eternal student in me, but before posting I love to get my ideas into almost-finished form, something I still generally aim for on my theology blog. However, sometimes I recall an incident during the time I served in Boston, when the senior pastor I served with commented on my preaching that morning: "Really good this morning—of course, you're always good, but you don't need to wrap it up as tightly as you sometimes do." I'm telling myself all my blogs are good, but I don't need to wrap them up as tightly as I sometimes do! Like a sermon, a blog is for me and for my [listeners and] readers, and I need to leave enough room and sufficient space for the Spirit to break in, engage and reveal what I'm trying to say plus a whole lot more than I've imagined.

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