Readings for this week's class included When the Members are the Missionaries, by A. Wayne Schwab. Schwab describes the six areas of mission fields that we each find ourselves in as home, work, the local community, the wider world, leisure, and faith community. We are called by God in each of these realms in mission. Schwab provides narratives of individuals, real-life stories of missionaries, who seem like you or I, normal folks living their lives, trying their best to live as Christians in the world.
I agree with Schwab that it's important for us to realize that the real work of the church is what people do from Monday to Monday. It's how they live their lives and how they interact with others. The number of people in the pews is not what matters. What matters is how they live their lives. So often we focus on the size of the church. In the year 2000, the Episcopal Church even set a goal of doubling its membership by the year 2020. It's now 2011 and we are not anywhere close to achieving that goal.
Schwab quotes his colleague, Jim Anderson, who says, "God is dismantling the church." I'm not so sure that's a bad thing, actually. We are so often focused on status quo, maintaining the structure, the building, the budget. It is scary to think that the institution of church is being dismantled, but what Schwab says is inspiring and so true: "What God dismantles, God re-mantles."
We are called to be God's partners in the rebuilding. "Where might we get the help?" we may ask. The good news is that people are looking for a purpose and meaning to life. They want to be changed, and want to work for justice. Schwab says the call to mission is a call to give up the childlike dependence that we have on God. Yes, we are God's beloved children, but as we mature in our faith we are truly called to be God's co-workers for God's dream.
Monday, March 21, 2011
Tuesday, March 15, 2011
Shane Claiborne's, The Irresistible Revolution: Living as an Ordinary Radical was our assigned reading for class this week, as well as a video made by Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove (http://sustainabletraditions.com/2010/05/jonathan-wilson-hartgrove-christian-community/).
Both address living in intentional Christian communities, as Christ's earliest followers did, sharing what they had, making decisions together, and living by Covenant rather than contract.
As Claiborne's title suggests, this is indeed a radical notion. In the History of Christianity course that I took this past June, I read about the communal life of the men and women who gathered very few of their belongings to follow Jesus and others for what seemed like a traveling Woodstock Festival, complete with singing, dancing, tons of free love, and, while they might not have been smoking pot, they were definitely high on life! "What fun!" I thought. A time of so much joy, freedom, possibility.
Fast forward though to 2011, and Claiborne's community of intentional living and I'm thinking, "Hmmm, not really so much for me." I am pretty content in my little home with my husband and our dog and I really love laying on my couch watching t.v. at the end of a long day. I don't really like being around people all the time, and I don't know about sharing everything????
Claiborne says, "The world cannot afford the American dream." This reminds me a recent conversation I had with a coworker who was upset that her credit union had just adopted the motto, "Life without limits." She was blown away that a credit union, which she chose for it's commitment to the community and not-for-profit cooperative structure would perpetuate the consumeristic, wasteful, unattainable lifestyle that so many of us in the United States have accepted as normal.
To live as an intentional Christian is to live a life of limits. It is to make every decision with careful thought and care for our neighbors and our fragile island earth. This is indeed a radical way of life, and one that I wish was easier for me to imagine myself in.
How do we, who will never probably join a living co-op or live in an intentional Christian community live a similar lifestyle? How do we support one another and hold each other accountable? Something to ponder indeed.
Posted by Episcopal Diocese of Iowa at 8:34 AM