Monday, January 24, 2005

an experiment in fidelity

Will posted this Walter Brueggemann quote recently .

"We all have a hunger for certitude, and the problem is that the Gospel is not about certitude, it's about fidelity. So what we all want to do if we can is immediately transpose fidelity into certitude, because fidelity is a relational category and certitude is flat, mechanical category. So we have to acknowledge our thirst for certitude and then recognize that if you had all the certitudes in the world it would not make the quality of your life any better because what we must have is fidelity."

It has caused me to think a lot about our life together and how remarkably faithful this collection of people (we call Communality) are. I'm encouraged and emboldened by Gandhi's 'experiments in truth' and it might be fair to say that our life together in grounded, missional community is a similar experiment - perhaps it's an 'experiment in fidelity.' no easy experiment in this world of infinite alternatives and quick fix/instant gratification/have now pay later solutions. i hope (and i have good reason to be hope-full) we can learn to usher in a new age of patience coupled with a gentle urgency to see the Kingdom come. The majesty of such an experiment is this: we taste the shalom-sweetness of covenant community and at the same time we are offering this peace and grace to people we serve and love in our neighborhoods and city. Bosch calls this the ‘double movement’ of mission. we have placed ourselves in streets, neighborhoods, and realtionships that make this experiement all the more fragile...but we are unashamedly living our way into the scriptural narrative in the ways of Jesus and, most importantly, we are doing it together.


lisa g said...

I had sworn off blogging, but somehow I am here doing it again. I found this blog particularly thought provoking today. I have been thinking often over the past few days about the struggle and importance of maintaining unity in our diverse group. When I reflect on my experience with Communality over the past couple years, I think the times I have struggled the most with fidelity have not been from a lack of faithfulness, but more from uncertainty of the direction it should be aimed (which is probably what Brueggemann means with transposing fidelity into certitude, but those are big words, and I'm not certain I completely grasp all that). When I first met this group, my background had been a large mega-church with a different view on mission, so I came here with a passion to reach out to these neighborhoods and was drawn to communality because of that. I kept coming to things and developing relationships, but still didn’t realize the equal importance of community and mission. It wasn’t until there began to be damage to those relationships because I didn’t realize this that it started to make sense.

I guess I look back at that time, and I remember how impressionable I was. I also had such a passion to be faithful that I have to wonder if someone had just explained things more clearly, then damage could have been avoided. We wouldn't be left with a bitter mess to clean up. But, that must be my idealistic side talking. In an experiment you don’t know how things turn out until you actually try them. I admit that now that I know the importance, I may still do poorly trying to balance investing in community and reaching out to others, but I also think I gain the greatest understanding of Christ from being committed to seek healing of the bitter mess.

With those reflections, and further thinking on what it means to be a covenant community today, I also began to wonder about ritual process (forgive me all you seminary grads if I attempt to talk about things I don’t really understand). When I think about entering into other covenants, I think of some sort of ceremony, sign, or remembrance. Maybe I think it would be a little helpful in times of struggle to have something written that we could refer to or to remember a time of commitment or choosing to enter into this covenant. Or, maybe that isn’t necessary because it is something you have to choose continually every day. In early church days, people may have remembered things like baptism as being a time when they committed to the church. Now most of us were baptized elsewhere, and in communality, sometimes it seems like you just keep showing up to enter the covenant.

So, these are just some of the places my mind wandered in class today. I'm sure there is so much I do not understand. I think that these are things you all have probably talked about in a leadership meeting at sometime, and I would love to hear other's thoughts...

geoff said...

thanks Lisa. i'm glad you are unable to give up blogging....i love it when we can chat like this. okay. you are so right in pointing out fidelity is not a simple question of 'are you with us - whoever us happens to be - or against us?' much of the time we are trying to be faithful and this can create tension - what is the most important thing to be faithful to?? but what seems to be clear - and you articulate this well in the second paragraph - is that we are called to covenant community (with/to God, with/to one another). this is in and of itself a missionary act, or another way to say it, division leaches the mission of God of its power.

as for ritual process....YES!!! we need to do these things...markers, ceremonies, reminders. brad f. and i were talking about this late last night. what are our symbols? we have a wealth of resources in the history of the church but we also have a life together that is generative and creative so we need to be joining the church's long tradition of making our own stuff up.

i was talking to our guys group about this last week..i have been learning to bake bread and i was thrilled with the feeling of oil, honey, and flour and the 'ritual' of making bread. i kept remebering the old rabbinic parable/question where one rabbi asks, "why did God fail to make a bread tree?" the answer, to make a longish story short, is because God wanted to make bread WITH US. co-creativity.