Thursday, February 15, 2007

The times, they are a changin’ (again)

Sherry and I are enjoying being immersed in Australian culture. As part of that immersion and in line with our vocation as missionaries we are making time to read local authors who concentrate their reflections on church, culture, and mission – Al Hirsch, Michael Frost, Ash Barker, et al. There is much written in these pages about the relative importance of this time in history for the Christian church. We are, many argue, at a pivotal time, a ‘hinge in history’ when the people of God are being pressed to see God’s work in the world anew and to respond accordingly. This kind of talk simultaneously motivates me and triggers a furrow in my brow. Yes this is the dawning of a new age (what comes after Aquarius?) but aren’t we 21st century humans just a bit alarmist and perhaps arrogant to so frequently declare unique status in the history of our species? I understand and affirm the need to carefully and properly locate ourselves in the stream of human history to more wisely discern our kingdom efforts. In this regard I find David Bosch’s call for a ‘gentle urgency’ and ‘bold humility’ really helpful. So, the times are changing, but haven’t they always been changing?

To answer this question I head for books (sad really, I should ask the person sitting next to me). The bible is a good one. I also tend to gravitate toward the writings of E. Stanley Jones – those who know me are already sick of this inclination. ESJ is my favorite writer and today I picked up ‘The Christ of Every Road’ (written in 1930) to explore this question of the times. On page 23 he writes,

“There is nothing new in saying that we live in an age of transition.
Someone has facetiously said that when Adam and Eve were going out of the Garden of Eden Adam turned to Eve and said, ‘My dear, this is an age of transition.’ The oldest known bit of writing in the world is a piece of papyrus in a Constantinople Museum. On it is written: ‘Alas, times are not what they used to be. Children no longer obey their parents and everyone wants to write a book.’”


Sound familiar? While accepting the fact that each generation claims to be living in a time of transition, ESJ goes on to declare about his own time that…

“…no one can get down amid the currents of this age without feeling that the thoughts and feelings and tendencies flowing there are not ripples on the surface but something that is changing the whole fundamental outlook on life. We are in the throws of a passing from traditionalism to life based
upon the authority of facts, of truth, of experience.”


So times are always changing but to let that lull us into passivity is unacceptable. That is to say, it is unacceptable if we believe God is always inviting us to join in on God’s mission of love and justice in the world. ESJ finishes his short reflection with these penetrating questions…

“Can the Church speak that word out of the depths of it’s own radiant sense of God, out of its own experience of victory in life, out of its deep sense of
sureness amid a world of clashing change?”


Now I set aside my questions about history and culture and ask the deeper question, “can I speak out of the depths of my own radiant sense of God…?” and “can I testify to this radiant sense of God in the life of my faith community?” These seem to be the right kinds of questions no matter what kind of age or change (or story) we Jesus followers find ourselves in. I am coming to believe that every time and place is a kingdom-coming time and place...but only if we have 'eyes to see' the world around us and we can inhabit the proper abandonment to joyfully and gently agitate for the Kingdom's cause.

4 comments:

billy said...

Geoff,

I think that this is a very important observation. It kind of reminds me of the tendency, pretty prevalent in all of us, to talk about how "God" is calling us to serve in a particular place or at a particular time, as if we can't serve God at all times and in all places by loving our neighbors in the most mundane and ordinary ways. I'm not saying that we need to abolish the idea of a "calling" or disparage distinctive moments when there is special leading by God; i just think that it is important to recognize that we sometimes unconciously or implicitly divide reality into "sacred" and "profane" space by tying the idea/field of mission to some kind of exotic or distant place, special time, or particular problem that we feel strongly about. It is interesting to me that Jesus chooses to locate the very important story of the "Good Samaritan" on a road between two disparate places-I think that this story helps us to understand the scope of who our neighbor is and when and where the true opportunity to serve lies....with the next person who we meet along our road. Thanks for sharing....we miss you both very much

Love. said...

Greetings!

We have discovered that you are a commune located in Lexington,
Kentucky; coincidentally, we are a collective located in southern West
Virginia. Due to a lack of support for our cause, we have been unable
to find people willing to join our collective, The Firinne Collective. As of right now, we have solely two members, my sister and myself who are also the creators of the group. We are asking if, by any chance,you could link to us and possibly provide us with some helpful tips at starting our own collective?

We have a blog located at this url: http://firinnecollective.blogspot.com

Any help would be greatly appreciated.

Namaste,
Evon Christian (a.k.a. Love)

--

Evon and Erica Christian
firinne@your-mail.com

ryan k said...

Geoff,
I need you to look at a manuscript for my new book about parenting. As you know, I am concerned about how badly children behave these days. My bok contains a number of case studies of street children in Istanbul. Should be groundbreaking.
Thanks.

geoff and sherry said...

thanks billy and ryan for your comments. your are both gentlemen and scholars and should write books.

love, i would really encourage you to attend a 'school for conversion' hosted by one of the communities in our wider family. follow the link on the right hand side to 'new monasticism' and blessings to you. of course you are always welcome to come and visit us - but right now we are in australia so you would need to connect with someone else in the communality tribe.