For the past 6 weeks or so, I find myself kind of floating along with the events of life. I haven’t read much theology at all except for the blog posts that show up in my RSS subscriptions. In May, all the stress of my son finishing up high school, his getting a ridiculously unjust in-school suspension, which required that he take all his finals that he would have otherwise been exempt from taking, the graduation itself, another birthday, continuing disappointment with not having a church community…..all of this , plus work, has put me into a kind of numb stupor.
I feel sometimes that my lack of desire to keep myself immersed in the theological reading I usually do is due in part to how much it makes me aware of how absent the church seems to be. It seems that there is no serious efforts or awareness of the need to be such a community that recognizes the need to bear one another’s burdens in standing against the culture and all its deceptions.
I read a portion of a sermon from Gordon Cosby that he preached on May 13 of this year
No matter where on the planet we are born, we are profoundly affected by our culture. The particular culture into which weâ€™re born determines much of who we are, and we canâ€™t break loose from it on our own.
We can keep living from the shallow, surface self or we can claim the real, the deep, the inner self where the Spirit of God already dwells. Only then do we become free. Only then will we experience the freedom that Meister Eckhart says comes from â€œneeding to know nothing, will nothing and have nothing.â€ This inner place of freedom is the culture that is our true home.
—Gordon Cosby, “What Lies Beneath” at inward/outward (This is an excerpt from a sermon preached on May 13, 2007.
It is true that we cannot “break loose” from the culture on our own. There seems to be precious little help coming from the churches. It seems that no matter what the theology of a church, they sorely miss the call to be a different kind of community; a different type of “friendship” that is not available anywhere else. I read on a theological blog recently someone talking about how they “don’t need community” from the church, that they find plenty of it amongst their friendships and relationships outside the church. (Community for the Sake Of….)
This type of thought in particular:
I didn’t go to church for community in the first place. I went because I honestly believed there was this character within an all-encompassing grand narrative named God that ordered existence in a way that offered worship (definition another subject) as a means to grace. I have come to believe that there is indeed a character in a grand narrative, but he ain’t writing any new chapters, and the narrative is all but closed to scrutiny or understanding. I found people at that place who became part of my community, but if people are looking for a church to become their community, they are seeking in vain.
In short, community is the group of people with whom I share my life. I don’t need an artificial construct called church to create a bond of commonality. Inasmuch as I’ve agreed to progressive levels of openness and honesty, people within my community become my friends. Inasmuch as church exists as a false construct, I find that I don’t need it to participate in life or in the redemption of the world. That has always been done relationally, not programmatically. Peace.
I don’t recall what attracted me to add this blog to my RSS list, but I know that there had to be some issue that he posted on that resonated with me, but this would not be one of them. How sad, and it is sad because I know that it’s true for most church goers. I am keenly aware of how people in churches I’ve attended are talking to each other (when they DO talk) about things OTHER than the church, and about things they do OUTSIDE the church (ie. vacations they took or are planning on taking, sports events, television or movies…..IOW, things of THE CULTURE). I am in no way saying these things are or should be taboo, but when they represent almost the sum-total of what’s on EVERYBODY’s mind; when people are getting in their cars and leaving as soon as possible to get on with their “real life” and keeping up with their “real schedule” after taking “time-out” to do their Sunday observance, this becomes disturbing. The church’s purpose is to BE that “real life” over and against the false life that one can find being offered by our culture and infused with “meaning” by the forces of capitalism and “success”, and the more we can associate ourselves with these trappings of success, the more important we feel.
So, as I notice the extent to which I have “gone with the flow” , I am aware of how much this represents a capitulation to that culture. And so , there it is. I’m “retreating” it seems, into the “safety” of having my life “directed” by events, so as to avoid the reality of how empty it is in terms of experiencing anything remotely approaching authentic church. I WANT my life to be ordered by a call lived out in community where ongoing calls can be discerned, and discover “abandoned places of empire” and set up shop there.