Yesterday, I had a Lord of the Rings marathon. I watched all three movies in succession. I drank beer. Ate chicken. And lost myself in the battle for Middle Earth. This is my idea of a vacation when I have no money.
After the movies, I lay in bed thinking about the broad Christian themes of the story. Frodo, the Hobbit, being among the smallest of all people, was chosen to destroy the One Ring and rescue Middle Earth from the evil Dark Lord. The sacrifices made for the common good.
LOTR does what a good narrative should do: challenge, inspire, ennoble.
What is our grand adventure as people of God? What is our great quest? To preach good news (Matthew 28). That’s the official answer. But what does that look like?
For me, the temptation is always toward empire building. My shadow looks like Bill Hybels or Rick Warren.
While I value much of the material they have written regarding church life, I also know that the gospel and culture cannot be so easily reconciled. The gospel always confronts and contradicts that which does not come from God.
The consumerist culture of western society does not come from God. Where the culture tells us that stuff will make us happy, the gospel asks us to “sell all you have and give to the poor.” Where the culture demands safety and security, the gospel tells us to “take up your cross and follow me.” Where the culture esteems the rugged individual, the gospel calls us to “meet together, to break bread and pray.”
I like what Scott Williams has written recently about his pastoral journey.
…early in the whole emergent thing i grabbed a phrase that has come to symbolize much of what i still believe today. i can't remember who said it but the term 'wounded healer' has stuck with me. it has given me freedom and hope. it may no longer be trendy but for me it was life. i began to realize that i was called to share out of vulnerability, not strength. it began to permeate every part of my life. i no longer had to pretend i had it all together. it allowed me to bring into play other important facets of my belief system. vulnerability, raw, real, imperfection, transparency. our church began to look more like a twelve step meeting than a church service. that had it's pitfalls too, but god started to move. (read the rest here. It’s well worth the effort)
The gospel asks us to shed the trappings of a world that values power and wealth and to embrace the vulnerability of the poor man from Nazareth; the vulnerability of compassion and love. Jesus had a way of looking into peoples’ hearts and souls that made them turn from their self-destructive and society crushing behaviours. Jesus could speak truth, love, and freedom because he lived it. He lived the Kingdom that he preached. Some theologians say he “was” the Kingdom (I still don’t know what that means). The Kingdom of life, healing, freedom, and salvation was his good news to a hurting and broken world. That was his message.
He needed no shopping mall churches. Nor any four point sermons on how to relieve stress. All he had, and all he gave to his disciples was the message of the gospel: that the kingdom of God, the kingdom of life and salvation, is present among us.
I still don’t know what the church will look like in the future. I have no grand vision, no great dream other than the simple message of the gospel.
Maybe that’s enough.