Friday, December 26, 2003

With the transformation of the anticipation of Advent into the gift of the coming of Christ, we are left to answer what we will do with the presence of God among us. How will we be changed? What will the "light for revelation to the Gentiles" reveal to us about what is in us? What I am going to do about it might even be a greater question.

I learned some time ago that my first response to what God reveals in me is to trust in the atoning death of Jesus. The faith I put in Jesus is both desperate and sure. Desperate because I truly realize that I have no other recourse, but sure because the promise is based on God's faithfulness to me, not my faithfulness to Him.

And yet . . . that is only a first response. Even with the certainty of Christ's atoning death, I still need to ask myself what I am going to do about that in me which necessitated Christ's death - even though the guilt and punishment has been fully removed. I was not saved to continue to sin, but to be freed to become like my Savior.

After all the wrapping paper has been thrown away, the Christmas tree taken down, and the ornaments packed away for another year, what will the legacy of this Christmas be? The gift of Christ was given by the Father that we might become gifts in Christ to the Father.

Wednesday, December 10, 2003

I see two intertwined problems: We need to move away from individualistic Christianity and toward community, but we also need to take more personal responsibility instead of relying on our churches. At first, I know this sounds contradictory - like I'm discouraging individuality, and then encouraging it. Like I am calling for community, and then saying we rely on it too much. But I see a huge difference between individualism and taking personal responsibility, and the type of community I am calling for and our churches.

Militant individualism shuns accountability, prefers personal interpretation, and asserts the rights of a person, all in ways that interpret Christianity as fundamentally between each person and God. The way this extreme individualism views a church is as a resource for the intensely individual pursuit of God. Church is not community, it is here to help me. I think we become too dependent on churches as sources of nourishment to spur on our personal growth.

I believe that we need to grow to see our faith as fundamentally communal, in a way that cannot be organized through a church with its campus, meetings, programs, and structures. Christian community (not human community based on preference, personal tastes, shared interests, social status, etc.) can occur in organized churches, but only among those who seek it despite the organizational structures of meetings, buildings, and programs. The personal responsibility comes in when we talk about "seeking" that community.

I find myself trying too hard to help people have community who may not truly want it. Maybe they don't understand it. I think perhaps they are victims of an individualism that our culture promotes. They may only want social interaction, or self-serving relationships, . . . but if they do not want community, and the personal responsibility involved in participating in it, along with the accountability and transparency required, there is little that can be done except to offer it and live in it.

I'm not the first to state that our churches are designed to cater to the individualism of our culture. We need counter-cultural communities of believers that practice Christian community and call for personal responsibility. When we understand the true meaning of those two ideas, we will grasp how counter-cultural we will be.

Monday, December 01, 2003

Just got back yesterday from Thanksgiving in Iowa. We went to see my parents.

I was going back to a place where I lived for two years, when I was in third and fourth grade. It was, and still is, a very small cluster of houses built around eight streets with no commercial activity at all. Today the two main streets are paved, though the others still are dirt as they were before. The elementary school is closed now, as is the community center, which used to be a general store long ago. There are two churches, but since one is moving out to the highway into a new building, within the month there will only be one. It was a great place to be kid - and probably still is.

Now when I drive through the streets where we rode our bicycles, and stop at the creek where we swam, and see the empty lot where we played, everything seems so small. What seemed to be far away back then was really only a mile or less. It also looks so very rundown and dilapidated. I asked my parents if the houses look the same today as they did when we lived there, and apparently they do. I guess when I was nine or ten I didn't know that our town looked poor. I hadn't learned to be as conscious of material possessions as I am today.

I am less easily satisfied than I was as a boy. Having a bicycle, a place to play, and a best friend was all that mattered. It probably still is - but I am just less aware of it.