Monday, December 19, 2005

Incarnational Unity

I've been thinking about Christian unity. One conclusion that I've been driven to by my experiences is that God's unity is beyond and more than human endeavors.

I say this because if the reality of godly unity were only known through experience, I would struggle to affirm its existence at all. The existence to which I could attest would only be that it is fleeting, easily disrupted by human agendas, and not very powerful in transforming our world. If unity has to do with the presence of God's reign, practical observation would lead me to question whether the Kingdom is near.

So I am convinced that unity does not exist only with our experience of it, but even when we fail to embrace it, live it, see it, or understand it. Christian unity is a spiritual reality despite our historical realities.

I also know the dangers of simply spiritualizing something, making it ethereal and intangible, so as to justify its non-existence in so much of our communal living out of faith. That is an easy path to take - excuse our failure by claiming unity has no Monday morning or Friday night meanings.

This is why I find myself wanting to talk about Christian unity as being incarnational - of God beyond history, and yet of God in history.

When I experience so little living out of unity in faith, I am reminded that the reality of unity is not proved by experience. However, I am called to relentlessly pursue the practice of particularized unity, historical unity, in everyday living unity . . . and so the unity which is beyond history is also historical. Our unity is a tension even as Jesus, God-as-man, is the tension of the beyond history and historical flesh and blood.

Monday, December 12, 2005


The first three Sundays of Advent have been particularly rich in our fellowship gatherings. Perhaps it is because many of us came from Christian traditions that would readily celebrate Christmas as a "Santa" focused holiday, with little or no emphasis on Christ.

There is a redeeming of the season going on in my heart . . . and I think in others as well.

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

A Constantinian Christmas

I am reading A Peculiar People by Rodney Clapp, which probably isn't good because it encourages the radical within me . . . and I generally don't need any encouragement in that area.

Put that together with the current blurring of lines between Christianity and politics in our country and the way Christmas has become anything but spiritual, and I'm in a radical mood.

Here's some of my beef:

That Christianity sacrifices its essence in trying to create a kingdom of this world is apparent in many ways. It wasn't long after Jesus said that his kingdom was not of this world that his followers started to try and prove him wrong. "In, but not of" has been discarded for "over and of".

This continuing trend is seen in the conservative right's attempts to create a theocracy - or claim that America has always been one - and rewrite history in the process. This New York Times article gives one such example regarding the present season.

I noticed another indication in my recent visits to Kirklands. I have been looking for candlesticks and whatever we might use to create a more sacred place for where we gather to worship. Kirklands has a good selection of crosses, ones to hang on the wall, table crosses, nativity scenes, and all types of items symbolic of Christian faith.

But I don't like it.

The problem is, I think that Christian faith is now sinking into a sentimental and nostalgic part of our history, so it is "in" to decorate and accessorize with symbols of Christian faith. Turn faith into fashion and it ceases to be authentic.

But this is the end of trying to make Jesus' kingdom into a realm of this world. The path ends in quaint reminders of what has in reality lost all meaning. When it is not scandalous to wear a cross, it is not a sign that our culture is Christian, but that the meaning of the cross has been compromised.

Of course, I can take advantage of Kirklands' marketing and easily find symbols of the sacred . . . but for our community these aren't simply options for interior decoration. We have to be keepers of radical faith that is not of this world . . . which isn't easy in a world where faith is trivialized as a political agenda, a marketing strategy, a sentimental curio, or a national identity.