May you have eyes to see that Jesus has come.
Every human thinks a different thought when he or she hears the word, “theology.” Some may consider theology to be an archaic series of thoughts and words that describe God. Others immediately default toward thinking of their religious context and experience. Many desire to engage in a “theological” conversation to help them think differently about God. Typically, theology involves a lot of words and ideas that construct a quasi-foreign language. Those who observe confusing and generally dull, uninteresting, and monotonous, theological discourse find themselves unengaged, confused, and needing to confront arrogant claims on authority. The vocational assignment of the missional leader is to deconstruct distorted understandings of theology and initiate an active, embodied theology.
Any of those who might be bored with required religion classes at liberal arts universities would be refreshed by the liveliness of theology when it is understood within its original context and applied within our current cultural reality. Modernism has crafted the definition of “logos” into “word,” “description,” or “study of.” It is very mechanical and symptomatic of our post-enlightenment era. Contrastingly, for the Hebrews, the word “logos” was understood with greater depth than our modern interpretation. “Logos” was equated with the “expression of the wisdom of God.” Johanian literature’s language about the person of Jesus as “logos,” reveals that God’s expression of wisdom is self-disclosed through the incarnation. Theology is something that is something that is alive and active in our world as demonstrated through the life of Jesus.
Though some may think that theology is “not for them,” all Christians must seek to understand their place and responsibility for enacting theology. Every person possesses the theological sources of formative life experiences and tradition that are informed by human reason. For Christians, Scripture also serves as a resource for developing one’s perspective. Throughout much of modernity, the use and primacy of Scripture formed an appeal toward rational and quantifiable structures. Author Philip Clayton points out the shift within post-modernity stating, “Christians are not particularly interested in exact lists of doctrines. They do not think that there is a universal right answer for how Christians should act in all cultural situations and at all times. They do go back again and again to the life and teachings of Jesus, since these continue to be the model for Christian practice and belief.” It may be a daunting task to transpose Jesus’ life to our postmodern context but such a task remains accessible and manageable for those who have not been formally trained at universities and seminaries on complex “theology.”
The theological change that is upon us is one that is hopeful. It may be met with resistance but requires an embrace of moving forward with innovation and creativity. As a young and motivated leader in the church, I have had moments of feeling stifled and discouraged from exploring new ways of enacting theology and being the church. In the midst of the obstacles I have faced, it has been a tempting option to “give up on the church.” Sometimes it doesn’t feel worth the fight when hoping to move away from stagnant and failing structures that no longer impact our culture. I have sought to run away from the pews and the buildings that continue to contain and restrain the church from being a missional community. My struggle is not only continuing to progressively move in a different direction but also moving in a capacity that invites and leads the church into participation without leaving people behind.
I don’t want to get caught in the trap of continuing to be overly concerned with the church and finding myself and others living stagnantly without actually enacting theology. Just as the battles between the conservative evangelical and liberal camps need to cease, so does the tension between progressive postmodern followers of Jesus and old-fashioned, modern Christians. I may possess a certain level of idealism but recognize the importance of ecumenism and unification when hoping to enact the kingdom of God. A reinvented church with a redefined mission would provide a story that mimics the resurrected Christ. As Clayton describes, “We have to learn to tell our story as individuals and as communities, together with Jesus’ stories.” In order to tell Jesus’ stories we must look through the same lens mentioned previously – a framework that moves beyond spoken words to an enacted theology.
Transformed theology is a socially active response to the love of God observed in the person of Jesus. It is important to note that Jesus did not operate by himself. He called a community of people around him to work together for the salvation of the world. Missional leaders must take theology seriously and thereby extend an invitation to others to look beyond the shallow confines of religious discourse and construct an alternative reality that involves action. Theology that is otherwise a series of convoluted words and simplistic explanations is simply not theology.
Some empty rituals are empty. Others are not.
When we think of rituals we typically think of religious-type rituals. I would suggest that there is no ritual that is not religious. We go about our lives and much like rituals performed at “religious services,” our practices are meaningless. Have you ever really stopped to consider, “Why do we do this?” Is it just a ritual of our culture? Something we’ve been taught?
“This is just how things are.”
“It’s just a part of our system.”
We go about our lives because we adapt to the ways things have always been done. Empty religious rituals.
Some empty rituals are not empty. But these are the rituals that I think we do not practice because we’re busy practicing empty rituals. What rituals do we need to practice that allow us to empty our lives in order that we might make space to be filled by the love of God? A love that will inform our ability to practice rituals that are life giving – to ourselves and to others.
If we must make purchases for ourselves and others this holiday season, may we consider a practical and more meaningful approach. Here are my Top 6 Gift Ideas for Guys this holiday season. It is called, “The Black List.” Hopefully, the items are marked with a certain degree of imagination, practicality, and general thoughtfulness – beyond consumption for the sake of consumption and onto considering needs, aesthetic, cultural connectivity, and relational development.
1. Apple TV
Let’s face it. We’re a post-HD flat panel, post-cable culture. Our lives are lived are on film and screen. It’s important to engage the most widely used electronic and informational device that informs (for good or bad) our culture. No longer do you need to pay for a cable or satellite package. Through Apple TV you can simply watch films and shows that you desire at the time that fits your schedule. No more commercials that promote unnecessary consumption and over indulgence. No more scheduling your life around a television series that you find particularly compelling, informative, artistic, or useful.
In a world of rapidly changing technology, we are constantly purchasing different accessories to fit updated phones, cameras, music players, and tablet computers. The cost becomes nearly unmanageable. The Spiderpodium is only $20 and can operate as a GPS mount in your vehicle, a music player fastener when working out while your child rides in your jogger stroller, or a tripod for your camera. Only a lack of creativity can limit the capacity of the Spiderpodium in fitting any small electronic device.
MOLESKINE is the legendary notebook that has held the inspirations and ideas of everyone from Van Gogh, Picasso and Hemingway to famed author, Bruce Chatwin. Artists, authors, and geniuses of all variety have long appreciated the simplicity and superior functionality of these notebooks. Originally these books were produced by small French bookbinders who supplied the Parisian stationery shops frequented by the international avant-garde. However, In 1986, the last manufacturer of Moleskine, a family operation in Tours, closed and Moleskines were gone – but not forgotten. As a result of their previous popularity and demand, they did return. In 1998, a small Milanese publisher brought these books back for writers, artists, travelers and all free-thinkers around the globe.^ I use multiple moleskines for multiple purposes – mostly reflection and creativity. ^ From moleskines.com
Who doesn’t need a little light from time to time? The Mag-Lite is the most practical of all gifts. It is great for amily camping excursions, emergency blackouts, and road trips. It uses LED lighting and lasts much, much longer than continuing to buy and re-buy cheap plastic flashlights that are not dependable.
5. Black Coffee
Let’s just say it’s a way of appreciating what God put here on this earth for us. Just be sure to purchase Rainforest Alliance Certified and Fair Trade Certified coffee beans as an act of recognizing the value of our earth and those around the globe who are working tirelessly in their local economic systems.
You’ll never regret investing in a good camera. I look back to pictures from a 2MP camera I had when digital cameras were new on the shelves and I wish the grainy pixels could be recaptured. One of the most important parts of life is making memories. Make them. Capture them. Celebrate them.
Or is all this just an example of how we justify our purchasing and consumption?
It’s coming. The day marked for the celebration of the birth of Jesus is nearing. Comments are frequently made about the origination of the holiday being pagan. I would argue that which was pagan and made religious has largely become pagan again. The “celebration” that we now call Christmas has become the commercial exploitation of God’s incarnation. Is there another way of celebrating?
It’s here. Black Friday. The day after Thanksgiving, millions of people are sacrificing a full night of sleep and either stay up all night or awake very early to drive their vehicles to shopping malls and retail stores across the country. Long lines, crammed traffic grids, and hateful behaviors are no deterrent from the cost savings for the mass purchasing of items that may or may not be needed.
Black Friday is an interesting social phenomenon. Why do consumers think they are saving money? Do consumers consider what money actually is? Are the majority of purchases on Black Friday for items that would be purchased even if “sales” didn’t exist? Is the purchasing of items encouraging unfair trade or even slavery in other countries? May we all begin to consider the fullness of what it means to consume, buy, worship, purchase, and enslave while imagining what alternative behavior may be more life sustaining as we celebrate the coming of God into human reality.
I have three ideas/propositions wrapped up in one benediction for how we might go about Black Friday:
May we be most concerned about our relationships with others. May we purchase only what we or others need. May we embrace our imaginative capacities.