Wednesday, May 05, 2010

Images of God and Church: Mission and Worship: And Us

This past Sunday we began our worship by all sharing one to three words that described our manifestation of the church here. Here they are:
loving...public...home-coming...inside out, upside down... please/permission-giving...interactive...experiential...images...attentiveness....
original...destiny/purposeful...non-competitive...personal growth...respectful of persons...chaotic.

And we put a big X to stand for all those that we knew would come to mind, and perhaps be more fitting even, than the ones we came up with immediately in a few minutes.

Then I said that a church should be an image of God. Basic Intro to Theology: What you imagine God will affect how you imagine the cosmos/universe/nature which affects how you imagine human nature which affects how you imagine evil/sin which affects how you imagine salvation/christology/ which affects how you imagine the church as a people growing out of the Christ or Saving Event...which finally affects your vision of the Blessed Community in the Fullness of Time-ish.

So, given these were how we imagined and experienced church...what does that say about our image and experience of God? If we are fulfilled by church then maybe that will help us re-experience God in a deeper more satisfying and sustaining way as we see and feel around us God embodied. If we are not experiencing the church as life-affirming, then maybe we, individually and as church communities, should undertake the theological work together of considering our image of God and the resulting other theological touchstones mentioned in the paragraph above, and see where the image of God is getting block and changed on its way to being realized as the church.

It challenges our default mode or old tapes running in our minds of God. For those words we chose to describe us as the church are active, communal, emotional, etc. not exactly in synch with the God of the Unmoved Mover, or Omnipotent and Omniscience and Perfect in a classic sense, more grassroots and relational than Top-Down. So it allowed us to talk about different ways to imagine and be moved by God, and to understand how we are all in some ways atheists to one another, so therefore those who identify as atheists and agnostics are also welcome within us too (then we all joined and said The Lord's Prayer, and there's a parable of the congregational free church in that) and we discussed our grounding in covenant and freedom and growth and openness, and yet how all of our words that ground us and give us meaning can also be taken to an extreme and begin to work against our very intentions.

A missional church is sent to live its existence outside itself, and through that process, and due to it, to find itself most deeply; likewise it embodies a missional God. A missional God is one whose Spirit will not stay contained within itself but lives outside its own existence, thus always creating, and through all the loving and freedom and suffering and redemption that happens as a part of that "God living beyond God's self" God also takes back into God's very being all that there is, now and forever, no matter how small and seemingly insignificant or no matter how "un-Godly" it may seem to us.

So when we worship we freely use the words that have been touchstones of the church universal and of our tradition, and those words theological have a purpose in themselves too for how they create a counter culture of words of value that go against the grain of the words that the entertainment marketplace empire seeks to impose on us, and we grow into those words deeper and deeper and richer and richer the longer and more intimately and more liberally we become with them.

Then, since it continues to be Eastertide, we watched a wonderful DVD about progressive Christian understandings and ways to interpret the stories of resurrection, and how to practice resurrection in our lives, and that it is okay to have a wide range of current understandings about Jesus and Resurrection, and acknowledging that we do have such a range, and that making room for others means we make room for our own change and growth.

In that way, even what we do when we celebrate communion in worship on Sunday mornings, is all a part of living beyond ourselves, missionally, and not something separate from what we primarily do as church the rest of the hours of the week.

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