Wednesday, December 03, 2014
Below is a letter that Richard Passmore of StreetSpace has written, using some material he and I fused together last week. It follows the idea he’s blogged about recently of “calling the walls to dust” and its well worth re-reading those posts. http://www.sundaypapers.org.uk/ We were trying to grasp towards the notion of God not being evident in places we work and not showing up in the ways we may have expected from our former Charismatic backgrounds, in power and might to do externally evidenced miracles, but seems to come in gently and behind us, slowly, almost imperceptibly in and through us as we work relationally.
We have each grappled in our contexts with many of the disconnects and became aware that the margins and the street are often the scene of practical theology where change is noted first. Much of this work is influenced by the Orthodox doctrines of kenosis and theosis or deification; if you are unfamiliar with this it may sound heretical and grandiose to say we are becoming united with God, but it is a doctrine that has been somewhat lost at the Reformation and makes entire sense in the light of much of scripture. What I believe we are seeing resonates with John Caputo’s work on the weakness of God, who doesn’t barge in where people are vulnerable but pours himself out in mercy. Here we go:
“I have been wrestling with the disconnect between what I am reading and my feelings. On facebook a friend suggested that a letter might be a helpful medium. The letters Bonhoeffer, King, Luther etc were wonderful alternatives to books and academic discourse. The wonderful Kim Hartshorne recently wrote to me following yesterdays blogpost, picking up where my words failed me, so with her permission I have adapted her email with my own stuttering thoughts as a letter to my friends on the journey.
I know a lot of the time I make very little sense, struggle to communicate the depth and instinctual feelings I have about the shifts in thinking, theology and mission that are going on around me. Every step I take I feel the road rising to meet me and I am sorry, I am not an artist or a poet, so I cannot convey these tentative footsteps. The language I have and the ability of my hands fail me, so I revert to nonsensical metaphors and for the last 10 years have been talking about the church/community as the fourth part of the trinity and more recently questioning the missio dei approach.
The G-d of the street, who is with the poor and the outcast, and broken like me, has released me from worrying too much about how others view me, but I am still captive to many thought processes and my own selfish need for salvation. I apologise where I have been to quick to judge and transferred the pain I see in those around me to others, often to those who are simply trying to understand. Calling the walls to dust has been a powerful process to help me reflect and wrestle with the questions that have been building for years, and I am grateful to the poet who coined the phrase.
The foundational issues that the walls are built on, is that so much of our thinking and practice is binary, and so it fails to embrace the gospel oneness. Missio dei is still a binary way of thinking of God and human action in the world. It sees it as gods domain to be in charge and us to hunt out the scent and follow. The separation between us and G-d that the gospel expelled still remains in missio-dei and many of our ecclesiological and theological concepts.
We need to develop a different approach without the binary constructs that simply end up replacing walls that the gospel broke down. So lets return to Genesis, at creation, where humans are given a privileged place of co-creator. We are given the responsibility to create, extend, make, do justice, in the way God does. He shares his power with us and sends us out as his multipliers. The words used for ‘image’ as in man made in Gods image are ‘tselem’ and ‘demut’ in the Hebrew and mean gods, mini-me’s, like the little gods that were idols to the nations around, they looked like the bigger god they represented. We are Chips off the old block, and in you my friends I see so much my Fathers likeness. To name those likenesses here would mean I would never finish this letter, but I am privileged to journey beside so many mini-christs.
The garden of Eden, the temple and the ark of the covenant were all microcosms, experiments as to how God and his mini-gods would share living and ruling together, encompassing worship, law, justice, eating, money. They were about holistic living, working together, having access to one another. No walls. Drawing others who were outside into this well ordered creative life. At Christ’s coming, the disciples were the microcosm, the model society, having access to god found in Christ and seeing what the good life would look like in that era. They tried to rebuild the walls all the time, keeping out women or children or the sick, but he continued to model to them in his person what it looks like to make choices humanly and be one of gods mini-me’s.
Our calling as humans to include others, do justice, create and extend the kingdom, is a calling to be human which is a call to one of gods mini me’s. Yes we draw on the tradition & scripture patterns and metaphors where we can, and keep in tune with the flow of the spirit. But we are going into new territory and following the internal compass of god inside us, so as humans, we must stop waiting for the word of the external god, and grow into the sense of personhood and agency the gospel ushered in. Too often I am modelling a crippling weakness to my human identity and godly being. I have tested it and realised I have enough anchoring and experience to draw on and god is not going to tell me what to do. I have to decide and act. I have the power in me to call the walls to dust – and to recognise that in others. Humanity has no walls – all of us have god mapped in us. In some of us that has been marred by damage and abuse but it can be restored and recovered by love and acceptance and the accordance of dignity to the sacredness of humanity.
God in this era is coming in on our coat tails, not the other way around, as we empty out and see in Christ the one who utterly inhabited his limited humanity. Take care my friends and learn to walk with yourself, and embrace the liberation that comes with a life without walls. Let us see the liberation for ourselves, those around us, academia, and the emancipation of the gospel and god who we have help captive for so long.
yours with as much faith as I can muster