Wednesday, March 31, 2004

easter break

I'll be taking a break from blogging from now 'til Easter. but then I'll have some more thoughts about sacraments from John Milbank...whoever he is?

peace be with you. geoff

Tuesday, March 23, 2004

"Three Phases of Spiritual Formation."

last monday a group i'm part of called up/rooted had Brian McLaren in to talk about the "three phases of spiritual formation." This is my summary of the gathering (which was initially posted here)

Brian McLaren, of Emergent, started of his presentation with two clarifications. 1) The term "spiritual formation" is a Catholic, or non-evangelical, way of saying the "Great Commission." The Great Commission calls us to make disciples, but too often evangelicals make converts without any spiritual depth. So the practices and phases of spiritual formation is a means toward fulfilling this commission. 2) We can't let the idea of "spiritual formation" turn into pietism, or a cultivation of our own individual soul, neglecting the world we live. We need to balance the inner life of contemplation (viva contempletiva) with the our outer life of action (viva active). So Brian says we must have a spiritual formation for global transformation; or, aim at global transformation through spiritual formation.

From here Brian outlines what he sees as the three phases of spiritual formation (gathering material from both the Western [Catholic/Protestant] and Eastern [Orthodox] traditions of Christianity).

The first is the phase called "viva purgativa" (or "catharsis" in the East). This is the stage of revulsion and expulsion. It is a time of purging our lives from sin, temptation, distraction. The Torah (Old Testament Law) teaches revulsion through its prohibitions. And the act of confession is a type of expulsion where we name our sin, and then separate ourselves from it; "That was me, but not now!!" is what confession says.

The second phase is called "viva illuminative" (or "photosis" in the East). This is the state of light, illumination. In this time we are allowing the light of joy and truth into our hearts and minds. This happens through scripture, prayer, meditation, and creation.

The last phases is called "theosis." This is conceived as entering into the divine life of God. As an iron in the fire begins to glow brightly, as if the fire were inside it also, so too we can receive the divine life of God such that it lives with in us. Some might call this a mystical experience of God; and others would just call it sanctification.

Brian reminded us that we must keep in mind that these phases are not a linear progression (once we are done the first we will never go back), but better understood as seasons of life which we entering rhythmically (repeating yet with variation).

Then we entered into a time of Q&A with Brian, kicking around these ideas. and we can continue here also.

my question for us is, can a theology of theosis fit with our typical understanding of atonement. I think not. I think we need to retool both the protestant understanding of "atonement" an the Orthodox understanding of "theosis". what do you all think?

Sunday, March 21, 2004

this is a test

of the emergency rss station. i'm currently trying to fix my rss feed b/c my former generator went under and I don't to code. if anyone has suggestions please let me know what to do.

Saturday, March 20, 2004

the three bodies of Christ

the three bodies of Christ: or reflections on the Eucharist; or my may toward sacramental theology.

In Explorations in Theology: the Word Made Flesh, von Balthasar makes this great connection between the historical body of Christ, and the Mystical body of Christ. These two (historical, mystical) are connected via the sacramental body of Christ through scripture and Eucharist. as he says, "to make it plain that the historical and the mystical body are not two disparate things but are a unity in the strict sense, there exist two means to effect incorporation, two means which bring about the transition from the first to the second bodily form: the eucharist and scripture." And this linking is accomplished through the work of the Spirit of Christ. In a sense the sacramental body of Christ is all we ever really know, it is reality b/c only in scripture can we meet the portrayal of th "historical" body (not to be confused with the literal physical body which we have not access to--except perhaps iconographically, which is still of portrayal); and only in the Eucharist we meet the "mystical" body which constitues the Body of Christ. And all this is rich in temporal (linking future w/ past), liturgical (worship and sacrifice), communal (unity and peace) aspects.

To focus on the liturgical and communal (worship/community) Augustine primarily sees the Eucharist as a participation in the "unity" of Christ and the "scarifice" of Christ. In Augustine's hermeneutic whenever he see the physical body of Christ mentioned, he immediately bring to mind the mystical body of the Church. So if Christ is Sacrificed, so to the Church is sacrificed. Therefore, the celebration of Eucharist is an act of sacrifice/offering by the Church to God in worship, just as Jesus offered himself. Also, Augustine sees the Eucharist as the ultimate location of peace and unity. As he says, just as many grains of wheat make one loaf, so too do many loafs (i.e. many communion loaves) make one Loaf (the Body of Christ, the Church). As he says in his Easter Eucharistic service, "Be what you see; recieve what you are." Be unified as this loaf is; recieve this loaf as you only possibility for unity.

shifting back to the three bodies, there is not a progression from one to the other for they are all linked simultaneouly, or even retroactively. Just as on the road to Emmaus the two disciples did not recognize the physical body of Jesus until he broke the bread of communion (the symbol preceeding the reality), so to we can not enter into knowledge of Jesus outside of the practice of Communion. Logic may proceed from historical to sacramental to mystical; but experience is the reverse. (I think Jen make this point clear a month back when she was talking about pnuemetology).

So, all this to say, that Communion/Eucharist holds a very important place in my theology and practice as the sight of entering into the Story of Redeption. In a time when many are trying to be "participatory", "interactive", and full of "multimedia" I can't help but think that God gave us all the participation we needed in the Eucharist. And when people are talking about interracial dialogue, gender reconciliation, and a general peaceful co-existence, I can't help but think that God gave us the means to accomplish it in the his Body.

Wednesday, March 17, 2004

new rss feed

not very exciting or profound, but here is my new rss feed b/c blogmatrix went under. so copy it into you reader, or get one at bloglines.

I've been spending my time fixing my blog and running a gathering called up/rooted with met with Brian McLaren last monday. I'm still recovering. but tomorrow I plan on jumping into the "three bodies of Jesus" as my introduction to the Eucharist.

Saturday, March 13, 2004

oppressive communities

oppressive communities: two questions are raise: from urbanarmy, isn't freedom and meaning found in the Missio Dei? (and we all would love to here how you answer this). and from anglobaptist, what are the boundaries/distinctions of the community? And my initial question concerning "oppressive communities". I'll start from this last question and then work back through the other two.

First off, What do we mean by oppressive? I would contented that from one perspective, God's realationship is the most oppressive in history. A strange, distinct God, gathers a people to Himself, give them the divine Law by which to live by, threatens them with exile if they don't live by, and then does send Israel into exile. "What a one-side, totalitarian, relationship of oppression and injustice," said the Enlightened Modern Individual, primarily concerned with individual rights and freedom, scorning anything that might limit the individual will. But within the context of God's salvific story, this community of Israel is seeing at liberating. So we need to be careful how we judge oppression. (more could be said, but real oppression is not the limiting of individual liberties, but class/gender/racial structural injustice).

So, from a modernist perspective of community as the "gathering of individuals" the oppression question is raise very early, and frequently (in terms of worship style, expression, dress codes, gifts of the spirit, or bare legalism). So, let's get beyond this.

If we begin with community, then might the natural question be, "how do we define this community? what are its boundaries and distinction?" and of course we must ask this. (see joe myers Search to belong on all this. it's great.) I could through out a couple: baptism and eucharist for certian define, limit, and initiate into the Church. I wouldn't go right to the Reformers "wherever the Word is rightly preached", but would rather say, "wherever Christ is followed" and by this I mean the practices of repentance/forgiveness/reconciliation, healing, liberating oppression, loving the marginal, etc. These practise for me really define the Church as distinct from the world. But notice that these are free acts of love/grace, giving concrete meaning to our lives and the community's.

Which brings us to missio dei...when our lives are "oppressively" ordered around the Mission of God, to save the world, to bring reconciliation, and LIFE, as it is particularly revealed in Jesus, we become free. In a sense, when we pursuing God's purposes we are free to do whatever we want.

again there is so much more that could be said about the missio dei, the community of the Kingdom, and how, or if we should, and what kind of distinctions/boundaries of the Church. also, more could be said of the oppressiveness of Jesus (who said, "pick up you cross and follow me!"), but that can wait. I feel like this wasn't very helpful...i think i need to narrow what i'm talking about next time...

Thursday, March 11, 2004

this is just a test

this is a test to check out my new rss feed.

Wednesday, March 10, 2004

idolatry (worship) and economics (community)

Other resources: anglobaptist and scandal of particularity's recent sermons (thanks to anglo for the link) and theopraxis' continuing thoughts are all very helpful and challenging for this discussion-they're keeping it practical.

now, just a this blog is called "for the time being", hold all these ideas and formulations provisionally, always ready to learn and grow. But for now I'm going to defend my pairing of community/worship for a little bit longer to see where it goes.

both anglobaptist and jen mention the "Body" in their sermons referring to the Body of Christ, the Chirst. Anglobaptist asked in the comments below if Community/Body would be a better option. Now, of course the Body metaphor is exceedingly important to Paul in his letter and should be given due consideration, esp. because many times its used in conjunctio with "peace" (eph.4; col 3:15). But, the metaphor of the body is genernerally used in conjunction with spiritual gifts, and used in such a way to perpetuate individualism. "We are all specially given a particular gift to use in the church" sounds more like a group of indepentent contractors or consultants coming into work on a project. Also, Paul deploys the use of the Body metaphor in the context of community worship in 1 Cor. 12-14.

Now other support: There is quite a naturally linking of worship and community in the most pivotal chapter in Romans 12. Also, when we look at the monarchy in the OT there is a connention b/w idolary (worship) and economics (community). Solomon looses the kingdom b/c of idolatry and then his son sinks into economic oppression, see 1 kings 11-12. and concerning "allegience" (which Jen skillfully discusses in her sermon), when we think about the imperial cult of Rome (which linked worship of Caesar with social/community control) and how Paul stands agains against this putting Christ at the center of our allegiances calling us new citizens. And lastly, it seems natural and helpful to look at the Torah through the lens of community and worship and the interplay of both.

So that's my brief defense...but i do realize that throughout this discussion it has all been rather abstract/ephemeral, and that while I define what I meant by "individual" I haven't really done that with community or worship, so I'll do that soon. Also, how do we keep community from being oppressive is a question that still needs answering...

Saturday, March 06, 2004

reply to anglobaptist

community, individualism, and worship. This week i'm been trying to think through issues of community, individualism, and worship by replacing the typical pairing of community/individual with community/worship. After a couple rounds in the comments anglobaptist posed this question...

"I think we ask for liturgy to do too much. I really do. So, I am struggling with your dialectic. If community and worship are the poles, what do you do with individuals? This is an age of individuals like it or not, theologically appropriate or not. So, our churches function as such...right or wrong. How do you, personally, deal with the individual that approaches you "on behalf of others" to declare your worship empty or troublesome?

My first pass at this question is to distinguish b/w "individuals" and "persons" (using both in a some what technical manner) "Individuals" were created in the Enlightenment as an singular ego standing outside of tradition and community, separated from social bonds, attaining to universal reason, and "individuals are created by our capitalist consumerism as people with insatiable needs, desires, cravings which require satisfaction, and where "choice" is everythink. Too often our communities are merely a collection of these individuals.

But we need to move people beyond being individuals to being persons made in the image of God, relating as such--i.e. persons in relationship, not isolated individuals. (more on this see theopraxis 03/02/04 post)

So the wrong question is "how do we incorporate individuals into community?"
The right questions is "how do we take individuals and make the persons again?"

If we ask the first question we will properly conceive of worship or community. So practically and pastorally, we need to always be pealing back to lays of individualism, pointing people toward Christ the true person (or true "man" to be less PC), and creating communal and worshipful practices that facilitate this transformation. So this is my answer to the first question of "what to do with individuals..?"

The second question deals with individual tastes and expressions within community and worship. How do we keep liturgy organicly linked to the community and the individual so that it is not alienating to either one. This touches on the ever important question of the cultural effect of the church, which is huge. Just as there is not a timeless expression of the gospel, so too there is not a timeless liturgy. So we don't want to impose it from on high. It must be a true expression of the people. But liturgy, as well as theology, as well as the church, should be a counter-cultural movement of following Jesus. Or as I would rather put it, the church is a "culture of fulfillment," being the expression of the highest hopes and dreams of a people. I'm still thinking through this aspect as I read 3rd world theologies, but I'll make that last point clear someday...

my last point is that worship and community are eschatological concepts, always progressing toward the consumation of Creation. They are not static and shouldn't leave us unchanged.

so, what have I missed now? what are my blindspot? so much more could be said...

Wednesday, March 03, 2004

How Baffling

How baffling youare, oh Church, and yet how I love you! How you have made me suffer, and yet how much I owe you! I should like to see you destroyed, and yet I need your presence. You have given me so much scandal and yet you have made me understand sanctity. I have seen nothing in the world more devoted to obscurity, more compromised, more false, and I have touched nothing more pure, more generous, more beautiful. How often I have wanted to shut the doors of my soul in your face, and how often I have prayed to die in the safety of your arms.
No, I cannot free myself from you, because I am you, although not completely.
And where should I go?
--from The God Who Comes by carlo carretto--

I just came across this and thought it appropriate for this lenten season. I'll probably be writing less until after Easter.