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...