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Posts Tagged ‘ecclesia’

In case you haven’t heard, there will be an election in November. You may not be excited about it. Just thinking about the next president may make you anxious. You might not be convinced the candidates are strong. This may be the first presidential election in history where no one actually votes for a candidate, only against the other one. You might be planning to cast a ballot and then pray for four years of gridlock.

Even in the church, many are pulling for one candidate over the other. Or, as others are, planning to vote against one or the other. While making plans about whether to vote, or who to vote for, or against – we must not forget we belong to a political story that does not accommodate the mainstream political story. We must remember that no matter what happens in November, Jesus is still King.

When we say Jesus is King we are not talking about some metaphor, we are talking about the reality of “The Kingdom is at Hand.” When we say Kingdom we may picture a spiritual rule but we also recognize it as a political term that places the church smack dab in the middle of a political discussion. We cannot get away from politics when we talk about the church. Ecclesia is the word used for church in the New Testament. Interestingly, before the word was used for church it was used to describe local political gatherings. It seems that both kingdom and church take us into politics. If this puts you in the conversation of American politics, I pray you are able to behave as a follower of King Jesus.

Still it is easy at this point of the political cycle to bow to the politics of the world. It is easy to begin thinking that victory on the world stage is the same as a victory in the Kingdom. Yet, we are not called to be soldiers in the culture wars. We cannot vacillate between treating Jesus as King in the spiritual realm but Caesar as king in the public sector. We are not casting a ballot for Caesar; we have already given our allegiance to another. We may not be able to get away from political implications. But, whatever else happens in November, we will still be living under the rule of our King and by the expectations of His Kingdom. Perhaps our best political moves will be to gather in order to do the things we are called to do as followers of King Jesus.

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An all too simple summary of the church and its relationships might sound something like this; A) When the relationship between God and church is strong, the world benefits. B) When the relationship between God and church is strained, the world suffers. C) When the relationship between the world and the church is off balance (either due to alliance or hostility) God grieves. D) When the relationship between the world and the church is balanced (church demonstrating what the world is meant to be), God is pleased.

The above summary implies several things. One, the church holds a central place in creation. Two, the relationship between God and the world remains constant. The world convinces itself it is central and can survive without God. At the same time, God continues to invite and welcome and love the world into relationship.

Yet, relationships involving the church are less consistent. The church has consistently moved back and forth in faithful relationship with God and the world. Corporately, we seem to find it as difficult to love God and neighbor as the rich ruler. Another implication from the above summary is that the world will always struggle with itself without the church. In fact, it is possible the world cannot understand who it is without the church. I think of Stanley Hauerwas at this point, “For the church to be the church, therefore, is not anti-world, but rather an attempt to show what the world is meant to be as God’s good creation.”

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I am not a lone adventurer.  And I am not the first.  I read the logs of those who have gone before.  Their insights help to orient me.  They help with decision making and direction.  Those of us participating in this adventure are explorers of these particular texts.  Exploring text is a lot like exploring the forest, or the backyard, or the seashore.  In order to become skilled at it, we must be attentive to things like contrast and movement.  Things like shape, tone, and frequency call our attention to what is going on.

Sometimes it is tempting to read the texts through the eyes of where I am and when.  But reading the text is necessarily contextual.  All texts have a specific context.  Eugene Peterson says that we must “immerse ourselves in their soil and weather.”  The texts were formed because the traditions are important.  We take this seriously so we continually read the texts, gather around them and acknowledge that we are wisest when we are attentive to what they have to say.

The text is not tame and calls us to either choose a new world or defend the old one.  Reading the text is a daring, dangerous act.  The text calls us out and places us in a larger system than first imagined and explores our relationships with the Creator, creation, outsiders, enemies, neighbors, and with one another.  Ecclesia may mean “called out” but it does not eliminate our connection with the world at large.  The text reminds us that we do not dominate what is around us. Instead we are participants in it.  We are part of an eccle-system.

The text does not exist that we may gain information.  Instead it directs us to a King and invites us to join up with a collection of people who gather to follow that King.  Our words, our behaviors, our attitudes, all of our moves become extremely important and influences everything else in this eccle-system.  Here, we recognize that everything belongs to the King and that determines how we respond to it.  Our response becomes one of thankfulness and gratitude, of becoming as children, as taking on the attitude of a servant.  This is a community where love for God and neighbor are strong, but love your enemies is equally strong.

In this community it is evident that what happens to one member affects and impacts the rest.  It is no accident that the text calls us to rejoice with those who rejoice and to mourn with those who mourn.  What outsiders do affects us as well.  Persecuted by someone?  Bless them.  Have enemies?  Feed them.  Evil is not an option.  Peace to everyone.  The text provides an eccle-systemic view of this gathering, this thing we call church.

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