Friday, December 07, 2007

God Among Us discussion 03

Advent 1: Historical Witness – Creation and Prophets

Advent 2: Historical Witness – Jesus Christ

Advent 3: Liturgy, Word, Sacrament

Advent 4: Contemporary Witness – us and our neighbors

The class will get a copy of love one another by Paul Hammer.


Abraham, Jesus, us—from the other side of the dominant social and economic culture of consumerism and exorbitant consumption; from the other side of death…alive in Jesus Christ!

2 Samuel 7:5-6 "I have not dwelt in a house from the day I brought the Israelites up out of Egypt to this day. I have been moving from place to place with a tent as my dwelling.'" John 1:14 And the word became flesh and tabernacled, pitched a tent among us...

Historical and contemporary

Exodus 5:1 Afterward Moses and Aaron went to Pharaoh and said, "Thus says the Lord, the God of Israel, 'Let my people go, so that they may celebrate a festival to me in the wilderness.'" From the time Israel and Yahweh rendezvoused into covenantal relationship in the desert of the Exodus, the liturgies of God's people have recounted and playfully reenacted into present-time the stories of God's faithfulness in their lives. The church gathers as the community that already has experienced its first death and second birth, fully alive under the subversive Lordship of Jesus Christ. Some congregations (not us?!) deliberately quest to become like those bigger or more ostentatious churches. But did God ever call the People of God to live in ways congruent with their local culture? Or in a radically culturally incongruent, actually counter-cultural manner? How about prophetic liturgy and prophetic living?

Theologically, psychologically, anthropologically and economically an individual becomes a person, a social entity by becoming embedded in a textured, connected, interwoven history of shared experiences and different viewpoints; there is no other way to create a humanly connected sense of your own identity, form memories and become part of history. Baptism and the Lord's Supper are cosmic events in each of our lives and part of our transformation from individual into person.

In worship, especially when we celebrate the sacraments, we anticipate, celebrate and commemorate and carry with us a microcosm of a redeemed world, a living and a life-giving memory of Jesus. In us, Jesus again becomes alive in the world and we offer the world a living connection to the heaven of God's Reign here on earth.

Liturgy, time; Sacraments, space and matter

Liturgy - Holy Time: remembering Whose we are! Who has called us! We recall, retell and re-enact our corporate and individual histories of the journey from death into life.

Sacraments - Holy Place and Holy Stuff—sacred creation: re-membering who we are! The person and communities God has called and enabled us to be and to do.

Water is the womb of creation. In baptism, we enter the state of this world yet unborn and submerge ourselves in the substance from which primal life emerged, completely engulfed by God's creative power of death and resurrection, identifying with this planet's history and with Jesus Christ.

Genesis 1:1-2 In the beginning when God created the heavens and the earth, the earth was a formless void and darkness covered the face of the deep, while a wind from God swept over the face of the waters.

Bread – in Saxon English, the Lord provided the "loaf" (of bread) essential for sustenance; we live born/baptized into the biography of Jesus, born in Bethlehem (House of Bread) baby; we recognize Jesus Christ as our Lord. The Heidelberg Catechism says in the Lord's Supper we become "bone of his bone and flesh of his flesh!"

Fruit of the Vine – a potent and polyvalent biblical symbol and reality.

Corporate Identity Package

We are the body, corpus, of Christ! Each of us is a member of the body of Christ. Jesus Christ incarnate, in the flesh again, re-enfleshed in us. Corporate Identity [package]: our logo, our résumé, our curriculum vitae, detailing where we've been, what we've learned, what we live for and die for...who are we? In Christ, we have experienced our second birth and our first death. We live under the reign of life rather than in the enslavement, the subjugation of death.

Baptism: primal experience, water, womb; Romans 6:3-10

Eucharist: we find sacred memory and discover hope for a free future in the meta-narratives of redemption, of deliverance from death to life in the Exodus and Passion/Easter stories. Theologian Jürgen Moltmann describes baptism as "sign, witness, representation and illumination of the Christ Event, and" we can claim the same about the Eucharist. We know Jesus Christ as sovereign, prophet and priest; baptized, we participate in that royal, prophetic priesthood. In the Eucharist, the church in every place and every time blesses and reintegrates all creation in every place and time; we recognize as sacred everything we see and touch and smell and hear and taste; 1 Corinthians 11:23-28

Liturgy: holy time - remembering Whose we are

Sacraments: holy space - re-membering who we are

Time and space are the conditions in which all creation lives. Living within the cycle of the liturgical year as it replicates the history of God and the people of God and celebrating the sacraments within that context helps refocus time and space as the necessary environment of God's revelation to us as human creations. But we know Creator and creature are discontinuous, so how do we discover God amidst creation? How does the Divine Presence enter our lives in decayables such as human speech, grain, grape, memory and music?

Time in space: during gestation we are immersed in time, in the rhythms of heartbeat and lungs, rather than imagining time as external to our world. Outside the maternal womb, we rework and re-collect for a lifetime the sounds and rhythms of our primal becoming. Liturgy brings both cosmic time and chronological time to an intersection where all times everywhere, past, present and future, meet in this present now, filling it with hope for a free and full future. The sacraments are actions of the entire Church in every time and every place, and connect us with the whole people of God in every time and space.

Space in time: the dwelling-spaces, schools and neighborhoods of our earliest years immersed us in space in a foundational way that continues transforming us today. In its proclamation and with the sacraments the church recovers historical events for us and helps us make all time and space sacred. We know anywhere God encounters creation is sacred space, but in the sovereignty of the crucified and risen Christ the formal sacraments expand to include all creation. Baptized into the Christ Event of God's supreme self-revelation in measurable, definable space and time, we become prophet, priests and sovereigns, in stewardship of creation and of life.

Living on the limen, the threshold

Toward the end of the Lenten series on theology of the cross, I asked, "can our presence in the world and in our neighborhoods be a liminal, in the process of becoming, though not-quite-yet one? Partly in our own world and way, partly in theirs, and wholly in the sovereignty of heaven?"

© leah chang 2007

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