Monday, September 28, 2009

Writer's Block?

It's not because I haven't been thinking about the blog that nothing has appeared recently from me. Indeed, I have two topics that I have been trying for days to form into a post. One of those is the conundrum of the role of community in Christian life. There is no doubt that we are called to live in community. Many people much more able than I (such as Dietrich Bonhoeffer in Life Together) have written about Christians and community. In addition, it seems that the Christian response to losses in the advantages of community is a popular topic right now.

But, the problem is that Jesus rules out some of the most popular vehicles for forming community, such as social identity (the parable of the Good Samaritan) and private advantages to community building (see Mark 9:33-25). I have been stuck on what to write, and yesterday my Pastor, Bill Bess, preached a sermon on Mark 9 in which he discussed this same problem in the concept of a community without boundaries. So, I still haven't figured out this riddle, but I hope to return to it.

The second topic I've wanted to write about is the powerful and humbling passage from the lectionary two Sundays ago. Finally I've decided that there's no commentary that I can write that adds anything to the text itself, so I've just decided to repost it here (this is copied from the PCUSA lectionary service):

James 3:13-4:3, 7-8a

13Who is wise and understanding among you? Show by your good life that your works are done with gentleness born of wisdom. 14But if you have bitter envy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not be boastful and false to the truth. 15Such wisdom does not come down from above, but is earthly, unspiritual, devilish. 16For where there is envy and selfish ambition, there will also be disorder and wickedness of every kind. 17But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, willing to yield, full of mercy and good fruits, without a trace of partiality or hypocrisy.18And a harvest of righteousness is sown in peace for those who make peace.

4:1Those conflicts and disputes among you, where do they come from? Do they not come from your cravings that are at war within you? 2You want something and do not have it; so you commit murder. And you covet something and cannot obtain it; so you engage in disputes and conflicts. You do not have, because you do not ask. 3You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, in order to spend what you get on your pleasures.

7Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. 8Draw near to God and he will draw near to you.


Nancy said...

Mark - I love reading your blog and always take away a healthy 'food for thought' portion. I too have been contemplating community. Tim and I bought 80 acres in a historically black township, and developing friendships has been difficult. The two churches are racially segregated. (by mutual choice, it seems) I may want this to be my community, but in reality, it isn't (yet). I will maintain a friendly position and see what happens. I would LOVE to visit the African Missionary church, but have been held back by my own sense of boundaries. It is a conundrum. I really need for you to figure this whole thing out. :P nac

Nancy said...

Could it be that Christians engage too much in GroupThink? We get so much accomplished by being 'like minded' and non-confrontational, but can we say we are always being honest with each other? When do we agitate and when do we turn the other cheek? When is it OK to demand instead of defer? Can a person successfully force their way into a relationship? These questions make my head hurt. Mark --please come up with the answer.

Mark said...

Nancy, I think you are onto the same paradoxes that confound me. Consider the 2nd and 3rd Epistles of John. In the former, John warns against even greeting or welcoming into a home anyone bearing false doctrine. In the latter, he chides a congregational leader who is inhospitable to strangers. As the PCUSA has struggled with this paradox over the past few years, our lessons are for both purity and peace, truth and openness.