Almost 15 years ago I found myself face down on the floor of my apartment, journal in hand, Bible in the other, exhausted. I had worn myself out in the pursuit of a God that I could no longer envision cohesively. I was a fire-ball and passionate but I was whipped and disillusioned from the chase. God was veiled in smoke and so unclear to me. I had numerous disjointed pieces swirling around in my head competing for prime spot on what God should look like; pieces from larger than life theologians, pieces from my youth, pieces from cultural pastors, pieces from the media, pieces from the Old Testament, pieces from my own inner insecurities. If I could be very honest this anxiety never motivated genuine love, even though it might have motivated obedience. Privately, God felt like a Rubik’s Cube to me and my affection for it was fading.
years later I'm a pastor, doing incarnational ministry amongst the scattered effects of the
Christendom garage sale currently underway. I am discovering this same
tangible but ethereal "Rubik’s God" clanking around in the emotional imagination
of real people. In many coffee house conversations I encounter a hidden embarrassment,
defensiveness and insecurity about the god looming in the recesses of our
minds. But many
have not found a secure space to unpack this god-picture. I find that whether people have experience
in Christianity or none at all, they are “twisting pieces” to face in certain directions to make sense of God. Twisting pieces to find a God we can bear with is often
debilitating on our perseverance and passion. It creates a subtle
push-and-pull when it comes to orienting around the in-breaking Kingdom of God. My conviction is that our
emotional memory of God directly affects our energy to live into community and
our energy to move missionally into our neighborhood.
The Image of the Invisible
missional edge, one of our central callings is the project of recovering the
"Image of the Invisible". The image of God has picked up tons of clutter. I find that most people speak of God and
then speak of Jesus. Jesus is just another angle on God or Jesus is
mostly someone that did something for
us or he is interpreted first through some hot-button issue. Much of how we speak of God is extrapolated from
the “other” concept of God. Christianity has used up all its bandwidth on practices and messages that are not
grounded in the life of Jesus. This
is a reality that our teaching, discipleship and friendship
enters into. We do not build communities in a sealed vortex.
In Post-Christianity we have
tenacious work ahead of us to re-center Jesus as the fullest picture of God. N.T Wright once said “The closer
we get to envisioning the original Jesus the closer we are to recognizing
the face of the living God.” The concept of this thing we call G-O-D is
mystifying, enigmatic, and has been hijacked for a number of agendas. A missional church's ongoing priority is to reclaim Jesus from being a remote kingly figure or romanticized personal savior or political issue advocate.
Currently I’m convinced this is
why we observe an upswing in "Ideological-Centering". Ideological-Centering is
when we rally around an ideology or impassioned issue and in return it
offers us security and certainty. This ideology becomes a core self-definer, determines who we coalesce with and becomes the lens we employ to see the world. God eventually gets pulled into and under our preferred issue. Gradually, we unknowingly shape and fashion God around this ideology. We erect a privatized God, concerned primarily with our pet-issue. This is a
natural tendency but I believe it nudges the Jesus in the Gospels to the
peripheral. So many seem to be caught in this ideological-jockeying and
the life of Jesus is what inevitably gets left on the cutting room floor. There is no ignoring that we are stirring up more affection for our ideologies (right or left) than we are the picture of
God in Jesus.
What is our Image of the
Invisible? This is a theological question on some level and a philosophical one
as well, but more deeply it is an emotional one. Missiologists and practitioners should
invite people on a pilgrimage within community to pay attention to their emotions, not go with
them, there is a difference. Many of us are knee-jerk reactionist’s when it
comes to being compliant with or repelled by certain pictures of God. This
un-navigated approach creates all kinds
of collateral damage on our choices, opinions and ambitions. On the missional edge
we will be increasingly interfacing with this Rubik's God. It is
imperative to cultivate a centripetal movement that points towards the simple, beautiful, compelling life of Jesus over-and-against all other competing voices and portrayals. (John 1:18)
..."Over and against all other competing voices and portrayals"ReplyDelete
Really appreciate the tension here. Let's get closer to Jesus and see the face of the living God.
The Lord be with you, Dan.
Thanks Dan. Blessings on you.ReplyDelete
but none of us views anything apart from our own lens. engaging scripture as a community can disabuse us of some blindspots and remind us our of shared foundations, by varied ideologies are forged not just in personal experience but on varied interpretations of the significance of the life and ministry of Jesus.ReplyDelete
Good point Suzannah.ReplyDelete
I completely subscribe to the reality of the phenomena of coming upon Jesus with our presuppositions. But from my experience, I do believe a community can be fierce about working against taking our cues from compliance or reactions to cultural issues and then importing them onto Jesus. Are there cracks in this mode, of course. But it needs to become a plumb-line ethic when orienting around the life and work of Jesus. it needs to become an intentional pursuit to avoid hitching our cart to current ideological issues. I find the Anabaptist's as inspiration in the tension of keeping Jesus center when others meandered.