Tuesday, 25 November 2014

Hedonism -- A Deeper Examination of the Implications of the Gospel on us and our neighbours.

As I am talking with a friend suddenly a question comes up; How do we understand the Gospel? Before I go into that question, I want to state that Church is not a neutral word for me and neither is Gospel. I, like everyone, bring to any conversation about the Church and the Gospel a host of very personal and professional experiences, an even wider range of prejudices and expectations, but also a variety of disappointments and dreams. I am neither blind to the beauty of the Church nor of her shortcomings. I am certainly not naive about the local church's capacity to fail, to have shortcomings. Most of the writings of Paul attest to that and so do the first few chapters in the book of Revelation. But at the end, it is Christ who builds His church.

We together are God's intended demonstration of the rule of Christ, and by living the new life in the new togetherness according to God's new standards, we show a hurting, confused, and desperate world that human life can be lived completely differently, closer to what community was originally intended to be.   

But back to the question; How do we understand the Gospel? And perhaps another equally important question; How do we live out the Gospel?

How do we seek to live out the gospel, a message that is radically foreign to this world and is there such a thing as different understandings regrading the Gospel of Jesus Christ? I think there is, certainly with regard of depth and width, what is supposed to be impacted by the presence of the Gospel in our lives. The thousands of different denominations should also provide a clue that we on some level have a different understanding of the Gospel and consequently about the how.

God critiques by creating. That is  the way God is doing things, he shows us what is wrong by giving us a model of what is right. Think about the creation of Eve as a partner for Adam. Think about the incarnation; God becoming man, and showing us through his temptation perfect humanity God critiqued what was wrong with religiosity, with sinful humanity by showing us, in the humble carpenter a better way.
The people of God join with Jesus in showing the world what is wrong with it. Christ, the builder, did it by demonstrating what humanity is intended to be; disciples, the church. We, together and we can do that only together, do that by demonstrating what humanity is intended to be . . . people in love with one another and with God.
If Christians care to make a difference here and now, it has less to do with achieving personal goals, agendas, and projects; it must be more than just living differently as individuals. Although stamped into the fabric of our modern [western] society is the ideal that the individual is the primary centre of existence; the ultimate standard of value. We live in a culture where the obligations to others has greatly being eroded by consumerism. The locus of all authority regarding happiness and even truth is squarely fixed on the individual self.

But the Gospel, the words of Jesus; Follow me, have very little to do with personal fulfillment and pleasure. They rather point to the cross, our cross to bear, although it is light.

The former First United Methodist Church at Fifth and Capitol streets, downtown Springfield. The property remained vacant for the last six years and was purchased in early 2014.
I have come to believe that although the local congregation and so the Church has a natural perhaps human aversion to change, it also has a long history of effective adopting to cultural and other transitions, and will continue to do so. But it is also equally true, according to Barna, (cf. http://shaunynews.com/tag/former-santa-sabina-church showing "transformed church buildings in Italy) that around three thousand church buildings annually are closing their doors permanently. I am not sure about the reasons, although often it has to do with shrinking membership and aging building. But shrinking membership has to do with what?

Why are you going to the church you are going to? Make a list according to importance and decide at what point you no longer would go.

But we are living in a very non-reflective age, some even don't like the question; Why? Why do I pass half a dozen church buildings on the way to "my" church? Why do we build a new sanctuary when there are empty once already and many are certainly not full? Size, parking, modern, handicap accessibility, programs, monthly running cost are certainly some arguments but are they good once? What is the foundation of my reasoning and my arguments?

Why am I here as a person, what is my purpose of living? Falling into complacency and contentment with my own spiritual walk and existence is all too common, all too easy. Living in a culture that is opposed to Christianity tempts Gods people to conform, to retreat, to be silent and to be content with the status quo. One of the question I ask myself; "In what way does my neigbour benefit from me being a Christian?" Should not me being a Christian make a unique and significant difference to my colleagues or my employer? A difference that has no other possible explanation than the presence of God who is Love itself. But how would that difference look like? I am actually not quite sure myself and I believe many others as well will find it to be so. But that not knowing makes me discontent, uneasy with my walk with Christ.

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