Last night before the session I had an interesting conversation with a brother from Pennsylvania. We had come a bit late so we were relegated to the outer circle. The room is a decent size and the long tables are arranged in a square, but I think there are forty plus people here so not everyone can squeeze around the center. Er.. except Bill Kinnon.. but that’s another story.
David and I got chatting about process. David acknowledged the importance of discussion, but also confessed his impatience and desire for action. I realized that I was feeling very different. I know that its easy to move in comfortable circles in conversation. Conversation can be an excuse for not choosing, not moving, not making commitments. But this isn’t that.
What I observe here is a team of people coming with an agenda, but surrendering that agenda to the group. In a sense, they lay it on the table and ask for discernment. They themselves submit to a larger process, in the awareness and conviction that “God’s future is among God’s people.” This requires a certain humility and a certain vulnerability: qualities at the heart of the gospel. Any hermeneutic which is not in some sense communal will only end in reinforcing the dynamics of individualism. The only alternative we have is to cast our lot with God’s people, confident that God Himself will lead us. We choose interdependence.
It’s a beautiful thing to observe in action.
I’m not saying this will work with every group in every place at every time. I’m not saying there is no time for leaders to boldly step forth with the Word God has given: though even then I believe that “the spirit of prophets is subject to prophets.” But in particular in a time like this, in this place we find ourselves, with so much that is unknown, we need one another. We need the wisdom of the Body. We need “the other.” Alan observed that the social understanding of the Trinity, in their diversity and mutuality, is less a reminder of our need for community and belonging than our need for the other, a reminder to welcome the stranger. The Luke 10 passage we have been dwelling into every morning is all about hospitality. Perhaps in this moment it’s more important to recognize the Trinity as founding God’s mission, “The Great Invitation,” the dynamic of sending, than it is to recognize the social dynamic, which after all might just found a great conversation which has no ending..
As Henri Nouwen once wrote, hospitality is not a part of the gospel: hospitality IS the gospel.
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The picture above is filled with great people. Most of you will recognize Brother Maynard at the right. Next to him is Rick Meigs of The Blind Beggar. To his left is Jay Akkermann of the Northwest Nazarene University. Next to Jay is Brad Sargent. I have a feeling Brad has a blog but I can’t recal where it’s located. Brad is a brilliant brother with a strong interest in culture. Next to Brad waving his arms wildly is wild man Mike. Mike, like myself, is a Regent grad. He’s a history buff and his family has just entered a new transition. Back by the window between Brad and Jay is Rob Robinson. “EpicRob” is involved with simple churches in Portland, partnering with Daniel Steigerwald who has recently brought his family there from Europe. So much of the experience and power of a gathering like this is found in the shared journey and shared purpose, shared passion and courage of men like this.