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Omaha, Nebraska, United States
I am more and more convinced that most congregations die from a staggering lack of imagination. Let's change that. Let's imagine a creative future with God and each other together. Drop me a line on email or leave a comment if you have thoughts on God, Jesus, congregations, the church or whatever.... I look forward to our conversations.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Christ, The Spirit, and Authentic Community

A long time ago when I was researching for my doctoral work, I came across some interesting work by an Orthodox theologian John Zizioulas. (I throw this out only for those who might want a Google topic). What I learned from him is to see the fluidity in which God works across all our human boundaries and distinctions. It seems to be no problem for God to be Jesus Christ the Spirit, and all the while still creating the world in its beauty and glory...Of course, for us, we need to make some distinctions, so we like to say the Spirit OF Christ, as if the Spirit comes after Jesus...or, we note how the Spirit leads Jesus...or, Jesus commends his Spirit...there's all kinds of tricky ways...
We got to talking about authentic community the other night, and I was reminded of how God sort of swims in that same realm of conversation. Authentic community means--at some level--that there is no priority (logically or theologically) with one person or another in community...Authentic community has at its heart a total equality of personhood...just as God has a total equality of personhood with the Father Creator, the Son, and the Spirit. It may be true that I am a trained theologian in a group; someone else may be a computer programmer; another a nurse; another a woodworker...but in any authentic community those skills would only make the group stronger, not be a source or division of power or labor. (Having just written that I'm reminded of my favorite quote from Karl Marx that in a truly communistic venture he'd be able to read Greek tragedy at night)...There will no doubt be divisions, but they must be seen as divisions which arise from something arbitrary or, if necessary, necessary only for the well-being of the community. (We still need a bookkeeper!)
Zizioulas taught me a basic division of labor within God: The Son becomes history...the Spirit liberates the Son from the bondage of history. (For those of you versed in theological language, you see the obvious reason why a Lutheran resonates with that statement.) When Jesus is around he is in history...just like me and you. Does God know what it's like to be angry? Yes,because Jesus did. Does God know what it means to laugh until you cry? Sure, just as Jesus did. But Jesus does not stay trapped to our history, and it's this freedom that comes about by the work of the we have a future, as authentic community, because the Spirit gives it to Jesus and he has promised it to us...
Somedays we don't know what's going on...somedays we just seem to be treading water...somedays we get excited...some days, we don't. But it will not always be like this, and that is what makes our lives in God so fun.
Authentic community is being in the world with each other...just long enough, we hope, to make good friends along the way.