December 28, 2005

Inclusive Community 3

So as it turns out, my posting has not been as consistent as I wish. Among other things, it just takes a lot of time. At any rate, I want to continue thinking about inclusive community and mention something else (continuing from the previous post).

In the last two posts, I said that an inclusive community is one in which individuals are drawn up into the fellowship of the Trinity with Christ as the entry gate and very foundation for inclusion. This post might seem somewhat unrelated, but it struck me when I was reading a book today. I'll get to what I read in Henri J.M. Nouwen's Intimacy, but before I get to Nouwen, I need to set him up by looking at the nature of a community with respect to story.

NT Wright, a top-notch scholar referenced by many within various shades of theology, explains who Jesus of Nazareth was via the accompanying Judaism leading up to His incarnation. By doing this, Wright appropriately identifies the story, beliefs, symbols, and praxis into which Messiah came. Wright's work has relevance.

Story is the larger narrative about reality that a community tells itself that it actually believes to account for the universe. Beliefs are answers to those questions about life that result. An example is Lewis's The Problem of Pain in which he answers the question of why pain if God is good and all-powerful, two components of the Christian story. Next are symbols, those things which represent the story in daily living. An example of this in the American West would be the World Trade Center, which Islamic fundamentalists accurately identified in their terrorist attacks of 9/11. Finally, the praxis--how one orders his life, almost as if to make himself a symbol.

A relevant digression--my time in evanglistic campus ministry taught me (unknowingly) that this wholistic worldview change we were inviting others toward involved much more than literally going through four steps and a prayer. I'm convinced that real preaching of the gospel requires telling the story while being willing to think through the questions (a ready defense a la Peter), appropriately symbolizing one's world, and living out the love of God and neighbor as self. Mere pragmatism ("well, the four laws work") is never an adequate response to justify a method that is more like a sales pitch.

Now to how this relates--to be a community, an inclusive community must have a story to tell about reality, and this story is tied up in Nouwen's quote. In his book, there is a discussion of community amidst describing the experience of depression on seminary campuses. Nouwen nails it here:
Religious community is ecclesia, which means called out of the land of slavery to the free land.
That's one key component of any inclusive community's story worth its contemporary salt. As NT Wright says over and over again, Jesus is Lord and Caesar isn't. Or as he has put it more recently, Jesus is Lord and Mammon, Aphrodite, and Mars aren't.

Here's what I'm saying--the story to tell is that Jesus is Lord and all things that keep one in bondage are not any longer. And the inclusive community is one that expands its own understanding of just how much Jesus is Lord by seeing His Lordship extended into the bondage of those in the community. The community becomes more inclusive as those within it risk in faith that Jesus really is Lord, even over modernity's trinity--money, sex, and power. That is the story an inclusive community finds itself living in today.

Next, I will comment on how the extension of Jesus' Lordship might involve those within a community.


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Inclusive Community 3