Culture of Imagination

connecting spirituality to everyday life

Category: Excerpts

Without Love We Have Nothing – Excerpt from my book – The Communal Imagination: Finding a Way to Share Life Together

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This communal imagination to love in a place will liberate us all to become more human.  This has been my own experience.  I understand my own humanity better because of the embodied, relational, communal imagination that I am a part of in my neighborhood.

If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging symbol. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and surrender my body to the flames, but have not love, I gain nothing.

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away …

And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love… (1 Corinthians 13:1-8,13).

I love this passage of Scripture because it is the major theme of all of the New Testament.  Love is the story that we are to enter into.  It is everything.  We are to inhabit our local context as the body of Christ living into this posture toward all of life.  This is what will shape us relationally.  I want to become an expression of 1 Corinthians 13 together with my friends in our neighborhood.  Thomas Merton states:

When we lose sight of the central element in Christian holiness, which is love, and we forget that the way to fulfill the Christian commandment to love is not something remote and esoteric, but is on the contrary something immediately before us, then the Christian life becomes complicated and very confusing. It loses the simplicity and the unity which Christ gave it in his gospel, and it becomes a labyrinth of unrelated precepts, counsels, ascetic principles, moral cases, and even of legal and ritual technicalities.  These things become difficult to understand in proportion as they lose their connection with charity which unites them all and gives them all an orientation to Christ.

Such things as tongues, prophesy, knowledge, giving my body to die in the flames, a faith that can move mountains, giving to the poor, and fathoming mysteries all amount to little without love.  I would say that without love everything we do amounts to nothing.  Boasting and pride are not a part of love.  Being rude and self-seeking is not a part of love.  Anger and bitterness is not a part of love.  These things are unhealthy for the social capital of our neighborhood.  Love is hospitable to patience and kindness.  Love is hospitable to celebration and protection.  Love is hospitable to trust and hope in others.  Love is hospitable toward the strength of perseverance.  Faith and hope always stem from love.  And love is the greatest quality of our faith as the body of Christ together in the parish.

Without love nothing makes sense in the place that we live.  Everything gets really weird really fast without love. How many of us have known people who get really weird by becoming controlling, judgmental, and manipulative around “spiritual” themes or “ministries”?  I think this happens because we are not rooting our faith in love.  It is rooted in something much more appealing to us. There are a million things to root our faith in besides love and we are being pulled to do just that.  But David G. Benner says, “No account of Christian spirituality is complete if it fails to give a central place to love …”  Love is what makes the communal imagination holistic.  Love makes the body of Christ live. Love is what brings healing to our lives.  Love builds community in our neighborhood.  Love is what will shape the body of Christ in the particulars of everyday life.  Love keeps us sane.  Love makes us human in so many ways.

John M. Perkins, founder of the Christian Community Development Association, emphasizes that, “Loving each other… might just be the greatest thing we can do …”  Our love could be the thing that brings liberation to us all in the parish. Our love is to be a part of our salvation, redemption and sanctification as the body of Christ.  As we live together in the proximity of a neighborhood, we will all be shaped through relationship.  We can become great through love.  We cannot become great in any other way!  Our love as the body of Christ together in the particulars of everyday life will do miracles among us.

How we show that we are spiritually attuned to reality is by our love.  Love is the way of a relational life in the parish.  Love guides and teaches us how to discern what is real.  Love is the only relevant factor in our relationships within the body of Christ in the particulars of everyday life.  “There is one thing we must understand, however,” writes William A. Meninger, “and that is that our love must dominate our action and give it direction …”  If love is not present within us, we literally have nothing to build our faith on together.  If love dies within us, we soon become less than human.  We become objects to the systems of our culture and cease to be a “peculiar people” in our local context.  Love must possess and dominate all that we do.  Love must shape us and change us constantly.  Love must capture our imaginations and become communal in the place where we live.  Everything we do must stem from this love that Paul is talking about in 1 Corinthians 13.

We need to see our lives as the expression of this 1 Corinthians 13 love as the body of Christ in the particulars of everyday life together in the parish.  This is God’s will for us.  We cannot escape the call.  Our local context will teach us how to love, being kind to one another and showing patience.  This begins in the particulars of life now.  The relational context we find ourselves in will constantly manifest love all around us.  Catherine Doherty says, “The kingdom of God, which is the kingdom of love, begins here and now.”

God is already working in the neighborhood all around us in our locality if we would only become aware of what is going on.  The neighborhood is the medium where we learn to love relationally.  The communal imagination will be cultivated through this 1 Corinthians 13 way of life in the particulars of each situation we find ourselves in.  Love is calling out to us relationally in all of life.  Every relationship brings opportunities to love.  This is what should define us over the course of our lives.

Love has been a hard reality for me to face as I have tried to reduce following Christ to something else.  My local context always calls me back to the reality of relational love toward others when I tend to do this.  God is constantly teaching me through the relational context of the neighborhood that love is all that matters.  Anything less will not do.  So many times I have lost the focus of this 1 Corinthians 13 love.  But I am coming to understand that this is what I need to base my life on.  Jesus is calling to me through the seasons of life, through the wind I feel on my face as I walk outside in my neighborhood, to love.  I cannot ignore this call to love.  I cannot ignore this call to the parish.  I cannot ignore this call to live relationally.

http://www.amazon.com/Communal-Imagination-Finding-Share-Together/dp/1495487423/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1421601262&sr=8-1&keywords=the+communal+imagination

Embracing Our Wounds As Sacred – Excerpt from my book – The Communal Imagination: Finding a Way to Share Life Together – Last Day to pick up your FREE copy on Kindle!

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  • Our everyday lives will be wasted without grace

When we are angry, we cannot live into the gospel and become expressions of God’s grace as the body of Christ together in the parish.  Our everyday lives will be wasted without grace for one another.

  •  Does not bring about the life God desires

“… for man’s anger does not bring about the righteous life that God desires…” (James 1:20).

  •  You will hurt each other

New Monastics Shane Claiborne and Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove put it this way, “… if you get involved with God’s people, you will get hurt. The Holy Spirit makes it possible – compels us, even – to share lives with one another, live together, do each other’s dirty work, offer hospitality, make peace, share money, raise kids together, start co-opts and serve our neighbors.  But if you do all those things with broken people (and broken people are the only kind available), you will hurt each other. You will be betrayed in one way or another…”

  •  The body of Christ will wound us

These are tough words from two practitioners who know the cost of the communal imagination.  We will become wounded and hurt in the process of being in relationship with others in our neighborhood.  The body of Christ will wound us as we share life together in the parish.

  •  Reacting to our wounds in anger is not walking in the Spirit

Reacting to our wounds in anger is not walking in the Spirit.  Responding in grace is.  God’s grace is so much bigger than all our wounds.  Christ showed immeasurable grace despite facing crucifixion.

  •  Our anger and bitterness can’t have the final say

We have wounded and hurt Jesus over and over again in our lives and he always shows grace.  We need to imitate his ways and show grace to one another as the body of Christ in everyday life.  Our anger and bitterness can’t have the final say.  Grace must face our anger and overcome it.

  •  Becoming sustainable in all we do relationally

If we can imbue our wounds with the sacred, we will cultivate the communal imagination.  We will become sustainable in all we do relationally.  We will see relational revelations all around us in everyday life.  If there is no sense of the sacred in our wounded state, we will soon become so angry and bitter that grace will not be found.

  •  Embracing our wounds as something sacred

Without grace, we will carry around in our veins nothing but poison.  We will die a miserable death in isolation thanks to our tight grip on anger and bitterness. We have to find a way to embrace our wounds as something sacred and learn to express something beautiful through grace each time despite our hurts.  It is an ordinary miracle of everyday life when we embrace the sacredness of our wounds together in the parish.

  •  Finding a way to make our wounds into sacred wounds

Franciscan Richard Rohr, founder of the Center for Action and Contemplation, writes, “If we cannot find a way to make our wounds into sacred wounds, we invariably become negative or bitter …”

How can we find a way to embrace our wounds as sacred?

http://www.amazon.com/The-Communal-Imagination-Finding-Together/dp/1495487423/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1413552702&sr=8-1&keywords=the+communal+imagination+finding+a+way+to

Humility, Learning, Listening – Excerpt from my book – The Communal Imagination: Finding a Way to Share Life Together – Offered for FREE this week on Kindle!

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  •  Submitting to one another

“Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ” (Ephesians 5:21). 

  •  Honoring both genders equally

We need to submit to and learn from one another in the parish.  We should honor both genders equally and take a posture of reverence and learning from both the women and the men in our lives.  Oftentimes women are better practitioners of relational care in a local context than men are.

  •  Making the mistake of saying we can only learn from men

So we must not make the mistake of saying we can only learn from men.  We also need to take a posture of reverence and learning from both the elderly and the children among us.  The women, men, and children in our lives all influence our response to life through the difficult and not-so-difficult moments of everyday life.

  •  Embracing a humility that learns from others

There is so much these relationships can teach us.  We need to embrace a humility that learns from others.  Learning from others cultivates our responsibility of agency, our ownership to take meaningful action, as human beings in the parish.  Learning from others constantly cultivates the communal imagination.

  •  Others have something important to call out of me, to support in me

As Benedictine Joan Chittister says, “Humility is simply a basic awareness of my relationship to the world and my connectedness to all its circumstances.  It is the acceptance of relationships with others, not only for who they are but also for who I am.  I do not interact with others to get something out of it; I make my way with all the others in my life because each of them has something important to call out of me, to support in me, to bring to fruit a vision of God in my life.

  • Holding our relationships with a posture of learning

Without a humility that is constantly learning from the gifts of others, we are dysfunctional.  There is so much that can be teased out of us as a result of our relationships in the parish.  Our relationships become so much more important in shaping us when we hold them with a posture of learning.  When we see our relationships through the lens of humility we begin to learn from one another in so many ways.

  •  Our relationships help us learn about God

Our relationships help us to learn about God.  God is most clearly communicated to our senses in ways we can understand through one another. We will all be better off.  When men, women and children learn to see themselves as created equally in God’s image and start to learn from one another, we will live out a more holistic spirituality together.

  •  Listening is intertwined with learning

We cannot embrace a humility in which we are continually learning from others without a listening spirit.  There can be no learning from others without listening to one another.  Listening is intertwined with learning.  We have to really believe that we have much to learn from others with all our commonality and diversity.

What are some of the ways you are learning from others in your life?

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Being Guided by the Ordinary – Excerpt from my book – The Communal Imagination: Finding a Way to Share Life Together – Offered for FREE this week on Kindle!

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  •  Relational, slow, steady

As I have lived in my neighborhood for ten years now, I have seen God work in the ordinary.  It is relational.  It is slow.  It is steady.

  •  Not religious, not what we define as “spiritual,” not a ministry

It is beautiful.  It is not religious.  It is not what we define as “spiritual.”  It is not a ministry.

  •  Not a program, not a project

It is not a program.  It is not a project.  It is hard to communicate.

  •  Life together in the ordinary

But, this is what the body of Christ is called to: life together in the ordinary particulars of a neighborhood.  The body of Christ is called to seek God within the ordinary relationships of a place.  This is how we can live in communion with our Creator, with one another, and with the created world around us.

  •  The ordinary will guide us

The ordinary will open up our lives to be the body of Christ together in everyday life.  The ordinary will heal, nurture, and care for the body in beautiful ways.  The ordinary will be our prophetic witness.  The ordinary will guide us.

  •  The ordinary will teach us to love and show compassion

The ordinary will teach us to love and show compassion.  The ordinary will invite “the real.”  The ordinary will speak to us.  The ordinary will not be manipulated.

  •  The ordinary holds wisdom

The ordinary holds wisdom.  The ordinary is for the body of Christ what blood is to a human body: Blood fills our human bodies the way the ordinary is to fill the body of Christ.  The Holy Spirit is intertwined with the ordinary.  If we disregard the ordinary we disregard the church.

  •  Disillusionment and deconstruction

I am hesitant to tell my story because it is one of disillusionment and deconstruction.  Those terms are not always easy to absorb.  But, I am going to tell it anyway, the best I can.  I have always felt a strong disconnection in my experience with the church.

  •  What would people think?

I have tried and tried but it just seems strange and irrelevant to me, for many of the reasons I have already talked about.  I remember when our church first moved to the neighborhood of Downtown Tacoma to try to live out our faith together.  I was scared and timid.  I didn’t know anyone there.  What would people think?

  •  Moving into the Downtown Tacoma in the spring of 2004

What would my parents say about me dropping individual opportunities for “success?”  But, I wanted to do something that would be both counter-cultural and sustain me as a follower of Christ.  So when I moved into Downtown Tacoma in the spring of 2004 it was a risk I took that very few really understood. Our parish was not a very popular place to live.

  •  God gave me an imagination for the place

It had lots of abandoned buildings and empty streets.  The nights and the weekends were pretty dead and not too many people liked to hang out there. The built environment needed work and there was a lot of poverty.  But I believe God gave me an imagination for the place.

  •  Questioning myself

I remember walking the streets and questioning myself many times about my decision to move there.  One day I woke up with tears in my eyes.  I couldn’t understand why I was so emotional.  Looking back I think I was just weary and lonely.

  •  The body of Christ was hard to find in everyday life

But, as I began to settle there, God planted hopeful possibilities in my imagination.  I began asking, “What could this place become?”  There were many church buildings and Sunday meeting spaces in Downtown Tacoma, but the body of Christ was hard to find in everyday life.  I had to slowly work through my fears, insecurities, loneliness, and pain.

  •  Learning and listening to the ordinary has not been easy

I wanted to share life with others in Downtown Tacoma, but it was more difficult than I had thought.  My journey into the ordinary of this place has started to lead me through my pain and disconnection toward love and compassion.  Learning and listening to the ordinary has not been easy.

  •  All the stories remain unfinished

I experience a lot of loneliness and pain still, but my imagination is alive and growing and cannot be captivated.  Downtown Tacoma is an open book waiting to be written still today.  All the stories remain unfinished.  The ordinary of this neighborhood is becoming a part of my redemption, salvation and discipleship.

How can we learn to listen to the ordinary moments of life?  What have you discovered about God through the ordinary?

http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1495487423/ref=s9_simh_gw_p14_d0_i1?pf_rd_m=ATVPDKIKX0DER&pf_rd_s=desktop-1&pf_rd_r=0Q4ET5S00JQ1JFXHDHAM&pf_rd_t=36701&pf_rd_p=1935655342&pf_rd_i=desktop

Getting Specific, Local, Particular – Excerpt from my book – The Communal Imagination: Finding a Way to Share Life Together – Offered for Free this Week on Kindle!

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Endorsed by Shane Claiborne who says, “Inside everyone there is a longing for community, to love and be loved.  We are made in the image of a communal God.  But in our hyper-mobile, individualistic, cluttered world… community is an endangered thing.  And community is like working out – it takes work, sweat, discipline… without that our muscles atrophy.  Everybody wants to be fit, but not too many people want to do the work to get there.  Mark’s book is sort of a workout manual, helping you rediscover your communal muscles and start building them up slowly.  It is an invitation to live deep in a shallow world.”

  •  A radical reorientation towards a commitment to a particular place

To even start the process of shared life together in everyday life there needs to be a radical reorientation towards a commitment to a particular place.  The body of Christ needs to see itself as a fabric of relationships living, working, and playing within the proximity of a local context.  In other words, we have to practice inhabiting a neighborhood and committing to that place as the body of Christ together.

  •  The mediums we have created

Reimagining the local body of Christ this way breaks open the paradigm of the regional commuter church that is disconnected in everyday life and then meets inside the four walls of a building we culturally call “church.”  This is the only paradigm most of us have ever known.  But is the body of Christ supposed to be confined to such a limiting imagination?  So many people have given up on the body of Christ simply because the mediums we have created communicate that Christianity has nothing to do with the realities of everyday life.

  •  We care about the things that affect our lives

Put bluntly, it is irrelevant.  Most of the time, we only care about the things that actually affect our individual lives.  These are the things we invest our lives in, because we feel it will give us life with the most pleasure, enjoyment and meaning.  That’s why the mediums we have created as “the expression of the body of Christ” do not seem relevant.

  •  Reorient around the themes of community or parish

They communicate vibes of boredom and unpleasantness.  I have struggled with these mediums myself and my faith has had a hard time surviving through a default that produces a lack of engagement in real life.  What I want to propose is that the body of Christ reorient around the themes of community and parish (that is, contextual to neighborhood and local culture).

  •  Many ideas and definitions of community today

There are many ideas and definitions of community today that spring from affinity groups, city associations and the conversations of the emerging and missional Church, but I like Wendell Berry’s definition: “If the word community is to mean or amount to anything, it must refer to a place (in its natural integrity) and its people.  It must refer to a placed people …”  Berry goes on to say, “It exists by proximity, by neighborhood; it knows face to face, and it trusts as it knows…”

  •  Proximity is crucial

Proximity is crucial to this definition of community.  Without it there is no community.  This has to be taken seriously and then practiced together if there is to be any real face-to-face interaction as the body of Christ in everyday life.

  •  Living into a healthy expression of the body of Christ

The neighborhood cannot be forgotten.  I believe that the neighborhood or parish is the holistic medium that we need if we are to live into a healthy expression of the body of Christ that does not do damage to its local context.

  •  Specific, local, particular ways

“Here is the mystery of the incarnation,” says Gerald W. Schlabach. “Union of human and divine means that faith always must express itself in specific, local, particular ways …”

How can we develop a communal imagination in everyday life together?

http://www.amazon.com/The-Communal-Imagination-Finding-Together/dp/1495487423/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1413294281&sr=8-1&keywords=the+communal+imagination+finding+a+way+to+share+life+together

Finding the Love that Lives Within Us – Excerpt from my book – The Communal Imagination: Finding a Way to Share Life Together

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  • To love in a place will liberate us all

This communal imagination to love in a place will liberate us all to become more human.  This has been my own experience.  I understand my own humanity better because of the embodied, relational, communal imagination that I am a part of in my neighborhood.

  •  If I do not have love living within me I have nothing

“If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging symbol.  If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and surrender my body to the flames, but have not love, I gain nothing.

Love is patient, love is kind.  It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.  It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.  Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.  It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

Love never fails.  But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away …

And now these three remain: faith, hope and love.  But the greatest of these is love…”  (1 Corinthians 13:1-8,13).

  •  Love is the story we are to enter into

I love this passage of Scripture because it is the major theme of all of the New Testament.  Love is the story that we are to enter into.  It is everything.

  •  Becoming an expression of 1 Corinthians 13

We are to inhabit our local context as the body of Christ living into this posture toward all of life.  This is what will shape us relationally.  I want to become an expression of 1 Corinthians 13 together with my friends in our neighborhood.

  •  When we lose sight of the central element of love

Thomas Merton states, “When we lose sight of the central element in Christian holiness, which is love, and we forget that the way to fulfill the Christian commandment to love is not something remote and esoteric, but is on the contrary something immediately before us, then the Christian life becomes complicated and very confusing.  It loses the simplicity and the unity which Christ gave it in his gospel, and it becomes a labyrinth of unrelated precepts, counsels, ascetic principles, moral cases, and even of legal and ritual technicalities.  These things become difficult to understand in proportion as they lose their connection with charity which unites them all and gives them all an orientation to Christ.”

  • Without love everything we do amounts to nothing

Such things as tongues, prophesy, knowledge, giving my body to die in the flames, a faith that can move mountains, giving to the poor, and fathoming mysteries all amount to little without love.  I would say that without love everything we do amounts to nothing.

  •  Love is essential for the social capital of our neighborhood

Boasting and pride are not a part of love.  Being rude and self-seeking is not a part of love.  Anger and bitterness is not a part of love.  These things are unhealthy for the social capital of our neighborhood.

  •  Love is hospitable

Love is hospitable to patience and kindness.  Love is hospitable to celebration and protection.  Love is hospitable to trust and hope in others.  Love is hospitable toward the strength of perseverance.

  •  Love is the greatest quality

Faith and hope always stem from love.  And love is the greatest quality of our faith as the body of Christ together in the parish.

How can we find the love that lives within us and embody this love into the world?

http://www.amazon.com/The-Communal-Imagination-Finding-Together/dp/1495487423/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1410475295&sr=8-1&keywords=the+communal+imagination+finding+a+way+to+share+life+together

Slowing Down to Find Peace – Excerpt from my book – The Communal Imagination: Finding a Way to Share Life Together

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We live in such a fast-paced world that our lives cannot keep up.  We have a hard time slowing down and creating new rhythms of a more peaceful way of life together. We take life and others for granted when we live at such high levels of speed.  We cannot root ourselves in a place without first learning to slow down.

  •  The simplicity of a slower pace of life

We cannot be faithfully present to one another in our relationships without the simplicity of a slower pace that allows us to appreciate life more.  Speed dominates our imaginations.  It has crushed to pieces the communal imagination.  We constantly disregard one another when we have no time just to be and reflect on what is going on within us.

  •  Speed damages us relationally

Speed consumes every area of our lives.  It damages us relationally in the parish.  It makes us less than human.  Speed can be addictive, just like consumerism.

  •  Speed leads us nowhere fast

Rarely will we let go of our fast-paced life.  But Christ is calling us to slow down and embrace one another more by adopting a lifestyle of simplicity that is subversive to speed.  When will we see that our speed actually leads us nowhere fast?  Christine Sine writes:

 The quest for speed and efficiency dominates our modern lives, and everyone convinces us that this frenetic rhythm is the only one we can adopt – for every area of our lives.

  •  Fragmentation and mental illness

What is our speed accomplishing for us but more fragmentation and mental illness?  It can never satisfy our feelings of emptiness.  It keeps us from looking deep within ourselves.  We fear emptiness and pain, so we live at a faster and faster pace in a desperate bid to avoid facing ourselves and others in the parish.

  •  Protecting our security and defending our preferred lifestyle

Speed has us moving around so fast that no one will ever get to know us very well.  Speed is about protecting our security and defending our preferred lifestyle.  We disregard everyone else and become apathetic about anything of value in life when the pace of life is all that matters.  Speed and individualism go hand in hand, making life together nonexistent.  Speed is co-opting our imaginations.

Do you agree that speed creates fragmentation in our lives?

http://www.amazon.com/The-Communal-Imagination-Finding-Together/dp/1495487423/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1408732800&sr=8-1&keywords=the+communal+imagination

The Future Practitioners of the Body of Christ – Excerpt from my book The Communal Imagination: Finding a Way to Share Life Together

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“Rooted in intellect and experience, this book is a charge for the Church to reorient its identity from an autonomous entity to an interconnected organism.  Acknowledging the high cost of such a reorientation, Mark offers a vision and set of practices that might just allow us to experience life and faith as it was meant to be lived.”  Jon Huckins, neighborhood practitioner, author of Thin Places

The body of Christ is not some mechanism with no heart and life, but a living breathing body.  All bodies breathe, move, change and relate to their environment.  When bodies are unhealthy they stop functioning properly.  When bodies are dead we bury them.  Kester Brewin says, “We must reestablish ourselves as the body of Christ, not the machine of Christ.  Bodies are organic, dynamic, sentient, and conscious…  Machines break down, while bodies evolve…”  We should be an evolving body in everyday life together.  Will we feel the pain and the joy of living life together and loving one another?

These are difficult real-life experiences that we cannot escape if we are to be human.  We are not building a machine but a body.  I don’t want to become a part of a machine where I become the very fuel that it needs to work.  This reminds me of the movie The Matrix where Neo finds out that the machine world is using human beings as fuel.  Everyone thinks they are living life the way it was meant to be, and no one realizes they are living an illusion.  It may be an extreme metaphor but the church of our day seems to be playing inside of a Matrix of its own, and a lot of people are hiding behind its clichés.

I feel that the lay people, the people who are the ordinary folk, who live common ordinary lives are going to be the future practitioners of the body of Christ in local contexts, living in local neighborhoods, receiving wisdom through experiments of local embodiment.  Living relationally, in locality, in neighborhood, doesn’t take any fancy theological degrees from prestigious schools to accomplish.  All it really takes is a willingness to be faithful to God and to others and to a place.  All it takes is a listening posture to change and live your life together with others in community.  All it takes is vulnerability and courage.  All it takes is investing your life and giving up our extreme individualism and learning how to be the church together.  Elaine A. Heath and Scott T. Kisker in their book Longing for Spring, say, “The pattern of renewal occurs over and over in the history of the church.  Worldliness creeps into the structures of the church, and God inspires His people to experiment with models of faithfulness.  Renewal does not happen when the laity ‘take control’ of the church, but rather when the laity realize we are the church.”

How can we strive to become the future practitioners of the body of Christ?

http://www.amazon.com/The-Communal-Imagination-Finding-Together/dp/1495487423/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1405170654&sr=8-1&keywords=the+communal+imagination

Knowing and Being Known- Excerpt from my new book The Communal Imagination: Finding a Way to Share Life Together. Is available on amazon now (paperback and kindle).

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“Mark Votava’s book is like a smooth stone in a churning stream.  When all around us seems to be prone to speed, consumption, movement and success, The Communal Imagination is a sure and unwavering call to simplicity, presence, attentiveness and collaboration.  Read it slowly.  It calls us to nothing less than a new way to be human.”  Michael Frost, author of Incarnate and The Road to Missional  

  •  Becoming fully human through relationship

Living relationally within the parish transforms what we think we know about ourselves, about God, and about others.  We are pushed to become fully human through relationship.  The relationship we have with each person can be a reflection of God to us. God both gives and receives love through relationships with others.

  •  The body of Christ cannot be separated from relationship

The body of Christ cannot be separated from relationship to one another.  We need one another to be human.  We need one another to learn about our own spirituality.

  • Our relational connections become a part of who we are

When we inhabit a neighborhood, that place and the relational connections that we develop there become a part of who we are.  They are intertwined with our redemption and salvation.  We only know truth through relationship.

  •  Knowing and being known will shape who we become  

Without relationship we cannot know anything.  Knowing and being known is the truth that will set us free from our own limited imaginations.  Knowing and being known relationally will shape who we become as we inhabit the parish throughout the complexities of life.

  •  We are who we are because of the communities in which we dwell

There is no abandoning this relational context when you have experienced it in a place. Christopher L. Heuertz and Christine D. Pohl say in their book Friendship at the Margins, “We are who we are because of the communities in which we dwell.”

How have you been shaped by the relational context in which you live?

http://www.amazon.com/The-Communal-Imagination-Finding-Together/dp/1495487423/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1398875841&sr=8-1&keywords=the+communal+imagination