I introduced the concept of Shalom yesterday as I was concluding my last post on the missional order. I should take this opportunity to explain that my many musings on this subject over the past week-plus, although they are tagged “missional order”, do not represent the formal outcome of or substance of discussions in our gathering at Seabeck. Many of these themes emerged at one or more points in the discussion, but the thoughts I present are my own ruminations arising in these post-Seabeck weeks. Of course, many of my thoughts go back to much older ruminations, and I’m busy wrapping them all up in this series. A series, mind you, which I never intended to be a series. Nonetheless, I’ve summarized it as such in a sidebar below. Back to Shalom, a concept which also makes an appearance in Luke 10, where a blessing of peace is extended to those from whom the 70 sought hospitality, and the notion of “a people of peace” arises in the reception of the greeting of peace.
I’ve been working up to this all week, and I doubt I can cover it off in a single entry, but let’s see what we come up with, shall we? Just piecing together some themes following the Seabeck Gathering sponsored by Allelon, I have begun to consider The Role of The Rule (and other disciplines) as part of The Subversive Nature of the Ordinary in helping to keep us on the path during a mapless quest or an aimful wandering — a Peregrinatio. Len picked up a theme from me of covenant renewal, which I commented further upon, saying I didn’t plan to hit the theme until today, that I was just foreshadowing. Well, the pressure’s on.
I’ve been thinking about the sojourn lately. At the Seabeck gathering, there was no discussion at all about what to name a missional order, but I was thinking about David Fitch’s Missional Order of St. Fiacre, St. Fiacre being the patron saint of gardeners, and so selected for the metaphor of church planting. The order we were talking about is quite likely to be fashioned as a pilgrim order, being based as it is in Luke 10:1-12 where Jesus sends out the 70 (or 72, depending which manuscript you’re reading). I checked, and discovered that St. Christopher is the patron saint of travelers. St. Christopher is an interesting character, having been de-canonized in 1969 for lack of evidence not only that he lived a holy life, but that he existed at all. “Christopher” means “Christ-bearer”, which is fitting for a sent people. The question of existence resounds in a question that Rick Meigs asked me as we were dwelling in Luke 10 together. “What were their stories?” he asked, pointing out that we don’t know where the 70 came from or what happened to them afterward. This would be a fitting image for us too, who partake in the journey without want of recognition or pride of place. We merely appear, bearing and sharing the peace of Christ, and then move along. In the account of St. Christopher, it is said that he had taken the place of a hermit who guided travelers. Rather than merely guide, St. Christopher would carry them safely to the other side of a stream. One day he carried a child across the stream, and the weight of the child almost crushed him. Arriving on the other side, the child revealed himself as Christ, who was heavy because he bore the weight of the world on his shoulders. An image for us perhaps of the fact that the task of bearing Christ is not an easy calling. Or sending, if you will.
Pictured: an ordinary lunch at the Missional Order gathering last week, time spent not only sharing meals, but listening to the ‘other’ and entering into their stories. It’s a mundane sacred practice… but I’m getting ahead of myself. I have now transcribed my notes from cards into an OpenOffice document, partly as a way of reviewing, processing, and synthesizing. As I was reviewing my notes and thoughts with my cards spread before me, typing words that I jotted down and having those words jog others, voices, phrases, I began to feel strangely moved. I wonder if the truly subversive nature of what we’re talking about has not fully sunken in for most of us. We really are talking about changing everything, but we aren’t changing much of anything. As we return to the ideals God set in our hearts and the practices he has given us, God himself is on the move, changing things fundamentally. The cheese has slipped off the Romans’ cracker, and while they fumble about to find it and reassert its position, it’s being gobbled up by the peasants. The lowly, the ordinary. The meek.
One of the subjects that came up at the Seabeck Missional Order Gathering on Tuesday (I think) was the question of language. In the formation of an order and the conversation around St. Benedict’s rule, some question was made about the language we use and how we express it. Before I left for the gathering, the question had been put to me by more than one person. After all, words like “rule” and “order” sound a little to the rigid or legalistic side. In the charismatic tradition, the verse that speaks of “a God of order, not disorder” is met with the challenge of what order might look like to God, and the fact that it might look very disorderly to us. In context, the conversation was essentially what we hope to achieve in the formation of an order… whether it’s done in an elitist exclusionary way, a legalistic fashion, or what. What does such an order or rule do for us, anyway?
I’ve been intrigued for a while now with the idea of an unconference. I mean, I really got conferenced-out through the 90’s… the 80’s were still fun, but by the time the calendar rolled over “00” I couldn’t be bothered. But The recent Allelon gathering to discuss the formation of a Missional Order looked different. I decided to give it a chance.
This week I’m at a retreat center in Seabeck, WA meeting with 40 or so pastors, writers, bloggers, leaders, and “laypeople” to discuss the creation of a Missional Order. Notables include Andrew Jones, Rick Meigs, Alan Roxburgh, Bill Kinnon, Pete Askew from Northumbria, Bob Roxburgh, Mark Priddy, Len Hjalmarson. I’m looking forward to meeting new friends and to seeing and catching up with others that I “know” online or have only met once or twice before. I also owe Andrew Jones a beer, despite the fact we’ve never met in person before… so hopefully I can pay up. The Internet has really changed social interaction — I’m flying out a day early to spend an evening with old college friends that I’d lost touch with for about twelve or fifteen years before renewing contact through Facebook.
Dale Allison Jr. speculates in The Luminous Dusk: Finding God in the Deep, Still Places on wonder, and the impact of its loss. He gets there by observing a shift over time in the way people interpret and respond to major events such as natural disasters or even human-inspired catastrophes. Where once people would assume some fault in their relationship with God or the gods, they now assume some fault in God himself, if he exists: “Before 1700, misfortune made people doubt firstly themselves, not God and the Christian faith. Obviously, much depends on our prior inclinations. My question then is, What accounts for prior inclinations? In particular, what accounts for the medieval tendency to believe, or for the modern tendency to disbelieve?” (p.6-7) Just so we don’t get sidetracked, let’s imagine he’s using “modern” in its non-technical form to mean “today” despite the apparent reference to pre-modernity or post-medieval times, and despite the later reference to “us moderns.” I don’t consider myself “a modern” but perhaps the ongoing shift is the appropriate context for these observations… but we’re not getting sidetracked. Allison notes there can be no one answer, and goes on to consider possibilities, beginning with the concept of wonder, which is what I want to major on here.