So, soon—as in: next week, I, with the lovely people of First Trinity Chicago will be going out into the city streets, as ekklesia and as a congregation, handing out smiles, chocolates, and invitations to worship with us Christmas Eve and Christmas Day.
For any non-religious organization, this is a given—Christmas sales, Holiday Parties, etc., are commonplace. The invitations to communal shopping and discounts found in the Sunday papers are expected and, often times, quite welcome. Who doesn’t love a discount?
It would seem a given, then, that we, handing out free chocolate, and an open invitation to community where people are not seen as a number, not seen as a consumer (whose value is measured by spending potential), and not seen as, well… anything other than a human being, loved by God…
It would seem that such an invitation would be a pretty darn good one.
And for anyone other than a religious (and particularly Christian) organization, the giving away of anything (assuming there is no “catch”) would be quite good news.
Then why are so many of us (myself included), who came from (and then left) religious traditions that take great pride in “going to the ends of the earth,” get so uncomfortable at the thought of going to our nearest neighbors—with chocolate, much less a theological agenda? Are we so recovering from our over-bearing pasts that we end up bearing nothing at all? Ouch that sounded harsh. Certainly we have much to offer, and likely in a very different and (I imagine) less harmful way.
Could it be that the news that was shared with such militant passion in our traditions of origin—whatever they may be—(a [kerygmatic] message, which, at its historic root, meant to herald healing (salve/salvation), liberating, and resurrecting), had become just the opposite?
Had liberation from sin death and the grave (Romans 8, Hebrew 2:14) become rather, indoctrination? Had is simply stressed “conversion,” and not metanoia [please see Vitor Westhelle, in his book The Church Event: Call and Challenge of a Church Protestant (Minneapolis: Fortress Press 2010), 120-123, on this topic!] Had the condescension of man and his doctrinal systems replaced the con-descension of the Creator, born among all people, in all nations, in the stables and mangers and animal excrements of all history?
Had Christ’s call to community and the Kingdom been translated and transliterated into a mere “acceptance” of one doctrinal statement or another? An intellectual exercise? A “faith” summed up merely by ABC’s? If so, it was right to reject such a gospel, as it was other than Gospel (Galatians 1:8).
To be continued…