Saturday, October 13, 2007

Together

Some ponderings from my Theology of Church and Ministry notes.

I've been asked before "How is your relationship with God?" Usually it causes me to ponder and reflect, finding those places of joy and sources of sorrow. Sometimes I've used the question with teens. The usual response is, "Um, good, I think." Okay. Good. What's that mean?

Anyway, I've been thinking about the question and wondering if it can be asked in this way, "How is our relationship with God?" or "How is your family's relationship with God?" Is it possible to relate to God together? If so, what does this look like? Is it only on Sunday morning or through Bible Study or serving?

When Christianity has primarily been viewed through the individualistic lens of "my relationship with God", it is important that we ask further questions, guiding us to examine how "we" are relating to God together. I know this, but I'm wrestling with what it looks like.
So, I've just typed about 13 sentences. Incoherent they seem to me now that I look over them, but I wanted to see what my ten readers think.
How do we relate to God together? Is it possible to evaluate/measure/picture a community's relationship with God?

5 comments:

Brian said...

I sure hope that we can talk about and experience spirituality corporately. In my own experience of faith, I have to tell the story of my family and my church family. It is OUR collective experience as much as my own.

I'd also happily claim that more than once my community's faith has helped me through times when my own was not there.

Perhaps this is why broken covenant, broken relationships are so hurtful and why God is so clearly a God of unity. (Jn. 17 et al)

May the God of unity guide our hearts together toward Him.

Nate Youngblood said...

Interesting question, fights our western/American individualistic sensibilities nicely too. I'm reading a hermeneutics book right now which speaks briefly on how reading scripture communally can bring different meaning than when read alone. It's an interesting concept that I agree with, but I'm not sure why, and am fully aware that I don't quite understand it. It seems like the idea of "story" is pretty important here, because Christ story, my story, and my community's story are all incredibly entwined.

As far as your question, it seems that relationship is often played out most clearly in actions. Other questions come to mind that may be similar but offer more quantifiable goals than "how's our relationship." Is your community capturing, and sharing the heart of the Lord? (how do we know and agree what that is? Do we have a similar understanding of how a good relationship and bad relationship with god should function and manifest itself) Do our interactions with each other within the community speak volumes about our relationship with God corporately? Seems like they would... Like Brian just prayed, are we unified? I seem to remember that being important to several NT folks. Is the community authentically practicing grace?
I have no idea where all these thoughts are going, they just popped into my head.

Kipper said...

The Buddhists believe that every event in the universe affects everyone, however significantly. The ancient Celts believed that the universe was like the strands of a rope, each one intertwined to make up the whole and each one connecting at various and seemingly random points as they journeyed toward their completion. I even had a professor in college who used to tell the story of a family who lost their son in a tragic accident. According to him, even though they didn't find out about it until later, their lives were changed ultimately at the moment of his death.

The list goes on, of course. One can suggest that the deaths of Iraqi civilians "over there" affects us over here in some significant way. Or perhaps more significant to the conversation, when one member in our family decides to go on a diet, or sneak out at night, or just generally keep to themselves with no social/familial interaction or development of the relationship(s), then each of us is impacted and affected by it. My point being that the health of the community is dependent on the health of each of the parts that make up that whole. Or as Paul says, stick your ecclesiastical "finger" in your communal "eye" and everyone gonna feel it.

The sick part is when you consider Jesus' analogy that it is better to cut off your hand and be part of the dream as a maimed individual than to miss the whole thing because your parts are FUBAR. (Horton paraphrase on both of those references.)

Jordan said...

My wonderings: God is always mediated to us: A burning bush, a prophet, Jesus, scripture, the church, sacraments, play, suffering, exile, nature, otherness, etc... My relationship with God is contingent upon my relationship with all of those mediators. So in one sense I can only speak of "my relationship God" via my relationship with _______. (Insert mediator into blank.

Though not mediator as in simply going through: I reach God through you. The mediation should be seen as a mutual giving and recieving and in the reciprocal exchange of love, we reach God together (though probably not in the same way).

Josh said...

Thanks fellas for your thoughts.

Brian, thanks for your hope. Nate, thanks for your
thoughts on story and action. Kipper, thanks for your connection on the interconnectedness of all humanity. I've been wrestling with the "maimed" passages as well. Jordan, thanks for the reminder that for now we only see in part.

I will reply to each of your posts. Working on my philosophy of ministry right now (which prompted the questions)...due tomorrow...so, I'll get to you when I turn it in.