Saturday, September 18, 2010

Our picket fence dream

So, we spent the summer looking at the epic of a dreamer called Joseph. One of the truths that we explored, was that God was shaping his dream to be less about him, and more about God and others.

This fall series is a call for us to share in God’s dream for the church as a whole, and the church in this city in particular. Stanley Hauerwas describes the church as being like "Resident Aliens" - distinct, yet not distant. Through history the church has often swung between being monastic on he one extreme, totally detached from the world and therefore innefective, to being syncretistic, possessing no real difference from the world at all. However, there must be another way of living, and we see this in the book of Acts.

In Acts 17, Paul tell the philosophers in Athens that God has determined the exact times and places for each of us. He is expressing a truth that many of us feel - it is no mistake that we are where we are. A theology of place gives us permission to enjoy where we live, engage our communities relationally with patience, and overlook aspects of our geography that we do not naturally like. Paul continues that God determines time and place "so that men might reach out for him though he is not far away."

We have been placed here in Pleasantville, Orange County, not just for our own peace and comfort. We are free to enjoy all that our city has to offer, but we are not to be lulled by the sunny orange peel exterior of OC. We have been planted here to offer the hope of the God who is not far away, to many who are reaching out to Him. God is not far away. He drew near to his creation through Jesus, and he is near to the world through Christ's body, the church.

So we love the people and place of the white picket fence dream, but we are a distinct people who dream a distinct dream. We have woken up from the dream of the house with great curb appeal, the 2,5 kids with $3000 smiles and $50 000 college trust funds. These dreams are not wrong in themselves. They are simply too small. We have begun to dream bigger, to share in God's dream of a city which reaches out to Him and finds that because of the cross, He is not far away.


  1. hey Al - enjoy your succinct thoughts reminding us that there is a larger Story that we are all invited to participate in ...

    Sean Daly

  2. One of the words that needs revisiting is "ekklesia" - the church has taken the "called out" aspect of it too literally! The concept of the word in ANE culture was of a quasi-town council that was called out of the population (usually on an ad hoc basis) to organise/arrange for the protection and provision of the "polis", the city/settlement, whenever the need arose or there was a dire threat to the culture of the city (actually, much like the Jewish "elders in the gates").

    If we recognize that usage of the term, we begin to see a much broader and city-inclusive aspect to ekklesia, an aspect of the church being "called out" for the protection & provision of the city/town/settlement in which she finds herself.

    Of course, by necessity and example, this has to work in the church first and foremost (cf. Gal.6:10) - if we can't do it for the saints, how do we ever expect to do it for the polis?!

    As you rightly raise the point from Act.17, it must also be borne in mind that we should understand Paul's appearance before the Athenian Council as being for the purpose of explaining his message before those in control of affairs in the city so that he might either receive the freedom of the city to preach or be censored and silenced. The church must be able to present itself to the city, either to be rejected, or to be allowed a voice.

    Keep lifting the eyes of the heart! See you in October!