Friday, February 27, 2009

Stephen Bevans on Trinity and Mission

What I have discovered, and try to get across to my students, are two things here. First, God is more a verb than a noun, a movement, an embrace, a dance rather than a mover, a lover, a dancer. The ancient term perichoresis, especially in its more dynamic understanding proposed by the Franciscan theologian Bonaventure, denotes movement in the depths of God as such, a constant "moving around," "interpenetrating" one another. And, as contemporary theologians have pointed out, the term perichoresis lends itself easily to a play on words with the Greek word for "dance." With this movement or dance God moves into the world. I like to imagine the divine community moving through the world in a great conga line, gathering up people into the dance, led by the "Lord of the Dance." Second, intimately connected with the first, is that faith in this God is to be caught up in that movement, that embracing, that dance --- in God's mission. God is a missionary God, Christians are missionary people, the church is "missionary by its very nature." It is maybe "pushing the envelope," but I try to connect the traditional doctrine of theosis or divinization (a doctrine rather neglected in the West but developed strongly in the East) with this missionary nature of God and Christianity. When we believe in God, we do what God does; and when we do what God does --- pour out our lives in love for God and for God's creation --- we, as it were, become Divine ourselves, because we are caught up in God's very life. What this points to in turn is that it is in mission, in service, in self-giving, that we ultimately find our salvation, our human wholeness. This is why we witness to and preach the God of Jesus Christ and Jesus himself, and why we invite women and men to join us in faith and in the church. [quoted from Stephan Bevans, "DB 4100: The God of Jesus Christ --- A Case Study for a Missional Systematic Theology," Theological Education 43, no. 2 (2008): 113-114.]

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

A Word for Ash Wednesday from Susan Marie Smith

"The current North American cultural context includes anxious liturgists who stick with authorized rites from the book in order to be certain of orthodoxy on the one hand, and unchurched amateurs who generate rites in psychologists' offices and living rooms in order to be able to heal and reconcile [on the other hand]. It is critical that those of us whose lives are given over to the mediation of God's grace and salvation to the world enter into the messy middle of inculturating rites that are fully Christian, orthodox and orthoprax, and fully indigenized to the particular peoples whose hurts Christ would heal were he walking the earth. This task calls us to be daring and critical, careful and adventuresome, experimental and theological. Let us take up the challenge." [quoted from Susan Marie Smith, "The Scandal of Particularity Writ Small: Principles for Indigenizing Liturgy in Local Context." Anglican Theological Review 88 (Summer 2006): 375-396