Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Theology, Ecclesiology, and Real Life

I'm an ardent fan of Fr. Jake's blog, though I suspect he and I would disagree on any number of theological questions. However, I return again and again to his blog because I find his comments sincere and thought-provoking. I ran across the following on his blog tonight:

Now one can argue theology (study of God) or ecclesiology (study of the church), debate and discuss what this or that bishop thinks about this or that theological concept, or a host of other items making the rounds of blogs across the church and newspapers around the world. I can spend long afternoons surfing from blog to blog in the nice comfy living room in the house of the person I'm house-sitting for in Hawaii. I have that luxury. The folks who sent the postcards above do not have that luxury. I suspect many of them stagger through life trying to put enough of the pieces together to get through each day. Many, if not most, have absolutely no idea that there even is a God, much less that God loves them and desires the closest of relationships with them. Some of the later postcards begin to express hope and a sense of being valued, even loved. Such transformation is what everyone, including those of us who pretend we have it all together, longs for.

In my decades of experience in the institutional church, I've rarely seen that sort of radical transformation, or even much in the way of minor transformation. I suspect that some of that is just that we are uncomfortable when speaking of God's action, and so such action in the lives of others remains hidden to most of us, whether clergy or laity. I think that we also are challenged in that we don't often expect God to work in even moderately miraculous ways, so either miss that action or are unavailable for God's blessings.

One example of the "lostness" that I mentioned above occurred even within the most luxurious of locations. We went down to the Hilton Hawaiian tonight for ice cream. My wife mentioned the rather sullen and bored teenager she noticed who was getting ice cream, alone, at 9:30 p.m., and charging it to her room. We wondered if her parents just told her "go find something to do." We were reminded that even those who can afford to spend a week or two at a fine luxury resort in Hawaii aren't necessarily doing so with the idea of spending "quality time" with their family. Perhaps we were reading more into that scene then was warranted, but with so much opulence (including the on-site wedding chapel) around us, it was hard not to look on that with a slightly jaundiced eye.

So the next time I get wrapped up in the trials and tribulations of the church, perhaps stepping outside my office and heading down to the local homeless shelter, or even to Starbucks or the local country club and doing a little people-watching might bring a little perspective. We are called to be the light of the world, for people sunk in darkness, not to fight about the light fixture...

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