July 24, 2017

The Domesticated and The Disappeared

As I stated in my last post, the early monastic communities demonstrated the spiritual, relational and missional rhythms of the early church. In the book of Acts, we read of how the early church enacted its common life, echoing the patterns Jesus had taught the twelve. They early was organized in a manner intended to respond to the resurrection of Christ and the gift of the Holy Spirit on Pentecost. This rhythm, this community design is succinctly displayed at the end of the second chapter of Acts:
"They committed themselves to the teaching of the apostles, the life together, the common meal, and the prayers.

Everyone around was in awe—all those wonders and signs done through the apostles! And all the believers lived in a wonderful harmony, holding everything in common. They sold whatever they owned and pooled their resources so that each person’s need was met.

They followed a daily discipline of worship in the Temple followed by meals at home, every meal a celebration, exuberant and joyful, as they praised God. People in general liked what they saw. Every day their number grew as God added those who were saved."
(The Message)
Regarding this passage in Acts Jaroslav Pelikan writes that it maintains a "continuity with [Jesus] and his apostles in this communion of saints. But theologically, it is prescriptive, as an itemized list of criteria by which the church in any age would preserve and and manifest its continuity with the apostles." They ruminated on the Scriptures, prayed and worshiped together. They broke bread together. They cared for each other. They were effective evangelists, particularly among the marginalized to which they extended inclusion. Like the monastic communities discussed in my last post, what we will find throughout history in missional communities is not a naive effort to recreate the early church experience. Rather, they seek to respond to their context in as faithful a manner as the early disciples did. As Pelikan offers, these characteristics ought to be our guide to a faithful devotion to the Christian tradition.

Two leaders in particular carried such a desire into the feudal system of medieval time period. Peter Waldo and Francis of Assisi.

July 12, 2017

Missional Roots in Monastic Movements

Cells, conventicles, house churches, underground churches, missional communities ... what they are called does not really matter. Throughout the history of the Church there have been grassroots movements of Christians that have renewed and re-centered the Church's devotion to God and neighbor. These movements provide for us a "history of missional communities" if you will.

Like each of us and like every institution, the Church has always been susceptible to the temptations of money and power. The revival these movements reflected was a subversion of the status quo; resisting the expectations, if not demands, the market and state placed upon Christians in a particular time and place. Demands or expectations that these movements believed broke away from devotion to God and neighbor.

This is not to say that our lapses, meaning "sin", are social or individual. They are always both. It is simply the fact that since the early days of Christian community, it has been money and power that have drawn our attention away from the two commands that Jesus said all of Scripture hinges upon: Love God with every fiber of your being and care for your neighbor as you would care for yourself.

We would often prefer to read Scripture and study church history as if they were somehow unbound from the context within which they were written. Yet, when we begin to read them within their context we see things we may not have seen before.