Monday, March 06, 2006

Gems from Newbigin

Here are a couple of quotes from Lesslie Newbigins The Gospel in a Pluarlist Society. They both come from a chapter entitled "The Congregation as Hermeneutic of the Gospel. This book is truly amazing:

Jesus, as I said earlier, did not write a book but formed a community. This community has at its heart the remembering and rehearsing of his words and deeds, and the sacraments given by him through which it is enabled both to engraft new members into its life and to renew this life again and again through sharing in his risen life through the body broken and the lifeblood poured out. It exists in him and for him. He is the center of its life. Its character is given to it, when it is true to its nature, not by the characters of its members but by his character. Insofar as it is true to its calling, it becomes the place where men and women and children find that the gospel gives them the framework of understanding, the "lenses" through which they are able to understand and cope with the world.

I love those words in the middle that say It exists in him and for him. He is the center of its life. I, personally, need to be reminded of that from time to time. I get so caught up in the daily tasks of preparing lessons, visiting people, planning lock-ins, preparing meals, etc. that I forget that the busy-ness of the church is not what it's all about. The church exists for Christ and Christ is the center of its life. I'm not the center, youth group isn't the center, the building campaign isn't the center, what we sing at what time isn't the center...Only Christ is the center. I also love the opening words about Jesus forming a community. Again and again, we must remind ourselves that Christ calls us into community.

Almost everything in the "plausibility structure" which is the habitation of our society seems to contradict this Christian hope. Everything suggests that it is absurd to believe that the true authority over all things is represented in a crucified man. No amount of brilliant argument can make it sound reasonable to the inhabitants of the reigning plausibility structure. That is why I am suggesting that the only possible hermeneutic of the gospel is a congregation which believes it.

If I had to summarize my time at the emergent convention last May, I think I would use this snippet from Newbigin. I am more and more convinced that tight theological treatises and "brilliant arguments" are not the way we will convince people that the God we worship is one of love and grace and One worthy of worship. The community of believers must live the gospel in such a way that others look and say, "Wow, I want to worship that God and know that Lord and Savior."

Great stuff from a great mind.