Recently, my church community Austin Mustard Seed and my former church community, Vox Veniae had the opportunity to learn from Dr. Cherith Fee Nordling on the important, yet often tricky concept of “embodied spirituality. Here’s an excerpt from a recap by Chris Morton.

Orthodox teaching, as is encapsulated by the Nicene and Apostles Creeds, states the mystery of our faith is this: Jesus is simultaneously 100% God and 100% human.

Obviously, this is a paradox. No one thing can be 200%. Heresies, argues Fee Nordling, crop up when people try to explain Jesus as anything other the mystery of 100% God and 100% human. 

The problem that many of these heresies are trying to solve is “the flesh problem.” Many cultures, including many people today, don’t know what to do with our bodies. Our modern secular world seems torn between animalistic epicureanism (do whatever feels good!) and an obsession with productivity (life and body “hacking.”) 

These heresies and many more, all try to address the same struggle: if bodies are bad, then how can Jesus be fully human (embodied) and fully God?

According to Fee Nordling, this isn’t a philosophical point. A misunderstanding of our bodies cheapens the story of scripture and causes many problems for daily life. The alternative is to understand what humans are, bodies, and all. The result is a much more tangible story of how God is plotting to help us “get our lives back.”

Read the whole article here.

You can listen to audio from the retreat here.

Bonhoeffer was an expert on waiting, suffering, and thus, Advent. Here’s a great quote about enjoying what we’ve got. Which is really central to waiting, isn’t it?

We prevent God from giving us the great spiritual gifts he has in store for us, because we do not give thanks for daily gifts. We think we dare not be satisfied with the small measure of spiritual knowledge, experience, and love that has been given to us, and that we must constantly be looking forward eagerly for the highest good. Then we deplore the fact that we lack the deep certainty, the strong faith, and the rich experience that God has given to others, and we consider this lament to be pious.

We pray for the big things and forget to give thanks for the ordinary, small (and yet really not small) gifts. How can God entrust great things to one who will not thankfully receive from him the little things?

If we do not give thanks daily for the Christian fellowship in which we have been placed, even where there is no great experience, no discoverable riches, but much weakness, small faith, and difficulty; if, on the contrary, we only keep complaining to God that everything is so paltry and petty, so far from what we expected, then we hinder God from letting our fellowship grow according to the measure and riches which are there for us all in Jesus Christ.

Life Together

Advent Matches

This week marks the beginning of Advent, the first season of the Christian Liturgical Calendar. Both traditions are commonly associated with the Catholic and Orthodox Churches, although they have long been recognized by high church traditions.

Increasingly, you hear about the major seasons like Advent and Lent in Free Churches. Sometimes the calendar gets muddled, making Advent some sort of four-week pre-Christmas.

For many of the growing number of us who identify as Neo-Anabaptist, there is an ironic affinity for the Christian Calendar. We claim the scriptures as our guide and the local church as an authority to interpret them. Isn’t it a contradiction to embrace a tradition that seems so rooted in Christendom?

I like to think of myself as a neo-anabaptist. I’m a free church guy, from a free church background, currently planting a free church. To me, the church should always be local, working out a shared way of life for its unique time and place.

Over the past eight years or so, I’ve been exploring the Christian Calendar. I work through a daily Lectio Divina based on the Lectionary. Austin Mustard Seed keeps the Christian Calendar in our back pocket, and mainly focuses on it during the major seasons.

So what’s the attraction?

Counter-Cultural

Recently, I was trying to explain the idea of NOT singing Christmas carols during Advent. You wait to sing them during Christmastide and Epiphany.

This person responded jokingly, “you wait until everyone else has moved on, and then you celebrate Christmas?”

Exactly!

We Jesus-followers are so deeply entrenched in centuries of Christendom ruling the world that we need all the help we can get to live counterculturally! If following the Christian Calendar helps detach us from the consumerist narrative of the American Empire, which is something that Free Church types should want anyways, right?

Narratival

Have you ever heard the acronym

Basic
Instructions
Before
Leaving
Earth

While it may be a joke, many churches treat the scriptures this way. Some Churches seem to sell a sort of self-help approach, trying to find principles to live by. The Bible becomes a code that can be unraveled, or worse: life becomes a game, and the Bible is its rulebook.

The Christian Calendar reminds us that we are part of God’s story. This is good, because people build themselves out of stories. Our identities, as individuals and as a society, are an amalgam of different tales, forming a metanarrative that tells us who we are.

The Christian Calendar gives us an opportunity to remember God’s story, and find our identity within it.

Formational

We are how we spend our time.

We are not our aspirational identities. I would like to be a writer. Stephen King is a writer because he has a schedule for sitting down and writing every day. The biggest difference between Stephen King and I is how we spend our time.

If we want our church communities to be places where spiritual transformation takes place, we need to focus on how we spend our time. We need to build into our days, weeks, and years opportunities to practice doing what Jesus said to do. The Christian Calendar isn’t perfect, but it’s a step in that direction.

The fact is that we’re all grasping at straws here. For 1500 years, the Church has walked around like we own this place. There’s also a lot of great ideas about following Jesus buried in that 1500 years of history. The Christian Calendar was not ordained by God. It has its shortcomings.

But if it can help us become more countercultural, narratival and transformational, then we should pay attention.