OWAAT May 27: God Is More Messy Than the Trinity; and Jeremiah and Vocation

So, another week with Jeremiah. I was a little jealous of him at first. God called him pretty early in life, and I’ve always been a little jealous of people who have things figured out early on – seeing as how it has taken what seems like a fairly long time getting it together. But as anyone who has felt prophetic yearnings knows, sharing them with the rest of the world is by no means all sunshine and unicorns. Carolyn J. Sharp in the Theological Bible Commentary puts it this way: “Vocation, for Jeremiah, involves being known by God, being equipped to proclaim God’s will in the public square, being prepared to call others to account, and being fortified to face inevitable resistance. Jeremiah confronts exquisitely high theological stakes as God’s chosen people teeter on the brink of destruction, for it is only through his warnings and intermediation that they might remember how to turn to the one who can save them.” (p. 224-225)

We’re also beginning ordinary time, or celebrating Trinity Sunday, depending on your tradition. (My personal opinion is to wonder why we need a Trinity Sunday. I don’t know if I’m being contrary or what, but in spite of learning about and being able to articulate a Trinitarian theology in light of perichoresis – an interconnected Trinity – I feel annoyed whenever I think too hard about the Trinity.) Why the Trinity? Why this three-in-one and one-in-three? To me God can’t be contained in all the neat containers we try to put God into, but the Trinity is one attempt that a lot of people happen to love. Maybe some of us need the Trinity to be able to conceptualize God, but I feel like the Trinity makes things a little too neat. I have this tendency to see God as messy and beyond any conception of God that we can dream up. Anyone reading this is welcome to present an alternative viewpoint to help me see things differently. (Keep reading for one of those alternative viewpoints.)

Daily Bible readings:

May 27 – Jeremiah 8
May 28 – Jeremiah 9
May 29 – Jeremiah 10
May 30 – Jeremiah 11
May 31 – Jeremiah 12
June 1 – Jeremiah 13
June 2 – Jeremiah 14

Think:

Going back to the Trinity, the Disciples have had some interesting things to say about it over time. I find Peter Goodwin Heltzel’s thoughts on the subject worth noting. His essay “Singing the Trinity” engages the conflicting perspectives that Disciples and other Christians have had concerning the Trinity from Arius and Athanasius on. Even two of the main founders of the Disciples, Barton Stone and Alexander Campbell, heartily disagreed about the necessity of the doctrine of the Trinity to Christian life. While I don’t agree with Goodwin Hetzel’s insistence on the necessity of the Trinity from a prescriptive point (i.e. I don’t agree that Christians must assent to the doctrine of the Trinity in order to be Christian), I do agree with him that the concept of the Trinity can be helpful from a descriptive perspective – helping Disciples to express how we relate to God and others: “The doctrine of the Trinity provides the theological basis for the Disciples’ theological principle of ‘unity in diversity.’  Since all Christians are unified by a common confession of Jesus Christ, we are free to embrace cultural differences that have become more apparent in the aftermath of colonialism. The difference between the three persons of the Trinity who are united in a communion of love provides a way of thinking about gender and cultural differences, while their shared unity provides an ontological basis for the unity of the church.” (p. 86)

Pray: 

Visual journal entry
Visual journal entry

What has come out of our prayer practice of journaling your prayers? Have you tried creating any visual images in your journal? How might that act of creation change your prayers? I found another truly life-giving book on this subject: The Art Journal Workshop: Break Through, Explore, and Make It Your Own by Traci Bunkers. She has really inspired me not to give up text completely, but to look for ways of expressing myself beyond words, words, and more words, along with some practical considerations when doing this. Sometimes when I journal I forget that personal journaling is about process over product and find it hard to break out of the need to try to create something that will withstand the test of time. That’s one sure way to suck the creative life out of one’s journal!

Act:

Conder and Rhodes in Organizing Church consider house meetings as another way in which to organize church. While I am open to that, one thing I hope I will never forget if I am paid to work in a church is just how important and limited church people’s time is, and how limited it is. At the present moment this leads me to consider all the meetings required to organize people. How much can be done on our own time vs. how much needs to be done together – and how much time to people reasonably have to give? Depending on the church, churches can spend a lot of time keeping “church machine” (the B&B – business and building – side of church) running. Planning, holding, and participating in worship can take up a lot of people’s time and energy. It is always good for church and spiritual leaders to consider how much of a church’s time is dedicated to those things versus mission activities of the church.

A related question that has been on my mind for a long time is what does an active, activated disciple’s life look like? How much time is there for family, sleep, work, play, church, and mission activities? What does a balanced life look like? It is very important for churches and FBCO ministries and organizations to consider this, rather than always expecting people to figure it out for themselves. Organizations need to never forget that the humans who they want to participate in their work are human and have finite time and energy. Organizations can be intentional in the shaping of disciples and organizers. If a movement is worth building, it’s worth building it well, not shoddily.

And something else to think about: “With all the uncertainty, frustration, and wounding that accompanies conflict, it’s easy to see why most of our congregations tend toward centralized control or maintenance modes of operation. It’s not surprising many of us try to avoid conflict at all costs or stamp it out immediately, even when this directly deactivates our congregations. In attempting to avoid or eradicate conflict, however, we unintentionally also keep our congregations from becoming active and vibrant.” (p. 67)

How does your church and/or FBCO organize and manage their time in such a way to be attentive to the life needs of its members? How do you engage and manage conflict? How do you agitate people and institutions in helpful ways, rather than ways that break them?

Check the Think! Pray! Act! calendar for ideas and things to do.

Check out the Find Your FBCO Map to find your local faith-based community organizing affiliate and connect with the people who are working together to live out their dreams of a more just world!

What’s going on in your living of the Gospel? Let us know in the comments, in our e-mail discussion group, or on social media.

Resources:
“Congratulations to Missouri on Raising the Age.” Raise the Age Missouri, 10 May 2018. https://www.raisetheage.com/blog/2018/5/10/congratulations-to-missouri-on-raising-the-age.

Barreto, Eric. “What Happened at Pentecost?” Enter the Bible, 1 May 2013. http://www.enterthebible.org/blog.aspx?m=3783&post=2547.

Brueggemann, Walter. An Introduction to the Old Testament: The Canon and Christian Imagination. Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press, 2003.

Bunkers, Traci. The Art Journal Workshop: Break Through, Explore, and Make It Your Own. Beverly, Ma.: Quarry Books, 2011.

Calhoun, Adele Ahlberg. Spiritual Disciplines Handbook: Practices That Transform Us. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2015.

Conder, Tim, and Daniel Rhodes. Organizing Church: Grassroots Practices for Embodying Change in Your Congregation, Your Community, and Our World. St. Louis, MO: Chalice Press, 2017.

Driskill, Joseph. Protestant Spiritual Exercises: Theology, History, and Practice. New York: Morehouse Publishing, 1999.

Fretheim, Terence E. “Old Testament: Jeremiah.” Enter the Bible, n.d. http://www.enterthebible.org/oldtestament.aspx?rid=44.

Ganim, Barbara, and Susan Fox. Visual Journaling: Going Deeper than Words. Wheaton, Ill: Quest Books, 1999.

Goodwin Heltzel, Peter. “Singing the Trinity.” Pages 86–95 in Chalice Introduction to Disciples Theology. St. Louis, Mo.: Chalice Press, 2008.

Luther Seminary. “Enter the Bible,” n.d. http://www.enterthebible.org/.

Luther Seminary. Word and World: Jeremiah. Vol. 22 of Word & World. Saint Paul, MN: Luther Seminary, 2002. https://wordandworld.luthersem.edu/issues.aspx?issue_id=88.

Luther Seminary. Word and World: The Trinity. Vol. 18 no. 3 of Word & World. Saint Paul, MN: Luther Seminary, 1998. https://wordandworld.luthersem.edu/issues.aspx?issue_id=71

Sharp, Carolyn J. “Jeremiah.” Pages 221-234 in Theological Bible Commentary. Louisville, Ky.: Westminster John Knox Press, 2009.

Singer, Benjamin. “We. Did. It. Clean Missouri Just Submitted 346,956 Signatures!” Clean Missouri, 4 May 2018. http://cleanmissouri.org/2018/05/04/we-did-it-clean-missouri-volunteers-just-submitted-346956-signatures-to-qualify-for-the-ballot-and-take-back-power-from-special-interests/.

Society of Biblical Literature. “Bible Odyssey,” n.d. http://www.bibleodyssey.com/.

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