Seek First The Kingdom of God

Chateau

Seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his justice…

If you have spent any time in the chrurch, you have surely heard, sung, and listened to sermons on these words. And I suspect that I am not the only one who deeply misunderstood them for quite a while. I always assumed what Jesus is saying here is to work on my personal relationship with God. It’s the idea of the quiet time or personal devotions. Alone, in my inner room, with the door closed.

Work, Community and Isolation

Barn Raising Photo by Randy Fath on Unsplash

“In traditional societies, people’s daily labour rendered a service to the community, strengthened its social cohesion and gained them public respect”

A theory from the economic sociology of Karl Polyani1 underlines modern work as a source of isolation and community dis-integration in our society:

“when people become wage labourers… their daily labour is ‘disembedded’ from their social matrix and they lose their inherited values and cultural identity … they labour for the money needed for their survival.”

The Gospel of the Kingdom

Church

Last Sunday, my pastor started his sermon by asking a question:

“Why do you come to church?”

He asked the question in the context of a decrease in Sunday morning attendance, and the answer that came to my mind was:

We don’t come to church, we are the church. That’s what God made us for.

Community is hard -- and that's a good thing

Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Just as surely as God desires to lead us to a knowledge of genuine Christian fellowship, so surely must we be overwhelmed by a great disillusionment with others, with Christians in general, and, if we are fortunate, with ourselves… - Dietrich Bonhoeffer

As we’ve been sharing the idea for Le Voisinage with our students, several have made comments along the lines of, “This is a really exciting project! But I could never be part of it, because…” and then some variation of, “I don’t know if I could live with other people,” “I like living alone,” or even, “I don’t want to be around awkward Christians.”

Or to paraphrase, “Living with others is hard and uncomfortable”.

They have a point.

Le Voisinage, or, So what are we doing?

Voisinage header

We want to reach three types of people at once. Jesus promises that the supernatural love between Christians will make the world see that God sent him, that God has loved us, and that we are his disciples. What’s more, our society is experiencing a crisis of community.

It is on the foundation of these three principles that the student ministry team in Quebec City is building our plan for the coming years. We want to build a community based on this love, which will show convinced Christians, questioning Christians, and people who have no experience of faith, that Jesus changes everything.

The Model of This World : Bad Maps

USS Jeannette The eighth of July 1879. The USS Jeannette leaves California on an expedition to reach the North Pole.

Following a map created by the cartographer August Peterman, who believed that a temperate current flowed northward through the Bering Strait and would bring the ship to an open polar sea.

Peterman’s theory is false, the ship finds itself stuck in the ice, and after two years of drifting, it is crushed by the building pressure. Captain George Washington De Long, along with 20 of his 32 crewmen, die trying to find their way back to land.

The Pattern of This World : The Age of Authenticity according to Charles Taylor (Part 2)

Authentic

Beyond his general description of the Age of Authenticity (remember, a period characterised by a social imaginary of expressive individualism and mutual display which allows us to make our chosen identity seen), Taylor also offers insights about its effects on faith and spirituality:

  1. The shining promise of the next new product, which always offers a greater satisfaction, is like a “stronger form of magic” than faith, which draws us away from traditional belief.

  2. The spiritual life I undertake must be my own personal choice.

  3. This spirituality must speak to me personally, and help me to develop according to my own understanding of meaning and purpose.

  4. Spirituality is a personal quest, something which each person must discover for themselves, without taking anything for granted.

The Pattern of This World : The Age of Authenticity according to Charles Taylor (Part 1)

Authentic

So far I’ve made several references to Charles Taylor’s philosophy. Taylor is a philosopher and expert in secularisation from Montreal, and I’ve taken these ideas from the book How (Not) To Be Secular, Reading Charles Taylor by James K. A. Smith (Eerdmans, 2014).

Taylor has many insights about our modern society, and I would like to share a few of them as part of the theme of “The Pattern of This World”. Here I’m summarising part of chapter 4 of Smith’s book, particularly pages 84 to 90.

According to Taylor, we are currently living in an “age of authenticity.” We got here from the a starting point he called the “ancien régime”, where our religious identity was closely linked to our local community. We then went through an “age of mobilisation”, which believed, more or less, that in order to experience the presence of God, we would have to build a society that followed his precepts and his model, since he is not directly present in within creation.

The Pattern of This World : Sexuality

Supergirl

(Note : This post is the continuation of a series. If possible, please read it in the context of the two previous posts : Do Not Conform to the Pattern of This World and The Pattern of This World. )

Last year my wife and I found ourselves surrounded by Christian couples, not yet married, who were not following the Christian model of sexuality. We work with a student ministry, so obviously questions about sexuality are always current. But what really surprised us was that these couples weren’t among our students.

Evidently it’s a sensitive subject, so I won’t speak in details, but I’m not talking about new believers either. These were Christians from every age group, people who grew up in the church, or had been there for decades as adults. Some had even accompanied young adults in consecrating sexuality for marriage. They were all, still, committed in the faith – they all should have known better.