Hopefully in the next few days I’ll grab some time to blog about the funeral and the church rededication (see recent posts on both). In the meantime, I hope this post becomes the first of a weekly series, as I’m using Volf’s book as the basis for Lent courses at two churches.
Tonight we discussed chapter 1 at a home group. Two things have stayed with me from my preparation and the discussion.
Firstly, Volf has a section in the chapter where he discusses the way recipients of gifts are under an obligation to respond – both by giving and by demonstrating gratitude. One group member said he was uneasy about applying this directly to God. God is love, and love does not put people under obligation. Love may yearn for a response but it does not require. Comments, anyone?
Secondly, from my own preparation, I loved the way Volf ended the chapter. We respond to God’s giving in four ways. Firstly, faith, which is not something offered as a good work but is empty hands held out to received. Secondly, gratitude, which is receiving God’s good gifts well. Thirdly, we make ourselves available to be used as instruments of his purposes. Fourthly, this becomes reality in terms of divine participation – the indwelling Christ. But our experience of God’s love then flowing through us is not merely in the sacred places where we have come to expect spiritual experiences, it is also in the world. He writes,
We may pray in the eucharistic prayer, “Deliver us from the presumption of comung to this table for solace only and not for strength; for pardon only, and not for renewal.” But if we don’t turn from facing God, so to speak, to fce our neighbors, the flow of God’s gifts will be arrested with us … God’s gifts flow to others above all when the community scatters, having been nourished in God’s presence … [p54]
For me this approach has important echoes of some disparate streams that have influenced my missiological ecclesiology in recent years. First there was the late John Wimber, who stressed how most of Jesus’ signs and wonders didn’t happen in the synagogue but in everyday life. Second there was James Thwaites’ book ‘The Church Beyond The Congregation’ with its stress on the church dispersed as much as the church gathered. Third there is much Emerging Church thinking that purposely reorientates the church as a missiological community. The writings of Fred Peatross and his Abductive Columns email come particularly to mind.
I’m looking forward to the rest of Lent now.