One of the books I’ve read recently (on the recommendation of Steve) is The Practicing Congregation by Diana Butler Bass. On p. 59 she says
Zygmunt Bauman, a British theorist of postmodernism, claims that “one can think of postmodern life as one lived in a ity in which traffic is daily re-rerouted and street names are liable to be changed without notice…. In such a city one is well advised not to plan long and time consuming journeys. The shorter the trip, the greater the chance of completing it.
She continues, drawing on the work of Nora Gallagher:
In an age of fragmentation, it may well be the case that the vocation of congregations is to turn tourists into pilgrims – those who no longer journey aimlessly, but, rather, those who journey in God and whose lives are mapped by the grace of Christian practices….. The “rational” postmodern choice may be, as Bauman asserts, spiritual tourism – life without a map, without destination. But Christian congregations do not exist to provide rational choices. They exist as an alternative sort of logic that offers hospitality to strangers and wayfarers and forms people in an ancient way of being in God. As a by-product, such congregations challenge the “rationalities” of post modern life by crafting distinctively Christian ways of life. congregations provide a way of exploring moral, religious, communal, and personal identity that moves with purpose and intention through the ever-shifting terrain of the postmodern city.
I think she’s on to something here.
My first thought when reading her Bauman quote is, “We’re not so much looking for a destination as we are following Jesus.” Though sometimes the object of the Christian life is taken to be “going to heaven when you die” (certainly better than some of the alternatives: “going to hell when you die,” or just “rotting in the grave”), my reading of the New Testament is that there is more involved than a single destination.
If Christians are going to make there way (and we do have a way to make), we’ll find ourselves crossing some difficult terrain that, as she suggests, is changing beneath or feet. The practices of which she speaks are those that are designed to help us keep our eyes on Jesus so we can follow him.
We are just following Jesus … and if past eras seemed more safe or predictable, it was an illusion. I don’t think God has ever offered a map … even the Bible is not a map or a guidebook … it’s (was it Barth that said it?)”the Christ-cradle.” He offers Himself.
“I want to know Him, and share in the fellowship of His sufferings, becoming like Him in His death, and so to somehow attain to the resurrection from the dead … not that I have already attained this, my brethren, but I press on, to take hold of that for which Christ took hold of me … ” Phil 3:10