Tag Archives: Early Christianity

St. Francis on Global Community Development

Tonight at Asbury Seminary, St. Francis will lead our community in heart-formation. We will contemplate with the thoughts of the one, who eight hundred years after his death, gets to have little concrete statues of himself in billions of gardens across the world.  You will see why.  This session will be held on the Wilmore campus in the Richard Allen Chapel, 6.30-8.00pm.

When you first read St. Francis three things immediate surface: 1. He is deeply Roman Catholic (so for us protestants, we have some translation work to do), 2. One-in-two words he writes is  a quotation of scripture.  We see Jesus eminating even from the few words St. Francis wrote, 3. His vision remians just as vital today as it did then. And for “Thriving Among the Lilies”, this means we are especially interested in his vision for Global Community Development.  Here are some passages to get you started:

“And all of us lesser brothers, useless servants (Luke 17.10), humbly ask and beg all those who wish to serve the Lord God within the holy, catholic, and apostolic church, and all the following orders: priests, deacons, sub deacons, acolytes, exorcists, lectors, porters, and all clerics, all religious men and all religious women, all lay brothers and youths, the poor and needy, kings and princes, workers and farmers, servants and masters, all virgins and continent and married women, all lay people men and women, all children, adolescents, the young and old, the healthy and the sick, all the small and the great, all peoples, races, tribes, and tongues, all nations and peoples everywhere on earth who are and who will be—that all of us may persevere in the true faith and in penance, for otherwise no one will be saved.”

 

 “No brother should preach contrary to the form and regulations of the holy Church nor unless he has been permitted by his minister.  And the minister should take care not to grant [this permission] to anyone indiscriminately.  All the brothers should preach by their deeds. And no minister or preacher should appropriate to himself the ministry of the brothers or the office of preaching, but he should set it aside without any protest whenever he is told.”

 

 

Primitive Imagination and Early Christianity

In 1978 Walter Bruggemann gave us the Prophetic Imagination.  It is time in 2010 that we explore the Primitive Imagination.

In his book on African Indigenous Theology, Kwome Bediako affirms a six-layered description of what can also be called Indigenous Ways of Knowing or Primal Worldview: 1. kinship with nature, 2. a deep sense of humanity’s finitude, 3. a conviction that humanity is not alone in the universe, 4. a belief that humanity can enter into relationship with a benevolent spirit-world, 5. an acute sense of the afterworld, 6. and a mental structuring of a sacramental universe with no sharp dichotomy between the physical and the spiritual. This ‘primal imagination’, heralds Bediako, not only matches with the primal imagination of the early Christians, but as such, “Africans have found a principle of understanding and interpretation which is superior to any thing that a secular world-view is able to offer.”

My goal here is not to thrash the contributions of a secular world-view but to illustrate and affirm the primitive imagination of the Early Christians.  I use ‘primitive’ without an evolutionary framework and with keen sense that we have much to learn from the indigenous imagination.  And, like Bruggemann, I use the term “imagination” not to say “fictitious”.  Rather, I suggest that by the term “imagination” we account for and honor a multitude of metaphysical perspectives on reality written within the history of humanity.

Could it be true that our African brothers and sisters might have an angle on understaning the Early Christians than we European descendants?

Steward of Creation: A Prayer-Poem

In Darkness I clutch a created thing
With sense that to it I’ve been given
To watch and heed and shelter growth
No tiny task to bear

“Now, steward them all and show dominion”
I hear with mix-ed troubled mind
So onto the search for God’s intentions
A blueprint for His care

“You’ll steward the whole of the fishy sea”
Please know they breathe the water in
So care for it and heed my will:
A swarm of scaly things

“You’ll steward the feathery flocks of birds
for through their likeness I’ll proclaim
“My Son, I’m pleased, they’ll heed your words”
my Holy Spirit sings

“You’ll steward the tiny creeping things”
Their grassy blades: cathedral walls
I do not want you harming them
They fertilize my soil

“For eating and tasting, I give most trees”
That bear a barkened fruity seed
And to the lowly animals
Greens grown without your toil

So, watching and heeding please shelter growth
And with your faith all things will bloom
And one more thing, I want more you’s
My family multiply

 

 

The edges and bordering lines of Eden
Expand across this vista’ed wood
It’s good, the wood, and all I’ve made
Now rest with me tonight

I’m watching you drift into peaceful rest
And soon the sun will westward set
And, here’s one law to rule our wood
One tree, you see: restricted.

For eating its fruit in the cool of the day
Might bring you worlds of bursting light
But death to you its pulp imparts
The consequence: evicted.

 

 

Arising we from our Sabbath’s sleep
With moon afresh on Eden’s camp
And flushed in mind we go in haste,
to shady midnight oak.

Dreaming or waking I am not sure
And into shadowed branches stare
Entranced on fruits of false desire
Against the words He spoke.

 

 

In darkness I clutch a created thing
With sense that I’ve, to It, been giv’n
To serve and bow below the earth
Its hollowed eyes ensnare.

It’s curves resemble fish and wood
Alive but dead like birds and bugs
Into their bark we pour our lust
A heavy yoke to bear.

In turning disdain we’re forced to dance
While steps betray our deepest song
A power, which like a puppeteer
Eliminates our worth.

This fruit, which seemed so opportune
Its poison suffocates our life
From crusted arid selfish clay
Turns us against our earth.

 

 

In Darkness I clutch uncreated things
Below the stormy waters where
The grainy cruciform will lead
Enticing me to care

I’m thrust beneath the torrent rains
My selfish self-demise
Where all intended evil there
Is changed by Holy leaven.

How could this fruit bring us such ruin?
Oh, Lord your good salvation bring
Re-darken our faith to return to the place
Where, “On earth as it is now in heaven.”

Back to “Sacred Earth”

Who is the Bride of Christ: Part 2

The early Christians, following the lead of Jesus’ parables and through his other teachings, began very early thinking of the church as the bride of Christ.

Take for example:

Revelation 21.9 “Then one of the angels who had the seven bowls full of the seven last plagues came and said to me, “Come I will show you the bride, the wife of the Lamb.”  And he carried me away in the Spirit to a mountain great and high, and showed me the Holy City of Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God.”

Like any relationship, like any marriage, intimacy is more than learning about one another. It is about cultivating a life of shared experiences and appreciation for one another in difficult times.   It is no different with God.

Fast-forward three years from my university chapel altar. Still wearing the grad ring, I had now been offered and accepted the wedding ring.   It was perhaps as I was changing a diaper or settling my bank account that reality hit.  I had a wife, a baby, and a real job.  I had taken on an occupation that confronted racism and poverty while preparing students to do just that. It all started to crush me really. The responsibilities of life outweighed a new realization: I could not solve local problems, let alone world issues, with my skills or cleverness. People were too complex.  The human heart was far more stubborn and habit ridden than I realized.  I was more broken that I had realized.  Now ten years out from that night at the university altar, I am saying that it will take my whole life to learn intimacy with God.

Who is the Bride of Christ: Part 1

I began a journey about ten years ago.  It was a spiritual journey that culminated in a quiet moment within my university’s chapel.  I had followed this deep calling in my life that led me to Jesus and to a life devoted to his way and ministry.  I was mastering the spiritual life at break-neck speed.  My devotional life rocked.  I had read through most of the Bible a few times.  And I kind of sneered when my pastor’s wife lamented in one Bible study that it would take her a whole life to learn intimacy with God.  I wondered why I was flying so high.  Perhaps God had greater things in store for me.

So there I was at our university’s chapel altar.  I was kneeling alone late one night. The stained glass windows were dancing with shadows of flickering candles. I was deep in prayer.  On the floor in front of me lay my graduation ring.  A few minutes prior, I had taken it off my finger and set it before the Lord.  Internally I prayed this prayer: Lord let me be married to you.” Somehow over the course of a few years, I had intuited a long-standing Christian image.  Intimacy with the Father was something like a great marriage. It was the height of my early devotional life.  I was on fire.  I loved God and wanted to know him more.

The early Christians, following the lead of Jesus’ parables and through his other teachings, began very early thinking of the church as the bride of Christ.

2 Corinthians 11.1 “I hope you will put up with me in a little foolishness.  Yes, please put up with me!  I am jealous for you with a godly jealousy. I promised you to one husband, to Christ, so that I might present you as a pure virgin to him”

Early Christianity

I study Early Christianity, because the story inspires me. Amidst the drama of the Roman Empire, how did a small Jewish sect plant the seed for, arguably, the world’s greatest movement? And as the nightmares born in modern Europe unravel, the church like then is being born anew. We had never dreamed of Africa, China, and Chile as the new land of Christianity. An era passes while we live, and it is a great time to study her early days when she struggled as one small religion among the great nature religions of the world.

Some suggest that we can know little of the early Christian genius, given how it has been enshrined in the myths and legends of religious history; but on the contrary, a tempered look at its development can reach some firm conclusions. For the best angle to view the emergence of Christianity, one must combine five areas of study: (1) A reading of the New Testament along side of various related and contemporary literature: the Old Testament, the texts of Second Temple Judaism, the multitude of classical writings including early business records, and the early Christian literature including the church fathers and New Testament Apocrypha, (2) The social history of the movement, (3) The Historical Jesus and the History of Christians in the Roman Empire, (4) Greco-Roman Philosophy and Rhetoric, and (5) the local histories of the great variety of early Christianities (adapted from Margaret’s Mitchell’s brilliant essay in the revised edition of Grant’s From Augustus to Constantine.

For those interested in Christianity and the mysterious yet epiphanic person of Jesus, you never dreamed how interesting her ancient past could be. Not only does the New Testament provide us with a window into the most sublime of human thoughts, but the whole story of the early days sweeps us into the lives of fascinating humans living in fascinating times. I feel lucky to get to write about it here!