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The Joy of Rediscovery July 22, 2006

Posted by Matt in Church, Gospel, Matt, Mission.
1 comment so far

The following blog entry was written primarily as a free write exercise in order to better understand the place that I am currently in. The flow will reflect my own thought process. As such, it may not be the most coherent piece of writing on the face of the planet. However, I think that it accurately represents the place that I currently stand, even if I am the only person who can understand it… — Matt

As much as I hate to admit it, it is time to start writing about myself. This may strike some people as odd, but recently my identity has shifted from the traditional individualistic Western view to a more collective and Eastern view. This is the result of a paradigm shift in the way that I approach Scripture and Revelation, which, in turn, impacted my Christian identity. My identity as a Christian moved from being a quality of who I am to become the “whole” of which I am only a small and barely significant (if I may be so bold) portion of.

This shift was facilitated by a severe case of Clinical Depression which onset in the midst of my Freshman year at Clemson University. In the muddle of my depression, it became necessary that I maintain a firm grip of my own identity, both in a holistic sense and in a spiritual sense. Without the conscience effort to keep my own identity intact, I would have killed myself. Without a firm understanding of the place that God had for me in his world (not in a specific sense, but a general one — one in terms of life and existence), I would have lost the last barrier between myself and myself, between the man that I would called to be and the man I saw myself as. I look back with a sense of irony that this was also my period of greatest doubt, both of Christianity and the existence of God.

Thus, I started an intellectual pursuit of Truth. (This should surprise precisely zero of the people with which I have had ANY significant contact.) I began to seek out those answers that Christians offered to tough questions. Questions brought to the forefront by honestly seeking doubters. As much as I wanted Christian answers to be resoundingly and obviously true, this was simply not the case. The answers they gave began to ring with a hollow sense of artificiality. It was as though even the people giving them knew that they were lacking. Even the most astute (at least, seeming so) attempts to prove the existence of God, to disprove another Bible “contradiction”, or push the latest and greatest in 16th Century Christian thought, began to show sign of being forced, as if something about them were artificial.

It was this artificiality that caused me to approach some the primary scholarly material of the past half-century. Slow, but surely, I was introduced to an entirely new view of Scriptural Study, an attempt to return the texts to their proper and full context in the ANE, specifically in the idea-world of Second Temple Judaism (and, yes, it is okay to be completely confused by that last bit). From this study, I began to see a clearer picture of where we as Christians were called to be.

At the same time as this shift in focus, I was also confronted on several sides by this seemingly popular notion of a “Radical” Jesus. From youth retreats to billboards, from Spiritual self-help book to NOOMA videos, this notion came through loud and clear. However, nothing the people presented seemed all that radical to me. It was the same old picture of Jesus as that great moral teacher who died to save me from my own sin. Not to say that this wouldn’t be a singularly unique person, but it simply didn’t strike me as radical. This is, perhaps, to blame on my own Evangelical upbringing and this fact that this notion had been drilled into my head from such an early age. Whatever the reason for that reaction, it is the one that I felt at the time.

Then, these two decidedly different streams of thought came crashing together. This “modern” view of Scripture present a “Radical” Christ. Radical not only to his own day, but to ours as well. It is incredibly important to unpack everything that this revelation entails. So important, in fact, that I won’t even begin to venture an attempt to do so here. There are several works on the subject avaliable and I hope one day to possess the ability to pen my own thoughts in an attempt to encapsulate a small portion of that significance.

While I don’t even have the words to begin to explain it, this revelation caused a complete shift in my own understanding of myself. A shift from an individual to a member of a collective, a shift from needing to figure out my place in the world to the joy of finding out what God had in store for me, a shift from understanding Jesus’s sacrifice for me to understanding Jesus’s sacrifice for the whole of creation, A shift from an urge to understand myself to loving everyone in every way that I was capable.

This is the joy of rediscovery. The joy of finding the truth that has always been there. Like solving a puzzle or having a singularly marvelous insight, it’s uncovering the truth that laid just under the surface, eager to break out of its binding in ancient text or bad assumption. My joy of rediscovery was finding the message that drives to the very core of the created order, Gospel.

However, that joy brought hardship. It brought the understanding that I was not where I needed to be. Further, that the Church (as a collective whole) was not where it needed to be. We (I and the Church, if I can even begin to speak as though those two were separate) had a mission. Something that we had been neglecting to accomplish. English scholar and churchman N.T. Wright call it “putting the world to rights”. Jesus charged us to proclaim the message to all nations, but, even beyond that, he charged us with the very act of bringing about God’s Kingdom in this world in the fullest possible expression. If that sounds like an easy task, then you probably need to spend some time thinking about what a Kingdom of God would be.

However, there is hope to be found. Christians have been doing this work all along, even if they never completely appreciated the significance of that work. Even I had been developing an “attitude for service” for a long time before I ever realized that this is what I was compelled to do by virtue of my loyalty to the Christ and his work in this world. I had never understood it on those terms before, but somehow (read: the Spirit) I was already on the path that I needed to be on.

However, this began to beg a larger question. What is my unique Kingdom-Work? What is it that I am supposed to bring to the Table of the Church? I must admit that I am currently deep in the heart of this struggle. I know pieces of the picture: Seminary, Ordination, Clemson. Yet, this doesn’t provide even a glimpse of the life that God has in store for me. Through Clemson, I was able to tap into a unique community of believers known as Clemson Wesley. That unique community has yielded unique Christians who have challenged and continue to challenge any view of my future. I am continually haunted by Jesus’s call to Kingdom-Work.

I continue to see many avenues in which that work is being carried out and will be carried out. Visions are coming out of this community that simply can have no other source than the very Spirit of the Living God. I am excited. I know that God placed me in this place and with these people for a reason. I still have no idea of my place in this Kingdom-Work, but I am ever excited to see where God wants me to be. I am also excited to see where God wants me to be. I am also excited by the fact that others are excited by the very same thing in their lives. They may be further along in that journey than I am. They may be slightly behind, but you can still sense that joy. That joy of rediscovery. That joy of finding the place that God has for you in this world.

Praise be to the Lord for the place that he has brought me and for the places that he will take me. Amen.