Last week was Ash Wednesday, the night that launches the liturgical season of Lent. It is a night to become reacquainted with a repentant heart as we enter into 40 days of reflection. Looking back, we examine, think, pray, submit, course-correct, and sharpen. Our Ash Wednesday service got snowed out for the second year in a row. This year, that equaled a one week postponement, and tonight was the night. Allow me to offer my reflection with a little help from the 1970’s music scene.
I decided earlier this week that I wanted to make note of what I think is a significant milestone in my journey. As some of you might be aware, I’ve been through a series of health issues over the last decade, including abdominal surgery for diverticulitis and a massive benign tumor, to a partial nephrectomy for kidney cancer. Regarding both of those issues, I am doing really well. In June, I go for my annual set of cancer scans and I am continuing to expect a good report.
Because of my past history, I try to be really good about maintaining regular check-ups and health screenings. For the past several years, we have been tracking my glucose levels and my cholesterol. On February 11, I received the disappointing news that I am now diabetic. With that diagnosis as a new motivational impetus, here’s what I’ve done to confront this change in my health status.
Simply taking time to mark this moment in the life of Burt…
For some friends and family who might read this blog from time to time, you might see this title and think, "huh?"
Frank Viola is the author of numerous books (Pagan Christianity, Reimagining Church, From Eternity to Here, Finding Organic Church, and others) and a champion for what he calls "Organic Church." Though that phrase is loaded with all kinds of nuance and gets used to mean all sorts of things by all sorts of people, Viola’s use reflects his understanding and effort for more than 17 years to move the Church into a place of discovering, pursuing, maintaining and enjoying a living, vibrant relationship with God. For that to happen, he argues it can only be found in the context of true ekklesia (the biblical Greek word used to describe the followers of Christ who share their lives together as a way of discovering and accurately displaying Christ). This often stands in stark contrast to what is found in most institutional churches (whether they be full-fledged denominational institutions or simple, house gatherings) that all too often become centered on formats, hierarchy, and progorams instead of deep, relational life-sharing. In that, his point is well taken!
I find Viola’s writings to be inspirational, challenging, and sometimes down-right bothersome. There are times when I think his criticisms are right on target and other moments when they are completely over-stated…but they always cause me to think and internally scrutinize. I have traded just a couple of brief emails with him over the past few years as I’ve attempted to process and apply some of what I’ve read. Where I most align with him concerns his hope for the ekklesia. What he describes, as I understand him, predominately resonates with me as well. Real discipleship is not merely about the formation and development of Biblical knowledge and the display of external behaviors. It is about the discovery and incorporation of the life of Jesus in a relational context through which we are transformed from the inside-out. I hope I’ve described Viola’s view accurately.
The above all serves as introduction and context for some thoughts that I want to address to Mr. Viola regarding his blog offering from last summer "Discipleship, Mission, and Church: A Plea to Learn Our History" (July, 2009). It’s a piece of which I’ve just become aware through a link in his writing from today, "What is Organic Church? A Plea for Clarity." I had wanted to leave a simple comment on that blog entry, but found myself waxing long. Instead, I’m offering my interaction below.
Of course, I have no idea if Mr. Viola will respond (and I’m sure he has much else to occupy his time and focus), so feel free to add any of your thoughts to the mix as well!
It’s that time of year. Here are some of mine:
It’s been eight years.
But time does not erase:
– the tragedy.
– the sacrifice.
– .the memory.
Jesus, only You are the hope for peace.
September 11, 2001.