Monday, February 13, 2006

The Sacramental Prophet…

Reflections on The Church in Emerging Culture edited by Leonard Sweet

My favorite line in The Matrix may well be when Morpheus tells Neo, "there is a difference between knowing the truth and living the truth." It is time the Church decided to live the Truth instead of just acknowledging it's existence.

With passion in heart and pen in hand I read Leonard Sweets collection of articles and responses from five of the Church’s postmodern prophets. In The Church in Emerging Culture Andy Crouch, Michael Horton, Fredrica Mathewes-Green, Brian McLaren and Erwin McManus write and discuss how the church effects the culture and it’s call to transform it and not hide from it. I found myself resonating with of the writers who seem to be at opposite ends of most of the discussion.

Andy Crouch is a Haurwasian leaning Methodist with strong Arminian sentiments and a focused understanding of the power of sacramental theology. His critique of the postmodern understanding of the culture does not seem to jive with my understandings of it, but his reflections on the importance and necessity for the sacraments to form and transform the world is right on. As Crouch states, when reflecting on the consumerist nature of our culture, “the Eucharist is the place where the church practices post consumerism.” (p. 83) He goes on to illustrate biblically and historically how the Church views the Eucharist as a place where real presence meets the real problems of our world. The answers, according to Crouch, can be found in embracing and practicing the sacraments in a much deeper way than the post-enlightment Church has done so in the past. “The sacraments answer the postmodern hunger for a true story after modernity’s impoverished recital of facts and figures.” (p. 85)

On the other end of the sacramental argument is futurist and social justice advocate, Erwin McManus. His church, Mosaic, attracts a rag tag, fugitive group of people who find meaning and transformation in the person and work of Jesus Christ. His critique of the Church is around its bowing to the culture instead of standing over and against the culture to implement change. He states, “To speak of culture we must move from talking about who we are to who we are becoming.” (p. 237) He goes on to argue against the church attempting to live apart from the community when he says, “Whenever the church assumes the role of an institution committed to protecting its constituency from the emerging culture, we reduce our impact to a drop in the bucket.” (p. 238)

Is it possible to bring these two together? What rings in my heart is what Wesley called the marriage of piety and social justice. Can we practice the real presence of Christ in the sacraments so that we can become the real presence of Christ in the world? Can we stand with one foot anchored in the ancient practices of the Church and speak the language of the emerging culture? That is the challenge for the church today. Perhaps this is, indeed, my challenge. My challenge may be to become a sacramental prophet. One who calls for action informed by the sacraments. One claiming the promise of baptism and desiring to live a life of dying to self. One molded and shaped by the frequent practice of the Eucharist and, thereby, called to feed those who hunger for food as well as righteousness. We, the Church, must be ancient and future without compromise. We must be transformed by our faith so that we can live transformation for a world hungry for mystery. Essentially, it seems to me, that the sacraments provide the mystery to a culture hungry to reach beyond it’s self and the practices of social justice provide the action that speaks louder than words. Thanks be to God that in this struggle I remain:

Lost in Grace,


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