We have waded through the philosophy and are now getting into the more practical aspects of Desiring the Kingdom. See what others are thinking about over at Simply Convivial. I do believe that this chapter is probably worth wading through the earlier ones because it highlights things that make our worship peculiar. Some of these things we are losing in our Christian culture which is truly unfortunate and we need to be reminded how these things set us apart. There are two key points that I want to pick up on today - time and mission as culture makers.
Last week our family was overwhelmed by the fun of spring break. We had people coming and going, babies being born, just general craziness abounding. In the midst though - we sort of forgot that it is also Lent. You see, I am not sure that our practice of the faith shows that our time is played out on a different timeline. James says
If we read the practices of Christian worship, we would conclude that Christians are a people whose year doesn't simply map onto the calendar of the dominant culture.We homeschool and had our Sabbath week a few weeks ago - but still the school schedule of Spring Break impacted our lives in more tangible ways than the Christian calendar has. I am not totally sure how to let the "counter reformation" of liturgical time impact the practice of time in our house. Advent is a time that I am learning to set apart but Lent is one I am still trying to figure out. I guess this is also why the Catholic church still uses feast days - it is a way to remember the history of the church in the present time.
The other point that James makes about time is
the church is a people with a deeply ingrained orientation to the future, a habit we learn from Israel.
[This future] hangs over our present and gives us a vision of what to work for in the here and now as we continue to pray, "Your kingdom come."
[Our worship] trains our imagination to be eschatological, looking forward not to the end of the world but to "the end of the world as we know it." (italics in original)There is really only one class that I ever failed - Child Evangelism Training. Yes, I was a failure. In part because I really couldn't see talking about heaven as they did as a proper way to invite people into the kingdom. This was a LONG time ago and now I have a better idea of how it could be done in a way that is faithful to the truth, I do think that we need to be a future focused people - unfortunately sometimes that creates people who are "so heavenly minded they are no earthly good". That's not what James is talking about though. At the time of the training, I didn't have a good understanding of the new heaven and the new earth and in some ways it seemed like inviting kids into escapism and misunderstood promises than into a new life that can begin now. It was more my immaturity because I didn't understand what the future should look like for a believing Christian. Again, reading N.T. Wright's After you Believe was groundbreaking for me in that respect. In it he talks about how we are called to be priests and kings forever with God. So, we should start working on those vocations now. This actually ties in with James' next section.
God's Image as a Call to Mission
James begins this section by talking about how we are called to worship. I love that from our house you can hear the bells at the local Catholic church calling people to worship (we live just about the right distance away). We forget, in our clock saturated world, that this used to be the main way you knew what time it was - the church bells. The traditional Catholic church calls you to worship throughout the day - not just on Sunday. It is a constant pattern of life. James doesn't touch on that much in this section - but it got me thinking about it.
I was most struck by his point that
the image of God is a task, a mission.
To take up the task of being God's image bearer is both cultural work and cultic work; it is to be both prince/ss and priest.Often I think people are looking for the "big mission" of God in their lives. Here James is pointing out that we are called to be His image wherever we are - not just once we find "our mission". We are already people sent on mission because we bear the image and name of Christ. He says
we fulfill the mission of being God's image bearers by undertaking the work of culture making.To me this is a breath of fresh air. I know that we read similar thoughts in G.K. Chesterton quotes and other places but it I need to be reminded that culture making in my home is my mission and I am bearing His image to my children in ways I cannot comprehend. I appreciate Mystie's post on this topic last week. I do fall into the trap of looking for the "big mission" and fail at the "small mission". I think I have the idea inverted though. What I consider small is truly the work of God and the "big" can only come out of faithfully doing what appears to be small. Creating a vibrant Christian culture built on relationships and focused on His truth is not an easy task.
If we are forward looking Christians we should invite our children into the promises of God and his future reign and glory while also helping to equip them to be "prince/ss and priest" in the age to come. I have forgotten this. If you want some interesting commentary on "the priest" aspect of education you might want to listen to Andrew Kern's newest series - towards the end of the first talk (Teaching From a State of Rest, Part 1) he speaks to what it means to be priests (he also quickly reiterates the point at the beginning of the second lecture).
Finally, I need to remember this from James
In a strange and terrifying sense, the vocation of being human requires utter dependence on God; the task of being a creature requires being ordered to the Creator.Is my time ordered to him? Is my anthropology ordered to him? Is my worship ordered by him? Am I dependent on him?