Explorations in Theology

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Optimistic disruption

At the beginning of the year we either intensely or with some measure of focus pray regarding the coming year. This year we had paper on the floor, separate and together. Certain aspects gave us a personal context, particularly the beginning of our 12th year in Spain and a shift to Madrid as our main base. One aspect became very clear very quickly. This would be a very different year and one that would not be easy to plan. It would be a year of disruption.

Little did we know! A year of disruption – somewhat of an understatement! We have just finished 3 weeks of total isolation, other than 5 visits to the supermarket (and only 1 person per trip allowed, and to the nearest supermarket or a possible fine; and the glorious freedom of taking the rubbish to the communal bin – an all-of 40 metre round trip). And the lockdown is not going to end in the next few weeks, so straight away we will have been away from our Madrid apartment for at least a quarter of the year, and it could well prove to be much more than that. When we finally look back on 2020 I am sure it will be seen as the year of disruption.

What comes out of this year is so unknown, and for those who have to take huge decisions daily in response to the immediate knowing that such responses can set things in motion for years to come, grace and wisdom to them. [An aside here in Spain the press either covers favourably or with hostile reaction the response and how it differs from 2008. Then the bail outs were for the banks, the big institutions. This time round it is people-first. It has even been described (hostilely) as a damaging ideology of protecting the most vulnerable! Needless to say we are delighted.] Economy or people first… as I have often commented Jesus nailed that one very early on and it was part of the cross narrative. If it is not part of the narrative there is no resurrection, and at this time we need a resurrection not a resuscitation, nor a restoration.

Years ago I read an excellent book on Pentecost and it described it as an ‘irruption’ of God. This disruption – and in no way do I want to minimise it – can become a holy irruption. I think the path to the irruption is the important part. ‘Stay in Jerusalem until…’ was an essential part of the instructions to the 120. They were holed up, locked in, but found a purpose in the lockdown. Pentecost was a once off, but there are times in history that mark a season where there is a very significant echo from the sound of a previous era. And Pentecost – like creation for the language of Acts 2 echoes that of Genesis 1 – was a sound, a sound from heaven, that was responded to that then caused a subsequent attraction to that sound.

Personal and also corporate journeys are important… until. Personal – for many of us the ‘other side’ cannot be business as usual. It will be different. Corporate – hope those who tune in to the streaming of their favourite church service are enjoying it… but if we are parking things on the internet until ‘normal service is restored’ I don’t think we will find this disruption becoming an irruption of heaven. What can change surely needs to be one of the questions now being explored. How much can it change… There are opportunities for those who think outside the box during and post this disruption. At the economic realm if one believes in the invisible hand of the market one of the big shifts (and I should probably spell that without an ‘f’ in the word) is already the world of internet pornography. Difficult to oppose that development if one bows at the feet of the market… so surely we can do much better than that.

There is a corporate journey(s) at the global level. The way things are going in some places (and have been going for some time) is the increasing shutting down of the voice of the opposition, or the voice from perspectives that hold to account. The language of ‘fake media’ has paved the way for dictatorships that mark the end of an era; and in the case of Hungary already the possibility of imprisonment is aimed at the press. The shutting of borders and the ‘xxx first’ calls far from shutting down globalism is playing right into it. Where is the aid coming from for Europe? Where are the masks being flown in from for the USA? So maybe I should talk of three paths, a continual globalisation, a nationalistic ‘me-first’, and maybe one that is a fresh expression of serving humanity. Time will tell but if for now I write of two paths that are going to open up I am reminded of a certain Jewish figure who spoke of two paths in the context of political, economic and global turmoil. Two paths globally. I suspect two paths for the body of Christ, and again the same issues. Shaped institutionally, economically and survival-first. Or shaped by the release of those who have encountered the Spirit whose womb is where the new world springs from. [An aside, another aspect of the feminine of God is the Incarnation. It is no crude picture of the divine having intercourse with the young girl, Mary, but that both the womb of the young woman and the womb of the divine is where the new life begins – much seed thought there. This is also why I do not look to Mary to be the figure of the feminine of God but to the Spirit. Also with the three paths above on the global scene, two of them are driven from a patriarchial base – for sure we have seen misogyny as one of the core principalities being confronted in this extended season. Males cannot provide the ‘benign’ context… humanity is required for that to take place.]

For this disruption to become an irruption for the church, we have to shift from the concept that ‘the church is the body of Christ’ to ‘the body of Christ is the church’. That paradigm shift is almost as big as shifting from creating Jesus in the image of the God we want, to seeing God in the image of Jesus and discovering the God who can truly set us free. What if we applied the (paraphrased) words of Jesus – you will only know who this God is you talk about if you know me… what if we applied that also along these lines – you will only know what the church is when the body of Christ is manifest. A holy irruption is possible, but we have to move beyond parking things until!

So the beginning of the year indicated the difficulty in predicting and planning what would come, but here we are in the ‘waiting until’ phase. The forced disruption can be the doorway to the holy irruption.

6 thoughts on “Optimistic disruption

  1. Fabulous, thank you Martin, for sure it is a time of waiting and redefining, although waiting can be so difficult, it involves trusting to a new level

  2. I’ve been telling friends and students for months – now is the time for big visions. Now is the time to think creatively. We may all be in shut down and lock down and sequestered apart but now is the time to dream big and start planning on next steps. I assure you those who want either the path of corporate globalism or renewed authoritarian nationalism are doing so. So think, vision, dream big and boldly right now. This is the moment.

  3. ‘For this disruption to become an irruption for the church, we have to shift from the concept that ‘the church is the body of Christ’ to ‘the body of Christ is the church’. – ?

  4. Such a well written article. Really helpful. Very clear. Particularly like your brilliantly succinct sentence which will, I’m sure, be quoted by many in the coming days
    . “For this disruption to become an irruption for the church, we have to shift from the concept that ‘the church is the body of Christ’ to ‘the body of Christ is the church’.
    Thanks Martin …. and glad that so far you both seem to be doing well at a personal level

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