Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Have you heard of Fronting?

Well, I have learned another new term today:  fronting.  It is so new that Wikipedia doesn't have it!  So I had to go to Urban Dictionary to find it! 

My nephew's wife has given the definition a bit of a spin (this is from her "about me" on her blog):

to be a successful fronter you have to be honest, give credit where it's due, and ultimately love yourself as the fronter you are. 

I can see that this will take me a little bit of time to process well ... because it is coming at life from a completely different tack than I'm on.  Or maybe it's just another way to say the same thing?  Hmmm....

Perhaps it's an important cross-cultural opportunity?   I tend to be on a bit of a counter-cultural bent as of late, so this concept is challenging for me.  But I can see that there are nuances that I need to ponder.

My nieces and nephews (via Facebook, mostly) are helping me get up to speed as my children are entering the teen years ... I have been way off the map and my learning curve is pretty steep. ;^)

Have you heard of this term? 

Help me, AbbE ... I'm fairly confident you know something about this....


Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Abi Responds to David Fitch About reJesus....

I was caught by a Facebook entry by David Fitch about reJesus...so I popped over to see what he had to say.  I like Dave and I can see where he's coming from in this post -- just as I can see the perspective of my friend Len, who made the first comment (...Len, I've not had a chance to read your recent post -- but I will!).  That being said, this is what I had to say:

Having just posted a bit on this new book myself, I find that I understand what you're saying -- but think it might be a case of "methinks he doth protest too much".

The organic/missional church is frequently confronted with those who are afraid of both this and "heresy" -- as if the Holy Spirit is not able to teach and lead competently.  Perhaps it is a holding-on to the security of "history" rather than being able to have God lead us on down the road to a new place.

For many (most?) of those for whom organic and/or missional are where the Spirit is leading, it is precisely because the forms of church they have experienced have been so toxic that they must move away.  That does not mean that they are going as "individuals" -- they are going as disciples of the wild Messiah.  They are being gathered together so that they may engage the incarnational/missional pulse in the situation in which they find themselves.

Hirsch and Frost are not anti-church.  I believe that they are not convinced that the institutionalized church that many hold to is the "right" form of church.  My experience is right with them -- moving away from 40+ years of practice into something very other.  And I have had to move away so that I might see clearly enough to peal away the "laminations" of the institution in order to free the living organic body.

Perhaps many forms of the church have, like Eustace, wandered into the dragon's lair of consumerism and patriarchy and numerous other disractions ... and has awakened to find that is has turned into a dragon itself.  Today's fantasy world would welcome a friendly dragon that is powerful and flies and breathes fire with which to vanquish all its foes.  But, again like Eustace, it will find that the Body of Christ is a human reality ... and keeping and feeding and trying to carry a dragon along a wild sea-faring journey is just not practical.  And so the Dragon that was Eustace follows Aslan and submits to the Lion's claws in order to be un-dragoned and the boy trapped inside is set free to journey with his companions again.

There is much to be gained from the continuity of the church's history.  But it is too easy to set up the form as an idol and find Jesus outside that door knocking....

...or so this wee abbess thinks!


...and that's about all I have to say about it at the moment.  Miles to go before I'm finished packing....


Friday, July 2, 2010

Abi's thoughts about reJesus and UNTAMED....

Why I love Alan & Debra Hirsch

When I went to Neil Cole's first Organic Church Conference in Long Beach, CA, in January of 2007, I did not know the Hirsches.  As I was trying to decide which seminars to attend, I thought Alan's sounded interesting.  It was beyond interesting ... it was mind-blowing.  Not in what Alan was saying -- but that he was saying what I had come to in my heart, but didn't know how to articulate.  I later told Alan that listening to (and, later, reading) him was for me just like reading C.S. Lewis was in the 70's:  seeing/hearing what I had come to believe in my heart but had no words with which to articulate it.

It will come as no surprise to my friends that what links me to Alan is our common embrace of Hebraic thought over and against Greek/Platonic thought.  This need to approach all things of God through a Hebrew filter is what drives my insistence on understanding cHesed and using cHesed glasses to view scripture and discipleship and relationship.

Really ... if one wants to understand scripture and the Incarnation, there is no way to get there without learning to think like a Hebrew.


I will have to unpack their book later, but suffice it to say that it is a fabulous book -- and one perfect to use with a small group.  The thoughts for pondering at the end of each chapter are priceless.  And I must say that it is a book that really whets one's appetite for more.  Especially the hint that Deb will be writing a book of her own.  I look forward with great expectancy to that one!

For a wee abbess known for asking hard questions and telling it like it is, this book was so refreshing.  My frequent feelings of "abi-normal" ness were met by companions who share them.  It helped me understand even more why I resonated so strongly with both of them at that conference.

The Abbess highly recommends that you get their book.  You will not be sorry.


Alan's newest book with Michael Frost is also wonderful.  I found myself nodding along as I read.  So  much frank analysis and fresh views of where we are as little Jesuses ... and where we need to be.  Another book to process with a group, although they do not have the wonderful discussion helps at the end of their chapters.

That being said, it was a bit of a shock to run into what I consider a bit of infiltrating Platonic Greek thought in their discussion of Paul's Vision of the Jesus Community in Chapter Seven:  The Church That Jesus Built.

Beginning with page 168, there are a number of examples where they embrace the understanding of "head" as authority rather than source.  Frankly, I was shocked by this.  One of the challenges of bridging time and space and culture and language is to realize how words are used at different times with different connotations.  Consequently, the next few pages brought a few raised eyebrows rather than head nods.  These were also the only times in the book that their words didn't ring true and their thoughts did not convince.  For me, at least, this was a missed opportunity to free the wild Messiah from another misconception.

In using the Ephesians1:22 verse where Christ is head over all things for the church, we  have an example where head is clearly used as a metaphor for authority -- over all things FOR the church.  And I agree with their conclusion that this means that all Christ's influence is used to benefit the church.  This is cHesed -- looking out for the best interest of the covenant partner.

But when Paul goes on to speak of the church as the Body of Christ, then the head metaphor must change from authority to one of source -- both as to origination as well as to sustenance.  I know that this is a hotly debated issue ... and getting hotter still.  But there is some important context which I find compelling.  And I am hopeful that Alan might find it so as well.

One of the critically important ancient arguments has actually been one of physiology -- concerning the location of the mind (the center of intelligence, reason, thinking, and decision-making).  In Paul's day, there had been two camps:  head and heart.  ( I am indebted to my friend, Dr. S. Scott Bartchy, for sending me an important article on this by Troy W. Martin from Saint Xavier University.  I am sorry that I do not have a link to it to include here.)

Plato, Philo and Plutarch held the head to be the center of intelligence, reason, thinking, and decision-making -- the center of control of the body.  It was no jump for those of that camp to see Paul's use of head as control or authority.

But Aristotle and the Stoics held the heart (kardia) as the center of intelligence, reason, thinking, and decision-making.  Many translators have shown this confusion when they chose to translate Paul's use of kardia as "mind" rather than "heart."

This, then, frees Paul to use "head" in what many see as the more common metaphorical sense -- as the source, origin and one who sustains life rather than the ruler and authority over another.

If we are to really hold to the Hebrew mindset, we must realize that when God came in Christ, he did not come to rule and exercise authority over humanity.  Even as we recognize him as Lord and Savior, Jesus shows himself to be the quintessential covenant-maker and covenant-keeper who uses all his power and influence for the best interest of the covenant partner -- us.

It is never in anyone's best interest for someone to rule over another.  That way leads to dependency and immaturity.  No, the way of Christ for his Bride is one of love that submits and grace that serves and mercy that initiates and supports.  There is no wielding of authority or ruling by coersion.  There is only wooing and waiting for the return of cHesed from the Beloved.

No, there is no way to biblically show Christ as the head of the Church his body in such as way as to allow husbands to rule with authority over their wives -- not at least in a way that is internally consistent for our God who is Love -- mutuality-in-equality. 

To have Paul making an appeal to order out of the wild freedom Jesus brought to the downtrodden is to really miss the point here.  He calls men to realize that Jesus had stripped them of their patriarchal power and calls them to love their wives by submitting to their needs, to be gracious to their wives by serving them and showing mercy to their wives by initiating and supporting their growth to maturity in Christ.  As sister in Christ first, wife second, the brethren are to embrace the mutuality-in-equality modeled by Jesus -- within the Trinity as well as within the disciples/the 120.  As wild as this freedom was for the sisters, it was a real twister for the brothers.

Paul finally gets around to speaking it explicitly in Ephesians 5:29-30, where he shows that nourishing and caring for his Body is what Jesus is about. As Alan and Michael say so clearly:  lets not tame Jesus and make him the opposite of what he said and is.  I say the same about Paul:  let the wild apostle of the wild Messiah be set free from our image of his message!

...stay tuned, there will be more about UNTAMED and reJesus from Abi!