Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Oikos and Polis: Some continued thinking...

This morning I was reflecting on some recent discussions around Bernd Wannenwetsch’s Political Worship, and came across Geoff Holssclaw’s post: “Church or Family”:  http://geoffreyholsclaw.net/church-or-family/, where he describes the unsuspecting visitors at his church walk in expecting a “church,” but find a “family” instead.

They hit on some similar themes. Wannenwetsch explores the relationship between Household (Oikos) and Politics (Polis). His primary contention is that the Household of God (born into through Baptism= the church) lives life in the Spirit and is the true picture of what the Kingdom looks like, or what is breaking into the Polis and what the Polis needs to hear proclaimed.

It is interesting to think of the Household then as the ideal. So long we have thought of the Polis as the ideal. We import ideas of the culture into the Household--Ideas of identity, self-image, of how reality operates, of the hierarchy of importance, of the hierarchy of people or acts, etc.  We interpret our worship gatherings through the lens of our world. We sit down on a Sunday morning expecting the same things as we expect on Tuesday at work, on Saturday at the movies, or Thursday for lunch. And then, we judge our experiences through the lenses of our Tuesdays, Saturdays, and Thursdays. (Tuesday) How effective is this “business” we call church? What do the numbers tell us? How can we be more efficient? (Saturday) That worship leader was a little off-key there. I really liked that Pastor’s sermon. How can we make this service more appealing to more people? (Thursday) This service really needs to fit into my hour time slot. I can just sit back and consume this service; I shouldn’t have to work at it. Can I just write you a check instead? Could you just give me three life-application points?

Instead, Wannenwetsch is proposing that the liturgy of the Sunday morning gathering is the kingdom of God. This is where we are proclaiming, in word and ACTION, the kingdom come—through the power of the Holy Spirit. The kingdom is a proclamation to the Polis. It is a picture of the world as it should and will be. It displays the hope and faith of the restoration of the world not merely through words, but by the actions of its community members—the way they treat one another, the way they order their lives and participation, the way the church understands her role in the world.

So, here’s where Geoff’s post comes in (I knew you were starting to wonder…). The supposition made by Holsclaw is that the Sunday morning gathering not only factually (for his congregation) feels like a family, but I would contend that it should feel that way. It should not only feel out of place from the ebb and flow of “the world” (as I know we’ve all been taught to interpret that passage), it should start turning our lenses inside out. The worship gathering allows us to form our understanding of the world-- our vision for what “reality” really is, the priority of the polis, the value of humanity and their hierarchy, and the hope for the restoration of the world.

In our gathered communities of worship, we get to live the story we long to live every waking moment. For the story of-- the world, the kingdom, each other, and how things should be—is hidden as a political proclamation to the world every Sunday morning (or Saturday night, or Sunday afternoon—whatever your ecclesial fancy). The spirit-inspired liturgy is reality where the polis fails. And that is the relationship between the two. They are not separate spheres. They are not opposed. One proclaims fullness to the other which is yet missing the pieces.

So the disconnect of people’s lives is a stark contrast to the familiarity of the Spirit-filled people of God. The discord of broken relationships is harmonized in the breaking of bread with one another in Christ’s name. And the hopelessness of a worn-out, cracked and damaged world, seemingly circling the drain is shattered with the creator God’s passionate embrace to restore and lavishly love creation—and claiming a people for God’s name. For this is not the story where God sits back and says, “impress me,” but sends of God’s self, Jesus, into the world to reclaim what was trampled by death—by trampling death itself.

My our Tuesdays, Thursdays, Saturdays, and for that matter, our Wednesdays, Sundays, Mondays, and Fridays anamnesisly-remember the story of the God who call us.

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