This is not only a proper name, but in some circles with poor vocabulary, it is also an exclamation.

A friend recently posted a picture of N.T. Wright, where someone photoshopped a statement on the black board behind Bishop Wright. I have read most of his books and find his writing approachable, without much of the technical language so much ‘God’ talk relies upon.

And, in general, I agree with Tom’s assessment of western Christianity. I find his exegetical work stimulating, particularly his historical commentary on what German scholars refer to as the ‘sitz em lieben’ or setting in life.

I am presently gone backwards, by publication dates, to read “Simply Jesus.” Wright begins his commentary by saying, “unless you ask this question (are you who the say you are), your ‘Jesus’ risks disappearing like a hot-air balloon off into the mist of fantasy.” (p. 3)

Once ready to ask this question, we face the risk of discovery that Jesus is ” larger, more disturbing, more urgent, than we had imagined. (p.5)

Wright goes on to describe the situation he finds himself in. He recognizes angry voices from the right, conservative voices that reject any attempt to ‘discover’ Jesus. He identifies angry voices from the left that criticize any sincere attempt at taking seriously the metaphysics, if you will, assigned by biblical writers. Despite this, Wright courageously forges ahead…I suspect to the dissatisfaction of right and left.

While reading this book I could not help but think about the parallels between this biblical storm and the ecclesiastical storm present in so many congregations. What I mean is that there are voices within congregations that seek to maintain traditions so far as to render them ‘customs’ while others seek to sacrifice of the rich history of Christian practice upon the altar of cultural relevance. Both voices, like Wright’s, are angry. And, both cannot be right. Late in this book, Wright himself observes that “lots of people find Jesus appealing and The church appalling.” (p. 220)

I myself am not interested in a compromise, as if it were some legislative, bi-partisan willingness to get something worthwhile accomplished. The reason I say this is that in my travels, these same two shrill voices rarely seem to voice their concerns in terms of serving this Lord, but rather ‘preserving the museum,’ or (to use a Vietnam War aphorism) ‘burning down the village to save it.

I have understood my own frustrations to be a result of a mistaken belief that my own view of the church was correct; my sense of urgency and importance was properly focused. I am often, at the same time, frustrated with some who fail to recognize the urgency of transforming how we share the gospel, the medium, not the content; and, those who want to tinker with the traditional Christian practices of the Christian faith.

A colleague friend once told me, “They, (meaning the congregation) don’t have to do anything.” He was and is right about that. What sticks in my craw is that movement, change, revitalization even, is so difficult. It occurs to me that what is true for individuals is also true for congregations. We do not make it happen, God makes it happen. We do not accomplish it, it happens to us.

Abraham Lincoln once said some this like, ‘I claim not to have controlled events, but confess plainly that events have controlled me.” The honesty of this awareness in no way detracts from Lincoln’s leadership during a tumultuous period. The challenge is for disciples not to be tossed to and fro, but to be about the work of the Kingdom of God…the magnificent already and not yet thing Wright calls Jesus’ kingdom project.

It is as difficult as ever for one assigned, ordained, as a leader to discern the difference between Jesus’ kingdom project and fitful efforts at self preservation or so-called success, even in church.

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