I am in a The Church in the Power of the Spirit mood today, so here’s your Moltmann Monday excerpt, italics mine:
“In peaceful times the church could affirm itself by demonstrating the unbroken and unaltered continuance of its tradition and traditions. People appealed to these things, trusting in the permanent element in time’s changes, and in what is repeatable in the accidents of history. In times of unrest this is no longer convincing…Today we are living in a time of transition whose future we can as yet hardly perceive. Many people are painfully conscious that what was valid once no longer holds good. But what is going to be and what is capable of enduring we do not know…The tradition to which the church appeals, and which it proclaims whenever it calls itself Christ’s church and speaks in Christ’s name, is the tradition of the messianic liberation and eschatological renewal of the world. It is impossible to rest on this tradition. It is a tradition that changes (humans) and from which they are born again. It is like the following wind that drives us to new shores. Anyone who enters into this messianic tradition accepts the adventure of the Spirit, the experience of liberation, the call to repentance, and common work for the coming kingdom.” -p.2-3
I’d first like to point out that Moltmann wrote this in 1977, which merely proves my theory that we could have found ourselves less behind the proverbial 8-ball if we had listened a bit more closely to his ecclesiology back then. Because I can bet those of you in positions of church leadership have had this conversation far more recently than that. And it would have been helpful to have had Moltmann’s voice in that conversation reminding you that the whole idea of resting forevermore in some particularized tradition of the church is the silliest thing anybody could ever imagine. It is antithetical to the very tradition that IS Christ’s church, which is renewal and rebirth and general messy upheaval. So good luck with that.
I am not sure if we have been clear in communicating to people who are entering the communal life of the universal church that in doing so they are accepting adventure, liberation, repentance, and a shared commitment to common work for the Kingdom. Today I’m particularly thinking about how I don’t think we have been clear on the first bit about adventure. I wonder if this is why change and fluidity and open systems often prove so difficult to produce inside our churches. I also wonder if this is why people expect the church to bring them comfort and stability and then feel jaded and discontented when it doesn’t. (I feel despair in thinking about what happens when the church DOES bring only comfort and stability, too.)
It’s tricky (and at times tiring, honestly) to live inside a tradition that is most definitive about the fact that is continually in motion. You can’t blame us for wanting to put some stakes down every now and again. Maybe we should instead be mindful that the stakes we put down aren’t so deeply grounded that they keep us from proclaiming the tradition of messy, slow, clunky and (eventually, we pray) beautiful transformation. It would be a shame to lose out on all that adventure.