as a big fan of abstract theologies and innovative ecclesiology, i realize that i have a personal tendency towards things that make no sense whatsoever to normal people.
i just like weird stuff
i like obscure bible passages and ancient near eastern creation myths
i like angelology and alternate atonement theories
i even like watching stupid movies like ghost rider [which, btw, is stupid x 2 ]
but i also find myself driven to try and refine christian spirituality to its most true version
i want to believe and do and experience what jesus christ intended for me to believe and do and experience
as part of this desire, i've begun to think that those of us who follow jesus need to engage in spiritual practices more than we need to engage in theology
even though i love theology
and even though i recognize there is always a danger of works-based righteousness creeping into our understanding of salvation [which, interestingly enough, we always seem more scared of than useless/listless faith that doesn't compel us to act in any way different than how we're feeling from moment to moment].
so - in response to the ever-ontologically probing question "what should we be doing?"
here is the beginnings of my response
which, of course, i base on my understanding of jesus' life as presented in the gospels
#1. get together.
call it fellowship, mentoring, discipleship, or community - i think we ought to just get together with other people and be exposed to the manifestations of the divine life that are reflected in them and in-between us all. we ought to learn from one another, love one another, and learn to be present with one another even when we don't want to or feel like we don't need to.
#2. engage scripture.
yup - we need to read the bible [brilliant, i know]. these days it's common to talk about differing learning styles and the difficulty for some people to find meaning by reading the words of the biblical text; but, to be honest, if we're serious about christ we should be serious about the primary sources that tell us about him. so, if you don't find anything meaningful out of reading the bible - then buy the cd, or enter into a discussion group, or just read one verse per week over and over again and think about it ad naseum. you just can't be a jesus-lover if you're negligent about engaging scripture.
again, brilliant [i know - lay off]. your prayers don't have to be intelligent, thoughtful, or even coherent in order to "count." just pray. be honest to god - tell him how you're feeling. ask for guidance and wisdom. pray for strength. shutting up is a pretty good idea, too - in an effort to hear his potential responses, though [if you're like me], shutting up is usually quickly followed by shutting my eyes and falling asleep in a puddle of my own apathy/drool.
#4. help the world.
care about the planet. care about injustice. care about people. care about culture/society. care about government...and then do something - do anything to actually try and make a difference. jesus wasn't divorced from the material reality of his day - he lived in it. he engaged pharisees and zealots, romans and ex-pats, politicians and slaves; he engaged politics and culture, societal norms and religious traditions, and he challenged injustice and evil in every way. we should too.
#5. give money.
generosity is an outward manifestation of gratitude to god. give money to people, to charities, to churches, and to npo's all over the planet.
i think we're all a little tired of the dour-religious stereotype. jesus partied, played with kids, had close friends, drank good [and alternately, sometimes cheap] wine, and spent most of the gospels eating. that sounds fun [there's obviously more to the story than "fun", but i think we get the confrontational jesus and the benign jesus much more than we get the loving-life-as-gods-gift-lets-enjoy-one-another jesus].
#7. dream up new ideas.
jesus revolutionized commerce, society, religion, and politics in the minds of his followers. isn't there a part of our followership that ought to do the same?
#8. make things.
scripture teaches us we are co-creators with god, image-bearers of the divine reflecting his nature in our activities. his first act that mattered to us? making the world and everything in it [p.s. john tells us jesus was around at this point, so it seems a good add in this list].
#9. have spiritual conversations.
be intentional about allowing the spiritual nomenclature and experiences of your life to affect your conversations. don't run away from honesty about the supernatural and/or the experience of jesus christ [don't be a weirdo about it either, forcing people into engagement with your religious convictions]. we're often careful not to offend others by virtue of bringing up religion, but i've always found that people are typically interested in a respectful disclosure of faith-based dialogue. we shouldn't be hesitant to welcome spirituality into our everyday lives with other people.
this list is, of course, incomplete/flawed/unsatisfying -as-a-thesis. but it is also a true beginning for how we ought to live. it is a starting point . it is the simplicity that will help to guide us through the complexity of doctrine and debate.
stuff like that