October 1, 2017
2 Corinthians 5:17; Romans 6:5
“Soon We’ll All Be Under Water”

 

The late theologian Phyllis Tickle argues in her book, “The Great Emergence,” that Judeo-Christian history seems to move in cycles. “About every 500 years the empowered structures of institutionalized Christianity, whatever they may be at that time, become an intolerable carapace, or hard shell, that must be shattered in order that renewal and new growth may occur.

 

Nearly 500 years ago, on October 31, 1517 Dr. Martin Luther posted “Ninety Five Theses” or propositions on the door of the Castle Church in Wittenberg Germany. This act, a simple invitation to scholarly debate, eventually led to the Protestant Reformation, an event that profoundly changed Christianity, Europe and the world.

 

Five Hundred years earlier it was the Great Schism between the Roman Church and the Eastern Orthodox Church; 500 years before that it was the collapse of the Roman Empire; And of course 500 years before that it was the ministry of Jesus Christ. And even more interestingly the pattern can be traced back into the Old Testament and the 500-year periods between Abraham, The Exodus, Israel’s Monarchy, and the Babylonian Captivity.

 

So If Tickle is right, and I think she might be, the Christian faith, now 500 years removed from the Reformation, is in the midst of another time of upheaval, a time of dramatic change, a time in which God is re-forming the church for the sake of the gospel.

 

Study after study supports what we can clearly see with our own eyes, the current institutional church, in its many and various forms, is in serious decline. We no longer hold a place of status in our society, we are no longer granted unquestioned authority, and we are no longer implicitly trusted. And our buildings, our practices, our programs, and even our message are becoming more and more irrelevant.

 

Sociologists predict that the church, as we have known it, will, sooner than later, no longer exist. And that’s OK, in fact it’s actually good news, because for a variety of reasons the church as it exists can no longer convey the gospel in a way that attracts, comforts, or inspires the life of more and more people.

 

So perhaps it’s time for those of us who follow Jesus to loosen our grips on the particular forms of our religious institutions, the minutiae of our religious practices, and maybe even some of our treasured but not so foundational doctrines; and let the historical cycle of faith once again run its appointed course? Maybe it’s time to let “everything old pass away” and trust instead in the God who is “making all things new?” Maybe it’s time to practice what we preach, to risk death in the hope of resurrection, to really participate in baptism, to move beyond yesterday and into the future, into the next chapter of God’s loving presence in the world that just might arise from the ashes of our current-past?

 

      1. Soon We'll all be under Water

 

 

It’s getting higher, Love’s desire
Soon we’ll all be under water
Running fast, Running wide and deep
Soon we’ll all be under water

 

Step down with me, Step into the muddy waters
Let go with me, Open your hands and receive the darkness

 

It’s getting higher, Love’s desire
Soon we’ll all be under water
Running fast, Running wide and deep
Soon we’ll all be under water

 

Step down with me, Don’t hold back let it happen
Let go with me, Slip inside a sweet surrender

 

If you are united with me in a death like mine
Step down and let go in the water
If you would die and leave it all behind
You will rise with me so alive

 

It’s getting higher, Love’s desire
Soon we’ll all be under water
Running fast, Running wide and deep
Soon we’ll all be under water

 

 

 

In the, “The Great Emergence” Tickle reminds us that while each 500 year period ends with a massive upheaval of the established religious institution, it also always give birth to a revitalized, reenergized, and re-formed faith community that effectively and generously proclaims the good news of the Gospel, the message of God’s abounding and steadfast love for all of creation.

 

 

If you like this devotion please share it with others via the Facebook button at the bottom of this page! This week’s song, albums, and other songs by Greg, are available on Bandcamp! Get the music free! Greg’s music is listed for “name your own price.” Just choose $0, and download the song or album.

https://gregronning.bandcamp.com/album/one-more-life

 

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