The Complex Christ – chapter 1: Advent

Below are my favorite quotes from chapter 1: Advent
"…But before the Churh can change, before I can change, before anything changes, comes waiting. A pause. A rest.
This is nature’s way, decreeing as she does that movement from one direction to another cannot happen instantaneously…"p. 23

"We would like change now, with immediate effect. A miracle solution. A new program that will sort everthing out and make everything OK straightaway. A new meeting structure. A new building. A new method of contemplation.  A course that will propel us from Stage 3 to Stage 6 in no time. We’d like to be there now, no fuss or hassle or journey or responsibility or pain. Down the local maximum and straight up Everest. By helicopter, preferably." p. 23

"Our history, both ancient and modern, has been transfixed by the idea of revolution, of radical change precipitated quickly, requiring an uprising, an insurgence, a head of pressure and a focusing of force:  demonstrations, coups d’états, armed struggles, wars and regime changes." p. 24

"In his seminal work Future Shock, Alvin toffler describes the psychological damange that occurs to people when they are overwhelmed by intense change. He talks about ‘future shock’ being a disease of change, a sickness that people suffer that is not so much about the direction of change as the rate of it." "In other words, for our own health, we need change to occur not a revolutionary speeds demanded by power-weilding dictators or company board rooms, but at the evolutionary speeds of the empowered human body." p. 25

"Before the Church can change, before I can change, before things change – before change, we must wait. Caught ‘between the now and the not yet’, the set on which we now take our short parts front-stage, and the plot up to this point, all heave with people and peoples forced to accept God’s immaculate restraint in holding back the full force of immediacy. The cast has thronged with the silent parts of those given to not receive, to not see, to not make it, to not hear, to not be freed, to not understand, to wait, wait, wait for something, someone, some sign, some change, some hint not yet hinted at, some word not yet spoken, some dream not yet interpreted, some revival not yet…yet… Yet they did not give in. Their still waiting bones lie as dry and and fertile testaments to their faith in that which they did not see come to pass. Climbing on their shoulders, we now search concrete horizons for some thing, some perception, some movement, and have to do so without time-tables or schedules or LED displays or countdown timers. Stripped of our usual support mechanisms and technical augurs, we wait for the one who whispers, ‘Behold. I am doing a new thing. do you not perceive it?’
Only if I am still. Only if I have stopped what I was doing to listen and hold my breath and enter some spiritual apnoea and wait. The perception of the new step will come only to those brave enough to stop dancing the old." p. 26-27

"This is a dangerous invitation for newness, carrying the risk that those we give such freedom to might freely walk away, or freely imagine something better than we had. But freedom must be what we are about. So the truly free, the brave who truly seek god, will always have periods, commas, full stops, punctuation marks, pregnant pauses, breves and semibreves of silence where those around them are given the freedom to walk; give space to deconstruct structures, to reimagine and rethink. Blue-sky thinking cannot happen while we rush around under thunderclouds of busyness. ‘We must bear fruit’, Christ tells us. but outside our genetically modified, globalized supermarkets, fruit trees only bear fruit once a year and then their branches are stripped of leaves in the cold winter of advent." p. 28

"Of course, in many ways the Church is destined to live in a perpetual advent as we wait for Christ’s return. But within that grand scheme, it seems that at the start of this new century we are also living in a particular advent, that we are being called to wait for new birth again. we have already seen that we cannot at this point know what the Church that will emerge will look like, just as we cannot tell from an embryo what features it will have when full-grown." p. 29

"Waiting can be experienced as a total loss of power:  having to be in another’s control, reliant on them to arrive, to act, to turn up, and all we can do is sit and wait and make ourselves comfortable." "Yet more often that not we fool ouselves that we can take control, that some small chink of power still remains…" "Somewhere between the freedom of being able to do nothing, and the pretence of having to do something, is the sort of mysterious witing of the saints and the prophets – a combination of catharsis and contemplation, of clearing the decks for the new, while being content to exist in unknowing." p.30

Walter Brueggermann in his book Hopeful Imagination, "the reception of a new world from God is under way in our time. It is apparent in the staggering, frightening emergence of new communities… dangerous emergences ar paralleled by dreams of justice and mercy in our culture that dare to affirm that old structures may be trasformed to be vehicles for the new gifts of God. thus we are at the risky point of reciving from God what we thought God would not give, namely a new way to be human in the world." p. 31

"Brueggermann draws from the writings of Jeremiah that the first step through the journey of exile, or the first stage of the waiting process as i am calling it, is greif. Indeed, he surmises that only through grief can newness become a possibility." p. 33

"There is a spectacular lack of grief in our churches today. the text of so many Christian magazines, sermons and songs are all woven into an enormous blanket of denial that we wrap warmly around us, smothering the honest doubts with an ever-optomistic hue of ‘everything is good, and god is with us’. Hands are raised, but never to ask questions, only in surrender to  programs of services, outreaches, prayer meetings and worship. eyes are shut, less blinded by glory as blind to the facts that numbers are falling, churches are closing the ‘revival’ didn’t come, society is losing interest and our circle of influence is decreasing." p. 33

"Where are the Jeremiahs today who will help the Church to face its loss and grieve? Like Jeremiah, they will be found on the edges. In the side or back pews. they are the artists and satirists, whose very nature is to hold up a mirror and show us our true face. they are the powerless, who have no vested interest in keeping the present system propped up. the are the scarred, who know too much about pain to shy away from the honest truth." "They are vital to us, for stopping and grieving will be most difficult for those of us who have had most to gain from this crumbling regime. But we must do it, we must stop all the programs, stop the meetings, stop the denials, stop the machinations, dismantle the structures, face our fears and disappointments and weep for the absence, weep for the emptiness, weep for the pretence, weep for the fiction". p. 35

"Once we have grieved, our tear-washed eyes can then properly open to the shocking fact that God allowed this to happen. God allowed us to climb this little peak. The denial may be over, and the cover-ups exposed, but a deeper resistance still remains. How could God do this? In the midst of our waiting for the new, we meet this intractable issue:  if we are seeking the new then what we are practising was the old, and therefore god was not in what we were doing any more. God has moved on back down the mountain while we stayed up our confortable hillock." p. 35-36

"God will not be co-opted into our programs. And this actually turns out to be the foundation of huge hope. For if God could not leave then we would be bound and trapped for ever inside structures that God ‘might just be blessing’. p.36

"’I opened the for my lover, but my lover had left; he was gone. My heart sank at his departure. I looked for him but did not find him. I called him but the did not answer’. (Song of Songs 5.6)

"From Sarah’s barren wait to Christ’s embryonic advent, God teaches us that change comes through evolution, not revolution. That time must be taken. That we must stop, wait and face up to where we are. p. 37

"We must stop. Wait. Allow ourselves to grieve. Meditate on God’s freedom and absence. Begin to dream where God might now like to be found. Not in the house but in a stable; not in Jerusalem, but from Nazareth; not with his family, but in the temple; but with the sick, the poor, the disinterested, the ordinary, the real, the drinkers, smokers, jokers, deviators and slackers….In some new post-Enlightenment place we never thought possible, God still lingers, waiting to be born." p. 39

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