Thursday, May 30, 2013

Old Letter; Timeless Message

Greetings, friends!

It's the end of the month again and I am doing another reflection on the #transitlounge book-of-the-month, Colossians Remixed: Subverting The Empire by Brian J. Walsh and Sylvia C. Keesmaat.

This book is a great chaser to last month's book, The Prophetic Imagination by Walter Brueggemann, as it expands upon the ideas of living a life of true freedom in Christ; freedom from the status quo, from the "way things are," from empire.

What is empire? Well, it is a powerful structure of a society that believes in the captivating myth called "the story of progress." According to the authors, it "proclaims with all the certainty of faith that civilization will blossom, peace will reign, and we will enter into an age of prosperity if we allow human reason to freely investigate the world by means of the scientific method and transform that world through technological power." (pg 30)

Unfortunately, there is something wrong with this story. It is but an illusion, used by the powerful to maintain power and encourage it's citizens to remain sleeping in the security of this dream. For "when a whole population dreams the same dream, empire is triumphant." (pg 171)

In reality, the dream is a nightmare for all but the privileged elite, who continually profit in the ruination of others. Remember what I said in my previous post? That the "rules" don't account for the brokenness, so there is no way to play fair? This is what happens when empire seeks to dominate and control the world and all other "lesser" societies; when progress pollutes and bulldozes and legislates, all the while disregarding the powerless if not downright feeding off of them.

However, there is a different way in which we don't really "play" the game at all. And it breaks all the rules of progress and practicality with the simple message of love in action; the love of Christ and His community. The love that lays down his life for a friend; the love that becomes the servant.

The book addresses all of this through the lens of the book of Colossians, as Paul was advising people of the way to live subversively to the empire of their time. The authors bring Colossians to life, help us understand its meaning, and direct us toward a life application.

I would say that my favorite segments of Colossians Remixed were the historically situated fiction of the experiences of Nympha, who is mentioned in the original book of Colossians as hosting a church in her home. It reminded me of my own exercises in empathy series, and I must say, story is always the primary way you are going to reach me. Often, truth shines all the more brightly and clearly when it is wrapped in a work of fiction. (C.S. Lewis, George MacDonald, G.K. Chesterton, etc, have probably shaped my worldview more than any modern-day theologian.)

But the very true story of Jesus, which the authors point out is also our story as believers, informs the narrative of a believer's life and praxis. What is praxis? Basically, the shape of our ethics; our course of action as we participate in the life of the Kingdom of God. Again, I urge you to read the book; it delves into manifold issues with practical advice and insights.

For now, I'll leave you with this timely and timeless quote of the church's own praxis: "Put on...compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony." Colossians 3:12-14 (ESV)

Grace and peace to you.

Oh! And go read the book! 

2 comments:

  1. I so love the way you walk us through this book. I had so many moments of saying 'yes' out loud as I read through your post!

    'Often, truth shines all the more brightly and clearly when it is wrapped in a work of fiction'- yes!!
    'But the true story of Jesus...is also our story as believers, informs the narrative of a believers' life and praxis' - yes!!
    There is such common ground to be found in our stories, as believers and as humans. I appreciated how you drew that out of the book. Thank you!

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  2. I'm so glad! I was at first unsure if I was even coherent; the book was so mentally challenging for me. Well worth the read, of course, but it requires a LOT of focus. I'm glad we have the opportunity to participate, though. Again, I love what Kelley is doing with the book club. Hope to be part of many more conversations! Thanks for your encouraging comment. :)

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