"Having a blog is like wandering around your house naked with the windows open; it's all very liberating until someone looks in the window. However, while being caught unawares is one thing, it is quite another to stroll up to the window and press your naked, flabby body against the coolness of the glass in a hideous form of vertical prostration for all the world to see..." These posts are the smudges that are left behind on the window.

Wednesday, 7 March 2012

An empty cup of tea

Th Master Nan-in had a visitor who came to inquire about Zen, but instead of listening the visitor kept talking about his own ideas. After awhile Nan-in served tea. He poured tea into his visitors cup until it was full. Then he kept pouring. Finally the visitor could not restrain himself, "Don't you see it's full?"he said. "You can't get anymore in." "Just so", replied Nan-in, stopping at last. "And like this cup you are filled with your own ideas. How can you expect me to give you Zen unless you offer an empty cup?"

I think we as evangelicals are very much like this cup of tea, especially if we've been in the church all our lives. We know all the answers, we've been told what to believe. We've been told that we have all the knowledge, and that even though there may be other traditions who seem to sincerely believe that, "they are sincerely wrong".  Our cups are so full and overflowing that not only can we not get anymore in, we can't even move the cup to someplace useful.

Mark Buchanan has just put out another book, "Your Church is too Safe". Mark is a good writer, who pastors out of British Columbia. His books try to get Christians to think outside the box, at least a little, although I don't know how successful he is - he might be a bit too subtle. In an excerpt from this latest book, he makes two distinctions between the definitions of the words Traveler / Tourist and Disciple / Believer.

Traveler literally means "one who travails." He labours, suffers, endures. A traveller.. ...gets impregnated with a new and strange reality, grows huge and awkward trying to carry it, and finally, in agony, births something new and beautiful. To get there, he immerses himself in a culture. learns the language and customs, lives with the locals, imitates the dress, eats what's set before him. He takes risks, some enormous, and makes sacrifices, some extravagant. He has tight scrapes and narrow escapes. He is gone along time. If he ever returns, he returns forever altered...
A tourist, not so. Tourist means, literally, "one who goes in circles." He's just takes an exotic detour home. He's only passing through, sampling wares, acquiring souvenirs. He tastes more than he eats what's put before him. He retreats each night to what's safe and familiar. He picks up a word here, a phrase there, but the language and the world it's imbedded in, remains opaque and cryptic, and vaguely menacing. He spectates and consumes. He returns to where he comes from with an album of photos, a few momentos, a cheap hat. He's happy to be back. He declares there's no place like home...
....At some point we stopped calling Christians disciples and started calling then believers. A disciple is one who follows and imitates Jesus. She loses her life in order to find it. She steeps in the language and culture of Christ until his word and his world reshape hers, redefine her, change inside and out how she thinks and dreams and, finally, lives....
...A believer, not so. She holds certain beliefs, but how deep down these go depends on the weather or her mood. She can get defensive, sometimes bristlingly so, about her beliefs, but in her honest moments she wonders why they've made such a scant difference....
... You can't be a disciple without being a believer. But - here's the rub - you can be a believer and not a disciple. You can say all the right things, think all the right things, believe all the right things, do all the right things, and still not follow and imitate Jesus...
...The Kingdom of God is made up of travellers, but our churches are largely populated with tourists. The Kingdom is full of disciples, but our churches are filled with believers.

I would hope it isn't happening in Mark's church, but the issue that I see is that those in the pews  are being filled to overflowing with the notion of being a tourist-believer. This is exactly where the pulpit wants people, but it's not where God wants them. We have phrases like; 'this world's not my home; I'm just passing through; strangers in a strange land; be ye in the world not of the world (this last one has been mis-read for centuries to justify the previous ones. Taken in it's proper context it has nothing to do with separating yourself from the world).

Those of us who are serious about being Traveler-Disciples need to take our cup to the sink, dump it out, and start letting God - and only God - fill it back up again. When God fills our cup, there's always room for more; more of him and more of others.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Please feel free to leave a comment. Your comment will not show immediately as I am moderating them for now.