Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, as clear as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb down the middle of the great street of the city. On each side of the river stood the tree of life, bearing twelve crops of fruit, yielding its fruit every month. And the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations. No longer will there be any curse. (Revelation 22)
Rebekah and I are well into this week's conference at Montreat. She is busy busy all day long. I am attending the "spouse track" portion of the event, and taking off during the afternoons to get caught up on my work.
This morning my group viewed a remarkable short documentary about creativity. It was as if the narrator had read most of what I have to say on "Living like we mean it", and "Engaging our faith with creative passion", plus my preface from "GET REAL", and then constructed the film to illustrate the most essential points!
Our discussion dovetailed nicely with the earlier segment on "paradigms". For me, synthesizing all the content, it is very clear that so much of our problem as the "mainline" church in a new millennium is related to our institutional tendency to filter everything new and interesting that comes along through a particular prism. It's a view best defined as - "our structure is more important to us than the life it contains." Or, in too many cases, the life it used to contain...
Interestingly, when I wrote the previous sentence, I Freudian-slip typed the word structure as "stricture". Now is that telling, or what!
We develop ways of looking at the world (paradigms) as ways to help us understand and organize information, as well as to problem-solve within the framework. Unfortunately, when the paradigm becomes the message (rather than a lens through which to view and understand the truth), content that doesn't fit that particular framework is not only discarded... it is often not even perceived.
"Stricture", in case you're wondering, is defined as an abnormal narrowing, restraint, limit or restriction.
Here's what is apparent to me (especially as I think about the ministry-related situations Rebekah and I have come across recently where God's spirit of imagination and life has been perceived as threatening to some structure-friendly - read "stricture-friendly" - status quo). The church I want to be identified with must be defined by new life in Christ more than it is defined by the protocols of mid-late-20th Century American-Christian subculture!
The leaves of the tree of life are for the healing of the nations. I want the ministry Rebekah and I are involved with to be - always - an important part of God's ongoing initiative when it comes to the healing of the nations.
Are we leaves on the Tree of Life? Are we accomplishing any healing?
Jesus is The River and he is the Water of Life. Is ours an invitation for the thirsty to drink? Or are we so tied up with our own politics and defending the framework we have built (and hope to control) that we are operating out of a stricture rather than a structure?
I love our church. God save us from shutting off the flow of The River....