Tuesday, 8 March 2011

Towards A Rooted-Open Church Part One

Towards A Rooted-Open Church Part One - The Symbols of Rooted-Openness At first glance the idea of being rooted might seem a straightforward concept and yet, as with all other ideas, this too has the potential of becoming just another subjective notion. For some it might create images of firmness and security whilst at the same time projecting stagnation and limitation for others. In this piece, acknowledging my own subjectivity from the start, I want to define the idea of Rooted-Openness by using three clear motifs: Symbols, Vocabulary, and Fruit. Symbols of Rooted-Openness To the Children of Israel the Promised Land was presented as a place of milk and honey. Our twenty first century minds might associate with this phrase a sense of paradise and all the resultant hope that might follow. At that time, however, and in that part of the ancient world it represented something quite different. Having existed for some four hundred years under Egyptian rule this once nomadic people had grown accustomed to the harsh working environment of the East African landscape. With a small and precarious window of opportunity for both planting and harvest they would be all too aware that their options where limited. In addition to having to meet for their own needs they were forced to produce bricks for their Egyptian master's exploits. Their existence was coloured by a lack of self determination, hard work, insecurity, and, often, hopelessness. Under the leadership of Moses they had now become the people of an earlier promise. Their story would now take them from slavery to freedom, from insecurity to hope, and from one side of the Jordan River to the other. So what would they have heard when they encountered the phrase milk and honey? A good leader, faced with delivering significant change, would begin by presenting a picture of the intended destination that would be seen in sharp contrast to the place of departure. There would need to be something different, something worthwhile to create the impetus to make the change. An ancient Israelite would have heard the word milk and immediately thought of work more thank luxurious living. Looking after livestock in the ancient world was a precarious occupation at the best of times. In a similar way word honey would have brought images of the hard toolbox agricultural labour. What ever this promised land looked like it would not be free from sweat on the brow of this soon to be emancipated nation. Being rooted for them would contain work and war in the hope that they would have a future. Moses was not presenting a picture of Milk and Honey that did not have similarities with their Egyptian experience. The difference revolved around identity and self-determination. This deliverance was not an escape from the realities of life. The church has tended towards finding symbols that confirm solidity and certainty. Perhaps there has been an over simplification of the contrast between the culture of any given 'Egypt' and the perceived ecclesiological promise; this lends itself to descriptions being painting with bold dark tones rather than the nuance that such a story would require. As we have seen the move from one side of any given river to the other does not announce an absolute change in every. When our conversations, preaching, and liturgy are rooted in story but maintain the possibility of variance of expression we might come nearer to the creativity of the incarnational model of church. Next - Vocabulary of Rootedness

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