Sunday, December 2, 2012

Advent with Ken Medema's "Kingdom in the Streets": Priorities

I argued in the introductory post that we can think of human beings in terms of the reciprocal interaction of priorities, passions, and practices. This is a logical ordering but in reality it more complicated and more like a continuous feedback loop. All I use it here for is to give us a way to orderly reflect on these realities through Advent. Advent is one of the two times in the church year especially designed for reflective examination of our life in light of the gospel. In the Bible “heart” is what NASA would call the “Command Center” of the person. Intellect, emotion, and will collaborate to integrate and choreograph a life of integrity and coherence. Unfortunately, we often find our Command Center dysfunctional with each of its three elements pushing, pulling, and seeking dominance over the others. Paul’s “What I want to do, I don’t; and what I don’t want to do, I do” in Romans 7 is a classic statement of this conflict. We begin then with priorities. These are our deepest, most profound convictions, what we believe to be the truest, fullest view of what life is all about. This is the intellect’s work in the Command Center of our hearts. Priorities call us to look upward and outward. So also, Advent. In Advent we listen to God’s call for us to be alert and on the watch for . . ., well, that’s where our priorities come in. What is it that captivates our imaginations to live beyond the confines of present reality? In other words, for what do we hope? And how does that hope enable our Command Center to function as it should in producing lives of coherence and integration around that for which we hope? All this raises a prior question, however. Your culture is relentlessly pragmatic and “realistic.” We have little patience for “day dreaming” or other such “non-productive” wastes of time. We will need, therefore, to give our imaginations permission to soar. What we cannot imagine we will never see. It will never become a possibility for us to seriously consider pursuing. Ken Medema’s song “Is There a Place for Dreaming?” is our invitation to set our imaginations free to soar and discover what is there is to discover. Savor it, delight in it, respond to it.  Our Christian imaginations, thus set free, can embrace anew the great hope of the gospel. It’s found portrayed as fulfilled in Revelation 21-22. This is the priority, the overriding conviction that ought overshadow and shape our lives and service to and for God. -This hope is the fuel of faith that is, in turn, expressed through love. -Even in the darkness, despair, and even danger of living out our faith in the broken and sinful world, this hope keeps us keeping on, risking and sacrificing whatever is called for. -We have tasted of this hope; it’s not just an idea in our heads. It’s a participation in the work risen and living Christ continue to reach out and heal his wounded world. Medema’s title cut “Kingdom in the Streets” give us both the imagery of the hope fulfilled and that hope sustaining us on the “long road” to it. An imagination powered by this vision keeps our priorities in place and buffers us from the corrosive effect of the pragmatic “realism” of our culture. Enjoy!

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