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Not Prince Hamlet

"Full of high sentence, but a bit obtuse."

To Stay in One Place

Thursday, October 20, 2005

The Christian Century's Fall Book issue came out this week, and one of the practical theology title's that Anthony Robinson recommended was this one by Mount St. Mary's College theology professor David Matzko McCarthy, The Good Life: Genuine Christianity for the Middle Class.

Here's a money quote from the first chapter, a reflection of the gospel story of the rich young ruler who is asked to sell all he has, give the money to the poor, and follow the Wandering Galilean Teacher:

"The rich young man is asked to risk a greater bond, to walk with others, to put on the clothes of discipleship and to cary the tools of peace, to depend upon the hospitality and grace of his hosts, to remain with others as their guests and to call their homes his own. The disciple's journey is one of stopping and staying, resting and eating, and bringing peace."

To risk a greater bond . . .

Greater than what? Greater than riches? Greater than career advancement? Greater than upward mobility? Greater than lifestyle flexibility?

Yes, the risk of "genuine Christianity" is greater than all of these. Yet here I sit in an apartment that my wife and I have inhabited for less than six months, after vacating a house we lived in for about a year, after moving from a city we lived in for one year, after moving from a seminary apartment complex we lived in for one year, after getting married. We have moved four times in four years.

To remain with others? Remaining is a virtue of Christian discipleship that I fear I am not learning and cannot practice. Eugene Peterson is fond of describing the Christian life as "A long obedience in the same direction"; and while, professionally, the direction has been constant for about five years now, the same cannot be said personally or civically.

And that, of course, is the trouble. Because "genuine Christianity" is not a profession; it is a way of life, the walk of discipleship that calls you to risk a greater bond. I'm finding that what my training has taught me is to not risk that greater bond, but to seek out opportunity and advanement.

posted by Not Prince Hamlet, 5:12 AM


Perhaps the burden given to those in your profession is just that - you must teach others that remaining is a virtue worth practicing in the Christian faith, but you must find other ways in your own life to practice it outside the box.

To seek out opportunity and advancement, I suppose, is not in and of itself unscriptural. But neither should be placed above the importance of community and fellowship.

To risk a greater bond is about stepping outside the walls we put around ourselves and letting others in. Can one do that without remaining? Not well. But your call, your profession, has greater demands than the rest of us. Maintaining friendships, remaining in once place both civically and personally cannot be easy for one who is called to follow where God leads and next year, you may be called to another place.

Every pastor I know is first and foremost a pastor. They have to set all else aside just to be that.
commented by Blogger stephanie, 10:23 PM  

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