Paying for School

My ongoing adventures in life and the pursuit of more...

Monday, February 10, 2014


In Jurassic Park, the beginning of the end was the discovery of a mosquito, full of blood and trapped in amber, preserved from the time of the dinosaurs.  Extracting a little DNA from that source was science fiction but it’s also one model for how we sort out what a pastor is and does.  In this case, the amber is our New Testament or the first century record of the Church and some of us believe that inside that sample we can extract the DNA that, when incubated properly, will produce the original intentions of its Creator.

For others, the amber is not found in the first century when they hardly understood the Gospel but rather found in the Reformation and particularly in the work of Luther and Calvin.  In the Reformation, you will hear suggested or argued, the Gospel was finally realized and therefore in the outworking of that understanding can we see what a pastor is or does.  In this case the DNA comes from those men like Martin Luther and John Calvin and their distinctly unique pattern determines our form and function today.

And there is a third choice that prevails today. That of apostolic succession.  There are churches today that lean into this kind of amber as their source code, their DNA for what is, what was and what shall ever be, amen.  This group tends to look more medieval than the other 2 and they maintain more than just attitude but even the external forms and wardrobe from the period of time in which they became solidified.  Amber, after all, begins in a liquid form and over times solidifies.  The who and what of pastoral care, for this group, was trapped in amber centuries ago, solidified in the middle ages and that DNA continues to be extracted and replicated (with a few minor revisions) until the present day.

I believe there is a fourth way.  This isn't an original thought, but I think, the least successful of the four.  This fourth way imagines that the amber isn't the key but the DNA is.  The source code isn't found in past DNA but rather it shapes the formation of the DNA through every generation.  This fourth way relies on the gift of God’s Holy Spirit to create and continuously recreate the Church (and its ecclesiology) for the present age.  Rather than ignoring or rejecting our past, we embrace it as the journey that brought us to now.  Instead of critiquing yesterday for its faults, we mine yesterday for its gold.  But I am not trapped then, like a mosquito in amber, doomed to be what was for a time that no longer is.  I am free to be born again again and become what this generation, this particularity, needs.  I am not my grandfather or my great grandfather or my great great grandfather, but I am nothing without them.

This fourth way is a living way.  It is the most challenging way.  It is the way that requires more from me, from us, than any of the other ways.  It is dynamic.  It expects more of me/us and it depends more on me/us. We are living forward in this fourth way, not to be the church of the first century or the fourteenth century but (as Pannenberg says) the church of the last century.

What are the implications you can imagine for this fourth way?
What issues does this fourth way raise?

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