Well when I put my blog post "Thinking outside the box" to bed last night I hadn't really thought that I'd wake up to comments from unexpected people like Steve Taylor, and am grateful for the way he has reflected on my post. As I said yesterday it was the result of my grappling with stuff in my head and trying to start a conversation, if only with myself.
I'd like to look at a couple of Scriptures that I used and unpack why, and then to search for others/ more insight.
- When I looked at Pentecost, I was looking to the response of the people, who wanted to know how to respond. I recognise that their world view was largely formed, but I would also argue that there is in many cases in the UK at least, an underlying worldview that is open to the story of Jesus if it is told in the right way. In a sense I'd see the Jerusalem group being led out, having their world view exploded beyond their imaginations, while in a western context I guess the invitation is to re-visit a known story (if a rejected one) and to see it in a new way. I guess the difference is that for the Jews that there was one God was not a question while for spiritual seekers in our post-modern context reject that idea, that said an invitation to move towards Christ is valid.
- I wonder if looking at Peter in Cornelius (Acts 10) house might be more appropriate:
4 While Peter was still speaking these words, the Holy Spirit came on all who heard the message. 45 The circumcised believers who had come with Peter were astonished that the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out even on Gentiles.46 For they heard them speaking in tongues and praising God.
Then Peter said, 47 “Surely no one can stand in the way of their being baptized with water. They have received the Holy Spirit just as we have.” 48 So he ordered that they be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ. Then they asked Peter to stay with them for a few days.
- Of course Peter had been invited (more like summoned) to Cornelius house, and the whole encounter was infused with the Spirit at work, but those words "surely no-one can stand in their way" blow open the barriers and boundaries that once existed in Peter's mind, the whole encounter with God on the roof-top made sense, and he grasped the open invitational move of God, and the encounter expanded as he stayed with them for a few days. Would they have celebrated the Lords supper in those days? I like to think they would have.
- I also looked at the encounter with the Samaritan woman at the well, and at her question about worship, and while I acknowledge that the sacraments were not offered in this place, (although there was a giving and sharing of water which raises interesting questions) I wanted to point more to the blowing away of boundaries, and Jesus pointing to himself as the locus of worship.
Now to tradition:
- I take Steve's point about the preparation for the sacraments practised by the early church, and the year long anticipation, I am reflecting on these questions asked of a congregation in London: "But how many of us arrive in Church without any sense of preparing to meet with God in the Eucharist? How many of us say the words without thinking through their implications? How many of us use the peace as an opportunity just to speak to our friends? How many of us think that the long Eucharistic prayer is something to get through whilst trying to keep the children quiet?" and wonder if we should make more of less of our practice.
This all leads me to reflect again on Heiberts missiological thinking about bounded and centered sets, and I am intrigued by this post from Bosco Peter's who looks deeper into the mathematics and says:
Clearly, and unfortunately for the theological stuff expounded first, a bounded set is a subset of a centered set. Ie. all bounded sets are centered sets.
So the theological shift from a bounded set to a centered set makes little mathematical sense as a bounded set is a centered set.
I thank Mr Robert Sharp for checking my Mathematics. Any of the correct bits can be credited to him. Any of the errors, I’m sure, are totally my fault.
The contrasting of centered sets and bounded sets has now become accepted in theological circles. Maybe there just aren’t many Christian mathematicians? [See here and here and here and here and here and here...]. Mathematically they just don’t contrast.
As I reflect upon this I want to ask whether there is anything that should be bounded, and if so should it be the sacraments, is our practice too light? Do we receive week after week without real preparation, and should we place more emphasis on preparation? Or should we free ourselves from the constraints that we have created, emerge from behind the torn curtain (for God is no longer contained-if he ever was...), and offer God's holy things to the people made in his image if their desire is to respond to him through them.
Maybe the question we are left with then is who holds the centre, and what is it?