Years ago as moved further to the fringe of christianity and beyond I was constantly confronted by the reality of life and the gospel. Somehow the gospel had been hijacked. This profound scandalous redemptive story of resurrecting a new creation, and alternative new world...the Kingdom of God, became a transaction of belief for a room reservation in heaven. We may do charitable good deeds in the world...but the transaction of salvation dominates the reality of christianity today. Living out of the profound depths of the gospels of Jesus' life...his divine redemptive imagination that turned the world upside-right has changed my view of what faith is really about. This past summer I read a lot of the writing of Walter Rauschenbusch...he offers christianity much wisdom in this fragile place the global village finds itself today.
During Walter Rauschenbusch's eleven years of ministry in Hell's Kitchen he located the social problem of his congregation, which was largely the working class poor, in the unfair capitalistic economic system, which at that time had no security or safety for the welfare of the poor. He found a discrepancy between his familiar faith, which was largely traditional evangelical, and the social ills the members of his church experienced. The discrepancy made him reassess his faith and re-approach the Bible with this question in mind. He was receiving resistance from his friends who began to urge him to give up social work...and devote himself to "Christian work", preaching the salvation message. Some of them grieved for him, but he knew the work was Jesus' work, his redemptive faith and he went ahead, although he had to set himself against all that he had previously been taught. He had to go back to the Bible to find out whether he or his friends were right.
Rauschenbusch had been rocked by life and he went to the Bible to translate his experience, and discover the profound reality of the Kingdom of God. And he was amazed to see all that he had missed before. This is a parable written by Rauschenbusch:
"A man was walking through the woods in springtime. The air was thrilling and throbbing with the passion of little hearts, with the love wooing, the parent pride, the deadly fear of the birds. But the man never noticed that there was a bird in the woods. He was a botanist and was looking for plants. A man read through the New Testament. He felt no vibrations of social hope in the preaching of John the Baptist and in the shouts of the crowd when Jesus entered Jerusalem. Jesus knew human nature when he reiterated: 'He that hath ears to hear, let him hear.' We see in the Bible what we have been taught to see there. We drop out great sets of facts from our field of vision. We read other things into the Bible which are not there."
I am consumed by the gospels. I read my life into them, and live my life out of them. Some people might say my faith is myopic, narrow short sighted...I can only say my faith has become panoramic, cosmic...in which my imagination runs wild. I know in Jesus, and in the profound mystery of the gospels...there is in fact abundant life. If we dared grab that mustard seed of faith, and dared live, speak Jesus...we could re-create the world a new. We could see the Kingdom of God, on earth as in heaven. As christians we really need to ask...how much are we willing to imagine, and how much are we willing to live.