It’s interesting how often what I’m studying in school seems to intersect with the rest of my life. This week as I’m trying to work on my sermon for a particularly difficult (for me) set of lectionary readings, ordinary theology comes to the fore.
The lectionary for this week you can see here. This parable in the Luke reading – the parable of the dishonest manager has always confused me. I love the gospel of Luke – I think I may have mentioned its my favorite – and partly because of the parables. The author of Luke’s gospel loved Jesus the teacher, and so do I. This parable, however, confuses me greatly. Combined with the other readings, it made me almost ditch the lectionary, which is always an option in our free church environment at FBCB. I decided not to run and to instead double down and stick with the Luke reading, the Amos reading, and Psalm 113 – and talk about the shrewd children Jesus mentions.
Constructive Theology opens with readings on Ordinary Theology (the theology of the lay person, as opposed to the formally educated theologian), which is critical for anyone who would pastor a church, or do academic theology that will have meaning for the real world, to understand. It’s also the first theology that any of us do, though five years into seminary it can be easy to forget that. The other readings come through loud and clear that the world we live in has changed – that hashtag theology is not just a passing fad. The tool of Twitter, which has organized movements like the Arab Spring and Black Lives Matter, is critically important now. That doesn’t mean that we have to be able to express every theological idea in 140 characters, nor does it mean we have to do all our public theology on Twitter. If we dismiss the power of this platform – and the greater (uncon)structure of the internet behind it – we cut ourselves off from the generations that are coming up now.
The fact is that people born after 1980, in the first world, process screen time differently than people born before 1980. People born before 1995 think about information differently than people born before 1995. And my own kids, born in 2001 and later, live by their phones and tablets, and computers in a way that even I, who love all my screens and video games, and blogs, cannot fathom.
Ordinary Theology has its unintentional heresies – The Homebrewed Christianity Guide to Jesus helpfully reminded me this week that the Tatian heresy (integrating the gospels to a single narrative of Jesus’ life and dismissing their distinctiveness) is the most common modern heresy. Just because Ordinary Theology has a tendency to skew off the “orthodox” line, doesn’t mean its dismissible or forgettable. We’ll miss connecting with the next generation of followers of Christ if we don’t remember that our spaces our not just interactive, but virtual. Yes, we can still have church buildings, and physically meet as communities – that shouldn’t change. We can connect with the next generation(s) without abandoning the needs of our own. It’s an exciting time to be part of the church. We must acknowledge that there are new ways to learn, new ways to connect, and new ways to be church. We can embrace these new ways without abandoning the old ones. We can hear Jesus call to acknowledge that the faith leaders who are coming up, and coming after will be different – and that’s ok.
We must continue to share, continue to show how it can be lived out, continue to reach out in these new ways so that those after us learn to share the Word – which they will have to do in ways we have not yet imagined.