Over the next few days I will post several parts of an interview with Mark Scandrette on his book Practicing the Way of Jesus. Mark is the founding director of ReIMAGINE, a collective that invites people into integrative spiritual experiments and practices, (with an emphasis on creativity, community building and social action). Each year he hosts a series of projects, retreats and workshops that explore and inhabit various core themes in the way of Jesus. He lives with his wife and three high school aged children in an old Victorian in San Francisco’s Mission District.
“One experience of embodied intentional practice can teach more than a year’s worth of Sunday School…. Wherever possible we need to create environments that include both good instruction and opportunities for shared action.” What exactly do you mean by that and what are a couple of practical examples of how churches could live that out?
There was a time when most people lived and worked and worshipped in closer proximity to a particular place people. Due to mobility and meta economic forces, most of us today live in one place, work in another and worship or create community elsewhere. Our lives are increasingly fragmented. Because of this we have to become more intentional to close the gap between how we want to live and how we actually live. In this day and age I don’t think its enough to talk about living out God’s shalom. As one of friend so poignantly put it, “A lot of us are talking smack about the kingdom of God, but not doing jack.” To address the “disembodiment” of the modern age, we can invite one another into shared actions in response to gospel vision. We need spaces and contexts where we can live out the teachings of Jesus together in the messy details of life– spaces more akin to a karate studio than a college lecture hall. I I think this is why we are seeing a renewed interest in a theology of place and the pursuit of neighborhood-based Christian community.
Once when I was a child, I watched my dad bring home a man who he found passed out in a snowy ditch. I saw my parents welcome him into our home and into our church community. He became my “uncle” Leroy and spent Sundays and holidays with our family. I saw the story of the good Samaritan lived out in front of me and I was invited to participate. I think that experience opened my expectations for what it might mean for me to embody the compassion of Christ. To caring on that legacy, we’ve taken our children along to feast with our homeless friends and they have helped us welcome vulnerable people into our home. This week my daughter is throwing a birthday party for one of her friends who is without parents– and I’d like to think that she does this quite naturally because of the way she has seen hospitality modeled and practiced in our family.
Congregations can encourage embodied faith by creating the expectation and opportunities for shared action and practices. A small group can be transformed into a place of practice by simply seeding the question, “What is one thing we can each do between now and the next time we meet to practice what we have explored together?” I know of congregations who, in response to global poverty, invited one another to eat on $2 a day for for a time, collecting the savings to give to organizations that address hunger or clean water. A church can invite its members into shared times of contemplative prayer or service at a local shelter or into a shared spiritual discipline. As a way to address the addictive tendencies of electronic media, many communities have done experiments with limiting or fasting from facebook or internet use for a period of time. I think the simplest way to get started with experiments like this is considering one step you would personally like to take to live in the Jesus way and invite one other person to take on that action or practice with you.