From the Bottom Up: Summary
Sunday, December 24, 2017
The ancient ruins will be rebuilt,
You will build on age-old foundations,
You will be called “Breach-Mender,”
Restorer of ruined houses.
Throughout this year’s Daily Meditations, I have tried to follow in the footsteps of great reformers like Isaiah, Jesus, St. Francis of Assisi, and Martin Luther. In 1205, Francis heard these words in a vision: “Rebuild my church, for you see it is falling into ruin.” Francis simply focused on different things, an alternative orthodoxy that he believed was the “marrow of the Gospel.”
Every so often, religious institutions become rigid and need to be revived, reformed, and reborn. When churches become machines more than movements, it’s a sign that they must shake off the historical and cultural calcifications so they can continue evolving as a living movement. Just as in Scripture and our own lives, growth is never in a straight line; it is often three steps forward and two steps backward.
This year, the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation—when so many people are leaving the church and Christianity’s reputation may seem irreparably damaged—felt like a good time to again rebuild our faith “from the bottom up.” Rather than coming from those in power at the top, the most effective and lasting change happens at the grass-roots level, led by those who are on the “edge of the inside” and are not dependent upon the status quo.
This year we’ve explored many first principles or essential elements of the Christian tradition, attempting to clear away the rubble of unhelpful theology, low-level thinking, abuse of power, and misunderstanding. Even if you aren’t Christian, I hope you’ve been able to apply universal themes to your own spiritual journey. Here are just some of those topics (find more in the online archive):
- Scripture, Experience, and Tradition
- The Cosmic Christ
- Salvation as At-One-Ment
- Law and Grace
- Sin as Separation
- Faith and Science
- Sexuality and Gender
I pray that my words will not get in the way of what God is doing in your life and in the world. I pray that these words will not just be words, but “spirit and truth” (John 4:24) that plant you firmly in the breach between the world as it usually is (Power) and the world as it should and could be (Love). Both love and power are the necessary building blocks of God’s peaceful kingdom on earth. Love utterly redefines the nature of power. Power without love is mere brutality (even in the church), and love without power is only the sentimentality of private lives disconnected from the Whole. The Gospel in its fullness holds power and love together, creating new hope and healing for the world.
As this year draws to a close, may you go and grow forward as a breach-mender, restoring the places in which God’s presence has become hidden or misrepresented. Have courage and be tender.
Gateway to Silence:
You make all things new.
Adapted from Richard Rohr, Near Occasions of Grace (Orbis Books: 1993), xv-xvi.