neo-monastic wisdom from Kevin Rains

Written by Mark Van Steenwyk : December 15, 2006

Kevin Rains has a great blog post, which I include in its brief entirety. Please go to his blog and comment.

Joan Chittester writes that Benedict intended to “…”to create a way of life immersed in the scriptures, devoted to the common life, and dedicated to the development of human community. It was simple, regular and total, a way of living, not a way of serving; it was an attitude toward life, not a church ministry. Benedict, in other words, is not trying to create a clerical system. He is trying to create a human family. He is not out trying to collect priests though he does recognize that a priest may well have a monastic vocation.”

Simple. Regular. Total. A way of living. Not a way of serving.
This nailed me with particular force this morning. Monasticism (the old or the new, cloistered or friar-ed) was never intended to be a program or an add-on. It is total. It is baptism. It is immersion… in a whole new way of being. This is a major part of the reason it has so much power to form us. It is what Gladwell calls the “Power of Context” in his book The Tipping Point. (Dave Nixon pointed out that connection to me - credit where credit is due) Context is powerful.

We can read all we want and study all we want and write all we want and blog until we are blue in the fingers but unless we have an environment that supports our formation we might as well be trying to push a boulder up a hill with a spoon.

+++ Lord, give me courage to create environments and contexts that will naturally transform those who enter them and engage with them. Amen +++

Here’s what I commented:

YES! This is my prayer.

The challenge of what you are saying here is that, while many people certainly crave and long for such a way of life, many of us struggle with consumeristic ways of seeing Christianity. We have a bad Enlightenment hangover–”religion” and “spirituality” were successfully disembodied and privatized. Faith is something for which one shops. And while many are deeply longing for a way of life, their often too willing to settle for “an experience”–a facsimile of embodiment that carries us over for a while, but doesn’t satisfy.

We long for a lived-in faith, but we are like children building a rocketship–we often lack the imagination, tools, and discipline for the task. This is where I desperately cling to the Author of my faith, trusting that the Holy Spirit of God can indeed resurrect dry bones.

Mark Van Steenwyk is the general editor of Jesus Manifesto. He is a Mennonite pastor (Missio Dei in Minneapolis), writer, speaker, and grassroots educator. He lives in South Minneapolis with his wife (Amy), son (Jonas) and some of their friends.

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