My friend Josh Case asked me to write what I think about "Hermeneutics" for this age
My operating hermeneutic is to encounter texts through communal practices that break our guessing machines and place us in postures of listening.”- me
Here are the four cats who've blown up this idea for me:
- Daniel Pink suggests that we are in a conceptual age where pattern recognition, play, story, and empathy are the new sought after leadership skills. He admonished us to cultivate "high touch" "high concept" aptitudes. I think that churches can be overflowing with these skills if they trade out old “stand and deliver” practices for real life rehearsals, practices, drills, postures, that ask us to interpret with these emerging skills.
- Walter Bruggemann writes in Text Under negotiation:
"Our task is not to construct a full alternative world, but rather to fund-to provide the pieces, materials, and resources out of which a new world (from origin to completion) can be imagined. The place of liturgy and proclamation is "a place where people come to receive new materials, or old materials freshly voiced, which will fund, feed, nurture, nourish, legitimate, and authorize a counter imagination of the world."
3. And Jonny Baker writes:
“The goal of ritualilization is the creation of a ritualized agent, an actor with a form of ritual mastery, who embodies flexible sets of cultural schemes and can deploy them effectively in multiple situations so as to restructure those situations in practical ways”
These three thoughts make me want, not to write better sermons, but rather, to create ritualizing situations that feed fund and nourish a person’s participation in the new creation… Such a church places textual authority ahead of herself, in the “yet to be determined” space of a promised future. Churches that design themselves for something shorter-sited than that have become a sort of self-fulfilling prophecy– clanging cymbals, lost symbols, siloed on hills or under bushels. Leslie Newbigin wrote,
“The congregation is the hermeneutic of the gospel.”
I think he nailed it. And since first reading that I’ve found this to be true in encouraging and discouraging ways:
- A congregation’s method (its polis) is the “news” it spreads: Have you ever tried to explain Google or Wordpress without referencing internet or open sourcing… These companies organize differently because the world in which they live acts differently. When we believe that gospel is physical and relational, in a “conceptual age,” in its affect and its MO, then we too start to organize differently. Recently a good friend came to a worship gathering of Neighbors Abbey and she was not allowed to be a spectator, not allowed to “church shop.” She was placed in a position of reflecting through prayer and discussion. This moved her in an incredible way. Moved her past what she expected for a church visit. This was the gospel, the good news of Jesus Christ penetrating her defenses for the first time in years. A speech, no matter how well prepared, would have never made it past her guard.
- A congregation’s way of being with its neighbors determines the most about its being “good or bad news” to its neighboring host culture. An innercity church in determined that building a large elder-care complex would be best for their ministry to the poor and best for their community. They did not, however, listen for the community’s desires. They came into community meetings demanding to be heard, and demanding quick action. This posture hurt their ability to show/share/be gospel with their neighbors. It’s unfortunate, but they were the hermeneutic of the gospel- few, if any, voiced arguments against “what” this church proclaimed, or how this community views scripture or revelation. Their actions speak loudest at alienating themselves from the good news that is breaking into their neighborhood.
- A congregation that engages its local issues makes room, again, in people’s imaginations for the possibility of a God that has something good in store for the world. Recently at a party a person pointed to a local church leader and said, “he’ll makes you believe there is a God.” Now this leader is not an apologist. As best we could tell, he’s never tried to convince her or others “about” anything. Instead this Jesus follower lives real life with the others in the community. This person is not a “seeker” for the church leader to attract. This person is already receptive and listening for the revelation of God, ears ready for goodnews. It just takes people being that good news around her. The Post-Denominational Willow-Burberry hermeneutic is not a faith statement or a preaching style, it is the the courage to practice in real time, out there.
For a few centuries, at least, hermeneutics questions have allowed people to stand on their shoulders and argue “about” revelation. I say, lets spend a few centuries joining creation as humble incarnation people, open and listening together for God’s revelation.