Saturday, February 20, 2010

My 40 Day Facebook Journey with Madeline L'Engle

My mom's church is trying an experiment this year: instead of a group that meets in a physical space to discuss a book, we're doing it on Facebook--which means that they can include far-flung readers (me!). I've tried doing an e-mail book discussion group in a different church years ago, but it didn't last long. Of course, my church was considerably older, and most of the members just couldn't master the technology.

I haven't given up on the idea of an e-book study group. It's famously difficult to find a time when everyone can gather to have a book discussion. The e-book study group solves that problem. It also opens up the group to people who live far away. It can be hard to find enough local people for an on-ground group to achieve critical mass. I'm hoping that the e-book study group will solve that problem too. Will it solve the problem of faltering commitment after the initial enthusiasm? I'll let you know.

My mom's group is working through the book 40-Day Journey with Madeleine L'Engle. I've sung the praises of this series before, and I'll sing them again. Each day gives a chunk of reading (and it's a healthy chunk, not just a sentence or two), Bible quotes, questions to ponder, writing prompts, and prayers.

Yesterday's readings centered around our false expectations, of our holy days, of our churches, of our friends. I love when the books that I'm reading dovetail, and I had just been reading similar sentiments in Eugene Peterson's latest book, Practice Resurrection: A Conversation with Growing Up in Christ. He says this in the context of people dealing with difficult church experiences and with their longing for a perfect church. He suggests that we look at our imperfect churches in a new way:"Do you think that maybe this is exactly what God intended when he created the church?" (page 14).

He says this about the early church: "Sometimes we hear our friends talk in moony, romantic terms of the early church. 'We need to get back to being just like the early church.' Heaven help us. These churches were a mess, and Paul wrote his letters to them to try to clean up the mess" (page 16). He notes, "The Ephesian letter is unique in that it is the only one that is not provoked by some problem, whether of behavior or belief" (page 15).

I must confess that I never really realized this fact before. I've always assumed that the early church existed in some perfect state where people shared what they had and loved each other. But that's not true. And while some of the churches in our day are truly dysfunctional, many are functioning just as God intends. Hmmmmmmmm.

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