Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Knitting, Woodworking, and Other Subversive Signs that the Kingdom is Near
(Reflecting on Material Consumption and the Creative Possibilities of Christian Community)

Knitting, Woodworking, and Other Subversive Signs 
that the Kingdom is Near 

(An outline from a class I was asked to lead at St. Dunstan's Episcopal Church, drawing primarily from the work of Jean Vanier and William Cavenaugh.)

The Backstory
  1. The story of Joe the Marine.
  2. The 3 roles we live: simultaneously producers, consumers, and product.
  3. Some Christians in our tradition’s history have experienced fasting as a helpful spiritual discipline, drawing people into deeper relationship with God and each other.
  4. Fasting oftentimes is defined as not eating for a period of time. Eating is consumption of material. 
  5. Shopping is also consumption of material.
  6. Could fasting from shopping/purchasing be a helpful spiritual discipline, drawing people into deeper relationship with God and each other? 
3 quick thoughts on arranging a fast from purchasing:
  1. Think it through. If you’re fasting on day B, make sure on day A that you have enough gas in the car. 
  2. Because you will have to buy gas on day A, arranging a fast on day B may feel like semantics, but this is not more than you already do when you work a little longer on day A in order to take day B off. 
  3. There is something important about the arrangement of consecutive hours free from a practice - whether the practice is work, consumption, or something else - something that is transformative. We know this, or we would never take vacations. 
What would a purchase-less day/week/month require of you? What might it look like?

The next step: more than negation.
  1. If you were to abstain from purchasing long enough, you would eventually need to make some of the things you used to buy. If you did not buy your clothing, for example, you might need to sew or knit your clothing instead.
  2. Making things, becoming involved in their material processes, can be a creative way to grow a deeper appreciation and healthier respect for the material world. 
  3. After all, purchasing doesn’t make us materialists. In practice, it makes us gnostics. We become increasing detached from production, producers, and even the products we buy.
  4. Advertisers know all of this, which is why they sell abstract intangibles attached to products; a car means freedom, and so on. 
  5. Oftentimes, the pleasure is not in having, but in wanting - in identifying some aspect of our self to construct through the purchase. We are constantly promised renewal through created things; the chance to start over.
  6. What could/do you grow, make, produce, create?
Creativity in Community
  1. We often think of spiritual practices like fasting in individual terms. But communities can fast together; they can also engage creative processes together.
  2. “Community is built through the sharing of gifts.” Jean Vanier, l’Arche.
  3. Only when we share gifts can we fully experience the acceptance of a community of belonging, because only then have we risked our true selves to be accepted.
  4. How much do you trust this faith community’s ability to accept you as you are, in all your giftedness and brokenness?
  5. How can your creative/productive resources be given for the life of this community and others?
Hebrews 10

24 And let us consider how to provoke one another to love and good deeds, 25 not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day approaching.
  1. There is a significant difference between not neglecting to meet because you will be missed in your pew and not neglecting to meet because you are baking the bread. Christian community is about choosing, as a community, to rely on the gifts of each member for the sake of the Body; this is the community of belonging.
  2. All of this understanding is already present in the Eucharist, with the reminder that as we risk our gifts in community, Christ blesses and is present to even those parts of ourselves we believe are inadequate for sharing. 
  3. For it is God’s love, shown to us in Christ, that makes the community of belonging possible.

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