A New Way of Being Christian … that’s Really, Really Old

An ancient proverb, quoted by Joan Chittister in The Rule of St. Benedict, goes like this:

The ancients say that once upon a time a disciple asked the elder, “Holy One, is there anything I can do to make myself enlightened?”
And the Holy One answered, “As little as you can do to make the sun rise in the morning.”
“Then of what use,” the surprised disciple asked, “are the spiritual exercises you prescribe?”
“To make sure,” the elder said, “that you are not asleep when the sun begins to rise.”

I can think of few proverbs which highlight more effectively the difference between the older modes of Christianity of previous generations and more recent, contemporary approaches to the faith. Indeed, we live in a world (and nowhere is this more pernicious than in the Bible Belt of East Texas) in which the Christian faith ever craves and ever delivers (or tries to deliver) the latest, trendiest, and slickest that our modern, media saturated world has to offer.

In stark contrast to this stands the historic Christian faith (whether ancient or medieval) which emphasizes rootedness over mobility, patience over efficiency, community over independence, thought over emotion, and habit over whim, prayer over human achievement.

Now, at first one might think, “Hmmm … sounds like pre-modern Christianity has no chance of attracting the youth of today.”

Actually, the opposite is the case: today’s young people are sick and tired of the pressure, the stress, the artificiality, the superficiality which characterizes so much of secular life in the 2010’s.

Which is one reason I am glad to have Robert Finney on our team. Robert and I are prayerfully excited about the Fall 2012 semester among the college students of Tyler, during which our theme will be: “The Epiphany College Community: a new way of being Christian, that’s really, really old.”

Christians of previous generations engaged in radical practices, seemingly unknown to much of modern evangelicalism, such as eating together, engaging in dialogue together, and worshipping together.

Eating together. Robert and I are working with established members of the UT Tyler community, as well as with Christ Church families, to involve college students in a monthly dinner, which will give students the opportunity, in an unhurried atmosphere, to engage with others in the Epiphany Community and Christ Church, Tyler. CS Lewis  and Tim Keller suggest that the Gospel spreads like a good infection in which we belong before we believe. What better context for these dynamics to spread than that of table fellowship?

Dialoging together. Not only over a shared meal, but also in the context of a weekly discussion of Pastor Gregory Boyd’s Letters from a Skeptic students will have the opportunity to do what, for many of them, is all too discouraged: to ask difficult questions about the Christian faith.

Worshiping together. All of this, the feasting, the discussing, will ultimately aim at worship. As Robert and I are seeing more and more clearly, the worship of God is what the human heart is built for. In this we agree with classical Anglicanism. Into this worship we prayerfully desire to invite the college students of Tyler and East Texas.

Thus says the LORD: “Stand by the roads, and look, and ask for the ancient paths, where the good way is; and walk in it, and find rest for your souls….” (Jer. 6:16)


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