Sunday, 8 March 2015

The road is not finished yet

Week 2 of our holy::ground online Lent retreat, using Brian McLaren's book: ‘we make the road by walking. Chapter 28: A New Path to Aliveness, based on Matthew 5:17-48 about Jesus not abolishing but fulfilling the Law and prophetsI was struck by one image ....
If tradition could be compared to a road that began in the distant past and continues to the present, Jesus dares to propose that the road is not finished yet. To extend the road of tradition into the future – to fulfil its potential – we must first look back to discern its general direction. Then informed by the past, we must look forward and dare to step beyond where the road currently ends, venturing off the map, so to speak, into new territory. To stop where the road of tradition currently ends, Jesus realises, would actually end the adventure and bring the  tradition to a standstill. So faithfulness doesn’t simply allow us to extend the tradition and seek to fulfil its unexplored potential; it requires us to do so   (p163)
I have been on a fairly long journey this past week. Sunday Flight from London to Manila, via Singapore.  Then Monday a flight to Roxas in the north of Panay Island (Western Visayas) Then on Wednesday, a  6 hour journey in a van to Cataclan   the North West tip to catch a Catamarang to Boracay where we held our three day Tearfund workshop at the Eco Village Conference Centre near Puka Beach  in the north of the island.
On Saturday afternoon we went back to Tambisaan Jetty and a boat to Caticlan.   We then embarked on a 8 hour van journey to Iloilo City,  where we stayed overnight  and continued on Sunday morning to the Port to catch a FastBoat to Bacolod and then a van to Cadiz  in the North of Negros Occidental. (arriving about 4pm). I took a number of (instagram) pictures on the journey and have been meditating on them in relation to the passage.  

PICTURE ONE: St Catherine's Church, Mambusao  
 On the road from Cataclan to Iloilo, we stopped at a small town called  Mambusao and I had a brief reflective moment walking around the Town Square and standing outside St Catherine’s church. The cement was decomposing, the paintwork peeling, but the most heavenly music was coming from within, behind closed doors  …. elusive  hymns at twilight  
Maybe the church symbolises the traditional institutional approach to religion – outwardly strong, steadfast certain    but as you approach you realise it is crumbling and inaccessible. Moral certainly and a universalising theology looks initially attractive and clear, providing solid certainty in an unstable world. And it has an other worldly sound to it   But the walls are crumbling and the future uncertain….. and the doors are locked to strangers. Life seems to be happening in the Town square 

And the road goes on to new places and new experiences….. 

PICTURE TWO:  Boat on the Sibuyan Sea
I had another reflective moment on the fast boat to Bocalad. On the waters of the Sibuyan Sea  where everything was more fluid, unstable and fast-paced.  You can watch a clip on Facebook here  
Morality does seem to be changing so rapidly and feels unstable. My colleague was sitting inside the boat feeling nauseous in the choppy seas. Faith and certainly seem to be at sea in a postmodern world. Morality is more fluid, more liquid. Remember Don Cuppit’s  ‘Sea of Faith’ ?    or some would suggest that it’s more ‘faith at sea’ these days…. It's certainly more liquid...

PICTURE THREE: Motor Tricycles in Cadiz  
Traveling in a small Tricycle a colourful motorised motorcycle and sidecar in Cadiz.  They carry visible signs of faith   ‘God Is great’  Jesus is Lord, ‘Trust in God’  ‘God will provide’ …..  bumper sticker theology.
But I like these local, contextual, colourful forms of transport – each region has their own like the local Jeepneys…. Converted from jeeps after WW2, they make for an exhilarating ride.
I’ve been reading a book as I travel on Contextual Theology by Clemens Sedmak  Doing Local theology: a Guide for Artisans of a New Humanity (MaryKnoll, 2002) 
All good theology is contextual:   Theology is done locally. In order to be honest to the local circumstances theology has to be done as local theology, as theology that takes the particular situation seriously. Local theology can be done with basic theological means. It can be done by the people, and it is done with the people.’   (p3)
Very little theology is universal and good theology demands local application. It goes beyond book knowledge  and is based on real, every day experience.  
That makes theology local, colourful adventurous. It lives in the vernacular,  like  ‘treasures in earthen vessels’  always based on the somewhere we are living and embedded in the here and now.
PICTURE FOUR:  eating Balut in Cadiz
In holy::ground we do what we call kitchen table theology, where we discuss scripture around the table.  Anyone can contribute. This is part of  'extending the road of tradition into the future'.  Sedmak talks about the need for ‘little theologies’ (not just 'bumper sticker' theology) and describes a model of local theologian as 'village cook'.   Doing local theology is like cooking with local ingredients. In Cadiz we were invited to try the local delicacy in the market where the locals eat Balut - steamed Duck Embryo – I decided to give it a miss…….. not all local theology can be stomached by outsiders.  

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