Every family has its weirdos. For some it is Aunt Trudy (the cat-lady), Cousin Sarah (who still can’t hold down a job), or maybe Uncle Chet, who always, always speaks his mind—whether his thoughts have anything to do with the occasion at hand … or not. We try not to exclude these characters from family gatherings, but sometimes we are (shamefully) relieved when they’re unable to attend.
It is no different with the family of the Christian church. We have more than our share of odd-balls, characters we begrudgingly include in our history texts. Many of these fringe-dwellers have been relegated to a club, affectionately (“bless their hearts”) referred to as the “Mystics.”
Thanks to a recent “Spirituality of the Mystics” class at George Fox Evangelical Seminary, I have been drawn back to those often outcast writers of old. Those strange sages of spirituality (Teresa of Avila, St. John of the Cross, Gregory the Great, Bernard of Clairvaux, Jan van Ruusbroec, etc.) have quirkily burrowed themselves once again inside my soul, inspired my imagination, and have even renewed my hope for the church and our sacred mission…
To that end, I was recently inspired to ask this question: What contributions can the Mystics make to the 21st century proclamational mission of the church?
- The gift of the “messy.” Broader society often dismisses the church today because it is perceived asfake. That’s right, fake. We reinforce that perception—often unknowingly—when we present a triumphalistic message fueled by the illusion that Christianity is always clean, neat, together, well-dressed and convinced. “Perfection” smells like “manufactured and manipulated” (think of the moviesThe Truman Show or The Stepford Wives).
In contrast, the mystics give us story after story of struggle, of organic, clumsy pursuits of God, including: embracing extreme poverty, rejecting broader society, and scandalous acts of devotion. A whimsical and affectionate story about one of our odd-relatives could help open a transparent faith conversation. (For more, read Messy by A.J. Swoboda.)
To read the rest of the article go to: http://www.christianitytoday.com/le/2014/june-online-only/learning-from-weirdos.html