Seasonal Living

A friend and I were chatting a while back about life:  folks’ business, people’s brokenness, the church’s  anemic faith and action.  The idea of corporate confession has been percolating in my mind for a while.  In my experience, if confession is discussed, it’s in regards to an individual aspect:  confess your private, individual sins; repent and turn your Self.  But the Hebrew culture didn’t seem to have this focus on the individual; they seemed to be more community-oriented.  If a person sinned, it didn’t just affect them:  the whole group could/would be smoted (I’m sure that’s a word).  So what would it look like to have a corporate confession?

Why would such a thing be necessary?  A while ago I was reading books by Leanne Payne, and she talked about confessing the sins of ancestors:  that the sins of our parents/grandparents/great-grandparents get passed down from generation to generation, and even though the younger generations didn’t directly participate in the sin, the effects are still present.  I thought that was CrazyTalk, until one day I realized I had derogatory thoughts in my head in regards to race.  My family is from the South, and I know I heard my grandparents make hurtful, racial remarks.  I was raised up North:  I wasn’t in that environment and shouldn’t have those thoughts!  And yet . . . Suddenly the idea of repenting made a lot more sense.

The Church has committed some horrid sins – intentionally or unintentionally.  And whether we were physically present or participating, that history is our history – my history.  It needs to stop:  I want to turn – I hope we want to turn.  But what would that look like?

Reading Leviticus (because I’m weird like that) has revealed just how much of a rhythm of life the Israelites followed.  The Israelites had a time of corporate confession, a season when they would realize just how unholy they were, how holy God was, and how wonderful it was that God provided a way that they could be in a redeeming relationship.  But they didn’t live always in this period of confessing.  This season was part of their rhythm of life:  it wasn’t just a sermon series thrown in randomly when the Levites felt like it, nor did they get stuck in repenting all the time.

A book I read for my class talked about how liturgy is a spiritual tool to fight the infestation of consumerism in the church:  instead of taking to meet my desires, I participate with others in times of feasting, repenting, and living in the ordinary life.

Some evangelical churches are more intentional or vocal about living in a rhythm of life.  Have you seen examples?  Do you have any book recommendations (or books you could loan) for further exploration (cause I have to read some good ones for class and I’d rather read something other people dug than find a flop on my own)?  Do you find yourself living into the season – individually or corporately?

5 thoughts on “Seasonal Living

  1. Judy Woolsey

    AJ, Dave pointed me to your comments today, and suggested you might be interested in a book I’ve been reading by Diana Butler Bass, called CHRISTIANITY FOR THE REST OF US,

  2. Judy Woolsey

    Maybe you noticed the comment in Gregg Koskela’s blog that reviewed the book quite thoroughly. It is a study of mainline churches rather than evangelicals, but very interesting narrative, and her comments and conclusions are thought provoking. I heard her speak in November, and was so intrigued by what she shared that I bought the book.

  3. Alice M.

    Collective repentance is seems to be an oddly powerful practice and it’s true the Bible is full of it! I was at a bible study not long ago where we were talking about it I think in relation to book of Joel. Someone said that an interdenominational group of clergy had made a collective act of repentance over apartheid in South Africa, shortly before the end of the white regime there.

    I just got to wondering whether it’s repentance that lets God make the necessary changes in us – and when the problem is with us collectively, maybe that means our repentance has to be collective? How to acknowledge our brokenness without getting hooked into focusing on sin as Fox warned against? I guess by keeping the emphasis on God’s graceful power to redeem us.

    I also wonder about allowing ourselves to be stigmatized by repentant lives – e.g. committing to a ‘one planet’ carbon lifestyle makes a pretty obvious effect so a person starts to stick out from ‘normal’ western excessive living. I really get the feeling earlier Friends had that sense of living as a repentant fellowship under Jesus’s transformative leadership – can Friends today hear a call us away from conformity with those norms in our society which are based on greed and injustice?

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