“What is the most important issue facing the church of the 21st-century?” This question would begin my journey of creating this website. I want to tell you that story of where my theological reflection method began. It all dates back to 1998, when I was about to graduate from Muskingum College in New Concord, Ohio. A recruiter from McCormick Seminary offered us free food at the local sandwich shop to listen to her spiel. When she finished her presentation, she wanted to know what needed to be addressed at a seminary. She then asked each of us that question.
As I listened to all the answers that were going around the table: everything from how men no longer felt comfortable in the church to the need of the church to address this new term “global culture,” something stirred inside of me. Initially, I was going to talk about my interest, at the time, around issues of science and religion. Yet, I found coming from my mouth something very different: “The issue that faces the church in the 21st century is the very same issue that the church faced in the 1st, 12th, 20th, and if God wills, in the 23rd century. The issue that the church faces is how do we take this very old and ancient text, The Good News, and apply it to our modern lives.” I don’t know if you’ve ever had this experience which is the exact opposite of putting your foot in your mouth, and you asked yourself “Did I just say that? Did that come from my mouth?” Instead of being repulsed by your own response, it wasn’t that bad, but actually might be good. That’s what I experienced. In that moment, I felt like there was a presence beyond my understanding telling me to say those words. Dare I say, it may have been the presence of the Holy Spirit.
Since then, I’ve been on a journey with this revelation who has been my comforter, my friend, my counselor, and at the same time, my prophet, my accuser, and my judge. When I have done anything of value in my ministry, my actions and thoughts are based upon that revelation. When I’ve failed, I did not live out that revelation. Along the journey, I have lived out my faith in many different ministries. I developed a spiritual discipline of asking a three part question to answer how we live the Good News in our modern lives. The three part question is: How have I experienced God today; how have I grown in my understanding of God today; and how have I lived out of that encounter of God?
This spiritual discipline has not just come out of the revelation of that day, but also out of this careful study and work of religious thinkers, to whom I am greatly indebted: Robert McAfee Brown and his book, Unexpected News, and David Tracy’s work on Theological Reflection. Yet, the core of this discipline comes out of my meditations on Luke 24:13-35. As I have reflected upon this text, I see three movements for the text: experiencing the risen Christ (verses 13-24), learning from the risen Christ (25- 27) and building a community out of the encounter with Christ (28-35).
Every Monday, I will post a series on how I explore three movements (experience, understand and practice) in the Luke text, and show how these movements led to the development of nine questions in theological reflection. I look forward to sharing this with you all.