Book Review: A Life Together
Author: Bishop Seraphim Sigrist
Publisher: Paraclete Press ISBN: 9781557258007
“To discover the church is to discover community.”
Community is a word that seems abuzz in our contemporary church circles, oft used and even more often misunderstood. What does it mean? Where does it get its meaning? How is it most accurately defined, and more importantly, how is it realized and experienced?
I don’t know if the answers to these questions can be obtained from a single book or much less from a book review, but these are some thoughts I had when I started reading A Life Together. The Eastern Church is the oldest of the Christian traditions and there is much wisdom to be gleaned from these ancient fathers of the faith.
The first half of the book seeks to define community with a Russian word, sobornost, which is interesting and brilliant in my opinion. I say it is interesting because Bishop Sigrist says on several occasions throughout the first half of the book that sobornost is a word that is hardly translatable, he calls it “a riddle, a word hardly translatable from its original Russian and yet not fully mined or understood in Russian either. Herein lays its brilliance. True, Biblical, holy, community is a mystery of the divine, a mystery that I think defies concrete definitions such that it must be lived and experienced in order to be realized. I think this is the reason for Bishop Sigrist’s choice to talk about community in the terms of sobornost.
Sobornost: spiritual community of many jointly living people; spiritual harmony based on freedom and unity in love. The hierarchy and structure of the church is secondary to a life that is absolutely organic, a life of all joined in all—”the spiritual communion of all with the plenitude of the whole church.”
“Sobornost is the ‘I’ grounded in ‘we,’” wrote the philosopher and priest Fr. Sergius Bulgakov. “In this plural unity of the Church—the Body of Christ—lives the Spirit of God.” (p.39)
Bishop Sigrist employs a unique writing style particular to the Eastern Church (brief sections, loosely linked, that provide differing angles of approach). If a person is unfamiliar with this writing style, it can be a bit disconcerting. I felt like I was following a bouncing ball at times, but once I got into the rhythm of the style, the ideas and the connections began to flow much more freely.
If we go back to the root of the idea of sobornost in the Gospels and then ask ourselves how sobornost would most basically express itself in the coming together of Christian churches in ecumenism, the answer is clear. It would be in love. In an ecumenism of love and friendship. (p.69)
The second half of the book consists of three parts: Part Two—Seeing, Part Three—Each Complete in the Other, and Part Four—Prayer and Mission. I don’t know if I understand these parts in their proper context or not, but I received them as complimentary extensions and supporting pillars of the concept of community found in sobornost. I don’t think sobornost can be found and realized without the I/we of “seeing” one another and watching for the Divine in all that we are and all that we do. Likewise, I think that “seeing” is contingent upon our living in a mode of complementarity (completion of opposites in each other—p.99). Finally, it is prayer and mission (Part Four) that is one of the primary the binding agents for community-sobornost.
This book has provided me much to consider and meditate upon. I’m sure I’ll be reading it again…and again.
Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Paraclete Press to read and post a review on my site. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements
It’s hard to believe that a year ago we were almost set to begin our journey west to live in Olympia, WA. What we thought we were leaving to live for was not what it turned out to be. That is not to say that what has turned out to be is not what God has directed…on the contrary, it is exactly what God has directed. I believe this.
Plant the good seeds of righteousness, and you will harvest a crop of my love. Plow up the hard ground of your hearts, for now is the time to seek the Lord, that he may come and shower righteousness upon you.” -Hosea 10:12 NLT
Tomorrow I begin day one of a four-week adventure. This adventure takes me to New Mexico and the Pecos Monastery where I will enter into a cohort of followers who desire to learn more about spiritual formation and spiritual direction. You can learn more about what I will be doing and learning by checking out this link (SSD-Pecos Monastery). I would appreciate your prayers and thoughts while I am away. This school and time away is not only about learning, but about doing. I will be immersed in the Benedictine monastic experience practicing a rhythm that might help me to become even more responsive to our God who is always with us. I pray this will be one of the primary outcomes of these next four-weeks.
As a result of this “unplugged” time away, the iCrucified blog will be sparsely attended. I don’t know what chance, if any, I will have to post to the blog. I am not taking my computer, but may have minimal access to the internet from time to time. If I am able, I will share updates and maybe some photos while I am away. I will be journaling my experience and plan to share as I am able upon my return. In the interim, I plan to schedule a couple of posts from the archives of the iCrucified blog.
A prayer of my own combined with a prayer from John Wesley:
O LORD and my God, I pray that you will receive me again with all my faults and failings. I pray you will remake me and teach me… reveal yourself to me in ways that will sear your truth into my brain, heart, and soul. Dear Lord, my heart wants to be wholly owned by you… and I desire to serve only you. I long, O LORD, to find, serve, and contribute to a community of followers who desire also for the same. Lord, be my Teacher -jeff borden
I am no longer my own, but thine. Put me to what thou wilt, rank me with whom thou wilt. Put me to doing, put me to suffering. Let me be employed for thee or laid aside for thee, exalted for thee or brought low for thee. Let me be full, let me be empty. Let me have all things, let me have nothing. I freely and heartily yield all things to thy pleasure and disposal. And now, O glorious and blessed GOD, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, thou art mine and I am thine. So be it. And the covenant I have made on earth, let it be ratified in heaven. Amen. -john Wesley
O GOD, do not be silent! Do not be deaf. Do not be quiet, O GOD. You alone are called the LORD; you alone are the Most High, supreme over all the earth. (Psalm 83:1, 18)
Book Review – Nudge: Awakening Each Other to the God Who’s Already There by Leonard Sweet
Published by – David C. Cook ||| ISBN: 9781434764744
This is another one of those books for me (mentioned in an earlier post). “Those books” are books that I cannot read breezily through. This is (or means) good, in the highest order. The author, Leonard Sweet, proclaims the premise of Nudge is about evangelism …he’s the author; I can’t disagree with his premise. I think at a higher level, the book is about so much more than evangelization. I think it is about “rethinking” our entire perspective about how we recognize our relationship (heart, soul, mind, strength, and all our senses as well…according to Len Sweet) with the Living God. Naturally, when we reexamine and respond differently to this Living God according to previously unrecognized “signs” our methodology for evangelism is subject to (and likely to) change. So, yeah…while the book is about rethinking evangelism, I believe it has the potential to awaken us all to levels previously unrecognized.
If you’re not familiar with Len Sweet’s writing style, it may take some getting used to. Personally, I happen to love his writing style. He employs extensive use of metaphor and includes hundreds of quotes to reemphasize and support his metaphors, parables, and word pictures. I really enjoy this manner of writing and speaking, it helps me to understand the concept; true enough, but even more importantly…it helps me to take ownership of the teaching allowing it to really shape me for the better. This is not to say that I necessarily agree or disagree with every concept, but coming to a fuller understanding of the thought is important to being able to understand why I might agree or disagree. The conversation is important and when the reader does not have the luxury of physical dialogue with the author, many word pictures and metaphor help the conversation to develop in the mind of the reader sans author.
The first part of the book is about the multitude of “signs” where God is working. Sweet calls this semiotics; the art and science of paying attention. These, he writes, are God’s “nudges” showing us and calling our attention to the work that he has been and is doing in the redemption, reconciliation, and restoration of man. Extremely thought-provoking, intriguing, and inspiring stuff he writes in this portion of the book.
The second part of the book goes into sensory details of the tools we have to practice semiotic awareness of God’s redemptive work. These sensory tools are the receptor-transmitters for all evangelistic nudges being received in us and broadcast from us. Again, I found this incredibly inspiring. The chapter on hearing, Pause: Use Your Ears, still has me reeling. Sweet, the maestro of metaphor, goes on to write in bountiful detail the wonders of God’s presence made anew to all our senses in Presence: Taste, Picture: Eyes, Ponder: Touch, and Promise: Nose. So impressed was (am) I with these word pictures, I do not think a better job could have been presented in illustrating the ideas. The privilege to me is that each metaphor provides new thoughts and reflection and this is why I cannot “breeze” through this sweet writing style.
I was really taken with the last book release (see my full review here), So Divine, by Leonard Sweet. I thought it would be near impossible to improve on the work done in that piece. Nudge proves itself to be a most worthy companion to So Divine. In my opinion, they should be must reading for every Christian. I think each would provide fantastic discussion points for small groups.
My grade: 5-stars. I’ll be reading it and pondering it for a long time. My hope is that you’ll give it a try too.
A little NUDGE…
A little over a year ago I posted a multi-part review of Leonard Sweet’s book “So Beautiful.” This week I started his latest work, “NUDGE.” I will be providing a full (probably another multi-part) review of this book in the coming days/weeks. Anyway, the point of my mentioning So Beautiful in relationship with NUDGE is my first impression following the preface and opening comments of the first chapter. While I thought So Beautiful was the culmination of much of the thinking and study from Len Sweet, it appears at first glance that NUDGE is an extension of the MRI (missional, relational, incarnational) model in practice. I am excited with what I’m reading; very excited. I feel the welling up in my soul exclaiming; “yes, yes, YES!” Let me share a teaser quote from NUDGE and show you what I mean… Sweet writes:
I believe the lifeblood of evangelism is not propositions, but prepositions. For God to do something through us, God must be doing something in us. If we are not always evangelizing ourselves, we have no business evangelizing others. In fact, it is usually as God’s grace courses through us to someone else that we become aware of God’s love in and for us. Evangelism is an invitation for broken people together to meet the Christ who loves broken people. We all are damaged but loved, crushed but cherished, with a divine embrace. When love is the motivation for evangelism, nudging is love in action. And the cracks in our broken vases are where Jesus leaks out first. ~~Leonard Sweet; NUDGE p.28
I love this. I want to live in this constant and continual state of awareness of God’s Presence working in me and working through me…working in others and through others… to perfect and transform the brokenness of a creation He desperately desires to reconcile and restore. It is a divine mystery that is unfolding right in front of us and I don’t want to miss a nanosecond of it. Apparently, it takes a “nudge” every now and then to move us to action.
More to come…
390 Miles of Mountains, Valleys, Rivers, and Streams… [Day 6]
Wow. Six days (starting the seventh now…) on the road in about 30 square feet of living space shared by three people; this is what we call “quality” family time. For some folks this might seem like a nightmare, but it has been an experience that we will recall fondly for the remainder of our lives… hopefully I’m not just speaking for myself. We have enjoyed breathtaking beauty that could only have been created and sustained by the Hand of God, shared prayers together, made new memories together, and talked excitedly and expectantly of what our new future holds. We are grateful to God who has called us and welcome freely His Hand to work in us and through us. We are thankful for the friends and family who have upheld our journey with prayer and loving communication for the past week. We know that it is the faithful prayers of those wonderful people that has buoyed our spirit and helped us to remain riveted upon the Presence that never leaves or forsakes us. All Praise to God and may He bless those who have been a blessing to us. Amen.
Your way of acting should be different from the world’s way: the love of Christ must come before all else. You are not to act in anger or nurse a grudge. Rid your heart of all deceit. Never give a hollow greeting of peace or turn away when someone needs your love. (Rule of St Benedict 4:20-26)
Additional Shout Outs
Gotta give some serious props to a few people…
Truckers; man O man… These guys and gals don’t get enough credit. They provide much of the backbone support for keeping America running and probably don’t get near enough respect for the job they do or the logistical support they provide. So, here’s to you Truckers! You people rock. You are also much more generous and kind over the road than I have given you credit for in the past. Now that I have had the “small” experience of walking a little bit in your shoes, I understand a bit more of what you go through on a daily basis. I have a new found and deep respect for what you do and what you must endure in the course of doing your job. May God Bless you in your work and may He keep you safe as you do it.
Roadside Rest workers; you deserve a pat on the back. Thanks for keeping them clean and a pleasant oasis for us tired and bladder stretched travelers. These little outposts along the way of a long journey are often taken for granted… not by me; never again. Thank you people who work to keep them clean and welcoming.
People who keep the GPS Satellites working; thank you. I love my Garmin GPS, but without the Satellites and the people who keep them running and streaming data back to it… well, it wouldn’t be worth anything… so, you people who invent the technology and keep the stuff running to make my little Garmin so happy, THANK YOU! I’d be lost without you.
“A man who, while remembering God, respects every man, by a hidden movement of God’s hand himself receives help from every man. A man who protects the injured has God as his helper; a man who stretches his hand to aid his brother has God’s arm to support him.” (Issac of Syria)
About our travel yesterday…
On a more solemn note, we were sorrowful to miss another opportunity that we weren’t in the “know” about. As we passed through Clinton, Montana we realized it is the home of the Testicle Festival. This is certainly a grandiose affair that every person should experience at least once in a lifetime. Sadly, we won’t be in the area when the festival convenes this year. Maybe we’ll make it some other time for the delight that is lamb frys and mountain oysters (ewww).
We experienced much more of the same beauty; more majestic mountains, valleys, rivers, and streams. The view and landscape continues to change and provide us with variety for our viewing pleasure. Words do not describe the grandeur and splendor that our eyes have beheld. We have often heard how beautiful this particular area of the country is and we have not been disappointed. I only wish the photos we provide in the slideshow were a better representation of what we have seen with our own eyes.
Today will end our trip across America as we expect to pull into the port of Olympia sometime late this afternoon. We’ll update you again soon… Keep praying for us! God Bless You!
We departed Sundance, Wyoming with a steady drizzling rain pushing us down the road and had in mind to make Belgrade, Montana (just outside of Bozeman, MT) our goal for the day/evening. There was no real agenda or itinerary for stops or sightseeing for this day. Since it was the Fourth of July, we figured we’d make distance our holiday and push as many miles behind us as we could…I was counting on most people doing parties and cookouts and not being on the road with us. My plan worked; the road was rather barren of travelers and there wasn’t much in the way of attractions along our way for this leg of the journey.
Beautiful Panoramic Landscapes
“Lord how glorious are your works…” (Psalm 92:5)
The journey between Sundance and Belgrade was an interesting mix; there were hills, mountains, high desert, and plains. The views were incredible. We also traveled through the Crow Indian Reservation… not so majestic (sad face). We have traveled (over the years) through a number of American Indian Reservations and the ones we have experienced (Northeast, Mid-South, Southwest, and Alaska) have all been a very depressing to me. I don’t want to get all “soapboxy” about the subject, but I personally feel that we have committed atrocities and disservice to the Native Americans more than any other people group on the planet. I was especially keen to this feeling of depression as I observed the figurative juxtaposition of our own 4th of July celebration against the witness of a people without a lot of freedom, liberty, and justice. I was also reminded of some of the horrendous atrocities of the “Indian Wars” as we traveled through Little Big Horn, Custer’s Last Stand, and a few other notable battle sites. (sigh).
“Know that the Lord he is God: it is he who has made us, and not we ourselves; we are his people.” (Psalm 100:2)
Not much to recall on this day’s journey… One thing I can say is that my upper body and shoulders are getting extremely fatigued. It’s been five days on the road for daylight to dark and my upper body is Ti – red. I need a break or a serious massage. Fortunately, I think we will finish the drive in a couple more outings. Of course, I have to unload and unpack then, but I’m hoping for an adrenaline rush to get me through that (smile).
Ok, so here’s the highlight of the day …and it didn’t come to us until the very end of the trip.
We decided to eat in Bozeman, Montana (the choices were better according to the Garmin). We arrived around 8pm and I’m pretty whipped; my arms and shoulders are in knots and I’m pretty “flat-lined” of the brain. Seeing an Applebees Restaurant and a Famous Dave’s BBQ close together with a huge strip mall parking lot between them, I decided to pull in and park the Big Ole Yeller Truck. I pulled into an open spot in front of a Camero not noticing (at the time) there was a man sitting in the car. I wasn’t close mind you… I pulled into a spot with yellow lines on both sides of me. The Camero was pulled in perpendicular to the “lined spots” actually taking up three parking spots with his car. Fast-forward… I turned off the engine and opened up the door and Camero-man was out of his car and scowling at me. He says; “You have this whole parking lot and you have to pull up right in front of me???” This was said with little veins bulging in his temples and big veins bulging in his neck. I’m like, (calmly)… “I’m sorry, would you like me to move?” He scowled more and said “no” and then complained a bit more about my choice of parking spot… and I apologized again and asked once more if he’d like me to move the truck… this time jumping back into the seat and making motion to start the engine. He declined my offer again and hopped into his car and moved to the other side of Ole Yeller, still parking perpendicular to the lines and pointing to the strip mall.
We decided to eat BBQ and had a delightful meal. We took our time and it was close to 10:00pm when we finished and just getting fully dark outside. Remember this was the 4th of July… and we were in Bozeman, MT. When we stepped outside, heading back to the truck and ready to make Belgrade, MT for the evening and our Holiday Inn Express, we were greeted to fireworks in the sky at every point of the compass. They were being shot in several locations filling the “big night sky” of Bozeman. And… The parking lot, streets, curbs, and sidewalks were FULL of People and I mean FULL. This was Camero Man’s reason for fussing at us. We had parked in an area that would obscure his view of the fireworks. Of course, being interlopers into the land of “Big Sky” and all things Bozeman, we had no clue. We get an “F” in local protocol, but Laurie said I had the attitude of Jesus when I was accosted by “Wanting-to-watch-fireworks-camero-man,” so all in all I think we were able to score a passing grade of C+ as missionaries on this evening.
Chapter Three and Epilogue
It wasn’t easy getting Ole Yeller out from the sea of people and from under the “pyrotechnic big sky of Bozeman” and we got a little twisted around to boot. The Garmin doesn’t like getting turned around in parking lots and starts freaking out like “Rainman” repeating “recalculating, recalculating, turn left then left, then.. recalculating, turn right then left, recalculating…” so, I got kinda lost and had to go about 5 miles into the gunpowder and sulfur smelling crowds of Bozeman before I could find a “recalculated route” around the congregations paying homage to the “technicolor fire gods of the sky.” In the end, we found Belgrade… the Holiday Inn Express… and a great night’s rest. I’m ready to press on to Spokane, Washington today. Pray for us as we take on the Bitterroot and Swan Mountains. God Bless!
A Certain philosopher asked St Anthony: Father, how can you be so happy when you are deprived of the consolation of books? Anthony replied: My book, O philosopher, is the nature of created things, and any time I want to read the words of God, the book is before me. (Desert Fathers: CIII)
Book Review: The Tangible Kingdom
Hmmm…what to say, what to say…
A book like this requires some degree of back-story, and it was provided, so it was a little long for me to get to the nitty gritty of what I was searching for in the story. It was around chapters nine and ten that I found myself getting “sucked in” to the heart of what Hugh Halter was driving at. I am incredibly excited about the community described in the tangible kingdom. It brings great joy to me to hear that people are living the life that Jesus taught…and not some cheaply interpreted facsimile of it.
Chapters ten through around fourteen were mostly about deconstruction from the “way we have always done things.” I appreciated that Halter was not overly critical toward the methods he was deconstructing; in fact, he seemed very sensitive to the people entrenched in those systems.
Chapters fifteen through eighteen were rebuilding chapters; teaching the foundational elements of this “incarnational community.” Everything that was shared in these chapters just seemed to make such beautiful sense… I found myself saying over and over; “yes, yes, yes, yes…!!!”
The final chapters, nineteen through twenty-one, were about the focus and outcome of the three primary components of the community once people decide to “join” the community. This focus hinges on togetherness, oneness, and otherness…and I’ll stop there. The teaching and the illustrations used by Hugh Halter and Matt Smay are very clear and easy to understand. It would be my great desire to see this community with my own eyes. I would love to get some one-on-one leadership development from an existing-healthy-functioning community.
In my opinion, this is another 5-star book and another must read for those people and leaders desiring to live missionally and incarnationally (buzzwordsy I know, but I don’t know how else to describe it). Personally, I don’t know that I’d follow everything from this book… I have some personal convictions that differ from the authors, but I understand the heart of his passion and with that I agree 100%. I recommend this book very highly. I’m glad to kickoff my 2010 reading year with this one; a great way to start it out.