more about this sight

"you're packing a suitcase for a place that you've never been...a place that has to be believed to be seen"...'Walk On' by U2

WATERSHED: A voice in the wilderness. DARYL UNDERWOOD.


The concept of Centerpoint Christianity briefly stated is:

Christianity from the centerpoint outward.

Christianity from the climax forward.

This blog constitutes concepts for a new view of Christianity that begins with what is foundational and moves forward from that point. It is based on the assumption that we are being pulled towards something unseen and pushed from a place that once was.

What Centerpoint Christianity attempts to do is bypass some of the constraints imposed by metanarratives by using the life of Christ and particularly the climactic actions of Christ as beginning points.

It supports the conviction that God is essentially timeless. From this beginning point we endeavor to move outward from the definitive moment of the parousia (visitation) of Christ and forward to the future which functions as a type of magnet to "what can be--and is coming".

When we begin at the life of Christ and move outward as from the centerpoint of a web, rather than in a linear timeline of history, another wide picture emerges.

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the new trinity of faith

We live under three stories.

The one that has garners the most attention in the evangelical system is the priestly story. This thread traces the theme of sacrifice in which one living creature can exchange life for another's pardon. We embrace this story in the Western Anglo-Saxon world. Jesus died so that we might live. We love this story and well we should. It is a major theme of scripture. We are somehow 'stained', just a bit off, or sometimes quite far off. We have 'sin'. 'A hole is the soul' says John Bradford. Something is not comfortable. Dustin Hoffman once said it was easy for him to take on various roles because he 'never felt quite comfortable in the skin I am in'. Something is lost, something is wrong, something in us. Normatively we are aware of the problem. We need atonement.  We feel guilty and long to be 'at peace'.

The second story is the exile and return story. It is the story of being out and then being invited or drawn back in. It is the kind of Genesis-Revelation story of being ousted from God's presence in the garden and then brought back to the garden. It is the story within the book-ends of scripture. The long journey back. It is clearly illustrated in the long suffering story of Israel in captivity, exiled from its homeland, making its way to the promised land lost known as Canaan. It is the journey to a place where we have never really been before. The feeling is captured in the contemporary U2 song "Walk On' in which 'you're packing a suitcase for a place that you've never been--a place that has to be believed--to be seen'. It is a journey of faith. We have the confident assurance (albeit continually challenged) of things hoped for but not yet seen. It is what our faith is. It is stepping on the first stair in a long flight even when we cannot see where the staircase leads. It is about trust. We may not see clearly but we make our way forward. We may not be all that sure where we are going but we are going. It in combination with the liberation story I will mention next helped fuel the Dr. Martin Luther King mountaintop speech where he declared.

'I just want to do God's will. And He's allowed me to go up to the mountain. And I've looked over. And I've seen the Promised Land. I may not get there with you. But I want you to know tonight, that we, as a people, will get to the promised land!'

This is the lost and found story. Paradise lost; paradise found. It is the story of journey. I have yet to arrive. I am 'working out my salvation' to use a Pauline phrase. I am making my way back to the garden. I may not get there with you but I can see the goal and am on my way with you. I stand against the arrows of the enemy on my way. It is a struggle but I will make it to the other side. I will get back to the garden.

Jesus speaks of this story often and particularly in the famous lost and found passages of Luke 15. The seminal story is commonly known as the parable of the prodigal son wherein a son goes to a distant country, a foreign land, but later comes to himself and returns to his home. He once was lost but now is found. Once dead now alive. God looking for his children to return towards Him. Is this not the hope of Israel in the time of Jesus? In thsi story Israel is the father's sons. She is at a crossroads. Choose this day whom you will serve. The words of Joshua can be echoed in the message of Jesus. Return to God. Let my people go. Come to me. Jesus recasts the old story in a new way. The way home is through Him. He will lead His people into the promised land. We will get back to Eden.

The final story is closely related. It is the justice or liberation story. The overarching theme in this motif is 'bondage and freedom'. It tells of bonds or chains being broken and people set free to live. The central story of Israel contains this overarching narrative. Israel needs deliverance from the tyrannical Pharaoh. From tyrannical Rome. From cruel Babylon. And we need our deliverance from our Pharaohs. Often these chains were (and remain) systemic and literal. People were intentionally held back and ground down. Sometimes it was imposed in an abusive physical and vicious manner. This motif says 'no' to oppression. It speaks of the justice of God, of fairness, of wrong made right. God is passionate about halting systemic injustice. He is passionate about setting His people free. This is the way Jesus introduces His call,

"The Spirit of the Lord is on me,
      because he has anointed me
      to preach good news to the poor.
   He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners
      and recovery of sight for the blind,
   to release the oppressed,
    to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor."

We have often spiritualized this message to the point of emptying the words of the powerful meaning they carried at the time they were delivered. People were under oppression. Slavery was common. Peasantry was a lifestyle which was continually under siege. This way of life was a reality for over 90% of the people living when Jesus spoke this message.

In Matthew 18 Jesus speaks of a widow being oppressed by another. She comes to the authority and pleads for 'justice'.

He said: "In a certain town there was a judge who neither feared God nor cared about men. And there was a widow in that town that kept coming to him with the plea, 'Grant me justice against my adversary.'  For some time he refused. But finally he said to himself, 'Even though I don't fear God or care about men, yet because this widow keeps bothering me, I will see that she gets justice'

Jesus goes on to say that God will hear the cry of the oppressed--and speedily. In other words, God is 'anxious' for this justice, he wants it to come--'yesterday' so to speak. A deliverer comes to 'set things right'. This is the predominant story in gatherings of the held down, pushed around, and abused peoples. And no wonder. For these people the good news is their lives will be changed forever when the boot of the enemy is rooted out. The 'gospel' is about God coming to deal with the oppressors that hold people under their thumb. It is one of the mainstays of many African-American and Latin American churches. It is the story of deliverance from the 'Egypt' of the ages. This story confronts the taskmaster that wants to 'rule like the gentiles'. It believes and lives in the knowledge that 'the least is the greatest' that the One who leads 'came not to be served but to serve'.

The emerging paradigm appears to have embraced these last two motifs when the conservative church has nearly entirely ignored them. When I first became a Christian, for example, I was warned of the 'social gospel'. I was told to step lightly when I read any type of propaganda that might be from a liberation theology source. 

The key to being in Christ is to embrace all three stories the same. One is no more important than the others. We are bought by the blood of God--yes, we are invited back to the table of God and are in transit with all people--yes, and we are to be champions of justice wherever we go, cognizant of our tendency to 'rule' when we have the 'upper hand'. We are eager to 'set that straight' in the power of God--yes.

If we emphasize one of these overarching themes at the expense of the others we have an incomplete and ineffective gospel. To ignore any of the trinity of faith is to miss the whole import of the gospel or good news. To walk in Christ any other way is to deny the faith and subvert the gospel's 'good news'. We need to reconcile with one another whenever our traditions have become weighted towards one aspect of the trinity over and against any other. We must come to grips with our tendancey to omit any of these stories.





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