One of the seductions that continues to bedevil Christian obedience is the construction of utopias, whether in fact or fantasy, ideal places where we can live the good and blessed and righteous life without inhibition or interference.
The imagining and attempted construction of utopias is an old habit of our kind. Sometimes we attempt it politically in communities, sometimes socially in communes, sometimes religiously in churches. It never comes to anything but grief. Meanwhile that place we actually are is dismissed or demeaned as inadequate for serious living to the glory of God. But utopia is literally “no-place.” We can only live our lives in actual place, not imagined or fantasized or artificially fashioned places.
A favorite story of mine, one that has held me fast to my place several times, is of Gregory of Nyssa who lived in Cappadocia (a region in modern Turkey) in the fourth century. His older brother, a bishop, arranged for him to be appointed bishop of the small and obscure and unimportant town of Nyssa (a.d. 371) Gregory objected; he didn’t want to be stuck in such an out-of-the-way place.
But his brother told him that he didn’t want Gregory to obtain distinction from his church but rather to confer distinction upon it. Gregory went to where he was placed and stayed there. His lifetime of work in that place, a backwater community, continues to be a major invigorating influence in the Christian church worldwide.
Eugene Peterson, Introduction to Eric O Jacobsen, Sidewalks in the Kingdom: New Urbanism and the Christian Faith, Baker Publishing Group.
The Latest From Our Blog
Check out articles, featured illustrations, and book reviews on all different topics related to ministry.
I know that not all of us come from so-called “liturgical” traditions, but all of us do use a liturgy of sorts. Liturgy is a compound Greek word meaning “public work” that is associated with the corporate act of worship. A liturgy is any expression of that public...
I’ve heard a lot of sermons during the past 60 years. And I’ve preached a bunch too, well over a 1,000 sermons during my years as a pastor. So, I was surprised when, a couple of weeks ago, I heard something in a sermon I had never, ever heard before. I was shocked....
Gentled by grace. That’s the incredible and inspiring story of Abba Moses the Black. He was a violent thief who became a humble and kind monk and one of the great Desert Fathers who served the Lord Jesus Christ in the 4th Century. From his life we see an example of...