Jubilee Visions: Daily Lifestyles and Christian Thinking

So here we are: the
February, pre-Jubilee conference Ministry Exchange. The big question
looming for me is, “what to review?” The glorious conference theme of
the creation-wide renewal Christ bringsdidn’t
we sing “far as the curse is found” just a month ago?will
be explained as you discuss and invite folks to Jubilee. Students should
know that coming to this event is, if not utterly unique, certainly pushing
towards a vision not yet commonplace in most churches. It is special and
importantthey’re in on something!
What books can I mention that might help you here in the final days of
Jubilee promotion AD 2001?

Let me first mention
a great way to bring up the implications of faith for daily life, inspired
by Gathering at the Table, the $2.00 booklet I promoted
(through Scott Calgaro) at January staff training. This is a handsome
little booklet on how cooking and eating–and all that that entails,
from going to the market to cleaning upcan
be seen as an invitation to celebrate God’s presence and provision. In
a nutshell, this essay offers a Christian perspective on dining and therefore
can serve as a perfect, practical example of Jubilee thinking.

Happily, its framework
is both practical and symbolic. That is, it reminds us of the need for
just agricultural practices (in a world where someincluding,
ironically, those who pick and harvest our fruits and vegetablesdon’t
have enough food to eat, it is simply wrong to not be attentive to justice
issues) and at the same time, it describes eating in the nearly liturgical
sense of being at table, sharing bread. To say it again: it emphasizes
practical mattersgood, homemade stuff
is nutritionally and economically wisestas
well as the more symbolicsimple attention
to good manners and table aesthetics can illustrate deeper truths about
the nature of the good and the beautiful in God’s world.

The booklet is garnished
with delightful quotes from writers like agricultural essayist and Christian
farmer, Wendell Berry, and the wild and woolly Episcopal chef Robert Farrar
Capon (whose spectacular Supper of the Lamb was used in
new staff training about 15 years ago). Add a few prayers by Catholic
mystics and some very helpful details about kitchen staplestomato
sauces, salad dressings and the likeand
you have a perfect way to understand the Jubilee vision thing, eating
and drinking to the glory of God!

This book raises the
Big Question of Connections. If we know that we and our churches live
from the bread and wine placed on our Sunday table, blessed and shared
by God, what must we do about all the other tables of our lives? If God
has called us not just to “see” the world differently (a wholistic worldview)
but to embody that in a distinctively Christian lifestyle, what better
place to begin than the very ways we approach one of our most obvious
daily experiences? How do we connect faith and life, spirituality and
the ordinary, our fallenness and our feasting?

This wise booklet
starts with an invitation to reflect on the meaning of eating and the
richness of the experience of gathering for meals. It reminds us that
food has something to do with our relationships with our bodies, other
persons, the earth, even God. Other writers have said this, of course,
but this booklet says it so simply. In a more lengthy treatment of food
and meals in the Bible, Breaking Bread: The Spiritual Significance
of Food
by Presbyterian educator Sara Colvin Juengst, we learn
how central Jesus’ meal-sharing (prefiguring the last supper) was to his
hospitality; some theologians even talk about “table theology.” In fact,
there is an incredible children’s book which traces the uses of food in
the Scriptures; written by a professor from Saint Vincent’s in Latrobe,
it is called God Speaks to Us in Feeding Stories; it wonderfully
shows that, in the Bible, food can reveal much about God and His reign.

It is very interesting
that Gathering at the Table and a little companion book
of table graces and prayers, Giving Thanks at the Table
is published by a Roman Catholic press, Liturgy Training Publications.
LTP usually publishes books about creative worship, liturgical renewal
and serious Eucharistic theology for parish renewal. That they believe
good worship leads to a spirituality of the mundane and a daily discipleship
informed by liturgical insights should come as no surprise. That our Jubilee
conference invites cultural reformation and Christian thinking goes without
saying. But will it all make a difference in our daily practical lives?
Do we really believe that our celebrations of faith in the Hilton ballroom
inform and reform our daily lives? Jesus promises to give us big things
to do if we are faithful in little things. If you want to model “baby
steps” for your Jubilee students, carry this inexpensive essay around
with you, pass a few out, invite folks to apply some of it–even ask
students who eat in the dining hall to reflect on how it might work out,
even there.

Wendell Berry, I’m
told by a friend, recently visited a Christian college renowned for its
commitment to Jubilee-style integration of faith and learning. When asked
what he thought such a Christian institution might do to enhance its vision
and embody greater faithfulness, Mr. Berry quickly responded with a germane
proposal to reform food purchasingbuying
from local farmersfor the dining hall
and the consequent eating habits of students.

The erstwhile President
of said institution brushed him off, citing financial matters which make
such practices impossible.

Perhaps our studentsnurtured
in radically-committed fellowship groups, intentional discipling relationships
and gaining hopes and dreams and imagination at Jubileewill
take prophets like Berry more seriously. If so, Gathering at the
is a very nice place to begin.


While I’m on a food
theme, allow me to invite youparticularly
women, or those who work with womento
enjoy a fresh-brewed life. That’s the coffee metaphor Nicole Johnson shares
in Fresh Brewed Life: A Stirring Invitation to Wake Up Your Soul
(Word, $12.99 paperback). Complete with frothy coffee recipes, this guide
to daily spirituality is a delight to read, packed with ideas which will
percolate long after you’ve finished each chapter. It covers everything
from awakening to God’s presence in our “longings,” invites readers to
the habit of journaling, and looks at topics such as anger, beauty, sexuality
and friendship.

Perhaps you will be
convinced to check out this tasty brew if I tell you that one of the features
of each chapter is a sidebar where Johnson shares recommended movies and
CDs for that section. How many Christian books know enough to cite “That’s
What the Lonely is For” by acoustic folkster David Wilcox? Or recommends
films like The Fisher King or books like (get this)
Succulent, Wild Women
by the artist SARK? This book is surprisingly
interesting and, for a middle-American evangelical press, rather edgy
and unique. Fresh-Brewed‘s thesis is that God is calling
us to wake up, to shout an enthusiastic “Yeeesss!” to life. Immensely
practical and simply written, this could be a guide which helps encourage
a sense of being reflective about one’s life, solid Christian truths and
Kingdom vision into women’s ordinary life issues. Forgive the indulgence
when I say that I found it “good to the last drop.”


It’s almost a sure
thingafter, if not during, the Jubilee
conference–that a student is going to look
at you eagerly and ask, “So what’s the deal with postmodernism?”

Or, the wiseacres,
mocking our tendency to abstraction and intellectualism, will loudly insist
that they have no interest in learning about a word they can’t even spell.
(I wonder if Bill Painter recalls me refusing, on populist principle,
to attend a 1976 conference on hermeneutics. “Herman Who?” was the cheap
joke, and I’m still embarrassed at my display of not-so-witty anti-intellectualism.)

So. You need to know
a bit about postmodernism. I’ve said it a hundred times here that Walsh
& Middleton’s Truth Is Stranger Than It Used to Be is the
best book on the subject, despite it’s depth and breadth. (It is not
the hardest work on the subject, but as a mid-level book, it is a serious
read.) Stan Grenz’s Primer on Postmodernism is quite useful,
too (with the first chapter comparing the old Star Trek and the
new almost all one needs to know). Gene Vieth, while perhaps seeming a
bit too attached to the modernist project, has a very readable and fascinating
book called Post-Modern Times.

For worried beginners,
though, I think I have found the best introduction yet: the brand new
The End of the World As We Know It by Chuck Smith of Calvary
Chapel fame (Multnomah Press, $17.99 in hardcover only). This may be the
most user-friendly guide to the shifts in our culture yet done. Gladly,
it does not dumb it down so much that collegiates would find it shallow,
nor does it try to avoid some of the more complex aspects of pomo philosophy,
art or pop culture. It quotes most of the right books and recommends the
most important primary sources. Still, it is a basic read, written with
clarity and a simple, light touch. Very commonplace stories illustrate
Smith’s points nicely. His constant focus is on how this new era, demanding
new paradigms, affects our mission and ministry; he even maps out some
new strategies for faithful witness and service.

Supplement any of
these titles with Os Guinness’ nicely written, critical reflection, A
Time for Truth
(which I bravely reviewed in these pages a few
months back), and the fab audiobooktrax of Len Sweet’s (SoulTsunami),
and you will be set to talk seriously with students who have kept their
ears open at Jubilee and want to know more.

It is a gift that
we bring to our young friends, you all know, helping them understand the
basic debates amongst the scholars in the academy where they witness,
helping them to engage the philosophical ideologies reflected in popular
culture and mass media. The Jubilee conference to a large extent is about
this “taking every theory captive,” which necessitates diving into the
realm of ideas like postmodernity. But it also means less abstract aspects
of sanctification, too. As we walk alongside studentssharing
with them our own journey of daily faithful living, interpersonal growth
and Christian scholarshipperhaps these
resources will be of use. Perhaps you will be drawn to deeper Jubilee
visions and uniquely Christian ways of living yourself.