Everyday Spirituality: Sacraments and Piano Lessons

Part of an ongoing series on Everyday Spirituality, this is a guest post by Linda Peacore. Linda and I were classmates at Fuller Theological Seminary in the early 1990s. She went on to get a PhD in theology from King’s College, London, and she now resides in Pasadena and teaches at Fuller. I recommend her book, The Role of Women’s Experience in Feminist Theologies of Atonement, which I wrote about here.

If you’d like to write a post for this series, please contact me through my website.

Tony’s recent posts on “Everyday Spirituality” very much resonate with my Christian life. As a mother of two school-aged children and a part-time professor of theology, spiritual disciplines take on a particular shape in the routines of parenting and work. Reflecting on this kind of everyday spirituality got me wondering about sacraments specifically, and how they might look in an ordinary life of someone like me.

In the church, we speak of sacraments, which primarily refer to baptism and the Lord’s Supper, two important practices which signify God’s grace in our lives and in the Christian community. They are the traditional ecclesial acts that represent God’s promises and mark God’s people. Sacraments serve as vehicles by means of which we confirm our participation in the grace God offers us through Christ and consequently in the fellowship of the covenant people. And through them we confess our faith; they are enacted pictures or symbols of God’s grace in Christ.

While baptism and the Lord’s Supper are the principal sacraments of the Christian church, we also speak of sacraments in a more general way, and this is where I find connections to everyday spirituality. Sacramentality is the idea that God uses all kinds of physical objects, experiences, and actions as a means of extending grace to us.

In my teaching on this subject I often use a clip from the film Babette’s Feast to illustrate this concept. The film culminates in an actual feast that Babette prepares and which could be considered a sacrament of grace as it brings reconciliation and celebration to the community. We might also say that Babette herself is a sacrament as her talents are a gift of grace to those around her. Through the work of the Holy Spirit, the people are transformed as a result of the meal and the person of Babette. What might our lives be like if we were attentive to these sacramental experiences, these moments when God’s grace is presented to us as a mysterious and lovely gift?

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Progressive Talk about God: Lots of Throat Clearing

So, my Challenge to Progressive Theo-Bloggers has been well received, prompting many responses from across the blogosphere. You can see the Storify stream where I’ve been curating all of the posts, poems, and even tweets that have come in.

There have been some objections, and I’ve got some observations. First, the objections.

Firstly, I wrote,

Write something substantive about God. Not about Jesus, not about the Bible, but about God.

That prompted responses like this:

Maybe Benjamin is right and I misunderstand revelation, but I actually think there are lots of things to say about God without talking about Jesus. Jews seem to be able to do it.

That’s not to say that your vision of God shouldn’t be christocentric. I think it should. But as a Christian, you should also be able to articulate aspects of your doctrine of God without referencing Jesus of Nazareth.

To that thread, a comment by Brad was echoed in a tweet by John:

Dear John, you’re a theologian! That’s who you are to say things about God. Please note, I did not ask you to write a comprehensive theology of God. I asked you to write something substantive about God. If you can’t say anything substantive about God — whether it be to me, or to the person sitting next to you on a plane — then I just don’t see how you believe anything at all.

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Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove Hopes

This post is part of the Patheos Book Club. Check out the Book Club for more posts on this book, an interview with the author, and for responses from other bloggers and columnists.

There’s a lot that Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove thinks and write that I agree with. His last book, for instance, inspired me to write about Why I’m Staying Put. He and his family are committed to staying in Durham, NC, and my family and I have made the same decision about Edina, MN.

He’s got a new book out – The Awakening of Hope: Why We Practice a Common Faith – and I agree with this one, too. A lot.

UPDATE: This post was accidentally cut off at this point. Here’s the rest of the post, as intended:

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A Challenge to Progressive Theo-Bloggers

I’ve been writing recently about the problems with liberal Christianity, and I had a thought this morning. It was prompted by a recent phone conversation I had with the managing editor of a major publishing house, combined with my faithful listening to the Theology Nerd Throwdown podcast, and the silliness of all the hand-wringing about Chik-fil-A.

These have prompted me to think that progressives have a God-talk problem. That is, progressives write lots of books and blog posts about social issues, the church, culture, and society. But we don’t write that much about God. That is, we don’t say substantive things about who God is, what God does, etc.

You might say the same thing about conservative Protestants (i.e., “evangelicals”). But the thing is, their people pretty much know what they think of God. It’s well-known and on the record.

Progressive/liberal/mainline theology, on the other hand, has a PR problem. We might think that people know what we think about God, but they don’t. It’s clear in the comments on this blog and elsewhere.

It really struck me yesterday, when listening to a recent edition of the TNT podcast, in which Tripp repeatedly and forcefully said things about who God is and how God acts. He didn’t relativize those statements with qualifiers, and he didn’t cowtow to political correctness or academic jargon. That was jarring to me because it so rarely happens.

Thus, I have a challenge:

I challenge all progressive theo-bloggers to write one post about God between now and August 15.

I mean, all of you: Fred, Scot, Rachel, MPT, John Shore, everyone at the Patheos Progressive Portal, and all of you I haven’t mentioned or even ever read. Write something substantive about God. Not about Jesus, not about the Bible, but about God.

Leave the link for me as a comment here, or email me the link through my website. I’ll collect them in a Storify thread, and I’ll publicize them all here.

UPDATE: Tweet your post with the hashtag #progGOD

UPDATE: Follow all of the posts as they come in on the ProgGOD Storify.