From Reductionism to the Radical Middle - Just Jesus

David Ruis, Jun 08, 2022, 2:29 AM
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As we have gathered across the country - literally from coast to coast to coast - our journey has taken us from Yellowknife; to the mountains of the interior of BC; to the Peg and the Prairies; across Southern Ontario up to our Nation's Capital; into the Annapolis Valley of Nova Scotia and further up the Bay of Fundy into Saint John, New Brunswick. We felt the Spirit prompting us to visit our Vineyard family across Canada to curate spaces for us to come together, to re-centre, and to re-fresh. It's become known as the Worship, Wait and Weigh Tour.

For real, it has been beyond our expectations. It was our quest to regain a sense of equilibrium regarding our faith and practices in times that have been stretching and challenging us in ways we perhaps have never faced before in our modern, Canadian context. Although each setting definitely was unique, the underpinning sense of family and a rekindling of the Spirits engagement with us was unmistakable. We are so grateful. Each time we had a sense of something being so familiar, almost reminiscent, and yet fresh. We're coming home.

Just Jesus.

In all of society, the descriptor, "de-construct" has become a common way to describe where people are at and how they are feeling. Anxiety is at an all-time high. Uncertainty is certain. Working from home, the Gig-Economy, cost of living and the rise of unrest in our streets has us re-thinking a lot of things. In this time of remarkable shaking and dis-orientation, we truly believe that the Lord is graciously settling us and assisting us in establishing our footing as we continuously calibrate our compass to our True North.

Just Jesus.

A return to the simplicity of worship. The non-anxious place of waiting. The safe place of weighing, carefully, intentionally. Exercising discernment. A discovery together of what the Lord is saying, where He is leading us. It is an awareness of where we sense his affirmation and encouragement and yet also where He so kindly is leading us into, and through, true repentance. Step by step. The Father is at His work. It is His invitation. His voice. So, let us not "refuse Him who speaks." (Hebrews 5:25)

The Message Translation of Hebrews 12:27 seems to capture well what we are experiencing right now. "A thorough house cleaning, getting rid of all the historical and religious junk so that the unshakable essentials stand clear and uncluttered." The NIV continues the thought in verse 28 and gives us great language to unpack our desire for the various regional and national gatherings we have, and will experience together throughout this year, including our National Celebration in Calgary this July. "Since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us be thankful, and so worship God acceptably with reverence and awe, for our 'God is a consuming fire.'"

Just Jesus.

"Will you put up with a little foolish aside from me? Please, just for a moment. The thing that has me so upset is that I care about you so much—this is the passion of God burning inside me! I promised your hand in marriage to Christ, presented you as a pure virgin to her husband. And now I'm afraid that exactly as the Snake seduced Eve with his smooth tongue, you are being lured away from the simple purity of your love for Christ." (2 Corinthians 11:1-3 MSG)

The call to simplicity as it echoes the appeal of Paul in 2 Corinthians 11, is not to that of reductionism. In our sincere desire to be accessible and non-religious, have we unwittingly sown into a cultural wind that created a blow back whirlwind of shallow discipleship, a bait and switch church culture, a celebrity-based ecclesiology and a mission with no mission in it all, resulting in us being irrelevant and even worse mired in the quick sand of hypocrisy? Perhaps a key in Paul's correction to us is that it is in, as the NIV translates, "sincere and pure devotion to Christ" that we are most safe and avoid drift." Simplicity and devotion is about decluttering as opposed to any dumbing down. In fact, the clearer we can see, the deeper we can go.

"Blessed are those who are pure in heart, for they will see God." An understanding of the NT language around "purity of heart" is not so much  about morality, or as Dallas Willard would call it, "sin management", but rather that of being "single hearted." A deeper truth of being "one thing." Not being duplicitous or divided. Pure. A courageous step into truth. Honestly. Vulnerability. It echoes the sentiment of Jesus in John 3 to be those who "worship in truth."

Just Jesus.

So, in our avoidance of  reductionism, the call is to be radical. As we have often said in the Vineyard, the "radical middle." Oxford Languages defines the word radical, especially regarding change or action, as "relating to or affecting the fundamental nature of something; far-reaching or thorough." To get back to the core. Its depth. Its deep meaning.  When used in the mathematical world, it describes the root of a number. You can solve almost any exponential equation using radicals. Far from dumbing anything down, it is getting to clarity. To the root.

"So then just as you received Jesus Christ as Lord, continue to live your lives in him, rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness. See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the elemental spiritual forces of this world rather than on Christ." (Colossians 2:7-8 NIV)

Just Jesus.

So let us continue on this quest of the decluttering of our theologies, liturgy and practices that end up blurring our vision. Clouding our understanding of who Jesus is, what He calls us to, and where He is taking this whole thing. For us, Jesus is not "in the fine print." He, His work, and His Way, are at the core of who we are. A gospel engagement that propels us free from the gravitational pull of a reductionist understanding of salvation into that of the "radical middle" of the Gospel of the Kingdom.

Just Jesus.