4) Finally, I wanted to ask what it means to live this stuff out. Are there different approaches for Kingdom living? How do we work on becoming a part of God's Kingdom? Any thoughts or advice you have would be great.
Well this is the issue isn't it? How do we do this? If you ask me how does my community live this out I would have to answer honestly... not very well, but we are trying to get better.
There are many different approaches, and many different avenues. What we have decided to do is to go down a weird hybrid of the house church network, and the intentional community path. Others have chosen to focus on intentional community and monastic practice, while everyone attends different churches. Some have chosen to stay completely committed to their denominational church, or the Catholic church while practicing radical community and social justice like the Catholic worker communities. Some have decided to continue their work in the midst of the city, or the suburbs. Some have decided to move out of the mainstream and try to live off the grid.
The issues are so very complex, that it is never easy to make a clear answer to what should anyone do. We can hardly figure out what we should do, which makes it very ridiculous to give much advice to others. But we have learned some principles that have helped us along the way. The first is that we need to realize that we are stronger, wiser and more complete as a group than as individuals. We should spend the time to talk, to discuss, to sit in silent waitfulness, and then to make a decision as a group. I even let my group decide which speaking engagements I should take, or even if I should take a long vacation. Why? because I can figure out lots of reasons to make my own desires sound the most efficient and credible path, I need others that are just as committed to the path to help me figure it out.
A perfect example is worship. We meet on Monday nights for a communal meal, and a discussion or some kind of reflection upon the scriptures. There are mostly Christian people (though from radically different perspectives), but a few non-theists that are with us regularly. So we talked about worship as something we would like to consider a part of our regular practice without being alienating towards those that don't recognize a personal deity. We talked about it, and came up with this idea: We can all realize the good that comes from being thankful, and from appreciating the wonder and beauty we see in life. So let us take time to reflect and share about things we are thankful and in awe of as a regular part of our time together. It is all about learning to grow together.
The best advice I could give is that we first need to recognize the upside down nature of all Jesus says. Don't take revenge, forgive. Don't seek for security, but trust. Don't seek fortune, but be stupidly generous. Do not accept injustice, but resist it non violently even if it means your death. It is not the people that are most talented, wealthy, or holy that are blessed but those that learn to serve the poor, the marginalized, the sinners the heretics, the sick, the imprisoned ect. is completely at odds with how this world operates
Secondly we need to recognize we have a whole system that is built to teach us, to pull us, to push us and threaten us to continue in the hierarchical structure of oppression. Whether it is the lies of consumerism, or the fear of violence from bad men, everything in our society is designed to support the structure of power and hierarchy.
And then realizing these first two, we must also realize that we need a community to both live an alternative to this hierarchy, and to see clearly how we must address the needs of our current world, thinking both globally and locally if possible. It is in these communities that we practice the ideals that the world needs in order to move past the hierarchy of power and wealth. But it is also in these communities that we figure out how to live as a community to address some of these issues in ourselves and our neighborhood. It would be my goal in our "network" that we would have many small groups that have different flavors of the revolution. Some might be more concerned with economic justice, some with restorative justice through the penal system, others might be focused on racial reconciliation, others might have radical anti war and non violence activists, ect. That we would all support, and encourage one another in all of these kingdom tasks, as well as be educated by each other as to how our everyday lives can help us to address these concerns.
I have an amazing vision of several community houses that take in those in need, that share food, and that grow it as well. Of small groups that meet in homes to eat together and learn how they can begin the journey towards a new way of being human, living in this kingdom of God. Of places where people can come to learn trades, good work, work with integrity and value. Building things, growing things, helping people rather than just making money for its own sake. Of studios where we can practice the creativity that is in each of us, making art and healing in the process. I have a vision of a group of people that are as committed to each other as they are to changing the world. I am a dreamer, I have lived 45 years, suffered much failure, little success, and quite a bit of ridicule, yet I still believe.