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6 Responses to “Plate Appearances”

  1. Mark says:

    Instead of communion, isn’t it more about vision – seeing that a small investment of time, energy, effort yields a bigger reward than one could ever hope for? As Willard says: vision, when combined with intention and means, leads to real change. Or are you saying that communion is the primary driver of vision? I think vision is seeing, hearing about, even experiencing actual acts of supernatural love in action. In that sense, communion clearly does impart vision. But vision is also helping people re-imagine themselves doing those same acts themselves, even if not now capable. We can do this by providing concrete examples of love in action. Isn’t this essentially what Jesus did in Mt 5?

    I do think that communion provides a reminder, and in that sense does impart vision, but is it’s weekly frequency a critical?

  2. Larry Taylor says:

    I once read of a major league hitter whose daily batting practice included swinging through a narrow area on a hanging string defined by two knots, one just below the other. He did so several hundred times a day so that swinging through the sweet spot became second nature. That’s what I’m picturing from your statements regarding “unconscious competence.” I’m also thinking about how unconscious competence is supported by James K. A. Smith in “Desiring the Kingdom.” Smith believes that we move through life from womb to tomb more by feeling our way through it than thinking our way through it. The center of gravity for every human, he says, is the heart “kardia” (the seat of all physical AND spiritual life) not the head, the seat of cognition. He says rituals make habits that form practices which ultimately become liturgies. If I’m melding what you’re saying about “unconscious competence” with what Smith is saying, I’m understanding that to develop successful life practices that bless God, my neighbors, and my loved ones requires daily rituals of shalom that become second nature. For me, that means taking a road less traveled than the road I’ve been on. For sure, I’m not there yet…not because I don’t want to be, but because I need to develop some new habits.

  3. Mike Metzger says:

    Larry: Nice summation. You got it. In fact, the more I think about it, the more I wish I hadn’t included Jesus’ “right hand left hand” statements. It blurs the main point, as you have stated so well. Left hand right hand is built off the assumption that culture is whatever is habituated – points I don’t bring up in the short column. The old maxim is: don’t try to make two points in one column!

    I blurred the main point because, when it comes to giving, the right hand left hand statement leaves out too much. Some giving is private (as Jesus discusses here) and some is public (as in the case of the Philippians gift). It’s a tension – giving is cognitive, planned, and regular. Yet the desire to give sacrificially ought to become a habit. Both/and.

  4. Peter Frieswick says:

    Hey Mike,

    You’ve pointed out in this and other posts that we need to be conscientious about our habits, even overwriting negative ones with positive ones. In regards to communion, is it merely enough to engrain the habit in us? Is it any more meaningful that we do communion out of habit, instead of a conscious decision? As you stated in your article: “practice doesn’t make perfect. Practice makes habit.” It doesn’t mean that we understand why we are doing a thing, it just means that we know how to do it. Throughout your article you hit on this again and again.

    I agree with you that conviction is not a mere matter of cognition, but are we really better off with enculturation? I assume that culture, whether it be in an institution or in our society, is built out norms that come from repetition and habituation. But does habit alone prove our belief in the system, or only our uncritical compliance with the status quo? Belief does not just mean a change of outer behaviour, because if it did there would be no need to chastise hypocrites; it also means a change of the heart.

    I also agree that sporadic church attendance is problematic, because it takes continual immersion in the church and in the things of God to achieve shaloam. As you put it: “It takes practice, practice, practice.” I just wonder how much of meaningful worship and obedience is habituated practice and how much is choice. Given that human beings are prone to become acclimatized to their surroundings, would it not be better to celebrate communion say once a month as a conscious reminder of why we do what we do, as opposed to getting into an unconscious rut by doing it every Sunday?

  5. Mike Metzger says:

    Peter: Thank you for taking the time to comment. Here’s my take: choice is overrated. Second, we aren’t “better off with enculturation,” as you put it. It is reality. Rotate with planet or get splinters. James K.A. Smith’s “Desiring the Kingdom” is the best take on that fact that we are enculturated beings – and these cultures form our desires. It takes an extraordinarily conscientious individual to continually place themselves in cultures that makes them increasingly self-aware. In “The Quest for the Holy Grail,” it was called a Roundtable.

    This is why any habit, from golf to God, takes practice. If I play 18 holes once a month, it won’t be much of a habit. But habitual doesn’t necessarily mean acclimated, as you suggest. I know men and women who never – and I mean never – tire of playing golf. They are enculturated without it becoming a boring routine.

  6. Mike Metzger says:

    Hi Mark:

    Dallas Willard writes: “The ‘Western’ segment of the church today lives in a bubble of historical illusion about the meaning of discipleship and the gospel. We are dominated by the essentially Enlightenment values that rule American culture.” Willard goes on to say this is evident in our disembodied approach to transformation. Vision is embodied in means – our body and its practices.

    “In creating human beings in his likeness so that we could govern in his manner, God gave us a measure of independent power,” Dallas Willard writes. “Without such power, we absolutely could not resemble God in the close manner he intended, nor could we be God’s co-workers. The locus or depository of this necessary power is the human body. This explains, in theological terms, why we have a body at all. That body is our primary area of power, freedom, and—therefore—responsibility.”

    For thousands of years before the Enlightenment, people believed we learn by our bodies, not just our brains. The ancient Judeo-Christian tradition pointed to the first two recorded stories of human knowledge. “And when the woman saw that the tree was good for food… she took of the fruit thereof, and did eat, and gave also unto her husband with her; and he did eat. And the eyes of them both were opened, and they knew that they were naked.” Knowledge for Adam and Eve, even the corrupted kind, involved their bodies, not just their brains.

    If you look closely at this story, you see the deepest reality of the crated order – take and eat. This is experienced by most of us at least three times a day. How often it is experienced in your church?

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