Thursday, October 28, 2010

rob bell on eucharistic paradox

I had never read any of Rob Bell's writings, nor seen his videos. A number of clergy friends and younger (and by that I mean 30 and 40 something) members of our church are Rob Bell fans (it's an accurate description), and his presence at the Duke Convocation was the likely reason for the unprecedented attendance, even with Andy Crouch and N.T. Wright also on the schedule. Rob Bell was the draw.

Bell is the pastor of a large church in Grand Rapids, Michigan (Mars Hill, the name taken from Acts 17) and his topic was "Eucharistic Paradox". I assume that Bell shaped this lecture/presentation around the audience, one that in this context (Duke) is both evangelical and catholic. He began by quoting an hilarious interview with Bob Dylan, pointing to the absurdity of Dylan's answers, and holding this material in tension with the singer-songwriter's profound body of material. This led into a reflection on our need to consider the heaviness and the lightness of the gospel. He held in juxtaposition the command of Jesus to "take up the cross and follow" with the promise that "his yoke is easy and his burden is light". A pastor/preacher in our time takes the gospel very seriously but understands that the outcomes are beyond our control. He interspersed reflection on criticism in the church ("sheep have teeth"), the need to take a sabbath, and the importance of family ("your children do not care how large your church is", he insisted, "they don't care!").

Bell communicated three helpful truths for clergy: first, there will always be critics; two, we will fail a great deal of the time (a point also made by Andy Crouch); and three, the need to find a balance of engagement and withdrawal, following the example of Jesus. He also voiced the simple but profound truth that as life flows out of us (the bread broken and the blood poured), we also need to receive and be restored.

I was impressed and blessed by Bell, and hope to spend time with his books and short films in the near future.


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