I’ve been reading Ian Mobsby’s new book recently on New Monasticism (what with it being and interest of mine) and inevitably came upon the chapter that often comes in such books about identification with the poor and powerless. Ian quotes the ever quotable Shane Claiborne, himself a New Monastic, and he says this:
‘The Christ we follow has a difficult, harder path – one of downward mobility, of struggling to become the least, of joining those at the bottom.’ – Shane Claiborne.
Having preached a stinker of a sermon yesterday where I challenged myself to the core, let along the congregation, I’ve very much been in touch with my long term struggle…that of the weight of wealth. You know, its relatively easy to live close to the poor as a Salvation Army officer, to side with them, to advocate and to identify personally through the not-so-generous-but-enough officer’s salary. Indeed, there were some situations we’ve served in where, as officers on an officers allowance, we were the biggest earners in the corps! I have to say I find it a big challenge where I am now in Gosforth. That won’t surprise you and I have to confess I really struggle to live amongst opulence.
What is worse, I came to the shocking place where I realise that for the first time in my life, I don’t personally have any regular interaction in communities where life is a daily struggle and where I can engage in my call to ‘to care for the poor, feed the hungry, clothe the naked, love the unlovable, and befriend those who have no friends’ (from the SA officers covenant), a covenant vow which I now live out in context of my relationship to the Matthew 25 lifestyle of the Order of Saint Leonard.
That, for me, means that my life is out of kilter with my fundamental calling and requires a radical shift. You see, when you hear your call and you then covenant your life in commitment to that call and those values, it shapes your decisions before you even make them. It is one thing to campaign, keep up the public pressure, and shout about poverty. It is quite another thing to do something about it and live the incarnational life.
The New Monastic lifestyle is a combination of monk and friar…availability to God in the privacy of the prayer place and availability to the world in a commitment to the streets. It was Jackie Pullinger who once said that Christians should have soft hearts and hard feet that will mean they are willing to walk anywhere…instead, we have hard hearts and soft feet that means we rarely move beyond our comfort.
Downward mobility. The last. The lost. The least. No escaping the call of the Kingdom.