“Seedy Mob”# 1: 1 Peter 2

urban-seed-church-logo[10].JPG
Royal Priesthood, Holy Nation, Seedy Mob!
My rant at Urban Seed: church last Sunday. (June 19)


royal priesthood, holy nation, seedy mob!
1 Peter 2:2-10

Like newborn infants, long for the pure, spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow into salvation- if indeed you have tasted that the Lord is good. Come to him, a living stone, though rejected by mortals yet chosen and precious in God’s sight, and like living stones, let yourselves be built into a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.
For it stands in scripture: “See, I am laying in Zion a stone, a cornerstone chosen and precious; and whoever believes in him will not be put to shame.”
To you then who believe, he is precious; but for those who do not believe, “The stone that the builders rejected has become the very head of the corner,”
and “A stone that makes them stumble, and a rock that makes them fall.” They stumble because they disobey the word, as they were destined to do.
But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s own people, in order that you may proclaim the mighty acts of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.
Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.

You are a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a seedy mob!
Significant week at Urban Seed! The announcement was made that Pieter Keldan wont be returning from his extended leave. A long term ex-ressie, staff member, with a tireless solidarity for broken people, a belligerent commitment to truth at all costs, a break the boundaries creativity mixed with a DIY practical genius that has borne the culture of our Street and Hospitality work through many difficult moments. You don’t ever replace that!
In our “sacred song” in which we sing our “core values” we sing Seeds they grow and seeds they die and during the same week the BUV approved funding for the new “Urban Seed: church”. On both counts I’m gripped with a refreshing exhilaration and a gut wrenching fear and sadness.
As I have often found at our Seeds Bible Gatherings, the discipline of looking to the common readings of the universal church (Revised Common Lectionary) bears fruit, gives solace and insight and this Sunday gave us the images of what it means to be church from 1 Peter. I found them encouraging at the outset of this new venture that is Urban Seed: church and so I want to explore these images and compare them with one of our own.
Some of these images resonate strongly with me.
Like newborn infants, long for the pure, spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow into salvation- if indeed you have tasted that the Lord is good. Come to him, a living stone, though rejected by mortals yet chosen and precious in God’s sight, and like living stones, let yourselves be built into a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.
Like newborn infants the majority of Urban Seeders have been young, certainly in age; for some in the faith; and for many in the discovery of new faith they have found through being re/converted to the Christ who comes to us from the margins and the marginalised. Like an (Urban) seed people have joined us in order to grow in an understanding of salvation that (as it says in the logo) truly engages faith, community, culture, indeed all creation.
Having a wife who is a midwife and children of our own I am struck by the young babe longing for pure milk as a powerful image of determination to survive and thrive, desperation and necessity, intimate beauty passion and focus.
It’s often said that we “punch above our weight” as a small organisation. Anyone who has hang out for any period of time would know this is not because we are highly efficient. We are busy and committed but as a whole I think we DON’T work harder than others. Hopefully this is because we are conscious of not becoming slaves to a works based culture that excludes and hurts many and which we seek to prophetically reform. When it’s been at its best I would suggest that the unique energy and creative charism of Urban Seed has derived from the restless and deep spiritual longing of its people akin to a child looking for the breast.
How’s your spiritual search?
Jesus spoke of the KOG and children, Our need for God is like that of children.
Primal image.Slimy, bloody bundle of life crawling up mums tummy.
Seek and you will find.
The other image, that of living stones, is basically the Urban Seed logo. In the midst of the concrete jungle, Urban Seed was started to bring new life to an inner city church who’s stones have been here since Melbourne began and that has struggled with the weight of its history and institution. Residents were invited to move in with the idea of rebuilding the “spiritual” house; that the stones may live! Perhaps this sense of spiritual house or home has been experienced most around the table at Credo Café where (to use another image from the text) many with no other home have come both physically and spiritually to taste and see that the Lord is good.
At one level it is sad that this gathering isn’t taking place in the old building. For lots of reasons Urban Seed: church has not found its home at Central House. As people of our generation we once again find ourselves in the belly of an inherted church building. Here in a new, old building, again a mission of largely a bygone era in a very changed location, Docklands, struggling to make the connections.
What does this mean?
Looking out over the city on the central house roof during our city walks we make the point that architecture does relfect values. Our meeting places for “church” are no different.Our grandparents built cathedrals, contemporary mega churches look like mega mart, in response some prefer to retreat to private space of house church, lounge room. Emerging church it seems you need a café and a digital projector.
The gospel isn’t abstract truth, it always comes in a cultural package. It incarnates in real places.
The medium is often the message.
Lot of reaction as to where we would locate.
Collins Street
BUV and Corporate buildings in Docklands
Strengths and Weakness of meeting in a place like Mission to Seafarers. But the reminder that church is never just about buildings, locations and methods,
The stones must live! Its about People and bodies, relationships and connections
The seed in the logo is always busting out.
Malvina Reynolds Song:

God bless the grass that grows through the crack.
They roll the concrete over it to try and keep it back.
The concrete gets tired of what it has to do,
It breaks and it buckles and the grass grows thru,
And God bless the grass.

These images may work for us but as you keep reading they become positively dissonant. Chosen race, Royal priesthood, Holy nation.
What springs to mind when I say……
Chosen Race: Nazi Germany, South African Apartheid, Rawandan Genocide
Holy Nation: A George Bush speech about America or Jihad driven Islamic terrorists
Royal : Charles and Camilla
Priesthood: Paedophilia
Perhaps a more easily redeemable image of Royal Priesthood this week is our own Rev. Tim Costello receiving a Queens Birthday award.
These images don’t so easily resonate with the Urban Seed republican sentiment in a post colonial, post Christendom context dominated by the fear of religious fundamentalism. This dissonance is good though because it brings us closer to how I think the initial hearers of this letter may have felt. Perhaps for very different reasons than us but nevertheless…..
Dissonance could well be the aim of the author, making a plea to the small, fragile seedlings of the early church, buffeted by persecution, uncertainty and struggle to re-imagine themselves in radically different categories to that of their own and others perceptions. Even though you feel like a small and insignificant group.
These images of community derive from the Hebrew Bible. In Genesis 12 the word of God lands on a settled villager, transforming him into a wandering nomad. “Go from your familiar surroundings,” the Lord tells Abraham. “I will make you a GREAT NATION and through you I will bless all the families of the earth.” He was not, however, called as an isolated individual, but rather to be the father of a great people, a nation, a corporate body. Nor was he called for his own sake but rather that through him all peoples would be blessed. The ancient Israelite call was not tribal or narrowly nationalistic but was universal, for the sake of the blessing of all people.
When in Genesis 35 Jacob gains the crucial name of Israel, it is so that a great company can come from him. In Genesis 46, when Israel is called into Egypt, God emphasizes that they are there in order to become a people. Coming out of Egypt, on the first trip to Mount Sinai, God tells the straggling band of fleeing slaves, “you shall be my own possession among all peoples, for all the nations of the earth are mine and you shall be a kingdom of priests and a holy nation” (Exodus 19:3-6).
Israel was called into community to be the PRIESTHOOD of the earth, the holy people through whom the blessings of God would flow to his creation. Whenever individuals are called it is for the sake of the corporate call of God, not their individual blessing. In addition, this priesthood does not exist for their sake but for others. The call into community is also a call into service.
The holy people, however, defaulted on their call. The chronicler of the history of ancient Israel who wrote the books of Kings compacts that history into one oft-repeated sentence: “And Israel did what was evil in the sight of the Lord.” What was the evil that Israel did? As it is recorded in the book of Kings, they built ivory palaces, enlarged the conscripted army, adopted the medium of exchange of other nations—which included worshipping their gods, and expanded its empire. The people who had spent forty penitential years wandering in the wilderness and learning to trust in the daily providence of God now trusted in their self-constructed fortifications; the energy that once went into forming themselves into the people of God now went into building more elaborate palaces; the time that once went into listening for the word of God now went into bargaining and haggling in the marketplace. God’s plan was to call and bless all nations through the seed of Abraham but Israel abandoned the call. Called to be a holy priesthood, they became a paramilitary empire; called to be a servant community, they exalted their hegemony over other nations.
From this one man, Jesus, a new people came. Pentecost was the creation of a new people, the formation of a new Israel, not on account of the flesh but on account of the Spirit. The church, Paul says in the letter to the Romans, is now heir to the promises and the responsibilities of the old Israel. So we find in 1 Peter an echo of Hosea addressed to the new Israel: “You are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s own people, that you may declare the wonderful deeds of him who called you…Once you were no people but now you have received mercy” (1 Peter 2:9-10).
The sign of the formation of the new Israel is that the nations, Gentiles, are coming into the promises of God too. This was the crisis of Paul’s ministry—the conflict between the chosenness of the descendants of Abraham after the flesh with their divinely granted Torah and the fact that the Gentiles were receiving the spiritual blessings of God in fulfillment of the equally divine promises of the prophets. Paul resolved the conflict by choosing the promise of a new covenant over the givenness of the old covenant, the Spirit over the Torah, the future over the past.
The call of the descendants of Abraham into peoplehood was for the sake of other nations, but Paul implies that the new Israel is constituted to redeem the whole cosmos. “All things, things in heaven and things on earth” are to be brought under the lordship of Christ (Ephesians 1:10). Christ is to be the head of his body, the church, but this body will someday extend to “everything” so that “God will be all in all” and the universe will realize that it is held together by the lordship of Christ. Not just the church, not just all peoples, but the whole cosmic system will be the body of Christ, will be Christian community. This is the farthest reach of the plan of God which began with the call to Abraham.
Images of the people of God.
SEEDY MOB
Tonight Focus on the Seedy word, next week the mob.
UMU was renamed Urban Seed in 2001.
Big Table: generosity of the hospitality of God, the great banquet parables from Lukes gospel.
Mark 4 The Kingdom Parables

WE ARE SMALL

EF Shumacher’s “Small is Beautiful” economics, design. Very influencial on the Christian community movment in Melbourne from the 70’s from which Urban Seed has grown.
Big Church Welfare industry that has emerged but had little connection with the worshipping life of actual communities of faith.
Creativity and Freedom in being and staying small.
Margaret Mead: “Never forget that a small group of committed dedicated people can change the world, indeed it is the only thing that ever has”

WE ENGAGE BEYOND OURSELVES IN THE SEEDINESS OF URBAN LIFE

Dorothy Day love relentlessly digging to the deepest roots of a problem, piet
Drug Addicts in the laneway, those on the margins but also with
the top end of town corporates who dont always seem to do business in legit. ways.
Jesus guilty by association with the Seedy people and issues of his time
prostitutes and lepers, Gentiles, tax collectors.

SEEDY AS IN DODGY, LIKE ISRAEL WE ARE COMPROMISED, BROKEN AND IN NEED OF GRACE

Like Israel we don’t always get it right.
Urban Thneed or Truffala Seed? Was the haunting question by one ressie invoking the almost sacred apocalyptic text of The Lorax by that contemporary prophet Dr. Suess. Where the Lorax is the prophetic voice commodification of Truffala Trees into thneeds.
It expressed a concerned that in that making choices to become less dependent on the institutional church for our funding that we were becoming more dependent upon corporatations that don’t share our story and values.
The danger of engagement in the seediness of the world at times seems compromise.

WE HAVE HOPE

Seeds and potential
Sowing Seed in the grounds of despair
Mark 4 the mustard seed The Greatest of Trees where the birds of the air can nest in its shade.
Actually a very political image in the Old Testament, as political as royal priesthood, chosen and holy nations.
Both Ezekiel and Daniel use the image of a tree when speaking of the dominant powers of his day, Egypt and Assyria.
Urban Seed Church, The Seedy Mob is not just a residential community at Central House, nor a lunch and prayer time, recreation club for homeless people, nor a small creative staff team,part of meeting here in this new way is the hope that many different birds of the air can nest in the branches.
Whilst often small any connection that we share with anyone in Christ is ultimately a window into something bigger, that calls us beyond to a vision of the Kingdom/Economy of God where all people are included.

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