"Vulnerable Faith"

In an age where Christian faith is often equated to modern-day personal fulfillment – “the good life” – Jamie Arpin-Ricci offers an inspiring and challenging picture of faith rooted in vulnerability before God and others. Through the story of St. Patrick and the example of AA’s 12 steps, Arpin-Ricci’s personal exploration of a risky and authentic faith pushes the reader to place the life of faith in a proper – and honest! – perspective.

Check Vulnerable Faith: Missional Living In The Radical Way of St. Patrick.

Here’s some of my highlights:

Goal: “Rooted in the fabric of Scripture and enlivened by the Spirit, [transformation] is a matter of following a journey with Christ that leads us from an isolated pretense of sin into Spirit-empowered communities of Christ.” (19)

Quoting M. Scott Peck on “pseudocommunity”: “In pseudocommunity a group attempts to purchase community cheaply by pretense. It is not an evil, conscious presence of deliberate black lies. Rather is an unconscious, gentle process whereby people who want to be loving attempt to be so by telling little white lies, by withholding some of the truth about themselves and their feelings in order to avoid conflict. But it is still a pretense. It is an inviting but illegitimate short-cut to nowhere.” (43)

On the loss of hospitality: “Christian hospitality, a central tenant of our faith that has waned in practice over the centuries, owes much of its demines to these fears and impulses toward self-perseveration.” (64)

On the illusion of perfect church unity: “I can say with confidence that anyone who has spent their life as part of a Christian church community knows that any apparent appearance of a perfectly unified body in all (or even most) things belies the levels of difference and disagreement that hide just below the surface.” (72)

From the example of the devastation felt at Jesus’ death and burial in the tomb, Arpin-Ricci challenges the reader to examine our own experience of emptiness and vain attempts to hide this emptiness with money: “Willingly embracing the emptiness of the tomb is more difficult for those of us in places of privilege. We have so much ‘stuff,’ so many activities and endless sources of distraction and busyness to fill any potential emptiness, that our pretense is better fortified against any attempts to expose it, whether through circumstance or intentionality.” (87)

On faith and community: “Community is the inevitable and essential result of faithfulness, inseparably linked to the work of God in our hearts and in the world. Having humbly exposed and repented of the pretense that kept us in bondage to fear, we are able to divest ourselves of the sinful impulses of selfishness and self-preservation. Choosing to empty our hearts of anything that would compete for our faithfulness to Jesus, we make room for the new life born within us through the work of the Holy Spirit among us. It is not enough that we die with Christ, but we must also share in His resurrection as members of His Body, the Church.” (104)

The witness of failure: “Do we honestly believe that the best witness we can have as Christians before a watching world is to show moral perfection? While that might convince some, our odds of pulling it off seem less than slim. In truth, the most compelling witness to our faith can be a willingness to humbly accept responsibility for our failings and seek to restore relationships at any cost.” (109)

On proximity: “As we share life of mutual belonging in proximity with each other, we intentionally do so while participating in the fabric of our neighborhood, as we try to live out Christ’s love in ways that are most meaningful in our particular context. We find ourselves shopping together, playing together, working together, and living together. It is through active relationship and service to (and with) our neighbors that our witness becomes embodied and more meaningful. I think this lends our community a humble authority and a certain measure of credibility in our neighborhood.” (115)

On Jesus and shalom: “Shalom is what love looks like in the flesh. The embodiment of love in the context of a broken creation, shalom is a hint at what was, what should be, and what will one day be again. Where sin disintegrates and isolates, shalom brings together and restores. Where fear and shame throw up walls and put on masks, shalom breaks down barriers and frees us from the pretense of our false selves. Jesus, the truth incarnate, is the very embodiment of this shalom.” (149)

Book provided by Paraclete Press (www.paracletepress.com)

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