Wednesday, January 14, 2004

The Fellowship Factor

It has been only a few days since I returned to the placid winter shores of Lake Okanagan from what has long been called the Whore of the Orient. Shanghai, I believe, deserves this title no more or less than anywhere else but that is what it has been called. During my stay there I discovered the profundity of aloneness. This was no mission trip with other salivating evangelicals eager to proselytize the unwashed masses, it was a work term to test the waters before bringing my tribe to live there. I had no contact with any other believers and other than the cheesy Christmas music so ironically blaring through the malls brimming with Chinese shoppers there was no hint of humanitiy's symbolistic efforts to reach Christ. No churches, no dusty religious section in the bookstore, no Hollywood limelighted gospel namedropping, no trappings whatsoever (unless you count the strangly figured fat man in red). From this particularly isolated vantage point I found that many of the residual misgivings I had about the overwrought organised church and its Sunday morning oddities were exposed to the elements and could no longer hold their form. I may have fought this at first with all the self-righteous fervor and zeal I could muster in the face of the gale, but to no avail. I thought perhaps it was just homesickness at best or a perverted sense of culture shock at worst, but this too blew away. When I descended from my isolated abode I bore within my hands a purer revelation than ever I had known before. In a tiny way I understand now how Paul could say that he yearned for the people of the churches with the bowels of Christ. I forget sometimes that these people too were organised in a fashion they could understand, they too had their odd little rituals that some of the crew thought to be too confining. They had all the shitty little quarrels and petty striving we know, and yet Paul yearned for them with the bowels of Christ. I have discovered that the thing of it is that he yearned for the people. The people. I yearned for the people. I found that all the other shit didn't matter. I found that even that worship guy who plays all the wrong music would have been a most welcome sight on the streets of Shanghai. The pastor who seems elevated and esteemed in his own eyes would have been most welcome at my table. I found that the people are all that I cared about. After all, this is where the Spirit of Christ resides.

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