Desires: Who and What Do You Love?
February Term 2015
Each winter, we take a month to "get on the same page" by combining our adult Sunday discipleship classes and studying an issue that has bearing on how we live our lives as Christ-followers no matter what age or stage of life we find ourselves in. This year our Winter Term is moving to February (and to the Fellowship Hall) to connect with Corey Widmer's Lenten sermon series on the Seven Deadly Sins and to help us think more deeply about how we are shaped by the culture in which we live. The February Term will culminate with preaching and teaching on March 1st from Calvin College professor and author James K. A. Smith, whose book, Desiring the Kingdom: Worship, Worldview, and Cultural Formation, is helping us frame the conversation about how what we know what we really desire, and how we shape our lives so that we desire the right things.
Desire, Practice and the Kingdom of God
While it's not an absolute, most of us would recognize and agree with Augustine that we are "desiring agents," or, put another way, that "we are what we love." The things we desire shape how we live and what we live for, and we will order our lives around behaviors and activities that focus on what we desire and how to get it--whether that's wealth, prestige, love, admiration of peers, or some other measure of success.
But while that seems obvious (if sometimes unsettling), author and professor James K. A Smith suggests that there's another angle on the relationship between desire and action, one that Christians should be especially aware of. Smith argues that it's not just that our desires shape our actions, but that, on the contrary, many of the ordinary, habitual activities we engage in during our day to day lives actually shape our desires. These "secular liturgies" (that we often follow without fully realizing it) train us to desire things other than (and sometimes opposed to) the Kingdom of God.
Malls, stadiums, and universities are actually liturgical structures that influence and shape our thoughts and affections. We may well believe that the values of our culture are wrong, and even speak against them, while being shaped by what we do with our bodies every day--engaging in rituals of consumption, for instance, that actually train our minds and hearts the same way repetitive exercise trains our muscles.
Dr. Smith's book Desiring the Kingdom explores the theology of culture and outlines the way we easily slip into "being conformed to the world" (that is, are deformed by our practices) in this way, but also explores the way the specific shape of Christian liturgy--the practices of Christian worship from ancient times to today--are a powerful force for proper spiritual formation. He suggests ways that we may be more attentive to how our culture shapes our desires, and redirects our yearnings to focus on the greatest good: God. Ultimately, Smith seeks to re-vision education and other key institutions through the process and practice of worship.
For the first four weeks of the February Term our speakers will walk us through some of the desires we are being trained to embrace, and suggest patterns of life that we can adopt to re-train ourselves in the footsteps of Christ. On Sunday March 1st, the last week of the February Term, we'll take a slight turn with Dr. Smith, himself, as our speaker, and talk about the second critical component of a life aimed at the Kingdom of God: an imagination likewise trained on what God tells us is good, true and beautiful.
Imagining the Kingdom is the the second volume in Smith's series on secular liturgies, and that Sunday morning at Third will be the closing day of a city-wide weekend of events, workshops, and public lectures by Dr. Smith on the role of imagination in worship, the arts, Christian education, and even public affairs in a post-Christian culture.
So plan on joining the whole body and friends of Third as we seek a common vision of and desire for God's Kingdom in our lives, in our city, and throughout the world. Five Sunday mornings February 1- March 1 at 10:15 AM in the Fellowship Hall.
If you're interested in reading Desiring the Kingdom ahead of or during the February Term, contact Tom Barila for a copy. For an approachable introduction to Dr. Smith's work, also check out Discipleship in the Present Tense.
Our February Term happens each Sunday Feb. 1-March 1 at 10:15 AM in the Fellowship Hall.
Presenters and Topics for the February Term:
(Click on a title for the audio)
February 1: Corey Widmer
February 8: Richard Haney
February 15: Lisa Ould
Desiring each other: Relating to reflect the Kingdom
February 22: Randy Raggio
Desiring God: Practices that shape us for Christ
March 1: James K. A. Smith
Imagining The Kingdom
More on Dr. James K. A. Smith
James K.A. Smith is professor of philosophy at Calvin College where he holds the Gary & Henrietta Byker Chair in Applied Reformed Theology & Worldview. The award-winning author of Who’s Afraid of Postmodernism? and Desiring the Kingdom, his most recent books include Imagining the Kingdom (2013), Discipleship in the Present Tense (2013), Who’s Afraid of Relativism? (2014), and How (Not) To Be Secular: Reading Charles Taylor (2014). His popular writing has appeared in magazines such as Christianity Today, Books & Culture, and First Things and periodicals such as the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, and Detroit Free Press. He is a Senior Fellow of Cardus and serves as editor of Comment magazine. Jamie and his wife, Deanna, have four children.
Additional information is available at his website, and you can follow Jamie Smith on Twitter: @james_ka_smith