I own a home in Buena Vista. I'm not particularly proud of that.
Amy and I moved to Rockbridge County believing that God had called us to ministry at Washington and Lee University, which is in Lexington. Why, then, did we buy a house in Buena Vista, 15 minutes away, disconnected from the campus? Our decision to buy the house in Buena Vista was a step away from incarnation. Why did we do it?
Well, it's pretty simple, really. We could afford a house in Buena Vista. We couldn't afford to buy in Lexington, in walking distance to campus. We liked the house...and, and everyone knows that the smart move to make with your money is to buy, especially now (that is, in 2006), when housing prices are on the rise. Renting is just throwing money away and you can't just throw money away.
Now, this isn't a huge deal. Don't mis-hear me and think I'm going into some depressive, self-flagellation. God's really blessed us. I'm grateful that he's given us a home and we've used that little, old house in Buena Vista for some amazing, incarnational ministry (think about the 20somethings Group and the LDS community). God redeemed our decision, but I think it was a bad decision.
We all (or at least Amy and I) have these mental scripts that guide our behavior. And our scripts don't naturally lead to incarnation, to the things called for by Ramez, Shane and Oscar: new alignments, changed expectations, caution around wealth, humility, powerlessness, poverty and sacrifice. The incarnational value of emptying yourself, the value that pulses in the heartbeat of the kingdom of God, clashes with the rhythms of the kingdoms of this world.
Throughout the series of talks by Ramez, Shane and Oscar was woven the theological theme of kenosis. In Philippians 2 we see that in the incarnation, Jesus emptied himself, made himself nothing, dove to the bottom so that he could be with us. In his mission, he didn't commute down from heaven every day. He didn't even own a home, much less one in Buena Vista. He had a different script, a script that includes kenosis.
And this is hard for us to hear. The language of kenosis, pried from the hands of the church and plastered on the billboards of the state becomes something ugly: dictatorship, communism, or worse. Kenosis at knifepoint ceases to be beautiful.
But kenosis should be beautiful. That Jesus and his followers would voluntarily empty themselves, make themselves nothing, dive to the bottom to be with the poor and needy and broken and shamed and afraid...that's beautiful. This language of kenosis belongs to the church, to God's people. It's ours. We shouldn't shy away from it. We should lean into it. God calls us to lean into it. We should call eachother to it. Empty yourself, make yourself nothing, dive to the bottom, engage in radical, incarnational kenosis. That's what the incarnation is about.
So, what's the incarnation about? It's about the kenosis, stupid.