The Common Good

Rob Bell Is @&^*!ing With Me (#FTW)

A view of "The Shire" from above the village. Photo by Tripp Hudgins.
A view of "The Shire" from up on the hill above the village. Photo by Tripp Hudgins.

Rob Bell,...what a jerk. 

I'm spending some time with Rob Bell this week. It's reading week at the GTU and it just happened to be the same week that Rob Bell was hosting one of his "events." It's Rob and 90 other people in a room taking about Spiral Dynamics, competition in ministry, Jesus, and other things that are fun to discuss. It's a good thing. So, since the timing could not be better, I made my way down I-5 to Lauguna Beach a.k.a., "The Shire."

I'm now contemplating relocating here to finish my Ph.D.

Already, Rob has me thinking. Rob Bell is @&^*!ing with me. He's not actually singled me out, but there it is no less. He's the tallest impish human being I have ever had the pleasure to meet. Whip smart and creative, he presents a familiar, open artist's palate of the movement of the Holy Spirit. The underlying question for Rob, as he states that God redeems everything, is simply this: Are we paying attention? He speaks with such joy. He's fired up. It's good news. He's dragging me in. "Everything belongs," Rob says, quoting Richard Rohr.

What a jerk.

Are we listening to the invitation to participate in what the Holy is up to? It's a spiritual posture...a social, relational, political, ecclesial posture. It's a way to share in everything and to put everything we have into whatever it is that is being asked of us. As my old Richmond, Va., haunt, The Corner, used to proclaim, "nothing matches but everything fits." Dare we live that way?

The people gathered are openly asking questions about leadership and service, about creativity and community. They want to know if they should start new churches or businesses. They are working out how to rearticulate their visions of what they are called to do. Men, women,  some expressly religious, others not so, we're all simply wondering what's next and how might we live more fully into what we have already been given. 

It is so simple, really. It's not all that new, but I am hearing it anew. Like the peeling of an onion, every so often I find myself at the same place but a little more deeply so. It's good news...or so I'm told.

I'm still chewing on the details. Rob is simply articulating clearly the questions with which I continually struggle. He's doing it with such abandon that I feel like he's @&^*!ing with me. Happily so. He's @&^*!ing with all of us.

We're gathering again tomorrow. I'm taking the night off to spend time with my friends here in Laguna. And I needed to process. This is just the tip of the iceberg, but here's the first thought that came to me as I was listening. 

The eschatological is improvisatory, the Anticipated God sounds the future pulling us into Grace. I may have spent a goodly part of the afternoon playing music in the sunshine. I need to keep doing this work...even thought I cannot begin to tell you the details of what's next. I know I'm finding my voice at the same time that I'm figuring out how to get out of the way. It's a push-pull that is challenging to articulate. 

Rob Bell...what a jerk. 

Thanks be to God.

Tripp Hudgins is a doctoral student in liturgical studies at the Graduate Theological Union in Berkeley, Calif., and associate pastor of First Baptist Church of Palo Alto, Calif. You can read more of his writings on his longtime blog, "Conjectural Navel Gazing; Jesus in Lint Form" at AngloBaptist.orgFollow Tripp on Twitter @AngloBaptist.

Photo credits: Image of the author having his mind blown during day one of Two Days with Rob Bell, and image of Rob Bell blowing Tripp's mind, by Cathleen Falsani for Sojourners.

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