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Friday, March 12, 2004

Main Street

Main Street experiences?! I love this topic and the Main Street/Church Street sign on the UCC homepage is wonderful! First, I’ll confess I’ve never read Lewis’ Main Street, so I’ll run with some images and impressions. BTW, many years ago I spent an interesting citified summer on West Main Street.

That particular urban locale aside, for me the name “Main Street” kindles a generic picture and a general metaphor. My picture is from New England or somewhere in the American Midwest; it’s a single central street lined with shops: hardware store, drugstore with soda fountain, flower shop, curio shop, bookstore, coffee/sandwich shop and maybe a down-home-cookin’ restaurant. Ages ago a poem I wrote included the phrase, “The Colonial’s a restaurant on Main Street” [Hudson, Ohio]. This Main Street sports one or two branch banks, the town offices and – at one end of the commercial strip – the absolutely requisite iconic white-steepled church building, most likely Congregational, possibly Presbyterian or Lutheran, but you’d better believe it’s big “P” Protestant!

My Main Street picture has featureless people, but my Main Street metaphor is primarily a lifestyle that includes a describable type of person. Here’s a start: this Main Street Person [MSP] wants to belong - to be homogenous yet stereotypically distinctive and noticeable; trendy and up-to-date about ideas, politics and general styles of everything like attire and apparel, vehicles, home furnishings, recreation pursuits and vacation venues without being on the cutting edge of much of anything; spiritual, but without real commitment to institutional religion or to the radical way of Jesus...this MSP is anything but counter-cultural and not remotely willing to disengage from whatever society’s mainstream conventions have become for the moment, the particular moment that’s (very) close at hand. Do you remember Charles Schulz’s Lucy as psychiatrist with her, “The Doctor is in...The Doctor is Real in?” Well this MSP is real, real “in!”

How does my life and style as a Christian correspond to this MSP? And, should it - or not? The “Main Street” subject relates to our discussion over in Evangelism and to the “12 Steps for the Recovering Pharisee (like me)” book thread. Last summer we talked about “evangelism in the vernacular,” in a twist on Luther’s insisting on “worship in the vernacular” as a mark of the true church. Peculiar people as we’re supposed to be, we also need to be appear enough like everyone else that they can identify with us and therefore with the reasons we’re in Christ (aside from God’s calling and election of us, but that’s a different subject for another day).

Recently I’ve been reading again Walter Brueggemann’s Biblical Perspectives in Evangelism (I originally read it a couple years before the UCC E-Forum became so active, and I wanted to see how my perspective had been changing). In that book he talks a lot about living “gospeled” lives, which include keeping covenant, keeping the Sabbath and keeping the tithe. During this Lent I’ll be participating in a live(!) discussion of Lauren Winner’s new book, mudhouse sabbath. nd, some time ago I read Marva Dawn’s book, Keeping the Sabbath Wholly: Ceasing, Resting, Embracing, Feasting (Eerdmans, September 1989). So I’ll conclude by saying one of the distinctions and contrasts between the MSP and what my lifestyle as a Christian needs to be involved the way I keep Sabbath! And I’m planning to continue this topic some other time.

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