Interesting thoughts about the power of specific words to communicate (or not!) spiritual ideas. Brian McLaren has been playing with a number of metaphors for the last few years; and he has written an article about six that strike him as having special promise.

I quite liked this one:

The dream of God. I frequently try to put the prayer of the kingdom (what we often call “The Lord’s Prayer”) into my own words so that I don’t just recite it on autopilot. But I often struggle with how to paraphrase the clause “your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” Since the language of “will” can take us down a trail of control, domination, and coercion, and since I don’t believe those ideas are in Jesus’ mind, I have looked for other words.

The Greek word that lies beneath our English word “will” can also be translated “wish.” But to say, “May your wish come true” sounds fairy tale-ish and creates other problems. But I have found the idea of “the dream of God for creation” does the job nicely. “Your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as in heaven” could thus be rendered, “May all your dreams for your creation come true.” This language suggests a more personal, less mechanistic relationship between God and our world. It would resonate, for example, with a mother who has great dreams for her child, or an artist who has great dreams for a novel or symphony he is creating.

But definitely not this next one!!!!

The party of God. Jesus often compared the kingdom to parties, feasts, and banquets. Today we could say that God is inviting people to leave their gang fights, workaholism, loneliness, and isolation and join the party, to leave their exclusive parties (political ones, for example, which win elections by dividing electorates) and join one inclusive party of a different sort, to stop fighting, complaining, hating, or competing and instead start partying and celebrating the goodness and love of God.

Just today I met some folks from a church in Minneapolis who demonstrate this metaphor in a dramatic and fun way. A group of them gather on a street corner in a poor part of town. They take overturned trash cans, old pots and pans, and an assortment of drums and other percussion instruments and start creating a loud, joyful rhythm. Soon a crowd gathers. It’s impossible not to smile when you hear the joyful music being made mostly from junk. Homeless folk and people from the neighborhood start dancing. Then the church members start distributing food—not in the somber style of a soup kitchen, but in the joyful atmosphere of a street party. They don’t have to say a word, really; they’re demonstrating their message—that the kingdom of God is like a street party to which everybody is invited.

First association that crossed my mind after simply having read “party of God” was party politics, specifically the current hatred between Republicans and Democrats and all the corruption that party politics always swarms in. Noooooo to “party of God”! It sounds totally political. Even if McLaren was aiming for another kind of party, as he explained above, then it just falls into a rut for me as well, as in “partying all night long” and the images of hoardes of college students with drinking binges and loud detestable music in the background come up.

The network of God.

A bit too corporate for my taste.

The dance of God.

Sounds totally newagey, yuck.

I also agree with people who know that Churches need to reach out to youth and not just focus on their captive (older, more conservative) audiences. Sometimes, the message needs to be packaged in a successful “youth” vocabulary. Would “God’s ‘hood” work better? If it were successful where other words had failed in reaching out to certain groups, then, a nice first step, I would say.