Or, Why We Practice an Open Table
Message by Jason Storbakken
Communion Sunday (1st Sunday of every month)
For apart from inquiry, apart from the praxis, individuals cannot be truly human. Knowledge emerges only through invention and re-invention, through the restless, impatient, continuing, hopeful inquiry human beings pursue in the world, with the world, and with each other.
—Paulo Freire, Pedagogy of the Oppressed
Liberationists from Gustavo Gutierrez to James Cone articulate a theology that deemphasizes the primary importance of theology and thus emphasizes the necessity of praxis as the first act of the Christian life. Throughout his work, Gutierrez explains that theology must be the second act. Praxis comes first and then theological reflection.
James, the half-brother of Jesus, writes in his epistle:
“What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if you say you have faith but do not have works? Can faith save you? If a brother or sister is naked and lacks daily food, and one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and eat your fill,” and yet you do not supply their bodily needs, what is the good of that? So faith by itself, if it has no works, is dead.”
But someone will say, “You have faith and I have works.” Show me your faith apart from your works, and I by my works will show you my faith. (James 2:14–18)
When we replace the words “faith” with “theology” and “works” with “praxis” we begin to get a grasp of the importance of an integrated Christian life. What good is it if someone claims to have theology but has no praxis?
James is basically asking: What does it matter if someone grasps the key doctrines of the faith but does not have Christ’s love for the poor and oppressed?
Praxis is not merely the practice or outward action of the faith. It far surpasses mere deeds or acts of service. Praxis is a holistic expression of faith that integrates all elements, personal and social, into the life of the disciple and demonstrates that integrated faith as the inward-outward tension of the Christian witness.
The Christian life begins with an encounter with God that leads to transformation.
Jesus’ Parable of the Banquet
“Then Jesus said to him, “Someone gave a great dinner and invited many. At the time for the dinner he sent his servant to say to those who had been invited, ‘Come; for everything is ready now.’ But they all alike began to make excuses. So the servant returned and gave the report. Then the owner of the house became angry and said to his servant, ‘Go out at once into the streets and lanes of the town and bring in the poor, the crippled, the blind, and the lame.’ And the servant said, ‘Sir, what you ordered has been done, and there is still room.’ Then the master said to the servant, ‘Go out into the roads and lanes, and compel people to come in, so that my house may be filled. For I tell you, none of those who were invited will taste my dinner.’”
Praxis involves the participation in right relationship with God, one’s self, and others. It implies genuine participation in the life of Christ, a life aimed at ministry to and with the poor, blind, imprisoned, and oppressed.