Tuesday, June 10, 2014

A Summer of Discontent

One of the consequences of being a professional religious person is that I know too much about "How Things Work."  Beyond the beautiful and transcendental moments where the Divine brushes up against us mere mortals, I find myself immersed in bookeeping and adminisration, board meetings and planning sessions.  And that's just on the local scale.  This summer, several denominational bodies (United Methodist and Presbyterian Church USA) are meeting to make "big policy decisions" and it promises to be tense.  Issues of Same-Sex marriage, Divestment (relating to Palestine/Israel issues), and more are up on the table for discussion and no matter the outcome, there will be wailing and gnashing of teeth.  

To a world that is increasingly disinterested in anything the church has to say, our seemingly inter-nicene struggles appear absurd.  I know they aren't - I know that they are part and parcel of having a church bigger than two people.  Big groups of people have to have rules about how they function together and what their uniting principles are.  I get it because I have to do it on a small scale in my own church.  But truthfully, it is absurd too.  

I'm reading the book of Acts this summer because I'm preaching out of it.  Every week, I'm taking my congregation through these stories of struggle and joy and love and power and I read it and I'm humbled.  The early church had NOTHING.  No power, no structures, no doctrine, just the stories of Jesus as told to them by the apostles/disciples.  And the Holy Spirit filled them up and spun them out into the world.  The church grew to include eunuchs and gentiles and former temple prostitutes... a motley crew united around the story of Jesus.  They loved each other and they turned their eyes outward and they saw and healed and loved and prayed.  

I know that we can't be the church of the book of Acts.  Time passes and cultures rise and fall.  Though my own denomination began as an attempt to "restore" the church to it's NT roots, that's idealism.  We cannot help but exist where we are.  But does that mean that we have to accept the current state of the church?  This church that fractures and focuses inward, this church that bloodily rends itself apart and writhes in public view of a world that grows more and more disenchanted with our shrieking?   I'm tired of the fighting.  I'm tired of the ultimatums.  I'm tired of language that views younger generations alternately as economic prey or whores of popular cultural sentiment.

I know that we can't be the church of the book of Acts.  But maybe we can, just for a moment, consider what it would be like to set aside our theological wars.  To look at our neighbors, the neighbors that we have major disagreements with, to look at them and love them.  To love them and extend our hands to them and say "You and I can do great things for God.  Together we can do even more." To love them and take their hands and to leave behind our battles and find a way to turn our eyes toward a broken world.  To see that broken world and to, together, love and heal and pray and bless.

I can embrace that absurdity.  I think the world would too.  Perhaps that's what Paul was getting at in Ephesians, when he said that in Christ, the walls between us come down.  Our differences may still be vast - but I have to believe that we still could be One.

1 comment:

Jack M said...

That will preach!!!