I got home late last night after making my way across the country through the storms. In this last year it seems like every time I need to travel for Synod (or ED search) storms disrupt my air travel plans. It is beginning to feel sacramental.
In the airport in Minneapolis where I had a few hours to kill I saw this tweet in my stream.
— Jes Kast-Keat (@JesKastKeat) June 19, 2014
I didn’t know for sure what it meant, but I guessed it was the PCUSA opening the door to celebration of Same-sex marriage. I saw this morning that I had guessed correctly.
These fights tear me up inside
I remember as a young man the decades of warfare in the CRCNA over women in church office. I remember the rounds of Synods and Classes opening and shutting “doors”. I remember votes in our classis about seating women elders.
Every classis meeting the churches who oppose seating women elders at our classis remind us of their pain. Just as I don’t want the women silenced neither do I want these churches silenced. Whether or not I feel their pain is justified they do labor in pain and they try to labor faithfully despite their pain. I respect them for this just like I respected the women who labored in pain when they were shut out of speaking or serving in the assemblies.
There is plenty of pain to go around. I’m not interested in adjudicating whose pain is more justifiable and whose victim-hood more severe.
I had always been on the “pro” side of women in office. I inherited that position of my parents, but I never had the heart to celebrate when the votes were counted. There were always losers and I always felt that the church lost something too.
I was singing to myself in the shower this morning the stanza of the hymn The Church’s One Foundation.
4 Though with a scornful wonder
Men see her sore oppressed,
By schisms rent asunder,
By heresies distressed:
Yet saints their watch are keeping,
Their cry goes up, “How long?”
And soon the night of weeping
Shall be the morn of song!
Not Just About the Politics of Exclusion
This morning I read another painful piece of a young adult leaving her CRC.
I don’t know the situation. I frankly don’t want to know.
Pastors can be horrible gossips. Pastors tell the stories of the folly of their fallen comrades sometimes with too much relish. It hurts to hear those stories. It hurts to hear them told.
Broken. Broken. Broken.
Heaven Invading Earth
Why am I still ruminating on synods when I should be finishing my sermon for Sunday? The stuff in my mouth usually gets chewed together.
After a conversation with a friend at Synod I was pondering Bill Johnson, the pastor of Bethel Church in Redding’s assertions about the nature of the church. The heart of his thesis is that the church brings heaven to earth and so we should not settle for anything less than the healing and riches of heaven here in earth through the church.
This was the entire focus of Jesus’ ministry, and it’s a great word of authority to us. Whatever we bind has already been bound. Our task is to see what is bound up there, and then bind it down here. Whatever is free in the heavenly realm to function needs to be released here. We are to be a gateway people for the free flow of heavenly realities into this planet.
Johnson, Bill (2014-06-17). The Supernatural Power of a Transformed Mind Expanded Edition: Access to a Life of Miracles (Kindle Locations 689-692). Destiny Image, Inc.. Kindle Edition.
Powerful idea. “Thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.” Amen. Jesus taught us to ask for exactly this.
I’m always a bit skeptical of the boldness of applying these claims. I don’t doubt that God heals people miraculously in response to our cries. God is generous and gracious.
I’ve also never seen a faith healer bold enough or successful enough to empty a hospital. Why ask the disabled to make their way to your church when we have the names and addresses of hospitals and nursing homes filled with the sick and the dying ready to have heaven break in on their lives and restore them to the health we all long to enjoy?
Jesus did do this.
Matthew 4:23–25 (NET)
23 Jesus went throughout all of Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the gospel of the kingdom, and healing all kinds of disease and sickness among the people. 24 So a report about him spread throughout Syria. People brought to him all who suffered with various illnesses and afflictions, those who had seizures, paralytics, and those possessed by demons, and he healed them. 25 And large crowds followed him from Galilee, the Decapolis, Jerusalem, Judea, and beyond the Jordan River.
Jerusalem, however, always seems to follow the outbreak of the Galilean.
The Cruciform Shape of Old and New Israel
You can’t read the Old Testament without appreciating the capacity of the Jewish people for hope and disappointment. The Jews had to sit on the promises for hundreds of years enduring cycles of genocide, occupation and catastrophe that leaves them strangely unique among the cultures of the ANE in their capacity for endurance. Where is the religion of Marduk or Ra today?
Even when according to Christianity their God came and lived among them they were divided by Him and some of them decided death was the best way to remove his pesky voice from their culture war.
The presence of God in this age it seems is never fully gay, it is almost always cruciform.
Jesus bringing heaven down to earth involved a darkening sky, the cry of Psalm 22, and the tortured naked body of God’s own son hung out for his enemy’s amusement.
Broken. Broken. Broken.
I am no shoemaker and I don’t seem to have elves.
There is still a broken water pipe under the cement that Maury and I have not yet found. I still have friends and family who do not gather around the Lord’s table. The strangeness and costliness of Christ’s presence in the age of decay remains in the midst of people who profess allegiance to Christ and those that don’t as we continue our perpetual war over right and wrong, good and evil, truth and stupidity. Humanity seems to creep one step closer to its self-annihilation.
It is at this point when the vision of humanity’s full calamity is before me that I recognize that our savior is not a book, or an institution, but nothing less than the Son of Man who holds the seven stars and to whom is given a kingdom and invades our space whether we want him to or not.
The gospel is not finally a creed that I employ to save myself or my loved ones, nor is it a set of instructions to fulfill to insure for myself a set of desired outcomes, it is the news that God came to us as a man to be butchered by our barbarity and for our brokenness only to rise again with the inaugural flesh of Creation 2.0. We hear the lion and see the lamb. A Christian is someone who trusts Jesus more than him or her self. We either run from or run to this lionly lamb.
This is the one we proclaim. This is the one we grow to trust. Not our ideas. Not our agendas. Not our activism. He is making all things new even as we decay and the world kills itself. I look to him to give me the strength to serve.
The Rest in the Song
So as I work on my sermon I’ll sing the other verses of the song I know.
1 The Church’s one foundation
Is Jesus Christ her Lord,
She is His new creation
By water and the Word.
From heaven He came and sought her
To be His holy bride;
With His own blood He bought her
And for her life He died.
2 She is from every nation,
Yet one o’er all the earth;
Her charter of salvation,
One Lord, one faith, one birth;
One holy Name she blesses,
Partakes one Holy Food,
And to one Hope she presses,
With every grace endued.
5 ’Mid toil and tribulation,
And tumult of her war,
She waits the consummation
Of peace forevermore;
Till, with the vision glorious,
Her longing eyes are blest,
And the great Church victorious
Shall be the Church at rest.