Without a denomination, figuring out church order is difficult. What happens when a minister leaves? What makes a person qualified to be a minister in the first place? What happens to the assets of a church that closes? The leadership of a church with no denominational structure is a lonely place. Being a part of the RCA and having order and connections with other congregations gives me a peace and assurance that was lacking in my other church experiences. It is reassuring to know that I am not alone, and my church is not alone; there is something out there to guide us in our journey as a congregation.
I invite readers to imagine a world where things turned out differently. Such a world is not very distant from the world we live in. If a few individuals in each body had assessed the relevant reasons and conditions and come to a different conclusion, we might now be on the path toward a dramatically different future.
Of all the work involved in interpreting the Bible, this heart-work is the most demanding and the most significant. It is relatively easy to accumulate factual knowledge about the context of the Bible; it is harder for us to understand the context of our own hearts, examine them, and open them to the Spirit’s influence.
Russia’s present invasion of Ukraine is about to enter its fifth month, and once again the world is grappling with a multivalent crisis that is producing massive human suffering and displacement. Millions of Ukrainians have been driven from their land and untold numbers have lost their lives because Vladimir Putin is hell-bent on forcing them to conform to the madness of his imagined narrative and the lust for power that fuels it. Once again the complicated stories of borders and ethnicities and governments have collided, producing harrowing violence and swift destruction that will take eons to remedy, if ever.
At the messianic table, Christ invites us to participate in God’s imagination, to join a feast that reconnects us to food, land, and neighbor, and offers a way of remembering that confronts forgotten wounds, fragmented minds, and displaced bodies. Holding the bread of life, we present to the world the daily liturgy of eating as a profoundly communal, biological, spiritual, humanizing, and, as it turns out, counter-cultural act.
Just before Gene suffered a stroke in 2019, I was sitting next to him in church on a Wednesday morning at a men’s breakfast and book study. We were discussing the current friction in the denomination, which he was able to put into a much larger context of denominational history and the forces at work in society and culture. “I have come to the point where I think for the good of the church and for many Christians it would be better for us to graciously separate,” he said. Then he paused and reflected from his own heart and piety, “I must be humble as a Christian, and I must never say that I am somehow better or more faithful than those who feel led to separate. Sometimes at the end of life you don’t have all the issues of life entirely figured out and you must simply rest in Christ.”
I’ve been looking for a theory of everything, that explains not just Trump, sexism, and anti-wokeism, but also explains things as different as climate change denial, bad behavior on airplanes, Brexit, Mark Zuckerberg and Elon Musk, church splits, anti-vaxxers, threats of violence outside the homes of Supreme Court justices, and our tolerance of mass shootings. I know that’s asking a lot, but I think I may have come up with something.