This year marks thirty years since I received that early vision of God’s calling on my life. Paying attention to the various details around my experiences has led to a celebratory incarnational theology. It is a privilege and honor to live amongst and serve the nations God has placed me with here in Hannover. It has enabled a continued reliance upon, and a relationship with, the God who called me so long ago. It is a relationship that is situated in an ongoing and regular encounter with Jesus through prayer and worship and it continues to fill me with wonder as I encounter this Living Word made flesh for us and our salvation.
For the young people I know, the world’s gone crazy, and the church isn’t far behind. They’re not concerned with the same things adults in the church seem to care about, at least not in the same way. Human sexuality? I’ve found young people across the theological and political spectrum are much more thoughtful and nuanced than adults. Politics? Social issues? Same thing. They’re not a monolith, but they’re much more willing to engage the conversation in a way that doesn’t demonize. They’re more cynical than people realize, at least the ones I talk to. They’re suspicious when I talk of transformation or change; they’re much more likely to find a way to get by—to game the system. And that’s the point really, adults have given them a world racked with division and hatred masquerading as truth and light, and then we wonder why they’re anxious or depressed. We hand them an other-worldly spirituality without telling them what it means to live as a human being in this world.
It is not fully clear to me why the 2022 committee did not engage the Smedes analogy nor why they characterized the 1980 report as hard and rigid and legalistic when in fact that report finally argued against being hard and rigid and above all legalistic in matters of marriage, divorce, and remarriage. The curious omission of this engagement is noteworthy and is something deserving of reflection by all who will have anything to do with the reception of this significant synodical report. Could the committee’s selectivity in dealing with the church’s stance on divorce and remarriage stem from a desire to not let anything interfere with a set of foregone conclusions? And are there other areas of the Human Sexuality report that reflect a simila
A response to Howard Schaap, by Tony Jelsma. And a response to Tony Jelsma, by Steve Mathonnet-VanderWell.
Like many pastors I spent too much of my time being a program director for children, youth, college students, singles, families, older adults, recovering divorced people, and all the other niche groups in the life of any church. That’s a fine thing to do, or it can be, but I wish I had spent less of my time being that person. I wish I had spent less of my time as a manager and a therapist and a community activist. What I really wanted to be, and what the church really needs, are pastors who are “stewards of the mysteries of God.”
God is compassion. God is mercy. I see God, like Pearl, in a garden. With her hands, she clears away thorn and weed. She sends rain and summons life from the soil. Light warms and synthesizes unseen elements into nutrient. She offers food, and generous souls share it, because,
But in reformed worldview conversations, that adjective “reformed” means we’re committed to something more. We’re committed to complexity, committed to deconstruction, and to reforming again beyond that deconstruction, committed to listening to opposing voices to not only hear what they have to say but to take to heart their critiques, to even call them prophetic when they are. It means we can admit when we’re wrong and that we’re not even afraid of ideas that seem to challenge scripture. It means we’re committed to ideas and people, too.
We’ve stumbled through the formation of our Christmas traditions both in India and in Michigan. We’ve bumbled it in both places at different times, but we’ve also shared good traditions in both places. My son insists on burning incense when we light our Advent candles in Michigan. And one of my proudest adult moments was when JP’s grandfather asked for seconds of the Cherry Walnut Christmas Coffeecake that I painstakingly baked in India. What it all comes down to is that we are learning in our hearts how our two-culture family celebrates the birth of Jesus with reverence and gladness. In one country or the other, we do this with our extended families, and when something rises up as loss, something else bubbles up as joy.
I don’t know if it’s Mother Nature or Father God in charge. I just know it’s not me. Tom is not in charge. Anytime I’ve tried to be in charge, I’m quickly reminded of how much I’m in error. I do believe in a power greater than myself. I don’t know if that power is the creator of the universe. I haven’t a clue. But I live in hope.
More than a month has passed since General Synod. Time has allowed me to sort through my emotions and become what I believe is more objective about the RCA and its future. In a way, I wish I could have been at the point that I am now prior to General Synod. I see glimmers of hope for the RCA and I acknowledge that God is doing a new thing through the chaos in which we find ourselves. Yet I continue to hold the conviction that the RCA would be better off to remain together and strive to live in divers