Monday, April 09, 2007

witness protection program?

The day after Easter, in this pastor's life, is a day of letting-down; all the details and expectation of Holy Week is over. I get to rest back in Resurrection, which I celebrate as grace and hope. And, I get a little punchy...

So, as I ponder this week's scripture, I'm wondering which is worse: folks who just come to church on Easter (and Christmas, of course), or the disciples, in that they hear and know something of the incredible story and power of resurrection, but then keep it protected, behind locked doors.

I'm thinking of two ways we (me certainly included) tend to do this:
One is that we discover how cool life in God is, so we join church. We fill up on the Holy Spirit every week, we find meaning for our lives, and we find it good. But then we just keep that to ourselves. Lacking good models for how we might share our faith (that is, in a way that is not judgmental or pushy or, well, really annoying), we just keep quiet about it.

Our organist at the church, Bob, has talked about how people who find a great new restaurant will eagerly mention it to others, but how relatively reticent we are to talk about something that feels our souls...

The other way this can happen is when we get afraid. John's gospel says the disciples hid behind locked doors because they were afraid. Could be a lot of things that bring us fear, but the one I feel most crippled by these days is the fear that we'll lose what we have. We, in the church, treasure what brought us here, and therefore fear change--the kind of change that might, actually, allow us a more-full experience of the divine.

So, we frown at people who don't dress right, or who belong to the wrong associations, or who seem like they might make us listen to music we hate. (Or, they might do something CRAZY like play a kazoo solo on Easter Sunday. But I digress...)

I'm still haunted/enchanted by a story Doug Pagitt
told at an Emergent Church gathering a couple of years ago, in which he talked about adopting children into his family. They didn't invite the kids in, show them a list of activities the family was planning to participate, and tell them they'd be welcome anywhere. (That would be absurd.) They made them a part of the family, and let everything they'd do be shaped by their presence.

If we, the church, are the family of God, shouldn't we do the same?

And I think we (the water's edge people) need to remember this as much as anyone. We're getting good at being family together, but I'm feeling the Spirit pushing us to share this good stuff we have with others. People who might not find any church to call home, except that they feel at home here. Because we're seeking after being authentic to the Spirit's witness in this place.

As we ponder how we're being (re)defined by resurrection this year, maybe it's a good time to ask how our witness to the outside world looks.

What do you think?


Anonymous said...

It is such a blessing that God chose for me to meet you, Mollie. You define grace with a capital "G". In the world of great "reality checks", you bring it home to my heart. While I have always know his name to be spelled with a capital letter "God", as a mentor in the Christian faith to manner others, I say this: "You're Great (with a capital "G".

Jerral Miles said...

I came across something Wendell Berry wrote when he learned that Ken Kesey had died. With all the talk this week of resurrection, I though it might fit.

            "He was one of the few people I ever knew who could stand straight up without putting his hands in his pockets or leaning on anything," Berry said. "He was freestanding in that way, if you know what I mean. That told a lot about him"

Kesey and Berry were friends. I would have considered them an unlikely pair of friends if I hadn't met Ken Kesey myself when we were both sixteen years old. One summer when I was visiting my cousin Doug Bridges in Springfield, Oregon, we went camping over a weekend with a couple of his friends from his Southern Baptist Church. One was a quiet fellow who was definitely "freestanding," quiet and freestanding. His name was Ken Kesey.

Years later, after the publication of Kesey's first novel, Doug telephoned me to ask if I remembered the camping trip and the "quiet guy who stood off by himself a lot." I remembered the trip and the quiet guy, but I hadn't remembered his name. Doug told me, and I was amazed.

I mention this because I know you respect Wendell Berry, and because Kesey, like resurrection, has always been a source of wonder for me.

As my friend John Baker always says: Keep Sparkling.