Another vision of church...

Somewhere I read that "it's not what you don't know but what you do know that ain't so" that causes most of the trouble in the world. Certainly most of the misunderstandings... Perhaps the corollary, "No good deed goes unpunished" provides the necessary breadth and depth for those who seek the road less traveled, yes? Or how did Dire Straights/Mary Chapin Carpenter put it: "Sometimes you're the windshield, sometimes you're the bug?"

I have just been sitting back in this brutal cold snap thinking of how the year has gone:
lots of highs and some real lows, too. And one of the hardest things for me to discern is how to be a part of a church renewal process with folks who have been a part of the community for a long time. Training new people in the ways of discipleship is clean and clear - they don't have history or baggage - hence the words of Jesus about it being damn near impossible to put new wine into old wine skins. And yet in so many of the existing churches throughout the US part of the challenge is teasing out a vision of the church that is blended - new/old, missional and pastoral - without being heavy handed, right? One that authentically embraces the old timers as well as the newly committed? Didn't Pete Townsend already sing, "Meet the new boss - same as the old boss?"

And herein lies the paradox: letting go - creating room for others to imagine - being free to honestly evaluate what works and helps and what doesn't - to say nothing of doing the hard work of letting the Spirit and demands of justice change our hearts is not something those who have preserved the status quo even know how to do! Many are genuinely lovely people of faith but you might have to say: it has been their lack of vision or something that created the problem in the first place so... how do you find space for everyone's ideas/opinions without simply being frozen in the past? Springsteen was right: "Everybody's got a hungry heart" - but finding the patience, wisdom and trust to remind one another that not every hunger is the same is perplexing.

That's why I keep going to music metaphors - contemporary music metaphors - not because I can only think in these terms but because they get us out of the old sacred/secular arguments. In popular music, there is always something new breaking through that blends the best of the old with new insights. In church there will always be more voices pointing to the past; it seems that renewal demands pushing forward even when folk would rather wander in the desert for 40 years than head on into the promised land. I came across this lovely tune by the Wailin' Jennys not long ago that is another snap shot of what part of the new church has to embody:

Take me to the breaking of a beautiful dawn
Take me to the place where we come from
Take me to the end so I can see the start
There's only one way to mend a broken heart

Take me to the place where I don't feel so small
Take me where I don't need to stand so tall
Take me to the edge so I can fall apart
There's only one way to mend a broken heart

Take me where love isn't up for sale
Take me where our hearts are not so frail
Take me where the fire still owns its spark
There's only one way to mend a broken heart

Teach me how to see when I close my eyes
Teach me to forgive and to apologize
Show me how to love in the darkest dark
There's only one way to mend a broken heart

Take me where the angels are close at hand
Take me where the ocean meets the sky and the land
Show me to the wisdom of the evening star
There's only one way to mend a broken heart

Take me to the place where I feel no shame
Take me where the courage doesn't need a name
Learning how to cry is the hardest part
There's only one way to mend a broken heart

I think this is the challenge - even part of the vision: take me where I feel no shame, where the angels are close at hand, where I can see when I close my eyes, where love is NOT for sale, where I don't feel small at the breaking of a beautiful dawn. And so we pray, Come, Lord Jesus, come within and among us as we wait for Christmas - and beyond.

That's what it is: the old blends with the new BUT... and this is always the rub... the OLD must give way to the NEW and let the outsiders start to define the new agenda - the contours of the new community - the ebb and flow. There is a place for tradition and what has gone before but it CANNOT define what is to come or else... it will become like vinegar rather than wine. And that is what the old community finds so hard to do - let go so that the future can fill the space and not be suffocated - and that seems to be what I have been called to help faciliate. Whew... what a strange, strange calling.


Black Pete said…
Amen, brother. Amen and a half.

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