I’m trying something new with the words you are presently reading. It’s not as though I’ve never done a similar thing before. For almost half a century I have written out sermons on a fairly regular basis. I pen a column for the shelter newsletter on a monthly (soon-to-be bi-monthly) schedule. But I’m slow to get caught up in things technical. My children marvel that I am only now learning how to “text” and I’m still not able to take pictures with my cell phone, although that’s coming soon. But there’s this interesting feature now called a “blog.” People write whatever is on their mind, put it out there for others to read, challenge, correct, or laugh at. And maybe even a few of those folk will respond with their own ideas and a little learning can take place. So, welcome, to my first blog.
The idea of doing something new isn’t easy for me. I don’t even like the word. My significant others will tell you of my distaste for anything new that ranges all the way from clothing to automobiles. If it’s really broken in, a bit rumpled and fits comfortably, then I’m happy. I can’t stand shopping for most things, but thrift stores are mildly manageable. The less I have to pay and the older it is, the better.
But I find myself caught on the horns of a dilemma. A beautiful faith community called Grace, where I hold membership, consistently pushes to the edge of something new. The history of Grace has been an exercise in exploration, struggle, questioning, seeking, as well as challenging tradition and long-held concepts. During this year’s season of Lent, our journey has built on Isaiah’s statement that God is “doing a new thing.” In the whole, overall scheme of things, I’m not sure if it is really all that new or if we are just slow to catch up and catch on. Whatever, it’s bound to be different from some of the history we have known.
What we call Christianity has had segments in its time of reformation or renewal. Dramatic shifts took place in thinking, interpretation, and action. I’m not enough of a prognosticator to know if we are presently in such a time, but I hope we are. I try to be a follower of Jesus even though I know that on most days it is from a very great distance. But I’m having a harder time calling myself a Christian because of what I see reflected through the media and in society in general. If most of that is what it is to be Christian, then I’m out of here. What can I call myself? Any suggestions?
There is a movement presently underway called Progressive Christianity. I like what they seem to be saying even while I do not care for their self-description. Any group who is doing anything at all could fancy itself progressive. But I believe they are asking good questions. They are resisting much that has corrupted the process thus far. They are performing that perilous, shaky task of saying perhaps we ought to pay a bit more attention to what Jesus taught and did instead of just focusing on his birth (the description of which is questionable at best), death, resurrection, ascension, and return. These matters are important, but even they may need some re-interpretation. For sure, we have a whole block of material related to his life that we have conveniently explained away if not outright ignored.
So, maybe you can detect the direction in which I am heading. I think everything is up for grabs. I like what one church says about its existence. They emphasize “critical scholarship and unfinished personal experience.” None of us has a corner on truth. But if we are seekers, I think we need each other. And I am now at a place in my life where I need to re-think everything. God, Jesus, Church, the Bible, why Jesus died, what means the resurrection………everything…..open to examination. To do that is, indeed, a new thing. To do so has been condemned, not encouraged. The church has manifested itself, in the main, as a control freak, not as an avenue of liberation.
So I hope you will join me and give your input. We don’t have to always agree. Let’s try to be as honest as we can. I will come to you on a fairly regular schedule. I will probably give you a suggested reading list so that, if you are interested, you can at least be singing on the same page with me even though you may not like the text or the tune on some days.
The graphic on this blog is a cowboy boot. I chose it because I like them and am a long-time wearer of them. I also chose it because I know that there may be moments when it seems the fertilizer is getting pretty deep. Nonetheless, let’s wade on in.