At Order of Elders, we were invited to share a word or phrase that epitomizes our calling. I couldn’t think of a scripture. But I eventually fell to a piece of advice given to me by the right person at the right time.
I was accepted to seminary when I came across an opportunity to apply for a program with the World Council of Churches. I asked a co-worker at the General Board of Global Ministries to write me a recommendation. He obliged and invited me in to hear what he wrote. It was embarrassing in its glowing prose.
I asked if he had any reservations.
Basically, he said I had seen plenty and might have been predisposed to cynicism. He was clear that sarcasm and cynicism were ungodly. He was right.
I saw cynicism being played like a sport in seminary. No one believed in the church. Everyone wanted to change it, save it, redefine it and blow it up to start over again. “If you’re not pissed off at the world, then you’re just not paying attention.”
Even now I see blanket statements about the awfulness of ‘the world,’ as if ancient Roman dichotomies are still en vogue. I see good everywhere I look. I see evil everywhere I look. They live as neighbors, even housemates. They both live within me. To only see evil is to look at the world with only one eye. It doesn’t stand up to more intelligent inspection. As the world is, so too is the church, rendering trendy cynicism a bit stupid.
Entering my 13th year of parish ministry, I can say I love the church. Despite the fact I work daily to make it better, I don’t really want it to change. I mean, I want it to be more inclusive, more courageous, more fruitful. Ultimately, I want it to be more of what it ultimately really is. I love the process of church and I don’t see that changing very much, technology be damned. I love being in small rooms with people trying to figure out how to live out this ancient teaching in a modern world. I love walking with people and watching them grow in courage, compassion and service. I love being with people as they negotiate those seasonal changes every life endures. I love being with a group of people trying to understand Jesus and live like him. I love the blessed community of church.
I know 2019 will be rough for the denomination. But I also suspect that church will simply continue to be church, beautifully imperfect, still striving to be more godly. In our twig on the family tree, we are welcoming ~50 kids to read, play, grow and be loved for the summer. We are crossing boundaries of race, economics and nationality. And we have decided that being is the key to doing. We adopted “Love God, Love People, Serve Both,” as our mission. And we aren’t worrying about making disciples. We are strategizing, even this weekend about what it means to love effectively. It’s what Jesus did. And we’re still just trying to be like him. And I can’t find a good reason to sour yet.