It’s hard to beat a great story.
This morning in one of my classes a local pastor came for a visit with two of her congregants. They were new to the faith and as they shared their stories I felt like I wanted to break down and weep. Not weep out of sadness. Rather, to weep out of joy, a deep, deep joy that is born out of great suffering and despair.
I think one of the big challenges about being in seminary and studying the faith at a secular university is the fact that in the ‘real’ world a lot of what we’re doing doesn’t translate well. I mean when it comes down to it who really cares who wrote Hebrews and likewise are everyday people really grappling with issues of systematic theology. Sure, these things may have their place but my prayer is that academia would never rob me or my classmates of a beautifully simple faith. One that enables us to come alongside others in their despair and rejoice with them in their triumphs.
What if, as a local church leader, someone walked into my office one day out of the blue and out of a deep sense of despair and depression asked me the question, “Would God send me to hell if I took my own life?” Sure, we can talk about this and I can theologize about the situation but I think if my first reaction isn’t to be broken along with my brother/sister then I should probably just walk away from what I’m doing now.
As I listened to this young couple talk about discovering the stories of the Bible for the first time and being hungry for more and more it reminded me of the importance to never lose sight of the simplicity of the story. So much of theological study is about trying to grasp the text. Yet, what is truly important in life is not grasping the text but being grasped by the text. Reading the scriptures with open eyes and ears and a sense of wonder and awe.
Some of the comments that they made that stuck out to me in particular were:
“The church just never played a messy part in my life before.”
The young woman (who had never set foot in a church until 6 months ago) kept talking about the church as playing a “messy part” in her life. I thought this was awesome! So often those of us who have been around the church for a while think that the church ought to be some place that is clean and sober and tidy. But this isn’t true to life, especially to people who have experience with the messiness of life. May the church play a messy part in all our lives.
“We’re hanging out with people that we normally would never have had any contact with.”
– This strikes me as one of the beautiful thing about church communities. The only thing that we all have in common is Christ. We come from all sorts of different backgrounds and walks of life to worship Christ and be sent into the world. What then does this say about church communities where everyone looks the same?
The young woman who was sharing said that being part of the community has given her a different perspective on what she wants and the direction she wants to go. Amen. Also, it’s interesting to note that she was baptized after being a part of the community for 5 weeks. Amazing!
Just some rough thoughts from this morning.
If at the end of my life I have a few stories like this about the beauty of God and others then I will consider myself honoured to be witness to the work of God in the world.