I was nine years old when I first got acquainted with the term “Christian.” Used to going to a cathedral for a church, attending church in an ordinary old building with a married white woman serving as the “priest,” was very novel to me. People joyfully singing worship songs and telling stories about how the Lord Jesus had helped them in their daily lives were all alien to me, yet got me curious and interested. It was also the first time that I heard about Jesus and that He was the Way, the Truth, and the Life (whatever that meant).
No pretenses. No veil draping my face to separate me from you, you from me. Each word spoken, seen or heard by you, will be more than merely a word. It will be the stumbling of my Self, trying to weave threads, strand by strand, word by word, into the fabric of whole cloth, a shawl worthy to be worn about the shoulders of any who might need warmth. No pretenses, only bumbling efforts to braid difficult syllables together, for your understanding and mine.
Transformation goes beyond adhering to the Ten Commandments and doing things right. As a matter of fact, we can all do things right and miss doing the right thing entirely. Transformation speaks to being and is the process of death and resurrection; of letting go of an old map of reality that is comprised of separation, competition, meritocracy, and me-and-my-tribe for an existence of union-in-diversity, collaboration, grace, love, and compassion (suffering-with an-other).
If death isn’t your thing, re-think that. Because death and grief is all of our thing. In life and in death, we belong to God but in belonging to God, we belong to the realities of life and death. Those realities are present constantly, not just at bodily death, but death/grief of expectations, careers, ideas, understanding of society and one another. My time at the funeral home and other death experiences wasn’t just about death—they were about how we live, love, and have our being.
I spend a significant amount of time on Youtube every few months watching writer/producer/actor/model/unrequited BFF, Issa Rae do press and various interviews. I was deep in one of these YouTube rabbit trails not too long ago and ran across her interview with a correspondent from Variety. The same correspondent to whom she told her now famous line on the Emmys red carpet in 2017, “I’m rooting for everybody black!”. What a line, what a statement, what a vibe (as the young folx say)? The film and television industry has historically been a very white industry where privilege and nepotism reign supreme. I know another mammoth institution that can claim this history, do you?
What lessons can World Christianity learn from refugees’ resistance to border regimes? How might refugees be enacting the Mission of God while living in liminal spaces like camps, detention centers and border crossings? How might migrants and refugees be shaping religion and the next christianities in post-secular societies?
Those who are desperate and physically weak, during this COVID-19 pandemic, might revive their hope in Jesus’ “earth-bound theology and not a heaven-bound theology,” as C.S. Song emphasizes in his book, Jesus, the Crucified People. In Mark 4:35-41, Jesus calms the storm, instead of preaching about how to calm the storm. Also, in Mark 6:30-44, Jesus feeds five thousand people rather than teaching how to feed them. In short, Jesus walks his talk. His theology is a theology of God’s word that becomes heard in the pain and suffering of both humans and non-humans today.
A church with 30 members in a town of 400 people will never install a full-time pastor again, and I can’t imagine anyone moving to rural Kansas for a quarter time call. Still, that church created a food pantry to feed their neighbors, and they send children in their town to camp each summer. Churches like this need a different conversation, and they can be leaders in it.
I suppose as a pastor this is the point where I should make some grand statement about God and providence and salvation, or something. To be honest, though, I have had almost no time to reflect. I’m too in-the-moment and too wired in crisis-brain to have any profound, theologically-robust insight.
by Layton E. Williams For the past several years, the NEXT Church blog has operated on a system of recruiting monthly volunteers to curate a series of blog posts from […]