“The crowning evidence that Jesus was alive was not a vacant grave, but a spirit-filled fellowship. Not a rolled-away stone, but a carried-away church.”
In 1918 when my Mother was five years old, her father would lift her up on Old Maud, the big chestnut plow horse that would take her, that tiny girl, alone and determined, the two country miles from their homestead southwest of Fort Cobb, Oklahoma to the country school Mom wanted so much to attend. The horse had to take her across Gawky (Gokey) Creek, a tributary of the Washita River, which could be chancy, depending on the weather. Years later my Mom asked my Grandad how he had the confidence to trust such a young child for a safe journey to and fro. Grandad, in his quiet way, said, “I knew you—but I trusted the horse.”
I thought of that story this week as we, the people of NorthHaven Church, take the next step in looking for a new pastor. There are a few things I know, quite a few I don’t know, and a host of things beyond my intellect and imagination.
Here are a few things I know—a list far from comprehensive, so add your own:
- People in this church want to follow Christ.
- We have people who want to be taught, people who want to serve, and people who want to worship.
- Church is a central, body, mind and spirit family for us—a vital community.
- We are the church, here amongst others, and we’re looking for a leader who will care about us and help us as we slosh through reality searching for, as Ortega y Gasset says, God’s “elegant solution.”
- We don’t need someone who is seeking prominence, or someone to idolize, follow blindly, romanticize, or sentimentalize.
- We need someone who won’t pander to what will “tickle our ears,” preen our egos, or join the feel-good mentality that seeks its own cultural level.
- We need a true follower of Christ who will preach the gospel purely, care for us, and provide solid leadership with practiced discipline.
Here are a few of the things I know I don’t know—some things that would define us members as a church with or without a pastor:
- How can we be sure of someone and their motives?
- How can we be sure of our own motives?
- How do we know we don’t want the glory for ourselves or a place of prominence, or a venue for performance or preference for style over substance?
- How can we ask the right questions as intelligent but limited people?
- How can we intentionally choose values to hasten and cooperate with the kingdom of God on earth as it is in heaven without being dominated by cultural standards?
- Are we a counter-cultural people of Christ followers or a people solely influenced by productivity, effectiveness, entertainment, and numbers?
However, here are some things beyond me—beyond my imagination and intellect. I read stories in the Bible and in history of the way unrelated things, people, and events come together to accomplish wondrous outcomes. (“This is God’s Message, the God who made earth, made it livable and lasting, known everywhere as God: ‘Call to me and I will answer you. I’ll tell you marvelous and wondrous things that you could never figure out on your own.’” Jeremiah 33:3 MSG [emphasis mine])
Who would have thought great rains would come to a parched earth from a cloud the size of a man’s hand? (1 Kings 18:44)
Who would have thought a donkey might talk to stun Balaam in his purposed attack? (Numbers 22:22)
Who would have thought a man who denied he even knew Christ would later say, “I cannot help but speak of that which I have seen and heard?” (Acts 4:20)
Who would have thought the promised Messiah would suffer and die? (Matthew 16:21)
Who would have believed the “love your enemies” approach expressed by Mahatma Gandhi in determined nonviolence was the most powerful weapon available for marginalized people?
Who would think that the words and life of Martin Luther King Jr, exhausted, humiliated, and killed for his peacemaking would still resonate through continuing decades, changing the hearts of the oppressed if not the oppressors?
And who would imagine that we the unknown, common folks of NorthHaven Church would begin to bring Christ’s kingdom to pass through working together through the consequences of financial issues and different opinions, to step past the rigors and rules of enculturation, to believe God and love and act as one community outside the box of Western Christianity?
I still believe in the God of elegant solutions. Regardless of any of our hearts’ motives or our limits or capabilities, I still believe God will bring all things together for our good. Marva Dawn says, “The difference between thinking and worship is that in the latter, God is the subject.” (From “Keeping the Sabbath Wholly” ©1989 Wm B Eerdmans Publishing Co, p 160) So we continue to practice worship; exhibiting awe and reverence in God’s presence; proclaiming truth through the Word, music, art, and liturgy; expressing goodness and beauty from the inside to the outside as individuals and as brothers and sisters; and continuing our recognition of life’s needs in prayer and support.
We’ll need to be ready to give up self-interest, to maintain and work patiently on existing challenges. Maybe that means I can have a larger and deeper trust, as I remember I am a responsible member of this community. I am vitally interested in this outcome, but I trust that the initiative comes from God, not me. Maybe my larger trust will resemble at least in a small degree, the faith and example of my Grandad as he knew to trust Old Maud to carry precious cargo to draw forth and further the education of a remarkable woman.