In terms of my ordination process, I have cleared another big hurdle. The New Haven Committee on Ministry voted to recommend me for Ecclesiastical Council (the last big step short of finding a church). It was a pretty serious discussion that we had, one that made me think about a lot of things. I realize that I’ve been wrestling with a lot of theological ideas in my head that may not be the most relevant issues to others. So, it was a very good thing for me to re-center myself and prepare to present myself and speak about my call to the New Haven Association in full.
One question that leapt out at me, and has been occupying my mind ever since. My central image of the church: “God’s Good Trouble-Makers Living in The World,” led to the question: “Do you really think that people are coming to church for that? To hear how they might cause trouble?” A fair and a good question.
My joke reflex kicked in at the time. I said, “Well, one can hope.” Then I continued on with a complex answer that softened things a great deal, and went to how we should be self analytical about our lives and how we are living in connection with the gospel. I talked about affluence and comfort and how those things fit into my conceptions of Jesus’ ministry. At the end, though, I feel like I wasn’t truly myself at that moment.
I went home, and I picked up my bible. I read the stories that move me… there is Jesus, talking about knocking down the temple, telling stories and parables that make people tear at their hair, upsetting all sorts of social boundaries… Why are we afraid to say it? Why are we afraid to say that this was a ministry which found its center in creating deeply unsettling re-imaginings of the world? How did our comfort–not in a deep, existential way, but in a shallow, rote way–become a necessity of our religious expression? The former I feel should always be an expression of church: REAL comfort is so absent from our existences that offering it is trouble-making all its own. The latter: well, that’s just so much furniture for our faith, isn’t it?
Someone asked me to talk about a time I experienced failure in my ministry. I said, just the days that end in “y.” Because of this. Because in the battle between our need for justice and our desire for comfort… well, too often we know who will win, long before we even reach that particular fork in the road. I want to lead amongst a church of people who want a fair fight, at least. I’m still working on how to say that, though.