What would happen IF.....?
“It is customary to blame secularism for the eclipse of religion in modern society. But it would be more honest to blame religion for its own defeats. ... When faith becomes [only] an heirloom rather than a living fountain,when religion speaks only in the name of authority rather than with the voice of compassion – its message becomes meaningless.” - Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel.
As we now move through the last weeks of the Easter season and arrive (almost) to Pentecost, I found the above quotation quite striking. For those unfamiliar with the tradition, the day of Pentecost is often talked about as “the Birthday of the church” and so to pause for a bit to think about who we are, (as church) have become does seem appropriate. (As an aside.. there is, right now, a committee of our church meeting to formally take on exactly that task – and to wonder out- loud what we need to be “next”!)
That said.. no matter who you are Rabbi Heschel’s words ARE quite challenging. For years we have tried to blame the world outside the church for marginalizing us (complaining about hockey games on Sunday mornings.. stores being open on Sunday.. work being too consuming etc.). All of which very comfortably kept us from facing the ways we may have been marginalizing ourselves and turning people off. (And to be clear.. the Rabbi is being just as critical of his own community here as he is Christian communities.)
In the Pentecost Story (Acts 2) we hear how the disciples are touched by tongues of fire and swept away by a mighty wind that DRIVES THEM into the street to tell the story (in a literally babbling way) - and thus begins the work of drawing people to faith in Christ. And indeed, from that first insane day (when they were so ecstatic in their joy that people thought they were drunk) the church as a community of people called to faith in and discipleship of Jesus has swept across the world.
And so, I wonder... what it would take for you and I to likewise get that “crazy” in/touched by our faith and the Spirit of God within us? What would it look like if we too felt driven into the streets to babble(Babel) about how life-giving the grace of God is for us.. about how life-transforming the love and peace of Christ have been for us?? And even more critically.. I wonder what it would mean for us to rediscover our call to be the kind of people of compassion Jesus commanded us to be (vs. just naggy judgemental voices)?
In these days when we should all be that much more aware of how precious it is to nurture and celebrate community and life, how might you rediscover your call to set the world on fire with hope?? In these days when there are so many harsh and horrific wounds on the earth inflicted by hate & fear, violence & prejudice, how might your life become a tiny space of healing and peace?
Be well, be safe, BE HOPE!!!
- Pastor Stewart, May 19/22