|Rev. Deborah Meister|
Last week, The New York Times printed an article on sustainability and resilience. The author, Andrew Zolli, pointed out that for decades, we have been working to achieve sustainability -- a way to preserve our planet in its current condition, to prevent further decline in our environment, and to make it stable. Now, however, a new word is coming into play: resilience. Resilience assumes that stability may not be possible. It looks, instead, at ways to help us to cope and even to thrive in a world that has become unpredictable.
When I read those words, I found myself thinking about the church. So many of us come to church seeking a place of stability: a building that is always beautiful, hymns that we know and love, seasons of the church year that help us to make sense of our lives, people who will come with casseroles or cookies when we are bereaved, who will stand by us in our times of need. When my grandfather died, I went to a church in his town and found the congregation praying the Creed from the 1928 prayerbook: “Begotten of his Father before all worlds, God of God, Light of Light, Very God of very God” -- and the ancient words wrapped me with a deep sense of comfort, rootedness, and hope.
And yet, the Jesus in the Gospels is much more concerned with resilience than with keeping things the same. He calls his disciples from their fishnets, from their villages, to walk the dusty roads of Galilee. He calls the blind into the challenges of vision, the helpless into healing, all of us into radical acceptance and welcome of people who upend our traditions and challenge our certainties. He called his followers into the joy of mission, through the terror of arrest, into the bitterness of Good Friday and the strangeness of Pentecost, of distant countries, foreign tongues.
Amid it all, their rootedness was not in form or place or ritual, but in Christ himself. Christ, who was so resilient that arrest could not frighten him; torture could not break him; even death could not keep him in down. He is our haven, our home, and our hope. He burst through the tomb so that we might not fear any future, any change, not even death itself. And he gave us one another: a community of wanna-be saints, of people who give one another heart.
The rest is trimmings: things of beauty we put up for a season, rituals that remind us of home. For two thousand years, they have been changing -- sometimes slowly, sometimes all at once, but changing, nonetheless. We use them while they serve us well, and set them aside when they no longer speak to us or show Christ’s love to our neighbors. They gladden our hearts, but they are not The Church. They are not Christ. They are not our bedrock.
Christ is. Thanks be to God.
Deborah Meister is the rector at St. Alban's parish.
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