The View from Bolton Street

The word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing until it divides soul from spirit, joints from marrow; it is able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart.” Hebrews 4:12

Why do we believe? Why do we need ‘Church’?  I suspect that you know a lot of people in your life who simply don’t understand why you go to Church anymore. Perhaps you ask yourself the same question.  Why do we go to Church anymore?  After the last few weeks of conflict, and the weeks of conflict ahead of us as we approach a national election, the need for a safe space, a loving community, and a unifying world view are all vitally important right now.  And that is what Church has been for a lot of people.  And often what we expect of our Churches. Middle of the Road. Conflict averse. Patient. On the sidelines.

But that is NOT what the letter of Hebrews points us to, is it?  Indeed ‘The word of God is living and active, Sharper than any two-edged sword!’

Let me humbly suggest that we should not come to Church because we expect it to be the same old comfortable place. Because it turns out that ‘the same old comfortable places’ often are only comfortable for the dominant majority. And may not actually be particularly comfortable for anyone who doesn’t identify with the majority based on their race or color, their creed or identity, based on who they are or who they love.  They may well need to sacrifice some part of themselves to ‘fit in’ in those ‘traditional’ safe spaces.  And that is a good reason why our ‘comfortable spaces’ have less and less people in them these days.

Thankfully the letter of Hebrews calls us to believe in a different God. A living and active God. A God that pierces OUR hearts (not just those of our enemies) and helps us to see where we have fallen short in God’s call to protect the meek and the mild. When we take seriously the word of God, when we believe that God is speaking to us directly - as individuals, as a community, as a nation - with a living and active voice TODAY, we are likely to hear a very different commandment from God. One that speaks to the thoughts and intentions of our heart which is often, if we are honest, ‘just don’t change too much okay? I’m scared.’  Never fear. We believe in a living and active God who walks with us through our fears and through all of those changes.

Jesus does call us to unity. But not unity around the status quo or the dominant culture. Jesus calls us to unity in him.  We should not allow ourselves to be divided by outside forces not for the sake of ‘kumbaya’ but so that we can remain open to the working of the Holy Spirit in our hearts and minds.  Which means we should listen to the small, quiet voices in our midst - the poor, the addict, the underfunded school, the victim of assault, the lost, the hopeless - and allow those voices to pierce our hearts, open our minds and embrace a new way of being community and of being the Church. 

We do need Jesus this election season.  But not to sustain the old ways. Rather to embolden us to embrace new ways of being community, of loving our neighbor, and of challenging our leaders and our world to be a better place for us all.