Monday, December 15, 2014

Meeting thoughts. . .

I doubt very much that the early church spent as much time and money on meetings as we do today.  Having come home from a week in Southern California -- occasioned by a church meeting -- it has given me time to think.

Meetings are not always or even generally bad.  In fact, they often produce great results well worth their investment of time and money.  However, it is also true that some of the agendas of our meetings involves trying to find common ground that ought to be a given.  In other words, we must work to find agreement and consensus about many things that should be foundational to our common confession, life, and witness.  That is not to say that conflict, disagreement, and distance are exclusive to the modern era.  They are not.  But what is more prevalent today than ever before is the presumption that before we can do anything else we must devote a goodly portion of our meeting time to making sure we are all somewhere on the same page.

We seem to approach nearly everything from such an individualized viewpoint that we must meet simply to learn to think and walk together.  It is typical today to think in individual terms or as a class of people (men, women, young, old, married, single, etc.).  It has become an accepted fact that men cannot represent women, marrieds do not understand singles, age and youth do not get each other, etc.  So before we even get to the important stuff of "The Word of the Lord says", we must make sure that all points of view are represented, each gets to address their own unique concerns and perspectives, and we bow together at the altar of diversity.  I am not at all sure that this was the first item on the agenda of the early church meetings.

The sad part of this is that our most common ground as sinners redeemed by the Lord, called to repentance and faith, made new by baptism, fed and nourished upon His Word and Sacraments, and set apart as servants of Christ in our various venues is either lost or forgotten in our meetings.  Yet this IS the agenda that matters, what ought to be on the forefront of the mind and heart of the church.

We so often meet to express and discuss differing perspectives and to honor those differences but these seem to take precedence over our common life as the baptized people of God.  Why is this?  My own church body has less of this than most others yet this is still part and parcel of our life together.  Some, in fact, characterize our pursuit of pure doctrine as unrealistic and unattainable.  Perhaps so.  Yet why is this common confession and life less important than making sure what differentiates or distinguishes us is honored and respected?

Diversity is great looking from the altar or pulpit in a sea of faces reflecting every ethnicity and hearing in our ears the sound of many languages in common faith and praise.  But diversity in what we read into Scripture, in whom we judge Christ to be, in how we define what Christ has done, and in what 3we understand the work to which we have been called through baptism, well, that is not such a good thing.

The creeds represent the unity and unanimity of our faith believed and confessed.  When this is lost in a sea of voices and visions seeking to re-think re-imagine, re-define, and re-invent who we are and what we believe and how we live together, it is not only Christ who loses.  We do also.

They say you cannot see the forest for the trees...  It is an old but revered expression.  Perhaps it is even more true today.  Except we ARE the trees -- our individual identities, feelings, perspectives, and egos.  We have glorified our desires and needs (either as individuals or as a particular class of people) to the point where our commonality is lost or forgotten in it all.  We miss the forest -- our common baptismal life, our common identity as sinners redeemed in Christ, our common source of food and nourishment in the means of grace, and our common ministry or service to speak the truths of God before the world in words and deeds.  Maybe if this common identity, confession, and life were more front and center, we would need and have fewer meetings and find our life together less adversarial and contentious. . . or maybe not.

1 comment:

Paul said...

Truly what ails us diagnosed you have!