Take Me to Your Leader…the Religious Version
Remember the old saying about the visitor from Mars who shows up and asks someone to “take me to your leader.” The answer I suppose would depend on just who answers the request. Who is “the” leader when it comes to our mixed up world?
So in my rather twisted imagination, I conjure up the thought of Jesus showing up and asking me to “take me to my church.” Where would I take him?
Since Jesus waved good-bye that day on the hills of Galilee, a lot has happened to his church. We now have everything from snake handling, pew jumping believers to Latin chants and incense. There is a prelude to one of the modern affirmations of faith that states, “Where the spirit of the Lord is, there is the one true church.” So, where is the “one true church?”
The founder of what we now call church once offered some interesting words to his first followers who were the members of his first congregation:
“My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe
in me through their message that all of them may be one…so that they may be
brought to complete unity.” (from John 17 NIV)
Jesus’ prayer seems unanswered when it comes to unity. My particular “branch” of church is now in the midst of yet another fight over what to believe and teach. Historically “the” Church has argued over how much of Jesus was divine and how much was human, is the Bible to be taken literally all the time, should women get to preach, who gets to serve, and who gets to take Communion…the list goes on.
I wonder if Jesus would even recognize this movement that he started? Unity sure is not our trademark.
The latest lack of unity in the Methodist version of church is about sex. Yes, sex. We seem not to be able to agree about just what is a proper and “biblical” understanding of what is human sexuality. We proclaim in our statement about this that “human sexuality is a gift from God,” but then we go our separate ways as to how to interpret what is proper.
For years we have stated that while homosexual people are of sacred worth, the practice of homosexuality is incompatible with Christian teaching and scripture. In our version of church, we gather every few years and argue over this issue and then we vote. The only vote I remember being taken in Jesus’ original version of church was just after he left for good and the disciples had to vote on who would replace the guy who sold out their leader.
Jesus probably understood that voting was not a good way to decide matters that go to the very core of what it means to be human. Anyway, that is where we have ended up.
I am not sure I want to take Jesus to that kind of church but that is the one I belong to and the one I have been the pastor of for over 48 years. So what am I to do with Jesus’ request to take him to his church?
I guess I will join him in continuing to pray for some kind of unity in the midst of diversity. All I know is that homosexual people who have shared their journeys with me know that they were who they were from birth, whether they acted on it or not. So, if human sexuality “is” a gift from God, well so be it.
And when it comes to the Bible, I discovered through studying the book for many years that the Bible is not a brick. A brick is made up of a substance that is whipped together and poured into a mold and baked and then the finished product appears. It is of one substance.
The Bible is more like a grandmother’s quilt that has been pieced together over many years. It is made up of pieces saved from generations of the family’s life and story. It is hand-made and not sewn together by some machine.
Quilts are meant to be appreciated for the story they can tell. They are made to hold life. Bricks are rigid and can be easily thrown at those who disagree with certain positions.
So, Jesus still awaits my answer. What shall I tell him? To which church shall I take him? “Where the spirit of the Lord is, there is the one true church.”
Once upon a time Jesus prayed for unity for those who would be his church. I wonder what he would say to us who disagree so much about who people are?
Dr. Jody Seymour
Jody Seymour retired after serving Davidson United Methodist Church as Senior Pastor for 13 years and being a pastor for forty-six years in the Western North Carolina Conference. He is the author of six books and resides just outside of Davidson with his wife, Betsy.