“…Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit…”
Matthew 28:19 (NRSV)
I have a friend who works at the Annual Conference office. After gatherings (remember those?), we usually go out with others for snacks, coffees, or drinks and share about our lives. As is the case in all workplaces, whether sacred, secular, or somewhere in between, the conversation always turns toward gripes and grievances.
“Can you believe they moved her there?”
“Whose toes did he step on?”
It’s usually just talking to hear ourselves speak, a way of processing aloud the things which would otherwise, bottled up, boil over. Every now and then, however, a person has a real, legitimate problem, a time when things did not work as the system says they are supposed to. When confronted with these episodes, my friend from the Conference office will say, without fail, “what a fascinating system.” As in, I acknowledge that that sounds less than ideal, but it is not in my best interest to agree or disagree with you at this time. So – what a fascinating system.
He, like me, is a good-natured person, and the statement always defuses the tension and allows the time together to proceed. But there’s a disappointing reality to this to: in finding a way to release the tension without addressing the challenge to this fascinating system, less-than-ideal behaviors continue unchallenged.
This is a frighteningly small illustration in our present, of course. We are simultaneously experiencing the worst employment market in American history, the worst pandemic in 100 years, and further reminders of the gap between the promise of racial justice and the deadly reality of our present. Protests are dispersed with military shows of force.
In these conversations, I often fall into a similar behavior as the friend I just picked on. When someone shares some new story of how actually dangerous COVID is, or of the systemic nature of racist policing, or any other necessary truth-telling, I catch myself saying, sarcastically, “what a time to be alive.” It normally gets a laugh and again, defuses the tension.
But just maybe this is a great time to be alive. Maybe the generations now living, whether 8 years old or 80, have an opportunity to address the unmet promises of a church and society which have not yet lived up to the language of universal welcome and of liberty and justice for all woven into their foundings. It takes courage to hope and strength to love. Maybe, in finding a true voice, the Great Commission Jesus handed down to extend the love and grace of God to all peoples will be lived out in new and powerful ways.
I have a small candle on my desk right now, three wicks rooted in the same wax, a fitting image for Trinity Sunday. Yet each small fire dancing in the disturbed air flow from the box fan keeping this attic comfortable is a reminder that God’s reality is one of interrelatedness. We are made for life-giving relationships rooted in the reality of God’s love for all people. Stay hopeful and keep the faith, church.
Grace and Peace,