Katie’s Musings: Leaning In
February 28 2019
So, hi, I’m a minister, in the United Church of Christ, the denomination in which I grew up.
Very people saw that turn of events coming, and certainly not me.
The Holy Spirit? She did. And, like, my mom.
… that might have been it.
People frequently let me know that I am not exactly the kind of person folks think is a minister. Not sure what it is, exactly. Might have something to do with my nagging and secular theater habit. Or perhaps for some, it’s the fact that I am visibly and unapologetically a woman and Paul had some, like, SUPER strong opinions about lady preachers. Whatever it is, whenever I volunteer the, “I’m a minister,” bombshell, there’s always a widening of the eyes accompanied by the “OH … Really? Oh, ok,” followed by a visibly conscious effort to watch their language around me, or to swear more and see how I react, to bring up the ways the church has been a home for them, or the ways the church has harmed them.
This is not unusual for any of us persons of the cloth, but I confess that it always makes me smile for a good long while. If part of my ministry means taking the image of “minister” inside someone’s brain and uprooting it even a little bit, turning it upside down and sideways, forcing them to think a little bit wider about the moniker, well then I’m very much ok with that. After all, ministers are, first and foremost, humans, and possess all the glorious ambiguity of personage that “human” implies. And I am thankful every day to be a part of a denomination and church that allow me to be me and others to be them and and all of us to be us together, and then to celebrates every inch of it, without reservation, just the way that God intended.
I confess that I spend a lot of time being horrified at the boxes we like to shove people into these days. Not that it’s anything new, and let’s be real: it certainly shows up in the Bible from time to time. Our fight-or-flight brains have been trained from the start to categorize people as a safety measure. We look for like-minded people to congregate with and we look for different-minded people on which to focus our ire. We long to belong to someone, something, some group, even if it means sacrificing our own humanity and the humanity of others (and ignoring the ambiguity and diverse interpretations of the scriptures) to do it.
I get it. I do. Being a human is not always easy. The world moves very fast, and having a Bible or a perspective or a sacred text (or whatever that is for you) always there to clutch, one that stays the same and is infallible and always right (translations and context be damned) can be a comfort.
The thing about that, though, is that contextually, the Bible is very rarely either/or or this/that (except about the whole treatment of refugees and immigrants thing, but that’s a whole ‘nother blog). And the sweet Holy Spirit does as she will, moves where she will, and calls who she will, just as she has from the beginning of time. Period.
If we confess ourselves to be followers of Christ, that’s all a part of the package. And we can no more place caveats on that than we can squeeze a full-sized ship into a glass bottle. It ain’t gonna fit. That’s a hallmark of our very faith, and it is very much Biblical, residing at the core of our Christian efforts towards justice and peace. We are drawn together by a still-speaking God, and therefore our mutual understanding and love of and towards each other has to be a still-speaking one. It just has to. Or else we are simply not who we say we are. The world moves, the Spirit moves, and so must the Bible and our collective understanding of it move. Forward through the ages.
And it’s hard. Rethinking how we’ve always seen the world and the people in it is hard. Allowing questions to creep into our deep seated places of sureness is hard. Leaning fully into the ambiguity of texts and humans and then being open to what we find there is hard.
But hey, whoever said following Christ was going to be easy, amiright? lol
*P.S. Sending love and prayers to my colleagues and friends who have had their very personhood and ministerial callings raked over the dang coals this week. You are beloved children of God, you are incredible ministers, preachers, teachers, and leaders, and the world is a better and richer place because of your presence and your ministries.*