My E-pistle this week is a reworking of “Leaving Home,” written by the Rev. David Keighley, a progressive priest in the Church of England being pressured by his bishop to conform to traditional norms. Using his protest as inspiration, I’ve applied his tack to our covenant ministry and the contemporary church’s need to speak meaningfully to more people.
I recognize the irony of this E-pistle in light of my Christmas letter inviting you home for Christmas. But if our faith is to be real, it will also be paradoxical.
Sometimes I worry deeply that we are not yet ready to leave home… and if we do not, we’ll never really get back home. What DO I mean?
I believe God is to be found in that thin place, the liminal space between leaving and coming back. Think of the transformation that occurred to the Prodigal Son (but not necessarily through wasting our journey to and back in riotous living). Gathering up the courage to leave life as we know it, stepping out in trust, only then we find we can step into life as God means it to be.
I have a deep thanks for Rev. Keighley’s witness.
We need to get going:
To leave behind dogmatic, dry theology; hierarchical thinking and behaviors; institutional paralysis and lack of vision that circumscribe our faith and condemn the church.
To leave behind ecclesial culture that mistakes our doctrines and rituals for divine and unchangeable.
To leave behind the idolatries of “once and never again” revelations and the neurotic religious impulses that insist we // I know that we are // I am right.
To leave behind the “straw man” of religion’s fight to the death with science.
To leave behind any insistence that even our most sacred texts are pure, simply self-evident or literally true.
To leave behind the exclusivism of believing we are preferred by or closer to God and hence treating others as less important than ourselves.
To leave behind any hubris that “my Jesus” is the way to God for everyone.
To leave behind religion that suggests other ways to God are lesser or impossible.
To leave behind distancing ourselves from other “fellow searchers,” despite our different journeys — Buddhists, Hindus, Jews, Muslims, among others.
To leave behind enduring prejudices based on our God-given humanity: skin color, culture, disability, gender, sexuality, nationality or immigration status, poverty.
To leave behind moralisms that substitute a religion’s obsession for how people’s sexuality is expressed for any deeper concern whether its adherents are really loving.
To leave behind fellowship that turns people inwards towards pettiness, control and turf battles; or focusing us on personal slights and making minor details major…
To leave behind preaching “narrow ways” that make us fear danger is all around us… that other directions and detours lead to ruin.
To leave behind false promises of certainty and to cast our lot with a world that is often a weak reflection… and trust nonetheless.
To leave behind understanding “the dominion” Genesis talks about to mean we can mistreat the world, other creatures and other humans in the name of faith.
To leave behind the magic God of childhood and of other disempowered human experiences.
To leave behind any place where our children respond that what we believe is unbelievable.
To leave behind what has become for so many an un-liveable place, a space more about past than future, more about what has already died than about new life.
To leave behind even beloved, familiar words and sounds and sights and smells and symbols of our tradition if they have come to get between us and God or between us and the mission God’s waiting on us for.
To leave behind much of the church as it has been up to this point (in many respects the best home I’ve ever known!).
...On the way to a new-old place where we can once again sing the Lord’s song:
To strike out, head off in unknown territories, even if we end up in a distant country, if that’s where our faith-tradition can be revived, resurrected and live on.
To move where we are no longer moving the chairs on the deck of an ecclesiastical Titanic.
I believe we can do this because no matter where one goes, we can never go too far for the God experience.
We can never get too far away from the doorway into the divine that we have been offered in the one we call the Christ and acknowledge as “our Lord.”
Even if we head into and through dangerous and religiously threatening places. We’re off! …But to where, God only knows!
But that way eventually leads back home, and I can’t wait to get back. To step through an unfamiliar-looking door and find a “new” home that opens before us and challenges us with great new horizons of God’s possibilities.
See you in church,
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