One of our readings this Sunday will be the Road to Emmaus story (Luke 24:13-35). In the sermon, I’m emphasizing what we don’t know, don’t understand and doubt. Worry not: the sermon will be no dressing down; rather, it will be an uplifting message of hope. Christian life is not about what how much we know or how right we are, but about how far God in Jesus will go for us (about how much love!).
But the Emmaus story also brings up something I want to share with you. All the roads and detours and byways of our journeys, and the promise that God was often with us, even when we did not recognize that or felt alone. I was reminded of this during the introductions in last Sunday’s New Members’ class.
We are UCC, and a particularly open community within our denomination. That’s in part about being a city church and the diversities that city living delivers to our doorstep, different folks living in close proximity.
But our openness is also about our understanding of the faith. We’re firm in believing that we are all God’s children. And none of us has anymore claim on God’s attention, love, blessing or reward than anyone else. There’s a democracy above in God’s finding each one of us equally precious — that translates to a democracy reflected here on earth.
What struck me in last Sunday’s introductions was the diversity of paths that have brought this class of new members to us. That’s always true here at Old First, but this class, their stories were heartening — the roads were long and varied, and covered some real distances (pretty much the whole globe, not to mention some emotional distances too).
I hope you might ask them about their spiritual journeys individually. Or begin by offering to share yours with them. You will get a little entre because in the next weeks, we will run biographies of their own writing, one new one each week. Another way to get to know Chris and Samantha, Winston, Steve, Allison, Emily, Tony, Dredeir, and Sue.
Overall, I was left with the impression that this class, maybe more than most, was coming to us out of a shared appreciation for the loving and ‘space-making’ community that our theological openness engenders. “Truly,” someone said, “it feels like there is room for ALL of each of us.”
In the middle of all this, Samantha shared a modern parable of sorts, from her and Chris’ days as church planters for an Australian church that she and Chris had belonged to. The parable springs from how some other Christians doubted the possibility of church with so few apparent boundaries, directives, rules, cut-offs. The parable goes something like this:
Once ranchers from Montana came to visit Australian ranchers. The ranchers from Montana marveled at the expanse of the Australian plains, land for as far as the eye could see, with not a fence in sight. They couldn’t believe it. How could the ranchers maintain their herds if there were no fences? The Australians explained that the distances and the dryness of their plains made fenced in areas impractical. So they explained that instead they relied on wells and the availability of water to keep their herds together.
What the new members coming to us seemed to have perceived and understood implicitly was that we’re not really a church of fences. Instead, we trust that a well full of living water is sufficient to keep us gathered, focused, together and get us through.
See you in church (when we welcome these 9 new, well-traveled saints among us),