Our Common Life…Words from the Conference Staff
Myth may be of indeterminable historicity, but that doesn’t make it any less powerful.
Like all human institutions, the church – even the mainline church! – is subject to myth. Here’s one of ours – “Once upon a time we mattered! Once upon a time we were influential and when we spoke movers and shakers sat up, paid heed, and changed their ways.”
Whether that was really ever the case, it’s not anymore. If we went down to the coffee shop in your town tomorrow morning and asked how many of the folk there were online the first few days of July to find out what the UCC General Synod thought about the issues of the day, without exception, the response would have been, “What’s a ‘General Synod’?”
Let’s face it – the set of people who care about the pronouncements of our church is so small as to be statistically insignificant.
So….shall we give up?
There is, it seems to me, a marked difference between “bearing witness” and “being influential.” It’s mostly an attitudinal thing. The behaviors of those intending to bear witness and those hoping to be influential may at times look quite similar, but the motivations undergirding those respective behaviors are quite different.
In some respects, I’m a romantic idealist. I hate to say so out loud because it makes me feel so utterly stupid, but facts are facts. When I’m cynical or sarcastic, that’s almost always cover for a breaking heart. I easily resort to flippancy not because I believe words and actions don’t matter, but because I do, and I feel naked in my distress at what I see all around me, so I protect myself with a sharp tongue and a devil-may-care attitude.
Lest I elevate myself with the implication that I’m at all unique in these respects, let me assure you – I know better. I’m a poor copy of Elijah, who complained to God about his isolation in faithfulness. I’m a dreadfully poor copy of Jeremiah, who spoke in spite of the constant and profound trouble his words caused him. Elijah and Jeremiah (and a host of others) spoke for God in circumstances certifiably dangerous and challenging – circumstances profoundly unlike any I am ever buy vicodin canada pharmacy likely to experience.
There’s a biblical word for being influentially marginalized – it’s called being a “remnant.” In our day, a remnant is that scrap that’s left over after the new carpet has been installed throughout the house. But in the Old Testament, the remnant was that cadre of committed men and women who is spite of a cultural ethos to the contrary, continued to promote values of true religion – fundamental justice, radical inclusivity, over-the-top hospitality. The remnant was the small segment of society that hung in there and spoke the words that no one else really wanted to hear. In the short term, there’s no evidence that the remnant was ever influential. It doesn’t appear that the powers of the day were anything but annoyed by the persistent questions and challenges from the remnant – the faithful remnant.
My friends, I’m tired of hearing complaints that the soccer league plans practice on Sunday morning, or that this or that or the other organization is encroaching on the so-called sanctity of the Wednesday church night. Those days of institutional influence are gone. The rest of civil society will no longer prop us up. If we can’t compete on our own with soccer and play practice, then perhaps we need to ask ourselves why that is and whether we are offering anything of any intrinsic value.
In Isaiah 37:4, King Hezekiah enjoins “…prayer for the remnant that is left.” He’d just had the stunning insight that the faithfulness of the remnant was valuable for the whole of society. Perhaps we need to embrace the attitude of the faithful remnant. Perhaps we need to grieve the loss of influence and then move on to our new station in society. Perhaps we need to pray for each other in this different and not entirely satisfying role – the role of “speakers of truth” rather than as setters of prevailing norms. Perhaps we need to acknowledge that we have become a remnant….and embrace that reality as our call for this time and place, and see, if by God’s grace, we might become known as a “faithful remnant.”
There could be worse things to be known as!
With Hope and Perseverance,
Iowa Conference Minister