Charity Goes to Church: Heresy Edition
February 4, 2013 § 3 Comments
I went to one of those “liberal” churches on Sunday night, and I had been warned against it.
“I knew someone who went there, and he’s not a Christian anymore.”
And the warning may have been warranted, as the conclusion I came to at the end of the night was nothing short of heresy, I’m sure.
The church body meets in an antique-looking Methodist building in Minneapolis. Community members have covered the walls of the “sanctuary” with original artwork. They write their own sacred music, they run a yoga studio. Couches and chairs are arranged around a center point, and during the unique liturgy of the service, this arrangement seems to emphasize that church attendees are actively ministering, each to all.
This kind of thing is totally my bag, baby. And I haven’t even started with the sermon.
The folks who were there—attendance was thin, due to the Super Bowl—took turns reading pieces of the Scripture passage in question for the night: Mark 4:1-34. And as we were led by a facilitator, we discussed the Scripture, piece by piece—this was our sermon, this was our ministry of the Word.
And as we mulled over some words on the topic of sowers and seeds, I was surprised by the realization that I no longer know what these passages mean. I used to be so sure—my theology required that, for example, the various kinds of soil listed in “The Parable of the Sower” represented individuals who were themselves responsible for their receptivity to the Gospel. Jesus’ purpose, I assumed, was to explain how some were saved and others were not.
But on Sunday, coming back to this passage after a long time away, I could see a number of other possibilities in this parable. Perhaps Jesus was referring to cultures or people groups rather than individuals; and in a sense, making an apology for those who would not at that time bear the fruit of the Gospel, putting the responsibility to bear much good fruit on those lucky enough to be in the right time and place to receive his message.
Perhaps Jesus was setting up his disciples for a Pharisee-style-turn-of-the-tables, giving them a scenario that they might have been tempted to use as a template to judge between the “haves” and “have-nots,” and following up in verses 21-25 with the admonition, “There is no secret knowledge to gain here. Don’t judge others, for however much you judge other folks, you are compounding your own guilt” (that’s my own lil paraphrase.)
We just don’t know what these passages mean in any conclusive way—we don’t even know whether the disciples figured it out. And this is a parable Jesus explained.
It strikes me as absurd, how little we know about Jesus and his ultimate goals—all we have is a seed. We don’t know what it might produce or how it grows.
We have tried in every way to fill-in-the-blanks; similar to what Peter Enns says of the authors of the Old Testament (in his book Inspiration and Incarnation—more on this another time) all we can do is try to make sense of what little knowledge we do have.
When we work out for ourselves an interpretation of Scripture,the Word is re-incarnated; it becomes human again. And perhaps this isn’t such a bad thing; perhaps this is the way it is supposed to be, anarchic, free, wild with love. After all, the kingdom of Heaven is within us.
This post is part of my “Charity Goes to Church” project in which I attempt to attend 90 church events in 90 days.