That’s the heading of the document that I started reading on the plane today. However, I didn’t pay much attention to the heading as I read through the document.
The document is part of our denomination’s constitution which we are reviewing at our General Conference this year (for more background on that, go here). There are several places where words have been crossed out and alternative words are being recommended. For example, there are several gender-specific words that are being changed–an action which is overdue.
I finished skimming and started reading again, this time looking at the document rather than the changes. And here is what you see:
A. Articles of Faith and Practice
1. The Triune God
a. we believe….
and I started laughing (quietly, of course, because I am on a plane.)
I realized that the whole document feels like archaic language for many people, and 98% of it isn’t being changed.
Archaic – words that have gone out of use, words that feel old-fashioned, words that seem to not fit contemporary usage. For example, “immanent and transcendent to creation” is part of how God is described in the first paragraph. That’s what we say we believe about God, and yet only the theologians among us understand what those words mean and why they matter.
Here’s my real struggle, though. I believe what I understand of those words. I give intellectual assent. And I want to give emotional and behavioral assent as well. But somehow, without abandoning the beliefs, we have to translate the ideas into human, into 2.0, into words you can use when riding on an airplane.
But who has time? Who has the time and the energy and the creativity and the desire to take the abstractions of our articles of faith and practice and explain them in a way that real people can use in talking with real people about a real relationship with a real God. And this isn’t head-thumping, rule-imposing religion, but somehting that is as real as, well as real as this:
This morning, our kids were sleeping in the living room. The upper level of our house is hot and we don’t have central air and so they were sleeping in the living room where there was a window unit. Our 20 year old was stretched on the sofa and the 16 year old curled up on the love seat. I stood looking at them sleeping, not wanting to wake them but wanting to let them know I loved them before flying out here for the week.
So I knelt down by the love seat and looked at Hope and quietly said, “Goodbye beautiful, I love you. I’ll see you Friday night.” She opened one eye, then the other, smiled and said, “Goodbye.” I did the same with Andrew, actually kissing him on the top of the head, this man who is taller than I.
Did I care that they didn’t leap up, hug me, say “Fare thee well, most beloved of fathers.” Did I care that they didn’t stand at the window watching us drive out of sight? Absolutely not. My concern for them was two-fold: I love you and I want you to know, and you are tired and I want you to sleep.
Do I want them to know that I’m their dad? Yes.
Do I want them to show respect for me? Yes, in a comfortable (rather than rigid or sarcastic or legalistic way)
Do I scold sometimes? Do I ask them to do things, and even in a certain way? (dishes, lawn, garbage) yes.
Do I delight in aggravating them or making life difficult or punishing them? No (though at times they think so).
I just love them. I want them to grow. I want them to become what God has built them for.
And so does God love. Not abstractly, but with real words and kisses and looking after us. And not archaically, with words that aren’t part of real life, but with actual meaningful interaction.
So how can I say all that?
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