Let's call it 10 things..., number 9.
As I'm settling into my still new-ish job (I haven't passed the three-month mark yet, after all), one of the things I'm enjoying is getting to visit the parents of as many young people as I can cram into my time. [In the past I've learned that youth ministry is as much to do with spending time with the the parents as their young people.]
Tonight I was visiting a family, and I was struck by the diversity in attitudes and values that makes up even what is on the surface a fairly normal Presbyterian church. Everybody expresses their faith, religion, upbringing, tradition, experience, background, whatever in a slightly different way. There are the people for whom the church as it looks now is just as it should be and fits them nicely. There are the people who are just a bit dissatisfied with it all because they're asking certain questions and not getting the help they want to find the answers.
Actually, that last sentence doesn't quite sound like what I mean. An example: I spoke with a lady tonight who has an interest and concern in peacemaking and reconciliation, however that's expressed, be it in cross-community work or otherwise. Yet her perception is that in and around the church the prevailing attitude is one of, "What's that got to do with us? Everything's fine here." Maybe she's right, maybe not. I'm not sure. Certainly looking at the surface of the community, that's what you'd expect - but it's not universal by any means.
Anyway, what I'm saying is that we each take this thing (this thing that we probably each think about in different terms, anyway: faith, religion, 'church', Christianity, even Presbyterianism) and in our heads we imagine it looking a little bit different to the next person. Then we come together, and a bunch of us are close enough to do the same thing each Sunday morning, but never quite close enough that all (any?) of us are totally happy with it. Then when somebody else comes along, we have real trouble understanding them or relating to them unless they're willing to sign up to at least our 'close enough,' if not exactly what's in our head. How can we blame them for turning around and walking away again?
In our desire to do things right - and in there somewhere I still need to think that it is through a positive desire to follow God - we draw lines and then look at people according to what side of the line we (we, not they) place them on. And logically I think there must be a truth and a meaning to some line somewhere if anything is to mean anything, but I increasingly wonder how reliable the lines we draw are?
I think fewer of them matter than we tend to think, and if that's the case... well then, do we need to tread a little more carefully, speak a little more softly, and perhaps listen a little more closely?
... the word of faith we are proclaiming: That if you confess with your mouth, "Jesus is Lord," and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.