March 10, 2018

the other preachers

"Ye shall know them by their fruits.  Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles?"  Matthew 7:16

The Baptist preacher at Main Street was pond scum, and the Lutheran minister who nearly made me choke on iceberg lettuce was just the same Baptist preacher in a cream-and-crimson robe.  They and their ilk are contemptuous.  The love of their Christ is not in them.

But I have known others.  Men and women of the cloth who are together responsible for the tolerance I embrace, otherwise unmerited.  They are the ones who stop me judging until I can sniff out which sort of Christian I'm dealing with, when confronted with the need to discern.  A tree or a briar patch?

I know a Presbyterian minister.  He intercepted me after my son died and helped me grieve theologically.  He's a college professor and I found myself in his class of Old Testament Studies, my first exposure to a historical-analytical study of the Bible.  I watched several students in the class struggle as what he taught clashed mightily with their faith claims.  He challenged them.  He challenged me, introducing me to process philosophy as a potential means of resolving the dissonance between a god I thought I knew and the parents who prayed fervently beside incubators with varied results.  Love without omnipotence.  This concept, too, was a stepping stone, but it also helped me put my world back together.  He gave me Scotch tape and fertilizer.  He ceded his office hours for the better part of two semesters to my visits and questions.  He sees himself as human before his God.  There is love in him.

I know a Moravian minister.  He is also a teacher, a social worker, an artist, and a writer.  What he draws from his God, he pours out into others every day.  To read his writing is to reflect upon nature and what it can teach us, to question and better one's self.  The course of his life has been pursuit of truth, and sometimes those truths have been hard truths.  He lives fully.  There is love in him.

I knew a pastor at a liberal Church of Christ congregation.  He used to be my own pastor.  His sermons moved us to social justice.  He read the poetry of Mary Oliver and made us think.  He did not live and breathe to further his own church; he pushed the church outside of its brick walls and listened to his God, no matter what he might hear.  He fought for the environment.  The love in him was quiet passion.

And I know a Baptist preacher who has broken away from the tenets of the mainstream denomination.  She is politically thoughtful and refuses to sign marriage certificates in an exercise of complete separation of Church and State.  She spends her days feeding the hungry, connecting the poor in her community to resources, and protecting the weak and disadvantaged, the children who cannot speak for themselves.  She speaks truth to power.  The love in her sees the world and is angry.  She would overthrow the tables at the temple.

So many ordained abuse their position and come to worship their fiefdoms.

I am glad for the others.  They leave grapes and figs in their wake.  In a sense, I still retain faith.  My faith is in them.

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