the networks to remember

For a variety of reasons,
we’ve already had a number of guest preachers this year.
Amy Butler and I had our annual exchange.
Greg Cochran preached for me when I was sick.
Greg Jarrell was here for the John Duvall Mission Emphasis.
Russ Dean was free one Sunday to continue the conversation
he initiated with us last October,
and I wanted him to continue it when we might still remember it
rather than having him have to repeat the first part to get to the second!
And Marian Boyer will be preaching here April 7,
when I’m at the Convocation of the Alliance of Baptists.

And it has occurred to me,
as often as I am dismayed
at what is said and done in the name of God
and through the church—
as much as I cringe at theology in public life
and Scriptural interpretation in public discourse,

what a treat, in the span of just several weeks,
to find myself so very proud of friends and colleagues—
so very grateful for the depth and diversity,
the quality and creativity of ministry
going on all around us—
facilitated by such admirable people—
each called by God into her or his own unique service.

Now I recognize such pride, gratitude, and admiration
parallels the joy I take in my own local community of faith
with its rich depths of relationship and commitment,
the unique work of so many I admire.

Here’s the thing,
amidst the go-to evangelical talking heads
the media go to for comment about this, that, and the other—
amidst the strident voices of faith
so attractive to the media in their anger and extremism,
in my vast reactive irritation, it’s often entirely too easy
to forget—to overlook the local communities of faith
whose very diverse theologies
and understandings of Scripture
pale in comparison to their effort and commitment
to walk in the way of Jesus.

It’s too easy to forget—to overlook
the network of ministry and ministers
whose comments I would appreciate and value (were they reported)—
whose work and witness both challenges and inspires me.

So it’s truly as if I value, at some level,
what I read and hear over what I actually experience!
As if being publicized is more important than being faithful.

These days, as in all days, within what’s reported,
how important to remember what’s not.

How important to remember
all the different people and communities,
of different traditions and theologies
and worship preferences,
nonetheless all making qualitative,
transformative differences in the world—
and doing so in the loving, graceful way of God—
so very rarely appealing to the modern media.

Yet as their lives and ministries intersect our own,
and are then sometimes interwoven with ours,
maybe that should be enough.
May be.
May it be.

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