March 23, 2017
Sometimes seasons collide. This week marked the official first day of spring. Monday, we had spring-like temperatures in Chicago. Today, winter has returned. Such is the weather in March in the Midwest.
The seasons of the church year also can collide. This week I came to the realization that my Lenten audit of my soul was colliding with a goal I had set for the new year.
I am an avid reader. One of my goals for the new year was to read books authored by people who represent views of Christianity different than those that might be considered orthodox in my tradition. I ordered books by Rob Bell, Joel Osteen and Peter Gomes.
Bell and Osteen are well known in popular circles. Gomes less so. None of them would be considered “orthodox reformed thinkers.”
While I may not agree on every theological point with these three, I can still learn from them. I am a firm believer in the reformed notion that “all truth is God’s truth.” John Calvin put it this way:
Therefore, in reading profane authors, the admirable light of truth displayed in them should remind us, that the human mind, however much fallen and perverted from its original integrity, is still adorned and invested with admirable gifts from its Creator. If we reflect that the Spirit of God is the only fountain of truth, we will be careful, as we would avoid offering insult to him, not to reject or condemn truth wherever it appears (Calvin’s Institutes, II.2.15).
Our patron saint refers to unorthodox authors as “profane.” I wonder why we aren’t that adventuresome (sarcasm).
In reading these authors I have been challenged, stretched and enlightened.That is how my Lenten reflection crashed into my New Year’s resolutions. As I have been doing the audit of my soul during Lent, I have heard God challenge me to seek broader ideas … to be willing to learn from people who think differently than I think … to spend time with people whose lifestyles are “other than” my own.
When we only spend time in conversation with people who hold the same political views as our own, we are reinforced and not challenged. When we only spend time with people who live the same lifestyle we live, or who are from the same socio-economic group, we lack understanding. When we only converse with Christians who hold our viewpoints, we tend to conclude that “everyone” thinks that way.
I see this happen in our congregation. If I attend the 9 a.m blended service and limit my conversations about worship with those congregants, I tend to think that my view is “right” and a majority of people feel that way. f I wear jeans and a tee shirt to worship and my friends do the same, I wonder why anyone would wear dresses or suits. Some lament the lack of an evening worship service, others have never heard of having an evening worship service. Congregants don’t shout “Amen” or “Alleluia” in our worship services and if someone does they may receive the evil eye, or the headshake of disapproval.
I lead a pastor’s support group that is made up of pastors who represent a wide variety of Christian traditions. I learn from their differing viewpoints and have had to defend my theological positions to them. I am a richer person because of it.
During Lent, one of the things I have come to realize is that God is calling me to broaden my horizons; to expose myself to people who think and live differently. It can only make me a better person, even at my advanced age.
To remember and believe that “all truth is God’s truth.”