I have to be honest: we are only two-thirds of the way through the Joseph story, and already I am tired of his brothers. BIG TIME! They wander here…. They wander there. They seem to flub up often, and see very little of the big picture. Perhaps I am intended to grow in agitation with them. It seems part of the story.
Today they head back to Egypt with double the money and with Benjamin, the youngest. It is about time! Get out of my story!
I suppose the Genesis trajectory, and indeed the whole Old Testament is a reminder to me that sometimes God’s work is slow and meticulous. It takes much time for God’s will to be revealed to the characters trapped in the text, and sometimes for us too. Often this is true in our lives too.
Often the New Testament trajectory is the exact opposite. God seems to move fast. God is elusive and unpredictable. Paul is experiencing the repercussions of God moving a bit more quickly. Today he takes up the topic of marriage, sexual intimacy, and sexual immorality.
The Apostles are bearers of new and different rules, breaking the norms of society, and changing around long time traditions of family values. It had been advocated that sexual intimacy is not compatible with the life in Christ. Paul objects to this blanket statement, but also agrees with a good portion of this premise.
Some think that we are moving too fast in the church and redefining things like marriage. The reality is that the Church has always been asked by God to be at the forefront of the Holy Spirit moving in radical ways, continuing the trajectory of the New Testament – a breaking of boundaries and human constructs, following new definitions of love, compassion, and justice.
So often, however, the Church has not lived up to its calling, but wallowed in institutionalism, resisted change, held on to power, celebrated its apparent immutability, and generally been the most recalcitrant of all the Abrahamic religions. It is embarrassing to say the least.
Did we forget the New Testament? Is anyone reading this radical set of writings? Does anyone see the inclusive, welcoming trajectory? Does anyone understand that living into change sometimes is the most biblically-based thing one can do?
Part of this is the fault of those of us calling for the change. Instead of quoting Scripture and living into the nudgings of the Holy Spirit, too often we have coward in the corner of the Church with our tails between our legs, fearing the accusations of bending to culture. Instead we needed to be talking about how culture had been more authentic to the Holy Spirit’s leading, and had left the Church in the dust. We needed to be talking about how the Church had become stuck, buried its head in the sand, power hungry, fearing change, and sinning to the point of reconstructing the very human constructs that Christ came to unbind. We had become Peter, not Paul in the argument, resisting all change.
Paul was a good arguer. He won many of the fights. Interestingly enough, he fought for change. He fought to undo years of tradition. And he won.
Today’s Church in North America is poisoned with harmful American ideology like individualism. This doesn’t help the call for reform. Nor does it help church attendance. It means very few sit still enough to listen to the argument. Instead they get up and leave.
Our job as Christians is not to panic at this. We must stay the course of truth and love laid out in the Gospel. This may be God pruning the Body of Christ.
What we need is to boldly proclaim our tradition which is Reformed and always reforming, and focus on the Holy Spirit as we are led into God’s new future.
This was never ours to begin with. Bury the power-hungry craziness. Time to follow.
I have to warn you: the Church may not look like the Church we once knew. And that’s OK. It was never ours to begin with.