“They’ve already taken questions.” Explained a woman a few columns away from her. “You can put your hand down.” And another nodded over her shoulder, pleadingly.
The girl didn’t speak out loud, but didn’t take down her hand either. “I think they need to know that I have a question.” She whispered back to them.
Older women shepherd the younger women in the church – fearing their own voices might not be respected – if they don’t respect the forces that silence their gender.
People around the girl’s raised arm shifted uncomfortably, and the people on stage turned away. She couldn’t tell if they couldn’t see her – if her question was too much in the shadows of the awning – or if they felt like her question had already somehow been previously represented.
She knew she wasn’t the right form of personality to demand attention, but she also somehow did not feel unnoticed.
The people around her who cared about her were holding their breath, and the ones that huffed were the ones who would keep her silent and unknowing forever if they could.
It was like God wouldn’t let her take her arm down. Too much leadership training, and being the primary caregiver of so many little babies from all over the world kept her arm in the air. Did they know what they were doing?
Above them had hung a vision – which was as ugly as a black man hanging on a Southern Baptist Cross.
She looked at the faces of the white men on the stage – and realized they didn’t see the demon in it. The stained glass shone brightly behind them over the ill-fated sample of hopeless impossibilities.
She was going to try to keep my question short, God-willing.
“Can you put that picture back up for a moment, please?” She wanted to ask them. They wouldn’t have expected her to make a request like that, but the graphics guy was high-tech, and probably wouldn’t have refused either.
She needed them to put the ugl-y-ness back on the screen, to call it out, and get it from hanging over their own heads – unaware of what they were talking about – there was a second layer to the visual aid that hadn’t crossed their experience. What – wasn’t being said – was more dangerous and looming – than the silent speakers which loomed over the heads of the musicians – and which blocked the rainbow prism on the floor.
The picture was a devil’s reasoning – with devil’s images. How much suffering went into the production of cane sugar? Only if you’ve ever worked on cane would you know how it shreds your hands and beats your body, how it burns and glazes – to get the ‘perfect’ ‘pure’ refined product that destroys your body, causes dislike to the sweet taste of fruit – and ruins your teeth, your appetite – and your words. There was no hope in any of their reasoning or their chosen representation of the church.
It was like an infant Jesus was lying in a manger and Herod himself was leaning over looking with doubt – and premonition – upon the child – trying in a worldly way to wonder what was so special about this little holy creature – and wouldn’t it be better to starve him or exile him – than find out? To decide whether the rumored child could be allowed to live – or serve – by easy identification of his parts – or much more difficult to see inside of – spirit? The only way Herod could maintain control was to trouble Jesus by creating blockages – like laws, which were the only commands within Herod’s power. You could argue with Herod all day long – but Herod wasn’t meant to give the permission they were meant to demand the freedom of their neighbors, it wasn’t by dis-invitation, but rather by love that the church was meant to be solidified and purified in the presence of the holy -one- a holy solidified one.
Fortunately, the glass was above it, and it wasn’t the slavery – or supremacy that the panes were representing.
On the picture were four scenarios:
“So, this is what they fear.” The girl thought to herself.
And the speaker explained with fine language the destruction of all four scenarios.
The Progressive, Non-Compatible-ists want to break – – think inclusion is worth fighting for – so much so – that they would break – to be included. There were only a few grains scattered amongst them, but those grains would change the color of the group if added, like the rainbow shards in the window, they were already in pieces. Next to them was a sugar packet that was broken open as if it were somehow impure.
The Progressive-Compatiblists wouldn’t break to include them, they want the church to be united. Next to their – was – a broken sugar packet packet. They were not whole until they decided to leave or stay – or would break individually – or at least, that’s what the devil convinced them was their scope of decision.
The Traditional-Compatiblists wouldn’t leave to break, but they wouldn’t stop others in the church from accepting promises from the people to God in front of their congregations, but they wouldn’t unite them in holy matrimony – either – which was the same as not inviting them to the Christ vision as God created them to be. The former categories besides theirs – were also broken open.
And… Herod… didn’t want to come, didn’t want to live that way, and threatened to leave if he couldn’t look under the sheets and ensure in all of the worldly commands his mortal power and reign for the future. But Herod sent emails disguised from every good person he convinced to leave with him – which were painful to the pastors, because – they were invited and loved the same community, too, to maintain Herod’s privileges and power, and didn’t know of a better way. The leadership had to make the decision isolated because the crowds weren’t presenters when – they did not feel welcome, but needed to be included.
“That cannot be the vision of a church that calls themselves united and is supposed to be a representation of the Kingdom of God on Earth.” She wanted to say. “The people from every option are all bleeding and they are not united – some merely because they are wishing for permission they will never receive from Herod, but – like Ruby Red Slippers – have always had it – in Christ. There are so many references in the green-background of the black-and-white example – to slavery and supremacy and oppression – that’s spiritual assassination any way you go. That is only a vision that the devil would want you to believe. Each projected possibility is… bleeding – white.”
“There are fourteen percent that wouldn’t be able to move forward if we let these people in.” Said the speaker. The girl imagined a geriatric ward trying to roll their way out of the church if the balances of the youth were allowed in the door. Most of that division would probably stay and enjoy the company, and not notice any major differences in their worship anyways.
Those fourteen percent would still be invited. And the people who were being fought for were already welcome and loved.
How could they be so confused? She wondered.
Then she remembered the comment about the emails – and knew how the devil would make them think that they were kicking out those who were blocking the gates – not guarding them. If leaders only speak to leaders, nobody leads and everyone fears. Those emails don’t represent the opinions of the future. Is that what they are taught to believe – that the complaints of one who takes the time to twist a heart for love – is the one that matters more than 100 people who quietly huddle in support of the rejected whose voice is denied? The ones who short of laying their loved one’s naked bodies out on the stage and publicly shaming them – could only represent them with confusing metaphors – loving them like mothers, when they needed to be loved like neighbors. Anyone who’d ever changed enough diapers – around the world – would have been able to know that diversity works – and can only be explained by God. A wise spiritual teacher wouldn’t disrupt those blessed partnerships when they come – they would celebrate them. Isn’t that what God made clothing possible for? God has no problem with nakedness – but men have problems with judging – and shame for what they don’t understand. Not enough men change diapers, and not enough women are allowed to speak in church to make up the difference in their knowledge, babies are innocent, and cannot represent themselves or their differences – the same as these children of God.
Did the church belong to the intentionally rainbow-faced Christ in the window? Or did it belong to the vision of the impending spiritual-assassination below them?
“Can you raise the image of the Book of Discipline?” She knew that even when they raised the book, it was still going to appear below the Christ figure.
“What was the most important rule we were given?” She wanted to ask. “If the text doesn’t honor that, then why use it to judge anyone’s freedom of actions? Wouldn’t it be more dangerous to our faith to keep them out – than to allow them in, and to make and keep their promises to their partners, their children, and to their creator, Himself?”
Did we need to divide in order to make a space for these people? No, the beauty of their representative broken-ness was already represented in the face Christ above them. Nobody would be forced to stay, but all were welcome.
“Where is the hope in this situation?” She wanted to point out that it could not possibly be contained possibly be contained in the starch-white slavery-produced sugar packets – she had been to enough leadership conferences to know that the hope was in the fused shards of above them. Four broken sugar packets could not possibly be God’s hope for the world.
The leaders seemed to need permission from each other – or some silent non-present presence – more than they needed permission from God.
Yet, it was a brave Pastor, who turned to the others, and explained, “I’m kind of in fear for my mortal soul… [if we don’t let these people in]”
She waited for someone to be brave enough to say – “Nobody left. Everyone’s welcome. That’s the way it always was. Can I introduce you to my neighbors? And remind you how we all fall short every day? And these are not the promises they made to the pastor – these are the promises that the pastor recorded in their community that they openly made to each other and God.” Was what she felt like the true representation of Christ would say in regards to the Herod’s that would keep them out. Thank God there was a pastor who understood how important this issue was.
The girl was looking up at the shards that made the rainbow in the holy face above the leaders.
But they wouldn’t accept her hand, and the light from the glass protected her heart from their rejection.
It is the colors in the glass that will protect the church and enable it to make the right decisions. Were they really discussing this on the raised platform where the people sing,
“Nothing can separate – even if you ran away – cause your love never fails.”
A celebration of diversity is what this sanctuary was meant to stand for. The healing of the broken fused together into a vision everyone is welcome to participate in. All of those little shards of glass that want to be neighbors and be treated with the dignity and respect with which they were created ought to feel invited to come to Christ’s church. None of them are perfect as a whole – but together and baptized by fire they fuse into a spirit that fills the room – and is meant for a greater kingdom with fewer boundaries and more freedom.
God already made those design decisions – of what would be beautiful when he made the people by the head of the hair. Do you want stained glass when you go to church? Or are you trying to fit your faith inside of a paper packet of slave sugar, hoping that someone will serve you disproportionately?
It was never the church’s decision. It was the God who designed them fearfully and wonderfully. Their inner workings and chemistry were never meant to be judged by a crowd – only celebrated by their goodness and promises kept, and loyalty to values which allow others to be accepted and blessed as well.
She had about as much ease in leaving the sanctuary as she did taking her hand down.
It was a question that needed to be asked, the same kind of spirit that caused her to fail a college ethics class years ago. (Subscribe – I might have a chance to write more about that, later.) She felt like her question could not be answered – until it was asked in a more supportive atmosphere where light could enter.
You don’t have to be black to care about civil rights in your world and nation. You do not need to be a woman to care about women’s rights. And you do not have to be LGBTQ to care about their rights – or inclusion either. You do not need to be Jewish to uphold their religious freedoms, or be Muslim to care about their well-being – or old to care about the young. Or respected as a leader – in order to feel the call to lead, and protect spiritual values unapologetically. Some of the most powerful advocates in the justice movement – are not the people who are oppressed in our societies – but the people God called to love, protect, and support them.
I feel like everyone in the world who wants to live as Christ commanded us to live – should be invited to our church and given the choice to be fully-embraced members.
And everyone – in the world – who prays for social justice – should feel like neighbors, there.
And so does our Pastor.
(I’d feel a bit rude to post the picture of the sugar packets but I modified it – so it’s legal, but I’m going to try to get permission of the artist – to be fair, although I need to point out that the speaker didn’t seem to take any pride in the example and it does seem to accurately present the fears of each group. The speaker was using the permitted example that someone else synthesized down into a visualization that explained the groups and the topic on the church’s table. The Elders felt like the visualization accurately described the arguements of all sides – and the future of the church. The elders approved and raised this example of their condition – without seeing the demon in it, or their responsibility to change it. It describes what they see and understand. The Elders couldn’t build a monument or a Sistene Chapel to attract the youth of the world, based on green posterboard with black and white scenarios where everyone dies, so they wanted this poster to be carried around the world as an example to raise over the heads of the church leaders – to let them know what kind of thoughts they are willing to consider. Small churches may only face one or two in a generation – but the point of having united church is for the world view, wisdom and perspective that a far-reaching and wide congregation of believers is supposed to be able to provide. I’d feel the freedom of Christ to boldly post the making of the face of Jesus in the window – without permission, with a link to the creator.)
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