The (Messy) Road Ahead…

Back in the olden days of paper maps, it could be disconcerting to get lost. Having a map didn’t help unless you knew your location on that map.

GPS presents a different problem. The “my location” button can tell you where you are. But then GPS tells you to “proceed to the route” without telling you which way that is. Or, there is the notable moment when it announces “you have arrived” and you are…nowhere.

We yearn for straight paths, clear directions, well-lit signs, and consistent, reliable way-finding. Well, if we want to experience authentic ministry, one of our first spiritual disciplines may have to be to lay aside those expectations.

My denominational tradition is fond of repeating that we are to do things “decently and in order.” I’m all for decency. Especially in this season of coarse civic dialogue, decency is urgently needed. But order?…in 2018, perhaps not so much. In Genesis, God ordered the chaos and creation ensued. From that, I take that order is a God-sized job. When we creatures undertake order, it can instead turn into something suffocating or fearful or exhausting. At Pentecost, God’s Spirit messed with a carefully composed and presumably tame sense of who the church of Jesus Christ was to be and what it was to do. The “messiness” was part of what propelled the church into the world.

I think of the boards, committees and staff meetings of our congregations and of all the hours we spend to ensure no mess occurs as we engage in ministry. We do this at the expense of trying new ways of reaching people with the hope of the gospel and risking sharing the love and justice of Jesus Christ in this fractured culture…and then seeing if the mess is really as bad as we fear.

Most messes can get cleaned up where trust is present. We would do better to work diligently and faithfully on trust, and let messes get cleaned up as we go.