This happens every year without fail. I flail around in the sermon preparation for Easter (but not so much with Christmas) simply because, well, in many ways the story is still new to me. "So what?" you might wonder. Well, it matters. Sometimes I feel like a foreigner within the Christian faith.
This is the connection I'm struggling with today. Larry and Robyn posted on why they struggle with McLaren recently (He has a new book out entitled A New Kind of Christianity.). I sometimes struggle as well and for similar reasons. Though I know a lot about the Modernist Controversy and all the mess between Conservative and Liberal Baptists in the Southern Baptist Convention, it's not really my story. I was living around it but not in it. I was it's neighbor, but no more.
Then one day I found myself in it. I was living in a religious community and singing in churches and even tried my hand at seminary for nine months there. I worked as a lay youth minister...a church musician...and worked in the kitchens in the retreat center that the community ran. My faithful upbringing was ecumenical. It was founded in the deep history of Christianity. Even the Christian Spirituality class I took in seminary (a Baptist one at that) assumed that St. John of the Cross, Henri Nouwen, George Fox and Lotti Moon all had something to offer. I inherited the debates, but still was not invested in them. My perspective was wider.
I learned to pray sitting next to Baptists, Quakers, Episcopalians, Catholics, Methodists and Presbyterians all who held on to their traditions while praying the Daily Office together. The Greek Orthodox often made an appearance in my life as well. The differences were nurturing. They were not confusing. The faith I learned is/was the conversation between members of different communities that loved one another. McLaren is not saying anything new to me. But then again, I know I am by some measurements new to Christianity.
But this is how I come to Easter still. It's fresh to me. I believe it and believe in it. I hold these so-called oppositional, strange, and disparate voices in my mind and they sing together. George Fox kneels in prayer with St. John of the Cross. E. Glenn Hinson is still lecturing in my memory about the power of contemplative prayer to fuel the Civil Rights Movement. Nouwen, Merton, von Bingen, Mary of Egypt are all there...Some would say this makes me a bad Baptist. That may be so, but if McLaren is right then all of this makes me a fairly normal Baptist for the 21st century...and McLaren is only putting language on something that has been at work for decades. Heck, it may actually make me a good Christian. Who knows how this will play out.
So, I'll stand up and preach on Sunday and pray that all who have nurtured me into faith are standing with me and preaching through me with the power of the Holy Spirit. I will pray that the Resurrection of Christ will become real and tangible in our retelling the stories and singing together. I will pray that God is there even if I can't get the manuscript together. And I'll pray that I will take the heavy weight off my own shoulders.