Monday, August 3, 2009

Tootin' & Scootin'

“He’s going to toot; we’re going to skoot.” That’s the message on a church sign, as reported by a friend of mine. She’s always on the look-out for humorous sayings on church signs and shares them with the rest of us by posting them on Facebook. When I read this one I was mystified. What the heck is that supposed to mean? I wondered. Who is the he? Is that God? And what would it mean for him to toot? I know tooting is a euphemism for passing gas, as in the little jingle we used to say about beans when I was a kid: “Beans, beans, the musical fruit, the more you eat, the more you toot.” So is this saying that when God passes gas we’d best be getting out of the way? Somehow I didn’t think that was the sort of message a church would put on their sign. Finally, the friend who posted the message enlightened me. It was referring to the trumpet sounding on judgment day and all the true Christians being taken up into heaven. Well, duh, Nancy!

Now, when I found out what the message meant, although maybe I should have felt stupid because I didn’t understand it, I didn’t. Nor did I feel like I’m in trouble because when God comes tooting his horn (actually I believe it would be the angel Gabriel) on judgment day and all the true believers are caught up in the air, I’ll be standing with my feet firmly planted on the Earth, asking, “Did you just hear something? Was that the sound of someone very large passing gas?” No. What I felt was sadness. How can there be such a huge divide within the Christian Church that we have such divergent ways of thinking? Clearly, we’re not all on the same wavelength. Sometimes I wonder if we’re even speaking the same language. I hate the labels we slap on one another, but if I had to live with a label for my own expression of Christianity, I would call it progressive or liberal. I tend to gravitate toward like-minded people, the kind who don’t think a whole lot about tootin’ and scootin’. Those are the authors I read, the friends I meet for lunch, the believers I share the weekly Eucharist with. I avoid people who don’t see the world the way I see it, for a lot of reasons. Mostly because, to be honest, they exhaust me. It’s a lot of work to carry on a conversation with someone who thinks so differently than I do. It’s easier to live in my insulated little world, within the walls I have constructed to keep like-minded people in and other people out. I know I’m not alone in that. And it makes me sad.

To be in Christ is to live in a wall-free zone that models the Kingdom of God. A metaphor used in Ephesians to describe this reality is the Body of Christ. All Christians are a part of that Body, with Christ as our head. The image is one of unity, without walls dividing one part of the Body from another. Of course, this is not the same thing as uniformity. Certainly there is diversity in the Body, and that’s by design, so that with our diverse gifts we can build up the Body to do Christ’s work in the world. But within that diversity, there is unity. How do we live together in the unity of Christ’s love while still honoring and celebrating the gift of our diversity?

The disunity we experience as Christians isn’t just between denominations; it happens within denominations, too. I’m very aware of that struggle in my own denomination, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. Like most mainline denominations these days, we are trying to figure out how to resolve the disagreements we have about how supportive we are willing to be toward people who are in same-gender relationships. At our Churchwide Assembly in a couple of weeks, we will be voting on some far-reaching resolutions that could bring us to a new place as God’s people. What’s being proposed is not a win/lose agenda where our church will insist that we all agree, but it’s a plan that allows us to live together in the midst of our disagreements. I think it’s a faithful solution, one that reflects what it means to be the Body of Christ in the world today. But denominational policies don’t really change what’s in our hearts. No matter what our voting members to the assembly decide, we will continue to struggle.

I suspect that what most of us would like to see is a change of heart on the part of those who disagree with us. We’d like it if they could to come around to our way of seeing things. I know I’d sure like that. But I don’t think that’s what it means to be part of the Body of Christ. When we’re part of the Body, we work together for whatever strengthens the Body. It’s not about converting other parts of the Body to our way of thinking. It’s about working together for the unity of the Body. For me, that means that I need to stop worrying about what’s in the hearts of other Christians and spend a little more time thinking about what’s in my own.

I’m sure whoever put “He’s going to toot; we’re going to skoot” on that church sign had no idea how it would mess with me. But it has. I guess that just goes to show that I really do need tootin’ and scootin’ Christians in my life!

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