What if we are currently in a Noah’s ark situation within the Church?
We can hear the waves rising, and screams of Church leaders telling us not to panic. However, every part of us knows something is about to give. The story of Noah’s ark is horrifying and confusing when you think about it. Is this how The Holy One truly responds to their created when things aren't going well? Perhaps the cuteness of animals walking two by two distracts us from the fact that mostly everything in the story is destroyed.
Ann Frank shared fairytales to the youngest inmates in her final weeks at Bergen-Belsen concentration camp. Her fairytales were not consumed with princesses and happily ever after. In her fairytales nasty war-like things happened to the main characters and they had to overcome something devastating. These fairytales lifted the spirits of everyone because she spoke into the truth of their experiences while offering a hope that required all of them. The solution was not just up to one person, or one hero.
Perhaps Noah’s ark is that kind of story. The kind where awful things happen and the promise is SOMETHING WILL SURVIVE, something will last even when it feels like all hope is lost. The Church has survived the rise and fall of many empires and leaders. The story of resurrection is not just a core belief, it's who we are. It’s what stops us from dealing in the currency of fear and grounds us in naming a thing what it is.
We have the opportunity right now to be in holy conversation about what we want to put on the ark together.
What needs to survive? Let’s be clear, God will have God’s way and maybe our Creator is inviting us to dream with them. So much in our culture is changing. How do we authentically honor what was, what new things need to surface, and what will last into the future? Like Ann Frank’s fairy tales, it may require all of us. How can we enter into this holy work together?
As a body we are notorious for fighting over minuscule things such as paint and carpet colors. How do we get past the cerebral egos of our rightness and commit our bodies, a simple pebble, to joining the many on this path? How do we shift our lens of measuring outcomes and success to prioritizing genuine connection to God and one another? I don’t think we even need to be right. We just need to be brave in love. Naked Pastor had a meme on Instagram that read, “What got Jesus into the most trouble wasn’t what he believed but who he loved.” Who do we love and what kind of holy trouble does it get us into?
Is it possible to understand we are in a Noah’s ark situation and we need to work together and to get something onto the ark? Perhaps it is even something simple like Love God, love one another as you love yourself? Once Noah and his family got off the ark things spread out. What if we don’t have to judge the way God calls each of us to live out this story? What if we are all called to different places in the vineyard? Maybe we must trust, encourage, and love one another and God where we are planted?
I know it may feel like I am asking a lot of questions rather than giving you a bunch of answers, and maybe this is the movement of the Church. Perhaps, we need to pause in assuming we have all the answers. Start asking each other honest questions, and listen to one another’s responses. I am not suggesting we continue to ask the same leaders the same questions we have been asking the last 500 years.
What if we ask different people, different questions? Could it take us somewhere new? Where I have witnessed beautiful collaboration and powerful movement is among organizations working toward disability justice, liberation, food justice, and racial reconciliation. To be honest it makes sense. God has always been asking people from the margins to rise up and teach the appointed leaders how to follow. Maybe if we are used to leading it is time to now follow, and if we are used to following perhaps God is inviting us into a leading role? For all this and more I give thanks to God who continues to challenge us to see beyond ourselves and never stops inviting us to create something beautiful together.
Reverend Jenny Sung is an ordained free range pastor with the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America. She has been preaching, writing, and curating spaces worldwide for healing through brave love and community art. She received her Masters of Divinity through Luther Seminary and is the founder and co-director of One Dance Company.
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