For this reason, because I have heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love toward all the saints, I do not cease to give thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers, that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of him. Ephesians 1:15-17 (ESV)
I’ve written before about the writings of Barbara Brown Taylor and how much they mean to me. Cheering me when I am down, encouraging me when life gets hard, and pointing out reasons to be joyful. I also love the way she writes, the way she strings words together, the images she conjures, and the truth she captures. I would like to hear Taylor speak someday. I am currently reading a collection of her sermons entitled, Home By Another Way. These sermons follow the church year. Though they were written in the 1990s, they are as true today as they were almost two decades ago. Recently, I have been reading one sermon a day and started with the section about “Easter and the Great Fifty Days.” Having been raised a Baptist, I didn’t know what that meant without looking it up, but it is the time between Easter and Pentecost when the Holy Spirit was given. It covers the time that Jesus lingered on earth after His resurrection, His ascension into Heaven and the pause the disciples endured while they waited for the gift that Jesus promised, even without knowing what to expect. Today’s sermon was called ”He Who Fills All in All” and is intended for Ascension Day. It is based upon Ephesians 1:15-23, “God put this power to work in Christ when He raised Him from the dead and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly places, far above all rules and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the age to come.” When Taylor compares the earthly church that we participate in with the one that Christ came to model and create, I found myself nodding my head in assent. “While we argue amongst ourselves about everything from what kind of music we will sing in church to who may marry whom, the next generation walks right past our doors without even looking in. If they are searching at all, they are searching for more than we are offering them-for a place where they may sense the presence of God, among people who show some sign of having been changed by that presence. They are looking for a colony of heaven, and they are not finding it with us.” Despite that melancholy statement, Taylor finds hope. She notes that “No matter how badly we mess some things up in the church, other things will keep turning out right, because we are not, thank God, in charge.” In a week marked by the slaughter of African Christians with hardly a peep from the Western church busy arguing over whether Christians should have to bake a cake to serve at gay marriage ceremonies, I find Taylor’s words written so long ago particularly poignant. Thank God we are not in charge, but when oh, when, are we going to do something right? When are we going to act like we’ve been changed by His presence?