Values

Saint Junia UMC has a vision: We are becoming a diverse community of sinners, saints, and skeptics who join God in the renewal of all things.

We also have a mission, five ways to join God in the renewal of all things: Worship, devotion, compassion, justice, and witness.

Our next task will be to describe our core values. I think it’s great to see the ways some families are also identifying their core values and putting them in their homes.

When we locate a venue in Birmingham for our church, I’d like to see us do something similar. I’d enjoy seeing our core values rendered as art on the walls.

As I’ve said before, I believe in an inclusive gospel. This is not rooted in “political correctness.” It is rooted in the decisive action of God in Jesus Christ, the definitive move God made to step into our human flesh, confront the power of human sin with love instead of violence, and claim victory over death. It is an affirmation that God shows no partiality as both our judge and advocate. The best picture we have of God is Jesus, who in his ministry identified himself and the image of God with anyone in need.

I also value the world that God loves. Our actions should honor the created world, not abuse or exploit it. And I value the people that God loves. Every human being is someone’s baby. Someone invested time and energy in that person, and God invested the totality of God’s own self in them as well. When we treat them as obstacles, or nuisances, or parasites, we demean what God has done. Each one has potential that can only be tapped when they start living the abundant life available to them.

I value the Bible. I love this book. It is not just a map or a set of instructions. It is not free of contradictions, and words like “inerrant” or “infallible” reduce its poetry to a set of bullet points in somebody’s sales pitch. It is a living dialogue between God and humanity, and it invites us into the life of God. I want to read it the way some people read trashy romance novels or kids read comic books under the covers with a flashlight, to dog ear its pages, to run my fingers over the paper and put its poetry in my soul. I want read it until its images are burned into my eyes, so that everything I see I view through a theological lens. One composer said, “People have been taught to respect music, when they should have been taught to love it.” I feel the same way about the Bible.

I value shared meals. Meals have been used to exclude (Genesis 43:32, Galatians 2:11-12, and Chick-fil-A). At the center of the Christian story is a shared meal. That’s where some of the best church happens.

I value singing. In a world where music has become something you consume, and where people compete on American Idol and judges mock people’s voices, we have all been convinced that we cannot sing, I value a community that lets us find our voices. We all make music. We need to learn to hear it.

What do you value?

One thought on “Values

  1. “It is a living dialogue between God and humanity, and it invites us into the life of God. I want to read it the way some people read trashy romance novels or kids read comic books under the covers with a flashlight, to dog ear its pages, to run my fingers over the paper and put its poetry in my soul. I want read it until its images are burned into my eyes, so that everything I see I view through a theological lens.”

    Loved loved LOVED this paragraph. Beautiful. And amusingly timely: got my copy of the New Oxford Annotated Bible in the mail from Amazon yesterday, and I was literally up late last night reading it with a booklight so I wouldn’t keep Adrienne up. (OK, not exactly a flashlight, but still. 😉

    I’m reminded of N. T. Wright’s take on biblical authority– the notion that the Bible contains the first four acts of a five-act play, and the Church is now engaged in improvising a mostly-unscripted fifth act, hopefully in the same style and spirit as the author intended. It’s not as emotionally secure a stance as is lawyerly adherence to a “map or a set of instructions”, but it does seem more in keeping with the early church’s relatively low prioritization of the letter of the Law (e.g. unclean foods, circumcision– all the stuff you address in GSNP) versus bringing people from all walks of life into the Kingdom.

    Re singing: Just one of many things that too many people leave to the “professionals”. I wish we did more art of every kind for ourselves, that we sang songs in the car instead of listening to the iPod. When we went camping earlier this summer, I don’t remember hearing anyone doing the guitar-by-the-fire thing (thought we did get a big ol’ earful of “modern country” from the overpowered stereo in the pickup a few sites over, but that’s another story). I’ve been to church services where the choir (i.e. the people who actually know the songs) are actually distributed more or less as “plants” throughout the congregation; short of actually knowing the songs myself, I found this helpful.

    As to your closing question… I’m not really sure it was directed to a remote observer like me, so much as the good folks in your forming church, but for what it’s worth, something I personally value is the history of the Church both as a human organization and as an ongoing work of God manifest in individuals (which I guess is a way of saying, “I draw inspiration from saints, martyrs, reformers, and obscure old confessions and catechisms”). I guess I’d like to know where a church I’d belong to sees itself in the historic sweep of Christianity, not because I want to adhere rigidly to tradition for its own sake, but just in the interest of learning from the past. FWIW.

    Keeping you and St. Junia UMC in my prayers.

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