This week I have read a blog post from TheMillennialPastor and hearing the newest Soundcloud stream from the guys at Technicolor Jesus. For different reasons and in different ways each have touched on church(y) issues that are on my mind this week.
Sunday we will be celebrating Pentecost, the Christian Church’s birthday and a signifier of the continued presence (and challenge) of God in our lives. Erik Parker, of TheMillennialPastor, wrote a wonderful reflection on why nothing seems to get people back in church, advocating his view – shared by yours truly – that millennial Christians are concerned less with the Church as church and more with following Christ. What is more, millennials have impressive BS sensors and can tell when they’re being sold something. Work to “attract” them only drives them away.
Parker’s point, stop trying so hard and simply be a community of people struggling to follow Christ into the world to love the unlovable and fill the cracks of humanity with its presence. It is to be a community open to following without regard for its own survival. This idea is trusting, faithful, and powerful.
In a similar/related vein, Technicolor Jesus this week reviewed the 1995 movie Clueless. The two hosts were busy listening to grunge music at the time and missed it on release; I was listening to the same music, but have to admit this movie was a guilty pleasure from day one. Clueless is an adaptation of Jane Austen’s Emma and plays off of common literary devices such as satire, comedic misperception, and coming of age tales.
What grabbed me in their conversation has to do with the idea of knowing our truest self. Matt, one of the co-hosts and a friend, mentioned a scene where the heroine is trapped in a awkward moment whilst being carpooled by an older stepbrother. His girlfriend, a college girl and insufferable know-it-all, misquotes Shakespeare; Cher, the heroine, calls her out and corrects her. The quote being used was Polonius’s, “to thine own self be true,” a phrase of sheer beauty and wisdom being purported by Hamlet’s fool. Cher, for all her ditziness, commercialism, and Valley-girl talk is slowly revealed as a person of deep character. But in order to get there, she finds that she must let go of the more superficial attributes she uses to “dress herself up.”
Both the blog and the Soundcloud stream are hitting on a common theme. In order to be, or become, our truest self, we must shed our masks. As the church continues to lose social cache, we must admit that no one must come to church anymore because it is socially expected; the good news here is that those who come actually mean to be there. As individuals we also have this opportunity to turn and follow a humanity that lies deeper at our core than the identities we wear like so many layers of clothing.
At Pentecost we celebrate the arrival of the advocate Jesus promises in John’s gospel, the one who stays with us, who breathes new life into us, and who challenges us along the way. None of this comes or is sustained easily, there is a cost. Pentecost costs us the life we chase after to impress ourselves and others, but what is gained on the other side is a new life.