Warning. There is a mid-western, moderate, reserved rant ahead.
You’ve been warned.
Apparently, I’m an old codger. Not the “Dennis the Menace Mr. Wilson yell-at-everything-he-hates” codger, just a, “I’m not sure how relevant I am and how relevant I need to be” codger.
I try to keep up with what my faith (Christianity) is doing, what is popular, what is moving – call it a professional awareness. Mostly, it’s discouraging. Clearly, I’m not very relevant and am not a part of main stream. Of course, reading “Christianity Today” and “Relevant” magazines as well as a host of blogs and websites might not actually be the clearest of pictures but at least I’m giving it a shot.
Christianity Today tells me I am not nearly conservative enough.
Relevant tells me I am not nearly cool enough.
“But, but” I sputter, “but I’m only 33! (soon to be 34 so, if you want to say happy birthday, I’ll take that…) I read. ALOT. My influences are people like NT Wright, Rob Bell, Greg Boyd, Mclaren, Compolo, Tickle… those people! I’m surrounded by the 18-24 age group. I’m daily getting blasted by cultural references I don’t get and literally have to google just to know what’s going on! I use google as a verb! I sometimes watch tv shows for the very purpose of being able to know what people are talking about. I vote *progressively*. I’m so down with change. Resiliency is my middle name. I’m up for whatever works. Pragmatic…..
Why do I feel so uncool when I read “Relevant?”
Maybe its my church. I’m a chaplain. My congregation changes. I have two at the moment. One is a congregation of 50 or so inmates at a military prison. Actually, I consider myself the pastor to them all but weekly, services range between 40-55 (out of 200+) on a regular basis. So, after writing that, I’ll own the 40 number. My other congregation is the Liturgical Service on Ft. Leavenworth. We meet in a historic chapel that literally has memorial markers (ok, they are like gravestones attached to the wall) surrounding the pews. We use the old Lutheran Book of Worship, setting Two for the service. I preach through the Revised Common Lectionary. Maybe that’s it. Maybe it’s all the old school stuff.
Problem is. I like it. In fact, I really like it. It feeds me. It feeds my closeness to God. I feel more at home in that setting then the last time I was at Mars Hill (though I really like the podcast).
Maybe it’s that I wear a clerical collar on Sundays. I would wear it daily but really, in the Army, it’s a weekend thing. My uniform throughout the week has a cross on it highlighting my role as chaplain, pastor. I didn’t grow up with the clerical collar, I certainly didn’t experience that in my clerical training but here I am anyway. Of course, the business suit is as much clerical garb in my experience as the collar is in my current ministry. Maybe its the Army. Because of my uniform, I am accustomed to people recognizing me as clergy and therefore, I might be (in a neurotic sort of way) in need of that even on the weekends. Hmm. I’ll look into that. Either way, for all my progressive tendencies, I find myself actually quite conservative when it comes to worship, preaching, teaching etc. My style keeps getting more old school.
I should probably chalk it up to my need to be a contrarian. Whatever is cool and hip I find myself emphatically NOT wanting to do. So, I suppose, if what I’m doing became the hip thing, than I would probably start wearing slim-fit suits.
What is relevancy anyway?
Last Sunday, I preached about Colossians 3:12-17. It’s all about wearing the love of Christ. It’s the Church at it’s best. It’s about NOT wearing our pride, violence, anger, and consumption and instead being very intentional about wearing compassion, kindness, humility, and patience. It’s about forgiveness.
I think that’s relevant. It’s always relevant.
When I became a chaplain in the Army, I was very taken with getting to the “hooah schools” where I would get badges and tabs to wear on my uniform highlighting how awesome I was as a Soldier. I was consumed with it actually. I, very much, attached worth and honor to those external symbols of achievement in the Army. I grew out of it. Now, I’m not sure I want to even do those schools – I’d have to really up my physical training and who wants to do that – I also understand that, as cool as those symbols are (and they are cool), they are not the marks of a Chaplain, the are the marks of a Soldier.
A retiring chaplain said to my CHOBC class, “when it hits the fan, when people are dying and suffering, they do not call for an Airborne Ranger, they call for you. Chaplain. Servant of God.” That’s relevancy.
I think I’ll just keep putting on love every day. I’ll keep being intentional about being vulnerable and as authentic as I can. It’ll keep my humble. It’ll keep me authentic. It’ll keep me relevant I think.