This past Sunday, I had a conversation with one of our young adults that I found both illuminating, and concerning. She told me how at school some of her classmates had begun talking about the various Christian communities with which they were involved; when she spoke of her involvement with us, she was told that the United Church wasn’t really a christian church at all, and most certainly not a church that believed in anything.
This young woman took exception to the characterization. Despite being outnumbered by her non- United Church peers, she refused to retreat into silence. She articulated clearly and firmly what she, and her faith community believed. It was the first time that she had been placed in the position of having to defend her faith in the face of hostility, and she did so with both grace and strength.
I have to say I was incredibly proud of this young woman. I can only hope that it was the relative ingnorance of her classmates about the United Church that led them to attack. I am incredibly sad, if a belief in such things as justice, compassion, tolerance, and inclusivity, an honouring of the diverity of thought, an acceptance of differences, and the willingness to compromise for the sake of the common good leads some to conclude that we are less than Christian.
When I consider the life and ministry and example of Jesus, I see one who reaches beyond the boundaries of tradition, race, class, gender, ethnicity, and language to embrace persons as they are, and who saves his harshest criticism for those who seem to place outward shows of orthodoxy above practical love of neighbour.
I know that those of us who are part of the United Church of Canada haven’t always been quick to share what we believe with those around us. I also know that it isn’t easy to summarize succintly, what is in fact a broad diversity of practice and belief. But I also know, as our young woman knows, and as her classmates now know, that “we believe in Jesus…the Word made flesh who reconciles and makes new, and who works in us and others by the Spirit” and who calls us to “seek justice and resist evil”. And that truly is something worth believing in.