July 7, 2007

Point A to Point B

I just love my little grey car, my diminutive Ford wagon. Over the years it's been dubbed the "Witness Wagon"—I suppose a light-hearted nod at my vocation. Others have called it a "clown car," which I can only assume is funny because of its size compared to mine (as opposed to my big, circus nose).

I'll admit, there's reason to chuckle: one of my seatbelts won't retract, the A/C quit years ago, the wipers no longer return to rest on their own, the heater blower squeals like a herd of trapped pigs, my right door bears the mark of an unwelcomed bumper, and (as many of you have taken the time to point out) my rear brake lights each take seasonal vacations (rusty sockets, in case you're wondering).

No cruise, no CD, no tint—not exactly your high-end ride. (Lately, however, my allegiance has been vindicated. If given the choice, Ella prefers to ride in "daddy's car" over "mommy's car"—which is still nearly new and has all the trimmings. "I no like your car, mommy. We ride in daddy's car." Score one for the Witness Wagon.)

Bottom line: The WW gets me from A to B. That's what cars are really all about.

This brings me to resurrection. There is a wide array of theological issues and matters of Christian practice over which I'm willing to negotiate. Like the missing or broken bells and whistles on my car, I could live without them if I had to. Lately I'm interested in a growing movement of folks in the wider church who are striving for a "generous orthodoxy"—unity in essentials, liberty in peripherals, charity undergirding it all. Some of the left-right, liberal-conservative debates that have dogged American Christianity for a century are showing signs of weary fray. I believe this is a season for us to consider again those most basic New Testament confessions, to hear again those reverberations of faith on their own terms.

What matters most is that we get from A to B, less so the accoutrements of the ride. Let us remember that in the logic of the New Testament, the Christian journey is made possible because of Easter's good news. That first Sunday morning announcement of Jesus' astonishing new life is at the very heart of the matter; it is the original and oldest Christian announcement. No resurrection, no faith (argues Paul in 1 Corinthians). Conversely, if Jesus is alive, everything in heaven and on earth is different. (Luke 24 and 1 Corinthians 15.)

Of course, there is much more to this faith than simply one Easter Sunday a year, such as the distinctives of our Presbyterian-Reformed roots and the peculiar challenges to our faith that spring from the strange times in which we live. These both continue to matter a great deal. But I feel as though our Reformed distinctives and our present challenges are the blood coursing through our veins from a heart that beats because of the resurrection news—not the other way around. We need both heart and blood in the body of Christ right about now, and we need them in their proper order of importance. The one pushes the other along.

That he was raised up by the Father after dying our death; that the resurrection promise now hangs securely in the future after our death has died; that there is even now some of that resurrection power and newness available through the brooding presence of the Spirit—these promises of God are what get us from A to B, from death to astonishing new life. Now that's a ride.