2008 was our second full year living in Charlotte. Crazy, I know.
But the reason we moved here – to be a part of this new-fangled, crazy, inspiring, misperceived, amorphous body of believers called Renovatus – continued exerting its strong influence in our lives.
I’ve been a church attender my whole life. From the Presbyterian churches I grew up in to the Baptist church I was formed in as a youth to the skips and jumps through college from one church to the next, the steeple and its people have long been a part of my journey. And yet, maybe it’s growing into adulthood finally (at 29 no less), or maybe it’s the mystique of relocating for a thing, or maybe, just maybe, it’s because there is a genuine something going on at the hard-to-pronounce church we uprooted our lives to be a part of.
In America, our Christian traditionalism dictates attendance at church. It’s what you do. It’s a moral signifier. It shows that you don’t beat your kids or cuss out your wife, in public at least. It’s become, in many ways, a club or clique on par with the local country club, complete with rules, mores and hierarchies to be abided lest one face the recrimination of one’s peers.
And yet week after week I get up on Sunday mornings and am excited about visiting with my brothers and sisters and hearing the message brought to us. Sometimes I’m excited because on stage is one of my oldest friends doing what he does best, preaching and praying and making us laugh. On other times I’m excited more out of the quiet transformation I feel taking place inside me as I realize that the ‘Kingdom is at hand’ and the rules have changed.
2008 saw one particularly transforming series of messages at Renovatus: The Politics of Jesus. This series was taught alongside the escalating presidential campaigns and election. In preparation for the series I began to wonder what Jonathan, our pastor and my college chum, would bring to the masses…maybe a blazing critique of the right and their dogmatic, dictatorial ways. Maybe a treatise on the woes and plagues of the former Bush adminstration and how that fits in with Jesus’ message.
Maybe none of the above.
Instead of faith-tinted messages on who one should vote for or spiritually-false guidance on what issues should be the most important, on a particular Sunday in the fall of 2008, you could have walked into Elizabeth Traditional Elementary and gotten not an exegesis of electoral politics but been brought face to face with the Jesus of scripture who cares little for our own political crusades but much for our contributing to seeing the world made right. Confronted with a Jesus whose has little to say about the issues that seem to matter most to those in the church but a lot to say to those who seem farthest away from any church building.
Week after week I came to realize how little my presuppositions about who Jesus really was mattered in the face of who Jesus is; that His politics are not necessarily in line with American politics, that His mode of operating doesn’t benefit the Empire, it brings it down. And that the way of life of the disciple is not of fierce independence which leads only to bondage and self-serving, but to fierce, passionate, dependence on those around you, humbly submitting to the needs of those around you. That in losing yourself, you find yourself anew.
Renovatus isn’t the best thing under the sun. We’re not reinventing the wheel. But, for the time being at least, there are few more shaping and important things in the life of my family.