BABEL OR PENTECOST

As members of the RCA we all agree that we are a Pentecost dispensation and have no business in Babel. So what were we thinking when we agreed to hire an Imhotep as General Secretary?

Vizier, Sage, High Priest, Doctor and Architect – all are functional descriptions of the son of Ptah of yore (some five hundred years before Abram). Almost a thousand years after Imhotep, another figure in Egyptian history, Joseph ben-Jacob, had a dream about seven years of industrious planning and preparation, and then of seven years of a drought of biblical proportions. Thank God for visionaries and architects.

Several blogs have helped us to see how we got to where we now are in the RCA: memory matters. Many of us helped write its history. But many wondered seven years ago, whether the General Synod, called ‘Pentecost 2000,’ was the inauguration of a Pentecost or a Babel phase. At the site of this General Synod, the wide-open spaces of the potato farm of Dutch immigrant Hofstra had made way for a Colosseum Arena where a new era was proclaimed.

We all had learned and practiced for the first time a new process of discernment: it was time to stop looking inward (remember the ‘RCA identity’ project and process?) and heed the Call proclaimed from the high ramparts to the GS delegates.

However, within no time at all, the Call was turned into a Goal (a Big Hairy Audacious Goal, at that, a BHAG in Carver-speak). Serious schematic drawings were produced by staff and hired experts, and construction plans and time-lines were developed, and workers were selected.

Meanwhile, we would have known that something Babelian was afoot when we put the admonition ‘Nisi Dominus Frustra’ in a back room. And ‘Eendracht Maakt Macht,’ the other banner, at the bottom of the RCA crest, was no longer translated as ‘Concord/Union Makes Strength’ but as Unity. NBTS at a Symposium on the Church still correctly understood that the old Dutch saying did not say ‘Eenheid’ (a Singular entity) but aimed for the ‘Bearing-as-one’ plural intent. On the bright side: the new logo showed that we were the first denomination who went ‘Green’ in oikumene land.

Onward, if not upward. After all this preparation we are ready to earnestly begin construction itself. However, there is a problem: We do not have a Dutch potato field in the way, but a Church. Yikes!

Is there a solution? Yes, we can create open spaces where we can dig the foundation for the mighty pillars of the new structure. (Imhotep is now credited not only with the first pyramids on the African continent, but also with the first architectural columns of the Ancient World).

Of course, things will be a little messy, we will need to re-route some traffic. Indeed, we will have to vacate some old offices (for the Wise Seers may once have come from the East, but no longer come from the God Box NY) and relocate them in a central place – hey, why not Grand Rapids….Nonetheless, the unsettling phase is for a good cause: the gleaming minimalist structure of the new church will do justice to the facts on the ground.

On the liturgical calendar, Pentecost Sunday is upon us, Praise God. Time to forswear all Mesopotamian reconstructions. We are not doing to well with that in Iraq as it is… Hey, even Abram headed away from there to heed the Call…

But how tempting it was for him, and for his descendants, even us to look toward Egypt. That land of stunning pyramids and grand obelisks. But wait! Those are graves and monuments of a cemetary! A land of slavery! We need an Exodus!

Stop all construction?
Perhaps we should go back to agriculture. Or at least to Scripture. So I’ cl;ose with I Cor. 3, where Pauls extends the metaphors of tillage AND building in considerable detail. vs.8: ‘The one who plants and the one who waters have a common purpose…’ Hmmm (my Greek version does not say ‘purpose’, but simply they ‘are one’ (hen eisin). And vs. 21: So let no one boast about ‘human leaders’ …(Hmmm; well, that’s the NRSV; the Greek has simply ‘anthropois,’ but in context lists notables such as Paul and Peter).
‘We ALL belong to the Christ of God’ (vs. 23); That’s the Pentecost Spirit!

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