Matt most kindly sent me something this morning to wake up. I’ll have to thank him later. If you have theological nerves of steel, you can go read all about how Ms. Jory Micah, with her ‘husband by her side’ is going to be packing up and moving to start a church. Here’s a taste of what you can expect if you decide to join up with them.
‘God gave me the name, “The Table.” It will be a ministry that will start in our small apartment somewhere in the heart of the city, and we will invite whoever God sends our way. Luke and I feel that Jesus calls Christians to reach out especially to the marginalized, broken, left out, poor, and oppressed of society. So practically speaking, Luke and I look forward to inviting minorities, homeless people, college students away from their homes, lgbtq people who have been abandoned by their families, immigrants, single moms, widows, refugees, and really anyone who is hungry for food, conversation, and love, to our table once a week. We will invite Jesus each week to be our host. We think He will show up. We think this is exactly the sort of “church” Jesus hangs out in. Anyone and everyone is invited to Jesus’ table. The worst of the worst sinners are invited to sit among those who seem to understand how to walk out a holy life better than others. No one has to repent to sit at Jesus’ table. Everyone can come, sit, eat, drink, belong, and be loved, just as they are.’
How will this be, given that it won’t have any marks of the Church? How will this incredible work be accomplished?
‘You see, it is at Jesus’ table that each of us is transformed. As we sit with Him, and one another, love changes us from the inside out, and something happens. We find freedom. We find renewal. We find redemption. We find resurrection. We find God.’
Wow. That’s so great. Sign me up. A repentance free church where we basically all just come together for dinner and a chat about our thoughts and feelings about God. Where, in the course of all the chatting and all the feelings, God affirms our deepest longings and hopes and dreams and destiny, and then a beautiful shiny purplish unicorn comes trotting through the door and kisses each lost soul on the forehead and says, ‘Ms. Jory Micah, you shall go to the ball.’
See, if you made it through her whole post, you would have discovered that this “church” (with all the scare quotes I can muster from every corner) is not about the old passé stuff that all those other boring churches are about–Jesus, Christianity, the gospel. It’s about Ms. Micah feeling left out of the church for her whole life. It’s about her sense of call to be a minister, about her having no official affirmation of that call. It’s about her disappointment and frustration. She describes herself as a ‘sad puppy’ looking for a church that will really feel like home. Everywhere she goes she just doesn’t really fit.
I initially felt really sad as I read about how homeless and unrooted she is. But then I began to attend to the reasons she and her husband just don’t ‘fit in.’ Reasons like, ‘In other words, Luke and I are dedicated to listening to the stories of the powerless, in a world that silences and oppresses those who are poor, voiceless, marginalized, excluded, and loveless.’
And, ‘Our hearts burn for social justice in both the Church and in society.’
You know, because all the dumb rubes sitting in regular pews on Sunday don’t care about the powerless, the marginalized, the poor. The church has literally never, in two thousand years, thought of those people. The church, see, was all confused, and thought it was just about the Beautiful and the Awesome and the Rich. Color me dubious. I’ve been to a lot of churches and I have yet to meet these jerks who care nothing for Other People.
Let’s read a little further. In all the care and anxiety for the downtrodden, we find this, ‘We have always searched for ways to combine our passions, but we have struggled to find a church home in which we feel our unique combination of gifts are seen and appreciated.’
And this delightful gem, ‘Perhaps that is why we have such a heart for those who feel left out: because we know what it is like to have much to offer the Church and world, but to go unnoticed by those with influence and power.’
And there we have it. Ms. Micah is the one who feels herself to be persecuted. She is the ‘marginalized.’ This is really all about her.
So, just to refresh ourselves so we know where we are. Jory Micah has, from the age of 13, known herself to be called to be a minister in the church. Jesus told her this and there is no moving her off this important divine revelation. She’s received some kind of theological education. She’s found herself a husband who will properly submit to her. And yet Still there is no church body that will affirm her incredible awesome call. So finally, having had enough, she’s going to start one herself, one that won’t even really be called a church…except that it Very Much Will, and it will be better than all those other stupid churches out there that haven’t recognized her great heart and great gifts.
So, I do have some real sympathy for Ms. Micah. Skirting away from my great huge desire to say, ‘bless her heart,’ I want to remind Jory that, most tragically, the church is not about her. It’s not about any of us. None of us have the right to patter in an demand recognition and jobs because of how fantastic we are. Not a single person in church gets to be the center of it all and have accolades and triumphs. That’s not what it’s for.
The church, shockingly, is about Jesus. And the thing he cares most about is people, ordinary people, coming to hear about his saving work on the cross. The church is about Jesus. He doesn’t just come ‘hang out’ there. He doesn’t just sort of sit back and bless whatever we feel like doing. The church is his bride. It is the body of people he gathers and rescues from death to keep safe with him forever. It belongs to him, and so it has to listen to him and do whatever he says. Even the things he says In The Bible.
I must say, I’m sort of encouraged that somehow Ms. Micah has run up against a brick wall in her calling to be a ‘pastor.’ I have to wonder why she hasn’t yet checked out the Episcopal church, cough, although I wouldn’t wish having to cope with her on mine own enemy. She sounds deeply troubled and power hungry–the two things from which all sane church leadership runs screaming away.
And one final thing (although, don’t worry, there is a very high chance I will be saying more about this tomorrow) in the spirit of casting my bread upon the waters. Ms. Micah doesn’t have time for repentance and the traditional marks of the church in her headlong rush to fashion the church into the likeness of herself, but she might be surprised to find that Jesus himself, that wondrous man, could be enough for her when all other men have failed. He’s not going to congratulate her for being wonderful, but he can remove the incredibly burdensome trial of her ego, he can forgive her sin and show her the way of life. It is very hard to take the narrow, the unacclaimed way, the unknown way, the bitter way of the loss of the self that leads to eternal life. I hope you’ll join me in praying for her, and her husband, and the people they happen to meet, that God will break in and surprise them with the goodness of his Son.