Gather All Things?

Vermont_Pano-SMALL I was traveling with an Uber driver the other day who made known that he was going to Allenton, Wisconsin that weekend.

“Oh, for what?” I asked ( I grew up not far from Allenton).

“A wedding. I’m presiding at a wedding”.

“You are?” I said, puzzled that he was driving for Uber.

“Yes, I’m an ordained minister!”

“Oh? Well, so am I!” That response that brought a smile to his face.

“Where is your church?” I asked him.

“I don’t have a church…I just do weddings!”

Oh! One of those ordained ministers…

In the driver’s view, we were colleagues. In my view (hubris?), we weren’t. After all, I went to school for 20 years to be ordained; he didn’t go anywhere. “How can he claim the same spiritual status as I?”  “Mail order preachers like him confuse the public and dilute the respect and authority due real ordained ministers…like me…yada, yada, yada!”

In retrospect, what bothers me most about this experience was my reaction to it. “Am I one of those preachers who maintain a measure of public status by virtue of the sacred office I hold?” “Am I the one diluting the respect and authority due real spiritual leadership by shielding my credentials in order to maintain my status?” “What is my real occupation…ministry…or myself?” 

And the answer is, “Whatever occupies me!”  That is my true occupation.  And the truth is, the truly ordained are occupied with love, not labels!  

What about the church.  “What occupies Christian churches?”

Did you know that there are 21,000* different Christian denominations (institutionally organized communities of faith), who are fully occupied with maintaining their public identities (status) by preserving their distinctive labels (Baptist, Lutheran, Presbyterian, Roman Catholic, etc;).  These labels are deeply held convictions associated with race, ethnicity, worship styles, sexual preferences, and their own tacit, tolerated sins.

Which brings me to the intent of this blog.

This blog intends to occupy itself with exposing and expressing the label-less, loving voice of a cosmic Creator, who holds dearly the goal of the redemption of the world, not just itty, bitty parts of it.  And so our theme, “Universal Salvation: Hope or Heresy?”

Here we will give voice to accepted Christian Scripture that affirms the cosmic space occupied by God’s love, care and concern, and the universal scope of Christ’s redemption of all that occupy that space.  

I offer this disclaimer so that we don’t get bogged down in the parochial arguments that divide us:  there are other voices in accepted Christian Scripture which don’t agree with God’s plan to gather to Himself “all things”.  Most churches limit Christ’s redemption to the parameters of their point of view.  That’s the primary way they maintain their membership.  They will gladly lead you to their point of view and try to convince you theirs is the only orthodox point of view.

I will not. I know there are many points of view in the Scriptures.  My concern is “What do all those varied points of view have in common?”

I suggest, they have the same Creator in common, and the Scriptures share that Creator’s concern for “all things”.  Let me cite John 3:16ff as a basis for establishing the incentive for  the Creator’s intervention into our world:”God so loved the cosmos that He sent His only begotten Son to save it”.

And Ephesians 1:9-10 to establish the goal of our Creator’s intervention into our portion of that beloved cosmos…

God has made known to us the mystery of his will, according to his good pleasure that he set forth in Christ, 10as a plan for the fullness of time, to gather up all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth.

Premise:  Out of love for the cosmos, the Creator set forth a plan to gather up “all things in heaven and on earth” to Himself.  “What stands in the way of the Creator’s goal?”

“Do we?”  “Is God’s preferred future for all things, salvation?”  Or Does our occupation with ourselves demand that cosmic inclusion of all things in the plan of salvation be deemed horrific heresy?

“What do accepted Christian Scriptures say?”

*this is a highly debated number.  Some claim there are more, some less.  What ever the number (if anybody knows), don’t miss the point.  The church is extremely divided.