How’s Your Walk?

At a recent Ministry Collaborative gathering we were invited to reimagine church. The folks at my table meandered onto the topic of language, specifically the larger culture’s (understandable) suspicion of Christian language in light of its all too frequent use as a weapon to wound and divide rather than to do the work of evangel: bearing good news to the world. We launched into a hearty discussion of whether particular language and belief is required to make a gathering a Christian congregation, and whether we should be seeking to reclaim language that has been weaponized and produced alienation, or whether to orient toward the hope of the gospel by exploring alternate language.

In the course of our discussion, I shared the story of my great grandparents who were part of the great migration from Sweden to northern Michigan in the late nineteenth century. Laboring in small farming communities amidst rock-filled fields and difficult conditions much like the homeland they had left, they helped birth faith communities through the Swedish Mission Friends movement. Surviving amidst poverty and challenge, they were bound to their neighbors within a tight knit community of mutual care and concern. When they met on the street and when they gathered to worship, they greeted one another with these words: “How’s your walk?”

How’s your walk with Jesus?

That strikes me as a wonderful word for Holy Week: How’s your walk?

Rather than definitions or debate or dogma or even devotion: How’s your walk? How’s your walk with Jesus? How’s your walk when you receive accolades, praise, and Hosannas and then the world suddenly turns? What does that do to your understanding of self and of God? How’s your walk when you are angry at empire and lash out at the structures of the world? How’s your walk when you gather with friends? How’s your walk when friends betray you? How’s your walk when you are misunderstood? How’s your walk in the face of the suffering of others? Do you leave or do you stay? How’s your walk when you are persecuted? How’s your walk when death stands before you? How’s your walk on this side of the wonder and promise of the resurrection of Jesus Christ?

How’s my walk? Not my words or my convictions or my politics and positions. Just: how’s my walk? My walk with Jesus.

Several years ago, I had the good fortune to meet a pastor from Texas who offered a compelling reflection on “clobber passages”: verses that are too often plucked from the Bible out of context to judge, condemn, criticize, and exclude people. He lifted up John 14:6 as an example: I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes unto the Father except by me. “I am struck”, this pastor said, “by how often we fail to attend to the ordering of words in that verse. We are anxious to leap over the way in order to pounce on the truth and tell others where they will find life–including how they need to be living their own lives. Why do we think we can declare the truth and proclaim life, let alone recognize, know, and claim to dwell with the Father, if we have not walked and are not walking with others on the way? If we are not together journeying to be constantly transformed within the complexity of this moment?”

It’s a decent question for Holy Week. And for any week. How’s your walk?

Denise Thorpe is a pastor and practical theologian who is fascinated by all the messy and glorious ways God shows up in the world. She is the Coordinator of the North Carolina initiative of The Ministry Collaborative and is one of the Principal Investigators of a Luce Foundation grant exploring race, theology and gentrification. Denise is also trained as an attorney, mediator, and facilitator and has worked with churches, not-for-profits, law firms, and higher education.

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