April 4, 2016

Shoots of Faith


 I attended the Judson Memorial Baptist Church in Minneapolis, MN, on Sunday, and met a most remarkable congregation.  Known for its community development and generous welcome to all, this American Baptist Church is a vibrant expression of the Body of Christ.
            As the guest preacher, I followed the lectionary for the second Sunday of Easter, which recounts the mysterious resurrection appearances as narrated by John.  The exchange between the Risen Christ and Thomas not only beckons the disciple’s faith, but also gives perspective to those who believe the Gospel witness even today.  Jesus pronounces a blessing upon the church of the future: “Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe.”

            I think doubters might find ample evidence of resurrected living, bearing witness to God’s raising of Jesus, if they visited Judson.  It is a congregation that clearly enjoys being together.  There is a palpable ease between members, born out of shared decades of worship and ministry, and there is receptivity to the newcomer, as well.  Close-knit does not have to mean exclusionary, and members create space for the differences of fellow members and find ways to welcome the stranger.
            What impressed me most was the role of the children in worship.  The children’s sermon was a thoughtful and humorous conversation between the pastor and children.  Clearly this is something all enjoy, and it was highly educational.  The pastor had prepared a map of where all American Baptist seminaries are located, and he described each in turn, saving Central for the end.  His description of our school as innovative and willing to risk for the sake of our mission encouraged me.
            The children had another role in worship.  They assisted their pastor in serving communion.  One held bread, another held the cup, and the third had a special role of blessing.  The child laid hands on the shoulders of the adults and softly said, “Live in the power of the resurrection.”  I received this exhortation and felt deeply blessed.

            The first hymn of the morning had been “Now the Green Blade Rises,” using the imagery of wheat spring from the earth after its seed had died.  As the children offer the gift of their blessing, the metaphor came to life for me in these fresh shoots of faith.
            Some of us may feel a bit removed from the resurrection.  It is a tradition that we have inherited, after all.  If we do believe Jesus is alive, we tend to believe he is elsewhere—ascended and exalted, but hardly accessible.  The good news is that Jesus continues to come to his own and to those who do not yet believe.  He is made most visible, however, in the Body of Christ as it practices resurrection.  Through a congregation like Judson, Christ is Risen, indeed.

            Molly T. Marshall

Central prepares creative leaders for diverse ministry contexts.

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