How to Hide Jesus by Steve Turner
There are people after Jesus
They have seen the signs.
Quick, let’s hide Him.
Let’s think; carpenter,
disturber of religious comfort.
Let’s award Him a degree in theology,
a purple cassock
and a position of respect.
They’ll never think of looking here.
His dialect may betray Him,
His tongue is of the masses.
Let’s teach Him Latin
and seventeenth century English,
they’ll never think of listening in.
Man of Sorrows,
nowhere to lay His head.
We’ll build a house for Him,
somewhere away from the poor.
We’ll fill it with brass and silence.
It’s sure to throw them off.
There are people after Jesus.
Quick, let’s hide Him.
I love this poem. It says what I think, and how I feel. Once upon a time, when I was chaplain in a cancer-care day-centre, though that's not relevant to the story, I was invited to a lunch at a volunteers' trainer's house. We were all asked to bring a poem with us. Being the chaplain at the time I thought I'd take along this one which expresses how I feel about some church stuff. I went in full confidence that I'd be the only clergy person there. However, to my surprise an Anglican bishop had been invited. I'm not sure that he shared my enthusiasm for this poem. The Anglicans have a name for folk like me - they call us "low church".
Now that I've matured/aged, I get it that we're all different. I really do. Smells and bells (as we're inclined to describe "high church" rather cheekily) just do it for some folk and - now - I totally accept that. Robes and cassocks do it for some clergy and congregations and - now - I totally accept that, although I'd rather die than wear them myself. I think God made us all different because our different ways of doing church express different things about who He is. He's too BIG for us to grasp everything properly. So some of us, I reckon, are charged with the responsibility of emphasising and understanding His holiness. Some His awesomeness. Some His approachableness. Some His miracles of healing. Some just the sense of the numinous. Some major on preaching. Some on worship. Some on formal ceremonial. All these things express something important. It could be argued that the ideal would be a perfectly balanced ecclesiology that reflects every aspect of God. Certainly that's worth striving for, but I don't think, tbh, God's that fussed about achieving unity in the sense of union of denominations. What matters is that we can WORK together and just get on with it! Squabbling over minor differences is like rearranging the deckchairs on the Titanic.
The emerging church movement is asking really great questions of the institutional church at the moment. There are some very good questions to be asked back though. In the end, what will count is if we all stop looking at each other and working out how exactly all our fellow Christians should be labelled, and just march forward together. As I've mentioned before, working ecumenically outwith the traditional church structure has shown me just how quickly the regimental colours fade into irrelevance when we're on the front line together.