"The word preach comes from the Latin prae, "before," and dicare, "declare." When you preach, you're not just talking — you're declaring something with conviction." (Vocabulary.com)
I can't escape the words I heard when I was around 9 or 10 years-old, "One day you will preach the gospel." I recall the wonder of a voice that spoke to me, not in church, but while playing "Cowboys and Indians" with a young friend.
The irony of my life is that most every life changing moment, to include my most lasting epiphany, what church folk would call my salvation experience, occurred outside of church, though quite certainly seeded by those in my family so deeply churched now for generations.
There seems to be a message there relative to my true calling, though my "upbringing" always reinforced the requirement of congregational engagement, if one was "called to preach." Thus perhaps my struggle for decades, as I attempted to find my place of calling within several denominations, following my unexpected late night "living room" experience at my dad's home.
Though ordained more than once in my attempt to fit the mold, two cases were likely the mold's attempt to fully capture my passion, if not eventually control my calling. I was grateful at the time, but have just never quite fit the institutional model.
Yet, I have always held a place in my heart for the Institutional Church, even poured time, talent and resources into it, in hopes of it being a means of additional community impact, the latter being my true calling.
As I mature, now hopefully qualifying at age 75, it is becoming more difficult to just "roll with the punches" that seem to come to me each morning in my quiet time. As gentle as they have come, the insights grow more stunningly convincing of the error behind religion's well intended, though damaging ploy to contain the Christ.
No longer do I serve in some corporate church role as before, but my spirit is evermore alarmed by the rationale behind the numerous facilities that dot our landscape, with so little agreement among them. The only respite of thought is the need for small groups of humans, which serve well for fellowship, corporate worship (as varied as that understanding may be) and the possibility of collective impact.
So, I still attend regularly, though I must admit that now as age lessens my naivete, as I now attempt to back into the way our doctrines were designed, it often gives me pause. The various councils over the ages, even with their internal struggles revealing the ego of the most well intended of men, eventually settling upon the Canon, which I have studied for 50 years!
Much of this precipitated of late as I once again wrestIe through the Book of Ezekiel! His wrathful image of God, when contasted with the nature of Christ is a real challenge. I realize his intent to "preach" God's Word to the rampantly rebellious, backslidden Isreal, then exiled to Babylon. Yet, I can only reconcile this as evidence of human frustration even among the best of men.
His own words likely inclusive of me and him, "And I sought for a man among them, that should make up the hedge, and stand in the gap before me for the land, that I should not destroy it: but I found none." (Ezekiel 22:30).
We humans even when hearing from God, seem always to spin things with some bias of emotion, in Ezekiel's case, wrath!
I truly believe the scriptures have endured the scrutiny of the best of men and women for millenia, and yet were divinely designed to capture and contrast the best of human intentions with the true nature of Divinity, as so beautifully captured in the entirety of
I Corinthians 13 (see link below).
"Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not charity, I am become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal."
My favorite version, at least these with verses, is the KJV! Ezekiel not so much!
Back to my calling as a 9 year-old, I believe we sit in a moment of transformational clarity akin to Luther's Reformation. Given the growing decline within the institution, though I still have hope for her seed, there is a parallel spiritual hunger that seems emerging within the younger generations.
Just yesterday, I spoke with a young professional, questioning his suspect of religion, yet hoping for answers and meaning as he truly follows a heart full of hope in Christ, versus the religious baggage demonstrated by those who came before him.
The Gen Z and Alpha generation's wonder, compounded by an ever expanding knowledge and technology, seems to be bringing the long fought battle between man's religion and true science to a constructive collision, one that I do not fear.
Perhaps Artificial Intelligence will aid in seperating out religious fear and institutional control, then revealing the truth behind this amazing Being, The One revealed in Christ. The Babe whose birthplace was named by the prophets, yet who lived in such contrast to the wrathful religion cultivated by those like Ezekiel.
Perhaps we are now awaiting another moment of entry by the Spirit, fully occupying the true Church, an organism that has now survived what religion had attempted to organize, moving us further from the trajectory set by Constantine's church, and soon revealed by way of a New Heaven and a New Earth!
Perhaps even differently than described by those who so desperately expected a return in bodily form only, even though they also foretold a collective Body of Christ that would be formed, one that would again demonstrate the "hope of glory," the Christ in us.
Maybe it took this long for that 9 year old to mature in understanding, and escape the long fostered fear of heresy, so as to "preach the gospel"?
Maranatha, Lord Come, this time in us, and perhaps then, "Peace on Earth, Good News to men!"