01 September 2010

Wishing for Perfection

Before moving to Ames in 2008, we lived in Barrett, MN, a small town surrounding a lake much like the one in this picture. In fact, I took several sunrise photos that looked quite a bit like this in the four years I served Peace Lutheran Church in Barrett. Our house was just across the road from the lake, and when the conditions were right, you could get the most beautiful scenes when the sun came up across the lake.

I had a somewhat disheartening meeting today, one that reminded me that no matter how much we might wish for it, no Christian community is ever perfect. As I walked, sweating, over to the bus stop for my ride home, I thought of how nice it was last week when it was so cool, and how few days there have been this summer that weren't either rainy, steamy or (more often) both. Imperfect weather today, to do with an imperfect church (with an imperfect pastor, I might add).

Not every sunrise in Minnesota looked like this one. Most were ordinary, unremarkable, and passed without notice. Some were as beautiful as this one, some were even more spectacular. Some were, frankly, ugly - especially in March and April when the snow was finally melting and everything was grey and brown and mushy.

Gordon Atkinson, who blogs at Real Live Preacher, wrote a piece in which he reminded everyone that churches, at their heart, are "a silly bunch of dreamers and children, prone to mistakes, blunders and misjudgments." This doesn't excuse us from apologizing and trying to make amends when we blunder and misjudge, or when others make mistakes. It also doesn't allow us to go searching willy-nilly for "the perfect church," because that church only exists in fantasyland.

That town in which we lived and worked in Minnesota had its share of flaws. We had some genuine disappointments and struggles in four years there. We also had some really wonderful moments of grace, which were not of our creation but simply moments to see what wonders God can do in communities dedicated to living in faith with one another, with all our mistakes, blunders and misjudgments.

Perfection this side of heaven is a fairy tale. God chooses what is weak, foolish and imperfect to shame the strong, wise and seemingly perfect. We trust that God will supply the grace and faith necessary to live together as part of the body of Christ: forgiven, set free to enjoy grace when it comes, and dedicated to living together as one community, no matter how imperfectly we might do it.

Grace & peace,

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