December 19, 2017

Advent 2017

"Let God Be God"

I grew up in a Lutheran church, and that thread of Lutheranism flows deep in my veins. My family didn't take this lightly.  Church was a sacred event, much as it is to many of us at First Baptist today. If I spent the night out with my friends on a Saturday night, I was required - no matter what - to be in church the next morning. My church. I couldn't get by with going to church with my friends. It had to be my church, and afterwards, I was required to attend family dinner at 2 p.m. on Sunday. These were non-negotiables.

My church wasn't bad; in fact, it was my first representation of what a church family should be like. I was a free-range church kid, and these were my people. I could recite the Nicene Creed, the Apostles' Creed, much of the Catechism, as well as the majority of the service by the time I was thirteen. Reciting elements of the service (in my head, of course) on many Sundays was the way I got through without getting popped for not paying attention. I thought all churches understood the liturgical colors, the litany, the seasons of the church, and the staunch formality of the deeply historical church that I knew and loved.  And besides - it was totally normal to expect the jello salads in the potluck to reflect the stole donned by the minister that morning. Pentecost cherry was one of my favorites.

My great-grandmother's mother was raised in Germany and attended the Lutheran church there. For my family, being Lutheran is a point of heritage and pride.

My grandparents didn't mind that I went to the Baptist Student Union in college; I also went to the Methodist one, the Christian Campus Fellowship, as well as the Lutheran one. Many of my friends did, and I was on leadership for many of them. My grandmother wasn't overly worried about losing me to the Baptists...yet.

And then I brought Josh Brewer home to meet my family. He was one of those Baptists. At first they were very hesitant.

"But he wants to be a minister!" I protested. Surely that would show them what a great guy he was. A Baptist minister...in my deeply Lutheran family.  In short, they grew to love him, Baptist roots and all, and I grew to understand my faith in a new box.

God doesn't exist because a church follows the liturgy. That's a human constructed design to help us follow a path of knowledge and understanding. God doesn't exist in the colors draped on the altar. Those are a human response to symbolize who God is to the world. The Nicene Creed and the Apostles' Creed are holy because of what they say, but what you and I say and create can be holy, too.

These holy symbols and motifs are important. They tie us deeply into tradition and help us tell the story of a great God - time and time again. We tell the story well. Our box is beautiful and historical. First Baptists' roots stretch deep into the soil of Savannah, awakening lineages long past.

As I stepped into a new, Baptist world, I had to re-examine my box. This was my church, my faith, and my view of God, but I had to understand that it was my view of God. God never changed.

As we move through this Advent season, designed to journey us closer to the heart of Christianity, dare to ask yourself: how much of God are you putting into a box based on the one you have always carried, and how much are you letting God be God in your life - expanding beyond all we could ever design on our own. Humanity is flawed; God is not. Let us remember that if God is fitting into our box alone, it is our box that is the problem and it's time that we set our boundless, creative God free.

-- Nicki Brewer

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