In the early morning, as I look across the quiet stillness of the lake, I see reflections of the trees, the clouds, the sky, the sunrise—all appearing as in a mirror on the surface of the water. What I see is not the clarity of the direct vision, but a somewhat distorted reflection of the skyline. It is not reality, yet in that reflection reality is easily seen.
So it was with Synod 2009. What we saw was not the whole of the church, but a clear reflection of what the Christian Reformed Church is and is becoming. As one speaker suggested, we see the “already” and the “not yet” of the church of Jesus Christ.
The worship theme of “unity in diversity” permeated the week. During Synod I have the privilege of sitting on a slightly raised platform with the officers of Synod. From my vantage point I see a sea of faces. This year, as I looked over the gathering of delegates and advisers, I was reminded of television.
I can still remember when my parents brought home our first television when I was a child. I was mesmerized by the images and soon became a regular fan of everything from “Romper Room” to the “Lone Ranger.”
What I never really noticed, though, was that the world of television was a monochromatic one, black and white. It was only several years later, when I encountered my first color TV, that I realized how much brighter and more beautiful the world of television could be.
I had a similar experience at Synod. The monochromatic CRC of the 1950s has become a church of living color. While we still reflect our deep and rich Dutch roots, we’ve blossomed into a church of beautiful color and diversity.
No one would suggest that this denomination has become the church of Revelation 7, but neither can one deny the growing diversity so evident at Synod this year.
In our diversity we seek unity—no small task. As the Christian Reformed Church becomes more and more diverse, we will be challenged by the very diversity we desire. Language, culture, and customs can and do become challenges to communication and understanding. We can no longer talk about us and them; rather, we now speak of how together we can move the church forward.
We hear the discussion about the Belhar Confession not only through the ears of the dominant culture, but through the ears of those who have experienced the effects of injustice and unfairness in our communities and in our congregations. Our eyes are opened to our own prejudices and presuppositions. We now must face the reality of past sins and past injustices. We come face to face with racism and the damage it has done and, sadly, continues to do in our churches, families, and lives.
As we continue, over the next few years, to engage the Belhar Confession, we will find ourselves facing our future as a church. We will discover what it means to become “God’s Diverse and Unified Family” in fresh and new ways. Such conversations will likely lead us to places we have never been. The questions raised will touch places in our hearts that until now have been hidden from us. It will be a difficult but rewarding journey.
Facing such realities is not easy. It is, in fact, quite painful. At times, I would prefer to step away—even run away—from the pain of such encounters. Yet I cannot. We cannot.
If we are to experience the joy of diversity, we must be willing to endure the pain of repentance and restoration. It will not be easy; however, it will be necessary for the church of Jesus Christ to flourish.
I welcome the opportunity. I am grateful that God has placed me in a church and among people who are willing and able to confront the past, seek God’s forgiveness, and take steps toward a future where people of every nation, every tribe, and every language worship God in unity.