My father was both a pastor and a furniture maker. He found his calling in the church and his hobby in the workshop.
Nearly 30 years ago, he built four beautiful oak kitchen bar stools for my family. He turned the legs of each stool on his lathe and cut them by hand. The seat of each stool was handcrafted and carefully caned in a beautiful mosaic pattern. He used no nails or screws—every joint was carefully cut, fitted, and glued to the whole.
Since then we have used those stools in our kitchen. They are a constant reminder of my father and his skills as a craftsman. Recently, though, I moved one of the stools from the kitchen to my workshop. None of the pieces is broken and the caned top is still as beautiful as ever, but the stool is no longer usable because the glue that held it together has dried and crumbled.
Now those carefully fitted joints are loose and the stool creaks and wobbles. Though all the pieces are still strong and beautiful, the glue is gone. Unless I apply new glue, it will remain unusable and broken.
This year we commemorate the 150th anniversary of our denomination. As we celebrate, I have a question for you: What is the glue that has held the Christian Reformed Church together? Does the glue still hold or is it time to refit and re-glue our church?
That might seem like a strange question in a year of celebration, but I think it is worth asking. It could be argued that to discover the glue that holds us together is to discover our identity as a church.
We are being called, in this anniversary year, to remember, rejoice, and rededicate ourselves. We must begin by remembering.
We must remember those Dutch settlers who died in the bitter western Michigan winters of the 1850s. We must remember Johanna Veenstra and her unwavering determination to bring the gospel to Nigeria. We must remember the wave of immigrants to Canada after the war. We must remember the sacrifices made to build churches and schools in a new land.
But even more, we must remember our God and his grace. We must remember what he has done and continues to do.
As we remember his faithfulness, let’s go beyond simply remembering and also reflect on who we are and what we have become. What does it mean to be Christian Reformed? What is at the core of who are? What is our glue? What is our identity?
I have discussed this question with many of you over the past few months, and I have heard many different thoughts and opinions. Some insist that our confessions are the glue. Others think it is our covenant theology. The list has included everything from our confessions to our worldview to our Dutch roots.
In all the different suggestions, I heard one common theme: we are struggling with our identity. We are wrestling with the glue question.
As we begin this year of celebration, I invite you to reflect with me about our past, our present, and our future. I encourage you to remember, rejoice in, and rededicate yourself to the Christian Reformed Church.
Our journey has not been easy. We have seen the pain of death and division. We have cried tears of sadness and of joy. But through it all one thing has remained: grace—grace through all generations. And perhaps that gives us a clue to our identity.
Grace, the unconditional love of God for his people, is at the core of our being. Without grace we are without God, and without God we are nothing. Is grace ultimately the glue that holds us together?
The question is not mine alone. If we hope to flourish in the years ahead, it is a question we must answer together. Join me in the journey as we seek to live out God’s grace in our own generation.