But not so fast, warned Magdalena Garcia, the pastor of Ravenswood Church, a multicultural congregation in Chicago, and the preacher during opening worship.
In the 3rd chapter of Joshua, just before Joshua promises that God will bring wonders, Joshua admonishes the people: “Sanctify yourselves.” In other words, there’s some hard work to be done first to get ready for the good stuff.
In describing that work, Garcia used a number of analogies. Her congregation, for example, in partnership with another, is growing a community garden this summer. And some folks have been surprised by the amount of work and preparation that it’s taking between the idea and the harvest.
There will be references to hard work sprinkled all through this gathering – in workshops on oppression and exploitation of women and children, on hunger and disease, on spiritual growth and development.
The National Association of Presbyterian Clergywomen, meeting in conjunction with this gathering, which is held every three years, is exploring the implications and challenges of women in leadership in the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), recognizing that in many congregations, Presbyterian Women have helped nurture the gifts of those who have felt called to lead the church in new directions.
Presbyterians — used to thinking of themselves as upstanding, responsible Christians — might not be so thrilled about the “sanctify yourselves” part of the message, Garcia said. “We want to get to the promised land, and we want to get to the promised land quick.”
But there are hints in that passage of Scripture of the sanctifying work that needs to be done before the wonders can come, hints about what it means to be purified, consecrated, made acceptable. Among those ideas, Garcia suggested: waiting upon the Lord; following wherever God leads; stepping out of one’s comfort zone; letting go of our illusions of control.
“Can you really picture Presbyterians waiting upon Lord, instead of forming a committee?” she asked. What about “letting go of our illusions of control, instead of revising the Book of Order one more time?”
But “God expects even crusty Presbyterians like us to sanctify ourselves by folding new spices into our batter,” she suggested – by the PC(USA) becoming a more multicultural church.
Garcia told of going to a Korean restaurant for lunch with colleagues while at the Big Tent gathering in Atlanta in June – and being confused by multiple entries on the menu, all of which said bibimbap. She asked a Korean colleague why so many entrees seemed to be the same. He explained they all meant “mixed,” some variety of one-pot meals, rice and vegetables and spices combined together, some with beef, some with chicken, some vegetarian, and so on.
What an image for the church, Garcia suggested.
The future of the PC(USA) depends not on investments or political correctness, but a willingness to grow in faith, to follow God into uncharted territory, “and doing it hand-in-hand with the stranger who is our sister or brother,” but who is unlike us.
Garcia asked: “Isn’t that what Pentecost was all about?”