A Calcified Christianity

“What did you used to do before you were a professional Christian?”

We welcome back Tuhina Verma Rasche as our #JesusCoffee contributor this week. A natural wordsmith, Tuhina brings us a word inspired from a recent conversation with a friend.

Wait, what? What does that even mean?

A beloved friend in the faith and I were recently checking in with one another. We were reeling from the state of the world: lives lost, Black lives obliterated by law enforcement and further disregarded by the judicial system in the United States, a dysfunctional government that further strips the rights of existence away from its inhabitants… events that have sadly become entrenched in our daily realities.

We also talked about our own personal struggles. Parts of those struggles are dealing with the personal dynamics in our lives. Part of those struggles also relate to discernment, wondering where is God calling us at this time and place in our lives.

Lately, I’ve misinterpreted the meaning of discernment. I’ve been led astray.

Instead of taking the time and space to be in wonder and ask questions of my community, I have instead fallen into a pattern of industriousness.

When my friend in the faith asked what I did before being a “professional Christian,” I struggled to remember. My attendance at worship within meaningful Christian community has been sporadic as of late. I’ve found myself getting frustrated with worship, and have found myself walking out the door before sharing the holy meal. Reading Scripture has recently become a lonely endeavor. My memory has become short as I struggle to remember what life was like when I could simply marvel at the birth, life, death, and resurrection of Christ. I’m struggling to remember the time when I could marvel at the promise of the Word in water, and when I could be in amazement at the Eucharist, hearing the words, “This is the body of Christ, broken for you. This is the blood of Christ shed on the cross for you.”

I’m trying to remember what it was like to study the Word with siblings in Christ, struggling and rejoicing with the call to be Christian in the world.

Instead of discernment and wonderment, I’ve been trying to justify my existence in ministry. I’m trying to justify my vocation as an itinerant preacher and teacher. I’ve struggled with my place within the institution of church because I do not seem to fit in “traditional” ministry spaces. I have a great respect for parish ministry and there are days where I truly miss it.

At the same time, I feel like my call to profess the death and resurrection of Christ is to happen outside a brick and mortar church, that I’m being called to travel to the ends of the earth to talk to people about death and life. I’m called to sit with people at the foot of the cross and in vigil, waiting for the day of resurrection hope and promise to come. There are days where this work is exhausting, and I wonder to God if this is what I’m really supposed to be doing? Colleagues have questioned where this path will lead; is this leading to something new, or is this a foolish endeavor? Is this a path that will lead to life, or is this simply another fad in the institutional church?

I truly do not know the answers to these questions.

This justification of existence, of ministry, and of vocation, is not under scrutiny by God. I realize that I have fallen into a trap and have become intertwined within the web of empire. This justification of not my faith, but of my very existence and ministry, has rendered me as a replaceable cog within the machinations of powers and principalities. How much can I write? How much can I travel? What can I produce? How can I convince people that what I am doing matters to the church and the world? These questions focus on quantity and productivity. These questions scrutinize what I can offer as a commodity. These questions don’t really help me explore the fullness and depth of discernment, of who God has called me to be, not simply to produce.

Perhaps it is all of this time of sitting at the foot of the cross and sitting at the tomb that perhaps, I find myself within the confines of the tomb?

Has my Christianity become… calcified?

Has the stone been rolled in place in my life of faith?

In the midst of struggling with my ministry and vocation, I am coming to realize that Christ did not die for a calcified Christianity. Christ lived among us, died among us, and was resurrected among us so that we may live, move, and have our being in God. A broken world is full of dead stones; empires fade and crumble. Our identities as Christians, our ministries, and our vocations are not of the realm of calcified and dead stones. Our existence and our ministries should not and do not need to be justified and conscripted by empire. Christ did not die to have stones rolled into place; if we’ve learned anything from the days of Easter, Christ is about removing the stones that keep us from the love of God. Christ died so that we may be liberated from the confines of sin and death.

In the midst of getting lost in the industriousness of empire, I am grateful to my friend in the faith. He reminded me that of our Christianity were calcified, we would be dead to the world and to one another. He reminded me of the Easter message we are to live into every. single. day. We are dead to empire and alive in the liberating love of Christ.

I don’t want to be a professional Christian.

I just simply want to be a Christian, marveling and struggling with what it means to be a follower of Christ in life, death, and resurrection. I want to express that fully in this world that desperately needs to hear, see, taste, and live the liberation from calcified Christianity.