Ministry is befuddling, either in the way the people we serve are just so very strange, or in the way the grace of God catches us off guard—or both. Granted, some out there “get” the liturgy and sound theology we’re offering them, and in admittedly wobbly ways try to embody what the scriptures are about. But a stunning host of others latch on to spiritual oddities, untested (and untestable) private experiences and even silliness.
What are they thinking—and what are we to think—when they fall for the notion that Jesus and Mary Magdalene are the ancestors of Merovingian royalty? Or that the spiritual blatherings of celebrities reveal truths about past lives? Or that inner visions and hunches have validity? Is there some desperate lunge in their gullibility to which I need to pay more attention?
James C. Howell is senior minister of Myers Park United Methodist Church in Charlotte, North Carolina, and author of What Does the Lord Require? Doing Justice, Loving Kindness, Walking Humbly (Westminster John Knox).