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How Important Can Alignment Be?

Jaynan Clark

July, 2010

photo of Jaynan ClarkHow much is too much importance placed on "alignment" issues? The human institutional, visible church is really not such an essential component in your life of faith and discipleship that it should be the cause of the present level of distress across the denominational landscape-the Lutheran landscape specifically. Where you align or affiliate or if you join more than one group are important considerations but they are not the fundamental questions.

Turning the corner from network/movement to mission/ministry agency is a rather sharp turn by WordAlone. I assure you it is being executed with others' safety in mind; however, concern for the well-being of the vehicle itself (the organization) is secondary at best. What we as WordAlone Ministries are experiencing is on a parallel track with the very churches we are working with. Helping churches, groups, families and individuals leave the ELCA in order to be free of the false gospel and other religion it is professing is also a sharp turn being made by more than a few. But remember, alignment issues need to be kept in perspective.

A living example from my perspective presented itself recently. I was sitting in the car in backed up traffic caused by road work, with my teenage daughter behind the wheel, when I observed the paradigm for what we are engaged in. Those obeying the signs (the law) had all moved over to the right lane, as the signs indicated that the left lane was closing ahead. Anandae had a tough time convincing other drivers in the long lineup to let her in. I wrote it off to the nature of sinners who exercise some element of control, authority or even rage not allowing someone to merge and get ahead of them. I rolled down the window, waved nicely at a man and we were in. Then, as we sat there for 30 more minutes not even creeping forward, I understood his "problem." It was like NASCAR in the left lane. Car after truck after minivan went screaming by all the way to the front of the line, then cheated and made the line in front of us longer and longer.

You could feel the anxiety, anger-even rage-building as nobody moved and those not obeying the law were just recklessly going out in front and expecting everyone else to accommodate them. We watched one guy waving first his hand, then one finger in particular, at those racing by but that didn't do anything. It just risked him losing his left hand to those who didn't really care enough to slow down or consider their neighbors. I pontificated about how helpful it would be to put a flagger back there by the initial sign. About 10 minutes later Anandae mourned the fact that her big brother, who is an officially trained flagger, was not in the car. Moments later I suggested that maybe I should just go stand in the middle of the lane and make them stop; cut off their obnoxious bypassing of all the rest of us who were under great duress and inconvenience to self and schedule sitting obediently in the right lane. Anandae grinned, asking if I really thought they would stop. My response rolled quickly off my tongue, "Well, the ELCA leaders didn't."

Bittersweet laughter then was interrupted by a paradigm for WordAlone turning the corner from politically involved reform movement producing ministries to full on mission/ministry agency. The same paradigm applies for each and every ELCA congregation turning away from an institution in order to get on with the true mission of the church. This paradigm shift was exemplified by the guy in front of us in a pickup truck. Carefully checking for traffic-both the cheaters in the left lane and those in the other two oncoming lanes of traffic-he proceeded to turn his corner. Right over the median he went and proceeded in the opposite direction from where he was going until he was able to turn right and then right again onto another bridge running parallel to the one everyone was stuck on. We were left to watch him moving on. Those in trucks who had been stuck in traffic in front of him and witnessed this in their rearview mirrors proceeded to go up and over this rather large median, as did those behind us. They saw a solution to their problem and they acted on it. All of us in cars were contemplating the damages if we followed the trucks up and over-you could feel that united possibility thinking. Counting the cost of radically going up and over and getting on with it was the order of the day.

Jesus talks to us about counting the cost of being His disciples. He helps us by telling what the life of a disciple looks like. Peter lives on in the hearts, guts and mouths of every sinful follower denying that discipleship could, would or should mean that! You will be despised, rejected, spoken ill of, suffer-even be called upon to die because of your discipleship. The cost is a simple calculation-it demands everything that is you. We spend our entire lives searching the discount fares for discipleship, trying to find out how we are going to get a better deal in all of this, and Jesus stands there knowing it was a life for a life. He gave His life for the now and not yet-life eternal. As He calls you He reminds you that in this life He will cost you "self" and exchange it with "Savior," and then all questions of alignment are put into perspective as He aligns you with Himself. Nothing, nobody, nowhere looks the same, because the subject of your sentences, your prayers, your days is not "me" and "I." Personal happiness, comfort and success are relativized to such a point that you wonder why they ever mattered. The law that keeps you in that right lane going nowhere while you grow more and more angry with the world that is passing you by, cheating as they do it, is no longer worth reducing yourself to a flip of the finger but drives you to the possibility that there is another "Way".

That One who has fulfilled the law asks you now, "How important is your vehicle, your alignment or the cost for repair or replacement, or even the fine for a violation?" Are you sitting there in line waiting patiently (or impatiently) because you believe the signs that tell you to merge to the right because there is "bridge construction" going on up ahead? What if the sign isn't true? What if you find out that there isn't construction ahead but destruction, and the bridge is gone and there is only a wide, deep chasm filled with rushing water ahead? Would that change your behavior? Would you realize finally that sitting in the right lane-frustrated, angry, sad, late, unproductive-isn't a practice in faithful patience but rather futility, because those who directed you to that very place and time were not being honest? How costly is turning around, even jumping a curb and risking your "alignment," when the road ahead is one of destruction that is constructing a whole new "way" which is not the "Way" of Jesus and His church?

With care for your neighbors-both those innocently coming from the other direction and those rascals breezing by to your left-faithfully pull out, make the corner and "Go." Just sitting there is not moving you forward; it's making you angry and it's wasting your time and resources, both gifts of God to be used for His purposes. Get around the obstacles and get on with it. There is a cloud of witnesses and a pit crew of disciples here to help you.