Wednesday, March 20, 2013


You would have thought it was the Super Bowl or maybe the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, the way it was covered in the news.  Anchors sat on tall directors chairs strategically positioned in front of a picturesque location in St Peter’s Square.  Religious experts from many traditions were interviewed to speculate on who the new pope might be, then on what his character might contain and where he might lead the Roman Catholic Church.

 If I sound skeptical, I don’t mean to.  I was very much drawn into the story of the papal election, even if the tradition isn’t mine.  While the pope doesn’t represent my place of worship, he is for many a leading voice from the Christian church.  I often find myself calling him “our” new pope, even though we Methodists will never have one.

I’m only surprised – happily – that in today’s increasingly secular world, there is so much interest, even intrigue, over the leader of a tradition that is centuries old and whose customs and styles seem far from mainstream.  This could be said of any of our denominations and so I celebrate on behalf of all Christians for this one.

The church is constantly at work defining our faith in new generations.  This is especially true when we see our numbers waning.  We are working continually to discern what is valuable and what is fleeting; differentiating the fine antique from the passing fad.  As we hand our faith on to those who will come after us, we grapple with the questions of relevance, importance and authenticity.

What does truly matter about our faith?  Which things are to be kept or relinquished?  We wade through issues from priestly attire to worship style to language and politics as we try to speak our beliefs in an unchanging God, and make them accessible to those who may carry them after us.

But these actually aren’t questions any of us can answer beyond our own skin.  We can ultimately interpret the meaning of the faith for ourselves and no one else.  We can teach, reach and pray.  Still, every new generation, in fact every new person, will decide for him/herself what traditions are meaningful and which practices bring the faith to life.  If we want to communicate ours, all we can do is live them as deeply and authentically as we can. 

As we watch this new leader begin his work under the global eye, each one of us will continue the day-to-day work of living the faith so that it may breathe and grow into new eras.  Whether you are pope or parishioner, there is no more important work.

Red shoes and white robes are a papal tradition.  A Methodist one is the covered dish supper. Here is a recipe for the latter.

Broccoli Casserole
2 pkgs. of frozen broccoli            1 c. cheese
1 c. mayonnaise                            1 can cr. mushroom soup
2 T. dried onion soup                    2-3 eggs, beaten
1 tube Ritz crackers                       1 stick margarine, melted

Mix all except crackers and margarine.  Crush crackers, mix with margarine and top broccoli mixture.  Bake at 350o until brown. – Eunice Henderson