True Confessions of an Interim

Apr 26, 2024

By The Rev. Dr. Carl Grosse

Among the junk Denise and I brought back from a recent trip to Minnesota were several boxes of books. At zenith, we had more than 30 copy paper boxes full of books. When we moved out of a manse to our townhome, we cut that almost in half. Some we donated to a church library, but most of what we culled was effectively worthless. The market for Christian playtime with toddlers circa 1974 just isn’t there. Books were a hefty percentage of the used space in the dumpster we rented.

Times change, and even classics aren’t what they used to be. Elizabethan English is almost a foreign language to modern Americans, so that now Shakespeare has to be translated (which is dicey to purists such as I). Obscure religious books with dated object lessons and language might have been meaningful once upon a time, but now even Sunday School libraries don’t want them (“As James might put it in today’s parlance, ‘Don’t despise the woman who comes to the Women’s Missionary Society Tea without gloves’”).

It’s hard to parse what endures, and what’s just cultural context. One way to mitigate that problem is to limit the cultural wrapping and trimming so the Gift is clear. Some things are common to all of us as human beings made in the image of God. A friend of mine has hosted several exchange students, and met a number of internationals through work. He wanted so much to evangelize them, and initially he tried tools like the four Spiritual Laws and the Romans Road, with little success. What impressed the internationals was not so much his religion, but that he treated them like people. Much of their experience in a foreign country was being treated as a nobody or an undesirable by “natives”. That he would invite them for dinner, take time to visit and get to know them, learn about their families, meant the world to them. Eventually he shared that he treated them the way Jesus treated him.

Watching reactions to the wars around the world turning into more wars doesn’t make much sense. How do you bring about peace by more fighting? I’ve spent more than enough time with my nose in a book. The writer of Ecclesiastes said: “There’s no end to the excessive production of scrolls. Studying too much wearies the body. So this is the end of the matter; all has been heard. Worship God and keep God’s commands, because this is what everyone must do.” Last time I checked, the greatest of those commands were to love God and love people. Seems like more of that and fewer books might actually be a biblical idea.