[saymaListserv] THE OTHER SIDE: Strength for the Journey

Michael Austin Shell bright_crow at mindspring.com
Sat Dec 30 12:13:12 JEST 2000

Dear Friends,

I want to recommend a magazine called THE OTHER SIDE: Strength for the
Journey, published in Philadelphia.  It is a radically different,
ecumenical Christian magazine, which "advances a healing Christian vision"
that includes affirmation of other religions, of gay people, of social
concern for marginalized people, etc.  I discovered it at the SAYMA 2000
gathering, when I bought the special issue on "Christianity and
Homosexuality" at the FGC bookstore.

The Website is <http://www.theotherside.org/core.html>, and you can link to
lead articles from the current and past issues, in order to get a sense of
the magazine.

Here is an excellent item from the January/February 2001, issue, (v.37,
n.1).  I hope you will find it interesting.

Blessed Be,

"Too Close to Tell" -- by J. Thomas Son

"I am the vine, you are the branches." -- John 15:3

I sometimes wonder if a tree might have been a more compelling image.
Jesus could have said, "I am the olive tree."  It sounds so stately and
solid, so reliable and predictable.  A tree doesn't go anywhere but up.
It's always where you left it.

A vine, though, has a mind of its own.  It grows where it will.  It's hard
to tell where it comes from, which way it will turn, what it might get into.

Vines are so unruly.  Among the tangled, overlapping branches along a wall
or fence, it's often impossible to tell which part belongs to which.
Sometimes it looks like the branches are trying to choke each other out, to
keep for themselves all the life of the vine.  But somehow they are woven
together, each contributing to the life of the whole.  It's nearly
impossible to see any pattern--unless you are the vinegrower, whose vision
is so much broader than our own.

We are branches, Jesus reminds us, a new creation born of communion with
the true vine.  When we lose sight of this--when we forget who we are in
relation to Christ--our churches struggle endlessly to determine their own
identities, direct their own futures, cut off their unwanted branches.

I suppose it's really about power.  It can be rather disconcerting to be a
branch--not knowing what the vine is becoming, or what it is making of us
all.  We want more control.  If Jesus would give us a chance, we could get
this vine back in proper shape in no time.  A little pruning here; some
cutting there.  We could turn this vine into something more orderly.  A
tree, perhaps?  But Christ is not a tree.  Christ is a vine.

Meanwhile, Jesus quietly goes on making the church--sometimes with our
help, and sometimes, surely, despite us.  The vine continues to grow where
it will.  And we, uncomfortable with what we can see from our limited,
branchy perspective, betray our lack of faith.  We scramble to find some
common ground to hold us together.  But it is not the ground on which we
stand that unites us, or even the soil into which we dig our heels.  It is
the vine to whom we belong.

We continue to wonder: What are we becoming?  But we are too close to tell.
 And we do not need to understand.  For now, we are the branches.  And that
is enough.

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