THE SPACE BETWEEN ACTS 2 AND ACTS 10:
AN ECCLESIOLOGY OF TEXT, TIME,
AND THE HOLY SPIRIT
Presented to the Second Ecclesiological Colloquium
Convened by Moderator of the 220th General Assembly of the PC(USA), Neal Presa
Frank M. Yamada
Jake: Oh yeah? Well me and the Lord. We got an understanding.
Elwood: We’re on a mission from God.
~The Blues Brothers
Of Conversions and Interruptions
The quote above comes from an iconic Chicago-based movie, The Blues Brothers, starring Dan Ackroyd and John Belushi. They are bearing witness to a calling that the two brothers’ received after their journey through the penitentiary system lands them eventually at Triple Rock Baptist Church, the Reverend Cleophus James presiding (played by James Brown). Jake and Elwood are in crisis. The orphanage where they grew up will be closed if they can’t come up with $5000. So they go to get “churched up” and cleaned up. During the gospel frenzy that ensues, they are interrupted by a literal light from heaven, from which they receive the revelation that will guide them on their calling—a calling that is summed up in two words: “THE BAND.” They must get the band back together. God interrupts. Their calling and mission become clear. Their lives and the clubs of Chicago are never quite the same.
As a Presbyterian, I understand that this type of scene, while comedic, would never have happened at First Presbyterian Church of the Midwest. Not only is the hand-clapping, dancing, shouting, and improvising that characterized this church scene inconsistent with what most deem good Reformed worship, there was also obviously no worship committee planning for this service, which was, therefore, hardly decent and in good order.
My biblical reflections on ecclesiology focus on interruptions, more precisely on the interplay between continuity and discontinuity in the narrative and life of the church—on the recovering of tradition, which is held together at the same time with disruptions from the Holy Spirit. I will argue that in our current crisis, we have privileged continuity in our current understandings of the church, and have failed to embrace the confrontational and often disruptive moments that may actually open us up to the missio Dei. Such confrontations are not mere digressions or differences of opinion regarding tradition. I would argue that these holy interruptions both challenge us to think radically different thoughts about the nature and makeup of the church, i.e., who is in and who is out, and enliven mission in the process.