I never had the opportunity to worship along side Rachel Held Evans. Just like many of the early Christians never had the opportunity to worship with Peter, Paul, James. And just to be perfectly clear, yes I am comparing RHE to the apostles. She was like them in every way. Just like the early pioneers of our faith were flawed individuals seeking after an understanding of God. She did her best to live our her understanding of God in an authentic way that allowed for wonder and mystery along with questions and well thought out answers. What she didn’t do was peddle a gospel of fear or absolutes. Instead she ushered in a new progressive area of the faith that allowed for us to abandon the chains that held us back and lead us into a fresh and contemporary understanding of Jesus.
Just like the early Christians, most of us learned along with her through her writing. Just like I don’t always like or agree with what Paul said, I didn’t always agree with Rachel. Unlike Paul, she didn’t demand absolute adherence. She was teaching a new form of theology that allowed the reader to question more than just adhere. She deconstructed her faith in front of us all and instead of demanding we put the pieces back together in the exact same way, she just hoped we would all try and build a new church out of our collective brokenness and strengths.
So here we are faced with an interesting situation. We are now collectively grieving the first major loss within the new waive of progressive Christians authors. She left us well before her time. Now what do we do with this? Here is a moment where we have to look back to our ancestors in the faith for solace.
The idea of death and sanctification is something the early church spoke about a lot. Not because of our own personal goodness but because of the goodness of us all together. It was about being united with our brother, Jesus. Restoration comes through death, that’s a clear theme throughout the whole of scripture. Just as the saints of old were perfected in their deaths so are we all. Now she lives in her writing just as the apostles did. Continuing to evolve and be read and consumed by generations to come. The earth will continue to shake as a result of the example of what Rachel Held Evans set forth.
So I’ll leave these words for you, the last words she published before her time here ended and the next phase of her journey began: “It strikes me today that the liturgy of Ash Wednesday teaches something that nearly everyone can agree on. Whether you are part of a church or not, whether you believe today or you doubt, whether you are a Christian or an atheist or an agnostic or a so-called “none” (whose faith experiences far transcend the limits of that label) you know this truth deep in your bones: ‘Remember that you are dust and to dust you will return.’
Death is a part of life.
My prayer for you this season is that you make time to celebrate that reality, and to grieve that reality, and that you will know you are not alone.
Ashes to ashes, dust to dust.
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