This just became my all time favorite church history cartoon. (Thanks, Tom)
Okay, so perhaps “church history cartoon” doesn’t exactly name a field burgeoning with competition.
But this one got me. This one gets me.
I used to teach church history this way, perched on my Protestant branch, critiquing, hacking at the rest of the branches around me (“Hi, my name is Mike. I am a recovering hacker. Now I haver.”) hacking at the very roots bearing me as I imagined myself standing aloof, in midair, disconnected from the holy mess of all the lower branches – or better, sitting in my own pious balcony like Statler and Waldorf, panning and praising at will, and thanking God that at last someone sees all things right and true.
“Every plant that my heavenly Father has not planted will be rooted up,” became the watchword from my critic’s balcony, and all others plants separate and suspect. In fact there can be only one true plant (and I’m pretty sure it’s mine).
Or perhaps, forsaking any supposedly detached perch we take a seat a few branches lower with someone else we imagine had/has it right. Or perhaps, better still, with imagined Tarzan agility we swing down to the trunk of the tree and bellow from below our hubristic yawp against all those wild, hubristic branches growing overhead through the centuries.
What if in doing so we were to see one plant, one glorious burning bush, even?
Many leaves. Diverse expressions. But one plant sharing a common Root.
What if we heard and moved to a fresh watchword as we contemplate Catholic, Orthodox, Protestant and every shade in between and beyond: “If the root is holy, so are the branches.”
In fact, what if we were so bold as to see, even just for a moment, all of humanity as one interconnected burning bush aflame with God, our task merely being, as fellow branches, to enjoy our common root and to point to our common connection, to the common DNA embedded in us all? What if every true theologian is simply Treebeard, charged with awakening the forest to the Life stirring within?
What if faith is simply seeing this connection, awaking out of long Entish sleep to the Christ root that bears us all, that would enfold, engraft and empower all?
What if, waking up to such vivid and vibrant connection we then got about the business of bearing fruit where we are in this big, holy mess of a bush, rather than hacking at the other branches?
What rich, holy, truly catholic fruit might that yield?
Ah, but how much more easily shears and ax are fitted to our hands and hearts…