Patricia Hofer

Christ is greater than any one denomination.

THE RATTAN BASKET CRITICIZES THE PALM-LEAFED BAG, STILL BOTH ARE FULL OF HOLES. This wonderful proverb originating in the Philippines can obviously be applied to many things. For me, it could describe why denominationalism in the Christian churches is such a struggle—too many containers and all with holes!

Perhaps the only time there wasn’t more than one way to practice Christianity was when Jesus was teaching it. And even then Peter and John didn’t always follow in the same way. After Jesus’ resurrection and ascension, Christian groups immediately had different views of “the way”—the Ebionites, the Marcionites, the Valentinian Gnostics. You haven’t heard of these groups? Well, that’s because they were overtaken by the Orthodox and Roman Catholic Churches. Eventually, the Protestant Reformation came along, and there has just been no way of keeping track of the “baskets” and “bags” ever since!

But, as I see it, one thing has consistently been true. Because of their “holes,” Christ seems always to elude the grasp of those who would contain him within a church institution. Just as Jesus “passed through the midst” of an angry crowd untouched (Luke 4:30), Christ keeps pushing past the boundaries of the various denominations, overflowing every doctrinal barrier that would try to contain the Son of God. That’s because, as significant and worthwhile as churches are for a Christian, Christ is always going to be greater, operating in people and in ways that surprise us. “For where two or three are gathered in my name, I am there among them” (NRSV Matt. 18:20). In Christ’s name. That embraces us all. (Turning Aside to see, chapter 56)

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