Nothing like a good pickle metaphor! Ok, maybe not a good one, but a useful one. Growing up, my parents always planted a few cucumber plants in the garden. They produced cucumbers that were dark green, fresh and crisp; we ate well for weeks as we brought in our haul of produce. The rest of the year we bought cucumbers at the store, and rarely did we eat pickles. Sure, pickles are preserved cucumbers, but it wasn’t the same as the fresh garden variety. In fact, I have an uncle who went on a “pickle diet” several years ago – I think it was a fad he read about in a magazine. After a few weeks he started to fall ill and he told his doctor about the pickles. The doctor scolded him for such a silly diet, “no one can live on pickles!” The salty pickles were slowly killing him! (I’m happy to report he’s much better now, and eating a healthy diet).
It’s my experience that Churches often go the ‘pickle route’ when it comes to faith. We preserve things well, but often fail to plant and foster new growth. We get used to pickles when a garden of fresh cucumbers is a season away.
This metaphor came to mind when I read a recent National Post article written as commentary on the Anglican General Synod. A Bishop at the Synod was asked about the slow growth of the Christian Church in the Middle East, and whether Anglicans were trying to replenish the dwindling population by making new Christians. He responded by saying, “no, we are not evangelical. We are just trying to preserve the ‘living stones’ (Christians) already there.”
Something happens when we move from a growing culture called by Jesus to tell others about him, to a preservationist culture geared towards maintenance and nostalgia. We hope the church will persevere, but pickles do not beget more pickles. The National Post commentator summed up his experience at the Synod this way, “Liberals tend to believe that Christianity is one of many paths that lead to God. The good bishop could not quite see that his liberalism is chipping its way through the branch on which he is perched: if Christianity is not unique, if it has no truth to offer that is inaccessible to other religions, there isn’t too much point in keeping Anglicanism, synods, dioceses, parishes or even bishops on artificial life support. What reason could there be, other than nostalgia, for not letting this particular path fade gracefully away?”
I believe that we, as followers of Jesus, do have something powerful to share. The Good News of Jesus changes lives, it did with the early disciples, it changed our own Martin Luther, and Jesus changed me! Let’s embrace the hope we have in Christ and move into a new season of growth. This spring, let’s close the proverbial pickle jar and plant some cucumbers. Because you just can’t live on pickles.