22 April 2021 |
ADVENTIST TOMORROW: Fresh Ideas While Waiting for Jesus, by Jack Hoehn. Published by Adventist Today.
Reviewed by Jenniffer Ogden
In the dark days following the sadness of October 22, 1844, a re-examination of beliefs began by a small group who grieved that Jesus Christ hadn’t appeared in their physical midst. Wanting desperately to know where their understanding of Christ did not match the events that had occurred (or more accurately failed to occur), the dig through the mine of Scripture began afresh. The curiosity leading to a desire to grasp the Divine was reborn and renewed. And Adventism was birthed.
The vigor with which the Adventist movement began led to life-giving new understandings of God’s grace, love, and guidance through the treasure of history, Scripture, and human experience.
As my knees remind me regularly, when something ages, it can become unwilling to move and deeply painful. Old habits must shift and change in order for my decidedly cranky knees to maintain their ability to carry me day to day. Long days skiing are subtly shortened. Hours spent weeding in the garden must be interrupted for stretching. And the muscles that support these cantankerous joints of mine must be diligently strengthened.
But with a gentle coaxing, tender ministration, and continued maintenance, the old can be reborn and renewed. It is the hope that one day I will carry my nieces’ babies on my hip, or climb down the Grand Canyon and back out again, that drives me to continue to care for my knees. Hope of a bright and fulfilling one day pushes me to change, shift, and reexamine so the not-so-distant future can be as brilliant as hoped.
It was hope that sparked the Adventist drive to share Jesus’ love long ago. It was hope that led to the expansion of a global medical system and hope that guided our parochial school system to fruition. It was hope that launched mission work, and neighborly kindness, and soup kitchens, and building initiatives, and vaccination programs, and goat purchasing. And today, hope thrives in the voices calling for the equal and open ordination of women in the Adventist faith, in the deeply reverent rejection of racial intolerance, in the advocacy for open and transparent financial practices at all levels of the structure of the Adventist organization. It is the hope that leads to deep curiosity that will help this body of believers be rebirthed and renewed continually for the joy of carrying Jesus to the world.
And so it is, under the wise and precise pen of Dr. Jack Hoehn, that the long-held habits and actions of both the Adventist belief structure are gently and tenderly reexamined, seeking a continued maintenance of an aging structure. Jesus’ message of hope for all humanity enriches and informs this text.
With the skilled passion of one deeply committed to Adventism, the stories of this tenderhearted and wise missionary doctor provoke the deep love I too feel for Adventism. We have so much to celebrate about each other and about the wonders God has empowered this group of people to accomplish in this wildly broken and frail world. We are witnesses to signs and wonders. We see miracles daily. And we have the honor of sitting at the feet of God to be coached in embracing all peoples, nations, and tongues into fellowship.
We also have the privilege and responsibility of examining where structures and actions have fallen short, leading to hurt and exclusion and dimming of the Gospel. We can openly and courageously join Dr. Hoehn as he gently nudges aside layers of the detritus of years of history and preferences to unearth gold. Jack tenderly examines beliefs and ideas without insult or guile, instead revealing in his pointed dialogue his rooted love for this tribe. There is no fear in love, and so leaning into this conversation with hope is a wonderful joy. We can examine, reexamine, rebuild, and restructure all that we hold so that God can be more ardently and diligently revealed by every belief and actions of this group.
Thank you, Jack, for calling us once more, homeward. Your heart for our church and for the world makes me wonder what Jesus will lead us to next.
Jenniffer Ogden is a chaplain in Walla Walla, Washington.