Friday, April 22, 2011

The Blindness of Grief

Good Friday... I realize that there is much good about it for us. So much was given on our behalf on that day. A life sacrificed. God experiencing the depth of human pain and suffering, carrying the burden of our sin. I imagine it was hard for the disciples to see it that day, through their tears, as they looked at the man they loved dying before them.

Actually, we know that they could not see that day. That their sorrow, and for some guilt, would send them scurrying to their homes to hide. For others, standing at the tomb, looking at the burial clothes lying there, even seeing Jesus standing before them... they still couldn't see.

Grief and pain and guilt have a way of doing that. Blurring our vision. Causing us to see only that one bit of truth. The pain of that one moment. And to magnify it as if it is all of reality. For some, one can hardly blame them... facing a lifetime of suffering or violence or poverty or grief. And yet... and this is where hindsight makes Good Friday good. We know that even though Christ died, the light of Christ was not extinguished. Death had not won the day. Evil had not prevailed. Our own sin had not finally destroyed us.

In the midst of tears, we search for the light. Some faint memory of the past. Some glimmer of hope in the future. May we find our hope in Christ, in the unfailing love of a God who went to the cross for us.

Thursday, April 21, 2011


Maundy Thursday... a passover meal... gathering to remember the giving of the first born of Egypt for the release of Israel. Israel whose children were protected, until tonight. Until the night when a young Jewish man, the Son of Mary and Joseph, the Son of God, is betrayed.

Have you ever been betrayed? Had someone whom you thought you trusted turn their back on you? Rat you out? Hand you over to those who would hurt you? Stand in silence while you were crucified?

Have you ever betrayed someone? Where your courage has failed or your ego has taken over. Where your desire for security or advancement caused you to remain silent or point the finger at someone else? Or perhaps, as in this case, someone did not live up to your expectations... and so you crucified them. Without really understanding what was going on.

God walked into this betrayal with eyes wide open. Knowing the faults and weaknesses of humanity. Loving anyways. Loving enough to sacrifice his life. Remaining in relationship with Judas until the end. Not casting out the one who would ultimately turn him over to the authorities. Not failing to offer forgiveness even when dying on the cross.

How hard am I on those around me who fail to live up to my standards? Who don't lead the way I want them to? Who lack courage when needed? Even though I have done the same more times than I can count. How hard am I on myself?

I am not saying betrayal is right... it is never right. This is not about right and wrong. This is about love and reconciliation and forgiveness. This is about doing what is right even for those who hurt you. Loving your enemies... and the friends and family you have let down.

This is about knowing that even though we sin and fall, we are loved, deeply loved by God. Don't be like Judas, who could not accept the forgiveness of Christ. Who killed himself because of his guilt and regret. Jesus would not have wanted that. Ever. For anyone.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

The Growing Darkness

I love this stretch of road on Dempster Avenue in Evanston. The way the trees reach over the road... it feels as if you are entering into another world. Even if it is just for a few blocks. I also remember when I first moved to Boston how oppressive these same sort of trees felt. Moving from California and Washington with wide open spaces and coastlines, it was a bit too much at first. A sense of being closed in. Of impending doom.

I imagine this is how the disciples were feelings during Jesus' long speech that extends from John 14-17. Scattered amidst all the words of love and promise were the hints that something terrible was about to happen. That they would be hated by the world. That Jesus would be leaving them. That there would be a betrayal. And a few chapters earlier, a prediction that Jesus would die.

There is hope. On the other side of the grief, there is joy. When Jesus has gone, he will send His Spirit, the comforter and guide. The disciples will become Christ's brothers and sisters in an even deeper way.

If you have been through grief, you hear all these promises. You know what is waiting on the other side. But it does not ease the pain of now. As with this final discourse, you hold both the hope and the grief side by side. One does not negate the other. You do not grieve less because of the hope contained within it. You do not hope less because of your grief. You weep and mourn and laugh and cry all at once. Life is not a game of either or when it comes to emotions. They all bubble over together... sometimes exploding like a bad science experiment. Sometimes producing something beautiful... rich and complex.

Jesus knows about our grief and pain... having walked this path... forward into the looming darkness of the cross. I don't think knowing what was on the other side made it any easier. The pain was real all the same... but still, a glimpse of hope made all the difference.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Love One Another

"Little children, I am with you only a little longer... where I am going, you cannot come. I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another." (John 13:33-35)

How are we doing on this these days? How is our love for one another? To be honest, I am grateful that for some reason, despite conflict and frustration, despite my struggles with balance, gift, and calling, God has given me a heart for the churches I have served. I fall in love with them. Even when I am angry. Even when things are going great. I don't really know where it comes from most of the time. I think it is a gift from God.... and I think it is essential for ministry.

Having said that, I still have some self-reflecting to do on this topic. How is my love for people these days? I'm not too worried about what other people are perceiving, because to be honest it seems that we have lost sight of what love truly is in our society. Love compelled Jesus to walk away from his disciples towards the cross. It was only in hindsight that they understood the depth of love in the act. But in my own heart, how am I doing? Am I loving those around me? Truly?

Monday, April 18, 2011

From the Top to the Bottom

The scripture for next Sunday takes us right to the resurrection... it seems fitting to go right from the Triumphal Entry of Palm Sunday to the resurrection. Both scenes of the triumphant king. And yet so much happens between the two. In John, the triumphal entry is quickly followed by Jesus speaking about his death, the unbelief of the people, and Jesus going into hiding.

And then... the washing of the disciples feet. Of course Peter didn't understand. His king was suddenly kneeling before him. Like a humble servant. These were not feet that had been safely ensconced in a pair of shoes and socks walking around the office all day. These were feet that wore sandals and walked dirt paths. These feet were covered with earth, with life, with humanity.

It is clear that in washing the disciples feet Jesus was modeling true servant leadership. But I suppose at this moment I am thinking of something a bit different. In washing the disciples feet, Jesus was embracing humanity. Not shying away from the dirt and dust that are a part of life. Willing to get his hands wet. A working class man.

A very human king. Of course, every bit divine. That is the paradox of the week, isn't it. We wanted a human king. A king who would take control. Sit on the throne. Rule with political power. Not realizing that Jesus could be not just a human king, but a divine one. Ruling eternally. Ruling not just with political power, but with divine power.

But Jesus took an even more human route. A way of suffering. These are the days that test our relationship with Christ. These are the days that challenge us to consider what kind of king we are looking for. Are we willing to truly follow a servant king... not just a servant king, but a suffering servant?

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Just a prophet...

Jesus' parade into Jerusalem has created quite a stir. According to Matt. 21:10-11, the city was in chaos. Everyone wanted to know who Jesus was. And the crowds following him replied, "A prophet from Nazareth."

I don't actually know if this was a good or a bad designation given what had just happened. They were just proclaiming Jesus as king, as messiah, but suddenly he is just a prophet. And a prophet from Nazareth at that... what good can come out of Nazareth, the saying goes. I wonder why they didn't just tell people he was their king? Was it too politically dangerous? Or perhaps "a prophet from Nazareth" alluded to something that we are not aware of these days.

I wonder about our own designations for Jesus. Are we similar to the crowds? Do we, on Sunday mornings and when we are with our friends from church, proclaim Jesus our king and savior, but when the parade is over does he become once again just a prophet from Nazareth? What do we proclaim about our God to the world once we leave worship?

Friday, April 15, 2011

This Side of Palm Sunday... will we still worship?

Last week our Sunday School kids made a "palm of palms" as their craft for the day. So cute! All those little hands forming a palm of praise to God.

Of course those who were waving those original palms got it all wrong. Jesus was not the kind of king they were looking for. He went to the cross, not the throne. What kind of king is that?

Looking at the palm of palms, the child-like faith that went into it, I wonder how wrong they really were. Most likely no more off in their faith than the rest of us. We worship what we can of God. We worship what we know, what we grasp at any given moment. It is always a child-like faith, always a bit naive, always missing something of who God is. That is the beauty and the mystery of it all.

They wanted God to save them. And God did. Not the way they expected or even wanted. I suppose the question I have to ask myself on this side of Palm Sunday is whether or not I'm still willing to worship that kind of God. A God that I want to save me, to rescue me, to take away the frustration and suffering of this world. A God who has brought more salvation than I could ever imagine... yet not in the way I expected or even wanted. Yes, there was the resurrection, but before that was the cross. The cross... we wear them around our neck, hang them on our walls, raise them up in our churches... but do we really worship the God of the cross?

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Jesus for President

So, this picture is from yesterday... the day I had to have Jim and his team come and cut down two of the big trees on the side of our house. If you look closely, Jim is up in the top of the tree in the backyard.

I have been wondering about the symbolism of the palm branches used during the triumphal entry. They actually only seem to show up in John's version. In Matthew they are just branches and in Luke (I think) they seem to be leafy branches from the fields. But the triumphal entry has become intimately associated with palms. People cut down palm branches to wave in the air and place on the ground before Jesus' entry into the city.

From what I have read, it seems that Palm branches were a national symbol for Israel. In a sense, the people were proclaiming Jesus their king, claiming to have a new national leader other than Rome. Today it would be much like shouting "Jesus for President!" in the United States. Though perhaps it would be more like another country shouting for a leader who did not support the United States... for a colony trying to establish independence... for an ethnic minority trying to reassert their right to a national identity.

At times I believe such rebellion against human authorities is necessary. When governments and businesses no longer lead justly or on behalf of all the people.

And yet that is not exactly what the triumphal entry is all about. Don't get me wrong. It was about overthrowing the power of Rome in many ways. It certainly had political implications. But the view of the people was too limited. Jesus didn't want to be the next Caesar or President or national leader. Jesus was claiming an authority much greater than that. Jesus recognized the corruption inherent in all human systems. We are sinful people. Our systems are flawed. Jesus did not come to serve as a leader for one of these flawed systems, but rather to offer grace and forgiveness... and to establish an entirely new way of being. A way not of power, but of the cross.

What are my dreams for Jesus? What do I want God to accomplish in this world? And how has that limited my ability to see how God might desire to work? How do my dreams at times get in the way of God's dreams and promises for this world?

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Will we let our leaders be truly humble?

"Look, your king is coming to you, humble, and mounted on a donkey." (Matt. 21:5)

I have been trying to figure out whether or not people actually want humble leaders. Do we really want our kings, our presidents, our pastors, our parents, to humble themselves and lower themselves. Or do we prefer them lifted up? Do we prefer them to be larger than life? Do we prefer them to remain on a pedestal, a bit distant, bearing both our admiration and all responsibility?

We talk a lot in our denomination about needing pastors who are strong leaders, but what does that actually look like? Our text for this week with its parade celebrating king Jesus suggests that the people do want a humble king. Just not too humble. Go ahead and ride on a donkey, but let us put our cloaks on him first. Go ahead and ride slowly into the city, but we are going to wave flags celebrating the might of our country (Palms were a national symbol for the Jewish people). Be humble, but strong. Be humble, but take control. Be humble, but don't go to the cross. That is too much. We didn't ask for that.

As a pastor, I constantly find myself struggling between what it is to "lead" and what it is to "serve." How to "cast a vision" while at the same time "empowering others." How to be authentic, but not reveal too many weaknesses. After all, you don't want the people to lose faith in you... and you certainly don't want to "embarrass the family."

Do we really want a humble king? Do we really want leaders who are willing to go to the cross? And are those of us who are leaders willing to take the risk of embracing such humble leadership, even if it means that at the end of the week the crowd might stop singing your praises and might start calling for you to be crucified?

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

The Church of Our Humble King?

So, when you try to take a picture at 9:45 pm, your options start to become quite limited. But, I did try and look at the text, walked around the house for a while with camera in hand. As I was walking, I was looking for images that reflected the idea of a humble king.

Matthew 21:5 describes Palm Sunday with this image from the Old Testament: "Look, you king is coming to you, humble, and mounted on a donkey..." Having no crowns or kings or donkeys in the house, my thoughts began to wander.

I began thinking about churches... church buildings in particular... and I wondered what God makes of them. Do they reflect what God desires in a church? And so, I began going through some of my old pictures of churches from around the wordl...

Would God build a church that reflected a humble king, coming to us riding on a donkey? What would that look like?

God did, of course, design the great temple that was in Jerusalem. So, God has not always been opposed to ornate worship spaces. And perhaps there is something in them that still reflects God's glory.

Perhaps the high arches do help us to experience God's transcendence. Still, during this week of Palm Sunday, I just wonder.

What do our churches communicate to the world about our God?

Images from:
Lake Atitlan, Guatemala
Copenhagen, Denmark
Evanston, IL
The Andes, Peru
Cusco, Peru
The Sistine Chapel of the Andes, Peru
Stockholm, Sweden

Monday, April 11, 2011

We're Just "Borrowing" It...

The scene shifts this week, moving another step closer to Jerusalem. And in a strange twist of fate, just after the religious leaders commit to plotting Jesus' death, Jesus experiences his most "triumphant" moment.

It begins with Jesus sending two disciples to neighboring village to "borrow" someone's donkey and colt. Now perhaps people were a bit more generous with their possessions in Jesus day, but it still seems rather strange to me that the disciples were not told to ask permission. Rather, if someone stopped them they were to tell them it was for "the Lord." To be honest, I don't know exactly what a donkey was used for in Jesus' day. Was it simply about transportation? Or was it also used to work in the field?

If it was for transportation, then what would I think as a disciple if I was asked by Jesus to go into a neighborhood and "borrow" somebody's car without asking permission? How would I feel if I walked out of my house and someone was driving away in my Jeep? If they said it was "for the Lord," would it make any difference?

While this reflection may be a bit of a leap, it has caused me to think a bit about how I hold onto my possessions. Do I consider myself simply a steward of things that are here for the Lord's work? Would I be willing to let go of anything and everything if it was needed by God? And what do I miss out on, how do I get in the way of Jesus' triumphal entries in this world by trying to hold onto so many material things?

Sunday, April 10, 2011


One last photo of Lazarus...

I've been stumbling along with those in the story this week. Thomas who was sure he was heading towards his death. Martha, who gives us this amazing confession of faith in Jesus as the Messiah, but still doubts that he will actually raise Lazarus. Mary, who simply pours out her grief in weeping and wailing at Jesus feet. And as I've finally come to the end of the story, I've come to realize that it is those who stumbled along who experienced God's love. Jesus weeping with them. It is those who stumbled along who witnessed God's power. Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead. It is those who stumbled along who came to believe more fully that Jesus was the resurrection and the life.

Actually, those who were sure, those who knew what Jesus had done and felt they knew who Jesus was, the religious leaders... those were the ones that eventually condemned Jesus. Perhaps a little doubt now and then is not such a bad thing. Perhaps it leaves us open to a God who is more than anything we could ask or imagine.

Friday, April 08, 2011

A Very Human Detail

Imagine the scene. Jesus has finally arrived in Bethany. He is late, of course, and Mary and Martha have both confronted him about it. Lazarus is already dead. The people are wailing in grief. Jesus himself is angry and crying. But there is a sense that something is about to happen. Something he said to his disciples about Lazarus just being asleep. A promise he made to Martha that Lazarus will rise again. Jesus walks up to the tomb, raises his arms and commands, "Take away the stone!" But before anyone can react... Martha steps in.

"Um... Lord... do you really want to do that? It is going to smell really bad."

As I've reflect on Martha's words in this moment, I have been struck by two things. First, how very like Martha I am. God can be in the midst of doing miraculous things. The drama can be building. Everyone else is caught up in the moment. And I'll be worried about some very human detail. How will we feed all these people? What are we going to do with all these fish? Um, Jesus, the boat is sinking. There's a storm on the horizon. She shouldn't be doing that, should she?

It seems that whenever the disciples had those very human moments, those moments when they couldn't quite see beyond the very earthly existence of this world, Jesus just seemed to shake his head and patiently continue with his miracle. He seems to know that at times we will be people of little faith. He seems to know that what he is promising really is beyond anything we could ask or imagine. All he seems to ask for is the faith that we do have. The willingness to keep moving forward with Jesus with what we do know. And if we continue to walk with him, he will reveal his glory.

Second, how grateful I am that our Bible is full of these little human moments. That it is not some perfectly scripted drama, but rather a very human endeavor. It is these little human moments that allow me to enter into this story not as a fantasy to escape this world but rather as God's plan of redemption for this world... this world with all its tastes and sounds and sights and even smells.

As we draw closer to the cross, closer to our Easter celebration, may we be willing to lay at Jesus feet our all too real little bits of faith and may we enter into this story, this plan of redemption for the world.

Thursday, April 07, 2011

I Am the Resurrection and the Life

In the Mary and Martha story of Luke 10, I have always identified more with Martha. She was the good girl, the sensible one, the one with all the right answers... I am guessing she was the older sister of the two. (I am making no judgments here on one being better than the other! Just identifying...) And when we meet up with her again in John 11:21ff, we see that not much has changed. She goes out to greet Jesus and while she begins accusing Jesus of not being there when she needed him, she immediately states her confidence in his ability to fix this.

Or at least it seems that way. "I know that God will give you whatever you ask of him," she says. Yet when Jesus tells her that Lazarus will rise again, all she can imagine is that Lazarus will be resurrected on the last day. Jesus presses further telling her he is the resurrection and the life. She responds confessing that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God.

And yet, in the next scene there is no sign that Martha has convinced anyone that Lazarus will be raised from the dead. In fact, when Jesus commands people to open Lazarus' tomb, Martha can't imagine anything other than a dead decaying body lying in there. She had the right words. She even knew who Jesus was. Yet even this faith could not prepare her for the overwhelming thing that was about to happen.

I often feel that way about God's promises in my life. I hear them. I believe in them. I try to trust in them. But my own sense of what is actually being promised by God is so much smaller than what God is actually promising. Even in my best moments, I fall short of understanding the depth of God's love for me, for us, and the true abundance of life that is being offered to us. Despite my faith, I often live as if God will let me down. As if all of the promises are only for the next life.

This Lenten season, may I grow in my faith not only in the resurrection, but in the life that is promised to us here and now. Life abundant in Jesus Christ.

Wednesday, April 06, 2011

Disturbed and Moved

John 11:33-35 "When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who came with her also weeping, he was greatly disturbed in spirit and deeply moved. He said, 'Where have you laid him?' They said to him, 'Lord, come and see.' Jesus began to weep.'"

Commentators generally agree that this chapter in John reveals the most divine and the most human aspects of Jesus all within a few verses. We have a Jesus with friends whom he cares for, a Jesus disturbed and moved. We also have a Jesus who knew when Lazarus had died, who proclaimed himself the resurrection and the life, and who raised a person from the dead. The extremes of the incarnation. The human and the divine. Only God could hold those together.

There is much speculation as to why Jesus was disturbed in vs. 33. It is not that there are a lack of possibilities! In fact, that is part of the problem. Was he mad at those who doubted his love for Lazarus? Or his ability to raise him from the dead? That does not strike me as very "Jesus-like," but not being divine myself I am not always right about these things. Some wonder if he was angry at those who were present but would eventually condemn him to death. Some believe he was angry at death itself and the pain it causes. Some believe that his own grief was full of conflicting emotions... anger, concern, sorrow, love... much like any other human being.

I took the image for today while it was raining out... a particularly apt moment to reflect on a God who cries with us and for us. But this particular sculpture has also caught my eye so often when driving by. I imagine it representing the anger Jesus must have felt as something crumbled. Or the crumbling of something false that happened in response to Jesus' anger. The loss of life. The loss of hope. The way that Jesus' walk towards the cross resembled a crumbling world for the disciples, but was in fact a tearing down of the old to build up something new.

Despite knowing that it was all for God's glory, despite knowing that it was the path of redemption, Jesus pauses... and weeps... reminding me that we are allowed to feel all sorts of things as we walk this path with Jesus. That sorrow and grief and anger may be appropriate emotions at times. We do not need to hide them. But we also cannot allow them to stop us from continuing to move forward... even if our destiny is with Christ's... on the cross.

Tuesday, April 05, 2011

The Meaning of Glory

As you may know from last week's posts, I tend to struggle with the idea of human suffering as a means for God to be glorified. The concept comes up again in this week's passage: ""This illness does not lead to death; rather it is for God's glory, so that the Son of God may be glorified through it." (John 11:4)

When I first read these words, I hear them through human ears. I do that far too often. It is so difficult to maintain God's perspective when reading scripture! But so important. When I first hear the word "glorified," I immediately think of someone being lifted up and praised. I think of accolades and parades and bright lights. And while that is certainly a part of what it is to be glorified, God does not need to seek such glory. God is glory. God is surrounded by God's glory. Unlike human beings, glorifying God has little do to with God's ego or need for praise. Rather, to glorify God is to recognize fully who God is...

And that type of glory did not come by way of bright lights and parades... okay, well there was a parade, a triumphal entry, but the glory came afterwards. No, not in the resurrection, though that is a part of it. We see in John 12:23 that the glory of God was present in the very suffering of Jesus, in the way of the cross. "The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. Very truly, I tell you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains a single grain; but if it dies, it bears much fruit."

The man born blind, the death of Lazarus... these were not simply so Jesus could look spectacular. They were so that people would begin to see God's power at work in Jesus. So that people would realize that Jesus was the messiah. Even if that meant, as we see at the end of John 11, such knowledge would lead to Jesus' death.

It is no easy thing to be in the path of redemption. It requires something of us. It required more of Christ than we could ever imagine. May I have the courage to seek to glorify God in a similar manner, not seeking power, fame, or even success for the sake of the gospel, but rather taking up my cross and following into Jerusalem.

Monday, April 04, 2011

Jesus... you are a little late

Our text this week moves from John 9 and the healing of the blind man to John 11 and the death and raising up of Lazarus. The story does not start off very promisingly. Jesus' good friends, Mary and Martha, send a messenger to let him know that their brother, Lazarus, is very sick. They clearly want him to come quickly, but he doesn't. Instead, he stays where he is for two days before answering their note and and by the time he makes it to their house in Bethany... Lazarus is dead. According to Jesus, this is all so that God might be glorified... much like the man in John 9 was born blind so that God might be glorified.

I am having one of those seasons in my life where I feel a bit like Mary and Martha. I seem to be sending Jesus messages asking him to head my way. There is an urgent need that requires his presence. But Jesus seems to be delaying in response, too busy elsewhere, has other things on his mind... or perhaps even intends my suffering during this delay to be for God's glory. But at the moment, I don't really understand it at all. And I doubt Mary and Martha did either.

In this midst of this terrible scene... Jesus, himself, failing to respond to a dear friends illness... there is one verse that gives me pause and causes me to hope. Verse 5 says, "Accordingly, though Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus..."

What does this tell me? It reminds me that when Jesus seems to be silent, when Jesus does not seem to come when I need him, when Jesus delays answering my prayer or bringing the healing I seek, it is not because Jesus does not love me. Jesus does love us, even when he seems absent. I don't always understand what that love means in the moment. But I do know that Jesus' love was deep enough to drive him to the cross and sacrifice his life on our behalf.

We don't always understand Jesus' actions, but like Mary and Martha, we are to trust in Jesus' love.

Saturday, April 02, 2011

Spiritual Blindness or Blind Faith?

John 9:40 "Some of the Pharisees near him hear this and said to him, 'Surely we are not blind, are we?'"

For the last few days I've been mulling over the idea of spiritual blindness present in our text for this week. Our preacher for Sunday, Melanie, commented on it as she shared themes for her sermon and my friend Cathy wrote her Lenten blog on the topic yesterday. Their thoughts have caused me to ponder my own feelings of spiritual blindness these days... actually they are feelings of spiritual blindness that I have been having for a few decades now, ever since the unshakable faith of my conversion was shattered by one too many unanswered prayers and a disillusionment that comes with the realization that the church is far from perfect.

It feels sometimes as if I can't see Jesus for all the pain and suffering in the world... not just in my own life, but now that my eyes have been opened to the depth of racism and sexism in the world, now that I am grappling with global poverty and my inherent role in it, now that I realize that God's blessing does not equal money, relationships and security... it feels at times that it is harder to see Jesus. That faith I had when I was a new Christian that everything would work out in the end, that it would all turn out just right, is gone and it feels at times as if my faith in Jesus is a bit tenuous because of it.

It feels like spiritual blindness, but I wonder now if before I was actually acting on blind faith. I wonder if before I had faith but I failed to see the world as God sees it. I wonder if my eyes were really closed to all the things that God cares about, the poor and the weak, the least and the lost, those suffering from injustice. Perhaps what I am experiencing is not spiritual blindness, but rather learning to see through God's glasses. My eyes and my heart are still adjusting a bit... because of course seeing with God's eyes is not easy for us mere human beings. And yet is what God desires of us, what God gifts us with... to see the world as God sees it that we might understand more of this God that we love and follow.

Friday, April 01, 2011

Am I Willing to Be Put Out?

John 9:22 "His parents said this because they were afraid of the Jews; for the Jews had already agreed that anyone who confessed Jesus to be the Messiah would be put out of the synagogue."

Over the last few years I have been regularly faced with having to consider what it might mean to leave the church. This is not a commentary on my own denomination or what they believe. All denominations have strengths and weaknesses. I happen to think my denomination has more strengths than many others... but still, if you are going to enter into serious theological reflection, especially in a PhD program (yes, I recently finished my PhD), but also in a living dynamic relationship with God, the Bible, and the world, you must be willing to entertain this thought. What if, through prayer and reflection, through the reading of scripture, theology and church tradition, I come to a disagreement with my church... a fundamental disagreement that, should I clearly voice what I have come to believe may threaten my place within the denomination?

Perhaps you think this is not possible. That the church and tradition are always right. Well I am pretty certain that the blind man's parents in this passage felt the same way. I don't doubt they had tremendous trust and faith in the synagogue... but they were coming to a new understanding, one that put them at odds with the very community that had led them to God in the first place.

What do you do? Now I realize there are some who would easily walk away, find a new church, a new denomination, a new religion. I actually don't think it should be that easy. I think that such decisions to change communities of faith should only come after deep soul searching, in community with others, after much prayer. Without a commitment to one another, there is no community to leave in the first place.

But, what do I do when I feel compelled to witness to something that might get me "put out of the church?" Will I be willing to take the risk? Will I be willing to give up the security? And in my case, would I be willing to give up a potential career?

I am not considering any of these things at the moment, but I think they are important to reflect on. I think we must recognize the choices we have made to be a part of the churches and denominations we are part of. We chose to be here. We can chose to leave. Will we risk when we feel God is showing us something, challenging us in some way? Or will we remain silent like the parents in the passage for today?