Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Marked by love

John 13:34-35 So now I am giving you a new commandment: Love each other. Just as I have loved you, you should love each other. Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples."
I use to drive between NY and KY every so many months. I knew the route numbers and the direction I needed to follow to get to my destination. And so I looked out for those route numbers. We find our directions through signs and landmarks.
God has lined the way home to God's Presence with the landmark of love. Love rescued creation in Noah's story. Love chose a people to partner with the Divine in the ultimate rescue mission. Love walked the earth and went to the Cross, forgiving those who crucified him. Love rose again.
Now Christ says to us--you are the landmarks pointing people home, back to the Presence of God. They will know they are going the right direction because you will be marked by love.
This love we have been marked with is not the esoteric "peace, love, harmony" where we throw flowers at each other and dance as if nothing is wrong type of love. The love we are marked with is the love of Christ--"love as I have loved you."
This love goes beyond my comfort level, beyond my preferences, beyond my understanding of what Christianity looks like, beyond my ego. This love sacrifices for the sake of others. This love holds relationships and human beings in a most sacred place. This love loves through pain, sin, and disappointment. This love walks with others to wholeness.
I don't love this way but I want to. I am marked by the sacrificial love of Christ. I am free to love others sacrificially so I can be a landmark leading them to the healing Presence of God. I wonder where my life is leading people? Am I leading them to a Christianity made in my own image? Or am I leading them to Christ?

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

fall from grace

After hearing about another Christian leader "falling from grace", I found myself thinking about the phrase "to fall from grace." When one falls from grace, one has sinned.In Romans 5:20, it says that as sin increased, God's grace abounded that much more. So I wonder why we use the phrase "to fall from grace" for sin. Shouldn't we find more grace when someone falls into sin?
But that is not the way we work. We request, no, we require the sinner to leave. We do not show them grace but the door. It just seems so much easier for us to punish people for their sin than to stay in community and walk with the person to forgiveness and healing. The community of faith becomes the picture of judgment rather than forgiveness. Peter stayed in community with the disciples after he denied Christ. And as that community struggled together they encountered the Risen Lord. There was grace greater than all their sins.
We fear if we stay in fellowship, we condone the sin. Yet Jesus was able to eat with the sinners without condoning.
Perhaps the phrase "fallen from grace" does not mean one has fallen from God's grace. Perhaps it is just the case they have fallen from our grace. And maybe that is why the church has become impotent. We are living and handing out our own grace instead of God's grace.

Monday, April 26, 2010

God forgive me

God forgive me when
I judge others quickly yet seek the hand of mercy for myself.
God forgive me when
I judge the poor to be lazy and looking for the easy way out.
God forgive me when
I think the solution for the poor is they get off their butts and find a job.
God forgive me when
I think it is easy for the lower class to change their status but complain I can't get ahead.
God forgive me when
I think I have it harder than everyone else.
God forgive me when
I complain the Church should be doing her job so the government doesn't have to.
God forgive me when
I forget that the Church I complain about is actually me.
God forgive me when
I choose to judge someone's lifestyle, someone's sin, someone's situation without getting to know them.
God forgive me when
I judge the whole based on my experience.
God forgive me when
I walk away from the needy, the people not like me, the Church because I find fault.
God forgive me when
I forget I have been forgiven greatly to show mercy and love.

Friday, April 23, 2010

looking for the new

One of the characteristics of Wesleyan theology consists of the ability to hold in balance opposing or at least what seems to be opposing ideas--God's holiness and justice with God's mercy and love; the mystery with the understandable. In experiencing God, do we need a balance?
The rhythm of the Christian calendar reminds me that God is found in the ordinary and the mundane. It is not just about experiencing God in the mountain top moments of life. The Christian journey is a long haul not a short jaunt. I want to allow God to turn the mundane into the sacred as often as possible.
Yet as any good American, my attention span is quite short. What is the latest way to experience that Spiritual high? I want the new. What I have is so yesterday. I want a mountain top experience again but I want it in a new way.
Is there away to hold these emotions in balance--to always long for more of Christ without missing Him in the ordinary stuff of everyday?

Monday, April 19, 2010

Running on Empty

Last week was a tiring week for me. I had a number of parishioners in the hospital, a funeral, a church dinner, and then a family emergency. This of course happens shortly after Holy Week. Holy Week's schedule and expectations have a life of their own. I have made it a point to make sure I get at least one day off a week. But Holy Week and last week made it impossible to really rest. And so I sit at my desk and breathe a deep sigh. I meditate on the Scriptures for this week. Christ says He is the Good Shepherd. I am looking for those still waters the Shepherd promised to lead me by.

Friday, April 9, 2010

narrow experience

A couple posts ago, I talked about the narrowness of fundamentalism in the theological arena. Their narrowness in theology affects how they relate to people. I found in fundamentalism experience of God and relationships with others were narrow too. Their "literal" understanding of Scripture without understanding the cultural and Biblical context of the text leads them to exclude women from certain ministry positions. What I heard from the church when I questioned women as trustees was God's grace was good enough to give men "leadership skills" and to restore them from their sin but God's grace was only good enough to get women out of Hell. God's grace cannot undo our ability to be lead astray. The narrowness of the experience of God's grace in fundamentalism is not limited to gender roles. This is simply the experience which I am most familiar with and most hurt by. I have lost friends over my call into ministry. When we cannot extend grace to each other, it means we have not experienced that grace ourselves.