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Clattering Bones

When I first came to seminary two years ago I had two mentors, ordained pastors, whom I loved then and love now. One was an advocate, an ally for sexual minorities, the other believed homosexuality to be a sin. I felt the pressure, however unintended, for me to “choose a side.” To which camp was I going to align myself on the issue of people’s sexual orientation and their inclusion in the Kingdom of God?

I resisted choosing. I recall clearly stating that I did not, before ever entering the ordination process of my denomination, want my ministry to be defined by this one item. I did not want to be labeled; I did not want to be put into a group where I was ostracized by others – or exclusively welcomed; I did not want my ministerial career derailed because of my identification “for or against homosexuality” obscuring God’s work in me for the beloved children.

Recently, I was discussing this with my daughter. She had heard my rationalization before, but this time she weighed in: “so, you do not want your entire identity as a person defined exclusively by sexual orientation?” (She then made some sort of grunting sound and rolled her eyes a bit.) Point taken.

There’s lots I still don’t understand, so I try to ask questions, and listen. I am pretty clear though that honoring the two Great Commandments leaves no room for me to interpret the scriptures in justification of ostracizing, condemning, or rejecting any one. When I read the Good News of Jesus Christ, I see reference after reference to loving, protecting and accepting those that society – including at times institutional religion – elects to exclude.

So, today I am adding to my resources list the blog “Clattering Bones”.

Painting by Dalana Castrell (Emilia Cleopas)   I would encourage you to take the time to read two of the first posts:

  “Here We Go”   and “Where Are We Going…” for a thorough personal and theological treatment of why this conversation is important. Thanks, Jess. Thanks, Court; I love you. D.

Oh! So there’s no confusion: I do not believe homosexuality is a sin, but like heterosexuality, a God granted gift. Praise be to God for divine mercy for us all. 

 

 

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The Unclean

February 12, 2012 Leave a comment

There is a man who panhandles in front of my home. “Jim” can be found working the South Street traffic several times a day. When I ask him, “Jim, how’s your day been?” his response is measured by the generosity of the passers-by. A “good day” means he has collected enough money for a couple of fast food meals. We do not give Jim money; we do provide a cup of coffee each morning he is present and occasionally some food. He knows we are safe space. He has thanked my wife and me for talking to him, treating him like a person, not ignoring him.

Weather extremes – severe heat and cold – seem to take the greatest toll on Jim. Under such an extreme he once agreed to allow me to contact on his behalf Central Intake for the city’s homeless services. I made the phone call. I don’t know who was more cynical and distrusting of the other, Jim or the intake worker. In the end, Jim declined to go and the worker declined to concede that the person he was supposed to be helping would be anything less than manipulative and deceitful. For each person, their prior experiences drove their assumptions about the other.

As Christians we have a great deal of difficulty trusting Jesus. We resist relinquishing control of our lives to God. And we know better. We know from our experience the value of doing so, we know and understand the good that comes from this. And yet we are reluctant to concede control.

www.ianpollock.co.uk

Leper Cured - copyright Ian Pollock

So why would we expect that people who have no job, no source of income, no healthcare, no place to call home – why would we expect them to trust and relinquish the little bit of control over their lives to a “system” that contributed to their current state of life? Our failure as a society to recognize the value of human life and treat other people with dignity, as Jesus did with the leper in Mark 1:40-45, contributes to the isolation and oppression. It is a form of rejection that sustains an “us and them” mentality.

***

From time to time I find myself feeling as though Jim takes advantage of us, that he is not doing “his part” to improve his circumstances. I become resentful. Cynical. Recorded in John 13:34, Jesus tells his followers to “love one another as I have loved you.” That is, without conditions, stipulations, expectations; accepting them and their plight, just as they are. Just as I am.

Neither the time nor place for a baby

December 24, 2011 Leave a comment

Throughout this Advent, I have thought about the meaning of the birth story. That Jesus Christ, the deliverer, our hope and salvation, the King of all Kings, the Son of God, is born in the most unexpected place. It is a stall for animals; dirty, forgotten, isolated – and isolating. He comes at a time (take your pick: mother not-yet wed, government census / tax season, travel far from home) that is at minimum “unexpected,” and definitely inconvenient. This is neither the time nor place to deliver a baby.

These are, however, words of assurance for Christians, and the story of promise for all people: that in the most unexpected times and places we can be confident of the presence of the Lord. He does not shy away from the desolate places and isolating events. He is right there in the midst of all of it, joining the bad to the good, altering our perspective on life’s difficult times so that we see opportunities for growth.

I have a tendency sometimes to think of things as “either – or.” A comment, experience or concept is either right or it is wrong. We do this a lot in the church, judging whether something is “right” or “wrong” according to our understanding of scripture, doctrine or theology.

But I don’t believe it’s really that simple. Actually, I wonder if over the ages humanity has actually made it more complicated than it needs to be, that in fact, it is quite simple.

When Jesus taught us to pray as recorded in Matthew’s Gospel, it includes the request that God provide us “today our daily bread.” Physical, edible bread, or spiritual “bread”? Or both? The thing we need to sustain us for this day is a little food to eat and the spiritual assurance of the presence of God. These are the things that sustain us and nurture us.

From the moment of his birth, Jesus’ story communicates to us a holistic understanding of life. His was not a story of irony (aka the King born in a manger) nor necessarily analogy or metaphor, but rather an example of complete and total assimilation. Impoverished royalty, almighty pacifist, divine human. What seems incongruous is coherent. The parts have become one whole.

Maybe this is not an “either / or” world we live in. Possibly we don’t get a choice about being spiritual or secular. We just might be in need of a little more awareness of where we are (and whose we are!). And that’s what’s so great about this day, when we all get a little reminder, whether we are ready for it or not, regardless if this is a good time or place for us, that ‘Jesus is born tonight’. Again.

Merry Christmas.

Jesus Was An “Occupier”

December 17, 2011 Leave a comment

James W. McCarty, III wrote again this week on Jesus as an “occupier”:

“Theologically speaking, Christians have a variety of answers to the  question of why Jesus was killed: to appease God’s anger for human sin,  to bear the just punishment owed to God by a sinful humanity, as a moral example of suffering love for God that future Christians should follow, as a sacrifice offered to God for the forgiveness of human sin, as the  ultimate example of God’s unending love for humanity, and several other  formulations.”

“Historically speaking, however, there is a nearly  universally accepted answer among scholars as to why he was killed:  Because Jesus occupied the temple.”

From the CCBlogs Network, read the entire post here

Categories: Christianity, Gospel

“Neither Death, Nor Life….Nor any Other Creature…”

Thank you to Susan Stabile… writing on her blog, “Creo en Dios! “, she eloquently comments on her powerful personal revelation of Paul’s claim in the 8th chapter of Romans that nothing can separate us from the love of God:

“As I was sitting in prayer, I became overwhelmed with a sense of God’s love and realized in that moment in a way far more profound than I had before that when we say God is love we literally mean it.  That is, I was struck with the reality that love is not a choice on God’s part.  It is not that God can love me or not love me.  God ONLY loves, and my very creation and continued existence is an act of God’s love. There is no me separate from God’s love; without God’s love there would not be me.”

Read her entire post here:  “Neither Death, Nor Life….Nor any Other Creature…”.

Upside Down

Here’s a radical perspective on the meaning of the Gospel. Talk about a transformed life!

It comes from Peter Rollins, courtesy of Jeremy Smith at Hacking Christianity. Reminds me of the inside-out, upside-down message of Jesus of Nazareth: it shatters our conventional understanding. Maybe all that talk about “loving your neighbor” and “losing your life” really means something?

Play the video – all of it…

The Rapture from Peter Rollins on Vimeo.

Back to the “radical perspective on the Gospel.” Isn’t the Gospel a radical message in itself – still today as it was 2,000 years ago? I believe it is. But along the way we have adapted the radical message of living the transformed life and contributing to a transformed world, well…conventional. We Christians are dangerously close to being where we were in Jesus’ day, a religious people of good intentions substituting ritualistic compliance for spiritual obedience.

So let me own that statement. I expend too much energy doing what others think demonstrates obedience to God rather than listening and responding to God’s message upon my heart. Therefore, I vow to read, listen, contemplate and discern God’s will for me. Rather than attempt to co-op God into my life plan, I desire to integrate my life into God’s plan.

Care to join me?

 

PS: It’s good to be back. 🙂

 

Categories: Christianity, Gospel Tags: ,

Separation Anxiety?

Words of assurance for you, and for me:

Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? As it is written: “For your sake we face death all day long; we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.” No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.                Romans 8:35-39

There is nothing, absolutely nothing, that keeps God’s Love away from any one of us. Put another way, God’s Love is given to every one of us.

We are called (instructed, directed by Christ himself) to love one another just as Christ loved us (John 13:34). Therefore, we are to exhibit, communicate, and proclaim by our actions the never ceasing, all – welcoming love of God to everyone. Period. End of Sentence.