Sunday, July 13, 2014

Growth and the Cringe Factor

My life journey with God has brought me to a place that offers daily opportunities to wonder, reflect and anticipate. My Christian existence continues to grow and blossom into greater realms of unknowing. As my faith deepens, my uncertainty expands.

I look back on my personal and professional life and at times I smile and at times I cringe. I often wish I could have been at the place I'm at now when I was in my youth, early adulthood and child rearing years. I wish I could have had my current perspective during the 25 years I spent doing church work as a youth pastor, worship leader, education director and associate pastor. I think back on sermons preached and teachings taught with much embarrassment as I remember what I said and how I said it.

 And I wish I could go back and do it "right". Or at least, I hope my leadership in either church or home was not flawed by what I perceive as an unhealthy and incomplete theological perspective. I pray that my kids and parishioners survived and were not irreparably damaged.

My reflections had led me to remember some other notable people and personalities with whom I might be able to identify in some small way. Let's start with the people of Israel, particularly the Hebrews that believed in Jesus and became his followers.

Do you think they ever reflected on their history as recorded in the Old Testament, the Bible they used and the one we still read? If they did, what was their cringe factor as they read about atrocities performed and laws enacted because of their covenant relationship with Yahweh? Knowing what (or perhaps more accurately who) they now know having been converted by Christ Jesus and filled with the Spirit of Yahweh, I have to think they wished to redeem their past or at least claim that they only did what they did in light of the knowledge they had at the time.

With that I can agree. Like the Old Testament Israelites who acted in good faith and with what we now know to be a very limited understanding of God (not their fault, but more due to the way God incrementally has chosen to reveal Himself over time to both individuals and to humanity at large), I can honestly say that what I did and taught was through a lens of good intention and in light of knowledge I possessed based on my upbringing and education.

I'm figuring Peter went through this after his sword-swinging in the garden and his subsequent denial of Jesus during his trial. But its forgivable because I believe on both counts he acted out of love for his Master. Remember earlier in his time with Jesus when Peter rebuked Jesus for being so negative by expressing that he was going to Jerusalem to die? Jesus called him Satan! No doubt as time passed Peter would cringe as he remembered what he tried to do after he learned more and experienced deeper revelations of what was true.

Perhaps the most notable biblical personality with the greatest reason for regret was Paul. With the best of intentions, the Law on his side and the religious authorities backing him, Paul killed people who wanted to follow Jesus. It took a confrontation by Jesus to open Paul to how misguided he had become and who Yahweh really was. Paul never let himself forget the kind of person and professional he was in the name of God but willingly exposed his past as a part of his journey that he couldn't go back and change.

All he could do was cringe.

I therefore will continue to allow God to grow me with every cringe and with every cleansing breath that follows.

Saturday, July 5, 2014

Jesus Debunks the Death Gospel of Which we Seem to Fond

Mark 12: 26-27

Our evangelical gospel is a death gospel. "Are we ready for what happens after we die?" Afterlife is the goal of every choice we make now, so this gospel goes. Now is only the precursor and grim necessity for what will come after death. 

Like the Saducees in this story, we have been taught to believe or in this case, not believe in the resurrection of the dead. And this struggle is even before we add the account of Jesus' own resurrection. 

So given the opportunity to establish a strong foundation for both his followers and critics to have a focus on post-death issues, Jesus instead re calibrates magnetic north for them and us.

Life in God is present for us as it was for Abraham in his day, Isaac in his day, and Jacob in his day. Not only is a death gospel wrong, according to this Scripture it's "quite wrong"! God is the god of those who live, not those who live waiting to die so something else might happen.