In-Sight: For the Bride

I have come out of Lent with a heavy heart for the Church in general and my particular expression of it, The United Methodist Church.  The debate about homosexuality has reignited with great heat, enflamed by radical actions by one side and dogged resistence to those actions by the other side.  The longstanding drama has now entered another act–continuing the 40+ year plot of pain, provocation, partisanship, polarization, politicization, and (at the extremes) persecution.

I have come out of Lent convinced that the Bride of Christ is being abused. The Father of the Bride is hurting. The Son (Bridegroom) is in anguish, and the Spirit is grieving.  The Trinity is weeping.

The Bride’s gown is torn, being pulled apart by her siblings as they engage in a theological tug of war, leaving the Bride with nakedness, embarrassment and shame she was never meant to have.  And no matter what we think about it, no matter how we think it got that way, or what we think should be done—can we not at least agree to cry?

I have come out of Lent believing that now is a time for “the prayer of tears.”  Now is the time to say, “Enough is enough” and to seek a better way. We have passed the time when any Bride lover can believe that we are treating her as we should. 

I am in deep prayer about this, and I know that others are as well. Between and beyond the opposites, I believe God is beckoning Christians (siblings of the Bride) to a third way–a way that declares the traditional ways of debating the issue “worn out” (after decades of trying them). I am no longer on any “side.” I no longer believe any “side” is the way forward. We must pray and work for a new way–for the sake of the Bride.

I will write more about this each day this week. I invite you to join me–for the sake of the Bride.

(Please Note: For this brief series, I am removing the “Comment” option. On controversial matters, I often find the comment streams of social media unhelpful and sometimes distracting from the point of the primary post. I am writing this series to communicate my thoughts, not to initiate a string of points and counter points. This is a departure from my usual style, but I believe it is best for this series. I am writing a lament, not having a conversation, and certainly not wanting to create another debate)

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Ancient Wisdom: April 20, 2014 (Year A)

(Note:  The revised Common Lectionary substitutes readings from The Book of Acts for lessons from the Old Testament during Eastertide.  Consequently, the meditations during this season will be based on the Acts passages)

Read:  Acts 10:34-43

Meditation:  “But God Raised Him Up”

Peter was the preacher on the first Pentecost in Jerusalem, and he was the preacher on what some call the second Pentecost–the event recorded in today’s lesson.  On both occasions he declared, “but God raised him up” (2:24, 10:40), making the resurrection the pinnacle of the Gospel message.

Easter Sunday is the “Mount Everest” of our faith.  It is the highest vantage point from which to view the person and work of Jesus Christ.  The empty tomb connects the Jesus of history and the pre/post incarnate Christ.  The last word is not death, it’s resurrection.

What is true for Christ is true for us–death is not the last word, resurrection is.  No matter what tomb life may place us in, the stone will be rolled away!  It may happen through some on-earth restoration, or it may not come until we mortals put on immortality.  But it will happen.  Peter’s words spoken about Jesus will be spoken about us, “But God raised him/her up.”  We are Easter people!

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Lenten Break: Fasting from Oboedire

Hello!

Today we observe Ash Wednesday and begin our journey through Lent.

I have decided to “fast” from writing on Oboedire during Lent. This includes the suspension of all three weekly postings. 

I will resume writing on Saturday, April 19, with the “Ancient Wisdom” meditation for Easter Day.

I pray that the following words from Henri Nouwen will describe your experience of Lent…

” Lent is a time of returning to God. It is a time to confess how we keep looking for joy, peace, and satisfaction in the many people and things surrounding us without really finding what we desire. Only God can give us what we want. So we must be reconciled with God … The season of Lent, helps us in a special way to cry out for God’s mercy.”

Blessings!  Steve

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Lumen Fidei: The Ecclesial Form of Faith

When we begin to live in the light of faith, we see that our salvation incorporates us into the Church.  We come to Life as one member of the larger Body of Christ.  We cannot live apart from the Church any more than one part can live separated from the body.

This is why “churchless Christianity” will never work, even though some of the concerns it carries are valid.  The cure for whatever damage the Church has inflicted on our faith is not our separation from it, but the renewal of it.

Christ gathers all believers to himself, functioning as our Head.  We are “one” in him.  We cannot individualize or privatize our salvation without destroying what Christ gave himself to accomplish–namely, the joining together of what sin had separated.  No family is complete when there is an empty chair at the table, created when someone decided to leave home.

So, as Pope Francis says, “Faith is necessarily ecclesial.”  This does not mean the Church is perfect; in fact, it is often very flawed.  This does not mean it always lives up to our expectations–even legitimate ones.  But it does mean the Church is “of God” (Who must both praise and purge it), and it is the family into which we are incorporated when we believe.

And like the individual parts joined to the larger body, as we are joined to the larger Body of Christ, we find the life of God present and active in us so that we can continue to grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.

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Ancient Wisdom: March 2, 2014 (Year A)

Read:  Exodus 24:13-18

Meditation: “Preparation Before Revelation”

God met Moses on the mountain with a “firey revelation” (v 17) that resulted in the giving of the Ten Commandments.  But the lesson tells us that this happened on the seventh day after Moses made it to the top.  The first six days were cloudy and silent.

How many times do we have to read passages like this before we realize that preparation always precedes revelation?  In a world that idolizes “instant gratification” in our gadgets and gurus, appatently we have to be reminded of this again and again.

“I went to church, but I didn’t get anything out of it”…..”I read the Bible today, but it didn’t speak to me.”  Comments like this correctly describe the way it is some days in our spiritual formation.  But they also raise the question of how ready we were to receive anything in the first place.

Moses’ reception of the Ten Comnandments was one of God’s “big deals” of all time.  But it came on day seven, not day one.  I am guessing it happened that way, so Moses had time for all the other “voices” to subside.  That way he could hear The Voice when it spoke.

And so it is since then, the saints of the ages have told us in a million different ways that solitude and silence come before instruction, inspiration, and insight.  This is why some of them waited and listened for days (or longer) before they heard anything.

The six days leading up to the seventh for Moses should be a reminder to us that “drive-through spirituality” is really no spirituality at all.  There is no fast lane where we can “have, it your way,” or have it served up quick, so we can get back on the road to living life speedily and superficially.

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In-Sight: Compassionate Leadership

This week, I offer a guest column–an excerpt from an article in Contemplative Journal describing the transformation taking place across the earth in work environments where compassion is replacing control….

     “Across the globe, in board rooms, in cubicles, on the factory floor–wherever you find workers, a quiet revolution is underway. What began as a movement toward greater spirituality in the workplace has morphed into multiple understandings of what this phrase might mean. It’s characterized by compassionate business practices and a work environment in which employees are recognized and encouraged for the unique, creative capabilities they contribute to the team. Interwoven in this metamorphosis is the fundamental knowing that all individuals–regardless of position, are deserving of respect; that respect is a given, not an added benefit.

Whatever name you choose to call this revolutionary way of business, and whatever tradition, secular or spiritual, might inspire it, compassionate business practices begin within each individual’s core and spread throughout the company through their thoughts, actions, and words. When an organization recognizes the importance of humanizing the workplace and its leaders begin to implement compassionate practices, the climate and the culture of the organization is transformed.”

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Lumen Fidei: Salvation by Faith

The light of Christ comes to us and shines out of us as we put our faith in him.  Our faith is comprised of two basic features: (1) our trust in Christ as the Way, Truth, and Life, and (2) our following him through obedience.

This is nothing short of a “new creation” (2Cor 5:17), which transforms us into beloved daughters and sons.  It is all of grace, not works, lest the very egotism that led us into sin originally rear its head again in our Christianity.  We “work” as a result of our salvation, not as a means to earn it or parade it.

The salvation experience is not a one-time thing.  No matter the nature of our entrance into faith, it is only the beginning of an ongoing relationship with Christ that will continue beyond this life in heaven.  Conversion is not a date to be remembered (although”the hour I first believed” is holy) so much as it is a launch to be celebrated from that day forward.

Pope Francis rightly describes it by writing, “Faith in Christ brings salvation because in him our lives become radically open to a love that precedes us, a love that transforms us from within, acting in and through us.”  Through the Holy Spirit the risen Christ abides in us, and we abide in him (John 15).

Egotism is gone (“the old is past away” 2Cor 5:17).  We no longer live as an “I” (what Galatians 2:20 literally says), but rather we live as those in whom Christ dwells.  This indwelling expands and enriches us in every way.  We now have the eyes to see and the ears to hear that God intended for us all along. 

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