“The command of Christ is impossible, but it is not insane; it is rather sanity preached to a world of lunatics.”
~ G.K. Chesterton
I was a stupid teenager. (Don’t give me attitude – so were you.) In fact, I was well into my twenties before I smartened up … well, maybe my thirties … or … okay, I’m not sure when or if, I left my stupid phase.
At any rate, it was back then that my best friend felt the need to share the thing he found most annoying about me. Turns out it bugged him that I was so emotionally level: happy but rarely ecstatic; reflective but rarely sad. Naturally his opinion didn’t affect me either way.
It’s true that I’ve always been pretty even-keeled. Oh yes, there have been the usual emotional experiences in my life: joy of birth, trauma of death, but I’ve always been a pragmatic, hopeful person. I still am. But I have to admit the last few years have made it difficult to find balance.
The relentless onslaught of Trumpism, Covid-19, goofy evangelicals, right-wing unrest, and now the Russian aggression in Europe can suck the ‘calm’ out of anybody. In fact, the heaviness of the past few years doesn’t feel like the usual good versus bad – it feels closer to good versus evil.
It’s as if something is rotten to the core.
A couple days ago I was in that same conversation with someone whose feeling was that the world is in the worst situation it has ever been. My brain automatically shifted into emotional neutral: Yes, the times are bad right now but history tells us there have been worse.
What a perfect time to enter the season of Lent, where pain gives birth to joy.
Buried in all the craziness of the past week was the death of Dr. Paul Farmer. Farmer was a brilliant educator and medical doctor who spent his life finding ways to provide free health care to the world’s most impoverished people. Numerous books and films have documented his career. He passed away while teaching at a new medical school in Rwanda.
Imagine … a christian dedicating the resources and activities of his life to caring for people who could give nothing in return!
Contrast that with a sign held by an anti-mandate protestor on the steps of the Manitoba Legislature: “Medical freedom is a human right!” Ironically I haven’t seen them advocating for free medical supplies for all the other sick people in the world.
But you know, we each tend to think too highly of ourselves and that is a core problem for all of us.
“The idea that some lives matter less is the root of all that is wrong with the world.” ~ Paul Farmer
sore to the core
The ‘christian’ crowdfunding site GiveSendGo issued instructions this week for those who made donations to the convoy. At the end of the letter they quoted scripture (of course) from the Old Testament (naturally). “But as for you, be strong and do not give up, for your work will be rewarded.”
By defining themselves as ‘godly’ they are able to co-opt scripture for their own purposes and make believe that God will reward their actions. (By the way, the quoted bible story plays out with the king slaughtering everybody who doesn’t worship his God. Just sayin’.)
But you know, we each tend to think God acts the way we want him to, in our own image – that is a core problem for all of us.
“Jesus was not killed by atheism and anarchy. He was brought down by law and order allied with religion, which is always a deadly mix. Beware those who claim to know the mind of God and who are prepared to use force, if necessary, to make others conform. Beware those who cannot tell God’s will from their own.” ~ Barbara Brown Taylor
be the change
And it got me to thinking. I was raised in the church but I don’t recognize christianity any more. I used to think it was me that changed but I can see now that our brand has changed too. Christianity is now corporate, defiant, brassy.
For the record, I don’t think christianity is rotten to the core – yet. I simply believe the core is under construction just like numerous times in the past. It’s being filtered, rediscovered, reformed.
It may be troubled at its core, but then so am I.
“Christianity is a lifestyle—a way of being in the world that is simple, nonviolent, shared, and loving. However, we made it into an established religion (and all that goes with that) and avoided the lifestyle change itself. We could be warlike, greedy, racist, selfish, and vain throughout most of Christian history and still believe that Jesus is our personal Lord and Savior or continue, in good standing, to receive the sacraments. The world has no time for such silliness anymore. The suffering on earth is too great.” ~ Fr
The world is chaotic right now but it’s not the chaos that concerns me. It’s my own soul that is hungry and needy. I am awkwardly thankful for that.
For decades I have found the Lenten season to be the spiritual mountaintop of the year for me. (Strange, since you will recall that I am level and even-keeled.) Yet somehow focusing on the last days of Jesus always buoys my soul – the treasured traditions of his passion, death, and Resurrection help me get in touch with hope again.
We are on the brink of that time of year; Lent begins next week on Ash Wednesday.
I am inviting you to join me – let’s feed our souls during the next forty days. Let’s open ourselves to the small voice of God’s Spirit. Let’s find ways to breath and to listen so we can think, feel, deconstruct, reorient.
“If you want to know who God is, look at Jesus. If you want to know what it means to be human, look at Jesus. If you want to know what love is, look at Jesus. If you want to know what grief is, look at Jesus. And go on looking until you’re not just a spectator, but you’re actually part of the drama which has him as the central character.” ~ N.T. Wright
loved to the core
The Lenten season reminds us each year that peace is illusive in our broken world and has nothing to do with politics, theology, success.
Jesus lived during a time of extreme social unrest. Think about it – our entire bible was written by brown-skinned people who were either conquered, enslaved, or colossally unimportant. In fact, the Bible was written precisely because of physical dangers and spiritual relapses.
So this spring I’m planning to meditate on the last days of Jesus. I’m also planning to read a soul-feeding book: nothing academic, dramatic, or easy; nothing to confirm what I already think. Just soul food. I need to journey again through the pain of hopelessness and guilt, and the Easter of rebirth.
Yes, Easter carries with it the promise that our core can be reborn. How do we know this? Well, because of this wise insight from our four year old grandson:
“Jesus loves us even if we are in a timeout.” ~ Owen
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