Comin' home...

Jean Vanier, founder of the L'Arche Community, once wrote:  "Going home is a journey of the heart of who we are, a place where we can be ourselves and welcome the reality of our beauty and our pain. From this acceptance of ourselves, we can accept others as they are and we can see our common humanity." This rings so true for me. 

Today in worship, as we brought my "suffering" series to a close (next week we'll talk about heaven and hell) two thoughts kept coming to me:

+ There are some here today who are terrified of letting their true selves be loved by Jesus.  To avoid it, we gossip and carp - we critique and complain - so that we never let Jesus close to our hearts.  Frederick Buechner put it like this in one of his novels:

She tried to teach me to pray and I'm lousy at it... so she told me that you have to pray to Jesus - and call him that, too - not Lord or Christ or anything else - because Jesus is the part of his name that embarrassed people to death when they use it alone.  Just Jesus. She says that underneath that embarrassment is the part of us that's revolted by him... So you say Jesus to get that part out in the open where he can get at it... Then she prayed for me and asked Jesus to walk back through my memory, as though it was a long hall. She asked him to open all the closed doors and to bless whatever he found inside.

I think Buechner is right: many of us -most of us? - are embarrassed and revolted by our need for Jesus.  I know that has been true for me... and I see it in the tension on some of the faces in worship.  So he says, "Come to me all ye who are tired and heavy-laden - you who are burned out on religion - and I will show you the unforced rhythm of grace."

+ There are others who really want the "rest" Jesus promises - the comfort and assurance but they are afraid that they won't find it in our church.  For too long, church has been all about being nice - refined and cultured - and there isn't anything nice or refined about their pain.  In his description of an "apocalyptic pastor," Eugene Peterson writes:

The early church believed that the resurrection of Jesus inaugurated a new age. They were in fact - but against appearances - living in God's kingdom, a kingdom of truth and healing and grace. This was all actually present but hidden from unbelieving eyes and inaudible to unbelieving ears. Pastors are the persons in the church communities who repeat and insist on these kingdom realities against the world appearances and who therefore must be apocalyptic... Sin-habits dull our free faith into stodgy moralism and respectable boredom... apocalypse is arson - it secretly sets a fire in the imagination that boils the fat out of an obese culture-religion and renders a clear gospel love, a pure gospel hope, a purged gospel faith.

And then he confesses why pastors must push themselves well past the nice and cultured: it has to do with embodying hope for the most wounded!  He writes:
I have been a pastor for thirty years to American Christians who do their best to fireproof themselves against crisis and urgency. Is there any way that I can live with these people and love them without being shaped by the golden-calf culture? How can I keep from settling into the salary and benefits of a check out clerk in a store for religious consumers? How can I avoid a metamorphosis from the holy vocation of a pastor into a promising career in religious sales?  The answer:  submit my imagination to St. John's apocalypse - the crisis of the End combined with the urgencies of God - and let the energies of the apocalyptic define and shape my ministry.

Sometimes this demands being "edgy" - especially for those on the edge who mistrust the body of Christ.  Sometimes this means confessing and owning our complacencies - being the first church has been a place of privilege for 250 years - and we need to own that legacy in all of its complexities.  And sometimes it has to do with challenging the doubters to take a risk and join with the community. Call it a leap of faith - or a kick in the ass of spiritual laziness - sometimes we just have to get over ourselves, yes?  Like the 12 step say:  if you always do what you've always done, you'll always get what you've always got.  Fear and doubt just gets old, yes?  And that applies to the elite as well as those on the borders of faith.

Why not practice what you preach and take a leap of faith?  Test it out - and if it is real it will lead your heart "home."

1) Brandt @
2) Jesus
3) American Jesus @


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