Let's own our own bullshit...

Yesterday, during worship, I told the story of a young woman who found herself joining us on Sunday mornings. Over time, she joined us more regularly until she decided to check out our orientation series. At the second meeting, after I shared the congregation's commitment to living into our Open and Affirming discipline she interrupted me by saying:  "Bullshit.  You guys are nice people but what you are saying is really bullshit. NO church really welcomes gay people... or recovering addicts... or those on the fringe. You may WANT to, but you don't really do it, ok? So knock off the bullshit."

Two things: I think she was mostly right - most congregations DON'T really want to go beyond the idea of being Open and Affirming - so we do a lousy job of making our words and ideas flesh; and, I think many people believe their wounds are unique. They all HURT, don't get me wrong, but my deepest suspicion is we ALL hurt, almost ALL of us are wounded and NO BODY'S pain makes them special. In fact, sometimes we act like our pain is a privilege that gives us permission to become cynical. No, I'm with the apostle Paul on this one:  ALL of us have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.
Now being charged with bullshit is not the worst thing in the world. In fact, it created - and creates - and opportunity to say: That may be true but you'll never know if you keep judging us from the sidelines. So rather than live like a sniper, why not come around and check it out? If you are right after a few months, you will know it. And if you are wrong then you'll know that, too. Why not put your money where your mouth is? (In my heart of hearts I wanted to say, "because anything less is bullshit, too" but I'm the pastor, right?) So we sat around the conference table in silence for a while and then she said, "Ok, let's wait and see." And I responded, "No sniping - just come around enough to see if we're really trying, ok? I can tell you right now we won't get it right all of the time. But see what the evidence is after spending some real time with us before your final judgment."  She did - for a few months she not only came to worship but also some of our small group times and public events - and later that year on Easter she became a member.

I recall saying something similar a few years earlier to a man who became a dear friend - a smokin' musician who taught me tons and helped me think through parts of my dissertation, too - when he asked something like, "What kind of church is this?" Why don't you just come around for a while and see - so he did - and eventually brought the whole family, too. And they are still around. To be sure, there is always SOME bullshit in any congregation. But if there is a critical balance of believers wrestling with the gospel and trying to make radical hospitality flesh, grace is palpable. What's more, when you experience a community striving to be people grounded in grace, you not only cut them a little slack but you also detect how your OWN bullshit gets in the way, too. In fact, I've found that you quit blaming others for the bullshit you can't fix in yourself.
Well, I told that story yesterday because as part of our Epiphany spirituality we are trying to discern places where Christ is popping up in our world, lives and hearts. And the essence of my message was this: if you really want to stay connected with God's peace, you MUST make time for quiet and reflection almost every day. Now that has been a mantra for years - and probably some people are tired of me saying it out loud - but the truth is without regular reflection and silence we can not stay grounded and will come to mistrust the efficacy of God's grace. I can't tell you how many people tell me, "Damn, I am so stressed out!" And when I ask have they made room for quiet reflection in their life, they get frustrated like I just don't know how truly busy they are. But I do - I'm busy and wounded and perplexed, too - and without quiet reflection and rest, it gets worse. 

A curious parallel popped up during the MLK worship later the same day when one of our state legislators said:  If you don't VOTE, you can't complain because to elected officials YOU DON'T COUNT! Well, I thought to myself, same thing is true about prayer and meditation: if you don't take time to rest in God's grace, you can't complain because you are not doing your part. Not that you don't count to God, but we already have been given all the time there is so we are responsible for making better choices. And if we don't, there's NO room or place for carping. And we best not make excuses for the bullshit we try to dump on God. If we're stressed-out and haven't spent time in prayer... time has come to look in the mirror.

Fr. Richard Rohr made a similar point in his email reflection this morning: 



Simone Weil, the marvellous French philosopher, Christian mystic, and political activist, stood on the edge of Christianity her whole life, between Judaism and Christianity, wanting her very life to be a bridge. She loved both of them and couldn’t choose either of them. She believed that the trouble with Christianity was that it had made itself into a separate religion instead of recognizing that the prophetic message of Jesus might just be necessary for all religions. We were not to be in competition with other religions, but rather to be complementary to their message.

I encourage you not to abandon your own mother tradition; that is where your deepest religious consciousness was first formed, and you have to be surrendered and accountable in one concrete place, as even the Dalai Lama and Mother Teresa both insist. Otherwise your ego self is always the decider, and you operate as a loner. You must have a home base that holds you accountable for what you say you believe and a concrete community that every day reminds you that you still do not know how to love. You have to go deep in one place. When you do, you fall into the underground stream that we all share.
Apparently I'm in a "trip-hop" groove these days as I listen to Portishead and Cinematic Orchestra.  Go deep - quit relying on your ego that insists your special - that's the real bullshit. The better way is to take the time to be still.

Comments

Phil Ewing said…
This is such a great great post. Really hits the spot ! Thanks so much RJ Blessings
RJ said…
Thanks Phil... blessings right back at you!
Sara said…
Thanks so much for the reminder to cultivate time for stillness and reflection. So important. I can attest that this Chuch and congregation truly embody the open and affirming ideology, not only in thought and openness but in very intentional action within our community.
RJ said…
You are very kind. We have a long way to go... so we keep trying.
Barbara Barkley said…
Brilliant, James. I'm tempted to print this out and put it on my wall as a reminder...
RJ said…
Thank you, dear friend

Popular Posts