Many of us, in the days following the riot and attack on the capitol building on January 6th of this year, have come to wonder how people who claim to know Jesus could have ended up storming the capitol with the intent of causing harm to those within its walls. Causing harm, when the Jesus they claim to follow expresses the mandate to “love your neighbor,” and “pray for your enemies.” Nowhere does Christ seem to indicate that violently beating your enemies with a flagpole is the way of love, nor even something he wants his followers to do.
What motivates us to enter into these self-congratulatory states of inflated valuations of our own self-worth? We may indeed be better than some – by our own standards – but by our own standards we are also worse than others (Matt 7:1-2). Yet we still try and congratulate ourselves on our own righteousness, when standing before the God who reconciled us to Himself, no less.
Sometimes, asking people to jump into an existing ministry works, but more often it doesn’t. People may be excited about their faith, but that excitement fades when they are told to embrace the constraints and guidelines of an existing ministry merely because “we’ve always done it this way at this church.” That vetted ministry may have been dying for a reason, and throwing a new and excited individual at it will probably not bring it back to life, because their creativity and passion will have been saddled with a vision that is not their own.
Especially in the church, there is a tendency to elevate perseverance to the level of saintliness. Giving up in the face of hardship is considered akin to blasphemy, because, after all, Look at the example of Jesus, who died on the cross for you. Or look to Paul, who endured extensive amounts of torture and imprisonment to bring the good news of Jesus Christ to far off lands. What are our mere troubles when compared to the hardships endured by those two?
“You have made us for yourself, oh Lord, and our hearts are restless until they find their rest in you.”
I was restless.
Some people attend charismatic or pentecostal churches because they need to see the miraculous to understand a God that provides healing, or understands them deeply, beyond what they share of themselves with the world. Some people attend churches that focus on social justice because they need to see a God that serves up justice and cares for the oppressed. Some attend legalistic churches because they need to experience order and clear cut rules amidst an otherwise chaotic life. And each of these churches provides an aspect of God to the world.
Manjushri, the bodhisattva of wisdom, the one who carries the double-edged sword that kills or gives life, asks a monk to bring him something out in the world that is not medicine. The monk searches far and wide, and finally returns, saying that there is nothing out there that is not medicine. To which the master says, “then bring me something that is medicine.” The monk then reaches down and plucks a blade of grass.
The master turns to the monk and says, “This medicine can kill people and it can also bring them to life.”
Daily Office Readings Psalm: 126In convertendo1 When the LORD restored the fortunes of Zion, * then were we like those who dream.2 Then was our mouth filled with laughter, * and our tongue withRead More…
When I was a pastor for a small church up in the pacific northwest, I received a phone call one day. The call came from another pastor in our diocese, who wanted to let me know that he had a “word of knowledge” for me.
For those of you not particularly versed in the charismatic / pentecostal nomenclature, a “word of knowledge” is a personal prophecy, or discernment, regarding what God is doing in the life of another person. These can at times be very powerful, when truly directed by God. When not directed by God, they tend to take on the likeness of a battering ram.
Years ago, on a diocesan retreat, two men were arguing about a particular prophecy concerning where the new diocesan cathedral would stand. We were all sharing a cabin bunkhouse, and I was trying to get some sleep. The two could not, or would not, agree on any of the supposed signs that they had interpreted to indicate the location of the new building, and after a while, I got grumpy enough that I just flat out asked them why they were arguing.