Although, that being said, I do want my first blog post for 2015 to set and reset the tone of my blog for the year. You all know, dear readers, that my blog is pretty churchy. I am guilty of these charges. And while I would not say that I am preparing to make a major tone shift, I think that there are repercussions that I want to embrace. What I'm talking about is being conscious and focussed on the gospel news in regard to what's on this blog.
Over the past year, I've been party to so many conversations that boil down to "how do we save the Church?" I've posted in response to the complaints that there aren't enough young adults in church. I've posted in regard to the efforts to restructure church. I've spent time on my blog writing about Episcopalianism and what aspect or teachings are quintessentially that. I've been growing weary of these conversations because I feel like, in whatever forum the conversation is happening in, the unsaid (sometimes said) question is how do we make our thing the most attractive to the most people?
So like I said, I'm weary of that. That conversation feels gimmicky. What I'm more interested in is living out the gospel news. Because that's what gives me life and love.
I guess if I'm going to take seriously my own task of being conscious of and writing about the gospel news, it is useful to put that in context of what I think the gospel news is. Well, for one it is good news and second, it is the proclamation that "Christ is risen!" This is the Easter message and I truly believe that Christians are an Easter people. But that's still a string of buzzwords, so how do I unpack that message?
Well, for one, that Easter proclamation means that my faith is continually subject to a process of death and resurrection; any piece of my life (be it an attitude, a relationship or something else) may pass away from my life in order that a new piece (attitude, relationship, etc.) might be able to grow. I also think that the Easter proclamation means that my faith holds mystery at its core. The how of Christ rising from the dead is something that I don't think anyone will ever answer in a way to satisfy everyone. And moreover, I don't think anyone should ever be satisfied with words that answer that question. I don't think anyone should try to examine that mystery so that it ceases to be a mystery. Because after the height, breadth and depth of the mystery has been assessed (if it is even possible to assess it like that), after someone establishes how Christ rose from the dead, then what have we actually gained? I think the much more worthy question is "why did Christ rise from the dead?" If anyone really does want to know how I have tried to answer to this, please feel free to pursue previous posts on my blog...
But back to this mystery. It has repercussions for the Christian faith and for my blog. When a religious system holds mystery at its core, it means that there is a fundamental unknowability at the core of the tradition, but it also means that that tradition has made it a priority to engage with that mystery. "How does this mystery interact with my life? How have the leaders taught that this mystery interacts with the world and the long line of people who came before me in my faith tradition?" And specifically in regard to Christianity, how did Christ himself engage with the mystery of his own life, death, and resurrection?
It's from there, when Christ calls us to our own cycle of redemption by death and resurrection, that I realize that I'm being called to get over myself; stop bowing so much to my ego, and instead bow in respect for the mystery in the Other. I think this is what is meant when people lamely or pompously says "you must die to yourself," or "pick up your cross." Those phrases are lame because 1) there is no tact or respect for anyone else's life experience, but also 2) it is a mandate for someone else, rather than a sharing of self that tells the second part of the story. I need to unpack my phrases again...
First, in an effort to not be lame, I think that a better phrase to use is "how can you/I/we/any person stop being controlled by your/my/our/their own wants and desires, and begin to put the needs of others first?" It's a great question, but it really sucks as the person who gets put on the spot like that. So it's useful for the one asking the question to go first. Consider that, in an effort to help people understand the death and resurrection of Christ, a person first tells their own story of resurrection. Resurrection stories are passionate stories that tell about what happens to people when they get out of their own comfort zones. Resurrection stories are stories of that wonder that comes over you when you make a radical shift in lifestyle. Resurrection stories are the stories that are proclaimed as the good news of Jesus Christ.
So I guess that that's part of what happens when people take seriously the gospel news (and I intend to share more stories of my own like that in the coming year). But there is another part that happens when people begin to actively seek after the good news of Christ and begin to incorporate it into their own lives. It's the life-after-death part of the resurrection stories. To say this another way, at first, we were just asking "How does the gospel news interact with me and my life?" Now we find ourselves trying to ask "How can I give my life over to the good news of Christ?" This may be the harder of the two question (if you think the first one was not enough).
I think that taking seriously the mystery at the center of the gospel of Christ means that there is a method of behavior to follow. This is nothing original, plenty of thinkers greater than me have said this before. But I have discovered and rediscovered this theme throughout my life. One of the more ground-shaking times that it happened was when I went to work in New Orleans during the summer of 2009. I had gone to rebuild homes that had been destroyed during Hurricane Katrina, and I had gone thinking "I'm going to do something noble; I'm going to go serve those people and help them." It ended up that being humbling because, even though I went to serve others, it was that toxic idea of "noble service" that needed to die in order for me to truly understand what humble service was. It was something that I learned from the very people whom I had gone to serve. And in that was a resurrection for me.
So there it is: the Gospel News is a story of death and resurrection. For me, it was a charge given to me at my baptism and I have needed to get past my own ego ever since that I might be able to truly "seek and serve Christ in all persons." Because in loving everyone you meet as Christ himself, that where the resurrection happens.
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