August 5, 2008

Lectionary Leanings

After preaching last week on who is missing... I feel obligated to listen for God's word on how we reach those that we have named.

This week's lectionary readings, have me thinking about going to where people are - instead of waiting for them to come to you.

Romans has this great two step plan for salvation: believe and you will be justified, speak and you will be saved. Well, speak not just anything... but speak the truth about God. That Christ is Lord.

One of the scariest questions (in my opinion) that had to be answered on our examination questions for ordination is "How do you interpret the statement 'Jesus Christ is Lord'?" I have often hesitated to use that statement because of the way I have heard others use it. I hear it used in militaristic and political ways that seem to have no connection with the Jesus who speaks out of the scriptures. I hear it used solely as a means of gaining salvation, as the defining measure - rather than as a beginning point for a whole life lived in faithful action. I hear it in ways that separate and promote Christ from the Trinity.

What I realized is that the question is really about HOW Jesus is Lord and finally was able to write that we can only call Jesus, "Lord" in the context of the Kingdom he proclaimed. A Kingdom that is for the poor and oppressed, a Lord that walks along side the people and offers them life, rather than ruling from above. When we claim that Jesus is Lord, we are proclaiming a kingdom that is not of this world - that seeks peace and wholeness rather than power and domination. We proclaim that our final allegiance doesn't lie with our family or the state, but with God.

In my lectionary discussion group, we spent quite a bit of time bemoaning the crazy and chaotic world around us... and I heard many laments about the downfall of Christianity in America. But I am more than prepared to say that living in a post-Christian America may in fact be exactly what we need to more fully accept Christ as our Lord. Living in a post-Christian America means that we no longer are Christian by default, but that we now have the ability to choose to deeply commit our lives to this way. And it means that there are new opportunities to share this gospel with people who are disheartened by the world - to offer them a future of hope that lies now within our modern politics, but with God's kingdom. We offer an alternative to the world as it is - not rose colored glasses - but a connection to something that is bigger that our current struggles.

I'm also thinking a lot about Matthew and Peter's venture out onto the sea in connection with a poem by the late Eddie Askew. I can't remember the title or which book its in, but here is the piece of the poem I have:

And, suddenly, I notice with unease, you standing with them, outside the boundary wire of my concern. Not asking that they be admitted to my world, but offering me the chance to leave my warm cocoon, thermostatically controlled by selfishness, and take my place with them, and you. At risk in real relationships, where love not law, defines what I should do.

I keep thinking about how often we tell people to come to church, rather than take church to them. I think about all of those people who will never on their own accord set foot in our large brick building. I think about the people who are in the bars in town - or working at the grocery store or the dollar general or the gas station. And I think about Jesus standing with them out in the storms of their lives.

While the storm was raging on that lake, the disciples were relatively safe in their boat. It seems they were more startled than anything else by this figure that appears and Peter doesn't really believe it could be Jesus... what on earth is he doing out there? Why doesn't he stay where it is safe... either get in the boat or stay on the short! He is outside the boundary of where Peter thinks he should be. And so to make sure it is really him, Peter wants proof. If it's you Lord, command me to come to you. And Jesus says, Come.

Peter gets out there, but its scary to be in the world without all of the safety of the church (ahem, I mean boat). and so he falters and Christ picks him up and helps him back into the boat. It is new and terrifying to try to proclaim Christ out in the world, rather than just in the safety of the church, but we are called to do so. Not because Jesus tells us to (after all, Peter is the one who suggested it)... but simply because that is where Jesus is.

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