February 23, 2010

"this beautiful mess" part 1

I have been trying to read more.  There are far too many books on my shelf - delicious books - just waiting to be picked up and devoured.  So I decided to start with Rick McKinley's "This Beautiful Mess." 

The writing style just draws me in... it's conversational and pulls me in.  But even more than that, he speaks to the core of my longing for the Kingdom of God.  As he starts out the book, he describes it as a "permission slip... get out of religion free."   He invites us to recieve the book "not as the last theological work on anything, but as a well-intentioned, God-loving invitation to go and grow and be where you haven't before."

And then, McKinley takes those pithy sayings that drive me nuts and transforms them into solid truth in a way that I wish I could do.  For example:
...when our lives are all about us, the appeal of that kind of bumper-sticker dumbness is irresistible. "Christ in you, the hope of glory" gets turned into a tool of the self to assure my business success instead of a promise that brings peace to my soul when all hell breaks loose.
Peace to my soul when all hell breaks loose.  That's what I'm craving.  Yeah, it would be nice for the hell not to break loose at all.  But it does and it will and Christ never promises that we won't have trouble.  Maybe that's what I was getting at a few weeks ago when I blogged about my car accident.  I never expected that an accident wouldn't happen.  I never expected to be so protected by the hand of God that no trouble would ever befall me.  I do expect that Christ will be with me through even the darkest valleys, however.

I have now been in ministry to the congregation I serve for two full years now.  Maybe it's because I'm young, or don't yet have the self-confidence in my own vocation, but it's taken me this long to be able to challenge some of those simplistic and pithy characterizations of God.  I find the confidence to do it in sermons - mostly because the Holy Spirit is at my back... or rather, I pray over my texts that she will be.  I just don't go into other conversations in the same way... and I should!   Perhaps with more prayer and with more confidence in the God who gives me the voice to speak, I can continue to affirm the faith of my people while at the same time giving them a "get out of religion free" card.  I can give them an invitation to think deeper and to go where they haven't been before, to move beyond Jesus and me in heaven by and by to Jesus and me and the poor with my sleeves rolled up here and now. 

It's not an either/or.  I'm foolish to paint it that way.  It's a both/and.  Breathing IN and Breathing OUT.  Letting Christ be King... but King of his own Kingdom and not the ones we create for him.  Changing our allegiances.  Challenging the politics of it all.  And doing all of that with grace and humility.

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