Let's Rest a Moment

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Let us take a rest for a brief hour from politics and issues and positions. Let us, for just a moment, lay aside our certainties and our inviolable "truths" and our opinions.

I'm tired of griping, of agonizing, of being afraid.

Let's not have fears, but fantasies together.

Let's not choose to be obstacles to one another's peace.

Let's be not afraid of every bit of bad news; let's not indulge in every injurious thing.

Let's not protect ourselves from one another, friend!

There is no peace there.

Let's sit down together and eat something good even if it's bad for us.

Let me give myself to you.

Let us be a moment of respite and peace to one another.

I'll tell you of hopes, and disappointments; of joys and regrets. Of striving and accomplishment and then you tell me of yours!

Let me give you a story.

Let me sing you a song.

Speak to me of colors and scents that remind you of younger days.

I'll listen to your truth...listen to mine also.

I want to feed you poetry.

I want to suck the marrow from your dancing bones, cry over your hurts, laugh until I ache with you, and drink deeply of the sunset together.

I want to hear about your silly mistakes, and your greatest moments, and every song that makes you weep.

Let me share my own stories, my songs and hopes and what peace I have found.

Let us not be isolated even while in the same room.

Let's, instead, speak of pains and strains and the things we both are embarrassed by.

Life need not be terrifying, but Lord it is short.

I trust in God, but that's because God points me to you.

Let's not waste that.

Death need not be the thing that calls us to one another...let life and joy also do this.

Let's not be so afraid that we turn away from each other.

Let's be filled with hope.

I'll rejoice in all that you've overcome to find peace and joy.

Do likewise with me.

Our hopes are the same, after all.

We seek love.

We long for rest.

And we've forgotten that it can only be found in each other.

What is Charity?

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Charity always challenges structures of oppression, because charity refuses to "other" anyone. Charity always challenges social relationships because it refuses to conflate individual people with the systems that shape and deform their behavior towards others.

Charity is understanding. While it sees things as they are, it refuses to accept that people cannot break free of the systems they inhabit. It exercises generosity of spirit and refuses violence even toward the oppressor which is, of course, what Christ commanded when he said "Resist not evil."

Let us not conflate the virtue OF charity with the act of giving TO charity. Both of which are noble but aren't nearly the same thing. Charity isn't measured in whether giving is modest or abundant. That's the wrong notion. Acts of giving while called "charity" are a far cry from the virtue -- which is about extending humanity to others regardless of whether they are those oppressed or those oppressing. Those culturally acceptable or unacceptable.

The act of giving is good only to the extent that it is a symbolic representation, but not a replacement for, the virtue -- which requires not OTHERING other human beings, but meeting them where they are in a poisoned system and letting love heal what is broken.

The problem with our understanding of charity is that we see it as transactional rather than relational. Just like the sacrificial system in ancient Israel, we seek substitution to pay for the sin of our lives -- the brokenness of relationship with self, God, and other. What the Kingdom does is refuse this. Instead, God offers God's own self. As a model. In relationship to us, and particularly to the broken. Not substitution, but self offering and engagement in love and forgiveness and mercy. In charity! This is why we say Jesus is part of the Godhead.

Charity is the act of giving oneself, rather than substituting pigeons, or lambs, or a check to the local NGO. The virtue of charity is self-offering. Not the offering of something else in our place in order to avoid relationship which requires us to engage with the other we would marginalize. Or even the other who oppresses within the broken and damaged systems of this world. Those who exercise true charity make no peace with oppression, but neither do they withhold authentic engagement or relationship with the oppressor.

When you enter relationships characterized by self-giving love, it then becomes imperative that those you "see" cannot be allowed to hunger, thirst, languish, or be denied freedom and dignity. It also becomes imperative that they not be allowed to remain blind to their participation in the mechanisms and systems that destroy human dignity. That they are also bound in chains.  That the assault to any is an assault to all that merely hasn't claimed the "victor" yet. Charity insists that all are redeemable. All are worthy. All are broken, but not so broken as to be beyond love. Only the Devil believes that. In other words, it is contrary to the Gospel to divide what God seeks to make whole.

Why Jesus, for Christ's sake?

The One

I follow Jesus because he is the embodiment of love —soul-drenching, authentic, and transformational love. The love that compels us to care for one another, to share in our deepest humanity, to serve, and to seek the dignity in every person. A love that impels us to sacrifice ourselves for one another, to sacrifice our selfishness, our agendas, and our systems of oppression.

I follow Jesus because he lived wholly and fully in the quest for justice and mercy, that he cried out constantly for forgiveness, for wholeness, and for an end to the marginalization of people. I follow the call to strive to end our violence, and to unravel the fabric of institutions and systems that continue to marginalize those whom we have turned into the “other.”

I follow Jesus because these values of love, mercy, forgiveness, and justice are not abstractions, and we are not to pursue them with detachment, but with passion, vigor, and firm hope that they can be found and manifest in human lives.

I follow Jesus because he points to a vision of God that is inherently communal, deeply personal, and intimately present. Not a God who divides and parcels, but a God who knits everything, every person, every moment together in a great movement toward healing and redemption. Not a God who is unconcerned, but a God who is wholly committed to the human project and the Creation’s flourishing in peace rather than withering in entropy. A God who is so concerned that he took on human flesh and human pain and human death to save us.

The Gentlest God

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Ours is not a God who coerces, who cajoles or shames. What freedom would there be in that kind of God? What kind of choice would we have but to respond in fear and trembling to a God that forces love down our throats and demands it in return? No, the God of Christian belief is not to be found in the roar of a mighty wind, or in an earthquake, or in the violent flames that consume. Our God is the still, small voice. The One that can be heard once our hearts are hushed, in the stillness of an untroubled mind.

Our God is gentle and meek, constantly giving God’s own self in the dynamism of an ever re-created world, and an ever renewed Spirit within us. This God is truly a God that terrifies us. No wonder our modern age rejects this God. The gentleness of God flies in the face of the endless swirl of our own created violence - that which we commit against ourselves and others and the world that we inhabit. The whisperings of God, the endless mercy, the unquenchable and meek love of God cannot but fail to expose the crass immaturity of the world we have shaped with our freedom. 

We are so consumed with our own noise, the endless chattering and distraction of our modern age, that no wonder we can’t hear the voice of God. It is easier for us to hope for the day that God will return in “power and great might” than to be still and know that God is already with us. For if that is the case, then our shame would be too much to bear. It is not God that shames us, but we ourselves. For what else can we do once confronted by the God whose love is so perfect, whose nature is so gentle, and whose light is so bright as to illuminate just how petty our judgments of ourselves and others really are? Or to reveal just who wrongly we have understood our relationship to the world and how pitifully we have failed to care for this great gift we have been given.

But, in the stillness, in the silence - once we have put down distractions and reactions and our ill-formed images of a God who is terrible and filled with wrath; if we listen to the still small voice that calls us “beloved;” when we become open to the gentlest yet most unwavering and relentless of loves directed fully at our own selves; then we will truly understand what it means to be saved. What it means to be redeemed. 

This is where justice and mercy, forgiveness and love become so abundant that we are no longer afraid to give what we have received. This is the work of the believer, the work of faith. To put away the foolishness that waits for our God to come in a blaze of trumpets to judge the world, and to listen in the stillness, in the hush, in the quieted and gentled heart for a love so powerful that all which troubles us may be put away. All of our errors already forgiven. All of our judgments rendered unnecessary. And where our dignity as a children of God may be embraced. If you would know God…then for God’s sake…be still!

What Are We As Christians To Do?

Just what are we Christian folk called to? It might seem a bit unclear given all those folks out there who call themselves Christian but actively work against what Christ taught about the poor, the oppressed, and our belovedness in God's eyes.

As Christians, we are called to PRAY with others and for others, whether Christian or not, knitting our voices to everyone who prays for the world. We pray for those who don’t or won’t or can’t, lifting our voices on behalf of these and all others who are voiceless or who remain silent. Those who have had the prayer beaten right out of them. We pray for restoration of right relationships, for healing, for God's Reign to come and wipe away every tear. We pray for peace. For love to prevail. We pray for our hearts to be changed.

As Christians, we are called to WAIT with others who wait, whether Christian or not, for hope and joy and light and love to triumph. We wait on behalf of those who don’t or won’t or can’t wait any longer; who have lost their hope that love will win in the end; bearing witness to patience and trust that God will heal the world. 

As Christians, we are called to DO with others who do, whether Christian or not, feeding and loving and caring, offering compassion to those who are oppressed and wounded. We do on behalf of others who don’t, who through apathy or fear or misdirected anger have been taught that doing is fruitless. Or who believe that there are others who don’t deserve our love or compassion. We do this to bear witness to the value of every human being, hoping that others will learn by our example. Hoping that others will come to understand that we are Christ’s hands and feet in the world, and that we can choose to be a part of what heals the world. Until God restores all things.

This is our calling as faithful Christ followers. To love, to pray to wait, and to work for the world…all of the world. Whether Christian or not.

All else is madness.