If I say that there is something missing in Mainline churches today, I’m not expressing a new thought. I’m merely echoing church critics everywhere. If I say that I’m tired of the things that divide us – religion and politics – I’m just adding my voice to a lot of others whose exhaustion might be tipping into apathy. After some prayer and some reading (Kenda Creasy Dean’s Almost Christian and Richard Rohr’s Falling Upward), I’ve come to the conclusion that we are missing. We only show up half way and ambivalently expect God to fix what we have broken. In short, we focus on how God loves and values each and every human being without giving a thought to whether or not we love God and what that might mean.
We don’t so much love God in progressive Christian circles. We’re so worried about being politically correct and not offending anyone that it’s become uncool to love Jesus with our whole hearts. We want assurance of God’s love for ourselves (and maybe some of our neighbors), but we don’t want to think about loving God simply because God is. Because we don’t think about our love for God very deeply, we miss out on passion and mix up the Truths of scripture with the desires of society and end up with a very bland, watery version of the Gospel.
There is nothing wrong with leading with God’s love for all of humanity. It’s a positive, healing message. But why does it matter? Why do we care? It isn’t likely because we want to go to Heaven or avoid going to Hell. These are vague notions in progressive churches. Is it because we want saving from our own self-destructive tendencies? We want a better way? Or at least a way that is less troublesome and painful? What if we sought a relationship of mutual love, or at least as mutual as the limits of our humanity allow?
God loves me and God wants only goodness for me. If I love God, then I want only goodness for all of God’s creation. If I love God, then I trust that God’s ways are better than my ways, than human ways. I trust God enough to let go of everything I’ve held too close. If I love God, I want to be my very best self, I want to live into the vision God has of me. Loving God means allowing God’s love to define and guide me in all that I am and all that I do. That’s so scary! I have to let go of so much pain and accomplishments and possessions and everything I think defines me if it is not love…
In light of all that is happening in the United States and the world that is anything but love, loving God means listening and praying differently. James urges believers who are hurting or struggling to go before God in prayer and assures us that prayer leads to divine healing. If we are only focused on ourselves and having enough faith to earn God’s favor, then are prayers are not an opening but a small fissure in our egos. When prayers are uttered without being grounded in a mutual love, how are we to recognize when God answers? It becomes far too easy to blame the one who prays when our prayers are not answered exactly in the way we ask. Healing comes in many forms when we love God with all our hearts, souls, and minds.
It’s time to show up and be church more fully. Yes, God loves us. Do we love God? If the answer is yes, then why do we continuously worry so much about what others are doing or what others might be thinking about us? If we love God, then shouldn’t be motivated by love and not by fear, anger, or hatred? If we love God and seek to serve God by serving our neighbors then oughtn’t we be able to let go of a need to read scripture as if it were an inerrant book of history rather than the collection of sacred stories of mythic Truth?
Church, it’s time we show up with our whole selves and stop worrying about whether or not everyone who calls themselves a Christian shows up the same way. Love God. Trust God’s love for us. Stop supporting a culture of wealthy white male dominance and believe those who tell their stories of victimization and oppression. It’s time we stop talking so much about how God loves everyone and start demonstrating just how much we love this amazing God of ours.
We are the Body of Christ at this moment in history. Now is not the time for fear, hatred, or apathy. Now is the time to let go of some of the foolishness that we call Tradition and embody Christ in a way that transforms those who are vulnerable, victimized, or dismissed. The world does not need the watery ambivalence we sell as good news. The world needs sure and certain evidence of a Love that is steadfast and enduring, even when offered by human hands. Let’s stop paying lip service to faith and start living fully in mutual love with the One who has never let us go.
RCL – Year B – Nineteenth Sunday after Pentecost – September 30, 2018
Esther 7:1-6, 9-10; 9:20-22
Numbers 11:4-6, 10-16, 24-29