Blogging Towards Sunday, May 22nd, 2011
End of the World +1
According to the billboards I've seen around the Bay Area for the past 2 + months Sunday most likely won't come for those that follow Jesus of Nazareth, calling him master, and Lord. And yet I suspect I'll be here come Sunday. Guess I'll need to write a sermon. As I think about those signs proclaiming God's judgement on May 21st and wrestle with the words of Jesus in John 14, responding to Thomas' uncertainty and questions by asserting that Jesus is "the Way, the Truth and the Life" I just can't accept that it will all end come Saturday night at 6pm in an earthquake. I'm stuck with 2 thoughts: 1) Jesus says himself that no one but God the Father will know when that hour of radical world transforming revelation (or apocalypse in Greek) will appear [Matthew 24:36] and 2) Jesus seems to teach those that follow him to live in the world, not to flee the world.
This week has seen the revelations of long-term infidelity and deception of our previous Governor, now infamous as the Sperminator, as well as the arrest of DSK the head of the IMF and destined future French President, the melt-down of Newt Gingrich, the passage of Amendment 10A in the PCUSA and the continuing drone of our impending destruction by Family Radio. While many prophecy our doom and judgment for diverse reasons: disobedience of the Bible, acceptance of sexual orientations, changing leadership norms for the Church, and for the ways in which we balance our budgets - I'm struck with the thought that a friend just shared with me at lunch. "I'm just trying to live a truthful life, honest, direct, responsible, so that my son my have some sort of image of what life is meant to be," she shared at the table. Isn't that what we're all longing for? Isn't that what life is about? Isn't that the kind of model we want to lead us wether that leadership be political, governmental, economic, moral or religious? And yet it seems to be so absent from what we encounter in our media cycle that surfs from one scandal to the next? I'm left with the thought that if God is going to judge the world, and punish us for our sin - could it get much worse than it already is?
In 1 Peter 2, the apostle-teacher talks of what it means to follow Jesus - to be set apart - not because we're better but because disciples are called to a different way of being. It's not about superiority, but service. It's not about thinking that we've accomplished the big deal, that we've built the building, but rather that God's Living Spirit is building us - grafting us - into the this spiritual house - this community of those that recognize how the words, presence, life and resurrection of Jesus have called us to a new way of being and being known. It's about perspective, recognizing who and where we are and how we've gotten here. It's also about the humility - or centeredness - to know where we still need to go and what it might take for us to get there.
In John 14, Jesus uses similar language. He's explaining the future to his disciples, but not in a Judgement Day sort of way. Jesus is leaving, going ahead, but he doesn't leave his followers lost in a spiritual blindness or in the wake of a scandal of secret paternity, money laundering, or sexual harassement. Rather Jesus talks about life as a walk, faith as a relationships, spiritual certitude as an experience of community. "Walk this way" is what Jesus says, for faith is not about a dogmatic position, or doctrinal memorization, but an experience of the sacred in life. Knowing Jesus as Lord isn't just a confession of faith said aloud, but a life lived in service, a journey to self-discovery in the context of creation, a affirmation that we learn in relationship.
I think about my friend's comments at lunch, I imagine many I know who have heard of Jesus but can't quite step out to follow him. Maybe we've distracted and distorted faith for others by forgetting in the way that we live out our faith that Jesus says "I am the Way, the Truth and the Life" not "it's my way or the highway." It's so much harder to admit that faith is tricky, discipleship isn't always obvious, that the struggle is part of what makes it true, the doubt is often what makes it so meaningful, the experience of Jesus' presence is what invites us to step out more than any doctrinal proclamation we may have heard. It's so much easier to tell everyone else that they'll be judged by God, than to live out the challenge Jesus lays before us. It's so much easier to flee the world, than to live in - but not of - it.
In an age of mistrust of all leadership, how are we - as followers of Jesus - called to lead?