What Are You Living For?
A bit of a confluence really:
- I’ve been told a lot lately that I am not Christian or a pastor. The why doesn’t really matter (though you can figure it out by scrolling back a couple blog posts if you wish). It’s just the reality that there are actually people with nothing better to do than going around speaking doom to other people. I guess we should just call them “Pharisees.” (Who were themselves very faithful Jews don’t make the mistake of treating them like two dimensional objects.)
- The latest Pew report came out and ‘surprise, surprise’ (okay no-one is surprised) there are even less people religiously affiliated this year than the last. This is supposed to make us fret and worry (because that’s effective… Matthew 6 anyone?), chase after millennials (we are like the disposed zealots seeking a messiah), lament how irresponsible people are these days (clearly it cannot be our fault), opine on why people don’t care anymore (hint: they do), and read all the articles that are some version of “Five Reasons Your Church….” (please, Resist. The. Click. Bait.)
- I heard an excellent sermonette (at a Presbytery meeting no less! Thank you Sue Krummel) on John 9 and the healing of the blind man and why we have to pick everything apart and ask all the wrong questions so we can prove it wasn’t really good news instead of asking the one question we are meant to: what is it like for Jesus to change your life for the better? Why are we so afraid to admit Jesus is a good thing? Why is Jesus the one good thing we don’t want to share? Are we ashamed of Jesus???
I always find it amazing when there are things weighing on you and the Spirit starts to connect the dots. There is more swirling here but these are the first three that lined up for me. Or, were lined up for me. Two weeks I was the closest in my life to saying “I don’t want to be Christian if you are going to define it like that!” Was I becoming spiritual but not religious?
I wasn’t really in danger of un-identifying. I deeply connect with the community of faith. I value it. It gives my life meaning. I don’t love the Church because it hands me absolute truth or pre-packaged answers or a cool hang out spot. I love it because it’s messy. It’s messy and it’s called to be the place that says, “Be messy. We love you in your mess and we are willing to jump in with you.”
So that’s why I get dismayed when I see all sorts of ways we are trying to avoid mess. Sharp lines of righteousness. Moral absolutism. Corporate professionalism. Business success models. Consumer marketplaces.
I just don’t see Jesus in these things. The Jesus who doesn’t care what goes in our mouths but what comes out of it. The Jesus who refused to even allow himself to be called good… because no-one is good but God alone. The Jesus who knew the poor would always be around but didn’t believe that was an excuse not to make our life’s purpose alieving the burdens of poverty… the Jesus who chose to hang out with the rejects and sinners and left-behinds, and while maybe it was to save them – that’s not what he was saying. He didn’t spend his time telling them they were rejects. Eventually… he called them friends. Right before they denied him and betrayed him…. And he knew it all along.
I don’t see Jesus as a successful business model either. His ragtag group never grew under his leadership (okay yes… but not within his immediate and incarnational ministry). Apparently the Apostles empowered by the Spirit was a much better CEO / COO structure than Jesus the entrepreneurial start-up guy. His greatest growth strategy was offending people and dying. Its hardly going to be a New York Times best seller as far as management strategies go.
So this is what I find myself wanting to say. Stop looking around.
Stop looking and blaming mega-trends. Stop looking for people to call out as wrong. Stop looking for excuses. Stop even worrying about the brand. Stop navel gazing. That one’s hard for me because I do it all the time. But I’m telling myself this too, stop. Be still!
Stop looking around for best practices, or the right way, or the quick fix. Jesus asked questions; he didn’t give answers. There is no-one out there who has something to sell you that will change it all for the better. Just… stop.
Then ask yourself this: what is it like for Jesus to change your life for the good?
Don’t have an answer? Ask the person next to you. Ask the newly housed homeless family. Ask the person at the food pantry. Ask the members of the choir. Ask that person who sends a birthday card to everyone in the church? Maybe they have a more vibrant and articulate faith story than you. Don’t be ashamed about that. Shame isn’t productive, let it go and fill the void. Ask them. Think about it. And let Jesus change that reality in your own life. Figure out your story. Name it. Claim it. Tell it. Live it.
The Church doesn’t die because the world around us changes (it has ever been thus). The Church doesn’t die because we got something wrong (have we really ever gotten anything right?) The Church doesn’t even die when it dies (we are Resurrection people).
The Church dies because it gets luke-warm. It dies because it lost its sense of passion about why it matters. The Church dies because it doesn’t have good news.
What does it feel like for Jesus to change your life for the better?
Its more than past time to find out, if we don’t already know. And if you do? What are you waiting for – there are people desperately waiting to hear your story. Because the question isn’t just what are you willing to die for, but what are you willing to live for!