Thursday, August 18, 2011

Rebuilding Sand: an Unorthodox Theology of Death

Death is a reminder for the living that we’re still human – built more like glass than stone – we cannot and we should not walk alone. For some of us, death is the final moment of life. For others, it is the day the Lord has called us home. For others, still, it is when the departed get the answer to that “never ending why” and the living have lost someone dear. With great sorrow, death is no stranger to the life of this author. There are two things I wonder, where does God play a role and what would we do without friends and family to support us? In the first case, my recently deceased grandmother would say “pray.” In the second, I know we all reach a point when we have to lean upon the love of others to endure.

Honestly, I don’t think faith means answers and that is not always an easy pill to swallow when facing grief and hardship. Personally, my theology on death has very little for answers. It makes the hearts and minds of the living cry the tears of the forsaken. Doubt is sure to creep in. If God is the creator of people and giver of love and grace (as myself and countless others believe) then detailed systems of repentance, decisions for Christ, or even an understanding of God are irrelevant. The Lord has called many of my loved ones home and the details of what they believed or didn’t seem pretty trivial in light of this short breath we call life. I know they are with God regardless of their theology. Death is a mystery of life and of God for the living and we will need some form of comfort.

Thus, the body of Christ is the people that stand by our side as we, the living, mourn. Community is such that we need others to cry with, laugh with, converse with, love, and share in each other’s sorrow. Our friends and family can take glass that’s crumbled to sand and turn it into something strong like stone – strong because we are not alone and because we hurt and suffer together – this is the body of Christ. In doubt, suffering, hardship, loss, and the pain of life may we recognize the need for community support; all the while, praying, even if we don’t have words to say to God. If I have ever “lived the impossible,” as I’ve said before, I have not done it alone – I could not do this alone – I need people to support me, and whether I like it or not, I need God’s hope to carry on.   

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Practicing what I Preach...or Trying to

Life is short. Perhaps I’m about to preach to myself, but life is too short to stay pissed off. Initially, theories of atonement were on the agenda for this post, but that wasn’t going places. In searching for a topic that wasn’t deeply personal, a discussion on morals seemed like a good second choice. Ironically, writers-block opened the door to speak about something that matters more than atonement models or moral debates. “Will you practice what you preach; would you turn the other cheek?” Life is too short to stay pissed off, but it’s awful easy to forget that truth.

Dear LOTH church,

You probably won’t read this, but I have some important words for you. I’m sorry I failed you, I’m sorry we parted ways in the fashion we did, I’m sorry I never got to say goodbye, I’m sorry most of your members don’t know what happened, I’m sorry that the circumstances of departure hurt me, I’m sorry that people have had to hear me vent about this for a year, and I’m sorry I let it get to me all this time. Most of the time, I miss you; so, I want you to know all is forgiven. Life is too short to stay pissed off; it hasn’t eased my pain, it hasn’t helped me be the minister I’m called to be, and it hasn’t helped me to practice what I preach. May we walk together, yet on separate paths, in the grace and forgiveness of our Lord. From the bottom of my heart, peace and love to you. Consider this the goodbye I owed you one year ago.


P.S. As I looked at my dad’s broken and battered body, a few weeks ago, I was reminded that life is too short and that some things don’t matter as much as we make them seem.

As someone who teaches and preaches, I’ve learned from every young person I’ve ever led. I’ve learned from their families. I’ve learned from the classroom. I’ve learned from books. I’ve learned from friends. I’ve learned from my own family. I’ve learned from the mysteries of God and the trials of life. If you are like me, it is time to make our houses homes, it is time minister while being ministered to, it’s time to practice what we preach – turning the other cheek – and extend grace (even if it doesn’t make sense).

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

God is Personal: The Human Relationship to God

For nearly three years, all I’ve been able to do is grumble in disgust at the words, “Personal Relationship with God.” Today, I’m getting personal with God. Considering that I’m not a deist (most days) and that I would like to believe God is active in this world, it is difficult to deny the likelihood that God is personal. Consequently, God is also relational. But, I’m not talking about some touchy-feely, mushy, psychosexual-deism. Jesus is not my “homeboy;” Jesus is our redeemer, God is our creator, and the Holy Spirit has given us the gift of faith. We are inherently connected to the divine, which means we have a relationship to God, and it is undoubtedly personal.
As creator, God made us, gave us this earth, and said this is, “for you” (Gen. 9). As redeemer, God died for us and declared our forgiveness (Matt. 26:26-30). As spirit, God gave us grace and set us free (Rom. 8). How can I not take that personal? At a finite level, when I create something (this blog, songs, poems, etc.) it is deeply personal. If I make sacrifices of myself for others, it is immensely personal. If I give someone a gift (without expectation of reciprocation) or receive a gift, it is heartwarmingly personal. Yet, I’m a finite human being; if creation, sacrifice, and gifts are personal for me, how much more are they personal for God?

Honestly, personal isn’t always pleasant and relationships aren’t without pain. God may have made us and gave us this earth, but this doesn’t mean we were all given an equal or, seemingly, fair portion. God may have given us the spirit, which sets us free, but we are still here to toil and groan (Rom. 8:22-23). God may have given the ultimate sacrifice for our redemption and forgiveness, but that doesn’t stop life’s pain.

Finally, from August 3, 2010 to August 3, 2011; I’ve had one reason after the other to groan and get personal with God. Unemployment, girlfriend troubles, Mono, injured hamstring, ex-girlfriend, bankruptcy, and severely injured father; with a list like that in twelve months, it might be easier to be a deist. Conversely, I believe God is personal and relational; having compassion upon my pain, my hardship, and my groaning. I’m all for getting personal with God, even if personal isn’t some pretty, peachy, cozy, fa├žade. God suffered for us; God suffers with us.