There is a form of radical inclusion - only made possible by God’s radical inclusion of us. To the degree we trust the gospel, can our arrogance be humbled enough to pull this off.
A psychologist was once asked in an interview the one message that she wished all her clients could internalize, and she responded with the words "you are enough." Easy enough to say to someone, but how do we believe it for ourselves in a world of competition that seems to constantly be measuring us?
Why is it that when we get closest to the thing we really want, we tend to self-sabotage?
Reflections on 1 Corinthians 6:1-11
image: Ellsworth Kelly | Circle Line | 1951
Imposter Syndrome. We all know what it is and what it feels like - that suspicion that wherever we are, we don't belong, and pretty soon others will come to the same realization. We know what it is, but how do we respond to it? I have my strategies, but I can't say they work super well. Here's another strategy - one that is so strange, counter-intuitive, and surprising that it just might work. And it comes to us all the way from the first century in a letter that somehow got preserved and passed on.
Audio is 26 minutes.
image is by LA artist, Greg Ito: Out To Sea | Acrylic on Canvas | 72"x54" | 2016
Listen in for a discussion on how an ancient, first century letter can speak to our current personal, cultural, and political context . 1 Corinthians 3. Audio is 27 minutes.
(photo of installation from artist Mark Von Rosenstiel, from the work "our home was never built, it was maybe found." http://www.markvonrosenstiel.com/)
In an act of cosmic arrogance Adam and Eve committed spiritual treason in the Garden. Having everything was apparently not enough. They wanted to trade places with God. Which brings us to what I think is the greatest mystery of the Christian faith.
Apparently, having everything wasn't enough for the Creator-King either.
On Good Friday God looked down at us with all of our brokenness and pathologies and problems, and decided to enter into a position in which he could say, “yeah, me too." He did this, in order to put us in a position where we can look up at the Risen One in all of his glory and splendor and say, "yeah, me too."
Good Friday is a bookmark in time, a space constructed to re-enact the darkest moment in history. It represents the anticipation of death, of alienation, of our worst fears and the fulfillment of those fears. It serves as a canvas for us to splash our nightmares on, so we can stand back and look at them, realizing they are not as sinister as we believed. Good Friday is about a death that was not a death, a night that did not continue, despair that was not despair. It confronts us with the darkest possible scenario we could face and allows us to see it through to its very end. There, we find Jesus’ body, lifeless and frail, but on the verge of something new and unexpected.
Participating in Good Friday is an act of courage and hope, a step towards a future capable of holding light in darkness, joy in sorrow, and sacred in the profane. Sometimes we discover joy from the same source as our sorrow, and where we anticipate retribution, we receive grace. Sometimes all it takes to be rid of fear is to proceed towards it.
After looking at the Mission of Jesus summarized in Psalm 72, (righteous reign, reconciling communities, ruling forever), we look to Mark 1:14-18 to hear the words of the King that mark all of his ministry—that the Good News of God has come, the Gospel, and we must then repent, believe and follow Jesus in response to this good news. But what does the Good news truly mean for us today? Taking our cues from Jesus’ message that hearken back to Isaiah 40, we understand that the Gospel is good news that we can finally come back home. Behind every desire we have is a desire for love, to be understood, to have life—that life is ultimately bound up with our Creator and Redeemer who gave of Himself on the Cross to make orphans sons and daughters, and to bring prodigals back home. In response to His work to bring us home, “Back to Eden”, we must turn from our ways, believing in His word and follow Him as the disciples did.
We are often focused on praying for ourselves and others, as is good and right as followers of Jesus. Moreover, we are sometimes reminded that Jesus is in Heaven, praying for us before the throne of God. But how often do we take the time to pray for Jesus, our King? Psalm 72 is a “royal psalm” that the people of God would sing to coronate the enthronement of the King of Israel. We believe that Jesus is the Last Son of David, who is our Compassionate King who hears the cry of the needy, broken and marginalized, (Ps. 72:12-14); and because he is good and compassionate we must pray for him to reign in our hearts, communities and the world—that he reign in justice, ruling and reconciling communities, and unto the end of time. Praying for Jesus to reign shapes our hearts to desire what God desires especially when adversity sets in and we need the justice, peace and hope.
We have all sorts of strategies for trying to change and become better humans. Most of the time, that strategy is propelled by the belief that we must be in control, leading us to put our trust in whatever we think we need to keep control. This obsession with control often leads us into anxiety, anger, boredom, or even despair as the things we trust in fail us repeatedly. The experience that stands out from all other experiences, however, is Grace. Grace is grounded in one reality - we are not in control, but we can trust the one who is. Grace as revealed by Jesus is a light that exposes the futility of all our strategies, and leads us to the relief we’ve been searching for all along.
Why did Jesus die? It’s difficult to answer that question unless we acknowledge that there is something wrong in the world that needs fixing. And it is difficult to identify what needs to be fixed without first acknowledging what needs to be fixed in us personally. And it is difficult to face our own pathologies and sickness without some help. Jesus’ death is that help: a raft tossed out to a drowning swimmer, a tether to hold us and keep us from falling. Jesus’ death reveals us to us that we have a substitute - someone who faced our sickness for us, and gave us his health in return.
Every philosophical or theological tome ever written, every political manifesto or ideology all deal with some very basic questions: “am I going to be ok?” Are we going to be ok?” Most answer these questions by offering us examples of how to live and how to be good. We have been given examples of the best prophets, martyrs, activists, and intellectuals to draw from. With the exception of Jesus. In Jesus, God did not claim to send us a prophet or moral example of how to be good - God came himself in order to be good for us. The implications of this action play out much differently than all the others. We no longer base our goodness or hope on our own actions, on the approval of others, on our success or failure, but on the goodness of Jesus on our behalf.
For the last two weeks we have examined the biblical concepts of sin and how we cope with the brokenness we experience in this life. Last Sunday’s message from Psalm 25 provides a framework for how we navigate the brokenness we experience outside of us and within. The “A to Z of Lament” has to do with the David’s acrostic Psalm, (each verse of Psalm 25 begins sequentially with a letter of the Hebrew alphabet), which provides a model for how we spiritually cope with the darkness of our souls and the brokenness outside of us. As you read, listen and pray this week, ask the Lord to help you bring your pains, sins, and sorrows to Him, because—as David learned—God is a loving Father full of mercy and faithful love towards us.