The 2nd post in an ongoing series about attending a “conservative led” church as a “liberal”.
read part 1 here
Last Sunday night, the minister concluded his sermon series on “the sermon on the mount” with ‘blessed are the persecuted…’ Although I disagreed at a fundamental level with his reading of the beatitudes (you can read more about my take on it here entitled “blessed are the truly f**ked up!”) I was challenged and inspired by what he said.
Ultimately his point was to say that if you live out the beatitudes, you will get persecuted and if you’re not being persecuted, then you’re not living out the beatitudes. During his sermon he attacked the rise of liberal theology and ‘liberals’ because they had diluted the gospel to such an extent that they are no longer being persecuted and if you’re no longer being persecuted, you’re no longer living the life that Jesus had intended.
I’m sure it’s not surprise to you that I had an issue with this. It’s a common attack on “liberals” by those that would consider themselves “conservative” and it’s one that does not hold up.
Let me get something straight. My theology is not liberal because I want to please the ‘world’. I’ve not chosen liberalism because I’m afraid of confrontation or judgement. Choosing liberal theology is not choosing the easy way out. And to be honest, I haven’t actually chosen ‘liberalism’ because I don’t believe these categories are choices. These are labels put on people by other people.
These labels are not helpful. They flatten nuanced theology and divide people into ‘us’ and ‘them’ camps. And that’s probably my biggest issue with the sermon on Sunday night. It made everything appear black and white. It made it appear that all believers can be lumped into one or two categories. Labels reduce people to statistics.
It’s easy to write off a whole group of people by labelling them conservative or liberal. Surely, the church is the one place where we shouldn’t be labelled.
In his letter to the Galatian church, Paul wrote these words:
“There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”
In this statement, Paul called for the barriers between identity, position and gender to be torn down. We are ALL one in Christ Jesus. There is no “us” and “them”.
Writing this post, I do not feel that I am walking the easy path that the minister spoke of. I may not be persecuted by “the world” over certain issues but I do at times feel persecuted from within the church.
I hope that as we, my family and I, continue on this journey we will seek to break down these hurtful labels on both sides and see people for what they are: Humans loved by God.
I immediately thought it was an interesting tool for youth work but then started to think what an interesting tool it was for anyone.
If I could send an e-mail to myself in 2037, what would I want to say? What would I want to remind myself of?
Setting aside the thought that e-mail probably will be long gone by then, what words of advice would I give?
Who knows what kind of person I will be or where I will find myself in 28 years time. I’ll be 54..I know that much. And that’s pretty scary.
At college on Thursday, a lecturer emphasised how important it is to remember the “grace moments” in your life. The times when you just knew something bigger was at work. Maybe it was God. Maybe it wasn’t but…it was something. Something bigger than you. You caught a glimpse of another world.
As a Christian, I think, it’s important to remember those “grace moments”.
When the doubts come. When you’re just not really sure anymore. When you feel lost.
Remember the times when God was with you. That’s what the Israelites did. God reminded them over and over again. I am the Lord your God who brought you out of Egypt. When they were lost. When their nation had been crushed and and they were taken as exiles to Babylon. God reminded them. I am the Lord your God who brought you out of Egypt.
We need those grace moments. We need to hold on to them. Remember when you felt God. When you heard him. Because sometimes that’s all we have. The memories. When science causes us to doubt. When we see oppression and poverty all around us. When we simply ask, “Why God?”. Those are the times when we need those grace moments. To get us through.
For the Jews, it was passover. For Christians it’s the Eucharist. Communion.
We remind ourselves when God showed up.
Maybe that’s what helped Jesus through his “lent” 2000 years ago. During those 40 days in the wildreness. When he was tired. Alone. Away from his family. Away from God.
Maybe he reminded himself of those grace moments. When he communed with the Father. With the Spirit.
We need those grace moments too.
Maybe that’s what I would e-mail myself. All the grace moments in my life. The times when I came face to face with something much bigger than me.
So that I might continue on this journey. So that I might finish the race.
What are your grace moments?