Eastertide: The way is made by walking

IMG_20150428_080144131_HDR

It was on Maundy Thursday that my husband and I began our pilgrimage in the south of France. Our walk on El Camino –the way. It was night, we were in an old stone church, hearing the readings about the children of Israel walking out of Egypt, and slavery, and starting their long walk to freedom.  Continue reading “Eastertide: The way is made by walking”

On confusing Jesus with the Statue of Liberty

 “People are confusing the Statue of Liberty and Jesus…But in fact while the real historical Jesus did urge compassion for those in need, but he also said, ‘Render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar’s.’ In other words, support government with your taxes because they have a legitimate function like protecting citizens. Those of us who believe in the sanctity of life believe that sanctity serves to not only to protect the unborn but to protect the born from terrorist attacks. That’s a Christian value as well.” – A certain pastor of a big church on Fox news

Once they wouldn’t let my Dad on a plane. He had to stay behind in Germany a few extra days to go to the US embassy because he didn’t have enough pages in his passport. It was inconvenient, and frustrating, but we knew it would all work out in the end. Continue reading “On confusing Jesus with the Statue of Liberty”

What Christian Politics looks like

Surveys show that one of the reasons millennial are leaving the evangelical church is that they perceive it to be too political. I relate to this (probably because I grew up in another country, and seeing American flags on the front stage of churches is just still very odd to me). The evangelical church has been associated with the conservative Republicans since the 80’s when some guys realized there was a huge sector of society that was uninterested in politics, but if energized, could be a significant political force.  Continue reading “What Christian Politics looks like”

A few parables

I’ve been reading the book of Luke lately. In Luke Jesus does lots of cool things, and  he tells these things called parables to the crowds who follow him. It made me want to write some of my own.  These stories are made up. Don’t take them too seriously.

***

Part 1

3647DFED00000578-3690446-image-a-173_1468527232638.jpg
Daily Mail.co.uk

Jesus went with his disciples to the city, with a great crowd following him. A funeral procession was coming out as he approached the city gates. The boy, who had been shot and killed by a police officer, was the only son of a widow and many mourners from all over the city were with her. Continue reading “A few parables”

The Gospel as an antidote to white fragility

When it comes to talking about race, white people often feel defensive, angry, and afraid. White people can completely shut down because conversations about race or privilege are so uncomfortable. A researcher named Robin DeAngelo calls this “white fragility“. In a conversation with Sam Adler-Bell, she describes why white people completely shut down:

For white people, their identities rest on the idea of racism as about good or bad people, about moral or immoral singular acts, and if we’re good, moral people we can’t be racist – we don’t engage in those acts. This is one of the most effective adaptations of racism over time—that we can think of racism as only something that individuals either are or are not “doing.”In large part, white fragility—the defensiveness, the fear of conflict—is rooted in this good/bad binary. If you call someone out, they think to themselves, “What you just said was that I am a bad person, and that is intolerable to me.” It’s a deep challenge to the core of our identity as good, moral people.

Continue reading “The Gospel as an antidote to white fragility”

Neither Poverty nor Riches (book Summary)

hunger for justiceIn part one, I gave a picture of how stuff is distributed in our world. I wanted to do that because after reading this book, the biggest take away is as people who follow Jesus we should be very concerned about economic inequality. In the book (aptly titled Neither Poverty Nor Riches, by Craig Blomberg ) the author is attempting to create a textbook that is a Biblical theology of possessions. Biblical Theology is a big word, but what it basically means is he’s going through the whole Bible, taking every mention of possessions, money, wealth, etc. and figuring out what those passages are saying. Basically he’s trying to answer the question: What is the Biblical view of stuff? Continue reading “Neither Poverty nor Riches (book Summary)”

Flight Behavior: On identity, climate change, and the evangelical tribe

Identity was the word of the year in 2015. Which I like, because I’m obsessed with thinking about how identity works in shaping our world. There’s people who think stuff happens in the social world primarily because people are rational and weighing the pros and cons and acting in their own self-interest. Then there’s people who still believe in altruism. And then there’s people who think people act not because of some rational thought, but because their actions line up with who they are. “I buy a Mac because I’m an Apple person.” “I’m a Twins fan because I’m a Minnesotan.” “I recycle because I’m a green millennial.” Continue reading “Flight Behavior: On identity, climate change, and the evangelical tribe”

I used to think the Bible was always right. Now I think the Bible is always right, but I might be wrong.

Hey, I’m linking up with Sarah Bessey today. The prompt is: “I used to think___ and now I think ____”. Sarah’s new book is out! It’s called, Out of Sorts: Making Peace with an Evolving Faith and it’s all about this process of being recovering know-it-alls, and allowing our faith to be in a constant state of growth. It’s now available on amazon. Go get it. 🙂

“When I was a child, I thought like a child, I talked like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put my childish ways behind me. Now we see in part, as into a mirror dimly, then we shall see clearly. Now we know in part, then we shall know fully, even as we are fully known. And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. And the greatest of these is love.” – the Apostle Paul

12006285_10153644284492744_7689261392404589568_nWhen I was a child, I was pretty sure I had this Christian thing all figured out.

Whether it was literal young earth six-day creationism, or women preachers, or strict gender roles, or gay people, or the gifts of the Holy Spirit, or Harry Potter—there were specific Bible verses that could be pointed to in order to back up my argument. When I look back at that time, it seems—well, childish. I don’t mean that in a belittling way. Just that I was naïve, binary, and literal in my thinking, just like all children are. I also thought that math was stupid (because it was hard) and that girls were better than boys (because I was a girl), and that everyone was either good or bad. It’s the way things go when you’re a kid.  Continue reading “I used to think the Bible was always right. Now I think the Bible is always right, but I might be wrong.”

Jesus, friend of sinners

Jesus,I’ve been reading Sarah Bessey’s book Out of Sorts: Making Peace with an Evolving Faith, and something I appreciate about all of Sarah’s writing is you can see how much she loves Jesus. Not the idea of Jesus, but Jesus himself.

There’s a difference.

Jesus, the guy who lived 2000 years ago in Palestine, who was a devout Jew but still showed grace to Gentiles, who taught crowds and healed broken bodies, and said really confusing things.

She talks about sitting on a gym floor singing praise and worship songs as a child, and just knowing that Jesus was there with them by his Spirit. (It sounds weird if you’re not a Christian or churchy person, but yes, we do actually believe that the historical Jesus who died 2000 years ago really was God’s Son and is alive, and is present by his Holy Spirit).

Continue reading “Jesus, friend of sinners”

On condemning broken things

Lately the story in John 8 of the woman caught in adultery has been coming up in conversation. So I decided to revisit it, and I was surprised to find this isn’t really a story about the woman caught in adultery. This is a story about the Pharisees. It’s a story about drawing lines in the sand, about condemning people. It’s not a story about the terrible sinner, it’s a story about me, the religious good girl. And it even has something to say about hospitality.

condemnJesus is teaching people at the Temple Mount, and the Pharisees are angry because so many people are listening to him. It’s just been the feast of Tabernacles, and Jesus has been in Jerusalem, basically announcing he’s the Messiah. The Pharisees even send the temple police to arrest Jesus, but they come back empty handed, saying, “We’ve never heard anyone talk like him before!”

The Pharisees are irate, “None of the leaders believe in him—just all the rabble. It’s only the crowd, ignorant of God’s Law that’s taken in by him—and damned.”

Not only do the Pharisees hate Jesus, they also are confident they know the law. They follow tight moral codes. They know right from wrong.

So they bring Jesus a woman caught in the act of adultery. They drag her in before the crowds listening to Jesus and say, “Teacher, this woman was caught red-handed in the act of adultery. The Law of Moses says that such a person should be stoned. What do you say?”

The Law says this—but what do you say? Can you hear it? They’re trying to pit Jesus against the Law so that they can catch him out.

The woman is standing before everyone, trembling. The crowd stares at her.

If Jesus demands she be stoned, the Pharisees win—Jesus will lose the crowd. If he says she should go free, he’s contradicting the Law of Moses, and the Pharisees can nab him as a false teacher. Either way, they win. They don’t care about the woman at all. She isn’t a person, this is all just a trap to assert their power.

So Jesus says nothing, and instead bends over and starts writing in the dirt with his finger. The Pharisees keep badgering Jesus to say something.

He stands up.

“The sinless one among you, go first. Throw the stone.”

Then he bends down and keeps drawing in the dirt.

Crouched low, out of the picture, woman and the Pharisees are left standing at the front. The eyes of the whole crowd are on them.

It is silent.

The stones become heavy in the hands of the Pharisees.

Their faces flush as they think over their own past sins. Slowly, one by one, starting with the oldest, the Pharisees turn, drop their stones, and push their way through the crowd and slip away out the back.

The woman is left alone. It’s just her and Jesus.

Jesus stands up and says to her, “Woman, where are they? Does no one condemn you?”

She shakes her head. “No one, master,” she says softly.

And this is the part I never noticed before. Jesus is left with her. Jesus is the only sinless one in the group. Jesus said the sinless one should cast the first stone. The sinless one is the one with the right to cast the first stone. But he does not cast it. Instead….

“Then I do not condemn you either.” Jesus says.

He doesn’t draw a line in the sand and tell her she’s on the wrong side.

“Go on your way,” he says.

“And from now on,” he adds, “don’t sin.”

restore

What does this story have to do with hospitality? With welcoming strangers?  A couple of things, actually. Here’s what I learned from Jesus:

People are always people to Jesus. The Pharisees use the woman as a tool to make their point. They don’t care about her (or even, oddly enough, that much about her sin). They care about making a point. People are just things they can use to push their agenda. Even the disciples fall into this trap—seeing people’s suffering as a reason to debate theology, rather than someone worthy of consideration. How often do I fall into this trap? How often do I think in terms of institutions, or systems, or irritations, or interruptions, or being right rather than thinking about people? This is all about people. It’s people who need to be welcomed, people who need to be invited in, not abstract theological lessons.

 In this story, Jesus, the only one with the right to condemn does not condemn. I don’t think the point of this story was the woman’s sin. Of course she was a sinner. Of course Jesus does not want her to continue in sin. But I think the point of the story is that the Pharisees were sinners just as much as the adulterer. Jesus is the only sinless one, the only one with the right to condemn people and yet he doesn’t. “Who is this Jesus person??!” I find myself asking.

Where do I put myself in this story? Well, I’m not Jesus. So I guess that puts me in the Pharisee camp, holding stones. And Jesus has just pointed out I don’t have a right to throw them.

I think sometimes as Christians, we look around at the world going to chaos around us, where people don’t seem to think twice about a moral code, and think it’s our job to condemn people. The culture is telling people that sin is just fine, and so we think it is our job to tell them that their moral choices are wrong. We can interact with “these people” but if we don’t constantly mention we disagree with their choices in our every encounter with them, we’re supporting them with our silence and we’re complicit in their sin. Did you hear that? Complicit. We want to condemn others because we’re worried their sin will rub off on us, and we don’t want to be guilty by association.

Except this story points out that it’s not my job to condemn. It’s Jesus’ job to condemn. It’s my job to show people Jesus, whoever they are—whether self-righteous law keepers, or people with their moral code in shambles. 

That’s what welcoming the stranger is– it’s inviting people in, so that healing and restoration can begin, not shutting people out.

And when people encounter Jesus, with all his terrifying beauty and goodness and love, I think they will have a sense that he is the only sinless one, and they are in need of grace. Because that’s how I feel around Jesus.


What do you all think of this idea? Obviously there is a place to point out sin– I mean that’s all the prophets spent their time doing! But I’m interested that Jesus says his own purpose in coming was not to condemn the world but to save it, and that it is the job of the Spirit to convict people of sin. What should that look like for us?