Tag Archives: Lent

Race is not the way

See the source image

“Once we start paying attention to Jesus’ way, it doesn’t take long for us to realize that following Jesus is radically different from following anyone else.”

| Eugene Peterson, The Jesus Way

The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. famously said, “The most segregated hour of Christian America is eleven o’clock on Sunday morning.”  We repeat his words as a matter of fact, not as a challenge.  It has been named and noted.  But, rather than shake our heads in agreement, I ask, “What are you going to do about it?”

Don’t just change seats; switch churches.  Get up and follow Jesus somewhere outside of your comfort zone, gated community, tradition, perspective, cultural and personal experience, worship style.  Jesus did it and if we are following Jesus, we should too.  Don’t spend your whole life pointing out the problem.  Don’t just shake your heads; put your heads together.  Figure it out.  Solve it.

Because Jesus doesn’t go the same way everyday, talk to the same people all the time or travel in the same neat circles.  There is nothing routine or traditional about his ministry or his message.  Jesus was not the expected Messiah, the predictable Savior.  Persons did not point to him and say, “I knew it was you!”  Just listen to the people who were around him who asked, “Can anything good come from Nazareth?”  And hear his own disciples who questioned if they really knew him, “What kind of man is this?”

Because if you meet Jesus and do not walk away from life as you knew it, then you did not meet Jesus.  If you and I can meet Jesus and return to our regularly scheduled programming, then we may have met Jesus but we do not know him.  Life with Jesus does not consist of a mere introduction but a lifelong conversation to include long walks like those with the disciples on their way to Emmaus.  We need to listen to Jesus until our hearts burn (Luke 24.32).

If we can remain hard- hearted when it comes to race, then we need to have more than “a little talk with Jesus.”

Because isn’t it a sad commentary that Christians in America cannot come together one day a week for an hour or two, that though Christ prayed that we might become one, it is hardest to answer and to embody this prayer on Sunday (John 17.21)?   That we have integrated businesses and schools, hospitals and cemeteries, buses and hotels, lunch counters and restrooms but not sanctuaries?  That praying hands still section themselves off to worship the God who “so loved the world”?  That a space marked sacred still has the signs of segregation hanging above its doors, that our churches secretly or unconsciously signal, “For white people only” or “For colored people only”?

If anything, Sunday should be the one day that we can come together.  Or, is the Holy Spirit not at work or unable to overcome the challenges of our flesh?  What do we walk in if not the Spirit and where are we going if we are not walking in the spirit of truth (Galatians 5.16; John 16.13)?  We cannot claim the creative power of God, the resurrection power of Jesus and the fire power of the Holy Spirit but continue on as if powerless to challenge and change the social realities of race.  What of this new identity in Christ?

During this season of Lent, we are called to give up our carnal cravings, our fleshly feelings in order to shorten the distance between us and Jesus.  Friends, I assure you that race is not the way.  We are no closer to Christ than when we first begun if we put anything before or in front of Christian: black Christian, white Christian, Republican Christian, Democratic Christian, female Christian, male Christian.  Christ is all or nothing at all (Galatians 3.28; Colossians 3.11).  Following Christ is a one way street and it leads to Calvary.  We cannot continue to follow the prescriptions of race and claim we want to go all the way with Jesus.  Because it is a death walk; race and our racialized identities simply cannot survive.

Letting down our defenses

This morning, I led a conversation on the fights that form us as Christians– red versus blue carpet, choir versus praise team, contemporary music versus hymns, offering plate versus Apple pay, suits versus skinny jeans and a t- shirt, 8 a.m. versus 11 a.m. service.  You know, deeply transformative wars for righteousness.  And these fights seemingly go on forever, handed down to each generation because we will surrender NEVER!

But, I think these fights begin within, that they are not fighting words we hear but something more difficult to discern.  Consequently, I invited the group to pray and then to silently read a section of Walter Wangerin’s “In Mirrors,” where he focuses on what shows up of ourselves in the faces of others and especially in the face of Christ.  Afterwards, I invited them to journal about what they were fighting for, fighting about, who they were really fighting with and then to surrender.  I closed this part of our time together with words that I hope will help us discern the fight within and help us let down our defenses:

All that I am striving for, climbing up the ladder and back up the ladder again after getting kicked, shoved, tripped and tricked to go back down the ladder, all that I think I want to have and know I need, all that I should have done and could have done, all that I wanted to be and never was,

I release.

All that I am fighting for, all that I have and want to keep, all that I am afraid to lose, all that I fear is slipping through my fingers,

I surrender.

All that I think I am, all that I want to be, all that I am expected to become and do and say, all of me that gets in the way of God’s will,

I give up.

All that I have a grip on and need to get a grip on, that I hold tightly while it strangely squeezes the life out of me, all that I am afraid to give up, won’t give up on, won’t give an inch on, won’t budge, won’t move,

I let go.

Today, I let down my defenses.  I choose faith and to surrender, to give up, to let go of the fight.  And before I am tempted to reach for it again, take the fight out of me.  This is my prayer.  Amen.

It’s our anniversary!

See the source imageI didn’t forget.  Though I don’t have flowers or dinner reservations, I wanted to wish us a happy eighth anniversary.  I have been writing, thinking, talking about the socio- political construct of race, the malformation of Christian community and the call to be reconciled in a world that thrives on division for 2,920 days.  It has not been easy to keep faith in the ministry of reconciliation but Christ’s bloody hands reaching out to us hold it all together.

Now I write as a matter of resistance to the old way, to the prejudicial, stereotypical way of being.  I write to die daily to race (First Corinthians 15.31).  I write to remind us that it is a daily confession, this denial of the flesh and its people- given, people- driven powers.  The raceless gospel is reminder that the power of Christianity does not lie in what our flesh can do but in what Christ did with his.

I began this blog on Ash Wednesday eight years ago.  It is a fitting reminder for the socio- political construct of race, the power we give it and the weight we throw around it.  Because in the end, we must, “Remember that you are dust and that to dust you shall return.”  The flesh is not worth much and it not what Jesus died for any way.  These flesh fights are all our doing and of our own making.  So today, thank you for choosing another way, to walk away from the temporal and fleeting powers of epidermis in order to pursue more closely the holy trail that Jesus is on.

I am so proud of the work that we have done together and look forward to many more years with you.  I am deeply grateful for your support, to have you as travel companions and conversation partners.  I pray for many more years and even more words to share with you.  Happy anniversary!

Jesus is still calling us

“… Jesus himself continues to teach us. He has not contracted laryngitis. His voice is not hard to hear. His vocabulary is not difficult to understand. He is the good shepherd, and his sheep do hear his voice. He guides his people. He corrects his people. He forgives his people. He instructs his people. He oversees his people. He empowers his people.”

| Lynda L. Graybeal & Julia L. Roller, Learning from Jesus: A Spiritual Formation Guide

During this season of Lent, we are following in the footsteps of Jesus and in times like these, our footing may seem uncertain. But, we are not on shaky ground. We have a guide and he has been this way before. One foot in front of the other, we must rely on Jesus and trust that he knows the way that we should go. Facing Calvary’s cross, he didn’t turn back and neither should we.

No yellow brick road in either case, the road ahead will cost us something of ourselves. More than giving something up for Lent, we are invited to give in to the spiritual impulse of deep belonging. Keep your chocolate and surrender to a more authentic connection.

This is the time to listen up for the calling of Christ. Jesus is calling us by name, not as individuals but as a body. Author Sarah Young has made popular the phrase turned book title Jesus Calling and he is. Jesus is calling us not just in the pages of hardcover and paperback books, not only in devotionals and on mugs color– coordinated to capitalize on a product. No, Jesus is calling us to come together, to come closer, to come nearer to him to hear what he has to say to us, to direct our path, to give us a vision for the future.

In our world, there is much we could worry about, no end to ruminations of what could go wrong. But, there are also opportunities around every corner to be drawn more fully into fellowship with each other.  Jesus is still calling us. Because he has not lost his voice or his vision for us.

A good death

We are prepared to live and to live life to the fullest.  We are told to push life to the limits, to do and be all that we can be.  We are encouraged to live life in the fast lane because you only live once. “Do it while you can.  Do it while you’re young.  But, by all means, live!”

“Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness” are American ideals and the American way. And our capitalist system has for sale a myriad of ways to express and experience them all.  For monthly installments or a one- time fee, we can describe a period of our lives as a good time “while supplies last.”  But, Jesus makes no such claims.  He guarantees none of these conditions. 

Life with Jesus will involve death and there is no commercial, commercial break or coupon for this.  Because his way is not American or any other.  He says to disciples then and now, “Those who love their life will lose it, and those who hate their life in this world will keep it for eternal life” (John 12.25, NRSV).  Jesus does not hide reality from us.  He is not a salesperson but the Savior, “full of grace and truth” (John 1.14).

He does not promise us a good life but he does model a good death.