Thursday, February 07, 2008

Lent:: This One Goes To 11

Rejection, Denial, & Self Loss. Imagine the church attendance if you posted that on the sign out front as this weeks sermon. If I drove past that church I would drive wide the other way to avoid the hell fire and brimstone that may be eeking out the front doors.

Yet that message is one of the core tenets of Christianity. No, not in the condemning way that I would so deeply fear from our imaginary fundamentalist church where the shout does not go out. Instead is comes as a promise of greater fulfillment, and more rewarding meaning. It comes as the path to reclaim the fullness of what it means to be fully human. These 3 are the restorative building blocks to reconciliation.

It is impossible to live out reconciliation without experience and participation with these elements. Look at Christ's words:
Luke 9:22-24 - And he said, "The Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders, chief priests and teachers of the law, and he must be killed and on the third day be raised to life." Then he said to them all: "If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will save it."
Christ own work to bring restoration began with rejection. As I read the gospel and experience Christ passion for the poor, the rejected, and the lost I see no fire that burned in him like the flame to pursue restorative justice. Yet, my experience in Christian circles does not reflect this passion. The marginalized and the lost are relegated to the remnants of the church budget. The passion for pursuing the sick and the hurting will cause repeated rejection by the leaders, movers, and shakers of most Christian communities. The enemy of the restorative ministry lifestyle is not the world at large, instead like in the case of Christ it the religious elite.

Rejection is an outside force, and is as likely to occur as the sun is to rise. The second two elements of becoming the fullness of ourselves are personal decisions that require daily commitment to the purpose of our journey. Christ speaks of his followers continual reaffirmation to denial and self loss. He speaks of choosing to be dead to personal pursuit, and instead choosing complete loss of ones of rights.
I must deny my right to the promise of the American lifestyle as I enter into the pain of the migrant farmer, or the political refugee. I must share in the loss of social and economic standing of the elderly and the racially oppressed. I must be more concerned with meeting the needs of my coworkers and family, than my own needs and desires. I must be as actively involved in the alleviation of extreme poverty as if it were my own child dying of AIDS in a southern African desert or starving from lack of suitable food.

At this point, one could think I had preached the sermon of that firey fundamentalist preacher. However, this is a message of promise and hope. As I began to think on these issues my mind (the slippery slope that it is) I found myself remembering that famous scene in Spinal Tap when one band member is explaining to the documentary maker about the excellent amp that goes to 11 for that just little more.

As I take up my cross daily, I am entering into that life that has more. Jesus promises in John 10:10 a life that is more full, more abundant, more better than we ever dreamed of. Christ promises true life. Paul explains to us in Romans 5 that Christ through his righteous death became a new pattern for being fully human. I get a life that goes to 11! I get an experience that is filled with more meaning, more love, more peace, more of everything than I could fathom as possible.

The blessing of reconciliation outweighs the cost. That is not an easy truth to accept when I am tired. That is not a reality that is possible to understand when I am being carnal. Yet, in the rejection, through the denial and self loss it becomes a craving that leads to greater hunger for more and more abundant life.


From Today's Lent Mediation:
Lover of mankind, inspire us to work for human progress,
- seeking to spread your kingdom in all we do.
May our hearts thirst for Christ,
- the fountain of living water.
Forgive us our sins,
- and direct our steps into the ways of justice and sincerity.

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